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More Blessed to Give

July 4, 2010

Dear blog readers,

I have a secret to tell you. Well, it’s not even really a secret. It’s simply a beautiful principle, that when whispered into your heart by experience, warms the very core of your being and entire outlet on life. You probably have heard it said before: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Today, I became more convinced of this promise than ever before.

As you may know, my time in Kenya is swiftly coming to a close. The end of Term 3 is drawing very near. My girls are heading into final exams this week, we’ll have our final dorm party on Jul 13, and then we’ll say our goodbyes when they leave on Jul 16. (Seniors will stay for Graduation, which is Sat., Jul 17, along with parents and staff and teachers).

But, goodbyes will not only be said with my surrogate daughters. I will also be saying goodbye to many other staff members who have become like family to me this year. I can’t even begin to describe to you how many meaningful friendships have been formed in my life in the past 11 months! God has truly been a Provider. He went before me to prepare the way for all my relational needs and desires, and as a result, I stand today as the beneficiary of friendships with other women who were my mentors, surrogate mothers, role models, sisters, and co-workers this year.

Wanting to bring closure with these other women, and even more importantly, honor and bless them for their love and compassion and care, I hosted a Brunch this morning for 13 ladies with whom I have grown closest. It was SUCH a wonderful, blessed occasion. My prayer had been that God would use this time to bless and encourage them, and that as I “gave back,” I too, would be blessed and encouraged as I recounted all the ways I have seen the Father’s heart of love for me THROUGH them this entire year. Hence, it is more blessed to give than receive.

Being an events-planner at heart, I had a BLAST preparing for the brunch and totally SHOWERING the ladies with fun things to enjoy – the menu, the activities, the details, the words spoken, the goody bags and the decorations.

THE MENU

Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

Broiled Grapefruit

Arizona Lemon & Poppyseed Biscotti

Double Chocolate Biscotti

Blueberry Pecan Scones with Devonshire cream

Assorted mini chocolate truffles

Sparkling Lemon Cordial

Tropical Juice Blend

Coffee & Assorted Teas

THE DECORATIONS

ACTIVITIES

When all the ladies first arrived, we just mingled and talked for a little while over coffee and tea. Once everyone had arrived, I began with a short word of prayer. Then, I read a poem to the ladies that I wrote a couple months’ back, as a way of helping describe the reason I was having the brunch in the first place:

Once upon a mountain town,
Under stars, so bright and clear,
I dreamed a dream in my new home,
For new friends, so warm and dear.

To Africa, God had led,
Me to glorify His Name,
Yet in this strange place, I feared,
That it would not be the same.

Yet, quite soon, I saw God’s love,
Through your meals & many smiles,
And the pain of loneliness,
Lessened in time, in just a while.

Though you all had much to do,
Your doors were open wide,
Making time to show you cared,
And that Christ was on my side.

Each relationship, I found,
Was special and unique,
But Gospel truth, the center of all,
Of this we did ALL speak.

How time’s escaped, I do not know,
I’ve only just blinked my eyes,
And now the days, I’m counting down,
Till we must say our goodbyes.

So, instead of babbling,
And crying till I can’t see,
I decided it would be much more fun,
To have a cheerful girls’ party!

So, to this brunch, you have come,
As my honored guests;
My hope and prayer, sweet, kind friends –
Is that you will be blessed.

One can always find good friends,
Who generally like to do the same,
But rarely do hearts unite,
To share in life’s real joys and pains.

Enough I’ve said, it’s time to eat!
Without any further ado,
From my heart, kitchen and soul,
Kindred spirits, I honor you!

After prayer and the poem, I invited the ladies to usher themselves through the buffet line to get their tropical juice or sparkling lemon cordial, and eggs benedict, broiled grapefruit, biscotti, chocolate truffles, and scones with Devonshire cream. Each lady then took her particular seat at one of the three tables where I had set up individualized place cards at each setting.

At each setting, there was a special envelope containing photos of that particular person and me from various activities and events that we shared together this year at RVA. Each lady also received a slip of paper with a Corrie Ten Boom quote on it, which said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

I had also placed a blank pink index card, upon which I asked each lady to write down their current prayer request, so that I can take all the index cards home with me and continue praying for them even after I leave.

