Monday, July 21, 2008

When An Orphan Discovers Family

As I write this, we are wrapping up five weeks of unending camps and mission outreaches which stretched from an orphanage in Miskolc, Hungary up to a baseball camp in Bojnice, Slovakia then into the simplicity of Hungarian village life and finally into a youth English camp before wrapping up back in the orphanage at Miskolc.

Over the course of these weeks we've struggled to break through the thick walls erected by wounded souls, we've fought stereotypes and an outbreak of scabies along with a threat of lyme's disease, we've learned more about our brothers and sisters in Christ who come from different denominational backgrounds, and we have seen some precious kids come to Christ in very genuine ways.

I used to think that was what it was all about, but now I understand that this is just the beginning. Becoming a part of a family can happen in just a moment, but that moment is but the cusp of relationships that develop and deepen over the course of a lifetime -- or perhaps eternity.

On last Friday, a baptism occured on the final day of English Camp. When Evi, one girl from the Miskolc orphanage learned of it, she ran to her best friend asked her if she wanted to be baptized. Evi had been baptized the year before.

"I do not even know what it is about," Anita explained.

Evi shared with her friend how it was the outward expression of what Christ has done in one's heart.

Anita's eyes lit up as she asked excitedly, "Can I do it in jeans?"

Anita could not be held back that day and as she stood before the crowd of campers and counselors, she told her story:

"My name is Anita. Two years ago both my parents died, one six months after the other. I lived with various relatives after that, but as soon as I got settled in one place, I was sent somewhere else. I had no home. Eventually I was sent to the orphanage in Miskolc. And when I started going to the Wednesday bible study and the different conferences and programs that you made for us, I suddenly felt like I had a family again. God has given me a family in you."

That day Anita proclaimed Christ and was born into a new family -- the family of God. It is a new beginning for her, but just the first day among many where she will grow and change succeed and sometimes fail.

May we always be faithful to love her and those like her through it all. This is our call -- to love and guide them in love through their good and bad days. For not only do we share the gospel of Jesus Christ, we share our very lives as well, because they have become so dear to us. 1Thess2:8.

Please pray for Anita and Evi and all the kids of the Lakasotthon orphanage. God is doing a work among them even now.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Comfort, Character, and Scabies

“God is more interested in our Character than our Comfort,” Tom Johnson, director of GoodSports Slovakia, said on that fateful Wednesday morning during the Slovak baseball camp(yesterday). Wednesdays are infamously difficult days in the course of our camps. That day is late enough in the week for genuine fatigue to set in. Yet it is still early enough that the end is nowhere in sight. This week was no exception.

It all started when one of the boys from the Hungarian orphanage was taken to the hospital for an unexplained rash.

Diagnosis: Scabies.

Minor hysteria ensued. Someone alerted the Slovak health department. Officials came. Tensions that already exist between Hungarians and Slovaks stretched to their limit. Stereotypes and stigmas of “orphans” darkened even further as whispers of “epidemic” swirled through the halls. All those sharing a cabin with the infected boy underwent a process of fumigation – or debugging. Plastic bags filled with clothing and sheets received the pharmaceutical insecticide and those most exposed to the critters lathered up in an ointment lethal to the mischievous mite.

All Hungarians in the camp fell under something of a quarantine and during the eight hour treatment phase had to be isolated from the rest of the camp’s activities. The day screamed with stress and tempers flared, including my own, I must admit. At times, it was downright ugly. And at that moment we stood at a crossroads. Would we let this destroy us, or would be let God do His work through us even in this?

Indeed, God was not concerned about our comfort. So what is happening to our character in all this?

If faith is indeed the essence of things hoped for the confidence in things not seen, then I have every right be excited – to expect a real move of God in the midst of this mild fiasco. God is forcing our lives to rub up against one another in very uncomfortable ways. And in the midst of all of this, He is here -- ready to touch these tragically ravaged lives in wonderfully healing ways.

Please pray for this camp. I have no doubt God is working, but I have no idea exactly how at this moment. Pray that all will be overcome in the name of Christ’s love.