hopesightings

finding hope and sharing it

Jesus, My Mama May 7, 2018

I have a sound clip I like to listen to from my most recent trip aboard the Africa Mercy. I recorded it from within my pocket, as we refrain from capturing personal images of our patients for the sake of their privacy. I wanted to savor the sounds of joy from one of our dress ceremonies – special celebrations we have every few weeks for the women with fistula who have been healed. These special women are gifted a bright new dress with a headwrap to symbolize going forth in new life, dry and whole. There is about twenty minutes of singing and dancing prior to the start of prayer and testimony-sharing. Following the ceremony, the joyful music goes on until the chaplains and musicians have to head home.

One of the songs has a chant that’s in English:

“Jesus my Papa, Papa — Jesus my Papa, Papa

Jesus my Mama, Mama — Jesus my Mama, Mama ….”

Other words are used to describe the deeply personal relationship Christ has with all of His followers, in its many facets and forms, and then there is a long, rapid cry:

“Jesus is mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine mine!”

There are whoops and yells, exclamations and shouts of gratitude and victory. I can’t get enough of this sound clip. Thinking that someone wrote lyrics like that, that someone’s relationship with Jesus is so multi-colored and variably shaped, is inspiring. I tend to think about the trinity in neat little boxes. Jesus feels like my dearest, deepest friend. God feels like a Father. The spirit is …. Well, I don’t know if I even have the right word for that. The spirit is a guide? (But so much more.)

Rarely do I think of any of these entities as being like my mother.

And yet, aren’t they all? Jesus the friend is a comforter, a nurturer, someone to celebrate with, someone to lean upon and cry with. God is who I turn to for protection when I am afraid, or when I need to ask for something – for courage, for power to do what is right and just. The spirit is what I turn to when I’m trying to discern the way. Aren’t ALL of these things the exact ways I respond to and interact with my own biological mother, and grandmothers? And with the other women in my life who are generations older and have gone before me? I don’t separate them into functions or roles. I expect (maybe unfairly) for my own Mother to be all of that for me – a nurturer, comforter, advice-giver, encouragement-provider, safe haven.

Somehow it is natural for us to think of women in our lives as capable of carrying all of that load, of being earthly examples of all of the best parts of the trinity mashed into one. The Proverbs 31 wife, for example, has got to be the most exhausted woman in history, but we look to her as a model of what a woman can and should be if she is living her life for God. To be so much, to take on so much, feels like it is part of the very essence of being “woman”, and especially of being “mother”. To be “mother” is, in many ways, to be an unstoppable force of positivity and light in this sometimes dark world.

So what happens when women lose some of that identity – like our sisters suffering from fistula? When slowly, as they “fail” to complete a long labor, as their babies die, as their husbands leave them, as they are cast out of their communities, they come to find themselves isolated and without direction or purpose? What happens to a woman when everyone stops wanting to connect with her in those ways that allow her to feel like a haven, a helper, a confidante?

These women feel like less of a woman, that’s what happens. And when they feel like less of a woman, they suddenly feel less “capable”. They feel ruined, bruised, worthless. Motherhood and womanhood are so deeply and intricately tied together in African culture – often, I feel you could almost use the words interchangeable. When our sisters are robbed of the opportunity to be “whole” mothers and wives, they feel robbed of their very identity.

I am so thankful for a Lord who sees any woman as less than whole. Jesus IS like a good mother, seeing the best and most beautiful parts of us at all times — like a good mother who wants to pull us into her arms, rub our back and dry our tears. Jesus is like the good mother who wants to kiss us, bandage us and make it all better – heal our wounds, from inside to out. However you best relate to Him, one thing I know that we all agree on is that He calls us to serve Him by serving others.

So we are called to be like good Mothers to our sisters. We are called to love and cherish them, to celebrate them, to work for them and do what we can to ensure they are living their lives to their fullest potential and with the highest quality. Whether you’re a mother or not, every woman can imagine what it would take to empower and encourage you if you were at your very lowest, full of shame and sadness. You would want someone to invest in your healing. You would want someone to tell you were capable of learning a new skill, or a trade. You would want someone to see you – to look past the condition you have and to instead look into the heart in you that hasn’t changed despite the way the rest of your body maybe has.

You would want someone to mother you. Those of us who are “whole” are called to be the hands and the feet of Jesus — and I think that often means being everything a mother would be, until these women are strong and confident enough to return to that role on their own.

We want to make sure that these precious women know that they are loved this Mother’s Day, that they are cherished by other women and mothers the world over.

Partner with us.

We want them to be strengthened by an outpouring of love and support so that they can continue to be restored, both physically and spiritually. We hope that in turn, they can return to their communities as positive change agents, advocating against conditions and practices that lend themselves to the injustice of fistula. They can become stronger women and better mothers because of the love they received from US.

