It's amazing where you become aware of the presence of God. Jacob had a dream in the middle of no-where, and when he woke up he said that God is in this place, and I did not know it. Never in a million years would I think I would be aware of God's presence in the places God made himself known in Kenya. One place I was made aware was an HIV testing room at Beacon of Hope. Beacon of Hope is a holistic ministry center designed to empower women who are HIV positive. They provide nutritional guidance, a school for their kids, classes to learn a skill in order to survive, Bible studies, and support groups. It really is an incredible place. They also provide medical attention for these ladies (and a few men). One of the services they provide is HIV testing. Our whole team was tested for HIV (so was Barak Obama. In fact there is a poster over there that reads Barak Obama knows his status, do you? That's just awesome). The man who did most of our testing, and who did mine, was named Jacob. Jacob is 26 and grew up in Kibera slum. I came in, and he greeted me. We talked about what HIV is and isn't, and also how you can get it and cannot. We talked about my own sex life, and I told him that I am saving myself for marriage. He taught me the "Neema chill" with the peace sign, which is an abstinence movement in Kenya, and then took my blood. It takes about 30 minutes to show the results, so we sat there and talked for 30 minutes. Jacob is probably the most dynamic Christian I have ever met. He grew up in extreme poverty and the problems that come with poverty. HIV/AIDS, drugs, alcohol abuse, and crime were and still are rampant in the area he grew up in. When Jacob was 15, a friend of his led him to Christ, and it dramatically changed his life. Jacob said for the first time he had hope for a better life, that life was worth living. The problems did not stop after receiving Christ for Jacob. He told me that he's had a brother and sister, and 15 other friends die from HIV/AIDS. Through these experiences Jacob told me that God revealed to him that he had to help out some how. He didn't have the grades or money to get into medical school, but got certified to administer HIV tests. He told me that everyone who comes into that room, he prays for, and has seen 100's of people come to Christ as a result of him sharing during that 30 minute time period it takes to get the results. As I'm sitting there, in a room no bigger than most people's bathrooms, I realized God is in that room, and I, I did not know it.
I apologize for the time between my last post and this one. Life has been crazy since I've been back, and I have not really had much time to just sit and write. My Kenya experience opened my eyes to where God is working in the world. There are some people whose situations in life when viewed from the outside appear to be a hell on earth. (I do believe in hell as being eternal separation from God, but I also believe that there are places on earth where people live in a hell so to speak. Ludacris actually has a good song about this called Runaway Love). One woman I actually did not get to meet, but some teammates of mine did. Her name is Lucy. Lucy is an HIV/AIDS victim who is getting helped out by an organization called WOFAK (Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya). Lucy has three kids, all of them school age. She has been bed-ridden for the past four months now. Three months ago her husband was killed after getting hit by a train coming home from work. He was her only provider as she is too weak to really get out of bed, much less work. She is now three months behind on rent in an apartment not much bigger than an Tahoe or Escalade, and she is about to be evicted from her apartment. If anybody has a bone to pick with God, it's Lucy. To an outsider, she is living hell on earth. My friends went into this apartment not knowing exactly what to expect after hearing some of her story on the walk to her apartment. As they walked in they found Lucy reading her Bible. She said to them, "This (the Bible) is my bread. This is what satisfies me." She told them that God wasn't through with her yet. In that room, my friends experienced holy ground. When they told the rest of us the story that night, there was a silence in the room. We all knew somehow that God, in the midst of this hell, had somehow exalted Lucy to a place where she finds satisfaction. No wonder James writes, "Let the poor Christian boast in their exaltation."
Growing up in church you hear all the rules about how to act at church: don't run, don't wear your hat, don't wear shorts (at least in my family), no jeans on Sunday morning, no sandals (even though I still argue that's what Jesus wore), and other rules. After all church (the building) is the "House of the Lord," and you would not want to desecrate "Holy Ground." When I was a youth minister in Oklahoma, I had some of the poorest kids in the country in my youth group. I would always get in trouble for what they were wearing, what they broke, how fast they were moving. And why? Because it is the House of God, holy ground. There's a lot of people that feel that way. At the church where I serve right now, we are going through VBS and a couple of kids were running down an aisle, and got chewed out for doing so. Again, Holy ground, the House of God. But what really is Holy Ground? I understand wanting to keep a building looking good, and I'm all for that. However, I do think we ought to rethink using the House of God, Holy Ground argument. I got back from Kenya a week ago. I was there for 2 weeks, and they were the most enjoyable two weeks of my life. It wasn't anything that I did. It was because for the first time in my life, I was on Holy Ground. I'm not saying Kenya itself is Holy, it is as fallen as any other place. But God is definitely at work there in places that you do not expect. In fact, Holy Ground in the Bible is found in unexpected places as well. Take for instance the story of Moses. Here is a man who grew up in the privileged house of Pharaoh. He saw one of his own people get murdered so he took revenge and hid the victim in the sand. Moses then flees to the backwoods, and for forty years hides out there in his father-in-law's house. Then out of no where, in the middle of no where, as the Hebrew reads behind the dessert (you can't be anymore backwoods than that) YHWH appears to Moses in a burning bush that does not burn. And what does God say about that place in the middle of no where behind the dessert, "The place where you are standing is Holy Ground." It wasn't a grand temple, or a wealthy city, it was a bush in the middle of nowhere that God declared Holy Ground. In another story, Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau. The Genesis account then says Jacob rested his head in a "certain place." In other words, in the middle of nowhere. But it was there in that certain place that Jacob had a dream of a ladder going up to heaven, and God made a promise to Jacob. When Jacob woke up, he said, "God is in this place, and I did not know it." In a certain place and in a burning bush behind the dessert, God revealed himself to these two pillars of faith, and changed the course of not only their lives, but the course of the history of God's people. In Kenya, I got a glimpse of this, and my next few posts will tell the stories of where and how God is working in unexpected places.