Friday, September 4, 2009

Life recap: A Prayer and a Postcard

I wrote this for my Compassion Coordinator this week and thought I would share with any new readers too. May be old news for you, may be a wake up call that someone needs, so I'm sharing:

Two years ago, I was the mother of three children under the age of 7. My youngest had just turned one. My husband was involved with our church band, the local Christian radio station, and numerous other outreach projects. I was a mom with a part-time job. A really glorious calling, but one that can often feel very monotonous. In addition, I was a mom who kept the church nursery. Again, a valuable job, but often very lackluster. While I saw others as the hands and feet of Christ. I was feeling like I tagged along as the little toenail. I’m there helping, I just didn’t feel very important. A little toenail doesn’t seem to make much of an impact on anyone’s walk, much less my own.

I specifically remember telling my husband that I was going to pray for God to lead me to my purpose. That selfishly, I wanted to have my own ‘outlet’. Something I could do occasionally on the weekends by myself, while he stayed home and watched the children, of course. A chance to be an adult and speak to other adults. So selfishly, with only my own desires involved, I prayed for God to give me a new calling a little higher on what I considered to be the totem pole of service. A couple days later, I received a postcard in the mail asking me to consider being a Compassion Advocate for children in need. We had sponsored a little boy for about two years and I loved the work Compassion was doing. So why not? It just seemed to be an affirmation. I immediately called and asked to be considered.

To recap, I am a mom. I am not a public speaker, or a writer, or a salesman. I am just selfishly needing to escape the house for ‘me’ time. But yet, God saw a chance to grow me. To bring me out of my shell and challenge me to step out in faith in ways I had never been asked to before. I started out small, working concerts and events. This volunteer stuff was fun, it was fulfilling. But soon it was time to put my big girl pants on and try to save the world on my own, one child at a time. I write up my nice little presentation, have my pictures and videos ready, and spend 10 minutes in front of some of my church friends at a home study group, in terror, with my knees knocking louder than my voice was shaking. But I got through it. With no children sponsored but several accolades of “good job” and “really interesting”. But hey, it was just my job to plant the seed. I shrug it off and think, “next time will be better”.

I try again, this time with my Dad’s Sunday school class. I travel two hours to present in front of 15 people who magically have invited every other Sunday school class and now appear to be about 100 all staring at me shaking in the front of their sanctuary. I present, I play my videos, I show my pictures. I get no children sponsored. Again, “good job, very interesting.” I travel home wondering where I went wrong. Lord, you must have picked the wrong person for this job. Others don’t believe things can change. They don’t see the need. I see the veil of distrust rise as soon as I mention the words “child sponsorship”. There must be another way to help your children. Somewhere along that two hour drive, and amidst those two shattering disappointments, God had changed the focus from “me time” to “His time”. And I hadn’t even gotten the memo yet. God was planting the seed but it wasn’t in my audience, but instead was growing inside of me.

So in September of 2008, this little toenail started feeling the call to go to Africa. I tell my husband, “I think God wants me to go to Ethiopia.” To which he replies, as the father of my three children, “absolutely not.” For a couple weeks, Ethiopia is everywhere I turn. In every news story I read, flipping through the channels, and occupying my daydreams and quiet times. Again - “I think God wants me to go to Ethiopia.” And he responds, “Well, if God wants you to go, I guess you’d better go.” I pick up my teeth from the floor and realize I am going to Africa. We pray together, “God, if you want me to go, you need to provide the funds. Because we don’t have them.” So I write that $350 check, my first ever step out in faith, and wait for it to grow, preferably within the next month, when the balance was due. With support letters written, we watch as God provides my needed amount of $4080. In one month, with $10 to spare. I book the airline tickets and my knees start shaking.

Just to recap again. I am a mom. I have never traveled west past the Great Smokey Mountains. I have never traveled east past Myrtle Beach, S.C. But I’m boarding a 16 hour flight, on my own, with about 25 other Compassion sponsors, to Ethiopia. Because God wanted me to. Wow. And that seed grows a little more.

In Ethiopia, I meet laughing, smiling, Compassion children singing praises to God within the block walls of their safe, little grassy compounds. The centers reminding me of little Gardens of Eden in the midst of the dirt, the dust, and the tin-roof shacks. Round faced Compassion babies, healthy and happy, tightly holding the fingers of their smiling mommies. I meet Compassion college students, counting the gift of Christ as their most precious gift, above the food, the clothing, or even their education. Children smiling as they tell us about their sponsors or run to show us their letters or pictures, hidden as treasures in the midst of their small, one or two room shanties. Praising God for the blessings he has given them. But on the other side of those block walls, I see the hunger in the street beggar. I see the pain and blood on the scraped up knees of the disabled baby, dragging himself around as his mother is out working at the flower plantation for less than 90 cent a week. I see the hopelessness in the child living on the street, hiding in the shadows of a shade tree.

I return from my trip a changed woman. Realizing that this world is so much bigger than baseball games, PTO meetings, or trips to the grocery store. Realizing that even as a small appendage of the body of Christ, He is big enough to equipt us to bring His light even to the darkest places on Earth. If we just step up and allow Him to “send me, I will go.” Whether we ever step foot on a distant soil, or just allow our words to travel across an ocean to inspire another of His children. Those children are given the hope that they can do more, be more, and achieve more – all with the help of the One who needs no help. Made strong with the strength of the one who fashioned every distant star and galaxy. And how awesome it is that He allows us to be the carrier of that message. It’s not about how many children I get sponsored this month, or even this year. It’s the fact that God is able to change a little child from scared and timid to strong and bold, ready to proclaim His power and His love. And that little child was me, I just hadn’t gotten the postcard yet.

** As an addendum: the journey that God has placed me on continues. I will be returning to Ethiopia, God willing, within two years. This time with my supportive husband beside me on that 16 hour plane ride. But this time I will not only be introducing him to the land and the people that God allowed me to fall in love with. But to also bring back our infant daughter, another gift that the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear that He has prepared for us. So please pray for our continued journey and God’s provision in bringing our daughter Olivia home to her family soon. And to think - it all started with a prayer and a postcard.


The Beaver Bunch said...

Yes, I DO love the name Olivia! ;)

Also, I am so glad you posted this so I could get a "start to current" update. I've been SO slack about reading blogs lately.

Hope you all are doing incredibly well.

Amy Sullivan said...

Unbelievable! Amazing story. Olivia is sooooo blessed to have you as a mom! God is using you in incredible ways. Thank you for sharing your heart so others will know and believe.