Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Romania? Part 1

Someone recently asked, “If you’ve had the same dream for 15 years, what are you still doing here?” If got me thinking, and so here I am, writing about what my heart yearns for, and how I hope to begin the process of “getting there.” Growing up, I was a pastor’s kid…expected to be nice to people, to love & care for those around me. I learned that well, but also took it to heart that it is a critical part of this whole “Christian walk” thing…to love others truly & deeply. I watched this love manifest itself through my parents, as they worked & prayed seemingly endless hours to bring my brother home from Romania. Though such a small country, the need was great and the frustrations overflowing. Children were left to die on carts, abandoned after birth by people who only wanted a child for a tax credit. Whatever the consequence, these babies were given no choice in the matter & abandoned to a desolate future. As I watched this scene unfold, knowing at six years old that my brother was just one of hundreds upon thousands of these, it struck me hard. When the outlook was grim, our family drew together, and pressed on, knowing that only a miracle of God could keep things going and bring hope to such a child. Through two long years, this hope & faith in an unseen God was something I learned to lean on. When my brother finally came to us, it was simply amazing. He was such a curious child, imaginative, loving and deeply sensitive toward others. There was so much behind his frail frame. To think that he could have easily gone without a future, to be left on that cart, and have not known the love of a family or hope of a future. I thought about this, and how many others were still there, untouched and uncared for. Forgotten. Many were saved, but many more were not. What happened to the few that lived through the isolated torture? I learned the answer. On one of the times my parents had driven through the pot-holed streets of a Romanian city, past the gray gated orphanages, they saw the answer. Through rain streaked windows, they noticed a girl, young and crying; begging to be let into the gate, in the confines of the orphanage. Asking about this scene, their driver explained that when the children reach a certain age, the orphanage no longer keeps them. They’re out on their own, given only what is on their back. No money, no skills, no food and no direction. Without a clue, most of these children are left the gutters for homes, and glue for sustenance. Over half are raped the first night out, and with boys anxious to prove themselves on the street, a gang gives much needed acceptance. If only they were given some place to go, taught how to live life, and encouraged to believe in a God that would bring hope & forgiveness. People could help them; teach young girls how to cook, how to take care of a house, how to sew and how to take care of themselves. It would be neat if the people to teach them could be Romanians; teaching the girls the customs of their heritage, showing them the love of Christ through simple care and respect. This became my vision. I decided that if no one else would do this, I would. And my dream expanded to include abandoned babies…before they get to the spot these young girls did. The girls would learn love, in loving & caring for babies also abandoned by their mothers and fathers.

Sometimes I think that this vision & passion was concocted through my own imaginings, yet most days I believe that the experiences thrown at me as a child, and the things that I was exposed to, were put there for a reason bigger than my mind could ever come up with on its own. Why would a child at such a young age care so much, and be impacted so much without fully understanding the scope of the issue? Why would a dream and passion last with a person for fifteen years, unless God was somehow putting those yearnings inside their heart? Throughout the past seven years, I’ve been blessed to travel to Romania four times, seeing miracles, meeting missionaries, being loved on by orphans and talking with women who used to live on the same streets we were walking on. Seeing both transformation & regression of these women and the children they bore, emboldened me to just keep going back. Not always knowing the purpose of why I went, but trusting that God would use me where He knew it was necessary. One of these experiences came through a lady named Gina. She was the mother of three boys. The youngest was still a baby, and had been the target of many health problems since birth. One evening, Gina started to spoon feed the baby, but when the feverish baby wouldn’t take the food, Gina got angry and dumped the bowl of oatmeal all over the child and started screaming at the child that he could die and she wouldn’t care. The child started crying so hard I thought he would stop breathing. His temperature increased, and it looked dangerous. Because of his previous & ongoing health conditions, we urged Gina to take him into the clinic to be checked. She refused, replying that she wanted him to die and that she never wanted to see him again. She would allow him to die before she would take him to the doctor. After much pleading and stubbornness on the missionary’s part, Gina angrily agreed to go with us to the clinic. In the back seat, Gina stared angrily out the window while she held the babe tightly to her, keeping him quiet. Once we got Gina inside the clinic, myself and two of the missionaries sat in the waiting room, praying fervently that the child would be okay and that Gina would gain a sense of compassion for him. After a few hours of waiting, Gina emerged, obviously softened to the baby’s situation. She was armed with medicine and a quiet demeanor. Things didn’t turn around completely, but just seeing the broad spectrum of emotions, intentions and conviction in those few hours really showed me how this work can be done. That night, I had no plans to go to the clinic, to be in prayer for so long, but I was just trying to be open. It taught me so much of how God uses us, if we are only open to what might happen around us.

