Letter to Mowgli

23 Aug

Oh precious girl, do you know you’ve got me wrapped around your little brown finger? It’s true. You used to be so serious and quiet, and my heart ached to know your sadness. But now you talk and laugh and light up in smiles, and my heart loves it. I’ve run my fingers through your straight black bangs as you leaned against my chest. I’ve held your small hands in my white ones and smiled at you until the twinkles came out in your eyes and you twisted your head in a shy grin. Sometimes my skirt is damp when you leave, but I don’t mind. Sometimes I’m not sure if you’ve had a bath in the past week, but that’s ok. Sometimes I wish so badly I could take you home with me and make you clean and yummy smelling on the outside, and pure and Jesus loving on the inside.

When I don’t see you for a day or two, I walk to your house to find out where you’ve been. My favorite is when you see me coming and run down the street to meet me. “I missed you!” I say as I grab you up in my arms and swing you around in a circle. “I’ve missed you, sweetheart,” I say again as you bury your head in my shoulder. You don’t understand my words, but I think you know what I mean. And you don’t understand when I whisper prayers over you, but Mowgli-girl, God knows. When I think of how I’m going to say goodbye to you in a week, my throat closes up and my eyes get shiny-wet. How do I leave you behind? How do I go back to my big house and leave you in your slum one? How do I trust that Jesus will take much better care of you than I ever could? Who will watch you grow up and teach you how to make good choices? Who will I hug tight when your face comes to mind and you’re oceans away? Mowgli-girl, you belong to Jesus. I want you to know your heart is safe with Him even when your world is dangerous. I want you to know your block house isn’t your real home and your trash-littered life isn’t your only destiny. I want you to know what it means to love Jesus.

A few months ago I didn’t know you. I didn’t know you would be the face of my Cambodian summer. I didn’t know there was a hole in my heart the shape of a pigtailed three year old. I didn’t know I’d pray for your little life. I didn’t know how much I’d love you. In less than a week, I’m going to walk down your street one last time and hold you tight one last time and wait for that precious grin one last time. And then I’ll leave. But when I walk away, precious girl, Jesus won’t be leaving with me. He’ll be staying with you.

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Life in Cambo…

20 Aug

Our time is drawing to a close. We can only step back and thank the Good Lord for allowing us the immense privilege of journeying into His Heart as we treasure these Precious Cambo people.
Yes. Life looks different now.
A simple sentence from a tuk-tuk driver of, “Ohh, Your Khmi eess vereyyyy clear-uh,” makes our day.
The screaming of our names down trash ridden streets, mornings of solitude and prayer, evenings on the river front discussing the challenges and beauty of life with Srey Leik and Anun, the excitement of Kenny and James arriving in four days, the Glory of God revealed.
Ah Yes. How Life has been made so much fuller for God bringing us here.

And. Just because. An awesome and highly embarrassing snapshot of last weeks Super Hero Camp. 90 kids in one small building = CRAZY AWESOME ENERGY. I’m used to A nice semi-controlled week of Honey Brook Day Camps where 50 kids max run off their Red-bull energy on acres of land .But this is way cool too. I’ve come to See that Different is good for me. Real Good.

Faces

18 Aug

At the beginning of the summer, meeting all these new kids in this new place made my head hurt. I was just trying to remember new names and identify new faces. It was hard.

Sometimes meeting all these new people in all these new places makes my heart hurt. I’m just trying to live the way Jesus told me to and love in a likewise manner, and so I connect. And then I have to leave. And a very large piece of my heart stays with them. I don’t want to think about having two weeks left to figure out how to say goodbye to that part of my heart. And so I live today.

Today I had dirty fingers laced through mine as I walked down trash-strewn streets and a little one cried because I didn’t have an extra hand to hold.

Today I was invited in out of the scorching sun and sat on a falling apart chair as I swung the baby in the hammock and the grandmother jabbered in a language I didn’t understand and the little girl curled up on my lap.

Today I shared smiles with beautiful faces.

Today I brushed back sweaty bangs and tight-hugged tiny shoulders.

Today I played peekaboo and gave piggy back rides and communicated through laughter and the few Khmer words I’ve learned.

Today I loved them so much it hurt and wondered if they could feel it.

Today I wondered if it hurt them more for me to come and love and leave than it would if I hadn’t come at all.

Today I looked into big brown eyes and knew the answer.

