In the Baptism liturgy for my denomination, there is a prayer I just love for the baptismal candidate:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
My favorite part is when we pray for “the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” I imagine the wise men experienced that joy and wonder when they had their epiphany – the tiny baby Jesus, bringer of joy and wonder to the world!
Leafy Sea Dragon
I am also reminded of construction worker, Angel’s, answer when a team member asked how he knows there is a God. “The sun comes up!” God’s creation is filled with constant joy and wonder, if we pay attention. We open our eyes to see a myriad of beautiful flowers, the ever changing sky, the magnificence of the stars and galaxies, wacky fish in the ocean, the majestic mountain ranges, and on and on.
I have thought a lot about our two newest lambs, Daniel and Isaac, abandoned at birth. They have no idea what their lives could have been. Thanks be to God, instead their lives are filled with joy and wonder. All they know is love. These tiny babies are also are bringers of joy to all who encounter them. Can you see this picture without breaking into a smile?
Every once in a while Suzy will give me some advice: “Don’t let [situation/person] steal your joy. Her message is that joy isn’t the same as happiness. Happiness is fleeting, situational, tied to a moment in time. Joy is bigger, broader than that. It is more a state of being, a gift from God that we choose to accept…or not. Jesus doesn’t promise happiness all the time, instead He promises to remain at our side through good times and bad. More important, He invites us to follow Him into a life of love, joy and wonder…eternally.
Some people choose to live a life filled with joy and wonder in spite of circumstance. I recently met and wrote about Doña Santos. (Gracias Papa) She lives as hard a life as just about anyone. She and her family survive by digging through the dumpster along the side of the road. It is generous to call where they live a “hut.” It is really scraps of wood crudely nailed together against the side of a cliff. No electricity, no water, plenty of gaps for wind and rain to flow through. And yet, Doña Santos and her family choose to live lives of gratitude and joy. For her, like us, the holidays are a time to celebrate, to decorate, and to bring the joy of Christmas into our homes.
Despite the hardships of her life, her home is transformed into a place of beauty and celebration to share with all who pass by. She chooses joy and brings joy who pay attention.
What you’re searching for, you already know. God has blessed us with this amazing life, with eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to discern, and a heart in which to perceive the living presence of God in our midst.
My prayer for you this Epiphany and this year is that God will give you an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love Him, and the gift of joy and wonder in all His works.Amen.
Since arriving in Honduras, I have been very busy. I have two children going to Operation Smile, I had one heart patient report in, completely healed and no longer a heart patient, I am preparing for the vet team, meeting with Santa Maria Magdalena church on the building of their temple, arranging scholarships, helping to get the shoes and uniforms ready for the children in the elementary, and going forward with the work on the kindergarten. Read more in my newsletter!
During the holidays in Uganda, messages fly fast and furious – wishing a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and many other felicitations. Images and memes were thrown across WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger like confetti, thanks to cheap and easy bulk messaging.
However, last night, two of our graduates called to wish me a happy new year. This is somewhat unusual, as 1. a phone call is paid by only the initiator (not the recipient), and 2. they both graduated about a year and a half ago, so they are in my rear view mirror, and my focus is on the approximately 150 students in front of me. Regardless, it was a delightful surprise.
The larger surprise, though was that they both essentially said the same thing: they gave me a short update on the family and on the ministry, then both thanked me for all I did for them in their ministerial formation. One of them was, shall we say, a bit more of a trying student, so his words were especially sweet.
Of course, both phone calls were a tremendous encouragement. The students are arriving for the semester, lectures begin on Monday, and I am already stressed by what I know is coming, never mind what I don’t know is coming. As much as I love ministerial formation, it takes the lion’s share of time, both administratively and interactively, and of course, it never ends. They reminded me to take a deep breath, cling to Jesus, and soldier on. Amen.
As the sun rose to welcome a new day on September 28th 2017, young E. arose from his bed and began his daily routine. He heard the sound of the roosters in the background as a cool breeze wafted through the window and over his face. He was completely unaware that this was no ordinary day.
Housemother Eva came to him with a glimmer in her eye and a huge smile on her face that made him suspect something was about to happen. She cheerfully told him to put on his best clothes, because they were taking a trip to visit his family. E. had not seen his biological family since he was three months old and was left at a feeding center with life-threatening malnutrition. The surprising news made his heart skip a beat, but he had been well prepared by our psychologist for this visit. A flood of excitement and anxiety washed over him, as he struggled to control his thoughts and feelings.
Two hours of driving on rough mountain roads brought E. to the town of his birth. Over thirty family members received him with open arms and many tears. The baby who was once lost had now been found. His mother’s tearful embrace showed the depth of her love for her son, whom many had believed was dead.
After twelve years and countless questions, the pieces of E.’s life story finally began to fall into place. When he had been restored to health as a baby, he was unable to return to his birth family and was transferred to a city hundreds of miles away. His family, who live in extreme poverty with few resources, lost track of his whereabouts until the day he returned to their town as a young adolescent. The joyful celebration left E.’s head spinning as he processed the new pieces of his life and all he learned about his family.
God has a plan and a purpose for each of our children. Through an amazing sequence of events, the Lord gave SAMS missionary Mike Miller along with our social worker access to government files disclosing the whereabouts of E’s family. Due to his family’s continued state of extreme poverty, our social worker has recommended E. develop strong bonds with them from the safety of our children’s home until he completes his education. Our hope is that one day E. will return to his village as a capable Christian leader and make a positive impact that will bring new opportunities to his community.
It is our duty to prepare our children for the day when they will leave our home and enter the world. Part of that process is guiding them to discover who they are and where they come from. In E’s case, there was a happy family reunion. Unfortunately, for the majority of our children, their stories are so full of pain and their family members so dysfunctional that it will be a difficult process for them to assimilate the information. Initiating a relationship with some family members could be detrimental to the children. So as they develop, each child will be told more about their family on a timeframe our psychologist deems is appropriate. Within this safe and loving environment, they will be able to process and accept their difficult past. We trust God to redeem and restore their lives while he heals their hearts and allows us the privilege of shaping their future.
We give thanks to the Lord for your generosity. We have pledges of support totaling 70% of our 2018 budget. If you would like to help us care for orphaned and abandoned children, please click here.