Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Please Pray...

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
--James 1:27

Dear All,

I write to you this time with a slightly different objective-- not to inform you of all the incredible things God's been up to in my life, but to call you to engage with Him in those incredible things...

I'm writing to rally your prayers-- for three things, really.
1-- My hopeful mission placement in January/February
2-- Finances for my mission placement in Jan/Feb
3-- The outcome of a job interview

I'm desperate for your prayer over my mission placement in January/February. You may remember that as part of my course here I am meant to go off on a short-term mission placement lasting 6-7 weeks each year. Last year I ended up in Belfast working at a regeneration project in an impoverished and war-torn part of the city. It was both incredible, and incredibly last minute as other opportunities along the way fell through. This year I've endeavored to get things worked out in a timely manner to alleviate a bit of the stress surrounding the whole placement experience.

One of the American students here, Kate from Michigan, put me in touch with a ministry in Romania called ROCK-- Romania Outreach to Christ's Kids ( and I checked it out and almost instantly fell in love with the idea. This would mean moving to Romania for 7 weeks to hold, cuddle, care for, and love on babies abandoned to an understaffed hospital. The very thought of these littlest of God's children left there without someone to love them utterly breaks my heart... I got in touch with the administration in CA and was told that they were waiting for someone to get back in at the office and to keep praying about it and they would get back to me then. That was two weeks ago. This pressure in my heart is growing day by day. What started as a nice idea has become a burning passion. And I long to get to those babies....

I wish I could make you understand where I'm coming from on this-- how this very thought is testimony to our "God Who Doesn't Waste A Thing" (which ought to be an official name of God, I think :)). You see, it started when I was 14. I remember reading a book from my church library called "Acres of Hope" which was all about a foster family and how God moved in their triumphs and defeats. He awakened my heart to foster care then, hearts and homes open to love the children of the world who go unloved, and I've long wondered how He would use it.

Then when I was a sophomore in high school, God laid a burden for babies on my heart that went far past the "Oh, how cute!"'s and the "Oh, I just love babies." I do just love babies. Anyone who knows me at all ought to know it : ) But it's deeper than that.

"How much more there is in a baby than just sweetness and the appealing innocence of baby days," Amy Carmichael once wrote, "All the great thoughts of God lie behind that little life, all the great purposes."

In this, she expressed my very heart. He drove this home to me when my sister and brother-in-law had my niece Abby the Spring before I left for England. My niece exemplified to me all the greatest thoughts of God...

But I can remember one night as a sophomore (16, maybe?) when I was having trouble sleeping and in the wee hours of the morning I happened upon an old video cassette in a drawer. Curious about what was on it, I carelessly put it on, little knowing what I would find would move me to tears and forever after make a home in my heart. It started out as some news program from before I was born. Mom used to tape them sometimes, I assume, for when dad was working late and would miss the news. But then came this special about the psychology of babies. They did some study (over twenty years ago now, assumably) on fussy, perpetually unhappy babies and their relationships to their mothers. They found, not surprisingly, that the baby of a mother who was preoccupied with some kind of personal problem was quite distressed and wasn't connecting well with its mother, or anyone else for that matter, and was actually behind in all kinds of developmental areas. They then compared this to the development of orphaned babies in overcrowded and understaffed orphanages in South America.

The images of those babies staring out of wide, frightened eyes from between the iron bars of their cribs have haunted me since that night; the awkwardly-shaped bodies stunted in growth by the very absence of human touch; the way a baby's expression would register shock and horror as a human moved to reach out to her, and how she, in the end, seemed to just slowly lay her little face down into the mattress, overwhelmed.

My heart was broken that night.

Later, during my year at Concordia, I studied some developmental psychology and it all came back to me. In my fed up moments when I didn't think I could stand normal life a minute longer with all its selfish ambition and temporal focus, I would go searching for volunteer opportunities in orphanages in South America.... But it was always just a silly thought in the back of my mind. After all, from the viewpoint of modern-day, middle-class America, this sort of deprivation is the stuff of novels, not a reality.

But it is a reality. "The reason there are so many abandoned children in Romania," the website explains, "is when Nicolae Ceausescu was dictator, he demanded that every woman of child bearing age conceive and bear five babies. And the repercussion of NOT having children resulted in heavy taxing of the family members where the RESULTS were children who could not be fed and housed by their underpaid parents. So currently Romania has over 180,000 abandoned children."

And it's a stark reality. It would not be some airy-fairy dream-come-true placement, but hard-- perhaps more devastating than anything I've ever witnessed in my life. I'm aware that after this I can never be the same. Yet, my heart burns.

So, what I'm asking you to pray for is that God might open doors for me to join ROCK ministries for this year's placement in January and February. Please pray that the ROCK administration and I might have clear communication and we will be in good, solid, making-things-happen contact in the very near future as I have to be on placement somewhere and need time to arrange whatever it might be if ROCK isn't in God's will for me at this time (possibly working alongside church planters in Donegal, Ireland, or with an organisation that runs Christian bookstores across the UK, but I don't want to pursue these until the door to ROCK has been firmly shut in my face).

I'm also in dire need of sponsors. I know that when God calls, He also equips, and in my case I not only need to be equipped at the heart level, but at the financial one. I would ask that you might pass my name along to anyone you think might have a particular interest in orphans, Romania, or simply a struggling mission/ministry student aching to know the heart of God and to follow it wherever it leads... I will pass along the specific financial needs when I know whether or not I've got this placement this year, but right now it's looking like a flight alone will be around $400.00.

