Thursday, May 26, 2011

a few words & silence

My time spent at Hosetta School I must admit was not spent shoveling rocks or sweating. I was so drawn to spend every moment with the children and teachers there. Most of the students are deaf and cannot speak on top of other disabilities. I was amazed to find out that no one knew sign language. How difficult and frustrating for a teacher to not be able to communicate with the whole class! And even more so, imagine being this beautiful little girl... unable to communicate how she feels or what she needs; she cannot hear and lives in unbelievable conditions. Her teachers struggle with how best to deal with her behavioral problems, which are completely understandable. By the end of our time she could sign basics such as, thank you, more please and "stop" it made her so happy!

This is Fatmata, she lives to far away to get to and from school every day, she stays there during the week with Auntie Enda.

Now by no means am I a sign language expert, I know a small amount from teaching my children basics and putting signs to songs for children's worship. Getting to sit next to a deaf boy and sing Jesus loves me with signs for the first time, this was one of the most amazing things I have ever been allowed to do. My favorite two songs we sang together were...

He knows my name. It is a simple amazing little song that says:
I have a maker, he formed my heart, before even time began, my life was in his hands. He knows my name, he knows my every thought, he sees each tear that falls and he hears me when I call.
How powerful that was! I don't know all their names or couldn't even try to explain the pain in their lives, but we have a father who can fill every need.
Shout to the Lord
Those who could hear and those who couldn't, all loved signing this song, one of the team members caught a little of this on video while i was sitting with a few of the deaf children.

Definitely one of my favorite moments. The video ended up having no sound. I left it in silence...

(I added the words here for those who don't know it)

Shout to the Lord all the earth let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
at the sound of Your name.
I sing for Joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand,

Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.

My Jesus, My Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.
My Comfort, My Shelter
Tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Praise You in This Storm

Its been 11 days since I've been home from Africa. and my heart and emotions have been a mess! Last night, I was able to successfully communicate to some friends about my trip and what God has shown me (without a complete breakdown) and then this morning I'm crying in the car trying to talk to the kids about the tornado devastation in Joplin that they are hearing about on the radio. Gideon said, "but not where we live, right Mommy? Why are you so sad" I told him how good it was that we have our house and everything we need but today there are lot of people hurting because they lost everything, even friends & family they love. I said "Mommy, hurts for them."

A note today off my path to tell you about my trip. My heart breaks for the hurting people in Joplin, Missouri. The devastation is horrible and close to home. I just wanted to share a thought. Giving money, seeing pictures, and hearing the stories & reportbacks are very informative and heart gripping. But I have just learned...being there in person ... giving love, a hug or supplies to someone in desperate need...seeing it for yourself... the reality of what devastation smells and feels like... is a life changing moment. Joplin will need continued - ongoing assistance and willing hands & feet in the many months to come. After aide gets organized and opportunities to physically 'show up' and 'help' start to arrive, please don't forget about these hurting people. I challenge you to get personally involved.

"Don't forget about me." I heard this many times as I was leaving Africa, hugging the people who's lives had touched mine. I said, "I will be back!" and I pray that will be possible. Africa may seem "too far away" for some of us to get too. Joplin is not. I challenge you to seek out a way to be His hands, feet and love to the people of Joplin. There is hope and it is only found through the Lord, if His love is in your heart you can share it with someone who needs it by your actions, not just words. And it will change you!

I was reminded about this amazing song this morning--- Now, when I lay in bed listening to the rain & storms I see the faces of parentless children, sleeping in the dirt on the street with no food to eat. Who I have held, touched and hugged with my owns hands, like this boy...
I have been in the mist of people with hearts devastated by the hurt in this world, but by God's grace some of them have learned there is hope and this world is not our home. I literally prayed standing in the front of such hurt and pain. Lord, come now... and while we wait, bring them hope. There is Hope!

I Praise You in This Storm (Casting Crowns)

I was sure by now
You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God
who gives and takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are,
who You are No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried, You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roman & 'Lil Mama!!

Roman & Team member Emily :)

The our next day there in Sierra Leone was sent at Hosetta School for Children with Mental Challenges. This is Abdul Roman, you can call him Roman! His shirt in this picture says sweet sugar, funny... you can't get much sweeter than this precious little boy! The first day I met him, I kissed him on top of his head. After that, every warm smiley greeting I got from him was accompanied with a head tilt and finger tap right were he wanted me to kiss him. I joyfully kissed that sweet noggin every chance I got. This little baby glows when you smile and talk to him. He lives to far away to travel to/from the school everyday, so he stays there overnight, with the property care-takers. (which is sweet Auntie Edna and her family, in a small shack). The construction project going on at the school right now is a dorm so that kids like Roman can have a safe place to sleep. (I spent most of my day singing songs & doing sign language with the kids... to be cont. on my next post)

(lil mamma with me and Becky! I couldn't capture it in a photo, but she has one of the cutest smiles I have ever seen)

When we got back to the house we decided to visit the neighbors, with arms full of goodies for the children. Dresses, shoes, shorts, Frisbees, hair bows & lots of warm smiles! The youngest of the neighbors children is Maryama, you can hear them call for her all the time "Mama". She had some sweet hair weave the first couple days we were there. She always has the biggest smile and wave for you when you come in or out of Becky's gate. What a blessing to see that little face everyday!! By the end of my time in Africa, when she would see me walking back to the house, from being out visiting, she would come running with her arms outstretched wanting me to hold her. At home I had made a few special dolls to take and give away. Each of these dolls were named after a special little girl. I gave Aspen to 'lil Mama and Maryemma to her sister Adamsi. Sweet little girls who now get to hug on a doll named after people in Missouri who will pray for them!

