The Bake Sale Lesson

2012 8th annual samaritan's purse bake sale

Eight years ago, a gift catalog appeared in our stack of December mail.  This one was unlike any I’d ever seen.  It was from Samaritan’s Purse.  In it, gifts could be purchased for people all over the world.  However, the gifts surprised us.  No jewelry, trendy clothes or home decor items.  The catalog offered basic needs that much of the world goes without every day.  Water, dairy animals, blankets, mosquito nets, medical supplies…you name it.  Our family was instantly captivated.

Sitting at the kitchen table after school, I showed our children (then ages 4, 6, and 8) the catalog and told them they could each pick out an item.  Their three items equaled $39.  Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, Make this a teachable moment.  

How? I replied.

He sort of just spilled the words out of my mouth when I asked the kids, How are you going to pay for this?

All three of them pointed their fingers at me and said, You?

Ah!  Now I understood the teachable lesson part.

If I pay for these things, then the gifts are from me.  Giving a gift has to cost you something – time, energy, or money.  So, how are you going to pay for these?

They decided on a lemonade stand.  Great!  So we mixed 2 pitchers of lemonade and a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies, set up a cardboard table and sat on the corner of our yard and waited for passers by. By the end of the afternoon, our goal of $39 was blown away with a grand total of $370!

Fast forward 7 years.

Each year the bake sale has grown as more people want to be involved.  Every year is filled with heartfelt stories, and how I wish I could write forever and tell them all. However, this year was different than any other.

We love hosting this bake sale.  And, we are extremely grateful for the whopping 29 bakers that contributed to it this year.  We are thankful for Starbucks and Great Harvest Bread Co. who generously donated to the cause.

In the early planning stages, people who visit the sale every year began to show their excitement, asking when it would be and if we needed any help.  I was home recovering from foot surgery, so I had much free time to spare while stuck on the couch so plans kept rolling on.

This sale has become such a beautiful event.  People bring their children, their dogs, and their donations, and we love serving them with a smile as 100% of their money goes to purchase items from the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog.  Even Samaritan’s Purse calls us each year, once they receive the grand total, and chat about how the bake sale went.  God’s blessing on this sale is apparent.  But, this year there was a problem…

The problem was me.

Here at RealDeepStuff, everything written is real whether it’s deep or just stuff.  My problem was real and it is deep.

It is the main sin I struggle with on a daily basis.  Everyone has them.  Sin that seems nearly impossible to separate from who we are.  They are our weaknesses.  Chinks in the armor.  Achilles’ heel.  For me, this major player is the sin of self sufficiency.

It is a daily struggle in my prayer life, personal life, marriage, parenting, relationships with friends, work, etc.  This two-headed dragon seems to creep up everywhere.  I know the Scriptures about God must be more and we must be less and how we should rely on Him, but honestly the familiar Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, somehow became I can do all things through Christ – period!  

This year, I felt pressure to get my foot healed up (which it still isn’t) so I hit the ground running twice as fast.  After all, it’s a good event for a good cause to expand the kingdom, help others, glorify God, and teach our children it is better to give than receive.  So when the Holy Spirit reminded me that we needed to pray about the bake sale, and seek God’s will for it, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.

I stood in my kitchen at the sink when His words came to me.  My sinful response?  Eh, it’s not really necessary, and I continued my work.

Whoa.  Why did I say that?  Easy – because I’ve put this sale together for 7 years.  It’s practically on auto-pilot.  We tweak it every year with what we learn, but planning it in general is second nature.

I actually found myself wondering what there could be to prayer about other than wanting His desired items being ordered from the catalog.

I had fallen hook, line and sinker for the enemy’s trap of self-reliance.  It’s as though I said to God, It’s okay, I got this.

How dare I leave His voice out.  It’s like throwing a birthday party and not inviting the guest of honor.  I broke His heart in that moment, and He began a teachable lesson for me this time.

Plans continued, but it seemed so flat.  Buy the correct permit – check.  Arrange for parking signs – check.  Notify a friend who is a police officer of the sale – check.  Make sure all bakers have what they need – check.  Borrow tables, cabanas, and buy cabanas – check.  Run a ton of electrical – check.  And so on and so on.  However, no one else knew this, but preparations were dry to me.  Numb.  Same ‘ol same ‘ol.  And, the bread company didn’t return my 4 calls, 2 personal visits or the 1 flyer we left with them.  I just couldn’t understand it.  They’ve partnered with us for 3 years.  What changed?  I found the planning to be frustrating and unfulfilling.

God had not left the bake sale.  This is His baby!  He was definitely in it, but He was silent.  When I ignored praying to Him because I had the audacity to think we could do this on our own, but for His glory, He said, So be it.  And let me be.

His silence was deafening.

One day, while running errands, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  The guilt   The shame.  The sin.  Tears welled in my eyes as He let me experience His broken heart.  My heart nearly burst from the overwhelming sadness He allowed me to feel.

Oh God, I am so sorry.  I left You out of the plans because I thought I can handle it.  But You want to be a part of this.  This event thrills Your heart, and I’ve denied Your voice, opinions and direction out of relying on myself.  I am so sorry.  I can see now what it’s like to serve You without You, and I don’t want to do it this way anymore.  Will You forgive me, God?  Will You be the focus of this bake sale in guiding, directing and planning every part of it?  I need You and can feel how much You want to be in this.  God…I’m really sorry.

In an instant He forgave me, faithful to Himself and His covenant to us, even when we are unfaithful to Him.  It’s like He rolled up his sleeves with a wide grin and said, Alright then.  Let’s get to work!  

From that moment on, this bake sale was unlike any we’ve ever had.  He breathed life into the sale and into me.  He was all over it, and the joy He ignited in my heart was uncontainable.  Such enthusiasm I have not felt in a long time.  He blessed this day with so much love, compassion and excitement it was all I could do to stand and soak it in.  I can still barely talk about it without emotion.  Perhaps in my flesh I could have prepared a bake sale.  But, by God’s power, people’s lives were changed.  His Spirit was so present, I could barely find words to speak throughout the entire 8 hour sale.

In my next post, I will share some of the stories of the people who were a part of the sale.  I invite you back here to read them, and know you, too, will be changed.

