Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eye of the Beholder

This week I have been (not really) helping a colleague put on a fancy schmancy art exposition featuring local artists.  The opening night was a reception complete with cocktail dresses and wine.  If I am being honest, I find that whole aspect a little silly.  It's like dress-up.  It's not reality. Reality is the flip flops and brightly covered fabrics on the impoverished people in the trash covered streets just meters outside the walls.

Still, I went. I dressed up, I put on makeup and I smiled at the other people there pretending, believing, they are really important.  I let Curlygirl go with me. She was excited. She loves art.  For an entire 30 minutes she was intrigued by the paintings and sculptures.  She was ready to leave after that, but settled for serving drinks with her African friends who were running the bar.  Every now and then while I was in conversation with someone I would see her pass by with a tray of glasses destined for washing. She would smile sweetly at me and wrinkle up her nose---which meant she was really excited about getting to act all grown up working with the wait staff.

The paintings really were something of beauty.  Each artist had poured his and her heart and soul into these works. They had something to say and so they painted it.

Yet--not one of the pieces of art that were displayed could compare to the beauty of something I had witnessed earlier.
In preparation for the exposition, we had contacted carpenters to help us hang some of the pictures on the displays.  I had gotten busy with other things but as I passed one of the rows of displayed art, I came upon one of the carpenters, an old man whose posture reflects the time.  He wore his work uniform and clutched a hammer in one hand and a measuring tape in the other.  There, with his frame and frock a perfect contrast to the art he studied, he stood too busy to even notice I was watching him...I didn't mean to stare but I could not help it. He was lost in the painting he beheld.
It was beautiful. I wished I had my camera. I knew that nothing in the building was as beautiful as what I was seeing right then.  That's a gift, isn't it? To recognize a moment is "a moment" when it is actually happening.  Well in that moment, I knew I was seeing something special.

In a few hours I would be surrounded by wealthy people who would use intellectual terms to describe the art they appreciate.  They would speak of depth and technique. I knew, though, that it doesn't take intelligence or achievement or success or status to really understand and appreciate art.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Abu...The Rest of the Story

Buckle your seatbelts. This is going to get wild.

First--an update.  Abu was in the hospital for a few days after he left my house.  He is with Esther for now so she can care for him.  We thought he was better, but this morning he began wheezing and running high fevers again.  GOD help that sweet boy!  Pray for him now, even as you read this.

Now...here we go.
Esther called me yesterday and told me she had news.  Esther and her local helper at Babies Without Milk  spoke with Abu's grandmother and reasoned with her to allow Abu to be given to a family who could care for him.  It had become obvious his grandmother couldn't/wouldn't care for him properly and had no money to feed him.  His grandfather is blind and so the grandmother spends most days leading him around to beg...with Abu on her back.
The grandmother absolutely refused.  So, they began to look for other members of his family who may be able to take him in and care for him.

That's when she found out...

that Abu's mother is alive.  After a bit of investigative work, D (Esther's helper) found out that the woman with Abu, the woman who claimed to be his grandmother, the woman who claimed to have lost a daughter, was nothing to him.
Here's what happened.  Abu's motheris in another village and has other children. While her husband was away for a long period of time, she got pregnant by another man.  In a desperate attempt to hide what she had done, she birthed Abu and then secretly took him to a nearby village and gave him to someone who would take him.  The woman who took him, his "grandmother" probably saw this as an opportunity to increase her begging income.  Babies like Abu really encourage generosity.  And skinny, sick looking babies, really tug at the heart and the pocketbook of people. I don't know if this is why she couldn't/wouldn't keep Abu well fed and healthy when she had him but she probably never intended for him to grow as ill as he did.  From the beginning, Esther had told me that something didn't seem right with the grandma. She couldn't understand why she never took the desperation of Abu's health more seriously, why she would laugh when she should cry.  She knew it was strange...but none of us saw this coming.

That's not the end. Now it gets really good.

Meet Jarah.  She and her husband are local African lovers of JESUS.  They have never had their own children but always longed for them.  When her brother gave her his two children to care for---as often happens here--she gladly did it. She raised them from infancy until the ages of 3 and 12. Over a period of time, the three year old died of illness and not long after, the twelve year old lost his life in a car accident.  Death. It's a huge part of daily life here.  I cannot grasp it.

Back to Abu.  With the truth out, Esther is now able to get the proper signatures for Abu to go to a family.  So, she made a phone call...to Jarah.

Jarah and my friend Annie, another local missionary, were at an orphanage asking about a baby.  The orphanage was telling her they only had a baby girl.  "My husband was really hoping for a boy." Jarah replied...  *ring* *ring* went her phone. It was Esther.

I don't know how this story will end.  The whole thing sounds like it is from a movie.  It sounds exaggerated and made up...a lot of things here sound like that. Some of them are...some of them aren't.  So sweet little Abu's story was made up after all....but this one wasn't.  And ooooh it's just getting good....

"then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free..."

