Past Blog Posts
December 29, 2010
A Message from the Founders
When our wives fall ill, it can be quite an eye-opener to us husbands. When our domestic goddesses come down off their celestial pillar of household oversight and are relegated to the world of mortality from their sickbed, it can be quite a shock to us who are left standing. Literally in moments, we must either attempt to ascend to the top of the domestic mountain and try to manage the household affairs or, alternatively, we may fall deep into a domicilic abyss either because we lack the desire to temporarily fill in at the top spot, or we lack the skills necessary to do so. Either way, the end result should be a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for all that our wives do when they’re at full strength.
When Rachel became quite ill with what we believe was food poisoning, I had to spring into action with taking care of her, taking care of 17-month-old Belle and dealing with the normal affairs of the household.
Wouldn’t you know that on the night Rachel became sick, we had no electricity. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence here in Kenya, but on this occasion, as afternoon turned to dusk, and dusk into night, and we still had no power, I knew it wasn’t good. I knew that I would be running my hospital ward, nursery and cafeteria in the dark. Rachel began her, shall we say, regurgitations around 6 pm (on Christmas night no less…..there were no “sleigh bells ring – are you listenin’”……there was only stomachs churning and you did whatever you had to not to listen) and shortly thereafter I began lighting candles. I guess if it was going to be bad, we might as well have mood lighting.
After doing what little I could to make Rachel comfortable, I turned my attention to Belle. I changed her diaper, put her pajamas on, and learned for the first time how to heat her bottle without the microwave – can you imagine no microwave! I actually had to boil water using propane on the stove and then heat her bottle in the water. This was the beginning – over the next 24 hours – of my beautiful wife continuing her gracious and thorough running of our household from her sickbed as she educated her fill-in.
After getting Belle’s bottle ready, I laid her down on our bed in between us. Belle contentedly suckled on her bottle in the serenity of mood lighting, while Rachel lay in agony on one side of her and I lay feeling a bit helpless on the other side. No sooner had Belle finished her bottle than she rolled over to Rachel to what we thought was going to be a night-night cuddle. She then got on all fours and proceeded to throw up on the sheets and pillow. My hospital ward instantly doubled in the number of patients. Attempting to see and clean up the mess by candlelight was a challenge.
I think you get the picture. Throughout the next day, I learned a number of things about the laundry (it’s not quite as straight forward here in Kenya as in the US), about boiling milk (we get our milk straight from the cows here) three times in order to get it ready for human consumption, about getting Belle’s diaper bag ready (I took her to church without Rachel), etc. etc. All the while, Rachel patiently answered questions about this thing or that thing or how to stop this or start that or close this or open that.
We really do take a lot of things (people) for granted. It’s when they’re gone or they’re indisposed that we realize how much we rely on them and need them.
The 24 hours that Rachel was ill, I was in over my head in some areas and I had to ask her some questions. But I did get through it and, thankfully, so did Rachel and Belle. Both are doing fine now. I also have a much greater appreciation for what Rachel does, not for just 24 hours, but day after day after day.
This situation I’ve described is certainly not life or death, but it was somewhat stressful. Maybe you can relate to Rachel in this story – you’re in agony, you’re laid out, and you feel like you’re not going to make it. Or if you’re me, you find yourself in the deep end and you’re not sure how long – or if – you can tread water.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
You and I CAN do everything through Christ who gives you strength. Do you need the strength to just hang on and live? He has that strength for you. Do you need the strength to do things that you don’t have the experience or qualifications to do? He has that strength to give as well.
Thankful for God’s strength and for just enough light to clean up messes in the dark,
December 13, 2010
A Message from the Founders
A few months ago we had a Guardian’s Day here at the Open Arms Village. We hold these days three or four times per year so that the ‘guardians’ of the children who live in the Open Arms Village (Open Arms has legal custody of every child in our care as authorized by the Kenyan courts) can come and visit the children. Generally these guardians are extended family members or family friends or neighbors to the children.
