Jesus wept. But not out of powerlessness.

Jesus, Nigeria, suffering

The soft spoken teenage girl had been thrust into sudden adulthood.

Her hair wrapped in a bright turquoise piece of long fabric, she looked young but protective of her newborn baby boy.

She came into our office at the hospital’s crisis pregnancy center. She had given life to a baby boy just a couple of short weeks ago.

He hadn’t been eating and had been fussy lately. She couldn’t explain exactly why, but she knew that something wasn’t right.

I’ll call her Ruth. She’d come to our office months ago for a pregnancy test. She decided to keep her baby and raise him with her boyfriend and his family, in a village area not far from town.

Ruth was brave. In America, you face judgement and criticism as a pregnant teen. Or, conversely, you can be on TV on a reality show. It’s certainly not an easy road, no matter what. But in Nigeria as a pregnant unwed teen, there are more complicated matters. Like another mouth to feed and a high infant mortality rate.

Our center offered medical help for new moms and their babies, so I escorted Ruth over to the pediatric ward. We checked in and she began the long wait to see a doctor. I knew that it would be some time before the baby would be seen, and I headed back to our office.

Lunchtime was near, and I realized that we hadn’t heard anything from Ruth. I walked over to the pediatric ward, and saw Ruth in the waiting room. Her face was drawn and vacant, almost catatonic looking.

I asked her what was wrong and she softly whispered, “He died.” My gut felt like it simultaneously fell a few feet and tied in a knot. I couldn’t believe it. I asked her what happened and she just stared off into the distance, not speaking to answer my horrible question.

I was crushed and shocked at the same time.

Tears began to flow immediately and I felt as if I was crying for this devastated young mom who remained expressionless. I asked the nurse, “Why? What happened?” She didn’t know.

Devastating, those three words. I don’t know.

My heart and mind demanded an answer. Why? What had happened to this beautiful new baby? He hadn’t been eating well, but to come to see the doctor and DIE?! NO!

The nurse sternly pulled me aside and chided me. “You need to stop crying. She doesn’t need to see that. She needs you to be strong!” I don’t remember if I said anything in reply, but in my heart I knew that it was right to cry. This great loss deserved tears to be shed.

As if walking through a bad dream, Ruth and I gathered her baby boy, still wrapped tightly in his pastel blanket, and drove him to the village for burial. Very few words were spoken on the drive. Tears said what I couldn’t say on that day.

I was honored to be with Ruth on the very dark day when she had to bury her newborn son.

Since then I have had other days with friends on dark days, and them with me. Many times I have said stupid, thoughtless things. Sometimes I said things that I hoped would make them feel better.

The reality is that sometimes nothing that we say will make it better at all.

Sometimes the best thing that we can do when our loved one is hurting is to enter in to that sad place with them, and simply grieve alongside them.

I’m thankful for friends and family that do this with me on difficult days.

Jesus knew this and did it well. The account of Lazarus’ death tells us that Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Scriptures, but so profound.

Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus’ death, because Jesus, being fully God and fully man, knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

Could it be that Jesus wept out of empathy, compassion and care for his friends who were deeply grieving the loss of their loved one, Lazarus?

I think that this is a great reality for us when we grieve anything in our lives: Death, chronic illness, a prodigal child, divorce, or loss of a job. Jesus enters into our grief with us.

He weeps with us. Not because He is caught by surprise, or powerless to change it.

He enters into our pain with us.

Powerfully, lovingly, and sometimes, as with Lazarus, it may look like he doesn’t come through until it’s too late.

He is more than able. He himself was a man of sorrows and feels compassion with us.

He is Emmanuel,

God with us.

P.S. This is a true story that happened over a decade ago during our time with SIM  in Nigeria.

Although I went as a missionary to serve in Africa with all kinds of love and zeal for Jesus, it turns out that I learned much from the people we were to serve.

As with any culture, there is good and bad, but most Nigerian people we know are resilient and joyful, many of whom I call friends and now family.

We are far richer because of them.

 

 

Read the entire story of Lazarus here.

Living Out The Journey of Your Calling

Christianity, mission, Uncategorized

Do you feel like your life’s calling is a mystical thing?

Maybe it’s a very simple, practical thing that we can all do, every day, no matter where we are on the globe.

God calls us to Himself. The rest is geography.

fullsizerender5

Keeping it simple and practical.

Be with Jesus.

Know him.

Love him.

