Sunday, February 21, 2010

you have redeemed my soul

I am almost finished reading a book that I cannot recommend. Seriously, I am still having nightmares from the horrific violence. "A Long Way Gone," by Ishmael Beah, is the first-hand account of a young boy's experience as a child soldier.

I admit I skipped over the more graphic parts of the book, where Ishmael describes the brutality he witnessed and experienced in unflinching detail. But I felt compelled to read his story that I might better understand the children my daughter Candyce works with--and loves--in Africa.

It was hard to wrap my cultured, american mind around the raw acts of savagery described. My stomach churched, I wept aloud, I sighed with relief when Ishmael finally found sanctuary. I was very glad to read of his redemption.

But I felt like I'd eaten some forbidden fruit and my eyes were now wide open to the terrible plight of these children. And that knowledge overwhelmed me--what could I do that could possibly make a difference in their lives?

Interestingly, I heard that same question asked yesterday as I sat around the table with six amazing missionaries, fresh from their outreach in Africa. And these weren't just any missionaries--these young men and women just spent 10 weeks serving with my daughter! They came to Portland to share their pictures, stories and love of Candyce with us--what a blessed time it was!

One of the young men talked about ministering in a prison to former child soldiers. Zak admitted that he felt overwhelmed. That he had nothing to offer. That the childrens' wounds were too deep for him to heal. But then he realized that, even though he had nothing to give, he brought Jesus to these children. And in Jesus, they had access to everything they really needed.

So Zak and the others freely gave those children the love and hope of Christ. And the process of redemption began in many of those broken, young hearts.

I went to church this morning, still thinking about the team's stories and wondering if I could ever be a part of this redemptive tale. During worship, I began to weep over the children I'd just heard about. The words of the worship song we were singing became my prayer, my tears watering the seeds of hope and love that had been so recently planted:

"You have redeemed my soul from the pit of emptiness,
You have redeemed my soul from death"

Prayer might be my only role in these children's lives--but it might also just be the first step. My eyes have been opened and my heart has been changed, forever.

That's why I can't recommend that you read such a dangerous book . . .