***After dinner at the Rono's home tonight, I headed over to read to the kids in East Wing. However, many weren't in their rooms. The ones who are in the dance group were practicing for Sunday's celebration: The Ilula Children's Home is 2 years old! As I read to one room full of boys, however, they had a lot of questions.
"If you give a mouse a cookie . . . " I started.
Gideon immediately had a thought he had to share. "If you put the cookie here and the mouse there, will he eat the cookie?"
Ummm. "Yes." Actually, I thought, if you really put a little mouse on the table, like he's showing, the poor thing will run away, not caring about the cookie. But it's a story. Let's continue.
"Adele! Have you fed BarraBarra?" Kanmau asked in Swahili.
"I have, Sweetie." Feeding critters has got this little one thinking about whether I've fed my critter. Let's see, "If you give a mouse a cookie... "
And so it went on. "What's a re-fridg-era-tor, Adele?" Matasio wanted to know. How on earth do you explain to kids a piece of equipment we in the West cannot live without? They have one in the children's home kitchen, but it took the kitchen staff months to learn how it works. They used to switch it off every night! And they kept their bags in it during the day...
By the time I was done reading, the boys lined up for hugs. The smell of urine hung heavy in the room. They've lived here two years now, but four of the boys still have trouble with bed-wetting--even one boy who is 10 years old... Their (foster) mom has tried every trick in the book. She's been getting up at all hours to wake them and take them to the bathroom. She's prayed for them. She's loved them through it all. In the end, I think, that's all we can do. Love them. Love them with a relentless love.
So, tonight, as I head to bed, God is reminding me anew:
If I speak English, Afrikaans, Chinese or even some Swahili, but I don't love relentlessly, I'm nothing but a dog barking at the moon.
If I share God's Word with children and adults alike and have enough faith to move to Kenya, but I don't have relentless love, I am nothing.
If I give up luxuries, opportunities, and resources to reach the people of East Africa, if I live alone surrounded by Kenyan corn fields, but I don't love relentlessly, it's as if I've journeyed nowhere.
It matters not whether I can speak with a funny accent, pray with passion, believe without limits. Without love, my life is worthless.
Relentless love never, ever gives up, even when life is tough.
Relentless love cares more whether the kids are warm than whether I'm comfortable.
Relentless love doesn't want what God hasn't given.
Relentless love doesn't do things to be seen or heard.
Relentless love doesn't care about my opinion and my needs, but listens to the opinions of others, and takes it to heart.
Relentless love puts others first.
Relentless love doesn't get annoyed when yet another person asks for money, or drives poorly...
Relentless love forgives, again and again.
Relentless love doesn't rejoice when others fail.
It finds joy in truth and in seeing others discover these truths.
Relentless love doesn't give up, but puts up with all things knowing that it is part of God's greater plan, and trusts that God has the best at heart. Always.
Relentless love seeks to see the best in others. It doesn't look back and wish for better days past. It pushes onward, knowing that beyond this mountain, far greater things await.
Relentless love doesn't wilt, nor dies. It's not "on" one day and "off" another. You can depend on it, even though you cannot depend on things and systems, even though you cannot always even depend on other believers.
Though I don't know or understand all at this stage, the day will come that I will understand fully. I will no longer be craving insignificant pleasures. Instead, I will grow in understanding and maturity. Right now, I don't see things clearly. It's like a window splattered with mud. But the day will come that all impurities will be removed. I'll see clearly, just as God sees me clearly. I'll know Him as He knows me.
But for now, while we are not yet there, there are three things I can hold onto:
Trust in God, always. Believe that He is who He says He is, that He can do what He says He can do.
Let hope be the fuel that compels me to move forward: Hope in God.
And the best yet: Love relentlessly, without ever giving up.
* Adapted from 1 Cor 13.