Saturday, January 31, 2009


"Mzungu!!! Mzungu!!!!! Mzungu!!!!!"

Mzungu translates to mean "white man" and for the last 4 days this has been the cry we've heard literally hundreds of times as we've traveled into villages and slums and all sorts of places. It's meant in a good way. Or maybe even in a sense of childlike shock---kind of like if you were to see Santa Claus as a child or maybe even Captain Kirk at a Star Trek convention. Little kids are simply amazed by us...and not just orphans, but allll little kids. It's kind of fun.

Stuart was talking with our driver, Dennis, about it today as we were continously greeted by children playing in their front yards while our car slowly manuevered through the dirt roads. Stuart was telling him that we've been getting that greeting a lot. Dennis responsed by saying most children in these villages have never seen a white man and so it was like they were seeing God.

There you go.

Today was our last full day meeting with orphanage directors and pastors in Africa. Tomorrow evening we will begin our journey home with one last stop before arriving back in Nashville Tuesday night. Our time here has been fruitful---thank you to those who have offered to sponsor this scouting trip.

As we were driving back from Jinja today I was reflecting back over the things we've seen. I think my heart is overwhelmed by everything it has taken in. And should be.

I have to confess that I have great guilt for how I feel when I'm looking at the children's beds. In Moldova I've sat--and even slept on-- many filthy mattresses and broken beds. However, here I can't even bring myself to put my backpack down on a mattress to get out a pen or notepad. It's embarrassing to say, but it's true. And it breaks my heart to know that precious little children have no choice but to sleep on something that I find unfit for my old backpack. What is wrong with that?

We are fortunate, now, to have an understanding for many of the things we'll experience in our work in this continent. Simple things that have to do with logistics and materials and needs. What we'll never have is an understanding of what it feels like to watch your mommy or daddy suffer and die....and be left alone. We'll never understand what it feels like to go to sleep on dirt floors or pieces of dirty foam that have been placed together to fashion a mattress. The list goes on.

One thing that we do understand is that God is bringing Sweet Sleep to the children of Kenya and Uganda and we are so eager to walk alongside you as He reveals the stories to us all.

Blog posts might be delayed for the next few days as we travel back through various time zones and places. Please do check back for well as for pictures of our time here.

And, if you're not have the chance to BE A PART of bringing Sweet Sleep to a child in Moldova or Uganda in the very near future! We have a team going to Moldova March 7-15 to build beds for children in TWO orphanages (what a great way to spend Spring Break!!). We also have another team to Moldova just after our U.S. school year finishes in May. Then we're off to Uganda in July. Check our website, for more information.

Thanks again, friends. You are appreciated!

See you in the next blog,

Jenga in Jinja

Hello friends!

I'm going to post two blogs today. One from yesterday's events (since we didn't have access to internet) and then today, of course!

So, yesterday we drove out to Jinja...a large town about 2 hours from Kampala. Or, about 4 hours if you were in our car yesterday-----oh yeah, we broke down. Not emotionally, but automotively.

At first I didn't know why we'd be stopping in the middle of nowhere...but smoke pouring out of the engine will definitely give you an idea that there's a problem.

Our schedule was tight, so two hours was a lot. Our time passed quickly though because of the children who came to stand on the road side to watch all the action that was happening. I mean, two white people in the middle of nowhere with a smoking engine beats collecting banana leaves.

I'd been watching two really cute little boys and suddenly the littlest one raised his shirt up---like little kids tend to do. Belly, as I've taken to calling him, had a HUGE growth coming from his...well, Belly. I got Stuart and our guide and asked her to go with me to find his family to talk with them about his medical needs.

His "grandy" as she called herself (for grandmother) said that they didn't have any money to take him to the doctor or for surgery. After our time with them we had arranged a way for them to meet up with our guide--who I told them I was going to leave money with for his medical needs. So, be praying for Belly and for grandy---that they actually will seek the opportunity for this medical treatment and that the doctors will be able to care for sweet little Belly. I'll keep you posted.

A new car and driver and two hours later and we were on site at the first orphanage on our list. We were meeting with a pastor who has three orphanages....and practically no beds for his children to sleep on. The children at each orphanage were as sweet as they could be...the little girls would come over to you, shake your hand and bow before you. Really that was kind of strange and made me feel bad, but I knew they were doing it as a sign of respect.