Allow yourself to BE loved by him.

When those things happen, we will be compelled to evangelism, and to service.

But first we must BE with Christ. Geography will be less of an issue.

I’m convinced that there’s not a wrong answer of geography when we’re truly abiding in Christ.

This watercolor was inspired by this video on Calling by Propel Women.

Living Out The Journey of My Calling

Living Dangerously

Jesus, Uncategorized

I love adventure, but I don’t like to be in danger. Sometimes I can be a scaredy-cat. A few years ago our family was watching the action-adventure movie Salt, with Angelina Jolie.

I’ve never been a big fan, because I’ve only seen one of her movies. But this movie had me enthralled from the very beginning.

It begins with a beautiful CIA agent, Jolie, who is being tortured in a North Korean prison on suspicion of being an American spy. She is released, and a beaten Jolie gets in the car where her boyfriend is waiting, understandably shaken.

He tenderly kisses her, looks at her with deep love, and she tells him, “You can’t be with me. It’s too dangerous; I’m not safe. It’s not safe for you to be with me.” He replies,

“I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with you.”

At this line, I gasped out loud.

My husband thought I gasped because I had the hots for Jolie’s onscreen boyfriend, or because I thought it was so romantic. No. I was struck and audibly sucked in my breath because this is so profound.

What if we answered that way every time God called us out of our comfort zone? I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with YOU.

Let that sink in. I don’t want to be safe, I want to be with YOU. Let that be my answer every time. And may it be yours. Do you believe that God can speak through a movie?

He spoke through the mouth of a donkey. Do you and I want to be safe, or do we want to be with Jesus?

Perspectives on Kenya, part 3

Christianity, Photography

Danielle anda little girl play with the ukulele

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For this post, let’s make it a thousand plus a few thrown in for good measure! Most of the photos speak volumes, but I’ve added my two cents along the way.

We taught 6th through 8th graders to play ukulele throughout the week. This is my favorite picture from our time in Kibera.

We did crafts with the younger students

Stickers are fun accessories

Children wait in line to be served lunch. They are served in the container that they bring to school. You can see that some use plastic lids for plates.

Curious eyes

The innocence and curiosity of some of the younger children is so sweet.

The Kibera New Hope compound overlooks another compound with a chain link fence separating them. This is a child on the other side of the fence.

A boy on the other side of the fence from New Hope compound.

The students look out of their classroom to watch us enter their compound on a school day.

You saw this adorable boy in an earlier post, but I love this one of him watching me.

The outhouse bathroom on New Hope compound is a hole in the ground called a cho. I lost my sunglasses in the cho on our second day there!

Game day was a blast for the elementary kids. They had some crazy relay races around the compound.

In this relay, they had to run from one point to another with a ball between their heads

As we said our goodbyes on our final day, we could promise the Kibera children that we’ll see them again in heaven, if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here Danielle says goodbye.

Our trip leader, Buddy, reminded us several times during our time in Kenya: It’s good to love on the kids and enjoy them, but only one thing will last when we leave Kibera. It’s good that we played games and did crafts, and that many will enjoy playing ukulele after we are gone. However, the only lasting thing is the truth that God loves them, and that they can live forever with Him through a relationship with Jesus.

Danielle kissed by a giraffe

We had a day of rest during our 11 day trip to Nairobi, and we got to visit a giraffe park.

I seriously considered whether or not I will lie on my death-bed and regret not kissing a giraffe. I decided that I would only regret not taking pictures of my daughter with the giraffe. Besides that, I’m good!

great photo by Danielle

Perspectives on Kenya, part 2

Christianity, Photography

Our friend showed Herschel this video last night, titled “I need Africa more than Africa needs me”. It struck a chord with me, especially so fresh from being there. The impoverished women and children that we spent time with were much more joyful than I am at times in affluent North America.

Many of the children we were with at Kibera in Kenya are poor beyond what we can imagine. Some families have received scholarships for the $5 monthly school cost at New Hope, because they are that destitute. Yet these children possess joy that surpasses circumstances.

Preschool girls are giddy about receiving a new dress

I have lots to learn about photography. I’d love to get input on how to change the lighting in the above pic so that you can see her face more clearly.

Although many of these children have suffered beyond what we can imagine, there is joy in their faces

Can you see the joy?

They love to have their picture snapped so they can see themselves on the digital screen

Let’s hear it for the Fonz!

May God help us be able to practice what Paul says to the Phillipians in chapter 4:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want.

