Sung from Tears: The Joy of the Lord

Looking back on my year in Kenya both reflecting and trying to learn from it, to remember the daily grit as well as the great moments, both the gift and the seeming irony of joy stood out in my mind.  As a part of the aftercare team, it was challenging for me to know how to encourage our clients as they remained in the midst of struggle.  It’s a gift and a grace to be able to see the hand of God in retrospect, for our clients who have progressed and are healing to see redemption in the face of a baby begotten because of abuse or for men released from prison to understand the cost and the depth of freedom with a new sense of wonder.  It’s a greater challenge to see the presence of our God, his strength unfettered, when we remain chained, to mourn with our clients who are illegally detained as we all meet in prison because of human error, apathy, and even malice.  Ironically, it’s in these times that we must intentionally be aware, both as individuals and as body, of how God is present, tender and holy in the midst of injustice.  We remember that God is not only good when we’re singing or high in the sky eating pie, but we sing because God is good, no matter what may be falling around us.  My coworker, Stephen, spent four years in prison as IJM’s first client of police abuse, and his words as our Director of Church and Community Relations now encouraged me while I was learning to seek the peace of God when I was anguished in Spirit.  He spoke of the joy of standing outside reaching his arms out as far as he could and reveling in having the space to, of thanking God that he lived through years of being placed in the part of the prison where inmates with illnesses were kept and thanking God each day that he didn’t have cholera, thanking God for his goodness.  I long for a faith that responds to all things with gratitude, recognizing the gifts present even amidst the pain.  At a time when I not only needed a balm for my soul but was responsible for encouraging our clients who remained in remand, reading the Psalms and seeing the heart of the Psalmist, broken but returning to the truth of praise, reoriented my heart repeatedly even when situations seemed unchanging.

During Holy Week and through the weeks thereafter, I would pray Psalm 22, remembering that God is both the one we seek in desperation and the one who is good, holy to be praised.

Psalm 22: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

And by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,

Enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our fathers trusted;

They trusted, and you delivered them.

To you they cried and were rescued;

In you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,

Scorned by mankind and despised by the people.

All who see me mock me;

They make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

He trusts in the LORD: let him deliver him;

Let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;

You made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.

On you was I cast from my birth,

And from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Be not far from me,

For trouble is near,

And there is no one to help.

Many bulls encompass me;

Strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

They open wide their mouths at me,

Like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,

And all my bones are out of joint;

My heart is like wax;

It is melted within my breast;

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,

And my tongue sticks to my jaws;

You lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;

A company of evildoers encircles me;

They have pierced my hands and feet-

I can count all my bones-

They stare and gloat over me;

They divide my garments among them,

And for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!

O you my help, come quickly to my aid!

Deliver my soul from the sword,

My precious life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!

You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;

In the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

You who fear the LORD, praise him!

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,

And stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he has not despised or abhorred

The affliction of the afflicted,

And he has not hidden his face from him,

But has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

My vows I will perform before those who fear him.

The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;

Those who seek him shall praise the LORD!

May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember

And turn to the LORD,

And all the families of the nations

shall worship before you.

For kingship belongs to the LORD,

And he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;

Before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

Even the one who could not keep himself alive.

Posterity shall serve him;

It shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;

They shall come and proclaim his righteousness

To a people yet unborn,

That he has done it.

 

I kept a card on my desk at work with a quote from Larry Crab that reads “God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts.”

What does it mean to “sing with nothing but joy in our hearts?” Furthermore, what is joy?

I used to think of joy as “the ecstasy of goodness,” like singing at the top of your lungs with the windows down and the wind blowing, driving as fast as you can to come home at the start of summer.  On a greater scale, I thought of joy as the realization and celebration of “a return to kindness and decency” as Audrey Hepburn would say, the gift of people choosing to choose each other’s good. The dictionary defined joy in 3 ways: as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying, a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight, and the expression of a glad feeling.  This leaves joy as the feeling, source, or expression of happiness, but I beg to differ.  Joy can be a gift from God he allows us to enter into, or it can be a response we choose to offer up to him as we acknowledge and ask for his presence in our lives.  Joy is not sweet or fluffy, and it doesn’t always come without pain.

Joy is seeing the work and the presence of God in our lives here and now and gratefully celebrating the privilege of joining in with our whole selves.  Over the past year, my understanding of joy, both the word and the reality, has been challenged, reworked, and eventually purified to hold weight in ways it never did before.

At training week for IJM, joy was presented as “the knowledge of a good well-secured.”  This year has been one of the most joyful and most painful of my life.  There have been no roller coasters or fluffy kittens, no quick and clear token trinkets that come with a rush and are done.  There have been long days, flooding rainstorms, and recurring early mornings.  The exhausting thing about giving all that you have is that you can’t do it once; you wake up each day to do it again.  There is incredible purpose in choosing to follow, but there is also a creeping, nagging temptation to leave.  I appreciate the cost of righteousness when I remember that we cannot actually believe what is true intellectually unless we act upon that with the obedience of trust.  But even before the end of my internship, in the midst of everything, this has been a year of falling facedown and crying holy.  I started reading the Psalms to start my day at the beginning of April, and in them I’ve found the only sort of consolation for my spirit as I myself sought an answer, a word of encouragement or hope, for our illegally detained clients whom we went to visit in prison.

What do you say to someone you know is in agony, bound by the chains of human apathy, injustice and the chaos of fear? What do you say in the twenty minutes a month you come in to visit, before you leave and they can’t? This has been a question I’ve been living in this year, but the weight of it was strong twice; once visiting clients in remand, the prison facility where those accused are held as they await judgment for an average time period of two years, and once sitting next to a client’s wife as we waited for her husband, Joseph’s, judgment to be delivered.  I’ll return to Joseph’s story, but the consolation I felt in those moments and the recurrent theme of peace in the Psalms surprised me in the form of joy.

It’s recounted that St. Francis of Assisi was returning, wet and exhausted, to the monastery after a long journey when Leo, a Monk travelling with him, asked him wherein lies perfect joy.  St. Francis responded that if they were taunted, abused, and put out of the monastery when they arrived, they would experience joy “If we accept such injustice, such cruelty, and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring,” and “if we bear all these injustices with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for Him, write O Brother Leo, that here, finally is perfect joy.”

Perfect joy is an awareness of the presence of God and of our existence in and through him no matter how difficult or comfortable our lives may be.  Perfect joy is ours as we center our lives on him and are aware of his presence in our lives.  Brennan Manning described it well when he wrote, “Christianity doesn’t deny the reality of suffering and evil…. Our hope… is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering.  Rather it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.”

