Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Not feeling too thankful

I guess 2 months is a long time for silence, but we have been kinda thinking that if you don't have anything nice to say, it is best to be silent.
We are still hurting a lot. We miss Elijah terribly. We look forward to Sundays because we get to Facetime with him. All 6 of us feel the loss of having his fun and outgoing personality around. He is doing great in MI and is excelling in school.
We miss mom and dad a lot. There are just still a lot of sad moments and with the holidays being here, it is just a reminder of what we no longer have to look forward to as we look to returning to MI. Faith, Mercy, Polita and Nthabeleng all mention at different times the sadness in their hearts.
We are still missing Kimberly and Lebo and the fun times we used to have every Wednesday. We usually spent a lot of extra time working on Thanksgiving and Christmas plans during this time of the year. It feels a lot more lonely without her sparkling and fun personality as I plan Thanksgiving this year.
We miss running BG and knowing all the kids by name and knowing what our staff members were going through on a daily basis. It feels so strange to be in Lesotho and not to be part of such a precious ministry in the capacity that we are used to.

All good things must come to an end, but we are just slowly mourning each of these losses.

I went to a missionary women's retreat 2 weekends ago and through many many tears, I felt a little bit of healing begin in my heart. The message and songs really felt like they were just for my heart, and it was such good timing. Then last weekend, Bryan and I went away for the weekend and had such good conversations. It felt good to just talk through our own thoughts and feelings over the losses we have experienced this past year.

We just don't feel like there is much to be thankful about this year. I hate the truth of that statement. I know that good things are happening all around us everyday, but we are not in a place to see it right now. We don't want to stay in this place of sadness and loss, but with so many things piled on, we are just trying to deal with one thing at a time.

Thanks for your continued love and prayers on our family's behalf. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

My Final Day

It has been almost 7 years since I stepped off a plane and stepped into a land that would change my life forever. I thought I was coming here to help at a care center for orphans and vulnerable children. I had no idea that I would become vulnerable too. I would love deeper than I thought possible. I would grieve deeper than I knew my heart could withstand. I would feel bouts of joy that would take my breath away. I would experience anger at situations that would make my blood boil. I would never live an ignorant and sheltered life again because I prayed a prayer that God would break my heart for the things that broke His heart. God answered my prayer in every way. Even in ways I wish I hadn’t experienced like placing 8 tiny little coffins in the ground on this side of the ocean, and 2 precious parents in the ground on the other side of the ocean.

My family has grown and changed dramatically over these past 7 years. We have welcomed new members through adoption and marriage, but we have welcomed many more through love and friendship. I thought I might just be a friend to the kids of Beautiful Gate, but instead I have found a family here. My children have many “aunts’ and “uncles” who have loved them dearly and helped encourage and shape them over the past 7 years. All 5 of my children have lived on campus and been showered with love and affection. They are all better people because of the relationships they have made here with the staff and volunteers. I have been welcomed as a mother to everyone here, some staff who are older than me even call me mother. It has been a great honor to be their mother. I struggle to leave because in a small way it feels like I am abandoning my children, but I know that is not true because God has called up a wonderful new mother to care for them.

Bryan and I have walked through the hardest trials in our marriage over these past 7 years, but we are stronger and closer because of those trials. We learned to depend on God more and rely less on our own strength. In our weakness, He has been shown strong. God has shown us new sides of ourselves, and abilities that we never would have realized we had if we had never been called to direct this amazing place. To say that I am thankful would be such an understatement of the truth. I will be forever thankful to God for bringing us here.

Today is my final day as a full time volunteer at Beautiful Gate. I have had many jobs in the past and leaving them was nothing like leaving this place. It is unlike any place in the world, and if you have never been here, then I am sorry for what you have missed, but if you have come and gone, you understand my heart. The love for the children that I carry in my heart is honestly, like the love I have for my 5 precious children. The love I have for my co-workers is not that of a working relationship, but that also of a mother who cares deeply for the well being of her children. Beautiful Gate will always be a huge part of my heart and my family. When I came here on a mission trip in 2009, I prayer that God would burn the images I saw on my heart forever so I would never forget. He has done that and so much more so I will never forget this amazing place where God turned my whole life and world upside down so I would grow and learn to depend on Him.  I only wish it did not hurt so much to leave, but I will trust God that He will carry me for the next 7 years the way He carried me through these past 7 years.

