The Long Overdue January Update
Posted on February 7, 2013
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.
-Sonnet 116, Shakespeare
I am no poet like Will, but these words have been in my heart and mind a lot lately. I’m sure he was not talking about loving people in Eburru when he wrote these words, but they ring true for me today as I’m sure they did for the folks a long long time ago when he wrote these words.
I’m finding myself wondering what it means to really love well. What does it mean to love no matter what? What does it mean to try to be the hands and feet of the one who has loved us with an everlasting love? And, am I really the one God has chosen to send here to reflect His glory and love? If so, man dang I think I’ve failed a million times over.
When I first came here, I wrote these words in my journal:
“Is there such a thing as being too generous? Too loving? Extending too much grace? When I look at God’s economy the answer to all of these is no, but when I look at this broken world around me I wonder. If people can’t receive grace and love does that mean we should stop giving it? If people take our gift and throw it away does that mean it was a waste? By what do we measure the “success” of a gift? What causes us to want to give in the first place? What are we hoping for when we give? What am I hoping for when I give? Am I hoping for a “thank you”? A sign my gift was not given in vain? Confirmation I am doing the right thing? Affirmation of my love?
Or, am I hoping for God’s glory to shine? Am I hoping for His name to be praised? Am I hoping for His love to breakthrough this broken place and begin to make all things new?
If it is not the latter, then I love and give for nothing.”
And now, 5 months later, I find myself asking the same questions. Wrestling with the same issues of knowing how to love these sweet people well….and more importantly than knowing, to actually love them well. Sometimes I think it is easy to love folks, easy to give them a smile and let them know someone cares about them, easy to give a piece of candy to a kid to make them smile. Other times though, it is next to impossible to love well. I try. And I fail. And I say I’m sorry. And I try again. Maybe that’s all I’m really required to do….to keep trying and trying and trying, resting in the big huge love of God knowing He can break through even the darkest night.
I share those thoughts with you because I think it’s important for me to let you know what is in my heart and mind, even as I continue to be amazed I have been brought to this beautiful place with these beautiful people…who love me much better than I can ever say, and teach me new things about God every single day.
I’m sorry it’s been so long since the last update, time has gotten legs and run away from me this last month. Here is a snapshot of what’s been happening:
-School started again. There are 221 kids in Camp Brethren School, which is amazing. The kids are learning a lot, and the teachers are really happy to be back.
-The clinic continues to see lots of patients, and lots of babies. The new life is great, but I am continually struck by the fact almost every single girl who comes to have a baby is not with a husband, or boyfriend. So, she’ll be raising the child by herself. Most times she is still a child herself. There is something in me stirring about this, but going back to the beginning of this letter, I have no idea how to love well in this situation, and don’t want to jump in and start talking to girls about “stuff” before I know how they think about things and what they are wanting. Could be a while before something comes of this, but I am praying about what to do for the girls of Eburru.
-I am busy these days. Which is good and bad. Good because I don’t sit around bored, or looking for things to do. Bad because I don’t like being busy. There is balance in everything, and I think maybe I’m getting back to balance with things to do and free time.
-The main reason I am busy these days is because I go and graze the cows every day. For four hours. This is a) as boring as it sounds, and b) an unexpected and delightful gift. When I am watching the cows there is nothing to do but hang out and watch them eat, and keep them from going in the gardens. So, I have 4 hours every day to read, write, pray, sing along to songs, listen to podcasts, remain quiet to let God speak to my heart, and rest. It has been a wonderful thing for me over the last month to hang out with cows. I have read 2 books that both challenged and encouraged me, and I’d recommend them to anyone. The first is “Love Does” by Bob Goff and the second is “Help, Thanks, Wow” by Anne Lamott. All in all, it’s a great thing to hang out with cows.
The reason I started watching them is to help Kanyi. He truly is a remarkable person. Here is his typical day: Wake up at 5AM milk cows, take milk to Brookside to sell, feed cows, clean their pen, make the biogas, feed the chickens, let the goats out, take the cows out to graze (all this happens by 9AM). Graze cows from 9-1. Bring cows in. Milk 3 of them (Mama Sophie, Mama Rose, and Mama Daisy), feed small cows, water goats, feed cows. Take cows out to graze from 3-5pm, or go cut napier grass to feed the cows. At 5 milk cows, feed small ones, bring goats in for the night, give the teachers who buy milk their milk, and then relax sometime around 9pm knowing the day is done and tomorrow you have to do it all again. There’s no way I’d be able to do that for even one day, and he has been doing it for 9 months. Every single day. In many, many ways my “helping” Kanyi is much like when I was a kid and I “helped” my dad build a wall by handing him the nails. I don’t do much, but the little I do seems to make life a bit easier for him. And, it’s turned out great for me too. Win-win as they say.