Friday, July 22, 2011


Sometimes there are no words and I know that my feeble attempt at them right now will not do justice to a sweet, seven year old boy named Mamba who died in Swaziland yesterday.  But bear with me, because I think there is a message for us to hear in the midst of this.

If you don’t know, my husband Ben works for Children’s HopeChest, which is an incredible organization working to care for and protect vulnerable children around the world. While he works with multiple countries, his main country of focus due to HopeChest’s large presence there, is Swaziland. Swaziland is a beautiful, heartbreaking little country in the southern part of Africa. HIV/AIDS is so prevalent there that it’s estimated if something’s not done soon to curb the virus that the country itself will be extinct in a matter of decades. Can you imagine? Almost an entire generation has already been wiped out due to the virus as well as other factors.

That said...Swaziland’s terrain is stunning.

Its people are beautiful inside and out.

Hope is springing up.

But sometimes hope must be clawed at and fought for. That's what the Thulwane community in Swaziland is doing today - fighting not to lose sight of hope.  

This week a spunky little boy named Mamba died. He was a sponsored child through a HopeChest Care Point who came for meals, laughter and love. He was played with, held and adored…most recently by his sponsor who was just in Swaziland a few weeks ago visiting him and working at the Care Point.

A few days ago, his step-father was heard telling Mamba’s mother that he was going to kill her and her children. Yesterday, when Mamba was missing, Hope Chest staff searched for him.  They horrifically found him hung from a tree.  He was seven years old. 

The precious little guy you see at the top of this post was senselessly murdered.  As I was listening to Ben on the phone telling me all of this, I was undone. This act was horrific and evil at its core. He was an innocent child.

I cried for Mamba, who must have been so full of fear and confusion in his last moments of life.  But now I'm angry.  Not at God, but at the enemy who loves to keep us from remembering we are in an all out war on this earth.  It's a war between good and evil, hope and despair, justice and injustice and love and hate.  I immediately thought of 1 Peter 5:8, which says "Be self controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  And it's true.  Jesus said it Himself - "the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy" and he will stop at nothing to do it. He will use disease, poverty, hunger, anger, war, relational brokenness...anything he can get his ugly hands on to bring devastation.  This doesn't mean we just give up and live in fear. He doesn't get the last word. Ann Voskamp says that "the enemy is a lion on a leash", and he is. There will be a day where none of this pain and senseless violence will exist.  Until then, God has given us hearts to beat as His, feet to run into the thick of battle, arms to throw around those who suffer, and voices that shout aloud for the mighty power and justice of God to come down.

My anger over what happened to Mamba must drive me to my knees.  When things like this happen it can make all that we labor and long for feel so futile.  But I think of Jesus' words in Matthew 16:19 that say "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Our prayers matter, which is why the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  We have a responsibility to do battle on our knees and with our lives for these children who are so vulnerable to the enemy. When we pray, territory the enemy thinks he owns is taken back.  When we pray, Light arrives on the scene.  When we pray, God answers and things change. 

HopeChest's staff and the community of Thulwane in Swaziland need our prayers as they grieve and process this loss.  I can't imagine the trauma and despair the staff must feel at what they witnessed yesterday.  As we pray for the children who are vulnerable in this community, let's also be sure to pray for those who are working on their behalf and serving them...that they would not grow discouraged and weary of doing good. 

God, may You stir anew in the hearts of your people a desire to pray and intercede on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed in the world.  Help us to get outside of ourselves that we might be mindful of what our brothers and sisters face and be compelled to help change things, both through prayer and through action.  Give us eyes to see and hearts that respond.  Awaken us, O God! 

Friday, July 15, 2011


I love Ethiopia. More specifically, I love Korah...a leper colony full of beautiful people in horrendous situations.  It has been over a year since I've been in Ethiopia and I've been patiently and not so patiently waiting for the right time to go back.  A few months ago the time was right to set a date and so we did.  September 8-18.  It's no exaggeration to say I think about this community of people many times a day and dream about them at night.  God has carved out a deep, special place in my heart for them and I literally ache to go back!  It looks like I may be taking a friend of mine with me who is a nurse!  How awesome is that?!  These people can lose limbs or die from even a simple cut that they can't afford to treat, so the prospect of being able to take someone with some medical expertise excites me so much and will be such a blessing to the people in this community where open wounds and sickness run rampant.

And then...

I received a few thousand dollar medical bill in the mail a few weeks back and then just  yesterday a notice from the IRS saying that the refund we received from them months ago was miscalculated and now we owe them close to $3,000.  I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  What??? Why, God?  Really?  Why NOW??  To be honest, I've shed some tears over this today.  What are we supposed to do when our plans seem to fall to pieces?  But, I really believe that the timing is right for me to go.  I have seen God provide when things looked literally impossible.  So, I would love it if you would join me in praying for provision for this trip to Ethiopia.  I need to book my airfare in a few weeks so we'll just see what God will do.  I was reminded of Job's story today as I was starting to complain about my circumstances.  I love how God answered Job out of a whirlwind in chapter 38:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'.  Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?  Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm,  to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice?  Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?  Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?  Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’? Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together? Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?"