The beauty of the joy exuded, even chosen by my colleagues and clients was not cheap or fake but a resolute bearing of frustration and brokenness with grace, the fruit of the knowledge that this is not the end.  It’s in getting up to go to court every morning even when a case has been repeatedly adjourned, knowing that faithfulness is a gift of service to the Lord and to clients.  In the cases of Joseph, a client who was freed after being illegally detained, joy resounded in a quiet gratitude, a gift of God in response to faithfulness in uncertainty.

Joseph’s family was one I most connected with throughout my time with IJM, and their friendship humbles me.  When I first met their family two weeks after arriving in Nairobi, Joseph’s wife had just given birth to their sixth child, a baby boy, leaving the family without an income as Joseph was in remand and she was caring for the newborn baby.  IJM’s aftercare staff were working to make sure his daughter was back in school after dropping out to help earn money, and lawyers were advocating on Joseph’s behalf.

Joseph has a small business selling soccer balls in a different slum, and one early morning at work police officers were demolishing a settlement there.  Residents were rallying to defend their homes and their families, and Joseph stepped outside of the kiosk where he was having tea to see what the commotion was.  As he stepped outside, he was shot in the crossfire and was taken to the hospital.  While he was being treated, his nurse was talking to another nurse treating a police officer who quickly realized they had been wounded at the same scene.  Angry, the officer ordered Joseph’s arrest and charged him with robbery with violence, a capital offence.  Joseph was taken from the hospital to the remand prison with gunshot wounds, where he remained for 16 months until his release.

Over the next 10 months between my first visit to Joseph’s home and his acquittal, IJM continued to represent Joseph and his family, and they continued.  Life wasn’t glamorous.  It was difficult.  It still will be.  But their family modeled what it looks like to be faithful in uncertainty, to address the difficult and pray for its end daily and to continue to live it daily.  We continued to visit Joseph in remand.  It continued to be crowded and challenging and anything but comfortable, and he continued to yearn for freedom.  We continued to pray.  His family continued to pray.  You continued to pray.  In December, 6 thousand letters of encouragement, hope, and shared prayers from you and others around the world were brought to IJM Kenya’s office, delivered to Joseph’s home, and letters along with Joseph’s wife were taken to him in prison to remind him that he was loved and remembered.  They reminded those in authority that Joseph was loved and remembered.  Our staff sat around our conference room table for a week over lunch pouring through letters.  We cried and laughed and prayed and marveled at the hand of God to move the hearts of second grade and middle school classes, working moms, average and extraordinary people who, in some way, were able to love this man who we loved, to pray for his freedom we and he prayed for, to mourn the degree of injustice he faced and to acknowledge him, not only as a victim but as a man, an individual of great worth who mattered and matters still.  In a stack of 6,000 letters, I read my mom’s letter, unsigned, and started sobbing.  Even as I know that God is compassionate, moving in details, it still amazes me to see how intimately he works, how he knits us together to encourage, uphold, and remind one another of how deep his love and concern is for us.

We delivered the letters.  We were moved.  We continued to pray.  We at IJM Kenya, we at IJM global, we as you and I and Joseph’s family, continued to long for his release and live with the reality of his incarceration.  Joseph continued to remain in remand.  His case continued and his judgment was postponed in a repetitive series.  Joseph’s daughter and son continued in school.  Joseph’s wife continued with the small business IJM helped her to start dyeing and selling individual sized packs of snacks to kiosks around Nairobi.  We continued to pray.

On May 3, a Thursday afternoon, IJM’s lawyer and I met Joseph’s wife at the courthouse to attend another rescheduled judgment for Joseph.  The magistrate was late.  Joseph’s wife and I care deeply for one another, but we can’t really say more than “How are you?” and “Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer!”  with excitement or “Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer,”  with a laugh and a shaking head, depending on the situation.  We were sitting next to each other outside the court room waiting, and I wanted the gift of tongues more than anything so that I could turn to her in Kimeru and say words to encourage her that could only come from God, because I certainly couldn’t think of them, even in English.  Instead, I reached into my purse for the pack of trident gum I carried for “special times” and got a piece for each of us.  She gave me the eye brow not, and we continued to sit.  And sit.  I started rereading Psalm 22 and was reminded that, no matter what would happen, whether Joseph was acquitted, convicted, or sent back to remand to continue awaiting his judgment, God was present, and God was good.  He didn’t speak with audible words or even concepts or ideas, and I didn’t have a revelation of what he was teaching us, much less one out loud and in Kimeru.  There was no clear cut understanding of how everything would be ok because of x,y, and z.  There was anguish, but there was God.

It didn’t look like court would proceed, but it did.  The power went out, and the restless room was left in the shadows of a few small windows and the open door.  Our lawyer asked the magistrate if he would be reading Joseph’s judgment, and he replied that is was drafted, but the shadows were disturbing his eyes.  We sent Joseph’s wife across the street with change to buy candles and a matchbook, and I stepped outside to call my boss and my mom and ask them to pray.  Work at IJM Kenya’s office stopped immediately and was filled with fervent prayer.  Our headquarters were called and they prayed.  I’m told that the ceramics studio at Taylor was filled with students praying, intervening on behalf of a man they’d never met but had heard about through their prof’s updates on the Africa daughter.

Prayer is an everyday marvel, underused and mysterious to me, but it humbles and astounds me to think that God allows us to enter into what he is doing, connect us not only with one another but also weaving us into his greater work of redemption.  This is too deep for me to understand but a grace to be allowed to catch a glimpse of.

After several other cases and more drama than Law & Order, Joseph and his co-accused were brought out to the docket.  Joseph was acquitted of all charges and sent back to remand to be discharged.  Solemnly, his wife stood, walked out of the courtroom, and gave me the biggest I’ve ever received, and I’m a hugger, so that says a lot.  She called everyone she new, and I called my office, my mom, and my Dad.  The sense of joy on the other end of the phone as 20 Kenyans let up cries of joy is something I never want to forget.  I called my Dad when I was sitting next to Joseph’s wife on the phone, and he said “Wow! It’s so exciting to hear how excited your whole office is in this!” No, no that’s just one woman celebrating freedom with her lungs and her life.  She asked me if I could call John, the legal fellow who had spent long nights in the office drafting case files and letters for Joseph’s case.  He left the previous July, 9 months before, but not without impact; Joseph’s baby’s middle name is John after the lawyer who loved his family.  Joseph’s wife said that her husband would love more than anything to see John when he stepped out of the gates of remand and to say thank you to him.

