Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Laying It Down

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. ~2 Corinthians 5:15

What a challenge it is to daily lay down my own desires and agenda and exchange them for His! I often I hear things like, “How do you manage with so many kids?” or “I could never do what you do!” Well, let me just set the record straight in case there is any confusion! Those of you who know me well (like my kids and husband) already know that it is not always a pretty sight!! We all know those mothers who just have such grace and dignity in the way they manage their children and household. They are always calm and sweet and everything is always in order, their kids always clean, well-kept and polite. I could even name some names but I don’t want to embarrass any of you beautiful mothers. That, however, is NOT a picture of me or of my household! My constant prayers are “Lord, please make me a good mother before I ruin these kids you’ve given me!” and “Please cover our household with your abundant grace to make up for my failures.” Another constant cry of my heart has always been, “Draw me closer, Lord.” I didn’t necessarily connect the two but He sure has.

God has a funny way of answering prayers sometimes doesn’t He? I didn’t cry for help when my kids were babies, or when we were fostering newborns. I love the baby stage. For me it is easy- no need to pray because in my mind, when they are babies I am already a good mother. Yep, perfectly confident in my own abilities at that stage! (Not saying that is ever a right attitude, just being honest) I began praying those prayers of desperation when the kids moved beyond baby and toddlerhood. Then we came here to Namibia and I was ready in my heart to take in babies. I figured I’d get my baby (babies) soon enough with the orphan statistics here. Nope. Because God heard my cries and answered in a way I would never have thought- by giving me older children who had never had any real mothering at all! For one, they don’t have anyone to compare my mothering skills to, and two, I get lots of practice and three I need Him even more! Perfect answer, right?

The more the heat gets turned up in my life the more time I spend on my knees because I do not have it in me to do all that He has put before me. The ONLY way I can succeed is by surrendering my own will to His perfect will. And that IS the only true success- accomplishing His will for my life. Everything outside of that will be meaningless in the end. It is not about me. I am not aspiring to be a good mother for me or even for my children but ultimately it is for Him and His glory. If what I deposit into them does not direct them to their eternal Father, who has entrusted me with them in the first place, then I have failed. No matter how “successful” they may appear in the world, ultimately what will matter is whether or not they have learned to live for Him who died for them. As I learn to live for Him and die to me, my hope is that I will be transformed more and more into His image and into a “better” mother- one who brings glory to Him each day and that I will be an example to the children entrusted to me of what dying to self and living for the one who died for us looks like.


Friday, August 14, 2009

The Wonder of the Cross

"May I never lose the wonder
The wonder of the cross
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost
Undone by mercy and left speechless
Watching wide eyed at the cost
May I never lose the wonder
The wonder of the cross"

These lyrics are sung with great passion by Vicky Beeching (You Tube of the song) in her song, "The Wonder of the Cross". This is my prayer for today. I have been finding it increasingly more difficult to personally understand joy, wonder, and amazement. I mean, don't get me wrong - my passion for Jesus has not wavered... I will ALWAYS worship Him, just as He deserves and my heart desires.

I just find myself too often keeping my "nose to the grindstone". As you might be able to tell from our myriad of posts over the past 12 months, we keep unraveling a mystery here... but it's not so much the mystery of faith so much as it has been peeling off the layers of sin, deceit, lies, pain, grief, and misery that we can so easily find around us. As much as I was prepared for seeing the amount of loss that haunts our Namibian neighbors, I was not prepared for its affect on my own heart. I think I've gotten a whiff of the numbness that others use to cope with their hopeless worldview.

No surprise, right? I think I've allowed my heart to absorb the environment a bit, and have become vulnerable to the weaknesses of humanity.

I have been sitting here thinking about this. Have I allowed the world to change me more than I've changed it? That would worry me.

Then I realize that I have begun to carry the cross in a way that I have truly never done before. ("Whoever does not carry his own cross 1 and follow 2 me cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:27 ) Lose enough blood, and you WILL go numb.

