Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our newest addition

Mary and Stephen, two of our staff members, just had a baby girl on Friday. She is so tiny and it's just so cool that they were able to have this baby, it's truly a miracle. I was able to go and see her today, and can't wait to see how she's going to be as she grows up. Welcome to the world baby girl (they still haven't officially come up with a name for her).

Day Three

I woke up on Day 3 (my one year anniversary of being in Africa) and I was so tired, it hurt. I know it was somewhat comical for the guys on my team because my brain and my mouth/hands were not communicating very well. We had breakfast, had the kids pack, and then had our final quiet time and there were even more kids around to have their quiet time and it really just took my breath away looking around. Richard taught the final session and they had one last small group time. We got lunch ready and were able to finally send them home.

I wish I could take some sort of credit for this conference, but I KNOW that it was all Him. This conference seriously blew my mind with just God was so in the middle of everything and yes, I know the areas where there could be some improvement and the “issues” that went on behind the scenes but it totally surpassed all expectations I had for how this conference was going to go. The part I personally loved the most is just seeing our “leaders” step up to the plate, each one of them was amazing! I loved getting witness maturity in my guys right before my eyes, and even this morning seeing them in church I saw something new in them. I had three guys in particular who I wish I could use words to describe how much I love them and was blessed by them over this conference, they were there for me when I needed them the most and I would call them on the walkie talkie and always on the other side there was an “I’m coming”. We really worked as a team, and I know for a fact that was an answered prayer. I’m still on a high from this conference, yes, I’m tired, but I can’t even really sleep just because my mind keeps thinking about the conference. God is just too good for words.

Day Two

The day began bright and early at around 5:15, which is better than the previous morning which began at 4:30. We started setting up again for the day, the students had their breakfast and then we officially began the day. One of the best parts of the whole conference was when the 70 students who were there at that time (the rest were there by about ten) broke off to have their quiet time. I loved looking around the campus and seeing kid after kid with their Bible's open and taking notes. The teachings got under way with Danielle teaching on how Scripture corrects us and then it was time for more small groups and seriously after each small group time (there were six) the leaders would come and tell me how awesome their groups were and all the questions they were asking and what they were learning. From there we had Bev who taught a killer message on how Scripture trains us in righteousness. We then rocked some lunch (which was amazing yet again) it’s funny how good rice and beans can taste. During lunch we found out that our teacher for the next session, Steven, just had a baby girl, but he was willing to still come and teach and he taught a great message on how Scripture equips us and then the teachings concluded with Don taught on how we are able to do every good work.

After the teachings and small groups, we had some crazy games. For those of you who are familiar with the Weekend, think y-games. Game 1: crab walk to a tub of popcorn and fish for candy hearts and bring them back, Game 2: fill up a cup that you are holding in your mouth and run over and try and pour it into a Coke bottle on the forehead of someone lying down, Game 3: Paint a picture using ketchup and mustard using only your face as your paint brush, Game 4: Water balloons. It was nice and intense and I was totally and completely exhausted at the end of the day, but I couldn’t even go to sleep because I just kept thinking about how much God was blessing this conference.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day One

Each school holiday there is a youth conference held at one of the Calvary's here in Uganda. This holiday, it was our turn. Because Ryan is currently in the States, Richard (Ryan's assistant) and myself had the fun task of planning this one. I have to admit I was in management heaven, but I did reach my breaking point a time or two. Well, today it officially got under way. When it was all said and done, we had over one hundred kids here with about seventy of them staying the night for the next couple of days. The definitely had its hicups like one of the youth pastors from another church not coming with his kids and he was actually scheduled as one of our teachers, but that verse "be ready in season and out of season" had to come into play and so it is only by God's grace that these kids actually learned things from my teaching. We had three different teachings centered around the first part of 2 Timothy 3:16, and some awesome small group times. It's fun hearing some of our "leaders" come up and talking about how cool their group was. I love seeing people step up to the plate, and there have been a couple of the guys here have definitely shown new sides to them that I've never seen before. I have three guys in particular that were my rocks that I could lean on and turn to, they have been such a blessing and I love these brothers of mine. I new before hand that I would be able to count on them, hence warning them ahead of time that they were going to be worked hard these next couple of days, but I never would have imagined that they would be this great! I have seen how God is using this conference and I just now have to prepare myself for tomorrow and pray that I can get a little sleep as last night there was not a whole lot of that going on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The rainbow

