Monday, September 22, 2014

Eulogy for Maman -- Sept 2014

June 30th, 1949 - Sept 13th, 2014





(Read by Will)

A reading from 2nd Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7-18

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.
We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.
We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.
What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

(Read by Jolaine)

In the wake of mama’s homecoming, I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of standing here today, and the responsibility I so heavily feel to honor her and her life before you today.

As time passed, God provided the message I am about to share with you loud and clear, delivered to me in three specific points.  The source of her essence and spirit, her true purpose in life, and the choice she ultimately leaves us with.

I’ve been witness to this my entire life – my mom was a legendary woman, evident by the glorious 65 year trail of life she leaves behind, filled with friends and loved ones who were drawn to her beauty, and evident by your presence here today.  She was known for her capacity to love without reserve or judgement, to forgive the unforgivable, to show mercy and grace, to find joy in the unlikeliest places (even French verbs), giving of herself without reserve to anyone she came into contact with...  with a strength and grace that was unparalleled in this world.  We all saw it, we all paused in the wonder of her spirit – it was as though her well of life never went dry.

On September 13th, the day God called her Home, the message in my devotional for that day clearly described the source of mom’s well, as well as the reason it never ran dry.  I felt compelled to share this with you today.   Exodus 34:2 says “In the morning... come up... present yourself to me there on top of the mountains.”  As you know, mom was constantly fluttering from here to there, busy doing life, always in contact with her family and friends, always on the go, loving, living and embracing life to the fullest... but what some of you may not know, is that each of her mornings began in complete stillness, envisioning herself climbing to a place she called “God’s mountain”, to climb into His embrace and replenish her spirit and soul. 

She knew full well that blessed is the day when the morning is sanctified, set apart to God! 

...  That successful is the day when the first victory is won in prayer! 

...  That each morning begun so sacredly on the mountain would make her strong and help her carry out her purpose the rest of the day. 

She would spend an hour in His presence, praying, pouring over scriptures, writing pages and pages as she journaled her faith journey, quieting herself before God - not a small feat for a woman who so loved to talk and struggled to sit still.  (I am my mom’s daughter!)

The words in my devotional reflected this beautifully “That hour was like a blessed fountain from which she drew the strength and sweetness that prepared her to complete all her tasks.  It also enabled her to maintain a genuine peacefulness in spite of the normal, trying worries and pettiness that so often accompany life in a [busy] environment.  As I think of the life she endured, I see the absolute, [unquestionable] triumph of the grace of God in the ideal Christian woman.  She was such a lovely woman that I never saw her lose her temper or speak even one word in anger [ok, except maybe once or twice in my teenage years].  I never heard her participate in idle gossip or speak a disparaging remark about another person, [ever, regardless of the circumstances, even if it was someone who had hurt us deeply].  In fact, I never saw in her even the hint of an emotion unbecoming to someone who had drunk deeply from “the river of the water of life” (Rev 22:1) and who had eaten of “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51).”

A dear friend of mama’s, Jennifer Seeley, shared a meal with mama over 20 years ago in Sussex, and as they talked, mama told Jennifer that she couldn’t possibly have more joy, that she knew life to the full...  she told Jennifer that you could take everything from her, strip her life of all that she had, take her health, her family, her everything...  throw her in jail, and still, she would have joy, because she had Jesus and Jesus couldn’t be taken away from her.  Jesus was all she needed.

Dear loved ones, that is the true reason for the indelible mark she left on all our hearts...  Mama lived a life of pure and glorious devotion to the One that gave her life.  That is why we are so touched by her life – He touched us all, through her, because she had completely and utterly surrendered her life to Him.


Her surrender to Jesus gave her a perspective and purpose in life that was very rare in this world of “every man for himself”.  She often talked about the Five Love Languages, words of affirmation and quality time being the two she not-so-secretly favored, but as much as she craved to hear the encouragement and love, she also felt an intense responsibility to reflect them back to her Jesus, and not be tempted to keep them for herself.  This was a delicate walk for her, given the attention she drew in all her interactions and her renowned career.  She was forever making attempts to give credit where it was due, for she knew that without Jesus, her life would lack meaning and purpose.  Given that not everyone was comfortable hearing this, knowing the Gospel can be offensive, divisive, even mocked...  she sometimes had to preach it without words, but one way or another, she found a way to make it known.  To her, it wasn’t about religion – it never was... it was about relationship. 

