Monday, June 2, 2014

Church...


The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts. But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained. And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. 


Consequently, your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort. You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. 


Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow? Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and were comforted. 


As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them. Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted. And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness.


God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.
                      ~ John Henry Jowett


It wasn't so much what was inside of this beautiful cathedral, which dates back to the late 1800's, that struck me late yesterday afternoon. It wasn't the imposing architecture, the dramatic murals, the Venetian mosaics, or even the crypt below the cathedral, the home to a collection of extremely valuable relics and icons on display.

*Cameras are not allowed inside and, just so you know, {Will} I obeyed the rules! ;)

On a day when most people back home were filling up their own sanctuaries and auditoriums, Faith Ana and I had our own version of church. Yes, I did in fact tote my lanky girl up those stone stairs so that we could finally see firsthand the inside of this famous cathedral, and, yes, it was beautiful! {Although, Faith Ana was less than amused and cried the whole time we were inside. I'm sure the dimly lit rooms and candles burning everywhere were all a little bit too strange and confusing for her to take in.} But it wasn't until we came back down those same stairs that my heart was stirred. 


Me, with my back and legs aching from carrying around this 37 pound whimpering child. Her, with those frail and limp legs, dangling like a rag doll. I kept whispering in her ear those all-too-familiar words. It's ok...

That's when I saw him. There on those very stairs. There under those golden domes. Beneath the shadow of a cross that rises high in this city for all to see.


Crutches by his side. Sitting on the stairs with an empty plastic cup in his hand. Reaching out, without words, to anyone who passed by. 

Why do we think church only happens inside the doors?

I was tempted to turn the other way. I had already bought a flower from an elderly lady selling them on the other side of the church. "One leva, only one," she had said. I had already dropped a few coins in another woman's hands. "I lost my job. I have no money for food." It's what she had said, anyway. Hadn't I done enough? They were, after all, everywhere. Beggars. On every street corner. Outside every hotel. In every subway station.

The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts...


Church, why are we so afraid to come close to those who are hurting? Why do we keep our distance from those who are the most needy? And, when we do help, why do we feel as if we can check off the box and then much too quickly turn a blind eye to a hurting world? 

I tithed for the week. Check. I gave a little to this charity. Check. I volunteered last month for that one. Check. I've done my part. It's what we tell ourselves. It's how we let ourselves off the hook.  It's what enables us to look at all of this pain and brokenness, but continue on with our comfortable lives.

Why do my hands grasp my purse, clutching it more tightly instead of reaching inside to see what more I can share? Why do my legs want to turn the other way?  Why do I think to myself - Can't you see her legs? Isn't that enough? Why do my eyes want to pretend like they can't see? Why does my heart not break into a thousand tiny pieces every time I see those who are hurting and wounded in this big world?



God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.

It wasn't until I came closer, that I could really see...


Nubs where legs should be. Back hunched over. And that's when my heart really broke. Because for him, it's not ok.

I know what this society does to those who are disabled and handicapped. They are treated no differently now than they were when Bulgaria was under Communist control. Institutions, asylums, and, yes, orphanages full of precious boys and girls, are on the outskirts of nearly every city, town, and village. They are filled up with the individuals this culture views as worthless, thrown away like the trash. 


I've seen documentaries on places like these, and it's gut-wrenching. I've also read the statistics, and though I can't remember the exact numbers off of the top of my head, it's staggering. When children, like our Sophi and Faith who have physical or mental disabilities, age out of their orphanages {in some instances this happens as young as 7}, they are placed in these adult institutions, literally left to die. The percentage of them that won't live to see their 21st birthday makes me cringe.

And even those who are fortunate enough to remain in the orphanages longer than usual, the consequences are devastating. I know firsthand. I see everyday the effects of these types of places on children. It leaves them so very, very broken and wounded.


The word comfort is from two Latin words meaning “with” and “strong” – He is with us to make us strong. Comfort is not soft, weakening commiseration; it is true, strengthening love.
~ Amy Carmichael

And, obviously, this is a global problem, not just limited to Bulgaria, but since my heart is here right now, can I share with you something else? Our adoption agency's list of children with special needs available from this country has remained virtually unchanged since last spring. Only a handful, and I mean a very small handful, of children have been chosen. Babies and healthy toddlers move fast on these lists, but the others, the older ones and the ones with very profound needs, just sit and sit and sit. Passed by and overlooked. Waiting to be told that they are not worthless.

Church, what are we waiting for?


This morning, Faith Ana and I passed by again on the way to the park. It was eerily quiet, and today the stairs were empty. He was gone.

Satan is so much more in earnest than we are--he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.
~ Amy Carmichael

XOXO,
Melanie

P.S. Today we went to the U.S, Embassy to finalize all of the paperwork and documents necessary for Faith Ana's visa. They will be ready late tomorrow afternoon, and Lord-willing, we will fly home on Thursday! I am counting down the days and praying that the Lord will continue comforting each of my little one's hearts and preparing them to welcome and love their new sister. Thank you for your continued prayers.







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