Worthy Lives, because of a Worthy Maker

Isaiah 22:11…….But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.

We attribute so many things to ourselves that we are completely undeserving of having. We attribute value, purpose, dignity, etc. to our lives and walk around with the completely erroneous notion that we are the ones responsible for adding or taking away from these attributes. And yet, scripture teaches that all things (including humans) are created for God’s pleasure. It’s a difficult concept for us to grasp since we are born into a self-centered body and mind that sets itself up, knowingly or unknowingly, as a god. But it’s a truth that would actually give us much deeper faith, trust, hope, and resolve if we were to embrace it.

Life is definitely valuable, but it is valuable because God made it. We have purpose, but it’s a purpose that was planned long ago by our maker. We get to exalted levels in career and life status and we think it has been the work of my hands and the sweat of my brow that’s done it. And yet I tell you, that if it had not been that God had planned it long ago, all your labor would not have mattered. We can say, well how is that fair? How can God allow one man to succeed as a pilot and one man can only succeed as a janitor? Well, scripture answers this by saying, can the ax boast above the one who swings it? And in another place, can the pot say to the one who made it, why have you shaped me like this? The illustration is as if when a child is playing with legos, do the legos get to determine which will be the villain and the hero? But the legos don’t quite fulfill as an example for us, since the legos are an inanimate object. We are evil. We all deserve to be the villains. Yet, we have so much respect for ourselves and for others. I know many people who I don’t think I will ever measure up to. But those people are also just clay in the potter’s hands. We are all made for the purpose and pleasure of Jesus Christ. By Him we were created and through Him we are sustained. Are you living for the pleasure of Jesus? Or are you saving up for the world’s goods? Have you ever thought of taking more work on so you could give to those who have a need? Ephesians 4:28 says this should be our attitude. Will all your self given value amount for anything when you stand before your maker? Or will it be like on the road to Damascus when Jesus told Paul that it was hard for him to kick against the pricks?

Let’s push each other to go farther for our God.

Advertisements

Let the little children come unto me

IMG_6111IMG_6117

How often do we throw road blocks in front of the children trying to see Jesus? Jesus’ disciples in Luke 18 are turning away parents from bringing their children to Jesus, and Jesus corrects the disciples and tells them to allow the children to come to Him for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. How many times do we stare down the ends of our noses at people instead of assisting them on their way to Jesus? Now, I’m not talking about the group that throws all scriptural doctrine aside in the name of having unity and love for “all of the body of Christ”. (As Paul says in Romans Ch 2, such an attitude receives just condemnation from God). But do you ever catch yourself acting like the wicked servant in the parable that Jesus tells Peter about forgiveness? The servant owes a King an impossible debt, but when he asks for mercy the King simply forgives the servant. You would think this would cause the man to be quite merciful to those around him, but instead he finds another servant who owes him a small debt and has him thrown in prison until he should repay the debt. The King finds out and is extremely angry and appalled at the wicked servant’s actions. The disciples thought they were being of service to Jesus by keeping these children away from Him. Do we ever put ourselves into this role? I don’t think we would ever consciously decide to do this, but if we examine our actions and attitudes towards people God brings across our path, we may see that our thoughts betray that we have indeed judged people in this way.

Romans Chapter 5 says that while we were still dead in our sins, Christ died for us. We were worthless. God’s promise was given to us anyway. We didn’t decide to be redeemed, but God redeemed us anyway. If there was nothing in us to be desired then, why do we think it fair to demand there be something in someone else before we will love them? Oh how poor of you and I that we should appal our King with our behavior.

Love the little children. I’ve met young people in age who are old in their faith. And I’ve met old people in age who are, as yet, just children in their faith. Meet them where they are at. Isn’t it wonderful that God met you where you were at back when you were still dead in your sins? He knows what each child needs. Do you want to have to answer to Him for why someone wasn’t good enough for you?

