Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God's Perfect Provision... We're Asking The Wrong Question! Africa, Part 2

As I've thought about how to tell the story of this trip to Africa, it seemed that this trip was as much about lessons for places deep in my soul as it was about the events that happened.  In Luke 2:19, when Jesus is born and the shepherds visit Him, they go out and tell everyone that they have seen the promised Christ child...  But it says that "Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart."

I think that's why it's been hard for me to begin to tell this story...  This trip was a treasure to me and I just needed to ponder it for a while.  So I've decided to tell this story by the lessons I learned...  Through it, I will tell you about the events, but the real treasure is in what God taught me!

So this trip was what you might call, my dream trip.  Since the first trip to Africa, my heart has been for the children...the people outside the gate (I first wrote about them in this blog Children Outside The Gate )

But here is a quote from that blog that seems to capture what was in my heart, "These are the children outside the gate...children, who unlike the children inside the gate of the orphanage, had no guarantee of safety...of a food...of love...of the most basic necessities of life...things that no child should ever wonder if they'll have enough of... These children burdened my heart..."

Well, on this trip, I spent all of my time, "outside the gate."  Heart For Africa (HFA) has decided to partner with community churches to help them care for the orphans and widows in their communities, so I went for 3 days to a partner church and it was more than I ever dreamed!  To get to go every day and spend time with the same people...  It's amazing how tightly God can knit a bond in just 3 days!!

The church we went to was in a very rural community...  We drove about 1 hour and 45 minutes, one way, to reach it each day.  On the first day, the pastor told me that until the week before, when HFA's  first team had visited, white men had NEVER come to help them!  Is that not heart breaking?!  How that must break God's heart!!

So, on our second day in the community, one of the young women in our group, asked me if she could give a pair of shoes to a young girl who had come from school and didn't have any...  (A little background...  I was a team leader on this trip, so I was the 'go-between' for our team and the pastor of the church...  This will be important in a minute...)  So I asked permission to give the young girl shoes and Mrs. M., the pastor's wife, said it was fine.

So J., the young woman on our team, with the shoes, went to see if she would have some that would fit her...  She was concerned that she might not have any large enough...  But wouldn't you know, the largest size she had, fit her PERFECTLY!!  Now, I've been to Africa enough times to know that this is how God works...  But I hope, like that day, that I never lose the awe of His perfect provision!

Community (129 of 258)

And I will certainly never forget the wonder on the young girl's face when she understood that the shoes were for her...

Community (132 of 258)

But one of the highlights of the trip was the look on J's face (who brought the shoes) when she realized that the shoes fit perfectly (I'm sorry of I don't have a picture of that moment)...  Her eyes welled up and there was no doubt in my mind that she knew she was seeing the hand of God and His perfect provision!

A little later, J came to me again and asked to give a young boy a pair of shoes...  Without thinking, or asking permission, I just told her yes!  So she went to the van and pulled out, what she thought was her largest pair, and they weren't big enough.  So she reached back into the suitcase and pulled out a pair that she didn't know she had...  And yes, they were once again the perfect size!!

Well as I stood and watched, the pastor's wife and the head gogo (grandmother) came out and as they were watching this scene unfold, they started chattering back and forth to each other in SiSwati...  I thought for sure I had made a terrible mistake by not asking permission (they know the greatest needs of the children in their community) and I was holding my breath, waiting to apologize for overstepping my bounds...

But Mrs. M turned to me and said, "His mother is so poor...  She will be so happy that he has shoes.  You (meaning all of us) are doing a good thing here."  I just smiled and said, "No, Jesus is doing a good thing here!"

And that's what struck me that evening as I pondered the events of the day...

We get angry at God and ask "How could a good God allow children to suffer?  To be hungry?  Or thirsty?  Or without clothes?"  But here's the thing...  

God chose to use us to be His hands and feet...  And I can't even begin to tell you what a privilege and a blessing that is!  He doesn't need us but He chooses to use us!  The question is not, "Why would God allow them to suffer?"  The question is, "Why do we allow them to suffer?"

On that day, I watched God provide PERFECTLY through an obedient young woman!  God knew what size shoes those children needed and He was more than willing to give them...  But it took a willing vessel to deliver them, because that's how God chooses to work!

There is no doubt in my mind that someday we (the church) will be held accountable for "the least of these" who went hungry, thirsty and unclothed...  Will you reach out to someone in need and experience the wonder of God's perfect provision through you?  I can promise, there is NOTHING like it!!


Kirstin C said...

AMEN! I was sitting in Sunday School this week and our teacher asked us what promises God has made to our families. Someone said "He will provide our needs for us." I sat and struggled with that for awhile because I had just seen so many unmet needs but God brought that same answer to my heart. He has provided for all of us and he has placed us in community (local or worldwide) in order for us to provide for each other using what He has given. I love the way you put this - we are asking the wrong question!

Naomi said...


My eyes are welling up. I long to be His hands and feet but I do not know what God is doing with our family at this time. It has been such a difficult time of transition moving here to the States and leaving the ministry we loved. I feel so redundant at times but know that God wants me to love on the children we have and prepare for the new baby which is due after Christmas. Still I long to go to Africa but do not know how this is all fits in with His plans. I am so thankful for you for keeping my dreams, desires and hopes alive within my heart. Thank you again for bearing your heart and soul with us and encouraging us to search within our own hearts.

sierrasmom said...

So so true!! You share these messages so well and make God's words so absolutely clear!!

Andrea Nielsen said...

Sharla, I love reading about your time in Swaziland.... I too traveled to Swaziland and though i haven't yet gotten to return, I have family and friends who have done return trips. We work with KukanyOkusha Zion Church. There are 33 in Swaziland with the main location in Manzini. I wondered what church you all worked with? Can't wait to read more about your trip.