Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Let us Dance for You: Julie Shares Her Heart

Many thanks to our friend and Manna sponsor, Julie Sorgenfrei, who joined the Manna team in June. In this blog post, Julie shares her heart and her experiences in meeting the Manna children.

One of my youth ministers in high school told us a story about elephants.  In some parts of the world when an elephant is just a baby its leg is chained to a tree or pole.  The elephant's first instinct is to pull away - to fight the chain and try to break free.  It completely resists being tied up.  The baby elephant soon learns though that no matter what it does, no matter how much it pulls or how badly it wants to get away, it's stuck.  Trapped.  A prisoner of the chain.  

The chain is traded out for a large rope and then a smaller one as the elephant grows.  Eventually a fully grown elephant can be kept in one place by a simple strand of twine.  The elephant is big and strong - it could break free of the twine simply by taking another step or two; by tugging a little bit.  It has learned its boundaries, though, and remembers the pain of trying to become free of the chain.   The elephant remembers that it didn't matter what it did - it could only go so far while being tied up.  By the time the twine is used, the elephant no longer resists... no longer fights.  Everything within the elephant tells it that it can't go any farther than the length of the twine or ever be free.  

Do you see that elephant in your mind?  I was given a piece of twine that day.  I taped it to my bathroom mirror and it remained there for years.  It was taken down when the bathroom was painted, but I still have that bit of twine.  We were encouraged by our youth minister to look at the twine and remember that we can feel like the elephant sometimes - hopeless, stuck, defeated.  We were then reminded that we are daughters and sons of the King.  We are all made in His image and He has ensured that we don't ever have to be prisoners.  When we feel hopeless, stuck, or defeated we can turn to God.

I'm telling you the story of the elephant because I am guilty of considering some of the people who live in communities like the ones Manna serve as being "trapped" - just like the elephant.  We might envision them as being defeated, discouraged, and hopeless.  Yes, they are poor in our eyes.  They face difficult things every day - things we can't fully comprehend.  Many of them go to bed hungry and wake up unsure of how they're going to afford their next meal.  Parents wonder if they'll be able to send their children to school or if their small harvest will be enough to sustain their family for the next several months.  I heard these stories, and many more, when I traveled to Honduras this past summer with Manna 4 Lempira.  The overwhelming message I received while there was one of faith, though.  The people in these communities love God and are filled with His hope.   I invite you to meet some of the precious people who live high in the mountains of Honduras.  

The first full day we were in Honduras we heard of a girl who is part of the Mercedes feeding center.  She hadn't come for her medical check-up that day because she had been burned when a pot of hot oil spilled while she was helping her mother cook.  Her arms, thigh, chest, and abdomen were covered in painful blisters.  Autumn, the team doctor, was able to acquire medicine for Sindy and she showed her how to take care of her burns the next day.  I spent over an hour with Sindy at her home on our second day at Mercedes.  She showed me the outdoor kitchen where she was burned and all of her animals.  Sindy dreams of being a veterinarian when she grows up and loves animals.  She showed me the hammock where she likes to sit and do her homework or pray, and the spot by the creek where she likes to spend time talking with her siblings.  Sindy is the youngest of 7 children and she is so treasured by her family.  Her parents were delighted when I asked to take a picture of them together and they took me to a beautiful rose bush by their home.  It made for a pretty background for their photo and they excitedly told me of how Sindy helps tend the roses.  We went back to their patio and I asked if I could pray for their family.  Sindy's mother, Maria, immediately started crying as she answered with an enthusiastic "yes!".    And oh, friends, when Hondurans pray, they PRAY.  I felt so close to God in that intimate time of prayer with this precious and faithful family.  As we were leaving to go back to the church Sindy asked me to wait for a moment.  She disappeared for a minute and then came back with two roses from the bush.  She gave one to her mother and one to me, thanking us for being beautiful examples of faith to her.  Sindy is a beautiful example of faith to me.