 

Guest blog for Hope for Our Sisters Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign by Cara Brooks

© 2018 by Brooke F Sulahian

Hope for Our Sisters is currently generating hope and raising funds through our Mother’s Day Gift of Life Campaign to support our work with our precious sisters in Angola, the DR Congo and Nepal. If you want to help us generate more hope that ever, go to http://hopeforoursisters.org/donate-online/ to make a donation. For a minimum $25 donation, we will send a beautiful Mother’s Day card to a mom in your life if you provide the needed information in the text boxes on the online donation form. Thank you!

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MY NOT-SO-QUIET “QUIET TIME” October 12, 2017

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 6:02 pm
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For as many years as I can remember

I’ve started my day with “quiet time”

It’s looked different during different seasons

But one thing holds true…

It was NEVER PURE QUIET

 

My quiet time was full of things I did

Reading devotionals…sometimes four at a time

Reciting Scripture

Journaling

You name it, I did it

 

Maybe I did not speak aloud, but

My mind, soul and spirit were not quiet

They were not still

They were busy

A better name for this time would be

“Doing time”

“Checking off my list time”

“Routine time”

Anything but quiet time

 

What a gift to discover recently that

I had no pure quiet in my life

It never occurred to me

But when it did, I wanted it

I yearned for it

God used the book Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall

To open my eyes, heart and mind to pure quiet with Him

I know He’s got more for me in this book

But this has been a real gem

My time with Christ has never been more sweet, pure and nourishing

to my heart, mind and soul

 

I like how each of us can have a unique relationship with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

There is no cookie cutter way of doing life in Christ

It makes me feel special knowing this is MY way to simply connect with Him

Quiet time crafted by my Father

Just for me

 

As you know, my spiritual relationship is very visual

I can “see” myself meeting with God

I can “see” where I interact with Christ

I can “see” how the Holy Spirit guides me

And I love “seeing” myself experience PURE QUIET each morning

 

The idea of pure quiet felt very uncomfortable at first

Maybe that’s why I chose to do it for 8 minutes

I’m not sure

But now I look forward to it each day

This is what my pure quiet with Jesus looks like

In this current season of my life

 

After reading a psalm and one devotional (Jesus Calling)

I enter in to pure, non-agenda-based quiet with Christ

I actually “see” myself approach a small, still pool of water

I set along the bank all of my responsibilities

I come into the water and simply float beside Jesus for 8 minutes

He stands beside me and watches over me

 

Why water?

What floating?

I think it’s because it requires all of me and only me

I need to remember that I am enough in Him

Also, anything else I carried in the water would

Get wet and ruined or

Weigh me down

He invites all of me

Only me

I am enough

 

This is not about escape

This is about saying yes to His invitation to be with Him

I think He loves it even more than I do

It has become the most beautiful time of my life with my Savior

For the first time I am simply being with Him and receiving His love

With no strings attached

Just as He wants it

 

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Sounds pretty fabulous, right?

Wanna give it a try?

What does your PURE QUIET look like?

 

 

(P.S. I would sincerely enjoy hearing from you about your pure quiet journey during your current season of life.)

 

© 2017 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

The Many Sides of Dr. Foster April 10, 2015

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 9:48 am
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F Dr. Steve Foster

I was thrilled to see an article about Dr. Stephen Foster, one of our partner doctors in Angola. We met him during our 2013 Angola trip. Not only did we learn about fistula repair, we saw into his heart. He cares for his fistula patients as a father would his daughters. This love permeates his interactions with them.

Below is an excerpt from the March 28, 2015 article, “A Little Respect for Dr. Foster”, by Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist:

“On a recent trip to Angola, the country with the highest child mortality rate in the world, I came across a rural hospital run by Dr. Stephen Foster, 65, a white-haired missionary surgeon who has lived there for 37 years – much of that in a period when the Angolan regime was Marxist and hostile to Christians.

Foster, the son and grandson of missionaries, has survived tangles with a 6-foot cobra and angry soldiers. He has had to make do with rudimentary supplies: Once, he said, he turned the tube for a vehicle’s windshield-washing fluid into a catheter to drain a patient’s engorged bladder.

Armed soldiers once tried to kidnap 25 of his male nurses, and when Foster ordered the gunmen off the property, he said, they fired Ak-47 rounds near his feet. He held firm, and they eventually retreated without the nurses.

Most evangelicals are not, of course, following such a harrowing path, and it’s also true that there are plenty of secular doctors doing heroic work for Doctors Without Borders or Partners in Health. But I must say that a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns or priests.”

Dr. Foster is committed to God, Angola and our sisters with and at risk of fistula. He told us, “If you are going to love people in Jesus’ name, you have to do something about fistula.” His life stories are a mix of true heroism and kindness, amazing surgical talent and genuine care.

It is an honor to partner with Dr. Foster who is not only a creative, resilient and talented surgeon, but also a caring, loving and gentle provider. He works tirelessly and leaves health, healing and hope in his wake.

