The Stain of Beauty and Brokenness

Once Africa’s red dirt gets under your nails, it’s hard to get it out.

The red clay is caked to my shoes and the cuffs of my jeans and it has stained my heart.

There are majestic animals roaming wide open spaces and breathtaking sunsets filling the horizon.

Vibrant colors wash the city. It is a constant contrast to the extreme poverty that desperately works to strangle out hope.



Gridlocked traffic jams and thick exhausts plagues the city. Suffering tinges this country.

Today we stopped at a gas station on the way home from a quarterly Mercy House board meeting, next to a bright, outdoor market where handwoven rainbow bags swayed in the breeze, inviting us to behold their beauty.  An elderly beggar was asking for money outside the window. The gas station attendants told him to leave and when he wouldn’t, they took his walking cane and beat him with it.

He limped over to our van and asked again.

It’s not just this land. It’s the people that capture. It’s their resilience. It’s their beauty. It’s their brokenness.

Beauty and Brokenness–built on red soil–that’s what brands the heart.

2014-06-23 13.52.11

We spent 4 hours in our meeting today talking about just that.

I was reminded again of the impossibility of what we seek to do. Rescuing a girl and her unborn baby from the clutches of evil is audacious work.

It is heartbreaking. It is heartwarming. It is both at the same time. The magnitude wrecks me. We are believing God for the impossible, the improbable.


We take two steps forward and one back.

We make slow or no progress at all, but we are faithful and when we look behind us, we can see how far we have come.

We have 4 guards, protecting two houses, two dozen moms and babies with more coming. A gardner who also serves as a driver, and a social worker and a counselor and . . .  and I felt a wave of panic today at this responsibility.

Rescuing and redemption. But again, this is God’s work, not ours.

Today we played ball and laughed and chased toddler boys, who randomly stopped to pee pee in the bushes and on the rocks every chance they got.


Sitting in a circle, we asked shy new residents what they wanted to be when they grew up. I can hardly reconcile listening to 12 and 13 year old girls whisper their childlike dreams while a baby kicks in their wombs. My kids, the same age, sit next to them.

And I am undone.


One of the residents at Mercy House painted my fingernails red today. Crimson polish stains my nails and my skin.


It’s the worst manicure I’ve ever had.

It’s the most beautiful one, too.

When we look again, we see something impossible-we see both.

The breathtaking stain of beauty and brokenness.


  1. 2

    Norma Mariani says

    Thank you for sharing your stories with the world! My heart hurts for them but I thank our Lord in heaven for using people like you to be a blessing to people like them – specially the children. Thank you, thank you!

  2. 4


    I think Glennon from Momastery calls this brutiful from broken and beautiful.

    That picture with your daughter…it moves me. I want my daughters to see and hear these things.

  3. 5

    AmberK says

    I love Mercy House and I can’t imagine getting to walk in one of the homes to hug and encourage these mommies and to love on those babies. Praying big always for Mercy House and for all who’ve been stained. Xo

  4. 6

    Stephanie says

    My throat is sore with the tears I swallow. Your few words speak volumes to what is happening in your heart, your family, and those you serve. Blessings!

  5. 8


    Oh Boy, here come the tears again! May God continue in his providence for you, your vision and all you set out to go. May he continue (and I know he will) bless your good works, the girls that you help and your family. My your good continue to triumph over evil in many many ways!
    Bless you precious lady of God

  6. 9

    Amy says

    And the tears flowed. May the Lord bless you and your family as you serve others as He has called you to do.

  7. 10

    Heather S. says

    Sitting next to girls the same age as your fresh-faced teenager who are carrying new life in their bellies? yes, I imagine undone would be the world for that. That manicure? Hilarious – but again, how beautiful are the hands and feet that bring good news? I’m sure your hands are gorgeous, Kristen!

  8. 12


    Thank you for sharing your trip. I love getting a glimpse of God’s work there. Thank you for doing the hard and the wonderful work you do!

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