Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bus Ticket for Christmas

Isn't he stunning?  Well, just let me answer that for you.  Yes, he is!  His name is Richman.  He has been the hardest for me to get to know mostly because he is shy and quiet.  But the more I come around the more he has opened up.  This past trip to Zim was the best for me in getting to know Richman.  I fall more in love with this boy every time.

Richman wants to be a farmer.  He has really really really loved the farming work that he has been learning with the older children.  He loves it.  He wants to be a full-time professional farmer.  He really doesn't desire to go to a higher level of education.  He will finish high school in November 2012.  But not only does he want to be a farmer with his own farm, he wants to teach others to farm.  Among them he wants to serve orphans.  I learned something interesting and lovely about Richman.  He has a mother. And he has several brothers and sisters.  2 of his siblings are also under the care of the orphanage.  We talked a lot about how he ended up there.  He and his younger siblings had not been able to be afforded an education.  They didn't have proper clothing or shoes.  He told me a very sweet story about how his young school mates (when he was a little boy) would all pitch money into a little box to save money for his school fees.  They were giving their own money to try and help him.  Sometimes there was enough and sometimes there wasn't.  Ultimately someone eventually reached out to our fabulous Fatima and asked if she could take he and 2 of his siblings in and she agreed.  Sadly, his family lives very far away and at most he only gets to see them once per year for just a few days.  When he goes back to his rural village he teaches his family about Jesus.  He has personally seen everyone in his family come to know Christ and accept Him as their personal savior.  He has reported to me that they are all attending church now and one of his older brothers is becoming a pastor.  I know that this blesses Richman greatly.  To just think it may have been the separation of his family due to poverty that delivered them all to the riches of Glory!  Richman was so happy telling me this story.  I asked if he was going to get to see his family soon and he said no... it was a very soft "no" hushed in sadness.  I did some further investigating and found out that he couldn't go visit because there wasn't enough money for the bus tickets.  It would cost approx $50 round trip.  I asked Fatima if I could give Richman the money for a ticket as a Christmas gift and she agreed.  SO - BFGO sent Richman home to see his momma and his older brothers and sisters.  His two younger siblings did not get to go...but I am planning on seeing to it that they all get to go next Christmas.

As you can imagine, Richman was stunned and speechless.  He was fighting back tears and he was searching for words that he just simply couldn't find.  I didn't want him to make a big deal about "thank yous" so I just begged him to go and enjoy and not search for ways to thank me and BFGO.  I can't wait to hear from him though to see how his visit was.

Thank you to our donors for making sweet little surprises like this possible.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Q & A

I've posted a little Q & A over at my personal blog regarding the time I spend in Zim.  Please journey over there for the latest update.  I'll be back to post an update here soon.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Rainy Season - This is Africa

After a long season of drought the rain is gloriously welcomed.  They have several crops here that depend heavily on mighty rains.  The maize (their staple food), potatoes, cabbages and so much more need the pour.  In the time that I have been here we have had several rains and many thunder storms.  It is the muddiest Zim I have ever seen.  It is the most drenched, saturated, well-watered Africa I have ever encountered.

I could easily describe my time here the same.  I have never been muddier.  Deep into the dirty parts of their backgrounds.  Some of these were dumped in the bush (the wild) as babies.  Some of these were horrifically exploited by the ones they should have been loved by.  Histories of sexual abuse, bugs eating heads, sicknesses driven to the brink of death.  The stories here are so troubled.  And I have entered deep into the mud with them.  I have wiped some tears.  I have cupped faces in my hands and raised their eyes up to mine so that they can see I love them so much and there is no reason to fear that a background could come between us.  My background....after all....

I have never been so saturated in love.  These kids have been miraculously (not an exaggeration) transformed into victors and champions.  They no longer feel like the "least of these".  They are sons and daughters of the Most High God and there is nothing "least" about that.

I have never been so poured into.  This one can't be explained.  You had to be there; here.  If ever the "streams of living water" have flowed within me; it is now.  NOW.  Very NOW and forevermore.

