Forgiveness & Restoration: Are They the Same?

From the looks of cryptic facebook status updates and conversations with people, I get the feeling that most of the time people think these two words are synonymous; that once you forgive someone, then the relationship should be the same, or otherwise you didn’t really forgive them.

Oh, how I have watched so many people with deep hurts struggle with this. Until recently I have thought these two words meant two different things, I never really struggled with it, but going through a deeply hurtful situation caused me to struggle and to spend quite some time re-thinking the whole thing.

The fact that someone I love dearly, who deceived and hurt me deeply, was hurt so much by the fact that the relationship just couldn’t be restored in an instant, troubled me. I have struggled for months and months in what I believed about forgiveness and restoration, studying it, praying about it, and questioning it. SIDENOTE: Sometimes restoration isn’t the answer (unhealthy relationships – that’s for another post later).

When I’ve forgiven someone there is something inside of me, in my spirit, that changes; it’s how I know I’ve forgiven someone.  I’ve been able to forgive people who have never asked for it, because forgiveness is for me (not for the other person). I like this definition of forgiveness: “To cease to feel resentment against”.  Once I’ve forgiven someone I don’t feel angry towards them, I’m able to let go…it changes me.

With this situation it took me a week or so to forgive.  Until that moment I was angry and hurt and mad, but as soon as I chose to forgive them, that all went away.  But here’s where the struggle came in.  I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t mad anymore, but I was not ready to go back to “the way it was.” The love was still there, but the friendship, the closeness couldn’t come back. The main reason: There had been no restoration. The offender had made no effort at restoring the relationship.

One time I had a friend (we were in our early 20’s) who let a big group of people down.  I remember him standing before the entire group immediately after it happened with an “I’m sorry,” and then a reference that as Christians, “We have to forgive and move on.” Even then, I thought, wow, it’s just not that easy.

With this more recent situation I thought, I’m a Christ-follower, I should forgive and move on, why am I struggling so much. Then I started questioning myself, if I’m supposed to be Christ-like shouldn’t I just move on with this?  But then I started exploring and remembering that Jesus forgives us completely when we ask, but there is always consequence to sin.

Then one day a wise friend told me to look at the story of Zacchaeus. So I pulled down Luke 19 and read it. I’m going to post it here for you to read because it’s short and sometimes we get tangled up in the stories that have been told about Zacchaeus in which details may or may not have been biblical.

  

Luke 19

19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

 

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

 

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

 

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

My friend was very wise.  When I look at Zacchaeus’ story, I see that he is changed by Christ and chooses to work towards restoration.  He says, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” He could havejust asked forgiveness from Christ, and he would have been forgiven and had to endure the consequence of sin in his life. He could have just left that between him and God.  But instead, he chose to restore his wrongs to the people he wronged, and not only paying back just what was owed, but paying back MORE than what was owed. I admire that. I feel paying back four times was his way of acknowledging the depth of the wrong he had done.  Just giving back what he took wrongly would just be a payback, but giving back four times I think means, “I’m very sorry, I acknowledge how much I hurt you and the side effects of what I did to you.”

I believe that is restoration.

I wish I could hear “the rest of the story,” with Zacchaeus. I bet he became a beloved person even to the people he wronged and the relationships were deeper because of it.

So dear offenders, one thing you should know: the level you are able to hurt someone is equivalent to the depth of love they have for you.Please don’t ever forget that.  You are SO loved.  You cannot deeply hurt someone who doesn’t love you dearly; they just aren’t affected by it.

And you are probably forgiven. But there’s some work to be done for restoration to happen between those who love each other deeply.  And that’s ok. And it’s ok if it takes you awhile, but the ball is in your court.

Offendee’s (this is my made up word), I can only imagine how hard it will be for the offenders to make that first step towards restoration. So be open, let them know you are open for it. Let them know they are loved even from a distance.  And if you haven’t forgiven, then forgive; your heart will be set free.

