Just Look...

Just Look...

Monday, July 21, 2014

These are the Faces

A friend posted tonight about the dire circumstances in Ukraine. She has friends there who are in hiding for their own safety or are displaced to other regions who have told her of the chaos there, the killing of the innocent in the streets, the lack of food and water.

Earlier today, another friend posted about anti-Semitic demonstrations including cries of "Send the Jews back to Birkenau" and Jews being barricaded in a synagogue by an angry mob outside.

Investigators are still picking through the wreckage of a passenger airliner not at all unlike the one I was on one week ago today.

Children playing soccer in Gaza have been killed in a battle they didn't choose.

Christian families are fleeing Iraq after being told they must convert or be killed.

Circumstances in many Central American countries are so dire that parents are sending their children unaccompanied to seek asylum in the United States. The pictures of those children sleeping in holding cells, piled together like puppies, are heart-wrenching.

It seems like absolutely at every turn, there is tragedy, trauma, and the victimization of the innocent. Perhaps even more frightening?

We've seen it all before. 

About ten days ago, I had a moment I will never forget. We spend our first day in Cambodia on cultural awareness, which includes visiting a memorial to the victims of the Cambodian genocide of the 1970's. At the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, there are rows upon rows upon rows of photographs of the victims who passed through the walls of that detention center. Most of them were taken on to the Killing Fields where they were brutally slaughtered and left in shallow graves.

Several days later, I was in a tiny Phnom Penh classroom with very little air circulation, sweat dripping from my face as I tied hundreds of braided headbands made from tshirt scraps onto beautiful raven-haired children. I remember stooping down at one tiny table, tying a headband onto a beaming little boy. I glanced up and locked eyes with the boy sitting beside him. He smiled shyly and it hit me:

These were the faces of that genocide. 

Little boys just like these were tortured and murdered at TS-21 and the Killing Fields just outside that city. And as a further tragedy, some of the ones holding the guns and knives were children not much older than these who had been forcibly recruited into Pol Pot's army of murderers.

I just looked into his deep, brown eyes and thanked God that he was here, in 2014, instead of there, in 1976. But who's to say that at some point, those scenes won't be repeated in Cambodia and he won't be part of them? Who would ever imagine that in 2014, cries of "Send the Jews back to Birkenau!" would fill modern streets? Who would believe that the words of Nazi Germany in 1937, "Turn over all valuables and goods, you may leave only with the clothes on your back, " would be repeated in Iraq in 2014 to Christian families in Mosul?

Man has such a deep capacity for evil. Societies are so frail. Governments are so fragile. The messages that have come out of the past week are so appalling. And if you think about it too much, it will debilitate you. It will haunt you. It will cause you to stay up long past the hour in which you should sleep, worrying, wondering what can be done.

I don't know, other than prayer, what I can do for this hurting world from here. But I do know that I've been entrusted with a little corner of it, and it's my responsibility to do whatever I can in my little corner to make things easier for someone else. So, on days like yesterday and today when some efforts seem too much, when I really consider how easy it would be to let it all go, to quit scrambling and pushing and holding on, I will think about that little face on the other side of the world. I will remember that, though I can't fix anything, I can keep on with the efforts I am involved with here to try and provide a small measure of encouragement for some in my corner. I can't stop bullets or missiles or violence. But I can help provide some laughter in the lives of some foster kids for a week in the summer. And so I'll send some more emails and I'll design another shirt and I'll pester my facebook friends some more and together we will raise a portion of funds for that week in 2015. And maybe by then, this world will have calmed down and healed a little bit.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Broken Cistern, Empty Summer

I make no bones about the fact that I love my job. I feel called to it. I also am the first to say that I love, love, love summer and guard my summers fiercely. I will give hours upon extra hours to my job during the school year-- weekends, overnight trips, prom, attending games and plays and concerts at night-- but I committed to myself when my girls were born that summers were preserved. I set them aside for family, for ministry, for hobbies, and for rest.

That being said, this summer has felt... empty. I know how that sounds coming from a person who just returned from a ten day trip to Cambodia, who has vacationed with family and been swimming with friends and worked a camp for foster kids and made a million tshirts. But no matter how it sounds, it's truth. I have felt very removed emotionally from everything I have been part of this summer. I have felt isolated in giant crowds of people. I've done a great job of going through the motions and have done all the things I was supposed to want to do. I've tried to play the part. But as this summer winds down, I have to say that the whole thing felt like wearing makeup. It was itchy and uncomfortable and I couldn't take a deep breath all summer. Nothing felt real. And that terrifies me.

