Dear Share International friends,
Thank you so much for your support in this last week when Sammy, Mary and I got to be a part of the Share International Leadership Summit in Lodwar. Below are some reflections I wrote on the plane on Friday. I hope it gives you a little window into the work I got to be a part of during this last week. Thank you for being a part of my story and part of my team cheering me on through prayer and encouragement.
With much gratitude,
February 24, 2012
I’ve had many hours to read on the plane today, and one of the wonderful books I brought was Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis about her hike on the Appalachian Trail. Warren Doyle writes in the introduction: “The pilgrimage is an important part of many cultures. We need to get away from the familiar and explore not only what is around the next bend but also discover the strength and beauty that we have within us…We develop critical thinking abilities, rediscover being curious, and find ourselves asking questions again. We begin to more closely define what is real and what is trivial to us. We become more awake to beauty and truth, right and wrong. We rediscover a childlike sense of wonder at the essence of the natural environment.”
Jennifer Davis describes a time when she visited an African American church in Roanoke, VA on a short break from her hike. Her description of worship rings true for my time in Kenya as well: “Much like I remembered, this was not the praise music of contemporary churches, nor was it the bellows of traditional hymns. It was the music of a community overtaken by joy. Soulful harmonies filled the chapel, and I was amazed by the freedom of expression. The congregation swayed, danced, stomped, clapped, and raised their hands in the air, but it wasn’t for show, it was in celebration.” I am so thankful that I have had the gift of being a part of a community this last week in Kenya with people who have been overtaken by joy.
I have only been gone for a week, but it feels like much longer as many miles have been traveled in such a short time. Suffice it to say that it was MORE than I could have asked for or imagined. When Sammy (the director of Share International with whom I partner in my work with Children of the Kingdom) and Mary (his wife) invited me (just a month ago) to come with them to Kenya, I really did not have an idea of what this leadership summit was going to be all about. I knew this was a needed retreat for the staff for training and encouragement, but I did not know how it would all play out. For the 15 (+) years that Share International has been around, there has never been a retreat or training time for them, and we had been hearing some rumors of discouragement and burnout among some of the staff. It was time to go to help give new direction and encouragement.
Sammy had asked me to prepare a few short presentations and I also spent a lot of time gathering supplies and getting organized for an afternoon banquet with children from our Children of the Kingdom program who are in the village there in Lodwar.
One friend whom I saw in Lodwar asked me how things were going with Children of the Kingdom. I looked around the room at the time to see pastors from many surrounding villages and knew that we had a long way to go to reach more children from all of the villages they represented. It reminded me of Mother Teresa’s quote : “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” I know that we are just like this “drop in the ocean” in so many ways. There is so much need and there are so many worthy causes here. But, I have to remember that it is a drop, and I know that God can do mighty things with just a drop of water so we carry on in faith and hope and expectation.
Sammy started the retreat in our first session with a call to transformation. He taught eloquently all week, and in this introduction, he talked about how it is so important to do the work given to us in this ministry, but if we are not a transformed people open to God’s leading, then there will be no clear vision for the future. “Without vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18)
The retreat focused on topics of teamwork, reporting, goal setting, communication, stewardship, time management, balancing family and ministry–among others, but as I look back, a good summary is that all of it was rooted in this: “let every detail of your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:17)
One of the most special times for me was the time I had to be with the children for our banquet. We sang, took pictures, passed out gifts (finger flashlights, bracelets and candy for everyone), and I got to share a few words. I showed them my necklace that has Anna’s name on one pendant, Taylor’s name on the other, and the letters “C.O.K.” (for Children of the Kingdom) on the other, and I shared with them that when I pray for Anna and Taylor, I pray for them too for I have been blessed with them as my children too. As I prepared my talk, I thought about what I want to be my regular prayers for them:
1) that they would know God (inspired by my brother Jim’s profound and simple prayer for Taylor when he was born when he sent him a prayer for his blessing blanket that I made for him: “What I pray for you is as simple as it is universal: that you will know God. From there, all the details will fall into place.”)
2) that they would know they can always return to God . With this point, I shared Anna’s connection with the picture in the Jesus Storybook Bible that we love so much of the little girl running to her dad and what a picture of grace this is for us all.
3) that they would live a life of love and gratitude in response to God’s love for them. I talked about how we need to see that we have been blessed to be a blessing.
When some of the children walked in the room, I thought I might burst with joy, tears and pride all at once. Several of them I have known for the last 18 years, and it has been amazing to see them grow into such beautiful people. A wonderful gift was getting to be with Mercy, Joshua’s daughter, who was Anna’s kindred spirit when we were here in 2008.
Sammy and Mary did an amazing job with the staff in the training, and one of the things that was so powerful was that Sammy challenged our Kenyan staff and the village pastors to not think of U.S. sponsors as the sole donors, but to recognize that they too also have the ability to give to the ministry. For me to see people who have very little commit to giving and living their lives with such commitment to God is so humbling, but it also is empowering for them to give and feel a deeper investment in the work there. “The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
When we went up to prayer mountain on Thursday morning (the mountain that Pastor Kaaleng designated for prayer in Lodwar in 1991), this passage seemed to fit our week so perfectly:
1 Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. 3 For the LORD is a great God, a great King above all gods. 4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. 5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too. 6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, 7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! Psalm 95:1-7
For me, this week was a remarkable time of building on the relationships that began so many years ago. Some of those friendships were strengthened on our morning runs and the bonding that takes place in shared experiences. The staff all stayed at the women’s center so we all ate all our meals together and got to live life together for the last 5 days.
“1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5
Yes, indeed- there was great encouragement this week and I was so assured of His love.
Thank you so much for joining me in the joy of the journey this week…
With deep gratitude and joy,