My prayer for Beautiful Gate is that God will continue to work in the lives of the children, staff, and volunteers until the day He returns. That they would never lose heart in doing good, and that the lives of everyone who walks through their gates will be touched and changed forever.  I look forward to a beautiful reunion in heaven of all of us who shared our lives together in this little piece of Heaven on earth.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2 weeks left

I am just starting my last 2 weeks as a full time employee of Beautiful Gate. I am training my replacement, Michele, and God has spoken in my heart that it is time for me to go. Last week while I was eating lunch under the gazebo, I felt a very strong sense that I needed to be finished at the end of the month. It came over me so suddenly that it just made me cry, but I knew that God was whispering to me. I am going to continue sharing my knowledge with Michele because she is living with us so she can ask questions anytime. I had been planning to work till November or December, but when God speaks, all I can do is listen.
I announced my plans to the staff at Time with God, last Wednesday. It was not a very good announcement because I almost started crying as I shared. I got the saddest message from a very wonderful staff member who shared her thoughts of us leaving, and it broke my heart. I hate disappointing people, and I know that we have become like family to everyone at BG, so this is painful. I am putting my trust in God's timing, but wow, saying goodbye to Beautiful Gate is not going to be easy. Our family will continue to go in on Fridays until our official farewell which looks like it will be in early January. Then at the end of January, we will apply for our visas and see what happens.
I am pretty sure that many of you are about done with reading my blog. I kinda wish I had new and exciting and fun things to share, but I feel like everything is about death, struggles, and pain this year. We are still just trying to put one foot in front of the other each day as we get through things, and maybe God just wants us to have more family time before the huge transition home. If that is His plan, then I will trust that it is needed. We have seen and experienced so much in these past (almost) 7 years, and maybe it is time to start working through it as we begin the process of letting go of the plan and purpose God had in our lives. I know He will have new plans and new purpose, but maybe we just need to grieve all the losses that these years have brought (mostly this current year).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Hatred Required to be a Disciple

I remember struggling a lot with the verses about hating your mother and father and son and daughter. ("If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26)
It just seemed like such a crazy thing for Jesus to say especially when He told us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourself. How could He be telling us to love our neighbor right after our love for God, and then turn around and tell us to hate our family? I sought the advice of a few friends and they explained it more as loving God so much that anything left for your family looks like hatred compared to your love of God. I decided that was a good way to describe it.

However, I now actually know what it means in my life. To love God with all my heart, it means I have to leave many that I love. Knowing that the separation will be so hard and we don’t want to be separated, that feels like hatred. To hate my mother and father was to take my children and leave America in order to love God by obeying His call on my life. It meant breaking the hearts of both sets of parents, that is hating my parents in comparison to loving God. That is what it means to pick up my cross and follow. Counting the costs was that there was no promise that either set of parents would be there when we came back. We hoped for and longed for the chance to make up for lost time, but that is just it, we have lost that with one set.

Hate your children… really? How could I ever hate my child in comparison to my love of God? I thought I would never be able to understand such a thing. I could never hate a child whom I was blessed enough to receive. A gift from God, how could I ever hate that? The answer for me is leaving my child and returning to Lesotho. It feels like hatred as I walk this journey of obedience.

Hating my family means leaving and letting go. Counting all costs and picking up my cross to be the disciple of Jesus means turning away from the relationships I never wanted to leave. Some are lost temporarily on the earth, others I have lost until eternity.

When any Christian starts telling you that following Jesus is always easy and you won’t have any trouble, just walk away, that isn’t true. Just ask Job. It can cost you everything you hold dear like it did Job. It can mean that your life will be FULL of trials and tribulations. The ONLY thing that is promised when you chose to pick up your cross and follow Him is that you will NEVER be alone.

And while that is normally a very comforting thought for me, it doesn’t seem to be cutting through the grief right now. The cost feels too high. I never wanted to hate my family. I never wanted to lose my friend. I never wanted to fall in love with Beautiful Gate and know that I can’t have my son and Beautiful Gate at the same time because God has made it clear that He needed Elijah to be in America. In the grand scheme of those suffering in the world, I am sure that these things are minimal. They just feel huge when they start to get piled on each other.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sometimes Life Just Hurts

Today, my "son" (he is definitely an honorary Geurink) Tyler is getting married to his best friend, Emily. Bryan and Elijah are in Idaho and will be standing up in their wedding, and the girls and I are in Lesotho. Today was supposed to be a super fun day of distraction as my friend Kim and I made plans last December for a girl's day in Clarens, SA since we couldn't go to the wedding. Instead, she is sitting in heaven, her daughter is with her lovely new family in CA, and I am here with 4 girls and all of us with broken hearts.