During this recent Guardian’s Day, some of our local village elders and chiefs came and after the church service (we hold Guardian’s Days on Sundays, and most, if not all, of these elders and chiefs claim to be Christians, we all ate lunch together. Our house mothers and staff fixed the same food for everyone and it is always more than what many in the community typically eat both in quality and quantity.
The elders and chiefs were sitting off by themselves (as they do) eating their lunches when I walked over to join them. I sat down and began eating when one of them said, “You know in our culture you always prepare different, better, and nicer foods for the elders and chiefs than you serve to the rest of the people.” My blood began to come to a slow boil and then, to make matters worse, one of them said, “You must learn our cultural ways.”
I responded calmly and graciously by saying, “You know, we should all be very thankful to have any food to eat at all. In large gatherings like this, we don’t make special food for a small group of people. Please don’t interpret this as being disrespectful. It is merely that we have limited staff, limited time and limited resources so we all eat the same thing.” I then went on to say, “You know in God’s system leaders are called upon to be servants. They are called upon to lower themselves and to lift others up. They shouldn’t insist upon, or make demands for, special treatment. I really want to learn your cultural ways and I’m trying hard. However, there is one exception: when our cultural ways in this community run counter to what God’s Word – the Bible – says.”
I guess you might say you could have heard a pin drop. It wasn’t easy for me to say these somewhat difficult words to men I do respect as elders and chiefs in their community. But I also couldn’t sit passively by and not confront thoughts and ideas and behaviors that run contrary to God’s “cultural way.”
Ephesians 4:22 – 25 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
It isn’t always easy to speak the truth – especially as you stand by yourself saying it to a larger audience. However, it is only by inserting the truth into situations that true wholeness and righteousness can invade a situation and change things for the better.
Sometimes the truth that causes the pin to drop is like a scalpel that is cutting to heal. Practice speaking the truth because when the truth is introduced into any given situation, the opportunity for health and wholeness rises dramatically.
Seeking to understand God’s “world,” no matter where I am in this one,
November 29, 2010
A Message from the Founders
A few weeks ago I was in the one of the garbage dump barracks (what the street children call the place they live) with our Street Children director, Morris, and a small group of visitors from the US and the UK.
As we walked through, an older street boy named John (I found out this “boy” is about 30) came up behind us and from a distance began shouting at Morris. By the shouting and the scowl on his face I could tell that he didn’t like or appreciate Morris. Morris had moved on ahead, but as I was in the back of the party I turned around and went back to John.
I struck up a conversation with John asking his name and what the problem was. He spoke broken English but said enough that I began to understand his complaint. One of the difficulties we have had in our street children ministry is that the older street boys see people like us coming through the dump – their home – taking photos and videos and promising to help. Instinctively they know that some of those photos and videos will be used to raise funds to ostensibly help them. However, virtually all of the time, promises made to the older street boys come up empty. They see younger, smaller boys being helped but they don’t see any help for themselves. Growing tired of empty promises, these older boys have become menacing to the point that we discontinued taking our visitors through the dump.
When I told John that I understood the anger that the older street boys have about not seeing any direct help, his eyes brightened a bit because he seemed happily surprised that a white person actually understood. When I told him that we are working on ways to help the older boys he said to me, “Give me some help today. I need money for rent.” I then learned that John actually has a small family and rents a tiny place for the equivalent of less than $30 per month. During the day he lives in the dump and at night goes to his small place adjacent to the dump. He explained that the money he had for rent had been stolen a couple of days earlier. Instantly, I knew I was supposed to help him so I immediately looked him in the eyes and said, “I’ll pay your rent. I will not make empty promises. I want you and your family taken care of and more importantly, God wants you and your family to be taken care of.” He was quite shocked that his form of a prayer was answered so quickly and unexpectedly.