This summer is such a gift. Over and over I stop in the middle of joy-burst moments and whisper thank you. It’s hard for me to get into circumstances like these and connect myself — really connect myself and then leave. It’s hard for me to become vulnerable all over again and again and again. I don’t like it. Really, I don’t. But today, playing with the kids, just laughing, and watching and holding them, it struck me. It’s always better — always — to love. To connect. It hurts to connect and then leave. But it hurts me more not to. Do I have what it takes to love them? No. I can try and I can think I do, but the reality is that in me dwells no good thing. Except for Jesus. So each day I ask for Him to be what comes out of Ervina.

Those kids might forget about me in a few weeks. But that’s ok.

All I want is for them to remember what it feels like to be loved by Jesus.

A Heart for the Homeless Part II

13 Aug

 I catch a glimpse of her on the sidewalk in front of me. Outstretched arm with tin cup intwined in fingers.
I have no other route and I must walk past her. And so I do what I’ve learned to do best.
I ignore her.
I pick up my pace. Shift my eyes to the very, extremely exciting other side of the street. Justify my cause by the fact that she should have a job, that she would only use my money for drugs, and that perhaps the next time I’ll have time to help. But I avoid her eyes.
Why? Am I guilty? And Of what? Lord show me what to do!

If I am to be Your hands then will I not at least buy her some food? Oh I don’t know!
If I am to be Your eyes then will I not STOP shuffling my shoe on the pavement and gaze into the eyes of the oppressed?
New York City. Philly. Lancaster. Phnom Penh. I cannot escape their extended hand.
I’m like the Pharisees, who gave so willingly…only when the world could see. I give out of my abundance.
Sure, I spent the morning passing out bananas to precious street children, but all the while knowing I’ve got a full meals security waiting for me at the base.
Sure, I give three months of my life in overseas ministry, but all the while knowing that my Lancaster security cushion is only a few weeks away.
Oh Smite me Lord! For Doing things only for the Approval of Man! For clinking my money a little harder in the tin. For casting a side gaze as I prayed for that woman. For all my worthless, fanciful speech.
Wretched soul that I am. And yet, it is For HIS Kingdom that I drive the hitchhiker, it is for HIS Courts that I bow the knee, it is for HIM that I pen these thoughts.
But here I sit. On my little blue mattress, 4 inches of the floor. Tile wall beside me covered in verses and prayers unanswered, but in the making. Perhaps i’ll add this one to the wall: My role in the lives of the Homeless that I come in contact with.
I could pray with them. I could give them that. But I cannot stop there!
Oh, but what will I do the next time? For that is the true test.

Last time. Lucky for me. Someone else in the group talked to the lady in Times Square with the baby in her arms. I got to shuffle my feet as He talked to her. And then I turned away.
Last time. Lucky for me. I turned my eyes away before the old man with cardboard sign in Washington DC caught my eye. As far as he knew, I never saw him in my rapture of the Washington Monument.
But I knew. Oh Yes. I knew.
But then. Glory Be. There was another last time.
 I drove thru Lancaster, sat at a traffic light, hurriedly handed out my lunch to skinny-man with the cardboard sigh. Traffic light turns green, but I have only three seconds to tell him Jesus is The One to thank. Horns blare behind me. Traffic is angry at the Menno girl wasting three seconds of precious time. I try to remember that before Coatesville Lady (who almost killed me with the heat machine) I would have perhaps had my hand to the horn as well. God Change me!
Life is not measured in seconds. And So I give.
But I cannot get over the fact that I give out of my security.
Like a trapeze artist who impresses the audience, all the while knowing the security net is only just below.
So. I give my lunch to skinny homeless man, all the while, knowing I can buy lunch in five minutes at Prince Street Cafe.
So. I drive Coatesville Lady an hour or two, all the while, knowing I can go back to comfortable home only miles away.
So. I give money to missions, possibly even time, all the while, knowing…knowing it all!
Maybe I’ll just go become a cardboard-sign-holder, or a tin-can-extender. Maybe not. I don’t know.
I only know this: That I am tired of casting down my eyes at the site of a beggar. I’m tired of letting it be someone else’s job. I’m downright tired of my Pharisee clinking of money in the box.
Oh God! If You love these tin-can-holding Precious People, then by all means, I want to love them too…
“…To Divide YOUR bread with the hungry…” MY BREAD?!
“…To bring the homeless into YOUR house…” MY HOUSE?!
“…When you see the naked, cover him…” MY CLOTHES?!

