Friday, February 29, 2008

Small Miracles

In January I was able to go down with a group from my church up here in Chico. This was really fun as I got to know people better and we had a great time. They built a “double” (20’ x 22’) for a family. The mom had 6 children – her oldest was 18 and she was (very) pregnant with her third – so, 10 people in all. This family really made it deep into our hearts.

The mom’s name was “Molesta”…in Spanish this means “bother” – can you imagine if your parents named you “bother” and that is what everyone called you for your whole life? I really believe in the prophetic power of our names, and how they help to shape us – there is biblical principle for this when we examine how God would change people’s names to give them a new destiny in their life (think of Jacob to Israel, or Saul to Paul). It really bothered me that this was her name, and I could hardly bring myself to believe it, let alone call her this name. What a cloak of shame to bear! We had the unique privilege of speaking into her life prophetically and changing her name to “Bendiga”, which means “bless”. It was so cute…the kids kept saying “you changed my mom’s name to Bendiga!” with these great big smiles and giggles.

This last week I was down again, and I went to visit Bendiga (more on that later) – her kids were still saying this! I talked with her and said if she wanted to make it more official, we could baptize her with this name. She is thinking about it, and we may baptize her next month with I’m down! Please keep her in your prayers that God would totally have His was with this wonderful family.

One of Bendiga’s children was 5 year old Esteban. He had been born with some sort of disability and was extremely small. His 6th birthday was February 6, yet he was only the size of a 5 or 6 month old infant. When he was born, the doctors told his mom that he hadn’t eaten well in the womb and his intestines were tied up, so he’d had surgery for that and had been in ICU in Tijuana for 3 months. The doctors told his mom he probably wouldn’t live. We had been told that he was paralyzed and blind. We asked if we could see him, and his sister reluctantly let us hold him. She initially told us he was allergic to the sun, be we took him outside and promised to keep him in the shade. We noticed he moved a bit, and he even seemed to be able to track us – although one eye was badly crossed. We cleaned him up and changed his diaper and clothes. We held him, rocked him, sang to him and basically fawned over this little guy.

In Mexico, there is still a lot of misunderstanding over children born with disabilities. People think it is a punishment for some sin, and it is shameful to have a disabled child. I learned that often the parent will simply smother an infant who is clearly disabled at birth and say the child died in childbirth. It is heartbreaking, and an area to pray into as the enemy uses this to deceive and bring people into bondage. It was a testament to Bendiga that she loved and cared for Esteban, despite the social condemnation. (It occurs to me just now that perhaps God allowed her to have that horrible name so she would know how to stand up under the pressure of social condemnation and be strong in raising her son…hmmm – something to think about). Although Bendiga did all she could, Esteban was clearly not doing well. He was dirty and malnourished. He was kept in a dark corner of the room under heavy blankets day in and day out while she went to work and his sister kept care of him.

We took him to the orphanage to have the doctor take a look at him and see what could be done. The doctor had great news!! A LOT could be done for Esteban…his quality of life could be greatly increased. He wasn’t paralyzed – he could learn to use his muscles with proper therapy. He wasn’t blind – we could arrange surgery for him over the summer when a team of eye surgeons came down. We were able to get medicine for his cough, fresh diapers, clean clothes. We spoke with a woman at the orphanage who works with disabled kids there and were able to get him into a day care program where they would pick him up at home, bring him there for the day – feed him, wash his dirty clothes, interact with him and work with him to begin using his muscles (under the direction to of the physical therapist who just “happened” to be there that week!). We scheduled a more thorough medical appointment for him the next month with a pediatrician to get a diagnosis on his condition and a better idea of his prognosis. We went to the wheelchair department of the orphanage and they had just “happened” to get in a new child-size chair that was the *perfect* fit and style for him. The PT said that he’d seen kids come from the wheelchair store with chairs that didn’t fit as well as this chair fit Esteban. There was some talk that our little guy could someday sit up, balance and possibly even walk with the help of a walker!! God was at work…everything was falling into place so perfectly. We were all very excited. Esteban was beginning to recognize me and would smile and laugh when I talked to him…it was amazing.

