Friday, July 27, 2012

Africa: The Power of Praise

(I usually like to keep my posts shorter, but this one needed to be a little longer to be able to tell the story…)

So for a while, I’ve been reading through the Psalms…  It’s taken me a while because sadly, I am not the most consistent person in the world, but I love how by God’s grace, when I find my way back to where I left off, it’s always EXACTLY what I need to be reading!

Over the last two days, I’ve read Psalms 68 & 69, and the thing that has struck me is the consistent message to praise…  In the face of enemies, trials, struggles, suffering…  Praise Him!!

In Psalm 69, David is lamenting about his enemies and in verses 30-31 he writes, “I will praise the name of God with song.  I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.  This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.”

Why does God desire our praise more than our sacrifices?  I am CERTAIN that He doesn’t need them to affirm who He is…  He is perfectly humble, so it’s not rooted in pride…  There must be something about praise that is best for His children!

The thing that hits me over and over in Scripture, a principle if you will, is that praise seems to call the presence and power of God…  My favorite story related to this is in 2 Chronicles 20 when King Jehoshaphat puts the singing men in front of the army to lead Israel into battle and they routed the enemy!  But it’s in other places too…

Praise calls us to remember who God is and in the face of trials, it helps us remember that our God is WAY bigger than our circumstances…  Ultimately, praise chases away worry and fear and fixes our eyes on God…  the only ONE with whom NOTHING is impossible!!

On Sunday morning, as we set off to distribute TOMS shoes, we learned that we were missing 105 pairs of the smallest sizes of shoes.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  It’s just that there was really no way anyone could have guessed how many children would show up to receive shoes…  Across 11 churches, there were about 6000 children who came.  It was the first time Heart For Africa had done this shoe distribution, so there was no way to know what sizes would be needed…  Sadly, there are FAR more younger children than anyone ever imagined.

So I was worried…  a little sick to my stomach…  As the team leader, I needed to put on a brave face, but I wasn’t feeling very brave.  How would we tell 500 children they could have their shoes, but 100+ they couldn’t?  How would we explain this to our sweet pastor who trusted us to do what we said we would do when he invited his entire community?  This had the potential to be a very bad situation…  I wasn’t fearful from a physical standpoint, I was heartbroken over how once again, people who had been let down so many times, might view this as more of the same old same ol’…

So as I got into the van, the story of when Lazarus died came to mind (John 11)…  Jesus delayed so that God might be glorified…  God often is most visible and glorified through hard times!  I was reminded of 2 Chronicles 20, that I just mentioned…  So I asked M., the incredible young man with the guitar to lead us in a time of praise, after he gave his devotion.

For 30-45 minutes he played and led us in praise…  Worry, fear, anxiety disappeared…  In its place a certainty that God was going to do great things!

And that’s exactly what happened!  We watched as God ‘loafed and fished’ shoes…  We didn’t turn away a single child!  One young girl came to me because her shoes were too tight…  It was the end of the day, we had given away almost all we had so we didn’t have her size, and we had gone one size smaller…  I started frantically pulling shoes out of boxes, heartbroken that I would have to send her away…  But then someone put a pair of shoes in my hand, and they fit her perfectly!  I don’t know where they came from…  We had already searched all the boxes for her size…  But there they were!!  Oh happy Day!

I watched as the teenagers in our group had their faith increased… experiencing similar stories…  shoes that should have never have fit…  FIT!!  Who but God!

For the younger children, who had had no shoes for, we were able to give them clothes!  On all my trips, we have never had so many smaller clothing sizes…  But between the dresses that Dress A Girl Around the World sent with me and the clothes that the students had brought, no one went away empty handed!  No one was upset…  there was a sweet, sweet spirit all day…  

And one other sweet blessing came out of our situation…  I’ve learned over the years that what a friend of mine says is true…  “People are like toothpaste tubes, you don’t really know what’s in the tube until it gets squeezed!”  And we put our pastor in a potentially really BAD situation.  He trusted us and invited all of the community…  It was his name and reputation on the line, as much as TOMS and Heart For Africa and Pastor was amazing!  He was wasn’t angry with us, he was just heartbroken for the children.  God used this situation to give us a sweet glimpse of pastor’s heart and how much he loves those children! 

We could have walked into that situation wringing our hands in fear and worry…  But with praise, we were reminded that God is WAY bigger than the circumstances…  I don’t understand how it works, I only know that it does…  There really is power in praise!

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