The girls playing with their dolls :)

in the days following we noticed they were still wearing their treasured new clothes :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 1: Lots of 1st! But God said...slow down & listen!

Well my 1st full day in Sierra Leone...
Wednesday morning I awoke to the serenade of the roosters crowing and the sounds of people starting their day in Africa, children playing & talking, people walking, carrying supplies and water to their homes. First morning waking up in Africa! Day 1 for me was mostly an intro into their world. I was ready to GO GO GO!!!! But boy, I have a lot to learn about patience and slowing. Africa moves on a whole different time scale and so do you when you get there. As you read my day might sound uneventful, but it was incredibly profound. We spent the morning planning and later that afternoon we ventured out to see and meet some of the people we would be serving over the next 2 weeks. We visited Hosetta School for Children with Mental Challenges. During my first time meeting those fantastic children, I fell in love instantly. It is amazing to see the Joy in the hearts of these children! Life in Sierra Leone for a child isn't an easy one, but can you imagine being a special needs child? living in one of the hardest places on earth, most of them deaf & can't speak, like this beautiful little girl named Isatu!! Wow!

Later that day, I also had the blessing of meeting Margaret for the first time! Oh, I LOVE Margaret!!! Margaret leads a War Widows for Christ group and also cares for 27 orphaned children! You will soon hear A LOT about her! What an amazing woman who truly loves & serves the Lord with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength.

By the end of the night, I confess that my head hit the pillow with tears, weeping over my first day in Africa. It was the first time I held and kissed a child with a swollen belly because of hunger & malnutrition -- for me that was significantly harder than I could have ever imagined. The first time I saw with my own eyes the reality of the world's clean water problem as I saw a woman filling a bottle to drink on the side of the road with filthy water, right next to where people throw their trash and "go..."

Heartbreaking! I studied and knew the statistics and facts. But when your eyes see it... your ears hear the children's voices... and you smell that environment for yourself, it is a heart breaking new reality that you can't forget. It changes everything. I have a new understanding and awareness of the scripture in 1 John 3 that flat out says, if you see a brother or sister in need and have no pity on them, then how can the love of God be in you! There is no way to sugar coat that! Most of my days I spend my thoughts and motives on my own business & busyness, pretending that these places don't exist or not caring about these people who die every minute. What a dangerous thing it was for me to open my eyes and heart to what is really going on in the world, because now I can no longer continue to ignorantly live the same way. Fell asleep with James 1:22 on my heart! Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says! Hope it didn't sound too down, I'd say for me, it was a great day!! :) God's hand was and is on me! Lord thank you much for the lives I got to love on that day!

This is the note I wrote to Zeke that night, next to his hand print in my Journal...

Zeke, you would be so sad to see some of these children. Their bellies are swollen because they don't have enough to eat, healthily, some sleep on the floor most of the time, its so hard for your mommy to see. The kids at the School are special and some of the people in the town are so mean and cruel to them, but they are so happy to see someone who will love them. I miss you so much!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paris, Goodie Bags & a Beautiful Sunset!

Well, I slept like a baby over the ocean and woke up in Paris!! Unfortunately the only part of Paris I got to enjoy was the Airport! I did get to have coffee & a croissant for breakfast! (how french of me) And was slightly excited to find out that the man sitting to my left on the next plane to Guinea was French! (He was nice enough to give me his "goodie" bag, (wait for it...) who said french people were rude?)

Our plane had to make 3 attempts to land in Guinea, due to a storm. Now, I've been on quite a few planes and have never lost my "lunch" but that all ended on the second landing attempt. A sudden long drop and harsh shakes from side to side and all I can say is, how embarrassing!!

(It was not as near as bad as that "Snorkeling Incident" I had in Mexico and you can ask me about that in person if you don't know the story, LOL) but picture me sitting next to poor Emily, who I had just met and would be rooming with for the next 2 weeks--a very 'willing to share', Frenchmen and David our team leader, who graciously leaned over and patted my back once. Needless to say I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide! Once our plane landed I got up and trashed my "goodie" bags as fast as my shaky legs would carry me to the lavatory!