For now, I will once again offer the prayer that I’ve said a thousand times, but at first neglected to do this year – and my sin nearly made me miss the blessing of this bake sale.  Whatever ministry you are a part of, whether it be personal toward family and friends, in your job or in volunteering, don’t make the mistake I made thinking I could do it on my own.  It is a sin that America has believed for far too long.

May we never be found guilty of refusing God’s help because of self-reliance, pride, ignorance, callousness or indifference to what He wants.  May what He wants be what we pursue.

In the words of Moses, we pray… Then Moses said to (the LORD), “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”  And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:15-17

Would you like to know how He made these verses real to me?  Tangibly real?  Two days before the bake sale, in a last-ditch effort, I called the bread company again – just to see.  The manager ever-so-casually told me that they indeed had been preparing for our sale and I could come pick everything up.  I was shocked!  But not really.  I believe with all my heart that God intentionally let me sweat it out.  A good parent appropriately disciplines his child, and God is a good Father.  I think He allowed the silence to draw me to Him, but in the moment I was too tangled up in the details and missed His cue.

However, I was totally unprepared for what met me at the store when I went to pick up their donations.  There they were…bags and bags and bags and bags of delicious treats.  My breathe caught in my chest as I stood utterly speechless, fighting a tear trickling down my cheek.  It took 2 trips to the store to collect it all.  They had, all along, been in communication with the other store location, and had agreed to combine their efforts and gave us a massive amount of beautiful baked goods.

I…I don’t know what to say, I stuttered to the owner.

It’s just so much more than I ever thought, I said, staring at the counters full of bags.

The owner simply smiled and gave me a hug and wished our bake sale well.

I got in the van and rested my hands on the steering wheel.  Pausing before I turned on the ignition, I said to God with a tearful smile, You did this. You had this planned all along.  I was so worried.  So stressed out.  So anxious.  And here You are.  You delivered and You delivered big.  Thank You, Lord.  And God, I get Your point.

Ephesians 3:20-21 immediately came to mind, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

It was a great day that God just blew the doors off of.  I can’t wait to share with you in my next post the fingerprints He left on this bake sale and on the hearts who were touched by His vision…

Legacy of a Letter

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. ~ Deuteronomy 10:17-20

I received a letter in the mail a couple of months ago.  A letter that hasn’t left my mind ever since its words lifted from the page and inscribed themselves on my heart.  We have a sponsored daughter through Compassion International.  The letter we received from them announced her impending graduation from the program.

I knew this day would come, but I didn’t want to think about it.  For her, this is incredible news!  This means she made it! She has survived severely impoverished, third-world conditions and is now skilled in a job that will serve her for the rest of her life.

For me, however, it means letting her go.  As I’ve written before, I have a hard time with change, and this year has seen a lot of it.  My father died nine months ago.  Our senior pastor, who is my mentor and friend and someone I highly admire and respect, retired after twenty-one years of faithful service to our congregation.  My husband’s aunt died suddenly, and her memorial service marked a new chapter in our family’s history.  I closed a three-year chapter of homeschooling two of our children, and find myself missing my lunch buddies, their jokes, camaraderie and company in my days now.  We finally sold my husband’s car – a 1997 Honda Odyssey.  It was good to us, crossing 300,000 miles on the odometer, but it was time to acquire something that meets our current needs.  Our eBay car purchase served us well for six years. Silly, I know.  It’s just a car – especially for people who don’t place an unhealthy value on “things.”  But, it was familiar.

Perhaps that’s what’s hard about change for me…losing the familiar.

Compassion’s letter to our family was a request to write our Compassion daughter one…last…time. Ug.  My heart sank.  I kept that request on my desk for four months.  I simply couldn’t bring myself to write it.  This is the last communication I will have with her this side of heaven.  What do I say?

Compassion suggested we write words of wisdom, encouragement and Scripture.  These are the last words our beautiful daughter will carry from us for the rest of her life.  No pressure.  She who can’t ever stop talking sat speechless at my computer with our daughter’s picture smiling at me while the curser impatiently blinked on the blank page.

Dear God, I don’t know what to say.  Where do I begin?  How do I end?  Please help me give her the words You want her to hear.

As I began the letter, my mind flashed back over the 14 years she has been with us.  I remember the night we found her.  My husband and I were at a Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant Christmas concert in 1998.  During intermission, we strolled through the arena, curious as to what this Compassion thing that Amy Grant spoke of on stage was all about.  We came to a table and spread out on it were many children’s profiles.  My eyes scanned their sweet faces; many of them revealing a deep hopelessness in their expressions and thin bodies clothed in rags.

My eyes wandered to a beautiful girl.  Seven years old.  Across the sea from us in a land filled with conflict – dangerous for any female.  I picked up her card and read her story.  Her mother dead, her father removed, she lives with her grandmother and brother.  My breath caught in my chest and eyes stung with salty tears.  This was my story – this side of the ocean.  Replace the brother with a sister and she is me.  Captivated, I held her card close to my chest and knew she was meant to be a part of our family.  I wanted to offer her a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) that God gave me in my darkest hours of trauma and loss as a child.

Through Compassion, we could pay for her medical needs, clothes, food and education.  Christian education.  If she couldn’t live with us, this was the next best thing.  We signed up immediately, knowing that we were committed to this for the long haul.

Over the years, we loved receiving her letters.  We learned about her culture and landscape, farming and weather seasons.  We learned about her life.  We prayed her through the dry seasons and rainy seasons.  We prayed every time her brother became ill and when she had trouble in math.  She wrote her favorite Scriptures to us and told us about her friends.

Each Christmas and birthday, we were given the opportunity to send her a monetary gift.  By American standards it wasn’t much at all, but it is reasonable for their economic geography.  Every time we sent a gift, she wrote us and enthusiastically told us what she bought with it.  It was always the same.  She bought: a new dress for herself, a goat for the family and sweets for her friends.

Her purchases sparked great conversation in our family throughout the years about giving and receiving, thankfulness and kindness.  The fact that she always shared her gifts with her family and friends touched our hearts in inexpressible ways.  She was thankful.  Can we say the same?

We told her about where we live, too.  We shared favorite school subjects, hobbies, pets and what we do in a regular day.  We shared our prayer requests with her, too.  Having a pen pal across the world was priceless to my children.

