Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prayer at the Lake

In August we set aside a weekend to go to Veles and camp near the lake with Glasnost from Skopje, and our church plant from Veles. We spent the time fellowshipping together, praying and worshiping. One afternoon we did a cookout.

Grisko hard at work at the grill as usual.

One evening we all gathered for a time of focused worship and prayer around the campfire. The Holy Spirit showed up and as we prayed and worshiped, and people shared what they were hearing God say I could feel the bonds of unity growing stronger, the darkness being pushed back.

Boshko, the young man from Gevgelija who recently got saved was baptized in the lake.

A bunch of us slept on the ground one night under the stars. The fresh air, and the clear sky were absolutely delightful.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Finding Jesus in the Least of These

Stepping off the bus in Shutka I am greeted by a woman selling flowers and candles. She shoves them in front of me, hoping I will buy some. As I continue down the street I am met by familiar sights. The horse standing at it's post on the right side of the road. A coop full of chickens on one side, house on the other, garbage everywhere. I see a mother of one of the children in the preschool and we smile at each other. Ahead of me in the middle of the road is a group of people dancing. With typical gypsy music playing in the background the women are standing in the middle of the street dancing, swinging their hips. One of them is holding a hose that was apparently just used to spray off the now soaked section of the road on which they are dancing. Children stand on the sidelines grinning and shouting, watching the festivities. Maybe a baby was just born? I feel very conspicuous having to walk almost through the middle of the dancing to pass. Then I look over at the children and see a boy I know. A huge smile spreads across his face, and I smile back as I pass.

I round the corner past the house with the geese in the yard, and the horse and wagon always sitting at the corner with it's owner, waiting for something. A little further on some of the children sitting on their front porch see me walking past. They start yelling, "Betsa, Betsa (the name I have been given by the children in Shutka)!!" They come running out to meet me, hugging me with great enthusiasm, asking me what I am doing, so happy to see me. My heart is warmed that they know me, I feel a sense of beginning to belong.

At the church I help with preparations for lunch, making sandwiches, pouring drinks, setting up tables. Finally the crowd of children waiting outside the gate is let in. As soon as I go outside with them I am surrounded by children hanging on me, wanting to play games, or just be held close.
Oftentimes they are dirty, they smell bad, they are often rowdy, but this is one of my favorite places to be on earth. I love being where Jesus is, and I find His presence is so thick among the forgotten, the ones who are cast aside and looked down on. Jesus said that what we do unto the least of these is done unto him, and when I am with them I feel His presence, something I would not trade for anything.

A little friend of mine came one day covered in scrapes and cuts on his face and arms. He is about two years old, the second youngest of nine children. He was filthy, and it was evident that
no one had bothered to clean these cuts, which were rather serious. His sister informed us that the dog had attacked him. I took him in the kitchen, cleaned him off and put ointment on the cuts. As I was washing him off I looked down in his face. His little eyes looked up at mine, he wore a captivating smile, full of poignant emotion. I read in his face what his words could not tell me, a deep thirst for love and tender care, awe at experiencing a gentle touch. His face was full of desire for love, expressing a hope that this moment would never end, he looked as though he thought he was experiencing a bit of heaven.

It is because of moments like these that I can continue. Because of the realization that my touch and my example, along with the others at the church, may be the only picture these children will see of Jesus. And when His love lives inside of me, I cannot help but pour it out on the children who are so close to His heart, no matter how much garbage, dirt and noise is in the way.