The Stories: In which He comes as the Interpreter

12 07 2013

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If we knew what God knows and could see what God sees, we would approach each day like a child on Christmas morning, giddy with anticipation. But we don’t know what He knows, and much of the time we see only the challenges and obstacles looming large in the path ahead. Life has taken a turn we didn’t expect, and we’re crushed with disappointment, depression, and fear. Instead of brightly colored gifts under the tree, we’ve found lumps of coal in our stocking. How could this be the plan of a good and loving God?

I’ve never spoken through an interpreter before. But I don’t speak Russian, and these women don’t understand English, so an interpreter was absolutely necessary for communication to take place. And it was also absolutely necessary that the interpreter know both the Lord and the culture.

Dina wanted to come to the conference to translate for me, but she lives in Kyrgyzstan and was having trouble securing her travel documents. We all prayed the door would open, because Dina is native to the culture, a lover of Jesus, and a gifted interpreter. And because we hoped being part of this conference would encourage her own deeply wounded heart.

Two years ago, when her daughter was born, Dina’s joy quickly shattered into despair. Abby had Down Syndrome. If they kept her, their doctor said, their family would be ostracized by society. He recommended they place her in an institution. It would be best for everyone.

And Dina’s heart exploded — love and agony rending it into tiny pieces. She and her husband already had a young son. Now God had given her a daughter — a gift she’d long prayed for. But her precious child was damaged and deficient, born into a culture that would never accept her — a culture that would look with suspicion on her and her parents, wondering who had cursed them or what sin they’d committed to deserve this punishment.

But God had given, and they knew they had no choice but to receive.

Despite the doctor’s warning, they took Abby home.

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Abby’s birth plunged Dina and her husband into a season of depression that lasted a whole year. As the time for the conference approached, they were beginning to climb out of that pit — beginning to see God’s hand in their circumstances as they reached out to other families with Downs children. But the wounds were still raw and the future a menacing unknown.

I didn’t know if Dina had worked out her documentation issues until I arrived in Kazakhstan. But there she was with her sweet little Abby. And every time I spoke, before my words reached the women’s ears, they passed through Dina’s fragile heart, washing over still-tender wounds before finding expression on her lips. And the women heard. Heard in their own language from someone who is still learning to walk in their shoes.

And so I spoke, but she told them.

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She told them about the upside down kingdom — that if we really want to see and celebrate good and beauty in the most difficult aspects of our lives and our children’s lives, we’re going to have to take a lot of the world’s values and flip them on their heads.

She told them that the world says climb the ladder to success, but true greatness is gained by serving others.

That the world celebrates intellect, physical beauty, and talent, but our character and our hearts matter so much more.

That the world applauds power, strength, and wealth, but what if it’s better to be humble and trusting, like a little child?

That the world says suffering is a curse and a punishment for wrongs done, but what if suffering has purpose? What if it is meant to teach us how to truly love and truly live?

I spoke, and she told them that their children are not a curse. They’re a gift — to them and to society. That they may not always realize it, but their lives and their precious children’s lives are making ripples all the time — showing others how to persevere and overcome obstacles, helping them learn compassion. She told them that all they had to do was watch the volunteers working with their children at camp to see how they teach some of the best lessons, simply by who they are.

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I spoke, and she told these wonderful, weary moms that the world may not recognize their greatness and stand up to applaud, but they are brave and beautiful and deserving of much honor for choosing to love and care for their special children.

She told them, and they heard. Their eyes and faces showed that they heard. And that they understood the moment we’re in is really the only one we have. The past is gone. The future is unknown. And if we live regretting the past or fretting about the future, we miss the beauty and gifts we can receive right now. They understood that we can learn to look for the good and beauty in our special children, and we can celebrate them, no matter what other people think or say.

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She told them. And she told herself. And as they wiped tears from their eyes, the weight of her own grief rolled off her shoulders and onto grace, swallowed up in eternal purpose.

And then they all celebrated. With pen and paper, they celebrated the beauty they see in their children. They wrote of pure and patient hearts, of willing service, how they love freely and refrain from judgment, how they notice others’ pain and seek to ease it, how they laugh easily and without restraint. They wrote about their gifts and they shared those gifts with each other. And they saw. Many of them for the first time.

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I spoke. But she told them. And all the while, this baby. Smiling. Laughing. Sleeping in her mother’s lap. Melting hearts. A picture of grace. A picture of purpose. The thread that bound us all together in our motherhood, our sacrifice, our joy.

The perfect interpreter.

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I spoke. But she told them. And He gave the meaning. He, who orders our days and chooses our gifts and does all things well.

And all our lumps of coal — our disappointments, fears, and burdens — ignited with holy fire, lighting our darkness with hope, and filling us with giddy joy.

Just like a child on Christmas morning.

* * *

It’s not too late to donate to this beautiful
and worthy work in Kazakhstan.

Gifts received before September will help
cover summer projects.
Donations can be made by check or credit card.
Please send checks to:

Orphanos
P.O. Box 1057
Cordova, TN 38088
901.458.9500 ext 223

Include a separate note indicating the gift is for
“A Friend at All Times, Kazakhstan Young Life”
This category is not available for online giving at Orphanos,
but you can give by credit card at the phone number provided above.

Any amount is greatly appreciated.
Your gifts are tax deductible.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section.

