no ordinary girl : karen's TRIP FOLLOW-UP
You may remember, I mentioned my dear friend, Karen, several weeks ago. (If you missed that post, read here.) Well, she's home from her first trip to Africa...her first trip to minister and share the Gospel with the fatherless. And I wanted to capture her first-time, first-hand experience for my bloggy readers -- so, here are my quesions, and her answers! Thank you for taking a few moments to read about the children in Ethiopia and Uganda!
How did you get introduced to the world's orphan crisis?
I probably was not aware there was a crisis until you and Vince started the process of adopting internationally. Even then I didn't see that it was a problem of such wide spread proportion. I knew there were orphans. I was a M*A*S*H fan growing up. Korea was war torn. I considered that to be a real and reasonable part of the story. I think I was a little surprised the first time I heard someone say that there were enough orphans in the world to populate the former U.S.S.R. (Do I have that right?) That's a lotta' defenseless kids.
What moved you to join a Visiting Orphans mission trip?
Me and my big mouth. At one of our singles retreats you and Vince were discussing the need for people to adopt and encouraging even singles to adopt. (I'm still certain that is not my calling.) I remembered remarking to someone sitting near me, "I don't want to adopt as a single, I just wanna' go help." The ensuing conversation was a lament that our church did all kinds of missions but nothing when it came to orphans or orphanages, and that we did not have any idea how to be a part of something like that. After y'all moved to Alabama, I was keeping up with your blog--you challenged those who weren't called to adopt, that they were still called to care for orphans; and then suggested to me a way to do it. I was actually looking for a place to hide under my desk when I read your suggestion--then God reminded me of my words from the summer before and said, "Well, are you all talk or not?"
Did you have the necessary funds for your trip, or did you have to raise money? Were you surprised by how God provided for your trip? Why, or why not?
I did not have the necessary funds for my trip. I could have squeezed it out, but I wouldn't have had anything left, and I do mean NOTHING. I knew He would provide if He wanted me to go. First, I sat back for a while (being sick to my stomach) thinking it just was not possible. But a couple of my friends pointed out to me, "Karen, you have to go all-out if you are going to do this, you can't sit back and take it easy."
Good friends. So, I heeded their advice. I sent out about 80 support letters. I was amazed at God’s provision--I was blessed to be able to raise exceedingly abundantly more that I needed. About 30 people responded, and some who I hadn't even sent letters to gave me funds as well.
What was the most shocking part of your travels to Africa?
I'd have to say that biggest shock came the day we visited the dumps outside a community called Korah (think: the man and his family who the ground swallowed up because of their disobedience) This Korah was founded as a Leper colony (along with all of its implications) in Addis Ababa, Ethioipia. We had been warned that we would be visiting a dump, and that we should prepare for the smells etc. But as I looked at the itinerary, I understood that there was no way to prepare, though I tried to consider what it might be like.
When we pulled up, the one thing I had not envisioned was that the dumps were literally on fire--smoke was rising from various places all around. My mind immediately went to a word Jesus used which we translate as "Hell." The word is geheena, pronounced (gheh'-en-nah). It referred to a valley south of Jerusalem where rubbish and dead animals were thrown to be burned. I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, "These children live in Hell." I fought back tears and prayed for strength. I was going in.
We could see the kids standing at the edge waiting for us. It was tough. I prayed at some point that God would deaden my sense of smell. I can handle looking at gross things, and I could even take my time and figure out how to breathe in the smoke. (I found that progressively harder by the way.) But I really did not want to hurt the children's feelings by having to run off to get sick. One miracle, we decided later in the day, was that none of us did get sick.
I went in willingly, knowing that this was exactly Jesus wanted us to be; and that is the truth: imagine after all, the picture of where we (sinners) once were and where we deserved to still be (Hell)--but it’s also true that I really wanted to leave, and quickly. We were there for around 3 hours. The children that lived there were typical little kids. They wanted the stickers and candy that we had for them. They put stickers all over their faces. One little boy kept coming back for more sweets. I didn't mind so much but I wanted to let as many kids as possible have a piece too. I finally asked him, if he thought I didn't recognize him? He started laughing.
I took each child's hand and placed a piece of candy in it with the other hand because I wanted to know that they were lovable, and touchable. The saddest part that I saw was that girls, most of which appeared to be between age 10 and 15, would hardly look us in the eyes. They were very outnumbered, and I couldn't help wonder what their life is like on a regular basis. My guess is that no one was keeping them safe…in any way.
What was your most joy-filled moment spent with Africa's orphans?
I think the part of the trip that gave me the most joy happened in Uganda. The children at Canaan Children's home were sleeping on the floor. The girls were sleeping on the floor in the hospital because their dormitory had been burned down and was in the process of being rebuilt. We had an overage from the money we raised for the trip. We discussed as a team, and decided to honor pastor Wagaba's request for mattresses for the children. As we watched the children come and get their "surprise" I was overtaken by the idea that we had come to comfort the orphans in their distress, and indeed, a mattress should provide some long lasting comfort, not just what we could give while we were there. The children began to sing, "This is the day that the Lord has made. We are the people that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." It was a very sweet moment.
Did you come home hopeful, or hopeless? Did you sense God working to care for the least of these? Can you share a few ways?
In Ethiopia on Friday night a few of us went for to a local place for coffee. On the way, we ran into some ladies from the UK. They were there doing mission work. As we discussed our different activities, a sweet and powerful little lady announced, "God has got his hand on Ethiopia." I believe she is right. He does and always has. He sent Philip (by supernatural phenomena) to explain the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch long ago. And today, He is raising-up leaders from within Ethiopia. Our guides and those working in the guest home were working with street kids, the children in the dump were being ministered to by a young man who came out of the dumps himself. He came to know the Lord, when students from Young Life (instead of shunning him like other missionaries had) wanted to play with him. Now he is there to lead his people. Visiting Orphans will send these people help, and make people in the US are aware of the needs. There is hope. The children in Uganda have hope. Even the children from the neighborhood, who do not live in the orphanage, run through and play there. They will see God's love in action. Do I think an orphanage is the best way for a child to live? No, but these children were being loved. They were being told about Jesus. Many of them had awful stories from before they were in the orphanage. Many of them said that their life was so happy now.
In 2-3 sentences, what do you want Believers in the US to know about this crisis?
Believers in the U.S. need to know that the need is great. The need is actually greater there than here. We have been given such wealth and blessing, and it is not for us to keep to ourselves. There are defenseless and hungry children in the world. We are responsible for them too.
They were created in the same image we were.
They are ours.