In the song Legacy (Nichole Nordeman), a picture perfect description of my mom’s lifesong is described through the lyrics. 

As a gift to you, I will choose not to sing it for you, but instead, sharing only the lyrics:

I don’t mind if you have something nice to say about me...
I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You can take my picture, and hang it in a gallery
With all the who’s and who’s and so and so’s
That used to be the best at such and such,
It wouldn’t matter much...

I won’t lie it feels alright to see your name in lights,
We all need an atta boy or atta girl
But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Don’t have to look too far, or too long
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
Some accumulating trinkets and treasures
That moth and rust, leaves and dust will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Not well traveled, not well read,
not well to do, well bred...
Just want to hear instead,
“Well done, good and faithful, Well done!”

And that, indeed, was her legacy to me...  and to us all.  It was the most priceless treasure she passed on through her living example, one that I will continue to carry out in my own life.  She wanted it for me, lived it out for me...  but never one to exclude someone, she wanted it for all who knew her.  For her children, her grandchildren, her siblings, her extended family, her friends, her co-workers, and everyone else who came into her life.  It was what mattered most to her.


I have written many letters to my precious mama over the years...  some of which she shared with many of you. 

I have one last letter to share...  for such a time as this. 


My beautiful, precious mama...


I remember when I was little, sharing with you how I prayed that we would both pass away at the exact same time, because I knew we were so close that losing one another would be unbearable.  Yet here we are...  I wonder how I will keep breathing.

At first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you here with us... 

It was so hard to realize, over and over again, the loss we would feel with each step, at so many points of our lives. 

My MIND WOULD SEE an empty place at the Christmas table, where you would delight in being surrounded by your children, grandchildren, friends, and any so called strangers you would welcome into our family when they had none to be with.  I’d ask myself “How would you want us to celebrate this without you?  How do we piece together a new normal?  Who will make your cheesecake in your absence?  Who will go to the ‘DollarGramma’ for the white elephant swap, or as Sebastien affectionately calls it, “torture”?”  In many ways, that’s how I remember you, surrounded, always, by those you loved, celebrating and always making sure everyone felt welcomed and included. 

My MIND WOULD SEE all the photos we have of you, and feel the ache of knowing how many photos will be missing of you as the years go on, each representing an event or moment you would miss alongside of us.  When the kids graduate, when they walk down the aisle, when they welcome babies into the world, we won’t have photos of those special occasions with your bright smile so full of life.  You looked so forward to going to the Outer Banks with Jillian and I, and to Honduras to visit with Bessy, Justin and Maryuri, and we will go in your honor, but will deeply feel your absence in the photos, the look on your face as you stand in awe of God’s beauty and live life to the fullest, the joy radiating from you.  Oh, how you loved photos....  and how precious few of you and I there are.  Yes, my MIND WOULD SEE how our family photos from this point on would always be missing someone – as though our family would never be complete again.  You wouldn’t be where we pictured you, you wouldn’t be here with us.

My MIND WOULD SEE the memories of you and I worshipping the Lord side by side, and it broke my heart to imagine not going to Harvest with you this fall at church, not sitting beside you on Sunday mornings, not reading devotionals with you and hearing about your spiritual journey and the things God is showing you, hearing about your Lay Ministry program, which the kids’ lovingly referred to as the Pope Studies.  They were convinced you were net in line.  I would miss not having you to talk about our favorite topic ever... serving Jesus...  Most of all, I knew I would miss you teaching me about Him in ways only you could.  You were only wrong about one thing, mom – I hadn’t become your spiritual mentor over the past few years, as you so often told everyone, including myself...  you had always been my teacher. 

There were things I wished I could ask you... What went through your mind as you breathed your last breath and reached out to Him?  Did you see the joy on His face as He ran to you?  Has our heavenly Father showed you the indelible mark you left on the world, the impact you’ve had, the lives you’ve touched?  What’s it like to be held in the hands of the One who created life? 

There are things I want you to know...  I’m thankful that you were here to welcome Jillian into the world... and that she was here to hold you as you were welcomed into Heaven. 

