Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Words from a Clay-Carrier-Pigeon

Our car passes from one world to another; carrying us from pavement to dirt, smooth to rough, and barely processable to utterly unprocessable surroundings.
Is “unprocessable” even a word?
Today it has to be.

The creation scene around us is breathtaking. The mountainous scenery speaks of solid strength and power, no man-made building has ever done that for my soul. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is deeply moving and beautiful, yes. But it's small in comparison to what the Creator can do with color and space. Slopes dressed in green with grey rocky outcroppings, laced with a blue-sky crown and white-puffed clouds for jewels. The creation speaks of powerful peace ---- but the man-made muddle of confusion underneath it quickly deafens the earth-bound ear.
For it's the troubles created by man that have once again broken the heart of the Father and He has turned our hearts in this very direction. And I am reminded of HIS goodness in the middle of this mud. If Abba were not good, then He would not care what is happening to His creation. And if He did not care, He would not speak to our hearts concerning it. And if He did not speak to our hearts over it, we would not glance in its direction, since HE is the barometer for what is good and what is not. It is HIS heart that stirs the hearts of His image-bearers. It's His longing to respond, once again, to the ones who cry out to Him --- this longing of God is the reason our feet have landed where they are found.

I sit with this truth often: If God were not so good, I would not even notice what is not good.

It keeps my head straight in the middle of the battlefield, where the enemy wants to fling spears of lies to try and twist truth --- where doubts can break us quicker than stones. The liar will say – if God is good then why do such bad things happen?

Oh but does that enemy realize how deeply foolish and off-point he is? For knowing God means we actually know what GOODNESS is --- and if we did not know His goodness, we would not even be able to recognize the opposite of Him. And it is the enemy of Goodness that has authored the very badness our Good Father is calling us to respond to. Always under His cover and because of His love.
It's a battlefield for sure --- where the Great God who is good, wants His children to respond with Love to the deep-running attack of evil against innocence.

Doesn't the Word say that “Love covers over a multitude of sin”?

So I sit often with the truth: If God were not so good, I would not even notice what is not good.

Bad does not happen because God is weak or uncaring. Bad happens because... there is this fallen being who hates God and hates goodness and works to defeat and discourage and destroy what God loves dearly (us). Hurting us, is the fallen ones way of hurting God. So God calls on His children, the ones He has poured Himself into by our own invitation to Christ, to respond on the battlefield to the devastating attacks on the innocent ones.
Should we be surprised --- or discouraged --- or shocked?
We can hardly resist being leveled in our inner most parts when we see just how low, gruelingly low, the enemy of our good Father will go, as he works to wound the heart of God.
But should it be allowed to stop us?
Should we become fearful --- thinking warped thoughts like --- “if this can happen to them, then shouldn't I get out of here and not dabble in these terribly broken places – shouldn't I shore up my walls and lock myself in to a safe place...?”
Another truth comes in response: Fear is the opposite of Faith.
Faith defeats giants because Faith focuses on the Faithful One.
Fear defeats us, because fear compels us to take our eyes off the Faithful One.
And if our eyes sway from our Father, we're as powerless as the dust we're made of.

Loaded with boxes and boxes of pads (the night before we traveled), so thankful for the help of Caroline (Kenyan coordinator for Mom's in Prayer), along with Angie and Quillen, dear friends from the States who spearheaded the message and gathered funds for the girls before coming to spend a month with us in Kenya.

It's the blood of Christ touching the dust of us that makes us able to stand --- wherever the good Father places us.

When we arrive, after bouncing down a dirt trail where feet and pikis (motorcycle taxis) and donkeys only travel, we hear their songs (yes, the wounded girls are singing). I open the door and in doing so, I remove the last barrier between my safe cocoon and their world of lack.

You see, I recognize each layer of a cocoon, since I lived most of my life tucked deeply inside one.

We step into wet mud. The kind that sticks.
The kind that dirties the bottoms of our clean shoes.

And He whispers to my soul, “It's a wasted life that keeps the soles of its shoes clean in a world filled with wounded souls longing to be cleaned.”

He has spoken those words so often to me in these latter years of my life.
Clear – the words come through clear --- and they pour a resilience into marrow.
I'm not crazy. It's not foolishness that opens my soul up to His whispers. Some might wonder...some might.
But I know it for sure --- because I know what life feels like apart from those words. I remember well how it feels when my thoughts and the world's words filled the spaces in me.
When you know the difference, you know how it feels when He whispers inside.
And it's those whispers received that are the mimicking of David reaching for that smooth stone in his pouch with a Goliath roaring in front of him.

And there's a wave of courage flowing around us as prayers have filled the air between us and the good One and those He will place in front of us here.
It's in those places where I must hold on to His Truths, otherwise i'll never make it.

We are welcomed with kind handshakes, hugs, and the warmest of eyes.
We walk into the sweet hillside church made of quarried stones with wooden rafters holding a tin roof above us.  It's a church that holds His children. It's like a fox-hole dug out in the middle of a battlefield.  It's a place provided to tuck in, a rampart, a hiding place. And it's here that rest can be felt and dry cups can be filled.

