One simple solution to suffering

I think I have always dreamed big but kept small.

Not anymore.

Maybe it’s my age.

Maybe the suffering I’ve seen reframes my perspective.

Maybe I finally love the people outside my box more than I fear venturing from it.

Years of loving and living alongside people familar with unfathomable suffering has wrecked my worldview and carved my convictions. These friends have been my teachers and my highest hope is to honor them in the lessons they have helped me learn. Here are a few of those.

Some of the world’s biggest problems have the simplest solutions. Simple but not easy. It’s not always, we don’t know what to do. Often we don’t want to know. It can be comforting to believe the solution is way beyond our reach because it gets us off the hook.

The truth is people are dying for a friend. 

Suffering is inevitable but loneliness is not. 

Don’t have a dollar to donate? No problem.

Look her in the eyes.

Call her by her name.

Hold her hand.

Touch her shoulder.

Ask about her story.

Learn the names of her children.

Listen until she runs out of words.

Remember:

She is your teacher, not the other way around.

Impart dignity with every interaction, no matter how small. It’ll add up.

Shared suffering is sacred space. It’s a gift to have been invited. Tread lightly, speak softly, keep your good advice but give your heart. It’ll hurt like hell, but it will raise the dead.

Through it all we become more real and more connected and sometimes somehow that’s enough.

Love is never wasted. It sometimes changes things. It always changes us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hardest things

We came here to do hard things but the hardest things have not been what I thought.

The work has been challenging but no match for what’s working out in me.

It’s a strange and surreal thing to watch God move mountains all around  yet to remain unmoved in the middle. And an excruciating gift to meet yourself stripped of familiar ways to cover and to cope.

In it all I am discovering I am both stronger and weaker than I imagined. And it’s in making peace with my weakness I am finding new strength. I am finding God. 

I’m learning best from those suffering greatest, it’s not the extent of our suffering that shapes us most, it’s what we do with suffering that determines who we are and how we live.

I do life with people proving suffering changes us but doesn’t get to be the boss of us.

I think loneliness is suffering’s most debilitating sting. Suffering comes to all of us then convinces us we are the only one.  So sometimes, when it seems too much and we wonder how to help and what to do…the only thing we can do is the best thing too. Just show up. We often shy away ashamed we have no solution when simply showing up and staying put is the most sacred act of all.

I don’t understand it but God seems to use the broken to piece the world back together. And sometimes gives those needing the miracle as best evidence of his attentive care. 

I thought I was coming for them, turns out them is me and God was coming for us all.

When our god is too small 

Thousands of miles, three islands, dozens of conversations, hundreds of strategizing hours, a handful of non-profit organizations, three police departments, lots of lost sleep and constant steady stream of prayer upon prayer upon prayer… all for 1 little girl.

And I wonder if she will ever know the extent we’ve gone to care for her and keep her safe. We’ve given our absolute best with no guarantee she’ll choose us at the end, or more importantly, that she’ll choose herself.

And what if she doesn’t?

Will it all have been for nothing?


Love is my life plan A ..and B. It’s my only plan, actually. If it turns out I’m wrong, so be it, I’ve thought hard and decided it’s a regret I can live with. 

I know things I can’t unknow and carry burdens too heavy for my shoulders alone. And this is what I have become convinced of…if God is not absolutely everything he claims to be, the whole world is screwed. 

The god of my childhood and church pew is far too small and self-absorbed to take on the pain and problems of this heartbroken planet. 

Something is not adding up.

We toss in our coins and complain there is no change while criticizing those who are trying but doing it differently.

We blame God for the suffering in the world but turn our back on the needs in our neighborhood. 

Some say suffering proves the nonexistence of God. Without him to blame, it’s all on us. Now what? 

This is what I know… when I spend myself for Love, God makes up the difference. 

Everytime. 

Love’s goal is not a healed world and a broken me. Love will heal the world and loving will set me free. 

Will our efforts save our girl? We’ll see. But loving her is making me more human, bruised up and healed than I thought I’d ever be. 

Holding the hand of heartache on one side only tightens my grip of hope on the other that love is NEVER wasted and God is ALWAYS as big as we know we need him to be. 

My first three months in Indonesia -by Levi

It has been a great three months in Indonesia!!!