I'm not quite sure how to wrap up this blog with words. If it didn't take me 8 minutes to post each picture, I'd just let those speak for me. Each of his orphanages we saw today have about 35 kids, so we're not talking about a lot of beds or money. But, it's still something---especially when you add it to the rest of the needs we've seen on this trip.

I'm praying and trusting that God is going to stir people who happen to read this and that everyone who is reading this is moved to give what they feel they can. I've talked about different needs in many posts, so let me make sure I equip you with the way to be a part of the answer to so many children's prayers. Go to our website, and click on the blue "Donate" button on our home page. You'll go right to a secure site which will take your gift information. Please note your gift is for Africa. You can also mail in your gift to Sweet Sleep, PO Box 157, Brentwood, TN 37024-0157.

Again....I am grateful for you. I look forward to being able to share pictures with you and to also share more of what God has shown us in our time here. Thanks for your faithful support and your prayers for our journey and our work.

See you in the next blog,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Heart Visionaries

Hello friends...

Just a couple of quick things before I let my thoughts of the day come out to share with you.

First, I wanted to thank everyone for the great thoughts or encouraging words you've shared on the blog, in my email or on my Facebook (feel free to join our cause by going to our website or however else you like to do that sort of thing). They've been quite encouraging to us.

The second thing I'll share with you is the craziest story I've heard in over five years of working with orphaned and abandoned children. At the last orphanage we visited today we were doing the usual...meeting all sorts of kids who immediately come running up to you and say "Hello, I am fine." because that's the English they know. They all, LOVE to shake your hand. It's so fun.

Anyway, I watched one determined boy make his way to us. I could tell he was developmentally delayed and I struggled to understand everything he was telling me in his lengthy introduction. A woman from the orphanage came over to translate for him. Here's the'll not even believe this. Apparently there was a war in Uganda in 1986. Somehow or another he was found or taken by MONKEYS into the jungle where he lived with them for FIVE years. He was just under one year old. A woman found him all those years later and removed him from his monkey family. I'm serious. Isn't that amazing?

I rather enjoyed my question time with him. I told him he was a real live Jungle Boy and he laughed. I also asked him if I could call him Mowgli. That seemed fine by dear old John. They said that he had been on the news and everything and that the directors of the orphanage had officially adopted him. He said the monkeys fed him bananas and the things they ate. Apparently he also walked on all fours, like he had seen him monkey momma and poppa do. Wild. I asked him if he liked sleeping in a tree or a bed better. He laughed and said that he had slept on the ground next to the tree and that he actually like that. He told me he has a dream to learn English and to talk better. I told him I could tell he was really smart and I was sure he was going to achieve his dream.

Dreams were kind of the theme of our day. I like people who dream....especially when the odds are against those dreams. The stories behind the dream holders always seem to give me goose bumps.

Take for instance the first orphanage we went to by an amazing and hilarious and joyful pastor named Joel. Pastor Joel shared his life story with us...he himself was an orphan and felt his life had been blessed by God in that others had provided for him to have an education and things that he might otherwise never have had. He told God he wanted to provide for 500 orphans to have a chance for a future before he found his way to Heaven. He's well on his way to that dream.

Within a year Pastor Joel's remote orphanage will be self sustaining. He has one of the best schools in the region and each year they add a grade to their orphanage (they're up to the 7th grade now, which is close to done as far as regular schooling goes here). In 2010 he has a dream to begin vocational training programs for the children there. I like that dream. It's one of my one that Sweet Sleep has been involved in for a long time.

Sweet Sleep has a dream this year, too: our 1,000 Beds Project. In 2009 we hope to provide 1,000 beds to orphaned and abandoned children who need a place to sleep. Children who've endured so much heartache and need a place to dream.

I am confident and thankful and excited that you are all a part of the dream for so many children. Each and every one of you can pray for these children, for this ministry, for the directors and staff who work tirelessly to care for them day in and day out. Each of you can share about the work of our ministry. Each of you can pray about whether God would have you GO on a journey with Sweet Sleep to minister to these children. And, you can also pray about how much God would have you give this year to help make these dreams a reality.

Tomorrow we head to Jinja, Uganda. I'm off to dream about what the possibilities there might look like. I might say that I would expect my dreams would be sweet....except for the fact that Stuart just called my attention to a lizard the size of an armadillo inside the window screen. I'm going to imagine that it's a mosquito eating lizard.......