The best thing about the last 3 weeks is that we were distracted by family. We spent most of our time with Bryan's sisters while we were in America and it was a good way to keep our minds and hearts distracted. Now we are back here, with no Kim, no Oma, no Papa and (while not lost through death, but still a major loss to us) no Elijah. Faith just walked by his empty room and then came running into my arms sobbing because he is her best friend and has been her whole life. While we were in America, her best friend (that is not related to her) moved back to America after being here almost 7 years. There are very few friends left, no one her or Mercy's age, and now they are really feeling all of our losses.

It sucks. There is no way around the truth, but right now everything just hurts. I was up late into the night and it felt like I had heart burn, but it wasn't. It is just a real physical response to the amount of pain I am holding in my heart. Sometimes I can barely breath.

My kids are still sleeping 2 hours after I have woken up and I spent time reading Ecclesiastes and Job. I realize that I don't blame God. I am not mad at God. I still trust that His plans are meant for good in my life, but that doesn't mean that he is a safe God. His plans can be terribly painful before they will be good. I learned that 17 years ago when my sister took her life, and left me in a depth of pain I did not know was possible. I still know that now as I reflect on the loss of a friend who was like a sister, my in-laws who loved me like a real daughter, and not being on the same continent as my son. Sometimes life just hurts. A hurt that cannot be explained. A hurt that feels physical and will keep you up at night, but I know that God will walk with me through this valley. I wish I could see Him. I wish I could better understand His timing and plans, but those things are beyond my understanding. So I will keep walking, one tiny step at a time and know that on days where I can't find the strength to even go an inch or two, He will be right with me, walking in my pain. Because I know that He loves me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Elijah's letter

Going up north last weekend was very hard, there were many tears especially as Mercy went to bed for the first time without them tucking her in. It felt empty and was missing the two people who always made it feel like home. We enjoyed time with Bryan's sisters, our nieces and my brother, but it was just not the same. We needed to go, and we are glad we did, but the reality is too much to absorb.

I did not find time or internet access this past weekend to finish our letters, but this is Elijah's letter. What a kid, and what great memories he has with his grandparents. He is trying to be tough and brave, but pray for his heart. I know that it is hurting.

As a boy, your father is your first hero, and your grandpa is your second. My Papa was a great man and his impact on my life will affect me until it is my turn to join him in heaven, and very likely after that. One of my favorite memories with him was making a special marble maze out of wood. Truly the only reason I did it at first was because I wasn’t sure how to spend time with him, however my mom suggested making the maze so we set to work. I’m now extremely thankful for the time we spent as he shared a lot about being a Christian and encouraged me to continue strong. 
                  As a boy, the first woman you learn to cherish is your mother, and after that your grandma is your second. One of my favorite memories to share is when God stopped the rain when I was four so I could have ice cream. However, what I’ve forgotten about that memory until recently, was that Oma was the one encouraging me to pray and ask God to stop the rain. People may not see Oma in as many things as they do Papa, however in most everything Papa did, Oma was always there in some small way, both supporting and giving him strength, or working in the shadows to make sure it all worked nicely.

                  Together Oma and Papa made the perfect team, and in the middle of that team there was hope and faith in Christ that was poured out onto every person they came into contact. My final and favorite memory of the two of them was the proud looks on their faces when I professed my faith in God. It showed me not only the great love they had for God, but it also affirmed my belief that I was going in the right direction. They died with that hope in their hearts, and as a sign they made it, God honored their wish to die together. To close, I want to ask this one question that you can each answer on your own. If you were to die unexpectedly like they did, would you die with the same hope in your hearts?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Faith's Poem

You all know that poems touch my heart, and it seems my little Faith likes poetry as much as me. Before Faith even knew that we were going to give them a chance to share something about Oma and Papa, she had already written this poem. Please pray for all of us as we are going to go to mom and dad's house tomorrow to spend 2 days so we can share memories together. I know it will be very hard, but we know that we need to do this before we go back to Africa.

