Thursday, October 23, 2014

More reasons to pray without ceasing

Continuing with unthinkable violence in Zaire and new reasons to pray without ceasingI wrote this in a letter to my granddaughters from Nairobi, Kenya, in November, 1996:

Dear Maggie and Emma,

We have heard amazing stories surrounding the recent crises in Zaire.

For example, Dr. Jo Lusi, a Zairian Christian and orthopedic specialist, stayed in Goma, Zaire, when relief agencies and almost everyone else evacuated across the border to safety. He has gained notoriety as the only surgeon in the Baptist hospital, the one functioning hospital in the entire vicinity. Perhaps your parents saw a CNN report about Dr. Lusi who works eighteen-hour days in the operating room.
Dr. Lusi and the hospital staff had an urgent need for medicine and food so on November 8, one of our pilots, Dennis, and an AIM-AIR pilot, Jim, flew some two tons of medicine to Kigali, Rwanda, the airport nearest Goma. Both Denny’s children and Jim’s are West Nairobi School students—Jim’s daughter, Kristi, is one of your Aunt Karen’s students. During the men’s trip, all the students and teachers prayed for them.
In Kigali, Denny and Jim hired two vans and loaded them with the medicine, over four hundred pounds of food, and two drums of diesel. Then they drove four hours to Gisenyi, Rwanda, separated from Goma by two steel barriers and fifty yards of no-man’s land.
Dr. Lusi planned to meet Denny and Jim at the border to help get their supplies across but an early curfew kept them from doing so. Instead, they spent the night in a hotel in Gisenyi. By the time they arrived, however, the press corps had already packed the hotel to overflowing (no doubt people in the States were watching many of them on television), so Denny and Jim slept on the floor.
At the hotel that night, journalists learned of the pilots’ association with the famous Dr. Lusi and asked many questions. One European journalist, skeptical that Zairian rebels would let them cross the border, said, “The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] has not been allowed to cross, the Red Cross has not been allowed to cross, Doctors Without Borders has not been allowed to cross, and you won’t be allowed to either.”
Jim replied, “We’ll pray about it.”
I know about you Christian types.” The journalist turned and walked away in a huff.
The next morning Denny and Jim were among the first to arrive at the heavily guarded border. The rebels didn’t let them cross so, with those curious, skeptical journalists watching, Denny and Jim waited. They talked with officials. They prayed. They watched for Dr. Lusi on the other side.
Mid-day they spotted him. He had brought two ambulances to transport their supplies to the hospital. Dr. Lusi spoke to rebels on one side and Rwandan soldiers on the other, but they wouldn’t let the men proceed.
Just then, a soldier showed up on the rebel side. He recognized Dr. Lusi—the doctor who had treated his wounded daughter that morning. Within minutes, the soldier arranged for Denny and Jim to cross.

Correspondents from CNN, NBC, Time magazine, and other news agencies had to wait behind the barricade. They could only watch—and film for the world to see—the two vans drive across the border and reload supplies into Dr. Lusi’s ambulances. (from Chapter 20, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

P.S.  All these years later, each morning I pray for Dr. Lusi and HEAL Africa. Their medical expertise is still very much needed in Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) because horrific violence has continued; you've no doubt heard about it in the news. Click here to read more about Dr. Lusi, and here for information about HEAL Africa.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New reasons to pray without ceasing

Looking back now, I’m so happy to see that God helped me change. Before I went to Africa, I was heartsick over dying to my plans and dreams for living in the States but, once I got to Africa and settled in, God helped me gradually focus less on myself and more on those around me, Africans as well as my colleagues involved in Bible translation.

During year number four in Nairobi, Kenya, big changes were heading our way, handing Dave and me opportunities to offer hospitality to others and pray without ceasing (1 Peter 4:9,1 Thessalonians 5:17).

I wrote this in a letter to my granddaughters in November, 1996, from Nairobi, Kenya:

Dear Maggie and Emma,

Unspeakable brutality rages again in Zaire and Rwanda. For the past few months, people around the world have watched television reports of the violence. I’ll never forget some of the scenes, especially pictures of children. They’re so horrific I will not—cannot—write words to describe them.