We have done a lot of exciting things. The first exciting thing that happened is we went to Tulamben to snorkel and see the US Liberty ship that sunk in World War 2. After that we snorkeled in a coral garden. A couple days later we went to Goa Gaja (Elephant Cave Temple) with our friend Gede. We saw a temple that fell apart and a stream of sacred water. Days later we went to Goa Lawa (Bat Cave Temple) and saw buildings and a cave full of bats. Many days later, we went to the Monkey Forest and monkeys were everywhere. They even climbed on us. It was fun. Ater that went to taste luwak coffee and delicious tea. Then we went to see people carve wood and it was awesome.

I have been learning a lot of interesting things here. I learned about how the Hindu people make and burn Ogoh Ogohs at the end of their parade. They also use 40% of their income for religious ceremonies. Also, a lot of Muslim people go to the Mosque five times every day.

I have learned that GOD goes to dark places and brings life. I also learned that just a little bit of hope can get me through the day.

Overall my trip here in Indonesia has been awesome.

Our friends have an English Club in their yard. All the kids in the neighborhood kids are invited. It is fun!!!

I love playing with my friends in East Java.

This is at a park with our friends.

This cool swing is at a beach near our house.

My new friend. There are lots of awesome creatures in Indonesia.img_5883

We found this cool stairway in a cave next to a beautiful beach. We do a lot of exploring here.

My weekend in East Java- Jaxon

Last weekend, my family and I went to East Java. We stayed for two days and two nights. We stayed at the Bumi Hotel. This is what we did.

After waking up on the first day, we had an all you can eat breakfast and a nice long swim. Eating and swimming is pretty much all we did at the hotel. When we go there we only ever eat at the hotel. There’s all you can eat waffles and doughnuts!

After we left the hotel, our friends came and drove us to the cemetery centers. When we got there we were greeted with the usual screaming and jumping.

Later that night, we talked to the older kids about their upcoming exams. These exams would decide which school they can go to.


That night we watched “Sing” for English class. I hope I don’t sound to arrogant when I say that I think I aced it.

The next day, the moms had a gathering in a nice park. Our job was to keep their young kids entertained so they could have a peaceful meeting.

We just hung out at the playgrounds. We brought yard toys like Frisbees and badminton.

I was a little disappointed that the middle-schoolers weren’t there.

At the end of the day we were all sad to leave. Good-byes are difficult anywhere, but especially at in East Java

Love has made us friends. 

Love doesn’t kick in doors. It doesn’t have to.
Love lingers and listens and comes along side until invited inside.


Life is complex but not as complicated as I once thought.

I used to fret and freak out, afraid of going the wrong way.

But I am learning another way.

If Love is big enough to save us all, it can save me from myself.

If I error on the side of love, Love can make it right again.

If I love her to change her, it’s not love at all.

And when I love her as she is, I am changed.


It’s a better way, but there’s a catch, of course.

I can’t walk through her door without unlocking my own.

Her heartache keeps me up at night.

Her suffering scars my skin

She is not my good deed. Love has made us friends.

Kartini Day

Raden Ajeng Kartini is an Indonesian hero and symbol of women empowerment. 

Over 100 years ago, she contended that girls of all social classes are entitled to education and should be freed from the requirement of early marriages.

 She’s remembered for her courage, even as lack of education and child brides remain reality and reasons for crippling poverty of so many of our friends here. 

What to do when you are married at 12 years old, have babies by 14 and are abandoned or widowed by your much older husband before your 15th birthday? 

Uneducated and unwanted you find a way to feed your babies and stay alive. You figure out how to sell stuff, you might resign to selling yourself. 

Sometimes being born a girl means fighting hard to be treated human. 

And when she’s too tired or afraid or unaware we fight for her until she discovers her worth, finds her voice, and joins the fight for her own future and the future of her daughter and her daughter’s daughters and the daughters after that. 

Every April 21, on Kartini Day, children dress in traditional clothes and teens in our centers pick up their pens. They write about being brave and going to school and changing their nation by bettering themselves. 

The most thoughtful writers win a trip to a movie about Kartini accompanied by kartinis of their own. 

Everybody is Kartini for somebody. The women that lead our girls are quick to recognize the kartinis in their lives that made them kartinis for others. 

I keep wondering who else will recognize the kartini in the  girl from the safehouse yesterday. 

Maybe someday the world will see and celebrate her worth, but what matters more, is that she does. 

And that I believe, is what kartinis are for.