It Breaks My Heart

I’m on the brink of tears this morning. Which on one hand is not that surprising. But it is only 7:30 AM.

I just got off the Compassion Tea prayer call and as always it was powerful. When God shows up and listens in on our petitions, the silent partner on the call, His presence speaks loud. And this morning as we lifted up our Compassion Tea members and the people serving in Africa and the dark places of the world and the lost and the fallen and the scared and the hurting, He seemed to say in the silence, “I know. Just watch and see.”

We also lifted up the children of the world. Like my Ugandan daughter, who has gone home to her village for the winter holiday. She is on winter holiday and we’re wrapping up summer holiday! But going on holiday for the children from Village of Hope is very different from going on holiday for my kiddos. Going on holiday for Prosy means leaving the stability of Village of Hope and returning to a place of instability. There may or may not be food. There may or may not be shelter. There may or may not be safety and love. At Village of Hope, there is all of this. In the home village, among family and friends, there may not.

It breaks my heart.

And it breaks my heart that summer is coming to a close for us, too. Despite the continual nagging and bickering (yes, I now lovingly refer to my kids as The Bickeringtons), we’ve had a good time together. It has been peaceful and rejuvenating for me at least to step off the hamster wheel and to stop going 75 miles per hour. To just hang out with the kids, to watch them play or to join them, to take time to introduce them to something or teach them something, to mother them and not to turn it over to the world to do… that has been special. Vacationing together hasn’t been that rough to take either!IMG_6656 IMG_5931

IMG_6115 IMG_6120I don’t want school to start. I may be the only mom in the tri-valley area to say that, but I actually doubt it. So, I’ll say it again. I don’t want school to start.

I don’t want to ship my kids off to the world for the world to raise. And I really don’t want to jump back on the hamster wheel of soccer practices and early mornings and lots of homework and balancing work and rest and play and schedules. The schedules. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

But more than that, I feel an impending robbery. The schedules, the hamster wheel, the longer hours in school for each of my kids this year… it is all a robbery of my time with my kids, of my time to mother. I’ll try not to be bitter and I’ll try to make the most of my time and I’ll pray that God strengthen us in our limited time and that He’ll put in their paths people who will help shape them into pots pleasing to God.546943_10151851929456697_287942213_n

Yes, I will have more time to “think my own thoughts,” to actually “hear my thoughts again” as Jen Hatmaker writes. That will be delightful. But it may also be deafening in the silence.
And while I’m crying for the end of summer, I know there are children right here in our backyard who, like Prosy in Uganda, see going back to school as a blessing, as a time of stability and structure and safety. Going back to school will mean a break from the dysfunction, safety and sustenance where there hasn’t been much, and respite from home life.

It breaks my heart.

And it also makes me yearn even more for my children, for the blessings they are. Because not all children are viewed as blessings.

Will you join with me today and pray for the children? For the innocent in war, in disease, in the race for life, in the dark pits the world creates to hide its shame, for the exploited and the little ones shouldering burdens much too big for their shoulders… for their safety and for their shelter and for their relief and for their renewal.

It’s time to dry the tears and turn the eyes to watching God work. May you see Him working today in your life.

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It’s Just Geography

One week nearly down and it feels like we’ve never stopped. It’s all geography, really. A different classroom for one, a different school for the other, but it’s just location. The rest is the same. 5 lunches into the school year and I’m already sapped. 5 morning drop offs and 10 afternoon pick-ups and I’m limp. The drudgery, the 8:45 pm wake-up call from the daughter who suddenly after hours of play realizes that she has something due in the morning and I’m the mom who loses it first. “I asked you about that! You said you had all your homework done!” Exhaustion sweeps through both of us, a dry, hot wind that sucks rather than breaths life. This getting back into the swing of things. This learning the rules again when the rules haven’t changed, just the geography. Strive, achieve, do your best and then some, fit the mold, break the mold, safety first, safety over community, stand here, single file, hands at your sides, lips locked, little soldiers marching through the sacred halls of institution, a place where God is met internally and the kid next to you may be different but we’re a tribe and we respect others and have the right to pass and share each other’s property but you don’t have the right to use that bathroom right now or to talk to that teacher right now or to even leave your seat right now because their rights are more important than yours. No wonder school is so confusing and frustrating for kids. Tall gates keep the creepies out, but the creepies are right there next to you singing some rap song you’ve never heard. Tall gates keep mommy and daddy out, too, but the teachers beg to have open communication lines. And in this strict, safe environment, controlled and controlled and then controlled again, children grow up, explore ideas they hear outside the tall gates, things like, “I’m not playing with you” and “your friendship is oppressive,” and “you just want to be popular but you’ll never be popular.” They mimic what they see outside the safety and security of the tall gates be it gyrating hips and sassy hair flips or confrontations of he who yells loudest wins or she who glares and switches her hips best wins.

It’s just geography with an ounce of maturity added in. The same daughter that curls my toes at 8:45 with her announcement of needing to read for 30 minutes or her need to study for the weekly spelling test (how long have we followed this same routine?) announces too that there are popular kids, these are the things the popular kids do, and she never wants to be popular because she doesn’t want everyone knowing her business. And I breath in and out a quiet hallelujah because more than anything this is the kind of clarity I want for my children, to look at the world and be in the world but to not smell like the world, to love its people with all their faults but to choose a different path. The popular kids are claiming boyfriends and girlfriends, are sitting together at lunch, are refusing to cooperate in PE because it may mean touching someone who isn’t popular, and are well known for being snotty and aloof… and instead of seeing that as desirable my little lady wants to know what is even remotely attractive about that. Keep wondering, girl, because who is popular today will inevitably fall from grace tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow. And the rules of engagement will change, just as they ever so imperceptibly are changing now for you, girl.