I’m thankful you had extra time to spend with Brandon and Joshua, especially in the past year.

You loved me fiercely, and loved me well, and although nothing can ever replace that, I know we both rejoice and thank God for the gift of Will in my life, I know it brings you peace to know that in your absence, I am loved as fiercely and as well as you loved me.  You’ve left big shoes to fill, but he has big feet – and he is able, willing, and honored.  I am thankful you had the blessing of knowing him, and that he had the blessing of knowing you. 

My heart feels an ache in the space where you once were...  as though I’m no longer whole...  a permanent ache that will linger the rest of my life here.  And yet, if loving you leaves me with a permanent ache, loving you was worth it.  You were worth it.  Someday soon, the ache will be healed, I will hold you again in my arms and rejoice with you – but by then, I will be whole and no longer aware the ache ever existed.  I will be Home.

And you know what, mama?  What I want you to know the most, is that while at first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you alongside of us...
  now, I understand why it was impossible...

It is not you that is missing from where we are, it is us that are missing from where you are.

You are living the life you were created to live – you have achieved the dream I pray for all my children; the dream that I pray for everyone -- for their lives to lead them Home to God. This was your goal, your purpose, so how can I not rejoice?  This was the way it was meant to be all along, but somehow, along the way, I had hoped to selfishly keep you here, away from the glorious experience you are living now.  

Rather than my heart noticing the empty chair alongside mine at the family table, I now see the seat you've saved for me at His table, and I see you showing me which fork to use. I'm sure there's about ten!  You’re there now, likely sipping a glass of Green Smoothie.  When I sit with you at His table, I’ll still give you all my mushrooms.  Just sayin’!

My heart sees no photos of you missing in God's family photos --
 you're where He pictured you to be all along. We're missing... we're not home.  Our family will only be complete for the rest of eternity once we are all gathered with you THERE. 

Last but not least, my HEART KNOWS I’m the one who is missing from singing with the saints all around His throne, you are there, and I am not yet... but  when I get there, you will teach me all that I’ve been missing out on, and we will worship Him side by side once more. No more tears, no more goodbyes...  you’re still my teacher, and always will be.

I no longer see us growing up without you, I see you growing up without us... waiting for our hearts to understand what you've understood all along, waiting for the day until you can teach us about where you've been since the day you were called Home.

Your passing is not what we want in this life...  but what if we wanted the wrong thing all along?  What if instead of clinging to this life, we follow your example and set our hearts’ compass on eternal life with Jesus, only then we will find everlasting peace and joy, and only through Jesus we will find our way back to you.

You will not return to me, but I will go to you.” 2Samuel 12:23
The world would be quick to say you’re an angel, but you’re not.  Nor did you grow wings or become a mere memory.  He did not pick the best for His garden – let us not be tempted to diminish your life this way, let us instead speak the Truth.  His heart in you made you who you are!  You are not gone!  You are not lost!  You, my beloved, are so much more – you are fashioned by the Creator’s hands, a spirit born of His heart and love, and returned back to Him. 

You are simply Home, waiting as you always did, for us to come and gather together around you.  Given how you felt about everyone being included, everyone being together, about living in community with one another and God – we owe it to you, mom... to you, to ourselves, and most of all, to God, to not be left behind, to really take a moment to consider the weight of your legacy, and to not forsake that eternal gift that has been offered only through Jesus and is ours for the taking. 

You left behind one message for us all, the one thing you ask all of us to do in honor of your life...  to choose Jesus, as you did, and to lay down our lives for Him.  I will pick up this cross and spend the rest of my moments left making sure everyone who knew you considers the purpose of your life and wants it for theirs, that everyone considers the choice you were given and the gift you embraced – the gift of eternity that is also theirs for the taking...  that everyone considers the brevity of life, and the sacredness of eternity with Jesus. 

When our hearts ache for you, mama, and all that your life stands for...  in essence, our hearts ache for the One you represented so well and His character in you...  our hearts ache for Home, where you’re waiting for us to join you.   We could close our eyes right now and almost hear that distinct “wooouuhoo”, I am here, who’s with me?

You’ve sung it with me many times, mama – no guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; from life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny... no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand, ‘till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

And so today, mama, on this sacred ground, I stand, loud and clear... just as you did... “As for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:1
You are loved... beyond measure
You live on... beyond measure.
We are blessed... beyond measure.

