Manuel plays worship music in Tokyo's Anime district
I was in awe again while my team was worshipping God alongside our new friends in Japan. We were singing the same songs, us in English and them in Japanese. While the literal translation may have been different there’s one thing that remains the same no matter what: the love & joy it brings God to hear his children worship Him.
I could see in the peoples’ eyes their expectation and hope. The welcoming was so touching; it brought tears to my eyes to see these people giving us all this honor. It was like they wanted us to know that we finally brought what they had been looking for for so long.
Last year, epidemics tore through Ibambe. So many children were lost. Some families lost up to four kids, others lost all the children they had. The children I saw were almost naked and poorly fed. They always carried their younger siblings strapped to their backs. Many of the families had been large and the parents struggled to care for all their children.
This place is full of poverty but it should not be that way. The land is rich! Yet even the school and health care center we visited were so very poor. Last year’s disaster could have, should have, been prevented–what about next year?
Elisante in Ibambi, DR Congo
My heart was broken. I lost hope. I thought it was impossible to even want to come back here next year. What if I return only to discover another epidemic wiped out these beautiful little children? As I spent my free time with the kids, teaching them Tanzanian Swahili songs, I prayed for them. Even as I praised God, I asked him in honesty, “Is there any hope?”
God worked in my heart while we were in Ibambi. He restored my hope and helped me see answers. I know there is a lot that can been done in the Congo. The only way to stop the enemy from snatching the lives of the kids in the Congo is to teach the people the Truth, the Word of God.
It is going to take God’s principles being applied to see kids being valued, loved and brought up in the right way. We need to know the values that God has for people, knowing God for who He is will bring transformation and kids will be safe.
I believe that the BELT seminar will bring transformation and revival. I want to keep coming back to the Congo to run these BELT seminars and outreaches to train leaders who will reach others!
On the streets in Kolkata, I’m overwhelmed by my surroundings:
Dogs itching, horns honking, children running, and never-ending noise.
A child runs up and takes my hand, looks up at me, beams, eyes glowing.
I smile back, and quickly turn, afraid of my emotions overflowing.
Another runs up, arms extended, and I scoop her up.
She presses her dark hair against my face, arms around my neck.
I sit on a curb and hold her and hold her, position never changing.
Although she didn’t understand me, I sang to her Bible songs, quoted scripture to her, and prayed, while she silently sat and ran a finger through my hair.
My surroundings fade and I’m captivated in the moment.
I don’t want to ever let go.
We walk further and further down the streets, and still she clings.
Occasionally shifting her eyes on me and smiling, then laying her head back down.
It’s time to say goodbye and I see where she lives,
a section of sidewalk on a busy city street.
An old tarp makes up her bed, with nothing to protect her from the outside world.
As I walk away, I look over my shoulder and she’s standing there blank faced, waving.
I leave a piece of my heart on that street in Kolkata that day.
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of my Father in Heaven…Your Father in Heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:10,14
Our final three nights teaching at A-Mane English Center, my team took the opportunity to present the gospel. We created a skit that would share the story about the woman at the well (John 4). I also felt like I should share my testimony of what God has been doing in my life.
I had never shared such personal things in front of a group like this. I was so nervous!
In the skit, we acted out lies that people begin to believe about themselves and showed how Jesus wants to replace those lies with the truth. This skit felt like it was taken right out of my own life. Once the final strains of the song, “The Struggle,” ended, I stepped forward and began to share….
Growing up in a Christian home didn’t keep me from believing many lies about myself, my value, and how God saw me.
I believed I was ugly, that my beauty depended on the number I weighed on the scale. I thought people didn’t really like me and they didn’t want me around. I didn’t pursue friendships because I assumed others would want someone else to be their friend instead of me. I couldn’t see that I was valuable simply because God made me.
English class with Thai kids
The crazy thing is, I knew the truth about many of these things in my head, but not in my heart.
I didn’t want to let God work in my heart because I didn’t trust Him. I was afraid that if I made any sort of mistake, I would go to hell. I “knew” God loved me, but most of the time I thought he was mad at me, just waiting for me to mess up. I didn’t see God as a loving father who encourages me or helps me when I fall down. I didn’t believe that God would help me do the right thing. And I believed that what he wanted for me would always be the opposite of what I wanted.
A big change has taken place in my life through coming to DTS! From the first day, God started chipping away at the lies I’ve held onto for so long. I felt like God was saying to me “you are my child” over and over. I can’t explain exactly how, but God began to show me that I was believing lies. I slowly realized that God is not always angry at me. I can’t earn his love by being perfect. He has saved me. He wants to just be my Dad. He wants me to trust him.
God is there to help me when I mess up. It’s like I’m a baby learning to walk. My dad wouldn’t yell at me after I fall over, but would encourage me to keep trying. Dad would help me up and hold me close. The same is true with God. I’ve realized God just wants time with me. He wants my heart.
