Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
But there were two that got my heart. They got to the center of who I am. These were prayers from a Mom for their Son...
"Pray that my son, James*, finds God. He is a good boy but he needs God."
"Please pray for my Son, Gary*. He needs the Lord and needs to right his ways and his soul. He has chosen the worng path and his wife has left him and taken their little boy. I haven't seen Gary for 5 weeks now."
I know that there are so many people who do not know God. I get that. But these two prayer requests really hit home. I imagined these two women laying in bed at night crying for the soul of their son's. I am sure they think about his first word, his first step. His first day of school. I am sure they wonder where they went wrong.
Please join me in praying for these two son's souls. I promised their mom that we would.
*Names have been changed.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We were scheduled to send out the first home-bound meals at 11:00 a.m. and begin serving the sit-down meals at noon. At about 10:30 a guy walked into the building and walked over to me. By his physical appearance, it looked as though this guy was having a rough time. His clothes were worn. His shoes were taped-up. He was tired. I introduced myself to him and as he shook my hand he said, “My name.. my name is Paul. Am I at the right place?” Was he at the right place?? Thank you, Jesus! That was confirmation that we were all at the right place this morning! Doing Kingdom work. Being a reflection of God to people who may be hurting. People, our lives have to be a reflection. We have got to be about compassionate action!
Paul left with a full stomach... and a new pair of shoes because one of our volunteers lived out Matthew 25.
We asked people to share their prayer requests with us. There is one request, in particular, that we will share in our next blog. God Bless.
Friday, November 21, 2008
When we made her circumstances known to our friends, Kriek and Jumbo Gerber, they, along with one of their staff members, Dennis Brock, committed to ending the obvious neglect she had been enduring. I cannot tell you how fulfilling it was to see pictures of Love from this past Sunday. She looks like a different little girl. As my sister reminded me today, “God makes all things new.” That, He does!
This is an excerpt from an email Kriek sent me this week:
“So she was at the party on Saturday, walking around, just looking at everything. BUT she came to ALL of us (white people) and she wanted us to pick her up. She has never ever done this with us before! Jumbo and Julie picked her up once each, but she is so heavy that they had to put her down after a few minutes. They would put her down and then she would stand in front of them with her little arms raised, asking for more. It was so cute. Sorry, but I didn’t even try to pick her up!!! I just played with her every time she came to me! She also played with Jumbo’s car keys for a while; looking really interested in it. She even came to one of us with her sweater wanting us to help her put it on. It was amazing! But through all of this she never said a word or made a sound.
Sorry you were not there to be the one picking her up! I know you would have loved every moment of it.”
I was there, Kriek. My heart was there. God Bless.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Backpacks. Bibles. Clothes. Shoes. Medical supplies. Food. Prayer. That is what Matthew 25 looks like to me. We have been blessed by so many people who ‘get it.’ Through the generosity of many, we have been able to share some very tangible things with the ‘least of these.’ I am so thankful for people like Kriek and Jumbo Gerber and their Swaziland staff, Erika Bennett and Seth Barnes of AIM, Tom Davis of Children’s HopeChest, and the many supporters of Matthew 25 Ministries.
I believe, that by nature, most people like to ‘win.’ But in ministry, sometimes it is difficult to define what a win really is. Sometimes it is not difficult at all to define a win – a Kingdom win… Winning teams set very specific goals. If the goal is to win a conference championship then the team has to win a majority of the games it plays. When a player crosses home plate, she isn’t concerned about her batting average – she wants to win. When the pitcher allows fewer runs than his team scores, he isn’t worried about his ERA (earned run average). You get the point. To have a successful team, we have to give-up our individual stats when it helps the team win. Many baseball games have been won by a sacrifice fly ball. Many football games have been won ‘in the trenches’ where there is little glory or recognition.
Matthew 25 Ministries works to win. How do we win? We accomplish the goal. We strive to share the love of Jesus through compassionate action. When we can do that, it is a victory! It isn’t about self. It can’t be. This blog is about thanking our Board, our contributors, our supporters, our families and our prayer warriors. All of that being said, we are very grateful to you, God, for giving us this opportunity to share the Love you have given us. Thank you!
I hope you have read previous blogs about a little girl we call ‘Love.’ Here are some pictures of Love that Kriek Gerber emailed me yesterday. Enjoy the photos and I will share more with you tomorrow night. The first two pics are from June '08. THe second two pics are from this past Sunday. Thank you and God Bless -
Monday, November 3, 2008
Nokuhle is just one of thousands of Swaziland children who need our help. While we cannot do everything we want to do at once - we can, however, make a huge difference - one child at a time.
I am so thankful God has put us at this place. God Bless you, Nokuhle. And God Bless, protect and deliver the people of Swaziland.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Mark 6:38. “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five – and two fish.”
