blessing.

Some days I feel like Jason and I just see each other in a blur of crazy chaos. The funny thing is most days begin with some sort of plan. They really do but somewhere around 8:30am that sucker usually begins to unravel. Life here is just predictably…. unpredictable. And you can be bitter about it, wrestle it, and hate it or you can just. let. it. go. At least that is the conclusion this schedule lovin’ plan makin’ girl has come to. Not that we never want to have things done orderly or that we always respond to everything around us (because we also sense God telling us to sift, choose, rest, and recharge more) but we have found that God brings opportunities to love and serve and learn and be changed through the unplanned. Through the interuptions if only we view them differently. Yep, God rarely respects my to-do list or my calendar.

Today was one of those days. I had a constant stream of visitors, some not staying long but just coming for water, to greet us, ask a question, but still allllllll morning. It was like they planned it; when one would leave two minutes later another would appear at the door with a “hoodi“. Even rain which can usually be counted to equate a quiet morning did not stop the droves today. But here is the thing: God has shown me clearly that I receive these visitors for Him. He has changed my heart about being with people no matter when they come a knockin’. But if I am honest some days this weighs on me. Yes, some visits I barely make it through with gritted teeth and then a sigh of relief when the door closes but He is working on me and my need to “accomplish” something in those moments. Being back I am reminded already what a failure I am. Not in the self pity sort of way but in the liberating “Oh yeah idiot! you do not have to be everything to everyone and you can NOT do it in your own strength” way. I need that reminder often you see. He meets me there and remember He knows and loves everyone that passes through my home even more than I ever could. More than I love my family, husband, my own children. My capacity for love is nothing compared to His. That is the Truth of His love for humanity. Do I believe it though? Will I let His love change the lens I wear to see the people He has created? That is my choice. I know when I pray and ask Him for the love, compassion, kindness, and hospitality especially in my weakness He gives it. He did today.

After cleaning and bandaging a foot, running to the post office, and sharing juice and chatting with two friends we had some team members over for lunch. Then our old Mlinzi arrived with news that his wife is recovering in Dar and had surgery with a great doctor at the clinic we recommended and is doing much better! Then we headed out to meet someone (who never showed up) and so we came back home so Jason could get back to the Vocational Training Centre in time for his interviews for new computer students. As he was about to leave some kids from shule came by to see if I could go visit with their mother. I was requested at the home of my friend’s relative many times while I was gone because her baby was really sick. She was in and out of the hospital three times. Unable to eat or drink and losing weight. This is a little girl who I think has cerebral palsy and I have visited several times in the hospital and at her home. They have never asked for money or anything but always just want me to come and visit. Because the Waswahili visit. One of the first Kiswahili things I learned is “wageni ni baraka” Guests are blessing. And they mean it. They visit and they receive guests all the time. That is what they do especially when they cannot do anything else. They sit and be and talk and listen. When Jason was staying out in the village he visited people from sun up to sun down some days and when he did not have time to come in people actually told him he was denying them blessing and thus he had to come in, park his butt on the mat, and visit. It is serious stuff. Community and togetherness means everything here. And although it stretches me past my comfort zone it is one of the things I simply adore about the culture.

To be honest when I was told I was wanted my first reaction was to make up some reason or excuse and I have lots of perfectly defendable ones like work, kids, house. I just did not want to go. I just did not want to see her so sick. Again. And feel so helpless and overwhelmed with the pain of people’s lives. Again. And struggle with why God placed me there in the midst of it. My heart beats faster like it is swelling inside me. Like it might burst because it cannot handle one more tear, one more death. But I prayed and tears came and I knew quickly I had to go.

This discomfort is good for me. It reminds me that there is a better place then here and I need to be eagerly waiting for that place and freely giving of myself for His glory. So I packed up a few new outfits Evy really does not need to offer as gifts and we went. We drove over muddy village roads until it was so bad we had to get out and walk the rest of the winding way. As soon as we arrived they hollered in celebration that we had come and handed the little girl to me. A shuffle of people quickly got out mat, took my shoes, and after disappearing for a few minutes brought a pan of communal rice and there we were: sitting, eating, and catching up. We talked America, island life, my trip, my family at home, Evy’s illness, her child’s illness, hospital care, a death of a Mother of our friend, the funeral, pregnancy, giving birth and when they started talking too fast for me to catch much I just looked at the little girl in my arms. I talked to her. I just said her name over and over and snuggled her. She has had such a difficult life by earthy standards. She was born to a poor family with little ability to care for her extensive needs although they do the best they can. She has never sat on her own or clasped anything. She maybe weighs ten pounds. Her family can only afford the most basic of care. The doctors say she cannot hear or see but I know she heard me. She darted her eyes frantically trying to focus on who was calling her name. Everyone noticed. I just told her God loves her and is with her. I know He is. Even in my admitted fear. And doubt. And my anger.

