Watch the Toes!

It seems that the human condition is to toe the line.

How much of me can I hold on to while keeping my “get out of jail” card with God? 

(“Get out of jail” theology is already a mess in and of itself – but that isn’t what we are talking about today)

And as much as I am shaken to see that I have this condition for myself over and over again…I was slapped to realize I am also TIP TOEING around others, in style comparable to a ballerina on opening night of “The Nutcracker” after years of training for it, to avoid any toes that may be stepped on if I urge discomfort as opposed to what margin easily allows. If I make it an option to choose an amount of money that would force change in life habits elsewhere…I could scare you off completely!

“That would be stretching for us” is exactly what my aim is to avoid when asking someone who, in faith, reaches out in response to my new needs to stay on the ground long term. I need monthly partners and when I respond or put out the ask, I am hitting backspace on my ideal ask because I don’t want to “invade their budget”.

So my ask, which is not for myself – it is God’s money, is scaled back to be “non-invasive”, “convenient”, “something you will not miss”.

While that fairy tale type faith (one where we magically both are perfect, soaked in the Spirit disciples while also changing nothing in our life) is one that much of the Western church is attempting to fool itself into, what in the absolute world kind of faith is one that’s impact is not felt?

God does not need to show up to what is convenient.

It is not life-changing if it is not invading your life.

If I am simply collecting change that will not be missed – I am saying that a great way to compare God is by looking at your couch – specifically underneath it, where you only clean once a spring. Forgotten and irrelevant to your daily habits.

Why, oh why, has it become okay to continue to turn off our minds to our natural habits and not let him invade our lives? To not examine every piece of what we are doing with our time and other resources we have been given, and hold them up to say – “what would YOU have me do?”. What on earth – I am so entrenched in this that I am bringing others along for the ride and making sure that I don’t step on toes!

Because we all know THAT is what Jesus made sure to do in his young adult life. “Offend as few as possible, heal them so that they can continue life as normal”.

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Coming down from the perfection of heaven for all of your home renovation needs!

So I am writing to say that I am sorry for the injustice of not inviting you into a much bigger and more realistic (and more fully alive!) faith. I am sorry for not honoring Him, both with the faith that He will show up as well as the fear of man that has me double checking every word.

I also want to say thank you so much to the people who are already living out this faith with me, some for years! You are the real deal. I am reminded of how thankful I am for you every time I’m composing an invite to a potential new “family member” to the team that is walking with me.

Here’s to stepping on some toes – including my own – if it means honoring Him.

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Millinium Force

My last post & the one you are about to to read, back to back, are a great reflection of life here. Why?

Things that people tell you/assume about you working internationally:

  • You will give up pizza & your favorite restaurant, and it is a tragedy that “they could never do”.
  • You will miss your family, and possibly be single until Jesus comes back.

Things that people don’t tell you/always see about you working internationally:

  • The favorite restaurant wasn’t too bad to give up – but hours of prepping food with no quick fix is something that you didn’t expect.
  • Dust. No one tells you or thinks of the dust.
  • You will have the highest highs & the lowest lows. Now – I don’t think this is an “international” thing – this is a gospel thing. But still not something you expect before you start saying “yes” (the REAL, all in kind)…because any other life doesn’t offer the adventure waiting and the extremes waiting on the other side of your yes.

So the hard and the amazing of Haiti is talked about back to back, Cedar point style. It hits like your favorite roller coaster some weeks (days) (hours) – highest highs, lowest lows.

Poverty still sucks. But God still and always is bigger, better, & working within the “stupid” & “sucky”. I don’t want you to miss these amazing, wonderful, beautiful, awesome things DESPITE poverty (of all kinds – not just material).

I’m going to share one – just one – story when I could share countless. Some days we feel useless and like we should go home, but honestly – so much is going on. Almost a dozen people, almost all TEENAGERS, have made all in decisions for Jesus just this week and will be connected to a healthy, youth focused church. Young Lights had two baptisms and an all in for Jesus this week – two of those people have been prayed over and poured into for months and years – including prayer from you. Compassion Corp is ridiculous in how awesome these young leaders are. I’ve seen women open up on true, “lock it down and don’t share it” pain and I’m seeing cultural traditions be broken for the sake of making disciples. I have so many exciting interactions with individuals, I could write a book a month on the awesomeness and history of why it’s awesome, as well as the dreams for tomorrow.

Instead we will do one:


 

We have a 12-year-old friend who hops between sticky-sweet & straight rotten…but no matter what, you can catch him in the center of attention. Dancing, mimicking, helping, shooting a soccer ball. Let’s call him L.

L has done the VBS thing with multiple missions in the area and been encouraged by dozens if not hundreds of people in saying “I love Jesus” as he has grown up – and therefore, he says it. Sometimes sarcastically and oftentimes as a chant or expected saying rather than any depth to it. He is not interested in church and that makes sense when he is young in a family of a lot of cool older brothers who would never walk into a building soaked in religion.

L doesn’t know it, but he has taught me over time in pockets all over.

