Brenda was a sparkling girl! You know that precious type. I think her thick red hair was two-thirds the length of her first grade body. I was never able to count how many brothers and sisters she had—but they were all perpetually happy! It was a special family. I often pondered through the complexities of so many siblings. For instance, how did they divide the twinkies? In our family I came first with T right behind me. Three years later our brother R showed up and we were complete! Three kids- 3 twinkies in a pak. It was perfect. And another thing, how was it that none of Brenda's brothers and sisters looked alike. With us, every week, no matter how hard we tried to explain, the Book-Mobile personnel insisted that T and I had to be twins! In our case, the apples had not fallen too far from the tree-- all three times!
Brenda's backyard was special too. A swing set, a climbing rope and a huge fruit tree in the middle of a sprawling lawn made it their own private playground-complete with playmates! And that tree, that huge tree, was the most amazing thing I had ever seen! It had peaches and plums, apricots and nectarines—all together on the same tree! Someone had taken tiny cuttings from different root stock and had grafted them to a big peach tree. By the time I saw it, it was mature and beautiful. It had become one tree bearing a variety of fruit.
Now I know what was lost to me then. That tree was a picture of this special "grafted" family. Brenda, with her brothers and her sisters, orphans all--were adopted.
In December of 2005, the narrow dirt road was pot holed and dusty, occasionally lined with bamboo houses built on stilts. In the back of the little pickup truck-taxi 3 people hung on tight as it bounced along- Mike and Bro T, and me. Sis A was meeting us there . . .
We had met Sis A on our second trip to Burma in 1998. Then, she was a lovely, traditional, modest, middle-aged Chin maiden living in a rented thatched house with 9 foundlings. A few leafy vegetables grew in the thin strip of dirt in front. Tiny little smiling faces smeared with thanakah (yellowish powder scraped from roots) greeted us. The Lord had given this single Bible Woman a family. The children had trusted the LORD and were learning to work and to study. Sadly, they had also learned to suffer-abandonment and degradation had been their companions. Even now—disease, hunger, and persecution barked constantly at their heels . Neighbours had already revealed their disapproval with rocks, gossip, and sabotage. Sis A found it difficult to buy food. The children were blamed for little acts of vandalism.
Again in Burma in 1999, we met an amazing couple. Bro P and his wife collect handicapped children from the roadside the way the Kiwanis Club collects the garbage on the highway. A child may be carelessly tossed there to fend for itself or die. Privation, high fever, polio, malaria—each takes a toll on young and old alike. Mike commissioned a leaky rented shack in a muddy field as the Grace Children's' Home. We sat with the 15 dear rescued shriveled souls-3 girls, 12 boys. Water splashed in on us during the torrential downpour and you could see the water rising below through the floor as Mike preached. I marveled at the fact that they couldn't stop smiling! A home of their own-even a rented one! A place where they belonged. No promised income, no benefactors, just faith in the faithfulness of God. Bro P said, "God loves the poor. These are His. He will provide."
In 2000, after the first 2 years of praying and serving in Burma, we covenanted together with our Bro T and his wife L- to start a BFBM, Myanmar. We saw the need to pray for and assist men and women called to be pioneering in the most difficult and barren destinations of Burma-the ones you don't find in the Lonely Planet! With Hudson Taylor's faith mission as the model, we believed that if the LORD ordered the work, He would supply. We wouldn't ask men, we'd go to Him and we agreed to pray together to this end. Missionaries who deemed it the LORD's will to join us were told of "faith that rests in the faithfulness of God alone." Fourteen couples, single evangelists, and Bible Women joined the first year—and the LORD wonderfully provided ever since with over 40 families joining the team by 2007!
But nagging in our minds was the question…what about the orphans?
Living and working in missions, you hear constant warnings about not getting bogged down in "social work." It's a reasonable concern. Frankly, western ministry-tourists visiting the mission field are more often overwhelmed by the destitution of the poor than they are by the condition of their souls. It's somewhat shocking for a westerner to see for the first time sheer masses- starving, degraded, hopeless. The visible needs confront the senses with such ostentatious vigor as to press any urgency regarding the invisible realities of eternity from the mind. I know… it happened to me too. And, granted, there's been much abuse of the Gospel in this realm. I personally have seen how the Gospel can be degraded and then completely lost to an entire people-group in just a matter of a few short years. But sill, with all of this in mind… the Lord did say, "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good…" Mark 14:7a. A balance is difficult to make. On top of that, I'm a baby boomer-and that means more than it just being my favorite edition of Trivial Pursuit! That means I have never known life without TV, MacDonalds, or Social Security! Frankly, I have not seen the church in action caring for widows and orphans the way the early church did! –the way the Bible says we should. This is not an accusation, just an observation. Needless to say, we began to pray about it.
It was clear from the beginning, if we were going to do it, we needed to buy land! We needed $5000. Five thousand U.S. dollars! A huge sum of money! We asked the LORD to give it to us if He wanted us to partner with these two families in the care, spiritual upbringing, and nurture of orphans. You can tell we weren't very sure about it at all by the way we prayed. We asked for the money to come in U.S. dollars, in $1000 increments. We asked that it be accompanied by a note that said something like, "The Lord burdened us to send this money to you for a project you are working on." Immediately the first thousand came in and yes, there was a note! It came from a couple we had known very briefly several years before. Coincidence? Well, maybe. Continuing to pray, mum remained the word. Before 2 weeks had passed the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th thousands came in with the appropriate notes. One to go.
Days melted into weeks and before we knew it, a few months had gone by. We began to wonder the way one does when carefully laid plans don't seem to match His will. Was it really in the LORD's desire for us to embark on this new ministry? A team arrived from the states to help us do some training in Singapore and the Philippines. One of our dear friends arrived and handed us a check with a note that he had been asked to forward our way. He apologized for the delay in getting it to us as he had tucked it away knowing he was coming personally in a couple of months. Opening it slowly, we were not surprised to read, "Just a small gift for whatever you are working on." The $1000 check was dated the first week of our prayer.
Before we prayed for the money, we knew the LORD had opened this door for us. We knew He would provide. He did. He was just waiting for us to surrender to whatever He called us to do, once again. We bought a piece of land with a good well and lots of banana trees and consecrated it to the LORD. Angela, now assited by her sister, moved in with the children. We continued to pray and the LORD brought a Korean NGO who offered to build brick buildings on the land-no strings attached!
Just two years later, we got a letter from Sis A … the harvest from the banana trees was sufficient to supply for all their needs—including school tuition for the children. The LORD was supplying all they needed. No need for us to send any more money—please use it for others for the LORD.
Sis A was waiting. As we arrived at the property the LORD had provided 6 years earlier, we saw cinder block buildings a garden, and many children playing in the courtyard. In the back, the banana trees, much healthier now, were loaded to tipping! We saw Sis A growing an army for the LORD! One of the boys has gone to Bible College in Yangon, graduated and called to pioneering missions. He is joining BFBM, Myanmar. They are prayer warriors too!
Since our first dive into so called "social work" J the LORD has seen fit to allow us to be a part of 2 orphanages and 2 handicapped homes for children in Myanmar. Hundreds of children have come to know the LORD-- are going to school, learning to work, and to love and serve their Saviour! Many have surrender their lives to service!
I just heard recently that there are 600,000 orphans and abandoned children in Cambodia. Six hundred thousand! Time to pray again and to act. I know the LORD is concerned about them, shouldn't we be too?
Deut. 15:11 "For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. "