The God Who Sees Me: Achu’s Hope

“Can you remember what it was like to be a kid between Thanksgiving and Christmas? For most of us, the anticipation of Christmas coming was all we could talk about. Some things are like that—they’re so good we can’t get them off our minds. That’s definitely the case with the story of a Sudanese orphan named Achu.

Even though the New Republic of Sudan seceded fromSudanin 2011, after five decades of Islamic invasion, slavery, and genocide, there is still no infrastructure within the fledgling country. In fact, much of it is still under attack and bombed on a daily basis.

Since there is no other medical care available, thousands of people walk for hours, and even days, in the unbearable heat to visit the small Make Way Partners open-air clinic. With our extremely limited staff and resources, each sunrise delivers two to three times more patients piled and waiting around our door than those we can actually treat in one day.

So, each morning the clinic staff passes out vouchers—first come, first serve—to the waiting number of patients which the medical team deems they can treat that day. As hard as it is to do, all others are mercifully sent away so that they do not wait all day—in vain—under the unforgiving sun.

Dr. Matt Mooreland, MWP mission-team member, was finishing his second day of serving in 130 degree heat on the border of Darfur, Sudan when his eyes fell upon a frail child sitting in the door way. She had no life-saving voucher to wave before Dr. Matt. Early in the morning Achu had been told that she could not be seen that day…no room in the inn…she was sent away.

Persistent as the woman in Mark 7, who begged Jesus to treat her like a dog who ate the crumbs falling from his plate, Achu didn’t leave. She curled into a fetal position on the sidelines, where MWP indigenous director Lual Atak found her, and helped her toward the front of the clinic.

The miracle happened. Dr. Matt met Achu.

Bad news accompanied the miracle, however. As Dr. Matt unwound the filthy cloth tied around Achu’s twig-thin leg, he found that three to four inches of Achu’s bone protruded through her skin just below her knee. Pus poured out of the swollen wound, and the foul stench of decaying flesh quickly filled the room, forcing most of the nonmedical staff to leave.

Dr. Matt learned that the injury had occurred a year earlier: “Achu stated that a little over a year ago she was wrestling with a friend by the borehole in her village and her leg got twisted up.  Unable to bear weight, she crawled back home and stayed on the ground for almost two months straight. Her mother was dead, her father was a drunk, and the stepmother was refused any money for aid because all Achu’s father would do is drink it away. Because of her leg injury, Achu was not able to work, and her family blamed her for the loss of two otherwise healthy hands… After two months, she forced herself to start walking and moving around, and over time developed a way to function day to day, while completing her chores.”

But the story grew worse. Dr. Matt realized that the infection was so severe, that even with excellent medical care—which was not possible from our scantily-supplied-open-air clinic—Achu would surely lose her leg, if not her life.

In the words of Dr. Matt, “It was my duty to tell her there are no amount of medications to keep a dying piece of bone from eventually infecting her entire frail body. It was a devastating prognosis. Achu, who was without a smile already, dropped her head and stopped making eye contact with anyone. As medical professionals, we are taught to deliver bad news with honest, straight talk followed by a sincere attempt to show sympathy and hope. However, in this case, my response was long on sympathy and very short on hope. The facts are simply that the average citizen in this area of the world has no access to surgical services and no means to travel the hundreds of miles to obtain those services. I had just handed down Achu’s death sentence.”

The entire team remained in constant prayer for Achu. I’ve always been sort of a dragee when it came to social media, but I’d read a convincing article by John Piper a few months earlier about God using 140-character tweets just as powerfully as 30-minute sermons. We just have to work harder on getting them down to size! So I called on thousands of others to join in prayer, and realized John was right—God can indeed move through social media.

Thousand filled (and continue to fill) the no-man’s-land between Heaven and earth with prayer. Then, another miracle: Eternal Perspective Ministries wrote offering to cover Achu’s medical expenses, if Make Way Partners could coordinate it.

I called my friend Dr. Carol Spears at Tenwek Hospital inKenya and asked her if Tenwek would be able to treat Achu. Dr. Carol informed me that not only would they treat her, but also that Dr. Dan Galat, on staff, was a Mayo Clinic-trained orthopedic surgeon.