One day, when she was about 15 years old, she wrote and told us that a preacher was visiting their village to evangelize in their community.  She was asked to go along with him to preach the Gospel.  I will never forget how I felt reading her words.  Choking back happy tears, I said to myself, She’s got it.  She has her own faith and is now able to share it with others.  She’s going to be okay.

This news gave me so much joy and peace!  Despite her bleak circumstances, she accepted Christ as her Savior and knows there is an eternal home waiting for her.

When Compassion expanded its ministry to include online writing, versus handwriting, I was so excited!  Handwritten letters are always best, but not as practical as writing something online that could be sent immediately for translation.  I remember writing to her telling her this news of online writing.  I will never, ever forget her response.  I was excited that this would be quick and easy, no need to hunt for a stamp and was technologically up with the times.  Her response?

I thank our God that He has provided you a job so you can have the money to buy a computer to write me.

Talk about perspective!!!  Think about her response for a moment.  Deeply ponder it.  Without knowing it, she continually taught us so much about life, love, thankfulness, contentment and commitment.

When my husband lost his job in 2001, a week before 9/11 and in the middle of the .com crash (of which his job was directly affected), we had no idea how we were going to feed our babies 1, 3, and 5 years old.  We had no health insurance, no gas money, no savings.  We had nothing but our vehicles and our house – that we feared we could lose in a heartbeat.  We never once considered stopping our sponsorship of our Compassion daughter.  This is no kudos to us.  Through sponsoring her, we learned even more what commitment looked like and what trust in God felt like.  We could no more stop feeding and clothing her than we could our own children, because like our own children, if we didn’t meet her basic needs – who would?  We totally relied on God to provide for us, and for her, and He did.  She never knew any of this.  Her life is one of great struggle and hardship, and even in our most dire straight, we were still wealthy beyond measure simply because of the longitude and latitude in which we live.

In her last years with us, she wrote about graduating high school.  This was quite an accomplishment!  The letter came announcing she was accepted into nursing school.  Nursing school!  I remember jumping up and down and cheering with my children.

This meant, not only will she have a job she can be proud of, but she will be able to financially support herself and her family, AND it saves her from a dangerous and demoralizing future so many young women face trying to earn money to survive.  Wow!  Her future has never looked brighter.

She is truly a part of our family, and this final letter literally pained my heart to write.  How do I tell her words of wisdom as a mother, when my own mother never had a chance to speak them over me?  I feel like the blind leading the blind.  I don’t know where to go with this.

As I struggled with my letter, my heart brought to mind a very special book* by Susan Polis Schultz. This book has priceless value to me.  It is a book written by a mother to her daughter.  It is full of letters, encouragement, love and advice.  This is the last gift given to me by my mother.  She gave it to me on Valentine’s Day, 1987, three months before she died of breast cancer when I was sixteen.

She wrote on the inside cover that she had a hard time putting into her own words what she wanted me to know, so she used this book to say it for her.  In it, she starred, underlined – double underlined – words and phrases.  These are what matter most to me.  These are her words to me.  However, I have only read this book a few times in 26 years.

I am unable to express my hesitation in words.  It hurts to go back to the most painful time of my life.  It hurts to hear her speak to me through writing, because once I finish reading it, I am again left with an emptiness that she is no longer here.  The process of reading her words is emotionally draining, yet healing at the same time.  That’s the best I can do to explain my feelings.

While writing to my Compassion daughter, my mind drifted to this precious book and with my mom’s inspiration I began to write.  Space online is limited.  It took me three letters to get it all in.  Oh, I could have written more, but knew at some point, the end of the letter was inevitable – as hard as it was to admit.

I wrote how beautiful she is, and to never neglect herself as she cares for her patients.  To love deeply, laugh a lot, and stay close to God.  I quoted my favorite Scriptures and spoke blessings over her.  I gave her practical advice and (hopefully) words of wisdom.  I promised that, just as we have done for 14 years, we will continue to pray for her every day for the rest of our lives.

Wrapping up the third letter in the series, I told her:

I don’t like goodbyes.  I won’t say it to you.  Although we may never see each other on this earth, we are both Christians and will have eternity to spend with each other.  Life on this earth is very short.  So, instead of goodbye, I will say I’ll see you soon.  Whoever makes it to heaven first, wait for the other at the gate. 

I paused writing and broke down and cried.  I cried happy tears for all she has accomplished and overcome, and sad tears because the season of her life entwining with ours has come to a close.  However, Christians have a unique relationship.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ, because we are related by blood not of this world.  Christ’s sacrificial blood pumps through our spirit, and this bond is something no one can take away.  We are family indeed, and no amount of time or circumstance can separate us from one another – even if we are physically apart.

My children are still in my nest.  She is the first one to launch into the world and follow her dreams and the destiny that God has prepared for her.  I’m new at this launching thing.  I have no idea what to say.  I told her how much we love her and how incredibly proud we are of her.

It seemed that telling her how proud I am of her was a repetitive theme.  Perhaps it’s something I long to hear myself.  Both of my parents are gone and my biological father was only in my life for the past 8 short years.  Maybe I spoke to her some of the words I have been starving to hear.

Upon finishing her letter, my heart was nudged to pull my mom’s book off of the shelf.  I sat down and gazed at the simple artwork on the cover.  I gently turned the yellowed pages and read every word she marked for me.

I have felt a little lost with my writing lately.  Perhaps recovering from surgery has dimmed my creative juices, and I am physically more tired as I heal.  Ironically, my eyes fixed on one particular passage she underlined…

“Write your feelings down.  Create something based on your feelings, but do not keep them inside.”*

I soaked in her encouragement and let it penetrate my soul.  Her words were perfect timing for my life.

Through committing to child sponsorship, I thought we were rescuing a child and offering her opportunities to realize her dreams.  I hope we did just that, but I can tell you that this journey has rescued me and sparked hope for my dreams.  Even down to the last letter, when I was drawn to the words my mom left for me so many years ago for a time today when I really needed to hear her voice.

My mom left a legacy of a letter in the book she gave me.  We left a legacy to our Compassion daughter through the letters we wrote to her.  She left a legacy to us in her letters.  Her perseverance and hard work inspired us to continue with Compassion.

In her honor, we now have two more sponsored children each in a different part of the world.  They are young, sweet children who have their whole lives ahead of them.  I close my eyes and imagine the years of letters we will, Lord-willing, have to share with each other.  I look forward to expanding our family across the seas and investing spiritually, financially and emotionally into these two lives.  I smile with anticipation of all we will share.

