Well, if you could use one word to describe me it would be ‘goody-goody’. Actually, that is 2 words 🙂 But for the 37 years I’ve lived here on planet earth, I haven’t really done many ‘bad’ things. At least none of the ‘really bad’ ones! I stole a spoon once, but that’s a story for another blog post 🙂
It’s funny to me how Satan can make you feel bad about yourself, whether you are super bad or super good. He loves to mess with us! I spent alot of time thinking that my ‘testimony’ wasn’t as good as others testimonies. I had given my heart to the Lord at the age of 5 and hadn’t strayed far from His path… ever! But I thought that since my story wasn’t as ‘cool’ or ‘colorful’ as others, then God couldn’t use me to share the good news. Why would anyone listen to a little, naive, goody-goody? That’s boring. No one wants to hear about that. Let’s hear the gang member turned preacher conversion stories, or the addict who now has a thriving food pantry ministry. Those are the ones that God really uses. Those are the ones making a difference for the Kingdom.
My senior year in high school, in my Creative Writing class, my teacher, Carl Lynn, gave us the assignment to write out our testimony. (I went to a Christian school.) I spoke with him afterwards and told him that I didn’t really have much material to work with 🙂 Then he proceeded to tell me something that really changed the way I had viewed myself and the purpose God had for me.
He said, “Sarah, you have a testimony of GRACE. God is calling all of us from the moment we are born, but so many of us ignore it. But you were one who happened to be listening! So by hearing God speak to your heart at that age and continuing to listen to the Holy Spirit speak to you, you were able to avoid making terrible choices that so many of us make. It’s the same grace that saved you at age 5 that saved the gang member and the addict. Grace is grace. Never underestimate the power of your story.”
Because I had thought so little of my story, I thought God could only use me inside the church walls. Church people loved me! I was always there, every time the door was open. I was well-behaved. But now that I learned that my story was just as powerful as anyone else’s, I knew God had bigger plans for me. He needed and wanted to use me inside and outside the walls of the church.
With that revelation, God opened up my heart for missions. When Scott and I started dating, he was already in youth ministry. We continued that for 14 years. And the highlight of every year at every church was the mission trip we took. When we first started doing the trips, we worked with Habitat for Humanity. But the trip we made in the summer of 2002 was one of my favorites.
That summer, we went to Tarboro, NC. The normal process is that we would come in and work on the current houses that were being built and pick up where they had left off. We always had several different groups of kids with adult leaders working on different projects. We had done foundation work, framing, sheet rock, insulation, roofing, painting, lot clearing… so when the Habitat guy took my group to a house that was already built, I was confused.
I’m sure that most people know what Habitat for Humanity is. This organization is a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that believes everyone should have a decent, safe, and affordable place to live. The houses are not free, but the families purchase these houses through no-profit, no-interest mortgage loans. The purchasers also have to invest ‘sweat equity’ hours by actually working on the house.
There is a pretty strict screening process to qualify for one of these homes. But no matter how careful they are with their screening process, some bad apples still get through sometimes. And that’s what had happened with this house. I didn’t write this earlier, but when we pulled up to this already built house, it was a mess. Dirty, broken, overgrown…not a typical Habitat house.
We found out that this house had actually been foreclosed on, and now belonged back to Habitat. So this house was in need of some fixing up. Some restoration.
The Habitat guy then proceeded to tell me what happened. The owners had their power cut off because they couldn’t afford the power anymore, so they had used kerosene heaters in the house. It created a thick wall of grease on every surface of the house, including the walls. They had several animals in the house and it stunk so bad! Because of the animals, there were fleas. So many fleas! They jumped up ankle high. Habitat defogged the place 3 times before finally just ripping up all the carpet and padding. And lastly, once the homeowners had been told they were being foreclosed on and had to leave, they sold all of the brand new appliances for drug money.
So here I am with a couple of other adults at my site and about 10 kids (mainly girls), and we tackle this house. We took off the wallpaper border, degreased the walls, primed with oil primer, painted walls, trim, cabinets, and ceilings, cleaned (bathrooms especially!), cleaned sub floor, put in new appliances, washed outside of the house. When we were finished, the house looked BRAND NEW. It smelled BRAND NEW.
Near the end of the week, I remember sitting on the sidewalk eating an orange. I was taking a break and watching all the kids. They looked like little ants moving all over that house doing their assigned jobs. I leaned against this tree and thought, “God, why has this mission project meant so much more to me than the previous jobs I’ve been a part of?” And without hesitation, I heard Him say, “Sarah, I do this all the time! This is what I do. I clean up your crap over and over and over again.” Yes, He used the word ‘crap’ in His dialogue with me! Does He not with you?! 🙂 He makes all things new.
In May of 2012 and again this past November, God gave me the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip with Operation New Life. Operation New Life is a Christian medical, surgical, and teaching ministry that partners with Honduran surgical and dental teams. They send out 5 different teams a couple times a year. They are: maxillofacial, general surgery, burn surgery, orthopedic, and OB/GYN. They provide free surgeries, equipment, as well as training to the Honduran doctors at 4 hospitals in Tegucigalpa.
