So much has happened since our first day here–that writing it all in just one blog post is impossible.
We have worshipped with our brothers and sisters across the world. Hearing them sing words only our hearts knew were to our same Father in heaven.
We have held hands with the hurting—ones we know well enough to know their hurts because we have relationships that we keep coming back to…that bring so much understanding why we are called to come visit…
…which makes me sit and soak up what it really means in James to “visit” and to “look after” orphans and widows in their distress. I think the most amazing part is what hugs that verse in James 1:27. Chew on that…let that soak in. So good.
I’ve been thinking a lot about who we visit and who we look after. Do you think of strangers? To look after or visit doesn’t suggest something that just happens once but really—something that happens in a relationship. I’m going to visit…I need to look after…both suggest relationships that are known and ongoing. I knock on a stranger’s door–but I visit my neighbor and friend. And I’m beginning to learn what it means to REALLY be friends with our friends in Zambia.
You see–looking after and visiting orphans and widows…this is never easy…especially when you have some what of a “normal” life. Sure we all have our problems–but every day life in a typical family seems to fill our days and our time…and the enemy has really confused us (or me any way) on how the Lord wants us to spend our time. We really have to soak in everything surrounding James 1:27 before and after to fully understand it…and we have to live those verses in order for James 1:27 to be carried out in the spirit He intended. Pure. True. Faultless.
We can’t live being the victim. Or being judgmental. We have to be slow to speak and really listen. We have to hold our tongue and be watchful of getting angry.
Pure. True. Faultless.
We can’t just listen to the Word. But we have to DO IT. Not look to the right or left–but begin to listen for the Spirit–and take brave steps where ever He asks us to no matter how big or small they might seem.
Pure. True. Faultless.
This is where freedom is found. This is where we will hear from God. This is where we stop looking and comparing and worrying and little lies seep in. This is where we open our hearts and say yes to following more of Him and whatever that means.
Something different for each of us–but I will tell you…I don’t know why or how or what it will look like for you if you are a believer…
But we are all called to be involved…to stop by…to invest…to visit…to sacrifice…to love…to hold the hand of…to cry with…to walk beside…orphans and widows.
And if you shake your head or that rubs you the wrong way…read James 1 every day…soak it in…ask Him to make sense of it with you and for you. Because I’ve been wrestling with those words for many years—and struggling to live them out because I believe the enemy sees orphans and widows as some of the most vulnerable…some of the easiest to deceive…and for awhile–I thought it just meant they needed us.
The truth is–they do.
The other truth is–I need my life to be full of visiting and loving and walking with orphans and widows far more than these sacred souls need me in their life. If I don’t say yes–the Lord already has another ready to say yes and there…because I know He cares so deeply for the orphan and widow. When we say yes–He meets us right there…or rather we meet Him in a deeper way and experience Him in ways we never imagined as we hold hands together. And listen. Taking steps together. Encouraging and being encouraged.
Because what you might not know–is most orphans and widows already have a deep sense and understanding of who God is in their worlds…as many have spent years and years processing their losses and trusting the Lord to be their father and their protector and their All.
To dance and sing together…
These past few days—
Has been overwhelming.
And I’m still learning why we need each other.
Why we are called to visit.
To come back year after year.
To sponsor and write letters.
To remember each other and walk together.
It’s one of those beautiful things that no one has all the answers for.
I do know seeing these children grow up–seeing these mommas have more hope–and bigger smiles…gives me more hope…and a bigger smile too. To know their faces and their names…this is worth more and attainable to anyone who wants it.
Walking these streets–I wish everyone could experience these relationships. Almost 8 years of investing here…and you can jump in and join us (or any orphan and widow ministry) whenever you want.
We have laughed with the ladies in our jewelry program…sitting making jewelry with them for hours. They are trained at Wiphan to make jewelry–then they sell them.
We danced and made up silly songs today with the Hospitality students. Students who after program completion will get jobs at hotels and lodges. As I type this–the lodge manager at the very lodge I’m typing in was one of our former students! I’m so proud of Chris! All of our graduates have jobs now!! Truly amazing.
We watched Laney teach the children songs. Then she’d run to me and make sure I knew who Moses, Mark, Veronica and Mary all are–who sweet friends that she doesn’t want to leave in a week. She’s asking to not just visit each year–but “mommy can we please move here!?”
We walked the streets of the compound–and saw many future little students who will in the years ahead be old enough to start our kindergarden and come to school. We passed drugged men, drunk me, red-eyed men—who foolishly and shamefully look for children in the compound. And you know what–WE DO TOO. And it’s our job to get to them first. Get them safely off the streets during the day–and to make sure they have a safe place to go at night. There are many troubles that will make you want to get on a plane and be discouraged and never come back…or even in your own city forget they are around the corner too. BUT. Don’t do that. Oh no…you can’t afford to miss out on all the Lord has for you in these friendships too.
Then we ended our day in one of our Tuli-One homes. They are like foster homes where we give a foster momma housing and money for food–and 3-5 children can live in the home if they don’t have a safe home to sleep in. Today we visited one of the boys homes. A sweet, but strong 14 year old boy came in. He loves soccer. He plays front line. He loves school. He’s smart. And when we asked him about his life–one of the first things he said…
“I go to Wiphan. I don’t have a sponsor.”
Oh my heart. Because when you don’t have a family to come home to and you live in a Tuli One home too…and your heart wants a family–some times you just are brave and with his big eyes and dimples…your heart just takes a chance. It wasn’t a sad response–but a brave one from a brave boy…who I could tell has trusted a BIG God to get him this far. A boy who–although I’m 25 years older–could teach me a thing or two or two hundred–about what it means to trust Jesus and to be strong and to be okay with weakness…and what it means to trust in provision and protection.
We have 750 precious children. And they all want to be sponsored–but just over 200 are. We know it’s crazy to pray for 500 families to join us…but we are praying that God would bring 500 families to sponsor a child. I know not every family can visit their child for different reasons–but will you pray with me…if you just happen to have read this far;)…that God would raise up 500 families to say yes to walking together beside a child at Wiphan?
So much to take in–and it’s only Monday. I already can’t wait to come back. Slowing down each day to JUST BE…and be present right where He has placed me. And I’m so thankful that right now it is with women and children that have changed me more than almost anything else or relationships I have ever had. Our family, our marriage, the way we live–all different just because we said yes to living together–realizing we need each other–and even when it was hard or we wanted to give up…choosing not to…and staying right here. In one place to love…to watch grow…to grow ourselves…and to be changed. In His presence. Shedding lots of stuff so we could…all that stuff in James 1 and daily seeing more to shed.
There’s room for you too. And we would love to have you join us. Together. Oh how we need each other.
More to come…can’t wait for my Laney to meet Beatrice TOMORROW!! Years of writing one another…and tomorrow Laney gets to meet who she calls her God-sister!!! Over the moon and can’t wait for my girls to finally meet!