It is easy to be discouraged from sponsoring a child because the financial commitment seems scary in this economy or we believe one person can’t make a lasting difference.  However, I know firsthand that our family can’t afford not to.  I am hopeful we made a difference in her life – but I am absolutely certain she made the world of difference in ours.  We are changed by her selflessness, love and tender spirit.  We are challenged by her resolve, strength, optimism and determination.  We will champion these same qualities in our new Compassion son and daughter.

If our paths do not cross in this lifetime and I reach heaven first, I will eagerly wait at the gate for my Compassion daughter.  I have a big hug I’ve been saving up a lifetime to give her.

When I grow up…

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life… ~ Philippians 2:14-15

As our family, along with thousands of other families, adapts to the newness of the start of another school year, my mind drifts back to Kenya – to a special young lady who lives there.

Travel with me today, up a rocky mountain on a small bus with no air conditioning.  All but a few seats are taken by our teammates who are going to hold a soccer clinic with hundreds of Kenyan children who live on this mountain.  Many of them have never seen a Caucasian person before and almost all do not speak English.  This is surely a first for my family and we are excited!

The scenery is breathtaking.  Such beauty envelops us on every side.  After quite a long, slow drive up, we stop.  There, some local children are waiting.  Clustered together, they giggle as they look at us. We smile real big and wave.  That makes them giggle more.  They are shy. Meek. Kind.

We are just about to continue our journey to the top of the mountain, when a young lady, probably 13 or 14, spontaneously steps onto the bus and sits down next to me.  I am delighted to have her company, but am perplexed as to why she got on.

I asked her if she spoke English.  She replied, A little.  I was thrilled!  That was more than I spoke of her native tongue.

She sat quietly, holding onto the seat in front of her as our bus rocked side-to-side up the stony incline.

Curious, I asked her why she hopped on the bus.  She replied, I want to know what it feels like to ride one.

I was completely taken back by her words.  She’s never ridden a bus before – or any transportation.  The 2,400 families that live on this mountain never leave it.  They farthest they go is a very long hike down to reach extremely contaminated streams at the bottom to fetch water.  A trek they make every single day up and down the entire mountain.  That is one reason we are there – in addition to presenting the Gospel and running soccer clinics – to help dedicate two rainwater catchers past teams of ours helped build with the locals at the very top of the mountain so no one ever has to die from water-borne illnesses again.

Wanting to let her enjoy the ride, I didn’t speak much, though I had a thousand questions about her, their way of life, their thoughts on things.  I am always full of questions, and sometimes it drives my family crazy! 🙂

However, I had a question burning the tip of my tongue.  If I didn’t ask it, I thought my tongue would catch on fire or I would burst.  So I asked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

She did not hesitate with her answer.  A doctor or a teacher.

You can be anything you want to be.  Go for your dreams, I replied with a smile.

She sheepishly smiled back.

As we continued up the mountain together, I couldn’t help but stare at her out the corner of my eye.  She is beautiful.  She has dreams.  Aspirations.  And, they begin with wanting to know what it feels like to ride man-made transportation.

Her inquisitiveness is colorful.  Her courage to get on the bus with a bunch of foreigners is inspiring.  She’s already unafraid to chase her dreams and go for it.

A doctor or a teacher.  Why?  On this mountain, it really is all about daily survival in the most primitive of estates.  They have one school and there are many cultural superstitions involved in treating their medical ailments that oppress the one government-ran clinic staffed by two nurses that service this clinic twice a week.

I believe it is because she sees firsthand, the difference one person can make.  She is surrounded by her village of family and neighbors.  Not too many doctors and teachers.  But, oh what an impression a nurse here, or a teacher there, has already made on her.

Someone has made such an impact on this young lady’s life that she believes her life is bigger than the mountain she lives on.  For instance, I met one woman who is incredibly talented.  She is a Kenyan college graduate who has devoted her life to giving these kids an education.  She is jaw-dropping impressive, because despite her tireless efforts and huge impact on the community, she one of the most humble, soft-spoken and unassuming people I’ve ever met.

My young friend has already realized that her purpose is more than daily survival.  She owns nothing of value to this world, yet she possesses a spirit rich in hope and determination.

All because someone, a doctor or teacher or both, has touched her life in a unique way, sparking a love for life that God placed inside her when He breathed life into her.

As a new school year begins in places all over the world, my first thought is of this young lady. If she can have such amazing aspirations, so can other children who live in a longitude and latitude with ample resources available.  It literally pains me to see kids nowadays sluff off school and whine and complain about it like they were being asked to donate a kidney just by showing up.  It is a cliche to complain about waking up early, school bus rides, school rules, cafeteria food and homework.  What privileges these are!  And, this is not being said by a middle-aged adult who has forgotten how much homework can consume an evening, or the obnoxious pitch of the alarm clock screaming in my ear way before I’m ready to here it.

No.  I say this because there are countless children all over the world who would give anything to have the resources other kids have – like my bus-buddy.  They would give anything for someone to take a chance on them and let them learn.  To give them the resources they need to chase their dreams.

How many poverty-stricken children in this world are being born, living and dying without one day of their life being given a chance to make a contribution to this world? How many of them have already died (26,000 children die every single day from preventable diseases), or are living now in a life shackled to grim, unforgiving circumstances, have the ability to learn and grow and accomplish miracles like curing cancer, finding new energy solutions, becoming agricultural geniuses, outstanding political leaders, pastors, ambassadors, surgeons, pediatricians for the 26,000 children dying in mothers’ arms every 24 hours, and teachers who train up another group of kids to chase their dreams and show them they are priceless, they count, they matter?  It is well worth investing time and energy into these kids so they can understand the world around them and have a better quality of life right there in their own communities and beyond.

It saddens me to see slothful, whining kids portrayed in movies, in books, on tv and in person take such an incredible gift of education for granted.  Would they want to trade places with the young lady I met on the bus?  Not for one day could they handle her life.  She is a survivor. Strong.  Driven.

Will she have the opportunities needed to fulfill her dream?  Only God knows.  How I hope so. And how I hope other kids will mature to a point where they see their education as a gift and are thankful for it.

