Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quick Change

It was a Tuesday. She came in looking a little rough. I’m not being judgmental. She knew it and she was hoping to find some things at the clothes closet.

She was a single mom. Her son had been kicked out of school because of behavior and other issues. She was tired and she had kind of given up on taking care of herself.

No makeup.

Dingy shirt.

Ripped pants.

Dirty flip flops.

Hair pulled into a pony tail. Kind of greasy looking.

I don’t really think she expected to find a place that might love on her a little. It was another place that she’d heard about that might offer her some help.

Maybe even just let her dig through a box.

“Ma’am, what size are you looking for?” I asked.

“Well, I actually have found some things! I am excited to see that this place offers nice things! Is it all donations?” she asked. She had a different light in her eyes than when she entered.

“Yes!” I said. “ We have been blessed with very nice donations from people in our church. I am glad you are finding things.”

I was even able to help a little with some toiletries and underwear. Her kids were needing those things, and quietly, so was she.

Before she left she asked if we had programs for kids at our church. I told her about our upcoming VBS and about other opportunities that kids have at the church.

I talked to her about the single mom’s class.

I gave her a Bible.

The very next day we were open was Thursday. It was a steady day with people coming and going. I was standing near the desk helping another customer when the door opened.

It was her.

Her hair was washed and pulled back in a bun. She had on make up and she was dressed in white pants, a sweater and a tank top and she was wearing a matching necklace. It all matched. She looked so pretty and so different.

“HI!” I said. “You are back! You look so nice today!”

“Yes,” she smiled. “I brought my friend with me. Everything I am wearing came from you!! Look at my necklace. It matches and looks so nice! I am so excited that everything fit and you all helped me so much!”

It was almost as if a woman that had been locked inside had come out again! Her face was radiant and her eyes excited about how she looked and how she felt about herself.

She brought her friend into the store and helped explain everything. She helped her shop and she helped make stacks of clothes for her friend’s family.

She was giving back.

She was taking what she had been given and using it to help someone else and she was doing it with so much pride. It was as if the Lord Himself had whispered, “I’m carrying you. I’m here and I want you to tell someone else this same message.” And she was.

Before she left she thanked me again and again. She asked for information about the church for her friend and she wanted her to have a Bible, too. I honestly could not believe the difference…

… and yet that’s just like the Lord. In His time, and in His way, He makes all things new. You just never know exactly how He’s going to go about it… or when. And every once in a while He allows you to see it. First hand.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Do Your Job

They came in as a group. They usually do because not many of the women drive and depend on their husbands to bring them to shop. Once they have a ride several Asian ladies bring their children to find things to wear.

I noticed one of the young ladies stayed behind. She had a calm demeanor and a sweet look in her dark eyes. She kept near the back of the group until everyone was entered into the computer. She helped with their English at times and smiled at everyone. There were several children, and if they could walk, they would come up and hold her hand or she would address them if they were running or into things.

She finally approached the desk and I asked for her I.D. card. She said, in very plain English,  “This is my first time here. I had to drive today. I also had to come to see the place that has helped so many of my people.”

“The Burmese?” I asked. “Your English is very good. How long have you lived here?”

“Seven years. I have lived in America for seven years, but I have only lived here for a few years. I work at a clinic and I help the doctors care for my people. I am single, but I have family that lives with me and I help take care of them, too. Can I shop for them today?”

I explained how our system works and told her that we would be happy to help in any way.

“You have no idea what this place means to us. I was happy that it worked out for me to come, meet you, and see what my people talk about. Our children grow so quickly and we can buy a few things, but this place allows us to have enough as the children outgrow things.”

My heart began to beat so hard… just like when the Lord begins to speak directly to me about something that needs to be said and done. But what? I had no way of knowing what He wanted me to say other than to share the gospel. I can’t usually do this with these people because they speak little English. But now was my chance!!!

She began to walk around looking for items for her family.

As she made her way close to the desk where I was standing I said, “It makes my heart so glad to know that we are helping your people. One thing REALLY bothers me, though. I can not speak to your people. The language barrier is hard and I can’t share Bibles or Jesus with them because I do not have them in your language.”

Then I knew why my heart was beating so.

Her eyes lit up and she said, “THAT is my job!”

I am sure I looked so confused, and for a moment I was a little concerned about what she might say. Many cultures participate in idol worship and continue to worship false gods. I was praying that the Lord would help me know what to say next and praying there would not be confrontation!

She continued.”You do not have to minister to my people in that way. You are doing what God has told you to do. Now it’s time to do my job.”

I looked at her a little confused. “But God has only given me the clothes to help me meet physical needs. The spiritual needs, and sharing about Jesus is more important and what we wish we could address with your people,” I said.

She smiled, “Oh, I know! You see, for so long I have asked God to do a work in the hearts of my people in Burma. I have prayed for my country with weeping. I came here so burdened for them and I continued to pray for my people and one day the Holy Spirit tells me… your people are RIGHT HERE.”

