Two and a half years ago, the standard, sweaty South African Sunday afternoon church experience was transformed into a weekend experience of bulk grocery shopping, hours of cooking, a car overload, spewing fountains of bodily fluids at any and every given moment, a thousand cake crumbs and even more memories – all in the name of Family and Sunday Lunch.
And Sunday became the best day ever. Every week.
Way back then, it was time for an upgrade.
Time for me to stop talking about family and to start living like it.
The “orphan crisis” looks different in South Africa now than it did 15 years ago. Because those little orphans have grown into big ones – who reproduce.
Becoming a grown up doesn’t make you stop being an orphan.
Becoming a family does.
But how can you convert from a reproducing orphan to a life-giving family if you’ve never been a part of one? If your story isn’t hemmed in with a white-picket fence or covered in rainbow sprinkles? How can we be courage and light for each other if no one ever turned on the lights to scare away our monsters under the bed?
Someone who knows teaches you, invites you, and sacrifices for you.
That’s what Jesus did. So that’s what we do.
The “orphan crisis” runs through all of us, no matter who we are or where we are, if we haven’t found our forever Home with our forever Father yet.
Once we know, we can’t stop knowing. We can’t ever go back to being orphans. We have to do something.
For me, for the past 2 ½ years, that has looked like picnic blankets, a lot of food and Kool-Aid, hauling people and dish water, and hours upon hours of living life together. We’ve danced, cried, laughed, fought, hugged, dreamed, created artwork, blown out birthday candles, popped a hundred beach balls, had cooking lessons and spa days, celebrated new lives and mourned lost lives, and we’ve learned how to be family. (Here’s a post with pics from Sunday Lunch’s one year anniversary.)
Y’all… it’s worked. Family works.
I won’t pretend to host a yard full of perfect parents and perfectly behaved children. (That would quite possibly be the very furthest thing from the truth!) I won’t claim to have set all the right boundaries or have said all the right things at all the right times. But I can tell you that moms love their children with real mom love. I can testify that both the mothers and their children have experienced security, belonging and satisfaction just in knowing that they’ve got a place on that picnic blanket, a job to do, and there’s a bowl and spoon waiting for them every week. A sisterhood has formed and is filling up the former gaps in their families.
And now the Father says it’s time for another upgrade.
We all start our lives drinking milk, being contained and watched over in every moment.
Gradually, because they love them, parents and caregivers help their children transition to solid food, freedom and the ability to make their own decisions. We can’t grow if we don’t make the changes.
As soon as you get in the rhythm of a stage of life, it seems like it’s time to change to another one. What a sneaky plan to keep us in step with the Spirit.
It’s time for change here too. I wrestled, and I cried. And I heard God.
He said I can’t keep spoon feeding them from their very own spoons. I can’t keep bringing them into the safety of my home at the Ten Thousand Homes base with their own space on a freshly-washed picnic blanket, away from the chaos of their own communities. (Confession: when I say picnic blanket, I actually mean a ripped and stained teal bed sheet.)
He says now they know family, and it’s time for them to go and be family.
They speak the language.
They live next door.
They share a culture, life experiences, and daily life.
They can end the orphan crisis faster than I can.
The edges of their picnic blankets can stretch so much farther than mine.
Now they know, and, no matter what decisions they make, they can’t ever not know how to belong in a family.
Two weeks ago, we had our last Sunday Lunch.
We had everybody’s favorite foods, remembered our happy moments, shared what we had learned from each other, and prayed together. With a wretchedly ugly cry face, I imparted spiritual Truth to these moms who have been transformed from being my children to my sisters. I gave them framed photos to remember, and, even more importantly, I gave them each their own picnic blanket.
I told them that nothing was ending, but something was beginning.
In God’s family, there’s always room for more… He doesn’t run out of picnic blanket places, bowls and spoons, or pots of beans. His resources don’t get stretched thin when there are more people added to the family, they increase.
It was time to increase the space on the picnic blankets so the family could reach wider.
It was time to let go of our Sunday afternoons together, so He can do something greater with our lives.
The truth is, I feel a woozy combination of sadness, relief, eagerness, loneliness, security, anxiety, excitement, confidence, lostness (I don’t care what auto-correct says - it’s a real emotion), etc, etc. What do I do with my Sundays and my life while I seek to understand the next level of living like and extending His Family? Why does it have to feel so shaky and scary?
AND…finally the ginormous house God asked me to build is HAPPENING. And I can’t help but wonder, “Why did You tell me to build a big house and then, the very week construction started, tell me to stop bringing my family home?” Cue: feeling insecure and ridiculous and completely avoiding the construction site I’ve been praying for for 2 years.
The real Truth is, He stretched out the edges of His picnic blanket through Mama Charity, Busie, Mama Siyabonga, Esther, and Ruth two weeks ago. And He’s stretching them through that construction site too. He doesn’t expect me to fill it because He will. I don’t need to understand the dimensions and lingo (phew!) or even why I’m building such a big house because He’s the One who gives, spreads out, and brings all His children in to His picnic blanket and then sends them out with their own.
So… now you know.
Roll out your blanket.
Sidenote: I've been trying for the last 9 1/2 hours... literally... to upload the Sunday Lunch video I made to show the mamas for our last Sunday Lunch. Finally it worked. Please feel free to watch it 3,000 times... that's what I did.