Wow.  Okay, God.  I'm not going to question You in the middle of my circumstances.  I am going to rely on the One who "provides food for the raven when its young cry out".  So, I'm going to trust in the goodness and provision of the God who did all of the above and say with everything in me that He is good and will never disappoint.  My circumstances may disappoint, but not Him.  Not ever.   

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your prayers right now.  I am willing to lay down this trip if that is what I am supposed to do, because I just want to be where He wants me.  But I also can't shake the strong sense that I am to be in Ethiopia in September, so thanks for joining me in praying for some miraculous provision!!  The God who laid the earth's foundation is surely capable!  Thanks, guys!

Friday, July 1, 2011


I couldn't make up my mind about what to write about this July 4th weekend so I started with this...

On this Independence Day I am very mindful of the fact I walk around freely today because people have fought for the freedom I enjoy. The fact of the matter is that while America celebrates her freedom this weekend, there are an estimated 27 million people in the world who are slaves...more than any other time in history.  Did you catch that??  MORE THAN ANY OTHER TIME IN HISTORY.  In this day and age, how is that even possible??  

People throughout history have raised their voices to declare that slavery is an injustice and must be done away with.  I wonder what Wilberforce and Lincoln would think today if they knew 27 million people are enslaved.  The people who stood up for and defended the freedom I enjoy today didn't know me personally.  They didn't take a look at my life and deem me worthy of fighting for.  They intrinsically knew that human life was not property to be sold...that each person was valuable and should be given every opportunity to thrive. 

So, why is this any different for us today?  Why do we have a license to sit back and say "Oh, those poor people who are slaves. That's just horrible.  Who could do such a thing?  Well, I sure hope something changes soon...that's such a tragedy."  Do we not see that WE are the ones who must raise our voices just as the people who fought for us did many years ago? Don't we know that if we all just sit back and say "What a pity" that nothing will change?

After I wrote all that I changed my mind about what I wanted to really say. :) If you read my blog you likely are attuned to the issue of human trafficking, what causes it and what you can do to help stop it.  What you may not know (or not like to think about) is what keeps YOU behind bars so to speak. What are the things that keep you enslaved?  Are there chains in your life that only let you run so far before tripping you up and making you fall? 

Do you carry anger and bitterness around?  Maybe a poor self image that has sent you into an eating disorder. Are you ate up by worry?  Could be that you are plagued by a secret addiction of some sort.  Maybe you are locked up in your own cell because of fear and anxiety.  How about insecurity?  Or maybe good old fashioned guilt and shame?   

I think it's worth being said that there are many of us walking around enslaved by something that we were created to be set free from!  My top two beasts have been guilt and insecurity.  I struggled for years over things that had happened in my past.  I couldn't get over them and felt like I didn't really deserve to be rid of the guilt I carried.  I'll never forget what an eighty year old man named Jim Downing said one night.  He said that in ancient times as a punishment, an offender would have a dead body chained to his leg.  Wherever he would go, he would drag around the dead, stinking carcass and everyone around would flee.  Taking in the stench and the sight of a decaying body was enough to make anyone run the other direction.  Jim likened the offender to us and the dead body to our guilt and shame (insert whatever beast it is that you tend to haul around).  One big difference though...we carry the key in our pocket to unlock the chain and leave the dead body behind.  But do we???  Why do we continue to carry around things that Jesus came to set us free from?

Do we think that when we read in scripture that Jesus came to set the captives free, that that's only for the 27 million slaves in the world?  It's not just for them.  It's for us too.  Galatians 5:1 says " It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  In other words, Christ didn't die a gruesome death on a cross so that we could enjoy our freedom for a day and then turn around and walk right back into captivity.  That is not how we are designed.  We are created to be people who walk about in FREEDOM, unencumbered by chains.  Our chains are GONE.  They have been broken.  

One of the biggest deceits of the enemy is to keep us thinking we are still chained when we are not.  Our past and our present do not hold us captive.  The labels that have been slapped on us do not define us.  What happened to us when we were young and innocent does not make us guilty.  Our physical appearance is meaningless because God looks at our hearts.  Our fear has been driven out by perfect Love - there is no place for it any longer.  Our addictions CAN be broken.  Our insecurity is a trap straight from the pit because we are children of God, sons and daughters of the King.  If we take time to really digest this it is life changing for us.  The lies that we believe can be dismantled. 

There is no dispute that we all carry around some amount of baggage.  Some of ours is heavier than others. But have we come to believe that this baggage will never go away?  That it will always rear its ugly head? If we have believed that, as Beth Moore says "we're going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us."

There is no time like the present to break the chains of wrong thinking and to recognize that the life God has designed for you to live is one of FREEDOM and GRACE. 

He is good and He will walk you through letting go.  Some of these things we may have carried for years and our chains have become more like comfort blankets that we don't know how to live without. Maybe there's a lot of fear involved in what life looks like if we're not always getting tripped up by our chains.  But I am confident that the One who came to set you truly free will give you whatever you need to walk right out of your chains and into the life that you are meant to live in Him. He's done it for me and I am so grateful.  I am FREE.