How can this be?
I had never met Ivan.*
Not even seen a photo of the lil guy.
Yet when I found out this morning that he'd died, grief overcame me.
Tears just kept flowing and I felt paralyzed.
So I lit a candle and just sat on the floor, staring at it.
In silent reflection.
Whispering his name.
'Telling him' that he was loved and thought of, even all the way across the oceans.
Then more tears.
Feeling my heart broken - yet again.
You'd think that I'd be used to hearing sad stories from Uganda by now.
After all, I've been involved there for almost 10 years.
I was taken by surprise at how hard the news of his death hit me.
And then I suddenly remembered something - and I understood.
You see, when I was about to leave for Uganda the first time, God gave me my 'job description'.
But allow me to back up a bit:
I was born with a soft spot for suffering children, particularly orphans. As a little girl, my play mainly consisted of 'rescuing' little babies/dolls/teddy bears off the 'streets'.
Sorry, the photos's a bit rough, but it's authentically me. :-)
When I became a teenager, I begged my mother to help me find an orphanage that I could volunteer in. But there weren't any orphanages in Germany at that time (thank God!).
When I started full-time ministry and God took me all over the world (with Youth With A Mission), I kept asking him, "Is it here? Is it now, that I get to do something for orphans?" - only to receive a clear "No" time and again. In the meantime, my husband and I were raising our children on the mission-field. We did reach out to different young ones at different times, but in a small way.
So, here I was, about to set foot on African soil, after God FINALLY gave me the green light to pursue ministry with orphans and vulnerable children there. As excited as I was, I was secretly wondering what I could do to help these children. I knew we couldn't move there. Our home for the next years would remain New Zealand. I figured that I needed either time or money to make a difference. And I didn't have either. None to spare, at least.
How in the world was I going to help these needy children?
I had nothing to give!
Exactly during that time, God used our 3-year-old (foster) son to show me what He wanted me to do.
He kept begging me to read the story of the widow in the Old Testament who had lost her husband and was under threat of losing her children to a debtor.
(2. Kings 4)
"Mummy, read 'No Money!
...as he called the story.
After reading it to him for maybe the 50th time (no exaggeration), I started wondering if God may have a message for me in that story. Yes, it took me that long.
Sure enough, as soon as I asked God, He responded with a very clear 'Download':
The widow in the story was me.
Her two sons represented the vulnerable children who were about to be taken away into 'slavery' (hunger, loneliness, abuse, sex trade, sickness) due to a lack of resources for keepig them safe, fed, loved, educated... in a family.
When she approached the prophet Elisha, begging for help, he asked her, "What do you have?", to which her initial response was, "Nothing". She thought she had NOTHING AT ALL to save them from their terrible predicament.
She did end up having SOMETHING. It seemed like nothing, but she had a little bit of oil. That was it. Nothing but a little bit of oil.
So Elisha instructed her to knock on as many friends'/neighbours' doors as she could, requesting to borrow containers from them. She was then to go back to her home and pour the little bit of oil she had into the containers.
Wonder upon wonders, the oil just kept flowing and flowing until all them were filled.
A miracle had happened!
Her children were saved, as she could sell the oil!
God showed me that He'd given me His love for the vulnerable, suffering children around the world as if they were my own. I wanted to save them, but felt I had nothing.
After thinking long and hard about what I could possibly have that God could use, I hesitantly came to the conclusion that I did have a little bit of oil - just a very little bit....
1. a voice (can you 'hear' it now?)
2. friends all over the world
I was meant to knock on all of my friends' doors, asking for help, so that God could do the miracles and save the children.
He then led me to the Scripture in Proverbs 19:17 that says
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed."
You, my friends, who have been generous to the poor, will be repaid by the Lord! The finances you have been giving represent the 'borrowed containers' that God is using to multiply and provide miraculously to save the children.
So that's what I've been doing ever since. Using my voice (or my laptop keys), knocking on friends'/neighbours' doors, asking for help. And God surely has been doing miracles of provision - oh, has He ever!!!! And many children have been 'saved' - in various ways.
So, this morning I understood.
The reason why I was grieving Ivan's death so - surprisingly - deeply, was that he was one of 'my children'. One of the ones that God has given me so much love for...
He very sadly died at age 2 - just as his older brother Peter* was wheeled into the operating theatre for his eye surgery...
Ivan had a hole in his heart, but couldn't get treatment for lack of funds. He was in much pain his whole life. Read more on this post.
Ivan was one of 'my children' who wasn't saved - and knowing about his needless suffering makes me sad.
My only comfort is that he is now in Heaven, healed, whole, at peace and happy - in the presence of Jesus.
*name changed for privacy reasons