Recently God has been confusing us.
It all started with our family’s move back to Memphis, TN in July. Karyn and I thought getting back to Memphis would pave our way back to where our hearts long to be – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Well, about as soon as we were settled into our Memphis routine, it appeared that God was putting people, signs, messages – you name it – in our path to point us to stay put… indefinitely. It just made sense for several reasons – The Forsaken Children (TFC) wouldn’t have to find someone else to manage it, we could stay in Memphis where we feel most at “home”, our extended family would be happy to keep us around, and the list goes on.
Then came what we believed would be the final nail in the coffin of our dream to return to Ethiopia; the Holy Spirit prompted me to read the book of Nehemiah. To Karyn and me, Nehemiah is like the quintessential Executive Director’s book to effective leadership. I begrudgingly thought, great, God wants me to read this so he can confirm that we are not going back to Ethiopia.
As I read Nehemiah, God started to speak to my heart. What I heard in my spirit wasn’t what I expected. Sure, Nehemiah is a rock star leader – a true Exec – but God did not draw me into Nehemiah’s leadership techniques, but rather into his burden and enthusiasm to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. Jerusalem’s crumbling wall became a metaphor for a little girl God placed on my heart.
This little Ethiopian girl, herein called E to protect her privacy, had not crossed my mind for some time. She is the most visibly broken child I have ever interacted with in Ethiopia. As I read Nehemiah, thoughts of E poured into the forefront of my mind… thoughts of her fits of rage, her constant manipulation to receive any and all attention (good or bad), and her tendency to change from a sweet, innocent little girl to a crazy-eyed fighting machine.
I wish I could say that my thoughts of E were loving and compassionate, but I honestly cringed when she came back to mind. BUT there she was, my wall – broken, beat down, and hopeless much as was Jerusalem’s wall in Nehemiah’s time.
As I continued to read Nehemiah, E continued to pop in my mind. At first this was very confusing, but then it became clear to me what God was saying:
E, like so many of the children TFC exists for, needs many things. However, the one thing I know she needs more than anything else is the one thing I have been trained to potentially provide her – a family.
I don’t think E or any child needs a family more than they need God! BUT, I have come to believe that many children, E for sure, may never see and understand God without first seeing and experiencing a loving, consistent, and permanent primary caretaker (mom and/or dad) here on earth – Jesus in the flesh so to speak.
Therein lies our passion for foster care/adoption within the Ethiopian context. Ethiopian families are a strategic resource for us as we seek to minister to abandoned or orphaned children like E. Such families are a mechanism for solidifying that God as father doesn’t mean an abusive, neglectful, nonexistent God, but rather a loving, consistent, and very real Father-God.
So, thanks to Nehemiah, our hearts have reclaimed our burden to be back on the field in Ethiopia. First and foremost, we see our role there as one that we are uniquely made to fill for such a time as this. A time when many children have come into TFC’s care who lack the family they were created for. We believe there will be many more children to come, and that the solution is to pour ourselves into TFC’s emerging Ethiopian foster and adoption program until it can be sustained by our Ethiopian brothers and sisters.
Pray with us as we anticipate our transition back to Ethiopia at the end of 2014.
The Whole Team