Finding Jesus on the Red Dirt Road

The first thing I noticed about Wasswa was his happy eyes; the way he seemed to delight in every single thing around him. He captured my heart with his silly antics and the way he threw his head back in laughter. I saw Jesus in that room as he jumped with literal joy to catch a yellow beach ball with a smiley face on it. The first time I met Wasswa at six years of age, I didn’t know that both his parents had died from AIDS, or that he lived with his aging grandparents along with his twin sister and several other children. Nothing in his laughing eyes suggested this and nothing fractured my heart more than hearing it.

I came home and I knew I wanted to be part of his life, so I decided to become Wasswa’s sponsor. The next time I returned to Africa, I asked Jesus to show me Himself on those red dirt roads. I got out of the car when news started circulating among the schoolchildren that Aunt Jaimee had returned. When the news reached Wasswa’s ears he sprinted hasty wide strides with arms wide open out of that classroom right in the middle of a lesson and into my arms. And I knew God had answered my prayer and was right there in the middle of all that joy. I felt His presence and I went home with a happy heart, feeling like I was making a difference in the middle of all that I saw.

The year Wasswa turned 10, I once again set my feet upon those red dirt roads. I arrived at the school to find out that Wasswa had not been in attendance that term because his Grandfather was deathly ill. It was suggested that I visit his family at their home nearby. When we arrived, there he was, wearing tattered shorts and nothing else, and those previous feelings I had of making a difference had all but disappeared. And those happy eyes, they were gone, replaced by eyes that were full of sadness and looked like they had lived 100 years. He told me his grandfather was sick and would I please come see him? I walked into the house and was greeted by an ailing man on the floor, so weak that he struggled to hold his hand out to touch me. Without a translator, there was not much I could tell them, other than to offer hugs to the children and give them the gift of my time which seemed so very inadequate. I came home and I asked God if He was there inside the walls of that mud hut. Was His presence felt by Wasswa and his family in the midst of all that pain? On the road as Wasswa struggles to carry a heavy container of water almost as big as himself, is Jesus there beside him? Although I struggle with all the pain and suffering I see both in Africa and here at home, God tells me through His word that He is there right in the middle of all our pain, brokenhearted right with us. Something I must choose to believe even when God seems distant and far far away. And so I make the choice daily to believe that even in the things I don’t understand The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV).

Jesus is there in the middle of that mud hut as Wasswa’s grandfather suffers, right beside and inside them. And He has called us to love those around us in the same way He loved when He was on earth. To remind people they have value; both to us and to our Father. I received a letter from Wasswa a while back; He told me he loved me because I gave him hope to know he is important in the world. And right there in the middle of his words, I know Jesus walks on those red dirt roads.

*In the days, since, a loving and kindhearted neighbour has taken Wasswa and his twin sister in to care for them. An act of generosity I am grateful for, knowing those two children are now have an able caregiver. They both attend school at Eagles Wings as day students.

IMG_2511

Journeying through life

The wind catches the hem of her skirt and swirls as she skips down the path. I look up and she gives me a shy smile and behind her guarded eyes I sense a quiet joy. As I observe her with her friends I feel the weight of her past and I wonder how someone so young deals with a history that is as heavy as hers. To wake up each day and to know that there was a time in your life when you were unwanted. To know that at one point in time no.one.cared. Perhaps, the heaviness of her yesterdays is defeated by the love of today. By the family she now has here at Eagles Wings, the sisters she loves, the chance to learn, and a future that is rife with possibility. Or maybe it’s not like that at all, maybe even in the middle of all her joy, her past is always present. I’m not sure because her battles in life are oh so different than mine. Each of us gets up each day and struggles against things that are perhaps very different from each other, but at the end of the day we all fight against this human condition. We can choose to join hands and walk through life together.

I sit and watch her play netball with the girls she walks through life with every single day. I hear giggles that ring through the air as they run and pass and shoot the ball with smiles that light up their faces. And I praise God for the small but mighty ways that He redeems the childhood some of them didn’t have. Even among all this joy I know that each one of these girls I love has to get up each day and make choices to stay on the straight and narrow. Life isn’t easy for any of us. But it is these moments full of games and joy and laughter that I, and hopefully they will choose to hold tight. To remember the rolling laughter and squeals of joy when things get hard and to be reminded that God is with them then just as He is right now.

