Saturday, August 08, 1998

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!”