May 15, 2014

the boy next door

The funeral workers were just about to pull the casket from the van when Mommy fainted. Only moments prior the funeral procession had arrived. As all the vehicles parked, the van carrying the casket, with Mommy in the front seat, sat just outside our house. Mommy’s anguish carried throughout the neighborhood with every sob, every wail. 

The black funeral van parked outside the neighbor’s house and the crowd who came to mourn with the family.

Our first experience with a Guyanese death began 10 days ago. Our house (minus my two children who I’m convinced can sleep through anything) was woken up to the sounds of wailing. Red and white lights flashed through the window from the ambulance. We sat on our second-story porch watching and wondering what happened. The ambulance left and was shortly replaced by a funeral home van. They took the body and left only the cries of the family. 

“My buddy’s dead… my buddy’s dead…” 

Mommy wailed for a long time until her sobs died into moans. 

We found out the next day that the boy who died was only 26. He died of cancer. 

Since the death, we’ve learned a Guyanese tradition called Nine Nights. For eight days they play very loud music and play dominos while holding small wakes in the evenings and into the night. The ninth night is the big wake. The loudest music, the largest gathering. It’s kind of like a send-off party for the deceased. Only it’s a sad party. 

I wish here is where I told you that I had been visiting the sick man and ministering to this family. I help by taking them meals and praying with them and spending time sharing with them about the comforting promises in the Bible. 

Instead, I’ve been over here worrying about finances, housekeeping, and what to make for supper. I didn’t even know the boy was sick. This isn’t about me - but a small part of me thinks, “what does this say about me as a missionary?” What am I doing here? What am I so caught up in that I didn’t take the time to get to know the family living 10 feet away - completely oblivious to the suffering going on there. 

Today, ten days after the boy died, they brought the body back to the house. We knew it was going to happen today, but still it caught me off guard. Mommy’s grief was overwhelming. I saw her faint twice, and from the sounds of things, she fainted again after that. 

Millie, Sam, and I watched from our deck. She wanted to know why Mommy fell down. “What does it mean that she fainted?” She wanted to know what was in the big box. “What is a casket?” She asked me why we can’t go over there. She was so curious. Today is a day of conversations that I know she won’t fully understand, but that she really wants to. “What are they going to do with that big box?”

Friends, our world is sick. It’s going to die. I needed this reminder not to get so caught up with supper preparations that I become totally oblivious to the people around me. This next week I’m going to visit Mommy again. I’m going to find out her name. I’m going to take her some of my homemade bread. I’m going to be stepping way out of my comfort zone and talking to her about some promises I’ve read in my Bible. 

It’s the people in this world that matter. Not what’s going on in my kitchen. Not what’s on my to-do list of chores. If it will be rubble in the end, it shouldn’t consume me now. 

This is what I learned from the boy next door. 
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May 12, 2014

consider the cost

“Mama, why do we have to give all this stuff away?”

My dear four-year old picks up the stickers I had been sorting through and looked up at me. As far as she was concerned, these were her treasures. I could see her scanning my piles and I could see the turmoil going on in her mind. 

“We don’t HAVE to, but Jesus wants us to.”


I smile, “Because we are very blessed.”

Millie thinks about that a minute. “What does it mean that we are blessed?”

“It means we have more than we need. We have extra to give away.”

My dear Millie watched me rummage through her art supplies, stickers, all kinds of things. She helped me choose what to keep and what to give. We’ve been through this before. Show this girl a child without a toy, and bless her heart, she’ll be packing up toys to give away faster than me. I hope that she never loses this sweet, giving spirit. 

Giving away my children’s toys and art supplies is a little hard. I have to decide what we can do without and what we still need, weighing in what they like and what they might be more interested in later on. It takes careful consideration and calculation (lest we run out of glitter before we can replenish our supply). It’s a good lesson for my kids and for me. 

I was nearly done packing up when I went to check the list of what this particular village was asking for. Then I saw it. Sewing supplies. They are trying to teach a sewing class as an outreach to the village. 

But I don’t have my sewing cabinet here. I don’t have my fabric stash. I sat down on the sofa with my beloved sewing box. Millie sits down next to me and delicately touches the box. 

“What are you going to do with that?” My sewing box is like a treasure chest to her. 

“I’m looking for things I can send to the village,” I tell her. 

I open it up and look around. There’s nothing in there I can part with. She begins to examine my button foot and my zipper foot. Nope, nothing. 

I think of what they would need to teach a sewing class. I begin to sort through things a little more carefully now. Hand needles… I don’t hand sew very often, and I rarely use more than one needle…  I pull out 3 needles, place them in a small compartment, and set the package aside. 

I find a few spare spools of black and white thread. That will do it, right? 

Friends, it’s easy to sacrifice my kids’ stuff for the sake of Jesus. But ask me to sacrifice my sewing treasures? Ouch. 

Giving is easy to me. I’m a naturally generous and giving person. It’s one of my top love languages. Very few things make me feel as happy as giving things away. I have been known to give away everything from the coat off my back (literally) to kitchen stuff, to furniture. I hate owning things that someone else needs. 

But my sewing stuff? 

I’m not sure why this was so hard for me. I have sewn a total of 3 times in the past 8 months. It’s not like I’m a die-hard sewing addict. 

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t easy. At first. 

“Mama, do you want to give them this?” She holds up a package of safety pins. I nod. 

“How about this?” As Millie pokes through my sewing box picking out things, I suddenly had more than I needed. That 4th pair of scissors, extra measuring tape, and second seam ripper went in the pile. 

She holds up 2 small clear boxes, each containing my favorite pearl-tipped pins. I sigh. Into the pile they go. 

When we are done, my sewing box closes a lot easier than it had before we started. I small stash of fabric that was lovingly donated and sent down to me is also smaller. 

Friends, if sacrifice feels easy, it’s not really sacrifice. Real, true sacrifice costs you something that you have to give up, not just give away. The giving away is easy. The giving up is hard. 

Sometimes Jesus asks me to do things that feel so hard. The cost is time with my family or feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable. But we are told to consider the cost of NOT doing what is asked of us. What blessings are we missing out on by avoiding sacrifice? 

I invite you to get uncomfortable and vulnerable. Pay the price and give the sacrifice. Experience the gift of the blessing of sacrifice. 
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