Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's Not About The Task... Africa, Part 4

I didn't mean to let so much time pass before I wrote part 4, but with the start of school, life has been crazy.  I have a special project that I'm working on too, but I'll tell more about that in the coming weeks...

I've heard it said before that the 18 inches between the head and the heart is the longest journey one can make... I'm certain that's true, because it has taken me 2 years and 4 trips to Africa to really GET, what I learned on this trip...

In America, it seems like we're all about the doing...  Often it seems like something is not worthy of our time unless we can say we accomplished something.  But what Africa has taught me is that it's not about the task, it's about the relationship!

On our trip, some might say that we didn't accomplish much...  We built a shed for their cook pot one day, so they would be a little protected from the elements, when they're cooking to feed the children in their community...

Community (43 of 258)

Community (86 of 258)

Community (98 of 258)

Community (184 of 258)

It was awesome to work side by side with them!

But what was even better was the time we spent developing relationships with them!

We laughed...  we played...  we prayed... we worshiped...  It was amazing how quickly God knit our hearts together with them!

Community (94 of 258)

Community (218 of 258)

Community (193 of 258)

In this last photo, the young mom came to us the day before with a very sick 2 week old baby...  I don't want to share all of the details of her life, but her husband had died 6 months before and there wasn't much reason to be hopeful...

That evening, our team got together and decided to pool our money and buy some groceries for her and her family...  It wasn't much, some sausage, sugar beans, oranges, vegetables and corn meal flour, but it was the best way we knew to show her God's love...

So in the photo, we had taken her the food...  It was the first time I had seen her smile!  Her whole countenance changed!  Later that afternoon, I was talking to her older brother and I said, "S...  Does your sister love Jesus they way you do?"  He said that he had been talking to her for a while, but that she didn't really want to listen...  And then what he said has rooted itself in my heart...  He said, "But today, she SAW the love of Jesus by what your team did.  Now she has hope, so maybe now she will listen!"

And that's when it hit me...  We aren't there to fix anything, we can't, the problems are too BIG...  On a short term mission trip, there's very little we can do to even make their lives better, but what we can do is bring hope to them and strengthen them, and that happens in relationships!

I was struck the other day as I was reading Psalm 10...  Verses 17-18 say that the LORD (when all caps is used for LORD, it's Yahweh... I Am...  God's highest name that reminds us that He is Sovereign over all things)...  He hears the desires of the afflicted...  He strengthens their heart...  He inclines His ear to them...  But He does that through us...  To say that we are His hands and feet is not a trite expression, it's what He intends...  Not because He needs us, but because He chooses to!

I've had such a hard time really getting this, but just by showing up, God can use me to bring hope and encouragement...  He can use me to strengthen others!  I've heard it on every trip...  "I'm encouraged because you came..."  "I know that God cares because you came here today..."  "I know that God sees us, because you came..."  None of those comments came from people whose physical circumstances had changed because of anything we did...  But their hearts had been encouraged, just because we went!

But you know, you don't have to go to Africa to be used by God to strengthen another...  You can "show up" to a widow...  An elderly neighbor...  As a tutor in school...  At a soup kitchen....  There are a hundred ways to "show up,"  just down down the road...  maybe even across the street!

I pray that God will give us all a person to 'show up' to this week...  There's not much that will bless your heart more!


sierrasmom said...

You are so our small community we often see examples of people just showing up and it makes a world of difference. But we all need to 'show up" more!! Thanks Sharla!!!
Hugs to you my friend,

Jan's Page said...

My "accomplishment driven" husband realized that on our trip to Kenya this year. Our value wasn't in building the fence or painting. They had it set up and started before we arrived. Our value was in the relationships we built while working alongside them and in looking into the eyes of each and communicating that they matter.

Difference2This1 said...

I check in on your blog here and there; I especially appreciate what you share about your trips to Africa because your posts always make me think....they stay with me even after I move on. This post hits close to home because I have been feeling His promptings to "show up" a bit more. I appreicate the encouragement to look around me for opportunities I am missing right here in our community. God bless, Jennifer