Monday, September 30, 2013

Why People Shouldn't Do Missions

I know this sounds like an absurd statement when I just returned yesterday from Guatemala but I believe it's the truth.  People shouldn't "do" missions.  We should all be on mission because we have all been called to a unique mission field if only we are willing to accept the challenge. 

When people "do" mission work, it sounds like something either obligatory or award-worthy.  It makes it seem like something out of the ordinary when we are actually called to spread the hope and saving grace of Jesus with everyone we meet.  If love is our guiding force, we will seek to share with others and work to improve their lives as an outward demonstration of Christ's love.  Feeding children or mixing concrete in Guatemala is just one way that God is allowing me to show people that He sent me to help improve their lives.  He gave me the chance to meet them and pray for them.  Missions is not something that we can only do in a distant city, state, or country.  The most difficult mission field is often your own hometown, or even harder, your own family. 

No matter where we live, there are always people who do not believe in Jesus Christ and his path to salvation.  Someone has to be obedient and reach out to those in every segment of the earth's population--rich or poor, near or far, black or white, mansion or homeless.  We are all given different opportunities and gifts to reach people.  Truthfully at times it will seem that we are ill-equipped for the challenge ahead.  At those times we need to remember that Christ is leading and we need to trust him.  Christ uses us, not the other way around.  He uses us when we're broken, when we've been lost, when we feel inadequate.  He uses our distinct path to lead others to salvation.

Matthew 28:19 says that we are to make disciples of all the nations.  It doesn't say that everyone will travel around the world to complete the task.  We need to plant where we are sent, not hoard our seeds while waiting for a different field.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Beautiful View

Tuesday was my first trip to the Linda Vista community.  This new community was recently built, nestled between a busy 6 lane road and a cliff.  The homes are typical for a Guatemalan ghetto, built from found tin, tree branches, and scavenged materials.

Linda Vista means beautiful view.

Truly these families have a beautiful view.  Their community overlooks a lush forest.  The more beautiful view that I witnessed was their vision for life.  In this community we were greeted by men and women who love Christ and are overtly thankful for all that they have been given. 

These families are thankful for their small homes, built from what we would regard as trash.  They have a love for their community that leads  them to share the water from their water filters with those who do not have one.  Their vision of Christ's love for people shows as they work together to improve their lives, with our help they went from having only one toilet for all 100 families to have 7 to share. 

True vision extends beyond what is in front of your eyes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Change in the Ghetto

Today was the first time I have been to a community in Guatemala that is being run by strong men. The communities that I've visited before were run by strong, independent women.   We worked in Linda Vista today, delivering water filters, food bags, and bibles while also building 6 bathrooms. 

What was amazing to me was to see an eager group of men who were leading us as we improved their community. 

Even better was when the men specifically asked us to pray for them and their families.  They needed work, rain to fill their water tanks, and peace within their familes.  They truly wanted to be able to support and lead their families.  As we were trying to finish the last bathroom, the rains came.

God is working in the lives of these men to change this community.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Stop the Cycle?

Seventeen years old with a 5 day old baby.  Two teens welcomed us into their home this afternoon.  They look like babies, holding a baby.  All I can think about is how are they going to raise this baby?  Innocence radiates from their faces and I worry.  They already live in poverty.  This baby was born into poverty.  How will he provide for a family when they can't afford their own home?  I remember having babies and I know what it is like having children.  It is hard and we don't have the daily strain to survive.  When I lean down to talk to the young mom I realize that what looks like a twin mattress beside a double mattress is really skids with blankets.

She was sitting beside the soccer field intently watching the game.  After a while I decided to go down and talk with her.  As I had guessed she was watching a boy.  There isn't really many other reasons that teenage girls would sit alone and watch so intently.  We exchanged info about ourselves.  She asked me about my family.  What I wasn't expecting was her living situation.  My 14 year old friend told me that she lives with her boyfriend.  She was abused and left her home.  Now two lost children are trying to support each other.  How long until they have a baby?

So many of the young men that were playing soccer looked young and full of opportunity.  I worry about where they will be in 5 years?  There is so much risk that without an education and with young children, they will resort to illegal activities.

How do you stop this cycle?  We began today by praying.  We can't change their situation or give them the will to change.  God must be the force that drives them.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

One Mom's Fight for Her Son

God is so good.  I had an idea of what we would see and do here at Dorie's Promise but God had such better plans.  When we arrived, we met two families that are here to visit their children.  Two families that have been fighting for 6 years to bring their children home.  These are children who they have legally adopted but have been unable to bring home because they hadn't been able to leave the country by December 31, 2007. 