Two days ago my son (yes I believe this) Boaz came and whispered to me, "did you manage to do your wash?".  I looked at him, "No not yet" with eyes that signaled I might be lost.  His response, "come i will help you".  I proceeded to grab just a few articles of clothing.  I needed a clean dress for church and something clean to wear for today, and clean travel clothes for tomorrow.  He took me outside where they do all of their washing by hand and he showed me his method.  He washed more than half of what I gathered while I struggled with 3 or 4 pieces.  After about 5 steps in all to get everything washed and rinsed, I was finally trying to wring out the excess to hang up my clothing to dry on the line.  No matter how many times I twisted and squeezed, droplets of water continued to drip out and splash onto the stone walkway; perpetually drenched.

Lord may we all be perpetually drenched in your Living Waters.

"Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

I am here to testify again and again, the rainy season is essential to life.  Dont' be afraid of the mud.

The rainy season....this is Africa.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

the praying boy

Perhaps it isn’t necessarily the American way to hear a man completely gush; pour out the truth in passionate detail of how he feels.  But I’m not in America.

He never heard his Momma say she loved him until the day she died.  He was 17 then.  He had been away in a boarding school and she called him early in the month to say that she is getting weak and that he needs to come home soon.  Her time was coming to an end and he could hear it in her voice.  She asked of his exam schedule and he told her the date he would be finished.  It would be December 17 that year.  She said to him, “I will hold on for you until that day.  When you come to see me I will take my last breath.”  This wasn’t a date he was exactly looking forward to. 

He showed up and listened to the blessings of his mother.  She spoke so lovingly of him and to him.  It was that day she finally said “I love you”.  Words he had been waiting to hear all 17 years.  The whisper left her lips and journeyed to his ears, reaching his heart and soul.  As promised, she then took her last breath.

His Poppa died soon after leaving he and his brother desperate to journey for someone, anyone to love them and look after them; help them make a way in life; anywhere but the streets.  But for a bit the street became home anyway.  A series of divine helpers made their way into the life of this older boy while the younger had been taken in by someone temporarily. 

The story is almost too remarkable to type.  It sounds made up.  It sounds exaggerated.  But it is not.  I know it isn’t.  It involves angels of mercy, sightings of spirit agents of the Lord in the wild bush. 

For a while he was permitted to sleep in a church if he would agree to open it up each morning at 4am for the morning prayer service.  Not every Sunday.  Every DAY.  He agreed.  After a while he was permitted to stay with a family that he knew who lived in a one room apartment.  Every night he would go outdoors and pray for hours…into the wee early hours of the morning.  The landlord could hear the prayers; day after day after morning after morning.  After quite a while the landlord called to him to come into his own apartment with the family.  He asked the praying boy to pray.  He thought to himself, “there is not much I can do but I am always filled with prayer”.  He prayed.  They wept and were moved.  The landlord then evicted one of the tenants and gave that apartment to the praying boy for no charge. 

His story is full of twists and turns.  I listened for two hours as the details were shared with the big finish….  “now, here I am”.

He’s a pastor now, very much against the grain of what he wanted to be.  But if you could have heard the rest of his story you would see that God was not going to have it any other way.  The praying boy had no choice but to shepherd a flock …in this present case a young flock of other orphans.  I can only testify that He is always full of a powerful word and His love for Christ is infectious.

He gushes with the heart and truth of a child.  He confesses his deep need to know who the people are in his life who love him.  He crumbles (his word) if he doesn’t hear those words regularly (daily) from the people he has entrusted his heart to.  Although it pains me to know he suffers so deeply in his heart when love isn’t announced….it teaches me something new into the lives of these kids.  The only people in this life that you can trust (usually) to love you are your momma and daddy.  Without them….  Well?

I am multiplying my “I love yous” in this place.  Forever more.

 i'll also soon have an update at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They want to know about DC, New York, Chicago and Hollywood.  These are the places they have heard of.  They ask countless questions about snow and cold air.  They want to know what time it is in the USA. When I explain the different time zones their faces go blank.