And as a sinner, who has bled out and found life only in Jesus' blood, I can honestly say that I am "undone by mercy and left speechless". I am renewed this morning by a kind of Wonder that I did not expect. It's not the emotionalism of events and temporal outcomes. It's the complete joy in Christ that only comes when you appreciate the cost of His sacrifice. May I never lose that wonder, that joy, that humble acknowledgment of my absolute and dire need for Him.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Misplaced Indignation

In my big disappointment after having my iPod, radio, and other things stolen from my vehicle yesterday I entered the police station ready to provide great detail about the losses. I felt downright VIOLATED! How could someone have snuck into MY world and left loaded with MY things without consequence? I felt charged and determined that I was going to pursue this issue to the end. I was sure someone there at the station would care deeply about my situation. How could they not?

I entered with this enormous chip on my shoulder. I asked the first officer I saw if I could file a police report. He gave me a sheet of paper and a pen and asked me to write down my name, phone number, and what I lost. I took great time and detail to describe my belongings. What did I get in return? A tongue lashing for writing too much detail and a lecture on not leaving things in my vehicle. OK. Fair enough... at least in terms of the latter. But I must admit there was a real spirit of indignation that came over me at that time.

And then through the doors burst several police officers with a woman in cuffs and a girl in tears. I turned quickly to get a better view of what was happening. The girl, maybe 13 years old, was limping and holding her arm in pain. She had been beaten severely by the woman who was in cuffs. There were marks everywhere. On her head, face, hands, arms, legs, and maybe elsewhere. All made by a metal pipe and a broom stick which had been broken in the process. She sat down in a chair behind a table and laid her head on her arms. Her limbs were trembling and her face was in anguish. I tried to ask someone what will happen to her, but the commotion was too much. In a moment of sudden silence I asked if someone would take her to the hospital. I could not understand the responses, so I asked again.

As a few officers seemed to motion to her to go to the door, I met her in her stumbling steps. I tried to comfort her and offer help, but the confusion of the situation was a bit much. So, I just rubbed her upper back to show that someone there cared about her pain. I asked her if I could help her, and she whispered quietly that she "didn't know." She limped outside towards a vehicle, and then she was gone. I really hope she was getting a ride to the hospital. I will assume she did.

After things settled down, I asked an officer what happened. She said, "the woman was claiming that the girl stole her night shirt, and woke her up to beat her for it." It's hard to imagine how a shirt would hold so much value that someone would beat a child to the point of leaving significant holes in her skin, probably broken bones, welts everywhere, and only God knows what damage was done to her heart in the process.

Compared to my loss of material possessions, this is so much more important. Man, how could I complain about being violated?!? The loss of this girl's sense of safety, security, love - if she ever had those things to begin with - now that is something to get upset about. An iPod can be replaced. How many more children are out there experiencing the same thing right now even as I type? Ah, who cares about the iPod. Really.

Please join me in praying for this child.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Meeting Marilinda

A couple weeks ago I was in Swakopmund outside of some shops we like to frequent (and by “we” I mean “Karrie”). I was doing the faithful husband thing and waiting patiently in the van for my wife to finish. As I was waiting, a girl about the age of 11 came up to the window and asked for money for food. At first I responded by saying “I am sorry, we don’t give away money... and I don’t have food to share right now.” These two assertions are quite true, and ones that we normally maintain. Too often we have people begging money from us, and many times we have good reason to think they will use it to buy alcohol or drugs. Many adults have children do their dirty work for them, so you cannot always assume innocence in the case of children either. And to give money to children in that case only emboldens the adults. Just a reality of life here.

So, I watched as she turned away from me. The look on her face showed that she was used to being “rejected.” I couldn’t leave that alone. I watched in my side view mirror as she gathered with a group of 3 other children. I watched them talk briefly, and then I watched the same girl approach another person. I couldn’t hear what was said, but it looked like a quick denial. Another time, she turned away.

I exited my vehicle, and walked the 20 meters to where they were standing at this point. I decided that I had to find out more. Maybe the story was legit. Maybe she really needed help. Only one way to find out.

I introduced myself to them and then got their names, one by one. Audrey (in blue). Maria (in brown). Marilinda (in stripes). Sien (in gray). 3 girls, 1 boy. They were out begging because they had ended up with their Aunt after the death of their mom a couple months ago, and she does not have the means to take care of them.

Ok. So, maybe I can do something. I decided to take them over to the nearest market, where we bought bread, butter, and apples. Hoping that would suffice, I offered them a ride to where they live (a shanty town on the outskirts of Swakopmund). I was really hoping they would stop begging – at least for the day. Instead, they turned me down and said they would stay there. Fine. As I walked away I turned around and saw them sitting down, and immediately tearing into the food as if they hadn’t eaten in days. That image burned in my mind as if I had a photographic memory for days.