The International Red Cross reported that terror spread like wildfire and that in the midst of panic, violence, and bloodshed, people by the hundreds of thousands fled to the hills for safety.

All of our personnel assigned to Zaire happened to be here in Nairobi for their annual conference so they remain here and for now, at least, they’re not in danger.

Your grandpa’s cousin Paul and his wife Barbara are among those stranded in Nairobi. They received word that looters broke into their house in Lubutu, Zaire. Church leaders heard ahead of time about the planned break-in, so they broke in first to carry out and store everything valuable. Paul and Barbara hope that includes their [Bible] translation materials and computer equipment. Paul suspects that after their church friends left, rebels stole the rest of their possessions.

This unthinkable violence and its ramifications have shaken all of us. Since our colleagues can’t return to Zaire, many of us have offered to house them. A woman named Jan lives with us now. She recently arrived in Kenya and planned to travel on to Zaire and teach at Rethy Academy, a school for missionary kids, but the turmoil has kept her in Nairobi. 

She needed a place to live so we invited her here, and now she teaches at West Nairobi School [the new school for missionary kids that my husband, Dave, opened a few months earlier].  (from Chapter 20, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

C’mon back next week for some amazing stories!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My search for answers has led me to myself

Continuing with so many questions!

Why has God blessed me 
with abundant material possessions 
and the benefits of the modern world 
but withheld such things 
from vast numbers of Africans?

Why do I have so many blessings and so little heartache?

Here’s the rest of a letter I wrote to my granddaughters….

When my heart breaks over the plight of our needy friends, I take comfort in Bible verses such as Psalm 10:17–18, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.”

Those words assure me that ultimately God will make all things right. Until then, my friends trust Him, and God asks me to entrust them to Him. Someone once said that God’s purpose might not be for us to understand, but His purpose is for us to trust Him.

My search for answers has led me to other Bible verses. Jesus, reiterating Old Testament teaching, said the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11, Deuteronomy 15:7–11). God wants us to share food with the hungry, provide shelter for those who need it, and clothe those who need clothing (Isaiah 58:7).

And with those verses, my search for answers has led me to myself.

In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus said we each have a responsibility to help those in need:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory …
he will separate good people from bad people,
the way a shepherd separates sheep from goats,
with sheep on his right and goats on his left.
He will say to those on his right,
“Come, take your inheritance.…
When I was hungry you fed me,
When I was thirsty you gave me a drink,
When I was a stranger you invited me in,
When I needed clothes you clothed me,
When I was sick you looked after me,
When I was in prison you visited me.”

Then the good people on his right will ask,
“Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you a drink?
When did we ever see you a lonely stranger and invite you in?
When did we see you in need of clothes and clothe you?
Or sick or in prison and go visit you?”

The King will answer, “This is true:
Whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”

Then he will turn to those on his left and say,
“Get away from me, you useless goats,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
I was hungry but you gave me nothing to eat,
I was thirsty but you gave me nothing to drink,
I was a stranger but you did not invite me in,
I needed clothes but you gave me nothing to wear,
I was sick and in prison but you did not look after me.”

Those people will answer,
“Lord, what do you mean?
When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison,
and did nothing to help?”

He will answer, “I’m telling you the truth:
Whenever you failed, or refused,
to help one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters,
you failed, or refused, to do for me.”
(Matthew 25:31–45)

Sobering words. A sobering message.

Maggie and Emma, God has allowed your grandpa and me to come into these Africans’ lives, and our response to their needs reveals to God—and to us, if we’ll pay attention—the state of our hearts. God wants us to help them, but He gives us a choice. Will we be part of His answer to their prayers? Or not?

It occurs to me that coming to Africa isn’t all about Bible translation. It is about Bible translation, yes, but it is about more than that.

