We have had the privilege on many occasions of driving through the African countryside. I will NEVER sing the song, "He Reigns" by Newsboys again without going back to the African plains in my mind and picturing the hot, dry, dusty, beautiful soil, Acacia trees, colorful birds, mud huts, and wildlife that we have witnessed on this side of the world.
Here is a link to the song, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twuLr5rQmp0
and these are the lyrics:
"It's the song of the redeemed rising from the African plain.
It's the song
of the forgiven drowning out the Amazon rain,
the song of Asian believers
filled with God's holy fire.
It's every tribe, every tongue, every nation, a
love song born of a grateful choir.
It's all God's children singing, "Glory,
glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns."
It's all God's children singing,
"Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns."
Let it rise above the
four winds, caught up in the heavenly sound.
Let praises echo from the towers
of cathedrals to the faithful gathered underground.
Of all the songs sung
from the dawn of creation, some were meant to persist.
Of all the bells rung
from a thousand steeples, none rings truer than this.
All God's children
singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns, He reigns."
God's children singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns. He reigns, He
And all the powers of darkness tremble at what they've just
'Cause all the powers of darkness can't drown out a single
when all God's children sing out, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns.
He reigns, He reigns."
All God's children sing out, Glory, glory, hallelujah,
He reigns. He Reigns, He reigns."
All God's people singing, "Glory, glory,
hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He Reigns (He reigns), hallelujah."
God's people singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He
Reigns (He reigns), hallelujah."
All God's people singing, "Glory, glory,
hallelujah, He reigns (hallelujah). He Reigns (hallelujah)."
(the emphasis is mine)
I want to share pictures of our time in Awash with you, but first I want to share some things I have learned while being here.
1) You don't have to have electricity to have fun. Video games? Computer? TV? Not necessary. We have had countless fun evenings spent playing games by candlelight and flashlight. Lots of time talking and laughing. You don't need electricity to show love and have a good time. You need people.
2) Water is necessary. However, a hot shower with a turbo-powered shower head, beautifully tiled shower, bubble-bath-filled tub, and expensive plush towels are not necessary. We have spent many evenings taking a baby-wipe shower (i.e. wipe off the basic nastiness and call it a day), a one-water-bottle shower, and (if you're really lucky) a one-pitcher-from-the-kitchen shower.
3) Food cooked over a propane stove when it is sparse tastes better than a steak dinner from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a tiny bit here, but there's a reason why food always tastes awesome on our camping trips. The same as here: it was hard to produce! And, there's not much of it! Therefore, it tastes delicious and smells divine. That's the rule. If you don't believe me, go camping and find out for yourself.
4) You only need a couple outfits. Really. I have a closet full of clothes in 5 different sizes (don't ask) in Florida. They are waiting for me when I get home. When I find an outfit that fits me in that closet I will happily wear it and revel in the fact that I-don't-have-to-wash-it-that-night-because-it-needs-two-days-to-dry-in-the-rain-and-then-I-need-to-wear-it-again-so-I-won't-be -naked-like-the-guy-I-saw-on-the-side-of-the-road-in-Addis-this-morning-bathing-in-the-sewer-water. I don't care if you're still wearing the tight-rolled pants from middle school with a tie-dyed shirt, you have clothes. Period. I love you whether you have the latest Cosmo looks or not. Okay? (Oh my goodness, Mom and Dad, did you ever think when I was growing up you'd hear me say this? Shopping was my favorite hobby. Enough said.)
5) Letting someone go hungry and skip a meal is not worth me going out to dinner. Dude. Let me just say that I will continue to go out to dinner. I can name a long list of restaurants I am salivating over visiting when I return to Florida. Chick-fil-a? Yes. Grandpa Johnson's? Bring on the BBQ. Mi Casa? Burritos and margaritas, I will see you soon. Obrien's? Loaded cheese fries, I have dreamed about you. BUT!!! I will not eat you as often as I did before, and I will not eat you without counting the cost in my budget as it relates to my sponsored women, children, and families. I will not tell you how many children in what organizations we sponsor. I don't want this to be a "look at me" post. But it's more than one. More than two. We sponsor moms. We sponsor families. We are paying for school fees for people we don't know. Why? God knows. We have the means with what God has blessed us with. If it means I don't have the latest clothes, dance classes for my kids, or electronics, then so be it. If it means I cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner, cut coupons, raise chickens, and plant a garden, then I am happy to do it. I have now seen the faces and met the mommas and heard the cries of hungry babies. I will count the cost when my $35 dinner out will feed a child for a month. My $55 date with my husband will take care of a mom and children for 30 days. My $120 amusement park ticket will completely clothe, feed, and educate a single mother and baby for 4 weeks. They are real. They are not sad pictures on a website. They have names and hurts and dreams and fears and they want someone to love them. I will. I can love them. But I can't love them all by myself. Will you help me?
