Monday, September 26, 2011

More of the unexpected

Sunday, our church hosted a Compassion Sunday, and I was out of my comfort zone sharing the work that Compassion International does and meeting Smith. 7 out of the 11 children were sponsored that morning, and it was a precious moment! But what has really been unexpected is how much I miss Smith. Cooking time is just not the same as I prepare the meals, I think to myself... there's plenty here for four more. As I look at my warm house, I think of their cool winter, and I have comfy warm beds in my house. I can't stop thinking about him and his family.

There is a significant void in my heart, that I just can't shake away. After Compassion Sunday, I told my husband, "I really miss him today!" How can I miss someone that I only spent seven hours with?

How can I miss Gabriela who I only met for an hour or two?

How can I miss hundreds of Compassion children all over Peru.
My heart is aching over this. I am sad over it. I am sitting here crying (the ugly cry) over it.

Then another unexpected hit me. My husband and I tuned into the Live Link for Passion, and the very last song hit me so hard. It is one I have listened to, meditated over before my trip, but tonight was the first time I heard it after the trip. I'm sobbing over it. It is Christy Nockel's "Waiting Here for You."

"If faith can move the mountains, let the mountains move. 
We come with expectation waiting here for you."

That's as far as I got, and the puddles of tears started flowing. Uncontrollable, there was no warning, I knew the song was coming, just in a matter of words I was undone. As I moved up on that mountain to Smith's house I was expecting the most amazing thing from God, and He delivered it to me. How more could that apply to me. Literally!

I knew that there were some songs already that gathered a new meaning to me because I listened to them on the plane ride home. It was specifically Shaun Groves' "Third World Symphony" album. I can't explain it because it is indescribable to know a song, and it tear you apart within moments. I usually choke up, and I know it's coming. This is different as the tears just flow with no hesitation at all. Oh Smith, Gabriela, Edita... you are missed more than you will ever comprehend because I myself can't even put it into words. 

Lord, I don't know my next step. You are the author of all things that must happen to fulfill YOUR story. You tell me "when," "where," and "how." I don't already know the "why." Fill this void in my heart because right now at this very moment the pain I have is a deafening scream in inner most being. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peru: The unexpected

Friday was a day for painting the child development center aka the church, but the difference was that one group was going to a center that we hadn't been to. I wanted to go to that one... it is in close proximity to where Smith's center was. I wanted to be able to go so that I could just see the type of area it was in.
I knew that was going to be the closest I would get on this trip, so I asked if I could join the other group, and the leaders graciously said, "yes!"

As the bus pulls through the tiny streets of town, I know we are there. He walks these streets, and his project is very near.

It felt good just to be in the general area, taking pictures of the close buildings, and thinking to myself this is quite gloomy and crowded then other areas...

The church is inviting as always with children welcoming us to their prized church, and again I am humbled by their spirits. They are a people of Christ that love His people, and I wanted to embrace that with my ever being.

We began painting the classrooms with the Christian tunes playing in the backround, and I remember thinking I just want this to bring smiles to the children's faces. If there is anyone that deserves a new painted room it was these kids and volunteers that spend hours doing God's work.

It was a fun time with the girls, singing, and looking so beautiful in our hair nets. I won't lie the church staff really enjoyed laughing at us when they saw us in the nets... yeah, they poked fun at the white folk. It was cute. There's a stigma in American not to poke fun for fear of hurting feelings, but it was great to be with people you just met that felt comfortable joking with us. It brought comfort to the room as the day went on.

Then something unexpected happened. Our group had just finished painting our room and washing the brushes when I started heading down to the dining hall. I'm not sure what my intent was... I can't really tell you why I went down there because I didn't know that lunch was happening in mere minutes, but Liz called me over telling me that Soledad had something to talk to me about.

**Did she find out if I could sponsor Smith's sister? Did we figure out why her mother hadn't registered her?** This was my thought process as I was walking towards her because I had given her the information this morning to find out what I could do to get her. I heading to the kitchen were she was helping fry the chicken. "So, after lunch the facilitator is going to take to you to see Smith, his project, and his house. Caroli will go with you, if that is okay?"