See you in the next blog,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This pictures

There comes a time, even for me, when you really are at a loss for words. Stuart and I have been away from home for over a week exploring ministry opportunities for Sweet Sleep to provide beds and bedding to orphaned and abandoned children. We have almost a week remaining and appreciate your prayers for what more God has in store for us to see. We've heard countless tragic stories of children's lives and have seen things that we simply have no words for. And, today I nearly broke down into tears during one of our afternoon stops when I saw the sleeping conditions the children were enduring.

So, tonight I've decided to share the faces and places of what we've seen. Sometimes pictures just don't do things justice, but I hope you can appreciate a little glimpse of what opportunities and challenges we can accomplish together.

The children we saw this afternoon are cared for at an orphanage where widows help to raise them. Here, in the room above, there are no beds and the children simply spread out the dirty foam mattresses you see pictured.

A precious boy at a Kenyan orphanage. He would love to have a bed and a mattress.

At this orphanage in Uganda, the children sleep on the pieces of foam that they have available.

Sweet angels in a Kenyan orphanage. Several of these children are HIV positive and would love to have a place to dream.

You would not believe me when I told you how many children sleep on this foam on the floor because they have no other place to sleep. A bed is just something that they can dream about having.

Love. Love. Love.

Sweet Dreams to you all.

See you in the next blog,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Buzzzzz from Uganda

Hello from Kampala, Uganda. Kampala is Lugandan for "Mosquito Sanctuary". Actually, I might have made that up, but I think it might be close to true. Okay, so that might be a bit dramatic too, but being a first time traveler to Africa, I'm viewing these suckers (pun intended) differently. If my body was Homeland Security the warning level would have been raised to Fire Engine Red.

But you're not reading this to hear about bugs, so moving on.

We arrived late last night to Kampala. Our driver, Herbert, was a wild man. I don't generally buckle in the back seats of cars, but did so last night. I also decided to wear my sunglasses even though it was midnight. I just didn't want to see anything more than I absolutely had to. Adding to the experience was that--like in Kenya-- Ugandans drive on the opposite side of the road than us Americans, so it just always looks like you're about to crash into the oncoming car.

Sweet Sleep is working with Samaritan's Purse to begin our work in Ugandan orphanages. Today we spent half the day working with our new favorite Sp'er, Roxanne. We heart her.

We also visited a few orphanages....and they were---in a word----primitive. The first one we visited didn't even have electricity. They were in such great need of new mattresses--the few they had were really just chunks of filthy foam under an equally filthy blanket. Many beds here that we've seen are metal bunks with metal lattice instead of springs. Obviously, when the metal breaks the sharp ends can cause harm to the children. Not to mention that many times there aren't mattresses to go with the beds, so the metal lattice is quite uncomfortable for these bony little children.

I was taken back by what I saw in one room...children --not babies---sleeping in baby cribs. Just looking at them laying there with their feet hanging out through the sides did something to me that I still don't have words to put with.

And none, none of the beds had mosquito netting to go with them. As I type this I know those little children are laying in their beds....sleeping.....and likely being bitten by the plentiful mosquitoes which potentially could bring them disease and even death.

I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to the day I can tell you all that those little ones are nestled Sweetly in their mosquito net covered beds.

I guess you really did read this to hear about bugs after all.

Thanks for being a part of our work. I am grateful for your prayers, your support and your continued partnership with us that will ultimately save the lives of countless children here in Uganda.

Blessings to you, my friends.

See you in the next blog,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mombasa, Kenya

We've been in Mombasa, Kenya today. Mombasa is Swahili for "surface of the sun hot". It is so, so hot here. I am sunburnt. And, super sweaty. Wait till you see my pictures. This scouting mission is really beyond words.

Our guides today were beyond excellent. Jacob, an orphange director, Amina with The Caucus for Women's Leadership and Mishi with the Women Regional Assembly. Mishi was just defeated in her run for MP (Member of Parliament) but I suspect it won't be long before she's running the country.