We returned to the office where half the staff and stayed over an hour and a half late just to see Joseph’s wife and celebrate with her.  From there, calls were made to ensure Joseph would be discharged, and Joseph’s lawyer, wife, and our casework manager and I proceeded to the prison to pick him up in a rainstorm and take him to a gas station for chicken burgers, his first meal as a free man.  As the rain roared down and crashed on the pavement outside the open door, Joseph talked about his challenges in prison, how they slept and ate and how he encountered God in a way he never had before.  His wife shared about how her son asked her to save the bread at breakfast that morning so that daddy would have something to eat when he was freed.  We dropped them off outside their neighborhood, and Joseph was reunited with his children.  Together, the family came to IJM Kenya’s office the next week to meet all the staff, and we had a celebration lunch several weeks later to debrief their case, thank the Lord, and give Joseph and his family a chance to share.

While Joseph was innocent and his incarceration should never have happened, God was present.  In the complexity of injustice’s chaos, he remained good, and he does still.  I don’t think that the injustice of Joseph’s illegal detention had to occur in order for a certain good to be shown, but I do believe that our God is infinitely good and incredibly able, capable of being seen even in darkness.  His strength was shown in Joseph’s wife’s loyalty to her husband as she supported him through his incarceration and now through his rehabilitation.  His love was shown in the support of thousands of people around the world, individuals who had never met Joseph but who longed for his release.  Support is defined as “to bear or hold up, serve as a foundation for, to sustain or withstand without giving way, to maintain by supplying with things necessary to existence.”  At IJM Kenya, we were dependent on Christ to support and sustain us, to give us wisdom in our world and to give us peace at night when our work seemed overwhelming.  It was a gift of the Lord to not only be able to support Joseph and his family but to see how God was moving, to experience joy as we saw the hand of God moving every day, from Joseph’s release through all the days prior when he remained in remand.

Joy is seeing the work and the presence of God in our lives here and now and gratefully celebrating the privilege of joining in with our whole selves.

The Joy of Lord comes down as we see that even in conflict, torment and injustice He is present and He upholds us.  Holy is Our God! Wonderful is He! We look to Christ on the cross with the knowledge that he went to His death “for the joy set before Him,” to participate in the redemption of God for all things.  Somehow, shrouded in mystery, He not only made the sacrifice of giving his life for each of ours- a gift in and of itself- but his act of submission was also an act of trust that the Father was present, was at work even in something as dark as a death deemed disgraceful by the Romans.  Even as all things are being redeemed, he invites us to participate in their redemption, in praise and in prayer, in anguish and ecstasy, whether we understand or are overwhelmed remembering as Psalm 22:24 accounts “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”

Thank you for supporting me, for supporting IJM Kenya, and for supporting Joseph and others like him who remain in remand in Nairobi longing for freedom still.  Thank you as a church, a community, and as individuals for raising me up and challenging me to see the presence of God in my life and for making him known through yours.

Life Beyond Birthdays: Freedom and Work

I’ve heard adults say that they’ve grown up; they don’t have birthdays anymore.  I’m of the opinion that just because I’m old enough to use the oven to bake my own cake doesn’t mean I can’t eat it, too.

I turned 23 on Friday, and last week what I was most looking forward to about my birthday was getting it over with.  My roommate moved home, my friends were either gone on vacation or already busy saving orphaned and neglected children, so acknowledging my anticipated loneliness made me feel needy and selfish.  I wanted April 13 to be just another Friday.  Note to self: cancel the pity party and spring for some cake.

Birthdays are beautiful because they’re a day to celebrate a life, not because of what someone has accomplished or contributed, not because life in general is itself a beautiful thing, but because one person came into the world on that day.  No matter what they do or don’t do, they are here, they are alive, and that is something to be cherished and celebrated. 

Birthdays are reminders that our entire lives are a gift regardless of what we do with and in them, and this was a reminder of the gift of normalcy and the beauty of God and work daily.  They’re normal days, nothing out of the ordinary, but that’s what makes them so beautiful.

On my birthday, I woke up and had breakfast with my family – Mom Joyce and Lydia, a friend’s family who I truly feel like I’m coming home to after only 3 days.  I went to work to fill out reports on prisoners released after being unlawfully imprisoned, schedule counseling for clients who have been abused, and deal with logistics of a training. I planned to attend a judgment in the afternoon, but beforehand, I wrote this in my journal over lunch:

“Today is not a birthday spent celebrating by taking a break from my “normal” life; today is a day to celebrate the gift that this is normal.  Whether our clients are released or rescheduled yet again, whether our counselors are available to meet with their clients yet or not, this is something I want to spend my days working towards.  The work may always be more than anyone can complete, but the gift of being able to fully engage in the process to help lift another’s burden and empower them to carry their load is how I want to live my life.  It’s a birthday gift I realized this morning on the bus but that I’ve had all year.  Thank God for life beyond birthdays.”

Two hours later in a silent courtroom, our clients were acquitted, found innocent, and set free.  I have never seen such joy.  Of the two clients, one had been in remand and had given up hope that he would ever be acquitted or even face judgment.  When they led him back inside the holding room behind the court chamber after his not-guilty verdict was read and before taking him to the prison to be officially discharged, he turned around and saw IJM’s lawyer and me, bent over smiling and waved at us, exuding joy from his whole being.  He was not only aware that hope still exists; he was living in it.  As a 28 year old artist who speaks perfect English, he is the client I have most identified with.  The day we first met in remand, we talked for half an hour, and then I asked how we could best pray for him.  He said to pray that we would remain strong and continue working for justice and that we and our families would be blessed by God; that’s their prayer for us every day.  I was moved and humbled.

If we had been born into different circumstances, if he had run a different errand the day he was arrested causing the police to target someone else around, we could have met in completely different circumstances: in at church, at the bus stop, or at the market.  He reminded me so much of some of my friends; by bad luck because of an inefficient system, he just spent the past two years of his life in remand. While he was being discharged, I spoke with his co-accused who had been out on bail, attending court each time it was rescheduled wondering whether he would be reincarcerated for life or have the charges pending against him dropped.  I have never seen anyone so happy.  I asked him what his plans were, and he said “For my future? For today? For my life? To praise the Lord and thank him forever and ever.”  That’s great! What about your family? Are you married? As he was telling me he had a wife and an eight year old daughter, he started making plans aloud for us to go see them that very second, so excited he completely forgot that our advocate was still inside.  He had been given his life back.

This is what the everyday amounts to: while advocates attend court day after day for mentions, hearings, and judgments that don’t proceed, eventually, their persistence facilitates another’s freedom.  Now my lunch break is over, and I’m off to call counselors, fill out reports, and update tracking tools.  While I may never know if another soul reads them, I can type content knowing that two men once forgotten are now free.  Who knows what the everyday will build in light of eternity?