She pointed around the room at the people that she’d driven to the Clothes Closet. I began to understand the calm demeanor and gentle spirit. It was the presence of the Lord and my heart was filled with so much joy that I literally could not move, but hung on her every word.

She continued. “There are so many children. We have many families with multiple children and I am not married and I don’t have children of my own. The Holy Spirit told me to teach the children. He said, “THESE are YOUR people,” and I realized that I wasn’t doing my job. Yes, I still pray and ask God to work, but it’s my job to tell them, THESE, about salvation.”

“Do you drive them to church every week?” I asked.

“No, I teach them in our apartment complex. Every Sunday I have Sunday school and I tell the 20 children that the Bible is one book and that it has two parts… the Old and the New Testament. I tell them that Jesus is at the center of the Bible and that He loves them. I tell them every week and God is giving me a vision that He will grow them to love Him. I am only to be faithful to teach.”

She paused.

“I am so humbled by this. There are times that all I can do is cry because the Holy Spirit is so strong and He is directing my way.”

I had heard in the past that many of the Burmese refugees were here because they had come to belief in Christ and had fled their country because of their longing to worship Him in freedom. Many came with the clothes on their backs hoping to make a life in the United States where they could teach their children Truth. I knew that several families came to our church and brought their children to Sunday school, but as with any group of people, there are those who do not believe and are living in rebellion. They came with their families, but are not going to church or hear about Christ on a regular basis. My heart had been burdened for a long time about only giving clothes, meeting only external needs, but never knowing whether or not they’d met the One True and Living God.

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“So, what can I do to help you?” I asked.

“Pray. That is all that any of us really CAN do. God has made it clear to me that I am to do my job and that the results are up to Him. That’s what you should do, too. When they are standing in front of you, and you are folding their clothes, you pray for their hearts to be stirred. Pray for them to be receptive to the gospel and don’t worry about the language barrier. They are shy people. They don’t have confidence in the English that they do know so don’t worry. You just pray.”

She continued,” Don’t worry about the Bibles. Among just these people here there are two dialects. You could not have enough Bibles for each dialect and you could not know who speaks which one! You pray and you trust God to use you and the clothes to point them to Him.”

I was still. Completely still.

The Lord was sweetly telling me, “She’s right. You don’t pray enough for the people. You must TRUST that I am able to use ANYTHING to reach them. It’s not UP to YOU!! Just be faithful to what I tell you to do, and trust that I am at work.”

I asked her if I could have the honor of praying for her before she left. She shopped a little more and brought her items back to the desk. I removed the hangers and then walked around to pray for her. She fell to her knees with her arms in the air and blessed the Lord during the entire prayer.

So humble. So willing. So used by God in every facet of her life.

Challenging me to trust. Challenging me to obey. Challenging me to press on in what He has called me to do.

The Lord moved during that time and even now my heart beats hard as I tell, feebly, of His impact.

I took a picture of her and put her name in my calendar so that  I would continually pray for her… though I suspect that I won’t need the reminder. Her name, and that day, will be hard to forget.. you see her name? It’s Mercy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why Exchange Students?

In the fall of 2013 and in the fall of 2014 the Lord opened opportunities for me to go to Africa. It changed me. Never in my life had I been exposed to such a different life.

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While the lives of the people struck me to the core and the lives of the missionaries challenged me to live a life that makes a difference there was nothing quite like the faces of the children.

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They live in a place that offers little opportunity. They are beautiful, smart and so curious about life. They wanted to sing and laugh and dance and play and create and listen and see what new things they might learn from us… the Americans. Africa 070

While I am not na├»ve enough to think that America.. with our broken lives and hurting culture… would solve any problems that these children might face I do believe that we STILL live in the land of opportunity and freedom. We have amazing families that live through terrible circumstances and still have faith that things will improve.

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We have resources and experiences that people in many countries do not have, and we CAN make a difference in the life of a student. So many want to be doctors, lawyers and teachers. They want to learn English so that they can be effective in more than just their native tongues and they are eager to learn.

We can help them to see that education is worth it and that there’s something placed within us by the almighty hand of the Living God that tells us that there’s right and wrong, good and bad and that there’s love. Amazing, life giving love!

me and kids

When I went through the airport in South Africa, I stopped at an airport restaurant to buy a water and prepared to board my flight. Two South African girls working behind the counter asked me where I was going and I said, “America.” Their faces! They lit up with the biggest smiles and they said, “We don’t want to move there. We just want to see it. Just one time, could we come with you?”

I have never forgotten that.

I have a friend that works for the exchange student program that I am now employed by. When she posted on Facebook that they were looking for host families those two hopeful faces came to my mind. Our home needs some repairs and so we are working on that in hopes that we can bring a student to stay with us for the academic school year.

No doubt, there will be issues arise. It won’t always be easy and there will be differences to work through. In my mind, nothing worth having is easy all the time.

I’m just excited to see what God has for our family and it is my prayer that I can impact more than one life through this exciting opportunity to be God’s hands and feet to the world! One child at a time.