[Warning: this is real, honest and raw.]
Over the past few months, alot has been going on in my heart and mind. Such a wide spectrum--good things, great things, encouraging things; but also confusion, frustration, worry and fear. God has been teaching me lately about thanksgiving, and giving Him my burdens...for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). I have struggled with being fully present, to live in the joy that only comes from Him, and to allow the Holy Spirit to fill me up so that I can overflow into the lives of others. When that’s one of the purposes for being half-way around the world, it can be frustrating!
Last night, I woke up around 2am. There was a bang, a man yelling and my dog was barking like crazy. I sat up in bed and turned to look out the window to try to figure out what was going on. One Love (my dog) continued to bark, but my security guard wasn’t making any sounds or shining his flashlight. I realized a generator across the street had come on, but even the security from the empty building across the road was silent and and had their lights off. That’s when I know something is going on...it’s like the world goes dark and mute (besides the dog). I realized that everyone in my house was awake. My stomach was in knots, but I wasn’t fearful...I just was trying to piece together everything. I began to pray for protection around our house.
A few minutes passed, the dog continued to bark, but then I heard my security guard walking through the grass outside my window. After a few more minutes, he turned his flashlight on and I could see other flashlights outside. I heard talking and I heard cutlasses scraping on cement--that’s how the neighborhood watch communicates. Eventually there were red and blue flashing lights lighting up the inside of my mosquito net, and I rolled back over to look out the window...a police vehicle was pulling up across the street. I was relieved, because if the police actually came, that told me it wasn’t serious, otherwise they wouldn’t have come. (That’s how things work in Liberia. If there are weapons involved, the police don’t come because they don’t have weapons to protect themselves with. Imagine that in the States!) The lights went off and then I heard a woman crying, but I couldn’t understand her. Ten minutes or so later and the flashing lights were leaving. I continued to pray, the dog stopped barking, and I eventually fell back asleep.
This morning, I was laying in bed writing in my prayer journal with my iPod on. My headphones were loud, but I heard our front gate open and then I heard a woman wailing. I immediately thought someone was backing out of the driveway and hit someone. Then I wondered if it had something to do with last night. I spent a minute or two trying to listen to the conversation to figure out who she was and what was wrong--I couldn’t hear or understand anything. I continued to pray. I thanked God for His protection. I finished my prayer time and then got ready for my day. I went outside to find out what happened last night. Momo told me that armed robbers broke into the house across the street. I don’t think anyone was hurt, but the woman last night was clearly shaken. I thanked God again for His protection.
An hour or so later, Deb and Elena came home from their meeting, and immediately asked if I had heard the wailing woman earlier. I said yes, and asked what happened. Deb told me that she was Michael’s auntie. I started doing the math....no, Michael died in May, so it’s not the anniversary. Then I realized, her wailing meant Michael’s brother had passed away. You see, a few weeks ago, Michael’s uncle called Deb from up-country to let us know that Michael’s brother had been in a terrible motorbike accident, and that the doctor’s initial prognosis wasn’t good--he was paralyzed. The uncle wasn’t asking for anything, other than for us to pray. Our hearts were heavy for Mark that morning, and we lifted him and his family up to the throne. “God, that family has already been through too much. Heal Mark, make him walk again. Help the family...comfort them and give them peace.” Michael and Mark’s auntie came this morning to let us know that Mark left the hospital on a stretcher yesterday, completely paralyzed, and that he died this morning.
Jesus, we need you.
God has also been challenging me to love. To love fully and deeply...even if it hurts or even if I don’t get anything in return. Right before I came back to Liberia, I was doing a book study on ‘Fields of the Fatherless’ by Tom Davis. I had read the book before, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was when he was talking about compassion. Compassion means to suffer with. Tom also quoted Henri Nouwen, and it was so good that I wrote it on the cover of my journal, so that I would read it often. Henri said:
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
God, give me deeper compassion.
It’s easy to love when you’re around beautiful, laughing children who hug your neck and love you in return. It’s hard to show compassion to those who are broken, in pain and crying out in anguish. I think sometimes we’d rather just look away. We hope that someone else will do it. It’s too personal, too uncomfortable, too painful. What if I get taken advantage of? It’s not glamourous, and I won’t win any awards or get any recognition. It might cost something--money, time, energy, sleep--or it might consume my thoughts, prayers, time or life.
