Cease Striving

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 4.44.24 PMTwo weeks ago I spoke at church about giving up everything for the Kingdom.  Cristi and I have been led by God into this place where we give up most of what is comfortable and familiar and homey and give ourselves to helping the poor and the afflicted, all for the Kingdom of God.  We have walked this road, step by step, eyes wide open.  But, sometimes the cold, hard reality hits.

At work this week, I was struck by the fact that we are giving up our “safety nets”.  Here in the US, the land of opportunity, we rely on our safety nets.  When things get hard financially, we have opportunities to help ourselves.  We might be able to work some overtime, find a second job, or even get a better job.  If things get tough enough, there is government assistance or help organizations.  I have always given lip service to trusting God for everything, but in reality, the land of opportunity is always there.  It provides a safety net if God doesn’t come through.

What struck me is that in less than four weeks,  we will be walking the tight rope without a net.  As missionaries on volunteer visas in South Africa, we cannot work.  If things get hard, I can’t deliver pizza or work the night shift at the Kroger warehouse.  We will be thousands of miles from home in a place where we only know a couple dozen people.  Wow!  Swinging from the trapeze without a net.

Of course this is nothing new for God.  The Bible is full of stories of people following Him, regardless of how crazy, and of HIm coming through each and every time.  He fed millions of people for 40 years as they wandered through the desert.  Elijah was fed by ravens.  The disciples followed homeless Jesus around for 3 years after giving up their occupations.  Each time conventional wisdom was probably not on their side, but God was.

We aren’t fully supported and we find a peace in this.  This is where God has led us.  We have been warned, cautioned and advised.  Some have prayed for doors to close and others have encouraged people to pray for us because we have “inadequate support”.  To which I think, though the whole world be against me, if God is on my side, I am happy with “inadequate support”.  Imagine Elijah telling a fellow prophet, “God had me prophesy about this drought, and now he wants me to go to a desert ravine” and the prophet replying, “Don’t go.  With this drought you will have inadequate support.”  Or after Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to drop their nets their father says, “Don’t follow that homeless rabbai.  You have inadequate support.”

We are seeking the kind of faith we find in the Bible.  But, how can we live normal 21st century, middle class American lives and expect to find an extraordinary God?  We have to give up our safety nets.  That is where we will find Jehovah Jireh, the LORD my provider.

But, the realization that this next step is so close is kind of scary.  (Of course, it is not an act of faith without the uncertainty.)  We wrestle with the tension, knowing God will provide and also knowing that if He doesn’t we are in deep, deep doo-doo.

We have already seen Him provide in amazing ways with a house and furniture.  We are certain that He has a vehicle or two already waiting for us.  God will continue to show Himself to be faithful and He will get the glory, especially because of the doubts.

God is amazing in how He orchestrates the details.  I was telling Cristi about my thoughts and discussing them with her, as I was doing some reading.  Wouldn’t you know, that a few minutes later I read Psalm 46:10, which is about the kingdom of Judah not worrying about the threats from the Assyrians, the most powerful nation in the world at the time.  God was going to protect His people.  It was appropriate for me just the same.  “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

It seems that if God can save Judah from impending doom, He can take care of the needs of a family of seven in a foreign country.

Kevin

Take Away

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 9.02.38 PMI had  a dear friend ask me last night, “Why don’t you just go into the inner city and work with kids there? They need hope also.”

She’s right, they do need hope and love and attention. We had the privilege of helping at a church-sponsored sports camp for kids just off 5th Avenue in Columbus. There was about 130 kids  running, kicking, yelling, singing, dunking and having a good time. The camp was free, as was lunch. They heard about Jesus and God, and hopefully felt love from his followers who were there running the camp.

At a certain age, when you look into their eyes, especially the girls, you can see hope diminish. Abuse, poverty, hatred. They all start crushing their world at a young age.

This is what is looks like in the townships we visited in South Africa. Except:

-TAKE AWAY RUNNING WATER. Having a sink, faucet or refrigerator in your apartment would be a luxury.

-TAKE AWAY INDOOR PLUMBING. Add a port-a-john. But not one for each family. Add one for the block. And don’t count on it being clean.