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Nathaniel’s Words on the 3rd Anniversary in Matara

Exodus 12:14 – “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance.” 

Nathaniel’s Words:  “The Jewish people came from Egypt, from severe oppression.  When they arrived in the promised land, Moses stood up and said, ‘Remember what God did for you in Egypt and never forget His name.’ And they had a passover feast to remind them of that day. They ate with their neighbors, coming together as one.

So today, we will remember this goodness.  We are celebrating 3 years of being here at Matara.  God used people and has done miracle after miracle to bring us to where we are today. We are on our own mountain. Today, we thank God.  Thank you for saying yes, Community of Faith.  If you could look into my heart, you could see joy that goes beyond understanding.  God bless you for being our friends, and we will see you here in year 4!”
 
As I spent 3 days in Bubanza first this year I was able to see the conditions of life there more intimately. Knowing this is where our friends from Matara came from it gave me a new perspective. The day before going up to Matara I was wondering if after 3 years would I see signs of forgetfulness; forgetting what God has done, so I made a mental note to look for it. 
 
I saw anything but that. 
 
From a little impromptu chorus of children singing to me, “What have I done to deserve all this,” to Nathaniel’s words above…I feel confident our friends will never forget what God has done for them.  
 
My friends in Matara challenged me. How easily I forget. How easily I take for granted everything God has done for me. I need to wake up every morning with the song in my heart, “What have I done to deserve all of this.” 
 
I’m hearing it in Kurundi right now…
 
 

Benjamin’s Words

From Benjamin (from Matara):

“This week marks three years in Matara.  Before we came here we were like modern-day slaves.  Growing up it was common knowledge that Batwa did not know how to build a house.  We only knew how to build grass huts and we were never able to grow food. 
We owned nothing, so when our slave master told us to go away, we were able to go within minutes.
 
It was only a dream that one day I could live in a real house.  By God’s grace I was selected to come here, to Matara. Our friends helped us get this land. Now look at all these houses (he is pointing all around Matara where everyone has their own home). These are OUR houses,
 these are not for someone else, these are for us. 
 
Before we came here we looked very different. Now all our kids are in school…something we were never able to do.  Now when we are sick we can go to the doctor because we have ID cards 
and birth certificates for our children. 
 
One thing I will never forget about being a slave is that you work all year for nothing and every generation lives like that.  That story seemed to never end. I had decided to never get married because I did not want to bring a family into this situation. Now I have six kids! Today I go to work and when the day is over I go home to my family.  We are citizens like everyone else!”
 
Then everyone sings a song.  When translated, they were singing, “Even the angels would be surprised the Batwa have arrived.” My heart smiles…thank you God for letting us be a small part of this!

Hope is Sprouting Here

I have spent the past two days in Bubanza. If you know the story of our Batwa friends you know that several years ago we took 30 families from Bubanza and moved them to Matara. Check out these blog posts if you want to catch up on the story.

We Are Family
No One Has Died This Year
Our Names Are Written Down
The Ones We Love Have Come 

With the success of Matara (with 30 families), we have now begun community development in Bubanza, which is with over 600 families. If you have visited Bubanza’s dry, dusty land then you might think we have lost our minds. The project seems insurmountable. But we are willing to take up that challenge, our friends are worth it; however, we go into this knowing that it will be a long, hard journey.

Last night Kelley asked if we had one word to describe the day what would it be. For me it was hopefulness. I have learned that most often the root of all poverty is hopelessness. Hope is the beginning of what it takes to make a change. When I gaze out over Bubanza I can understand the hopelessness, the lack of basic human rights such as an ID Card or Birth Certificates, no possibility of ownership to land or a good job because of discrimination, no access to proper healthcare or education, and on and on the list goes.

But today I see little seeds of hope all over Bubanza. If you don’t look closely you can miss them. Over the past 2 days we planted 750 trees around the small part of land that we have attained a deed for in Bubanza. Just as the little saplings were planted I thought, “This is the start.” (That’s for you Martha). This is the start of something new; this little sapling will grow into something huge if it is tended to and watered every day. I think it’s the same with hope, it’s here, but it may need to be watered every day, as generations of poverty will be hard to overcome.