Yesterday we went to one of their maize fields so they could see the growth progress.  They truly rejoiced - shouts and whistles to see that some of the stalks have already grown 1-2 feet tall.  The teenage children are all responsible for working a portion of that land.  They are assigned sections.  Beyond that laborers are hired to complete the rest of the field.  The children take part in each phase, from tilling and plowing to planting and weeding.  What I LOVE about the spirits of these kids is that they do not view it as work.  They view it as a necessary step to produce a harvest.  I think that we as Americans forget this on a daily basis.  We view our jobs as work often and quickly forget that the work is producing a harvest.  Whether it is harvesting wisdom in children or the accomplishment of a system or the provision of food on the table to feed the babes.  The kids here go to work for the harvest using their hands, backs, legs, and very rough feet.  They remind me to sow for what the seed will produce ultimately.  I thank them (and God) for that.  The seed and the laborers were paid for by Beautiful Feet Global Outreach thanks to our donors.  Glory to God and thank you for your faithfulness in giving; planting seeds.

This morning I awoke to a practically empty house.  All of the boys have gone to the field and will be gone all day.  I must confess - I deeply hate being separated from the boys.  But this morning I have had a wonderful (2 hour) conversation with one of the older girls.  She is 22...the one who also just had a birthday.  She is the chef for us while I am here and she is amazing.  Last night I taught her how to prepare American mashed potatos (they have never had).  It was a par-tay!  The potoatos with butter and salt in creamy milk were gobbled up quickly.  The older boys began to barter with one another for shares of the others portions.  It was so sweet to me that none of the boys was willing to give up his portion but for the one who does not like butter.  But - back to my conversation with the older girl....

I felt comfortable to ask her how her parents passed away.  She shared openly.  But after she finished telling me the stories of their passings she looked at me in the eyes and said "aunti Melly, God has since raised up wonderful parents for me."  She is speaking of her aunts and uncles whom love her so much and are caring for her like she is their own.  She is attending university and learning to drive.  I'm just not sharing her name yet because I haven't asked her permission but I will show you a photo soon.  What I love about her is the immense amount of Godly wisdom from which she speaks and thinks and does.  And I love her love for others.  She will tell me about a friend of hers and say "she is a most beautiful and wonderful girl...she is truly amazing".  She will talk about her friends for a very long time in describing her love for them before she moves into giving me the detail of what she wants to share.  It is just incredibly beautiful.  She had explained to me that one of her friends had to go away and she hasn't seen her in a long time.  But then she had a large small on her face and stated "but God is faithful and He raised up for me another glorious friend like a sister".  I could weep at that.  In fact I did dispense a tear and tried to hide it from her but I think she saw.

Yesterday late afternoon my tender one, 17-year old Boaz pulled me into the dining area and I could sense that he wanted to have a serious talk.  Because otherwise we are laughing and he loves to sit on the sofa with me and rest against me...either on my shoulder or with his head in my lap.  Tangent:  one morning he came and rested in my lap (yes a big 17 year old)... and he said "I am just so happy.  I can't believe I am resting here on you lap and that God sent you into my life."  Sometimes I hear things like this and I just sit in silence.  I cannot imagine how they feel - especially the ones who have lost their parents or the ones who have never known them (like him).  Off tangent:  so at the dining room table he wasn't sure what he wanted to say and so nothing was said for a moment.  I asked him what are his greatest temptations and from there he poured and spilled and gushed.  When I see the tenderness and openness here it really causes me to see that we in America are missing something.  We have learned secrecy, privacy and shame.  Here it is a bit different.  He shared with me exactly his temptations and the inner turmoil and struggle of not wanting to go the way of the world but to remain constantly attached to the vine of Christ.  His greatest fear - messing up his destiny.  He refers much to his "background" of being very low-class (my wording).  He knows that in this country he is a reject but that in God he is a champion.  He has been blessed with much love along the way through the orphanage, Fatima (myself), etc.  He doesn't want to mess that up.  I am stricken by his ability to see the big picture.  I am frozen by his determination to overcome all temptations in the name of Jesus.  They think I am here to love them and impart wisdom.  They have no idea.

This is enough for today.  If you missed my first post on my personal website you may see it at  Also I have posted several updates on Facebook if you would like to search for Beautiful Feet Global Outreach and follow along.

For now I will leave you with just  a photos.

These were just a few from our Christmas party.  Their first tree, EVER!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


off i go
with ornaments and socks
money for their expenses - due to recent donations (thank you!)
a heavy heart
a full heart
a hopeful heart
and some nervous anxiety to boot

it is summer in zim
i fully expect a sunburn on my feet

the above video was taken in April when we had our Easter celebration.  you are seeing most of the children and all of the staff.  the youngest children were not in the dance line.  enjoy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Heading Home

My apologies for the lack of posts recently.  We are continuing to support the Zim orphanages on a monthly basis, however the finances continue to not be enough.  Rather than post repeatedly about how we need more monthly donors I have been quiet and still.  It is good.

