Since I've last blogged, I've literally been to the other side of the world and back. Literally.
Our family traveled to Kenya to support the work I'm doing with Our Courageous Kids. I attended an orphan care conference in Nashville, Tennessee. And then last weekend, the book tour for Birthed took me to Birmingham, AL to talk about grief and its good news: we can rise from the worst things that happen to us! I was so thankful to Baptist Church of the Covenant for hosting me!
I loved all of it! Travel is so life-giving for our household. Not necessarily for the adventure of experiencing a new place or seeing something new (though these are wonderful side effects), but always for the people. We love maintaining relationships with friends and family all over the world. The people in our lives in all their diversity make us a better human beings.
So, when you've literally been to the other side of the world and back you don't know how to begin. You don't know exactly what to say. Or what to highlight. Or what details of what you've seen matters the most. So I've been quiet for a couple of days.
A wave of exhaustion (or maybe just jet lag?) hit me on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (and maybe even still today). You don't go to the other side of the world and back (with a 10 month old in tow I might add) and not feel tired. 8 hour plane rides repeated (times 4) with a baby are not for the faint at heart.
But here's some things I know for sure from all of the ways we've been on the move lately:
When it was time to leave for our Kenyan trip, I started to panic. I mean, packing enough formula, clothes and toys to meet baby girl's needs for 9 days felt overwhelming even for people like us who travel all the time. I told Kevin over and over again how naive we were for even attempting such a big adventure. I have to say the word crazy came out of my mouth more than a couple of times . . .
But, even though the travel was as hard (or harder) than I imagined the journey was worth it. It was worth it because showing up means so much. To the children we met with again. To the old friends we hugged. To the new friends we had a chance to spend more time with! It was a joy to introduce our daughter to her Kenyan brothers and sisters! Joy that overflowed from our hearts in being together. Presence means everything!
Last weekend, I worked with a group of deacons in their pastoral care ministries with family groups in a Birmingham, AL church. During our last session together, I took a risk. I taught on something I'd never tried before. SHAME.
I brought up the topic of shame because I think it has everything to do with how we speak of grief.
I did so knowing my audience, I thought, pretty well. But what I found as we began our conversation with one another is that SHAME is so hard to talk about even among friends. It's so personal. It's like the garbage we want to take out and forget ever came in our home. Yet, like it or not, it's in all our stories. We all struggle with feeling unworthy, unlovable or an outsider in our own communities (even if we not ready yet to say it aloud). We all have our own version of "the worst mistake" stuck in our heads somewhere. But this I know: we help one another heal as we begin to talk about it!
One of my favorite parts of the Christian Alliance of Orphans (CAFO) conference in Nashville this year was a workshop led by Jedd Medefind, President of CAFO and Kathryn Joyce author of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption.
The session started with Kathryn introducing herself saying she was a liberal feminist atheist AND an award-winning journalist. What was so astounding about her introduction is that it came at a very conservative Christian conference. (As one of the only non-conservatives in the room, I wondered if someone in the audience would either try to shame her or convert her after the presentation). But she was there because Jedd had lovingly invited her, even though she wrote a book that was highly critical of many aspects of Christians in the adoption community. Over the next hours, together, the two of them dialogued respectfully and openly and no one got hurt. Their talk was a great example of what beautiful moments look like when we talk honestly with one another about what we believe. I felt so encouraged that maybe CAFO has a place for me in all I'm trying to do with the orphan care organization I'm seeking to build.
What about you? What have you been learning lately?
P.S. I'm glad to be home for a while!
Who is the church called to care for?
Who is the church asked to speak for?
Who is the church told to lift up?
For those of us who believe in the mission of the church, each of us has our favorite answers to these questions.
Many say the church is called in mission to the poor or the widows, or the sick.
Many say the church is called to speak for those without a voice.
Many church is called to pray for those who are often left out or ignored in remote places of our local communities and around the world.
But, I'm learning this week that there are a growing number of Christians and Christian churches who answer these questions by specifically by saying: "God calls us to care for, to speak up, and to lift up the orphans."
I'm attending the Christian Alliance of Orphans Summit Conference in Nashville, TN as a representative for Feed The Children exploring what relationship with this Christian Alliance might look like in the future. And here with folks who deeply care about the church's mission going forth in care of children who have been abandoned, malnourished, or without the basic life essentials to achieve their greatest potential, I've had some shocking revelations.
It has been shocking to see how many folks are here in the middle of the week (organizers say it's the largest turn out ever in its history). Starting only with 45 folks sitting around shared tables only 9 years ago and now more than 2,000 . . .
It has been shocking to learn about how many churches around the country host "Orphan Sundays" each year-- in an effort to spread the message about the plight of orphans around the globe. Big mega churches, medium-sized churches and tiny ones alike . . .
It has been shocking to see such passionate conversation between all sorts of church folk around the exhibit hall asking such questions as "What more can we do to raise awareness about these children who need us to care for them?" Folks from all corners of the spectrum of theological camps, conservative, liberal, you name it. ..
And it is good to be shocked. It is good to see so many folks in James 1:27 t-shirts (the adoption theme verse). It is good to see so many interracial families and families full of kids with special needs and families putting action to their faith instead of words only.
It is good to be learning in community.
It is good to be so proud of the organization I know best, Feed The Children-- a group that has been working since 1979 around the globe to bring attention to children in poverty including orphans.
If you are interested in joining the movement: click here to learn more.