IMG_57771

blog2

Update from this side of the world (North America)

Well, here’s the first blog I’ve written from outside of Africa. My wife Alannah and I were married back here in small town Minnesota on September the 6th, and since that time we’ve covered a lot of ground. The journey began in Manitoba where we had the privilege of being blessed abundantly by our board of directors in Canada. They were each extremely kind and generous in their hospitality towards us. It was good to be in their churches and to give an update that, for once, didn’t come through email. Next, we were able to spend some time with Alannah’s family, both in Calgary and in Vancouver before continuing on our mission of presenting Eagles Wing’s ministry to churches of biblical like mindedness.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been able to present at 3 different churches in the states. We’ve been encouraged by the congregations in these churches and we covet their continued prayer support. We are at our sending church (Silver Bay Baptist) this coming Sunday and we will be at Grace Baptist Church in Mankato, MN on December 28th. We plan to be in the states until the end of January and we would appreciate you praying for open doors and opportunities to share our ministry with more believers.

To blog without preaching a little would be absurd for me so here’s a parting thought:

I was just reading in Mark this morning the account of Jesus cursing the Fig tree and his disciples later being astonished when they see that the tree withers under the curse that Christ has pronounced. In response to the disciples’s amazement Jesus tells them that if they pray believing, anything (even moving a mountain into the sea) would be possible for them. Shortly before in the gospel of Mark I read the account of the man who brings his demon possessed son to Jesus and the disciples are unable to cast the demon out. When the man asks Jesus to help, Jesus tells him that anything is possible for those who BELIEVE. The man fearing the doubt he knows is in his heart cries out and says,  “I believe Lord, help my unbelief!” Jesus proceeds to cast out the demon and is later questioned by his disciples as to why they were unable to cast the demon out. Jesus responds that this kind can only come out through prayer. Christians, go through each gospel account and highlight each time Jesus teaches us about prayer. At the end of Mark 11 Jesus tells the disciples when they pray to already be convinced in their heart that it’s provided for and it will be answered.

How much do you value prayer? How much of your prayer life do you waste? Read Matthew 6. If your prayer is constantly about the provision of your needs, Matthew 6 is there to remind you of what we ought to being praying for. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.

You may have no financial ability to sponsor one of our children at Eagles Wings, but I know you have the ability to bring our names before the throne of grace. God’s answer may be to give you the money to sponsor a child, or it may be to move a millionaire’s heart to sponsor all of our kids for us….and all for the sake of the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man. Don’t scoff at prayer. Don’t say it’s all you can do. I’d rather have 1 Elijah praying for us than have 1,000 Oprah’s building us all types of things that we don’t need where God has placed us in the heart of Africa. I’ve seen all types of worldly philosophy in international projects designed to help impoverished people. I’ve seen several different types of christian projects aimed at helping impoverished people. The only ones I’ve seen have long term effects in changing a young boy or girl, is the work of transformation done by God’s spirit. And how does scripture say God’s spirit can be moved? You know the answer.

Water is Life

Most of us that live in the Western world give little thought to turning on our kitchen tap. Most of us, myself included sometimes, forget that running water is a privilege and not a right. A privilege that much of the world does not have. Imagine what it would be like to send your 5 year old child out the door with a heavy jerry can to fetch water.  He walks for several hours barefoot carrying the heavy can of water back from the nearest water source.  He arrives back with a commodity that is precious, precious because it will keep him, it will keep you alive.  But it will also make him sick because it is laden with bacteria and viruses, but you and he have no other option.