He has taught me about today’s influence and paying attention to how you use it. I’m not a “kid” person, but L is always around the gate. And L is a kid today – but he was 10 two years ago. He will be old enough to be a dad in Bercy in just two more years (not responsibly, but with teenage parents all over, statistically). And one day, L and I will have known each other 5 years. What am I doing with?

He has taught me to pray when I am frustrated with objectification and broken cycles in families with absent fathers. I am praying for the boys we know to transform to men…that’s my place in the battle as a 25-year-old young woman who isn’t about to be that father figure. Also, how am I going to compete with society, peers, life experience, and MULTIPLE swagged out older brothers that a boy naturally idolizes?

He has taught me that relationship matters in cycles changing. One time there was a demonstration going on & he started to head to the front to join in, rocks in hand. (Here, rocks are everywhere and naturally get used all over – including throwing them when you are mad or intimidating something. It’s modeled and I’ve seen kids who can’t talk yet who naturally reach for rocks.). I didn’t know this, and I was on my way out of the gate to see what was going on….some other missionaries were present, driving out of the community. They saw him drop everything and back up as soon as he knew I was coming. Rotten? Yeah, that sounds rotten. No heart change and just doing it to keep an image? Maybe. But caring at all? That says the relationship means something. After years of talks (hard ones sometimes, giving me a mad respect for parents) of how things are different around our house and that we will not compromise on how others are treated, he will come back even after the hardest talk and the most sullen reaction – knowing that the boundaries are rules do not negate the love we have for him.

He’s taught me about why God said five years (or whatever this first five turns into). Teams, who ADORE him, come and go. Like family friends or the fun uncle – anything goes with them and some major spoiling goes on. He loves them, remembers them, can’t wait for time with them, and is a total center of attention. But they all go. This is GOOD – teams, keep loving on people like L! In the midst of that, God has taught me about the power of staying.

I’m going off on rabbit trails, so let me reel it in.

Today, L blew me away. He and a young girl who is getting surgery tomorrow came over, and we were talking about her fear for the operation.

This girl was not in Young Lights last night, but L was. The youngest in the group, and always on the edge of being a distraction, we honestly aren’t even sure if he is paying attention. Silly us.

I am not in Young Lights as Compassion Corp runs with this amazing movement, but I had been with Olivia as she planned to do David & Goliath yesterday.

So L, out of left field, starts talking about God and our fears. Our giants are nothing compared to Him. He did not talk about facts like a sunday school story – but instead the HEART of the story – “Li te gen tout bagay, men yon bagay li pa’t genyen se Jezi”. Goliath had EVERYTHING, but the one thing He did not have….Jesus.

I reminded him that this girl had not been in Young Lights, and asked if he wanted to tell her the story. With a slow grin and bright eyes, the response was “wi”.

L then proceeded to explain the heart of having Jesus alone when our giants seem to have everything – and who is going to win every time.

WHAT?! Guys, I CANNOT emphasize the craziness of this. The “God factor” of this is through the roof – it’s ALL God. And nothing about it was because I was there or for show…we all know there is a difference when it is what is expected. This was not an expected – this was an overflow of the heart.

All morning, L has been around. Not the plan for today – but Jesus was great at interruptions and therefore I need to work on that as well. L is also talking about empowerment with me, learning what he is good at and doing things with it. Teens that are about 6 years older than him are accepting Jesus and starting to thrive in how they were created to be – He is seeing that and asking questions.

He would love the “cool experience” of going out with a team. Well – that experience is because people have skills and gifts they are working on and serving with. Once again, those auburn eyes light up as we talk about his potential and dreams of learning what he is good at, discipline to work in that “shape”, and being a part of going out one day because he is using his strengths to add to the team in those outings.

Can you imagine?

As prayers continue to be answered that honestly, I was starting to “recite” as opposed to “believe”….I can.

I can imagine it & tell you that the suckiness of poverty is no match for empowerment, investment, prayers, and believe in transforming broken cycles as we dream for the future. Boys WILL become men, and L will be a leader in the pack. Not because I know the future or because ONE good day is a determining factor…but because when we pray, we have already received it. I KNOW that my Father’s kingdom is full of men, of empowerment, of breaking cycles, and of cheering friends on as they discover and learn to thrive in who they were created to be.

Poverty is still stupid.

But it’s no match for us coming together.


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You can’t say that!

When I was growing up, we couldn’t say “sucks”. Like the word “stupid”, it was a word my mom taught us would not fly in the Taylor household. So even as an adult, it’s stuck as a “don’t say that!” word.

So, in advance, I’d like to publically apologize to the Taylor family for my language. I know, I “can’t say that!”. But y’all are my people, and I know you’ll understand me here.

I’m angry at poverty today. I’m tired of seeing sick friends, tired mothers, and teenagers with unlimited potential not being tapped into.

I’m tired of water needing to be treated – or there being no water to treat in the first place. I can’t believe that all of my favorite people have no indoor plumbing. In 2016, where I have seen truck stop bathrooms fit for royalty on long road trips, my best friends have latrines, holes to squat over, and the backyard. When I visit America, I look in toilets and think, “I bet this water is drinkable”.

I am so heart-aching exhausted at how much access to food I have while my community STILL sometimes eats once every OTHER day. It is ridiculous that food inequality is so dramatic.

