0-5“We took about 150 little packets of Compassion Tea to hand out to the people we met in Africa,” Anne explained when she returned from her trip to Tanzania and Kenya. “And we printed special labels to put on the packets. We took a photo of the four of us and put that on the back of the tea packets. The people loved the photo. They were excited to receive the tea, but it was the photo that they really loved. That was what they talked about and cherished.”

A photo of four Americans on the back of a packet of tea. How simple. But of the gifts the group distributed, among the bookmarks, bracelets, and tea, it was the photo that made the lasting impression. More than something to remember the visit by, the photo is a reminder that four people in America, on the other side of the world, think about them, care about them, have a connection with them.

I recently read a blog about writing letters to your sponsored child. I’ll include the link here. And it all reminds me of the joy of receiving mail, reminders, mementos, a Facebook comment from a friend last seen eons ago. We love to feel like people care. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling, a zap of electricity, a jump-start to the heart during the darker days. Cuz it kinda sucks to feel forgotten. In the dark places of our hearts, of our lives, of our world, the shadows hide the people who care. Like racing into a tunnel, the peripheral shrinks and our focus becomes narrower and narrower, seeking the light at the end, but not seeing the hands along the way.

I admit that I’ve had times when I was fairly certain God had stopped caring. The feeling that He had turned His back on me was crushing. Things happened that I couldn’t explain, that didn’t seem to correspond with the image of the meek-eyed, smiling Jesus of the Bible paintings I grew up with. Darkness grew and grew and I felt abandoned. Like the Psalmist, I cried out over and over again, “Where are you? Why have you turned your face from me? This sucks and I hate it.” I was deaf to His answers.

But answer me He did. He’s been reminding me in countless ways who I am. He’s given me snapshots of where He was in the tunnel of my darkness — a ray of light streaming in a window, a whisper of fresh air when the car felt like it was compacting around me, the mere brush of an invisible hand on my shoulder. He’s said to me, “You are my princess.” He didn’t turn away after all. It was I who hid His picture under my pillow and forgot to take it out and look at it. Because in the dark places, yes, God allows the dark places, He is crafting and shaping and sculpting us to be even more His image. I have no idea what I’m going to look like after this is all said and done, but I’m learning to trust that it is going to be beautiful.

The team that recently traveled to Tanzania and Kenya to deliver medical supplies visibly saw God at work. Jamie and Anne both wrote in their blog, “We came to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but His hands and feet were already here.” Thinking they would bring God to the people they met, they discovered that God is actively there. Wrote Anne, “Sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to see God. This time it was to travel 10,000 miles to east Africa. Here, His presence is evident. He opened our eyes and our hearts through His work here. We experienced His people, their different life styles; His different ways of worshipping, different scenery, His different animal kingdom, and different foods to sustain us. We felt His protection, His love, His provision, at every turn. His comfort, His healing, and we saw His miraculous power at work here 10,000 miles away.”

So many photographs to sort through! Medical supplies being delivered, people visiting the clinics and receiving physical healing and advice and care and love, animals, markets, villages, traditions, customs… lives that are dark and light, dappled in the shadow of a depressed economic situation and the brilliant joy of God at work.

And the team left a lasting photograph for the people they met. “You are precious to me.” We all need to hear it.0-6

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