It's been a while since I have posted a new blog. Things are pretty busy here in El Salvador. I'm still learning how to balance my schedule with my own personal needs. I know I need time to talk to my friends and family back home as well as time with new friends. Spending time with God is also vital to being able do my job well. When I don't, I can always tell my attitude changes. So I am working on making time for these things.
This week was no exception. Monday I taught one English class in the afternoon at one of the centers. I taught a lesson on prepositions. There were only a few girls because two girls ran away on Sunday. It's hard for this not to become routine because it happens so often. I can't imagine what it must be like for these girls, For them to choose to live on the streets or in a terrible situation at home rather than live at the center. I wish I could fix it for them. All I can do is show up every week.
Tuesday afternoon I returned to teach English at one of the centers. It was so nice to see the kids again. They worked very hard writing a letter about themselves in English. I am excited to start going back there again. They have asked for us to focus on bible study so that will be something new for me to try. Wednesday I went with the team to finish the house and feed the community. We went to WalMart to buy supplies for the family. One of the girls from the team bought a ball for the kids. I had so much fun playing ball with the kids that morning. Then I helped paint the house my favorite color, green. After painting the house we all worked on filling the house with basic necessities such as sheets, pillows, dishware, silverware, and food. After lunch we dedicated the house. One of my favorite things is seeing the family as they enter the house. It is always such a blessing and a life-changing event for them. This family is hoping to be reunited with the three daughters that were taken because of poverty and placed in one of the centers three weeks ago. I hope to hear they have moved back home. We also went to a community and gave them beans, rice, a bible and prayed with them. One girl we visited was living with her grandparents. She did not want to be with them, but her parents had sent her there. She said she felt like God had sent us there to let her know he still cares and she is not alone. We prayed for her and her family. Such a simple gesture that showed God in a great way.
Thursday we went to the girl's juvenile center. We asked the girls to write their favorite verse on a place mat. We brought stamps, stamp pads, glitter glue, and paint for them to decorate the place mat. One of the girls was having trouble choosing a bible verse from the list provided, so I showed her one of my favorites Ephesians 3:20 "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to power that works in us." I hope this verse is one she begins to believe about what God can do in her life. I also made one myself. I used the verse Jeremiah 1:5. "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born, you were set apart." After I had decorated it, one of the girls asked if she could have it. I gladly gave it to her.
Friday was the best day. We celebrated Day of the Child with all of the centers that we work with regularly. The celebration was like a carnival. We had popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, hot dogs, chips, a bouncy house, face paint, and a dance party. I worked at the snow cones most of the day. It was great to see all the kids together in one place. I loved hearing them call my name and to give them all hugs. It was the best day!
"No dog needs to stay trapped inside four walls," was his quick reply. His plan to escape the approaching frigid nights was non existent. "I make it, I always do. Stop trying to teach an old dog new tricks."
My heart began to quicken as I remembered the cold winds that beat against my warm room a year ago. But as I prayed for Ezekiel, I felt Jesus begin to whisper in my ear, "The problem is not the geography of this man, the issue is his mistaken identity." Ezekiel could only see himself as a dog, long forgotten and easily thrown outside when they become a mess. As I listened to more of his story of violence and incarceration I could hear it more desperately between every line. This man had no idea who Jesus was calling him to be. Ezekiel in the bible was a mighty man of God and a prophet, yet the Ezekiel in front of me was running as far from God as possible.
That's when it hit me. If the enemy can circumstantially define you, then you become your situation. All he knew was rejection and the act of being cast out and forgotten. When I shared with him God's desire to call him a son it was as if he was on the outside looking in.
Even several days later I couldn't shake my interaction with Ezekiel. As I began to ask Jesus why I was so shaken, He began to ask me my name. I know I am Ashley Ruffin and I know that I belong to the Most High God, but do I feel as if I belong inside the House of the Lord. Am I a daughter by service or am I a daughter by sacrifice, His sacrifice because He found me worthy. We had someone share at church recently and he made the comment, "If you are working for God then you are an Old Testament Concubine hoping to rub up against the edge of His glory every once in awhile, but if you know Him intimately, then you are His bride." As I began to raise the question in my own heart I realized, though I did not see myself as dog, cast out in the cold, I am not sure I would look in the mirror and see a daughter or a bride.
“My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away.”
Song of Solomon 2:10
God's desire for me is to love Him first, to Rise up out of my circumstance, my situation and come away with Him. There are a million ways to be a slave and work for Him, but the one way to be a bride is to love Him. Everything else flows from a relationship of loving Him and coming away with Him. Every time I answer the door, work in the coffee shop or love on one of our kids, it comes from secret place inside His heart. God didn't create us for the outside world, gazing in at the dreams He has for others. He created us to fit so perfectly inside His heart where we love, laugh, and learn how to be a daughter and a bride. My prayer for myself, my team, and everyone reading this, is that we come in from the cold, that we sit beside our Beloved and begin to know His heart. He never created us for service, He created us for Worship.