I then asked John to help Morris by not being a hindrance to him or an antagonist. I assured him that we are there to help and that although it’s a challenging issue, we are confident that we will come up with valuable ideas to assist the street children in their plight. It’s too early to tell yet, but I am hopeful that Morris and Open Arms has one new advocate in the dumps and one less adversary.
James 2:15 says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
I want God’s help to simply be a help. I want his blessing in my life so that I can be a blessing to others. In certain things – like giving to those in need – it can be so easy to say, “No,” especially when we come up with so many reasons in our own heads with why we shouldn’t be a help.
Wanting to be more of a help and less of a hindrance,
November 23, 2010
A Message from the Founders
I’ll never forget April 16, 1968. It was the year I got the “big” gift – a brand new Schwinn bicycle. It was gold, had a large horn with plastic jewels along the sides and was one eye-popping beauty.
I loved that bicycle because it took me places I hadn’t ever been able to go to before. And even the places I had gone before I arrived much more quickly now.
I’ll never forget May 22, 1999. It was the year I received the biggest gift (not in size, mind you, but in quality) ever – I married my lovely bride, Rachel. She was relatively tall at 5’7”, had long, naturally curly dark-brown hair, and gorgeous jewel-like green eyes. She was – and still is – one eye-popping beauty.
I love my wife because as beautiful as she is physically, she is far more beautiful inside. She loves God and she loves people. She became a pediatric intensive care nurse because she loves children and hates to see them suffering.
I often tell people that the heart of Open Arms is Rachel. It is her passion and the rhythm and calling of her life that makes Open Arms so special. I love children, too, but certainly not to the same degree my wife does. If I was on my own I doubt highly that there would be any Open Arms Village for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. I pinch myself sometimes that God would have given me such a wonderful gift in Rachel and that He would have blessed me – of all men – to have a wife who is so extremely gifted, passionate, and caring.
Receiving the gift of Rachel has carried me places I never dreamed possible. I have traveled so much farther and so much higher because of the gift God has given me in my wife.
I simply wanted to honor her today in my brief message. She is one amazing woman and anyone who knows her discovers that about her quickly.
I am grateful to God for the gift of my wife. I am proud of her and her accomplishments. She is changing the world – one life at a time. I’m just thankful I get to be beside her.
Humbled to travel this journey called life with God’s gift to me - Rachel,
October 18, 2010
A Message from the Founders
Last night I was flying home from a business trip in Texas when the flight attendant seated a young girl next to me. I would estimate that she was 8 or 9 years old, and when the flight attendant asked her what she had been doing in Texas she replied, “Seeing my dad.”
Minutes later and just before take-off I glanced over and there was a tear streaming down her cheek. I thought for a minute or two and then said to her, “Did you have a good time with your Dad?” She nodded her head “yes” and then I said, “Is it hard to leave him and go back home?” Well, then the dam burst and she began sobbing. She did everything she could to maintain her composure but she was embarrassed. Then I simply said to her, “I know that’s hard. I’m sorry.”
As she cried and turned from me it was obvious that I needed to let the conversation be over. For obvious reasons, she just didn’t want to venture into that hurtful conversation on the middle of an airplane and with a perfect stranger – a man, no less.
Oh how I wanted to tell her how hard it was when my dad lived away from my mom and me. I wanted to tell her that God would take care of her and that He would be with her even when she was hurting and was separated from her dad. I wanted to tell her that she would never be alone if she asked God to be with her and to walk with her through life.
What I couldn’t tell her in that moment, though, because of the awkwardness, I asked God to tell her at the right time and in the right place and through the right person or people. This was a God job that David wasn’t going to get to be a part of except to pray and to say, “I know that’s hard. I’m sorry.”
There are some things in this life that are just way too big for us or too complicated. That’s where prayer comes in. We can enlist the God of the universe to take over and do the work that only He can do.
I may be a stranger to that little girl, but God certainly isn’t. In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
This hurting little girl most likely doesn’t know how to reach out to Jesus, but I can certainly help her get to Him through my prayers. I’m confident that as I pray, Jesus will definitely reach out to her, take her in His arms and touch her where it hurts most.
