There are 266 pages in a book I have recently read and for about 250 of them I wondered how anyone could survive the story that was being told, but it doesn’t need many pages to change a life! I wish the 266 pages were the story of only a few and pray that the few remaining pages could become the happy ending for many. Sadly most of the book reflects the despair of many and the end is an experience for the few, very few.
The book was LELA Ashes of Childhood and is the story of a child growing up in Uganda, where, growing up in a land of fertile soils and warm sunshine should have been a dream, but the immoral strived to destroy her spirit. Disease tried to destroy her world and suffering was like a thief that conspired to steal all and left her close to destitution. Lela Burbridge, who wrote the book, says that these experiences could not take her faith and, sometimes, “faith is all you need to stay alive.”
I wrote to Lela to tell her that I did not enjoy the book, but the pages of the book were full of inspiration and encouragement. It is hard to imagine how a child can experience so much abuse, rejection, exploitation, disease and poverty in her first 12 years of life and become the person she has. I have met Lela and husband and three beautiful children so have seen some of the untold story in the unwritten pages. Her family visited for a couple of services in Broadway including my Induction and for the Pentecost Service on the Green last year. I can’t possibly do justice to her story in my own words, but it has taught me such an important lesson:
That one page from a book full of despair can offer hope for a nation. That one person from a community in poverty can feed a future generation with hope. That one small glimmer of light can help people walk through the darkness and that one word of wisdom can change a foolish world into a new Kingdom. Not only that, but the inspiration comes from one person who is called out of the crowd to carry a cross that no-one really wants to carry!
Because Lela was chosen from the crowd to carry a cross she has become an amazing witness for the glory of God that can show how good can shine through the darkness.
The important message for us all to remember is that Jesus is working through every individual however difficult their life may be. His presence is with them in the hunger, thirst and sickness and so the Spirit has worked through the life of Lela and is doing the same through you. Your life is unlikely to have been as difficult, or as cruel and brutal, but you are an inspiration for others in how you carry your cross.
It links with my message last week because as I ask WHO DO I SAY JESUS IS I want to say that he is the stranger who inspires me through the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked and the broken. (Matthew 26: 31- 45) As I see how Jesus lives in them I am encouraged and inspired by my Rock, my Shepherd, my Friend, my Saviour, my Healer, my Everything. Then, instead of asking myself what can Jesus do for me I am asking what can I do for Jesus?
Thank you Lela for telling your story from Ashes of Childhood from which a percentage of profits will support the Rafiki Thabo Foundation. I have also read her second book, Dare to Trust God’s Word: The foundation of all hope and pray that I can help a child in Africa grow up to show Jesus to the world: www.rafiki-foundation.org.uk/schools