Oma & Papa
Hearts of pure Gold
They loved all through rain, wind, warm or cold!
Pure perfection was what they were 
and Are.
Our hearts cannot fathom why
God took them away.
But they are rejoicing dad after day.
So there will never be a day
When I don't thank God for my grandparents
that have passed away!
Thank you God for my Oma & Papa!
by: Faith Geurink

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Polita and Nthabeleng's letters

One of the greatest gifts is that we had a wonderful visit with Bryan's parents in December/January. Polita and Nthabeleng were thrilled to meet Oma and Papa and to get to know them. They will treasure their memories, but they also now know the big loss of saying goodbye way to early. Here are the letters that they wrote to Oma and Papa.

Dear Oma and Papa,
I love the stuff that you did with me, and I wish you couldn't pass away. Thank you for tucking me in at night and for reading me stories. I will see you in heaven.
Polita (8)

Dear Oma and Papa,
We love you and I wish that you could not die. It is sad. I liked playing with you and getting to go in your room at 8:00am (to wake them up). Oma, I liked it when you came to school and taught me and Polita. I miss you.
Nthabe (6)

They have faced a lot of loss already in their young lives and it is sad that we could not protect them from more, but at least they are here with us and walking this road with their family by their side.

Mercy's letter

I am assuming that all of you have heard by now that both of Bryan's parents were killed in an accident that happened on July 14. We are now in America to be with family for a few weeks and last Saturday was the celebration of life for my amazing in laws. This is a very hard loss for our family and I cannot even begin to express in words the journey we are walking through right now.
For those of you who couldn't be there to hear the words we shared about Oma and Papa/ Mom and Dad, I am going to put them here on my blog. Mercy wanted to read this for them, but she was afraid to cry so mom and dad's pastor read these words for her last Saturday.

"If I told you all the memories I had with Oma and Papa, we would be here all day. But when I saw them, I had peace in my heart. I don't know why there was peace, there just was.

Joshua 1 verse nine is a very encouraging passage. In case you are wondering what it is, it is 'Have I not commanded you be strong and have good courage do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.'

Another encouraging passage is Jeremiah 29 verse 11which is, 'For I know the thoughts that I have for you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope.'

I wish I could talk more but I am done."
Mercy and Oma went zip lining in South Africa in January. A very special memory.

What an amazing little girl that in a time of deep pain and sorrow and very real struggle, she is trying to encourage others. Oma and Papa would be so proud.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Time for Everything

I feel such sadness right now. I am really trying to process that my dear friend is really gone, and it is just sad. I have lectured myself a hundred times that she is in a better place so I should feel happy for her, but whenever I see a picture of her, I just cry. I know that this is just how I process things and everything will be fine.

It was her time to die, and it is my time to mourn.

I have a month with Elijah before he will be moving to MI and it is getting more and more real everyday. He poured his heart out to me the other day and it was just so heartbreaking. He is struggling with some very hard, but very real things. I can't imagine having this kind of conversation over Skype and it is just hard to let go of that closeness. I know that I can't hold on to him or any of his sisters forever, but it is just hard.

It is his time to uproot from Africa and start a new chapter in America and it is my time to weep.

I have begun to talk with Bryan and with others about moving away from Lesotho in less than a year, and I cannot even begin to imagine what that is going to be like. I can't even let my mind go there or my eyes flood with tears. To be torn between being back with those I love in the states, yet leaving those I love here. It is too much to process, so I will chose not to process this one yet...

I do not question or doubt God's plan because He is my Father and He loves me so much. He has seen how everything will play out and I trust Him. I just feel a very deep sense of sadness, but I know that in time, this will be healed.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Happy Birthday BG

12 of our children have gone into foster care. It is not a very developed program and is not used very much in Lesotho, but it has worked in a few cases. 19 of our children have been transferred to other care facility either because of their age or because they had siblings or family living at or near other centers. We always do everything we can to help children to return to their family if there is someone within their family who can provide them with love and care. We have had 145 children who have returned to their families here in Lesotho.
When children are abandoned or do not have any family members who are able to care for them, we then look into placing them into adoptive families. It is so amazing to see the way God brings just the right family for each of our children. We have had 216 children who have been adopted both locally and internationally.