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Ministry is Messy

We just flew in from a week shadowing Rico Suave on his business trip…seeing exactly what this man of mine does when he travels to Traverse City. I’ll be posting some pictures from our fun and crazy week I’m sure this weekend–but as for tonight…I’m sitting here stumped. We got in tonight after 10pm–after 2 flights with 4 children…with our youngest screaming for much too long on the flight home. You’d think I’d walk in the door and crash, but the ball has to keep rolling because in 6 short days I leave for Ndola, Zambia.

And I’m stumped. Can’t even think of a better word to use other than stumped…that’s how clueless I really am.

The bottom line is I don’t really know how to do ministry—ministry to the hurting in Zambia. Ministry to a people who live in a country that is one of the top 5 in the world for AIDS, death, poverty–where children raise children…and many of them become adults much, much too early.

The Lord laid the topic of purity on my heart to go minister to these orphans and widows with…and really–at first…I thought it sounded easy enough. I mean, I have children. I talk to them about purity…in kid terms. And as they age, I’ll make our talks age appropriate…we’ll whisk them off as pre-teens for a special weekend to give each of them a purity ring and challenge them to make a purity commitment. And at first–I thought this is what the Lord wanted us to do for the kids and widows in Zambia.

We started planning the details. We dreamed how we would do this for our children…so let’s do the same for these 300 orphans (the ones ages 10+ will come to the retreat…they see hard things much, much sooner than ours) and our 150 widows…let’s talk about purity to them as if they were our children. Let’s give them purity rings as a life-long reminder. Let’s sing, dance, have a wedding cake and Fanta. BUT…there is something I am forgetting.

These children–are just like my children in the fact they DREAM…they giggle…they long to be sung to, tucked in at night. They love to play. They love to draw letters in the sand and play chase. Surely, I can talk to them just like my children about this right???

But…they are not like my children.

They are orphans. They do not have a mom and dad to protect them…to sing to them…to tuck them in at night. To protect them…and the truth of the matter…is that most of them–even at the age of 10…may have already experienced abuse beyond anything I could comprehend. Many of the kids have had things done to them that don’t even effect their hearts any more…because they have had to learn to be tough…to endure–to be strong and survive.

Children raising children…a sweet young girl with child and taking care of another orphan…

…and all of the sudden…I feel like the challenge in what the Lord wants us to talk to them about is going to open up a big can of worms.

Seriously Lord??? A purity talk???

What about the girls who are HIV+ and they would love to have saved themselves for marriage—but a man in the village was told by his witchdoctor he could rid himself of the disease if he had sex with a virgin.

And then the 7th grader…who discovered she was pregnant…who was in the wrong part of the compound too late at night–and the widow who was housing her is now ashamed to have her there. Rejected again…

How many of these stories Lord??? How many in this group of 300 orphans and 150 widows???

My flesh wants to cancel the retreat–and just help with the soccer camp, serve meals and give hugs…we love them–and to always remember that God loves them too…we’ll be back next year…here’s a sticker and some bubbles. Don’t I feel good about myself now and go home. BUT…that is NOT what we are called to do.

(James 1:27) Visit orphans and widows in their distress

What is distress anyway?

reat pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble; a state of extreme necessity or misfortune

And something tells me that THIS TOPIC…falls into that verse. Something tells me the Lord wants us to go there and open up this can of worms…and not just blow bubbles. And I have to say that I’m actually scared to death to open my mouth next week at this retreat…but I know He has me leaving my 4 babies and husband for 10 days for a big, worthy purpose (because He also knows how much I hate to fly…and I told Him to please only send me across the world if it means bringing home a child or something just as big!)

He sees the orphan and widow in their pain. He knows each and every heartache…every tear. And He is reminding me now–that I DO NOT. This is not mine to carry. But His. And I believe He wants to show these beautiful children and widows how deeply He loves them. No matter their past–things that have been done against them are nothing of their fault…and how through Him they can even forgive and ultimately love and pray for those who have wronged them. He is big enough to heal…and make them pure and holy in His sight no matter their past or their current situation or their future.

I have no idea what I will say to them…but I do believe He is going to do something powerful. And our team covets your prayers as we prepare to go.

Please pray that God will prepare the hearts of every orphan and widow who will attend this special time. Please pray for our hearts and minds as we prepare the agenda and time for them. Pray that our words would not be from our minds and hearts–but from His.

I shared these thoughts with Richard this past week–and this is just one of the many balls we have in our court that seems quite messy. If this is what your life looks like right now–BE ENCOURAGED!!! True ministry is always messy. It just is. We live in a sinful, broken world–and when you open your hands and give the Lord permission to use you for His glory–it will always be messy. BUT HE IS BIGGER. If you are living a life of order and you are a believer with no messy–I’d challenge you to add messy to it. Because it’s in the messy–you see Him work. You see Him heal. You see Him do things that you could never, ever take credit for. He turns messy to beautiful…and He is glorified.

Just my thoughts as we prepare to go…Oh Lord–I know You laid this one on my heart for a purpose!!!

P.S. Want to thank those of you who bought a t-shirt to go toward this trip next week!!! THE T-SHIRTS JUST CAME IN AND WILL GO OUT IN THE MAIL ON MONDAY!!! Would love for y’all to wear the shirts some while we’re gone and tell others to pray for our team too that ask about it when you wear it!!! Can’t WAIT for y’all to get these in the mail!!!!!

Elle J - July 9, 2011 - 12:22 am

Praying for your mission, Andrea. I pray that you have a steady heart for His will and calling of you while you are in Ndola. Grace and peace will surround you – I have no doubt. Thinking of you as you prepare …

Lauren - July 9, 2011 - 12:44 am

no words right now… just lots of PRAYERS!!!

