Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Light trumps dark in one small African community

I swallowed hard to choke back the tears of what I had just witnessed.  The place was Section 19, Swaziland, Africa.  The year was 2011, my first mission trip to Africa, and God was revealing many things to me in every stop, and at every work of our hands.  We saw many pains, hurts, smiles, joys and tears on that trip.  My view of God exploded within my heart to a measure that I had never seen before.

The love of Christ, when expressed in the sense of true compassion, always goes further than you think and leaves a lasting imprint on all those His power touches.  What I didn't realize then was the endurance of His love that transforms a community after you come back home.

God's power remains when sown and planted.

This particular CarePoint that had just been established in the middle of the sugar cane plantations in Swaziland.  The dark culture in that small two block wide community was palatable.  The heaviness of oppression was felt within every fiber of my being.  It was a squatter camp with abject poverty oozing from each mud hut threshold and every dirt doorway.  Poverty showed no mercy except in a corner of the lot.  A new feeding program established there.

This faith project had been activated by the prayers of many.

The team walked slowly to greet the down trodden with all the smiles we could muster.  My mind raced with questions.  "How do you raise children in the middle of this?  How can kids play in mud huts and broken spirits?"  How could a mother wrap her love around all the animosity that was felt there?"  "Where do they see hope?"

My strong questions demanded answers but my weak, broken heart had none.

The team stopped and I looked down to see a naked little girl sitting in dirt, staring wide-eyed and hungry, as if she was in a trance.  All of time stood still.  I couldn't move. I was paralyzed by fear, and as I looked deep into her big brown eyes, hers locked on mine.  I saw a reflection of the emptiness of my soul.  I swallowed hard and wanted to bolt.  Frozen in time, I couldn't even raise my arm to capture the moment on my camera.  I just stared as if staring would deliver her from that place of squalor.  

As if I could do something, anything, to love her like she needed to be loved in that moment.  My momma heart broke further.  I saw the face of my grandson, Avery, and then everything went blurry.

God was counting my tears in that moment.

A holy spotlight shone down and God quieted my spirit and my raging questions.  He whispered, "These are my children too, love them as I love you."  My heart, by what was strung together by a thread, snapped.  Anytime you hear His voice is changes you.  That's when I knew that Africa would always call my name.  This place was desperately hungry for God.

Teams bring the love and light as they show God's mercy and kindness to those who need love and care so desperately.  We are carriers of God's light and love to all we meet, there are so many love-hungry people in need.  I was one among them who needed God's love and care to put my perspective back together.  I heard Him loud and clear, "This is my family too."

I was overwhelmed by the light and power of His voice but remained fearless when I saw God's light emanating from the new CarePoint there.  I saw it glowing, gleaming in the sun with it's new coat of paint, absolutely stunning, shiny and most definitely a bright spot in a dark, dim corner of Swaziland.

I was encouraged by the Light that the psalmist David wrote about dark places once I returned home.  Psalm 132:15-16  "I will bless this city and make it prosperous; I will satisfy its poor with food.  I will clothe it's priests with godliness; its faithful servants will sing for joy.  Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed be will be a light for my people."  I thought back to the moment I crouched before that small child and received the annointing from God to pray for an increase of God's power and light from that day forward.

This small plot of a African community has such a big presence of God.  I was always stirred that it didn't have a name like the rest of the CarePoints that we had visited.  So I prayed over a new name for the Light we carried there.  "God give it your blessing of peace and love to those little ones that look to you to for hope, for food, for the love that they are needing.  Give this place your name, Lord, your blessing of favor and mercy."

From that first Africa trip,I have continued to carry God's light everywhere I go by the name I was given by our team translator.  She spoke a SiSwati name over us as evidenced in the teams strengths in us throughout the week.  My given SiSwati name was prophetic.  You may have noticed my different "middle" name on my Facebook profile is "Khanyasile" which means "bringer of light" or "has light shining".

Jesus teaches about being the light wherever we are.  Matthew 5:14-16  "You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

The Light of the Gospel shines bright wherever it goes.  It floods the dark places and powers the weak, feeds the hungry, and reaches the least, the last, and the forgotten.  God's light trumped the dark parts of Section 19, now there are many communities glimmering with Hope.

Fast forward to December 2014, God answered my prayer for a name for the feeding site.  My dear missionary friend, Mitch Hildebrant, messaged me with the most exciting news.  Section 19 had a name, and is now known as "Khanyasile".  This news came right before I was due to leave for Africa to celebrate Christmas with kids in Swaziland.  On that Tuesday,  Mitch and his crew were singing and dancing in celebration of the new name "Khanyasile" with the kids at Section 19.

Also on Tuesday of my week in Africa, just several miles away while in Swaziland, my team was singing and dancing with kids in celebration of the Light of the World has come down for Christmas at the Christmas at the CarePoint parties.  I am amazed how Light births light and multiplies it in a powerful way.  What a beautiful partnership of so many bright futures for many kids this year!  Only God knew the timing of these two celebrations evidenced by His brilliant provisions!

The light of God's love is a big topic to tell but it's easy when our hearts swell with His Love that brings Light!  Such a good word to speak everyone!

Thanks to the churches of Beach, North Dakota who have truly sent and supported God's light in the Khanyasile community. Their support have also birthed two well run preschool programs to seed more light with bringing the gospel to so many children and enhancing their education, as well as feeding hundreds of kids. Truly God's light and favor has rested on this once dim and gloomy place.

Mitch had this to say about the impact:   "We watched as previously drunken men in the community who used to harass us and shout at us now stopped, took their hats off and said 'thank you for caring for our children'."

Evidence that God's Light and Love are definitely alive and active in a once hopeless and uncaring place.
God's arresting Light trumps darkness every time.

There's a peace that God comforts your heart with after being wrecked by poverty.  I am always changed by God's genuine disclosure of truth when I see my own poverty through the lens of someone else's.  It is true today, no matter where you are in life when you encounter the Light of Christ, as it meets with your dark parts of your story, "Remember this is where the healing begins, where the light meets dark, when you come to where you’re broken within." ~ Tenth Avenue North.

Let God enlighten your world, lighten your load and be the Light for all the world to see.  His Light and Hope changes lives!
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