Continued from Radical begins at Home. (Written from a remote village deep in the bush in East Africa.)
At the moment, the room is dark. My only light is a thin candle affixed by a dab of wax to an old tin can. The glimmer projects a soft glow on the chipped plaster walls. Outside, the air is filled with the pleasant sound of crickets and a faint melody of young boys singing to the rhythm of a tribal drum.
The kids are enjoying an evening prayer time with a song that is full of life; the native words mean, Jesus is good, all the time!
Listening to the joyful worship of these children is such an answer to prayer. All of these kids are orphans, and they have experienced more tragedies and hardship than most of us can imagine, yet they sing of Gods goodness.
Today, my husband and I were surrounded by hundreds of loving and hugging children — all orphans and all fully relying on Gods provision through our familys mission outreach (Harvest Ministry) for ongoing food, education, spiritual care, and protection.
We stood in line with the children as they received their breakfasts (each receiving a bowl of warm porridge in a plastic cup or bowl). I didnt see any spoons, but I noticed the resourcefulness of some of the older boys who scooped-up their porridge with plastic math rulers. For lunch, the boys and girls were laughing and remarkably happy as they each received a large bowl of posho and kidney beans. Posho is an East African staple food made from cassava flour. The consistency is like play-dough or solid mashed potatoes, with a gritty bland taste. It is cooked in huge kettles over wood fires and stirred with giant wooden paddles. The leaders explain how it sticks to the childrens tummies and keeps them going.
Today, it was such a joy to minister to these children. We interviewed boys and girls and took photographs — to get an understanding of their backgrounds and to help share a compassionate glimpse into their lives. One beautiful 13-year-old girl, Shidrah, told me how her mother had died when she and her twin sister were born and how her father had died of AIDS when she was eight. Her favorite color is green (because it makes her happy), and her favorite food is rice. When we asked her to describe her life, she smiled as she told us how she loved this childrens home and school. It was here where she had learned about Jesus. She was thankful that she could now praise God, all the time. She sang her favorite song for me (in the Ugandan Nyankola language); her words mean, I need You, Lord; draw me close to you.
Oh, my heart goes out to these boys and girls. As I met with many children, one-by-one, I thought about our own seven kids and how blessed we are. Back home, instead of a stinky pit toilet surrounded by flies (a square hole in the cement or mud floor), our family enjoys clean, flushing toilets and fluffy bath mats. Instead of porridge, posho, and beans, we have unlimited food varieties and take-home pizza.
Yet, instead of complaining, the children I talked with today were filled with gratitude. They laughed and sang and told me of how blessed they are. Here, the children know that they are safe, and they are thankful that they have been rescued from their former lives of abuse, or slavery, or begging on the streets.
But my loving momma-heart longs to do more. My heart goes out to every orphan child.
Worldwide, UNICEF estimates (as of this writing in 2012) that there are 143,000,000 to 210,000,000 orphan children, and the vast majority are in desperate need. To help comprehend the enormity of this crisis, did you know that there are as many orphan children as two-thirds of the entire population of the United States (300,000,000) or more than all of the people of Russia (141,800,000)? To survive, many orphan children are forced to beg or to steal food . . . or worse. Many are sold or tricked into slavery. Little boys are forced to become child soldiers. Little girls are forced into the sex trade. Every 15 seconds, another African child becomes an AIDS orphan; in Africa alone, at the end of every year, over two million more children will become orphans.
To me, these numbers are not just statistics. Each number is a real little child, with a heart and a soul and a potential to love and serve Jesus. Over the years (working with remote national ministers and by establishing church-based childrens homes and schools) our family has helped to rescue over one thousand orphans. Some were sleeping under trees or wandering the streets. Some were starving or being abused by relatives. For blankets some kids had nothing but old, ripped-up garbage sacks.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. ~ Hebrews 1:9
I just hate the devil and his deplorable acts. Not only does he kick people when theyre down (and condemn people when theyve fallen into his sinful traps), but he has no qualms about taking the most innocent victims of his violence and diseases and sin — precious orphan children — and abusing them to further his evil agenda. God sees all of these needs; He knows and loves every child, and He cares for each one more than I do. I am comforted by the fact that God is not stressed out or overwhelmed. I thank Him for the honor of helping us to care for these children, despite our meager provisions, and I praise Him for His daily manna. I thank Him for every hard-working momma, leader, and teacher, as I pray for more help and grace. I think about the joy of seeing these children laugh and sing . . . and seeing them dance.
A challenge today was water. The city tap water had been out for three days, so our friends were trying to find enough water for all of the children and workers. Reminding me of Moses needing water in the wilderness for the multitudes of Israel, these directors ended up getting water from a nearby pond. We drove in a truck to see this source, and the situation was horrible. The small mud hole was covered with scum, yet men and children were filling hundreds of yellow plastic water jugs (jerry cans) with this brown water and hauling them back to the school. This water would be used for everything for all of these hundreds of children. For bathing. For cooking. Even for drinking (after boiling it thoroughly and skimming off the scum).
At the moment, I am thankful for our box of bottled water. I am thankful once again for the blessings we enjoy back home — especially for clean tap water and hot showers–yet my heart is stirred for our friends who struggle for such a basic necessity. As we preached in the chapel this evening, the children listened intently and then called out to God in heartfelt prayer. After our meeting, the boys and girls gathered on a large tarp and enjoyed a Bible story. Even now, as the children prepare for sleep, they are spontaneously praising God once again. Most of the mommas caring for these children are also widows, which meets another great need. After their husbands died, many of these women were without provision and without hope. Now, through their ministry of motherhood to orphans (raising these children as their own), God is helping themphysically, with food and safety; emotionally, with renewed vision and purpose; and spiritually, with Christian
fellowship and godly friends.
As I am thinking today about godly motherhood and Gods heart of simplicity in our homes, I am definitely coming from a different perspective. When the Bible talks about pure religion, He didnt mention continuously homeschooling all of our children all the way through high school or insist that our daughters never wear pants or never cut their hair. He didnt define undefiled religion as maintaining an impressively clean home or only cooking with organic foods and whole grains.
I care about homeschooling, modesty, cleanliness, and health, but Im challenged that Gods pure religion is on another level — about having a heart for orphans and widows.
The candlelight flickers as I think of a worship song by Matt Redman:
I’m coming back to the heart of worship,
When it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it,
When it’s all about You, all about You.
I ponder Gods heart for Christian homemaking as Im humming this verse:
When the music fades,
All is stripped away, and I simply come.
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth,
That will bless Your heart.
(excerpted from the MISSIONS chapter (by Ann Dunagan) in The Heart of Simplicity: Foundations for Christian Homemaking)