Yesterday I was able to sit down with Ntazina (The one whose name means “No Name” whom Mark first talked to on his first visit here). Ntazina was the leader of the entire village of Bubanza. I can tell from having a conversation with him exactly why. I was able to hear his story of the Bubanza from many years ago, up to the first encounter with Mark & Claude, through our visits over the past few years, and now to today. He is very encouraged and hopeful for his people, he says, “You might not be able to see it now, but we are on our way, hope is here.”

This makes me smile, because once hope is here, poverty will soon begin to disappear. There is much work to be done, but as Ntazina says, “We are on our way!”

The story Ntazina shared with me is powerful – video coming soon.

Sherry’s Radical Experiment

So I’ve been reading this book called Radical by David Platt. Its seriously been a life changer for me. I have several things in the works, changes to be made in my life, and you can follow along with my blog and see what those are as we go.

Part of the book challenges you to live out a Radical Experiment for a year in your life. I’ll detail this out later, but one of the parts of the experiment is to read the bible through in one year. I’ve done this once before and it was profound. And being challenged by Radical, now I wanna do it again. I want my mind saturated with God’s word. David Platt says, “God has chosen by his matchless grace to give us revelation of himself in his word. It is the only Book that he has promised to bless by his Spirit to transform you and me into the image of Jesus Christ. It is the only book that he has promised to use to bring our hearts, our minds, and our lives in alignment with him….when you and I open the bible, we are beholding the very words of God – words that have supernatural power to redeem, renew, refresh, and restore our lives to what he created them to be.”

A lot of us have been searching for God’s will for our lives, what he has for us to do, say, act, feel, etc. Well, how can we know what God wants if we don’t open up the book where he tells us, or where he wants to connect with us. It’s like asking your mom what she wants for her birthday and she sends you a written list and you have it in your possession but you don’t open it to read it and you still wander around perplexed and worried and confused as to what she wants. And you know what I think? I think that’s just silly. But I’ve done it over and over and over again.

I feel God calling me to make big changes in my lifestyle. To live smaller so I can give more and do more for him. There is a world of people out there who don’t know who he is, and Jesus is worth more to me than the American dream. I need direction in this, so I gotta surround myself in His word and see what God says about it.

So I challenge you to do the same. I really think it will change your life. Well, I don’t THINK, I KNOW it will. I’m using an iphone app called youversion that has several bible reading plans to get you through a year. I’m doing the chronological plan (just because those who know me, know I like things to be in order) so to read the bible in chronological time order will be neat. I think youversion also has a blackberry app too if you don’t have an iphone. Or just do it the old fashioned way and open your bible and read it from cover to cover. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it!

So you, my 12 blog readers, I challenge you to join me!

God Remembers

As I close this journal door on my time in Burundi {I know, I know – I’m behind}, I’ll leave you with just a few things…If you remember in my first post here I shared about the Batwa village leader that Mark met who was named “no name” because his parents knew there was no future for him and no reason to put any thought into his name. He told Mark that he felt God had forgotten the Batwa. Mark told him that God has not forgotten them and neither would we (COF).

Well, here is Iribuka…


She is the first child born in the village of Matara (read the Burundi Posts below this one first to catch this entire story).

Guess what her name means?

It means, “God Remembers.”

Wow!

There are many children in Matara, it’s a place bouncing with energy and smiles and love. One of my favorite moments of the trip is playing with the children. I have such a hard time wishing I could communicate with them. But God created a universal language for us – it’s called LOVE, SMILES & LAUGHTER!

This is my favorite photo of the entire trip!


I had so much fun on this trip – and this moment was just for me – and it makes me laugh out loud every single time I see this photo. It will be framed for sure! I can’t wait to watch Iribuka and these children grow up!

