This morning, desperately struggling to get perspective on my day and wrestle an attitude that screams, “Serve ME and no one else!”, I forced myself to sit and open The Book.
Proverbs 11:7 “When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength.”
Wow. That’s me. I’m the ‘wicked’ because I have these hopes – of starting a family. These hopes of having a ‘good work’ to pour myself into that allows my neighbors to take part and start their own development in all matters. These hopes of cultivating the Garden of Eden, and it’s beauty evoking memories of such among all who visit. These hopes of co-authoring a book that will transform thousands – or maybe just myself. These hopes of being an amazing wife (all the time!). These hopes of being rooted in who God has made me to be, while pridefully telling myself I did it ‘on my own.’ These hopes of doing all of this and more – on my own.
These hopes will die with me, because I’m relying on my own feeble strength. The feeble strength is so clear. When I wake up, drained instead of fresh. When I wake up grouchy instead of grateful. When I wilt under the sun instead of thrive. When I feel overwhelmed at another request for a loan, instead of thankful I have enough to share. The feeble strength becomes clear when I need a day ‘away’ from everything to clear my head and be refreshed. My feebleness is evident because I’m pulling from MY stores of energy, which are shallow and thin.
And so I’m wrestling my spirit back onto the altar, saying, “No for real, this time, Lord, I’m really giving myself up. I know I keep walking off the altar, keep thinking I can do it on my own, but I forget. Please help me remember and accept this humble, feeble offering of not-much that I can give you. I know I’m a hot mess. Good luck! Only you can do something with this hot mess – THAT I know.”
Right after I wrestled my will under His control, I gathered up some planting supplies and headed outside. Lo and behold I had a visitor. Lindiwe and I have met before. First at church, where Sean told me she came asking him about the water pumps. Again, we met at the HIV testing Day, where she organized part of the event. The third time we met was last Friday, at the clinic in Moti. Moti is the next community over from ours, so I went there to inquire how I might be able to encourage the nurses. I wanted to offer my skills as a doula and introduce myself so the clinic workers, and I could encourage and aid each other in promoting health in our community? When I walked into the nurses’ station, there sat Lindiwe. Again.
And today, she came again. Immediately I knew she carried a heavy burden. Sure enough. For months, the people in Masini closer to the mountain, you know ‘that side’, have planned a ‘scheme’ to purchase electricity. Too expensive for one family, 28 families had pooled their money to have the Electric Company pull wires and set up poles by their homes. With their money due tomorrow, 6 people had backed out. Where were they going to get $780 by tomorrow? Otherwise they were going to pay a penalty and maybe lose their micro-loan matching. Heavy weighs her burden on me. Ugh. How am I to answer this? It’s easy to say, “Well I don’t have electricity, and I’m living without it, so why can’t you all?” or “Maybe you can just pay the penalty and try again next year.” Am I to judge the intentions of 22 families? or one family? of one person? If I’m to measure and say, “Well that’s a waste of money,” wouldn’t they say the same about my new clothes’ hamper or SECOND car?
Hmmm. Thank You, Lord, for that bit of grace you gave me. To prompt us to pray. And so we prayed. That the Lord would give us clarity in our steps to move forward, that we could have creative ideas on how to solve this problem, that we might continue trusting Him through penalties and struggles and unfaithful neighbors.
Two things impressed me: 1) Lindiwe is a community leader. She may have a gift of organization and motivation. She’s a clinic worker, community health motivator, educator and organizer for Doctors Without Borders, and secretary of the Great Electric Scheme of the Mountain People in Masini. Her wish for the people to ‘advance’ themselves is great. One of the first steps in advancement is education (which she’s doing), and the other is electricity (which she’s trying too). 2) That the people in our community CAN organize. 22 out of 28 families stuck to their financial commitment, gathering more money per person, than one adult makes in a month. How many great things can happen when 79% of people do exactly WHAT they promised to do, WHEN they promised to do it?! Here, my friends, is micro-loans and community development initiated by the people, for the people.
And I like it.
Already, I started thinking, “Hmmm. God. What could you be doing here? I could really see supporting a woman like Lindiwe….”
She addressed me with, “You know, I have a vision. I don’t know how to make it work, but I have a vision.” Going on to describe that she envisions someone in Masini creating a business of selling seedlings. Because she works with Doctors Without Borders, who often buys plants from 40 minutes away and gives them to HIV positive families to plant, she thought maybe this money could stay in Masini. And so her vision is for a plant nursery.
As soon as the words “plant nursery” left her mouth, I wanted to jump up and say, “Yes!!! SEE! We’ve been talking about this!!! My husband and I have imagined THIS VERY THING!”
Before I could say anything, she went on to say, “and maybe some women from Masini could do it together, gathering a little bit in each place”. At which point I thought Shoot me now, Lord, this is TOO good to be true.
This day has been full. That’s only 2 hours of my day. I haven’t even recorded about going to see our friend, who another friend considers might have stolen his phone. So I prayed and prayed and talked out loud to myself about what I can say to confront the possibly thieving friend.
PLUS, I finally had translated my response to the Fruit-Selling Woman who asked me for $25 to buy her daughter’s uniform. It took me a week, and I feel like crap for taking that long, but alas, here I am.
Actually, THERE I sat. Sweating in the car. Transposing my sloppy notes onto a fresh sheet of paper, which I would then carry over to Fruit-Selling-Mom, to ask her about the profits she gains from which fruit, and how I’m hoping to make jam. Perhaps she could sell me the fruit for my jam, and with the money buy the uniform?
It’s no wonder that some days, I dream about just lying in bed, reading a book and not lifting a finger. I dream of not straining my brain to form those foreign words. I dream of not needing patience to ask, for the third time, “please repeat that, I didn’t understand you” to this kind soul. I dream of not sweating in 90 degrees to plant, yet another tomato plant. I dream of air conditioning, or a shower, or a freaking cool drink from my refrigerator. I dream of ease and comfort and no burdens for my heart. I dream of joy and happiness, not sorrow for my neighbors. I dream of jobs for everyone, healthy children, enough food to give away, and long life.
However, if I’m to get these ‘easy’ days, these days of comfort and peace and ease for ME, God’s Kingdom will either have come HERE and NOW on this earth, or I’m dead, so I quit having to work, which also sounds like a nice option some day!
But with love, comes hope. Love “believes all things, trusts always, and endures.” So the business of Loving My Neighbor wraps itself around Hope and Perseverance.
While we could not solve Lindiwe’s electricity problem today, we did dream of cheaper, wholesome plants for the people.
While I did not give Fruit-Selling-Mama a uniform, I’m gonna make some jam, and she’s going to buy peanuts, then sell them, then buy a uniform.
And while I don’t know if my friend, stole my other friend’s phone, I recalled my priority towards relationships and calling us ALL into right living. May I do it equally and with God’s Kinda Love.
And while I didn’t wake up refreshed and full of energy this morning, and don’t have a day of rest looming this week, I have found some energy, motivation, direction, and Hope.
I hope tomorrow will bring more of the same.