J’taime buckets...

Bonne nuit...

Jolaine

(Music – “Home” – music by Nicol Sponberg)

What is it like to be held in the same arms that hold the universe?
What is it like to sleep on the chest of the King of heaven and earth?
When you open your eyes and look on the face of the Giver of life, the Author of grace, do you know?

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
Cause our hearts ache for Home

What is it like to breathe in and breathe out heaven's glorious light?
What is it like to be robed in perfection, no reason to cry?
When you feel on your face, your Father's kiss, his welcomed embrace, we prayed for this, you should know...!

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘Cause our hearts ache for Home

Twinkle twinkle little star
We will keep you in our hearts
Twinkle twinkle little star
We will meet you where you are

Your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all

‘Cause our hearts ache for Home
Friday, May 09, 2014

Jeya's Jar

It seems so fitting that this small jar would typically be used for preserves -- something to contain and protect food that sustains and gives life.

Right now, this one contains only small change...  but there's nothing small about the change it will make.


This is Jeya's Jar - a small jar our women's Bible Study group uses to collect spare change for Jeya.  Jeya is a widow who  takes part in the Family Support program through the His Hands for India ministry.  As an elderly widow who is raising her grandsons, Jeya struggles to make ends meet.  She is willing to do hard labor whenever she can, but between her aging body, meager wages, and scarce work, there seems to always be a gap between poverty and her basic needs being met.  This places her in a high risk situation for trafficking and bonded labor.

She didn't need to earn much to make ends meet.  A mere $20 would comfortably cover her basic needs of food, shelter, and transportation for the month.

When we started gathering as a Bible Study group, it was suggested that anyone willing to share their blessings with Jeya could bring a bit of spare change each week for Jeya's Jar.  At the end of each month, we would send what we had gathered to Jeya, knowing that even if it didn't quite reach a month's support, it would still be a blessing.

It seems unthinkable -- that $20 a month would sustain her financially and keep poverty from clawing at her heels.

Small change when you have over a dozen people, and a month to gather it...
... big change when it's placed in God's hands for those in need.

The jar holds exactly one cup...  a cup of water in His name?  We counted April's blessings this week...  we had enough to cover exactly one month, plus a spare bit of change to begin our new month with.

As our lives are transformed by God through our Bible Study group...  Jeya's life is transformed by God through our group too.


video


Do you have a small group?  Can we challenge your Small Group to create a change jar too?  Our Bible Study group will only be meeting until the end of June.  In the meantime, we would like to see more groups join us in Jeya's Jar initiative so that her sponsorship fund can grow to support her long past the next few months.  

For more information, or to join Jeya's Jar -- please contact Info@HisHandsForIndia.org


Thank you...



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ghana 2014: Art Auction #1

Our family is raising funds to build a library in Enyan Abaasa, Ghana, the African village in which two of our sponsored children live. This project is being done in partnership with Compassion Canada, through whom we have been sponsors since 2005. 


My 12 year old daughter Jillian is a budding artist who loves to experiment with all kinds of art. The idea was tossed around to do an Art Auction as part of our Ghana Library fundraiser. Since it's a great way for her to contribute to the fundraising, we are giving it a try. We will auction off a few paintings at a time, and hope to have several auctions throughout the year.  I've enjoyed watching her paint so much that I gave it a try too.  It was a little frightening!  :p

The paintings will be offered auction style. The starting bid will be listed in the photo description, along with the painting size. If you wish to bid on an individual painting, please do so in the comment section of that particular painting(on the Facebook Auction album. Be aware that you may be outbid, so check back often.

This auction set will be on the auction block until May 11th, 2014 at 11pm AST, at which time the winners will be announced. 

Click here to see open the auction album:  Ghana 2014: Art Auction #1

(Sneak Peak...)







If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let us know.

100% of funds raised will be allocated to the library fund. For more information on our project, please check out our BLOG POST or our FUNDRAISING PAGE

Thank you for your prayers and your support... please share this auction album amongst your family and friends! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Joy


Our His Hands Support Ministries Philippines team are in the Philippines this week getting updates on our programs.  In one particular village, they stopped for lunch and as they ate, they noticed a young man sitting nearby.  The young man sat alone, head down, not looking at anyone, but the joy on his face was unmistakable.

