Hosting our first African Wedding!

Yesterday was a big day for the Carriers as we hosted our first African wedding. Charles, the groom, was a widower whose wife died several years ago, and he recently lost the youngest of his three children to TB. Due to his wife’s death (and his need to work outside the home) and the prolonged medical care needed for his little one, his older two children were being cared for at a local children’s home. Ester is a widow of just a few months, with nine children (the youngest born just weeks before her husband passed away). Both Charles and Ester (and Ester’s husband) had been baptized by Marc earlier last year, and they are part of a solid local house church where they have been discipled and have been growing in their faith. Charles had been Ester’s husband’s best friend for several years, so they have known each other well. Both saw the possibility of their marriage as a way to honor God and bring their children together in a strong family unit, also enabling Charles to bring his own children home. It was an honor for us to assist them in making their commitment official.

Set up and ready for the big event!

We spent the day Monday cleaning the house and the kids greatly blessed me by going the extra mile. I wanted to make sure our plastic stacking chairs were all wiped down, and the chalkboard wall and dry erase board needed to be cleaned off as well. I figured after they finished the bigger jobs like floor-washing, I’d get someone to take care of the little things. But lo and behold, while I cleaned carpets and washed the kitchen floor, the kids  jumped right in to get them done on their own. Not only that, Jonah noticed many of the spots on the walls (which have not escaped my attention, but time does not usually allow me to address them), and he got a wash basin and cleaner and went to work to make the walls sparkle!

After all the work was done, the kids decided to bless Charles and Ester’s kids with some gifts–treats like cookies, lollipops, and gum from a local shop, AND some of the toys from their small box of toys in the living room. Jonah has two Beanie Baby bears that they all like to play games with, and it seems that all their games involve both bears for maximum fun. He thought aloud that maybe they should put one of the bears in the bag for Charles and Ester’s children. One of our littles said, “But then we won’t have two!” And Jonah replied, “Well, right now they don’t have any, and we’ll still have one!” So into the bag it went. Not every moment here is a “proud mama” moment, but once in a while it is nice to see that God is working something in our children’s hearts. I was blessed to see their excitement in giving and to experience the unusual camaraderie over housecleaning.

Also on Monday, I made a wedding cake (my first attempt), and I hoped it wouldn’t be too “un-professional” for the big day. Isaiah did the writing with some colored frosting and a syringe, having had some experience with that when the boys made me a special birthday cake back in December. Marc and Isaiah went shopping for some of the food, including a HUGE amount of beef (8 kg, the largest amount of beef I’ve ever prepared). When they got home, Marc diced tomatoes, onions, and peppers and tried to add that and the diced beef to my 8-qt. pressure cooker–the only way to prepare really good beef here! But alas, my pressure cooker was much too small. Rather than do it in two batches, we decided to use my large pressure cooker/canner, which I’ve only used as a canner and never as a pressure cooker. It worked perfectly and the beef turned out delicious!

On Monday night, the officiating Bishop unexpectedly wanted to change the time of the wedding from 10 AM to 1 PM. This posed a scheduling problem, as we would have to notify everyone, and some were already traveling from some distance away. Not only that, but being on “African time,” we were pretty sure that 1 PM would probably end up being dinner time and we weren’t really sure how to “entertain” everyone until the Bishop made his entrance. Even so, we tried to work everything out and hoped for the best.

We wanted very little to do with directing the actual wedding, as we weren’t sure what the local customs would dictate. It was surprisingly similar to an American Christian wedding, except that the couple didn’t hold hands or enjoy a celebratory kiss after the vows were official. When the vows were taken, they actually held up their right hand rather than holding hands with each other, as is our custom. The cutting of the cake was part of the ceremony, and the bride and groom served bite-sized pieces to all the guests. I was called upon to assist with the cutting of the cake, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. The instructions I received weren’t very clear (and the tradition not familiar) so I fumbled a bit and was a little embarrassed, but everyone seemed gracious enough about my misunderstandings.Unusually, filling out of the official paperwork was done during the ceremony as well.