My flight may be over, but my prayers are still soaring for that little girl.
October 13, 2010
A Message from the Founders
The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. – Psalm 121:7,8
I encourage you to spend a few moments thanking God that He cares for you as His child and that He wants – and has promised – to protect you from ALL harm. As your loving Father, remember that He knows each and every bump in life’s road and every obstacle that can get you and me into trouble.
I for one am grateful that He loves me enough to keep me from falling into holes or tripping over bumps, not only when I have the light of day to see them for myself, but especially in times of deep darkness when I can’t see anything in front of me.
A prayer for today:
Father, how incredibly reassuring it is to know that you are watching over my life. I am still learning that I have not been left to fend for myself and I believe that you care so much about me, and this care is so rooted in love, that it is your joy to be interested in my life. I have never known that someone loves me and cares about me this much. It feels pretty wonderful to know that my life – the life that you gave to me – IS your joy and pleasure. Amen.
September 29, 2010
A Message from the Founders
Rachel and I are not golfers, but we had an opportunity to play 9 holes late on a Monday afternoon for a greatly reduced green fee. Booking on a Monday afternoon for the final tee time was ideal for us as we are most definitely “duffers.” I must admit it’s embarrassing (OK, humbling too) playing so poorly when other eyes are watching.
Even though I’m not a golfer, I had been looking forward to playing for several days, but when Monday morning dawned Rachel woke up feeling ill. By noon I needed to cancel our reservation.
That afternoon, at 4:30 pm, the same time we had been scheduled to tee off, we watched as storm clouds started to gather. By 4:45 pm fairly large hail stones began to fall. It got darker and darker outside and rain began pouring by the bucketfuls. Now, some 5 hours after the disappointment of canceling our tee time, I was thankful that I was inside enjoying a different kind of tea time.
This scenario is a simple microcosm of what are sometimes much larger, more “life-important” situations that can really set us back, bring massive disappointment and possibly even cause us to wonder if we’ll ever bounce back. When Rachel woke up feeling sick, we never dreamed at the time that her illness would actually prevent us from enduring another disappointment – and incurring what would have turned out to be a waste of money.
Don’t allow your circumstances – in the moment – to ruin your day, your week, your month, your year or your life. Remember that what appears in the moment to be a big disappointment may in actuality re-direct some things a bit farther down the road that will turn out to be a good thing. While one eye is on the moment at hand, be sure to keep the other one on the possibilities in the future – things may turn out better than you had expected.
A powerful illustration of this in the Bible is the story of Lazarus. In John 11:14, Jesus said, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
The end of the story is that Jesus spoke the word and Lazarus was raised from the dead. What Jesus knew his disciples needed – and could only happen through the seeming, but momentary, tragedy of Lazarus’s death – was belief. They needed their belief in Jesus, and in His powerful abilities, to grow. When Lazarus walked out of that tomb, the mission was accomplished and Jesus’ followers did believe.
Believe in God. He has His own way of making everything – even the seemingly bad things – work out for good in the end.
Join me in believing in God. He can give us what we need to keep one eye focused on the things just past the disappointment.
September 21, 2010
A Message from the Founders
I heard the story yesterday of two young men in their late 20s whose mother and father began to set money aside for their college educations starting when the boys were very young. Apparently, thousands of dollars had been set aside over the years in preparation for the time that the boys would go on to college or university. However, before they could start their higher education, something went terribly wrong. In fact, they were about to start their schooling in “lower” education.
As the boys got into their teenage years, their father began to display some problems. The façade that he had built over a number of years was beginning to crack and his true identity began to show through. It came out that he had a drinking problem. Also revealed was the fact that he had a gambling problem. Unfortunately, by the time the façade had completely melted away, the bank account for the boys’ education had been raided and the money lost.