In my mind, I hear the words of Esther 4:14. Maybe God brought your grandpa and me to this place for just such a time as this, to help Him fulfill His purposes for this handful of Kenyans— Bernard, Japheth, Enoch, Salome, Elizabeth, Wycliffe, Hellen—and fulfill His purposes for us, too. My heart overflows. Thank you, God, for letting us play a small role in Your work in their lives.

I take comfort in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” I try to picture the stunning glory God will reveal in them someday. I hope He encourages them by keeping the glorious end in view.

However, it occurs to me that, even now, I see God’s glory in themthey are bright examples of how to know and love God. I feel honored to know them, and I look forward to spending eternity with them.

I’ll never know all the reasons I have so many blessings and too many Africans have too many sorrows. I do know that God wants me to trust Him and to help my African friends.

To whom much is given, much is required.

Somehow, God turns that around and puts it into our hearts, and it wells up in the form of joy.  (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Related posts:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A glimpse of real faith in action

Continuing with a letter I wrote to my granddaughters…..

Why has God blessed me with abundant material possessions and the benefits of the modern world but withheld such things from vast numbers of Africans? I’ve searched for answers. My heart aches for so many souls across the continent….

Why do I have so many blessings and so little heartache? Several reasons. Many of my blessings come from the hard work, sacrifices, and wisdom of the generations who lived before me in both my family and my nation.

I enjoy the benefits of my country’s long heritage—political stability, technology, schooling for all, medical and scientific advances, established churches, and God’s Word in my own language. I did not ask for these blessings—many of which Africans don’t have. Africans did not ask for their hardships—many of which I don’t have. But I still want a more complete answer.
Jesus’ disciples assumed sin caused illness and suffering, and in John 9:2–3, they asked Him whether a certain man’s blindness resulted from his own sin or his parents’ sin. Jesus answered that sin had not caused the blindness. It happened, He said, so that God could display His work in the man’s life.
I had to stop and read that again—so that God could display His work in the man’s life.

Wow! Only a person of great faith can, in the midst of his afflictions, wait and trust God to display His work in their lives.

Those words tell me I must cling to the hope—no, I must believethat these needy ones’ troubles will reveal God’s work in their lives. May He grant them endurance and faith while they wait and watch for Him to act.
But, when I think more about the meaning of those words, even now I see God’s work in my African friends’ lives. Every time someone gives them food, a job, or a place to live, we see God at work—since He often uses human beings to answer prayers.

The Bible tells us He will care for us, but He does not knock on a person’s door and hand him a check to cover his rent. He does not place a roasted chicken on the dinner table. No, almost always God uses other people in the process of answering prayers. He knows how comforting and encouraging it is to look into someone’s eyes and see kindness and concern. He knows how good a hug feels, and how cheering a friendly face can be. So, He gives us each other. He works in and through other human beings who serve as His representatives.
I also see God’s works every time I see the faith of those dear people. When they tell me of a crisis or heartache or fear, in the same breath they say they trust that God will help them—not that they hope He will, but that they believe He will.

Their words give me pause. In the midst of their unrelenting hardships year after year, when most of us would lose hope and give up, they still trust God.

Like Job, they place their faith in God not because of material things He gives them, but because He is good. Whether they are hungry or well fed, God is good. They love God for Himself, not for what He can do for them.

They know God never promised to remove every hardship and sorrow, but He promised always to be with them—and that is sufficient.

Job never gave up on God, and my African friends have not given up on Him.
Would I have such faith if I were in their position? Would I, like Job, refuse to charge God with wrongdoing? Or would I cry out, “Curse God!” (Job 2:9) the way Job’s wife did?
I must bow down before these honorable people. They show me that God is good—and in that way He displays, even now, His work in their lives.

God has given me a rare privilege to know people with faith like Abraham’s. I’ve always marveled that “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4:18). I’m astounded every time I read that verse. Against all hope!
“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact[s].… Yet he did not waver through unbelief … being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:19–21).

Our friends here face the facts the way Abraham faced the facts. They have no reason to think their lot will improve. They foresee only ongoing poverty, hunger, and sickness.

