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Choices Comfort Correction Covid19 Feeding Missions Perspective What Did You Do

I Want In

I’m not an extrovert by any stretch of the imagination. By nature, I know those who know me may find this hard to believe, I prefer to sneak in and out unseen and unheard. It’s more comfortable, I’m happy to let others take the lead and simply follow. I’m happy to fade into the background…unless I see something that I have the power to help change. I hate to see people suffer, especially those who are helpless, and not do anything to help change their circumstances.

I have sometimes wished that this part of me would fade a bit into the background as it has, on occasion, brought me into the limelight, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways. Yet, no matter what I do, if I see someone hurting and I can do something to help, I want in. There have been times that this part of me has driven me to exhaustion. It has also driven me to great and seemingly impossible lengths to raise funds to bring meaningful change to this part of the world that we live in. It has driven me to sleepless nights as I work out in my mind what can be done when no one is doing anything. I want in, I want in.

I’ve also learned that while I am driven to help, it is Jesus who lives in me that is the One who brings help through His people. I’m unable to find solutions for everyone, but I am able to help someone. I should never use the excuse of a problem being too big for me to recline from what I should do for the one or the two that I can help.

The heaviness in my heart, and in the hearts of those working in this way, is simply a reflection of our Father’s heart for this world. It is through us, His servants, that He works and moves. It may be that the heaviness that those of us working for Him feel is also a reflection of how He feels when His people aren’t on the front lines bringing help to the helpless. It may be that part of the heaviness we feel is His own sorrow over our lack of involvement. He has given us everything, why have we at times closed our eyes or turned our backs thinking, “They should know better by now, they should do better by now, they should be better by now, I have my own needs to think of.”

Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have known better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have done better. Thank God someone reached out to me when I should have been better.

And still, through us, Jesus is saying, “I want in, I want in.”

As overwhelming as the needs are around us in this upside down world, we serve a God who desperately wants in so He can bring His power into the equation. So much depends on our “wanting in” to the will and plan of God. I’m all in, I want in.

Matthew 25:40 NKJ “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Categories
Courage Covid19 Doubt End Times Endurance Finishing Hope Missions Perspective Uncategorized

If Ever

If ever a year threw a curve ball, it would be 2020.

My list of goals for the year is now in file 13 (the trash) while I wonder what tomorrow’s news will bring.

Here where we live, in the nation of Burundi, we have thus far avoided a full-scale lockdown. While Covid19 is in the country and the airport and borders are closed, life has proceeded almost as if there were no pandemic. There are handwashing stations at every business and church and just last week the local authorities began to encourage social distancing in meetings. While walking in town, you may see the odd face mask but by and large, people are going about their daily lives because they have to. Most of Africa lives from day to day, meal to meal, and many reckon that the consequential hunger of lockdown would kill far more than Covid19 ever would. As it is, we already deal with typhus, typhoid, malaria, dysentery and Ebola; the sarcastic side of me says, “Covid19? Make my day!”

As the pandemic unfolded, the rains in this region of Africa were so severe that floods decimated the homes of thousands living in Burundi and in its neighboring countries of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. We were able, through donations of partners and friends, to bring a little bit of relief to 200 families who had fled their homes during the floods. One of our church campuses housed 37 flood refugees for weeks; some have been able to return home in the past two weeks to rebuild their lives. As our city, Bujumbura, is set on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, many who lost their homes will not be able to return as the lake’s levels have risen due to the rains far beyond what most can remember leaving thousands effectively homeless.

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Makeshift tented camps for flood refugees in Bujumbura, Burundi.

On May 20th, presidential elections were held in Burundi and after a few days the winner was announced without incident. A few days later, the outgoing president suddenly passed away from ‘cardiac arrest.’ His wife, who had flown by emergency transport to Kenya for treatment for Covid19, was not with him when he died. She just returned a few days ago in time for his burial which we assume will be this week. We keep praying for peace as the newly elected president has yet to be sworn in. For those of you who don’t know why this would be such a tense moment in our history, Burundi has suffered through generations of war and unrest. We are praying that this would be the generation that would bring lasting peace.

If ever there was a time that people needed the Gospel, it would be now. I’m not talking about the status quo, “feel good” gospel or the “us against them” gospel or any other kind of gospel. What the world needs is the Gospel news is that there is hope for today and for ages yet to come (see Eph. 2:7). This short, tumultuous moment we call life is but a blip on the radar of eternity. If we can wrap our hearts around the truth of what’s to come, we can manage to make it through the upheaval of our present moment.

