Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stop. Engage. Listen. Act.

Do you ever experience moments when time seems to stand still?  When what you are seeing is almost surreal?  When you know God is in the moment, and you are not?

This week when we delivered food to Chorkor, we had this experience.  Reid and I both felt the same things.  Even our boys, as we talked about it later, recognized God's hand in orchestrating all of this.  One of them admitted being frustrated because we had to turn the van around after we were on our way, but realized later that if we had not turned around then we would have missed our appointment with these children.  

God does that.  He messes up our plans so He can allow us to participate in His plan.

Every month, Feeding the Orphans provides food for two single mamas and their babies living in Chorkor.  Our job is to deliver the food each month and check on the families.  We praise God for the faithful people who support these families.  Without them, lives for these mothers and children would be extremely difficult.  For this month's delivery, we were blessed to have Phyllis, Connor and Lauren help us.  Because of the amount of food and the length of the walk, we were very grateful for their help!  

Chorkor is a salt mine community with narrow paths of land surrounded by the salt water mines.  To travel to the first house, we walk down a long, long path encompassed by water.  Usually, there are no vehicles on this path, but today was different.

As we walked, a large pack of children passed us.  The oldest girl looked to be about 13 and she had a young one tied to her back.  It seemed there were about seven children traveling alone.  They were walking with purpose, but without much speed.  Noticing the children, I sensed a heaviness around them.  They all seemed so sad.  We journeyed a little farther, then a trotro passed us.  (A trotro is public transportation.  A 12 passenger van that usually holds around 30 people.  Remember, this is Ghana!)  

 After the trotro passed, we met three crying children.  Young ones.  They were running after the trotro, I thought.  All three of them were yelping with fear.
My mother's heart leaped in my chest.  There is no adult near them.  These three are alone on the path. 
God quickens my heart, and says, "Stop.  Check on these children."

Reid and I turn and catch up with them while most of the rest of our team moves ahead.  We move close enough see these children are scared.  They are in filthy, torn clothes that don't fit.  Three tear stained faces notice us and look up with fearful eyes.  They are afraid of us because white people are not common here.  However, the sight of us is not what is causing the restless fear in all three of them.
 The pack of children that passed us on the beginning of our walk are approaching us.  All seven of them come toward us carefully.  Through observation, it's evident that the large group of children and the three little ones are connected.

With Esther's help, I begin talking with the oldest girl in the group after learning her name is Christiana.

Through conversation with Christiana, we learn that all of these children live together in one house.  The three young ones and the seven with her all live together.

(This is Africa.  That's not a big deal, right?)

Me:  Where are you going?
Christiana:  To the place where there is no food.

Me:  Do you have food?
Christiana, looking at the ground:  No

Me:  Who do you live with?
Christiana:  My mother, but we all live together.  She is mine and Thomas's mother, but she is their grandmother.  She cares for all of us.

Me:  How many of you live together?
Christiana, again looking down at the dirt:  Eleven.

Me:  Who is staying with the three young ones?
Christiana:  No one.  My mother must go and sell fish so she can buy food for them.

Me:  Why are you going somewhere else?
Christiana:  Because there is not enough food for all of us, and the little ones must eat.

(The pieces are coming together.  The older children are expected to sacrifice so the little ones can eat.  They go without food so the smallest ones can be fed.)

Me:  Do you have water?
Christiana:  No.

Me:  Do you have electricity?
Christiana:  No.

Me:  Do you have a phone?
Christiana:  No.

I notice the clothing is very worn on all of the children.  Holes.  Tears.  Stains.  

In my heart, I cry, "Oh, God, what do you want us to do?"
"Care for them."  He answers.

Heavy hearted, I ask the children to wait for us.  We needed to deliver the monthly food to Mary, and our hands were full.  I told them we would like to meet their grandmother and see where they live.  We promise to return and tell them again to wait for us.  

As we walked to Mary's house, Reid and I realized we could not leave them like this, but did not know what to do.