I'm not certain at what point along the way I lost me. And I'm not sure where to find me. And the scariest part of all of this is that the thought of entering the classroom in August makes me a nervous wreck. Because do you know who can sense inauthenticity faster than anyone else? Teenagers. I think the giant disadvantage to loving a job as much as I do is how obvious it would be if I stopped. This past year was a major roller coaster and it ended on the highest of the high. The problem is, that's a long way to fall. And the landing would be a hard one.

I dug around in my Bible for a while this afternoon because there's a little teaser floating around in my brain (and I feel like it's from a Beth Moore talk) about deserts and streams and parched lands. Parched is a pretty good interpretation of the way I feel. I never did find exactly what my brain is holding onto, but I did find a far more sobering verse and explanation... Jeremiah 2:13. It's specifically about the idolatry of Israel and the turning away of God's people from Him. While I wouldn't put myself in as desperate a state as that, the idea of a broken cistern that can't hold water is one that fits. I did some more research on cisterns in Bible times and the comparison here to a cistern built by human hands instead of relying on the source of living water-- Him.

Now that... that might fit. I think religious people fall into two categories-- those who find it easy to depend on God in good times and more difficult in hard times, and those who prefer to handle the good times themselves and trust Him in the hard ones. I sit firmly in the second camp. I handle calamity pretty well. I'm the calm one in emergencies, the one who typically oozes faith in trying times. The easy life, the good times? They make me a little numb. I build my little cisterns and wait to collect the rains, then either the rains don't come or my cisterns don't hold. I think that's where I am right now. I'm sitting on the edge of the river (the one everyone else seems to be surfing and sailing and diving and splashing and having a grand old time in, mind you), trying to fill my little broken cistern all on my own. The other pathetic part is how long it took me to even realize I was so parched... I avoided and ignored and explained away the signs for weeks and even months before I finally attempted to pour water into it, only to have it trickle out.

So now....

It's time.
It's time to dive in and swim deep, quit sitting on the edge, watching everyone else, quit splashing droplets into the broken cistern I built with my human attempts at grace and fulfillment. It's time to sink in the Living Water, gulping it in as I go. It's time to let Him be God so I can remember how to be me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Harvest

I should be in bed. I mean, who stays up until four hours before the alarm clock goes off, doing unnecessary things like blogging? Especially when the blogging has not been important in the past three months?

I guess I just feel like I can't leave without at least making a post of gratitude about this trip.

And as for the blogging silence over the past three months... is it weird to say that I am fresh out of words? I haven't posted to social media with nearly the regularity I had been either. I think I am an introvert at heart (though I hide it REALLY well) and when things happen that take lots of interactions, lots of words, like the LIVE thing, I kind of go silent for a while afterward.

But back to the trip...

I am so very grateful for this opportunity again. This year it means so much more to me because I know the names and faces of the children we will encounter, the workers I respect so much, and the team we have assembled. I look forward so much to seeing Phirom, the boy our family decided to sponsor once I returned home. I felt an immediate connection to him from the very first moment we arrived and it's been really special to introduce the girls and Kraig to him over the past year through his sweet letters and correspondence. I can't wait to take him a few gifts and the letters we have each written to him. I can't wait for that feeling I get from travel where my senses are sharpened and the colors are so bright and vivid. I look forward to watching Emma and Kraig experience another country for the very first time. I am excited to see the integrated farm that we didn't get to see last time, to see the progress in Andong where PCL is building a city. I can't wait to see the faces in the orphanages in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, to visit the market and Ankor Wat. I am excited for the moments of connection in the children's camps, for the knowledge the children will gain and the fun we will all have.

I am in awe of the power of God and the generosity of our friends and family. I didn't send a single letter out this year, but He must have. We worked our tails off making apple butter, cake pops, and tshirts, tshirts, tshirts, but He sent the customers. Our family raised $9000 in just under 9 months and it is honestly a miracle.

The blessing will be in the harvest, friends. And I can't wait to see it.