Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

This book has been an amazing meditation for Lent and I would highly recommend it for anyone next year. Here is an excerpt from today's reading of Reliving the Passion by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Mary, do this:

Even in your despair, observe the rituals. It is the Sabbath; then let it be the Sabbath after all. Pray your prayers. However hollow and unsatisfying they may feel, God can fill them. God is God, who made the world from nothing--and God as God can still astonish you.....

One story is done indeed, my Magdalene. You're right. You've entered the dark night of the soul.

But another story--one you cannot conceive of (it's God who conceives it!)--starts at sunrise. And the empty time between, while you sadly prepare the spices, is in fact preparing you! Soon you will change. Soon you will become that holy conundrum which must baffle and antagonize the world: a saint. Saint Mary Magdelene.....

Come again on Sunday, Mary, and see how it is that God makes saints.

Come, follow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Africa -Post 6

I'm home!!!!!! And there is no place quite like home. I got a great greeting from my family and it was so good to see their faces and hug their bodies. Hope told me she muscled up just so she could give me the tightest hug ever. And she did.

And, I just have to say, while I was gone, there weren't any more well cared for kids on the planet. They had a great time with their daddy and told me all the fun things they did together. I prayed a lot that this time together would be a blessing for them. And it was! Then, Grandma and Grandpa came, and totally spoiled them. And, our friends stepped in and took turns having them over, making them dinner, and loving on them. We are totally blessed.

Now...for Africa. The last part of our adventures in Africa were the stuff of movies. We went to Zanzibar which is this beautiful little island just off the coast of Tanzania. It's a big touristy place for a lot of reasons, but one of them is the East African Slave Trade Museum. It was kind of unbelievable to walk through that museum and hear details about the slave trade in East Africa.

The next morning we got up and flew to Arusha in Northern Tanzania, where we had reservations at a safari lodge there. It was a beautiful place, very cool (which was such a nice change of pace) and very tropical. There were tea times mid afternoon, slippers to jump into at the door, a shower inside (and one outside if you choose!), etc. You get the idea. Not your everyday kind of place. It was a great place to hang out and process a little of what we had experienced.

And, of course, then we went on safari! We went to Ngorogoro Crater, which is a lovely, very green, conservation area where there are literally thousands of wildlife. I had to keep telling myself that these animals were not brought in, like at the zoo, that they LIVE here for real! Giraffs, elephants, hundreds of zebras, lions (and cubs, too), wildebeest, impala, rhinoceros, hippos, storks....and on and on. We spent all day in the crater and saw so many animals. It was amazing and I so wished my family could have seen it, too. They would've loved it!

And then, it was time to go home. And I was ready to be home.

What an amazing opportunity it is to experience another part of the world and to see how God expands your heart for people. I told Dyan before we left that, before this trip, I almost didn't have a category in my brain for Africa. It was filed somewhere under miscellaneous, along side investment banking and topography. And part of what this trip did, was make it real to me. Seeing the landscape, learning about the culture, and hearing the stories about how God is moving gave me a connection. And it'll change how I think and pray and live out my calling.

I was struck by something over there. As Americans we do a lot of work in Africa. There are thousands of missions trips, lots of world relief-type things, lots of ministering that goes on. And those are usually good things. There is great need and we are called, as believers, to help. The words that have followed me home, though, are this: As believers in America, we need believers in Africa. We need their freedom and joy in worship (how is it that we can worship without smiling?). We need their boldness and their willingness to give all they have to share the gospel. We need their deep understanding of need. They have so much to teach us. And I'm glad I get the opportunity to learn.

I really am gonna put some pictures up, but I'm trying to put them in a slide show....we'll see how that goes. :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Africa - Post 5

April 3

It has been an incredibly full two days. And tonight was all about celebration. The women came to dinner in their national dress and it was amazing to see them all decked out. Matilda, from Kenya, put a scarf on my head and wrapped it all around like they do. Then, when I tried to give it back to her she said it was mine to keep. Such a sweet gift, and it is seriously beautiful.

At the end of club tonight, Shelley and I taught the women the song we always end with at our Women’s Young Life retreat in Colorado. I don’t know what possessed me to think I could sing that song in that particular room full of women and not cry my eyes out. But, what a holy moment. The song, if you don’t know it, talks about how God changes our names. That we are no longer called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. And to look out and see these women, so many, if not all, who HAVE been wounded and cast out, and certainly are lonely and often afraid. Well…it was just a powerful moment.