Wanna know the secret to contentedness? Check it out in your Bible. The answer is in verse 13.

Perspectives on Kenya

Christianity, Photography

Here are our perspectives on our 11 day mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya. We were sure that God had planned this trip for us (me and our 14-year-old daughter, Danielle) and we couldn’t wait to see what would unfold during our time in Africa. Click here to read about how we knew this was the trip for us:

https://coffeewithchristine.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/cake-for-kenya-and-for-jesus-name-sake/

Beautiful sunrise the morning of our departure. Danielle and I early in the morning…not so perky but excited about the adventure ahead

Just at the crack of dawn we met up with our entire team of 17 people. We had great diversity among us, with ages ranging from 14 years old up to early 70’s, and lots in between. Our mission was to bring 100 ukuleles to the students at New Hope School to the slum, Kibera, in Nairobi. Our team planned to teach 6th through 8th grade students how to play the ukulele, ending the week with a uke concert for the community. We planned arts and crafts for the younger students. Most importantly, we would bring the good news of Jesus Christ, that He died to save us from our sins.

Here we are! All 17 of us. Our trip there was long and we had to be rerouted in the U.K. We found out pretty quick how important it was to be flexible and not grumble. This is extremely hard for me when I’m sleep-deprived, but we coped and arrived 48 hours later.

Kenya Airlines, the Pride of Africa

We were picked up in Nairobi and rode a bus to our guest house, which is similar to a bed and breakfast.

Riding the bus to and from points was one of my favorite things about our trip.

I loved the bus! On the bus, we rested, laughed, journaled, prayed, and sang. The first few days we practiced ukulele on the bus. We soon started to wear out of that and it got a little quieter. Our guest house compound was very lush and pretty, in sharp contrast to the Kibera slum, which was dry and dirty. Below are some photos from our compound, showing that there is so much beauty in the little things, if we only look for it and appreciate it.

All of the nature pics above are by Danielle. I’ll show my blossoming photography skills below and in later posts. Notice the difference in the picture quality, comparing the pics above from the ones below. Can you tell which camera is better?

Below are a few images from our first two days in Kenya.

The Kibera children greeted us from far outside their compound and escorted us each day

The children were fascinated by the ukuleles and couldn’t keep their hands from touching, even as we walked up to their compound

The entrance of the Kibera compound has a swing set, and this little boy is enjoying it!

Another view of the inside of Kibera New Hope School compound

Danielle loves the little ones

The beautiful faces of Kibera

Christianity, Photography

Kibera is one of the poorest and largest slums in Kenya, with an estimated one million people per one square mile. The last week and a half Danielle and I spent our days at Kibera in Nairobi, with the children at New Hope School. Here are some of the beautiful faces of the Kibera children:

We brought 100 ukuleles and taught the junior high students all week. It was amazing to see how quickly they learned!

Curious onlookers kept peeking into the building while we took a break for lunch.

Cake for Kenya and for Jesus’ name sake

Christianity, mission, Photography

Cupcakes!! Photo by Danielle  Here’s the finished product of cupcakes we made yesterday. Yum!

The theme of my week seems to be this: Many of our mundane and everyday activities can be acts of worship that bring God pleasure. We got to experience this when a great group of ladies and teenaged girls came over for a cupcake/cake decorating class fundraiser for our upcoming mission trip to Kenya.

Look at these girls getting their icing on! It was fun learning some basic cake decorating techniques.

If you are into cake decorating, you know that it only takes a few basic tools to get started and get many different beautiful effects on your cakes and cupcakes. But that’s not the best part! Each person that attended the two-hour class generously gave a donation for our trip. We are now a couple hundred dollars closer to our goal to pay for the mission.

Cake decorating class

Here’s how it all started: Danielle, our fourteen-year-old daughter, has been telling us for months that she feels God wants her to go to Africa this year for a mission trip. We had planned to go to Nigeria in May, but due to terrorism and violence aimed at Christians, it was cancelled, and we were devastated. I’m not exaggerating; we were both pretty heartbroken. We began asking God to lead us wherever He wanted us to go. Meanwhile, Danielle began learning to play acoustic guitar and got a sudden fixation with wanting a ukulele so she could learn to play that, too. I’m not one to run out and buy new musical instruments on a whim, so she stuck with guitar for a while.