 

 

 

 

Forget “Teach me how to duggy”

I want to learn how to live.

Today, I went to the Africa Unite walk to call African leaders to commit to tangible action to end gender based violence, calling the public and private sector to mobilize to do the same.  While leaders from AU countries were climbing Kili to signify what we hoped to surmount as a continent, NGOs, community groups, business associations, hospitals, members of the government, and concerned citizens were mobilizing in Nairobi in an attempt to move the city as a whole to act, not just talk.  IJM partners with the sponsoring hospital, so we agreed to represent and help facilitate.  Over 1,000 walkers and 20 dignitaries were scheduled to come, meeting at 8 for some inspirational speeches, walking a course for two hours, and returning to the dais of the community park where riveting speeches, community group drama presentations and more would call us to action.  My objective was to strengthen our partnership with the representing NGO to establish specific, tangible objectives for improvement to be addressed before I leave in June.  By 8:45, the guest of honor, an MP, had not yet arrived.

There are two things in life I love: adventure and consistency.  In my mind, if you are on time and schedule, life can be one big, crazy adventure.  If you don’t, you are left at the train station looking at brochures of where you could have gone.  In this case, because the MP was not on time, we were ultimately delayed in starting by 2 hours.  But frustration doesn’t solve anything.

Instead, the woman in charge took advantage of this indefinite wait.  We had a dance off.  Yes, a two hour dance off.  We’re talking booty popping chochos (Kikuyu grandmas), matatu touts here with their community group from the slum, members of partner NGOs I usually see at stakeholder’s meetings, one of IJM’s contract counselors, and me.  I have photos to prove it. 

I love to dance.  Love. Love. Love.  I let go.  I stopped worrying about the time, and I just let go and danced.  For two hours.  On the job.  As part of my job.  Yes, I’m a white girl in Africa.

The event went well.  The MP came and gave a great speech, like Bono telling American teenagers “let’s end this stupid poverty,” he publicly denounced gender based violence as a lesser and unacceptable form of communication, stating that women are meant to be loved and protected by the hands of strong men, not hit by them.  While this seems like a “no, duh” message, it is still very countercultural. His word means something. Almost 1,000 of us walked right before lunchtime, and Nairobi’s major newspapers and tv news anchors got everything on film.  Afterward, speeches were made by those deemed honored dignitaries and community groups from the slums alike.

When I left, those who organized it said how much they appreciate IJM’s partnership and the care we provide for clients they refer to us.  “And, we really appreciate.  You really came, and you really danced.”  Um, I dance like a white girl.  “No, you looked like you really enjoyed! You are in Kenya.”

As my boss would say, “Jennie, what is the moral lesson from this?”

  1. Sometimes, to really live, it’s necessary to throw plans out the window and join the kanga line.  Whether for a 2 songs or 2 hours, feel the drums in your bones and throw yourself into it unashamedly. 
  2. In some bizarre, ironic way, stepping off the sidelines today gave me some sort of weird credibility, strengthened IJM’s partnership with these NGOs, and cleared the road for us to build capacity within Nairobi’s social services to provide quality counseling to victims of trauma.  This is an ironic link; praise the Lord, do not try to transfer it directly to your everyday life. 
  3. Work with all you can to build and do good.  When events stall outside of your control, frustration will only exacerbate.  Learn to let go and see the joy of the dance, not the wait that it fills.  Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, day by day by day.  Trying to force meaning from the time suffocates and stifles our joy.  The meaning is there.  Enjoy the dance.

Living in Between the Already and Not Yet

Yes, we are called to rejoice in the Lord always, to praise Him continually, and although this is the natural direction of our hearts in which our souls find contentment, it is rarely easy.

 

Hope and Happiness

Macy* is a brilliant, sassy, and strong teenager who has shown me what it means to live honestly and in hope. IJM took Macy’s case shortly before I started my internship, so when I first met her, she was just beginning counseling and was visibly burdened by the trauma of being abused and pregnant as a result.  A determined student, having to temporarily stop her studies was agonizing and made Macy feel like she was forfeiting her future and the future of her child.

It’s in this situation, not in spite of it, that Macy showed me what it means to live in hope. When I was home for Christmas, I shared with some of you about Macy’s response to IJM’s writing contest, Colors of Hope. Younger children could draw a picture what hope means to them, while older girls were asked to write essays, poems, short stories, or creative writings about it.  Their work was incredibly poignant.  Without being asked, each girl described the immense pain she felt as a result of being abused, the ensuing desperation, and ultimately the hope that lasts and remains.  Macy explained

Hope is a word you never hear from your classmates or your family.  Hope is something you don’t even believe could exist until the worst thing you could imagine happens to you, and she proceeded to describe the abuse and everything she lost.  She goes on to say hope is something that is not easy or simple- it comes in response to tumultuous pain as a gift and fruit of the spirit.  Hope is realizing that even when you have lost everything and are crazy messed up, you are special and you are loved.  Hope is realizing people exist who care what happens to you, who even care about you yourself, and they know that God cares about you, too.  Hope is realizing that God loves you, that you value and can be somebody because you already are, and that the things you lost, from being able to go to school to your health, your dignity, and your future itself, are not lost.  Hope is knowing that everything will be ok in the profoundest sense; hope is given and is not trite.

My first Saturday back, I got an early morning text that 2 of the social workers were going to visit Macy as she had gone into labor the night before.  Little did I know, I was in for one of the biggest adventures of my time here.  (Ask me later about being given a tribal name meaning “the friendly, outgoing one” by a barful of men trying to take me as their collective wife while I got lunch. Awake now? Ok, bring it back in). When visiting hours were finally announced, the three of us from IJM got to be the first to see Macy and her baby, a teeny tiny little boy who was an hour and twenty minutes old. While the other two social workers went to buy diapers, Macy and I got to sit and talk.  She asked me to hold her baby; I was the first person in the world besides his mom to do so.  She will never know how much that meant to me.  For about twenty minutes, I got to tell her everything I wished she could know on the ride there: she is an incredible, brave, strong, smart girl and will be an incredible mom.  She has taught me more than she will ever know about courage and hope, and I am so proud to know her and humbled by her.  My church is incredibly proud of her.  She said to let you all come in.  I said there were a couple hundred of you.  She said she would be there for a while and didn’t mind waiting: you could take turns.

I asked her how she was feeling, meaning “two minutes ago you said you felt like your insides were ripped out of you.  Can I get you anything to help?”  Instead, she looked me in the eye and said “I am feeling very happy.”