Perhaps. Perhaps this is the scandal of the Gospel. That WE actually go out and do it.
Boy, What If WE actually lived the Gospel?…

32 More days. Heh Heh.

.three articles I WISH I had written that I WISH you would read.

1. “…There’s not much more I can do, not tonight. And lucky for me, I don’t have to. I have the unfathomable luxury of walking away…” 
-Heather Coaster

2. “…If we have to read one more blog post or go to one more conference seminar or listen to one more sermon about the needy, we’re going to scream!…
-Matthew Paul Turner

3. “…And I’m still thinking about what it would look like if justice became a lifestyle for me…”
-Tanya Huyard

Patience

8 Aug

It’s a quality I could use a lot more of. Apparently I’m not as patient and long-suffering as I’d like to think. Apparently I still need a lot of grace and unconditional love woven into every fiber and pumped through every pore of my being. Apparently the days I always think are going to be easy and fun are the days I end up needing Him most.

Kids Camp is only a few days away and the closer it gets, the more excited we are. We’ve prayed over it and we’ve had meeting after meeting for it and we’ve signed up tons of kids for it.

It was a fun day of decorating. Exhausting, but fun. We’re not finished yet but the house looks great. The original plan was that the kids would stay out of the house so we could work efficiently. The outcome was more like the older ones came into help and efficiency worked its way down to borderline zero. As did my patience. Glitter and double-sided tape work great with a crowd. Wet paint and trying to make sure everything turns out perfectly do not. So when Srey Pi has black paint dripping off her fingernails and mischief dripping off her face and I take her paintbrush for the third time and remind her what a Khmer no sounds like, I hear myself asking would Jesus care if there’s paint piles all over the floor? The answer is no. So why should I? When two girls plop down beside me and trace my careful English letters with sloppy blue and I want to tell them to go cut out stars and let me take care of this, I ask myself would Jesus turn them away so He could do things easier and better? Same answer. So why should I? When bright orange shows up in the wrong places, and frustration too, and too many kids beg to do too many things and I want to stand up and announce it’s time to clear out, I pray for inward grace to transfer outwardly but it’s not until I get home that the Jesus-words come as the answer to all:

Let the children come. Don’t turn them away. Don’t forget it’s to them My kingdom belongs.

Who really cares if the poster is smeared and the letters are crooked and the stars are misshapen and the mess factor is ten times bigger? Who cares as long as there’s enough Christ-love being poured into me to get poured back out, as long as there are kids wanting to serve and opportunities to let them, as long as I’m being reminded that all the perfectionistic tendencies and creative ideals in the world won’t get me anywhere close to the kingdom I long to live in daily?

All I know is, Paul knew what he was talking about when he told us to be in a spirit of prayer constantly. Not just in worship services or early mornings or a set-aside afternoon hour of quietness, but smack dab in the middle of glue messes and paint splatters and glitter warzones. Because if you’re talking to and hearing from Love all day long, shouldn’t that make a difference in what comes out of you? I think yes. I wish I could brush patience across my soul as easily as I can paint strokes across a canvas. But I’m glad tomorrow’s another day with precious kids, and getting to love all over again, and being more like them so I can be more like Him.

A Heart for the Homeless.