Familiar with his story, the local pastor, Pastor Chris, shared it with the team.  This young man lived a fairly typical life in his small village in the Philippines.  Lovingly raised by a woman known for her love of the Lord, his only desire was also his greatest delight -- to read his Bible and attend his home church.  This was what rooted his joy in the midst of the poverty and hardships that dogged him his entire life. 

His life was typical, except for one thing.  

He contracted meningitis, which left him hearing impaired and suffering from persistent seizures.  Without medication to control his seizures, he could no longer read his Bible or attend church.  Unable to afford this medication full time, the decision was made to ration and prioritize it drastically – their priority was for him to have access the medications at the least on Sunday mornings – so that he could attend church and read his beloved Bible.  The rest of the week, he often goes without and greatly suffers, but his Sunday joy sustains him considerably.

Whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for me, says Jesus. 
It doesn’t escape any of us that this young man’s name is also...  Jesus. 

 (left to right, Jesus' mother, Jesus, and Wendy)

Moved by his situation, the team is sharing his story in hopes of finding help for this young man.  The cost for Jesus to receive daily doses of medicine is $25/month -- less than a dollar a day.   We are seeking sponsorship(s) for this young man in any amount up to and including $25/month, simply to cover the cost of his medicine.  We desire to see him live life to the fullest, and to experience his greatest joys without obstacles. 

Until we find a loving sponsor or sponsors for Jesus, we are accepting one time donations in any amount, no amount too small.  A starting pledge has been received in the amount of $32, which will help him for the next five weeks until more long-term funding can be established. 
  
To make a one time donation, please use the general donation link on this page.  Indicate "Jesus - medication" in the notes.  To commit to the sponsorship of Jesus, please contact jamie@hishandsforthephilippines.org


Please share this story to help us find provisions for Jesus.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ghana 2014: Building With Books

Do you have a childhood memory so strong that to this day, by simply concentrating, you can remember the exact smell of that environment? 

Do you remember the smell of a library?  I vividly remember going to libraries with my mom when I was little, ones with thousands of books, wooden index card boxes, children’s corners with soft seating and bright colors, and the distinct smell of paper mixed with the smell of the clear tape they used to affix the white Dewey system labels to the backs of the books.  You could go to different libraries – the school library, the public library, even a library in a different town, and the scent of books was still so familiar.



I couldn’t wait to learn to read.  What an amazing key to the world:  opportunities to learn about the world around me, about people, adventures, faraway places... endless stories to be discovered.   My mom was a school teacher, so trips to her school or the library, or access to books were abundant.   I had my own collection of books at home, and when I needed something different to read, I’d venture into newspapers, travel brochures, catalogues, and old Reader’s Digests from the 1960’s from the bookshelves at my grandfather’s house.  There was never a shortage of textbooks in our schools, we even had used ones at home to use and play 'school' with.

The hardest thing for me wasn’t learning to read, or picking out a book...  it was simply the limit of books I was allowed to check out at a time.   I had one friend in elementary school who didn’t share my love of reading.  We made a deal – I would sign out my maximum of 4 books, and she would sign out another 4 for me under her name.  I’d be all set until we went back to the library a week later.

It was something that I took for granted as a child growing up in Canada.  I don’t think it ever dawned on me until I became an adult that reading isn’t always a part of childhood, and neither is access to books.

In 2011, one of the 17 children I sponsor, a boy from Ghana named Ato Sam, shared with me through one of his letters that his Ghanian village, Enyan Abaasa, struggled with the scarcity of books.  He explained that he had a thirst for knowledge, dreamed of becoming an engineer, but without access to books, it was difficult to learn English and to learn to read, much less to find the vast amount of knowledge he sought to learn.    In my response, I told him that every town and every school in Canada had its own library, that even our church had a library. 

Our church library is as big as Ato Sam’s house. 

Astounded, he struggled to imagine this.  

I had made efforts to send a book to Ato Sam with every letter I wrote to him... within mere months, he had more books than his entire village combined.  I told him that someday, perhaps he could open his own library and bookstore, and be the manager of such a tremendous resource for his village.

The boy who once had very little hope, was beginning to boldly dream.