So much has happened during those short excursions that every time I leave, I long to turn around immediately and return. God feels so real to me there, not just because of the location, but I believe because of the heart of the people. They teach me such simplicity, a plainness that is hard to comprehend in a society like ours. There, it is just love. Christ is simple. He’s not some grand scheme, a huge manufactured lifestyle, or a fad, He just is. Meeting the people with a bag of groceries & a listening ear will speak to them. Taking time to read with them, or teach that child how to read for their self is too practical we might think, but it’s not. So many times people have counted them as un-teachable, or not worth the effort. Simply showing them that they matter….to you and more importantly to God, does more than millions and millions of well-intentioned dollars could ever do. Being allowed to be there with them, does cost money, it’s true, but the act of loving costs nothing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Resurrection...Baptism....repentance., I was really hit by a few things. 1. How fun family can be, especially when you are learning funny new things about each other, and are okay to be embarrassed around them. 2. Pineapple stuffing is too amazing for words...but when you eat so much you can't speak, it's probably too much. 3. Jesus isn't the only one who is resurrected today....we all are, or can be with Him!

I was driving to church this morning, half scared to go in because of the lilies, but as I drove, I listened to a song about resurrection, and about life....and as I drove it reminded me of how we all as people, have to die in order to live. To be resurrected, as it were, to have a new life in Christ. The old goes away...we throw it off, are buried & drowned...and the new comes in, we're renewed & harvested. How wonderful it is, to know that we are no longer the person we used to be, but have a new beginning, a clean slate, a fresh start. Like little seeds planted in the ground, the seed must die for a new plant to grow! It's like us....when we were ignorant to the grace of God, we lived for ourselves & though we may have done "good" in the eyes of the world, ultimately there was no purpose, no end goal that we could strive for, except for pleasure in ourselves & our works. Now, through the ultimate sacrifice of God's death & divine miracle of His resurrection, we have a hope of something else. We have something to live for, some one who died for us, and now we can live a new life, dedicated to honoring Him for the gift he's given us....freedom, forgiveness, faithfulness, fullness of life, a fearless way to live.

Part of this also, got me when I saw this old couple driving past me on the road. I looked at them & smiled. How sweet are they, I thought, driving probably to a daughter or son's home for Easter. Probably going to see grand-kids & maybe great grandchildren too. I thought immediately about my own grandma, that wouldn't be with us today. I started to cry, and then in my missing her, I rejoiced. She was celebrating Christ's resurrection, with the Living God Himself!! She saw it complete circle, seeing it as we here on earth can only try to comprehend. She KNOWS the Living God, face to face, as we can, but even more so....she sees him fully, complete, ...what that must be like, to know the power of resurrection in a complete way like she is right now, living a new life, not something we know, but better & fuller & made more alive than she ever was before she died.

I miss my grandma so much....and I know that the disciples missed their friend so much too, but how great is it that we can have hope of seeing them again, in our resurrected bodies, with the resurrected Lord?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


If you've seen my status the last few days, you may have wondered what my battlestations I was manning. Well, let me tell you a little bit of history, and then what recently I was fighting so strongly against.

A few years ago, living in NY, I was awakened to the human trafficking & underground prostitution happening right on my streets & in my community. Someone I met through church, actually lived in the same building as a brothel. I started having dreams of seeing women crying out for help, and when I'd go to get others to come help me save them, no one would come. I would then (in my dream) get frustrated & just go to help them myself. Over the next few months & year, I was drawn to books telling of the horrors of human trafficking & prostitution, and the plight of young women who are captured into this trade. There was even a small child who I had met in Romania, who suddenly was in the grasp of being sold into mob prostitution at the age of 4! God saved her from this, but the fact that it was the intent of people in power to do this to such an innocent child broke my heart.