It straight sucks that everyone I know is sick & that I have run into at least one person a day lately who has diarrhea – including my friend that I ran into at the clinic today, who has had it for nine days. She is in her fifties and a mother with about a dozen people in her home….almost everyone has diarrhea (aka a totally preventable disease, if clean water was easily accessible). She is the only one going to the doctor, and it is because they scraped the money with how awfully weak and worse she is. She is tiny, tired, and hunched over trying to rest in the vinyl chair when I go find a seat.

That home she went back to when her appointment was over – the entirety of it – is half the size of one floor of where my family lives in Ohio. No A/C, showers, toilets, sinks, fresh laundry, Netflix, or quick places to grab medicine or soup nearby. The cooking area is in the back of the home and is dark, with charcoal to cook and no guarantee that the dust blowing all over won’t keep the illness going. It is stuffy and dark with no electricity. Less than half the people sleep on a mattress – and no one gets their own. Where is she going to rest when she gets home? Probably a straw type mat in the dirt, outside where there is some air flow under the shade of mango trees.

It is stupid that almost everyone I talk to has a physical ailment this month: colds (with no Walgreens or medicine cabinet for relief), eye problems that can’t be diagnosed, heart and physical pain problems, old injuries that were never treated correctly that now hurt on a constant basis. I’m overwhelmed by the need, and it sucks that everyone has something – and there are no “quick fixes”.

It sucks talking to another mom with another bleeding heart for her child, wanting a different future for her child, who cannot find a job because there aren’t any.

It sucks that there aren’t jobs because, if there was a local business, there would be no customers because they have no money to pay.

It sucks hearing her response when I ask a mom who “feels purposeless” what she does during the day: sleeps, waiting for the next day to come…where she will sleep again. It’s stupid that this mom wants a job so badly, and there IS no “Chik-fil-a down the street” to get a simple job, there IS no “bagging at Kroger”. Not even the most basic income.

The only thing in months that that she has found was someone who wanted a babysitter, housekeeper, laundry woman, and cook – for the pay of $32.65 a month. I spent over half that at the doctor today – the same doctor that any of my friends go to when they are sick. $32.65 a month is comparable to slavery – which is what I said, using the term ‘restavek’. The mom laughed but then sadly nodded in agreeance. Are you serious? That’s stupid.

It sucks that a young man knocked on the gate yesterday looking for help – for anything. He couldn’t be more than 10 years older than me – IF he is even that old. His wife died last month and so did one of his children. His only living family – his small son – has a leg infection that no one understands and there are two problems – no doctors in the area that are equipped to figure out this infection as well as no money. This father can’t even mourn his family, he is so busy trying to hold onto what he has left.

I want to punch vodou and ‘magic’ in the face, promising wealth and power – what no one can seem to find – and bringing people in to throw away the little money they have. Bringing people in to throw the little hope that they have into something that can’t hold them. It sucks how convincing, multi-layered, and convincing the lies concealed as “promises” hold.

On the other side, it’s stupid how some Jesus that I have never heard of has been introduced to those thirsty for living water and rest – and this false Jesus simultaneously offers neither while also fooling people into not being interested in the REAL Jesus.

I can’t believe how stupid complicated the problems of poverty are – intertwined, deep, widespread, both hidden and in plain sight. It sucks that there is no “one size fits all”, magic serum, or fix that can be learned and then applied all over the place.

I can’t stand watching a young woman get grabbed by the arm as she walks down the path of Bercy like it’s appropriate, like she’s an object; and watching her natural reaction be to hit – even playfully. It’s seen in my three-year-old neighbor, who may as well be family, who picks up rocks as soon as he is frustrated. There is a cycle of violence from self-defense that is entrenched and you know what I think already – it sucks.

We talk all over the place about poverty. Defining it, the spiritual poverty that is deeper than material poverty and the relational riches that the materially rich miss out on – and on and on. And these are GOOD conversations. These are real conversations, and we will keep talking about these things. But sometimes, material poverty IS what to talk about. It is real, and it sucks.

God wins, He is already victorious. We are being made new, and redemption is happening all over the place. We already know why life sucks in this moment – because we are in the fraction of eternity where the Fall is evident and the ruler of this age hates us – literally, hates us. I refuse to end here hopeless, with no future in sight, with simply the gravity of the stupidity that is poverty laid out on the page.

But I DO want to, in light of our victory, put the weight on us to feel – not loss, hopelessness, or no comprehension of why – but instead to feel the responsibility of victors, as chosen ones, as a people who hold so much of the world’s riches in our hands (it’s our own mismanagement if we do not “feel” rich or if the bank account says otherwise). I am living with poverty on all sides and it sucks.

We need to feel this weight and take it to Him, offering it up in our weary hands to say, “What will you have me do with it?”

Being comfortable is much, much easier. I know. And that may be part of why I am angry at poverty this week. My own heart shouts, “Can we just go back inside?!” – and I have to deal with the reality that I, in fact, need to get angry at some of my own decisions sometimes. So now, once again, it’s time for me to lift these weary hands up….Father? What will you have me do?