After everyone had eaten, talked, laughed and fellowshipped for a while, I then announced that I wanted each lady to explain why they brought a particular mug or tea-cup of theirs to the brunch, and why it was their favorite (I had asked them ahead of time to bring their favorite mug along…)

After each person told their “mug story,” I then honored each lady with a short piece of encouragement out loud. I had also taken the first letter of each first name, and matched an adjective or word to describe that particular lady. Here are the 13 phrases I came up with to describe each friend:

Susan Stocksdale the Sweet
• Kim Saum the Kind
• Jan Morrison the Mentor
• Jenny Hunt the Hope-filled Helper
• Lisa Orner the Lovely
• Annie Jacquay the Jovial
• Mindy Yost the Multi-Tasking Mother
• Anna Olander the Open
• Vicki Harrison the Hospitable
• Jan King the Joyful
• Kylie Dubber the Keeper
• Amanda Scott the Amiable
• Candace Gentry the Giver

This time was so sweet and meaningful! I honestly thought that I was going to lose it emotionally, but I got through all 13 encouragements, blubber-free! This was purely the grace of God, because I have been sick all week leading up to this day, and haven’t gotten a whole lot of sleep the last few nights…with a sinus cold and cough.

I could copy and paste every single one of the notes of encouragement that I read aloud for each lady into this post, but let it suffice to say that AS I shared and the ladies were spiritually encouraged, I felt that I was MOST blessed person in that room. Everything I said was a sweet reminder of God’s faithfulness to ME. Every reflection of THEIR care, compassion, wisdom, advice, faithful prayers, practical helpmates, and hospitality, was really just an opportunity to cultivate gratitude in my heart and mind towards God.

At the very end of this time of honoring them, I simply thanked them, told them I loved them, and read the Corrie Ten Boom quote out loud to them. This quote (“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”) is one that all hits a tender mark in the center of our hearts: as missionaries, we all HAVE undergone and will continue to undergo MUCH transition and changes, even in the next three months:

Back Row from Left: Lisa, Kylie, Annie, Jan M, Susan, Candace, Vicki, Jan K, Mindy
Front Row from Left: Anna, Kim, Me, Amanda, Jenny

Three of us single ladies (Annie, Amanda and I) had all made one-year commitments, and will each return to the States.

Three are full-time missionary wives (Kylie, Mindy and Susan) and will be going to their home countries (Canada and the U.S.) for either one-term or one-year furloughs (“home assigments.”)

One (Jan Morrison) is transitioning into an “empty-nest” season of life with her husband, and is leaving RVA (where she has spent most of her life) to bravely begin partnering with her husband in a new ministry in the city of Nairobi this summer.

Another (Jenny) will continue into her second year of teaching English at RVA as a single woman.

Still another (Anna), just arrived her with her husband and small daughter, Malindi, this past January and is settling into her life here at RVA, where they have committed to serve for the next four years!

The rest (Lisa, Jan King, Vicki, Kim and Candace) will faithfully continue to serve at RVA indefinitely as dorm parents and teachers, and of course, their husbands and children. They are committed to being here, and don’t plan to leave unless God guides them otherwise…

As each lady left, I handed out somewhat comical goody bags. These goody bags were not exactly filled with things that YOU might think are “special.” Nevertheless, living in Africa presents a great THANKFULNESS for certain items that are hard to come by. For example, fresh zip-lock bags, which EVERY missionary woman longs to have, because we re-use most of them on a daily basis (except the ones that have had raw meat in them). And, sweet-smelling dryer sheets, which we like to use every once in a while for that special piece of clothing that has gotten so incredibly stretched OUT from hanging it up on the outside line so many times.

I also had the great privilege of distributing books to each lady that my senior pastor, Joshua Harris, had donated for me to bring out to the field.

Josh had generously allowed me to pick out books in my home church’s bookstore that pertained to various spiritual and theological topics that might come in handy. I have had these on my shelf all year as resources for my dorm parenting needs, and now, I was able to give these away to these ladies as resources for THEIR own benefit. Thank you, Josh, for playing a role in this!

What a plethora of women we are! From all different backgrounds, denominations, upbringings, ages, seasons of life, countries, states, and educations. And yet, we are all woven in friendship together because of the Gospel. Because of Christ. Because of salvation. Our paths crossed in this world and will culminate in the heavenly world. And, while it is heart-wrenching right now to think of the possibility that I may not seem some of these ladies ever again, it is so incredible to realize that because of the eternal bond that we share together as daughters of the living God, there will come a day when we’ll be shouting together with one voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! Worthy is the LORD!” And, the great tapestry of grace, into which we have EACH been woven as a unique thread, will simply be a magnificent reflection of the image of God sewn into all of our lives.

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