Thursday, October 13, 2016

If The Lord Does Not Build The House

From the beginning, although I knew that God would provide for the literacy center construction, I have to admit that when it came to filling the literacy center with books once the construction was completed, it felt as though I was staring at a blank page.  

I couldn't imagine it, couldn't visualize it, didn't know what we would do to obtain the books, what He had planned, how He would provide...   it was a complete mystery.  All I knew was that He was asking me to simply focus on the construction, and when the time came to fill the library, He would reveal His plan.  Well, maybe that's not all I knew -- I also knew that I felt completely inadequate for the task ahead and that was perhaps why He chose me for this yet again.  Like I said, a complete mystery.

In reality, it wasn't any different than any other callings He has placed upon my heart.  The child slavery rescue mission in 2011 was much the same -- I came to the table empty handed aside from my belief and understanding that God had promised it in full, and that it was my calling, my purpose.  I had no idea what we could do, individually or as a whole, that would ever amount to enough.  Picking up recycling bottles wouldn't be enough.  Neither would mowing lawns or selling photo sessions.  That's because the only "enough" was Him.

I have vivid memories from 2011 of how it felt when we were scheduled to leave for Ghana in 53 days and we had only managed to raise 12% of the $30,000 needed, not including travel costs.  

It looked impossible.  If we'd had a dollar for every person who had told us that we'd never reach our goal, well, we would have been much closer to reaching our goal!  We all felt it.  The pressure, the weight of the calling, the awareness of what stood in the balance for the children who were waiting to be rescued, and those who had been rescued and needed the resources we were gathering for them.  

The only reason I didn't get discouraged is because I knew from experience that God works best when we've come to the end of ourselves, when we've exhausted all other possibilities.  When the only success possible is the kind where He steps in and does the impossible.

He did just that in 2011 by providing the funds in full before we stepped foot on that plane, as He had promised, and in ways we can't explain to this day.  I still choke up when I think back to what we experienced that year when we simply said "Yes!" to whatever He would do through us and in spite of us.  

Before we left Ghana to come home, I gave Him that "Yes!" again, this time for the literacy center, and once again, I'm finding myself in that place where we are up against a wall, and the only success possible is the kind where He steps in and does the impossible.

I feel the pressure, the weight of the calling, the awareness of what stands in the balance.  I refuse to get discouraged, as I know that what He has started, He will finish, but I feel weak in the knees just trying to wrap my mind around this.  Maybe that's part of the problem -- I should stop trying to wrap my mind around this, because I know I can't.

Remember when I mentioned that at first, I did not know the logistics of getting the literacy center filled with books?  I didn't know, but now I do, and that's what has me completely bursting at the seems with excitement, and trembling at the knees when I see the gap between where we are, and where we need to be to receive these books for the literacy center.

A short while ago, I came across a book that caught my attention.  It was a book about a Christian couple whose calling was to create a non-profit that would provide books to rural communities in Ghana.  (I know, I was speechless for a good long while as I read this book and could relate so much to their ministry!)  The communities interested in receiving books had to fund and construct a library with certain specifications, including having a minimum of 300 linear feet of bookshelves, a board of directors to oversee the library, the library being available to the entire community, and someone that could be trained to become the community's paid librarian.  Once the community met those qualifications, they could apply on a first come, first serve basis, with preferences given to rural libraries, and if accepted by this non-profit organization, they could receive a large shipments of books all sorted by the Dewey Decimal System, with a variety of books from all the different categories, and proper training.    

As I read the last page, I felt as though I'd been holding my breath.  


FIVE YEARS, I prayed for God to provide a way for the books to be brought into Enyan Abaasa somehow.  

Five years of not knowing how God would provide, and as I finished reading this book, I knew.  

I flipped to the beginning of the book again, and realized that since the book had been written in 2013, there was a possibility that they were no longer providing books.  I pleaded with God as I did some research, "Please, Lord, if there is any way..."  I found some information, and reached out to them, providing information about our calling to help provide a literacy center to the community of Enyan Abaasa, and received the confirmation that they are still in a position to provide for one last library this coming spring while they are in Ghana.

To be clear, after years of providing books to libraries throughout Ghana, they are only planning on providing books for one last library in the foreseeable future, so that they can focus instead on supporting the libraries that have already been established through their ministry. Having read about their experiences, I completely understand and support their decision to focus on the libraries they have already established until the Lord directs them otherwise.  

When they received my email about the literacy center, they encouraged us to apply as soon as possible, preferably by December, since this will be their last library provision.  However, in order to apply and qualify, we must include with our application photos of finished bookshelves, along with the list of board of directors, and plans on how the librarian's salary will be provided for. The first community to apply and qualify will receive the last of the book resources they have at their warehouse.  They have confirmed that they have just what we need in terms of books (and exactly what we prayed for!!!), and that the literacy center has many things going in its favor in terms of being well supported, but until we provide proof of bookshelves being completed and fulfill the other requirements, we are at risk of losing our opportunity to receive this immense blessing, this precious shipment of books. 

The challenge is time, funds, and, well, bookshelves.  Bookshelves?  Why is that so complicated?

Given that we're in the midst of fundraising and haven't reached the required funds yet to start the interior work, we're simply not ready - the bookshelves haven't been started yet.   I can probably guess what you're thinking -- how long does it take to build bookshelves?   It may not take long to build bookshelves, but it takes a lot longer to raise the funds to provide for the bookshelf material and the labor, it takes 4-6 weeks minimum for them to receive the funds and our instructions, and if they understand that we need photos of the bookshelves and they send the photos to us, it will still take another 4-6 weeks for the photos to reach us.  

As of today, October 12th, we have raised 8.25% ($751) of the funds needed to finish the interior of the literacy center.  

In order to get the shelves started so that they can be built and photographed for the application process, we need to have at least $2000 raised and sent without delay along with instructions for the bookshelves and the need for the bookshelves to be built first.  Sending $4000 would be even better, as they could make more progress as we raise the rest, and work on the tables, benches, floors, plumbing and electricity.  (We always try to send the funds in $2000 increments, since $2000 is the limit per transaction for this project, and we are limited to two transactions per year).

I feel so utterly overwhelmed by the sense of relief at the answer to our prayers, the gratitude in being called to do this, all while all at the same time, the sense of the impossibility of it all.  With one simple communication or transaction taking 4-6 weeks or longer, and with us not quite having reached the initial $2000 for the first transaction... the timing looks nothing short of impossible.  

Have I mentioned that it's October?

This is the point in which my kids would say "can't.even".  I'm tempted to join them, but I can't, and won't -- this is not impossible for the God we serve, the God who has promised us that He would see this through.  In fact, my heart knows that place that seems impossible is typically when God shows up in all His glory and everything falls into place at the touch of His hand.

So, yes, I know that God's got this -- He alone can do this...  but it still requires something of me, and I'm willing, if only I knew how!

I know from His word that if the Lord Himself does not build the house (or library, as it were), then those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1 

The Lord HAS built this literacy center.  He IS finishing it.  We have NOT labored in vain.

That being said, I have reached the end of me -- I honestly do not know how to take the next step, in which direction, what to do or how...  and so I am doing the one thing I know to do...  ask you to join me in prayer and in action.  Prayer for the Lord to light our steps as He promises to, for me to have the clarity to see the ways He lights my steps (because sometimes I don't see too well!), for the funds to come together miraculously and in time, for communication to be fast and efficient, for Him to provide His people to come alongside of us, help us on this calling, and help see this through.  

There's room at His table -- won't you join us?