One of the best quotes I've heard is "If you want to enjoy the rainbow, you've got to endure the storm". That would define the past 24 hours, it has been chuck full of crashing waves and 90mph winds (metaphorically speaking of course). Last night did not consist of very much sleep and this morning I was dreading what the day would bring, I had to try and "fix" what I had done yesterday only to have the issue not resolved and potentially made worse. Jess called a staff meeting for us today to discuss how we all have been getting pretty well slammed with attack and that we just need to come together as a family and not allow these sort of things to tear us down, the end of the meeting consisted one of the most cathartic hugs I've ever gotten and God is good to restore relationships. Now I just have to tell you, this staff (both local and missionary) truly is like a family. Yes, we have our struggles and we all fall every now and then, but that's why we're here, to pick one another back up. We have our little spats, but in the end it's truly our love for Him and one another that keeps us together. Along with the hug and the prayers, one of our guys, Irege, made me a carrot cake to brighten my day and the kids that live here wrote me a letter and made the most beautiful and sweetest smelling bouquet I've ever seen. It's funny how much life seriously can be like a roller coaster where in just a day you can come crashing down, but through God's grace you're able to climb up again. He definitely answered prayers and brought new depth to a lot of relationships. I praise Him for how He has worked, even in the hard times to draw us closer to Him. I also praise Him for my family here and pray that we will continue to grow together more and more.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The things I do not want to do, I do

Those unbelievably true words were written by Paul and thinking about words like that and then the book of 2 Corinthians where Paul is having to do damage control for what he had said in his first letter are ringing so real in my life tonight. I tend to give you the "backstage pass" to missionary life, and I'm going to be more honest in this post than anyone ever should be. That being said, here we go.

Some perceive missionaries as preaching to thousands or whacking their way through the bush and sharing the Gospel with some "primitive" group of people. In my experience in dealing with missionaries (be it those who have been on the field 30 years or 1 year), their main ministry, their main heartaches/victories come from the people they are in some way involved with on a daily basis, those people who have in some way truly become disciples. You can kind of think of life here as you're always having to be "on", not making any mistakes and not offending anyone. Now, being absolutely flawed, especially in the area of being honest to a fault, kind of puts a couple of obstacles into that "perfect" persona that is kind of expected of me from others. Especially in a culture where it's so taboo to correct someone for fear that they might feel offended. Dealing with confrontation and that terrible feeling of conviction and also that sickening feeling of how you just had to tick someone off has been what life has been for me lately. Tonight and even the rest of this past week I related to Paul on so many levels it's honestly insane. I've understood what Paul means when he talks of how people don't like what he's saying and how he still struggles with his flesh and doing those things he does not want to do. All I can say is that it's been a couple of crazy humbling and eye-opening weeks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

For all you worship leaders out there

Now remember she's two so her theology isn't very pronounced just yet, but you gotta love this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My unproductive day

Have you ever had one of those days when you know you should be getting a whole lot of stuff done, but you just can't seem to get to it, and before you know it the day's over? Well, that was my day today...this morning I met with my guys about the conference but that was about it as far as the things I should have been doing. At one point, Aryanna and I had our own little real life episode of Sesame Street with me realizing that she's just as stubborn as I am (remember she's two) and at one point while we were arguing about how many fingers I was holding up and she told me "shh!". It was one of those things that was so funny but I had to tell her that's bad juju to tell to people who are older than you. After I played "Grover" for the morning, I had my Luganda lessons and then decided it would be fun to wash the car with kids. I don't know how clean the car actually got, but we had fun. I guess you could call it a pretty good day, just ignore the fact that all the stuff I had to do today is now rolled over to tomorrow :).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just a note

Right now I'm sitting in my favorite place in Jinja, Flavours, with an iced mocha, listening to some Santana, and making a study guide on Romans for our youth conference that is going to be next week. Every now and then I get those little realizations of, "holy cow! I'm in Africa!" It's funny because as I look around right now, what I see is nothing like what you'd expect Africa to look like. Don't get me wrong, it's different, and if you drive for just five minutes you can see village life of little huts without electricity or water, but life here in town is far from that. I love how God knows what we can handle, as I'm just not sure how well I would have been able to manage here even ten years ago, when you called home maybe once or twice a year because it was such an ordeal. Now as I'm utilizing wireless internet and drinking my lovely coffee beverage, I just love how God gives us these little blessings that just help us to endure and do what He's called us to.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hard labor?