A chance meeting with one mother in the kitchen turne into a deep discussion about the tragedy that is the current state of adoptions.  All of my emotions about adoption are stirred and I can't contain them.  I yearn to walk down to Casa 5, get Alejandra and take her home with us but powers greater than me have decided that can't happen.  Here's where I've landed after talking to Ruth.

1.  Children need loving homes!  First and foremost, all children deserve a loving home.  This is non-negotiable.  Why have governments decided that it is better for children to live in orphanages with varying degrees of care instead of families who yearn to adopt?  I understand that their biological families is the best option but sometimes that isn't possible.  No matter what you want to believe, the truth is that some children really are abandoned.

2. It is our social responsibility to share our resources to provide opportunities for social and economic progress for lesser developed countries!  So many children find their way into orphanages because their families legitimately could not care for them.  Think for a moment about the love and bravery that it takes for a parent to recognize that they cannot afford to care for their child and then to relinquish their rights.  What would happen to that family and community if we invested in housing, business development, and education?  A family that was financially secure would be less likely to abandon their children.

3. Children are not political pawns! We spend ridiculous amounts of money to fund wars in other countries because they hold the key to our oil source.  What would happen if a small amount of our political clout was spent on doing what was right in this world?  Finalize their adoptions.  Now!  It isn't a question.  The adoptions were completed by the law at the time, let the children come home.  Stop making this an immigration issue.  Why is the security of our border more important than a child who is alone, malnourished, and on the brink of death in Africa?  We need government officials who care more about doing what is right for the world than getting reelected.

4. The color of a child's skin doesn't determine their worth!  The honest truth is that some people just don't want more Hispanics or Blacks in America.  Get over it.  Unless you are Native American, you are an immigrant too.  Truthfully, we don't deserve anything more just because we were born in America or White.  I can tell you that I love the little boys from DRC just as much as I love their older siblings, just as much as their sister from Guatemala, as if they are my own.  And God help the first person who ever makes a comment about them in my presence because I have quite the speech already in my head.

5. These families have been through enough, let them be whole! Can you imagine not being able to have your child with you for 6 years.  You can visit occasionally but you always have to leave.  These families have made incredible sacrifices.  They have lost their homes and businesses because of the cost.  They have spent their life's savings.  Some have moved for years to Guatemala until the money ran out, just to be near their children.  The stress has taken their health.  Yet they keep fighting for their children, just like I would for mine and you would for your's.

So as I promised a mother in a kitchen in Guatemala this afternoon, I will share their stories because everyone needs to know and I will continue to pray for their families.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

7: Stored Up Treasures

We are half way through our first month of 7.  Remember our goal:  7 items every day for a month, 210 items total.  Well, this family has completely blown past that goal already. 
After 14 days, we are already at 761 items being removed from our house.  There are clothes, shoes, sheets, books, dishes, toys, furniture, and so much more.  We are meeting needs for the local Boys and Girls Club, a nursery school, migrant orchard workers, and quite a few clothes will go with us to Guatemala.  That isn't going to empty the room either.  There are more people to help.
Matthew 6: 19-21 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
I want a comfortable, beautiful home but I'm finding that having less is giving us space to use and enjoy what we have.  Being able to give away items is also teaching us the joy in giving and helping others.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

7: My Badge of Excess

Within only one week of beginning my possession purge I am already completely overwhelmed by the process.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not having problems getting rid of my items.  I have to stop myself from just clearing out the whole house in one swoop.

As I look at all the things in our house, I think about if I use it, love it, or if it has special meaning.  There are more items than I wish to confess that we don't use.  I have started to be honest about why I bought some of the items in our home.  Sixteen Spode Christmas plates sit in our cabinet, bought because a friend I admired had those plates.  To emulate one of the most wonderful hostesses I ever met, I have amassed a large collection of various serving dishes.  I do use some of these dishes frequently but I certainly don't need this many. 

For many years, I have tried to create an image of myself, our family and our home that would be worthy of admiration, even jealousy.  I wanted to have a house that people admired.  If I worked hard enough, we could be one of those families that other people idolized.  Yes, I said idolized.  My goals are changing.  I don't want people to be interested in us because we have a nice house full of nice things.  Instead of joy all of my stuff has become my badge of excess.

We are choosing to spend more of our time helping those who don't have access to the excess that we so callously waste.  Our friends in Guatemala don't even have access to clean, running water and I'm worried about a third set of dishes and the color of my sheets.  I do feel guilty about how much we have because I seen real poverty.  I have seen a family who slept under a tarp on a sidewalk.  Everything that they owned could be carried.  I could say that we have worked hard for what we have but that just sounds like an excuse for my spending.  There is a difference between enjoying our life and creating a life just to impress others. 