WHAT?! Did she just tell me I would see Smith again? Let's just say that Sole got a huge hug and thanks from me... with the response, "Yea, that's okay! Wow!" As I walked out of the kitchen in disbelief Liz stopped me and explained how hard it was to keep that secret from me, but my smile was worth it.

I was going to see Smith again... I was going to get to see his project... I would get to see his house!!! Holy smokes... was this really happening. Rachel and I sat together at lunch, but I couldn't eat. There was just too much excitement running through my veins. God's blessing was pouring down on me at a rate that was too much for my mind to process. The church showed a power point presentation, and I only remember Rachel saying, "This will be the longest power point ever." She was right. I remember sighing a lot, and her just nodging me and placing her hand on my legs that were shaking uncontrollably. Robyn on the other side rubbing my back.

Rachel volunteered to come along to take pictures of the exchange, and I am forever indebted to her for that. It is amazing how a friendship is formed when God is pouring Himself into your being and the blessing is so big you can't contain it.

Oh... the blessings that happened in those couple of hours...

The drive was short with a taxi ride. The 18 blocks only seemed like 10, but we thought how would anyone know where they are going in this area. There were no street signs, no direct things that would have stuck in my mind... 

As we got down from the car, the project was quiet, and the project facilitators greeted one another and guided us into their church. The flight of stairs were short, and we walked up the hall... and there he was in his class. His seat was in perfect position to be seen from the door!

He was in the middle of eating lunch, and his classmates were so welcoming and precious to meet. He introduced me to his friends that sat next to him.

His tutor showed me his school work, and the things that they had been working on over the course of the year. The pages draped with the word, "Bien!" "Good!"

I was proud of how well he was doing in school. I asked the tutor, "Is he usually this quiet, or is it because I am here with him?" With excitement in her voice she responsed, "Yes, he is very quiet. He is the angel of the classroom, and I put him with the boys that talk a lot because I know that he will quiet them done to pay attention."

Isn't that what a mom wants to here from a teacher!? It warmed my heart, and it was this picture that shares my reaction to that news.
Then I was asked if I would like to visit his home, and before I could even answer Smith was vigorously nodding his head yes. How could I even imagine saying "no" to that!

His tutor came with us as we looked at all the other classrooms in the church, and were told about the new room the pastor had built for a sewing class for their life skills. It was through the tour that we learned that the project had only been open for five years, and that I was the first sponsor to visit their project. Rip of the heart, as the blessings kept coming, He was closer.
It was then that we made it back downstairs, and I was greeted by the kitchen staff. What happened in that brief meeting was... beyond me as I was drowned in compliments on my beauty, my smile, and then she spoke... "She is a sponsor? To who? Smith???" I nod unsure of what is to come next... "If anyone deserves a you it is him! He is such a wonderful boy; he is my neighbor!" Tears welling up as I hear this.

Smith's neighbor to the far left. Tutor hugging me.
Why? Why did God bring me this blessing? I am so unworthy of this treatment. I am just me. A person washed by the blood of Christ, seeking repentance for my sin. Why was he giving me this blessing? I just couldn't understand it, and reflecting back on it... I still don't get it.

The facilitators begin showing me the office, and the life skills of beading that they are doing in the project. I knew because just the day before he shared with me a bracelet that his project had made, but they still kept giving me things to have. I graciously received them, and the rip in my heart grew larger. I was not sure I could take anymore.

Then it happened, God made me confront a fear of mine in pursuit of His blessings... it was time to get in a taxi and climb up that mountain. If you are familiar with me... you may know that I am NOT a fan of one lane bridges. They are usually crossed with my eyes closed, and me gripping the "Holy Crap Bar."

Here I was... tightly squeezed in the middle of a small taxi.

Smith's home was at the top, and as we were going up "God's work" kept coming out of Rachel's mouth. I thought to myself if I was ever ready to die it was at this moment. I was willing to give up life to make it up this mountain with Smith. I was going to see his house! How I even thought that is really something that surprised even me, but it is truth. I was comfortable making this journey because I knew at the top of this mountain God was going to do something amazing, and I was NOT going to miss out on it!

