Monday, June 24, 2013

flexibility: key to serving others (africa pt.2)

Going to South Africa changed every area of my life.

It was like being blind and then suddenly being able to see.  How do you explain what you see?  I don't know, and there is my block.

I hesitate to share, humbled by the knowledge that this is only my first time seeing what God is doing outside of my small American box, hesitate to say what broke my heart knowing that many others have lived and seen much worse.

I hesitate to share because life is not something that is easy to Instagram.  Life is just something you have to live.  And yet. . . not everyone has opportunity to go and so many have prayed and besides i write to process life anyway. . . so I stumble on.

God changed my perspective of America drastically.  Before I left, I was nervous to leave the kids in the wake of the Boston tragedy and the horrific fire in Texas.  I'm a mom.  Two catastrophes in one week.  We're not used to that.  Eli threw up for three days straight before we left.  I'm not used to sick kids.  I doubted and was scared over issues that seem very, very small to me now.  I wondered if God had really told me to go.  I wondered (again) if my real responsibility was to stay and take care of my babies. 

I'd like to say I knew the minute we left that it was okay.  I'd like to say meeting the kids at Restoring Hope confirmed it.  But it wasn't until seeing what these little people have been rescued from that I knew that it was God, calling me to open my eyes to needs beyond my own little nest. 

Africa taught me that flexibility is key to ministry.  We all assumed we were going to spend two weeks loving on these poor little orphan kids. 

During our very first day there, we were introduced to happy, normal, crazy fun kids.  No one really wanted to voice it out loud, but some of us were just blown away by how stable the environment is at Restoring Hope.  Lois and Amber and Brian and Lois have worked so very hard to create families for the kids.  There are seven kids in each house, with houseparents with awesome names like Papa Revival (for real).  So we kind of backed up and regrouped and thought. . . maybe we aren't here just to give hugs.  What is it?  We wanted to have hearts wide open to whatever it was God wanted to show us.

Meanwhile Pam and I cooked for 18-20 people every night and 10-15 people for lunch. Loren cleaned and sorted and organized, we helped with homework every day from 4-6, our guys worked and worked putting two roofs on in the time that we were there.

And everytime we were asked, "would you like to_____________?"  we said yes, since maybe ________ was why God wanted us there.

Second day we were asked casually if we wanted to go along to the hospital to visit little Athlehang, the newest little girl at the village, severely malnourished and run down from the effects of HIV.  We went, eagerly. 

In the hospital, we met little people abandoned there with no one to care for them and no real plan to leave.  Babies in little cribs who have never left the hospital, let alone the crib or room.  Their physical needs were being met, but our hearts broke for their little lonely hearts, without a mommy to kiss them or and dad to protect.  We forgot about germs and HIV and our American worries of safety and sat on tiled floors and played games and cried and drew pictures and gave suckers (they call candy sweeties) and couldn't believe it was okay to just get up and leave them. 

It is one thing to look at youtube videos of abandoned children.  It is quite another thing to hold that abandoned child in your arms and realize her hair is black and curly and her skin is moist; the life ahead of her seems so dark at the tender age of seven days.

South Africa was full of extreme contrasts to me.  There was a lot of modern convenience, and then you would suddenly be in this whole city of tin shacks and cardboard shelters and squalor.  The effects of sin and death are so very clear. 

We are able to mask our deep need for Christ with money and things.  But money and things are not available there to hide behind, and so the need for the freedom that Jesus gives is so very clear.  Money is not the problem, safer sex is not the problem, social reform is not the problem, racism and education and medical needs are not the problem.  They are symptoms of a larger problem, the problem of living life apart from Christ.

Flexibility allowed us to visit the hospital several times, visit daycares, visit schools, go to a baby orphanage, visit a hospice house for little people whose caretakers are dying of HIV. Flexibility allowed us to see the need to encourage the staff and the missionary couples.  It is a lonely road and very thankless at times and it was a joy to try and scratch the surface of meeting their needs.  Pam and Loren took the ladies out one day and Taylor and I babysat their kids.  We chatted.  We asked about them.  Flexibility allowed us to be used by God.

I'm challenged with this every day.  Am I going to be so rigid in my life plan that I am unwilling to deviate from the schedule of Hayley to do what He asks of me?  If so, Africa is my reminder that I may miss the joy of meeting needs and the perspective change that obedience brings.

I said earlier that Boston and Texas made me nervous to leave my kids in America.  Seeing how the rest of the world lives made me nervous to return to America, nervous and scared that I will be lulled back to comfort and stability, back to allowing the mask of money to hid the real needs of the people around me.  Not nervous about catastrophe.  Bad things.  .  . awful things. . . happen around the world and why do I think that my right as an American is entitlement to endless safety and stability? 

Landing in Chicago was sad to me.  I wished that ministry here was as black and white as it was in Welkom.  I wished I felt a deep rush of pride to be in my own country.  But I didn't. . . I wished we wouldn't be so spoiled and blind and rejecting of God and selfish and arrogant.  I wished that we as a country would open our eyes to the needs of those.  I hoped that I wouldn't forget what I saw.  I hoped that I would be able to communicate this all to our kids. 

Two months later those feelings haven't worn off.  I wish that I could go back to Africa but instead God calls me to be here, to spend time sorting through the masks that we wear, seeing the deeper needs of the people around me and pointing them to Him. Humanity - African, American, Australian- is in desperate need of Him. 
little guy who was living in/near city dump


  1. This is SO beautiful and SO rich.


    God is using you to SPEAK His truth...thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I love the way you wrote this. It invites me to think deeply. It invites me to consider what God is saying to me. Thank you. There is so much more in this world than the little sliver I know...I'm scared to go meet kids like you did. I feel like my heart couldn't take it. But maybe there is something else God wants to tell me.