There are lovely Kenyan ladies leading the songs being sung by the Kenyan girls standing before them. It's the way we know our Father loves it to be done. Let the “mommas” of the land who love Him deeply, lead the girls of the land who wonder (about God) as they wander (in hard places) and watch (for goodness). We are to support these “mommas”, making sure His Truth is handed out, and doing the part we can beside them. Eyes should not come to us and land there --- I watch so closely to be sure they don't land for too long on us. We are not the answer........ but we know the One who is. The wrestling now, in front of these dear girls, is to be sure they shift their eyes from us, and settle them on the Good Father who whispered to us concerning them.
They must somehow come to see, that God is good and He sees them, He cares for them, He has responded to them. We are simply carriers.
Like pigeon-carriers ---- I love that those pigeon's just do their part when they feel the message clipped to their foot and their wings are released to fly. They go where they've been taught to go, carrying a vitally important message with them. And never does that pigeon puff itself up and think it's done something big. It's just thankful to find a receiving hand on the other end of its journey. It has no real knowing of the important work the messenger is able to accomplish through it's willingness to fly and land where it's been told to go. Now we, are a bit different than a pigeon, yes. But --- even as we might think we know a bit about the message we are delivering --- do we really know the fullness of the flow being delivered into the hearts and minds to these girls --- the flow from the Messenger to them? We know it in part, but we can not know it fully. Our minds can't conceive all that HE is able to do; our minds can only grasp it in part.
I love that.
Why? Because it matches the other side of this in front of us. We've been told of the horrors these beautiful young ladies face ---- even seen the evidences of their wounds. But truthfully, I do not KNOW the depths of the pain they feel. My mind can not fully conceive their thoughts or sorrows or griefs or needs. My mind is so limited. But not the mind of God. He knows them deeply, completely, He knows their going out and their coming in, He knows the purposes He knit into them, and the He knows the way to actually use their pain to strengthen them towards His plans for their futures. And He knows that His plans for them are good IF they will love Him and allow His purposes to guide them out of the pain. He is the One who can use all things, even the things intended for deep harm, He can use them for great good if we will allow Him to.
So I see --- I don't know the fullness of the work of the Messenger --- and I don't know the fullness of their depths of suffering. I know each piece ---- in part. But what I do know is that the One can meet the other perfectly ---- and my part is to help defeat the enemy's lies and bring His Light to their darkness. My part is to connect the good One right into the middle of the pain.
He will go straight to the center of their suffering. And He will do things there, that no eye has seen or heart can fully understand. But He will do it. He knows what is needed.
He is the Giver of that Peace that passes understanding.
I don't have to understand it all. But I know it is true. I know it is good. I know goodness and light do defeat darkness and evil.
So we reach in our pockets for the smooth stones. And we do the part that we understand.

We divided into small groups for a time of Q&A, prayer, and sharing of hearts.

These beautiful girls have washed themselves carefully, cleaned their school uniforms tediously. (No one else washes what they wear.) They look so good, they are doing their best. I've lived here long enough to understand their unspoken messages sent through their eyes. They wonder... do you know what i've done? Do you know what I face?
And my eyes speak back, I know. And I see you. And you are trying to be brave. And you matter so much. And i'm glad you came today. And you are seen by the One who is bigger than your pain. And you are important to Him. You are loved, really loved. No matter the muddiness of your world.
It's deep heart-soul work.
To not fixate on what they face in their lives. But instead to fixate intensely on the importance of the note tied to my heart for them. To focus only on the heart of the Messenger, His message to them, to their hearts.
Focusing on the surface lands the message only on the surface.
Meeting their hearts is the heart of the Messenger.

Small group time with some of the younger attenders. Quillen supported as Emily led the group. Emily grew up on the mountain herself --- she knows first hand the challenges these girls face. She also works with us at ICM/ATS.

These girls live in a place where few parents can afford to meet their needs. School fees alone usually overwhelm their pockets. In a country where school is said to be free, somehow there are still fees each term that are nearly impossible for most families living on the mountainside to produce. (Corruption?)
Their nice school uniform is one of the requirements ($$).
They are required to stay in a boarding school since travel each day would be impossible since there are no “good” schools within walking distance. (keep in mind that even an “good school” here is so very different that what those words might make you think). Boarding school ($$)
School supplies, books, note-pads, soaps (for body and laundry), all needs that must be met while away at school --- ($$$).
Parents will go without food themselves in effort to TRY and give their child a different life. And here that different life comes through getting an education. ($$) And how thankful we are that parents are now willing to send their daughters to school. In some places, and for decades, only sons were allowed to go to school.

But when the girl grows into a young woman, and the “monthlies” begin to come. Few parents have the extra $ to buy pads for her. At home, they can use rags, washed daily. But at school, there usually isn't enough water provided to wash those rags. (Having enough water for basic needs is a challenge in many boarding schools here.) And the girls are so embarrassed to hang those private things beside their beds at night ---- since there are some girls who have “disposables”. Can you believe a world where having disposables each month becomes a “status” and a tool used in peer-pressure?
There is a real NEED. I can't put more words to it than that. It might seem so small in some worlds --- but in their world it is a mountain.
So how has evil responded to that need.