Wednesday of last week I got a phone call telling me that our tournament that we thought was scheduled for the next day was actually a week later. Instead of the 23rd, it was the 30th. Dang-it. We had all these teams coming, sponsors coming, people had taken vacation to come help… You get the picture. It was quite a mess. In the days that followed, most of our teams dropped-out. I mean, I really don’t blame them . Things looked bleak.
Typically, you wouldn’t want to host a golf tournament with less than a dozen teams. But this wasn’t typical. Two days ago, God asked me, “How many loaves do you have?” We had four teams. Four. Not FOURteen or FORty. Just.. four.
Can you guess what happened today? God took the giving hearts of our sponsors and staff of the course, mixed it in with the big hearts of the 16 loyal golfers we had… and He fed us in a way that we did not deserve. We made contacts today that we would have never made if we had cancelled the tournament. It made no sense to host a tournament with four teams. But what seems improbable in human terms is really an opportunity for God to show up. We collectively did all we could do to make this tournament a success. But God blessed all of us and chose to make the unlikely become a reality.
Six total sponsors. A handful of volunteers. Sixteen golfers. And one very compassionate, loving, real God. Tomorrow we will deposit $3,700 into the M25M account! He will have us invest in the Kingdom through feeding 300 people at Thanksgiving, by purchasing and distributing bibles in Swaziland, by assisting a discipleship team share the true and living Word of God. He will have us invest in the ministry of Kriek and Jumbo and in The Luke Commission (medical supplies and treatment). He will have us invest scholarships to help individuals offset mission campaign costs. He will help us build a block house for four little orphaned girls who currently live in a stick and mud hut. Praise God! Praise Him!
So, in a nutshell, we want to thank our golfers. We want to thank our sponsors. We want to thank those who donated to the silent auction. We want to thank Timberline golf course. We want to thank the volunteers. We want to thank those who prepared desserts. More importantly, we are thankful for prayer. I got three emails during the tournament today that told me they were praying for the tournament at that very moment. Powerful.
Today I witnessed a man pay $100 for a $25 gift card to O’Charleys. I saw a left-handed golfer give $100 for a right-handed golf club. My eyes watched as a woman emptied her wallet of gift-cards that she wanted us to sell at the silent auction. We watched as the first and second place teams gave their prize money right back to us. God takes what we give, if we give with a clean-heart, and He gives back.. over and over and over.
Luke 9:13. “You give them something to eat.”
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for feeding us today. Thank you for feeding others through us.
Please help me in giving praise to God Almighty!!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The Children of Thulwane – it is so difficult to comprehend the life of an orphan. We walked to three different homesteads to visit and take food – I was scared to death during the walk – and it was daylight. I imagine the nights are very lonely. No electricity. No streetlights. Heck, no streets. Other than at the carepoint, there is no place to provide very basic care. Not because they won’t – but because they can’t. A simple runny nose can turn into flu. Flu can turn to death. In Swaziland, it is about survival. The strong make it ~ the weak don’t. Orphans stand very little chance of making it to the age of 15. In America, we stand a better chance of dying in a plane-to-plane collision than to die of starvation or a runny nose. It’s like two different worlds. God help them. And please give us the heart to help them. But for Swaziland to heal, it must heal from the inside-out. Her people must experience revival. We must experience revival.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I have experienced Jesus in the flesh. No, this isn't the first time. And I pray it won't be the last. We were on a mission campaign in Swaziland, Africa. The morning had started off with the awesome responsibility of being called to compassionate action. We were at Thulwane carepoint. Thulwane is the place we had viewed video's of Tom Davis' blog. This is the place we have read about on the blog of Kriek and Jumbo . I already had this particular morning planned out in my mind. I would spend some time with the children as they ate breakfast. Then I would help other team members administer some meds at our 'clinic,' while at the same time I would be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of my oldest daughter, Alexis, as she continued the path of being a Godly young woman. But something happened that will forever change the way I view missions. The experience I was soon to live would literally shape the way I viewed life and love.
In order to fully feel the scope of this experience, please take a moment to watch this video: http://tomdavis.typepad.com/tom_daviss_blog/2007/03/the_girl_in_the.html
Crystal Baltimore came to me and said, "Hey, remember the girl in the wheelchair in Tom's blog? Well, she is over here and we are about to feed her." Wow! We met Pastor Walter just the day before - now, I get to actually see the little girl on the wheelchair. My family and I had watched that video at least 50 times. There she was. Little Nedia sat there on a mat in all her Royalty. She was dressed like the Queen of Thulwane. A red velvet dress adorned her bruised and battered body. She quietly ate her generous helping of food from her royal plastic bowl and with her spotless right hand. There was the Queen in all her splendor. I was speechless, as was the rest of our team. At that moment, a rush of emotions came over me. I was angry that she could have been violated in such sick, evil ways. Then confusion creeped in. How could someone physically abuse such a precious angel? It was obvious from early on that Nedia not only had been assaulted both physically and mentally - but she had also been neglected since Tom had posted the video of her from late in '07.
