Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Break - Do Orphans and Widows Get a Break? (This is NOT a guilt trip.)

Thanksgiving Break! Whew!
Finally, I had a break in traveling. My family and I went to my in-laws in South Whitley, IN (45 minutes SW of Fort Wayne). Yes, we ate too much. Yes, we had a great time. Yes, we are so thankful.

It was a wonderful blessing to spend time with family. My parents died of cancer and so my children have my wife's parents left as grandparents. Since my parents died, I've come to appreciate my in-laws all the more. My father-in-law has had a series of strokes and it has made us all appreciate the many gifts our Lord gives to us, even the gifts of aging and ill loved ones.

Thankful for Illnesses? Suffering? - It's What Christ's Cross is All About

It is through our troubles and tribulations that our brings comfort and forgiveness. It is the way of the Christian life to see suffering and pain with the eyes of faith. The faith our Lord gave to us in our baptism receives the blessings that Jesus earned for us through life, death, and resurrection. The victory belongs to us. Through the struggles of our lives, our Lord permits us to taste of His work. St. Paul wrote in Romans that Jesus made us right and holy with God by faith and we have peace.,

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

Our entire lives are buried in Christ. His life becomes our life, even in suffering. These times become opportunities to learn more about Christ's life and suffering. He teaches us to suffer and pray, "Thy will be done." It becomes a time for the family to pull together and express our gratitude and love and share in the mercy of Christ.

Widows and Orphans at the Holidays

Most people who read this blog know that we in the states have so much to be thankful for even beyond family. But our lives do revolve around our families. We don't get to take a break from being male or female, we don't take a break from being a mother or father. In the same way, widows, widowers, and orphans don't take time off from their hurt, loneliness, and struggle to keep moving forward.

We Love God by Loving Others

During these times of the holidays as we give thanks for so many blessings the Lord gives to us, it becomes a time to give thanks to God and love Him. The way Christians love God is by loving others. St. Matthew's gospel teaches us,"'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40)

Neither does God ever take a break from being God. "Thanks be to God." He never stops forgiving us, looking out for us, and loving us. Our baptism doesn't take days off either. His grace flows continuously.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Lutherans are Making a Difference for AIDS Orphans in Kenya

Our Faith & Mercy Expedition in October with most of the Kibera Slums in the background.

Pastor Dennis Meeker and Wife, Deaconess Lorna Meeker Walk the Walk

Pastor Dennis Meeker's first call is to Springs of Life Lutheran Church in Kibera, Kenya. This isn't the typical call right out of the seminary. His wife, Deaconess Lorna, is awaiting her call to a deaconess position.

Springs of Life is in the Kibera Slums (left) of Kenya. An estimated 1 million plus people (some estimate the population as high as 1.8 million) live in the slums (recent pics here). It is the largest slum on the continent of Africa. It is about 2.5 sq. km. or 630 acres.It is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera.

Pastor Meeker and his wife work closely with the people who live in Kibera. In October
, Springs of Life held a medical clinic at the church that saw over 800 people in 5 days. As Pastor and some of his members took us through the slums, Pastor met up with these two women (right) and began witnessing to them and offering assistance with the one girl who was near the due date of her baby. He invited them to confirmation classes and church. After we returned to the states, he reported that the ladies attended church and the Saturday confirmation classes.

Dcns. Lorna works with the women and young girls by counseling them about HIV\AIDS. She also helps young mothers and visits them in their homes and assists with getting them medical help. For example, Dcns. Lorna visited the young pregnant girl when she went to the hospital to give birth. Both Pastor and Dcns. followed up with this girl. The sad news was that only hours after birth, her child died. They are working together to minister to this girl and her family in this time of sorrow with the hope and comfort of Christ's mercy and hope in the resurrection.