Mombasa was so different from Nairobi. For starters, it is HOT. The elevation was sea level. The air was thick and the only breeze came from catching the wind in the back of the van (with our pop up roof!). Mombasa has a much greater feel of poverty (which is really saying a lot because there is such extreme poverty in Kenya). And, with that come certain feelings of keeping up with your safety. Our guides were always alert to when we needed to tuck away our cameras and to close the windows. Driving through Mombasa island Amina remarked "It's not poverty, it's disorganization". A very good and interesting perspective and, clearly one spoken from someone who has a passionate interest in seeing the potential for bringing change to her country.

We've been so busy and then so tired that I keep thinking I've hardly had a chance to talk with Stuart. I did remark to him that I imagined half the population of Kenya was under 18 because there are scads of children everywhere. We learned that in Mombasa the children are out of school right now because the teachers are on strike. College educated teachers earn an average of 140-180 a month. More than teachers in Moldova earn, but definitely worth striking over.

From the Island we went on to the South. To do that we had to take a ferry. I'm not even going to tell you how hot that was.

While we were sweating to death I saw a tuk-tuk (3 wheeled taxi car) full of roots and asked about those. Turns out they were Cassava-- a sweet root plant that's dug up and boiled or prepared with coconut or other things. It's a that means it's probably really good.

In the South we went to a handful of orphanages. This was the first time for us to see thatched roof houses in villages. The first stop was to Jacob's orphanage. He cares for 269 children and they have no.....NO....beds. In his previous communication to us he had asked for only half as many beds as he had children, saying they could share beds and we could go to provide beds to others in great need. His children (or "watoto") are absolutely precious. I can't wait to post pictures for you.

From the South we went to Old Town.-- which was the first town in Africa! We had lunch and went on to see more orphanages and even to meet with some local bed manufacturers.

Something I really had no idea about until we arrived is that 70 percent of Mombasa is Muslim. That was an entirely new experience to take in. That is an entirely separate blog....can't wait.

Our tireless guides took us to the North coast in the afternoon. I can't even think of how many orphanages we went to today. It was exhausting, but also....what's the word. Gosh, I don't know. We met so many who have enormous hearts and we are looking forward to seeing how God leads us to assist in their work.

Amina was the time keeper...I pleaded with her for a 4 minute break to be able to run and stick my toes into the Indian Ocean. Mishi helped talk her into it.

When we pulled up I saw the white sand, the locals...and a camel, of course!!!! I had actually changed my mind about taking the time to get out and just said I'd take a picture from the car. Amina was okay with that, but Mishi insisted we get out. I love Mishi.

As we went up to the camel the beach guy/camel owner/camel operator told me his name was George. Of course! That's such a camel name! :)

I really just wanted a picture with George. The locals had others things in mind. Before I knew it, Stuart had climbed on the back of the camel. There wasn't any way I was going to get on that skyscraper of a horse. Well, unless you could have heard the peer pressuring cries of the camel bookies "come on momma, get on with poppa" So, I did. I was in a long skirt and wasn't sure how to get on in a lady like fashion. I only put one leg over and the other I kept under me. That was a bad idea because I almost fell off when the camel stood up! Yeah, he stood up. Stuart thought it might just be a photo op, but oh no....we rode a CAMEL down the beach on the Indian Ocean! :) I screamed a couple of times---which was amusing to everyone on the ground. They don't strap you in or anything---I just kept wondering what the best way was to fall off a camel onto the sand from 12 feet in the air.

Thankfully I don't have that information for you. I do, however, know that you must lean far back and hold on tight when the giant beast goes down.

Sooooo...then we were off to meet with three more orphanage directors on our rush back to the airport for our flight back to Nairobi to Uganda tonight. Orphanage directors so badly need beds here that one director literally had us pick her up on the side of the road on our way back to the airport rather than miss her opportunity to get beds for her kids. Amazing.

So many stories. I'll stop for now. We're about to board to get to Uganda tonight. I hope there's not anyone sitting next to either of us. We. Are. Funky.

See you in the next blog,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Barely live from Kenya

Hello friends...before you get alarmed, I simply mean to say we are wayyyy tired! At dinner I was too tuckered to cut my meat selection, so I just gave it to Stuart and had some taters (they looked a lot like pillows to me). :)

Today I feel like we drove all over Kenya to visit orphanages and talk about their bedding needs.
In each, all the kids giggle like crazy when they see me touch my tongue to my nose. It's really fun to see their bright pink tongues come out and try to touch their dark little faces. Well, fun except for when the ones with super runny noses come along. I try hard to not do my trick around those kids but it's not always easy. :)

One of our stops today was at an orphanage called El-Shadai Center. When we walked through their gate we were welcomed outside by little girls who acted like we were long lost relatives. They ran over to us and one girl named Priscilla threw their arms around me. She's about 13 and is as cute as she could be. She told us all sorts of stories including that today was Sunday and they were worshipping God.