Then it happened. The defining moment of where the rubber meets the road. This was it - where the 'Red Letters' of the bible come to life. There was Jesus dressed in the distressing disguise of the Queen of Thulwane. My heart was wrecked. My sense of justice was awakened. As team members began to prepare for the clinic, I was able to spend some time with Nedia. Just me, her and the Lord. At first, I wasn't sure of what to say. Or what to do, for that matter. I had never met a queen before. I had heard of them and seen them on TV. But this was for real. So there we were. Just the three of us. What was the first thing out of my mouth to her? "Love." My big moment in the history of important moments - and all I could say was, "Love." How did she respond? "Love!"
I have experienced love in so many ways in my life. Love for my parents and sisters. Love for Ashley and our four children. Love for my friends. Love for my work and those I serve. Love for God and for my church. Love for missions. But this was the manisfestation of what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25 when he talked about the poor. This was exactly what he meant. To be continued...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
I saw Love yesterday; she was eating (of course!). She looks good, but I couldn’t get her to smile. I also saw her grandmother the day before. She is living with them, but she is weak. We are going to start her on Juice Plus and we hope that it will help. Please pray for them.
Attached is a picture of her!
Hope you are well!” Carike (Kriek) Gerber
Please take a minute or two to post a prayer for Love’s Go-Go. She is HIV positive and not doing well. There are four children under 5 years old at this homestead. We will do our best to get your prayers printed and translated to her. Imagine the healing in us covering this woman with compassionate prayer!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
What in the world are we thinking? We are so wasteful. God, help us. It has to start with a decision that we are fed up with being so petty and putting such a huge priority on ‘stuff.’ Thank you, Erin.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
This is one of my favorites. Me and Love investing in each other. I miss her.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Here is a post from Ericka's blog:
I WILL NOT BE SILENT :: (the harsh truth about Swaziland)
Posted in Africa by Ericka Bennett on 7/21/2008
I haven't had much time to slow down since I got home from Africa. No time to really think. No time to journal. No time to let everything I saw sink in...
But in the quiet moments I find here and there, God is starting to bring it all to mind. Today He brought to mind Elizabeth, the widow we found dying in the dirt outside her shack in Nsoko. Pastor Gift asked us to go and pray for her, so we set off on the dirt path. As Rusty, Molli, Faith and I walked up that afternoon, all of me wanted to scream...
There at our feet, lay this emaciated woman. She was too weak from AIDS to speak, to eat, to move. Dirty, sick, and covered in flies, this widow lay dying as her daughter and grandchildren looked on. It was almost more than I could take. "IT'S NOT FAIR!" I wanted to SCREAM. "IT'S NOT FAIR! Why is this precious woman DYING IN THE DIRT?!"
I dropped to my knees by her head, waved the flies away, and began to stroke her hand and her face. She struggled to move, and finally found enough strength so that she could reach and hold my hand. "She just wants to be touched," I thought. "She just wants to know the world hasn't forgotten about her... that God hasn't forgotten about her..."
Molli knelt at her feet, Faith crouched beside me, and Rusty knelt and put his hand on her back and began to pray. He prayed for God to comfort her, and for God to take her home to be with Him - away from her pain and suffering. I couldn't hold back the tears as he prayed for her... the injustice of it all was just too much.
WHY does she have to die like this? Just because she's in Africa? Doesn't she deserve better?! In America we would NEVER stand for this! GOD IT'S NOT FAIR!!!
I composed myself enough to pray over her, and then, in my heartbroken state, did a poor job of singing the only SiSwati song I knew over her. Moments later, still wiping away tears, we walked away...
Elizabeth died the next day.