Hearing her happy made my heart soar and jump into my throat like an army of tears trying to break out; those words came at a great cost.  This child, now born, was a real, living, breathing person, a person being celebrated and wrapped up in enough blankets to supply a small inn.  He was no longer a worry, a barrier separating Macy from school, a reminder that her dreams and her innocence were violated.  He was a person, and he was hers.

Hope is not trite or a quick fix.  Hope is knowing that come whatever may, ours is a God who can use it for good, who can literally breathe life into the swollen pains of our lives, conceiving life where we could only see violence and shame. Hope is given, and hope is developed.

 

 

Almost, but not yet…

At the beginning of April, my roommate is going back to the states to be a part of Global Prayer Gathering, or GPG, IJM’s largest international event held every spring to pray specifically for our field offices and casework all over the world.  This year’s plenary event will focus on Police Abuse of Power in Nairobi, and being a part is a wonderful opportunity for her. Once she leaves, I’ll move out of our apartment and in with a friend’s parents.  Dorothy was an intern at IJM, and her parents are a sweet couple around my parents’ age.  Thank you so much for your prayers; this is a huge answer to them

I’m living in Nairobi until June 5 when I fly back to the states to celebrate my mom and sister’s birthday, cry and hug, hug and cry, hug and take pictures, and then spend two weeks visiting friends, unpacking, and hopefully catching up with you as well.  I’m still applying for summer jobs, but I have decided to pursue my Masters in International Human Rights focused in Forced Labor and Human Trafficking at the University of Denver beginning either this fall or at the end of July.  I’ll spend a quarter abroad and a quarter interning somewhere, but it’s nice to feel like I’ll at least have some sort of roots over the next two years. Thank you again for your prayers.

 

 

Please Pray

  • For Macy and her baby; we are meeting with her this week to talk about resuming counseling and returning to school.
  • For me, that I could be fully present here every day in the midst of planning for the future.
  • For IJM Kenya as we continue planning a structural transformation project to build capacity with key power actors to address Police Abuse of Power in Nairobi.  Pray also for our clients who are still in prison that they would have hope that is deep and encourages them in the depths.
  • For our aftercare team as we seek a sustainable method of counseling by partnering with public and private hospitals to build capacity for counseling victims of trauma and gender based violence.  Pray also for wisdom in finding medium to long term placements for clients in need of a safe place to stay and for true joy in our work.

 

Reading List

Two books that have resonated with me this month show the depth of this hope in very different ways.  I’d recommend them both.

  • The Politics of God and the Politics of Man, by Jaques Ellul works through the book of 1 Kings examining the weight of choice and free will in the midst of God’s sovereignty.
  • Invitation to Solitude and Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton, explores the discipline of solitude as an avenue to come to God as we are and experience the rest of being met and known there.

 

*pseudonym

High Stakes Hiking

Hey, remember that time we almost died?

This weekend, the other intenrs and I decided to hike Mount Longonot, a now-dormant volcano about an hour and a half away.  I’ve always loved the idea of hiking- being outside, in nature, working hard together and seeing great views as a result.  Reality check- I’m from Indiana, so outside of a few vacations and study abroads, the mountains in my childhood were on boxes of trail mix.  Now here was Longonot- after 6 months, we were finally going to climb it.  The hike started great- we were climbing up dry creek beds past ridges made of lava and spotting giraffes in the distance.  There’s nothing like looking at a giraffe halfway up a mountain to boost confidence in your climbing abilities.

We hiked 4k up to the top of the crater, and then we planned to hike the other 11k around the circumference and up the peak before climbing back down.  A quarter of the way around the rim, we saw rain in the distance, but the clouds were moving the other direction, and the wind was blowing away.  We booked it.  By the time we reached the peak, the wind had shifted, and the Lord of the Ring soundtrack was playing the “Yes, Frodo, wander up to Mount Doom” music in all of our heads.   We had about 2 or 3k left of the rim when it hit- rain.  The kind of rain that windshield wipers don’t know how to deal with.  In a few minutes, we were running soaked through the paths-turned-rivers racing to reach the path down the mountain before it was completely impassible, then run-sliding down, hopping side to side over rivers as if our lives depended on it.

There are two places you don’t want to be in the middle of a violent thunderstorm: stranded on the top of a mountain, and in a metal boat in the middle of a lake holding a kite or a lightning rod.  Luckily for us, it’s impossible to be in two places at once, and Longonot is just a mountain, no lakes or kites involved.

We made it.

My boss has a habit of asking “and what is the moral lesson in this?” at the end of conversations.  This weekend, I was hoping for an adventure.  I think this counts.  At some point on the way down the mountain, it hit me that we could prepare as much as possible, both in packing rain jackets, snacks, and such the night before and in working out the past few months, and we should.  At the same time, we couldn’t have prepared for the storm.  Like in life, courage comes at the moment you need it.  Like an adrenaline rush in a thunderstorm, you can’t pack it and carry it along, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come.

I’m grateful for my time at Taylor, for my classes and what I studied, and it definitely helped me to not only be of use here but to choose to come in the first place.  I needed to make the investment to build that foundation in the first place, but what has sustained me, what’s lifted me when I’m low and met me in my weakness, has been grace for the day.  Courage isn’t kept in a cupboard.  We can’t take it along for the journey in case we meet our fears on the way.  Instead, we have to trust that as we walk into them, whether blindly or in full knowledge, He who is able will be there as well, making us capable to face whatever comes along the way.

Christmas Came Early

As Brittany would say, I’m a hot mess, but in the best possible way.  Today, Christmas came early.

Let’s set the scene.  November was a whirlwind of stepping into other spaces, new and old, and looking with new eyes.  Remembering and being renewed in Italy as the past taught me to learn and listen for the future, and seeing the sharp, subtle, and sobering contrasts of Rwanda helped me to return to Nairobi with greater intention.  My calendar for December looks like a puppy on espresso: great, warm, and fuzzy, but all over the place.  In that frame of mind, I stepped into the office ready to coordinate celebrations for all of our clients completing counseling, individual victories, freedom celebrations, and staff farewells. 

At the end of our morning devotions, a colleague from HQ brought out a box of over 4,000 letters for Joseph.  4,000 printed e-cards, handmade cards, letters from stay at home moms and high school classes, all encouraging Joseph that he is known and loved, both the world over and by the One who made the world.  I lost it and found it.  There may be mascara down my cheeks, but my heart is incredibly full. 