May this new school year be a turning point for children every to embrace their potential.  And, may teachers be refreshed in knowing that they do make a difference.  It’s not about numbers. It’s about lives.  And making a lifelong difference in one child has the potential to change our world.  Run your race strong.  These children are the future of our world, our countries, our states, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families.  You, in fact, hold the future in your hands.  What impact will you determine to have this year?

Here are some of my photographs from the mountain.  May the images be etched in our hearts to never forget this young lady, or the many other children in this world she represents, who dare to look beyond their circumstances and chase their dreams.

Our greeters! 🙂

A typical home

Of one my children meeting new friends!

School uniforms are required, regardless…

We brought oranges as a gift of friendship

Harvesting tea leaves

A Must See!

Last night, one of my best friends sent me an email with a link to a time sensitive premier of a movie coming out.  She told me I HAD to stop and watch it as it was going off-air within the night.  What began as a typical evening in our home was totally derailed and we were completely captivated by this movie!

It had us totally speechless the entire time – past midnight.  I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it.  It’s a documentary.  It’s real, raw and utterly astounding.  At one point, my entire family shouted out in shock.  I won’t give ANY spoilers, but trust me, you have to watch this.  It will change your life forever.

Okay, the the title is “Father of Lights” by Darren Wilson.  They held the premier in CA – which is what we watched.  It comes out October 16th.  We are absolutely going to buy this.

I still get chills when I think about several parts in it.  Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it.

I hope my teaser has peeked your interest.  We had so much trouble getting it to play last night (Bruce thinks their server was hammered by heavy traffic due to the free premier) as we tried it on our laptop , iPad, tv, you name it.  At one point, I was so frustrated I said, “Why did I ever look at my email?  This was going to be an early night!”  Oh am so glad her email came to me.  I am so glad we dropped everything and watched it in its entirety.

October seems like a long ways off.  When it comes out, watch it, then post here what your thoughts are.  I can’t WAIT to talk about this movie because life is indeed stranger than fiction.  Oh my.  Still thinking about it today…

Have I driven you crazy yet? 🙂  You just have to see it!

Click here for the link!

Kristi

Flash Mob Mission Theory

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. ~ Psalm 33:3

Since my family began taking mission trips last summer, many people have asked us all kinds of questions.  One question I have asked myself over and over is, “How do I describe what it feels like to go on a mission trip?”  There are simply so many feelings and thoughts, I don’t know where to begin or end.

Expressions used in every day genres such as: too beautiful for words, or words can’t describe, or I’m at a loss for words – come to mind to describe going on mission.  However, people patiently wait for an answer they can keep.  Something they can wrap their heads around to either be more informed, or perhaps, encouraged.

This morning, I had the delightful surprise of an email sent to me by my mother-in-law.  I often don’t have time to read forwarded emails, but this one caught my eye.  It is a YouTube link (the link is at the bottom of this post).  As I watched it, tears streamed down my face, and I didn’t know why.  Emotion swelled up in my heart and I didn’t understand.  I’ve seen many flash mobs and am always amazed at their creativity.  It would be so much fun to be a part of one some day.  I’ve seen many styles and themes and have enjoyed them all.

Oh, but this one was different.

This one caught my heart and I couldn’t figure it out.  Then, the Lord showed me the reason for my tears.  This particular flash mob describes how I feel about going on mission, though the flash mob itself has nothing to do with it.

Allow me to set the scene.  People, all over the world, are going about their daily lives. Without any hullabaloo, grand entrance or proud proclamation, a single person steps forward and does something out of the ordinary.  They begin to do what they do and people begin to watch.  One by one, people emerge from the crowd, from around the corner, from inconspicuous places, and join.  What appears to be completely spontaneous is far from it.

But, they look just like everyone else standing around!  They are.

Why do they do it?  They are called to and love what they do.

It is the same with missions.  Ordinary people come together, each with a different set of strengths and weaknesses, gifts and talents, and together they serve united with one voice to the world – Christ’s.  Individually, they cannot play all instruments in the symphony.  They have been given a specific set of tasks, and they do them with all their heart.  Unlike the flash mob below, short-term missionaries are not professional missionaries.  Rather, God equips them for the task for such a time as this.

Consider the sequence of events in this overture: they pray over the opportunity; begin all necessary paperwork, shots, etc.; meet regularly to discuss the overall plan as well as individual tasks each person will have; they continue to meet for months, all along gathering supplies and traveling sundries; they pack and hug family members and friends goodbye; they are off.  Oftentimes, traveling with people they have never known before this journey began.

They arrive in a land which may be foreign in landscape, language or culture.  They are the minority.  Settled into their temporary home, they continue to meet and go over details, supply lists, and prayer requests.

The time comes to serve.  As I watched our team in Ukraine recently, indeed, a flash mob began.  What looked like a motley crew of disjointed ages and seasons of life, we came together in perfect tune to make a joyful noise for the Lord.  We were a band of unlikely people, coming from various backgrounds and unknown futures, but when God, the Master Conductor, tapped His baton, all of our attention and eyes focused on Him.  We set aside our lives, schedules and agendas and took our place in His company to play for Him as best we can.

After a two-day flight and a long bus ride; after security and customs and baggage claim and a good night’s sleep; after attending Ukraine’s Sunday church service and meeting many new precious faces – in an instant, right after breakfast, on a sunny, warm Monday nestled comfortably on the calendar, we broke off into our musical suites – soccer, basketball, Bible, arts & crafts, volleyball and music.  We were not travelers.  We were on mission – with a purpose.  We weren’t there to put on a show.  We weren’t there for applause.  We weren’t there for recognition or reward.  Like a flash mob, versus the limelight of a well-publicized event, we were there simply because we were called to be, and wanted to be, to hopefully please God our Father and be a blessing to those around us.

We wanted to bring spontaneous joy.  We wanted to break out of the ordinary and let the extraordinary hand of God brings smiles, hope and strength to beautiful hearts.  I remained wide-eyed throughout the week, over what felt only to be somewhat organized beforehand, was really something God had a well-thought out plan for.  As the Master Conductor, He directed every moment, every step, every word – to stay in perfect pitch with His plan and for His purpose.  Whether in loud allegro moments of organized chaos, or in soft adagio moments of prayer and friendship, the tempo of our mission’s symphony stayed in unison for His glory.

We were imperfect people banding together for perfect purposes – to draw others into His symphony of love so that they might find their instrument, their God-given gift, and play it for Him in chorus with us.