I think we heard the names and shook the little hands of each of the 135 children there. Good names like: Mary, John, Peter, Elizabeth, Joy, Peace, Miracle, Faith, Genesis, Exodus, Lev.....oops...sorry....that's not right.

Priscilla was showing me some banana trees when I happened to turn around to see this precious little 2-3 year old girl with chubby cheeks and braided pointy hair wobble/walk over to Stuart. She had on a pretty pink sweater and little jeans and went right up to him and reached for his hand. She was quite taken with him--it was fun to watch. Later we learned that she was HIV positive. Several of the children we were having fun with have HIV. Maybe that's part of what has me somewhat quiet today.

Eventually the director/pastor came and took us inside for worship. It was a delightful experience. They sang songs that were great to watch and hear. Then he had us talk. And talk. And talk. He was so funny. I asked the children if they could sing their favorite praise song. They sang SO loud I thought the roof would blow off! The funniest part was this one little girl in the first "row" who was asleep the entire time. I'm not sure how she could have slept through that, but she wasn't a stirrin'.

Speaking of sleeping....that potato I'm looking at now really IS my pillow and it is calling my name.

As I leave you, I'll tell you that all of the 12 orphanages we've been to have very, very real needs for beds and bedding. For some, as little as 5 bunk beds would change lives.

First thing tomorrow we fly to Mombasa in southern Kenya where we have an insanely busy day planned out for us. As you pray for our energy and health, please also pray for God to direct you in how to respond to what you are reading.

And when you do pray for direction, email me at to share your prayers with me and I'll add my prayers to yours. My own prayer is for a mighty response from our blessed friends so that we don't continue to have to end each visit with, "We hope to help. We will continue to pray for God to provide so that we can provide beds for your children." I want our praise to be, "God has moved and His people have provided. Your children will have beds next week!"

Mmmm......sounds like something to dream about.

See you in the next blog,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

First day in Africa

Hello...good to see you!

I should start out by saying that a person who is too tired to have dinner or who has taken 2 Tylenol PM probably shouldn't blog. But......I just had to share.

So, as you've read in my new previous post....I'm in Kenya right now (and Uganda starting the first of the week) for Sweet Sleep.

I've never been to Africa before. To tell you the truth, I never imagined I would EVER come to Africa. One reason being that I am very much afraid to fly and Africa is clearly a long trip. No thank you! But, as I've learned from many other things in life....Jesus had other plans.

So, to you I say, "Karibou" which means "welcome" in Swahali (did I spell that right?).

My immediate impression of Africa (after entering the airport, which reminded me of a Seinfeld episode) was that the people are incredibly friendly. My greater impression from the full day is that I've never seen happier people. Which says a lot because these children and the people who sacrifice so much to care for them have mountains of struggles to deal with.

Our first stop was to an orphange which is trying to rebuild after a fire. Right now the kids are jammed into what amounts to storage closets on rickety beds. The director of this orphanage is an amazing woman named Jane who is a second generation orphanage director: her mother began the orphanage and died two years ago. Jane is probably one of the top five resourceful people I've ever met. And now she is counting on Sweet Sleep's resources to be able to provide beds for her children. She's been able to get all sorts of deals and so the cost for all of the children's beds and bedding came out to about $8300. I feel certain someone who will read this will feel led to provide for these 100 children (2 months to 16 years old) or know someone who will.

Our next stop led into our third: a walking tour of a slum where our tour guide was the Kenyan woman who ran both orphanages. The slum had been her only orphanage until she recently had to move it to a different location when the political/election violence led angry people to threaten to burn the whole slum down. Now the former shelter (read: tin and simple wood shack) now house street kids who live in the slum.

Lots of words come to mind to describe what we saw, but none really seem quite fitting. I'll just leave it up to you once I am able to post pictures to this blog next week.

We had a few other stops in our day before ending by going to the second largest slum in Africa. More than One MILLION people (moms, dads, children, grandpas, grandpas, aunts, know.....PEOPLE) live there.

