Monday, February 13, 2012

The Lord Almighty

I am thinking about the first time I sensed that our four-month-old might like worship music about as much as his mama.

Wednesday nights at our church are loud, really loud and really good. You can feel the music right down to your core and Judah has experienced this feeling since day one in the womb. I lead worship and between the students' voices and the way the stage trembles from the sound of the base and drums, there is little doubt how music found a place in his heart hidden there in my womb.

Our Judah was born in September of last year and after we had been home from the hospital about three weeks, he had a particularly rough night. In the middle of the night, he woke very upset and we were unable to console him. Everything we tried failed so we eventually turned to a song my husband and I both love. Immediately, Judah was consoled as these words played loudly in his ear:

“Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty.
There is no one like You!
You are Holy, Holy!”

I believe we have played that song about a thousand times since his birth four months ago and it never fails to soothe his soul, and mine too. Each time he gets upset and we play those powerful words, he is stilled. I am reminded of Psalm 46, particularly verses 10-11, “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Little ones can rest because He is almighty. Grown ones can rest because He is almighty.

I don’t know your story. I don’t know what wakes you up in the middle of the night. I don’t know what in your life grieves your heart and turns your eyes to tears.

I do know that our God is capable and strong and that He is ALWAYS with us. He is able and eager to work in and through every long wait, each silent season, every loss, and all of our fears. There has never been and never will be anyone like our God, The Lord Almighty, the God of Jacob who is our fortress.

Lauren Strickland
South Alabama Case Worker

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Light Shines in the Darkness

God recently gave me the privilege of spending 6 months in North India “living life” with 6 Indian women in their slum. These ladies became my family. They are my friends. They are my sisters. They are some of the poorest people I’ve ever seen. They live each day not knowing if they will have clean water and food to eat. On the outside these ladies and I are so very different. But on the inside we are exactly the same in our need for a Savior. I look at their lives and the world would tell us they are hopeless. They live in extreme poverty, surrounded by disease and filth and face unfathomable oppression on a daily basis. They live in a country with a population of approximately 1.2 billion. Less than 2% of those 1.2 billion are Christians. This means that the vast majority of these beautiful people face an eternity separated from Christ. And God gave them to me to love. Me? Not only did He place them in my life and allow me to love them, He created a bond between us that only He could create. There is no other explanation. Only He could do it. They are truly my family, my sisters, my friends. I want to share with you what it was like to say good-bye to these precious ones when the time came for me to return to America and how God reminded me of the hope and promise that the “light shines in the darkness.

We all wept when it was time for me to leave them. It was terrible. Hard and pitiful and awful and painful and sad all rolled into one. There was so much to be said but words failed each of us and the language barrier was just too strong to communicate how we felt.

Amy Carmichael once wrote:

"…in the silence of a pain we cannot conquer we find ourselves just spirit-crushed, and with no language but a cry."

So there we stood, our little group. In a cloud of clasped hands and forehead kisses. Dupattas swiping, swiping, swiping away at black, eye-liner filled tears. With no language but a cry. The fear of never seeing them again filled my heart. The fear of leaving them in such oppression and poverty and complete spiritual darkness made me sick.

As I approached the airport the next night to fly home, I saw them. My heart stopped in my chest for a moment. Sitting on a curb just outside the gates of the airport, under a street light was a little bundle of sparkle and color and smiles. Precious, precious ones.

I climbed out of the car and was welcomed by the most beautiful sight. Each of the ladies – all 6 of them – had come to the airport to say good-bye. And they looked beautiful. They had worn their best clothes. Can a heart burst with happiness? Well, I think mine almost did.

We spent the next thirty minutes hugging and laughing and talking. I was so proud of them! What it took for them to be able to come to the airport, I'll never truly know. Bus money…approval of prepared for families…courage. I was so proud of them. These ladies who never leave their slum, who were too afraid to go on a picnic just a few miles from their homes, had bravely come to the airport. I was humbled and amazed. Overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Then, sooner than any of us wished, it was time to say good-bye. We formed a little circle in the grass and prayed. Then, slowly we said good-bye. After many, many, many hugs and tears, I walked away. It seemed like I turned around and waved at them 100 times as I walked toward the airport. And 100 times the little, sparkly bundle raised their arms in unison and waved back. Oh, my heart was full.

As the plane rose higher and higher in the air and the lights of our city shone in the night, I couldn't help but notice the large patches of darkness where there was no light. I assumed these were the slums or power-cut areas. My heart ached for my ladies, knowing they were on the way back to their slum. To their patch of darkness. And I couldn't hold it in anymore. The tears just came and came and came.

So much darkness. So little light.

Then suddenly, out of the middle of one of those dark patches came a spray of fireworks. And another and another. That patch didn't seem quite so dark anymore.