Thank you for asking for updates and for being a part of this.  Joseph is still in prison.  The update is that there is nothing yet to update, but the God who unites us to know and love one another still knows and loves Joseph.  He still sees him in prison, and he still hates it, but he also still loves us- advocates and perpetrators, prisoners as a result of human justice and injustice- anyway.  There is hope.  Thousands of people still care about justice and Joseph and are moved by his story, even as power actors remain indifferent.  Most of all, no matter what we do or don’t do, the LORD is moved, and He is the only one capable of moving us.  Please continue praying for Joseph and his family, and keep thanking God that he is present, even when the darkness is too thick for us to see.

As Pilgrims moving from Guilt to Gratitude: not just a Thanksgiving Update

As we’re in the thick of November, my mind muses over several themes, always present but never understood: how can I move from guilt to gratitude as I witness poverty and was born into privilege? How can I follow the Spirit wherever He moves and find a Home in Him and Him alone? What does it mean to live as Pilgrims, constantly following the God we know is here with us and yet not fully known?

I’ve been in Nairobi for almost 5 months, a milestone in several ways.  I had to leave East Africa to renew my visa, and ironically, tickets to Italy were some of the cheapest.  Strange? Yes.  Amazing? Absolutely.   Last week, I went back to Orvieto, an ancient cliff-top city in Italy where I studied abroad almost three years ago.   My college roommate, Christina, is doing the same program I did, and getting to share time in Orvieto together was one of the best gifts I could ever ask for.  It was good to reflect on my time in Nairobi and my time since studying abroad.

Theology of Pilgrimage: Longing for Home

My first morning in Orvieto, a friend and I were talking about living abroad as expats, finding “home” even as we constantly remember we are foreign.  It’s a great reminder every day that we are not yet home.  We are called to follow our God, listening to his voice and in a sense living as pilgrims.  We find our rest in Him alone, at the same time recognizing that even as He has revealed himself to us now, we will know Him more fully than we can in this life.  When I studied abroad in Italy, I was reminded that a place will never make me happy, no matter how perfect it may seem.  This is as it should be.  We weren’t made to be fulfilled in a place but in a person.  What then does it mean to live fully as followers, to invest here and now but to know that whatever we are doing, wherever we are living, will not and should not be our source of fulfillment? Psalm 27:4 stuck out to me:

One thing have I asked of the LORD,

That will I seek after:

That I may dwell in the house of the LORD

All the days of my life,

To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

And to inquire in his temple.

 

This is where I want to find and make my home; not in a place or even a person but in dwelling in the presence of the LORD, in Him who is ever present, both meeting me where I am and calling me further into His presence and His work here.  Good lesson.  Now to live it out.

 

Maybe I’m at home?

When I got back to Nairobi, I realized how much more it is like home.  IJM’s aftercare staff take turns facilitating counseling in our office on Saturday, and this week it was my turn.  My first week in July, I didn’t know any of the clients names or stories, and I felt in the way and useless.  Thankfully, life is about much more than just how I feel.  Now, my first week back, our older clients were back for counseling over their school break after being away.  They had overcome horrific circumstances to be back in school, and now, they looked so much stronger.  The little girl who was too shy to look up in July was playing with the other kids and showing us pictures she had colored.  The little girl who had difficulty separating truth from hearsay was sharing the story of her abuse with her counselor, and she and her sister had moved from shyly giggling whenever I would talk with them to tackling me on their way into the office.  Manners are a work in process.  I have never seen such a small child literally fly through the air, nor have I felt so excited to see someone so hurt show love so freely.  It was incredible to remember their journey through counseling and court sessions and to see how much they have grown in every way.

 

I don’t always feel useful or helpful, and as time passes here, more questions about development, global engagement, and living across borders as one united body of Christ are raised than are answered.  Sometimes I’m restless.  Sometimes I’m crabby.  Sometimes I feel so alive I can’t hold it in.  All in all, through pain and praise, mundane tedious tasks and triumphs at the office, and moments of communion and loneliness, I want to be here.  Home isn’t just where we live but the way we live, acknowledging the reality of the Lord whose kingdom is both come and coming, of He who is both in our midst and yet not as He one day shall be. Whether I’m in Nairobi or Italy, in a slum or a crowd, my time here has reminded me to ask first and foremost “who are you, Lord? How do you love? How can I love?” It’s brought me to a place of complete dependency that reminds me of his greatness and my need, his ability to heal and sustain us all, especially compared to how little I have to give.

 

Prayer & Politics

Almost a month ago, Kenya went to war with Somalia, our neighbor to the northeast.  Somalia is a failed state controlled by Al Shabab, a radical militant cell that had been kidnapping humanitarian workers and tourists just across the border in Kenya.  In order to push them back, the Kenyan government invaded Somalia.  Members of Al Shabab in Nairobi retaliated with several grenade attacks, increasing the tension that’s already been building in the city due to political factors and natural disasters this year.  Things have calmed down and we are doing fine, but it was a tipping point for me to realize how much tension has worn me down and made me cynical.  That said, please continue to pray for Kenya, for wisdom for our leaders and peace for our people, and for me, that I will honestly process my emotions while seeking to see a fuller picture of Nairobi and of Kenya.  Pray for my colleagues whose whole lives are here; even in extreme circumstances, this is the only home they have.

 

Prayer: IJM Nairobi

As we’re approaching the end of the year, our older clients are home on school holidays.  Pray for those who are coming back to go through more counseling that they would experience deeper freedom, not just a rehashing of wounds.

 

Praise God for our clients who are finishing counseling and will be able to celebrate together at the end of November.  Thank you, too, for your work to make the details of this possible.

 

Our office is going on our annual retreat this week.  Please pray that this would be a refreshing time for us to grow closer to God personally and corporately and to grow closer together as IJM family.

 

Pray for me personally, that I could experience the tenderness of God as well as his strength, and that I would not become hardened or bitter as I wrestle with injustice.  He sees more than I ever can and is more compassionate than I ever will be.  May I grow to be like him.

 

Psalm 27 The Lord is My Light and My Salvation

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

When evildoers assail me

To eat up my flesh,

My adversaries and foes,

It is they who stumble and fall.

 

Though an army encamp against me,

My heart shall not fear;

Though war arise against me,

Yet I will be confident.

 

One thing have I asked of the LORD,

That will I seek after:

That I may dwell in the house of the LORD

All the days of my life,

To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

And to inquire in his temple.

 

For he will hide me in his shelter

In the day of trouble;

He will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

He will lift me high upon a rock.

 

And now my head shall be lifted up

Above my enemies all around me,

And I will offer in his tent

Sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

 

 

October: Loving Daily

During most of the month of October, I was sick, which took me away from work and gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I’m doing here and what God is doing in me.  I got a little friend in my belly named Alfonso from eating street food, so it made me think a lot about what it means to be foreign, which makes me feel separation from my colleagues here, and the ways we’re all human, which unites us.  Here’s the update I forgot to send.

