Save the Paper!!!

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you…”
(Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

This was the reminder every Christmas at Grandma Anderson’s house. Each year, as by brother and sister and I would race to the tree to divide up the presents and tear into them like a pack of hungry monkeys on a banana, the voice would boom from over head, “Save the paper!” That was usually enough to settle us down, so that we would calmly open our gifts in an orderly fashion, careful not to tear the paper unnecessarily.

Grandma grew up in the depression, so saving something like Christmas Wrapping paper made sense. She told stories of putting cardboard inside her shoes when she had worn a hole in them, of growing up on the farm and eating things like cows tongue, and heart, and – for some reason – pickled pig’s feet. Plus, the wrapping paper grandma used felt like it might have at one time been wallpaper, so it had an enduring quality to it, so it made sense to save the paper. It made sense to save the paper. She and grandpa worked hard and saved everything they could, and they had a lot to show for it. They had a beautiful house full of refurbished antiques, and the Christmases there were absolutely incredible.


Here’s a picture of their house today. It is now a B&B. I spent a lot of my childhood here, and I think this is where my love for old homes began.

Their penchant for saving things at Christmas didn’t stop at the paper on the gifts. The tree, which itself was held together by generous amounts of wire, tape and prayer was covered by ornaments, tinsel, and a variety of decorations that had been made by my mom and my siblings and I. There was one “ornament” that looked like a glued ball of yarn that had so faded in color and lost its shape we were not really sure it was an ornament after all, but it still went on the tree. Nothing that still retained some semblance of usefulness was ever thrown out. So we would always “Save the Paper!”

Why don’t we save the paper anymore? Wrapping paper is so cheap to purchase, and so thinly made, saving it really doesn’t seem practical. It’s not worth the time and the effort to save something like wrapping paper today. And so it gets discarded after one use, shredded as the last flimsy obstacle to Christmas morning bliss, and never thought of again.

There is no intrinsic value in the paper, and yet I still hear my Grandma say, “Little E, save the paper!” So on Christmas morning, when all the presents have been opened, you’ll know where I sat, for the paper will be neatly piled and preserved, just in case you need it for the coming year.

In Deuteronomy 7, as the people of God are preparing to enter the Promised Land, the Lord gives them a reminder saying, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him to a thousand generations” (Deut 7:6-10).

We are not the gifts in the story. We are not the tree or the decorations. We are the paper. Torn up by sin, thin and worn by abuse, cast aside by the powers of this world which seek evil; good for nothing but kindling for the fire. Yet when we were wasted by the world, still dead in our trespasses and sins, God set His love upon us in Christ (Rom 5:8). When we were lost and without hope, Christ came to save us, to deliver us, and to return us to the fold of God (Luke 15:3-7; 19:10). The cry has gone out from the beginning of creation, “Save those who are perishing,” and because of God’s love and covenant promise in Christ, we have been saved!

This Christmas, know that Christ has come for your salvation. Receive that gift and rejoice. And save the paper while your at it.


Day Four Wrap Up

Day 4 of our mission to Haiti is wrapping up, and while what we did today might not have looked like work, it was just as exhausting, heartbreaking, and powerful as anything else we could have done.
We started the morning by visiting the Village of Hope, a community that has emerged after the 2011 earthquake made up of Sukup Safe-ty Homes. These homes are essentially grain bins that are ventilated to stay cool, but they are earthquake and hurricane proof. This community has been built by the great people of Northwest Iowa, from churches and mission teams like ours who have seen the need and jumped in to help.
We got to the Village of Hope, and as soon as we got out of the car, we were greeted by a group of boys who took us by the hand through the community. My guide was Watson, a 12 year old boy who acted just like my boys, kind of goofy, always wanting my camera or sunglasses, but also always stuck to my side like glue. There at the Village we met a 120 year old woman – she came out to sit in the gazebo in the middle of a cluster of homes, just so she could say “bonjou.” I sat beside her for a moment to say “Bondye bene ou” (God bless you) before I was escorted off by my gang of boys back to the church at the entrance to the Village. There, with the help of Jimmy the Village Director, I shared a quick message about how God loves each of us, and how we are here in Haiti to share that love – then we handed out candy. Maybe they’ll remember the message when they remember the sweets.
From the Village of Hope we went to the Consolation Center, to pick up some supplies for yet another orphanage we were going to visit. 6 months ago, the leaders of Global Compassion were made aware of an orphanage were children were greatly malnourished, so they decided to find it and see how they could help. What they found was heartbreaking. When the pastor who led the orphanage died, his wife wanted to keep it running, but all of the funding had dried up. She was suffering along with the children. Shelters, can you call them that, did not have completed roofs or walls, the kids were sleeping on the floor.
Today we got to visit the Center for Help and deliver some beds. Bunk beds had been built, the mattresses came, and we brought 20 sets of sheets for the beds, so when we got there we were able to set up 10 bunks, with the plan that 10 more would be coming soon. We were instantly surrounded with love, hugs, smiles; we were able to bring joy and comfort to these suffering children. Our hearts were breaking, but we kept smiling, wanting to share the joy of Christ with these beautiful children every chance we could get.
When we got back to the hotel where we are staying, we quickly changed and prepared for an invasion. The forty seven girls from the Consolation Center came to swim in the pool. It was two hours of sheer madness, joy, and fun. There wasn’t a second that went by that of us guys on the team didn’t have one, or more, of the girls on our backs in the pool. When we were done, we were exhausted, blessed, and all just a little overwhelmed.
Today we didn’t build anything. By Iowa, by U.S. standards, it was a pretty unproductive day. But in Kingdom standards, I think we were part of the Master Builder’s plans. The foundation has been laid in Jesus Christ our Savior, today we were building in the love of God for these beautiful and hurting people. I honestly cannot think of a better way to have spent this day.

BTW – as a little side note, I have attempted to immerse myself in the Haiti culture today. I’m still learning and practicing my Creole, but that will take more time than I have here. No, today I traveled like a Haitian. When we transported the beds to the orphanage, I rode standing on the back bumper of the Land Rover, holding onto the luggage rack on the top. When we went into town for dinner tonight, and on the way back, I rode on the very top – it was a great way to travel. Just don’t tell my wife….

This is Beatrice, I think she cheats at hot hands
Here are some of the girls as they arrived to go swimming
This is me and Watson, by guide through the Village of Hope
The 120 year old in the Village