Archive for the ‘Zoe Children’s Home’ Category

I woke up this morning just in time to hear my wife start her car as she headed off to work. I had slept in a bit longer than intended, but I guess I needed it, because I woke up more refreshed, energized, and excited about whatever great things God had in store for me today than I had in weeks. As I showered and got dressed, I made a mental list: There are a couple of clients I need to tend to. Business has been slow, so I really should follow up on some folks I haven’t heard from in a while. Those notes I promised my class I’d have on my Bible study blog really needs to be done today. And I gotta leave some time to read another chapter or two in that book about Calvin. This is going to be a good day! And it’ll start with a big mug of coffee! As I headed downstairs to start the brew, I grabbed my phone and opened my email. Halfway down, I saw the newest one: “Your overdraft protection has been activated.”

WHAT? I knew I was operating close to the line, but I was sure that there were at least a few bucks left in there. Once the coffee was started, I trotted back up to my laptop so I could get a better look. OK. There were a couple of purchases from Target from early last week. (I love that 5% discount I get with my Red Card, but – seriously – do they really have to take a week to clear?) And then those few small purchases I was expecting. But still, there was enough left. Then I looked closer and found the culprit. The last debit, the one that put me over the line, was my automatic payment to Zoe International for Tui, the little girl we help to support.

In the next 60 seconds, I went through the stages of grief. Denial: “This can’t be right!” Anger: “Who can I blame?” Bargaining: “If I agree to take the blame, can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Depression: “Face it. It will happen again. You’re just an idiot. Your coffee’s ready.” By the time I got to my waiting pot, I was getting close to acceptance when the thought popped into my head: “You know, that’s just part of having kids. The other ones always cost you money you weren’t planning on. She’s just like your other children.”

She’s just like … my … other … children. We’ve been supporting Tui for – what – over 2 years now? And this is the first time that thought entered my mind. Just like my other children. But what I do for her is so little – just a few bucks a month, automatically deducted from my checking account. Oh, and her picture hangs on my fridge. And ten months ago, I actually got to meet her and spend a little time with her. That was really special, but is it really enough that I should think of her as one of my kids?

Cherie and I have sponsored numerous children over the past 35 years, and we’ve been happy to do our little part. But I can’t say that I ever really thought of any of them as part of my family. Oh, there were some that we sponsored for a number of years, and I do remember them fondly and wonder where they are and how they’re doing today. But did I ever hear that little voice say, “She’s one of your kids. She’s part of your family”? I don’t think so. To my loss, I guess.

Child sponsorship can be a wonderful thing. You get pictures of your child to hang on your fridge, and you get periodic updates. You hear about the things she likes, and you learn of the things she needs and the ways you are helping to meet these needs. You help make sure that she is getting enough to eat, she’s going to school, and that she’s learning about Jesus. You write letters to her, and sometimes you get letters from her. In short, you get to change a kid’s life – all from the comfort of your living room, and at very little cost to you.

OK. That last part sounded a little crass, but here’s the point. It’s what I learned this morning: Child sponsorship is an opportunity for great joy, and it’s also an opportunity to become neglectful. When God hands these little ones to us and says, “Here – you get to take care of her,” it’s really, really easy to think that if we set up automatic payments and stick her photograph in a place where we’ll see it from time to time, we have fulfilled our duty. And when He goes so far as to send us half way around the world to meet her, we can keep our guard up so much that the most we come away with is, “She’s really a cute and complex kid. It was fun meeting her,” and even then not let our heart become affected too much.

Sponsoring a child does bring with it some duty, but it’s more than payments and pictures and an occasional prayer. It is the greatest and most joyful duty given to us as followers of Jesus: It’s the duty to open our hearts and let them in, love them and let them become part of our family. And when we meet them, to let down our guard enough that coming back home without them breaks our hearts. When that happens, she becomes part of our daily routine: We think of her, pray for her and recognize our wonderful responsibility to care for her. And when we do, that auto-payment we set up won’t sneak up on us.

But something else might, like maybe a little tear. Because, after all, this little runt who just overdrafted my checking account and generated an additional service charge – yeah – she is my kid. And I love her, and I miss her, and wish I could give her a big hug. And I’m glad she cost me a few extra bucks today, because maybe now I’ll remember to think of her, pray for her, care about her and miss her a little more often. Just like my other children.


