Today I received this photo of Verity, an unsponsored boy in our program. Ivan, the Executive Director of Mountain Childrens’ Ministry, took the picture as Verity left his home this afternoon. He was carrying bags of old, unwanted clothes, his new school uniform, a new pair of shoes and examination booklets.
I suppose Ivan sent me the photo because I am the one who packed the bag of worn out clothes while I was there a few weeks ago. Maybe that fact is obvious as you may have already guessed there are no “Forever 21” stores in the mountains of Uganda? I enjoyed packing the bags because I enjoy spending time with Ivan’s 4 children. I like helping him get them organized and ready for the new school year. Like any other “Mummy”, I helped each one clean off their shelf to see what they have, what they need, and to get rid of what they no longer wear. It is an intimate time and often involves trying things on and laughing over how they have grown. They are 15, 14, 12 and 5 and they grow fast!
These four children are orphans themselves and came with Ivan from the orphange Ivan and I formerly served. They are not used to a mom and dad helping them. They never had enough clothes to sort! But now that they have Ivan and his family (okay and me), aunties, grandmas and other family members buy them “new” used clothes. Plus they get hand-me-downs from Ivan’s sister. This sorting is not seen as a chore (like my own kids used to avoid), it is special and sweet and fun. Someone actually notices a new shirt or insufficient underwear. Someone cares enough.
So I sat with each child and we created the three piles; keep, toss and give away. It did not take long. When you have little you do not give things up casually. The “toss” pile was not actually tossed, it was recycled into rags for cleaning. I bagged up the “give aways” and set them aside for Ivan to handle. And handle them he did, today.
Today Ivan went to church where he saw Verity. A 13 year old boy who lost both of his parents as a result of civil war in the Congo years ago, he now lives with his Auntie Eleanor’s family. They have very little but what they have they share with Verity. He is well loved and excels in school. He is obedient and kind and only owns 3 shirts. One for school, one for church, and one for play. For 18 months Ivan has seen him in always the same shirt. Today however Ivan asked Verity to come after church to the house to pick up his new school uniform, shoes and exam books. Which in and of itself was exciting! But then Ivan pulled out the bag of used clothes his children had not wanted. He and Verity went through it together and even though some of the clothes were torn, when Ivan offered to pull them out Verity resisted saying, “but I can sew them!” Both were happy, the giver and the receiver, blessed.
The story I received with the picture was that Verity picked up his school clothes and had taken the bag, insisting he would mend the ripped items. Even amongst the poorest of the poor there is joy in sharing and in giving. What is unwanted and ripped and thrown away by one is lifted and repaired and cherished by another. Made new.
During this season of Lent I am going to put this photo with my prayer journal and be reminded every day that this is what Jesus does for me. Takes the unwanted, worn out, stained, and torn and sees the good. Lifts me onto His head, carries me with Him, then repairs, washes and loves me to New in His eyes. Every single day. And He does it for you too! You are not trash, you are a treasure to Christ! Redeemed! Like Ivan’s 4 children, like Ivan, like Verity, like me…be thankful! We are blessed!