It’s afternoon and I’m on my phone, scrolling through messages from across the waters — photos of people who now hold my heart.

And I long to take you all with me.

I long to carry you into this world, into the villages and wide-split smiles that make up the family that is The Lulu Tree. I long for you to hear the jajjas cry their whooping “Hallelujahs” in the open-sky churches as we sit in plastic chairs and listen to Mommy Esther speak with passion about the Jesus she loves so much. I long for you to eat rice and matoke (boiled bananas) and ground nut sauce and to touch the heads of village children who will stroke your white skin in return.

I long to take you to feel the African sun on your head and see the stark line between lush vegetation and impoverished people and the dance they perform together across a land soaked in their ancestors’ blood.

But I can’t.

And I say this with much brokenness and sorrow.

Because first of all, God has called us, as a ministry, to be different. To not do mission trips. To not spend resources on anything that could be construed as personal or self-rewarding but to invest every dollar and every prayer selflessly into people most of us will never in fact meet, simply because we believe in them. And so, we love radically.

We love without getting anything in return.

The only trips we do are those for accountability — once a year, members of our team and I will visit each country to confirm funds are indeed being spent the way they were intended, and to pray in the same room as our dearly beloved brothers and sisters.

But otherwise we volunteer our time in the margins of our day for the sake of seeing these communities rise up out of the ashes through God’s strength, for His glory alone.

We have had teams go in the past and, unfortunately, do a lot of damage, strengthening our resolve to protect our Lulu families and to help them keep their eyes on their Heavenly Father as the Supplier of their needs. The last thing we want is for the presence of westerners to distract them from the One who loves them more than we ever could.

We also don’t allow personal emails, letters or cards to pass between westerners and our Lulu family in Africa, because too often things we innocently put in our messages can unintentionally underscore how different our worlds are. And this gap, this difference, can become a pit of jealousy or discontent into which our precious families fall.

That said, we do desire for you to be able to minister directly to our Lulu family, and so the Lord has given us the idea of a Prayer Wall — that is, a place on our website where you can leave a prayer or Bible verse for either a country or a team or a particular person, and once a month we will share those comments with our National Directors in each country so they can pass on the messages.

We hope you will utilize this Wall, for it will truly bless our families to know they are being prayed for.

And please hear our hearts when we say how sorry we are that things need to be this way — but we are truly trying to do things differently in a broken-down world. So much harm has been done to developing countries in a desperate, well-meaning attempt to help.

The beautiful news is that, through our prayers, we come alongside them in the most powerful and affirming way possible, as we all gather on the level ground at the foot of the cross and celebrate His beautiful redemption for every tribe, tongue, and nation. We hope you’ll join us there.

***

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at emily@thelulutree.com.

To learn more or to post a prayer, click HERE.

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