Last but not least, I covet your prayers over a job interview that I had this morning with an organisation called Parallel Options which basically strives to empower mentally handicapped people to live as independently as possible. My role as a Support Worker would be to, in essence, come alongside the clients and be a helping hand to enable them to achieve that independence. Because of a plan they have for student support workers, it would mean flexible hours week by week, freeing me up to put studies first-- which is vital. Obviously, I have no experience at all in this field which makes me doubtful about a successful outcome to the interview, but the fact that I got an interview must be promising, right? At any rate, I need this job, especially as placement time looms on the horizon and I must gather some money to put theory into practice and go on mission... Please would you pray that I get it!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers, for holding me up to our awesome God. You cannot know how your presence in my life across all these miles blesses and sustains me in this journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you for caring!

Leah <><

"Only live for Him who redeemed you and trust Him to take care of you,
and He will."
-- Amy Carmichael, "Candles in the Dark"

(Go here to see a video from the ROCKministries website that really touched my heart...)

p.s. Jen, I'd love to talk about Romania with you in light of this!
p.p.s. If someone from Faith Baptist wants to spread this around to anyone who might be interested at church, I'd be grateful : )

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Courses, Friends and Travel!

(View Pictures of the past 3 weeks here!)

Dear All,

A *quick* update (mostly just to send you the link to the bazillion photos I've been compiling-- The American girls and I have been sharing our photos so there's much more of everything!)...

This term I'm taking only 5 classes (each year the required classes becomes a smaller number while the work required for those classes grows!).

Ethics is taught by one of my favourite tutors, Rob Cook, and I soak it up. In this class we explore the "grey areas" of Christianity-- discussing issues that touch our world today, that God's Word doesn't speak directly on, to attempt to uncover a Christian ethic for the issue. Starting later this month we must break into small groups of three and create a 2 hour presentation on an ethical issue to put before the class! As you can probably imagine, I am dreading this with all my heart! My group will be exploring the hugely controversial ethics of medicine to inform the class of each side of the arguments surrounding it... CANNOT WAIT for this to just be done so I can get on with life... But the class itself is interesting, taught by a great thinker and seeker of Truth!

Pastoral Care is taught by a tutor called John Carter who comes in from another uni once a week on Wednesday mornings. I am very excited about this class! Pastoral Care is the area of ministry I am most interested in. A few examples of positions that fall under this title are things like Christian counselors and chaplains, but the skills of Pastoral Care are employed everywhere there are human relationships. The course runs all year, rather than the term or semester that most classes run, and is unlike the more theological and academic classes most plentiful at Redcliffe.

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is taught by Derek Foster, one of my favourite tutors here at Redcliffe, I am not ashamed to admit, and has captivated me from the beginning. How multi-faceted and impossible to pin down is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit of God afterall?? We're studying perspectives on what/who the Holy Spirit is and what Jesus' giving Him to us means on a corporate level as well as personally. You can imagine how interesting the discussions are in such a place as Redcliffe with so many nations and denominations represented in one classroom! I love the challenge it is to think through all the different views and search for the one closest to God's own heart...

Psalms is, as you can imagine from the name, a class studying the Psalms!! And I adore it... It hardly feels like a theological course as I study the literary forms and contexts of the 150 Psalms, and work on a creative piece of work using a Psalm for my assessment at the end of the course! It brings up in vivid colour my fascination of the study of English Literature and does make me quite miss being an English major :) It's taught by the hilarious and brilliant Derek Foster, our Old Testament Scholar here at Redcliffe.

The Gospel of Mark is taught by Richard Johnson-- who may have just about the sharpest mind I've ever known, along with being the epitome of "absent-minded professor" : ) I love the Word of God so I take most any class that means delving into it deeper. This course will mean writing an exegesis on a passage in Mark, the study for which I rather enjoy if only I didn't feel so pressed by the study for everything else!

Somehow, there are never enough hours in the day.

Aside from study, I have been attempting to be extraverted to get to know the new people (Aside from Rachel and Kate, who are 19 year old American's from Moody Bible Institute and with whom I've become fast friends already!)-- though I burn out on that quickly. And we've been trying to make the most of Rachel and Kate's time here by finding ways to travel to nearby historic cities on Saturdays! Last week my friend Helen--whose husband is a third year-- drove us to Oxford for the day (do check out the pictures)! It was incredible to walk and touch and see the places and things I've only ever heard about and read about in this amazing historic university city. This week a new student called Polly took us to Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born and raised. I'd been there once before when I was 14 and visiting England with my Auntie Melissa, but it all seemed brand new 6 years and a million experiences later! We spent the afternoon meandering through the Cotswolds and I fell in love with the enchanted Cotswold village called Bourton-on-the-Water (Pictures, pictures, pictures!) as well as getting to know Polly a little (who assures me she'll be my friend when Rach and Kate leave in December :))

Then today my pastor and his wife, Steve and Debs, had the girls and I over for a lovely Sunday Roast and then a Rugby match on the telly-- and it is soo lovely to settle into a family, especially one I adore so much as this one, and just feel at home amongst them. Steve, Debs, their daughters Bex and Megan, and Kate and Rach, my own little family for a day : ) It's a beautiful thing to find yourself at home when you mightn't be farther from it...

Anyway, so much for a "quick update"! Though it would be ever so much longer if I wasn't so exhausted after a weekend well-spent :) Do look through the pictures. I take everso many in hopes that I might bottle this up for you, even in its smallest measure.

All my love! I miss you so : )
Leah <><
p.s. Pictures here.

"Lord, may Your Spirit rest upon me and never depart from me. Prove your mighty power in my soul day by day, in such a way that all men will see that God is almighty to save and to keep."-- Andrew Murray, "Absolute Surrender"
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