Archive for August, 2009

The Week Ahead

August 22, 2009

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For those of you who have been periodically checking in on our blog over the past year, you can probably appreciate why what we are looking forward to this week also represents a milestone for us. This week our team will be hosting Trade Justice Mission in Tanzania. TJM utilizes jewelry making as a method of economic development for women in developing countries who lack assets and have no steady source of income. The concept is simple: TJM provides the materials, trains the women, pays the women individually for their labor, then markets the jewelry in the U.S., and finally sends the profits back to the women as a co-op. The co-op is then empowered to use that capital to invest in long-term income generating activities.

TJM connects with women in developing countries by partnering with organizations already working in country. In the case of Tanzania, we are that organization, which returns us, my noble repeat readers of our blog, to the point of this week being a milestone.

First, big picture—looking back on entering Tanzania, we came here with a desire to serve those who are struggling and to share the love of Jesus with them. This week will be another tangible example of God providing our team with an opportunity to do that. That is very exciting. When you pack up your life and family with hope and faith that things like this will happen, it is very cool to experience the fruition of these hopes.

Now, small picture, focusing in on just the past few months—so many of our team members have spent many hours driving and meeting with potential women for these co-ops. For each woman participating this week, we spent time in her home, getting to know not only if she qualifies for this opportunity, but also getting to know her story. We have broken bread together, drank tea together, and prayed together. And now that the time has come to start, it is so encouraging that our efforts have paid off.

But beyond our personal milestones, we are very excited for what God has in store for this week and for these women. None of them are simply struggling financially: some of them have a physical disability, children with mental disabilities, are HIV-positive, or are trying to keep families together that have been torn apart by death and disease. We ask those of you who desire to see change in the lives of these women to please pray for the success of the jewelry co-ops. Also pray for the hope of God, the hope that we see Jesus extending to anyone who needs it, to enter the lives of these women in a significant way.

One Story

August 13, 2009

The Sunday morning sun failed to hide, rather it severely contrasted the languid and sickly appearance of a man who appeared outside our church a month ago.  He told us that he was thirsty, so we invited him in for a glass of water. He sat and listened to the music as we prepared for the service.

 He told us his story.  Sad stories don’t get much sadder. He no longer wanted to live the life he was leading and we prayed that Jesus would bring change into his life. Our prayers were not halfhearted, but we felt halfhearted after he left for we knew he was returning to a place filled with darkness. He lived in an abandoned building in a part of the city where lives become embers and then burn out.

 Our halfhearted spirits were lifted when he returned the next Sunday.  Food, community, prayer, and the encouraging words of God are what we gave him. His presence the next Sunday encouraged us even more. But this sickly man now looked even thinner than before. We could not just send him off again and hope to see him next Sunday.

 Social services are difficult to track down here. We knew of an Anglican clinic, so we took our friend there. Entering that clinic on a Sunday afternoon was like walking into heaven. Even on a Sunday, so many doctors and nurses were present and many adults and children were receiving care. A doctor deserving of his title interviewed our friend; he was thoughtful and compassionate. Finally, he was tested and the results were not good.

 For some of us it was the first time to be present with someone who is finding out that he is HIV-positive.  There are not many words worth saying at this moment. The peace of God is the only hope.

 We decided to pay for our friend to have a week in the hospital and get stabilized with his diet and medication. We had no idea what his life would look like after that time, but we knew this was the least we could do.

 We visited, prayed, talked through fears, and laughed during that week.

 Fearing what was next, we all searched our contacts and found a program that helps those with drug addictions. Our friend was also an addict. So we thought this would be a great opportunity because the program takes in people struggling with addiction, gives them a place to sleep, food to eat, and trains them in carpentry.

 Our friend desired to try this place. We took him there. He met a friend the first day who was also HIV-positive. He could get medication from the clinic, get well at this rehabilitation home, and learn a skill.

 Unfortunately now was not the time for a full life change.  After one week in rehabilitation our friend made the decision to leave. We had to drive him away from the center and drop him off. Curious what he would decide to do next we watched him after getting out of the car. He walked and found his way to the front steps of another church. Discouraging? No.  When in need with nowhere to turn, I am glad people turn to the church.  It is a tangible reminder of God’s hand in the world, especially when the church embraces its opportunities to love people like him.

 I am encouraged by our young church for supporting and loving “one of the least of these”. My prayer is that the day of change for our friend is soon and that he has not returned to the darkness that desires to turn his ember into spent ash—silencing the winds that were stirring the embers of change in his life.