A short-term mission trip is an amazing wonder of which to be a part.  Like watching a flash mob, and the faces of those participating shine with joy and enthusiasm, so we also felt the anticipation build from the inside out.  One major difference between a flash mob and missions is that we encourage others watching to jump in and join us.  Children, teens and adults played in harmony with us for a week of blessing.  We got dirty playing soccer, got sweaty playing basketball, got creative making earrings and crafts, and had way too much fun dancing.  Who was blessed more? Dare I say I went hoping to be a blessing, but was blessed beyond measure.  Our new friends’ voices filled the gaps in our choir.  We weren’t just a team united, we were one body united – no matter the language or cultural barriers.  We were one.  It is, in fact, how eternity will be for those in God’s cantata.

The flash mob below carries a tune for missions that I am unable to express with words.  Like music of the heart, going on mission touches the goer as much as the receiver.  One is never the same when it is over.  Memories roll around in my mind like a melody I can’t stop humming.  People there have changed my heart here, and God used them to write scores of new music for my life to dance to.  Missions has a secret that nothing else in the world can offer.  No amount of money, fame, or fortune can compare to a new reason to dance, a new song to sing, and new friends with which to enjoy it.  There is no greater feeling than to accept new brothers and sisters in Christ, from all over the world, into my life…forever.

There is nothing more satisfying than dancing in step to the rhythm of God’s heartbeat – which is His love for the world.  It is exactly why, for as long as He allows, we will continue to go.  To sing.  To dance.  To work. To play.  To laugh. To cry. To cheer. To love.  Christ is the reason, His salvation the melody, and the people we welcome in our family, both on the team and at our destination, motivate and inspire us as the harmony of their friendship hums in tandem with ours to the music God is playing around the world.  Stop and listen.  Do you hear it?

Click here to let this particular flash mob play the music my heart feels about missions.

Restless

I’m not sure where all of this is leading us, but Bruce (my husband) and I are restless.  We can’t pretend we never saw the need.  We can’t pretend there isn’t STILL a need.  We can’t  ignore the 26,000 children who will die today from otherwise preventable sickness and disease.

We can’t forget the love and friendship extended to us when we were in Kenya.  We can’t forget the smiles and humble nature of the Kenyans from whom Americans could learn a lot!  We keep circling back to a place where we are so confused.  Both of us knew only our way of life for our entire lives.  Yes, we saw impoverished people on t.v.  Yes, we learned about people groups from all over the world in school.  However, I think we have finally realized why we are different now after going on mission to Kenya.

There is a strong, idol-like filter on America.  Everything we see, heard and read about pre-Kenya passed through a filter that encompassed all of our senses and soul.  The filter is called, normal.  What people view as normal is what they come to accept for their lives as the way things are supposed to be.  The most frightening thing about this filter is that we grew up believing our normal is right.  Right for us.  Before our trip, we heard of needs and did our best to meet them through financial aid and giving our time and energy toward projects like Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse.  We went to bed at night, resting our heads on our soft pillows behind locked doors in a safe home, and we slept peacefully believing we had done what was required of us as believers.

Our restlessness isn’t only about experiencing the devastating needs in Kenya, which is much like so many other countries, but about who we are called to be as Christ-followers.  Just as when I add filters to my camera lens, everything I see through the viewfinder is altered by the filter’s skew.  It’s the same way with the American filter.  It has been removed, and Bruce and I stand wide-eyed, to the point of nausea, at what we allowed ourselves to become out of pure ignorance.  Our society is so content and comfortable where we are, that we risk nothing out of that comfort zone that jeopardizes what we want.  For some to say that they feel solely called to help fellow Americans, which is important in its own rite, says, as David Platt puts it in his book Radical, we boast that we feel called to help only 5% of the world’s population.  Is that Christ?

During one of our annual events held to benefit Samaritan’s Purse, someone I know came up to me and said, This is good and all, but next year I’m keeping my money here and helping my homeland.

Again, that is great and noble and needed.  But, dare I say, it is not enough.  Would any of us be believers today had the disciples in Acts stayed right where they were and never acted on the Great Commission given by Jesus?

Our society is drunk on pleasure, gorged on greediness, and is caught in a sleeper-hold of comfort.  My family is among them.   I am ashamed to say that our society will take care of others, only after the portion we give ourselves is met first.  What could possibly be an example of this?  Most people in the world live on a $1 or less.  Our society spends hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on sports and arts for our children, thousands on holiday decorations, hundreds of thousands on clothes, shoes and cosmetics.  This isn’t mentioning the billions on vehicles, homes and education.  The far majority of what we spend our money on will not last. There will be no legacy.  No lasting impact for the Kingdom.  No special approval from God.  It’s just stuff that has woven us in its web and convinced us that these things will mean something one day.  Will they?

Below is an email that we recently received from our dear friend, Joseph.  We met him in Kenya. He is an overseer of an orphanage that we fell absolutely in love with there.  Some friends of ours are back there right now, and delivered a box of supplies we sent with them.  When we read this, we cried.  Why?  Because Joseph is a fellow believer.  We will spend eternity with him.  For now, he is hurting.  A couple of months ago, he lost his oldest son, whom we met, while trying to earn money for his family as a taxi driver of a piki piki (motorcycle).  We were devastated by the news.

It is very true that until a connection is made, it’s very easy for people to shrug off what they don’t want to deal with.  Joseph and the children are family to us. We pray for them every day.  The depth of my heart that was touched by his letter is impossible to put into words.  I invite you to share it with me…

Hi,

Greetings in the name of Jesus, how are you? We are all fine here. God has blessed us with rain although to others it devastating. The crops are doing well despite only yellowing of leaves in corn.

Your friends came to visit us on Wednesday, and they relayed your greetings and your friends’.

We have received the supplies and we are all happy about them.

We are happy when we are with you in prayers and we will not forget you for being with us also in the time of grief.  May God be with you and guide you as we are praying for you .

I remember your compassion when you were with us. The love of Christ that I have for you is never ending, may God bless you.

 Yours Faithfully,

 Joseph

To me, his letter was like reading the New Testament.  Brothers and sisters in Christ sharing His love and friendship whether near or far apart.  This is what will last.  This is what will impact future generations.  This is what furthers the Kingdom.  The photos below are of the Kenyans’ normal.  Does this look okay to us who have homes and vehicles and jobs?  I shot these throughout Kenya, not one solitary corner of the community. Step outside of Nairobi (with its slums as well as the business sector) and this is the countryside – a small, but accurate sampling.

