Do you remember that I went to England to speak to a group of 100 women? My blog friend, Ange, asked me what it was I spoke about. I thought how I might answer that and I thought it best to maybe give an example. You could call me a storyteller. I tell stories about faith. All the stories I tell are true, and usually happen to me or someone close to me. The following occured during the two years I lived in Nairobi, Kenya. We pastored an inner city church. Most of our people were black and our family (our two girls were 8 and 12 at the time) was one of the few white families in the church. Our church became our family and our friends, they loved us as though there was no difference. They called me "Mama Watoto" - "mother of many children" in Swahili. We made some amazing friends in Nairobi, and still hear from many of them today.
I first met Jackson while I was standing on the steps of the church. He came through the gates of the church and headed towards me. I knew he was a street boy by the way he looked. He was barefoot, and his clothes were dirty and tattered. The odor around him said that it had been quite some time since he had bathed. He looked afraid of me, as though I might chase him away. Instead, I said "Good morning". Jackson looked at me and he said "This is my first time here, I wanted to go to church service." I told him he was welcome, and since it was his first Sunday I asked if he would like to sit with me. That morning Jackson sat with me, he heard my husband preach and he gave his heart to Christ after the service. I had no idea how much a part of our lives he would become.
Jackson was a street boy who had no last name. He could not remember ever having a family. Unfortunately there are thousands of children in this situation, dumped on the streets when they can no longer be cared for. His first memories were of the other boys who fed him and took care of him. They named him Jackson. Then as he grew older he did this for other boys, he fed them and taught them to beg. His life became one long continuous struggle for survival. He had no papers or identification and so he could be arrested at any moment, he lived in fear. As he grew older he was no longer a cute little boy and the begging became harder. By the time we met him we guessed he was almost 18 years old (since he had no birthday to go by)and Jackson was tired.
We helped Jackson get a job selling newspapers and he was able to afford his first home. It was in the slum called "Kibera", the second largest slum in Africa, with somewhere around one to two million inhabitants. It was a great step up for Jackson who had never known what it was like to have a home of his own. I remember drinking coffee that Jackson made for me in his own house, in the slum, over a little cooker on the floor. (I was sick afterwards, but I knew he really wanted to make coffee for me...) What a sweet memory that is, knowing that he gave this coffee out of his deep love for me. We were so proud.
One Sunday morning Jackson came to me after church and told me he needed to talk to me. He said "Mom, I really need some new shoes! My old shoes are just worn out and I cannot wear these to work anymore." He lifted his feet and I saw that his big toe had torn through the shoe. The sole was only held together by black electrical tape and that was beginning to give way. However, buying even used clothing was so expensive I had to tell Jackson that I had no money to buy new shoes that day. I asked him if he might be willing to pray with me about this need, to see what God would do to answer this need. Of course, Jackson would rather have had new shoes but he did agree that he would pray with me each day the next week about this and we would hope for an answer by the time we met again. We prayed together there before we left the church.
On Saturdays my husband and I had developed the habit of sending an email to our supporters in the states, an update to our work and what was happening in the lives of our new friends and family in Nairobi. I remember wishing that I had known of Jackson's need on Saturday when I wrote the last update, but instead I would have to wait another six days to write the next update and maybe ask for some help for Jackson. We had talked about him and many people had been praying for him back home.
On Monday, I got up and God brought Jackson to my mind as I prayed for his need for shoes. On Tuesday, the same thing. I prayed for Jackson to know how much God loved him and that he would have an answer to his need. On Wednesday after I finished praying for Jackson I went online (not always easy in Nairobi) to check email. I opened a letter froma sweet friend in Eagle, Idaho. The letter said:
This morning in my quiet time I was praying for Jackson. I heard God tell me that Jackson needs new shoes, could you ask him what size he wears and let me know so that I can send them?
I started to weep. I could not believe what I read. In spite of the fact that Jackson had no last name, no identity papers and no birthday, God cared so much for Jackson that he met this need without my ever having to talk to anyone but God. I know that the scripture says God knows the number of hairs on our heads, I know that in my head but my heart did not really understand what that meant!!
On the following Sunday I pulled Jackson aside. I sat with him on the same steps where I met him that very first day. I asked him if he had been praying about his need of shoes. He told me "Mom, I prayed EVERY day just like we talked about!" I told him that even though I had not said a word to anyone, only God, that a lady had emailed me and said she heard God tell her about his need for shoes and that she wanted to know his size so she could send them. I am sure I cried as I told him, but I did not expect he would. But there he was, sitting on the steps with me crying like a baby! We just sat there and cried a few moments until he said "Mom, you KNOW what this means!!! God knows ME! He knows who I am!! He loves ME!" He didn't cry because he was gonna get new shoes, Jackson cried because God had SEEN him, and he KNEW him. What a powerful moment that was, one I will NEVER forget!
Many of us believe at times that God has forgotten us, that He must not know who we are or care for our situation. But I have a picture of my adopted African son, Jackson, holding his new shoes that God gave him. I know that no matter where Jackson is today he will never forget the day he realized that the God of the UNIVERSE could love a street boy named Jackson.
So, this is just a sample of what I talk about. I love to tell stories that show a God who is involved with His people, and how much He loves us. I like to watch people's faces as truth changes them. AND I always end up taking away much more than I could ever give!