Mary - July 9, 2011 - 1:24 am

I admit I find it like a drop of water in a bucket when people come on missions to Africa and talk about purity. What they need is HIV education, condoms, schooling, medication. Not some white women telling them to ‘save’ themselves for marriage. As if a married man doesn’t cheat. As if a married women can’t be raped. As if people have the same values we have in our countries.
So pleased you see the same thing.

Christy - July 9, 2011 - 6:39 am

PRAYING! And thanks for your quote about messy. Dr. Moore talked at Summit about how too many Christians don’t adopt or care for orphans because they have a faulty sense of control in their lives. They believe they can serve Jesus but also at the same time, control what enters into their lives, and they believe orphan care is too big a risk. It has stuck with me since as that is the kind of Christianity I am normally around. Thankful for people like you who “get it” and challenge me and so many others to live differently for His glory.

admin - July 9, 2011 - 9:43 am

Mary–I agree that many times ministry always looks like a drop in the bucket. However–I think everyone needs the gospel MORE than HIV education, condoms, schooling, medication. He is more–and we need Him more. We do the HIV education, schooling, medication…but the most important thing I believe that we do is share the gospel. I still believe He is asking us to go teach them about purity in Christ…it will just look quite different than how we would deliver it here. Trust me–this is one topic I would choose to skip and not deliver…but I feel I must be obedient to His calling no matter what it is.

JJ - July 9, 2011 - 11:24 am

I normally just read and don’t comment but the purity topic is something I really wish the U.S. would start talking more about also. I completely agree Andrea, it’s not just a topic to skip over. It’s NEVER too late to make that commitment, no matter what your circumstances are. It doesn’t matter if it’s a white woman teaching Africans in Zambia, we are all ONE in Christ. We all need to hear the same message. The Law and the Gospel applies to each and every one of us. It’s just a matter of finding out what is the best way to share that message with them. Constantly telling them that they are LOVED by Jesus is priceless. Visiting them often to remind them is priceless. We will be praying for your mission. The purity message here in the US is something that needs to be preached more often also. Too often we hear about how we as parents should educate our kids on condoms, STD’s, etc and then now this HPV vaccine. WHAT??? What about purity?

annie - July 9, 2011 - 12:11 pm

yessss… thank you for not shying away from this because of your fragile audience. Jesus will speak His heart for them through you, I have full confidence. I lived at an orphanage in Kenya and many (most) of our girls had experience sexual abuse and I can’t tell you the heartbreak when they would come home from school in tears after being told (indirectly) by the Christian speakers how DIRTY they are for being involved in any of this before they are married…. how AIDS is a punishment for their sin and how God detests their sexual immorality. If you have not watched Matt Chandler’s “Jesus wants the rose”, please do before you go! My prayers are with you… these women and children are precious to Him and oh that they know He does not call them a whore, a disappointment, a disgrace, or unworthy of His love–He calls them His child and His beloved and His delight above all. Sorry for rambling… 🙂 Don’t know you–just found your blog–but know I am praying for you and believing that HE is enough.

Rory Cookman - July 9, 2011 - 1:38 pm

So excited for your trip Andrea. You are simply refreshing as you share what God has placed on your heart. A big task for a big God, to be sure. But I love that He chooses willing servants like you! Zambia will be a better place because of your love next week. Praying for you!

Stacy - July 9, 2011 - 8:02 pm

I frequently visit your blog because I enjoy what you share about your day to day family life and how you are so transparent with what the Lord is teaching and acomplishing in and through your family. I also find myself personally encouraged and spurned on to respond in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit to that Edge of the Cliff living out of faith and obedience that you so clearly have counted the cost of and embarked on the journey anyway. I just wanted to share some thoughts on your post above if I may, more unanswered meditative types of questions, than comment or opinion. What innocent in-experienced girl child – say age 10 – 16 years, living in a country with little or no sensationalized media to inundate them with provocative content, in a cultural setting that remains highly conservative in terms of relationships between men and women and that retains many taboos about even openly discussing people as sexual beings, in a culture that denies them autonomy over their own persons much less bodies, in a culture that teaches its men that they are dominant in every way over their women-folk, in which culture it is an affront to the prevailing historic image of manhood to suggest that a girl or woman might have such important value as a fellow human being that he is not at liberty to subsume her person in any way to his manhood, that she too has every right to excercise fully her right indeed responsibilty to choose the good and reject the wrong, … how does one even begin to talk about sexual purity with such a dear sister unless one first introduces her to the idea that, contrary to every indication around her, she has an absolute, worth, and belovedness before God; to the fact that she too has a feminine sexuality that is a gift to her from her heavenly father that finds its blessed expression and fulfillment in marriage, and that contrarily she was never created by God to be an object for anyone’s expression of manhood in any way. But even more importantly how can one say these things to her unless one first starts talking to their men-folk, old and young, about the absolute value, worth, and belovedness of their women-folk before God, contrary to every indication around them, and everything they have assumed and been taught. In which case, who are the men on one’s team who will love the widows and orphans by first loving and reaching out to the men? … this is getting really long. Please let me know if it would be ok to post some additional thoughts and prayers for you and your team. I know, its coming from a complete stranger, and one who is commenting here on your blog for the first time and all. God Bless.

admin - July 9, 2011 - 8:55 pm

Such wonderful insight Stacy–and please add the boys and male teachers and widows who will ALSO be attending this time with us to your prayers!!! When we started planning–we immediately thought to include the male teachers, male widows and boys ages 10+ in this special day. Please pray that God will make these men a VOICE to the men in the village…that THEY will become the LEADERS in the village…that they will be respected and honored and ultimately–their actions and character followed as they choose to follow Jesus in this way!!!

Elizabeth Smith - July 10, 2011 - 6:38 pm

Praying daily for your upcoming trip! Love you!