Miracle number too-many-to-count—a Mayo-trained orthopedic surgeon in the next country over, who was willing to operate on Achu! But we would need the stream of miracles to flow with whitewater power; getting Achu out ofSudanwould be no small task.

In order to justify not giving up any of his booze money, Achu’s father denied Achu needed help. So, even though we offered to cover all expenses from the private charter to get her out of war-tornSudan, to medical expenses inKenya, to food and lodging for her big sister to accompany her along the scary journey, Achu’s father refused. Drunken Sudanese men do not easily or usually change their minds, nor admit they are wrong.

Even if her father agreed to let us take Achu to Tenwek, we still only had a few days to create and file for approval the necessary travel and immigration documents to legally transport her across international borders. Achu is from a land where there are no birth certificates, identification papers, educational records, or immunization vaccines. She had never ridden in a car, much less flown on a plane.

Slowly-by-slowly, as they say inSudan, I kept making plans through Dr. Carol inKenya, and believers fromAlabamatoSwitzerlandandSudantoAustraliakept filling up that no-man’s-land with prayers. The stream of miracles raged on against the gates of evil, and Achu’s father suddenly agreed to let her go even as the local commissioner rushed together all the required travel documents.

This emaciated, abandoned orphan had every reason in the world to not trust anything we said. Yet, she boarded our plane in childlike faith, spreading her lips in a smile that lit all our hearts for the next eight hours of fly-time.

My seat sat backwards, like the old trains used to do, so that I was facing Achu. I studied her face as our World-War-II-era DC3 bounced down the trench-riddled dirt airstrip and rattled into ascension. I expected fear. I saw nothing but the pure unadulterated Hope that the One True Christmas is surely coming.

Achu had told Dr. Matt that a month before coming to the Make Way Partners clinic, she had started going into the local church and praying to God that she could find a way to get her leg fixed.  When she and her sister heard about the clinic, they traveled in faith, hoping that someone there could help her. Achu then stated that God had answered her prayer and that now—for the first time—she had hope.

Hebrews chapter 13 comes to me. With passionate exhortation the author exhorts us to stop trying to live the privileged life, and to go outside the camp—where Jesus lived and died, where the action is. I have lived on four different continents and traveled to many others. I know of no other place farther “outside the camp” thanSudan.

Thank you for joining Achu—and many other unadoptable orphans “outside the gate” in prayer, financial support, and sharing her story so that others might join her, too. Miraculous stories of Hope are like experiencing a childlike Christmas all over again; you just can’t stop talking about them and sharing the hope with others!

Love, your sister along the journey,

Kimberly L. Smith”

For the rest of the story, read here: http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/23/god-who-sees-me-achus-hope

David a model of restoration?

Does David’s life teach us that God can restore an adulterer to ministry? After all, David was a murderer and an adulterer, as well as a liar and poor father. Polygamy aside, his family life was a catastrophic train crash matched only by the debacle in 2 Samuel 11.

Yet God did not remove him from the throne, and allowed his reign to directly last 40 years, and indirectly forever. Why? What is the lesson there?

The wrong lesson is this: God does not take sin seriously. I have heard people who commit immorality point at David and say, “See! God let him be king, so he can return me to ministry despite my unbiblical divorce and/or adultery.”

Let me be clear about two things. First, God does use sinners (those are the only kind of people there are!). At the same time, there are some sins that in the church disqualify someone from being an elder or church leader. Second, it is possible for people who have committed certain disqualifying sins to eventually be restored to pastoral ministry after an extended time away. An excellent book on that topic is The Stain that Stays, as it provides principles to apply in  those situations. This post does not want to go down the road of looking at those principles.

But I have heard Christian leaders who have committed disqualifying sexual sins point to David as justification for thier refusal to take time away from ministry. The goal of this post is to explain why David’s life does not function as an example of God blessing the ministry of a disqualified leader.

If you are familiar with David’s life, you know that after his affair with Bathsheba his reign was marked by one tragedy after another. Four of his sons died, all as a direct result of his sin with Uriah’s wife. Because David abdicated his war-time leadership to Joab, he effectively lost control of his army and his kingdom. One of his sons raped his wives on top of a platform built specifically for the purpose of showing off their violation.

