Have you ever thought you knew the purpose of an experience, only to discover that God had so much more in store for you than you dreamed?
After 30 hours and 5 airports, last week the AWANA International Mission team arrived in Nairobi to spend the week learning about how God is using AWANA to bring hope to the hopeless on a global level. I felt so privileged to be a part of the team, as all the team members were veteran overseas travelers and I found myself as the only first-timer. Well, I’ve been to Canada, but I guess it’s up for grabs as to whether or not Niagara Falls counts as visiting a foreign country.
Poverty is not a stranger to me. I grew up poking around the hollows of West Virginia, playing with barefoot kids who slept with sheep to stay warm at night. My dad made sure that I knew just how poor folks could be and how I should respond to their needs. For 4 years of college, I visited the Chicago inner city every weekend and hugged beautiful people of all kinds. It was there that I tasted the best Russian tea I’ve ever had in my life and there that water and toast was the most beautiful food when served by a dear Spanish family. I had entered houses where roaches covered the walls and I couldn’t put my purse down on the floor for fear of taking said roaches home with me. And I knew a lady who lived in a coal house with no windows and no bed. Surely all this knowledge of poverty would serve as preparation for a visit to the Kibera slums in Kenya, Africa.
And it did in some respect. Though the physical conditions of the Kibera slums are devastating and the lack of utilities is appalling; though the water is scarce and must be used sparingly; and the roads have two conditions: 100% dirt or 100% mud; though the raw sewage runs down both sides of most “streets,” there was something I was completely and totally unprepared for-
the smiles on their faces
the joy in their hearts.
Suddenly my presumed journey transformed into a new revelation and God taught me the first of the Lessons In Hope- proclaiming joy.
I have shared with you before how important I believe it is to unlock the power of praise, but to see this truth living and breathing in such a contrasting environment astonished me.
Proclaiming joy has nothing to do with location.
You can be anywhere at anytime.
Proclaiming joy has nothing to do with religion.
Relationship with the Father, not religion, results in joy.
Proclaiming joy has nothing to do with economics.
The decimal placement in your bank account is no matter.
Proclaiming joy has nothing to do with the size of your sleeping area.
You can still praise God when you have no choice but to sleep three children to a twin bed.
Proclaiming joy has nothing to do with the position of your body and everything to do with the posture of your heart.
As I watched a faithful pastor of 25 years praise God in the middle of hard circumstances, feeding 10 orphans in addition to his own children at his family table each night, believing with manna-like faith that God would provide, I discovered the first lesson in holding on to hope.
When things are tough and the world is completely out of control, the first lesson in hope is simply one of proclaiming joy.
So I determined a course of action when I’m struggling to grasp hope. My plan asks three questions:
1. What has God done in the past for which I can praise Him?
2. What is God doing in my life right now for which I can praise Him?
3. How can I verbalize my joy in anticipating God’s future plan for my life?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
The Kenyan people are excellent teachers of Lessons In Hope. Think you can guess what else I learned from them? Be sure to check out next Wednesday’s post!
Bloggers, thanks for linking up to this week’s Whimsical Wednesday blogger linkup and I’m looking forward to checking out all the posts on Lessons In Hope and the usual 100% Christian encouragement you provide each week!