His mother greeted us at the top, apologizing to me about her humble home, and I couldn't stop her fast enough! God calls us to be humble, and she was doing the best with what she had. I was honored to be present at this very moment.  She was first setting out chairs outside the house, when the facilitator asked if we could enter... She hesitated, but allowed us into their home. There was no door, just a curtain separating us from the chill of the winter. It was then that I was surprised by a man sitting next to Gabriela. Who was this? They didn't mention him yesterday when I found out his father left his mother for another woman... Who has this man?

It was her nephew sent to stay and help her by her brother (his father). Darwin came to live with them just a short month ago. Look at that picture... do you see his protection over Gabriela? Rip in my heart further. God was providing someone to help them more than me! Rip, as I saw his love for his cousins.

Peace in my heart from the night before wondering how she was going to make it alone with the two kids.

I asked about Gabriela. Was she going to be registered into the Compassion Program? There again hesitation in her answer... the facilitators telling her that the registration was coming up in October. I look at Caroli (translator), and tell her, "Tell her if she does it she will be have a sponsor because I will sponsor her." Caroli's eyebrows raised (I wonder if she was trying to hold back what was about to be shared by the room), and tells the group. It was in that moment the house was loud with applause and "ooohhhhs."

It was at that moment that Edita (Smith's mom) sprang at me with the greatest hug I could have asked for. I knew where Smith had learned it from. It was then that she opened her heart to me. She was no longer holding back from me like she was the day before and moments before. Edita learned to trust me in one short sentence. Ripped to one final strip still holding my heart together.

When God presents you with a blessing you hold on to it with everything you can, and you embrace it through the pain... because pain is bound to pop up... I know it!

Gabriela, the love I have for you is beyond explanation. You will never understand it. Just like your brother won't, but I tell you your family is mine. You are loved by an almighty God, and a 27 year old girl from Florida. 

Her hug is more genuine than before.  I wonder what her thoughts are on this moment in her life. I know that today was an unexpected visit, but what will are reunion be like in July. Will she have a greater hope of Christ? Will she still feel encouraged by our bound that God has given us? My husband shared that the trip was meant just for me to go. Edita needed just me. A woman broken and full of mistrust needed a sisterhood that I had no idea about. I thought God put me in Smith's life for him, but I'm beginning to see that it was his mom that needed me. Smith and Gabriela have a wonderful beautiful mother, who just needs a sister to give her the hope of Christ.

In appreciation and love for me Edita shares with me her trade... Hawaiian necklaces. I don't want to take them as I know her income will be effected, but how could I deny her the blessings that God has given to be for giving to them. I couldn't. So, I take them...

It's good-bye for now, until July. There are no tears this time because with this visit came trust that I will be back to love on my extended family. They are mine. God gave me the gift to be apart of their life, and I can't keep living life not seeing them.

The ride down is easier than the ride up, and we are back down the hill to the other project. 

It's later that the final rip happened in my heart. God came then. I find out from the project we painted at that Edita only makes 5 soles ($2.50) for 1,000 necklaces. She cuts the flowers out, strings each piece together, and she gave me 20... I sit back and cry. This is receiving from a person with true gratitude. I am put in my place, I am humbled, and I see God right there with me. I am broken, but not beyond repair. He is there piecing me back together... because now I have a story about His glory. I have to share it forever and ever. My God... His blessings are good, painful, and overpowering.  
"Presuming "God's blessings" are always enjoyable and happy-makers
is like presuming surgery will be pain free and fun."
- Scotty Smith
"Joy weakens me like a wound. Oh, You're coming closer and it's hard to take in that 
I have wasted so much fear and devotion. But there's no time left for my regrets 
when You're calling." - Further Up/Further In- My Epic
I am forever changed. I see God through the pain, the joy, the fear, and most of all I see God because I really understand what it means to say, "all is grace..."

**Thank you to Sole from the Peru Compassion Office for letting God use you to bless me. I still don't understand why God blessed me this way, but I will embrace it and glorify His name!**

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peru: Meeting Smith

Women... You know when you have had enough of being pregnant, and you just want to meet your baby. But then you get frightened because you have NO idea what that child is going to be like. They will likely be completely opposite of your first born, or if it's your first they could be a complete tyrant (this goes for Logan). You wonder just what kind of child God has in store for you.