Here’s the happy couple when it was all over, including a parting shot with some of their children:

  

We praise God for allowing us to be a part of this blessed event. Kingdom Driven Ministries was not only able to fund the wedding through donations, but Charles and Ester should also have assistance in purchasing some property. This will go a long way in helping them to provide for their new, large family. Please join us in praying for Charles and Ester as they begin their new life together!

 

 

Ministry Year-in-Review

Last night the KDM board met for its annual meeting, which highlighted what we’ve been involved in here in East Africa over the past year. Jump on over to check it out: http://kingdomdriven.org/annual-meeting-year-in-review-and-future-plans.

The Sobering Numbers Behind a Very Blessed Day

It is quite possible to live a Western style of life here in Kenya; many (particularly in the cities) do. They have lovely homes with electricity and running water, perhaps a car, and ample food. Their children attend quality schools. They wear nice clothes, get their hair done, and enjoy many modern conveniences and entertainments. I’m not just talking about foreigners living here, but native Africans. There are opportunities to earn a good wage, and many do. As a result, they also enjoy the corresponding standard of living.

Such is not the case, however, in most rural places, including the village in which we reside. Though not a recent article, a report in Jamhuri Magazine shows how Kenya compares on the per capita income scale, rating as a “very poor” country with an average annual income of $1,000 to $2,000 per person. In our area, I would say that the average person makes a few hundred shillings per day, which translates to 10800 KSH annually. That converts to $1278 USD, which corresponds well with the Jamhuri estimates.

As I said in a previous post about a very blessed day, in which our family enjoyed some time away and a good meal, Marc and I always carefully consider our financial decisions in light of these figures. Though we have a Western income (albeit now lower than it used to be), we hesitate to live a lifestyle that is vastly different from our neighbors. We feel guilty for spending as much on a one-day pleasure outing as our neighbors would use to feed themselves for…months? When some folks can’t afford basic medicine for emergency needs and we easily spend money on preventative vitamin supplements, we sense the unfairness of it. Granted, having more money than some isn’t a sin, and neither is it wrong to enjoy some things in life. But living here where poverty is quite in-your-face, the fine line that defines “too much,” isn’t actually so fine, and the delicate balance of needs versus wants tips quite a bit more easily in favor of very basic needs than it did when we lived in the States.

Our family went out to eat twice last year–once about a month after our arrival, and once just after Christmas when we visited Kisumu. Marc also occasionally treats one of the kids to a meal when they are chosen to go into town with him on errands. We eat meat much more frequently than our neighbors do (once or twice a week). Instead of ugali with every meal, we often eat spaghetti, rice, bread, or potatoes–all of which have a higher price tag than plain maize. While they typically have one or two outfits of “work” clothes and one “nice” outfit, we have a half-dozen changes of clothes each. Many here sleep on burlap sacks, mats, or thin foam mattresses. We were just blessed to be able to buy a pillow-top mattress to replace our compressed foam–a gift designed to assist Marc’s recovery from the motorbike accident. A Bible here is a treasured addition to the  home, as the possession of books is rare indeed. We brought a small library of books with us from the states, knowing how hard it would be to homeschool without them.

As you can see, there is a great financial and material chasm between “us” and “them,” no matter how much we feel we have sacrificed in comparison to our previous style of life in America (which was not extravagant by any stretch of the imagination). No matter how much food, medicine, clothing, or financial assistance we are able to give, it’s still just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of needs out there.

What does God desire? Is it “that there might be equality”? (See 2 Corinthians 8:13-14). That goes against our capitalist and independent American way of thinking, doesn’t it? At the same time, if we were to live a lavish lifestyle when others lack money to pay for malaria medicine, antibiotics, and nutritious food, how would God judge us?