I am returning to Zim next week to spend 2 weeks before Christmas.  This is always such a critical time of year because their school year has officially ended and the children have completed final exams.  In January those who are still in school will advance to the next grade level.  But for those who have just completed their final year it is the end of the road for them.  The orphanage cannot keep them.  The director works tirelessly to try and find placements for them.  She recently placed one girl in a home to be a child tender.  She is a wonderful girl and I cannot fathom the blessing that she will be to that family.  My prayers are for her well-being and fair treatment.  I do not know if I will get to see her this time but I pray that I get to see her at least once.  It was her sweeping broom that awakened me every morning at 5am when I was there in April.  I wonder who will be sweeping in her place.

As preparations for this time of travel are underway I find myself saying things like "we'll figure that out when I get home" or "once I'm home we can....." and the funny thing is, I'm not talking about "here"... I'm talking about "there".  I'm so excited to sleep in "my" Zim bed and bathe in "my" Zim bath and cook in "my" Zim kitchen and be with "my" Zim family.  Except for the separation from my biological nuggets and my fur critters, I feel like I'm heading home.  My Zim loves will be filling my arms next week.  I can already smell their sweet heads and hear their quiet voices.  I can feel Emily's tight hugs and I'm looking into the eyes and smile of Boaz and I'm having endless conversations with Bestman and Pastor Phil.  That God would grant me this privilege over and over is beyond my comprehension.  That He would break my heart for them and others like them is like an early treasure in my soul that He promises is everlasting.  It still feels strange on my tongue that I can say there are orphans in Africa who are children of my heart.  Why would He possibly allow me this?  I have no idea.  But every time I go I spend time in the Spirit knowing that it is of Him, from Him and for Him that I go.  And my heart is surely settled that Beautiful Feet Global Outreach is His cause and that I am just a servant trying to be obedient to His plans.  I can not design its success.  It is entirely up to Him.

This time I travel with tough love in my pockets.  The children will be hearing things from me they haven't heard before.  I will reach out with firm words of rebuke toward those children who are misbehaving.  I will be bringing messages of hope in the power of Christ to resist temptation.  I will share more and more of the truths of my past so that they can know how truly I can relate to their struggles (some).  And I will show them the Love of Christ, anyway....because like all of us, they need to know about redemption, grace and mercy.  They need to be reminded that they have been adopted as children of God.

Sometimes I am discouraged by well-meaning friends.  Yes, I said "friends".  Sometimes the people closest to me act as if I'm impossibly trying to save the world.  I am not.  60 kids does not a world make and I have not once confused myself to be their Savior.  Sometimes my friends question what a difference my presence can make...that I should just send the money.  All I can say to that is that we do send tons of money...and my presence impacts them and me.  Presence is the only way to build relationships.  Money isn't encouraging.  Money isn't love in the flesh.  Money helps get the most critical jobs done.  Face to face leaves everlasting impressions.  Some of my friends question whether we are just enablers.  How many times I've heard "teach a man to fish instead of just feeding the man".  That is exactly our hope and our vision...  but until we can find water and fishing poles we will continue to serve under the authority of Christ to help deliver their daily bread.  Someday when there is a capital budget to do so, we will build them a training complex where they will learn all sorts of skills to be able to sustain lives in a country where there is no opportunity.  Once I was discouraged with these words, "they aren't your kids can't take full responsibility for them".  Well, they don't have mothers and God paired me with in some way they are my kids.  While I do not take full responsibility for them, God has asked me to be a mouthpiece for them.  He has asked me to point to them, focus on them, love and serve them, teach them and encourage their increased faith.  He has asked me to model love for them.  That is all I am doing.  That is BFGO.

Thank you to all of those who continually support BFGO with encouragement, love, prayers and finances.  The difference you are making cannot be measured.

I'll be posting more frequently between 12/8-12/19 in Zim depending on internet connection.  Prayers deeply appreciated.

melissa irwin
founder ~ executive director