Thank you!
(With all my heart.)

photos courtesy Catherine Burns


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18 responses

12 07 2013
Tatia Cook

I’d love to snatch Abby out of those pictures! What joy on her face 🙂 As usual, I was drawn right into your words…so thankful for your God-given gifts. PLEASE keep the stories coming! Also, I think I’m gonna share links to these stories with a FB group I’m in that formed from a military conference on suffering. I think your words will resonate with them.

12 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Tatia! Isn’t Abby a doll?

Please feel free to share the stories with anyone. I’d be honored. Love you!

12 07 2013
Zena Neds-Fox

that is so cool.

how’s that for deep? 🙂

jeanne. thank you. thank you for going and thank you for telling your story to them and bringing your new stories to us.

and this one? what can be said?

how perfectly can something be orchestrated for us to just get down on our knees and acknowledge his love?

god alone. god alone.

you are so beautiful, jeanne.

thank you,
zena

26 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Zena. Like I told you on FB, I thought of you and your sweet Mazzy the whole time I was writing this. It’s painful and hard on those of us who love our special kids when the world fails to recognize their beauty and treats them as inferior or even disposable. But honestly, I pity the world. What a gift they miss when they ignore His image in them! Thanks for using your beautiful heart and voice to help more people see. Love to you.

12 07 2013
Patricia Hunter

What a beautiful testimony to God’s sovereignty in all our affairs. So grateful that you were part of His plan here, Jeanne, and that you share the blessing with us by sharing these photos and telling the stories. God is good and we are loved. xox

26 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks, friend. I pray I never lose the wonder of what God did and taught during these days. Telling the stories helps keep it fresh. Love you.

13 07 2013
Grace

Reduced to tears at those photos of beautiful Abby. And the ones of the other kids with their volunteer buddies…. beyond precious. This post is so beautifully written, Mom.

26 07 2013
jeannedamoff

xo

14 07 2013
Dina - Abby's happy mom

Dear Jeanne, thank you so much for sharing our story and all the pictures… I am so proud to be Abby’s mom, she is a perfect gift from God! May I share a link to your post with our prayer partners as we sent out our news letter about the camp?

By the way, after the camp, Marina gave me your book to read and I finished it in a day… I am so grateful to God for bringing people like you into our life to share the pain and multiply the joy!!! Love from Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan!

14 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Dina, what a delight to hear from you! Yes, of course you may share this post with your prayer partners. I’m grateful to God for bringing you into my life, too. Thank you for listening to His Spirit and translating not only my words, but His heart. You are a gift to many.

Much, much love to you and your perfect Abby and your sweet little family!

17 07 2013
Jacky Gatliff

Jeanne – grateful, yet again, for your gift of communication that brings us to a deeper place of experiencing the Word made flesh among us. Blessings!

26 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks, friend. Love to you.

26 07 2013
Given Breath

Jeanne – this is such a beautiful post. I wasn’t able to write this week, and now I think it might be so my readers get to hear from YOU today? Peace sister, and much joy to you as you continue to sing of God’s grace. Indeed each breath is a gift, and each one grace.

26 07 2013
jeannedamoff

Thanks so much, Kim. After I saw your comment I clicked over to your blog and spent a lovely little while admiring the Lord’s beauty in you. It truly is my chiefest joy to discover His people everywhere, living His abundant grace in the places where He has planted them. What a gift you are to your community and your readers! I’m so pleased to meet you, and honored that you’d want to share this post. Thanks again.

Much love,
Jeanne

27 07 2013
Jody Lee Collins

Jeanne, I’ve been saving the posts about your trip to Kazakhstan in my Inbox, because I knew I’d need some space and time to absorb the words. Oh. Such beauty here. What a privilege to be part of the Father’s plan on this trip!
I work with children with special needs and serve a girl in our church twice a week–she has Down’s–so your words touched me.
Thank you for being brave and obedient to God’s call to go and bring such freeing words to these women with worry about their children so they could revel in the truth that God gave them their kids==just they way they are.
And for being Jesus to them, to bring the light and healing they need for the pain they’ve carried. God is so good.

20 08 2013
Larisa Cherepova

Hi Jeanne,
My name is Larisa Cherepova and I live in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
I saw a link to your writings on Catherine Burn’s Facebook page and started reading some of your stories on the KZ trip this morning. The more I read them, the more I realized how much I enjoyed your writings.. and how much I could see the Lord’s love and light in them. I especially liked this post.. it’s an AWESOME idea to think that Jesus came as the interpreter, in particular because I work as a full-time translator. Jesus became more personal to me (the translator!) through your story.. It’s so like Him to be all to all!
Bless you! Keep on writing.. and – most importantly – loving Him through your works!

23 08 2013
jeannedamoff

Thank you for these kind words, Larisa! Blessings on your work as a translator and on your life as a follower of Jesus. May you sense His love and favor daily as you shine His light in Almaty. I’ll be praying for you!

Love, Jeanne

13 07 2014
Abigail

Larisa, your heart is your greatest gift that you have given me right here in your writing. I’m not a mom and I don’t have a special needs child. However, I know what it’s like to feel the wounds of un-understanding, to let go of nearly every hope temporarily and to know how God weaves people into my healing. This really speaks to me. Thank you so much for sharing. I don’t even know how I came to your blog…but yet I do (through Him)!

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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