What a world this is.  Stay tuned...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Two

A= Abu

Abu is sick. He went back to his grandmother a couple of weeks ago, but whether from neglect or ignorance...probably both...he isn't cared for. He could be healthy. He could be strong. 
Esther still checks every week to make sure he is gaining weight. Last week, Esther called me and told me that in their last check she found him very sick and almost completely unable to breath. Her helper didn't think they'd make it to the hospital.  They did and have returned daily to get treatments. I've seen him almost every day since then and it doesn't seem like it's working. He struggles to breathe and struggles to eat.  He sounds terrible.  My friend J, a missionary doctor, saw him on Friday at Bible study and said if this were the States, she'd put him in ICU right away.
But this isn't the States. It's Guinea. I find myself saying that a lot.
Esther's working off very little sleep and never leaves him.  She came over last night to spend the night so she could sleep while I took a shift. Two hours later I burst into the room where she was finally getting some rest, flipped on the lights and handed Abu to her---he was gasping for air and fighting for breaths.  I was scared.
My Man drove them to the hospital where our little buddy has been on some form of a ventilator through the night.
After they drove off in the dark, Little Aggie woke up and stumbled into the living room. Something had woken him.  I took him back to his bed and laid beside him. Next to my healthy, strong, little man, I pondered a world where a little baby like Abu struggles to live, and has no family who even seems to notice and at the same time, little American boys like Little Aggie don't know hunger or need.  He won't have a single hurt or sickness that doesn't immediately have the attention of medical professionals. He knows love and attention and so many people care.
The only ones whose hearts are entwined in the welfare of Little Abu are a small band of missionaries, and me... and you.

B= Boiro

I meet with two amazing women to pray over the KING's matters in Guinea.  I'm not in their league, but I am not going to miss any chance to be among them and learn.  Following the LORD, we have specifically taken up praying about the corruption in the government.  Since then, one thing after another has come--lice infestations, sicknesses, even deaths.   Then, a couple of nights ago as I was just crawling into bed, gunshots rang outside our house.  
I didn't know then that one of  two women I pray with had just lost her dear, long time friend and walking buddy. A woman who was a warrior for truth within the government = Aissato Boiro.  
Official: Guinea treasury chief assassinated, amid probe into misuse of state funds
By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, November 10, 3:00 PM

CONAKRY, Guinea — A medical official says the head of Guinea’s treasury has been gunned down as she was driving home.

The forensic doctor who examined the body of Aissatou Boiro after she was brought to the morgue Friday night said she had two bullet wounds to the chest and died of internal bleeding. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.

Her colleagues say that she had made enemies by launching an investigation into the 13 million francs ($1.8 million) that went missing from the state coffers.

“The national Treasury is a sensitive department.  We don’t name just anyone to lead it.  She was an honest woman who was against all forms of corruption.  But in Guinea all of the cases of large scale embezzlement happen at the treasury department.  She became inconvenient for certain predators who are in the government” said Idrissa Camara, a former official at the treasury.
Boiro was named to head the country's treasury eight months ago by President Alpha Conde. Guinea has a long history of allowing officials to pillage its treasury. During the last years of ex-President Lansana Conte's rule, employees of the treasury said they would routinely see the president's convoy drive up to their building and leave with bags of cash. Boiro had zero-tolerance for corruption and was intent on putting an end to the mismanagement of state funds, say two of her colleagues.
Aissatou Boiro worked tirelessly against corruption in our young democracy," said  President Conde, elected in 2010 on promises he would tackle endemic corruption in the world's top supplier of the aluminium ore bauxite.
"Even though she was taken from us in a terrible way, her work will not be in vain. Despite the difficulties, our fight against corruption will continue. Our country has come too far to turn back now," Conde said in a statement.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

JESUS loves me

Africa was in me before I was in Africa.  I could hardly contain the desire I had to sit in her dirt surrounded by beautiful little orphans, to hold her children and watch my fair skinned little blessings play with their African brothers and sisters.  GOD has richly satisfied this desire, even while HE increases it.

Let's have a little perspective before I get to the point.  Our time here is brief. I could look at how we live and what we give and think it's something special. But it isn't, really.  My friend, Li, proves this. 
Like us, Li is only in Africa for a brief period.
I try to make sure we send a plate of food down to our guards whenever we eat. I don't usually send it on our every day dishes. I send it on a plastic one that they can't break.   I've been at Li's house at mealtime.  She sends a plate out to her guard too....on a silver platter, with her best dishes. She sends coffee with cream in a pretty little cream bowl, sugar in a bowl with a spoon, a napkin and all the extras. It looks like she is serving royalty. 
That's how HE likes it.  

Whenever I go to the orphanage, I always make a big deal of it (because it is to me) but Li has gone to her favorite orphanage at least every week for months and months.  She has poured her life, her wallet and her efforts into them.  I have a lot to learn from her.  

And yet, I still love the story GOD is writing with me, too.  Last week, when I was at Call of Hope I sat in the only small area where the orphans at the school can play and I had more than 20 little 5-7 year-olds in a circle around me. I was teaching them some of the songs I've known since I was very young. You probably learned them too---JESUS loves me, If I were a butterfly, things like that.  Only, this time as I watched their sweet faces as they tried to learn the songs, the words came alive again.  Words that didn't hold the same value to me in my safe little home, in my safe country, with a mom and dad who adored me and followed JESUS.  Words like "Little ones to HIM belong"  and "YOU gave me JESUS and YOU made me YOUR child".  Words that, to an orphan, mean you have a family. Words that mean you are someone's child. Words that mean you belong. 
I taught them another very simple song that goes like this, "JESUS JESUS let me tell you how I feel. YOU have given me your SPIRIT. I love you so."  This was their favorite. They caught on pretty quick and kept practicing it.    
When it was time for me to leave, and they returned to their small concrete classroom, I heard their voices behind me as I walked away, still singing it.  
My kids and I went back yesterday to play and sing some more.  When we arrived, my kids immediately dispersed to go hunt down their playmates.  I walked toward the little classroom of the young ones. They poured out and got into a circle around me.  Then, very loudly they began to sing in beautiful unison, the song that, in one week, they had made their own. It was the "JESUS JESUS" song I had taught them, but it wasn't the same as when I taught them. They sang the words with their accent now, their volume, in their way.  
It was breathtaking.  

That right there? That's my JESUS. Making HIS NAME great (Guinean-style <3)