The rules may change or it may just be geography after all. But one rule don’t ever forget… God loves you, yes you. He created you, formed you, laid out plans for you, makes the best out of the bad for you, listens to you, answers you, adores you.

And there are children on the other side of the world, heck right here on our side of the world, who don’t know this. Children like Cosmos: “Cosmos would often isolate himself when he was first moved to the Village of Hope. Which comes as no surprise when we he told us of the haunting visions that still race through his mind of his father being killed before his eyes.”

And Jennifer: “Jennifer is 18 years old. She was abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) Rebels and forced to be a ‘wife’ or sex slave. After she escaped from the Rebels, her family and community rejected her because she was now pregnant with a Rebel’s baby. Men took advantage of her because she had already been raped. She was left alone and rejected by everyone she knew. Some would call her an outcast or a ‘throw away’ girl.”

And Vicky: “My father didn’t like me because I was a girl. All I wanted to do was go to school, but he would not allow me. One day the LRA rebels came to our home. They told my father, if he would give them money, they would not take me. My father had the money, but he said, ‘She is worthless to me, take her.’
I spent the next years with the rebels, where they forced me to do many terrible things. (Most girls are used for sex slaves and are forced to be child soldiers within the first 2 weeks of abduction)
Once I was able to escape from the rebel camps, I had nowhere to go and nothing to eat. I didn’t have money to go to school. I was very sad.
Village of Hope began to provide me with food and paid for me to go to school. In 2010 they brought me to the Village to live. They showed me to my new home called ‘Hope’ and to my new room. I had a real bed to sleep in! I also met several other girls my age that lived in Hope. We quickly became sisters. I was able to attend the Village of Hope Primary School. I love school!
Village of Hope staff love me. I feel like I am worth something and for the first time in my life I feel valued for being a girl. My two favorite things are dancing with all of my friends, and leading worship at church on Sunday.”

And Norbert and his siblings: “His parents were always willing to face risks for their family. They went to cultivate some food from their land since the shortage of food was so great at the IDP camp where they were confined. At this time Norbert was only 8 years old. The rebels abducted him, his mother and father, and two of his sisters. They moved very long distances deep into the bush, spent days without food, and were forced to carry very heavy loads. All this took a toll on his health, leaving him weak and sick.
His father was much weaker than he, unable to walk and at the point of death, so the rebels ordered Norbert to kill his own father. He said he tried to resist but the rebels tortured him so severely that he lost consciousness. When he came to, he was given a machete to cut his father to death, and he had no choice but to cut down both his parents. As if that was not enough, they then ordered him to cut up his parentsbodies and cook the remains for their meal. Though beyond our ability to grasp, he continues to say that this also came to pass.
Early one morning they were ambushed, and Norbert was seriously injured with a deep bullet wound to the head. After collapsing unconscious, he was rescued by the government soldiers at the site of the battle. Unfortunately his two sisters were not to survive the battle. After he alone was brought back home, his brothers and sister who had remained home welcomed him with heavy tears, he says, because he was in a such bad shape.
As his eyes refuse to dry, Norbert begins to relate the extreme problems they have had to face since they lost their parents in such a tragic way. Obviously, life could never be the same. He adds that they lack all the basics, from food to medical care to school fees and other basic needs. His remaining sister Florence was only 13 years old when she was forced to take on the responsibility of the care of all her other siblings, including a one year old baby whom their mother left at the time of her death. The baby is now four years old, though sickly. Florence has managed to take very good care of her despite the lack of basic needs in their house. She has sacrificed everything to make sure her siblings are ok, Norbert tells.
He goes on to explain about the extreme risks Florence takes just to make sure that they have some food in the house. He tells how most of the time they go to peoples gardens to dig in exchange for food, but such contracts are few, so they only get to do this once in a while. They also go and fetch water in exchange for food, but these opportunities are rare. For all of them, their school attendance is irregular due to lack of school dues, and they also have to take some days away from school searching for food. Regardless, life has to go on. Having seen the situation at hand, ruthless men started taking advantage of them.
Some nights this household goes without food, he relates, and seeing the young one go hungry hurts Florence so bad that she offers her entire life to make sure that the siblings have something to eat. The men started forcing her to exchange sex for food, and indeed seeing her siblings go hungry, she sacrificed this much, he continues amidst tears. As we speak she is pregnant with the child of a man she doesnt even know. Norbert’s heart is crushed under the weight of her burdens.
Norbert says he respects this sister, his very great hero, for the love, sacrifice and care she is giving them. He says that he is crying out to anybody, to any heart who will have compassion for his sister the way he does, to come to their rescue.”

These are the stories of children who have found help through the Village of Hope in Uganda. What is more, they’ve found that most important rule. God loves you, yes you. He created you, formed you, laid out plans for you, makes the best out of the bad for you, listens to you, answers you, adores you. The God of the universe has cried with these children, has made a way for them, is weaving ways for the rest, is there cherishing them. Through the bodily care and the spiritual care these children are receiving at Village of Hope, the rules of engagement are changing. Caught in deeper problems, in the middle of wars we can’t even fathom, in the middle of crises that make being popular sound like child’s play, the rules are changing. Children who have been taught to believe that they are nothing are something beloved and cherished, who have been used in ways inconceivable to us are finding purpose and joy in who they are as cherished children of God. For these children, a slight geographic adjustment can mean the world.

To read these stories and more or to learn how to help, please visit http://www.villageofhopeuganda.com. To learn how you can help us help them, visit http://www.compassiontea.com or http://www.compassionow.org.