I am most certain this post today will upset some people.  Frankly, I am upset too, as I see what believers in our country are capable of doing and what it is NOT being done.  Bruce and I don’t have all the answers, but we are restless.  Are you?


Torn in two

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~ Micah 6:8

I was picking up the house recently when something stopped me dead in my tracks.  Literally, I took one step forward and froze.  Looking down at our coffee table, I saw some mailers that have sat for over a week.  Each one was complimentary and was delivered to my home – ironically arriving within a day of each other.  When they arrived, I placed them on my coffee table like I do with current mailers and never gave it another thought.

This time, my heart skipped a beat as I gazed, with fresh eyes, at the dichotomy of these things. See for yourself…

Do you see what I see?  Contradiction.  Two worlds clashing.

Both of those reflect me, and I am frustrated!  On one hand, my heart is passionate for all people and want no one to suffer.  I want everyone to know the love of Jesus and have all of their needs met; for everyone to realize their goals and dreams; and for peace and provisions worldwide.

On the other hand, I get stuck in what I know as normal.  I like Restoration Hardware (though I can’t afford most of what they sell).  I like their style, ideas, and clean lines.  It’s not just Restoration Hardware, but this is the mailer that happened to be sent at the same time as PrayerPoint.  I’m not picking on it, but I am confused with where it all stands with me.

I think I’ve spent my life like most people in America.  I have not been blind to the world around me, but honestly, it didn’t directly affect my daily 24/7.  The needs and injustices of this world have always made me want to help, and we do what we can, but within the longitutde and latitude of my life in America, there is a whole different normal.

I’m not saying there is not hardship and suffering here. There is. But, comparatively, we do not live in a war-torn land; we have freedom of speech & religion; we have basic things like paved roads, clean water and electricity;  we have sanitation systems that keep infection and disease down; we have laws (albeit not perfect!) against child labor, for safe working conditions, to monitor sanitation levels in restaurants, hospitals, etc.; truancy laws to keep kids in school; laws against child abuse, parent abuse and spousal abuse; and we have legal rights in the justice system.  Take away the tangible things and America is still, by far, a very rich place in which to live.

Most people in the world have far fewer rights and protections and live on $1 or less per day.  26,000 people, including children, die every day from preventable diseases and illnesses.  The rate of human trafficking, starvation, drought and political conflict is mind-boggling.  Does it affect where my kids go to school?  Where I buy my groceries? Where I go to church? I must admit, for many years I kept the two dichotomies separated.  We help locally and globally, but my daily grind did not know the physical hardships of most people in the world.

In the last few years, however, God has awoken me from a hazy sleep.  He broadened my narrow vision in a whole new way.  With the organizations we volunteer for, God has given us more work and responsibilities.  With our church, God has given us more opportunities to serve.

It’s a whole different story to know orphans that I call by name and pray for every day.  Whose faces are on the walls of my daughter’s bedroom and who are smiling at me every time I close my eyes wondering how they are doing in Kenya.  Children we’ve met, played with and held.  Teens who have dreams and hopes and goals, but little to no help to achieve them.

No one is less important than anyone else, but “here” and “there” have felt light years apart for years.

I’ve always been a huge advocate for water conservation because I grew up in an area where there was a constant threat of drought.  I try to do my part by taking very short showers; turning off the water when brushing my teeth; dumping boiled vegetable water on my outdoor potted plants; watering indoor plants with leftover cups of water; using large shade trees to cool the grass instead of a sprinkler system; and using water-saving car washes (only when truly needed) versus the hose water running down the gutter.  Very little water goes to waste in our house.  Even still, I feel so guilty for using any of it because I saw the miles people walk, barefoot and carrying plastic jugs, to fetch their daily water supply.  The water I wash my dishes with is far cleaner than the only water many people have to drink.

And, we have a house.  It’s not the biggest, it’s not the smallest.  We do, however, use every square inch of it – none of it wasted space.  One could look at the daily messes in it to know that it is true!  But, how many people in the world have a house?  Not many.   Every night when we say prayers with the kids, we thank God for a bed to sleep in and a roof over our heads.  But, we also pray for those who don’t have such luxuries.

That’s my point.  Why do some people call them luxuries and some call it a normal standard of living?  It’s all what we’re used to.

My life has been used to one way of living.  My heart has always known better.  As I experience more of this planet, the gap between the two dichotomies is only growing wider and it’s tearing me in two.

How do I enjoy things like flipping through a Restoration Hardware catalog and dreaming of the what-ifs, while I know children are dying because they don’t have simple vaccines or enough food to survive?

How do I serve those who need help, but still be thankful for what God has blessed me with like a full belly, shoes on my feet, and a home with doors to lock and a van to drive?

I can’t figure this out.  Part of me wants to sell everything and move to a faraway land.  Part of me feels called to stay put and continue the ministries that we do stateside that help people all over the world because of the resources we have here.

The summer before God called our family to short-term mission, we put a pool in the backyard of our home that we’ve lived in for 15 years.  It’s not a huge pool, but it fits the size of our motley crew.  We saved for a very, very long time and made sacrifices in other areas to make it happen.  It has been a great tool to strengthen our family time, and we love to have extended family and friends over to enjoy it with us.   But, the next summer we surprisingly found ourselves in Africa, and this summer we are preparing for another mission to a different part of the world, and my husband and I wonder if we did the right thing with the pool.  We are deeply thankful God allowed us to save the money to do it, but I also now know a lot better now how far that money could go to help people simply survive.  If we had the same choice to make all over again, would we build it?  And is this a contradiction to my water conservation awareness?

Ug.

I may never find a balance within my heart with these two parts of me.  The world itself is not balanced.  It does bother me, however, to not even notice the two vastly different mailers sitting right next to each other on my coffee table as if they were equal reading.  They are not.