I have looked into the eyes of a mother like her. We didn’t want that to be the reality for the children at Eagles Wings, because it is reality for many families in sub-Saharan Africa. And I am so happy to say that we, all of us involved in this organization were blessed to be able to have a new well drilled; made possible by some generous donors in North America.  I was blessed because I was able to be in Uganda while all that was going on. Is there any greater dream come true for a water and sanitation engineer than to be right there in the front row to watch the construction of the well that will provide life giving water to the children she loves?  For me, it was like heaven on earth.  We were grateful to the wonderful organization Living Water International for the high quality and honest work they provided.  There is no greater blessing.  Thank you to everyone who had a part in this.  You were part of something bigger than you know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The drill crew from Living Water International arrives at Eagles Wings Children’s Village

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well drilling is muddy business

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They hit water!

IMG_3951

The well drilling crew from Living Water International. An upstanding group of men.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Assessing the soil conditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The crew adds a drilling rod

casing1

Installation of the well pump.

Well 2

The children enjoy water from the new well!

Well 1

Is there any greater gift than water?

A time for everything

Sometimes I’m reminded that small things are big things. How doing something that takes 5 minutes can answer 7 years of prayer.  Who knew that God could use something so very ordinary to show a child that He does indeed love them.

Sometime around 2007 there was a little girl that came to live at Eagles Wings.  I didn’t know her then, but I know her now and she is lovely. I imagine what it must have been like back then for her to come to this new place and become part of a family. In my head I like to think it was some kind of fairy tale story of her being rescued and brought somewhere safe where she didn’t have to worry about where her next meal was coming from.  But maybe it wasn’t like that at all. Maybe the transition from what was once familiar into all that newness was scary and disconcerting, I’m not sure.  When she arrived, this young child was assigned a sponsor. Someone had chosen her. And she began to pray. Seven long years ago she started to pray that she would one day receive a letter. For seven long years she watched her friends receiving letters from their sponsors, but for her, one never came. I’m sure she knew that her sponsor loved her, they had been faithfully supporting her for this many years, but she wanted to be told, she wanted to see it in writing that she was, in fact, loved. This girl loves her sponsor, but she thought perhaps, her sponsor was not the letter writing type, so she changed her request to God. She asked Him that she may receive a letter from anyone, specifics didn’t matter.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I was at Eagles Wings Children’s Village when this blossoming young lady wrote me a lovely letter.  Too shy to give it to me herself, she handed it to one of her friends to deliver. I was touched by what she told me and before I left I wrote her a card. I reminded her not to forget that she was beautiful both to God and to me and I thanked her for the thoughtful words she had written me a few days prior. It took me 5 minutes to write that card. Little did I know that in those 5 minutes, God was using me to answer 7 years worth of little girl prayers. I came home and forgot that I had even written that card, until I received a letter in return. A letter telling me that she had prayed and God had answered. She told me that she was going to keep and treasure that card I gave her because it was a special thing in her life. It was a physical reminder that God had heard her prayers. She tells me that the joy you give to others is the joy that comes back to you.  And I hope the joy that she gives me makes its way across the ocean and back to her. Because not once did she mention that it took 7 years. 2557 nights she prayed that God would send her a letter and finally He did, but the time it took didn’t seem to matter.  She just praises her Father for the good gifts He gives, in the time that He gives it. May I, may you, remember to do the same.

Release from a silent world

To be honest I didn’t notice at first that Catherine and Fahad lived in a silent world. The first thing I saw when I looked at them was the way they were best friends, almost inseparable in ways that only happen during childhood. That and the way they loved to dance unencumbered and full of life. And then, when someone told me they were deaf, I began to notice the beautiful way they communicated between themselves and others with sign language. Eagles Wings Children’s Village has given these two the opportunity to attend a special school for deaf children; unlocking a way to speak with their hands thus breaking their silence in a world that hears. 

I sat and watched Fahad pump his legs hard to see how high he could fly on the swing, throwing his head back in laughter, his eyes spilling with joy. I saw the joy of the Lord right there inside him and I knew he had been given a gift. In a country where people who have a disability are often cast out, he has been given a chance, a life far different than one he might have known, and I rejoice at the ways he delights in life and the ways I’m sure his Heavenly Father delights in him.