Here is our standard–one that we continually examine ourselves in light of:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46

Living in a Kenyan village is hard, not because we’ve sacrificed to do so, but because we’re constantly faced with the realization that we could be doing more. Making moment-by-moment choices that used to be easy has become much more difficult. However, I think that living with this constant “tug” in regard to our finances and our expenditures is a good thing–it means that God is at work in us, showing us His ideal, and we’re doing our best to respond. It’s a journey…

God-Opportunities

Our first year here in Kenya went by rather quickly, much of it spent trying to acclimate ourselves to a totally new culture and way of life. There were many challenges for each of us individually and for us as a family, as well as trying to figure out what it meant to be on the mission field.

I entered our second year with some sense of victory, great thankfulness to God for His grace, and a deep desire to do more. Unfortunately, I am pretty limited by lack of transportation, responsibilities for home management and homeschooling, and Marc’s busy ministry schedule. So, both before and after writing this recent post, I began just praying, in earnest, for God to bring me opportunities to serve, to give, and to share the love of Christ with people in my community. I can’t do much, but I can do something. I’m willing, and God knows my limitations, so I just asked. And, as He is so faithful, He has been responding.

First, a neighbor brought a sick child to our house asking for assistance. She had persistent diarrhea and fever. I gave her some liquid amoebicide that we had on the shelf (water-borne amoeba being a common problem) but a couple days later the problem hadn’t cleared up so Isaiah offered to go to town on his motorbike and talk to the local chemist. He returned with a couple of medications, which a grateful Mom administered to her baby (who, coincidentally, was born the very day we arrived in Kenya!).

Not more than a few days later, another neighbor arrived in a rather disconcerted state, explaining that she’d gotten an emergency phone call from a relative in a neighboring town regarding her husband (who is currently working away from home). Unsure what the problem was and lacking money for transport, she came knowing that I would help. I was happy to give her some money for transport and promised to send food for her five children and look after them while she was away.

The next week, two brothers in the Lord came for malaria medicine. One stayed overnight for some rest and nutritious meals. It’s the season for malaria here, so we’re keeping a supply of anti-malarial on the shelf for just such visits.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been focusing on helping Marc get well from his motorbike accident, and we’ve all been encouraged by God’s faithfulness and Marc’s speedy healing. He’s been quite a trooper, and very patient with sometimes waiting for things he needs as other demands are met.

Just this morning, I was praying for God to send more opportunities, as Marc is needing much less of my time and attention. And I was so happy to see Mama Helen come to our back door! Not long after we arrived here, she was a somewhat regular visitor. She is very quiet and kind but our communication is of course somewhat limited by my little Swahili and her little English. I’ve tried to learn about her from others in the community. I think she has three young children and I’m not sure if she’s widowed or if her husband has abandoned her (that is unfortunately common here), but she has little means of providing for herself, from what I am told. A woman we know has shared the Gospel of the Kingdom with Helen using the Two Kingdoms tract, and she had been visiting us every few days for food. However, it has been quite some time since we have seen her and it was rumored that she had left the community. At the same time, our front gate (which was normally kept open so as to be welcoming) had to be closed to keep our new chicken and rabbits safely in the yard. We also got a dog, which we found deterred some visitors. So I’m not sure why she stopped coming, but she was just one thought on my mind as I prayed this morning.

Whatever the reason for her long absence, I was so pleased to greet her and try to find out how she has been doing. What brought her, unfortunately, was a foot injury. I couldn’t discern how it happened but there were a couple of deep cuts, which hadn’t been cleaned or cared for very well, plus signs of infection. I got our wash basin and first aid supplies and did my best clean and bandage the wound. I also gave her a pair of flip-flops for her bare feet. However, it was clear that she needed further care. Isaiah, who had already been planning on going into town, arranged for a piki piki to transport Helen to the local Catholic hospital, and he followed with Sam (a local Christ-follower who is a great help to Marc in the work of the ministry). They saw to her care, and Isaiah reported that they really went “above and beyond,” not only dressing the wound and providing antibiotics, but washing her legs and hands and trimming all her nails as well.

