A crown of beauty instead of ashes...a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (from Isaiah 61:3)
The end of the first week in Sierra Leone came quickly, by this Friday night I realized the that first few days had flown by. We spent the day at Hosetta School. I once again found myself (like never before wanting to be a "Mary") longing to just be with the people of Sierra Leone. Sit at their feet, hear their stories and love on them. That night was a hard one for me. The weight of my heart was incredibly heavy; I was lonely, missing my wonderful husband and my sweet children -I'm so thankful for my life & blessings. The heart shock and numbness was starting to wear off from the things I had seen that week and I was starting to feel the hurt of these people. Honestly, I fell apart in the shower. Have you ever done that? anyway... Now, I see that the Lord was emptying me for what was to come.
The next day we had plans to visit Waterloo and then spend the afternoon at the beach. At first I had a bad attitude about that. I didn't come here to go to the beach I thought? really? But I was so glad we did. I feel like the Lord gave me a picture of going from Ashes to Beauty that hope I never forget. That morning we got up early and went to Waterloo. Waterloo is a small market town where a group called Codwela has been working with the street kids. "Street Kid" Wow that word has a new meaning for me. I had taken a journal and had been writing everyday about the things I had seen and what God was teaching me, but for this morning in Waterloo I had to leave a blank page and I still truthfully feel like I don't have the words. Other than to say, my eyes have been opened to a horrible reality. Before I left for Africa I "kind of" knew there where places & children like this (most of us do, but pretend we don't) When you see it for yourself, you hug & hold a child that will be sleeping in the dirt on the street later that night, maybe looking for place to stay dry? A hungry child - doing whatever, WHATEVER it takes to survive...I still can't really talk about it. But I can say this----The Lord started preparing my heart for this months before I even knew I was going to Sierra Leone. Last fall my husband & I were at Worship Night with an artist named Todd Agnew. The Lord spoke directly to both of us that night about many things through this worship leader. Todd said something in a new way for me that completely changed my world view about these children. Changed "my view" into more of what I feel like is God's view. To simplify it best I can, picture leaving your children with a babysitter. The sitter had a easy job, just take care of the kids' basic needs and put them to bed. Now at my house we joke about our sitters coming watch our TV or play on our Internet because our kids go to bed so early and they really only have to spend a little time taking care of them. This man told a story of how he came home, everyone was in bed safe but the next day when he asked his kids how their night went they told him that the sitter basically had them fend for themselves and didn't really help them or take care of them at all. They showered (said they didn't really know they could do that by themselves yet) and put themselves to bed while the babysitter was on the computer or watching TV. He talked about, how at first, he was mad. He had left simple instructions for this caregiver to follow but she was "busy" doing what she wanted instead of caring for his children. Would you trust that person with your kids again? Then he said "Now, if Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church... the husband... in that marriage relationship we are the Bride, the wife, then we are the mother figure. The Mom. He has left us a command to love and care for His children, all of them! As a church are we being a "mom" to His children? Are we? or are we too busy with our own agendas, plans, houses & ipads? Countless children are dying everyday because of a lack of basic needs, clean water & health.
When I stood on the streets of Waterloo where in the midst of this market over 1000 children living alone on the streets in the most horrible conditions. I was brought back to this new awareness! THESE are also my children, the children I was told to love and care for in God's word. I am sick over it. I can't put my brokenness to words. Would I allow my children to be treated this way? Well I am. I have kissed the faces of children who are motherless and hungry knowing that the money we spend on worthless things could save lives. We can make a difference, we just pretend that the problem is so big that my little bit can't help. But, these children have a Father! Our Father can save them. He can feed them with our "little offerings". How shameful it is to know that we are not willing to sacrifice the little things, knowing in the reality of the whole of His creation, it is worth giving everything we have. I left Waterloo and prepared for our trip to the beach with silence and in tears. (my many pictures from Waterloo are on my facebook page, not all of the children in my pictures are the official street kids these boys below are, but all have desperate needs...please pray for their sweet faces and for the interns of Codwela who are ministering to them) I did write this scripture in my journal the next day: Jesus said in Luke 9:48 "whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is the least among you all, who is the greatest."
We got to the beach and I was amazed at the beauty that the Lord has designed in this place. Wonderful scenery, crashing waves (I kept thinking, wow ... jobs jobs jobs... someday when the country infrastructure is back on its feet!) I jumped in the ocean and sat on the beautiful white sand beach and prayed for the Lord to speak to me, to forgive my selfishness and heal my heart. I ate local food and it was awesome! (my husband is so proud of me) What a gift it was to see the beauty of The Creator in Sierra Leone, especially on that day. I thank the Lord for placing my feet in that beautiful country and allowing me to love His beautiful people who live there.