Thats because God Himself is incredibly creative. An Artist. If you have any doubt about that, just read Genesis 1.
When God asked Moses what was in his hand, Moses probably thought his shepherd's staff was the last thing that the Divine would use to do spectacular things with. I can imagine Moses saying, "Its just a stick…I've been a shepherd for 30 years" and if it were not for his respect, may have sarcastically continued "…what do you think it is?!".
Sometimes we are blind to the very things in our hands whether that is a hammer, a calculator, computer skills, a truck load of tools, a diaper or a bike. Whatever you find in your hand, it is no accident. Divine imagination is often the only missing ingredient to seeing the ordinary become extraordinary.
Today the two sisters pictured above saw the fulfilment of an idea they had last summer. Together with Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton, they planned today as a "dress down day" to raise awareness and funds on behalf of ReACT. On such days students make a donation to the specified charity, leave their school uniforms at home and wear casual clothes to school instead. Today the school traded an "ordinary" day and made it "extraordinary". As I write this, I am encouraged by the awareness and funds that will be raised to support the children ReACT cares for in Kenya, but even more so, I am encouraged by this school that today reflected the Genesis 1 creativity of God. Thank you to the students, staff and all who took part!
Divine imagination transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
What is that in YOUR hand?
When my church asked me to write a piece about our recent trip to Kenya, I found it hard to decide how to share briefly about such a profound experience. Please follow the link below and search for May 15 to find the post:
It is time to dig passports out of the back of drawers, suitcases out of the back of basements. It is time to shift mental gears to prepare for long flights, blazing sun, mud between our toes. Mostly, it is a time of excitement and anticipation. Some of us are visiting friends we haven't seen in a year. For some it has been five years, and for some it is all brand new. Five of us are heading to Kenya next week, returning on Easter Sunday. While we may or may not be able to send you stories and photos as we go, there will certainly be many tales to tell and many thoughts to share upon our return.
Our trip will mostly be comprised of spending time with our Kenyan friends and partners to give the support and encourage them in the work that they are doing. We are always encouraged as we visit and in some way come behind them in what they are doing. Our trip is less about "accomplishing a project", rather, we hope to be able to simply understand and support what our Kenyan friends are doing on the ground. After all, are we really in a position to go over and impose our Western ideals on a foreign culture?! I do believe that we have perspective to offer, but who better sees what needs doing than those living ReACT's vision on a daily basis? If we are asked, "What are you doing on your trip?", the answer is simply to encourage, offer perspective and see how we as Western friends can support them from half a world away.
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4 1,2
On a continuing basis, we always feel the weight of trust that our sponsors put in the work our team is doing in Kenya. This"weight" is not a burden but rather it is sobering to think of the level of trust many of you put in us as we strive to see the children of Kenya know the love of our Father. As we travel for the next three weeks and see the children, visit the homes and schools as well as spend quality time with the staff on the ground, there will be some areas where we offer encouragement and some where we are encouraged. There may be some areas in which any of us (including myself!) need correction or even rebuke. We recognize that we are all ultimately "in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and dead…" and in view of that, we, as a team must carefully assess where we have been and where we are going to ensure that we are accomplishing the vision that God has given us as a team.
Please pray that God gives us wisdom, discernment and clarity as we meet, travel and assess the work at hand.
Not long ago, I received the above letter accompanied by a donation for ReACT. Of course, I kept the letter, not just because it was written by my nine year old niece but also the reminder it is to me of a few things that I need constant reminding of in being a part of change with any cause.
First, change happens through intentional and deliberate action. Annika had a cause that was close to her heart but didn't just think nice thoughts about the kids of Kenya. She schemed and planned how she was going to be involved despite the fact that she wasn't old enough to have a "job". She didn't just think "pie-in-the-sky" but she married her faith with action.