No sooner had Helen left than one of my neighbors arrived, explaining that they were hungry. I could tell that although it was early, she had already been hard at work on her shamba–and without something to eat! (She was one of the happy volunteers who assisted us with planting this weekend.) I filled up a bag for her and she was off for a quick breakfast before returning to her work.

Then Helen was back from the hospital, cheerful and thankful, and on her way again with a bag full of food.

I don’t have great giftings, just a desire to serve. And I’m thankful that God is aware of my limitations and is faithful to bring people right to my door who have needs that I can help fill. Join me in praying that God would likewise bring opportunities for all of us to serve, for His Kingdom and His glory!

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. …If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Matthew 7:7, 11

“You Don’t Struggle”

In talking to a sister in the Lord here at our home over this past weekend, she made a rather off-hand comment that I’m still thinking about. Though she didn’t explicitly say so, she was comparing her life to mine, and she said, “We African women, we are used to struggling. You, you don’t struggle.” And she looked around our home and shrugged, as if she didn’t want to continue. She was comparing my physical circumstances to hers, and I could agree that (in the sense that she meant it), I don’t struggle. I am able to live at home with my husband. I have the luxury of homeschooling my children. We put food on the table for three meals every day (and it’s not just ugali). When I had a first degree burn on one thumb, and then a bandaged thumb due to lancing an abcess, we could afford to pay someone to help out with daily laundry for a few weeks. I don’t *have to* work outside the home to meet our family’s necessities. I could say a lot more, but it’s pretty obvious that I don’t struggle.

But I do…I struggle against sin. I struggle to grow in faith through circumstances that I perceive as “suffering,” in various senses of the word. I don’t equate my “suffering” with this sister’s–but does that mean that I don’t struggle? The Lord allows us all to experience trials of various kinds. What is a trial for me would be a life of ease to this sister, surely; but that is no grounds for spiritual judgment. I think that this sister’s motives were pure, and I didn’t get any sense of spiritual judgment from her–but of we’re honest, I think we’ve all been quick to jump to unfair conclusions in regard to others at some point in our lives.

It’s easy to compare…but if my sister compared her life to those who in the past (or currently) suffer imprisonment, torture, and even martyr’s death, it would be equally easy for those on the the other side of the equation to say that she “doesn’t struggle.” Perspective, indeed.

I mentioned this comment to Marc after our conversation, and he was quick to concur that (in the sense she meant it), I indeed don’t “struggle.” He compared it to us trying to deal with our children’s little difficulties (like hating math, not wanting to do a half-hour chore, or what have you) when of course if they were in the adult world dealing with “real” problems, they would realize how petty those trials really are. But even if we were to encourage them to play the comparison game to gain some perspective (“gee, son, guess what fun you’ll have when you get to be an adult!”), would it really make them not “struggle?” And does it actually make their trials any less difficult when they’re going through the process? Maybe yes, and maybe no. Depends how you present it, I guess. But each person’s trial is a trial, indeed, to that person. And God uses those trials to shape and refine us, to show us the genuineness of our faith. What is difficult for one may not be for another…but “to his own master he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4). God knows the heart of each man, and that is what He is concerned with in allowing various trials into our lives.  So let’s not be quick to judge one another, but rather encourage one another to persevere and honor God in spite of our present “sufferings” (be they large or small). And let us personally press on in times of trial to find what is good and strengthen ourselves for God’s glory, rejoicing in the Lord.

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will ofGod.

 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

(1 Peter 4:1-8)

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:3-6)

Immunizations, Prescription Drugs, and GMO

While in America, we ran in some pretty conservative homeschooling circles. Although we never did go the “no-immunization” route with our children, I certainly was swayed toward that position, and Marc and I had many conversations about it. We did “delay” some immunizations for some of our children and refused the chicken pox vaccine almost across the board (although our oldest got it). I won’t deny the stranglehold that the pharmaceutical industry has on many facets of life in America, and I would even give some credence to the link between immunizations and autism.

