The Heart of a Kinsman Redeemer

Imagine this: You lose your husband, your source of income to provide for yourself, and all hope for the life you had once envisioned.

This is a true story.

Ruth was a young woman when tragedy struck. Her husband had died leaving her lost and alone. The only thing she had to cling to was her mother-in-law, Naomi. A strong woman who also wore the veil of widow-hood. Together, the two of them, left behind everything they owned and traveled back to Naomi’s childhood home. A stack of horrible circumstances pushed these extremely vulnerable women to move back to Naomi’s homeland. A foreign country for Ruth. Literally.

I consider the idea of being placed in the worst possible life situation, such as Ruth and Naomi. What if my only hope for survival was to pack up my belongings and move to a foreign country.

As their journey to this new land unfolds, we witness them wrestling with bitterness and grief. The sinking reality that now they have nothing. They are completely empty.

How will they provide for themselves? How will they survive?

And thats when an unlikely character emerges. His name is Boaz and he is their Kinsman Redeemer.

In Hebrew tradition, a Kinsman Redeemer was a qualified relative, someone who could step into a situation, and assist with restoring property, financial security, and future inheritance. A typical God story where restoration, recovery, and redemption abound.

Boaz is a rich landowner who is leading his working people through the fields during the harvest. He notices this young, foreign woman trailing after his workers picking up scraps of the sheaves. When Boaz asks about her needs he finds in his good heart to give back in complete abundance to these women in need.

As we ourselves enter into this season of harvest, a great time of giving thanks, how can we consider being a Kinsman Redeemer to those in need around us? In the story of Ruth, we find that Boaz has laid out a very simple model for us to follow.

1. Notice. Open your eyes and take a look around you. Who do you see lagging behind? A foreigner, perhaps? Someone who has fallen on hard times? A widow?

2. Clothe with Comfort & Kindness. Sometimes the warmth of a hug or the soft bend of a listening ear is all that one needs. Lavishing someone with intentional kindness often times means that we are the ones who need to step out of our comfort zones. Clothing others with kindness means that we are invested in their pain. Willing to share it with them. When we begin building that kind of relationship with others we will soon discover those needs that might warrant our attention.

3. Give. Go out of your way to give. When Boaz noticed Ruth, first he showed compassion to her by listening to her needs. He made sure she was protected by instructing his workers to look after her. Boaz wanted to make sure that no further harm would come to her. Then, he continually offered her food and drink. He gave her an overflowing measure from his own harvest.

‘Tis the season of the harvest. We gather together and count our blessings. Our lips praise the good things we’ve been given. It’s the abundance. What do we do with the overflow? I encourage you to step out of your space of comfort, stretch out your hand, and bless someone with the heart of a kinsman redeemer.

 

Invest in a different kind of stock – LIVESTOCK

Only a few days before the 6th annual Livestock Music Festival. It’s the calm before the beautiful commotion. All is good!  Before we officially step into summer, I have a couple stories I still want to share with you from our African adventure.

This is one of them.

When we arrived to the second village, we found the atmosphere to be different than the first. This location serves as the official World Vision office for the Lugbu community.

Unlike our first village experience very few villagers came to greet us initially, and the air felt somber. We later learned that a few days prior to our arrival, one of their own, a young twenty-something man had tragically died when he fell from a tree. His young wife carrying their first child was now a widow. The day we arrived was the day this village laid him to rest.

Sorrow spilled over. The grief was palpable.

But this man, Sheku Massaquoi and his 10 year old son Idisa, came from a different village. We were told that they traveled a great distance in order to meet us. Sheku has 7 children, but for this day he brought with him this treasured son.

Idisa is different. At an early age he contracted a fever (probably Yellow Fever) and the sickness caused his feet to become deformed. He is crippled and cannot walk. His father tells us that when his son became sick, “I was tormented and hurt. I was not happy…but, we did not lose hope. So long as there is life, there is hope.” As I sat right next to the boy and his father, I observed how deeply this father loved his son. I watched the boys heart beating wildly from his chest and I wondered about the impact of this moment on this boys life.