So was I.

I continued to ensure that with every letter I wrote to him, I also sent an educational book that he could read and share.  In a subsequent letter, Ato Sam boldly told me that since I help so many people around the world, would I consider helping the children of his own country?  Knowing me well enough to know that I wouldn’t let him down, he boldly asked me when I was coming.

Although my initial thought was to help only his family or his village, I wanted to demonstrate my love for him by first doing something for his country.  After some research, I learned of the thousands of kids enslaved in the Lake Volta region of Ghana.  After carefully studying the options, a plan was formed to raise funds to increase the resources available so that more children can be rescued.  By November of 2011, our tiny team had not only successfully raised the $30,000 required, plus the travel costs, but we traveled to Ghana and took part in the rescue of two more Lake Volta children.  (Read about our project *here* and about our trip *here*)

It was during this trip that I also traveled to Ato Sam’s village for the first time and met this amazing boy in person.  

(Photo credit:  Tia Kollar)


Being in his village and meeting him fueled our dream to provide book resources to his village, to help the entire village community increase not only their literacy, but their ability to lift themselves out of poverty.

(Photo credit:  Tia Kollar)


And yes, we brought many books with us to give to them during our time in Ghana.


When I returned home, I couldn’t shake the dream of seeing Enyan Abaasa have the resource of books accessible to everyone.  I began collecting books, knowing I would see that dream come to life in time.
Imagine how hard it is for a child or an adult to be encouraged to learn how to read and write when reading materials aren’t readily available?  It’s also hard for people to find work, for teachers to teach, for business owners to write receipts or understand the laws, for students to continue their education... for people to know their rights...  illiteracy has a much greater impact than I can wrap my mind around.  Above all, it enters into a vicious circle with poverty – they feed each other. 

A library would help break that cycle for one village and for the generations that will follow...

(Photo Credits, Tia Kollar)


After much planning, research and prayer, I knew it was time to turn this dream into a reality.  In January of 2014, I reached out to the Enyan Abaasa community through Compassion Canada, asking them how they felt about the possibility of a library in their community.  It was important to me that this was their dream too, that their community was truly interested in this and would benefit from it.  The response was very positive.  Not only did they respond that yes, a library would greatly benefit their community, that it would help increase the level of literacy and help people break the cycle of poverty, but they were prepared to provide the land and the logistics of building it. 

I asked them to provide to me a plan of what they had in mind, and how much it would cost to build.  They responded with a very thorough, thoughtfully drafted plan for a library that includes a small bookstore, an office, and even a restroom – a welcomed luxury in rural Ghana.  True to these humble, gracious people, the plans weren’t flashy or excessive; rather, the library/bookstore plans are very functional, methodical and well thought through...  And much better than I could have dreamt on my own.

The detailed material list I received from them included the quantity of and price of everything, including boxes of the nails they’d need, cement bags, lumber, tiles, measurements, labor, etc...  even the water barrels and the truckloads of sand are accounted for.  The land has been secured by the local church, the management team is in place, sustainability has been thought through long-term.  The community, from the children to the elderly, will benefit as a whole and are engaged and ready to invest into this invaluable resource. 

This is no longer my dreams, but theirs.   In fact, it is no longer a dream, but becoming a reality. 
A fundraising team has been established to raise funds to build the Greater Grace Library & Bookstore for the village of Enyan Abaasa, in partnership with Compassion Canada, who will oversee the project logistics in Ghana. 


I’m experiencing strong feelings of déjà vu – just as we did in 2011, we are starting empty handed with the finished project estimated to cost $23,000US, including materials and labor and the beginnings of the book collection and furnishings.  This includes a contingency buffer in the event that construction costs increase or something unforeseen happens during the construction phase.  Once again, our only plan is to step forward in faith, one certain step at a time, believing in what we set forth to do.  It’s a sacrificial dream, it will take everything we have to make it happen, and God’s only plan for this project is His people.  He has promised this to us, and He will provide.

We cannot stop at only the construction costs; once the constructions costs are raised, while the library is being built, we will shift our focus to stocking the shelves with educational books and resources.

My son Brandon and his girlfriend Maddie will be raising funds at their high school, while my other son Joshua and my daughter Jillian will be raising funds at each of their schools.  My husband and I will be raising funds together through family, friends, work, church, social networking and the community at large.  