3 Aug

My memory recalls it all quite vividly.
Perhaps it was because I thought myself near death’s doorway.
I can still see her, sitting in the passenger seat as I drove her back to Coatesville. Eyes Gleaming with tears, muttering random words as she tried to piece her life together for me, occasionally a line or two I could understand.
This night Is important you see, because it is the night God changed my heart for the Homeless.
I recall that it was a late night at the Youth Center. I had stayed later than the rest, but I was awfully tired, and I prayed as usual, that “Oh dear Lord, Help me not to fall asleep on the wheel.”
Eleven PM. I heard the lock click on the door behind me, and began walking across the street to my car. Dim lights from the Shell pave my way.
But then I see her. She’s coming towards me. I tense up.
“Oh Please no. Not now.” A homeless person? In Honey Brook? Her claims of a fallen through court case and no money did nothing to me. All the usual thoughts ran through my head. I’ve been trained how to think through and justify ignoring people like this.
But tonight. I couldn’t.
“Coatesville,” She mutters, “I just need to get to Coatesville.” I avoid eye contact. Why, oh Why, Did I have to be the last person to leave?
I slam my hands into my jacket pockets.
I know. I know. I KNOW that I cannot drive home and leave her there.
My mission does NOT begin as I walk through the Youth Center doors, and my mission does NOT end as I usher the last child out and lock the YC doors.
My life is a beating heart ministry. My very heart beat is not my own.
“Oh! But I need my Sleep!” “Oh, But I need to drive her to Coatesville!” Good thing I didn’t know much of Coatesville.
I stick my head through Danielle’s front door. She’s still up talking with her bro. “I’m just…uh…taking some Homeless person to Coatesville…So uh…If I don’t ever come back…” A Nervous laugh. I shut the door. It’s a joke of course.
Uh. Of course.
I didn’t get home till after one that night. She didn’t know directions. Neither did I. She was freezing cold and kept the heat on HIGH for a full hour and a half.
I don’t think I cooled down for days after that.
But I heard her story. Heard how her friend got killed “Right there at that old hardware store.” Heard her heart. And God changed me. A girl who used to be afraid of The Homeless, into a girl who now has a Heart for The Homeless.

That was a year ago. Maybe two. I can’t quite remember. But it changed me.
Months later. I pick up another lady. I’m driving from the Youth Center to Gap park. We talk. We cry. And once more, I’m changed.
Over and Over since my First Coatesville run, God stops my tires for the cause of a Stranger. I’m not quite sure why they always seem to be on my route.
But I think God puts them there.
He puts them here too. In Phnom Penh. And this week. I read in the Book of Job, “Did I Not weep for him who was in trouble? Was not my heart grieved for the poor and needy?..” And I hear HIM ask me.
“You Remember Coatesville Lady? You remember Times Square Lady? You remember that man holding the sign in Lancaster City? That Old lady you didn’t stop to help in a New Holland side alley?…Did you weep over them? Was your heart grieved over them?…”
And I begin to See. And I begin to Learn. That I CAN do something for the needy. I CAN do something for the oppressed. I CAN stab to death my old mindset of: God help that Homeless Person because I can do nothing…
Because God Help Me, I CAN do something!
But Will I be willing? Will I have courage?
And So I begin. Now.
On a fresh page of my journal.
I label it: What I can Do for the Poor. The Hungry. The Orphan. The Homeless. The Beggar. The Sinner. and The Saint.
And I begin to write down what I can do…
I begin with: “I CAN! Make eye contact and acknowledge them.”
It’s not much. But it’s a start. And you can too.

Hawaiian Shorts and Red Flags

29 Jul

We called him City Slicker at first. Slicker for short. He would come sauntering in with a shock of dark hair swooping down his forehead and across his left eye, his wild Hawaiian shorts always pulled high over a tank top. When he spoke, I thought the voice was coming from a man across the room, not his four year old frame. It was two octaves lower than a normal kid’s with a few pieces of gravel mixed in. He lives one street over with his grandma, not his parents, and she’s a drunk who doesn’t know how to take care of a child. I don’t know if it’s his unique style of clothing or the fact that they’re jealous of his manly voice or if he maybe wears an invisible sign saying “pick on me”, but every time we turn our back, he’s the one getting bullied.

Little sister and I decided we’re going to show Slicker what love looks like, with extra smiles and bouncing balls in his direction and making sure the big boys stay out of his path. He didn’t always acknowledge us but his little gravelly voice mumbled Khmer words here and there. Last week he was the one who threw a ball at me first. Then I slipped him a few extra crayons during coloring time. And during preschool last Tuesday afternoon, he ambled over out of nowhere and plopped himself in my lap. I sat there with my arms casually draped around him, controlling my too-big joy, afraid he’d leave if he knew this was the highlight of my day.

Because it was the highlight. And after nearly two months of seeing him four times a week, I love that I can pick out the gravel in a crowd of screaming kids. And that he shows up each time our team is around because he knows it’s a safe place. And that he shows off his crafts because he knows we’re proud of him. And that I can walk him home at the end of the day. And most of all I love that he’s getting a chance to hear truth and know Jesus.

Ever since we found out he’s HIV-positive and his mom died after she got it from his father but not before passing it onto her son, he’s been the Hawaiian-flowered red flag in my mind, reminding me that sin never affects just one person.

Whoever receives this child in My Name receives Me.
-Jesus