Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blessings Given and Received

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 10:36 p.m.

We've had another successful and satisfying day at the school. For the most part, today was a continuation of yesterday's work. Sean and I finished interviewing the kids and taking photos for the Advent cards at church; Chris taught more geography, including an adapted version of the material for the third graders; Ann did her art appreciation and collage-making class for the students who didn't get it yesterday; and Kathy completed the hand-washing instruction with the remainder of the classes. We also had guests with us today –- the videographer who's creating a presentation about the school, and the representative from Engineers Without Borders.

The interviews and photos with the kids became more interesting as time went on (and as we realized the project wasn't taking as long as we'd thought and didn't have to be rushed). We started asking about what the kids do when they get home, how long they work on their homework each day, how many kids in the family go to school and why, etc. The answers are anecdotal, of course, but they're revealing. Many kids reported spending an hour or so on homework after school each day (perhaps some exaggeration there, but maybe not). This makes going to school an even more costly proposition for the parents than one might think. Not only do about half the parents pay at least something toward tuition, but they also lose their children's work at home while they're at school or doing homework. We also learned that the decision to send a child to school becomes a matter of maximizing the parents' return on investment. Some students with many siblings reported, for example, that three of six children might attend school. We asked how the parents decided whom to school and whom to keep home, and the reply was that often all the kids began school, but only the more talented ones were kept there once things got tight. It's a perfectly reasonable calculus, but very sad nonetheless.

There were a number of blessings given and received today. By way of example, let me tell you about a young boy and an older woman.

The boy is a student at the school whose home we visited today. We noticed him during school because he was limping badly and really only had use of one arm. Kathy, the physician, wasn't sure what his problem might be because he reported swelling in his foot (ankle, really) and elbow that happened every month or so –- very mysterious, even in terms of tropical medicine. At the boy's home, as with all the homes we visited, we spoke with his parents and invited them to join us to paint the school tomorrow, as well as to come to a meeting with the teachers on Thursday. We then prayed for the family and blessed their home. As we were leaving, Chris noticed the boy standing to the side. I went over to him and asked if he'd like prayer for his foot and elbow. I laid hands on his foot and elbow and prayed silently that I might have some standing in God's eyes to be doing what I was doing. Then I asked God to heal his joints and bring him wholeness, in his foot and elbow, as well as in his life.

Then, as we made our way toward the next house, I approached an older woman with a leaf on her head, held on by a bandana. I greeted her as I passed, but she held onto me saying, “Mal a tete” and holding her head. I stopped, laid hands on her head, and again prayed for relief of her pain and healing of whatever was ailing her. I was deeply humbled by her incredible display of faith. Following in the footsteps of the woman with the hemorrhage in the Gospels, this woman reached out to the nearest manifestation of God's presence she could find. With courage and determination I can only hope to emulate, she looked me –- and God –- in the eye and silently cried out, “I know you can bring me healing.”

I have no idea what the medical outcome will be for this woman, but I do know she is living in God's healing power. We never know how our feeble attempts to serve as divine conduits will play out, but this woman's faith reminded me that what I did or said mattered almost nothing. What mattered was that I showed up. Walking through mud and goat droppings, I happened to be led within a foot, literally, of this woman in pain, and she reached out to receive whatever share of God's healing power might come. I am tempted to belittle myself and assume that I merely spoke comfortable words. But I know God better than that. So tonight, I rest assured that I was blessed to serve as nothing less than a conduit of the Holy Spirit this afternoon. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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