We’re not Jewish, but this week, we studied Hanukkah. This holiday season we’re traveling the globe and learning about Christmas and December traditions from various cultures and religions. It’s wonderful.
It’s a cozy, rain-filled morning when we’re spinning dreidels and betting gold coin chocolates. We learn the meaning of the letters on the dreidel – “A Miracle Happened There”. Our Jewish friends remember the story of their people taking back the holy temple and a mere 24 hours worth of oil miraculously lighting up the Menorah for eight days straight.
“I don’t know…” I whisper. They perk up. They always listen better when I whisper.
“I believe miracles still happen. I believe they’re happening right now.” The smile. Simon wiggles his brow.
“A miracle happened then, miracles happen now, and miracles will keep happening… because God is with us – Emmanuel. And He’s at work, yes He is…” Our daughter smiles and nods, as if she completely knew what I was going to say.
I breathe, fighting back tears. “So, I think our family can say, ‘Miracles Happen Here’.” I fight back tears because the past few months have been harder than our children know.
And a few nights later I’m right in the midst of one of those little miracles. Hundreds of people packed into a church sanctuary, candles lit in a glowing, breathtaking unity of light. Photos just cannot capture the richness of this moment. We sing with the choir about light and being that very light – those candles blazing, they’re supposed to be us. The Jesus lovers. The disciples. We’re supposed to shine and burn warm every day. That’s the only way His breath is seen. Love. Light. Burning in the darkness.
I look around, awed. I wish I could stay in this moment forever. The depth, the beauty, yes, the warm-fuzzies abound. But, alas, we live in the real world. We all have to blow out the candle, toss it in a bin, and walk out into a crowded foyer where we’ll serve ourselves coffee first and fight for the last sprinkle cookie.
I mean, really, what’s so spiritual about drinking a coffee and grabbing a snack? Everything. That’s just it. Beneath each and every moment of our lives, there is a deeper, more profound reality. The spiritual isn’t just in a candle lit sanctuary, it is everywhere. It is all around us and for some, it is in us. It doesn’t require anything of us. Only asks that we pay attention and tune in. I remind myself – Almighty God is speaking, am I listening?
Two weeks ago we made the gut-wrenching decision to cancel our trip to Uganda. And friends, when I say ‘gut-wrenching’, I mean it literally. It was HARD to say no when we had already so publicly said ‘yes’. Our dear friends in Uganda were heart-broken, and we were left confused and crushed. Sometimes, you can’t fully explain the ‘why’. Sometimes, when peace leaves you and confusion sets in and your mind feels foggy and your purpose is wavering – you just have to step back and pray. So we prayed. And prayed. And talked. Talked to each other and talked to trusted family and friends.
Slowly, we discovered what we dreaded – we didn’t have peace about our trip. Something just wasn’t ‘right’. I still can’t fully tell you why we don’t have peace about going to Uganda right now. There are many logical reasons why we should wait, but there are also many logical reasons why we should go. Sometimes, the whispers of the Holy Spirit are all you have to go on and those aren’t easily explained or summed up in a sound bite.
Many, many tears fell and I had to say it over and over, that one word that’s so incredibly huge – ‘surrender’. Surrender if God sends us to Uganda and surrender if He tells us to stay right here. Surrender. Because we believe He knows best, even when it’s hard.
But do you know what has happened lately? My eyes have opened wider. My senses are awakening to the deeper – the fullness of ‘God with us’. Immanuel. The name above all names. He is with us and He is here and yes, miracles happen here.
See, for a while I was stuck in the unconscious belief that miracles were only happening in Uganda. The homeless child, finds a family. The hungry child eats because a meal was brought to her. The seven year old who spent two years on the street almost vomits after children hug him, because he’s never felt love like this before. These miracles. Yes, they are happening there.
But they are also happening here. Because when a stranger decides to simply ask her friends to get involved, 30 children receive new shoes. And when a friend hosts a home show, a family eats for a month. And when strangers see us at a Christmas show and buy presents for their loved ones, they are investing in changed lives. We meet hundreds and tell the story of how James and Norah walked in faith and now care for more than 30 children who before finding NACHU, never knew safety. No, some didn’t even know a hug or a kiss or their birthday. This is a place of refuge and this is a place where Jesus is found. Through their love and surrender, and our
simple act of selling of jewelry, together we have given orphans a family.
This year, a child dies and I will tell his story. Though I choke back tears, I will not shush and I will not stop. There are happy endings, but there are also children who die because we choose to live in our indulgence, our crude ‘oh well’ state of mind. Their culture doesn’t kill them, we kill them. Because there is a way out – and the hands are there and they long to serve but they lack the means. We can be the means and we are called to be the means and miracles happen when people say YES.
Another miracle right here – I meet an instant kindred spirit who lived most of her life in Kenya. Her skin is a creamy brown that radiates love and a soft kindness no one can resist. Oh, but this woman is strong – she is more inspiring than she knows. She’s lived in the slums, she’s seen the pain, she knows the need. She leaps in faith and starts a non-profit enterprise selling soapstone made by her family and friends back home. And one weekend worth of Christmas gifts bought for loved ones HERE make an unimaginable Christmas come alive somewhere deep in the heart of East Africa. Yes, close your eyes and believe… we are all connected.
This month, miracles happened in a warehouse that feeds the world’s hungry, in church auditoriums, in living rooms, and in checkout lines at the grocery store.
|In one party, this family group raised enough money to support several Kenyan women and feed the NACHU family for an entire month. Praise God.|
We’re praying and trusting God for the approaching day when we can boldly ask partners to give financially. To boldly ask if they will choose to clothe the naked and give shelter to the wanderer. And just like that the wanderer becomes a real, live child and they have names and faces and stories and beautiful, joyful souls.
And child by child, the world is changed. And those miracles happen right here and then they find wings and fly themselves all the way to sub-saharan Africa where they nestle right in among those smiling faces and are birthed – miracles in the dusty red sand.
We choose how closely we want to press in.
These faces are real and these children breathe and know love because someone reached out and said, “I believe“. That little boy, the child who came to us after years on the street. He is seven. And the boy who sleeps soundly upstairs in his bed, yes, our boy is seven too. One child is ours in flesh but the other is also ours in soul and he is yours too. Black, white, rich, poor, homeless or right upstairs – we all have the same maker and rely on the same grace and our hearts beat alike and we breath in time.
These children aren’t much different from yours.
And we aren’t much different from the ones who bring them in. We are called to do the same. To open our hearts to the unlikely. To believe in miracles.
To believe miracles happen right where we are. We just need to enter in and open our hearts to receive.
Won’t you prayerfully consider partnering with us in the coming months as we grow the amazing work of Nurture a Child Uganda together? More miracles to come… we believe.