We can ascribe to life whatever cute metaphor we choose. It's a dance. It's a beautiful journey. Life is a song. But, at the end of the day, you and I both know that life is hard work. It's challenging. It's often brutal.
Is life devoid of beauty? Absolutely not. But we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the hardships.
Similarly, our Church Partnership model is born out of hardships. Church Partnership helps local churches minister to the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children whose young lives already tell tales of horrific grief and heartache. As churches partner together to effectively care for these children and learn from one another, they work through all the struggles that cross-cultural relationships face.
So, how do we push through the tough stuff? How do we press on in the storms? How do we remember that life can be a song, a beautiful journey, and a dance? Additionally, how can we portray life's beauty to orphaned and vulnerable children who have perhaps encountered more pain than we may ever experience in our lives?
A team from River Oaks Community Church in Maryville, TN, recently returned from Nairobi Kenya, where they visited their church partner, Fountain of Hope. This trip marked Director of Wholistic Care Kathy Davis' ninth journey to Kenya and her seventh time visiting Fountain of Hope.
The first half of the trip consisted of heart-heavy work: feeding vulnerable children, conducting home visits to children being cared for through Home Based Care, and assisting with a two-day medical clinic. The Tennessee church worked alongside Fountain of Hope, functioning as extra hands and feet for the church's ministry within the community. The team ended their trip with a visit to Lake Nakuru National Park.
Everyone packed their bags and loaded into the convoy of vehicles to head for open air: the children receiving care, the caregivers, and the team from Tennessee. LaDonna Covert said it was in these moments that this wasn't a Church Partnership, project, or a mission trip, but it was a family vacation . . . and it quickly became filled with all the things a family vacation usually includes.
As the vehicle doors opened to a wide open grassy field, feet of all shades and sizes hit the ground running, free to breathe and move and simply be. Frisbees whirled through the air while volleyballs echoed like drums. Laughter and sunshine warmed many broken hearts, while others found the quiet space to let go of the tears they'd gripped tightly for so long. The girls and boys were encouraged, prayed over, and loved in this sacred, simple space.
In the evening, a fire glowed, illuminating the faces of Kenyans and Americans, orphans, vulnerable children, friends, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, and sisters. Yet, in the orange light, that strange mixture of people merely looked like a family as they laughed, told stories, and dreamed together. Smoke filled the air, and the scent of s'mores made mouths water–the mouths of both the seasoned s'more-lover and the new s'more lover. A quiet peace hung in air.
Aren't those the moments that take your breath away? Sometimes it's the roaring expanse of the ocean or the limitless heights of the mountains; however, sometimes it's the rhythmic cracking of a few logs in the fire and the laughter of a stranger-turned-friend. Amid the smell of sweat, the sticky residue of the perfect marshmallow, and the grime of a long day's play, we find that life is beautiful.
We're reminded that God is a good, good Father whose love cannot compare to the vastness of the ocean or the heights of the mountains or the heat of the fire. We remember that we were made for each other . . . for partnership, communion, and friendship. And truly, in that quiet place, looking at the beautiful faces of boys and girls whose stories are hard and whose pain runs deep, we are reminded that they are not without hope for the future.
So, laugh big. Stay by the fire a little longer. Grab yourself a s'more. Tomorrow will be challenging and the day may have its strife, yet today we will remain in this quiet place, where we remember a love that knows no bounds and a hope that seems impractical.