Once the library project is completed, we hope to accompany Ato Sam and his family to the opening ceremony.


As we did in 2011, we start empty handed.  I don’t have $23,000, and it’s likely that neither of us have $23,000.  To you and I, building this library may seem like an insurmountable challenge.  What matters is that we serve a God for Whom nothing is impossible, a God who has gathered us together to make a difference in this community.  Every penny counts, every bake sale and yard sale important, every donation precious and life changing. 

What an amazing opportunity to make a difference.


Alone, we can’t.  Together, we can.  

Please join us!


_____________________________________________


Donations can be made by Paypal using this link:  


OR:

Donations in Canada can also be made 
easily through Interac Funds Transfer
Africa@beyondmeasure.me


Tax receipts will be provided for donations exceeding $20, in both Canada and in the U.S.


Thank you...   merci...  meda ase.
Sunday, April 14, 2013

India 2013: Poverty's Prison

I've been staring at a blank screen all week, an empty slate, a white canvas...  I have been praying for the words only He can lend me that can paint the picture that I want to share with you.... the picture that my camera, my skills, my gifts can't capture on their own.  I have been broken silent and yet my heart is crying out loud for what my eyes have seen, my ears of heart, my arms have held...

The words have brewed all week, all month...  when He gives me something to write, He gives the words to me as He gives the earth snowflakes, seemingly random and haphazard yet you know they grow heavy and hurl fast to the ground and you can't catch them all, know them all...  they increase in intensity as the storm brews near, falling closer and closer together in a blizzard of thoughts and emotions and memories and right now, as they form on the ground, settling into first sentences, then paragraphs...  I will interpret the scenery before me, so that it will stand before you, unheard until now, from God's paintbrush and inkwell, through my hands, to your screen...

I have no idea how He will share this, what it will look like when it's done... much less how to hold my heart together long enough to put it to life, please bear with me, and gently stay a while...  we need you.  He needs you.



We arrived, unannounced as there is no way to communicate our arrival other than to simply come, as we are, to meet them there, as they are, where they are.  We walked down a beaten path, far from the road, through groundnut fields.  The sun beat down harshly on our backs as we walked single file towards the simple house.



We had heard of this woman, Amutha, from Pastor Michael, hearts broken over her story.  Her husband had run away from their marriage, left her for another woman.  Leaving Amutha to care for their two disabled children, a boy and a girl.  I had met both children briefly, but I wanted to do more than meet them, I wanted to see them, hear them, understand their situation and partake in their suffering.


I thought she was perhaps 10, with her bright green dress and her wild hair pulled back, scarred legs fidgeting restlessly, impish grin shining of innocence.  Her hands flapped as she fretted back and forth, pacing excitement and perhaps anxiety, she couldn't say, and we didn't know...


She was like a bright butterfly of a girl, one minute exploring, the next squatting quietly by the front door, studying us, it seemed.




We waited by the door to come in, and if I had not been watching at that very moment, I would have missed Amutha's embarrassed face as she swooped low with a dirty rag to wipe the trickle on the floor that had been left behind, before humbly and quietly ushering us into her home.




It was at that very moment that I connected with Amutha, even though she may never know the depth of my understanding and compassion.

Eleven and a half years ago, I gave birth to a precious little girl with a hint of red hair to go along with her more-than-subtle hint of intensity.  By the time she was a few years old, I knew something was different about her... but having had two boys, and both boys being different from each other as well... I simply pushed aside the gnawing feeling and told myself "boys are different from each other and girls are different from boys... she's just intense in a way her brothers weren't, and she's just her own quirky, unique self..."   That would explain her lack of fear, her inability to answer a question, her hyper-sensitivity to sensory input, her delayed development, her inexplicably late toilet training... her selective mutism... her thirst for spinning around and around and around and around...  her intense energy and spirit...  right?  

By the time she started school, I could no longer accept that "girls are just... different like that".  She was the one child rocking under a desk, self-soothing to cope with her inability to function and integrate herself in the world around her.  She couldn't speak most of the time, had no bladder control, could not brush her teeth, comb her hair, had no impulse control...  and the list went on.

