Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just Look (Poverty and the Gospel I)

I'm on a journey--it's taking me to Africa March 24 where I'm going to meet some very poor people in Korah (a part of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia). There are children, I'm told, who live in a city dump. Imagine that--to live in the dump!

I have an imagination and immediately my mind goes toward children living in the landfill off County Road in west Marietta, Georgia. The county jail is right next to the landfill, and the car tag office next to that. When we took our driving test we hoped for a day when the wind was blowing "the other way." You could smell the dump before you actually saw it. No one wants to be anywhere near a dump--much less IN one!

But I cannot even imagine what life is like in a city dump that serves the capital city of Ethiopia! I've heard that the children first went there to forage for food. Imagine that. Yesterday I tossed a coffee grinder into the trash, this afternoon I added some week old vegetable soup, month old cheese dip and bones from last night's grilled steak. Let's say these things end up in the "dump" next week. I would imagine resourceful kids might actually make a less than decent meal off of them--and might even find a way to either fix--or use the old coffee bean grinder.

But I live in Williamson County, TN--one of the wealthiest counties in the nation! These children are poking about in what Ethiopians call "garbage." Isn't Ethiopia where I've seen pictures of starving children? What do Ethiopians collect in their dumps?!?

God has invited me on a journey. First He invited me to a fast--a week long fast. I'd never not eaten for an entire week! Not even when I've suffered stomach disorders...I've never been that disordered! But the last week of January He invited me and Tom to do what we'd never done before and one day I'll blog about that experience. But it was on the 3rd day of my fast that I heard God clearly invite me to Korah. Sumer's going back and I'm going with her (and 6 other people God invited on this trip).

She asked us to read "Fields of the Fatherless" by Tom Davis ( But before I read that I read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. I know, the whole world's already read this book and I'm way behind. Francis Chan took a similar trip with God--and when he took a field trip to poverty, he came back changed. Sumer reminded us last Wednesday at our team meeting that we will be changed too. I'm also reading a biography of Hudson Taylor (missionary to China in the mid 1800's). Before he ever left England to live in China, Hudson Taylor took a vow of poverty. He wanted to "train" himself to be ready for his mission field. As I read the various hardships that Hudson Taylor and the other missionaries experienced I am humbled. All of this reading is part of my journey. God is preparing me for a new place in my life.

I've known--for a very long time that people die of starvation. I've known for a very long time that people have no way of hearing the name of Jesus--or knowing how much He loves them. And I've gone to where they are occasionally; Nicaragua, India, Japan, China, Mexico, New Orleans, Houston, Techwood in Atlanta, GA, and now I'm going to Ethiopia. This time is different. This time God has not invited me to take a peek into darkness. This time He's invited me to take a long hard look.

I want to look away. I want to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and hum "kum ba ya." But He's holding my head in the palm of His hands and whispering in my ear--"Look. These are MY CHILDREN! I love them like you love Mikel, Kaleigh and TJ. Just look."

I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mazatlan, Mexico

When we scheduled this trip to Mazatlan, it was all about Kaleigh. Being the child whom I sensed God call to missions when she was 6 months old (I'll tell that story here someday); and having sent her to the Vietnam/China border and into Nicaragua more than once, it was the least Tom and I could do to take her to Mazatlan for a scouting trip for the student mission trip she is helping to lead this summer.

And I am here to say that spending the weekend with Kaleigh was pure joy. We feel that way about all of our children all of the time (Don't you?!)!

But meeting Lilia and Jose Ramon (JR) was definitely the highlight of our trip. One: They live in exactly what I would picture a Mexican "casa" to look like--tile floors, bright colors, windows with planted pots, ceiling fans, a courtyard in front and behind--a beautiful home! And, she fed us Mexican breakfasts and lunches complete with tortilla's, avocado, purple onions sliced thin and tomatoes. I would have felt like I was eating healthy if it hadn't been for the tremendous dinners we shared at area restaurants after 9PM!

