Saturday, July 19, 2014

When Polygamy Saves Lives

I peeked ever so gently over the edge of the hammock, not wanting to disturb the little bundles inside.

As I gazed down at these two little black-headed sleeping beauties all of the sudden I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was on holy ground. Like I should take my shoes off because in front of me were two miracles of life that God Himself had knit together in the womb of this young Matis Indian woman.

When He did so, He knew that twins were taboo. That to gift this family with two babies birthed at the same time from one womb was to offend their culture and test their conscience. He knew that because He made their culture.

And the story is not simple.

Not long before I had the privilege just to look upon these two boys, Marcos Mayoruna sat on the floor with the father, Ian.

“If you don’t want to keep these babies, I have a place. You say the word and we will give them a home (referring to the home in Manaus that Richard recently visited that was established for this very purpose). But I need you to know that these are from God. He created these little humans and they are not evil. The time to decide is now,” Marcos, an infanticide survivor in his own tribe, spoke boldly. And those words must have been heavy for this man, a leader in his tribe. He knows his people, his culture, and the weight of this decision should he decide to keep what has for so many generations been considered a curse to his people.

“I will keep them,” he responded.

But the story goes deeper.

For years, Marcos has been building up a relationship with Ian, a witchdoctor. In fact, when we first met Marcos back in 2010, we met Ian and his wife as well. One of Ian’s sons, Tumi, was discipled through Marcos’ program and has become a strong believer and dedicated follower of Christ. They have faithfully lived out the Gospel in front of them and shown that there is another way.

There is still more to this story, though.

Ian agreed to allow his sons to live because of one, sovereign circumstance in his life. You see, he has two wives and for many years his second wife has not been able to conceive. He decided that the birth mother would raise one of the sons and the other wife would raise the other.

For the first time in the history of this tribe, twins would live.

Oh, please don’t let your rejoicing with us cease. So many missionaries and believers would mourn this as a loss. ‘What a tragedy,’ they would say, ‘that these children will grow up in this environment!’

But, no, we should rejoice all the more!! Not because of the practice of polygamy but because of God’s redemption of it. Were it not for this unbiblical practice, two little lives, knit together by God’s own hands would have been snuffed out.

Buried alive.

God in His sovereignty has allowed a pagan practice to save the lives of two boys that may one day be the voice of the Gospel to their people.

Praise His Name!

As they shared this story with me, I stood there humbled at what a God we serve. We “white people” are gifted in the art of “divide and conquer”. We often make it our responsibility to save the lost, to change their culture. To make them look like us, live like us, act like us.

We see it all. the. time. down here.

And all the while we unintentionally and even perhaps unknowingly take God completely out of the equation. We forget that this is His party and He invited us.

So we do things like go in villages and preach that a man must only have one wife, forgetting that God told us to do nothing more than to preach the Gospel and make disciples. The Spirit will do the work. (Oh, how we love to preach the law!!) In our ignorance and pride, we forget that these women are dependent on their husband and to tell him to pick one is to leave the others helpless, hopeless, homeless. Widowed women and orphaned children. 

We long so badly for raised hands and numbers to report and stories to tell that these natives become nothing more than a people group for us to conquer and add to our evangelical lists of “reached”.

God help us.

We ignore the requests of the very people we say we want to reach, disrespecting their intelligence and culture, entering their land without permission or invitation. Meanwhile, solid, faithful Indigenous Believers who know the culture, know the language, know the Gospel and know how to present it in a relevant way to their own people are left in the wake of our rush to “reach the unreached” trying to mend broken relationship and retell the Gospel truth as it applies to their people.

Forgive our selfish ambitions, Lord.

As I listened more to this story, Marcos’ wife, Josi, said something that struck a cord in my heart.

“Several missionaries tried to take these twins. They thought if they could just take them and raise them that it would be another problem solved,” she shared with me, clearly disheartened by these attempts. “But it was an indigenous believer, Ian’s own son (who was discipled by Marcos) who said to his father, ‘No, you must keep them. They are yours. It is time to stop this practice of killing the innocent.’”

She continued, “If we don’t teach them, they will never know. We can’t intervene every time and expect change.”

Immediately my mind went back to the time several months ago when Marcos told us something else that I will never forget.

Sitting in the floor of his home, listening to his wisdom, he said, “We are not in a hurry. Foreigner Believers want to come in here and make things happen. They want to see people converted and whole tribes transformed. The reality is, we may never see that in our lifetime. And we don’t have to.

We are working on God’s timeline, not our own.”

God, help us to stop trying to save the world and just be faithful disciplers as you have called us. Help us to lose sight of the timelines and numbers that cloud our view from the miracles that are happening all around us. Lord, may  we stop preaching law and start preaching grace, knowing you are bigger than our sin. So big, in fact, that you can use it for your glory.

God, help us to put down the Jim Elliot biographies and pick up your Word, genuinely seeking Your will and our role in Your story, not an fantasized version of the glory days.

Help us to make You the Savior. Not us.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meet Frankie

It was almost 9pm and Richard was coming back from running a late night errand. He would always glance down one of the side roads on our street, trying to catch a glimpse of the kids who frequented our home. Usually they were out playing in the street, dirty as could be, without an adult in sight aside from the occasional drunk man passed out on the side of the road.

This time was no different and he spotted little Frankie running towards him. He recognized his little voice shouting, “Estou com fome!!” (I’m hungry!)

He told me this when he got home and my heart broke just a little more for these kids.

That was more than a year ago now, back when starting a children’s home was just a whisper from the Holy Spirit. Back when we were still trying to ignore that voice because we knew starting a home would be hard and our life was hard enough.

As the months passed, we got closer and closer to Frankie and Rosa told us his story.

Frankie was neglected by his biological parents and was essentially raised on the streets for the first four years of his life by his older siblings. He constantly had open sores on his body and head and his teeth were rotten because his diet consisted primarily of Cheetos and candy.
He would have angry outbursts to the point of being violent at times, evidence of a child longing for someone to guide him. He was defensive, always protecting himself.
About six months ago, Rosa took him into her home. His biological mother signed away her guardianship without a second thought.

Before this time, Rosa was already his primary caregiver, though he still slept at home with his biological mother on weeknights. On the weekends, Rosa would let them sleep in her living room because his parents left him and his siblings home alone to fend for themselves. Rosa would make them meals and give them baths and clean clothes. When he first moved in with her, he still had anger issues. He hated baths and school and would eat until he was sick because he was afraid he wouldn’t have his next meal.

Since that time, he has grown into a strong, happy little boy. He is now six years old and loves to play spiderman and help Richard with the banana trees in our back yard. He’s learned to be polite and control his temper for the most part. He is even learning to read with the help of an afterschool program that Rosa has enrolled him in. He has grown significantly and no longer has the skin issues he once had.
Many of you who have traveled down on trips have met Frankie and you remember him because he brings a contagious smile wherever he goes.

Frankie calls Rosa “Auntie” but he knows she’s really his adoptive mom. Someone once asked him if he wanted to go back to his biological mom. He responded, “No!” When they asked why, he replied, “Because Tia (Auntie) Rosa loves me. She takes care of me.”

And it’s true. Rosa has the gift of caring for these kids as her own, much like God loves us as His own.
 Because Frankie is not Rosa’s biological child, she does not have access to any financial help from governmental programs. If you would like to help support Rosa through sponsoring Frankie monthly, follow this link.

To make a one-time donation to Grace House, click here.

Frankie is the second one from the left. Love this kid!
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