© 2015 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

Finding Jesus in a Gallon of Paint April 17, 2014

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 12:52 pm
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white-paintCan you really find Jesus in a gallon of paint? I did.

Have you ever had one of those days when you knew you needed to stay at home? Even though you had good, life-nourishing plans on your calendar, you had this sense that you needed to wipe the slate clean, stay home and let the day unfold? Today was one of those days for me.

Strangely enough, I had a strong urge to paint. I could not see a connection to Lent or Easter, but the urge was strong so I decided to give it a go. As I prepared to start, I figured I would do something later that would draw me closer to God. This was going to be productive time.

Now this project is long overdue. The trim in our kids’ bedrooms is an incredibly dingy off-white and it looks even more so with our son’s “Startling Orange” and daughter’s “Carnation Pink” paint on the walls.

Isn’t it amazing what one coat of paint can do? The transformation is incredible. The old paint gets covered and even areas in need of repair can become hidden to the naked eye. Just like new. Or is it?

As I was marveling at the change in their rooms, I got to thinking about the change in me almost fourteen years ago when God cleaned me up and made me new in Him. I had spent many years in a pit of depression and was covered with spiritual and earthly mud and muck from head to toe. I watched as He gently cleaned me off and dressed me in white, much like I did when painting today.

But then it hit me…God works from the inside out.

Not only was I clean on the outside, but He cleaned me through and through. God’s transformation is at all levels and forever. My paint provides only a covering and will chip away requiring another new coat.

I had set out to paint today, yet God wanted more. He used a gallon of paint to remind me of His restoration of me, which was only possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross long ago.  Jesus died for my sins opening the path for me to approach God. Jesus paved the way for my healing and yours.

What are you up to today? Keep your eyes open…you may find Jesus in unexpected places.

© 2014 by Brooke F Sulahian

 

Have Your Way December 6, 2013

Filed under: Hope — Brooke F. Sulahian @ 11:35 am
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Image

Walking through a dark cave, more like a tunnel, for weeks…where is He leading me?

No answers along the way, but a strange sense of peace made residence in my heart

Thought I had left my family outside (trying to protect them?) yet I found them at the end

Knew God was behind this…I have been on similar journeys before

However, this one was different…

Before going in, a few months back, God told me that I would need to trust Him like never before

I would need to walk with Him in a new way…giving all of myself and all I have to Him

Had I not given Him everything before?

What was I holding back?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you know that once you stand up to leave the place where you have been sitting, everything is going to be different?

That once you move from that very spot you can never go back to where you “were” before?

That is how I felt a few months ago…it took awhile for me to physically move, stand up and walk away from where I had sat with God that morning

What would trusting God in a new way mean for my family and me?

One answer to that was this recent journey…a slow, intentional journey

Not filled with fear, but lack of immediate answers to the questions running through my mind

Reading books that shook my core and challenged my faith

Never did I question God’s presence

However, I was forced to question my trust in Him

The questions He kept in front of me were:

Is my faith real?

Am I willing to get my hands dirty?

Am I willing to trust all I have and am to God?

The end of this journey came as suddenly as it began

Surprised to find that my family had been there with me all along

Had I really thought I could keep them out?

Had I actually wanted to protect them from God’s plan?

Doesn’t make any sense, but I had tried it

At one point along this journey I actually caught myself saying that I wanted to secure our children’s future

That there were some “roads” and “places” I was unwilling to go

Was I trying to be my own god and create my own plan?

As I approached the end of the tunnel, God told me that I needed to close the door

Just as He won’t wrench things from my hand that I refuse to give to Him, He was not going to shut the door

That was my doing

Again, hesitation…

Once closed I could not go back…

I love God and have been walking with Him for a long time

Why did I feel that if I really gave it all to Him the floor would fall out from beneath my feet?

I chose to leave with my family and God showed me something that was beautiful yet heart-breaking

My husband, 7 year-old son, 5 year-old daughter and I held hands

Jesus then took my husband’s hand and we left together

We were walking along a path God designed for us…. beautiful

What surprised me is howmy heart stung when I saw Jesus simultaneously take my daughter’s hand and lead her along a path of her own and do the same with my son and husband

I want them to walk with Him

But it stung because, for that to happen, I need to let go of what I treasure most…my family

God was reminding me that He has a plan for each of us…as a family and individuals

He was showing me that my plans pale in comparison to His

That I can have desires for my family, but I need to let God guide each of them for they are His

I prayed for my husband and kiddos very differently this morning

I sat where each of them sleep and asked God to walk with them, watch over them, and give them His courage, wisdom, and strength to live this day for Him

I prayedthat I would let God have His way in my life since nothing in my life is of my own doing…

Everything is from Him…My Lord, My Protector, My Healer, and My Guide

The three questions are still before me…answers will come in His time

God, Have Your Way this day…

© 2013 by Brooke F Sulahian