Sunday, 24 March 2013

Introducing Isimbi!

A few days ago, I received an “introduction letter,” from my precious Isimbi in Rwanda. I am a youth leader at Open Door Youth Group, and Isimbi is our sponsored child through Compassion. Everyone chips in to pay the monthly sponsorship fees, and last November, a team from our church was able to visit Isimbi in Rwanda. All of our kids had seen Isimbi’s picture, but she became so much more real to us when we watched the video taken of our team’s visit to her home. We discovered a shy, sweet, smiling young lady who was so excited to receive the presents the youth group had collected to send her!

The above picture is of my two co-youth leaders, Sherry and David, with Isimbi and her six-year-old brother, Dilani.

Since then, I have become Isimbi’s correspondent, which simply means I write to her regularly and receive her letters in return. Keep in mind, that letters can take up to four months to arrive in/from Rwanda, so this introduction letter was written before she received any of my letters to her. At this point, she probably didn’t even know who I was! But I’ve since explained to her through letters that the people who visited her, (her sponsors) are my good friends and that they asked me to write to her.

On to the letter!

First she lists the names of her family members (she lives with her grandma, mother and little brother) and then she says,

  “My favorite color is red. My favorite food is chips (fried potatoes) and rice. I live in a town. My favorite game is tennis ball. My favorite toy is a dolly. My favorite subject in school is English. (I was impressed by that!) My dream is to become a doctor. I am doing well and my family, I am in primary four in term 1, at home we are growing sorghum. (I knew her family farmed but I didn’t know what) I wish to know your news. I wish for peace and blessings from God for you. I request for you to pray for me to pass my studies.”
Even though this may seem like a very little amount of information, I was glad to receive it and get a glimpse of our isimbi's life. I'll be heading over to Rwanda in November with the same team, and I look forward to meeting our sweet girl in person! "Isimbi" means "shining" in Kinyarwanda, and she does that for sure!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Having an Andrew heart in a Big Brother world

When we talk about the Disciples of Jesus, a few names quickly come to mind. Peter, of course, was the impulsive, “all-or-nothing” disciple who walked on water, cut off a man’s ear, and then later denied knowing Jesus mere hours after promising Jesus that he would follow Him anywhere; even to death. Then there is John, the disciple who was known as, “The disciple whom Jesus loved,” and who was close enough to the Lord to rest his head on the Master’s shoulder. John is also known for writing one of the four Gospels; as is Matthew, known as “The tax-collector.” Thomas, of “Doubting Thomas” fame, is also well known, as of course, is Judas Iscariot, the Lord’s betrayer.

But then, there are the lesser known disciples; ones like Bartholomew, Thaddeus… and Andrew, who was Peter’s younger brother. We don’t know a whole lot about some of them, but if you ask me who my favorite disciple is, I will undoubtedly answer, “Andrew.”

Why? Because while the Bible only gives us a few details about Andrew, what amazing glimpses into his life they give us!

The book of John tells us that Andrew was originally a follower of John the Baptist, but when he heard John say the now-famous words, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” he turned and followed Jesus and ended up spending the day with Him. Then, Andrew led his brother Peter to Jesus, saying, “We have found the Messiah!” And the rest is history.

Andrew’s occupation was that of a fisherman. He and his brother Peter spent hours on and around the Sea of Galilee, doing all the things that come with being a fisherman; soaking and mending the nets and keeping them clean and untangled, keeping the boat in good repair, mending rips and holes in the sails, as well as the actual work of fishing.

There is some evidence that Andrew was very young when he first followed Jesus; maybe even a teenager. But despite his age, Andrew appears to have one purpose: leading people to Jesus. Let’s look at an example of that.

In the twelfth chapter of the book of John, in verses 20 and 21, a group of Greeks approached Philip, another of the disciples, and asked if they could see Jesus. I love how the next verse plays out: Philip goes and tells Andrew, and then together, Andrew and Philip take the men to Jesus. Why did Philip go to Andrew first, instead of straight to Jesus? Maybe he wasn’t sure if Jesus would really want to speak to these Gentiles. It’s also possible that the two were close friends, since they were from the same community. But for whatever reason, Philip came to Andrew… and it appears, that Andrew took them to Jesus.