A week later I returned to Swakopmund to run some errands. I found them again, sitting together in the same general area. I offered them some chips that we had in the vehicle. Not very healthy – but it would at least give them something to eat. This time I spoke with them further. We couldn’t get too deep in conversation, because I was simultaneously blocking two drunken men from trying to enter my vehicle with the 3 teenaged girls that were in there. Anyhow, I hugged the kids, told them “goodbye”, and then told them I would look for them again.

A few days ago, Karrie and I were in Swakopmund again. This time, the kids noticed me first. From about 30 meters away from where I was walking my eyes were drawn towards the figure of a child, running with anticipation. It was Marilinda. She had seen me from a distance and she ran full force to grab and hug me. I was equally happy to see her. This was the one I had first seen begging. The one I had turned down. Now, she was coming to me like we had been best friends forever. “Now we’re getting somewhere”, I thought.

I met up with the others. They had just been given enough money by someone to buy a porridge-type drink that someone was selling nearby called Oshikundu. The four kids were going to share a mason-jar sized portion. Maria took the first drink. And then she turned to me. She asked if I had tried that stuff before. “No”, I said. She promptly stuck the jar in my face and insisted I have some. Knowing what that meant – respect, love, community... you know Africans– I took some. The taste of the drink was a bit odd, but it was ok. The taste of the moment was much sweeter. I only took enough to show my acceptance of the gift. It was enough for them to see that I was “one of them.”

Again, we parted ways, and I hugged them goodbye.

Dusk. It was getting dark outside. You could feel the cold that had set in on the seaside town in winter. Still in Swakopmund that very same day, I was driving around wasting some time. Karrie was in the pharmacy and it was going to take a bit. Again, I found the same kids. Not on purpose. I just saw them out of the corner of my eye. They were looking into a store window. Like the old movies, there they were, staring at the televisions inside. Shivering cold on the streets, looking with wonder at the animated movie that was playing in loops on the televisions on sale at the small shop.

I picked them up. You know I HAD to. This time they let me drive them home. Home – to the little one room shack on the edge of the slums. No water. No electricity. Cold beyond belief. Insulation? No way. This was one small “building” in amongst hundreds, maybe thousands, where people are doing their best to survive. This sight was nothing new to me. Virtually every town in Namibia has a “slum” area. But now, I had grown to care very much for these children that I was about to leave behind for a cold, cold night. For them, it was an opportunity to try and rest up for another day of begging. For me, it was something more. I had made a connection that I am unwilling to drop. They are NOT a number. Not a statistic. They are Audrey, Maria, Marilinda, and Sien.

Please pray. Please pray that we can make a real impact on their lives - that we can help them to know just how much God loves them, and wants a real relationship with them, as their Father. Please pray that God will give us wisdom, as we work to get them sustainable help. I’m falling in love with these kids and I just cannot drop this. I will not turn Marilinda - or the others - away again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Point of Clarification on the Blog & Contact Info

In recent months I have been trying my best to better organize our communication with folks... but I wanted to spell a few things out here. We have multiple ways to stay in contact, and here they are:

(1) The Blog - www.reachnamibia.com - this blog is primarily for sharing our thoughts or observations on a variety of topics involving our lives here in Namibia. Most of the ministry-confidential details will NOT be posted on the blog, but instead included in the newsletter.

(2) The Newsletter - via email - We try to keep things that are more private (ministry news with people's names, private prayer requests, and such, in our newsletter - which is sent out via email. If you would like to be on our mailing list (1x every 2 months usually) please send us an email at reachnamibia@yahoo.com.

(3) Facebook - www.facebook.com - yeah, we've gotten hooked also. This is more for our day-to-day updates and photo albums - without much detail. Just look us up under Steve Graham or Karrie Graham. If you know us, you'll recognize the pic. Send us a friend request!

(4) Skype - www.skype.com - our username is "graham4jc" on Skype. Look us up, and call us. Just remember that we pay per megabyte for our internet access, so we tend to keep things short. Oh, and don't forget that we're now 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

(5) Email - We have 2 email addresses that we have been using. Both are still active: reachnamibia@yahoo.com and thegrahamsinnamibia@yahoo.com .