-TAKE AWAY HOUSES. Take out the kitchen and the bathroom and the bedroom. In fact, take away the houses. Add cardboard and tin, maybe some barbed wire. Add one room, for everyone to share. Lock your house to keep out criminals? Ha!

-ADD AN 80% UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. Take away all government sponsored assistance. There are no food stamps. There is no free medical care. In fact, medical clinics at all will be hard to come by. But that’s ok, you won’t be able to afford it anyway.

-TAKE AWAY EDUCATION. Right next to the park where the sports camp was being held in Columbus, was a brand new elementary school. Stained glass window, LED display on the grounds, modern layout, huge playground with trees and green grass. In some townships, kids walk to school for miles, others don’t bother going at all. That’s ok, there’s too many kids and too few teachers. The teachers are underpaid and exhausted. There are no levies to pass or government funds to help those schools. “You get what you pay for” is the motto. And if parents can’t pay than you’re out of luck.

-ADD APARTHEID, HATE and RACISM. The townships are an eyesore on a beautiful city. The haves and the have nots are blatantly obvious. Painful. Palpable. The wealth is impressive; the gold and diamond industry has been good to some in this country.

-ADD CRIME. Yes, the urban environment is rough. We saw some 9 millimeter shell casings scattered on the ground at the corner store. But, Cape Town was recently labeled as the 5th most dangerous city in the world to live in. If you know 1000 people in your area, expect 17 of them to be murdered this year. There is a saying that in Johannesburg, a “girl is more likely to be raped than to learn how to read.” Murder, rape, assault. It’s life.

-ADD HIV/AIDS. South Africa leads the world in HIV/AIDS victims. In the township we visited, AIDS claimed over 20% of the community. For every 10 of your friends, choose 2 to have AIDS. Because AIDS has ravaged the country, there are millions of orphaned children.

Take the population of New York City and Los Angeles. Combine them and make them all children. There are no adults. That is roughly how many children are orphaned in southern Africa because of AIDS. Now make the 9 year old the head of the house. Have the younger kids work for food. Watch out for gangs and sex traffickers, who will only be yet another avenue for the spread of AIDS. Don’t forget to do your homework.

-Now pretend these are YOUR children.

That is exactly what Jesus says to us. Except He says, “These are MY children. Feed them, clothe them, love them. Please do this for Me.”

Sure, it would be easier and more convenient to drive down to Columbus a couple of days a week. It would be cheaper, that’s for sure. But, we don’t feel called to do that.

The orphans and widows across the world in a hard to reach place called South Africa is what breaks our heart. The work there is daunting, the path there is overwhelming.

But when God says, “Let me show you what needs to be done.” Who are we to say they are not worth it?”

*Aaron Tally photo

Behind These Walls

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 8.58.36 PMBehind these walls is a future, that lives with a past.

Behind these walls are beautiful faces, laughter and heartache.

Behind these walls are young women who own a business, lead children’s church, who see needs and fulfill dreams.

Behind these walls are young men who want to lead, pastors who are messengers; Who see the absence and strive to provide a glimpse of the Father.

Behind these walls are people brazen enough to say, “Lord, break my heart for the things that break yours.”

Behind these walls are the broken.

Behind these walls are musicians with talent unrivaled; athletes with skills unknown and minds unchallenged.

Behind these walls is the future of a country, the pride of a Heavenly Father and the love of community.

Outside these walls, people are blind to the beauty within.
Outside these walls the judgment is cast, based largely on fear of the past.
Outside the walls are the poor and ignorant, those who will never know the inspiration that lies within.

God sees His children as they are, Not who we want them to be.

And He is pleased.

You Feed Them

Photo: Living Hope
Photo: Living Hope

You feed them.

That’s the message that has been ringing in my ears the last few weeks. Matthew 14:14: Jesus said, “You give them supper…but we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish…”

The soccer players Dylan brings home. I know where they live. Sometimes they stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a blessing to stuff them full and then send them home with goodies.

Today was different. After church at Hillsong, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Kevin has this new fangled idea that if I sit in the car, no one will steal it, so therefore, he doesn’t have to pay  a car guard. I find this…unflattering. Continue reading You Feed Them

Cape Town, South Africa

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