I asked Esther if she thought this was really true.  (I think I asked because I did not want to believe it.)  Esther laughed and told me that she would go without food for a week at a time when there was no money to buy it.  How have I lived so long without being aware of the dire need of people in the world?)

We finished the walk to Mary's and took her the monthly blessing from Feeding the Orphans.

 Mary was away caring for her sick mother, so her sister promised to deliver the food to her.  Her sister doesn't live in Chorkor, but she was nearby at a church service.  Again, God orchestrated everything.
 After we left Mary's, we met back up with the children on the path.  Somehow, they had found the grandmother and she was waiting there with them.

We asked if they would show us where they lived.  They led.  We followed.
The window in the center is the room they all live in.  As we walked through Chorkor, Weston, our 12 year old, noticed that all the homes are one room structures.

Once we arrived at their quarters, we talked with the grandmother, Agnes, and learned more about the family.

Christiana and Thomas belong to her.  None of the other children's parents are in their lives.  The fathers are not "responsible" and the mothers have abandoned them to the grandmother.  Agnes's husband works the salt mines, and he is away doing his job to support the family.

None of the children are in school.  They can not afford the school fees.  Because there is not a public school in this area, the only option is private school.  Transportation to the public school would be too expensive.  The fees of the private school are too expensive for Grandmother Agnes to provide.  Ninety cedis for each three month term.  (In American dollars, $20 per month school fees + uniforms and books per child.  Did you get that?  $20 per month for education is too expensive.)  

This family is struggling simply to survive.

I ask if we can go inside.  Agnes nods and jiggles a key to unlock the door.  The inside is practically bare.  The dark damp hovel is no more than 12' x 12'.  Eleven people live in this room hovering over the water out back, and I grieve internally as I take it all in.  Looking around, I notice a foam mattress on the bare floor, a few belongings shoved in one corner, and one metal bowl and spoon for cooking...  That's all I see.  There are no more clothes.  There is no food.

My mind spins toward thoughts of wealth in America and I force my critical thoughts to cease.

As I converse with the grandmother, Reid captures the scenery around us with the camera.  

One child with orange hair signifying he severely lacks protein in his diet.

 This child's dress is so ragged, her chest is not even covered.
 The dog needs attention too.
In my spirit, I am praying, "Lord, what do we do?  We had not planned on this.  We don't have money to buy a lot of food.  Lord God, what do we do?"
"Feed them," He answers.  "Care for them as I would."

Okay, time to dive in.

The children need to be cared for, and supervision of the little ones is a necessity, so I ask the grandmother, "Agnes, what is your greatest need?"
She answers, "Money.  So I can buy food."
"Agnes, if we bring you food, will you agree to stay with the children and care for them?  Do you promise you will not leave them to go sell fish?"
Relief comes over her, and she gives one slow nod of her head.
"Do you agree to care for them if we bring food?"  (I want to be sure.)
"Yes, I will care for the children," She promises.

 Christiana leads us back toward the road where we came in so we can buy food.  It's a long walk.  I begin to wonder, how will we pay for this?

God speaks again, "Don't worry.  Just act."

(Reid and I joke that women feel and don't think, but men think and don't feel.  This occasionally plays out in our marriage.  This time however, Reid and I both knew God was telling us to buy them a month supply of food.  We didn't over-think it...we didn't respond from feeling/emotion.  God was leading us both to do the same thing.  We were to open our hands and give.)

We arrive at the store and purchase rice, oil, tomato paste, Indomie, fish, tea, soap, canned milk, juice, etc...   After paying, everyone grabs the cases and we begin the long walk back to the room housing the children and grandmother.  (I don't know why I can't type "the room housing the family," but I can't.)

On the walk back, I learned that Christiana's dream is to become a hairdresser.  She loved school until she had to drop out.  Her favorite subject was English.  As we talked, she shared some about her faith in God.  Her family is Christian and attends a church nearby.  

I told Christiana that I think God brought us to her today.  She nodded, closing her eyes slowly.  I said, "Do you know none of the food is from us?  It's really from God.  Christiana, He promises to take care of you and He will always provide what you need."  Again, she nodded her scarf wrapped head.