One thing I can do is this:

  • Continue to teach my children the difference between need and want (Matthew 6: 25-33)
  • Teach them the value of serving others (Matthew 20:26-28)
  • Teach them to consider others more highly than they consider themselves (Philippians 2:3)
  • Teach them not to be afraid of hard work (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12)
  • Teach them to be grateful for what they have, not to have too much of it, and be willing to share it (Philippians 3:12-13; Acts 2:44-45)
  • Teach them the value of money and its proper place in our lives (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
  • Teach them to tithe (Leviticus 27:30; Matthew 22:21)
  • Teach them to work as unto the Lord and not for the glory of people or ourselves (Ephesians 6:7-8; Colossians 3:23-24)
  • Talk with them about ways they can use their gifts and talents to make a difference in this world (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Talk with them about what lasts in this world – and what doesn’t (Matthew 6:19-21)
  • Talk with them about love and who deserves our whole heart (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • Encourage them to always look for good to do…and do it (1 Timothy 6:18)
  • Example all of this in my own life first.

Children truly imitate their parents – for better or worse.  If we want to play a role in helping this world survive for generations to come, change needs to begin with us.

Decades ago, my mom clipped a poem by Charles Kingsley and pinned it to our kitchen corkboard.  This little piece of paper is one of the only (and most beloved) treasures I have left from losing everything in catastrophic loss when I was a teen.  Below is a scan of the original.

Every time I try to wrap my head around the dichotomy of my world and the world, I end up with more questions than answers.  Returning from Africa, I feel like I have no home.  Like I told a friend, I’m not comfortable living in this society because we have so much, but I’m not sure I could handle living there with its unrelenting hardships.

I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere.

I think that’s exactly where God wants our hearts.  As Christians, we are citizens of another world.  A world our eyes cannot see, but one our hearts are drawn to.  This isn’t where we belong.  It shouldn’t be comfortable.  Pardon the double negative, but it shouldn’t be a place that we wouldn’t want to leave if the Lord called us home.

John 18:36 – Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 

Philippians 3:20-21 –  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1 Peter 2:11 – Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

I can relate as someone who finds herself a nomad at heart, a stranger passing through this life.

God wants us to enjoy His gift of life, to enjoy the tangible and intangible blessings of life, and be thankful for what He has given us (not which was attained by selfish desire).  But, He never meant for us to keep it all to ourselves.  I’m not only referring to money and physical resources, He also wants us to share our time, talents and energy; our love, friendship and humor; everything that makes us unique that He inspired in us for His purposes.  Most of all, He wants us to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, the free gift of eternal life that the world cannot take away.

As the world economy and our American economy both feel the tremble of emerging fault lines beneath our feet, serious thought and prayer need to play a major part in how we spend every dollar and donate every hour of our time & resources.  Time is short.  Life is precious.  God help us.

I am here, my heart is there

I woke up in Africa today, if only in my heart.  We traveled to Kenya as a family last summer on a short-term mission trip, and I am convinced part of me stayed there.  If I close my eyes and draw a deep breath, I can still smell the smoke from the Masai warriors’ burned wood.  If I sink my ears into my pillow, I can hear the laughter of the hundreds of children we had the pleasure to meet.  If I dismiss the daily to-do’s waiting for me, I am able to replay the memories we made as a team and as individuals.

What I still can’t forget are the smiles.  Hundreds and hundreds of smiles shining at us.  I can’t forget the extremely special people we met.  We felt like we had known them for a lifetime.  I miss them.

And the tomatoes!  I’ve never in all my life had a tomato so sweet and delicious – you could eat them like an apple.  The smell of the night air.  Unpolluted.  Dewey. Sweet.  The fun we had!  Singing, sharing, working.  Standing on a mountain top, looking at people who have never seen white folk.  I’d never seen Kenyan tribal folk.  The language barrier – and how it really didn’t matter.  Love truly knows no language.  Smiles, playing, and just being together provided so much love we needn’t say a word.  I was captivated watching the children’s faces as they saw themselves for the first time – through my camera’s lens.  Never had some seen what they look like.  Never had they seen themselves in motion as on Bruce’s iPad.  The squeals of delight and fascination were contagious.

The poverty.  Heart-breaking poverty.  It was everywhere my eye wandered.  I couldn’t get away from it.  Even in our bunk rooms, children stood outside the door begging.  Give me sweets?  Give me Bible?  Give me sweets?  Give me Bible? they repeated over and over.  There is so much need.  They need clean water, dental hygiene, shoes, clothes that do not have gaping holes in them and that actually fit.  They need allergy medicine, education, medical care, and to hear they are loved.  My heart broke for them – with good reason.  They have many, many important needs.

However, when we asked them if they want what we have in America, they said no.  Hmm.  Why?  Because, they said, we see what it costs you to have it. Wow.  I was speechless.  They nailed it.  They are impoverished people, but they are hard-working, loving, accepting people.  They pay no attention to status, material possessions or anything that labels a person.  They are thrilled just to spend time together.  They have true community.  Something we lack.

We worked primarily with children.  It still amazes me that the entire time we were there, I heard not one single complaint from them!  Not one I’m bored, I’m tired, I don’t want to, but why, why not, I’m cold, I’m hungry, or a single negative comment.  Not one.  Children who have no parents, no shoes, no possessions to call their own.  Not even electricity or running water.

But boy were they happy!  They laughed and sang and took us by the hand and showed us their orphanages, schools, and church.  They played soccer with us, danced with us, braided my daughter’s hair, and showed us how to harvest corn in the fields.  They wanted nothing from us, but were so thankful for what we brought.  I met a boy who has the mind of an engineer, and I got to introduce a Rubik’s Cube to him.  I met a teenage girl that hopped on our bus to ride up the mountain that she climbs every day…just because she wanted to feel what it was like to ride in a vehicle.  She wants to be a teacher or doctor.

My kids fell head over heels in love with all of the children.  My daughter is still trying to convince us to adopt the special friend she made.  If only life were that easy.  My oldest teen made instant friends with another teen there who wants to be a pastor.  They were soul brothers just like that.  My youngest helped buy and cut wood with his dad, and played soccer every single day with boys his age.  They helped with VBS, led worship at church, and dug ditches to help build a kitchen onto one orphanage.  Our children were changed forever.  All of the children on the team were.  We all were.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so embedded is a video I made from the photos I took.  Watch with me.  I need to see their faces again.  Smell the dewy air.  Feel the rich soil beneath your feet.  Hear nothing but kids laughing and playing.  See the precious, beautiful Kenyan people.  They have many needs, but after being with them, I think they are some of the richest people in the world.