Immeasurably More

Posted: December 22, 2012 in Zoe Children's Home

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us,

 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus

throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph 3:20, NIV)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two weeks since I last saw the children, staff, missionaries and Zoe Ministry School students at Zoe Children’s Home, and that it’s been a full ten days since I arrived back home.  I had been told that the time at Zoe would fly by, but I found that it moved beautifully slowly.  Maybe that’s because I had nothing to do all day but marvel at God’s work and pour His love on those amazing kids and their caretakers.  Here, my life is filled with work, Facebook, grandkids, volunteering, shopping … way too much stuff, and with few exceptions (n.b.: grandchildren), little of it seems to matter all that much.  But on the mission field, everything matters. Because everything is about the mission – in particular, the missio Dei, the mission of God – unfolding in our midst.

For nearly two decades, I had dreamed of going to Thailand, and my dreams had become quite huge, unrealistic and unreasonable.  But when by dreams finally came true, I found that they had in fact been pathetically puny.  I began to see God’s dream unfold before me, and I watched how He was turning it into reality.  His dreams are always “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

For nearly as long, I had been telling myself that I was “in love with Thailand.”  I now know that I was only in love with the idea of Thailand.  But now that I have been there and seen the land, the people, the need and the fullness, the mission, the children, the miracles, the joy, the love, I can truly say that God has filled me with a love for Thailand that is, again, “immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”

I know. You want specifics.  You want stories.  I understand, but one of the reasons it’s taken me nearly two weeks to write about my time there is that I simply can’t find the words to do justice to the experiences.  You just have to, well, experience them.

But there is one thing that comes close to telling the story.  Zoe Children’s Home exists to rescue and provide shelter, education, the love of a family, the good news of Jesus, and the joy of His healing to children who are either in grave danger of being trafficked, or who have been trafficked.  Now, I don’t care how much of all things a deeply traumatized child receives, there seems to be some residual of that trauma that stays around for a very long time – years, decades, even a lifetime.  On my way to Zoe and the months before going, I expected that there would be some of the children who would be battling behavioral and emotional issues stemming from their experiences.  I knew it would be a good place, but not necessarily a happy place – not all the time, anyway.

But when I set foot in Zoe Children’s Home and saw the sparkle in those kids’ eyes, the smiles on their faces, the giggles from their mouths, and the unabashed joy pouring from deep within their being, I knew that I had found not just a “happy’ place, but  — sorry Disney – the Happiest Place on Earth!

But then, it only gets better.  Every Tuesday evening, the entire Zoe family – kids, staff, ministry school students – all gather for prayer meeting.  It’s all done quite simply.  Shortly before everyone begins to arrive, the lights are dimmed, and praise and worship music is played.  There are no announcements; everyone just knows that, as they arrive, it is time to pray.  We had been briefed ahead of time, and were told that, if we would find a place on the floor (there are not many places to sit other than the floor) and began to pray, we would receive a blessing.  Oh, did I ever!  As I sat there quietly, numerous people – staff, ZMS students, older children, little ones – would come up to me, set their hands on me, and pray for me.  I had no clue what they were saying, but the honor that I felt was being bestowed on me in those moments, and the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in and through these children – keep in mind where they had come from! – was overwhelming.  I knew that I was in the presence of spiritual giants, some of whom were under 4 feet tall.

What had made these little ones into such giants was the very thing that would have destroyed so many of us.  They had started out with nothing, and then lost everything they had.  They could not have been in a worse place.  But Jesus came to them, first in the form of a person – or several – who rescued them, took them in, cared for them, and showed them real love for the first time in their lives.  Then by His grace they began to see beyond those people to Jesus, Himself.  And they saw in Him something far, far greater than all that they had ever lost.

I often speak of the time when his disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, and He grabbed a kid.  Or when he pointed to the children who had gathered around Him and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Jesus was telling us that our greatest, best, and most profound teachers are not the people with the seminary degrees, but children.

And here I was, sitting on the floor of the big meeting room at Zoe Children’s Home, being schooled by a bunch of these wise, experienced teachers.

More to come …