Thursday, July 31, 2008

Still Hurting... Big

The following is an email from a person I met thru Facebook a couple of weeks ago. Her words are not wasted. And I believe those who have been to Africa, no matter how many times, feel the same way. Don't you?

"I dont know when I'm going back.
That's what I think about every single day.
I left my heart in Africa.
I was looking at your blog... it made me tear up.
I miss the children so much.
I want to go back as soon as I can.
If someone told me I have a plane ticket for you tomorrow morning...I'd be on that flight.
It's where I belong.
Oh my gosh, I cant even describe how much I miss it.
I'm interested in hearing what you're doing & where exactly you are in Africa."
-Raelynn Chambers

This is one of my favorites. Me and Love investing in each other. I miss her.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another perspective on Swaziland

This hurts. But we need to know about what is happening in Swaziland. We need to experience what my friend Ericka and her team experienced on their most recent campaign to Nsoko. Ericka is the real deal. Check her out on facebook and follow the link to her blog. I am sure you will be as humbled as I am. God Bless you, Ericka!

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 - Journal Entry "Truth is Love"

Another personal journal entry to share. This entry is from Sunday, June 1. A full day before we would cross paths with a little girl we affectionately call “Love.”

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

A Glimpse

I have seen each of my children, at some point, read pages from my journal. While much of what I write is very personal, I know the importance of openly sharing faith and experiences with our children. After encouragement from our oldest two, Alexis and Elizabeth, I would like to share a glimpse of my journal with you. There are no earth-shattering revelations - this is simply a way for me to share my faith with you.

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

Sudan President Indicted

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.

Starvation and gang-rape that robs the souls of women and children are the order of the day for this guy. With this loser being in the news, I figured it would be a really good time to intoduce you to a friend of mine.

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!

Please join me in praying for the people of Sudan, as there will likely be a backlash of violence. The saddest thing about this story is that it is unlikely that al-Bashir will be arrested and sent for trial. The judgement this guy will eventually face carries much more of a penalty than what any human could do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Independence Day

We had an activity at Westwood last Sunday evening. Typically, on Sunday evenings, many of the small groups use that time to meet. But last Sunday our church sponsored a church-wide tailgate party and fireworks show. We had a blast! Small groups, families and friends set-up their canopies and tables and brought food and drink – if you want to get Baptists involved in something – call it a competition. And competition, it was! Church staff judged each group in categories like best food, best decoration, best spirit and so on. One of the two most enjoyable things was seeing so many people. Our church has three services and small group is a big focus – so to see so many people turned the light on to how many people are active in our church. That was good to see and experience. The fireworks show was so cool! Just to be able to sit and enjoy that with my family and dear friends meant a lot to me. It allowed a time to reflect on our independence as a nation and as Christians.

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.