Sindy and I talked later about how unfortunate it was that she had been burned, but also how God showed up in big ways by providing a doctor for her when it happened.  She sweetly told me that she had been able to sleep the night before and hadn't had pain.  Sindy attributed her restful night to the many prayers being said for her by her family, the staff at the church, and our team.  The enormous faith of this 14 year old girl brought me to tears.  

There are so many examples of faith and joy that are just as beautiful.  I'm reminded of the ways that parents and grandparents looked at their children and delighted in them.  I remember how a sponsor taught her sweet girl how to swing - something this girl had never experienced before.  I can hear the laughter of my girls as they played on a see-saw for the first time.  It's the joy that fills you as you watch little girls receive their very first doll.  It's listening to a chorus of children singing about how marvelous God's love is.  It's sweet sisters who care for each other deeply and say "foto! foto!" every 2 minutes as you walk around the community.  They want to remember the day - remember what it felt like to be so completely happy and to spend valuable time together.

It's a little brother who steals the show at a home visit with his endearing personality.

It's two friends who share a bowl of rice and later take delight in spoonfuls of peanut butter.

There is joy found in never having empty hands while you're there - they're always filled with the small hands of sweet kids.  It's in finding my favorite flower at the hotel - a flower I didn't think could grow, much less thrive, in the climate of Honduras.  I am filled with glee as I watch the children at the feeding centers read their letters from their sponsors and smile.  They love all of you so dearly. 

I find a treasure in a small boy who is exploding with happiness.  I watch as he races through his home.  He literally explodes through a doorway and leaps down a few steps onto the porch.  We all laugh as we watch him do this several times, and he is clearly enjoying the attention.  He knows he is cherished and loved.  Then he drags his backpack over to me, the one Manna provided.  He pulls out his notebook and proudly shows me his homework.  I see a page where he's supposed to practice writing his name.  I ask if he will write it for me and at first he giggles a "no" and runs off.  A few minutes later, though, he sits down nearby and intently works on his writing.  I catch him smiling at us over and over - proud of his work and delighted by the praise he receives.

I look at the face of a precious little girl who wanted nothing to do with me the day before.  She's little, I'm a stranger, and I understood.  She slowly warmed up throughout the day and eventually she shyly came over and crawled in my lap.  Soon all I had to do was say her name, "Mariseeeelaaaaa", and she'd turn and laugh at me.  It's the next day now, and I'm finishing a visit to her home.  We pray with her family and start saying our goodbye's.  When I looked down at my sweet girl to give her one more hug, I saw tears welling up in her eyes.  Even the littlest understand how loved they are and how much they are prayed for. 

I see the face of God in a sweet little girl who is only 12 pounds.  Her mother brings her to the center to be registered and I think the whole team collectively lost their breath for a moment.  Daneliz is so tiny at almost three years old and I wondered how she had survived this long.  She has special needs and her mother is doing the best she can to take care of her beloved daughter.  A light fills the mom's eyes as our team doctor, Autumn, tells her of her own daughter's journey with special needs and shows her pictures.  Hope is found.  

Another moment that stands out in my memories from this summer happened while we were walking all over the mountains near the Mercedes feeding center to do home visits.  The girls were laughing as we walked through the streets and then they started twirling.  Oh, how my heart almost burst.  It was as if God was speaking right to my soul - "See My love, Julie?  The way you delight in them is the way I delight in you."  

It reminded me of lyrics from an old song:

"Let what we do in here
fill the streets out there.
Let us dance for You,
Let us dance for You."
- "Madly" by the Passion Band

The work that Manna 4 Lempira is doing is powerful and it is bringing hope to generations of Hondurans.  It is evident that the good work of the pastors and volunteers at the feeding centers is overflowing into the streets and homes of the communities they serve.  The children registered in the program are full of hope and have big dreams.  It's abundantly clear that God is in the hearts of the people there.  I am grateful for the privilege of being able to walk beside these families.

This verse is my prayer for you and the beautiful people of Honduras today.  May God bless you all abundantly.

"I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is." - Ephesians 3:16-18