So when we had been in Africa only a few months and two nice doctors showed up in our yard telling us that we needed to have all children under 5 given an oral vaccine for polio because there were some confirmed cases not too far away, I was adamant that WE DID NOT NEED THEM. They’d already been vaccinated in America, and no further intervention was necessary (for our protection or theirs). They were equally adamant that THEY ROUTINELY RE-VACCINATED ALL CHILDREN UNDER FIVE WHENEVER THERE WAS A CONFIRMED CASE OF POLIO IN THE AREA. Seeing that they would not be moved, I summoned Marc and he told me to dig their immunization records out of the file. Done. He showed the nice doctors our paperwork and they retreated.

An hour or so later, a couple more nice doctors came. These were higher up the supervisory chain, I think, and they would not be deterred from their mission. Marc conceded, and three of our littles got some drops in their mouths. I made a weak protest to Marc after they left, but all he said was, “You can’t blame them. Polio IS a really scary disease. I’ve been into Kitale more than you, and I’ve seen several people crippled and laying on the sidewalk begging. That’s all they can do. I’m pretty sure that’s from polio. They have to take it seriously and they don’t want us to be a risk.”

Good point. I suppose in America, we have the luxury of choice. Here, where the disease is not eradicated, they are trying to get to where we are–a total population free from the fear of a crippling disease. I  had not thought of it that way.

Ditto for prescription medication. We were on the path toward total natural remedies–in fact, I’m thinking we actually had arrived there. We haven’t been to the doctor (other than children’s preventative visits) or gotten a prescription for…a long time. I preferred oregano and grapefruit seed extract to any artificial antibiotic and believed they were equally as effective. For coughs, a rub of eucalyptus and thyme mixed with a carrier oil or a homemade cough syrup would do the trick. Immune-boosting supplements kept us healthy enough not to need further interventions, as a rule.

Then…Africa.

Water-borne amoebas stubbornly resisted all oregano and grapefruit seed extract, probiotics, and whatever else I could throw at them. So, in defeat, we talked to the neighborhood chemist, who have us some pills and some oral meds for the littles. We’ve all taken them multiple times, and each time I choose to be thankful for the relief rather than suspect of the chemical processes behind it. Many of our neighbors who routinely get malaria are grateful for cheap anti-malarial drugs–who can blame them? And when our 11 year-old had a bad cough that kept him up for multiple nights, unresponsive to our homemade cough syrup and chest rub, well…I took as a blessing the allergy medicine and cough suppressant from the local chemist.

And despite the evidence against GMOs (with which, by the way, I generally agree), I can see why the locals here use it without any second thought. Where a child reaching the age of five is a monumental milestone (due to disease and, yes, starvation), getting twice the yield (or more) from GMO versus heirloom corn seems pretty appealing. Better to be able to feed your children then potentially have them die of starvation, even if the GMO stuff does give them cancer…or sterilize them for life…or whatever *might* happen from a lifelong exposure to such an altered food source.

We’ve never been the type to make a stand over any “debatable” issues. The Gospel of the Kingdom is where we stand firm, and in all other things we do have an opinion, but unless asked we try to keep it to ourselves. If we do share what we believe, we try not to be dogmatic, but give room for freedom to our Christian brothers and sisters. But in these areas–immunizations, prescriptions drugs, and GMO–I recognize that I did have very firm convictions. And now, while I’m not second-guessing that, I do see how sometimes, we don’t have the luxury of conviction. And unless it involves obedience to Christ, maybe our opinion is, in the final analysis, irrelevant.

Oh, and yes, raw milk is best and people should have freedom to choose between that and the pasteurized variety. Here we have that freedom, but until the day we get our own cow…I’m boiling my milk, thanks.

 

I “Knew,” but I had no Clue…

When we were preparing to move to Africa (a place where Marc had been several times, but I…never), I knew something about it. I saw pictures, heard stories, and got some common-sense advice and encouragement from folks who had taken the journey ahead of us. So I knew something about what to expect, and as best as I was able, I was prepared.