Even though the disability prevents Idisa from doing many of the same activities his brothers and sisters are doing, his health is good.

Why?

Two reasons:

1) Livestock- At first, the family received a female goat. Within a short time the goat reproduced and they were able to keep one goat (expanding their farm) and sell one goat in exchange for chickens. Within a short time the chickens began laying eggs. Not only were they able to diversify their families diet but they could sell the eggs too!

2) Investment- We many not think of livestock animals as an investment opportunity but whenever we take a risk by putting our hard earned money into something that has the potential to grow and flourish – we are investing.

Sheku is a wise man. He has taken your investment of a $75 goat and built a thriving livestock business in his own back yard. His entrepreneurial efforts have not only benefited the needs of his immediate family but he is helping to meet the needs of his surrounding neighbors. This single investment has increased the health of this families diet and provided additional income, which has allowed them to send their children to school.

Families in Sierra Leone are not all that different from American ones. They have hopes and dreams for their children just like we do. They want their children to be healthy and well fed. Then, they want them to receive a proper education. During our visit, we quickly learned that our investment of livestock animals is paving the way for an entire village of children.

Children who will one day become adults. Educated children who will be empowered by the resources given to them today to make a difference tomorrow.

It’s time to invest in stock that will pay eternal dividends.

A single mother, singled out because of kid

Three years ago World Vision introduced the livestock livelihood project to Sierra Leone communities. During my visit, I learned that the criteria for a family to become a recipient of an animal came down to one word; vulnerability. If a certain family was exposed, proving to be susceptible to injury or attack they would qualify to receive the gift of a bleating kid. A goat. 

This is Jenneh, a 35 year old single mother raising 5 boys.

Jenneh and her son Abu


A while back her husband left their village to find work, but he never returned. The financial hardship this created kept her middle child, 13 year old Abu, from going to school. World Vision took action and provided Jenneh and her boys with goats and chickens. Each livestock animal served a different purpose. Unlike other regions where goats are used for their milk, in Sierra Leone more often they are used as a means of currency. For Jenneah, once the pair of goats reproduced (this takes about 6 months) she was able to sell one so that Abu could finally enroll in school.

“For the children to live well in the house, we need chickens and eggs.” says Jenneh. In Sierra Leone most families survive off of rice, groundnuts, cassava, or yams. The protein rich eggs give the children and additional advantage with their health.

Abu is a big help to his mother and takes care of the goats by feeding them and making sure they are kept out of other peoples yards. Abu tells us with that infectious smile that one day he would like to become a carpenter.

Abu caring for his family’s goat


Later, we asked Rosa the community manager if Jenneh was looked down upon in her village because her husband left her. “Oh no! She is very respected!” Rosa implied.

Many times when weakness or hardship exposes us we find ourselves wanting to run and hide from others. For Jenneh, it was her community that took notice, singled her out, and then stepped in to help turn her circumstances around. In the same way, celebrating and participating in the World Vision sponsored Livestock Music Festival can help to have the same effect on countless others in vulnerable situations worldwide. We all need community- together we have the power to come alongside those in need, giving of our resources, a small token of love and respect.

Jill and I at the Lugabo village

Do you have any food for me?

What if she looked into your eyes and asked, “Do you have any food for me?”

This is Zaneb sitting in the hospital with her 16 month old daughter. During my stay at the orphanage we had a few outreach opportunities planned to get out and do good for the community of Freetown.

Visiting the hospital was first on the list. Brad, a doctor from Missouri, who was traveling with us brought a case of medical supplies to donate. Other than the donation, our intention was to see the facility and pray with those in need.

Zaneb was the first woman to make eye contact with me. I’ll admit that I felt a little fear rise up in me. Maybe fear isn’t the correct word, rather vulnerability. My American mind-set was fixed on the idea that my presence, my approach, my offering of prayer would offend or insult her. So, I first began by asking her name. I asked a little about her baby, but her face looked confused. She wasn’t fully understanding me and I wondered if she understood my English. I made small talk and eventually asked her if I could pray for her baby. She nodded her head in agreement. I reached out and touched the baby’s foot then bowed my head and prayed a simple prayer of health and healing. I opened my eyes and into those chocolate drops peering straight back at me.

