Repost from March 2016
Ok, so we'll dispense with the normal, "I'm sorry it's been so long since I blogged, I'm gonna do better..." blah, blah blah. ;) I know you don't believe me anymore and quite frankly neither do I. I'll do the best I can from here on out and we'll leave it at that.
What usually drives me to write is something that impacted me greatly. I wish I could send you the little goofy stories from everyday, but that never works. If you could see the blogs I write in my head, maybe that would help. ;) Until then, I guess we will have to go with what I make time to type out.
So, it was just a normal morning in January and I was waiting for my sweet African sister to arrive and help one of our new personnel with her language. She was a little late, no big deal, this is Africa you know! Upon arrival she began to lay out a heart rending story, for which you'll need a little background to understand. In our city, there aren't too many regulations for housing other than houses have to be built out of concrete block. Size, plumbing, electricity aren't really a big deal, but construction material is. As you know poverty is a huge problem here, so even though the rules are fairly simple, those who don't have money to rent a proper house, find ways around the rules. Housing usually starts at around $30 a month for the bare minimum house, however for $20 you can get a substandard wooden row house. Basically the family gets a 8'X8' "house" with a tin roof in a line of some such houses. These pop up around the city by the THOUSANDS. At some point, they draw the government's attention and the bulldozer comes to tear that section of them down. The church with whom we do so much church planting has seen an invasion of these houses as another neighboring part of the city was bulldozed. Nearly over night, row after row after row of houses came in where fields of crops had been adding literally thousands to the neighborhood's population. These are among the poorest of the poor in our city. Just outside the doors of the church is where these houses now stand. We've done some evangelism in this housing complex and have had some success there.
Back to where I was, my sister came to tell me that the night before there had been a fire. This is the reason these houses are illegal. Just think, scraps of wood slapped together, wrapped in flammable black plastic, laid out like dominoes, where women cook just outside of their door over a charcoal fire or on a propane tank. This particular fire had been set by an angry renter, but whatever the source, 75 homes went up in flames in the blink of an eye. Since it was 11:00 at night, many were sleeping or at least ready to sleep and when the alarm went up, most escaped with almost nothing. There was a young woman, Bridgette living in this complex who had accepted Christ after hearing the story that a group of Americans came to share with her about Jesus sacrifice for her. She has been faithful to attend church and I have often shared discipleship stories with her in her home. When the alarm was raised, this lady jumped up and grabbed her two very young sleeping children. In a show of "supermom" strength she also grabbed her gas bottle and fled their house. They stood shoulder to shoulder with neighbors in the glow of the fire because the fire shorted out the electricity for the neighborhood. They listened to and took cover as other neighbors' gas bottles exploded. As they watched all of their worldly belongings go up in smoke, looters were waiting in the wings to break into neighboring houses in the chaos and to steal the few things laying at the feet of those watching their houses burn. It was in this that a looter came and stole Bridgette's gas bottle right out from under her. She slept that night at another church member's home. She had no clothes, other than those she was sleeping in, no shoes and no home.
|Hauling emergency ration kits into the church|
|Trying desparately to make heads or tails of the lists of people and supplies|
It is times like this that I am so thankful for my big sister (pictured above with me), because together we can accomplish more than I can even imagine by myself. The same would certainly be true of my little sister, but she's off in America doing amazing things of her own in the place God planted her. So off we went trying to find those who had truly lost their belongings in the fire and then on to find the sleeping mats, buckets, food, toothbrushes, soap, etc. We tromped through bulk stores trying to get the best bang for our buck. We bought 50 lb bags of rice, boxes of tomato paste and boxes of oil. We slogged through the African market to get African peanut butter, dried okra and dried fish (not the most fragrant section of the market, I must say!) Over and over we worked from dawn until dusk trying to get everything together.
|Bringing in the goods|
|This lady was so overcome with emotion for the gift that she burst into tears.|
The big day finally came and we invited the 40 families that we were able to find all gathered at the church. The church members worked together to move all of the kits from where we had assembled them to the church. There was a little bit of trouble right away as more people got wind of what had happened and all of a sudden people came out of the woodwork to say that their house had been broken into while the fire burned. We hadn't gotten the funds to help those whose homes were looted and eventually had to bright idea to take those names and to tell them we would pray for a way to help them as well. When everyone had gotten checked in and seated, we started a little service. Ever so many families that were sitting with us in the sanctuary were Muslim families. We sang some in praise of the One who brought us all together and gave us all the ability to be there. As we celebrated as only Africans can, the whole group came to the front to sing and dance to a song in a local language that says, "God sees".
Each family was called up to receive their gift. The crowd cheered as they heard what each would be receiving. It still seemed so little in the reality of their need, but they were so happy. In the following weeks, our amazing urban team and our national brothers and sisters worked to get out 2 more distributions. When all was said and done, 16 people prayed to receive Christ and others started attending church saying, "We weren't among those who lost their homes, but we saw what you did for those people and we want to be a part of this church."
This project was SO time consuming, SO tiring and still SO worth it all. Pray for each of those that lost their homes or their belongings that they will have all that they need, but mostly that they will come to understand the One that they truly need. It is my most sincere hope that each that voiced the desire to give their life to Christ will find their fulfillment in Him and learn to walk each day with Him.