Thank you so much my friends for your prayer support and financial support to go to Africa. I really am so grateful for each of you! I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey with me. I know I can’t do it any justice – you need to see it for yourself!

I’ll leave you with my pics in a slideshow set to a song. I hope you enjoy them! Thank you again!

Sherrys Photo Slideshow – Burundi 2010 from Sherry Naron on Vimeo.

Batwa Students

If you haven’t already, to connect to this story – catch up by reading these posts below!

“We are Family” – Burundi Day One

“No One Has Died This Year” – Burundi Day Two
“Our Names Are Written Down” – Burundi Day Three
“The Ones We Love Have Come” – Burundi Video

As referenced in these posts, I mentioned how COF sponsors over 30 bright Batwa students, to come alongside them as they receive an education. Kelley is really a huge credit to their success as she follows and monitors their work very closely. The children are excelling for the most part and we are so proud of them. The students are so sweet and very thankful for this opportunity. We were able to spend some time with them while in Burundi. We visited them at the student house and they danced and sang for us and big hugs were handed out all around.

On our last visit we played volleyball with them on the beach and had a great afternoon. This was a special treat for them and we loved spending this time with them.

Racing to the water!

There are sooo many more pics – you can see all the pics from our trip by clicking HERE and watching a special video slideshow I made with them.

After we left the beach the students came with us to our guest house where we were staying and had a pizza party with us! There were lots of hugs again and singing. They have such beautiful voices. They thanked us and prayed for us and we prayed for them. I’ll leave you with a little video of them singing – so precious!

"The Ones We Love Have Come" – Burundi Video

Below is a video with some footage and interviews from some of my friends on the trip. We produced this video to fit within a message at my church, so it’s focused on generosity, but it captures some of the times I’ve shared about in my blogs below. To really connect to the video, please read the 3 blogs below first to connect to the experience.

“We are Family” – Burundi Day One

“No One Has Died This Year” – Burundi Day Two
“Our Names Are Written Down” – Burundi Day Three

If you wanna watch it larger – click the 4 arrows next to the word vimeo at the bottom! For an even better experience, after you click the 4 arrows – click the HD (to turn it on) in the upper right corner after you hit play!

"Our Names Are Written Down" – Burundi Day 3

On this morning I was really excited about spending the day in Matara witnessing 10 Batwa weddings. One of the things the Batwa has lost over the many years of discrimination is “Official” marriages and Birth Certificates. They were so discriminated against that the government would not even recognize that they existed. No birth certificate would be issued to them, which meant no health care and no marriages, among many other things.

So this day was an amazing day! For the 10 couples to have an “Official” marriage meant they were acknowledged. They had been living together as a married couple for years, but were never able to make it official. I try to place myself in their shoes and imagine a presence that did not even warrant acknowledgment, and it’s impossible for me to even fathom it.

As we drove up to Matara, all the couples were dressed up in their wedding clothes; the men in a suit coat, tie, new shoes and the women in traditional African wedding attire. I wish you could picture it, the men stood TALL with their chests out and the women looked so pretty and I could see they were a little shy.

At the bottom of the hill was the place where we did the civil ceremony. There was a little tent set up there and we sat to observe. A government official had come to Matara to do the ceremony and have the papers “signed.” Claude interpreted to us, “by this man coming makes them feel very special.” And then I realized, WOW – not only has the government allowed the Batawa the privilege of an official marriage, but he personally made the journey to the actual village himself to do the paperwork! It was a powerful, significant moment in the lives of these 10 couples.

We watched as all 10 couples came down to the tent with their maid of honor and best man and stamped their fingerprint into the official book.

Wow, “official”…how many Batwa can say that! I remember watching as the best man and maid of honor placed their hands on the shoulders of the couples as they recited vows to each other, and then they all placed their stamp in the book and I was thinking to myself, I wonder if these particular couples two years ago would even be able to imagine the way they’ve changed their own lives this past year. Of course I cried for each one with tears of joy!

After the civil ceremony, we climbed THAT hill {lol} in our dresses to go to the top to have the religious ceremony. We sat and watched as the pastor did the ceremony and the sweet Batwa couples faced each other. You could see the women and their shy faces as they stared into their husbands eyes; so sweet and so powerful all at the same time.

Afterwards we went to shake the hands with each couple and congratulate them. Then we had lunch with them. We had Goat meat and Kasava {which is a root type of thing with not much taste}. Kelley reminded us how important it was to receive hospitality from our friends. Typically no one would ever eat with a Batwa. Etienne said once that he ate with a non-Batwa and they broke the plates afterwards. So us receiving a meal from them would be a powerful statement. So we ate.

After the ceremony there were a few speeches made. There were a few that were very significant. One of the local area zone leaders {Matara is part of a larger community that is divided up and is governed by Zone Leaders} actually attended the wedding. He is not Batwa. He mentioned in his speech that it was wonderful what the Batwa are doing here and he acknowledged them by saying that it used to be that there were Hutus, Tutsies and Batwa, but then he said, “We are all Burundian.” Wow, powerful statement. I was in tears.

Next the government official stood to speak. I thought it was a strong statement that he stayed for the religious ceremony. He talked about all that the Batwa were doing in Matara. He mentioned there were plans to put a road in soon that would be beneficial to the entire surrounding community. He said that the Batwa of Matara offered on their own, to help build the road. The official said, “We will build it together.” This was significant to me because it meant that they truly understand that this land is theirs and that they want to be a part of the community to help better it. Then the official addressed us and said, “Thank you for what is happening here, you are showing us our prejudices. We are ALL Burundian.” WOW, there are no words to describe this and how powerfully quick God is working here. The official went on to say that all the Batwa in Matara now has birth certificates, which means they are acknowledged as people by the government.

Included in the 10 couples that got married was Francois, the leader of Matara. I had been watching his sweet face throughout the process. He was sooo happy. I watched him in his suit and how he stood so tall and proud.

After everyone had spoken, he stood up to speak. He said, “I was so proud to be standing there like a man in my new suit, getting married officially. I am so happy. OUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN DOWN! You saw it {motioning to us}! If there is now any problem with Batwa, the government has to acknowledge it. You saw it, OUR NAMES ARE WRITTEN DOWN!” I can’t describe the joy on his face. To KNOW that for the first time ever, he is acknowledged as a man in the eyes of others. I just can’t even begin to imagine what this day felt like for him.

The bible says in Micah 6:8 – “…And what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” We have been studying this passage with Kelley, and I am so proud to see justice happening here. She asked us to imagine justice flowing like a river and pouring like a waterfall – I’m seeing this in Matara and it’s a beautiful thing.

No One Has Died This Year – Burundi Day 2

Today we finally went to Matara. I’d been anxiously waiting for over a year to go. I have been praying for my friends and getting to know them and the work through our Communityfor Burundi Blog and from Kelley. So there was already love in my heart for the Batwa.

For those of you who do not know the work of Communityfor Burundi, I’ll explain a little of what has taken place. After Mark, Claude, Kelley, David and Sydneyann visited Bubanza that summer, their eyes were opened, they could not leave Burundi and not take some kind action after seeing what they saw. But their hearts was to do so with dignity and respect; Allowing the Batwa to better themselves, not to hand out charity.

Since then Communityfor has not only housed the 34 Batwa students allowing them to go to school (I talked about in my previous post), but they’ve also acquired land that is NOT government owned, and then loaned it to the Batwa. This is GOOD land – called Matara (which means Life). They formed a committee of Africans who chose 30 families from Bubanza and other Batwa villages and moved them onto Matara. At Matara they are to build their own permanent homes and grow crops to sell to make a living. This happened just a year ago. The land that was purchased had a good water source and the soil was fertile. The Batwa had never lived on land like this before.

