Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who needs CHURCH?

"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up gathering together as some are in the HABIT of doing but encouraging one another. All the more as the Day approaches."  Hebrews 10:24-25

I need church.  So do you.
On Saturday, I had a very difficult day.  One of our shelter residents had an emotional home visit,  and another was signed over to us by a parent.
We took our social workers to lunch and, on the way out, decided to buy lunch for three street boys who were hanging around the restaurant.  After we handed them the bags of food, four or five OTHER street boys who had been watching from a distance came running over.  An older boy tried to take food from a younger boy.   Our social worker had to intervene.  The older street boy was clearly mentally challenged and a bully. The others were afraid of him. We had to stand between him and the child who's food he was going after (despite the fact that we had given him something of his own) while the younger child walked away. 
I watched these children - filthy, shoeless, hair dyed orange and cut in some crazy styles- and after the hard day I'd already had, all I could think was   "I have no idea what I'm doing here and I don't want to deal with ANY of this  anymore." 

I don't want to watch kids fight over food, or parents sign away their rights, or siblings crying because they want to keep their little brother with them but we have to take him back to Mercy House.

I want to be near my children in America, who are getting ready to start college.  I want to drive to Wal Mart and buy things that aren't on my list.   I want to run into friends there and chat while we block the isles with our carts and have to say "oops, sorry" and move out of the way.   I want to drink tap water.  I want my kids to have their old friends back.  I want a steady pay check every two weeks and insurance provided by the company. 

But that was Saturday.  Today is Monday and what happened in between was pure grace.


Church is what happened.

I walked into my church with the burden of Saturday crushing my spirit.   I walked out with the peace of Christ making me feel lighter than ever.
I listened to the message from 1 Samuel, about Hannah and Elkanah and the giving BACK to the Lord of their son, Samuel.  I sang praise songs that talked about the goodness of God and how much He loves us.  
And my church is not perfect. There are  things I would change. There always have been in every church I've ever been a part of.
If I let my critical spirit take over, I would surely not go to church anywhere ever.  I would sit in judgement with my arms crossed and wonder if every element is necessary or even Biblical.

But in the place of desperation,  I am changed.   I can not wait to get to my church and just think about Him, and unburden, and refocus and remember WHY we are here and doing what we are doing. 

So maybe you feel like you don't need church. Maybe you think you're closer to God "sitting by a river".  Maybe you think the music is too loud or the chairs are too hard or the sermon is too long.  Maybe you think the people are phony or they don't have the same passion that you have.

I know. I've been there.  Too many times.

But the recent events of life coupled with an understanding that when the Bible says something, I need to do it, no matter how I FEEL about it, have given me a new love and appreciation for the assembling together of Believers.   I need them. I need to hear any good word about my Savior.  I need uninterrupted time to think about Him.    

We all do.   Don't get to the end of your rope before you obey what has already been commanded.

Go to church.   Trade in those critical eyes for a grateful heart.  

And be amazed at the goodness of our God!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Quandary

There is a lot of shifting going on in our lives right now.   Our two amazing biological children left us and went back to America.
We took one of our Mercy House boys back to his foster family today ( after catching him attempting to steal from us ) and we immediately picked up another child - an eleven year old boy named JayVee.   He is already proving to be a LOT of fun.  He has an amazing sense of humor and, as an added bonus for ME, he speaks a lot of English.   I can usually tell within a few minutes if I'm going to click with a child.
We click.
JayVee (green shirt) posing with our son, Kyle
There's no quandary in these things. We miss our bio kids. We are thankful JayVee is with us and we're sad that, after 8 weeks at Mercy House, a child decided to steal from us.  Easy peasy.

Here is the quandary that keeps us up at night and has us utterly CONVINCED one minute and filled with doubt the next:

We have a tiny boy in our care at Mercy House. He has a mother, an aunt and a grandmother who love him.  They want him back.
Seems simple enough, right?  No.  Not right and not simple.

This photo is purposely a little vague to protect the privacy of the people in it.  The little boy being held is our Mercy House child. The lady holding him is his grandmother, who has missed him for nine months. The woman wiping her eyes is his biological mother, who struggles with mental health issues and wandered off with this child nine months ago, unable to tell authorities where they truly belong.
We looked for them for three months and finally found them. They didn't know where this child was. They were frantic.
And now they want him back.
Our ministry philosophy has always been and is still that Filipino children are best off in The Philippines with their biological family whenever that option is a safe one.
But is it?
This child is THREE.  This little family is poor and struggles with basic needs.  We can help them there but is it enough?
Our social worker has the weighty task of evaluating and monitoring this family to ensure that they take care of this little one but none of us can be there around the clock.
And add in the "monkey wrench" of the fact that we really love this little boy.
And you have  THE QUANDARY.
The power of words is startling in this situation. The recommendations we and our social worker make determine the course of this precious child's life.
Our words can send him back to his family or they can start him on the fast track to adoption.
Our words can keep him here at Mercy House for a long time or send him away  in a matter of weeks.
This deepens the quandary.
What if we decide he can go back to the family and something bad happens to him? What if his mother relapses and takes him on another long walk to unfamiliar territory?  Will he be so lucky the second time to be placed in care before an accident happens?
In my pre-missionary days,  there would be no quandary. I would have stated unequivocally that being adopted to the US, Australia, Spain or somewhere "richer" was clearly the best answer to his need for permanency.
But I live here now.  In a developing nation.
And I know that for every child placed on the road to adoption, another child is waiting. And another. And another.
There are simply not enough adoptive parents open to older child with negative birth history to ensure that someone will step forward for this little angel.
And he is.   An angel, I mean.
He's funny and smart and very small for his age.  He understands jokes and tries to speak English a lot.
I know some family out there has been praying for a little boy just like him.  Only they don't know it.
And we could get him all set to be adopted.
But is that the best thing for him?  Not only him.  His mother? His grandmother? His aunt? His two older brothers?
They love him, you know.
Being poor doesn't mean they love less deeply than the rest of us.  They are just more powerless.
THIS is another layer of the quandary. I know what the Bible says about the responsibility I have toward the poor.
This is the reason I cling to the book of James and the promise that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask for it.
I'm asking . . .