Saturday, August 08, 1998

VOLUME 4 - Summer 1998

Welcome to the World

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:5

Spring and early summer found Sunshine After Rain Ministries crossing continents and cultures, languages and locations, to spread smiles and laughter worldwide. It was an incredible experience. Kaluga, Russia a city of 400,000 had only 600 identified Christians before the team of East West Ministries (of which we were a part) arrived. At the end of the 5-day evangelism outreach there were 320 professions of faith, 128 of those children! The “clowns” touched over 4,000 children on the streets, in the local orphanages and at the public school. Each day on the street we had our own personal KGB watching the crowds amass to receive balloon animals and invitations to the Christian meetings held each night.

With each passing day, the crowds attending the night evangelism meetings were growing larger. On the third night of the meetings the children in attendance were eagerly awaiting the “show” and soon became rowdy. Reaching, and grabbing for the balloons we had, we were finally “hidden” behind the stage until the Russian Ministry workers could calm them down. The leader of the children’s ministry, Vera, was rebuking the children for causing such a problem and how the clowns were scared to come out because of their unruly behavior. Then she went on to say “what were you grabbing for anyway, a balloon that will be here today and gone tomorrow? We are here to give you something much more important than that! We are here to teach you about what is here today and will be with you forever – the love of Jesus and eternal life”!

The children after moments of embarrassment promised to behave – the clowns came out of hiding and the “temporary” gifts were brought back. Yes, the balloons would be gone soon, and the clowns would return to America – but for 128 of the children, one day in the kingdom we will have the chance to reminisce of balloons and funny faces, stories told on street corners and the invitation that changed their life.

Terminal - The Real Meaning

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” James 1:27

The first day the East West Ministry team was in Kaluga, the Cultural Center Director, arranged for the “clowns” to go to the orphanage for the children of Chernobyl. Of course those words brought the worst images to mind. What would we be met with, row upon row of hospital beds, children with severe deformities? We really didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived, we saw children’s drawings on the walls, murals in the hallways, and even though it was an older facility – the cleanliness was striking. What we did not see were hospital beds. What we did see was the smiling faces of children from classroom to classroom.

We had an opportunity to go “door to door” where the children sat quietly awaiting our arrival. We shared stories of the Little Apple Tree, (about prayer, patience and waiting on God) and did tricks. “Tiny” made balloon airplanes (only of few of them crash-landed) and told of how far we had come to make the visit. We learned that laughter, the music of the soul, is a universal language, understood by anyone, anywhere.

As we left we asked our two interpreters if these children had lost their parents in the disaster and if this was the reason they were now in the orphanage. They replied “oh no, all of these children are terminal. They are just waiting to die. For them there is no cure and no hope.” Our hearts sank – the smiling faces we had just seen, the laughter we had heard was temporary, yet the Lord had given us a chance to bring just a ray of sunshine into their world for a brief moment.

Would realizing the prognosis of the children made our performance better, would we have shared more, stayed longer? That I can’t say. I realized that their appearance fooled us. While we had an understanding and sadness about their life in the orphanage, we saw happiness and joy, laughter and merriment.

This is all too true when we meet individuals who on the outside appear happy, and well adjusted. We talk of the government and the weather, exchanging “tricks” of conversation without thought to the state of their spiritual health. In Kaluga, at the home for the children of Chernobyl, I learned a new meaning for the word “terminal”. And committed to look beyond the surface on the faces I meet to the heart that is hurting and lost. I want to bring the Truth, the Light and the Way and ask questions about the eternal not the temporal. As the millenium approaches the Lord’s return gets closer day by day (even if it is still a long way off we are still that many days closer).

Let us each be careful not to be fooled by the appearance of those we meet, and see we are living in a “terminal generation”.

You Came Back

Jemima House - Beit Jaila, Israel

"Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town.” Luke 8:39-40

In our first newsletter, we told the story of the Jemima House Orphanage near Bethlehem, Israel. In June, I returned to visit the wonderful people and children there. The first words from the mouths of the children were “You came back! Thank you, we love you”. Needless to say the smile on my face was not merely painted on at that point.

During the drive to Jemima House, Ed Vohlbehr filled me in on the happenings at the orphanage. The current filming by a Dutch production company to help them with their ongoing financial needs and his wife Helen’s ongoing medical condition. She has been receiving chemotherapy for cancer, yet was also still suffering tremendous pain in one of her arms. When she was examined by the orthopedist he told her that her arm was broken. Under normal conditions the arm would have been set immediately, however, due to her recent treatment, the oncologist felt that it would be to risky for her to undergo surgery.

So she is there with a broken arm, immobilized, enduring excruciating pain. As my heart was sinking, Ed spoke on. “But, you see what miracle the Lord has provided for Helen. There was an infant, born from incest to a 14 year-old Muslim girl, it has severe genetic handicaps and was abandoned by the parents (a sister and brother) left to die at the hospital. The doctors and nurses did not expect the baby to live more than a few hours so they called us, asking us to provide a loving haven where it could spend its few hours of life on this earth. Of course we told them that we would take the child and went immediately to pick the baby boy up. It is now five weeks later! Helen, who was feeling bad because of her health condition not being able to help the other children, has a special child to help. She sits with him, cradled on a pillow beside her and she talks to him and strokes him all day. It is truly a miracle”!

I was almost crying before I arrived, not in sadness for Helen, but out of a sense of shame in myself. How can I voice in anger what God is not doing for me – when here are overwhelming circumstances that are seen as God’s blessing and provision!

While the situations the children of Jemima came out of would generally bring sadness – sadness is not seen at Jemima House. There is joy and laughter and life abundant! After the “clown show” the children spent the next half-hour singing hymns to entertain ME in three languages (Arabic, English and Dutch). The sound of voices lifted in praise from crippled, blind, once beaten, abandoned bodies were truly inspiring. How can I complain at my small circumstances when I have opportunities, health, and live and worship freely? Why isn’t my voice ringing out in praise 24 hours a day to the Lord who has made it all possible? If THESE children praise, where is mine?

As for Helen, after the show and singing, I joined them upstairs for tea, and there she sat – beaming. Holding her precious charge, and smiling as she spoke of God’s miracle for her. She was able to hold and help this one child and really make a difference – the blessing of caring and giving – in spite of her condition. It was not a smile in the face of overwhelming circumstances – it was not a grin and bare it countenance. It was joy – and life abundant.

It was the face of a saint that said

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

I think of all the “chance” meetings in our lives and the joy it brings when we unexpectedly are reunited with a special acquaintance. I feel this way with each visit. As I saw on the faces of these children the joy and the surprise – it made me think of my own happiness, joy and surprise when the Lord returns -

“You came back!”