Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Sign Post Moment...Our 2004 African Trip

A Sign Post moment can be described as a time when you know that this moment or this experience is "marking" a turn of events, or something significant that you know will play an important role in your life and future. If you're lucky, you know it right then and there. But sometimes you don't know it's a "Sign Post" until later on when you put the pieces together and you see the signs along the way have led you to where you are now. You know that this moment is something way bigger than you. That is a Sign Post moment.

My friend and mentor, Rhonda Anderson, who is the co-founder of Creative Memories teaches about these Sign Posts. She is a woman who I admire greatly, she is just so "real". She has an incredible story of her 2 adoptions from India that are just heart wrenching...her adopted girls are about 19 and 20 now and are doing wonderful things with their life. She wants us to Tell Our Stories Through Our Pictures so that our children's children can tell their story. If you think about it, they won't have too much of a "story" if they don't have "our" story too. She points out that it is a love story to our children and as we write to them in these photo albums, we are leaving a legacy of love and of who they it is told by the only one who could truly tell it. She taught me what these Sign Posts mean. Rhonda writes...

I love what Allan Wright says, “You will never fully harness the power of your miraculous moments until you communicate them with someone else.”

This is why I like to write. This is why I share our journey with whomever would like to know about it. I've always had this part of Nelson Mandela's speech in my head about playing it small in your life. We moved to Colorado so that we could get out of our comfort zone. Shake it up a bit. Play life bigger than we were....

Nelson Mandela writes...

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

--Nelson Mandela, 1994 South African Presidential Inaugural Speech

The picture above is the first picture I took while my husband and I were in Botswana, Africa. We went there on a mission trip with 84 other people from our last church when we lived in California. This was Faith Community Church in West Covina, CA. I remember walking towards this gorgeous little boy and not wanting to take this picture at all. I didn't want him or anyone for that matter to question why we were there, which was to offer each home we came upon a vegetable garden. I wanted memories of what we were doing, but didn't want to intrude on their personal lives. This trip was part of the "Never Ending Garden" project put together by Bruce Wilkinson who has a heart for Africa. His project was called "Dream For Africa". These gardens were designed to do several things. First to offer a never-ending vegetable that if taken care of, would allow you to pick the leaves off of the outside and keep growing. Second, to offer them a way to earn money by selling some of the food. And lastly, to offer them a way to maintain dignity by having their own way of providing for themselves. As we worked our fingers to the bone with picks, shovels and seedlings, we felt like we weren't just there preaching the gospel, but rather showing how the gospel works, by being "actively working" out God's word. We would also pray with them if they allowed us to...and they all did.

But, back to why this is a Sign Post. There were hundreds of moments where my heart was so heavy and full, that tears would sometimes well up in my eyes for no apparent reason other than I felt like I was walking in God's light. Truly I did. Whether you believe in God or not, it was hard not to wonder what God was really doing with us. I knew right then that I would not return home the same. I know for sure, that if I could have brought a child or two home that day, I would have. But that is not how it works. I knew that this was a Sign Post because I told myself that, should I return home and nothing had changed in my heart or my life, then I was there for naught...without result or fruition...useless...waste of time and peoples donations. When the children would see us, they'd run to us and just cling. The adults let us tell them about God and how we as Sisters and Brothers were here to show them that we are thinking of them and loved them. From sun up to sun down, we dug in the ground, we walked and knocked on doors, we dodged drunk men who were angry with "us white folk" and asked us to leave. We shared our sack lunches with those we met. We gave up our shoes at the last house as we got back on our bus. We hugged, we loved on and we wept with many of these AIDS stricken people. We were set up in teams and would meet each night to see who planted the most gardens that day. By the end of the 10th day, we had planted over 6,400 vegetable gardens in one of the poorest countries in the WORLD. We were tired, but we were proud. In particular because we knew that we were touching lives. They were so welcoming and grateful that we felt like we were simply God's little hands doing what He had asked of us.

I have many, MANY Sign Posts that I know about in my life that have absolutely led me to where I am today. Some too personal to share on a blog, but most were purposeful. This African trip was important to me because it is leading me and my husband to our 2 little girls who are there now...waiting for their "forever family".


Anonymous said...

wow, that was so beautiful. I just love those sign post moments! I experienced that in Uganda big time.
Your girls are blessed! Their sign post moment is coming!!

Lisa W. said...

When and why were you in Uganda? I'd like to hear about your experience. I still check your blog every day. (no pressure!!) But I'm waiiting with you for that news. Any day now I would imagine?

Anonymous said...

I went on my first mission trip to Kayamandi, South Africa in 2006 and we served in a squatters camp of 15,000 with HIV/AIDS at 40%. Then, last January I went with a very small team to Uganda where we served in Kampala and also in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. That is where I had my most profound defining moment. We were doing a VBS and worshipping with over 5000 refugee children (many with Malaria, TB and HIV) in 100+ degree heat and seeing the profound joy and love of the Lord that those kids had made me realize I was truly in the presence of God's angels. I'll never forget their beautiful voices. I pray for the day I can get back there with my family. We are also sponsoring 2 kids in Uganda and 1 in South Africa.
I originally wanted to adopt from Africa so Paul and I went to an informational meeting about missions to Africa with our church to see if we could find out about adopting from Africa. It is then that God put on my heart a desire to go on a mission trip to Africa. I can honestly say that I never before had any desire to go on a mission trip to any third world country. God is so funny. Anyway, at that time, there were very few African countries that were allowing their children to be adopted outside of the country and the few that were required adoptive families to live in country for 3 years before they could move the child out of the country. That's why we decided to adopt from Vietnam (at that time they had just reopened their adoptions after having been closed for 4 years due to corruption). It's been a fascinating journey!
Sorry I haven't been doing much updating on my blog. I'm waiting for some good news to report. I'm sure I won't hear anything at least until after New Year with everyone on vacation.
Have a blessed New Year!

Lisa W. said...

Wow Shere'!
What an experience. I love your story...that must have been unbelievably moving. Then you went back and did it again. You could write a book on the experience couldn't you? All I can say is WOW!