Thursday, April 10, 2014

Love Blooms

There is another story unfolding in Liberia; a story that I can’t not share with you. This is a story about calling and obedience, deep love and sacrifice. It’s about a yellow and burgundy house nestled down a sandy road, surrounded by a tall wall with barbed wire. It’s about a house of love and grace. Laughter arises above the tall walls. Love blooms in the yard and in the living room. Fierce love—the love of a mother, fueled by the love of her Father—is the heartbeat.

God has given me the privilege to sit back and watch, but also to participate. And the things I have seen and heard and felt are just too beautiful not to share. One thing that has resonated is that God can use anyone to do anything, and when we are obedient, our lives and testimony serve as incense of praise rising to the heavens.

When I was planning my trip back to Liberia, I wasn’t sure where I would be staying. My plan was to email the family I stayed with last year and see if I could crash with them for a few weeks, and then perhaps share the mooching love with someone else. But let’s go back to a few years ago. Somehow, a random pastor [hi Jeff!] in New Jersey came across my blog. His church was doing ministry in Liberia, so I guess that’s how we got linked together. I would get random donations and emails of encouragement from “some pastor in New Jersey”. When I came to Liberia last year, I got an email letting me know that his church in New Jersey has just sent three people to live in Liberia long-term, and that we should get connected. That’s how God connected Sue and I. We were able to meet up a few times during my three week stay, and we talked a lot about our hearts for Liberia. I was excited to meet a new friend who had such a deep love for Liberia and a desire to help the people here. I was even more excited that she didn’t live too far from my new home.

A few months ago, I kept thinking about Sue and praying for her. Finally, I sent her an email to let her know that I had been thinking about her, and asked if there were specific things I could pray for. In her response, she told me that she had been back in the States for months, but was making plans to return to Liberia in January. We continued to exchange emails—catching up and hearing about the new directions God was leading both of us in. Sue was returning to Liberia to open a home for girls…and she was going to be their mother. Once I started to make plans for my own trip, Sue extended a gracious offer to stay with her and her girls in their home. I said yes—I knew I would love spending time with the girls, and I would also enjoy the fellowship with Sue!

I knew it was going to be a fun time when I gave them frisbees, coloring books and jump ropes on my first night here, and we were throwing frisbees and jumping rope in the middle of the living room. So, I have been living in a girls home…and it has been incredible! Right now, there are six beautiful, hilarious girls that call Sue their mom. Sometimes I find myself just sitting back and watching this unique family operate, while other times, I jump right in and join the craziness!

About four nights into my stay, Sue and I were sitting at the dining table at about 10:30pm. The three younger girls were already in bed, but the three older girl were still awake. We were talking about our days, while helping with homework. I will admit, I was tired and more than ready for bed. One of the girls brought her school uniform out for Sue to mend. She admitted that she didn’t really know what she was doing, but that she would do her best. Princess was protesting that she couldn’t draw for her homework assignment, and Sue immediately said, “I’m not a tailor, and maybe you’re not an artist, but we can both try.” After some creative stitching, another skirt arrived to be taken in. And so Sue picked up her needled and thread and tried again. By this time it was after 11pm…and these girls wake up between 4-5am, depending on their morning chores.

Princess continued to struggle through her assignment to draw and label the parts of a computer, and Sue kept sewing. I finally spoke up and began to tell Sue how she was a great mother, and how she was doing such a good job with the girls. I also told her that I don’t know how she does it—she just keeps giving and loving, even when she’s tired and sweating and perhaps sometimes wondering why she’s even here.

But the love is evident.

They snuggle up on the couch and sing along to “Annie” and laugh until their bellies ache. Sue wraps her arms around a little one with a tough exterior, but soft interior, and kisses her over and over again until a smile breaks through. They are still trying to figure out exactly how this little family should operate, and there is a steep learning curve, but the home and the hearts are full of love. There are tears and discipline and consequences and broken hearts, and there are also late night or early morning prayers of a mother who loves the children that God has entrusted to her.

Again, I don’t know how she does it.

But it is a beautiful thing to watch.

And it’s humbling and encouraging and challenging. It’s something that I know God is using to stir and stretch my own heart. It’s also a rich opportunity to give and love and learn and grow. And that’s what I want—to be changed from the inside out because I’m alive and present and here.

Would you pray for Sue and the girls? Pray for strength, energy and wisdom for Sue. Pray that her deep love would continue to break down the walls around the hearts of the girls. Pray for unity, cooperation, grace and flexibility for the family. Pray that God would continue to renew Sue’s heart, and that the Holy Spirit would be her help. Pray for the girls—Grace, Beatrice, Naomi, Monica, Princess and Kona—that they would receive the love of Sue, but more importantly, the love of their heavenly Father. Pray that their lives would be radically changed, and that they would become strong, Godly women who will change their country. Pray that praise and prayer would continue to rise from the home. Pray against the work of the enemy—he has no place here! Pray for provision—financially, but also through other resources and opportunities. 

[Update: You can really be lifting Sue up to the throne! She has been struggling with her health over the last few weeks and has decided to get away to a friend’s apartment for the weekend. Pray that the sleep, air-conditioning, rest, uninterrupted time in prayer and modern comforts would restore her]

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