When we arrived back at the room, we delivered the food and I think perhaps the children had never seen so much food.  They were very grateful.  Agnes kept saying, "Thank you.  Thank you.  May God bless you.  May God bless you."

I wanted to take a photo of us with everyone.  Reid insisted we not.  He was right.  We were not here for a photo opportunity, and this grandmother's dignity is worth our sensitivity.  I'm thankful my husband is a "thinker."

All of these children will need sponsorships as soon as possible - for food and schooling.  Feeding the Orphans wants to help them, but we need people to commit to provide for them.  Perhaps you could pray about helping Christiana, Mary, Agnes, Thomas, Alfred, Isaac, Ama, Mershack, Love, Godfred or Isaac.  Isaac is the little boy in the pink dress in the front.  All they have to dress this precious little boy is a pink dress!  Doesn't that break your heart!

This hurts.  And it is supposed to.  What breaks God's heart should break ours.

On my way home from Chorkor, I was overwhelmed.  Because I'd been having stomach issues all day, I was able to sit in the front seat of the van.  I allowed tears to stream silently down my face as I turned and faced the window so no one would see my emotion.  All of this hurt so much.  There were children being sent away without a place with no that their siblings could eat the tiny amount of food available.  It is all so overwhelming.

I looked out the window at the ocean waves crashing on the shore.  Enormous waves crashed and crashed pelting the rocky beach.  That's what I felt was happening to my heart.  Needs all around me - crashing into my compassionate heart.  Oh, this hurt.

"God, the need is so vast.  It's like the ocean out there.  We can't meet it all."

As soon as I prayed it, He answered, "I don't expect you to meet it all.  You are to respond to the needs I place in front of you.  That's all."

I watched the waves continue pouring on the shore knowing the needs will continue to come.  But His answer gave me some clarity of my responsibility in the vast ocean of needs here.  

I am responsible for the ones He places in front of me.

After this conversation with God, I pulled out my phone and typed this post on Facebook as a consolidation of this day in a few short words...

Sometimes God says, "Stop. Engage. Really listen. I'm presenting an unexpected need and asking you to meet it. Trust me. Be my hands and for the least of these and show them my love today. Don't worry. Just act." We heard His voice and we obeyed it. Now praying for a grandmother caring for nine children in a one room hovel with no water or electricity. Jesus loved them today. Thank you Lord.

God is not overwhelmed.  God is not deaf to the cries of the hungry.  God is not blind to His children.  Today, He invited us to participate in something He orchestrated and directed.  What an honor.  I pray I'm always aware of His voice, and walking out a life of faith and not worry.

Remember how worried I was about paying for the food?  God already worked that out as well!  HE is the Provider!

My parents called last night and told us that a the LLL Sunday School Class from Inskip Baptist Church was sending us a donation.  Guess what the amount was?  Almost the full amount of what we had spent on groceries!  Can you believe it?  God always provides.  He was moving on the hearts of the women in this Sunday School class to give this money.  This class is made up of grandmothers!  Elderly women with little to give were obedient to give to missions.  Their money gave Grandmother Agnes enough food to feed her babies for one month! These ladies have given to support a grandmother here without even knowing that is what their money would be used for!  Isn't that incredible?  Only God could weave grandmothers together like that!

I stand amazed by our God.  He is moving among His people.  We praise Him for providing for Grandmother Agnes, and all of the children in her care this month.  We thank Him in advance for providing for them in the future.  Only He knows how He will do it, but maybe He's asking you to participate in His plan. 

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.
Proverbs 3:27

P.S. If you are interested in helping to sponsor any of these children please contact Feeding the Orphans and ask for information about the Chorkor family.  Sponsorship is $30 per month for food.

Update:  Within 24 hours of this post, this entire family was sponsored for food to feed them!  Our God provides!  Thank you!  We praise Him for caring for this family through YOU, and trust Him to care for the many others who continue to cross our path.

1 comment:

The C Family said...

What an amazing story. It is so beautiful to think that that evening there would be food for the children and perhaps even smiles on their precious faces.