Thursday, April 3, 2014

one at a time.

"Do for one what you wish you could do for them all."
As cutesy as that phrase may seem, it's become a lifeline for me at Back2Back.  Giving your life's work to care for orphans can sometimes feel like trying to empty a lake, one cup at a time.  There are a reported 163 million orphans in the world.  Seeing their faces, knowing their names, meeting them yourself-- it changes you.  You know you can't go back to a life of not caring, but you can feel paralyzed by the great need and your human limitations.  So you do for one what you wish you could do for them all.
Back2Back has taken this seriously.  Of the 163 million, Back2Back's Child Sponsorship Program provides for 528.  Each one needs tutoring, therapy, dentist appointments, and above all, love.  We've devoted ourselves to caring for these 528 the way we wish we could for all of them.  
No country has this been harder to do than in India.  India alone has 31 million orphans (around 1/5 of the orphans in the world).  The concept of "doing for one what you wish you could do for them all" gets more difficult in the face of such need.  We've felt the pressure and worked hard to remain faithful to what we know works.
A few months ago we had to end a relationship we had with the directors of an orphanage in India.  It was one of the toughest decisions we've made, but without transparency and trust in the relationship, we couldn't continue to support them.  Leaving the children in the hands of someone we didn't trust was the most difficult part of ending the partnership. The phrase "do for one what you wish you could do for them all" kept going through my mind.  I felt trapped.
A few months later we learned that the orphanage fell apart.  The children returned to living with some family member or friend who at one point in time had decided they could no longer keep them.  It was exactly the kind of open door we needed.  
Our staff in India tracked down every last child and traveled all over the state to meet with each of their guardians.  We explained what happened in our relationship with the directors of the orphanage where the child had lived.  We also told them about the land Back2Back just acquired, and the 3 homes we are building to house children in family settings.  We invited the children to come live with us, and promised we would care for them as well as we would our own children.  Each of them said yes.
We then went to the school where the children will be attending next year.  We explained the types of situations these children are coming from, and how most of them are behind in school.  The principal, full of compassion, offered to extend classes for the children who are behind into the evenings until the children are caught up-- truly a miracle!
31 million is an impossibly large number.  But for these 10 children, we are relentless in making a real difference in their lives.  So that's what we're going to do.  One at a time.

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" Luke 15:4

Friday, January 24, 2014

from bad to good.

My life hasn’t always been roses and sunshine.  My guess is yours hasn’t either.   The first time I realized life was going to include some valleys was the day my parents told me they were getting a divorce.  My mind flooded with visions of holidays spent split between parents and the realization that my own children would have more grandparents than their friends.  Strange thoughts for a 12 year old, and I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with them.  I begged God to keep my family intact and when He didn’t, I believed it was because He didn’t like me or care about my life.
I was never specifically taught that God would protect me from pain, but somewhere along the way I began believing that if God cared, He wouldn’t let me go through hardship.  It is often unstated, and vehemently denied by Christians, but when trials come, our reaction speaks volumes about what we believe about God.  We seem to think God’s blessing is measured by how much stuff we have, our bank account balance, the zip code we live in, and our number of Facebook friends.  We have fallen into the trap of believing that prosperity and blessing equal God’s favor, and conversely that hardship means God’s favor is absent. 
The trouble is, when we read the Bible, we often find the exact opposite to be true.  Hardship seems to be the norm for people of faith-- even when they are following God’s will for their lives.  Abraham and his wife were unable to have children, and they spent most of their life wandering about in the desert.  Joseph was beaten by his brothers, sold into slavery, and falsely accused of attempted rape.  Moses left a comfortable life as Pharoah’s son to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert.  And if we could somehow dismiss all these examples, Jesus himself was called crazy by his family, betrayed by his closest friends, wrongly accused, and murdered.  The love of God did not protect His own son from hardship-- what makes us think it will protect us?  It seems that by telling us these stories, God wants us to know that if we are going through hard times, we are in good company. 
God isn’t afraid of pain the way we are.  There is something He values much more than avoiding hardship-- and that’s a relationship with His children.  That’s the reason He put two trees in the garden, and gave Adam and Eve the choice to disobey.  It’s why Jesus still chose to be born, knowing he would be rejected and killed.  We need to understand that God looks at the bigger picture.  He has a greater purpose than what we immediately see.
James tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (1:2).  Did you catch that?  Consider it joy when you face trials.  I don’t know about you, but joy is about the last word that comes to mind when I am in the midst of a trial.  This is not an emotion we can simply muster up.  We will never experience joy in trials without God’s Spirit living inside of us, changing our very nature.  That’s the whole point.  We can’t do this without God.  We aren’t supposed to. 
God’s desire was not for my parent’s to get a divorce.  But He used their divorce to uncover lies that I had come to believe about His character.  Through the pain I felt, He allowed me to understand in part how Jesus felt.  He humbled me and showed me that looking pretty from the outside means nothing when you are dead on the inside.  He accomplished more in my parent’s divorce than He ever could have in keeping them together.  God always accomplishes His will.  We don’t need to question whether or not He is going to work a bad circumstance for good.  He will.  He is.  All we have to do is trust Him.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

