I have to start this with a confession. The undercurrent of all of these numerous up-dates over the years has been misplaced, and it is the undercurrent that moves the most water. While I should have been declaring God’s glory as we see it in Mali, I have largely tried to justify us being in Mali and make our family and our circumstance understood by a distant audience. I repent, and I ask you all to forgive me for leading you to look at us more than leading you to look on God.
The following three stories about God working in peoples lives sum up what I am most excited about: God’s Word, shame, and confession. The three stories together remind me of the gospel: we learn from God’s Word, we find that we offend the One we should love, and through confession we find forgiveness and liberty.
Children Memorizing God’s Word.
We just got a box in the mail from Heidi’s mom. Every kid was hoping to open it up, but they wanted to wait for me. I was having a pretty intense conversation about a very difficult thing in our church. Finally, I came into the house, and they wanted me to choose who should open the box. With the church conversation still ringing in my ears, I asked the kids what the Bible said about who should open the box. In under a minute they rattled off several verses and applied them to a potential dispute.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother,…”
Matt. 7:12 “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Phil. 2:3 “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Someone mentioned “The older will serve the younger.” Rom. 9/Gen.25 which is out of the context of the passage but inline with scripture in principle.
In the end they decided that their mom should open it. That, my friends, is God at work in the hearts of children. It lifted my Spirit so much. If you are a follower of Jesus and you don’t use scripture to make decisions… or if you don’t know scripture well enough to do it… or your church leaders don’t do it… Go ahead and let the shame settle in. It is good for you.
I stepped outside to see how the kids’ yard work was coming along, and there was Tairou standing in the Red Flyer wagon that I have told him SO many times that he is too heavy for. I asked him, “Tairou, what should I do?” He hid behind a pillar of the new garage, like Adam and Eve in the garden. I told him to come see me. He came out but stood 3 meters from me and faced nearly the opposite direction. I told him that the wagon wasn’t all that important to me. What I was really concerned about was his inability to respect me. I could see his eye lashes blinking fast, trying to hide shame and hold back tears.
I said, “I can see that you’re not ready to talk, but before you go home tonight, I want you to tell me what I can do to help you respect what I say. It doesn’t have to be a punishment. I can be an encouragement. Do you understand?”
He nodded. So I left him. As I gave Joe and Zach more tasks to do, I said maybe they could help Tairou think of something since so few boys know what to expect from a Father that talks like that, but Tairou disappeared while no one was looking.
The next day Heidi and I went out for some exercise. I ran past where he usually hangs out if he’s not at our place. I saw him with some older boys, and as I ran by I said, “We’re going together?” A smile broke on one corner of his mouth, and he fell in a few meters behind me. He stayed behind and said nothing for the first kilometer or so, but gradually, he worked his way up beside me and became his normal, playful self.
As we stretched I asked Mariko if he would come over and talk with us. We all sat on the well as I recounted the previous day. I told Tairou that I knew his heart was a little hard because he smiled when he killed our neighbors rooster. But I could also see that his heart was a little soft too because of the regret and shame I saw in his eyes from disobeying me. “A diara ne ye.” I said. “That pleases me.” Mariko helped me explain that God is willing to give us completely soft, healed hearts. We prayed, and I encouraged him to confess the bad things he had done to me because I want to forgive him, like I have been forgiven.
It goes against our human nature. But the Bible promises us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9 There are good things waiting for those who confess their sins. We can see in that verse that God’s justice can be satisfied in our confession.
One hour a week, that is all we have asked Drew for. He even picked the time. Saturday afternoon should have one hour set aside so we can talk with him. But the second Saturday found us waiting by the phone and Drew at the beach with his friends. I thought about what I should do. I didn’t want to blow it off, and I didn’t want to blow it up. Before I did anything Drew wrote me an email saying that he was sorry for missing our call. He said he would write it down and put it on his wall because he really did want to make talking with us a priority. “I love you.” He said.
We have always taught our children to be truthful, but it has only been recently that we have made confession, modeled after what we see in the Bible, a standard practice. They picked it up so quickly, and to see it put into the practice is an awesome thing… even more beautiful than our new baby girl, and that’s saying somethin’!
I have also seen God in: how like minded Drissa and I are, the incredible professionalism Heidi has brought to a one-room-four-grade-plus-a-nursing-infant school, the local pastors working together across denominational differences to see the gospel preached in our area, Tom and Laura’s unnatural tenacity to live in a HARD place to see the Shempiré people have God’s Word in their language, and Moussa’s desire to know the Word and his conviction that it is truth.