David and Uriah

Because of his sin with Uriah’s wife, Absalom revolted, and David was exiled from Jerusalem. As he was fleeing his capital city, he was showered with rocks and insults. And in a sign of how far David had fallen, he could not even tell his soldiers to shield him from the attacks. Instead, perhaps thinking of Uriah’s murder, David surmised that the attacks may have been because “Yahweh has said to him, ‘Curse David” (2 Samuel 16:10). David’s life had become so broken and desperate that attacks and coups may very well signs of the Lord’s displeasure with his sin.

David is simply the wrong person to look at for comfort that saints can sin and still be used by God. Even after Joab put an end the insurrection and summarily executed the pretend king (followed by a rebuke to David for not getting the basics of being king), David’s kingdom did not end well. Years of drought, followed by the public execution of Saul’s grand-sons and a humiliating vigil by a mourning mother, David sinned again by conducting an unauthorized census. That sin directly led to the deaths of 70,000 Israelites.

David’s reign is a trail of tears, in large part brought on by his own sin. In reality, most of our OT heroes are closer to David than to Enoch. Noah was a drunkard, Abraham and adulterer, and Moses was a murderer. You have to admit that the portion of Scripture which describes the days before the Spirit of God indwelt believers does not generally contain happy stories.

Nevertheless, David was a man after God’s own heart. While Saul had the kingdom ripped from him, David’s son inherited the throne. Why? Does that say something about God not hating David’s sin?

There are two answers to that question. First, way before Uriah was murdered; God had promised David that his kingdom would endure forever. This was an unconditional covenant, and not dependent upon anything David would or would not do. It would survive even Manasseh. So David’s endurance speaks to the promise of the Messiah, not to God’s restoration of adulterers.

The second reason David is a man after God’s own heart is because he repented of his sin. When confronted by Nathan, David broke. He gave up pretense and pompousness. He did not dwell on the laziness or lusting, nor did he mention the murder or the molesting. Instead, he simply said “I have sinned against Yahweh” (2 Samuel 12:13). He repented, and threw himself at the feet of Yahweh by submitting himself to the word of God’s prophet.

The consequences of David’s sin remain—four of his sons died, his wives were raped, and his crown was stolen from him, all because of this sin. But the eternal consequence was removed (the exact phrase Nathan used was “Yahweh has put away your sin, you shall not die”). Is this because God thinks little of adultery?

The opposite is actually true. David’s sin is removed because David’s son was killed for it. Not Ammon, not Absalom, not Adonijah, and not the newborn. Because Uriah was killed and his wife was taken, Jesus was crucified. His death becomes a demonstration that God hates sin, and it simultaneously opens up a way for sinners to have forgiveness.

David’s life shows the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of some sin. It shows the hatred God has for that sin. But it also shows the power of God’s promise to bring about a king better than David, and it shows the freedom and power of forgiveness that comes through repentance, based on faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

David stayed king not because of God’s pattern of restoring sinners to ministry, but rather because of the strength of God’s Messianic promises, as well as the sufficiency of the Messiah’s death.

-Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/adultery-restoration-to-ministry-and-david/

Don’t Be a Self-Appointed Sheriff with a Plastic Badge

“What is the call to ministry?

It is becoming popular these days in certain circles to become bolder in claiming that God audibly called you to the ministry. Being from South Africa, I am often curious as to which English accent God employs. From the aggregate location of the claims, I’m guessing it’s North West Coast American. (If you are curious about my views on these claims, readHeaven is for Real, Well Duh.)

Other than from my distracted guidance counselor in high school I’ve never personally heard an audible voice telling me what to do with my life. I merely have the inspired word of God with all things pertaining to life and godliness in it to help me determine if I’m called to teach. So for those of you who don’t have the red telephone some claim to use, I hope you find this helpful.

There are four widely recognized aspects to the biblical call to a teaching ministry in the church.”

Read Clint Archer’s post at:

http://thecripplegate.com/are-you-a-sheriff-with-a-plastic-badge-the-call-to-teach/

Pastoral Ministry Requires Propinquity

“A church planter recently cataloged the “problems” he was confronting in his fellowship of about 70 people. And he knows there must be more—this is just what he’s been told so far! Some are the direct consequences of sinful thinking and behavior. Others reflect the death and decay of our world under judgment….”

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/07/20/pastoral-ministry-requires-propinquity/