Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the anawim around us

Last week was the wrap up for this year's Nativity:Nigeria team. The Anawim Team, the five who went to Africa, and the Home Team, those who supported the mission from Maryland, gathered last Wednesday to celebrate. The team shared stories and photos and we all celebrated a safe journey and successful trip. It was a feast of food and fellowship. (Side note: we don't do enough feasting -- eating a meal together to celebrate the completion of something is a lot of fun!)

The mission group is named the Anawim Team because we stayed with Sr. Oresoa at their Gwagwalada location, called the Anawim Home. While we were in Nigeria, Sr. Oresoa told us the meaning of "Anawim." It's a Hebrew word that is found throughout Scriptures meaning poor or afflicted, the outcasts and rejected. More specifically "anawim" characterizes those who, due to their circumstances, cannot not rely upon their own strength but have to rely upon God to provide for them.  The Anawim Home is just that. A place where young mothers out on their own, mentally ill, and abandoned children can call home.

The trip was an eye opening experience for all of us, but one of the struggles we encountered as we began settling back into our routines at home was about a takeaway. What should we all be doing differently? Certainly, God used our experiences to speak to us in unique ways, I know I'm being challenged to spend my money more wisely. But we really struggled to come up with something for all of us, an overall lesson learned.

Then it became more clear. Although we traveled around the world for those two weeks... Sister Oresoa lives in Nigeria. She lives among all the poverty and injustice we saw, and the things we "dealt with" for a brief time are a daily reality to her. She saw these things in her own community and decided to do something about it. While we have traveled back home, she's still in her community serving her people. So what's the takeaway for us? It's the exact same:  to go into our own community and serve.

The awesome part is that Nativity:Nigeria is setup to help and support Sister as she works to bring justice to Gwagwalada. But we must remember that the anawim are all around us.  They're in Nigeria, and they're in Cockeysville, Timonium, Towson and Hunt Valley.  Maybe it took going half-way around the world for the five of us to realize this, but I don't think that's a requirement.  Who are the anawim around you? Find out, pray for them, and do something about it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

win, win, win

Two signed letters were sitting in my mailbox when I came into work today.  Here are the first paragraphs of each...

I am writing to acknowledge the generous donation of $... to the Hope for West Africa Foundation, Inc. in support of the Faith Alive Water Projects.  The donation will be used to drill two boreholes, one at Faith Alive Hospital and the other at the Bakin Kogi Clinic.  Currently, this clinic has been closed due to lack of water.  The borehole will benefit a large number of patients ending long hours traveling to Faith Alive Hospital for care.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to the Church of the Nativity for donating $... to International Relief and Development (IRD) to help in our Pakistan flooding response and relief efforts.  Our Board Chairman said we could count on his church to help.  It is nice to know that there are so many caring neighbors such as yourselves to give help where it is most needed.

I was thrilled to read these letters! Two new boreholes for our partners at Faith Alive (WIN! WIN!), a Nativity member showing great confidence in his church, and immediate relief for Pakistanis affected by the floods (WIN!).

Even when you don't realize it, Nativity's international partners are hard at work, effectively using our resources to relieve suffering around the globe. Our partners are fighting for justice and caring for those in need. When you invest in Nativity's Missions, your contribution will go towards the pursuit of righteousness and the alleviation of suffering. When you get involved in Nativity's Missions, your eyes will be opened to the injustices of the world and the battle that is taking place.

I'm happy to share these wins with you -- I hope there are many, many more to come. And I encourage you to pray, or keep praying, for all those needing medical attention in Jos, that the Bakin Kogi Clinic could help them, and those hungry and displaced in Pakistan, that IRD's supplies reach those most in need.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

retelling stories

Over the past few days, I've retold the same story about Anawim a few different times to a few different people.  It's a story about a 16 year old boy named Francis who lives in the boys' hostel at Anawim.  I've cried every time.

Francis has been living with Sr. Oresoa nearly his entire life. Sister rescued him as an infant; he was a newborn baby starving to death on the floor of a home for the mentally ill. This place really was no home at all. It was a room in a building on a property tucked back far from the main road. A place you wouldn't stumble on by accident -- and there's a reason for that. The mentally ill are kept in shackles, chained up by the dozens, naked, in a room, in a building, on a property tucked back from the main road.

The team visited a few of these sites one morning. I don't know what kind of picture forms in your mind when you think about the five of us going into these rooms to give out rice and soap, but try to picture fear and anxiety, ghastly smells and dingy, dark places. As we pulled up to the third location to give out the last of the rice, Sr. Oresoa turned to Francis and said, "Do you remember this place?" A chill ran down my spine. "Here is where I found you," she said. "Here is where I saved your life."

...

Francis had been there before. And he wasn't nearly as emotional as we were. Sister told him he would be there again too. She told Francis later that afternoon that she was taking him there so that he would know his story. "You have to know who you are and where you've come from, Francis. Be proud of your story. Be proud of the life God has given you."

It's hard to imagine Francis being proud of his story -- hard for me at least. But you know, all throughout history, time and time again, God chooses to use "unlikely" people to carry out great works. God wants to use us, all of us, to do his work. No mater how unlikely you think you are, God knows your story, and he wants you to be proud of it too. He's crafted your entire life and has chosen to give it to only one person in the whole world, you! The best way to know how God wants to use us in the future is to look at our past. Know your story. Be proud of your story. God wants to use it to do a great work!