Last fall, I was introduced to a group in Saint Paul, that go directly to women who are stuck on the streets, surviving in this trade, and gives them hope of a rescue. They provide housing, counseling, rehab & discipleship. The men who solicit these services also are taught the affect their activity has on the woman's life & soul. It's a comprehensive, in-depth ministry.

Last week, they let us know that a club in Minneapolis, Karma, was hosting a "Cross County Pimpin Bash". You probably won't believe what I'm about to say, but they actually planned to show training videos to guys, on how to control women, how to dress them, how to get them into the business, etc. **insert shocked silence** ....yeah, for real. This was also going to be a recruiting night to try & get girls into prostitution. Can we say illegal? So, they had a protest, outside the club (you know I'm always looking to be out loud about stuff), and I went with some friends. There was probably about 40 people there, and we just talked to people on the street, held signs & did some loud shouting, and lots of was an experience. I think in the two hours that we were there, only four people still decided to go in! Wow. Even the bouncers were telling people that they might as well not come in, because it wasn't worth it, no one was there!

We also saw the pimps who were putting this on, and who had made the videos...and they were videotaping US! I was a little unnerved by this...who knows what they'll use it for. We did get a few opportunities to talk to them though, and also to some of the bouncers working the door. They, as well as many other cab drivers, locals & various others, were taking the time to read our signs, ask questions & think about what was going on. God really used this as an opportunity to tell people what is really going on in our communities!

This is real people, don't be naive & think that this stuff only happens in the BIG cities like Las Vegas, LA & New's big HERE, and whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, it's a huge problem, and cuff that is holding our city captive. We must pray that Satan would loose his grip on the women & men that have been trapped in this lie.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Our eyes are on You

We know not what to do, but our eyes are on you." (2 Chronicles 20:12) It's true, do we really know what we're doing?  What is this mission we're on?  Keep our eyes on Jesus. When we don't know what to do, where are we supposed to look?  To HIM.  The author & perfecter of our life.  

Many times, things come into our life, and we count them as coincidence.  We ask why they happened, or blow them off like it doesn't mean anything....but what if it SHOULD mean something?  I sometimes go through life, noticing some things and not others, or maybe paying attention to things that are big, and not noticing the seemingly insignificant happenings of my daily life.  But those things can and ARE used by God to shape us and mold us.  We as a person might be confused by the events of our lives, but God seeks to use those, in growing us into the person He's designed us to be! 

So here's a thought from Jerry Sittser "God, too, is an artist, but the materials for his works of art are not marble or canvas but flesh and blood. We are the ones he wants to shape into beautiful creatures. He, like any artist, sees what ought to be in us and chips away at everything that keeps us from it. That is the essence of God's grace for discipleship, his initiative."

Don't you sometimes feel that God is involved, but kinda observing to a point what is happening?  I do sometimes.  I forget that He takes initiative in putting this or that in our way, to help us...maybe not what we would consider helping, but form us, give us opportunities to grow perhaps?  Think about this quote from E. Stanley Jones, "Don't bear trouble, use it....Take whatever happens--justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, compliment and criticism--take it up into the purpose of your life and make something out of it. Turn it into a testimony. Don't explain evil; exploit it; make it serve you."

Hm...puts a new vision out there, doesn't it?  So when we don't know what to do, or when we don't understand what's going on, we're to look to God....but also, as Sittser goes on to suggest, we should keep one eye also on what God is doing IN us, not just around us.  What are we supposed to take from this situation?  Who are we supposed to become?  Why are we here and not somewhere else?  

Let's look together, at the days we have here, there, wherever, and think I supposed to be learning something here?  If you're answer is yes (which it probably should be...) then what is it that I'm supposed to see?  Seek God, and He'll reveal that to you....individually.  It might not come right away, that's why we're to seek HIM.  So...go for it!