Second, involvement should be creative. Annika not only took initiative but was creative in how she would be involved. In the end, she used the gifts she had to further a cause by making necklaces and selling them. Remember the boy with the fish and bread? Jesus loves to use the normal, everyday things that we find in our hands. In the book of Exodus, Moses carried a staff where ever he went and I'm sure that when God asked him "whats that in your hand". Moses probably never even considered that his "kick stand" would be a key ingredient in setting a whole nation free. Have you considered that the everyday item in your hand may be the very thing God wants to use as a catalyst for change? A dirty diaper? A hammer? A vacuum? The hand of your grandchild? Whatever it is, be creative and imagine how God wants to use it to implement change in the things you are passionate about.
Third, no effort is too small. In our culture, $105 may not seem like much but the "little" that Annika earned, saved and gave is enough to support a handicapped child for half of a year in a boarding school in Kenya. A nine year old girl was intentional and creative enough that a child across the planet is benefiting with education, uniform, room and board for half of the school year! Jesus loves to take the fish and bread we have in our lunch, and use it miraculously.
Whats that in your hand?
After a short visit to the projects in Kenya that ReACT is a part of, I can honestly say that I have never been as excited and filled with a sense of God's partnership as I am now. Partnering with our friends in Kenya as well as our friends here in the West is an enormous privilege that reminds me that we are a bridge between these two "similarly different" worlds.
We have three main projects that we are involved with in the Kitale area of Kenya.
First is our partnership with two schools in which presently there are seventy seven registered children that the friends of ReACT sponsor. One of the schools is for deaf children and the other is for children with various handicaps both mental and physical. We first started sponsoring children in these schools in 2005 and I can honestly say that I have never seen these children look as healthy and bright as I did on this trip. There is something that can be said for making small investments over a long period of time which many of you have been doing. Investments made this way (whether its time with your kids or finances for retirement) are, in my opinion, the most profitable in the long run and the fruit of this kind of investing is increasingly evident as each year and trip passes by. Like a growing child, we can also see where we need to make changes though this too is an exciting prospect.
ReACT has partnered with two other Kenyan families to care for OVC's (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) since 2005. Between these two families, there are almost 60 children that are cared for in what we call Organic Homes. The purpose of these Organic Homes is to provide a cost-effective, family friendly and culturally relevant means of caring for OVC's. While many in Kenya focus on "Orphanage" style of care, we have felt that Organic Homes provide a more multipliable model for orphan care at a more reasonable cost.
Our second partner is Daniel and Anastasia Juma. In 2005, ReACT began partnering with this home by helping start a small business using "bicycle taxis" or boda-boda's as they are known in Kenya. Over the years since 2005, Juma has saved and purchased his own motorcycles for use in his delivery business, started raising chickens for sale to local hotels and restaurants, started a popcorn business as well as other small ventures. This has not only increased his ability to provide for his family, but has also been a living example to his children and the 20 extra OVC's in his home. In the past months this family was able to move to a new property with 5 acres that will further move them towards being self-sufficient in the next year or two. We are now moving into the final stages of this process, that is, mentoring and reproducing this model with someone else. Complex things break down...simple things multiply. A simple model like this home is cost-effective, culturally relevant and simple enough to be reproduced.
Or third partner is Martin and Ruth Shikuku. They too have recently moved to new property as many of you know. They currently care for almost 40 children at their new location and are making changes that move them into new directions. We are both excited and challenged by the needs that this home brings with it. During this time in Kenya, a team has come around Martin and Ruth to assist them with the enormous task that they have in front of them. Everyone that I spoke with that knows this couple spoke highly of their hearts and desire to help those around them and we are also excited to see where God is taking this home and its children. It is our prayer that the team working with them there will be able to assist them with the decisions and direction that is in front of them.
As always, I have both enjoyed and appreciated the team at Transformed International in Kitale who have not only become our partners over the years but more so our friends. Daniel and Ashlie Lipparelli and the team of Eric, Anne, Mark and Derick are indispensable to our work there as well as our latest friend, Adam Pollock. There is always much room for laughter and friendship amidst the work to be done! Relationships are central to ReACT; its the "Together" in "Reaching African Children Together".
