I slid down into my chair last Friday afternoon feeling completely exhausted in every possible way. From my seat at the kitchen table in the drop in center, I could hear the boys running and yelling and soaking up their last basketball game outside with my brother. If someone had walked into the center at that very moment, they would have assumed everything was great. The kids were all playing together outside, the teachers were upstairs in the classroom cleaning up from school, and the smell of dinner sizzling in the pan filled the air.
But the truth is, everything was not so great. After months of God’s hand moving on this ministry and through these kids in beautiful and miraculous ways, now, the enemy is attacking us full force.
As I sat there in my chair, quietly willing myself to release all these burdens I was carrying back to the Lord, a question formed in my heart and I was desperate for an answer. The girls’ house parents was across the room cooking dinner for the kids, so I asked her…
“Isn’t there someone in the Bible who started to feel frustrated and inadequate to lead the people and begged God to take the responsibility away from him?”
She answered me quickly… “Moses”.
Moses! Yes of course. Moses. So I opened my Bible to start rereading the story and I trembled at the similarities between his struggles and mine. I remembered enough about Moses to know that God didn’t let him get out of leading the people even when he asked. So I prayed, God teach me what to do through Moses’ journey, and I vowed to myself to finish reading over the story again this weekend…
I read through the part of the story, after the 10 plagues, when God leads Moses and his people out of Egypt by sending His unmistakable presence through pillars of clouds and fire to guide them towards the Red Sea. I kept reading on into the miracle of God pulling back the waters of the Red Sea so His people could cross through on dry land.
And the whole time I’m reading, it reminded me of this past year in the ministry- a season of Gods unmistakable presence and miracles. A beautiful transformation happened in the lives of the kids over that time. They moved from slaves of the streets, to kids that know WHO they are and WHOSE they are. I’m not saying it was always an easy time, but God’s hand was evident and both the staff and the kids learned to trust it.
I opened my Bible and kept reading…
Moses and his people arrive in the wilderness and there is no food. The people freak out and start saying the most ridiculous things, convinced that Moses has brought them out here to die. They grumble to their leaders, but Moses is quick to point out that their grumbling isn’t really against him but against God. Ouch. God forgives them for being dumb and gives them food anyway. He tells them not to go out and gather on the seventh day because there won’t be any food, but some of the stubborn ones don’t listen and go out to look anyway. There’s no food that day.
They move along in the wilderness and they are happy, for now, because every morning God is literally covering the ground with food for them. But then they get further along in their journey and there is no water. They start fighting with each other and shouting demands at Moses. So Moses has enough and he prays, “Lord, what shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me…” In the end, despite the peoples’ ridiculousness, God hears Moses’ prayer and miraculously provides the water they need.
I read that part of the story and started to tremble because of how deeply I can relate. The enemy has seen God moving in these kids’ lives over the past year and now he wants them to forget it all. He wants them to believe life was better for them back on the street and some of them believe that lie. They are going back to the drugs and back to their old ways. They are all but impossible to control and complaining about the most ridiculous things, like not getting served enough food. Sound familiar? They are jealous of the new street kids we’ve been getting to know and when I discipline them or they don’t get their way, they are convinced I don’t love them anymore.
The kids are restless and grumbling, the staff is exhausted and discouraged, and everyone is looking to me as one of their leaders and I’m crying out to God like Moses- Lord, what do I do with these people?! They are almost ready to stone me…
But I know God has a lesson in this for me, so I keep reading. I remembered that Moses didn’t actually get to enter the Promised Land with his people but I couldn’t remember why. So I looked it up…
Again, the people have no water and are mad at Moses for it. So Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before God and begged Him for an answer. God gives Moses very specific instructions- take your staff, gather all the people together around this rock, and then tell the rock to yield its water.
But Moses is frustrated with his people! They have been complaining about him and acting ridiculous for YEARS, even after God keeps doing miracles among them. So Moses has had enough. Instead of following Gods specific instructions, he gets up on the rock and calls them all rebels and speaks bitterly towards them. He doesn’t speak to the rock like God told him to, instead he slams his staff into it twice and water comes spewing out. Immediately God rebukes Moses and tells him that because of his actions that day, he will not be the one to bring these people into the Promised Land.
Wow…harsh. But as soon as I read it, I knew I had found what God wanted to teach me.
Last week, in the midst of everything else going on, one of the kids took a crayon and vandalized the cabinets in the classroom. When I came in the next day, they had done it again. After I saw it, I went downstairs to calm down and collect my thoughts and pray, then I went upstairs before class to talk to them. (If you’ve every tried to discipline kids in a language that is not your first language…let me tell you- it is not easy!) My words came out fast and my tone was harsh and full of bitterness.
When I read about Moses’ mistake and all that it cost him that day on the rock, my heart was heavy because I could relate. My conversation with the kids last week went the same way. But my first thought was that Moses had every right to speak to the people that way…they deserved it. But God didn’t ask Moses to lecture the people, especially not out of a heart of bitterness and anger. And if I’m honest with myself, God didn’t ask me to do that last week either. Moses didn’t reflect the heart and character of God before the people he was leading, and neither did I.
Moses’ actions that day cost him everything. Yes, the people had acted worse than Moses for years, but Moses was held to a higher standard because of his leadership.
Today, I sit here writing this, so thankful for Gods reminders to me through Moses’ journey. I’m thankful, that unlike Moses, God has given me another chance with these kids and this ministry and my life here in the Philippines. I can look back on the miracles over the course of this ministry and see that Gods presence hasn’t left us. This is a season of trials and trusting, but we are heading towards the Promised Land. I know that to be true.
The enemy won’t win in the lives of these kids.
The God who delivered Israel out of the bondage of Egypt,
is the same God who will deliver these kids from the bondage of addiction.
The God who parted the Red Sea for them,
is the same God who will make a way for us now…