I sat listening to Sean (Tour Leader) talk about what to "expect," which was to just enter into the whole situation with no expectations. I failed at that because after the past few days I was expecting the mighty hand of God to be over the whole experience, and I KNEW it was going to be good. However, I was wrong...

it was incredibly better than that!!!

As we approached the zoo, I began to uncontrollably sob. At that very moment all I wanted was to have my husband with me. He is the one that is good with conversation, good with children and teens, and most of all good with people he has never met. I was terrified. I wanted him there as a buffer, and I couldn't control the tears. I regrouped, and walked what seemed like the longest entrance to a zoo, but I'm sure it was just the nerves behind it all. As we make our way to the entrance there they all stood, and soon children were running to their sponsors. I looked around thinking, these are all girls... where is Smith? Soon after just a minute those that were alone filed out of the commotion looking around at one another.

Sole (Peru-Tour Leader) said, "come this way, there are more children over here." However, before I could go any further three people began to approach me, and I looked and I knew it was him. I said, "Smith!" Needless to say, that was the end of it. He ran to me, I dropped to one knee, and received the greatest and longest hug I have ever had.

He begins chasing the birds as we wait to get in, and I am pleasantly surprised to find out that his mom is the person that came with him. His letter writing was usually vague about her, but mentioned his father in each as being sick.

My eyes are puffy and swollen from the tears, and all I can do is stare at him. I can't believe he is right there in front of me. You know that he exists, you read his letters, but to feel the embrace is so overwhelming that I can't stop myself from watching him.

I excuse myself in from the start because I know that the camera will not stop, but it did. I just wanted to see him do his thing. I wanted him to enjoy the zoo because this was a treat for him as it was for me. I'm not sure that I still believe this happened... it just seemed surreal...

He enjoys his new binoculars, the taste of cotton candy, and the adventure of using my camera. All the while I just watch in disbelief.

He loves his mom.

I love his mom, and I all I can do is thank her for sharing him with me because I know it takes a big heart to do what is best for your child. She has one. A heart that will walk down a steep mountain to send him to school and Compassion everyday, a heart that works tremendous hours to supply what she can, and a big heart to let an American woman love him like her own.

I ask for a video for my family, and he is a natural in front of the camera!

The day is half over, and I hate the thought of leaving him and his mom. I just want to go with him, yet we must part buses to go eat lunch. He thinks that he is leaving for good, and begins to panic. We ease his anxiety when we say we will share lunch together. After our meal together he shared his dessert with me, and we went to play in the clubhouse... that proved to be dangerous for me anyways!

Once we finished the adventures of the slide and the ball attack, I shared the gifts that I had for him. His gratitude and smile was something that I had never experienced before. They were things that I thought would be of help: tarp, utensils, towels, wash clothes, clothes, hats, ball, frisbee.... and his appreciation for the items was more than I bargained for. With each item that was pulled out of the bag came one of his hugs... and they spoke for themselves. In one post I put how Christ was coming nearer and nearer He was getting there... just not yet...

His love for me was more than I could have ever imagined. A woman with God as her expectation, and He was demolishing it one hug, one smile at a time. The final stop of visit was right outside the restaurant where we played ball, but as we were having a wonderful time together I noticed a precious face looking on solemnly... so I invited him to take my place.

I cannot even tell you the joy that boy had that he took my spot. I cannot describe to you the joy that filled my heart seeing Smith love and play with this boy, Tony. It was precious. I sat back and watched thinking... "I sponsored the BEST kid EVER!"

And just like that our visit was over...

I thought our first hug was the longest and greatest, but it was quickly replaced by our final hug. As I pulled him away to tell him how much he was loved tears streamed down his face. The tear in my heart began to rip and pierce a pain that I have never felt before. It was a disgusting gut wrenching pain. I didn't want to let him go... he didn't want me to. It was painful. The translator told me, "this is so touching, I'm just trying to stay professional and not cry."

His head dug deep into my shoulder, and he just kept on embracing. His hot tears wetting my shoulder, and it was the pain of God's blessing ripping me apart. There was nothing like it. Nothing.

Picture of a Picture by Christian Metzler Photography
Just like that he was gone back home with the promise that we would be back in July. Trust me I can't wait!!!

I thought that was the end for us on this trip, but little did I know the surprise someone had in store for me... but you'll have to wait for that post later!