The God that Remembers

I have hesitated to sit down and share more about my trip to Kenya. Every time I start to write something it sounds so stereotypical of someone who did an extremely short-term mission trip to a foreign country.

“It was life-changing.”

“They taught me more than I taught them.”

The reason those things are said is because they are true and there’s just not many other ways to describe the experience.

Africa was exactly what I thought it would be. Whatever you envision an African mission trip to be like, it is just that. I felt like I was walking around in the pictures I’ve seen, but doing it in person was, of course, way better than any picture.

Absolutely beautiful smiles.

Expressed joy for our visiting them.

Overflowing gratitude for anything we did with them or for them.

Gracious hospitality.

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The school we visited was the not the school we made plans to visit. God’s plan are often different than ours and that was exactly the case on this trip. We found ourselves conducting a VBS at Golden State Academy for the week. Golden State is in the remotest part of the county, so it was quite a treat for these kids to hang out with a bunch of lively Americans for a few days. From my understanding, this particular school doesn’t have many visitors. We told Bible stories, had recreation games outside, sang songs and danced, told the plan of salvation with salvation plates instead of bracelets (thanks to lost luggage), and told the story of creation through more paper plate crafts. We also had two hand-washing stations installed and taught each student and teacher the importance of proper hand-washing.

As you can imagine, when a bunch of mzungus show up somewhat unannounced to a school with 380 Kenyan kids, the excitement is indescribable. Our vehicles were so swarmed with kids on every side that opening the door to step out of the car on the first day was quite a feat.

Our goal as a team was to bring hope to the students and teachers. Hope in Jesus Christ that He is our salvation. He is our sure foundation and refuge. He is our provider and protector. He is our Heavenly Father who loves us immensely. He sees us, hears us, is with us, values us, and cares for us.

After our first day there, since we kind of haphazardly re-created all of our plans due to lost luggage with crafts supplies and a sudden change in schools, I wasn’t sure that what we had done had any eternal significance. As a planner, I felt a little discouraged and hoped the next day would be more fruitful. As if things going according to our plans have any indication of fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. The opposite is true. God is at work in grandiose ways even amidst change in plans, organized chaos, and lots of “what do we do next” when the kids stared at us like a deer in headlights. After just our first day there, someone at the school made a comment that our visit with them was a reminder that God had not forgotten them.

God had not forgotten them. 

I immediately thought of Psalm 37:25

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. 

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These kids may only have one set of clothes that are tattered. They may eat the same food for all of their meals. They may be learning in classrooms that flood when it rains. They may be orphans living at the school sharing small living quarters with several others. But I know two things. They have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances and God gives them what they need to be sustained. It may be less than what we think they need, but somehow God makes the little that they have enough for their needs. And along with the little that they have that is somehow enough, He provides sustaining joy that gives them hope that they will always have what they need.

{Side note: God does not need us for His plans to be accomplished. It is a privilege, honor, and blessing to be a part of His work. Our team was able to supply two hand-washing stations, school supplies for students and teachers, a copier, and more beds, mattresses, and mosquito nets for the orphans that live at the school. It is important that we obey God by going and sending, so thank you to those who helped send me. Your investment, no matter the size, was an eternal investment in the lives of these children for their physical and spiritual needs.}

What can we learn from this? When one set of clothes is enough for a child, what does that say about our closets that are full? I realize we live in a different world. I’m not trying to heap on any guilt and say we should sell it all. I’m not saying that we have too much, even though most of us do and our appetites stay hungry for more. The point I’m trying to make has nothing to do with how much stuff we have, but everything to do with the posture of our hearts.

The joy that God gives the students at Golden State despite their necessitous circumstances is the same joy God gives us despite our abundant circumstances.

Paul implied in Philippians that having abundance is not the answer to being in need and being in need is not the answer to having abundance. Both circumstances create a situation in which we must learn to be content. They can both be temptations for us to forget God or feel forgotten by Him.

for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4: 11-13

The secret is that someone is able to face plenty and hunger, abundance and need with the strength of Jesus Christ himself. We can face all situations through Christ who gives us strength to endure life’s circumstances.

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; 
give me neither poverty nor riches:
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30: 8-9

Feed me with the food that is needful for me. Give me my daily bread.

The posture of our hearts, whether in neediness or abundance, must be a daily prayer of “God, give me what I need today and help me to trust that what You give will be enough.” If I don’t have what I need, help me to trust You will provide it today and keep my hope and trust in You, God. If I have more than I need, help me to hold it loosely today and not put my hope or trust in anything but You, God.

I wonder if it’s easier to be content and joyful with our daily bread when there is less to distract us from the daily bread. If I had less, would I become more expectant that my provision would be from God alone and would I wait on Him more than a watchman waits for the morning? If I had less, would I commune in prayer more often, asking God to fulfill specific needs throughout my day, recognizing my constant need for nothing but Him? If I did less seeking of worldly things, would I do more seeking of eternal things? If I had less and pursued less of this world, would I see and understand more clearly the things of God? Would I be more trusting in and faithful to my Father?

I leave you with this image…coming from someone who wears the same clothes everyday and eats the same food at every meal. Someone who does not have clean water to drink. Someone who has likely never left her village in Kenya. Someone who either walks to and from school by foot on dusty roads or lives at the school because there is no home to walk to. Someone who likely only owns the clothes on her back, the shoes on her feet, and the things in her backpack.  Someone who does not learn via an iPad and STEM activities, but from a concrete wall covered in chalk dust. Someone who holds this notebook tightly because it’s likely the only one she has and because the truth written inside is eternally valuable.

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Spiritual poverty means it is lack of attachment to worldly values. World values like material possessions are temporary and one day they may not be there. Attachment to them can make us forget God because we may value them more than God. When we are spiritually poor, we become more concerned with serving God using our material wealth. Christians should therefore be ready to share their wealth with the needy. 

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I don’t know when the students at Golden State will be visited again. I think of their faces often and I pray for God to remind them again and again and again that they are remembered by Him.

Our last day at the school broke my heart. I fought massive crocodile tears the whole day. I wanted to say so many things to give them hope and encouragement, especially to those 100 kids that have no parent to tuck them in at night. I wanted them to know their hope in God is unchanging and sure because He is unchanging and sure. I felt like a worried mother leaving several children behind with so many things to say about God’s love for them and my love for them and how much joy I received in spending the week with them and how much potential they have and how they are all gifted to serve in God’s kingdom and how they are all so special and valued. I mean, I could just keep going on and on and on. I was full of words I could not say. But I left with my own bit of hope that God is omniscient and omnipresent and all of the things those kids need to hear to help them persevere and be sustained and encouraged, He will say them. He will provide for them. He will love them. He will care for them. He will speak truth to them. He will save them. He will guide them. He will establish their footsteps. He will be their God and they will be His people. And one day. One day! We will feast in the house of Zion together and the struggles I have and the struggles they have…all of it will be washed away and we will sit at the feet of Jesus together as a restored people with pure hearts that worship the God that remembers us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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