Jesus, send me into those broken, ugly, hurting, fearful, dark places. You are the Light in the darkness and I am your instrument. Use me, Father.
As my neighbor cried out in fear last night, or as Michael and Mark’s auntie cried out in grief in my front yard this morning, I ask myself--am I aware of the needs of those around me? Does my compassion force me to act? Am I fulfilling the life I know I am called to live? Am I living a life full of compassion...His compassion...and do I walk in the trenches with those around me?
You have chosen to walk in the trenches with me throughout this journey. I am grateful for your prayers, support, encouragement and friendship. I’m asking God to fill us with His compassion. Go where it hurts. Ask God to draw you to the cries and tears of others. He will fill us. He will equip us. He will protect us and provide for us. And, we can’t forget to be thankful. Rejoice in Him. Live in the freedom of His joy and perfect peace.
Pray for Liberia today. Thank God for all that He is doing here.
[This is where my brain drain ended before I left the house to head to Danny Feeney Orphanage this afternoon.]
As we were driving to Danny Feeney Orphanage, which is about an hour away, we came upon an accident on the highway. It must have just happened, but there were already plenty of people gathered around. We were in the middle of nowhere, but there were still probably at least one hundred people gathered around. There were a few cars in front of us, so we really couldn’t see what was going on, but a van was blocking the other lane. We saw that another car was down off the road, and there were alot of people gathered around it. And then I saw a leg laying on the road up ahead of us in our lane. I prayed out loud, “Jesus, be with those people and protect them. Jesus, Jesus.” As we inched closer (and as other cars were too impatient to wait to take their turn through the one open lane), I saw that the leg was connected to the body. A young man was laying in the road, his jean-covered legs so bent and twisted, and the blood pooling behind his head. It was clear, he wasn’t alive. That’s when my begging and pleading began, “Jesus, come. Come, Lord Jesus.” And then we saw the van in the road--the front bench seat didn’t exist anymore, and all of the benches behind were no longer attached to the floor. They were loading people into trucks to take them to the hospital--more than 30 minutes away. There were no ambulances, no policemen, no life-flight. Nothing.
After spending time in Liberia, you begin to learn that life doesn’t have much value. People die, people cry and life seems to just go on. Sometimes people give up hope, and they just don’t see any possible solution. It’s hard, really hard. It’s hard to feel human, but it also seems like there’s no time or reason to grieve. Your heart hardens...you start doing what the culture around you does...people die, you shake your head and said “eh man, sorry” and then continue on with your day.
Today, seeing that young kid laying in the road, I couldn’t just drive away, continuing on as if nothing happened. My heart grieved. I grieved for that man’s family. I grieved for the people who were riding in the bus and the taxi, for the people who were loaded up into trucks, and taken to a hospital where it’s quite possible that they won’t be able to help them. I grieved for the cars who were trying to push their way through because they didn’t want to slow down and wait for a few minutes...somewhere to go, something to do...as a body lays on the road. It’s frustrating and disheartening and it hurts.
I’ve been praying for the past week or so for God to make me alive. To make me alive in His joy, but also alive in the things that break His heart. What I saw today broke His heart. We continued on to the orphanage, and as we were driving through the rolling hills covered in rubber trees, I forced my self to continue to sing to the worship music that had been playing the entire drive. It was hard--forcing myself, truthfully, to praise God despite the past 12 or so hours. Praising God, despite death and hopelessness. The tears began to well behind my dark sunglasses, and I was also aware that I had about 10 minutes or so to pull myself together before we were greeted by happy, smiling children. I felt like I had to stuff thoughts and feelings away, to be dealt with at a later time. And so, that’s what I did. I put my best smile on, and greeted the kids. I had a great time with my girls, talking about Elohim, the Strong Creator. At the end of our class, I couldn’t get the image of the man out of my head, and so I asked the girls if we could take some time to pray for some people who were in a really bad car accident. All eleven girls prayed--for the man’s family, for the people who were hurt, for wisdom for doctors and for a safe car ride home for Auntie Ashley.
I wasn’t joking when I was praying to make me alive. I wasn’t joking when I told God, “even if it hurts.” The great news is that God answers prayers! My heart is heavy...but, I am alive. Sometimes it hurts to be alive...but I’d much rather it hurt than be numb.
God, make us alive. Give us compassion. May we enter the trenches with others. Break my heart for the things that breaks yours. Thank you Jesus for the peace, hope and joy that can only be found in You. Come, Lord Jesus, come.