-------------------- the following is from Seth Barnes' blog -----------------
And so it goes in Swaziland. It's a country of of pain and contradictions, of death endured in the devastating quiet of a dark shack. It's horrific what's going on over there. Shame is a terrorist stalking the nation's girls and young women because of a culture that doesn't talk about what goes on in secret. It's nightmarish and someone needs to stand up and shout or at least talk about it.This week I got this email from Kristen McGraw, a missionary to Swaziland, that says how I feel about that place:
I woke to the singing of angels this morning as the sun came up and peered through the old curtains of the window in our room. They sang of the Lord's provision of his love and his power. "Your light will shine when all else fades..." These songs are what keep me longing to hear more in such a silent place sometimes. The silence is deafening. We don't TALK about how HIV AIDS is killing our families and our neighbors. We don't TALK about how Thandi has been faithful to her husband and he has given her AIDS because he has been sleeping around. And she is fearful to tell him because he will blame her for giving it to him. And now her children will be left to be put to intense work by him. We don't TALK about the status of women here and how they are beaten and abused. We don't TALK about how a swazi women cannot refuse her husband sex, even if she knows he is infected. We don't TALK about the little girl down the road that was sold by her own mother to a neighbor to be a slave girl for her. We don't TALK about the brothels in Swaziland run by 18 year olds and the American business men who come for the little 8 year old girl. We don't TALK about the children abandoned by aids that live with the grandparents, until the step grandfather decided he doesn't want them because they will eat his food. We don't TALK about all the witchcraft surrounding Swaziland and the darkness that is here. We don't TALK about the prostitute and her pimp that came here yesterday to see her two sons just to size them up to see when they can come for holiday to visit. And by visit they mean for them to work sexually. These are two of my Swazi brothers who I have loved the last three years and played with and now lived with. But we don't TALK about it.We don't TALK about how I have shaken the hands of these men and I feel a groaning in my spirit because these are some of the same hands that have beat and raped. But we don't TALK about that. We DON'T TALK ABOUT IT. Why the hell not? My heart is screaming. My wounded soul is desperate for people at home to TALK. And if you won't talk then I will. And you could at least have the decency to listen. God gave you ears to hear. Eyes to see. How can anyone who hears these things and sees these things turn away? Yes when we TALK about it, it hurts. It seems overwhelming. It is too much, too sad and we ask, "What is the point if no one seems to be listening or wanting to see change?" The point is we can change the children. We can change this next generation. What is going to happen to these children if we leave them because we thought it was too hard? We have to start talking.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
June 1, 2008
Truth is love. I feel that service is the mirror to ones soul. Intent, quite honestly, defines who we really are and where we are in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
I have been so judgmental of others that I didn’t see my shortcomings. I was too busy trying to find others faults that I didn’t have time to work on my own. I didn’t have to face my own failures and weaknesses as long as I kept the failures and weaknesses of others in my sight. Truth is, there is enough failures in my life that I don’t have enough time to worry about others failures. God, please forgive me for being so judgmental.
I missed my family a lot today. Missed them really bad. I wanted so badly to talk to them. To hold them. To be in the same house with them. Much like our Father longs to be with His children. He wants us to be in church with Him and His other children. He wants us to embrace Him. He wants us to tell and show Him how much we love Him.
Today I was weak. I had an opportunity to share my faith and I didn’t. I wasn’t as crisp as I should have been today. I am angry at myself for not preparing as I should have. That will not happen again.
One soul. It is that important. Did I miss that divine appointment today? Was that the one soul I was supposed to share the love of Jesus with? Praise God that I will get a chance to speak with my friend again tomorrow night. (*My friend is the security guard at the guest house where we stayed. He was a Christian and we enjoyed each others conversations. I think this was a wake-up call for me to always be prepared for the Great Commission).
Meeting Pastor Walter was a big deal for us today. He is a maven. Like the Paul Revere of Swaziland. Good Lord, what a blessing it was to be with so many people today that I love. And for us all to have the worship experience we had was an awesome gift. Thank you, Father!
As much of a failure as I have been in my life – relating to how many times I have failed our Father – I am utterly amazed at how He has given this opportunity to see His saving grace at work. Different language – same message… Truth is love.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
May 30 - Somewhere over Africa
Haven't slept hardly at all. The change in time zones has me messed-up. It is here. The time has come for me to "pay up" as far as this campaign is concerned. I have talked, prayed and thought about this for quite some time and in less than 90 minutes we will be back on African soil. The beauty of this is His promise is the same no matter where we are on earth. God is God. I suppose we are the ones who change.
As we ate breakfast I thought about Jesus and His followers. When they travelled, I wonder what they ate for breakfast? Each of them gave up everything, took up their cross, and had faith that their needs would be met. That reminds me of the parable of the birds in the field. If God takes care of the birds in the field, why wouldn't he take care of us? I worry about some of the craziest things.
I am anxious as we begin our descent into Johannasburg. What will I learn this time? What will I share? Why Swaziland? Why now? Is my soul 'clean' enough to represent Almighty God? Why am I asking myself that question now? I represent Almighty God all the time. I shouldn't ever take that responsibility lightly.
Being selfless isn't as difficult as I make it to be. When we get out of His way then His will is very clear! I want to make God proud of me. Like Caleb told me one time about serving others, "I am doing it because I am supposed to." Thank you, Father. Thank you.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Numerous press reports today confirmed that the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted on genocide charges. Our local television news affiliates ran this story tonight. You can read the full story here.