I am angry. You see the world is hurting and broken. A lot more than I thought it was 3 years ago and I don’t know what to do with that. Where to put it so that I can go on with life. I know I cannot do everything but the figuring out what I am called to do is….. killer hard. There is too much hurt. I just want to yell at God and the odd thing is that a few years ago I would have thought that makes me a bad person. Or at least not a faithful one. But I know different now. I have cried out to Him more on behalf of others instead of always focusing on my checklist of things I would like Him to do for me. I know He can take it. I know He sees and hears and is big enough to handle my anger and their pain. I am so angry I can feel my jaw clenching and my pores sweating. I just want healing. redemption. hope. now. But the whole of creation is groaning for it. Yet we wait.
Another friend took the little girl to lay her down on a mat to sleep but she jostled awake and started to shake and scream. Only no sound came out. Nothing but throaty, breathy gasps. I had never seen her cry before. Everyone explained “hana sauti” (she has no voice). Trying to comfort a crying baby that is making no sound was surreal. We took turns bouncing her and swaying her until she finally calmed and slept. Then I felt Him reaching into my throbbing, angry, confused heart. Suddenly I saw and felt more than was in the small brick home with an open roof we were sitting in.
Her pain is visible but yet silent. And so with people’s pain; it is often missed by others. We cannot hear it. It has “no voice” but God hears all. Please believe this is not a trite, easy answer. If I have learned anything in the last 3 years it is that those do not exist. If I know anything it is that I am unsure about most everything. That the hurt and pain of the world is far more complex than I ever thought. No, this is real. His reaching in and changing me. If His Word is real and He really is the same yesterday, today, and forever than we can believe what He says even if our eyes deceive us in the present. Our pain may be silent to those around us but it is real to Him. There is One who entered into our pain and suffering taking it upon Himself. Jesus. Not just so that He could understand it but so that He could experience it. Know it intimately. Hear when no one else around us can. And triumph.

Slowly women and children trickled in and out of the home. Some to see the Mzungu, some to grab a pot to borrow, some to greet us. One woman brought her baby and asked me to hold her. The baby was all wrapped up in blankets and when I unwrapped her a bit I saw she was the smallest baby I have ever seen. She was not even 2 kilos (about 4 pounds), born at only 7 months gestation, he eyes not even opened yet. She should be in an incubator, under 24 hours specialist care. Not here wrapped in a blanket visiting me. But this is reality. She was at home with her mother who was just 20 years old. This was her third baby. The first two had died. Everyone just talked about it like they were discussing going to the market. People just talk about this stuff like it is normal. Then it struck me once again. They do this because it is to them. They have grown accustomed to suffering and pain. They are less removed from the dirt and grime and hardship of life. But their pain is silent. It was and some days still is to me. But He hears it.

We needed to get back and said our goodbyes, promises to visit again, and finally took our leave once we had gathered all the children we had to round up. On our winding walk back to the car we stopped off at 2 more homes and sat on mats and visited. We brought blessing and we received blessing. Then we headed back home in time to drop some people off and pick up some others; 5 kids and 2 women piled into the car and we headed out again. We had to search for plastic table covering and rubber gloves for my friend who is due any day now. Why? Because when you go to the hospital you have to bring your own everything. No gloves? They don’t use any or turn you away. No plastic table cloth? you give birth on the old mattress covered with blood, urine, and body fluids. I am always learning more about what life is really like for our friends. After stopping at numerous dukas we found the tablecloth! But the gloves would have to wait until tomorrow as Evy was not having sitting in her car seat any longer and Jason called because he was locked out of the house (opps!). We arrived back home and everyone unloaded said goodbyes and we were home. Just our family. After making a hasty meal we ate, cleaned up, scrubbed the dirt covered girls, snuggled and read books to the clean ones, and got them to bed. A whirlwind.

And I was thinking while folding laundry……At the same time I feel completely spent and warmly held by my Savior. I am on the brink but completely sure that is where He wants me. Like simultaneously I am on the verge of tears and smiling from ear to ear all in one enduring moment. I do feel like I am being poured out for His sake.

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy

Because it really is joy. From grace to glory I want to be about His work in this world. And I hold onto this promise that as we live in Him our love grows more perfect! Amazing promise. Oh, how I want my love to be more perfect in this hurting world.
“as we live in God our love grows more perfect” 1 John 4:17

Today was crazy, uncomfortable, joyful, difficult, but for sure one well spent. I also need the days of quiet and rest and I am so thankful for those days too. But I am also grateful that we can love and serve and give and receive blessing. The reminder that we are blessed so we can bless. That it is out of our overflow we love others.
Please Lord, use our family to be a blessing to those you put in our lives. And may we always see the blessing in living for You.
Because people do not only need salvation for “fire insurance” from future wrath. We all need Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Healing. Freedom. Abundance. Joy. Assurance. and Hope. Right Now.

that is baraka.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Rox, thank you so much for this post. The reminder, the challenge, the example, and your sincerity.You would be a blessing to people where ever you go, where ever you live, but it is so humbling and awesome to read about how the Lord is using you in these deep and raw ways on the island. You are wrapped in prayer! And grace! Thanks for sharing your heart.

  2. Anonymous says:

    awesome the whole emotional range of it. I'm awed at how you do this as a mother. I know its just what you do when you are there and faced with it but its still just awesome. Hugs

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