I really can't begin to describe it to you. And neither can the pictures. The rusted metal roofs cover simple wood or cardboard frames. Most of us probably have bathrooms the size of these "homes", so imagine that their owners find things to do elsewhere. Suddenly you have what seems like a million people walking in the streets or sitting under a broken umbrella selling fruit or animal parts. There are dozzzzens of bright-but faded- shops everywhere you look offering a hair cut or more animal parts or even to charge your battery.

And then you come to the end of one street and hear the delightful sound of children's voices singing. It was really an oasis in the midst of chaos.

I've never in my life seen anything like their home. To meet the orphanage director we had to climb--basically old, worn treehouse steps to get to the 2nd level of their orphanage. I really wasn't sure my skirt and I were ever going to be able to make it back down.

I have absolutely no way to ever find the words to describe to you how these children sleep. Trust that the images I witnessed are forever in my mind and that I'll let you know if I ever do think of words.

The miracle of it all is that money has been given---and property has been purchased--to build a new orphanage in the countryside. Work begins on that in April. The hope is to complete it in June. That's when they'll reallllly need beds. Perfect timing because it gives everyone plently of time to save their bucks and gift real beds, pillows and bedding to these tired children.

Okay---i am definitely feeling the TY I must stop abruptly.

See you again in the next blog!

Well. What a day!

This morning our flight landed in Nairobi around 6:15 and we've been going strong ever since.

After five years of providing beds and bedding to the orphaned and abandoned children in Moldova, Sweet Sleep is moving forward on the many ways we feel God leading our ministry to provide to the estimated 210 Million orphaned and abandoned children in the world.

This past Christmas we were able to provide beds and bedding for orphans in Haiti whose home was ravaged by four hurricanes, a rock and a mud slide (I promise more of a blog about that later...).

And now--Africa. Our Operations guy, Stuart, and I are here to meet with orphanage directors and pastors in Kenya and Uganda to better be able to understand and sense where God is calling us to.

There's that....I'm going to blog about our first day in Kenya tonight, hopefully. I just didn't want to lose anybody along the way.

See you in the next blog,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Live from Moldova!!!

Hello from Moldova!

Over the last two days I've had a chance to spend some time with the children at two of the orphanages our teams will be building beds for this year. It's been cold and damp here, but their faces are happy and bright....especially when they are taling about getting new beds!

We've got lots of work ahead of us. Our teams always count on the kids at each orphanage to help with the building of their new beds. Today I asked a group of 8th and 9th grade boys if they'd want to help build their beds...and the response was pretty much that we couldn't get here quick enough....they wanted to help right away!

Many of the beds we saw today were completely falling apart. Sometimes Stuart would sit in a bed to see how low the metal springs would sag. Other times the orphanage director would advise him not to sit in a particular bed because it would break and hurt him. Can you imagine having to be so very careful about getting in to your bed so that you do not break it? Can you imagine laying for hours and hours on a bed with metal mesh springs that make it almost like you are sleeping in a hammock...a metal hammock? That's just not a good nights sleep.....or healthy....or loving.

The truth is that NONE of these children will have beds this year if you (yes, YOU) don't do something. There's no reason you can't help change the life of a child. Pass this post/blog along in your emails . Challenge your friends to join together to provide the funds for just one bed. Decide to step out of your comfort zone and GO on a trip. The dates are posted on our site---the children help....but they need you to direct and love them.

The children need you. What will you do?

Tomorrow we head to Africa to meet with scads of orphanage directors and pastors. We look forward to sharing what God opens our hearts to in Kenya and Uganda.

See you in the next blog,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It’s the MOST Wonderful time of the Year…

I’ve been thinking about blogging more on our Sweet Sleep blog page. There are so many stories to tell and so many ways God works through this ministry to change lives…so many prayer needs….so many questions to ask. The thought of where to start has kept me from beginning. And then last week….it happened. I had the perfect place to start. A beginning.

Sometimes I find I have the tendency to grow accustomed to the work Sweet Sleep does. It’s like if you were a heart surgeon or the person who gives you a pedicure (have those two ever been compared before….and what is the name for someone who gives pedicures? See, there are so many questions). A surgeon doesn’t think twice about the fact that their work just saved a life (not a good one anyway!). The pedicure person doesn’t sit back and marvel at their 10 little piggy masterpiece (like I always do for days on end).