But in so many ways, Africa has been a surprise. And though I was prepared, and the transition has gone well, I have been meditating lately on the difference between “knowing” and actually experiencing.

When I explain to women the change that the Lord has worked in me spiritually, I tell them that for many years of being a Christian, the message of the Gospel was informational but not transformational. Moving to Africa has been somewhat the same. I was prepared…but actually living out the realities of what I was mentally prepared for has transformed me in many ways. And I am sure the process is not yet finished.

For example, I knew I would be doing laundry by hand. I had some idea of how to do it and what it would be like. But actually using up 2-3 precious hours each day to fill up almost three full lines of clothes has changed me in ways that, if I actually tried to explain it, would probably seem silly. I knew we would be simplifying our diet…but if you had told me that there would be some days that I would give anything for a hotdog or a soft-serve ice cream cone, I would have laughed. Because, after all, I “knew” that following Christ came with sacrifices…I was (at least mentally) prepared for that…and I also “knew” that we are not of this world and that we should set our minds on things above and that if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. But actually living those words? Transformational.

There is a wide chasm between information and transformation. Believing is one thing, and living what we believe is entirely another. But if we truly believe, it should, indeed, change the way we live.

Random Thoughts on Time and Money

While we live in this world, time and money are necessary commodities. And, as Marc taught in his Project Management courses and in homeschool seminars, we often have to make value-based decisions and exchange one for the other. For example, if we don’t have enough time to do a necessary task such as mowing the lawn, then we may need to spend the money to have someone do it for us. If our grocery budget is tight, we may need to invest extra time in cooking from scratch instead of buying pre-prepared foods.

The same is true here. When we first arrived in Africa, we got “American-style” bagged rice from the supermarket. No fuss, it was ready to prepare. Buying from the local market, you get rice cheaper but it has to be cleaned to remove rocks, sticks and whatever other debris might find its way into the bag. A little more time consuming and I didn’t really want to deal with it. When I actually compared prices, though, I realized that “clean” rice was almost twice as much in price! So now, it’s become of the children’s almost-daily jobs to clean rice for the afternoon meal.

For our first few months, I did my own wash. However, one of our neighbors has had a hard time providing for her five children (her husband is away on-the-job but doesn’t always have a lot of money to send home). So, sometimes I give her some food for the day and other times I pay her to do my laundry. I feel somewhat guilty about it, as it’s something I can well do myself, but I also know it is a blessing to her and I want to help her out without making her feel like a charity case. On the up-side, her working for us has been a great ministry opportunity and she has come a long way in understanding the Kingdom of God. We’re actually going to go through the Spiritual Inventory tomorrow in preparation for her baptism! God is good.

And truthfully, though I wasn’t sure about consistently having our neighbor do wash, it has turned out to be a blessing in my time/money paradigm. I’ve been going out to speak to church groups and women’s groups, as well as to meet with two of my disciples weekly…a little more social activity than I anticipated, and sometimes more than I would like. But it is comforting to know that the work at home is getting done even if I’m otherwise occupied. I guess God knows what we need even before we ask!

One thing we’ve been struggling with lately is Jesus’ teaching to “give to those who ask.” Marc recently posted this on Facebook, which is a fairly good summation of where we’re at:

Give to those who ask. What a clear command. Poses a challenge when folks ask all the time and the more you say yes, the more they ask. Trying to strike a balance between needs and wants, and filtering out manipulation and abuse. Pls pray for Cindy and I to be discerning and exercise wisdom. There is an assumption we are rich cuz we r white Americans, but in actuality have very limited resources.

Now that you’ve read this far, maybe you’ll be surprised to find that I don’t really intend to draw any conclusions…just, indeed, sharing some random thoughts. Care to share yours?