Getting past lies I’ve believed about myself doesn’t happen overnight. Even during DTS and here on outreach, I’ve felt alone or unwanted. But last week, a wise person told me that I needed to learn to like myself. I realize just how true that is! Putting myself down is not the way God loves me. As I read scripture and pray it for myself, God is changing my perspective.
I am learning to be myself, to love people without assuming they do not want my love. When it comes to beauty, I am believing that I am made in the image of God. I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am trying to learn to even eat in a way that brings Him honor. I am a creation of God, and I am trying to see myself and my body in that way. I wish I could make all these lies be gone by tomorrow, but changing my views of myself is a process, a battle. I’m thankful that in Christ, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, we have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” II Corinthians 10:4.
When I finished sharing from my own life and telling the kids that God loves them no matter what, we did a project together about Truth. We wanted them to learn how God sees them. Some of the kids said that they understood how I felt when I was acting in the play. Some of them knew about Jesus already, but many did not.
One of the boys asked, “Do you really see Jesus?” and “Why did Jesus have to die for us?” and “So all you have to do is believe in Him?”
It was such a blessing to be able to use the work God is doing in my life, to show the kids how He loves them that much too!
On the other side of Bangkok we worked with A-Mane English Center, a Christian business that serves mostly Buddhist and Muslim families. Our first few days, we practiced introductions with the children and played games with them. We also helped the teachers with some of their lessons. At the end of the week, we led an English camp at a local amusement park for 51 students.
I was in charge of six ten-year-old girls who only spoke a small amount of English. It was a fun challenge. I loved watching them experience new things like snow and sledding in Snow Town, or build their courage to take risks on the scary roller coaster. By the end of the day, I had been called “Teacher” about 150 times, and I felt so much closer to these precious little girls.
I hope the light and love of Jesus shown to them through my actions that day. I hope they one day know just how much He really loves them!
My experiences working with A-Mane have opened my eyes to something that I love: teaching and tutoring one-on-one. I also found that knowing English can be a gift from God. So many people want to learn it, and I can bless them by teaching it. And I enjoy it too!
Working with an unreached people group in Creel by Emily B, DTS student Creel, Mexico January 20-February 3, 2013
Emily makes crafts with a Creel girl
So many thoughts and images came to mind as soon as I learned that we would work with a boarding school for two weeks! We were with the Tarahumara people who live on the cold yet beautiful mountain side deep in Mexico. In many of the villages, schools are too far away for the children to attend, so this boarding school offers them the chance of a better future!
As we spent time with the kids, we taught them more about who God is. We made crafts and even planned two parties–a Carnival and a Friendship party–to celebrate the friendship of Jesus!
Although I knew that culturally the children, especially the girls, would be very reserved, I wasn’t prepared for how it felt. They barely acknowledged us that first week. At first, I felt frustrated that nothing we were saying or doing would make a difference. I wanted to play with them! I wanted to hear them giggle and respond to me! Why wouldn’t they?
I read a book called The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking (Little Libraries) which helped me understand God’s heart in this situation. I saw how important it was to love when there’s no sign it’s making a difference. I learned I should choose to be kind even when the choice isn’t mutual. To choose to make sacrifices even when they’re not acknowledged. To step out and keep putting your heart on the line because that’s what love is: loving others when it hurts.
That’s the heart of Jesus! That’s the love my Savior shows to his people everyday. And that’s exactly the kind of love these kids need to be modeled to them, but one of the hardest things to do. Even though I don’t understand the deep roots of their culture, I know that Jesus does. His love can break through barriers to reach the heart.
The Carnival party at the end of the first week was one of the first times we saw the kids laughing and playing.
While I was with these kids, I saw even more how God loves all the individuals in this people group. He wants more than anything to bring His kingdom to them. He was so faithful in showing me how to patiently love them right where they were. I am so honored to serve a God of all peoples.
I’m sitting on a bench surrounded by 34 families–grandmothers, mothers, and children of all ages–who are staring at our team and probably wondering what will happen next.
We’re here among the emancipated slaves of the Kamaiya people. For hundreds of years, they served their masters for no pay. Now, they are free. But few have a place to live and many find themselves homeless in the jungles along the Nepal/India border. Several hundred people in this region have died from the cold this winter already. Many have told us it is the coldest winter they can remember.
Purchasing blankets for distribution
That’s why these 34 families have come out on this cold and foggy day in the jungle of Nepal for clothes and blankets.
Our impromptu presentation begins as Abi strums some chords on the guitar and, at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, we sing, “We want to see Jesus lifted high.” A few of us share short testimonies of how God has been changing our lives these last several months.
After dancing with us, the kids lined up while we scrambled to get the clothes ready to distribute. I looked at the number of children and the amount of clothes we had to give. I wondered if we would have to turn some people away.
But the Lord truly worked a miracle and we had enough clothes for all 40 kids! The balloon animals then came out and the children’s eyes lit up as they giggled and marveled over their creatures.