Then off to Sierra Leone! I was so excited! We landed with much less drama than the previous flight and walked off the plane to see quite a sight! This picture of the Airport somehow doesn't make it look as meager as it does it person! We traveled inside and picked up almost all our bags from baggage claim while fighting of a herd of men wanting to "help us" with our luggage. We lost one bag in transit and while David was making a lost bag claim, we noticed a very sick little boy in a wheelchair, crying in horrible pain. He had been on our flight but was sitting behind me in a further back section. The other teams members had noticed him on the flight and we immediately felt compassion for this poor child. His mother and others with him were trying to get help from someone in the office, but he was crying uncontrollably in pain and discomfort. A man with him held his hand, raised the other in the air and with a loud voice started to pray for this precious child in Jesus name. The rest of us walked over, laid hands on him and joined in prayer. By the time we had finished he opened his eyes and his family and large group of strangers were surrounding him in love. Wish I could say he was immediately out of pain, he wasn't-but its a good reminder to me that God is in control, there is much pain and heartbreaking things do happen in this world. I was about to embark on one of the most heartbreaking and life changing two weeks of my life. What I was awakened to and saw with my own eyes has changed me and some of those broken hearts and faces I can't get out of my mind.

John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. When I read this scripture I am reminded of my favorite movie, (which I had actually just watched on the flight) when a father tells his son that all men fall, all men betray, all men loss heart, and his son yells back in pain, "I don't want to lose heart! I want to believe, as he does". I was about to walk through a heartbreaking experience as I stepped into extreme poverty in Africa. Lord, I pray to remain soft hearted and broken for God's precious people of this world!

Our group headed off to the water taxi! The airport is located kind of a journey away from Freetown, I'm pretty sure its the only flat spot around, so you have to get onto land by water, now I've heard horrible stories about the ferry & even helicopter rides but my experience was quite peaceful!

We watched the sunset on the dock while waiting for the boat to pick us up (actually the only time I used my bug spray, shh... don't tell my mom.) The beauty of this evening will stick with me, there is an overwhelming amount of sad things to see but amazing beauty at the same time. Our incredible creator designed a beautiful place called Sierra Leone and in it, some of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen!

Nerves, Tears & NO plane crashes please!

So, Monday morning the 2nd of May after many crazy days of planning, last minute packing, making a "holy grail" notebook for Justin with the info of which child goes to which place & appointment for the next 2 weeks--- We headed out for the airport, keeping only 1yr old Isabel with us for the ride, mainly because I knew I couldn't take leaving her in a heart broken tear fest. My 5, 4 and almost 3yr old boys all waved, blew kisses and smiled as I left, that was a blessing from the Lord because Gideon had been crying for the last week, "Mommy, please don't go to Africa I'm going to miss you so much."

I walked away from my wonderful husband and headed alone through security. I wasn't prepared for how alone that felt. I was meeting another group of people from Texas in a few hours before we flew out of the country, but still felt so alone. I had joked to some of the girls back home that I felt sorry for the person who accidentally would end of sitting next to me on the plane, because they would get to know me real quick as I held their hand during take off; but as the plane filled and got ready for take off I realized that the seat next to me was empty. Now I used to "brag" about being such a tough girl, but the truth is I've always been a very scared lonely girl and this adventure the Lord was taking me on was a huge step of faith into his arms. I've never been without my wonderful husband, who is my home, for that many days. I spend every moment of my day with my precious children who haven't been without momma more than a couple days. I was afraid of what these people from Texas would think of me, afraid of my plane crashing in the ocean and it NOT landing on a island with Matthew Fox; afraid of falling in love with Africa and not wanting to leave; basically afraid for what God was going to say to me because I knew nothing would ever be the same.

I didn't have a stranger sitting next to me, but I felt the Lord hold my hand and heart as the plane soared into the sky. The June Missioniary team from here in Jefferson City had made some notes and cards for me that got "slipped" into my backpack for the plane. Also a special journal for me to keep my thoughts and prayers in. In the front the the Journal Justin had taken paint and hand printed each our children for me and wrote some amazing loving words to send me on my way. So I sat with tears of joy and read as I listened to my hubby's ipod. This scripture was in the first note (from a loving friend): The Lord himself goes before you, and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Duet: 31:8 The Lord also gave me this Barlow Girl song. Never Alone.

I arrived in the next airport, got some dinner, found my gate and waited for the Texas group to arrive, their flight was delayed but they were on their way. Not to worried, until our international flight started boarding.... no team yet?.... now, maybe a little worried! Waited a little longer.... still no team! Ok Lord, now I'm worried! I finally get a text that they just landed and were hurring my way. Thank you Lord! & off we went, I didn't sit close to anyone else from the team that flight, but I had comfort in knowing that at least someone on the plane new my name. But the ultimate comfort and truth is: He knows my Name! My Life scripture, the one I cling too, kept replaying in my mind, Psalm 139. And in verse 16 The Lord reminded me that; "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to me!"
The Journey is on! I just need to pay attention, listen for his voice and obey!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My life changing visit to Sierra Leone

I've decided this blog might be the best way to process my thoughts and experiences from my recent trip to Africa and share them with others at the same time! So hold on to your heart! Beause I left a piece of mine there in Sierra Leone! The things I saw, the children I held and the words the Lord spoke to me there changed me and I will never be the same. I'll share a tid-bit at a time in hopes that I will not forget and you can see just a glimpse through my eyes. I came home with an eye-opening love for this country, its people and my indescribable Lord who holds it all in his hands.