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Sunday, January 4, 2009

How I Know the Trip Changed Me

This might be the first of many installments to come. Who knows? It's just that things are different in my heart and I don't even know the half of it yet. To try to put all this into words is nearly impossible for me right now (and that's saying a LOT for a chick who rarely finds herself speechless).

To be completely honest recovering from jet lag and finding my balance with a baby in the house hasn't been conducive to my hasty processing of our experiences in Addis Ababa. Tonight I experienced a moment of clarity via an unexpected burden.


Since we've been home our "family" at Palm Valley Church have been AMAZINGLY supportive of us. They have loved on us SO MUCH in a variety of ways but one outward expression has been the delivery of dinners for our family. Night after night we've been the happy recipients of delicious fare delivered to us by loving friends we thank God for. It's been such a HUGE gift to us.

***So, here comes my disclaimer for this post: If you are one of those loving and special friends who've brought us food please understand that this has NOTHING to do with you. This has to do with work that the Lord is doing in my heart and the heart of my husband and it just happens that the food you gave us is the tool He's used to prick our hearts. Please read the following in that light. And, know that we LOVE you and appreciate you SO MUCH!***

On to the gist of this post. I must begin with a story. One of the snap shots from our trip lodged forever in my memory. An infant. The sex of whom was unknown to me. Of the sort I'd only ever seen in magazines depicting famine. The kind I've cried over many times, only this time this particular child was real life to me. Before my very eyes, in a crib in room number 5 of the intake orphanage which was our son's first stop on the way home to us.

Room number 5, as far as I can tell, is for the healthier infants of the orphanage. This tells me that I must have met this child in an improved state which, to me, is unbelievable. This baby was SO THIN, literally flesh stretched over bone. The jawline nearly brought me to tears. And, I would have sat right down and cried myself a river but for the pride I had in the faithful women who serve the children day in and day out. It was their hard work keeping this baby alive. Cry babies need not apply for that job and they sure didn't need to deal with Jen being hysterical. Instead I just laid hands of that beloved child and prayed. Maybe for the first time I truly understood what Paul meant when he wrote about the Holy Spirit interceding when we cannot verbalize our prayers.

Then, there are the kids at Hope for the Hopeless. 2 meals a day. No meat. And we bring suckers. What!? That's a bandaid on severe laceration. Don't get me wrong. The kids loved the suckers. I've got nothing against suckers but I'm not kidding myself. I can't pat myself on the back for sending a bag of suckers to the needy kids in Africa and call it a day. As if that will satisfy God's desire for justice and equality.

Malnutrition. Starvation. I don't exactly know what to do with these things. How can I cope? All of a sudden I have this urge to preach to the world. (As if they need to hear me talk!? HA!) But, I do wish everyone could go to Africa and see what I saw. If only to help them understand me at this point. I know, It's my race to run, and they've got their own. I can't make their race be about mine. I can't force my burdens upon them. But I want them to know too.

So here I am. As the knocks on the door bring with them pounds of food my heart grows heavier. I am now freezing the leftovers because I DARE NOT LET A MORSEL GO TO WASTE.
I cannot help but feel like sometimes I've gotten things so wrong. It's tempting to think that because my stomach is full and I have abundance, that I am one of the blessed ones. I am growing fearful though. Abundance is truly a burden. A fact I've come to KNOW. We aren't intended to have more than our needs require. While we were in Addis Mark directed our attention to 2 Cor 8: 13-15

13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed,
but that there might be equality. 14At the present time your plenty will supply
what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then
there will be equality, 15as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have
too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."
I'll have more to write on this subject later but equality was a word that kept popping up for the four of us often during out trip. The lack of equality was astounding. So stark a contrast and frankly embarrassing for us as wealthy members of the church universal. Where's the equality?

I've made it nearly 30 years without ever really seeing starvation face to face. That makes me a rarity on this planet. I saw starving people because I made choices to put myself in that position after following the Lord's lead but I could have EASILY chosen ignorance. Ignorance is a luxury (if you want to call it that) that the vast majority of the earth cannot afford. That's makes me royalty, really. I belong to the class of the elite privileged of our generation. I might as well wear a tiara and a sash. Scratch that. You know those few extra pounds around my belt line? Those are the jewels in my crown of abundance. A crown that is cockeyed and tarnished when I look closely.

Oh God, do not let me be one who just sheds a few tears and then goes on her way. The same as ever before.

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes
1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His
disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying: 3"Blessed are
the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are
those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the
meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are
the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for
they will be called sons of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because
of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11"Blessed are you
when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against
you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in
heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before


Amber said...

This is my first time on your blog. I found you on a post of the Van Clan. What an amazing post. I feel convicted just reading it. We have not even been to Ethiopia yet and I feel a sense of wrong like my priorities are out of wack.
I have lived in third world countries so I know a little of what you speak of. I get an overwhelming feeling like, "where do you start in order to make a difference?" Thanks for the honest post!

Aimee said...

We are praying for you as you begin to process everything that you saw, heard, and felt in Ethiopia. This new journey can be difficult and long, and many will not understand why you should not be completely happy now that you have Jonas home. Many will expect that you will move ahead with life as you knew it. We know that is impossible for a person who is obedient to God's direction. May the new awareness that you have be something that God won't let you shake! Ben and I pray daily for God to renew the memories of Ethiopia in our minds so that we CANNOT forget until He brings us back the that beautiful country again. Hope to see you soon!

Ben and Aimee

Stacey said...

Your heart is so open and honest. I cannot pretend to know how you feel because I've never seen anything like that. My life has been somewhat sheltered along the way. When I hear you speak of what you saw, it tugs at every part of my heart. I wonder what I can do to make a difference? I hear the words but don't know how I can truly start to find ways to heal the hurt they feel in that country, and many others. For now I will offer my prayers for those around the world! Somehow I think God is doing a work in the hearts of those around you because of what He's doing in yours!

Sherry said...

Tag your it! Check out my blog to find out what to do!

Erica said...

Amen Amen Amen friend. This is much of what we felt on our trip and much of the reason I am returning this month. I'm emailing you shortly.

Sassy Granny ... said...

God's life lessons are so much more profound than anything we could contrive on our own! What a convicting, compelling collection of thought, Jen.


Mark & Mel Harpold said...

I couldn't help but weep reading this post! It brought me back to the day that we found out that Myliah's twin brother had died of malnourishment on our trip to Ethiopia. Our hearts broke and are still broken to think that each and everyday, children like our precious Nathnael are starving to death and how God chose to bring this to light in our hearts. You can't explain it, you must see it to grasp the reality!
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your heart!
Mama Mel

Apryl said...

I could never write this post. I sat so many times after our trip and just couldn't make the words come. Your suckers were my granola bars--A woman on the street approached me and pointed to her starving baby strapped to her back, and I gave her a granola bar. I felt wretched.

Your post was very eloquent and I would love to hear what you will be doing as you find yourself back at home with new eyes. I still haven't figured it all out...and it's been 8 months.
much love,

Sherry said...

Jen I am so sorry I just went real quick and let a tag and didn't even read your post. You are so loving a nd kind. What you saw there I am not sure that I could handle to see that. But God has placed you in this season in your life so that we all might learn from you how we can help and be more informed on the needs there.