So the most important part of this month for me is to examine why we have chosen to have these items in our lives.  For those items that we don't use, love, or treasure I need to find someone else who could actually benefit from my items.  I want to change the way that we look at our life.  We want to fill our home with items that we love and tell a story--photos of people we have met, gifts from travels in different countries and Virginia Tech memorabilia to start.  I want to spend more effort enjoying life instead of spending money. 

I want people to admire us for how we are choosing to live and the impact that we are trying to make because of what Christ has done in our lives, not because I chose well when decorating or was able to orchestrate a good show for the outside world.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

7: What's in Your Closet?

When I read in Jen Hatmaker's book that she had 327 articles of clothing in her closet I thought she was ridiculous.  That is an excessive amount of clothing for one woman.  Well, guess what?  This lady counted 332 articles of clothing (including all shoes)!  I guess this makes me 5 articles more ridiculous than Jen Hatmaker.  I was stunned so I added the numbers a couple times.  I mean I only have one closet and 2 small drawers--that can't be right!

How can a closet that is this organized have that much stuff in it?

As much as I love to purge and organize things.  Some of this purge was hard.  I didn't think I'd have a hard time but there were some items I didn't want to give up.  Like my very favorite, 13 year old Virginia Tech sweatshirt.  Brandon has been practically begging me to get rid of it for years because it is literally falling apart.  Now, I couldn't actually give that away because it really was full of holes but I did cut the front off to be included in a t-shirt quilt and throw the rest away, after 10 minutes of contemplation.  I guess I'm more attached to my things than I thought and it's not just the new and shiny items. 

Literally, I sat on my floor for 30 minutes trying to narrow down my shoes into what seemed like the minimum number necessary to compliment my slimmed down wardrobe.  I would have never guessed that I had 37 pairs of shoes.  I will try to make it seem better by telling you that it includes rubber boots, work boots, running shoes, and all other kinds of shoes.  See, doesn't that seem more reasonable now.  There are several pairs that aren't necessary but I just like them so they stayed.  Sorry, I'm not perfect.  One pair that left was a set of brand new, never been worn Asics running shoes.  These aren't cheap shoes people!  But, I really feel like they are for someone else.  Don't believe that I'm too generous here, there are still two pairs of the exact same shoe left, they just aren't brand new.

At the end of several hours spent in my bedroom, I am left with 226 items total, a 32% reduction.  Of that, 83 items will find new owners while 23 found the trash can.  It seems that even I can hold on to some things just because, even if they are full of holes.  It's nice to be able to look in my closet and easily see what's in there. 

Thinking about the cost of everything in that closet that was worn once, twice, a few not at all, tags still attached, is sad.  It was so much money that could have been used better.  The key is to kick the habit and maintain a manageable wardrobe that is useful. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

7: Excess from the Start

We are officially 3 days into our 7 Fast.  This month we are focusing on possessions.  The baseline is to give away 7 items every day.  In this house, that won't be a problem.  It's not because we're extra generous.  It's because we have TOO MUCH STUFF!  I like to believe that I keep a neat house without any infamous junk rooms but the truth is that we have too much stuff neatly stored throughout the entire house.  As I'm finding out, we are deceivingly greedy. 

I am choosing to involve everyone in our family this month because we are all guilty and I'm pretty sure that my list alone is going to top 210 items very soon.  Because I am compulsive, we have a calendar showing what we are focusing on each day.  We are going a little bit heavy in the first 3 weeks because we will be making a trip to Guatemala at the end of the month, a great opportunity to give away a lot of our stuff. 

I have decluttered my sewing room, emptied a hamper that had clothes to be donated from earlier purges this summer, purged my closet, and purged Brandon's closet so far this month.  We already have 236 Items!  It is sickening.  3 days in and we've already met the monthly goal.  The thought of how much money was wasted on items that I never used or barely used in unbearable. 

The giving has started already.  Caroline's teacher needed fabric scraps and yarn for a class project.  Today she receive 3 barely touched large skeins of yarn and a full grocery bag of large scraps handpicked for their kid-friendly colors, textures, and patterns.  That didn't even make a dent in the piles though. 

This is where I will need help.  As you go through your day if you know of a material need that we could help meet, please let me know.  I might add a separate page with a list of items that we would like to give to someone in need.  We can arrange for delivery within Washington County or Rockingham County.  Let's see exactly who God has in mind for our items.