Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Easter In San Antonio


Amy just sent us the most recent pictures of the grandchildren: Elijah (7), Anna (4) and Sophia (10 months). Amy made this picture in front of their house before they went to church.

Spring From Our Balcony


We live on a 5th floor apartment in Skopje, so we don't have a yard or garden. However, we have enclosed our little balcony and planted flowers. We thought you might like to see what spring looks like from our balcony.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sara: God's Heartbeat

This story was written by our daughter, Amy Earl Breedlove. It is such a vivid picture of our family's life in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Thank you, Amy, for reminding us of this "Easter" story. Mom & Dad

Mothers, everywhere in this world, are infused with a passion, a vulnerability, and a strength that cannot be explained. God’s heart beats for the widow, the grieving, the poor; Sara is all of the above.

During my childhood years I had a friend, Helen. Young African girls didn’t really have friends in the western sense of the word. But, we came close. She was still responsible for helping her mother with her three younger brothers, Joseph, Jacques, and John. She still had to cook, wash, and go to the well for water. But, on occasion you could see the child in her peek through when we would play with our dolls or ride bikes. She had big, radiant eyes. She mimicked her mother’s smile and laugh; she would place her hand over her mouth so as to not reveal too much excitement.

Early one Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to head down the dirt road to church, a messenger came. My dad answered the door, and things began to spin in chaos. My mother urged me to come, insisting that I needed to go with her immediately. I wasn’t sure what the circumstances were, but I understood that it was not the time for questions.

We entered the room to be greeted by Helen’s dad. It was explained that she was having an attack. Helen was the victim of painful sickle cell anemia. She was curled up in the living room of their small cinder block home. I saw the true compassion of my own mother that day. She picked up that tall, lanky child and held her close, stroked her hair - we were there for hours. Helen’s own mother was weeping at the inability to take away her child’s pain. When the pulses of pain would go through Helen’s body, she would cry out using an African expression, Wayie - that simply meant “indescribable.” That episode passed.

It was summer time, and as a young teenager, I lived life fairly carefree. My family was in the capital city for a meeting when the message arrived. Both of my parents came to me, I knew something was wrong. Tears began to stream down my face faster and faster. I could no longer wipe them away. Helen had died.

Once again, we entered that small cinder block house. Helen’s dad met us. African men rarely show emotion. He could not hold back his grief. He led us to the back room where the other African women had prepared Helen’s body for burial. She was lying on her parent’s bed. She was dressed in the finest dress that she owned. She had cotton covering her eyes. I was speechless - the tears continued to fall.

My mother and I walked to a small concrete building where the women were gathered. This is where Sara, Helen’s mother, was waiting. The other African women met us at the door, no men were allowed. When we entered the dark, cold room we could see an image curled up in the corner – it was Sara. In my teenage mind I thought, “Why are they making her sit on the floor?” At the time I did not understand that she did not have the strength to balance herself in a chair if they had gotten her one. Her grief was overwhelming. Helen was her only girl, her help, her child. For the remaining years that my family was in Africa, that grief was in Sara’s eyes. She did smile again, but the sadness colored her existence.

Only a few years later, Sara lost her husband, her children’s father, to hepatitis. She also discovered that her youngest son had sickle cell anemia. Sara and women like Sara are God’s heartbeat. She is “the widow”, she is “the poor”, she is “the grieving”. It is for her, and all like her, that Jesus says “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Now that I am a mother, I understand the passion you have for your kids. I understand the vulnerability of loving someone so much. I understand the strength of a mother: the mother that picks up the full weight of a car to save her child. I understand the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your kids – I would lie on the train tracks in front of a speeding train to save the life of my child. But something that I do not understand, and I hope I never have to, is the grief and strength of bearing the death of your child. Sara was a remarkable woman and God’s heartbeat.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

KINDERGARTEN CHECK-UP


Today three doctors came from the Macedonian Health Ministry to check the status of our children. They were very impressed, not only with their general health, but the meals they were eating. They said that our children were the healthiest kindergarteners they had seen in Skopje!! These are children of the poorest families in Skopje, so Habibje, Advije, Hejmet, and I were dancing around the classroom when the doctor-team left. What a wonderful way to have the value of the kindergarten validated.

PLEASE GIVE TO CBF GLOBAL MISSIONS OFFICE GOAL IS: $6,320,000

This year-long offering exclusively supports personnel on the field. Gifts may be made through your local church or mailed directly to CBF Offering for Global Missions, PO Box 450329, Atlanta, GA 31145.

THE SHALOM EXPERIENCE


It was prior to his resurrection that Jesus spoke these words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV). You will be familiar with the context. Jesus is identifying himself as the Good Shepherd who tends and nurtures the sheep with compassionate care. With this personal characterization, Jesus sets himself in stark contrast to those who had no interest in the welfare of the flock or who would leave the sheep defenseless in times of crisis.

As we look at life’s circumstances, both then and now, what shall we make of this remarkable statement about having life, and this life being full? Was Jesus referring to life beyond this earthly existence, in the heavenly realm? Or did he intend his words to have application in the immediate life situation?

In reality, Jesus is offering the opportunity to experience meaningful life in the present, as well as enduring hope for the future. It is the kind of life, depicted by the Hebrew word, “shalom”, that kind of life of inner peace and stability that transcends the tumult and day-to-day chaos of life.

In her book, Embracing the World, Jane Vennard says, “… For shalom does not bring everything to rest; it puts everything into motion. Shalom does not prevent every risk, but accepts every risk that is necessary for its work. Shalom does not resolve every conflict; rather, it accepts conflict as the context in which the work of shalom must be done.”

But shalom is not something to be claimed exclusively and individually, but made accessible to all and experienced in community, as well. It is only in this broadened sense of shalom being shared that we can know authentic shalom for ourselves.

So in celebrating the resurrection on this Easter, we are celebrating life. The resurrection testifies to the possibility of shalom for all people, beginning now and continuing through eternity. Our prayer is that those among whom we live will experience shalom themselves.