Are We So Different From Ruth?

This week as I met with the older girls, twenty six of them, I began teaching them about the book of Ruth.  All the teachings I have heard about this book have centered around Christ as our Redeemer, just as Boaz was Ruth’s redeemer.  This week as I started my day, early Monday morning, washing my clothes in a bucket as the sun came up, I just let my mind be opened to what the Lord wanted me to teach these girls about this book.  He began to open my eyes in understanding as to how Ruth gave everything to go after her destiny.

Ruth left her people, her family, her culture and everything that was familiar to her, willingly.  She was even urged by Naomi to stay with her own people because Naomi had nothing to offer Ruth if she went with her.  And the Bible describes Naomi as a bitter old woman, blaming God for all her troubles.  Yet Ruth cried and begged to go with Naomi.  There was nothing in Ruth’s city that could satisfy her anymore.  She knew that her destiny lied elsewhere and she was willing and even ready to go after it.  She followed Naomi.

These children that I care for at Iris Ministries are somewhat like Ruth.  They are here, separated from their families through death or sickness or abuse, and even their cultures in some cases, having left everything for the promise of a better life.  Living in an institutional setting, it is very easy to fall into a mindset of receiving and not giving, of expecting things to come whether you work for them or not, a mindset of thinking that you deserve things just because you are told that there are people across the world who sponsor you.  We always have to be very careful to ensure that these children do not fall into this institutional trap.  They have to be constantly reminded that they will have to live in their own tukel one day, having neighbors to help and be helped by, being married and earning their own way in the world, not having anyone to sponsor them and make sure they are fed.

We purposely do not modernize our compound with electricity and butane stoves and running water because this is not how the majority of the people live.  We raise these children as close to their culture and community style of living as possible.  You have seen my updates showing how they each plant and grow gardens and make their own bricks and build their huts so that one day when they are ready to leave, they will ease into the community that they belong to without any shocks or surprises.  So, I wanted to show my girls how Ruth, like them, had to adjust to a new life and how she did it with excellence.

Ruth not only left everything she ever knew and followed a bitter woman to a new place, she then became the sole breadwinner for her mother-in-law in a strange new country, not knowing a soul.  She struck out on her own and went to the fields to glean the scraps, never being prideful or ashamed.  When Boaz took notice of her, picking scraps in his field like a beggar, the Bible clearly says that Boaz remarked to Ruth that she had found exceptional favor in his eyes because “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law… you left everything and came to live with a people you did not know”.

I really gave some thought to this because I too have left everything I have ever known to come to a land of people I didn’t know.  I was thinking, what can I do this week that will impact someone else’s life in a remarkable way.  One of our mamas has been very sick.  I spent the entire day at the hospital with her on Thursday, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm getting tests done.  She has a serious heart problem which we are trying to get to the bottom of.  I will be spending all day tomorrow again at the hospital for more tests.

Every morning as I walk out the door to my room, I always see the sun rise over my garden and this mama’s.  My garden is right next to hers.  I noticed that her garden is over run with weeds seriously.  I knew that she could not manage this and that if I didn’t clear these weeds then her crops would be destroyed.  So I spent two days in the blazing sun on my hands and knees pulling weeds all day long, not telling anyone what I was doing.

My hands are stained black because the residue from the plants do this here.  It takes a solid week of numerous hand washings to get it to go away.  My fingers are a mess from all the cuts from the elephant grass and I am itching all over my arms from the weed stickers.  But I tell you, the look on her face when she learned of what I had done was worth picking a thousand rows of weeds.  She was amazed that I would even do this.  This is not something us westerners do.  It just doesn’t happen.  But I knew this was her livelihood, her means to support her family, and if it didn’t get done, her family would suffer, and so I did it.  The Lord was showing me through Ruth that He loves a cheerful giver and exceptional favor follows those who give of themselves in a way that brings sacrifice for others who need the Lord’s help.

We are always praying that we would be God’s hands and feet and that we will do anything.  So I was challenged because I know that the hardest thing to do here physically is managing a garden.  I knew it would be a big undertaking but I didn’t want that to stop me from being a blessing.  I wanted to give and to be a blessing that would really affect another’s life and livelihood and not just hand out money to fix things.  Money is very necessary and very much needed and appreciated here for sure.  The longer I remain here the more I want to be a blessing in a practical way that will draw me closer to these people, even in understanding their everyday lives.

I continue to meet with all of the older children, boys included, on Friday nights as we dive deeper into the journey of being a missionary in a foreign land.  I am teaching them that wherever they are and whatever they decide to do, their main mission is to bring the love of Jesus in a practical way to the lives of those they encounter.  We meet in our office building and I am always having to fight off the littler ones who want to be included.  The children are seriously enjoying the teachings and videos.  Last night the little ones simply wouldn’t give up trying to sneak in so I had about 70 kids in my advanced missions class – haha.  I guess I will just have to let them stay and raise them young.

Today, Sunday, I took four girls with me and we ventured into town to attend service at the biggest Dinka church in the area.  The language is all Dinka with no interpreters.  It is an Episcopal church and today’s attendance was 1,063!  I am starting to make a more concerted effort to learn some Dinka before I head north.  We then left there and dropped in on the Holy Spirit fire of the Pentacostal Church just down the road.  Now I am sitting here with Peacey who is singing and dancing next to me while I play Arabic church worship videos on my Itunes as I type my update.  Lovin it!

Be blessed and know that the Lord loves to show you incredible favor.  Go and be a blessing as He blesses you this week.  Let us give of ourselves, leaving everything that we are used to doing and going down the road of sacrifice to truly bless another.  Peace to you this Lord’s day!