Friday, February 29, 2008

Of giving

One of the strange challenges we face in living in a developing country is what to do with the "stuff" we no longer need. Like any westerner living here, we have an embarrassingly large amount of stuff. And those around us are unbelievably devoid of stuff. They own only one or 2 pieces of clothing. They have no table, no chairs, often not even enough food. Toys are unheard of.

So, it seems, the problem should be easily solved. Simply give our excess (outgrown clothes and toys, for example) to those around us. But the HOW of that is the complicated part.

The area our work covers is home to 7 million people. Probably 75% of them are as poor as I described, or nearly so. So what do we do? Were we to simply walk down the street and hand things out, we would be instantly mobbed. (Actually, that happens whenever we walk down the street). Do we ask local colleagues to get the word out that we have kids clothes available? Then we will have a line stretching from our door for miles. To date, we have tried several approaches, none of them wholly satisfactory.

There is no clearinghouse, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill with donation boxes strategically placed around the town.

One thing I have been doing is to give clothes to mothers who come to the door asking. Usually the wives of patients in our hospital, several come once or twice a year. Sometimes I will also give them a toy or two. Does this kind of handout really help?

But (thankfully) the numbers for this are low, and the pile of remaining goods stays large. I hate storing (and possibly having things rot while in storage) piles of outgrown clothes, so I have given things to some of the manual laborers we know for them to distribute in their villages. Do they do this or do they sell the clothes and keep the profit? I will never know. Does it really matter anyhow?

One of the regular ladies came to my door last week. I always try to chat a bit with the children, though they usually are pretty frightened of me. While she waited in a chair on the veranda (kept there for unexpected visitors),I pulled out a few girl's outfits (from a bag ready to go to a village) for her daughter. Grabbed 2 shirts - almost outgrown - from Wonder Boy's drawer, and scrounged up a pair of sandals for his bare feet. She asked me for another toy. As we have just returned and most of the toys are still in a box somewhere, I said no. She left without a pleasant word or farewell. I felt a bit like she had come to my house to "go shopping".

I don't need to be thanked, but I also don't like to feel used. Yet I find myself frustrated by my own annoyance at her when I hear the echo of God's voice in Isaiah 53:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;


because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors. (NIV)

Of what consequence is my comfort when he gave all for me?

And then tonight, this reminder from Isaiah 58:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

It often isn't easy to be "rich" is so poor a place. But it gives me an opportunity to worship God through serving those who come to my door or live in the local villages. May I do so with joy through the grace He gives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

On His Birthday . . .

To My Dear and Loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more then whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet

Blessings on you today, dearest, while we are apart.

At Last

A beautiful poem I ran across today about love come late in life:

At Last

At last, when all the summer shine
That warmed life's early hours is past,
Your loving fingers seek for mine
And hold them close—at last—at last!
Not oft the robin comes to build
Its nest upon the leafless bough
By autumn robbed, by winter chilled,—
But you, dear heart, you love me now.

Though there are shadows on my brow
And furrows on my cheek, in truth,—
The marks where Time's remorseless plough
Broke up the blooming sward of Youth,—
Though fled is every girlish grace
Might win or hold a lover's vow,
Despite my sad and faded face,
And darkened heart, you love me now!

I count no more my wasted tears;
They left no echo of their fall;
I mourn no more my lonesome years;
This blessed hour atones for all.
I fear not all that Time or Fate
May bring to burden heart or brow,—
Strong in the love that came so late,
Our souls shall keep it always now!

Elizabeth Akers Allen

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Returning again

It continues to amaze me how time can fly. How is it possible that our 3 month "home leave" is over and we are back "home" in our host country? Where did the time go? Well, I do know that for me, most of the month of January went to coughing. Nasty bugs you have over there in America. I had better stay here where we only have bird flu, fillaria, malaria, dengue fever, leprosy, tuberculosis, cholera, dysentery, Japanese encephalitis ...

While looking for a basic broccoli soup recipe today, I ran across this. WHY would you want to do this??? As if finding interesting recipes is not time consuming enough?

We are now 2 days into our new year of homeschooling. Everyone is doing very well, especially considering the circumstances:

This is the living room, which was being sanded to remove some of the chalk that had been applied to the walls to prepare them for painting. No, I don't understand that either. And, my camera lens was not dirty. The dirt you see was the chalk dust floating in the air.

Welcome to the bedroom. Yes, the living room furniture has invaded the bedroom. And it seems the mattress has taken wing - perhaps looking for a less dusty abode.

And the playroom/family room has taken on the role of storage chamber. Hmmm, the mattress landed here. I'm not sure the its new home is any less dusty. The computer desk seems to be holding everything except the computer.

The porch. We have to walk through here to get to the kid's room, the school room, and the laundry. 'Nuff said.

Ahhh! We have arrived in the school room. The scene above is the result of telling the kids to "Carry these things upstairs and stack them neatly in a corner."

And the school table. In our absence, it became home to the pictures that should have been hanging on the walls. I have managed to carve out a space for my coffee mug, though. Always take care of the important things first!

And finally, will someone please tell me why our closet is now in the school-room???

On the up side, 3 of our 7 boxes of books arrived today. Receiving books is always cause for celebration! Praying for the other 4 boxes to make it through. Will keep you posted.