The fear-of-failure girl who left home nearly eight months ago has been replaced with a new woman—a woman who holds butcher knife in hand, chicken head in the other and with a few chops, kills something inside of her while simultaneously procuring dinner for the day.
A dramatic way to say that I killed my first chicken this week, and I feel like I’ve reached a whole new level with the upsetting skills I can add to my resume. I’ll just put it down along with the rest of this week’s happenings: helping pop a live worm out of a sack on Pilot’s tummy, using the snakebite kit to pull venom out of the foot of a struggling child and cleaning out the gaping head wound of a squalling infant.
In reality, I helped hold Pilot for Cara to work on the sack, Tori had to finish using the syringe and Cara helped push the wound together while I applied medicine.
But I really did kill the chicken myself.
So there’s that.
This week I’ve re-evaluated my schedule with the children to try to incorporate new ideas for activities. Now that we have a set schedule of teaching bible stories, verses and songs four days a week (one day being Sunday School), I feel more freedom to minister to other physical needs of the children. Before when I didn’t have a translator to help me teach, I felt like some humanistic philanthropist who was helping with all the material needs while neglecting the spiritual needs of the children, which is ultimately unhelpful.
Because Tori has been so busy and passed Ziwasungu to Gabe as his responsibility, I’ve stopped going on Fridays and Wednesdays, so I have more time with my children. Friday I tried to combine bathing day and washing and sewing clothes for the first time and it went so well. About 20 children bathed, and I washed about 15 shirts, sewed three or four and even put the coveted “mafuta” (oil, but they meant body lotion) on a dozen plus little black arms and chests. Spirits were high, and everyone played nicely with Pilot and shared the books. There was a nice breeze and occasionally I’d hear the kids singing the little worship songs we’ve been teaching them. More heart fullness on my end and lots of thankfulness for Jesus’s faithfulness even when I have no clue what I’m doing.
I decided this past week that I had to do something about Alberti’s shirt situation. His old one had fallen apart ten times over and he’d taken to wearing his dirty school shirt (that he doesn’t use for school anymore, since he’s been so sick he’s been home). Just when I was praying and thinking about the social politics of giving a shirt to one child and not another, what do I see but Alberti in a brand new shirt… two days in a row. He looked so handsome and happy, I of course, got all teary and sappy. Hillary said that she thinks because I’m putting so much love and energy into him his parents now believe they have a reason too. Whether or not that’s true, I pray I’ll see more of it in for my children. It’s better long-term for their parents to fulfill the roles that I’m only able to temporarily function in. I wish I’d stolen a picture for you all, because he really is such a handsome little boy.
We had my favorite story time so far this week. About 23 children came and actually listened (!!), with great interest, to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. I’ve been pairing stories with Hebrews 13:5 to show how God fulfills His promises to us, to never leave us, even when all kinds of bad things happen. To see the faces of some of my shepherd boys light up when they played the drums during our song time or the smiles they gave me as they answered the questions… I about died.
More excitements: Pepino, Moses and Hedis, three little guys in the 10 to 12 range who have consistently acted too cool for me and been very grouchy towards me have begun to soften. They smile at me now and go out of their way to help me around the house. Pepino and Hedis were the first of my boys to bathe on Friday and in turn, helped all the other little ones for me, with shy smiles for me… but not too smiley, because that wouldn’t be cool. But it’s enough. I see it. Oh Love that will not let me go, You have triumphed yet again.