Seeing the ministries of Spirit and Truth church (that currently meets in the unfinished parking garage of a downtown office structure) and spending time with Pastors Joe and Laurie Pacheco was humbling. I was impressed most with the willingness of so many of their church members to be the "hands and feet of Jesus" And they didn't even read Crazy Love to be that way! It's just what they do! A group of women feed children of prostitutes every Saturday morning. I asked, "where does the money come from to feed these 80 kids?" Answer: from the women who come and serve it! Some of those women give sacrificially to reach out to children who have even less than they.

Then there was Marlin (not sure I'm spelling her name right) who put her nursing career on hold so that she could go take care of her grandmother in the village of Elota. Since she is there, she's opened her home for a church to meet. And two couples from the Spirit and Truth Church take turns traveling to and from Elota to host worship services and teach the children there. I am wondering why this is the norm in Mazatlan--and not in Thompson Station.

I could go on and on--but I won't. Just suffice it to say that Mazatlan was beautiful at this time of the year (they assured us that it would be much warmer in June when Kaleigh goes back with our students), and the work that God is doing through His Church there challenges me to get the women at TSC up and at 'em!! We have so much to give, and there are so many places to give it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Air travel out of Nashville

I was reminded this weekend of the price I pay to live in a "small big city" rather than a "big big city." I love Nashville. I love how I can bump into people I know at that mall, in restaurants, and even downtown! I love how I can bump into famous people that I don't know (and I have to confess that even though I'm bound to have bumped into some of them in the past 21 years--I haven't known it. There was this one time at my labor and delivery classes that I introduced myself to Stephen Curtis Chapman and his wife and asked, "did you go to Samford University? Your name sounds real familiar to me." He graciously told me he didn't go to Samford, and couldn't imagine where we might know one another. It wasn't until later than my brain came alive and I said, "Stephen Curtis Chapman!! Duh!")

Anyway...I love my Nashville airport and how late Saturday nights I'm sometimes the last one there. I love the feeling that this little voice is gently saying, "just turn off the lights and lock the door when you leave, Leighann."

But there is one thing I don't love. And that is the places I have to go before I go where I want to go when I leave from BNA (the code letters for my beloved Nashville International Airport). For instance, this weekend I went to Alexandria, Louisiana. But first I had to go to Atlanta, Georgia where I sat for 6 hours waiting on my delayed flight to Louisiana. And then on Saturday night I had to go to Houston and walk 6 miles and ride a shuttle bus to get on the plane that was to bring me home to Nashville.

While I was in Atlanta I was trying to book flights for next month. I need to go to West Palm Beach, Florida. And as I was searching for flights it became apparent to me that I could choose to either fly through Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta (again) to go to Florida. Why is that cheaper than simply flying from here to there?

And then there are the little bitty planes that I fly in!! What happened to all the big planes? You know, the ones with two seats on both sides of the aisles!! And those with space to actually fit a purse at your feet?!

And what happened to "carry-on luggage" compartments!! They ought to call it "carry to" luggage, since we now carry our own luggage TO the plane where they still load and unload it while we wait in the COLD to get it.

Because there are no more of those nicely air-conditioned tunnels!! We now have to haul our selves down the stairs and out into the cold like I used to see people do in the 60's!! And those itty bitty steps we have to balance on getting in and out of those planes...

Whew, I love living in Nashville. It's just the flying about that tends to be a bit taxing. But I wouldn't trade it for the world!! Thank God we can actually get there from here.

Thursday I'm leaving in the morning for Mazatlan, Mexico with my husband and daughter Kaleigh (so she can lay the ground work for a youth trip this summer), and in a few weeks I'm headed to Las Vegas (WHERE I WAS ABLE TO BOOK A DIRECT FLIGHT!!) and then--to West Palm Beach, Florida. So right now I need to stop blogging and decide whether I want to go through Detroit, Chicago or...Atlanta to get there.

Oh the places you will go!!