Dirty, twisted, depraved men living on the mountain seek out the needy girls and offer to “sponsor” them each month. When the girl goes to be “sponsored” he will then ask how she can repay him for his “kindness” to her. She knows what he wants. It's the o-n-l-y thing she has to give. She gives. She loses. But------ she is not “shamed” at school when the monthly comes. She is able to attend classes, and work to keep her grades up. High grades please teachers and parents. Low grades bring severe punishment from both. Keeping in mind too that the one thing she is able to “give” to the dirty man, is something that was likely already taken from her during her childhood. It's a different world --- where darkness has won for too long.
Recently the government became alarmed at the growing number of pregnant girls (11-13 years old) living on the slopes of the mountain. They did studies, created reports, wrote a few articles, and admonished the schools for not having tighter control. One school official said, “These girls are causing so many problems for us...”
When all this happened, the dirty-men told the girls to no longer call them “sponsors”, but instead to begin calling them their “prayer-partners”, since few people would ever question her willingness to seek out prayers............
When this occurred, some girls shared with their REAL prayer-partners, ladies at the church. And that's how it came to be that our messenger-feet found this space.

This team of four Kenyan ladies began praying for God to open up a way for them to provide for the needs of these girls. Nearly a quarter of the girls in the area have become pregnant over the past year. Almost all because of the dirty-men using them.
One of these ladies asked me to pray for them, for God to help them help these girls.

All together -- a nurse, lawyer, secretary, student, Bishop, teacher, and church leader. These dear Kenyan ladies will continue the monthly work as true prayer-partners, mentors, and suppliers of needed feminine products. We're so thankful for them!!

After 3 weeks of earnest prayers ---- my heart was broken for the ladies, the girls, the families – broken through and through.
Sharing my heart through writing to those who walk closely with us --- within 2 weeks, God had responded, through His kids. And the four Kenyan ladies saw doors open before their eyes. Provision for needs can be met --- through TRUE prayer-warriors.

As we sat off to the side, that day in the church, 3 Kenyan ladies taught them many truths. They invited us to share words as well, words to encourage the girls, to strengthen them in their resolve to understand that now they actually have a choice!!!! (and this choice will be theirs forever, in Jesus' name).They can choose freedom from false “prayer-partners” and instead a new walk beside true-prayer-warriors.

Each girl left with supplies for the next 3 months. (And the knowing that at the beginning of each term of school, they can come to the Kenyan ladies and receive their needed supplies for the entire term.) She will have all she will need to care for herself personally. The One who made her will provide for her, through His kids, because He asked and they responded. Messages clipped to feet ---- that can speak to hearts.

It's not so much about responding to needs in “perfect” ways. It's about responding with Abba's heart gushing through our hands.
I grow weary sometimes of critical evaluations assessing if, when, why needs should be responded to. How? (perhaps assessing the validity of motives for helping).... do they really deserve it ?(implying this is their fault).... will it really solve their problems ?(implying the problem wall is too big to chip away at).... even words of “how do you think you can actually help them”? (Oh God knows --- the weakness that keeps me on my knees)... ?? (by the way, none of the questionings came from beautiful supporters – instead they are found in books written to try and curb ineffectual giving to uninformed doers --- and those questionings are definitely worth spending time sorting through.) But how it wearies the soul when questions build walls that keep love from flowing.

Love doesn't say you have to accomplish the final product. Love says --- each step counts and the One who IS LOVE is using each step towards the Omega of it all.
Love can only win if it moves/responds/acts.

Steve playing with children from the surrounding community while we are with the girls.

Love standing still, and critically assessing every angle, accomplishes nothing. And does real love actually do that?

Love washes dirt away --- with living-water.
Love is God's response.
Love ran red on the cross.
Love isn't afraid to get its hands dirty.
Love knows the gush of living water can wash away the dirt that clings.

Love in action --- Faith not fear --- renewed Hope ---- these ride on wings of carrier pigeons-with-souls-in-mind.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
~Edmund Burke

What makes any of us good? What makes a man or woman good? It all hinges on what fills them and leads them and compels them to respond. It's their willingness to let the GOOD ONE live inside them, and respond through them. No person is good. Only the choice to love the Good ONE above all else, can bring them out of darkness; and there we find what is good.

So may I humbly edit Mr. Burke's quote to more fully say --- 
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the goodness of God to be hindered by timid men, causing them to do nothing.”

Oh God, give us your strength to carry Your goodness........ and then ---- let us come home.

(What gratitude we feel for the many who responded to our email asking for help for these girls. The response was more than we ever dreamed it would be. We had prayed and asked God for a certain amount --- we went to our knees as God multiplied the amount we asked Him for --- 5 times over. The girls on the mountain slopes in this one area will have their needs met ---- for a long, long time. Now, they have a real choice --- they can be free from the user-abusers, and feel cared for by the One who responded to the prayers of many concerning them. And may they see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”!!!!)

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