Familiar and comforting words came to me:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

There will come a day, He promises, when the oppression and suffering and mourning will be no more for those who know Him.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
He will dwell with them, and they will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them as their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning
nor crying nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away
And He who was seated on the throne said,
"Behold, I am making all things new."
Also, He said, "Write this down,
for these words are trustworthy and true."
And He said to me, "It is done!
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

The one who conquers will have this heritage,
and I will be his God and he will be my son."

Revelation 21:3-7

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:5

And I was reminded by the One who is Light, that it will not always be dark. He has promised. We put our hope in Him. We find comfort in Him. We trust His promises. We follow Him in obedience to shine His glorious Light into the darkness.

Jessica Dixon

Administrative Assistant

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An Adoption Story

As this is my first official blog post since coming on with Lifeline. I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce my family and our adoption story.

It is amazing to look back at our lives and see how our God is a God who plans. He is at work in our lives long before we are even born. He knew that adoption was a BIG part of our story of redemption in His eternal family and so He teaches us that true religion is to care for the orphans! The adoption of our daughter was much bigger than “rescuing” her. Instead this is an even greater love story of Jesus.

Geoffrey was young when he first heard the testimony of missionary given at school. He thought to himself, “I will do this one day.” So when the opportunity arose to travel to Kenya, he went. That summer he spent days in the slums of Kibera. He did some door to door evangelism, but spent most of his time playing soccer with the children. The love for the fatherless was planted there in the dirt fields of that slum. Over the years, that love grew and he knew he wanted to love on the fatherless forever.

Junior year of college, he met Jama. It did not take long for both of us to realize that we wanted to spend life together serving the Lord. After college we had plans to go serve on the mission field, but God had a different plan. Surprise! We found out we were pregnant with our first child. So instead of traveling overseas, we began our family in Birmingham, AL and Geoffrey started seminary. Over the first year, we sold our house and made some money. Not long after that, the Lord impressed upon Jama’s heart that they were to save and set it aside. Over the next 5 years we prayed and searched for where God wanted us to give, patiently waiting. Meanwhile, God was making a way for us to adopt.

Adoption had not been a thought in Jama’s mind, but after struggling to have a second baby God began working. After a miscarriage, God did bless us with another baby, but the adoption seeds had been planted in Jama’s heart. Three years later, God placed the call on our lives to adopt, June of 2010. After praying, we felt that he desired us to adopt domestically through Lifeline Children’s Services.

It is amazing to see how lost fingerprints (the State Department lost Geoffrey’s papers), were all part of God’s plan. Our journey to our daughter, became very real when we got the call that a birthmother had chosen our family and that we would meet her soon! We never imagined how hard, but how wonderful the next 3 months would be as we awaited her birth. Initially being very closed minded, we didn’t want to have contact with her, but God changed our hearts and we decided to go and see our birthmother. I can remember walking into the room and thinking, “She is the most beautiful woman.” There is something special about that first meeting and we loved her already so much.

After that very long meeting our relationship began. We then came to doctor visits, heard heart beats, and lastly she invited us to be in the room for the c-section. Now I do not want to paint a perfect picture of a seamless or easy adoption. But it was in those moments that we stayed on our knees. God woke us up many nights, in the middle of the night to pray for our birthmother and our daughter. We were aware that we were fighting a spiritual battle that was very real and that God was using our prayers to protect.

During that wait, we attended our old church. It was Father’s day morning and before beginning any part of the service the pastor asked for all the families adopting or that have adopted to please stand. He shared scripture on adoption and then began to pray for us. So there we were standing among a crowd of 2000, with a few others, being encouraged our God through His church. It was at that moment, in our tear filled hands, that I knew He was going to take care of birthmother and our daughter. After the service, a sweet lady approached us and wanted us to know that God had impressed upon her to pray for us today. And that she wanted us to know that she was praying for us. Wow!

So we went bright and early June 20, 2011 where I watched the most amazing story unfold. There in the delivery room our birthmother instructed the doctors to take her baby from her belly and place her in our arms. It was that morning that I witnessed the most selfless, courageous women sacrifice herself for her child. It was in that moment that I witnessed the gospel and I gained a greater understanding of God’s adoptive love for myself.

While in the hospital, we spent long days and nights holding our daughter and loving on our birthmother. We would eat together, rock the baby, and hear her stories. It was an emotionally and very cherished time. I got to know our birthmother in a way that most adoptive parents never get and I am so grateful that I will get to tell her story to our daughter. One day I tell my daughter that her birthmother loved her so much and I know because she told me!

This adoption journey has changed our lives. It has taught us more about God’s love for us and more about His plan for our family. It was not long after this adoption, that God placed the opportunity in front of us to serve in the adoption community! January 3rd, Geoffrey began his job with Lifeline Children’s Services, as their International Manager of Programs. We never imagined how our daughter would lead to a complete life change and that God would use her to begin our family’s life passion! We are so excited about bringing orphans home to Godly families, where they will hear about our heavenly Father’s love for them!

Too God be the glory,

Geoffrey and Jama

Geoffrey Ketcham

International Manager of Programs