Chronically Critical

Since coming to understand the Gospel of the Kingdom a few years ago and realizing that, indeed, Jesus died not *just* to pay the penalty for our sin but even more, to enable us to live victoriously over it, I am thankful to see how the Holy Spirit has worked in my life  in areas where I have long struggled in the flesh. Depression and anger are two particular strongholds.

One thing I hadn’t quite figured out, though, and couldn’t manage to shake was my chronically critical nature. I’m one of those “glass half full” people, and my children bear the brunt of my weakness in that area. I’m quick to jump on them for perceived inadequacies, nag about jobs left half-done, and let myself get discouraged because I wonder if they’re ever going to “get it.” And although I’ve recognized it as sin, prayed over it, meditated on Scriptures, and so on…it was still there. And I hate it. I’ve gone around the proverbial mountain: sin and repent, sin and repent. Try to change and do good for a while and then, lose it over something really silly like the girls leaving clothes all over their bedroom floor.

This morning, however, I had an interesting mediation on 1 John 5:3-4:

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

I affirmed to myself what I already knew: that obedience to Jesus is a necessary part of our love/faith relationship; and that through Jesus it was indeed possible to overcome sin. In fact, it’s not even “burdensome” to do so–it should not be all that difficult. Soooo…I asked myself, why do I still struggle with a chronically critical nature and allow this weakness in my flesh to cause me to sin? Why is it, indeed, such a burden–and why have I not been able to gain freedom? I’ve been through the Spiritual Inventory, which was an amazing exercise and a most helpful first step in being free from sin. I believe that my critical nature represents a stronghold and I’ve prayed over it accordingly, but still…no victory. And I as I meditated on these verses and my own persistent failures, I gained some insight that I want to share in the form of an analogy.

Since coming to Africa, we’ve struggled with all kinds of intestinal “bugs.” We’ve been thankful for the amoebicides that have helped with water-borne critters. Most recently it’s been giardia, which is difficult because the pesky little critters go through a cyst stage and “hibernate” in your intestinal tract, where they are resistant to medicinal treatment. Thus, when they emerge from the cyst stage, you have to be quick to recognize the symptoms and re-medicate. Our neighborhood chemist has been our friend as we have worked to eradicate these little guys, and “T-Zex” (the pill of choice) has become a household name.

So recently Marc was on-mission in Kimilili and recognized some of those symptoms. However, he also had a fever, which is unusual. The local hospital’s prognosis was an intestinal infection, so they have him T-Zex for the symptoms, and another series of pills which he assumed were antibiotics. He took them faithfully for several days with no relief. Finally he called our local chemist and asked about the medicine he was taking, and discovered that it was just a fever reducer and pain reliever. Apparently the doctors were unaware that in the event of infection, an antibiotic is necessary, to attack not just the symptoms but the root cause.

This series of recent events oddly came to my mind as I was meditating on 1 John 5. I realized that in the matter of my “chronically critical” nature, I’ve been attacking symptoms and trying to make the problem better (with some progress and change, to be sure). However, I was lacking a root cause analysis. And unless I determined the root cause, I really could not experience victory. As I prayed over it further, I realized that my critical nature (particularly with the children) was a result of unforgiveess. And THAT is what I needed to repent of, receive cleansing for, and gain freedom over. All possible through the power of Christ and what He has already accomplished!

You may ask, how does unforgiveness lead to a critical nature, which results in many temptations to sin? It’s simple, really. Children, it seems, are always doing something to offend. They find folly of all kinds, disobey, make messes when you’d rather they be clean, turn you into a servant when you just want to enjoy some free time, create noise when you have a throbbing headache or want to just make ONE phone call…and so on. Multiply that by our eight children and the imagined offenses just pile up. And instead of treating each “offense” individually and releasing it, my tendency is to hold on to it…to let things accumulate…so that eventually it’s all I can see. Instead of acknowledging the child’s love in bringing me flowers from the garden, I criticize them for leaving mud on the floor (because it seems all I do is clean up after everyone, and why is it that no one else notices the messes?) Instead of being pleased that she wants to help make juice to go with a meal, I get irritated that she’s spilled the concentrate–which is an ant fest, and of course I just washed the floor! I nag, remind, complain (then apologize/repent…and eventually repeat the cycle) because I carry the offenses in a spirit of unforgiveness. So of course, when another incident occurs (which it always does) I’m quick to view events through that critical lens and assume the worst rather than the best.