(6) Ministry Web Sites - We are employees of Africa Inland Mission International who have been "loaned out" to Hope's Promise Orphan Ministries Namibia. The websites for those two organizations are as follows:
a. Africa Inland Mission - http://www.aimint.org/
b. Hope's Promise Orphan Ministries Namibia - http://www.hpomnamibia.org/

Monday, June 15, 2009

Impressive Confidence in a Small Package

And there I was Saturday, watching helplessly, as my little wiener-dog darted out of the car at Spitzkoppe. His target – 3 full grown donkeys grazing at the side of the road. I tried to sprint and catch up to him, but he out-paced me in his vigorous dash. So, as I saw him pull up close to the donkeys I prepared myself for the worst. Surely my little 5-pound-hound was about to get punted. Those donkeys could have taken a single step and ended this little guy’s life with ease. Clearly they must have only seen his confidence, which is the size of an elephant, because those three donkeys turned away from the pup and ran like they were fleeing from a sure-toothed predator. Still running as fast as my legs could lead me, I watched, as my 1/2 hot-dog, 1/2 lion dog successfully chased 3 donkeys for about 200 meters. Luckily, my daughter Ashlan cut him off at an angle and pulled him back. Otherwise, the little guy would probably still be running.

Now, I wonder… what was he planning on doing with them? Ride them? Eat them?

All in a day’s work for our pup named “Happy”.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Holiday Club, Arandis, May 2009

LIFE is more than just staying alive. LIFE - as I believe Jesus sees it - is full, abundant, and beautiful (see John 10:10). We are about more than just keeping these kids breathing...

Most of them have come from backgrounds that would make you sob if you knew. Trust me, I have shed many a tear over the misery that they so readily remember (click here for a surface-level peak into a few of their pasts). In some cases, I've witnessed the misery first hand.

NOW, I want to take a second and show you one fine example of how these children are being given futures FAR beyond their origins.
It's been a good long school break thus far (almost 4 weeks in full) and tomorrow we have our last activity for the break - a trip out to Spitzkoppe. We have year-round school here, which basically means that the school-break times are divided into 3 breaks a year. This one was particularly long - almost a month. So, we decided to make the best of it. With the Fauntroys coming during this time, we had a little extra help for the 1st 2 weeks. Thanks Pat & Tori!

Here are some of the things that we did with the children:

1- Bible/Worship/Prayer times 2x a week
2- Sports/Activities times 2x a week
3- Library and reading times, with a reading competition. 11,298 pages were read by the 40 children we have here in Arandis!
4- Clubs/Classes including:
......a. Explorer's Club (science stuff, volcanoes to be precise)
......b. Mini-theatre Club (they constructed a story/play, with a scrolling painting to go with it - very very cool and fun)
......c. First Aid Class (learning basic first aid methods)
......d. Garden Club (learning how to grow vegetables in the desert)
......e. Baking Club (baked brownies, cookies, apple pie, etc.)
5- 3 Movie nights at the town's amphi-theatre
6- Dance Camp (taught by Kailey, Tori, and Pearl) + a Dance Concert for the community
7- Field Trips to:
......a. Spitzkoppe
......b. The beach at Swakopmund
......c. The sand dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay
8- Girls Only Club - which also meets regularly with Karrie during the school terms to talk about spiritual, emotional, social, and physical issues relevant to 11-13 year old girls here in Namibia.

WHEW! I'm tired. But it has all been worth it. There was a time when these kids would have been roaming the streets during school break, making up their own "fun". Several of the children have a history of stealing, violence, abuse by opportunistic predators, etc. - before coming into our foster families. This life they are living now is so VERY different than what they knew before! I praise God daily for that!!!

Now, to reach more of them...

Check out our photo album for the Holiday Club at the following link:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dance Concert Pics

One of the things that Kailey and her friend Tori Fauntroy planned to do while the Fauntroys were here visiting was to teach dance classes to 3 groups -> 5-9 year olds; 10-12 year olds, and 13-16 year olds. They worked HARD HARD HARD for 2 weeks, and it all came to finale with the dance concert they had on Friday evening.

To see the pictures, just check out my Facebook photo album at this link: