It has been a little over one month since we arrived in Cameroon and a lot of things are happening, it’s amazing! We have been settling in to the schedule and lifestyles in Africa and the children are opening up and receiving us more everyday. The Holy Spirit has been softening hearts and speaking to souls; quickly bonding us together as one family full of love and growing in unity. With Ken’s leadership, we have been making great progress towards bettering the children’s lives at Shaping Destiny. God has been working mightily on our behalf, both physically and spiritually. Every time we feel overwhelmed or confused where to go His tender hand is there guiding us, encouraging us to press on. Every time we pray and put our faith in His gracious supply He provides and sustains us, whether through monetary donations or community support. We praise Him for His goodness and love that never ends, His faithfulness that continues to astound us day by day! We are building strength and faith as we put our hope in Jesus and wait patiently, full of expectation and joy that He will hear our prayers.
Here are a few updates of what is going on at Shaping Destiny Cameroon:
In my last few blog entries, I’ve shared the new project we’ve begun of building a wash house for the kids in the back of our compound. The process has already started even though we don’t have all the fund necessary to complete it. We are walking by faith and not by sight, trusting that God will supply all we need through His people. It’s amazing to see donations coming in here and there, that only increases our faith and brings Him more glory. But we are not just sitting idly by and waiting for things to fall in our laps. Oh no, we are working just as hard to ensure this project progresses smoothly and quickly. Everyone, both staff and children, got together one evening a few weeks ago and used wheel barrels, buckets, and shovels to transport and pack enough dirt into the foundation for the workers to come pour cement the next day. It was a nice family experience; full of hard work, sweat, and an occasional dirty-ball fight or two. Everyone is anxious to contribute and see conditions rise from the current second-rate situation. So far, the foundation is laid, the walls are almost complete, and soon a roof and a few doors will be added to finish the work. Like I said before, we have begun this project without the means to completely finish. I am learning that most, if not all, things here require complete trust that God will provide and His glory will be shown throughout the nations. He uses people like you and me to act as His hands and feet; not only obeying His commands to care for the poor and needy, but also living as servants of the Most High and dedicating all our possessions to His disposal. If you would like to partner with us in this project and help give these orphans a clean, stable place to bathe themselves, please visit send checks or money orders to Shaping Destiny P.O. Box 200700, Austin, Texas 78720-0700 and specify it is for the wash house project. Please donate whatever God is asking of you and know the money will not only build up these brick walls, but more importantly, it will build up our childlike faith in Jesus. Your donation will be well used, effective, and proof that our God is good and faithful to those called by His name.
Another way we are better the lives of the children here is by providing new clothes. In case you are thinking that all we do is ask for donations and sit on our own hands and wallets, simply waiting, I’m happy to tell you that you’re absolutely wrong. All of us Aunties have donated $100 or more to hire a tailor, provide the material, and pay for the labor of hand-sewing at least one, if not two, new sets of uniforms for all 27 children. You should see how tattered and worn their current shirts, pants, and dresses have become. In America, we throw out clothes that we don’t like anymore, get new outfits during back-to-school shopping, and have packed closets full of things we didn’t even know we had. Here, it’s been years since they’ve received new clothing and they’ve resorted to crudely stitching them back together with mismatched thread or using torn pieces of cloth as patches. Many have told us they get teased at school or while walking through town because of their tattered outfits. Most of them hate the word “orphan” because they are looked down upon and judged harshly in the community. A few of our youngest children, Godwill and Kester, have told us some of the cruel things yelled at them while walking home from school. Auntie, they say, “Orphans for sale! 100 francs!” How terrible! 100 francs isn’t even 50 cents, chickens here are sold for more than that. It breaks my heart to see them being so mistreated and to know they hate their own social status. Jesus loves all people and children, but He has a special place in His heart for orphans and widows. He holds them close to His chest like a good shepherd and commands His people to care for the needy such as these. I would never want them to hate who they are and be so negatively affected by piercing words hurled at them out of arrogance. Although their status is already known, brand new clothes will give them a sense of pride and confidence rather than shame. They can walk around in clean, well-fitting clothing rather than torn pieces with gapping holes. It was such a joy to see them all standing anxiously in line when the tailor came to measure them. In another week or so, the work will be done and it’ll be like an early Christmas!
It’s obvious things are improving, some quicker than others, but all exceedingly better off than many other living condition in Batibo. Us staff are working hard to teach the children gratitude for their many blessings and how to be good stewards of the things God has been giving them. We have devotions every morning and evening and have been teaching a lot from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew. It is important to not only thank God for His goodness, but also to be responsible for what He has already put in our care. Kids will be kids and many times shoes are misplaces, tables are colored on, or laundry is left out too long on the line and disgarded, but it is still essential to teach proper stewardship. If we are wise with the little God has given us, He will see us as faithful servants and give us even more to look after. We have been constantly seeking ways to prevent the misusage of things around the home. We have been creating more accurate meal portions and measurements when cooking so no food goes to waste, turning off lights to save electricity, and locking up the kitchen and store room so thieves (or mischevious kids) don’t steal food. Just in the last month, we have seen the amazingly positive impact of being faithful stewards. Normally, near the end of the month, the orphanage is aching for more food because they have quickly run out before it’s time to grocery shop. This past month, however, a whole bag of rice was left over that previously would have been long gone! Because we are implementing preventative measures and responsible planning, the blessings God is giving us are not only lasting much longer, but allowing extra monetary savings that can now be put towards school fees or new pairs of shoes. As the children’s lives are improving daily, even in the small ways, they are becoming more appreciative of God’s blessings and aware of His active role in their lives.
God has also been doing wonderful thing in the hearts of the children as they are opening up to us new Aunties and Uncles. It has become apparent that a lot of bitterness and resentment planted by miscommunication or ignorance has taken root over the last few years. On many occasions, children have been filled with anger and causing division in the home because they felt treated unfairly or disregarded. Instead of respectfully dealing with these conflicts, gossip and arrogance have blinded the children and burned bridges of trust between them and their loving authorities. These issues were emotional and heavy, but it was by God’s grace they came to the surface and His gentle healing began to soothe the pain. After hours of family meetings and open forums, all the disagreements were revealed and we have responded with grace, allowing the Holy Spirit to work and reunite everyone infected. Every time darkness begins to creep up over Shaping Destiny, the staff is there to fight off spirits of evil with God’s light and gracious love. It is not just a learning experience for the children either, us adults are learning how to be teachable and discern God’s will also. As we are being taught repentance, proper confession, and conflict resolution we are then turning and sharing this newfound wisdom with those under us. After a few lessons during devotions and consistent, caring guidance, the children and staff wrote out confessions and shared them, specifically with those they have wronged. It has been incredible to see our God work in divine power to restore relationships, soften anger, and move once hardened hearts towards repentance. There has been such an obvious weight lifted off Shaping Destiny in the last few weeks; a hidden burden that God has gently removed and replaced with forgiveness, love, and grace.
As a ministry, Shaping Destiny is aching for more long term staff! Many volunteers come and go, but the children really need someone who is committed to them for the long run. A lot of projects are started and then abandoned half way through because the volunteer leading the change has left. Many times, new ideas are presented and implemented but run soley on a primary person who is passionate about seeing them through. Once that person is gone, although beneficial, the new practices fall away and the orphanage goes back to its old ways. Currently, there are only 2 local managers who lead 27 kids…every day, all day, for years. Can you imagine how exhausting that is?! They desperately need reinforcement! For now, they will have a handful of volunteers here to help, but only for another year or so. This ministry needs people who feel called to serve orphans and can be committed to laying down their lives in order to ensure others lives benefit. We greatly need male volunteers as well! Many of the children have loving Aunties to guide and teach them, but a majority of our children are boys. They really need a good, strong, godly male figure to not only show them how to live and strive after the Lord, but who can keep them safe and build them up in physical protection. Please join in our prayer efforts to ask God to move in the hearts of His people and call them to Shaping Destiny. In order to grow and expand as a ministry, we need volunteers who are following God’s calling in their lives and willing to spend themselves on behalf of others. These tasks, as any, are overwhelming and cannot be put on any one person’s shoulders. But if we continue to contribute one little donation, one powerful prayer, one life at a time –we could pull together and do amazing things for the glory of God. Thank you for walking with me so far and please continue to keep us on the fore front of your heart and mind as we all seek to obey and pursue after God’s will; His good, pleasing, and perfect will.