Romans 8:21-23 NKJ  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

We know that this “groaning” is but for a moment, but it is painful in the moment. May we have the presence of heart and spirit to wait eagerly for what we have already experienced in our hearts and not give in to the temptation to grow weary and fall into step with this world.

If ever we needed to make the difference in this world, to be salt and light, it would be now.

Categories
Courage Covid19 Endurance Faith Fear Feeding Missions Perspective

Just a Starfish

The past weeks here in Bujumbura, Burundi have had me (and all of us living here) spinning in circles. We have faced flooding, an ambiguous covid19 situation and now elections are set to take place on May 20th. Each of these issues have presented their own set of pressures that have proved to be demanding, even in the most optomistic of lights.

Our city borders Lake Tanganyika, one of the longest and deepest lakes in the world. It is more like a sea than it is a lake in that it has tides, rough and smooth water and it is slightly salty due to it only having one river outlet. The rains this year have been extremely heavy in this region so all of the water from the countries surrounding the lake, and there are many, dumps into Tanganyika. Water levels have risen exponentially causing the lake, and rivers that feed into the lake, to rise and break their banks. The beaches have disappeared under water, homes and villages nearby the lake have been inundated without much relief in sight. Thankfully, in the past week, the rains have finally started to taper off and the waiting game for the waters to recede has begun.

The tens of thousands who have been flooded out of their homes now live in absolute squallor, in makeshift camps under conditions that no human being should have to live in, waiting for someone, anyone to bring relief. Children run around in the dirt and mud, women try to cook with whatever cooking fuel they have and the men work to build shelters out of grass, plastic and any other materials they can find. There is no potable water, no toilet facilities and no food – their situation is dire. We were able to raise some money to bring care packages to 200 families last week but this little amount proved to be far from what is needed. As we were distributing the relief, it was painfully apparent that in less than a week the food would be gone and they would once again need assistance.

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While we were handing out the packages, even though covid19 has infected Burundi, there was no observing of social distancing or washing hands. How can people be expected to distance when their children are hungry and they fear being left out? How can people wash their hands when there’s no clean water? I didn’t realize that we ourselves had put ourselves at higher risk of infection until arriving on site – I simply said a prayer and carried on.

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Next week, on the 20th, as Burundi goes to the polls, there is an underlying fear of outbreaks of violence that this country/region is known for. Fear is a powerful emotion that can cause people to react violently even when there is no cause. Tempers can flare easily when a large number of people are afraid, people can react violently when they feel they are in danger. Our recourse? Dropping to our knees in prayer for these people, this nation and region that has long been the target of painful uprising and death.

This afternoon, as we do every Thursday afternoon, we have an outreach to the area surrounding our church in Bujumbura. Most of the time it is easy to step out and participate as we talk to people of the hope that is in us, that brings us to serve this nation. However, the past few weeks have been a faith-walk for me, rather than the usual exciting time of outreach. I find myself pushing hard to keep up and move forward while so much is whirling around me.

At times like this, when life presses so hard that you feel the water has gone over your head, it’s tempting to wonder (like I have) if your usefulness in your work is done or even give up. What is the use of working in the face of an ocean of need when all I have is an eyedropper to address it?

While I can’t do everything, I can do something and the small something that I can do means a lot to the one or two I have been able to reach. Many of you likely have read the story where a young child was on a seashore that was covered in starfish that had washed ashore. The child was busy throwing starfish back into the water, one at a time. A man walked up to the child and asked if the child thought he could clear the beach of all the starfish? Did it really matter? To which the child replied, it matters to this one, the one he was holding in his hand.

The needs of this world are so vast, so complex that there’s no way I’ll ever be able to meet even a fraction of them. But to the one or two I work for, it will matter. Lives matter, all lives big or small, young or old, black or white – and what I’m responsible for is doing what I can. It may just be one starfish – but to that one it might just make an eternity’s difference.

Psalm 66:12 “You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

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You may wonder, since covid19 is all around the world, why we are able to distribute aid and carry on working. In Burundi we have not been in lockdown during this pandemic. Our borders are closed as is our airport. Handwashing is encouraged and somehow people are trying when they can to socially distance themselves. Ours is a unique place in the world, please pray for us!