Her name is Leigh Ann Cates. She works with an awesome organization, Aid Sudan , and is the Director of their Nashville office. Another Hero for the Kingdom. Check her out on facebook. Leigh Ann is leading the way for relief efforts in Sudan and should be commended for being a true Warrior for Christ!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
While most Americans have been taught what it means to be free, many have a big misconception of what freedom really is. Many people in our society have the belief that freedom means that they can do whatever they want. It means that they are free to do drugs, free to drink, free to have sex with whomever they want. It means that kids can do whatever they want to do in school, adults are free to do whatever it takes to get ahead, and you can add many other things to this list.
One of the tragic things about this misguided perception of freedom is that these thought processes have enslaved so many into a way of life that has no hope. Drugs and alcohol leads to addiction and has destroyed many families. Sex anytime, with anyone, has led to many unwed pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and std’s, broken hearts from being used and the inability to enter into a marriage bond the way God intended. And kids who use their freedom in school in negative ways find themselves uneducated and passing blame to anyone other than themselves.
Truth is, in laws of the world, we are never truly free. In America, we enjoy freedoms that no other place in the world can enjoy. But we still are under the law of man. And some of the laws of man are pitiful. Law of man tells us that we have to do in order to be. Our society tells us that if we are to be somebody then we have to be pretty – or skinny – or popular. Society tells us that we are more valuable if we produce. And, as sad as it is, society tells us that if we score a touchdown or hit a homerun or score a goal then we are more special than someone who doesn’t. We are deemed more important if we hold political office or make a lot of money or live in a big house and drive a nice car. But where does all of this leave average people? I’ll tell you. It leaves the average person feeling like they have to do to be. It is a losing proposition. Not attaining what society tells us is important leaves so many people feeling like a failure.
Here is some really good news: we, as Christians, are absolutely free from these empty laws of man! We are absolutely free from the burden of having to do in order to be! And there is also good news for anyone who does not know Christ: He can set you free! Now THAT is Independence!
We are going to my hometown for July 4th. Being in Milton, Florida brings back so many good memories. One of the fondest memories I have is one of freedom. Milton High had already won the District football championship. We had one regular season game left before the playoffs and it was against one of our fiercest rivals. The outcome of this game had no bearing on us being district champions. I will never forget the feeling we had going into that game. Do you think we were nervous or fearful? No! We played probably one of the best games ever played in black and gold. We were free to execute and deliver as never before because we had already won! If you are in Christ, you have already won! We are free to execute and deliver and perform like never before! Through Christ, victory is ours! God Bless.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I hope you are doing well! Our entire team that came to visit you really does miss you, the other children and all of the adults who help each of you! We are especially thankful for Ms. Kriek and Mr. Jumbo and Mr. Dennis for checking on you and the girls and taking care of ya’ll! We heard you have gotten your eye checked by a doctor and now have an adult living with you all. That is fantastic! We are so pleased to hear this good news!
I want you to know that you are very important to me. You are also very important to many other people. You have your very own cheerleading squad. We can explain this whole cheerleading thing when we see you again. Anyway, we are so glad we got to meet you and spend some time with you. We have looked at pictures and video from the carepoint and there have been many, many people read about you on our blog. Your will is inspiring to us; your ability to defy the odds is motivating and your loving ways has captured our hearts.
Angel, I want you to know what a positive impact you are having on people. There are people who live their entire life and don’t stir the soul’s of men, women and children the way you have. You have ministered to so many! Your story is inspiring because there is hope. The video Mr. Tom Davis took of you when you were in the wheelchair had an impact. Seeing that video of you may have made some people want to come to Swaziland. Experiencing you in person has made us want to come back. You represent Hope. Hope and faith and truth that God will win the fight.
In my heart I can see some amazing things that will happen through you. I can see you getting your strength and I can see your body healing. I can see you sharing your life experiences with others from Thulwane, Swaziland, Africa and others from around the world. God is going to continue to use you as a mouthpiece for what is right about Him. You have made your country proud. You have made God’s Kingdom proud and you have made many, many people proud. How? Just by being you! God made you very special. We love you and are very, very proud of you!
I also want you to know that there are adults that you can trust. You can trust the D-Team and the people that work with AIM. And you can trust who these people put you in contact with. You can trust God and His promises. We are going to get each of you your very own bibles soon. The D-team and others will help you learn to read and teach you principles from this wonderful book. With continued sponsorship, we will make certain that you have the opportunity to go to school. We are so glad that Children’s HopeChest and Adventures in Missions have partnered in Swaziland. Through wonderful people who support Matthew 25 Ministries, we promise to continue to support you and other children who are in need. We love you. I love you. That is a promise that you can count on.