I’m proud of these two boys because this loss hasn’t handicapped them in any way or held them back from doing what they need to do to move forward. Instead of getting stuck in the tragedy and moaning and groaning about their losses, they have both pressed on and have each pursued higher education, one class at a time as they are able to afford to with their own, hard-earned money. Maybe even more remarkable is that they have maintained a relationship with their father in spite of the hurt that he has caused them.
Stories like this remind me of what is written in I Peter 1:3 - 4:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.”
We all need a living hope for things that will never perish, spoil or fade. When the things we are counting on in this world disappear, we need hope. God understands that really well and that’s why He sent His Son, Jesus, to be our living hope in this world, which is full of decay and loss. Our hope can be placed in Jesus because of His resurrection – He proved that He had power over the things in this world that decay, die or are lost.
What have you lost that has caused your hope to be stolen away? All I know is that regardless of what has been taken from you, the one thing that no one can steal is the eternal hope that only God can give. Do you have that hope that only God can give? If not, invite the eternal life of God – through the person of God’s Son, Jesus – to be part of your life. By His resurrection, He has proven that he can overcome the things that would otherwise destroy us.
Thanking God for the higher education courses that only He can teach,
September 14, 2010
A Message from the Founders
Former world champion and Olympian runner, Jim Ryun, and his wife, Anne, were being interviewed a number of years ago. At the time, Jim was in the height of his career as an athlete and the demands on his time were pressing.
In the interview, they were asked to comment on how Jim balanced his commitments to his career and to his family. In particular, they were asked how Jim handled his responsibility as the spiritual leader to his family. The interviewer recalled how Jim gave a fine answer, but it was Anne’s answer that was truly memorable.
She said, “I don’t worry about Jim’s balancing of career and family because I know that the first thing every morning – no matter where he is in the world – Jim will be up early spending time in the Scripture. And his number one priority in his personal devotions is a diligent search for fresh spiritual food that he can bring to his family.”
Who in your life are you responsible for? Who in your life watches the things you do and the things you say and who is modeling their life after your example? Are you nourishing the people around you with solid, healthy “food,” or are the people around you suffering from malnourishment or starvation because you’re not providing them with anything meaningful?
We will all be held accountable for the influence we have had on those around us. Let’s be “feeding” on good things from God’s Word that we can then share with those around us so that they in turn can be healthy.
“Fix these words of mine [God’s] in your hearts and minds . . . teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk . . . and when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21
Remembering that spiritual health is life and health to everyone around us,
September 7, 2010
A Message from the Founders
A man named Michael tells the story of the time when his daughter Christy became very sick while she was away at college. After several days of illness she wasn’t getting any better . She wasn’t sleeping well and she wasn’t able to get healthy food. It was winter, and in her sickened condition it required her to walk outside in the cold weather to get to the cafeteria.
Michael ordered his daughter to go and check in at the nearest hotel that had room service and he jumped on an airplane to go and be with her and to make sure she was OK. He spent two days with her, caring for her needs and making sure she was getting better before he returned home.
Almost 10 years later, Christy had the privilege of introducing her Dad before he gave a speech to an audience of two thousand people. To Michael’s surprise, instead of going over the usual list of accomplishments on his resume, she decided instead to recount this story of how he had dropped everything to come and be with her when she had been so sick.
Michael’s act of loving-kindness toward his daughter is something she’ll never forget. Long after she forgets where he got his education and how many years he worked here or worked there, she will still remember that he gave up everything else – a lot of pressing things – to simply be with her in her time of need.
Psalm 44 recounts how God the Father showed up to help His children, the Israelites, in their difficult and troubled times. Verses 3 and 4 say, “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your [God’s] right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.”
The light of her father’s face upon his arrival meant everything to Christy when she lay in that bed too sick to care for herself. His presence spoke untold volumes to her about his love for her.
What is going on in your life right now? Are you “laid up” and unable to take care of yourself? Are you desperate to know the love of your Father who won’t go anywhere until He knows you’re going to be OK?
