Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What I talk about - a true story

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:

Dear Rhonda:
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!


Ange said...

Rhonda that is a beautiful and moving story and one that brought tears to my own eyes. I would love to hear you speak one day - so important it is to surround ourselves with faith. I work in women's and girls' literacy from France, as well as trying to inspire through the words I choose for my art... Nice to meet someone in the blogging world who continues to move and inspire people on a real life basis. After all that time in Africa you must miss the sun too ;-) Lucky Jackson - and yes, lucky you! Blessings

Rural Revival said...

Oh Rhonda, it's YOU who has the big heart and I'm so happy that He sent me to your blog. I too would like to hear more of your stories. I will never forget Jackson's story. Ever. Thank you for sharing him with us. You are a blessing.

Hugs, Andrea

Helky said...

This made me cry mom. You are truly a blessing to so many people. You are a dear friend. I am so blessed by having you for a short time in Poland. I will ALWAYS remember you as a GIFT from God. I know Jackson does remember you like that. You are special. I love you!

Splendid Things said...

rhonda, i love this. i've never heard this story. and i love that we get to be His body....the ones that actually get to do the "fun stuff" of helping people. this made my day and i'm glad you shared it~

Dar said...

Your true happenings are such a Great inspiration...I feel ashamed that sometimes I forget to pray. My son carries his cross proudly around his neck, clutching to it when he feels alone. Do you think if he prays every day as hard as Jackson, that his prayer to have his son live with him and no longer be neglected by his mother, will it happen? I pray too for our GrandLoves safety.
Thanks for reminding me to stay strong and pray. Helky and I comment back and forth and now I see where she gets her strength. She has wonderful parenting on her side and God.
God Bless and Keep You Both

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

Okay Rhonda, I'm in tears! What a beautiful true story of God's love and provision. What a blessing God provided for Jackson, not only with shoes but the blessing of knowing God knew him! Really KNEW him.

I'm so glad that God put you in my path Rhonda. You are such a blessing to me. You inspire me! And oh my goodness, you can tell a story well. It's so awesome that God is using you to speak and bring glory to Him in this way. Thank you so much for sharing your story today. Okay, I'm ready to another one of your stories now!!!

Shine on Rhonda!
Lee Ann

Lissa said...

great, great story! Yes! He KNOWS us! and that's so comforting!

D'Anna said...

What a wonderful true story! and a great reminder of how much God cares for and loves us! I just finished reading in Matt where Jesus said over and over - "Don't worry. God loves you and will take care of you." in different ways.
I want to live in this Truth every day . . .

Thank you so much for sharing God's Love to Jackson (and YOU!) with us!

City Girl Turns Country said...

I sit here with tear running dowm my face and I am thankful that God led me to your blog today. I have found inspiration and a renewed faith in not only people but God thru your story. Thank you

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

This story made me cry the GOOD kind of tears! Rhonda, you are such a breath of fresh air. You are one of the most compassionate, encouraging, supportive people I've (n)ever (ha!) met. I almost always leave the emails with your comments to me in my inbox for a while, so I can go back and read them again when I need a little boost. You have the heart of God. It's so obvious. I am blessed to have you in my life, my friend. :)

Beth said...

This made me cry. What a wonderful story!! Thanks for taking the time to post this message.
I am so glad I found your blog.


Anonymous said...

It touched me deeply. Thank you.

Ann said...

Hi Rhonda,

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you will be a regular visitor! Your story of Jackson is a true reminder to me that God REALLY does see our needs and he REALLY cares about us as individuals right down to the shoes on our feet! What a blessing you have been for Jackson! Your kindness toward him is an inspiration to me!

Your little granddaughter is beautiful too! Don't you just love grandchildren? I've got an 18 month old grandson who is truly the light of my life! He truly makes me smile. I smile when I just think about him!



God bless you! It is nice to know there are such kind people like you in the world!


Rural Revival said...


I'm so glad and relieved to hear you have finally received your package! I hope everything arrived in good condition and I'm so glad you like it. : )


Helky said...

TO BE CONTINUED! write a second part, mommy!!! wooo-hoooo!

Helky said...

TO BE CONTINUED! write a second part, mommy!!! wooo-hoooo!

Agi said...

Dear Rhonda, the story that you wrote here has really touched my heart. It´s truly amazing how God knows us, our every single need and how much He cares for us. Thanks for your blog. Please, don´t stop writing :) I´m so curious about other stories with God as a main character :)