It’s like that in ministry, too. Every day we strive to accomplish something profound for an orphaned or abandoned child…..every day. Sometimes in the busyness I forget to step back and be amazed. I wish I wouldn’t because then I’m not able to fully or adequately recognize the potential impact God desires to make from our obedience.

Recently I had dinner with John Hataway, old friend, supporter of Sweet Sleep, all around stellar human and team leader for our May 2009 Moldova mission journey. Our dinner conversation began as any other and then developed into me talking about the work our Sweet Sleep teams will be doing in 2009 to minister to orphaned and abandoned children through the provision of their beds and bedding.

Our dinner conversation snapped me awake to the things God has been doing and wants to continue to do this year. It was tremendous…and I just had to share it with you…

Snap 1---
Our first team of the year (March) will have the opportunity to finish building beds for boys who are, most likely, going to spend the rest of their lives in or near their beds. This will be our third and final trip to build beds for these boys. Admittedly when we were going to build their beds I was very apprehensive about how I might act or respond to boys with handicaps that, quite frankly, made me nervous or uncomfortable. God surprised me on that first trip by showing me that it wasn’t the boys who were handicapped, but me. And God, being full of grace and mercy, showed me and the entire team that Love removes all handicaps. He reminded me that in Heaven we will all be whole. It was a beautiful thing. And, it was my favorite of 22 trips. I’m so excited to return to a place that is such a glimpse of what Heaven will be like.

On that same team we’ll go to build beds for children who are living at an orphanage for children who have arthritis and circulatory problems. I’ve made two visits to this orphanage----and I have to confess that I still don’t understand how it is there can be an entire orphanage of children who have arthritis and joint problems. In trying to understand this, I have continued to ask myself, “What would this look like in America?” Perhaps the best understanding of their situation came from the wife of our Moldovan project coordinator, “their suffering is from the cold and is associated with poverty.” No wonder I struggled to understand that. I can’t. But, their lives will be improved by the team which builds their new beds. Goodbye sagging metal hammocks. Goodbye extra health problems for those children with arthritic joints and bodies. Hello, sweet sleep from Sweet Sleep.

Snap 2---
Our conversation continued to unfold to the team John is leading. John helped to contribute to a portion of our team notebooks which deal in a member’s spiritual development. We began to talk about how he needed to prepare for his commitment: praying for his unknown team members, sharing his calling with those around him, beginning to ask God to guide him through the steps which would prepare his team in every way.

My mission pastor has always said that a mission journey is a years worth of church wrapped up into a week. I’ve never argued that statement. The longer our dinner conversation went, the more I was reminded of why that seems so true.
Mission journeys are amazing for so many reasons. Yes, they allow you to meet new people (some of my best friends have come into my life as a result of serving on a team). Yes, they allow you to travel to new places you might otherwise never go (just look at my photo albums and passport). Yes, they force yourself to test your faith by making you do something you’re afraid of (for me, this is my extreme fear of flying…you might enjoy knowing I have never unbuckled on an airplane.) Yes, they take your view and understanding of the world and your place in it and squash it to pieces (too many examples to list, but trust me). And yes, they will always prove that, despite our best intentions to minister to those we seek to serve, we’re actually the ones most ministered to ----by those we are serving. Amazing how this happens.

Snap 3---
As our dinner conversation wrapped up we found ourselves wondering WHO would go. Who would the faces and names be that now are just prayers? What stories laid before us about why God would bring lives together? How would they be forever changed? What child would come to experience love for the first time or come to know of a TRUE Father? What team member would experience a little bit of Heaven on earth by hugging a child and then realizing they were looking into the face of their Saviour?

And then suddenly the restaurant was closing down and we had to stop dreaming and talking about all those whose hearts God would begin to stir over the coming days, weeks and months as teams begin to form. And THAT makes this the most exciting time of year. We have a handful of trips over the next several months and as we sit here, God is moving things in a person’s life and heart which will lead them to join a Sweet Sleep journey. Exciting? I think so.

So, where will you go this year? It could be Africa or Eastern Europe or maybe just to the coffee shop where you happen to tell a friend about an opportunity to work with orphans to build their beds. Whatever that moment looks like, let God use you in it.

See you in the next blog.