Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blessed be Your Name

Shortly before I moved to Kenya the Holy Spirit really put the song "Blessed be Your Name " on my heart. It was a wonderful time in my life when everything was going as right as it possibly could. I had graduated from UCLA, was fulfilling my life-long dream of moving to Africa and then preparing to marry the love of my life! I sang the words to that song with a heart full of joy.

And then it was like I heard a whisper in my ear "Right now you are in the land that is plentiful; will you still bless me in the desert place?" And I suddenly had this vision of some difficult times ahead. In that moment I chose to answer back "Yes Lord, I will bless your name!"

Yesterday a dear friend of mine went to be with the Lord. I sat in the hospital and held her sister's hand as they wheeled Betty's body past us to the mortuary. The tears were streaming down both of our faces. And suddenly the chorus began to run through my mind.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say "Lord blessed be your name"

It was a holy moment. Truly. Holy.

Many of you who have visited us in the Kipkaren area have had the privilege of meeting Betty. I had the great honor of calling her my friend. She was one of the greatest jewels I have had the blessing of knowing in this life. Betty was redeemed by her Savior from a dark past. She chose to live each day for that Savior. And she has touched the lives of literally thousands. She allowed God to use her HIV/AIDS to glorify Him.

In the past she asked me to pray for her sister. She told me "Michelle, she is living in darkness. She doesn't know what she is missing. Please pray with me for her." Well that same sister has been at Betty's bedside during her recent physical decline. During the course of Betty's illness, she has made a decision to follow the Lord.

For the last few weeks I have known in my heart that Betty was preparing to make her debut in heaven. Yesterday morning I was hoping to spend some time with her at the hospital before we brought her home to say goodbye. Unfortunately as William and I were getting in the car to leave, we received a phone call that she had passed away.

As we pulled into the parking lot at the hospital Betty's sister met us. We threw our arms around each other. She looked me in the eye and told me "Two hours ago, the angels came for her and she flew to heaven with them!"

There are always mixed emotions when faced with the loss of a brother or sister in Christ. I have NO DOUBT that Betty is happier and more full of joy than she has EVER been before. Her infectious smile is lighting up in the face of her Father. She is dancing and so full of joy. And it honestly makes me picture heaven a little differently than I ever have before. There is something so right about picturing her there.

But a part of me is seriously grieving her loss. I'm realizing that I can never sit and visit with her again. Those sparkling eyes won't light up in my presence. I have some regrets. I didn't get to give her a hug goodbye. Her sister said that she was crying and screaming in pain in the final hour of her life. That hurts. Badly. She wanted to die at home. And that is what we wanted for her. I really can not understand why God allows things like this. And the fact is that in this lifetime I never will.

But I do know that our God is a loving God. I know that He used Betty to touch countless lives. I know that she has left a legacy behind that will not be forgotten. I also know that she is rejoicing and worshiping at the feet of her Jesus. I know that she is shaking her head with a smile at how simple the things that used to baffle her really are. She has that eternal perspective and understanding that one day those of us who have also placed our faith in Christ will share. And with that knowledge I will lift up my head and say "Blessed be the name of the Lord!"

*This gorgeous photo of Betty was taken a few years ago by another dear friend, Adele Booysen. It's getting a workout this week as we all remember Betty together.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Matope (Mud)

I only started driving in Kenya this year. The highway used to terrify me. And never having lived in snow, ice or mud prior to moving to Kenya, tackling our muddy roads has been a bit much for me. But today I braved the elements to pick up our newest clinic intern from the airport. On the way home I made the mistake of taking the short-cut road. It becomes the super-long-cut during rainy season due to the mud. I managed to get us really really really stuck. As in the car actually bottomed out in the mud. I had to call William to come and rescue us. Even he wasn't able to get the car out. And that was with people pushing. We finally had to have it pulled out by a large truck. Fun stuff! And welcome to the village Renee!