So in my quiet time this morning, I was able to identify the root cause that has been causing persistent problems in my spiritual walk and in my relationship with my children. I called sin, sin, and repented before the Lord–because ultimately, it is Him that I offend. I want to give Him my very best–not excuses for consistently falling short. And, through faith in Christ and in His finished work, I can trust that there is victory when satan is deprived of his authority in an area of stronghold.

I suppose I’d rather blog about stuff like this when I’ve experienced victory for more than one day…but, I thought it important to share while the meditations were still fresh in my mind. We all have areas where we struggle; we try and try and try and genuinely repent, but repeat the sin more times than we can count. But there IS the hope of victory, if we can simply recognize the true root cause of our failings and remove satan’s influence over those strongholds. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world!

If you have not read our free ebooks, We Still Sin, Right? and The Kingdom Expansion Series, I think you will find them a blessing as you seek to glorify God and grow in Him. You can get either one of those on our site here or at our East Africa missions site, www.kingdomdriven.org.

It Takes a Village?

The expression (straight from this area of the world, I think) it takes a village to raise a child is now common place and often quoted in support of the need for community in raising children.

I agree, and I disagree.

There are a lot of children in this village, and lots of family in community here. So very often, the children are allowed to go from place to place without their parents. Just one example: a boy of 2-1/2 years whom I’ll call “Tommy.” Tommy visited our home with his mother and played with our children a few times. Subsequently, one morning he showed up at our door and walked in without invitation and without parental accompaniment. I watched, bemused, as he engaged our littles with some toys, saying nothing the entire time. Once bored, he wandered off toward his grandparents’ house. Later, I saw him returning toward home with a cup full of beans and corn. About an hour had elapsed, during which time I believe his mother was doing her wash. I don’t know if she knew for sure where Tommy was the whole time.

Very often in the morning (during our school time) Jane will come and say hello. She sometimes invites the littles to go to her home or to see her parents (they all live right next door). Since the littles are occasionally uninvolved during our academic mornings, and since the children enjoy playing with the animals there and sometimes interacting with Jane’s young son, I allow them to go for a while. Frankly, I hesitate to offend by refusing, since everyone knows it takes a village and all.

However.

This is a safe place to be, all things considered. Most of the families here are in community and are “good” people. I don’t really worry about the children’s physical safety when they’re apart from me. My hesitation in giving them more freedom is not about that at all. The problem is that though most of these folks are “good” people, there is a chasm between them and us in terms of world view. You don’t go very far before you encounter the community witch doctor and see various “shrines” set up in people’s homes and yards. Ancestor worship is alive and well here. The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh and blood and that there are powers and principalities in high places who are opposed to Christ, and I believe it. I also believe that our children are spiritually vulnerable to attack. If I do let them go visiting, it is not without praying for spiritual protection almost the entire time they’re gone.

If the spiritual issues aren’t enough of a consideration, I’ve also seen some of the fruit of it takes  a village. One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is the children. The ones who have nothing better to do than line up at our fence for hours on end are the biggest trouble makers. And where are their parents? Letting the village raise their children.

I won’t say that it doesn’t take a village. But I will say, you should take a good look at the village and make a considered decision about whether or not you want it raising your children.

Ideally, the Body of Christ…the family of Kingdom Christians…IS the village. And in that case, community is, indeed, a benefit and a blessing. But don’t be deceived by the worldly concept of it takes a village. Be vigilant to supervise, love, and disciple your own children. Keep them close, and be thankful for the Body of Christ when you find true community to support you in raising your children and chasing after Jesus.

 

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