Fahad’s friend Catherine is just as precious. Delicate and graceful she reminds me of something to be treasured. There are people in her life who believe she has value, despite what the majority of her culture may believe. I see she is loved by the Grandmother who brings her back from school holiday to start back into class, I see it in the children she plays with after church, the way she holds hands and dances no different from the rest. And in the deep and cherished friendship she holds with Fahad. For two that live in a silent world, they speak loud the language of love and joy.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 35:5-6

 

Fahad flies high on his swing

Fahad flies high on his swing

Catherine finds joy in dancing.

Catherine finds joy in dancing.

Agricultural Update

These are some recent pictures of our farm. Our Agricultural Manager Ivan has been working hard on watering and maintaining our vegetables this dry season. We will be digging around 200 holes for banana stalk planting this coming Saturday. Initially, all of these projects are designed specifically to help us feed ourselves. As we learn and get better, we hope to be able to even generate a small income off of our farm in the future. We will see how The Lord leads. We praise Him for the dedication Ivan has shown in his work on our farm.

Another future project we are also considering is the purchase of a solar mill to mill our own produce and to offer that service to the surrounding community farmers at a reduced cost from other mills. It’s an idea that we’ve learned that another organization is successfully operating. Farmers here have a tough time earning a reasonable return on their investment due to high cost of milling their maize (corn to us) and then also having to buy the resulting product back in the market also cuts into their profit. The basic concept is that with this mill we will be able to mill famers grain at a lower price than other mills charge, and then sell it back to the farmers at a lower price than they would pay in market. We would still be able to make a small amount of money for Eagles Wings while having a type of community outreach ministry. As I mentioned before, this is a future project. We’ve had past experience of implementing ideas that sounded great on paper, but weren’t actually practical in operation.

Psalms 24:1 “The earth is The Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

Eggplant

Green Pepper

Maize

Tomato

Make God Smile

Psalms 112:1 “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Do you delight in pleasing God? Do you know that we can please God? Do you know how to please God?

Psalms 147:10-11 “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

One of the funny comments that young lovers make to each other is to tell each other that they “need” the other person. We like to hear that don’t we? It’s a nice thing to feel like we are needed. Think about this…is it better to be needed or to be wanted? If you are “needed,” then the person’s affection for you isn’t by choice, it’s out of necessity, right? If a person doesn’t need you, but chooses to love you because they desire your company in their life, doesn’t that say more for the depth of love they have for you?

Now relate that to your relationship with God. Verse 10 of Psalms 147 is saying that God isn’t impressed by our strength. He’s not blown away by our talents. Why should He be? Doesn’t Romans 12:1-8 explain that all of our talents are just gifts from God anyway? But in verse 11, God does say that He takes pleasure in those who fear Him and hope in his steadfast love. He’s saying he loves it when a person takes him at his word and trusts in it and respects him for who he is in relation to who we are. The psalmist says we are blessed when we delight in God’s commands.

Isn’t it an amazing concept that the God who we can’t add to or take away from takes an interest in what we do? And that we can please him? We can make God happy. When we are children, we all want to please our parents. Some of us did it a lot more than others, but every child loves the feeling of doing something that gives their parents pride and pleasure. God told Satan to take a look at his servant Job’s life. God was boasting about Job. He was proud of him. Are you behaving in such a way where God is boasting to others about you? Have you even considered lately what God might say about your life?

Psalms 37:4 is a well known verse that simply states Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Going back to the previous scriptures though, we see this last verse can’t just mean doing good for awhile in order that we’ll be blessed for the good we’ve done. Actually, it’s a change of the desires you used to have to assume the heart of God in your own life. If you really delight in something, it will consume you. It’s not a temporary superficial action to achieve something you want. It’s a loss of what you want due to a delight in something else. We know that God has promised his will gets accomplished in all things. If that’s true, then a way to make sure all the desires of your heart are given to you is to have the same desires the Lord has.

We are all sinners. None of us get this perfect all the time. Wouldn’t you like to part of the time though? Wouldn’t it make you smile, if you knew what you did made your Heavenly Father smile?