Then, a week and a half ago, I got an email. Esteban died. I couldn’t believe it. Why???!!?! Why did God allow all of those things to happen, and then take him home? I was so sad, yet I know that God is good. I know that He has a plan. I know that He has an ultimate purpose and that His will is perfect. I don’t know why little Esteban died, but I do know that he is in a place now where there are no limitations to his body. He can run and jump, laugh and play. He can talk and walk and see clearly. I know God had THIS team set aside for THIS family and that all that happened was not in vain. Maybe it’s like what occurred to me earlier – Bendiga bore that name to make her strong to raise Esteban…and then we were able to release her into a new destiny and that opened the door for the Lord to take Esteban home. Maybe it was simply for our team to show Bendiga and her family all that love for them and for Esteban, too…to be there to hold her up and to pour out God’s love on them, that he might be well-loved and cared for before he died. The truth is, God’s ways are not our ways – His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can never fully understand God – but we can know His character and we know that His character is loving and full of goodness and grace. What comfort we have in knowing that! So, while I don’t really understand all that happened, I know I can rely on God to make it all work out.

Please keep Bendiga and her family in your prayers during this difficult time. Pray that she would know how wide and how high and how far and how deep is the Father’s love for her and that He would reveal His good and perfect will in and through her…that her destiny would be released and that the Holy Spirit would be a balm of comfort during this time. I am praying that the curse of Molesta would be broken, and the blessing of Bendiga would be released in the heavenly realm. Thank you, Jesus!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Directions

Alright, well, I’ve made this commitment to start writing in my blog again, so – here goes! A lot of things have changed lately, so I guess it’s as good a time as any to start back up.

Well, first off – as you may know, I’m no longer teaching at the base school (ICS). I was there for a year-and-a-half and it was both great and difficult – often at the same time! At the end of the 2006-2007 school year I was feeling pretty much “done” with it, but I continued on through the first semester of the 2007-2008 school year. I really had to press in and pray and God just totally met me – I had a great class and it was a phenomenal beginning. I felt like I was just hitting my stride and meeting with a lot of success and loving the classroom. Then, I was asked to move departments and join up with the Short Term Outreach department, which takes teams out for 1-2 weeks at a time. Isn’t it funny how God works…He didn’t rescue me when I was at the end of my rope, but instead took me to a place where I could leave the school feeling successful instead of defeated! He just always knows what He’s doing…I’m learning to depend on Him earlier and earlier in the process! =)

So, in January I moved over to the Short Term Outreach department…this is who I was helping out last summer when I was working with groups in Mexico. Now, I’ll be heading to Mexico for 1-2 weeks every month leading groups to do house builds or to work in an orphanage. It’s been a great transition and a lot of fun so far. Sierra is enjoying getting to come along with me and being part of the ministry. Sometimes she joins up with groups and helps to build, other times she runs around with me getting supplies and keeping everything running smoothly. She also spends time with the missionary’s kids down in Mexico, working on schoolwork or just hanging out with them.

So far, I’ve led teams in building 25 houses (this includes last summer, too). These homes are housing over 150 people! The great thing is that we’ve been able to witness to each of these families not only through our words, but also our actions and our love. I get the privilege of going back to visit some of the families, too.

Each week when we bring teams down, we go out into the community for an evening of outreach. Sometimes we visit a large drug rehab center and make a dinner of hot dogs for the guys, and share testimonies with them in their church service – this is a group of guys who have experienced the grace of God and are on fire with His Sprit!!! We also go to a smaller rehab sometimes and take a couple of pizzas, play a couple games of soccer on the beach and then have a big bonfire and fellowship and share the love of God with each other (you might imagine this is popular with our young men!). One of my favorite outreaches is taking groups to visit some friends of mine who live the “camps” – they are field workers and live in extreme poverty conditions. We go out to where they live and bring a simple dinner and spend time praying with people, playing with kids and encouraging the families. I’ve taught the kids how to play this game where you go “give me 5, give me 5 high, give me 5 low (and then you pull your hand away and say) oops! Too slow!” They think this game is the best and want to play it endlessly.

Well…that is a little glimpse of what I’m doing these days. Please, please, please…keep in touch!! It is such a great joy and a blessing to hear from my friends and family…it is the most wonderful thing ever! God created us for relationship, and I want to continue building those special God-ordained friendships – they are a true blessing to me. Until then – may God bless you richly!