I live in Kenya, right? Right.  Some days, I ask myself that, but the point of interest in that sentence is that “I live” and how I choose to do so.  Kenya is interesting, sure, and sometimes living here is exotic/ a crazy hot mess, but as much as I have intense or culture-shocked moments, it has become my everyday life.  I walked by the geko on the ceiling last week and said “Goodnight, Marco!” instead of “Good grief, a geko!”  Times have changed.

The moments that have meant the most to me this year have not been crazy or intensely heroic but have been the day to day memories that life is made of.  Sitting on the floor outside of our office coloring and practicing Swahili and English with a five year old client has stuck in my mind more than filling out reports every day ever will.  Coloring with clients waiting for counseling on Saturdays is one of my favorite things.  This weekend, we got to visit a client for her boarding school’s visit day.  Once a term, families bring picnic lunches to visit with their kids and encourage them before they take their state exams.  As an eighth grader, her performance on this exam determines whether or not she will get to go to high school.  Her family is absent, so she expected to be alone; the sheer joy on her face the moment she saw us is something I hope I never forget.   Like a family, she gave us a tour of her world: her seat in the classroom, their bus, her dorm room, her bed, her locker, her seat in the study room, her teacher, and her friends.  We were family.  That word means so much.

Doing tedious office work, seeking excellence in our case work, and constantly looking to enhance rule of law in Nairobi are important aspects of IJM’s work here, but both big picture professional action we take and the love for individual clients boil down to a lot of love and daily acts of faithfulness.

At our best, you and I are doing exactly the same thing in a million different ways, every day.  In The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner writes, “Too often we think of God’s call (our vocation) solely in terms of what we do.  People speak of being called to the ministry or feeling called to work in healthcare or teaching.  However, while doing will always be involved, vocation is much more than our occupation.  It is the face of Christ we are called from eternity to show to the world.  It is who we are called to be.”

 

 

 

Learning to Sit and Steep

My first two weeks in Nairobi completely shredded my views of myself and challenged my thoughts about the future, but even as my heart keeps breaking daily, it is filled with joy.  There are no quick and easy answers for the 3 million that make of ¾ of Nairobi’s population who live in slums, for the men who are thrown in jail without cause with two sparce meals a day and cement to sleep on, for their families who are left without an income with babies to raise and no way to work, for the children who have had their innocence stolen before they could spell their names.  There is no way to process privilege comfortably.  It’s awkward.  It’s complicated, and answers are both partial and as broken as we are, but this process of processing is real.

It’s definitely a process.  While every day brings something new, from a trip to the prison to brief a client to visiting his family in the slums with an update on their case to going to court to coloring and practicing writing Swahili with a five year old client waiting for counseling, I’ve realized that not only do I not have answers, I’m still scraping away the layers of bias that shape my questions.  This year is not going to be like a meal that I can eat and go away satisfied; it’s like tea.  It’s incredibly grey and murky, but it’s a dialogue I need to steep in, to be uncomfortable and question why I am, to examine power and helplessness as both themes and realities I am living, and to find that the Love of the Father is how He chooses to describe Himself and His people even amidst our incredible brokenness.  While justice and oppression seem black and white, we live daily amidst ten thousand shades of grey.

My second week here, I was sitting in a small room in a slum with the wife of a client who has been illegally detained.  Since her husband has been in prison, she has given birth, and because she has to take care of the baby, she can’t travel to work like she used to before her pregnancy, but because her husband was the soul breadwinner, his imprisonment without cause has intense ramifications.  I sat with this family holding her tiny baby’s hand, her tiny baby who is a fair skinned African whose delicate fingers were the same tone as mine.  22 years ago, I could have just as easily been born right here instead of in Upland.  We talked with her kids and the neighbor boy about school, what they want to do, and I felt more helpless than I have in my entire life.  The 19 year old neighbor asked if we could give him a job or what he could do to get a job or pay for college so he could go, and I had absolutely no answers for him.  Juxtapose these people, human beings made in the image of God and of equal worth as you and me, with the understanding that no one should ever feel comfortable with the image of human beings literally living in a self-sustaining community floating in its own filth.  Incredible value and what looks like extreme devaluation of that make me realize that our stuff does not give us significance.  At the same time, a time when Nairobi is in famine, money and food literally mean life or death.

Adjusting to Nairobi; life in T9

I have never felt the presence of God like I have over the past few weeks.  It hasn’t been through fireworks or fluffy bunnies, but through finding myself completely empty and powerless, only to be filled by God and amazed at his strength to save people from injustice I’m not even strong enough to watch. He is good all the time, but his strength shines like lightning when we know nothing else is able to act.

My first day here during office devotions, we read of how God works to stretch out our tents and expand our bounds, and He makes us able to do what he has called us to.  That day for lunch, we had a celebration with a teenage client whose case had closed; her perpetrator was convicted for kidnapping and violating her, and she had completed counseling.  This beautiful girl and her family thanked us for living the love of Christ, and she shared with us how she now wanted to live again and to come work with IJM to help other girls like her who have been abused.  It has been beautiful to see her joy and her honesty.  Somehow, even at great cost and through great pain, we see something of the grace and strength of God in redemption that we might overlook otherwise.

A professor friend at Taylor who is from Nairobi connected me to her sister, colleague, and a friend, and I can never thank her enough.  They have adopted me as their own daughter, helping me to feel welcome and at home. I’ve settled into a church with the other IJM interns, and I’ve been able to get to know more of our clients and counselors through helping host Saturday counseling sessions.  There have been a few adventures along the way, kissing a giraffe to training prison wardens on stress management on the day that I was pick pocketed, had a car accident, and fell in a sewer.  God has a sense of humor.

CSA Client Celebration

This week, we had a yearly aftercare celebration with all of our child sexual abuse clients.  It was incredible to watch girls who had never met each other warm up and share the incredible grace and pain juxtaposed in their stories, especially to watch them encourage and be examples to each other.  Parents got to share with each other, and everyone got to feel both supported and normal as they were around people with similar stories.  For me, the best part was seeing kids have a chance to be kids.  They could run around, make crafts, eat snacks, have their faces painted, and moon bounce, usually all at the same time.  Getting to celebrate with them- which looked like moon bouncing in a full piece suit- was priceless.

Please pray for:

·         Our CSA (Child Sexual Assault) clients that they would continue to experience redemption and healing.

·         The client whose family I described, as he is still detained.

