I can still clearly hear Dr. Chris' voice when he was speaking at the Faith Alive Community School site - "Church of the Nativity", it would be wonderful if you can partner with us on this". Partner - an interesting new term - they certainly don't want pity or even donations just thrown at them. No they want a partnership. A different idea - can we share a vision, care about the people and educate ourselves about their lives - help them in many ways, but in ways that helps to sustain their vision and values. The Faith Alive Hospital, which also includes social services, and now is branching out to even more services, calls itself the Faith Alive Family. They believe in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They do not in any way refuse to serve people with other beliefs. But they say who they are and share their faith. They let us know that they believe God knows their name.
The song our team shared with the children was "I Am Not Forgotten", one that fellow team member, Marina Lynch and I learned from the Time Travelers Children Ministry at Nativity. "I am not forgotten...I am not forgotten...I am not forgotten...God knows my name", was sung by our whole team and Dr.Chris and the teachers sang along and danced with us. It was a joyful moment even though we were in such a "poor place" and saw how much they needed. Their hope and faith that God will help them was so inspiring.
I have been thinking of the Faith Alive team and have been a little bit emotional about all that we experienced together. I am still trying to get over my bronchitis - so maybe it is a little too much cough syrup! The return home is great but so much is going on with school start up and end of summer events. Labor day weekend for us is so busy. But it is a blessing to have "so much" - people who want to see us and celebrate with us.. I wanted to take a moment to just let all of the emotions come together and share with you.
I was very excited to read the blog posting stating it looks like an OK for the water and school projects in both communities for Advent. Wow! I didn't think Faith Alive was going to be a part of the Advent program. None of us knew what was going to happen. But God heard a prayer and I believed He showed us His will. This is not an easy thing to discern. I am not an expert - but it is what I and our team believe. He always has a bigger and better plan than we do. But we have to be open and searching. And that is exactly what happened. Our church was open and had a vision of helping a community with maybe one well for clean water and God showed us two communities, which not only need clean water, but the wells would be attached to schools. I feel the match of the Faith Alive Community School and the Church of the Nativity is a "match made in heaven". Wonderful things are going to happen out of this partnership for both of our communities. I really feel, as our whole team does, that this is the real reason we all went to Nigeria this summer. It wasn't easy for any of us. But somehow we were put together and we all felt moved to go on this trip. We went through hardships (lost luggage, very high humidity, lots of sweating, no running water, a broken generator for four days, stomach aches, headaches) that weren't really hard because we laughed a lot. We needed to learn how to communicate as a group so we could get anything done together. Thus the "talking stick" was invented. It was actually a glow stick (there was a lot of darkness) that had to be handed to you before you could speak at our meetings. Because of everyone's enthusiasm, we all talked at the same time, until we used this process. This is a team in which we all have different gifts and we had to learn to work together. A special thanks to Ed, because you were our leader - you put up with us when we weren't at our best and we felt discouraged. Yes - this happens. I'm letting everyone reading this blog know we are not saints! ED, you are a good man and I hope we will be lifelong friends.
The leaders of these two communities know God knows their names and they were actually teaching on this while we were at Faith Alive It reminded me of how our church discussed this during our series on Foundations last January - to know our identity in Jesus Christ. These leaders help to educate their communities but they also have much in common with what we're being taught at our church. We can help each other learn. They want us to share our stories with them and to hear about us and our faith's journey. Much of our time there was set aside to meet their requests for praying and sharing our faith with them. I believe there can be a relationship formed between our church and these two communities that will not only change their lives, but our lives as well.
This all got started three summers ago, a story was brought to our church, our pastor made a commitment to seek and send four courageous young people to Nigeria and the story goes on. Now we are being asked by our church to do more in a certain direction. I think we're all going to look back and see this coming Advent as special. We are going to learn things as a community that we can't even possibly know yet. But I know this - this team is not at an end of a trip, but a beginning of a journey. Thank you so much to the Home Team for your support and all the parishioners who have supported and prayed for us. And thank you to our pastor for the wonderful opportunity to be just a part of this story, for your faith in this ministry and your devotion to the divine mission of our church.
Go Team & God Bless Our Church!