There is much more to say in regards to this trip and the work at hand that I cannot expand on now without writing a novel. For those of you who are the praying types, please continue to ask the Divine to lead us in these things...we desperately need His partnership as well as yours! The coming months will unpack these three projects in this blog and hopefully bring you, our partners, an increased sense of the bridge we are all building together between these two worlds.
We are all made to carry both primary and secondary visions for our lives. For each of us the combination of these is as diverse as each snowflake. We are, as Eugene Peterson says, to "live creatively" with what God has given us and blend both our primary and our secondary visions the way a blender mixes ingredients for something more tastey than any single ingredient.
While primary vision always looks different for each of us depending on the creativity of our Creator, there is one trait that is consistant. It is always larger than the pursuit of self.
Secondary visions are the time, talent and treasure we've each been given. On their own, they are only self-serving and self-preserving. Its the career, the job, the possessions and gifting we've developed and have been created with. With this time, talent and treasure, we are constantly given the choice to use it for our own self preservation or for a greater vision. Will these secondary things serve a higher vision?
Without a primary vision, the secondary always wins by default. This is evident when, say, our career dominates everything or our dream house is all we think about. Perhaps that training as a teacher is seen only as a means to an end instead of a means to bring life change to children. It may be the accumulation of wealth "for retirement" before any thought is given for the needs around us. Either way, our culture is dominated by the pursuit of secondary visions all too often lacking a primary vision to lead the way.
What if we took the time to really imagine what we could do with what is in our hands? What if we did as the Message says in Galatians and "lived creatively" with our time, talent and treasure? What if we were determined to use these things for higher pursuits instead of the illusion of self-preservation?
I am amazed to witness so many selfless people coming to Kenya from the US to blend their secondary and primary visions for the children of JoHaBeTo. For all of July and August, upwards of close to 100 people are both raising funds and travelling to Kenya to labour and give of what they have to provide a new home for the children of Soy. You can keep track of their adventures at www.johabeto.blogspot.com.
What role does your secondary vision have in serving the primary, higher calling God is painting for you?
We are all a part of a city whether we know it or not. We are all building something whether we are conscious of it or not. Its not that what we are building should be visible, but that it cannot be helped but be visible. What comes to mind when someone mentions "Las Vegas" or "Rome"? Perhaps you have never visited, but you know of these places and their reputations. Africa is known as "the Dark Continent". A place of poverty, corruption and suffering. It is here that we pray that the Light of another City shines brightly, making a noticable difference. A difference that is visible on an personal level but perhaps not globally for generations to come. But always visible. Never hidden.
Like a city on a hill, our first-ever blog is posted for all to see. We are pleased that you are taking the time to pay a visit to our updated website. Our hope in revising this site is that we can better keep our friends and sponsors updated on progress and change by giving updates and news as it happens.
Many of us have seen the daily struggles of third-world orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) as we casually flick through the TV channels, but too few have realised the hidden riches that these children also possess. Kid sisters like Faith and Eunice are healing wonderfully (as seen above) in the Juma home after their parents were violently killed in the clashes of 2008. Deaf twins like Allan and Brian whose contageous smile and sheer delight at the prospect of an education, despite their dark history, would make all of us feel blessed. We want these lives to be like well-lit cities instead of the dark shanties they once were. These stories should be told with lots of noise and neon lights.
And so we welcome you to pay us a visit. Come into this place and explore it's streets. Find a corner that you can call home either here with us or with another community and become a part of the larger city even as we too are finding our place as a part of the larger city. In 2009, our partners rose to the occasion and sponsored 102 children through our various projects and as we look already to 2010, the needs are overwhelming. Already we have had 134 potential new physically and mentally-challenged students come knocking as they look for a place to settle in this corner of town for the next school year. There is room for growth. There is still much to be done.
Join us in our journey as we all look and march to a much larger, brighter City.