Earlier this past year when Kelley posted on the blog about the land, I commented that I wondered if they actually understood or believed that this was now theirs. I tried to place myself in the Batwa’s shoes thinking how for generations they’ve been forced to live on dry, parched land, with unfertile soil, far away from anyone else…literally owning and having NOTHING. I wondered how hard it would be to convince them to work hard because this was actually THEIRS and would NOT be taken away from them. I know from my past work in other areas that after years and years and years of mistreatment and discrimination that it becomes a mind-set that’s hard to break, because once you lose hope, that’s a true poverty. Poverty of the mind I believe is the hardest to overcome.

Kelley talked to me about the ways they’ve gone about teaching them and helping them to break that mindset. That this wasn’t something given to them that was not truly theirs, but something that THEY had to work hard at and something that will be handed down for generations and generations to come.

The past year I’d heard about how hard they’ve been working and I was anticipating seeing it for myself. This day was dedicated to meeting the Batwa at Matara and seeing what they’ve accomplished in the short time they’ve been there.

So we drove out of the city through the beautiful hills. This country is gorgeous. I’ll have pics to post once I’m home. We took a left down a small road and across a bridge and saw them waiting there for us in anticipation. The women were all dressed in their beautiful colors and all standing gathered at the bottom of the hill to greet us. They were clapping and singing. As we got out of the trucks we greeted everyone with a handshake and an “Amahoro,” which means “Peace.” Their smiles were so big and an interpreter told me that the song they were singing was “The ones we love have come.” This was precious to me knowing that they already love us just as we love them.

It wasn’t very long until the dancing started. Dancing is a HUGE part of Batwa culture, and they dance a lot! :) So we watched them dance, but it wasn’t long until we were dancing and celebrating with them. I danced with tears in my eyes overwhelmed with such joy to be here with more of my family.

After this we were introduced to “little Claude.” Little Claude is an agricultural engineer. He has been working with “Big Claude,” and the Batwa at Matara to cultivate the land. You really wouldn’t believe how much they have done. The hillsides are covered in crops; Beautiful green crops, something completely different from what we saw in Bubanza. Even the Batwa here at Matara look so completely different. Their faces are filled out and their skin has a nice texture to it, they are healthy.

Little Claude took us around and showed us the sweet potatoes, cabbage – all the crops and explained how everything was done. He also showed us where they began making bricks to sell and told us of an upcoming new venture into soap making. They plan to harvest and sell at the market and each family has a trade to do to earn an income. It was amazing to see!

Then we climbed the hill.

There’s not much I can say about this except you’d have to experience it, but I think no one else will have to experience it again because they are building a road to the top. BUT the hill is straight UP! The Batwa love the fact that we came and climbed the hill to see “their place.” lol!

At the top of the hill we were seated in the multi-purpose room which is an open air two sided room and many of the families and their small children were there waiting on us (they are MUCH quicker climbing the hill than we are).

We were seated and were introduced to the 10 couples that would be married the next day. We presented each of the couples with new shoes, a jacket and tie for the men, and a traditional African wedding dress and sandals for the women.

The leader of the village, Francois, told us that Matara is a good land. There are schools nearby (you can actually see them from the top of the hill) and that the children are being educated. There’s also a clinic nearby. Then he said something that struck me. He said, “no one has died this year.” It just ran through my brain as he said it and I didn’t really have time to think about it then, but I’ve been thinking about it since. The morning before, we met the oldest living Batwa, he’s not very old. The life expectancy of the Batwa is around mid-40’s because of the hard lifestyle. Death is an often occurrence in their lives, more so than what we are used to because of the discrimination they’ve suffered. Terrible land where food cannot be grown, children aren’t educated and they cannot get jobs because no one would hire them, so they could not provide for their families. So being born a Batwa surely meant an early death. So by Francois saying, “no one has died this year,” he wasn’t just saying, “Oh, no one has passed away,” in a way that we would. He was saying {I think} NO ONE HAS DIED HERE! BECAUSE we have our own land, we have food, we have water, we have education, we have a source of income! No Batwa has been able to say that for generations. No one has died here. That’s a powerful statement.