Let God know what’s going on in your life. Talk to Him about it. Call on him and He’ll come immediately. Bask in the light of His face because He loves you and wants to make sure you’re going to be all right. The best news? Once you call Him, not only will He come, but He’ll never go anywhere else.
July 27, 2010
A Message from the Founders
Have you ever had your heart broken? I have.
• When my grandfather died when I was 12 – and my long anticipated trip to Disneyland was cancelled (I know – sad to say – I may have been more heartbroken over losing Disneyland).
• When my Dad left my Mom and me when I was 14.
• When my Dad died when I was 16.
• When my first love left me for another guy when I was 21.
• When what I thought was my dream career ended when I was 38.
I could add to the list, but these have been the biggest heartbreaks in my life. Every one of my life’s major heartbreaks had to do with relationships ending – even the relationship I had with my career. One’s heart breaks when one’s heart is aligned or tied to someone or something else and that significant “other” person or thing goes away.
Allowing your heart to get involved in relationships is a great thing. It’s wonderful to open yourself up to love – and thus to hurt – but it does mean that sometimes there is a high price. If you open your heart, you run the risk of a broken heart. It’s part of the price of love, of engaging your heart.
If you’re struggling with a broken heart, read and listen to these words:
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Broken hearts often do lead to crushed spirits.
Are you feeling crushed right now due to a broken heart? Hold on…..I mean HOLD ON…..to these words:
THE LORD IS CLOSE AND HE SAVES.
God knows that our hearts will be broken and He knows that our spirits will be crushed. But He came up with an answer to encourage and heal: Himself. You are not alone.
Call out to God today if your heart has been broken and if your spirit has been crushed. He is close and He will save you.
July 12, 2010
A Message from the Founders
Yesterday, while driving, I encountered some construction and the large orange traffic cones impeded my ability to get into the left turn lane before the light turned green. There was a car in front of me that was going to go straight through the light and had the driver just moved forward a few inches, I would have been able to maneuver past the traffic cone in order to get into the left-turn lane.
I kept inching closer and closer to the car in front of me hoping that the driver would get the message to move forward a little bit. The driver wasn’t getting it. Finally, in desperation, and not wanting to miss my green light for the left turn, I decided to try and squeeze between the traffic cone and the car in front of me. I started out OK but then felt a bump and heard a loud scraping noise. Horrified, I saw the driver of the other car – a young woman – whirl her head around with an expression (her mouth hanging open in disbelief) that screamed, “What the %*@!+#&a*?!”
I pulled up next to her, rolled down the passenger window, and said, “I’m sorry about that; do you want to pull over and take a look at it?” She replied (nicely I might add), “Well, yes, I think so.”
We got through the light and landed in a nearby parking lot. There was a small scrape on the rubber portion of her bumper and my front right hand fender was scraped up and looked a lot worse. I asked her if she wanted to do anything about it and she said, “No, it’s just a small scrape – let’s not worry about it.” I was relieved but also upset that I had messed my own car up in my attempt to be Speedy Gonzales and make that traffic light.
Rushing too fast to do anything can bring some pretty undesirable consequences. Sometimes when we get ideas, we believe we must rush in order to make them happen. We become afraid that somebody else will race us and beat us to the finish line. We impose artificial (and sometimes unrealistic) timelines that we believe we must meet. We have promised somebody that we will arrive at a certain time and when it seems likely we will be late, we desperately try to make up for lost time by accelerating to an unsafe speed.
Think about slowing down. Strongly consider whether or not your timeline is realistic and whether or not you are putting dangerous pressure on yourself (and those around you) that you just don’t need to. When you want to get somewhere in a hurry, you often take unnecessary chances that end up marking you for good.
I’m going to think twice next time I’m tempted to race for the first green light. I think that being patient – and being OK with making the second light – is well worth the extra minute or two that might just spare my fender.
Taking note that impatience can cause unnecessary scrapes,