Sojourning in a Different Land
Earlier this year my sister wrote me that my friend Joni Eareckson Tada had spoken in chapel at Westmont College, the liberal arts college I graduated from way back when. I got on line and was able to view her talk from my kitchen table in Ankara, Turkey. As she finished with a challenge to students to be salt and light and servants among those who are impacted by life-changing disabilities, I kept crying out “Yes, LORD. Yes, LORD!” I began to pray for the ones who were hearing from the Holy Spirit about their futures and for the ones who had yet to hear the call but would one day.
Thirty-one years ago God spoke to my husband and me to be his witnesses to a world where the revelation of Jesus as LORD, His mission, His love were, for the vast majority of people, unknown. At that time and much to my surprise, I had to have my heart broken for those who were the descendants of the murderers of my great grandparents. God replaced a heart of stone with “a heart of flesh”; faith took the place of fear. Love found its way in; we moved to Ankara in 1987 to serve in a local fellowship of believers in the Messiah who came from both Muslim as well as minority Christian backgrounds.
But sixteen years ago I experienced an even greater test of my faith. On a fact-finding visit to an orphanage, I discovered over 400 children between the ages of 1 and 21 years of age being warehoused like concentration camp victims. Their crime? They had some form of disability. Some were physically disabled; others mentally impaired. Most had been abandoned by their families to the “care” of the state.. All were in desperate need: cleaning, feeding, medicine, therapy but most of all–love. Many could not speak; some were tied into cribs 24/7 and slowly starving to death. The stench of unwashed, filth-encrusted bodies overwhelmed me. But as I made my way home and threw myself on the living room floor to sob my shock out to my Heavenly Father, all I could hear were the keening sounds, the moaning, the cries of the children who never had known a moment of loving touch. (Even as I write this, I can’t keep the tears from re-surfacing)
Two weeks later, the Holy Spirit touched me again and the Snowdrop Ministry was born, (The word we use is the one in the local language for the snowdrop flower: a small bulb plant which is buried under the snow in winter only to respond to the sunlight as the stem pierces through and flowers beautifully–the first flower of spring). I’ve written more detail about this call and the vision I had in the posting, “Palace of the Poor”.
I had entered another foreign country: one where those with disabilities are considered “The Cursed of Allah” or have been fated by “Chance” (folk Islamic version of Karma) to be born handicapped, or where their only value is to test those, also Cursed–parents or care-givers– in the hope that some day God would look on the mother or father and give her extra points which might mean an entrance pass to Paradise. My team of national followers of the Messiah also entered this new “land” but their Spirit-empowered hearts and minds has meant an equipping to do the miraculous in a very inhuman setting. Coming out of poverty, poor education, rejecting environments and even disability themselves, they join with me today in standing as pillars of Light, treasures in earthen vessels, living epistles giving testimony that God so loved Every Single Person that He gave His Son—that in the Incarnation He became one of the weak ones—that whoever LEANS on Him will know eternal life and what it’s like to be among the honored guests at the King’s table.