Last month when I was chatting on the phone with a friend, she told me her parents are leading a trip to Kenya this summer. The plan is to bring 100 ukuleles to an orphanage in the slums of Nairobi and teach the children how to play their new instruments. I had a surreal moment as she said the last statement. It felt like a dream or slow-motion video in my head. I think I shouted, “What?! Are you KIDDING me?! Africa? UKULELES?!” This is not only what we’d been praying for, but the desire to play ukulele, of all instruments, was already in Danielle’s heart. We are now learning to play ukulele and so excited about our trip that we can hardly stand it!

P.S. We love Africa and have a longing to care for orphans. This is perfect because it just so happens that my daughter and I love music, too.

Danielle fills icing bag. It almost makes my mouth water!

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? All you need is a star tip and icing bag for them to be this pretty. Danielle took this pic while I iced. Doesn’t she have mad photography skills?

We are learning a fun song in Swahili. It translates to “There’s no one, there’s no one like Jesus. There’s no one, there’s no one like Him”

No fear of bad news, laughing at the days to come

Christianity, fear, Jesus, joy, mission, righteousness, spirituality

It’s funny how an upcoming event can fill us with conflicting emotions. We are giddy and excited about an upcoming mission to Africa, meanwhile there are bad reports on the news. Below I found joy in what the Psalmist says about bad news:

Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor. (excerpts from Psalm 112, emphasis mine)

I have no righteousness on my own, but only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin. Because of that, this Psalm says that I will never be shaken. I don’t have to fear bad news. Keeping my heart steady, trusting in the LORD, I will have no fear. And as the Proverb says, we can laugh at the days to come.

Here’s where the laughing part comes in for me today:

This makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, because I am guilty of complaining and saying some of these very things! It will be great to put life and annoyances in perspective, visiting with missionaries and nationals as we go in a few weeks to experience third world culture again. Do these thoughts feel disconnected to you? That’s what’s going on in my brain today. Wanting to keep my heart steady on the LORD, trusting in Him, and laughing at the days to come!

Something’s not right here…

religion

It started at Christmas-time. One of our pastors emailed a plan to youth leaders, challenging us to read the entire New Testament of the Bible for the month of December. I thought, “That’s a nice idea, we can read about Jesus and try not to get sucked in to the normal American commercialism of Christmas.” I had a lot more than that coming!

As I read through the Gospels, I was reminded from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that Jesus doesn’t want me to live the way I’m living. It’s not okay to go throughout my day like I have been: Wake up early and have a “quiet time” reading through Scripture and praying, live a normal, cushy, suburban life of excess, then end the day with a family Bible reading time and prayer, go to bed, repeat. Kind of living my life, plus a little Jesus tacked on.

Last night I saw myself with startling clarity as I looked at the tabs I had open on my computer: several blogs of missionaries we know, alongside a lighthearted online place that has recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, and more. I suddenly saw that these tabs represented my heart. Don’t get me wrong, surfing for recipes and decorating is really fun, and I don’t have a moral objection to it. But it stirred me to ask myself: How is it that I can cry as I read and be challenged by missionaries sacrificing all their comforts, by believers around the world risking their very lives to follow Jesus, meanwhile the tab next to those indulges my materialism and want for more stuff so I can impress people? What I saw is that I have a heart that is very drawn to material things and temporary pleasures of this world, while it is also drawn to Jesus.

Jesus requires so much more than I have been giving from anyone who would follow Him. I was blown away to be reminded again that Jesus wants this from me:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Kind of radical. Not the life I have been living.)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Again, I asked myself, why isn’t this me? Why does it seem that I have been grasping at comfort and safety for dear life?)

The tension that I’m feeling is trying to reconcile the life that I’m currently living with the life that Jesus is clearly calling all of His followers to. Eight years ago, our family felt the certain instruction from God to leave our home, sell everything, and move to Africa as missionaries. This was the most difficult and most wonderful thing I’ve done as a Christian. My white-knuckle death grip onto the stuff that I had accumulated through the years was in direct opposition to my joy and desire to let go of everything and follow God to a land and culture I knew nothing about.

After coming back to the States five years ago, I can’t help but wonder how I have slowly begun to feel more at home. It kind of scares me that I have gotten so comfortable and so okay with living the American dream. The dream that is completely out of line with Jesus’ instruction to anyone who would follow Him. It is a struggle, but I am glad to be feeling the struggle and tension, to feel my heart being tugged by the One who denied Himself, giving everything He had, so that I could live.