As a mother, I needed help, I cried out to Him, overwhelmed...  and God provided, in abundance.  Specialists began to reveal after months of testing, that my daughter, Jillian, was on the autism spectrum, and that would come to explain so much about her intensity, her quirkiness, her hardships.  Her teacher came alongside of me that year, and taught us both how to cope, how to embrace the differences and work with them, how to help her reach her best potential, how to draw her back out of her shell and into a world made safer for her.  


Back in India, I stood before this woman that was me... me years ago, except Amutha had not one but two special needs children, both profoundly disabled, and she was completely on her own.  Her little girl is not ten, nor is she a little girl...  she is 21, trapped inside the broken body and mind of a young child.



Their government housing was miles from anywhere, specialists were not at Amutha's disposal for her daughter or her son, she had no award-winning teacher blessing her with guidance and solidarity, her mother does not live nearby, she had no spouse to bring her relief...  no neighborhood mom's group to rally support from.  No Small Group.

There was no one but her, God, and this precious shepherd -- Pastor Michael.

My heart convulsed.  I felt sick, not understanding how mercy and grace alone can have two women in such an eerily similar situation, and yet have such profoundly different outcomes.

Years of therapy and intervention, of specialists and provisions at our fingertips...  and now?  Last Friday morning, Jillian, now eleven, got herself dressed, made her lunch, confidently did her hair and chit-chatted as she prepared herself for school.  Skipping out to to the bus stop, I called her back to the door so that I could kiss her on the nose and wish her a great day at school.  She grinned and said in a singsong voice "Oh mommyboo...  I love you!" 

There are days with Jillian that I had to choose which battle to fight -- but this woman before my eyes, this woman's daily choice made my own battle seem like child's play.

Every day, Amutha chooses whether or not provisions are worth poverty's prison.

Amutha is strong and healthy enough to work, has experience with agriculture and brick work, wants so much to be able to provide for her family, and can scrape together a meager existence for herself and her two children when she does work.  She's not seeking wealth and abundance, she's simply seeking enough -- enough food to out on the tabble, enough provisions for the children's needs and hers... nothing more, nothing less...

...  but in order to do so, she must do the unthinkable...

...  in order to work when her children are not attending class, she must lock them alone in the house to keep them safe from predators, safe from wandering, safe from themselves.  The lock that dangles the front door keeps the predators out, and keeps the children in.



After a hard day's meager wages, Amutha comes home to a ransacked house every single time, as the kids, left to themselves, destroy their few household belongings.  Furthermore, the children, left for hours at a time, can not relieve themselves outside, so they must relieve themselves in the house.  No one to swoop down and patiently wipe the floor with a dirty rag.  There are no bathroom facilities, no running water.  No nearby stream.  Miles by foot for the nearest water source -- beyond a locked door.

Barely a way for her children to communicate with her when she is home -- never mind when she's nowhere near the house and working to provide for them.

One must wonder if a day's wages is worth the discouragement of coming home to heartbreaking conditions, heartbroken children, and a mother's breaking point...  but is starving a better choice?

There is a yoke of oppression and burden weighing heavier on this woman than her thick cotton clothing under the sweltering Indian sun....  there is a shackle of poverty that can be loosened and broken...


Poverty is a prison.


We were given the keys.

And the command to use them.


Feed My sheep, He said.  
  
Loosen the chains...

Undo heavy burdens...

Set the oppressed free...

Break every yoke...




The key is simple...  


A sponsorship of only twenty dollars a month provides for Amutha and her household so that she no longer has to make that heartbreaking choice until a better option is available to her and her children -- until she is able to work from home or begin a business.


Help unlock poverty's prison...


So that she won't go hungry and can tend to the needs of her children without resorting to locking them up.

So that she can pour her strength into her children's well being.

So that she experience God's provision like never before, and share of Him with all who have ears.


So that the hopelessness of poverty's prison will no longer hold her and her children captive.





To be that key, please consider a Family Support sponsorship of $20/month, or a general donation in any amount (indicate "Family Support" in the notes).  One time donations earmarked will be equally divided amongst Family Support program families who do not yet have a sponsorship. Tax receipts available (U.S. only).

Please note that one hundred percent of funds provided towards the Family Support program goes directly to the families in need.




To learn more about the Family Support program, see also this post.