While the children played, we each got a turn placing one of the heavy blankets in the women’s arms. The women were so thankful and they were beaming. Just one of these thick blankets is big enough to cover 3-4 people. One blanket could save a small family!
James gives a Kamaiyan woman a blanket, which will help keep her family warm this winter.
I’ll never forget looking around and seeing the individual faces, the relief in the women’s eyes, and delight in the children’s.
As families started to leave, many came over to thank us, but we knew that the Lord deserves the thanks. The way he provided for this day is such a testimony of His goodness and love towards His people. We are so thankful that He allowed us to be a part of His work. And we’re also so grateful to the many people back home who donated funds so we could purchase these life saving items!
Here in Creel, it is freezing except in places where the sun beams down on you. All around me are Tarahumaran kiddos in their colorful clothes. We’ve been helping with a children’s home. Before we came, we were told that Tarahumarans are really shy and reserved, so we shouldn’t expect much interaction with these children. On top of that, Spanish is their second language, my third. As you can imagine, communication has been a challenge for us! But these children keep surprising me.
We threw a birthday party for the woman who runs the children’s home and organized a carnival for all the kids. The kids were super enthusiastic while playing the carnival games we set up. They stopped being shy and reserved and even smiled at us!
But of all the things I’ve experienced here, what touched me most was my interaction with one little girl while I painted a butterfly on her face.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Norma,” she answered softly.
Norma wanted a mariposa (butterfly).
While painting her face, I wondered about Norma’s past. Before coming here, I had heard that it was common for a girl of the Tarahumaran peoples to be sexually molested at the age of five. Looking into her beautiful face, I couldn’t imagine anyone hurting her–it was too shocking to me.
Norma smiles because the brush tickles her face, and I smile too. While I outlined the butterfly’s graceful body, I hope that Norma would be an exception. As I painted the wings I prayed that she would be able to have a good future. After I finished the butterfly, I think I saw how God sees her, beautiful and precious.
I don’t know what her future is going to be like, what scars she has already, what hurts are going to come or what happiness life will bring her, but I know that somehow we touched the life of this little girl on that day, and changed it. Why? Because we showed a small part of God’s joy and God’s love for her. That is why I came here, why I don’t care about the cold or not having everything I want, not having my own space. Because I believe that we do make a difference and touch their lives; we plant a little seed of hope.
I trust that God has an amazing plan for her life, and I know that He made her free, just as a butterfly.
Sunday after church, we visited a slum community to help host a program for the children. We started playing games and learning the kids’ names, and soon we were all friends. With the parents looking on, we sang songs and danced. Each of us picked a partner, linked arms, and spun in a circle.
I danced with a 4-year old girl who stole my heart! After we spun around, she smiled up at me. Her smile and her joy were so precious!
We taught about “The Good Samaritan” and the kids had to choose who made the right choice in the story. We taught them silly songs like “The Hippopotamus Song” and “I Will Call Upon the Lord” in karate style. After giving prizes and playing Simon Says, our translator talked to them some more. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.
They would respectfully “wai” (a bowing gesture) to say thank you and then they were gone. We only had an hour with these children. My team and I may never see any of these children again. But, dancing and singing with them was an honor. It truly made me happy and brought joy to my soul.
These children are on God’s heart, and He will chase after their hearts for the rest of their lives. They may be poor, dirty, or uneducated in the eyes of people. But, they are gems in the eyes of their Father in heaven. He won’t forget them. And neither will I.
Some may ask what difference an hour will make? Here is how I see it. God has spoken to us and opened the door for us to be here and doing this. I want them to see Jesus in us. They are His creation. Although He is no longer here in bodily form to hug and play with them, we are His hands and His feet. So it is our duty, no, it is our honor and joy to do this! It is our privilege to tell them who Jesus is. And it is our privilege to tell of his great love for them.
We may not speak their language and be able to tell them with words, but we can show them through our unashamed love as His Spirit lives out through our actions.
Mark 10:13-16 “‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he (Jesus) took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
Run to the Father at all times like children do and love Him with all your heart!
Sylivia and Fiona. Age 11 and 14. We had alot of fun making friendship bracelets. They also loved taking my camera and having a photoshoot.
This week’s highlight: The smiles on the faces of the older girls at the children’s home as we talked about how God knit each one of them together before they were born.
Three of the girls have HIV/AIDS. The fourth was raped and is now a mother at the age of thirteen. It had a bit of a slumber party feel as we sat in our little cluster (minus one who was laying in bed) on the concrete floor and talked about being God’s princesses.
I read Psalm 139 to my attentive group and talked about how precious, loved, and known each one of them is to God. Please pray for these precious princesses that they will see a future for themselves. It’s so easy for them to label themselves as “sick” without hopes, dreams, and just few days until their expiration date.
We can treat HIV with drugs with long names…but the medicine they need to keep fighting and working with their treatment has a very simple name–Hope.