We just finished looking at the pictures of you in your new clothes and shoes! How sweet! Do you have any idea how much we enjoyed being able to do that? I hope you and your friends enjoyed it as much as we did! There is something that I noticed in every picture of you. You bring out the best in whomever you are around. That is just natural. When we are around you, we feel close to God. We see Him in you. I hope that makes you feel pretty dadgum important. Because you are! God made you in His image – isn’t that wonderful?!
I hope that tonight your tummy feels a little better. I hope that you feel a little safer when you lay down to sleep. I hope that when you wake up in the morning you feel more rested. Love, work through the tough times and enjoy the small victories in your day. Please know that we are praying for you. Please know that we miss you terribly. Please know that we are counting on you to make it. We have faith in you, Sweet Love. We have faith in YOU!
We are counting the days until we see you again – until then, we will keep up with you through Mr. Dennis and Mr. Jumbo and Ms. Kriek. They all love you too!
Sharing in His Love,
PS – Sorry about not picking up on what you were trying to tell me when we were there. I promise to be more polished on siSwati when we come back!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Kriek and Jumbo Gerber, Seth Barnes, Dennis Brock, Tom Davis, Crystal and Squeaky Baltimore - these are people who are making the red letters of the Bible come alive! God Bless each of you for stepping out in faith and being who, what and where God wants you to be. So tonight the Vann family will rest a little better - simply knowing that those four little angels have rested better and have more protection. Ultimately we give Almighty God all the credit for this!
I have been preparing a letter for Love that I will share in the next post. As i drift off to sleep tonight, I can't wait to hear the laughter from Love that is tucked away in my memories. God is so good! Until then, may God continue to bless and protect you and your family.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I feel really overwhelmed to be the one telling the story of the little girl we call "Love." While this is quite an honor for me, I have not been able to give Love the repsect she deserves - at least not in these posts. I feel like I have left my daughter in Swaziland. There. I said it. I have learned to love her even more since we have been apart. I have watched videos of her over and over and over again. I have looked at pictures of her over and over and over. And I have missed her over and over and over.
Love is an intruiging young lady. She is inquisitive. She likes to know what is going on around her. I believe she tries to be strong for the her three 'sisters' but she also longs to be held and protected. The afternoon we cleaned her up and put the new clothes on her is the day she slumbered in my arms. She felt safe enough to sleep. And it was a very deep sleep. She drooled all over my left arm! I was proud to have experienced that. Love is also very smart. She picked up on words and actions. She knew right away if I liked or disliked something. She wants to do well. She wants to please. I know she didn't like me making her walk across the field as she kicked the soccer ball. I know she didn't like me making her walk across a ditch instead of carrying her. I know that she didn't like me holding and loving on anyone else when she was around. My heart wishes I would have held her longer. But my gut and head tells me I did the right thing to make her move around and be independent. In a culture where survival is the first thought of the day, children like Love and the three other girls don't have a very good chance of seeing adulthood. Unless we commit to compassionate action and actively support organizations like AIM and Children's HopeChest - unless we are to take our faith literally - then there is no hope for this generation.
We believe in Kriek and Jumbo and Dennis and the D-team. We believe in Seth Barnes and the AIM staff in Swaziland. We believe in Tom Davis and Children's HopeChest. We know that God's work is happening at the carepoints and in the mud hut that Love calls home.
Now, more about Love. Through discussions with people from the community and through our own observations, here is what we know: Love has been sexually abused.
She has been physically abused. Love has been neglected and she is malnourished. A physician who has seen a video of her feels that she is parasitic. Her baby teeth are severely damaged and/or rotten. She has some type of neurological damage. As you can see from the video, there are challenges with her right eye and with the right side of her face. Although the flesh wounds on the right side of her head are healing, it is obvious she received blunt force trauma to her little head. Her tongue twists upside down most of the time. She has scars all over her little body. She has been burned on two places on her head and on her lower back. She was born prematurely. Her little head, as you can see, is not proportionate with the rest of her body. Big head = big brains is what I told her :-) because that is what my Momma always told me. She has had some type of surgery on her left hip which has left her with a chunk of flesh missing and a limp that pains me to see. We don't know whether she is HIV positive or not. God, help her.
All of this and we still have faith. We still have hope. We still have Love. And we have the sincere word of Kriek, Jumbo and Dennis that they will take care of these four little girls. These challenges are things that can be helped. At least there is hope.
