Hope is the thing…

Sometimes “walking by faith” is just hard.  Actually, most times it’s just hard.  My “Type A” personality wants all of my ducks in a row, preferably wearing matching rain jackets and quacking in unison.  Living on the mission field means that my ducks are usually scattered all over the place, wearing nothing at all and quacking randomly in several different languages!

The past several weeks we have been crazypants around here.  Arriving home after 8 very long weeks in the US, finding out we had to move just five days later, actually moving just 10 days after that, having our girls come for Spring Break (don’t get me wrong–I loved that part!), getting back into our routine in a new apartment…and that’s all just on the homefront.  Our ministry has had it’s share of crazy as well.

I will try to keep this short…wish me luck!  Our recyclers have been experiencing a very difficult season in life right now.  Due to a change in leadership, both in their “association” (like a union) and at the top–the government entity that oversees the transfer station and all of the activities that take place there–they have found themselves with little to no work (they were actually allowed on-site for about four days in February) and are facing the aftermath of this situation.  These are people who typically earn between $50 and $80 a month, and barely get by.  There is no money to put into savings (it’s not a “saving” culture anyway, but that’s a topic for another day) and so when they don’t work, there is nothing to fall back on.  Our organization has done three food distributions to try and help them, but our resources are limited, and as well there is always the danger of creating dependency, which is not a good thing, even with the best of intentions.  The current word on the street is that they will be allowed to return to work on Wednesday, but this is the fourth or fifth time in as many weeks that an agreement has been mediated, only to fall through within a day or two, so we are understandably pessimistic.

During all of this, I find myself asking a lot of “whys”.  These are people who are unemployable in every sense of the word.  Many, if not most, are functionally illiterate.  They have no job skills training.  They really don’t even have “life skills” training.  When you must begin with why it’s important to bathe on a regular basis, you’re starting at the most basic level.  That’s hard.  So my question is “OK, Lord.  You KNOW all of this about them.  You KNOW that even to get them to the point where they could get a job at McDonald’s or KFC would take years, and resources…and a willingness on their part to learn!  So WHY is all of this happening.”

I wish I could say that the answer showed up in an email, and I forwarded it to Dan and he implemented all of the suggestions and we’re all good now.  I wish.  But the reality is that the answer is somewhere in the muddle.  He calls on us to trust Him.  To believe, even when everything is falling down around our ears, that He has everything under control.  That while I feel like my ducks are deliberately staging a riot, they are actually HIS ducks, and they are doing just what they are supposed to be doing.

So we press on.  Looking for the good.  We were able to provide food for our recyclers, to help see them through this hard time.  Our family resource center is open and busy and Pastor Jose told Dan the other day that one of the unexpected joys that has come from all of this is that he has found open doors with people who wouldn’t even look at him before.  Our monthly “family night” saw 40 adults and more than 30 children packed into the center.  Even though the adults are not working, they are still sending their children to the center for after-school tutoring and a hot meal.

On the homefront, we are settled into our new apartment.  It’s warm and safe and dry, and when Dan travels to the US for 10 days next month, for the first time in over 11 years I will not fall apart because I am so terrified of being here alone.  I feel secure, and that changes everything.  We’ve established our routine and things are quiet and semi-normal.  (I gave up on normal a long time ago.  Semi-normal is as good as it gets!)

One of my joys over the past few weeks has been a new devotional that I found called “Writing to God:  40 Days of Praying with my Pen” (Paraclete Press).  I do my best thinking with my pen and to be able to use that in my devotional time has been a true blessing.  One of my favorite days so far was called “Ashes to Ashes Confession”.  It speaks so pointedly to this season.

I am worn down today, fatigued in every muscle.  I am not whole, not even halfway.  It is brilliant, thrilling to be human…oh but I strain against the ashes…the limits.  Heal me, Jesus, with the scars of your own brokenness.  Heal me…not to strength or perfection, but to togetherness.  To gentleness.  To taking care of these ashes.  Be the wholeness that I am not, and remind this body of ashes to rest my scars in yours, to live my broken life fully.

It’s Easter week.  And I think the sun is about to come out.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
Emily Dickinson