Nevertheless, like Abraham, against all hope, in hope they believe, fully persuaded that God has power to help them.

I pray that He will honor their faith. I feel humbled and thankful to glimpse real faith in action. I hope God will help me remember their faith when mine is weak. (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Related posts:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What is poverty? What is wealth?

Continuing with a letter I wrote to my granddaughters on August 1, 1996, from Nairobi, Kenya:

Dear Maggie and Emma,

… The Bible says God is good and just, but why do I have so much while many of my Kenyan friends have so little?

They’re good, hard-working people who love God and serve Him, and something within me expects that good things should come to them. They must cry out, like David, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).

I search Scripture, I pray, and I ponder. What is poverty? What is wealth?

Our Maasai friends believe your grandfather lives in poverty—only one wife, only two children, and no cattle.

Who is rich, and who is poor? Compared to many of our Kenyan friends, your grandpa and I look rich in material goods, but compared to our friends and family back home, our missionary income makes us look poor. And, as poor and desperate as some of our Kenyan friends are, they’re rich compared to millions of people living in places like Zaire and Sudan. It’s all so confusing.

I know that sometimes people suffer because of their sins—they must live with the natural consequences of their bad choices. However, all too often someone else’s sin inflicts hardship on people. When a man runs off with another woman, for example, he leaves his wife and children to fend for themselves, and often they struggle to make ends meet.

In other cases, choices made by previous generations cause children and grandchildren to suffer.

Other times a government’s decisions cause adversity.

Perhaps in the case of our African friends, all those reasons contribute to their plight, but that’s not the whole answer. I’m searching for more than that.

Why do I have so many blessings and so little heartache? (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Related posts:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cries for justice

My heart aches for so many souls across the African continent.

When our friends explain their current crisis and ask for help, sometimes I see dark desperation in their eyes. Too many live always on the edge, always on the brink of malnutrition, clinging to their unadorned, spare existence, fighting against unrelenting poverty.

Even with help from churches, programs, and organizations, their lives are so fragile, so precarious.

I see a flicker of hope in their eyes when we give them a job, money, or food. Our help seems like a small thing, but for them, it is an answer to prayer.

My heart cries out for justice. The Bible says God is good and just, but why has He blessed me with abundant material possessions and the benefits of the modern world but withheld such things from vast numbers of Africans?

They’re good, hard-working people who love God and serve Him, and something within me expects that good things should come to them. They must cry out, like David, How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1). (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why not me? Searching for answers

Recently I told you about the interesting mix of people, cultures, and religions one can experience in Nairobi, Kenya—and income levels.

Nairobi has several universities and colleges, and many Kenyans have a good education, hold responsible jobs, and dress well. Shop owners, businessmen, and doctors tend to be mostly of Asian background, though an increasing number of Kenyans fill those roles, too. These folks tend to make up the small middle class.

Nevertheless, while we lived there, the unemployment rate was about 55 percent, a staggering figure. People tried to find jobs—they tried hard!—but too often they could not find one.

And then there were the blessed ones, the employed:

I told you about Bernard, who sold his maize crop for a few hundred dollars, an amount he depended on to cover most of his family’s needs for an entire year. The buyer took his maize, and that of many other families, but never paid for it. This left those families on the verge of starvation.

I told you about Elizabeth and Agnes, who sold nearly everything they owned to help a sister pay her hospital bill so she could get released from the hospital.

And I could tell you about so many more—Japheth, Wycliffe and Hellen, Isaac, Sammy, Salome, Martin—who were doing the best they could.

For more than half of Kenya’s people, poverty and malnutrition are ongoing, everyday realities.

I think a lot about those Kenyans who live every day on the edge of desperation.  

These people carry the constant burden of worry—worry about violent crime and threats to bulldoze down their neighborhoods.

But, most important, will they have food for their children?money for medical help?

My heart aches for so many souls across the continent. 

Why has God blessed me with abundant material possessions and the benefits of the modern world but withheld such things from vast numbers of Africans?

I search for answers. (from Chapter 18, Grandma’s Letters from Africa)