“Do you have any food for me?” Zaneb asked.

I stopped breathing for a moment. My mouth dropped. I had nothing with me; no money, no food, not even a crumb. I had come empty handed even though I am not empty. In fact, I am very full. I wanted to say “Yes, yes I have food for you! How much do you need? Whatever you ask I shall give to you!” Instead, I had to tell Zaneb “I am sorry but I do not have anything for you.”

I left feeling like a wretched person. I felt as though I had failed an epic assignment.

When we returned to the center I overheard the staff discussing their return to the hospital the following week and then it hit me, my second chance! So, I gave a sum of money along with the picture of Zaneb to the person returning the next week and asked that they bless her with the gift.

I’ve thought a lot about her and wondered if she ever received the food I sent for her. This side of Heaven I will never know the outcome, but this I do know, if I am willing to give out of my whole heart He will be faithful to complete it.

Even if it takes a second chance!

The True Spirit of Christmas

I must confess that this has been the ultimate-easy-joyful Christmas on record. In the past I would do my darndest. Making lists, sorting, and containing all the things I could fathom wrapping my mind and heart around. It never worked. By the eve of Christ’s birth I would become an hurried, hassled mess. But not this year.

So what’s the difference? For the past couple weeks I’ve taken a mini-sabbatical from my day job. Historically a slower time of year, I went to my boss (aka: the hubz) for permission and he said Yes!
Here we are just a few days from Christmas and I’ve been able to quiet myself during long hours of baking, spend time reading that ole’ Christmas story, and ponder what the true spirit of Christmas really is.
As I reflect, I consider all the wonderful details in the story. I come to imagine, placing myself within the scene like a love-struck fictional bystander. I’ve found myself catching my breath a time or two…and with each passing year a new discovery unfolds.
This year I delight in the Magi. These scholarly, well-to-do foreign men traveling from the East. They were simply following their religion (astrology) and where it was leading them. In this case they were following a star (well, duh) when their journey just so happened to divinely collide with the greatest story ever told.
“When they saw the star , they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they open
ed their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
(Matthew 2: 10-11)

Enter the True Spirit of Christmas.
Imagine the kind of faith it takes to journey into a foreign land. If you’ve done it before then you know what I’m talking about. It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. To cross over cultural lines rocks our comfort level and requires an extreme act of inner faith. This is the character we find in The Wise Men. On a journey so filled with conviction that they could not rest until they found the king they set out to find.
And when they came upon the house and discovered the child, they bowed down and worshiped him. That’s odd…don’t you think? When was the last time that you became so tripped up, flat on your face humbled, that all you could do was bow your head in worship? In my experience, this usually happens to me when I’ve been blown away by the overwhelming power of something only divine nature could unfold. Almost always completely unexpected. Something mighty, a long hard journey, and the beauty before them caused them to fall in favor of the child before their eyes.
Their story could end here and it would remain magnificent but it doesn’t. Instead they add one more element to the saga. They came giving gifts. Precious, valuable, symbolic gifts. I won’t go into the symbolism of each gift (Google it if your curious) but what I find most fascinating is what is left unsaid. Later on post-Jesus’s birth we see the dynamics shift from sheer bliss to dire circumstances. With little warning, awoken from a dream from God, Joseph is told that he must flee to Egypt to escape King Herod who is on a quest to kill the new King Jesus. I imagine the significance of those gifts. A means of survival. Life sustaining gifts.
So as we embark on this Christmas journey, that we have traveled so well over the years, what gifts do we bring this season? World Vision, a Christian Humanitarian Organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families around the globe offers one such solution. Titled none other than The True Spirit of Christmas, they offer folks like ourselves an opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone else through the gift of a livestock animal. Are you looking for a way to play a part in the story this year? Consider the True Spirit of Christmas. Make a gift today. Change a life.