When we were in Union City, TN, one of our youth parents was an orthopedic surgeon. When he discovered Operation New Life and decided to start using his surgical skills for the Lord, he invited me to go with him and his family to Honduras. I was a little confused, due to the fact I’m not medical in the least! But Dr. Calfee then told me I’d be perfect for the prayer team 🙂
The prayer team is often called “the Heart of the Team”. We made daily rounds visiting all of the pediatric floors, which included orthopedic, general surgery, neurological, outpatient oncology, labor and delivery, teen pregnancy center, as well as the adult orthopedic patients our doctors worked on. We gave out all kinds of goodies to the kids, of which the most popular is a Beanie Baby. We also had crayons and coloring sheets, Spanish Bibles, and candy. We made ‘Mom packs’ which held personal hygiene items, and we handed them out to the moms and dads who had been at the hospital for several days and had no way to freshen up. We also had ‘Newborn packs’ that we made and gave to the teen moms of which many of them had NOTHING to help them take care of their babies. I heard a story of seeing a newborn baby being wrapped in a newspaper, because the mom didn’t even have one baby blanket 😦 But most importantly, we prayed with the patients and their families. I remember one of the pediatric orthopedic surgeons there called me the ‘soul doctor’!
I had many stories and God moments I could share, but I’ve only chosen a few that really moved my soul.
The first time I went, it was May of 2012. The prayer team only visited the pediatric floors. We spent a lot of time on the orthopedic floor, of course, because that year, we brought a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and her physician’s assistant from California with us. Her name was Dr. Jenny. Her assistant was named Ari. There was a room on that floor that had about 6 beds, and Dr. Jenny performed hip dysplasia surgery on 5 little ones in that room. One girl in particular stood out to me. Her name was Cindy. She was so precious, and her mom was beautiful. Here is a picture of Dr. Jenny giving Cindy a stuffed teddy bear that she put on a little body cast so it would match the full body cast the child was in. She and Ari did that for all their patients. It was so sweet!
When I went back to Honduras this past November, we added the adult orthopedic floor to the prayer team rounds, since we had so many adults we worked on. In one of the rooms, there was a man named Alex. He was in the hospital because he was a construction worker and had fallen off of a roof and broken his back. One day while we were visiting him, his daughter was there. I knew she looked very familiar. I remembered her from my last trip, and she remembered me too! It was Cindy’s mom! She said Cindy is doing very well and is running all over the house! It blessed me to hear how God had used these doctors to change that little girl’s life! It’s like it came full circle. I got to participate in the beginning and the end, and I can say, “I have seen His glory”. 🙂
There was another child that blessed my heart on our first trip. His name was Oscar. He has shortened legs as well as a club foot. Although he was older, and because his legs were so small, he was actually in a crib and in the same room as those little 4 year old hip dysplasia patients. But he always had a smile on his face and was thrilled to see us! While we were there, he had a leg lengthening surgery done by the Honduran doctors. But we saw him every day and always brought new coloring sheets. That was his favorite thing.
When I went back this past November, I was on the pediatric orthopedic floor again, and there was Oscar! He was actually back getting his other leg lengthened! His earlier surgeries had gone well, and it was time to continue the lengthening process. He looked bigger and healthier and had graduated up to a big kid hospital bed! He didn’t really want coloring sheets this time, but he definitely wanted a Beanie Baby!
This past trip, we took with us 6 orthopedic surgeons, from all over the country, one even from Australia. There were 23 total people on the team. These doctors did something like 25 total joints (hips and knees), 2 ACL’s, and 35 hand surgeries! It was unbelievable.
At the end of the week, we have a big devotion time where we share any God-sightings we had witnessed that week. And as I listened to the doctor’s share about the surgeries they did, and the prayer team share about the people they prayed with and loved on, I heard God say once again, “I make all things new.” This time, it wasn’t with a house, like I had done a decade ago. This time it was Him using doctors to make people’s physical bodies brand new. Using human hands, like He used our youth group’s human hands, He made these people’s lives new. New hips, new knees, new tendons, new ligaments… And through these ‘new’ things, like houses and hips, He then has an open door to create a new heart.
This past Sunday was Easter, which I’m sure most of you all know. Every couple of years, I watch Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ movie. I use it as a visual reminder of what Christ did for me, so that I’ll never take it for granted. But my favorite part of the movie is about halfway through, when Jesus is on the road to Golgotha. Mary, His mother, is following along, but staying on a side street, somewhat away from the crowd. Then she sees her Jesus fall down with the cross in between 2 buildings. As she’s running to help Him up, she flashes back to a memory of when Jesus fell as a toddler. She runs to pick up her sweet baby boy, and holds Him and says ‘Yeshua’. The flashback ends, and she is then at grown Jesus’ beaten side, and He looks at her and says, “See mother, I make all things new.”
I have no idea why Mel Gibson chose to use that phrase in this part of the movie, but I am oh so glad he did! It is my favorite part, and my favorite thing that Jesus does! We can fancy everything up that He does with big, ‘churchy’ words and phrases, but truly, He just makes all things new. He cleans up our messes, wipes us off, picks us up, and encourages us to start again. He loves us. He makes us new… everyday. Regardless of our past – whether we are a bunch of goody-goodies or ‘heathens’, we all need to be made new. And not just once – every day.