Then, after we had the “say so” (don’t forget we are basically at a Young Life camp), where the women shared how God had spoken to them this weekend, they prayed for us, the American team. They put us in the middle of the room and all prayed at the same time in all their languages and it was BEAUTIFUL! Then, they started singing in Swahili, “May you be blessed.” And they sang it over and over and over. I forced myself to open my eyes and look into the eyes on each of these women as they sang, even though I knew it would make me cry again. And it did. :) I will never, ever forget it.

And then, like any good Young Life camp, we ended with a dance party. Glow sticks, rockin music, and some of the best moves I’ve seen in a long time.

So much has happened in the last two days. Good conversations, new friendships, and encouraging one another in ministry. Tonight, so many of the women said to each other, “I thought I was alone. I thought the problems we had in ministry were only my problems. Now I know that I am not alone. That we can work together to solve our problems.” That is huge, and really the purpose for this whole weekend. That these women would connect and build these kinds of friendships that will encourage them in ministry. Thank you so much for your prayers!

The stories I have to tell are incredible. These women are crying out to God on behalf of Africa. They are in the trenches and reaching out, across cultural lines, across races, across traditions for the sake of Christ. They are heroes. No doubt about it.

Tomorrow, we head to Zanzibar and Arusha to do some touristy things. I can’t wait to sleep in a bit and just be with my buddies as we process a little of what we have seen and felt this weekend. We’re not taking our computers, so this is probably my last update til we get home.

Ahhhh….home. I can’t wait for that either.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Africa - Post 4

April 1

Wow! Wow! Wow! All of the women are finally here!!! And I think today I may have seen the best Young Life welcome ever! We greeted the buses of African women with a local wedding band, a parade of their national flags, a Young Life bag full of goodies, cookies and punch, and hugs and high fives all around. And they greeted us with a dance party that went on for 15 minutes, despite the crazy, sun beating down, sweat pouring down, heat. They were so excited to be here, to see each other, and to soak up this time. We just tried to jump right in and hold on!

Not long after everyone arrived, we began to set up outside for dinner. We brought little treats to put on their plates every night, so tonight we put their YL Africa Women’s Leadership Summit t-shirt at their places. Then, we sat down to a catered Tanzanian dinner that was so yummy and fellowship that was even more sweet! I sat with three women from Swaziland, a teeny tiny country right in the middle of South Africa, and a leader from Zimbabwe, who is originally from South Africa. We talked really frankly about racism, way more frankly than whites and blacks talk in America, and it was such a neat thing to hear Rentia share how she felt the Lord moved her and her husband to Zimbabwe, to get rid of the racism she had grown up with. “We are all the same,” she said, “just different colors!”

Then, at our first club tonight, Benga, from the Congo, led us in worship in the style of Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ethiopia, Congo, and America. And we’re just getting started! When I say “style” what I mean is that we sing worship songs that are native to their country and they get up and lead the singing and a kind of dance to go along with it. It is worship that is so filled with joy! Then, Shelley brought back Kippy, a character she used in program for the African All Staff Conference in 2008 (where this trip was dreamed up), and partnered with Esther, from Kenya, to introduce her to YL program by making her, Kimmy, Kippy’s twin sister. They were hilarious and were able to get a few women up front with a silly game. Irene and Agnes, both from Dar es Salaam, shared their testimony about how they have served in Young Life as mother and daughter. Ann Shack, from our team, spoke tonight on the woman at the well and did a fabulous job as well. It’s amazing how, even though the languages and songs are different, there is so much that is the same. There is no doubt we are in Young Life territory. I can’t overstate what a gift it is for us to be here and hear their stories. We are in Africa, yall! And Young Life is alive and kicking!

Here’s the one major thing that has stood out to me all day. These Christian women here in Africa, are among some of the most joy filled people I have ever met. There is a sense of freedom that feels precious and rare to me amongst women. And, frankly, considering their stories of oppression, and the difficult lives that many of them lead, it is hard to understand. Except that, “he who the Son has set free, is free indeed.” These women are a testament to God’s grace and his abundant life! And I want to be more of a testament to that!

And…just so I don’t forget. Someone remind me to tell you about the problem with having women leaders in Young Life Africa and why teachers and Young Life leaders can almost never be the same person. Did I leave you with a random cliff hanger or what?!?!

Pictures to come soon....