We spoke at our first church of the tour this past Sunday, and I can already tell there is a serious flaw in our plans for the summer. You see we headed out on a trip to spread the word about Bring Love In, to tell folks about the work we are doing to create new families for widows and orphans in Ethiopia, and to hopefully get people to understand a bit more about the orphan crisis and how creating families is a solution that we should all rally around to support. …
But where then is the problem you might ask?
Instead of telling you I need to show you…This was me on Sunday.
Ahem…. I clear my throat as I stare at metal mesh that bulbs out across the top of the microphone, a device that seems more like a dragon than what it is. Instantly I start panicking in my head, wondering if I should take this thing off the stand, and how close it should be to my mouth, what my voice sounds like through the speakers, why I wore flip flops to church….
Go Levi. I say under my breath.
“Hi. (yeah I said “Hi” twice) My name is Levi Benkert, my wife Jessie and I live in Ethiopia where we are working at Bring Love In and we build new fam….. Ahem…… families from widows and orphans…..”
“Yeah, so this is us, and we are… uh…. Really excited about Ethiopia and….. Uh…..”
At this point the pastor steps in and offers some much needed help. He asks me a few questions to clarify the Grand-Canyon-sized holes that I left in our story. And wham, just like that I am back in my seat and the rest of the service goes on as usual.
I am sure more than a few of the people who attended that morning were left wondering what the heck just happened and who on earth that strange guy who mumbled in the mic was.
It was that bad.
I have gone back and forth in my head a hundred times, trying to figure out what went wrong and why I did such a terrible job of telling our story. Jessie, my wife who was there in the congregation, yeah she is no help, all she says is that I did a “fine” job and that with “practice” I will get better at it.
But really though, I have to figure out why I choked or this summer is going to be the worst waste of time ever.
I think, I may have it.
What I feel when I stand in front of people is this overwhelming fear that I am dangerously close to becoming “that guy”. You see, I never want to look in the mirror and see the guy who sold out to entertain people, who became what everyone wanted me to be just so that people would like me.
Really, truthfully I could care less about what people think, and the work that we do has nothing to do with impressing people. Yeah I enjoy a pat on the back as much as the next guy, but the thought of selling out and trying to make people happy gives me shivers up my spine.
The problem I have with speaking is; even though Bring Love In is so much more than me and my family, it feels when I am standing with a mic in my hand that I turned into that guy….
Do you see what I am saying here?
I so hate the thought of selling out that I choke up and loose it. It is almost as though I start becoming my worst fear just because I am so scared of it.
Like a person who wants so badly to do good on a test, but chokes up when the test comes for no other reason than it being test-day and they thought so much about not choking up today.
But… I am not going to do that any more. Today, I sat down and wrote a list of all the reasons why we have given our lives to work in Ethiopia.
1.God asks Christians to share His love with others.
Yep. That was as far as I got on my list before I knew why learning to tell this story is so important.
I have shared the agony of so many orphans in my life-held them as they cried deep painful tears-squeezed their hand while they had rotten teeth pulled-driven them from one city to another as they embarked on the biggest transition of their lives-held tight as they screamed with fright from loosing everything they once knew-played ball with the one who had learned to put on a show at being “happy” but really deep down he was only covering up searing pain that was tearing through his soul.
It is those kids that I am choosing to speak on behalf of.
Kids who deserve a family.
I may not be good at speaking in front of people, I might stutter and stare at my feet, or eat the microphone while searching for words, but screw all that. I am doing it for these kids.
The truth is there are thousands of children in our city in Ethiopia who have no mother and father, children who are growing up in orphanages and have no hope of ever being loved like only a family can.
Kids who need someone to fight for them, to get over themselves and their fear of speaking and start standing tall and telling what, to these kids is the most important story of all. Theirs.
Stories that need to be changed.
Next time someone hands me a microphone I am going to think of just one orphan who I have known, one who would like nothing more than to be in a family that loves and cares for her. And then I am going to dive in like there is no tomorrow.
In a way I feel like this is the fight of my life, like everything has been leading up to this moment when I got the chance to tell the story of orphans in need.
It is not my story it is theirs, and I am going to tell it loud.