This is my Africa

This morning, as I peeled myself out of the lower bunk in my son’s room, I was so sore and tired. Last night was a long one. I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 pm or so and was having a hard time settling down after our Vacation Bible School (VBS) water games. Not long after I settled into bed, I heard a scream and crying. You see, our daughter was having a “sleep over” in her brother’s room on that very same lower bunk. She was so sacked out that when she rolled over- she rolled right out of bed and hit the floor with a big plunk. I scooped her up and placed her back in bed…but, I don’t think she ever recovered. About thirty minutes later she was crying again, so I moved her back to her room. My legs were sore and twitching  and I had a very difficult time going to sleep. Long about 4:00 am our son shot through our bedroom door much like Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld. “Mom! I had a nightmare!….About ALIENS! Can I sleep with you?”. Since hubby was sleeping well I decided to spare him and escorted our son back to bed with a glass of water. We prayed and I tucked him in. I made it back to my bed for a whopping 5 minutes when he shouted out. I shuffled across the hall and told him that I’d sleep on the bottom bunk if that would give him some comfort and peace.

Water games during the day…Musical beds was the game of the evening. After just two hours of quality sleep, I am dragging a bit.

This week is always a busy one in our home and it’s always a blessed one, too. Vacation Bible School is happening all over the country in church buildings and backyards in a neighborhood near YOU! If you have never attended or if your children have not had the opportunity to go- send them. The seeds that will be planted in these kids will grow for years to come. Hubby and I team up with another couple and some youth to lead the recreation and games portion of the program. With some amount of planning mixed with a fair amount of improv, we always have a spectacular time. (Sometimes I wonder if we have more fun than the kids!) After our games-I could not stop thinking about those smiles, the giggles and laughs and all the fun we had when I lay down last night. (And my muscles were aching in a way that wouldn’t allow me to forget our fun.) But, this morning when I peeled myself out of that bunk bed- it was not the smiles, the lack of sleep or the aches that were on my mind. It was James.

I arrived to the church an hour early yesterday to set up an obstacle course and fill some more water balloons. Shortly after I began to set up, I saw this tall young man walking across the field toward the playground on the church grounds. I waved from afar as he sat down 0n a swing and started to gently sway. When he saw me squat down next to the water pump, he walked over and asked if he could help. I introduced myself and he told me his name…James. As we filled water balloons (what a blessing to have an extra set of hands in that moment) he shared with me about the job interview he had with McDonald’s. He is  a 17-year-old from an area in a neighboring county that has a reputation for gang activity and narcotics and was staying in a home across from the church for the summer. It wasn’t clear to me if he was staying with family or friends. But, it was very clear that- at his young age- he had already experienced his fair share of tragedy as family members and friends had died from the effects of drug abuse. He shared that, as a result of witnessing these tragedies first hand, he wanted to be sure to steer clear of that particular form of bondage. And I pray that he does. James shared that last summer he had wandered over to the church grounds on a Wednesday to participate in some of the youth activities one evening. I asked him if he would stick around when the other leaders and teens arrived to help out with the games– and he agreed. I watched as he mingled with the youth, played football, talked with them…he seemed to melt right in. He seemed comfortable and at home. At the end of the night, James was the last to leave. I asked him to come back for VBS tonight and said goodbye to him as he walked across the field. Please pray for this young man. It is obvious to me that he knows the life he does NOT want to pursue. Please pray that the youth and adults at our church will show him THE Way, the truth and the life that God wants for him in Jesus Christ.

For the past several weeks, I have been engaged in a Bible study called Restless by Jennie Allen. Just yesterday morning…before VBS…before my restless sleep…before James…we were studying and exploring our “places”. You don’t have to be in Africa to be on a mission field. You don’t have to seek out a mission field at all. God puts us in “places” – OUR places. Our homes, neighborhoods, churches, community, schools, and the grocery stores we frequent are all our places. In our study, we looked at the life of Joseph (found in Genesis). It’s pretty obvious that Joseph didn’t pick or choose any of his places. Slavery, jail, servitude and eventually leadership in Egypt were his places. Regardless of the circumstances, he kept so focused on God while in each of his places that he managed to bless and be blessed. He was a light in the wilderness to many. He was a guy…in a place….the place where God put him…seeking the Lord and sharing God with those around him. He bloomed where he was planted. 

This all fell together for me as I was thinking about James this morning. This little county in the great, big USA is my place. Waking up to pray with a child who is having a nightmare is just one way I can serve at home in my place. Meeting and greeting a young guy named James and showing him kindness is shining the light of the Lord in my place. I don’t need to feel that my place is less than that of a missionary in a foreign land…this is my Africa.

Wherever you are, be all there.

-Jim Elliot

Not so coincidentally, the theme for VBS is serving.  I looked up from my table this morning I saw the craft the kids had made last night. “Jesus washed his disciples feet.  John 13:1-17”wpid-img_20140625_080315.jpg

Whose feet will you wash today?

Where are your places and who will you serve in there today?

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