The last video of Love is of her washing her hands as they prepare to eat the last meal of the day. She took longer to wash her little hands than the rest of the children. I think that has to do with me being at the bucket. I offered her an encouraging word, and, although she didn't understand what the word meant, she could tell it was encouraging. She has probably never been called a "Good Girl" by anyone before. I just wonder if she has ever been praised? The investment of going on mission pays eternal dividends! God had us at this place at this specific time to show us something and to have us share his love and compassion with the people of Thulwane. We are forever changed. God invested in us and we have the responsibility to water those planted seeds and to cultivate the garden.
In John 7: 37-38 we are told this: 37. On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." 38. "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. " NKJV
Matthew 25: 34-40 came to life through this campaign. This piece of scripture is God's plan for us. It is His foundation for the world. Let's live it together!
Love is an inspiration. Her love has called me and many others to action. We have not forgotten you, my Sweet Love. We have not forgotten.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I saw what has become the picture that defines the hope we experienced during this campaign. At the side of the hut, just in front of the wheelbarrow they used to transport Love in was the empty wheelchair that Love was first video'd in. Kriek and Jumbo heard about a little girl who was in a wheelbarrow and they purchased her a wheelchair. But that chair couldnt hold Love down! Praise God that she is trying to be mobile on her own!
In part 6, I will summarize the 'Love' experience and describe her in detail to you. In the meantime, please continue to pray for the girls and also ask for understanding for us as we face these situations head-on. God Bless.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
This video is from our first encounter. Not 20 minutes into our first-ever conversation about 'love,' this little Angel had a message for me. A message that she attempted to give me on five other occasions throughout the week. Kriek viewed this and had a disturbed look on her face. Love had been trying to tell me all week that her 'Go-go' or caretaker was no longer there to care for her. "Mr. Larry, my grandmother, my protection, my provider - well, she isn't around anymore. You see, she is in the 'death ward' at the hospital and we are all alone. The oldest person at our homestead is 5 years old. We have been alone for over two months now. We are scared. We are lonely. We are hurting. Is life supposed to be this way? You are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What are you going to do?"
Silence. When Kriek heard this little angels plea for help on the video, there was silence. What could we say? We had no idea that the homestead visits arranged by the AIM staff would be so BIG. Me, Natalie and my oldest daughter Alexis were asked if we would participate in a homestead visit, accompanied by Zwakele, one of the 7 Discipleship Team members in Swaziland. Initially, I refused the opportunity. Anger wouldn't allow me to go. Besides, I knew if I went to Love's home and met who was abusing and neglecting her then I would never be allowed back on the continent or out of long-term confinement. But after prayer and guidance I knew I was supposed to go to her home. I had to see. I had to know. We had to show Love and the others that we loved them. I wouldn't trade that opportunity for anything. I will share more about the moments leading up to the homestead visit in Part 4. Just know this - there is hope. Through your support of AIM and Children's HopeChest - through faithful parayer and compassionate action - there ceratinly is hope. Please take a moment and pray for Love and the three children that share that mud hut they call home. God Bless.
Monday, June 16, 2008
For those who know me, you know that I never take off my sunglasses when outside. Seriously. But I wanted her to see my eyes. No, I needed her to see my eyes. The next couple of hours was full of us playing with a soccer ball, walking and talking. Walking? Wasn't this the little girl that Tom Davis had video of in a wheelchair? It was! The ladies at the carepoint told us that Love did very little walking on her own. She was carried most everywhere she went.
But we couldn't allow Love to be lethargic. Under the conditions of sheer survival, only the strongest make it. In a land where the average age expectancy is 35 and where HIV/AIDS is so prevelant, we know that the odds of Love making it to her teenage years is not very high. This is reality. One of the things she has to do is to walk. Is to be stronger, physically. My God, there are so many things stacked against these children. Thank goodness for organizations like AIM, Children's HopeChest, and, through the blessings of many, Matthew 25 Ministries. With the assistance of these types of organizations, these children and the people of Swaziland are receiving very practical assistance wrapped in the Love of God. Folks, this is where the rubber meets the road. When, in Matthew 25: 35-40, Jesus tells us to take care of the poor, these carepoints is exactly what He was talking about! Thank God for Kriek and Jumbo and the AIM staff in Swaziland! Thank God for Children's HopeChest and their vision to create the carepoint sponsorships! Thank God for Matthew 25 Ministries and those who are making a very real difference through compassionate investment in His Kingdom!
In Part 3, I will share with you another video of Love. She is trying to tell me something - as she tried to tell me at least five other times during the week. But we didn't find out until after we departed for the US the scope of what she was really saying. Please pray for the AIM team in Swaziland and for continued blessings from Children's HopeChest. Please pray for the strength of Love and the three other precious children who live on the homestead. Pray for their protection from evil and that they will continue to see the love of Jesus at the Thulwane Carepoint. God Bless.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I have personally spoken to many of the team memers today and all seem to be tired, but well. I encourage you to give the team members as much space or time as they need to try to sort through some of this. We saw and experienced alot while on this campaign and we all will deal with it in different ways. Please continue to pray for us as we search for answers to some of the things we witnessed and lived.