Further surprises that caused more sappiness were present this past Sunday morning. I was sick in bed (occasionally my stomach just freaks out over whatever and I spend the day laying in bed and running to the choo). I had our translator Pastor Albert and Hillary all set to teach Sunday school for me, and I wasn’t anticipating a large turnout. Few of my village babies come to church on Sunday for whatever reasons, but we’d invited them to come at 8 am Sunday for another story time. As I laid in bed, I bolted up in disbelief because I heard Gasipa’s voice right at 7:55. (I’m to the point where I can recognize my kids voices from inside the house, and Gasipa’s especially because it’s so deep and commanding for a little guy). I peaked out the window and sure enough, there he was, with Issaci and about ten other village kids. I was so excited and so proud of them and as I lay in my bed hearing them sing our worship songs and Gasipa thumping enthusiastically on the little goatskin drum, I felt that fullness again and was bursting with thankfulness. Slowly, slowly, I see little hearts turning. It makes everything worth it—the worms, the snakes in the house, the cultural confusion, the regularly scheduled stomach problems… all of it is worth it to see my little babies soften towards God and who He is.
I scarcely recognize myself anymore. I’m so completely opposite of myself a year ago; I’m happy, really happy, and that has chased away all the monsters under my bed that have been hiding. Although I realize I have so far to go in so many ways, I’m actually at peace that I’ll get there someday.
I don’t know what the future holds after November of this year, anymore than I had any idea what I was doing after graduation last year. I haven’t the slightest idea as to where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. Who knows?
And who really cares?
Why have I spent of my life working to provide enough sacrifices for the hungry beast that no one has ever seen, the Future? Why have I felt guilty when well meaning people ask me “what my plans are after school”? Why is there so much shame in not having a detailed five-year plan to pull out of your pocket for any polite passerby who is trying to make conversation?
Now, I’m not saying we should all throw our plans for our lives out the windows and just “follow God”, because we all have dreams and financial obligations and expectations and the status quo to maintain within the church (you know, all the important things)…. But what would our lives look like if we did? Maybe everyone else has already done that, but I sure haven’t, at least not totally.
I know I haven’t because when I say, “God, I’m willing to go anywhere for you”, what I mean to say is “Ask me to do something grand with this little life of mine”.
Ask me to live overseas with a culture of people who think totally differently than me. Ask me to travel and be away from my family and friends. Ask me to spend my life cleaning dirty children and having my hair look like Brendan Fraiser in George of the Jungle. Ask me to give up indoor plumbing and sleep in a mosquito net. Ask me to meet Eskimos, to go undercover in the Middle East, to meet the last remaining tribes of Aborigines or to be a part of breaking down the Caste system in India. Ask me to eat rice twice a day for years. Ask me to lead revolts and pull girls out of sex trafficking. Ask me to adopt a million hurting babies from all over the world so my life looks like Cheaper by the Dozen.
But don’t ask me to go back to America, back to minimum wage jobs in a well-to-do town, living with my parents and going all the places I used to go.
Don’t ask me to go back if I’m going to fall back into being the same person I was.
See, it’s not how things used to be that scares me, it’s how I used to see them; the me that looked out on the world. The me that despised the ordinary and all the people who seemed happy in their comfortable shells, and never seemed to want more. The me that was angry for having dreams for big things, when I felt so small. The me that only valued myself if I was doing something new or exciting—the me that knew that routine and stability was for the weak. The me that rejected doing things like everyone else out of pride and insecurity. The me that embraced distraction and dreams about the future, rather than be where God put me in the moment. The me that dwelt on future grandeur and settled for half awake living because “someday I’d do something great for God”.
I am afraid of that part of myself.
And I can’t tell if she’s gone or if she’s merely sleeping, waiting for a chance to get out and stretch her legs in the right environment again.
That is who I am afraid of.
“[Planning and stressing] is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real. You try to play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try to make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear.”
– WM. Paul Young
This week God has been asking me to put myself in positions where I can’t be guaranteed of the outcome… that is, to commit to doing things without knowing what will happen at the end of it. Things as small as letting the kids play with Pilot, visiting new families when I don’t feel like it or changing up story time a bit. For a recovering control freak, that’s pretty stressful. But it’s necessary. More “of fitness fondly dreaming” could result from this if I’m not careful, but I’m so aware of my inability to conjure up enough spirituality to accomplish things at this point, that I’m asking Jesus to do it for me as I hear His voice. And that’s still all He requires.
Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading.
– Oswald Chambers