·         Our new Field Office Director, as he and his family just arrived.  Pray that they would continue to adjust well and feel at home quickly.

·         The IJM interns as we find community and “home” in a Kenya.

·         Me, as I love this work and wonder what it looks like to be involved long-term.

Thought for the Day

“In reality love, in the Bible, is utterly totalitarian.  It comes from the entire person; it involves the whole person and binds the whole person without distinction.  Love reaches down into the roots of human beings and does not leave them intact.  It leads to identification and assimilation between the lover and the beloved.  Jesus Christ teaches us in great detail that our love binds us to the spiritual future of our beloved.  This is how we must understand the connection between Christians and Christ, which is a love relationship.  Love led Christ to follow us in our entire condition, but inversely, today it joins us to Christ in everything- his life, his death, his resurrection and his glory.  Where Christ is, there also is the one who loves Christ.  Such is the force, the vigor, of this bond.”

                                                                                                                                                                                              -Jacques Ellul

                                                                                                                                                                                                Money and Power, page 83.

Hope: Desire and Expectation for the Promised Unseen

No matter where we are, what we are experiencing, or what we are working toward, we are constantly living in hope: hope that what we do has meaning, hope that our work is helping someone, hope that we are constructing something beneficial rather than building up something false.  I hope that as I learn about development, it has practical applications assisting real people.  I hope that as I’m learning how to live, my lessons aren’t scars for those I love and am around.  Ultimately, we hope in the Lord, that His word is true, both in scripture and as its breathed into our lives daily, and this hope is actualized as we actually step out and walk onto it.  My roommate, Brittany, shared my first month here that when Peter stepped out onto the water to follow Jesus in Matthew 14:25-31, he didn’t take into account the brazen wind or the torrential downpour.  He didn’t look at the mountains of waves he was leaping into.  He just looked at Christ.

Following Him to Kenya has been the same way: as much as I analyzed and made pro-con, color coded excel sheets, I didn’t think about what it would mean to be away from home for a year, to live in a city filled with slums filled with real people.  As much as there is grit, there is grace and growth, and God is surely there.  We- me, my roommates, IJM, Kenyans, and you as you’re reading this- are living in hope that the God who gave us this life is also present in it, and he is redeeming it in and through us.  While we live in hope, we pursue ends that are like the sunset: present, within sight, and something we will never actually be able to stand in, but radiant and worth pursuing all the same.  Hope is the reality of the presence of our God in this world with the understanding that he is bringing in a new one, not with fanfare and elephants but by transforming this one.  It is here, but it is still coming.  Henri Nouwen articulates this better than I can in Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life:

 

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness . . . But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.”

Rule of Law

Rule of Law is a sandcastle version of the structure our hearts long for and society seeks to create.  It is a manifestation of the order we’ll experience when the Lord rules over everything, not as a benevolent dictator providing a working social order but as the Lord of love empowering us to live rightly and to do so by choice.  We act not to preserve our self interest from a world of scavengers or to get what we want at the best price we can manage using whatever tricks or privileges it takes; instead of living to see what we can accumulate, we work to maintain standards of life ascribed to belong naturally to all.

For now, we work to promote rule of law knowing it is only partial and that we cannot keep the law for the very reason we need it: we are fallen, and we need something to continually point this out and demand standards of accountability.  At IJM, we’re working with the justice system to empower it to function, but seeing how it doesn’t makes my heart grown.  It’s a vicious cycle of broken structures brutalizing masses of people and broken people creating oppressive structures.  Watching this is a personal challenge for me to constantly identify and cast aside privilege while still seeking beauty and joy in life, art, music, and expression that does not provide basic elements of survival but somehow explains much of life itself.  It’s a continual process of seeking rule of law to provide structural justice in society while recognizing that this is only partial, as justice must reign in individual hearts and minds in order for society to be just at the core and not only in our actions.

 

Prayer

IJM Kenya:

  • Pray for our office as we are in the process of hiring for several open positions.
  • Pray that we would find strength, rest, and joy in the Lord.
  • Pray for structural transformation in Kenya, specifically that Child Sexual Abuse clients could submit an examination form from any qualified medical professional as evidence in court.  Currently, only a form called a P3 that is filled out by a single doctor is acceptable in court, and obtaining this is time consuming.

Cases:

  • Pray for a CSA client who just gave birth and lost the baby. Pray for encouragement for her and her family.
  • Pray for our CSA clients who are studying to take state exams in November.  8th graders are required to take an exam over everything they have learned from 1st through 8th grade to determine whether or not they can go to high school.
  • Pray for one of our young clients who is having difficulty discerning truth from what other people have pressured her to believe about the case.  Pray that this little, little girl and her counselor as they begin to discuss the abuse in counseling in two weeks before she is called to testify in court in December.

Me:

  • Pray that I can be fully present, giving all that I am without holding back.
  • Pray for wisdom as I think about what to do next year.
  • Praise God that I have found a church where I can worship, learn, grow, get to know other people, and be held accountable.

Get Involved!

 IJM has launched a letter writing campaign so you can encourage one of our Illegal Detention Clients, Joseph.  Joseph has been imprisoned for almost a year for a crime he clearly did not commit.  Meanwhile, his wife gave birth, and his family is struggling to find a way to support themselves. Sadly, he could easily be freed quickly if power actors involved would examine his file and see the absurdity of the case.  Visithttp://www.ijm.org/content/share-hope to write a letter to encourage Joseph, letting him know he is thought of, prayed for, and loved.  IJM Kenya will print the letters, and we’ll take them to Joseph in prison to remind him that he is known, remembered, and forgotten.  This will also remind power actors involved that Joseph is remembered, motivating them to act.

 

Thought for the Day

From The Valley of Vision; A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Happiness

O LORD,

Help me never to expect any happiness from the world, but only in thee.

Let me not think that I shall be more happy by living to myself, for I can only be happy if employed for thee, and if I desire to live in this world only to do and suffer what thou dost allot me.

Teach me that if I do not live a life that satisfies thee, I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself.

Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angels who willingly come down to this lower world to perform thy will, though their desires are heavenly, and not set in the least upon earthy things; then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.

Help me not to think of living to thee in my own strength, but always to look to and rely on thee for assistance.

Teach me that there is no greater truth than this, that I can do nothing of myself.

Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man can live, yet it is an end that every godly soul presses after;

Let it be then my concern to devote myself and all to thee.

Make me more fruitful and more spiritual, for barrenness is my daily affliction and load.

How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly with little done to good purpose!

I need thy help:

O may my soul sensibly depend upon thee for all sanctification, and every accomplishment of thy purposes for me, for the world, and for thy kingdom.