I will update photo's on shutterfly as I get my plane legs back under me. I will also have cd's of a cllection of the photos for all team members. God bless you all and thank you for partenring with us on this campaign!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Last night was a very special night. We were able to be active participants in the Baptism of Cassie and Allison. Jumbo led us thru a very heart-felt communion and then we witnessed what had to be one of the most powerful Baptisms ever! Literally, as the sun set behind a gorgeous mountain-range, the world around us came alive! Absolutely amazing...
We ask for your continued prayers and support as we prepare for the long journey home. We also ask that you, as we have, reflect on the love God has for us. For the people of Thulwane. For the world. Additionally, Steve and Alexis are feeling a little under the weather so we ask that you lift them up, as well. Nothing serious - just a little stomach bug. They are on medication.
We will be checking the blog when we get to Amsterdam - so if you get a chance, please post a comment. I cannot tell you what a joy it has been to all of us to read your replies!
God bless and we will see you soon! We love you!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
- Girls, Family and Friends - We are great! We are amazed! We love you! See you soon, Amy and Steve (Mommy and Daddy)
- Brian, Boys, Parents, other family and friends - I am well and God is good! These people are beautiful! I will see you Monday night! I love you all and keep praying! Kristi
- The people are beautiful, the land is beautiful, everything here is beautiful! This trip has been such a blessing. It can't get any better than this. Savannah
- To my friends and family - It has been an amazing trip so far and I am well! I can't wait to tell ya'll everything. I love ya'll and please keep praying! Love, Caitlin
- Jason, Skyelar and Melody - You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy... Love you and miss you - Mia
- Family and Friends - I love you all so much. Africa and it's people are all so beautiful. This has been such an amazing experience. Please continue to pray. Love, Alexis
- Madeline and Emma - Just wanted to let you know that we are safe and still busy doing God's work. We have met LuLu and she sends her love. We miss you and love you very, very much! PS - give Dolly a hug for us! Love, Mommy and Daddy (Allison and Mark)
- Ms. Ruby (Momma) - We are doing well. We have been thinking of you alot and we miss you so much! Please know that we are very safe and happy. We cannot wait to see you! Love, Squeaky and Crystal
- Del, Aaron, Rachel and Rebekah - I love you so much! I think of you often. I cannot begin to express my experience in words other than to say I pray one day you will know the joy and fulfillment of serving our God in such a tangible way. I have found Sami. Thank you for allowing me to be here, for your prayers and most of all your love! Esther 4:14. Love, Julie (Mom)
- Ashley, Elizabeth, Caleb and Abby (family and friends!) - It is well. My heart aches but I know that is what will fuel the mission. I miss each of you terribly and know that I will continue to do my very best to represent each of you with absolute love and compassion. I love you all so much! Ash - thanks for being my rock. Kisses - Daddy
We have found, held, loved, kissed and looked into the eyes of each child at Thulwane. Yes, including each of the children that have sponsors. So we have pictures of each of these children that you help each month. Your support is doing some very tangible things here. We attended church with Pastor Walter yesterday. WOW! And then today - today, we held the little girl in the wheelchair very close. God is so good. Please visit www.hopechest.org and visit Tom Davis' blog to see video of both these people I mentioned above. Oh, and Paula D - we have video of Jubilee (sp?). She says she loves you - FOR REAL! She hasnt left Crystal's side (or lap)!!!
We must go for now - please keep the comments coming! The crew will absolutely melt when I get back to Madonsa with these notes from you!!! Please call and email all the people you can with a link to this blog - we never know how God will use us! Blessings and love....
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Just to let you know what a fantastic group we have - there have been countless encounters with complete strangers where we have been able to share our faith, what the mission is and how GOD IS SO GOOD! We have met people from all over the world and actually linked up with some short-term missionaries from Georgia who are headed to East Africa and a gentleman who was born in Iran who is now a US citizen. He is going home for the first time to share the love of Jesus with his family. Please pray for him - he is scared to death.
Seeing all of the 'world' in this airport has given us a great sense of pride in our heritage and our roots. It makes us miss home even more. Thank you all for your support and prayers. And the comments after these posts are a HUGE hit with everyone - you can imagine everyone huddling around the laptop when we can get a faint signal...
Please forward the link to this blg to anyone and everyone. We covet all of the prayers. NOTE - we are keeping a very close watch on everyone with our group. We look like a box of redworms walking thru the airport!
We love ya'll and can't wait to do the business we are here to do. God Bless each of you and we hope you are resting peacefully.
Your Swazi Team