Since arriving in England I have made many friends at my place of dwelling (Luther Hall). There are several countries represented in our home; India, Germany, Mexico, Yugoslav, Taiwan, Croatia, and (The state that deserves to be it's own country) NEBRASKA!!!! Included in these many diverse cultures represented is Madagascar, of which my friend Jean is a native. I would like to tell you about him and how he has had an influence upon me and now hopefully for you too. Jean has been my source of Joy and encouragement for the past few weeks. Jean has been studying at Westfield for almost a year now. He came from his home country with his wife last spring to complete his studies. Jean and his wife live on minimal means, yet they trust in the Lord to provide and approach life with a joyful heart and a warm smile in all they do.
This fall Jean had to travel to England without his wife due to laws that the UK implemented just this year making it impossible for his wife to be present while he studies. This is not uncommon for most African men that study to be in the ministry, and in some cases even with American seminary students. We all leave behind something when we leave to take up our cross and follow. For Jean however he leaves behind not only his wife but his pregnant wife. Jean and his wife are expecting their first baby girl come end of January or beginning of February.
As stated earlier Jean and his wife live on minimal means. This means that Jean will not be able to travel home for the birth of his first born. Sometimes we approach these sort of stories with a certain sense of callousness and we try to rationalize our way out of becoming attached to such stories; at least I know I do this. As I said earlier though Jean has been a source of joy and encouragement for me which changes the way I approach this story. Midst his struggles and circumstances he wakes every morning, gives me the most genuinely warm smile and asks me how I am doing. I could go on and on about my new found friend but I will just say that in his poor estate God has made him exceedingly rich. I see a God so powerfully at work in Jean that midst a pagan society His goodness and mercy is being proclaimed in a way that cannot be silenced.
Yesterday Jean greeted me in a new way. He came down with a smile bigger than before, threw his arms open and said "Give me a hug!" I was apprehensive and gave him a funny look and said; "Why?" to which he responded "Jus do it. Give me a hug!" so I got up from the breakfast table and gave him a hug, and he told me; "today, I find out, I am father to a little girl" (meaning they just found out the sex of their unborn child, not that his child had been born). I rejoiced with him knowing something he didn't. Jean is under the assumption that because he cannot afford to go home that he will not be present for the birth of his firstborn. Jean; even with this knowledge praises the giver of all good things, and bursts with joy at the mention of being a father.
What Jean doesn't know is a few weeks ago the house decided that we would quietly raise money unknown to Jean in order that he might be able to go home and see his daughter's first breath. As I stated earlier, when the suggestion arose I was very much on the outside of the whole plan. I thought perhaps I can contribute a little but not much, besides it might not even be feasible for him to go home. A week went by where I had time to contemplate, and talk with Jean. He told me that he didn't want to talk about the life of his child because it only made him want to cry because he wasn't going to get to be there for the birth. I recalled my own feelings of June (my niece) and I began to empathize on some small level with Jean. I then began to think; "what a spoiled brat I am, seeing all of Europe cannot compare to seeing the miracle of life come into this world; let alone life that comes from your own genetic pool."
Somehow; I'm not sure how but at some point I ended up on the front lines of helping raise money between Westfield house, Luther hall, and Resurrection Church (all interconnected). I am now in charge of secretly collecting money for the endeavor of sending Jean home. We are two days into this process and I received contributions that brought tears to my eyes. God works through his people to show love to others in powerful ways. My housemates are contributing to this cause without reward or thank-you. Some have contributed in large sums, and some have given widows mites; the point is they are giving! I couldn't help but cry when I discovered a substantial gift for the cause. God made it possible for me to see my niece before leaving for a year, now I am able to see Him work in the same way for someone else. Sometimes we see God best from behind the scenes, and He is so good!
(It has been a few weeks since I wrote this blog and Jean now knows that he is going to be going home to see his firstborn child. Luther Hall raised more than enough money for the cause. God has been using some fine people here to make his love known.)
Psalm 139:13-1613 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[b]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.