He's listening.

There are moments in my life when I come face to face with the reality of who God is, and it scares me.   I wish it didn’t.  It’s nothing more than God being exactly who He says He is, but if I’m honest, it shakes me to my core.
One of those moments came this week when God heard and answered a very specific prayer request.  I was overjoyed, then in awe, then somewhat scared.  The almighty, living God heard my prayer, and answered it.  Me-- A lowly servant.  The word ‘humbled’ does not seem to do justice to how I felt.  I am reminded that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10).   
Let me explain…
Since coming home from India, one thing Chelsie and I have been praying for specifically is that God would raise up a caretaker to help Vimala at Peace Home.  Peace Home is the hostel (orphanage) that Back2Back recently took over operationally, and where 16 girls and 1 boy are all cared for by one 24 year old single mom named Vimala.  Good caretakers are worth more than gold (if you ask me), and we rarely strike gold.  Learning the names and faces of the children living at Peace Home was enough to light a fire under us to ask God for this miracle.  Almost every day since returning, Chelsie and I have prayed.  And since we were praying for a miracle, we figured we might as well ask for specifics—it’s God after all, and He can do anything He wants.  So we prayed specifically for Him to send someone who is a Christian and who can speak English.  It felt like asking for a Rolls Royce when you’d settle for an old Ford.  Seventeen children and one adult sounds like ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ to me. 
At our Wednesday evening prayer meeting this week, Chelsie and I met together and asked God again for Him to answer this request.  I left not sure if He was paying attention, or if it would be better if I packed my bags and moved to India to care for the children myself.  My sin nature tends to believe that when I don’t see God act immediately, taking things into my own hands is better than waiting. 
Thursday morning, in the midst of planning my move, Chelsie got an email from our staff in India.  Just a few days earlier there were no leads on caretakers, but then, out of nowhere, a woman willing to help showed up.  And wouldn’t you know it?  She speaks some English.  And she’s a Christian.  I will resist the temptation to explain to you just how rare this is in India.  (No I won’t.  The percentage of Christians in India is less than 10%, and most are very poor meaning they do not know English).  Chelsie and I read the email in disbelief.  God heard us.  He heard us and He acted.  He’s alive.  And He is who He says He is.
The truth is, every time we pray, something happens.  Whether we see it or not, we can know it is true.  When we feel incapable of helping the orphaned child due to proximal, relational, or financial limitations, we can take comfort in knowing that prayer is no small contribution.  Swathi, Pavithra, and Shashikala are just a few of those who need us to raise up our voice when theirs is not heard. 

Please join me in praying for the orphaned child all over the world.  If you’re having trouble connecting—pray for an 8 year old special needs boy named Manoj who's been forgotten by the world and needs a forever home.  And remember—at one time, we were all orphans.  God came to us, adopted us into his family, and became our Father.  He never gets tired of that story.