Let’s look at another story. In John chapter 6, a group of five thousand people has gathered together. They are hungry and the disciples of Jesus are anxiously asking each other, “What will we do? How can we feed so many?” Jesus tells them, “Why don’t you give them something to eat?” The disciples are dumbfounded by His question. And now, where is Andrew in the midst of all this? We find out a few verses later, when he quietly speaks up and tells the Lord, “There is a lad here, with five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Don’t you love it? While the disciples are discussing “important” matters, Andrew is down there in the crowd somewhere, making friends with a little boy. I can almost see it now; the little fellow tugs on Andrew’s robe and says, looking up with trust in his eyes, “Here mister, you take my lunch… maybe Jesus will want it.” And Andrew, perhaps patting him on the head or squeezing his shoulder with a solid, work-roughened hand, says, “Come with me, son… we’ll take it to Him together.” And Jesus took the gift from a little boy and multiplied it to feed the entire multitude, with twelve baskets of leftovers besides!

In our lives, it’s often easy to be overshadowed by others. The bold, outgoing, talented ones who always seem to know what to do and are always at the front of the crowd. The “big brothers” who seem to get all the attention. But don’t let being in the background discourage you. Just remember, while others are busy being at the forefront, they may be too busy to do what faithful Andrew spent his time doing; reaching out to others, making friends, and leading them to Jesus. You may even be at the back of a few miracles!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Following the Carpenter

When I was a kid, I hated change. I think we all do at some point; in fact, with some of us, it becomes an obsession. I remember crying as a child because my bedroom furniture got changed around. I hated getting rid of an old toothbrush and starting to use a new one. I clung to old toys and “relics” of past years, not because I still used or needed them, but because they represented parts of myself, of my past, that I was unwilling to lose.

As I have gotten older, I have learned, with varying degrees of success, to let go of the past and embrace the new (and unknown) future. It hasn’t always been easy, let me tell you… I’m the safety-conscious one, the “slow and steady wins the race” type, the “hiding in the corner trying to look like a potted plant” kind, the one who wades in up to my knees while everyone else is high-diving. And I might still be hiding out in a bedroom closet, if it wasn’t for Someone changing my life.


The Carpenter.

Why the Carpenter? Oh sure, He has lots of other names… Saviour, Messiah, King of Kings, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Branch, the Root of David, the Bright and Morning Star, the Rose of Sharon… but there’s something about the Carpenter side of Jesus that draws me, perhaps because it’s His most human side.

Picture it. The Son of God Himself, bending over a project in a dusty workshop filled with shavings and scraps of wood. Maybe the sound of children laughing and playing falls on His ear from the open doorway. Perhaps He hums a Psalm written by King David, one of His ancestors. He scrapes and sands; tightening a joint here or there, measuring with a practiced eye. Perhaps His mother peers around the corner and smiles at the sight of her Son, so intent on His work. I’m sure at times He shook His head and wrestled with a stubborn knot in the wood, or perhaps He accidentally struck His thumb with a mallet or chisel. How the religious leaders of the day would have stood slack-jawed in amazement, and how the townspeople would have shaken their heads in wonder, had they known Him for who He was… God, in the form of a young man with sawdust in His hair and dirt under His fingernails.

So what does a carpenter who lived over two millenniums ago have to do with change, or rather the dislike of change? Nothing, or rather, nothing except the fact that this Carpenter is still alive today; only today He is scraping, sanding, tightening, and wrestling with people. Ordinary people like you and me. And this Carpenter has an uncanny and sometimes uncomfortable way of changing the very things that make us who we are. Kicking us out of our comfort zones, so to speak. Oh, but what piece of wood enjoys a carpenter’s touch? Who enjoys being cut in pieces, sanded, and fastened together in a completely different form that what we were?


At least, nobody who lives with the old belief that they are more beautiful BEFORE the Master Craftsman has finished His work.

And that’s why I’m writing this blog. I’m still a work in progress, with rough angles, sharp edges, and splinters sticking out every which way, but I’m following my Carpenter. Sometimes the path is rough, sometimes smooth, sometimes fun, and sometimes painful. But it is never, never boring.

So, I’ll dive headfirst into the ocean called blogging. I may splutter and gasp for air, but you know what? Since I started following the Carpenter with all my heart, life is somehow a lot less boring and a lot more… well… fun!