5) I love living near my extended family. If there's one thing I've missed, it's having the loving support of my parents, in-laws, sister and hubby, aunts, uncles, and cousins, nieces, and nephews. I have only one sister (and she's an amazing wife, mom, sister, and friend), but my extended family is huge. My mom is one of 7 seven girls. My dad is one of 4 children. There are lots of cousins. Family get-togethers have always been loud and filled with fun. Everyone does not always agree, but everyone knows they are family. That's enough. I am extremely thankful to have such a large family. I always wanted my children to have lots of brothers and sisters to go through life with.
6) Most species of bugs make my skin crawl. I don't like most of the ones in Florida, and I don't like most of the ones in Ethiopia. There are a lot of similar insects (since they have similar climates), but I still don't like them. I would be happy never to see another roach, ant, mosquito, bed bug, fly, or spider again (yes, I know spiders are in a different category, but they crawl and creep me out, so I'm lumping them right in).
7) My house does not need to be decorated by an interior designer to make a home for my family or provide hospitality for others. I have been blessed with a beautiful home in Florida. But, we have lived out of suitcases here, had a home with sparse furnishings, sat on chairs built by a local man, and been happy in rooms with no expensive artwork (or no artwork at all). All of these things have happened at different times, but everywhere we have lived we have felt at home. Why? Because we were together. "Home is where the heart is" has never been more true.
8) Exercise rids you of bad feelings, gives you energy, and burns calories. I have never in my life climbed as many stairs as I have in the past 3 months, and it's been great! Apparently I needed to re-learn some lessons in life, and this was one of them.
9) Many people in the "church universal" today have turned a blind eye to what really matters to Jesus. I am going to step on some toes here, but I have witnessed large numbers of people that say they love Jesus do nothing more than attend church on Sunday. Or they work in ministries in the church without reaching out to others in the community and world and think that's all they are supposed to do. Or they look at their neighbor with tatted up arms, multiple piercings, and Harley jackets and think they are so glad they "are not like them". You know how I know this? Because I was one of them! When you let legalism enter into your thoughts and heart you cease to love people the way Jesus loved them and instead just judge on their outward appearance. The Bible says that people who don't know Jesus are "captives". Try thinking of others in this way. You'll stop caring about what they look like and start caring about loving them. What is your neighbor going through? Can they use a meal? Their lawn mowed? A card? If you don't know, find out! Then, ACT!
"My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ. They want to to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them."- Kyle Idleman, Not A Fan
10) The church is not made up of people in America, but people all over the world. Did you know that? Because I hear sooooo many people make comments like, "we should help our own first", and now it makes me want to throw up. No where in the Bible does it say that Americans should only help other Americans. Or that God loves America best. Or that God loves white people more than black or brown or tan or albino or any-other-color-you-can-name. There are people next door to you that you are supposed to minister to. There are people in the next town that you are supposed to minister to. There are people in another state that you should help. There are people on your continent that you should love. And there are people all over the world that you are called to love, minister to, and help. No matter where they are. You are supposed to love. Period. You know who's going to be worshiping God in Heaven with Jesus one day? Every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. That's it. Heaven will be a lovely rainbow of people. That's a promise. If God's calling you to feed someone in your neighborhood, do it. If He's calling you to spend time with your family in another state when someone's going through something rough, be there. If God asks you to go on a mission trip to another country, GO. If He puts it on your heart to move to a remote location and reach people with the gospel, just do it (sorry, Nike). Please don't judge the person next to you because they have not been called to walk the same walk as you. Just do something. Spread the gospel. And support each other. Be a unified front for Christ.
"9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;"-Revelation 7:9
Limiting this list to 10 was difficult. Lessons are limitless. Thank you, Lord, for teaching me.