For the past few days we have been taking out a big tree on our compound so that the trees below it that actually produce something can grow. We've had several guys working on it with machetes, that's right I said machetes. That's how they cut the limbs off, then to dig out the roots they used hoes and pick-axes. Finally today they brought a truck and tied a rope to the somewhat decapitated tree to try and pull it out and the guys were hammering away at the roots, finally it came time to try and use a chainsaw and they cut at the tree and then pulled on a rope and the tree came crashing down. They still are having to take care of the stump, but my goodness, I was watching from a window (as I knew if I was down there either I or one of the guys would loose a limb if I tried to help), and I just couldn't believe how hard they (well most of them) were working.

To go along with that, this week, the power company has been working to put a transformer onto our property since the oil keeps getting stolen from the one right outside our fence. The guys used shovels to dig through rock hard ground and then they had to hoist the poles up by themselves with a whole lot of whoopin' and hollerin' in order to get them in sync. It was crazy to witness how it happens verses just using a crane and big ol'e drills.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A little snapshot

Have you ever had one of those moments where you're some place and you wish you could just somehow capture that moment including the sights, smells, and sounds? Well, tonight I had one of those nights. We have a Bible study at a slum called Loco that is just around the corner from the church. Every Friday night some of our staff members go there and host the study, and one of our guys, Martin, has just started taking on the teaching there. In order to boost attendance it was decided that I should allow my little white face do some promotion to bring people in to listen to what Martin was teaching. Well, tonight that plan worked.

Now that I've shared some background, I'll get to the point and share my little snapshot, a memory I hope I never will forget. I was sitting there in the middle of this little field on a bench surrounded by cow .... and I was just looking around taking everything in. There were these two really cool looking dead trees up against a sunset sky, rows of houses with clothes hanging on makeshift clothes lines, cows grazing all around us, a nice breeze, the smell of trash burning, the sounds of chickens and kids playing, a group of about twelve people sitting and listening to the message, and Martin teaching on how we need to love one another. It was such a cool time, and I'm so thankful that God allowed me that time to just take it all in and for a brief moment, just "be still".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tonight's entertainment

So Bev told us about a meteor shower that is supposed to take place over the next three days. So we headed outside at about 9:30 just to check it out and by the time we came in about an hour later, I honestly didn't want to leave. I only saw a handful of meteors, but it was so awesome (especially towards the end when I got a blanket to lay down on and some sunscreen) that I didn't really want to go in. Jess, Bev, Judy, and I were just hanging out, us girls were laying down watching and we could here a disco playing some crazy African music in between the frogs croaking and the crickets chirping. It was an absolutely clear night and although the meteor sightings were sparse, it was awesome just looking at the stars and seeing the Milky Way. It was an awesome unexpected treat to finish off a pretty sweet day.

Prison play by play

So I always am trying to give everyone back in the States at least a little idea of life here in Uganda. And I realized I have said some things about the prison, but have not done it any justice by way of letting you know how it all goes down when we go there. Taking pictures there is a big no,no so you'll have to settle for my descriptions.

Julie (my translator and one who has been doing prison ministry since it began) and I head out at around 12:45 Tuesday afternoons. We drive over some lovely Ugandan roads (sarcasm emphasized) and reach a big gate where an ascari (guard) has to let us in and we drive through and on this long road we drive past different crops, some houses of people who live on the prison land, Lake Victoria is to our right and different herds of cows and goats are being herded. We reach where our prison is at (the condemned section) and we go and use a knocker on this HUGE door, seriously you look up at it and your heart sinks, someone looks at you through a little flap in the door and then they let you in. We check in with the guards there, drop off our keys, and sometimes they have to check our bags, and then we head to meet the ladies. In the condemned womens section, there are only about 9 ladies there right now, these are all ladies who have been accused of some have admitted to crimes such as murder. We enter into their part of the prison and if we're lucky they let us inside a room where they have a big mat on the floor. The ladies come and rush up to greet you with a special hug where it's kind of like how the french greet but with hugs instead of kissing. You take off your shoes and go and sit down on a mattress on the floor and then after some chit-chat we stand up and do some worship. I will tell you one thing, there are few things on earth as awesome and the worship you hear in Ugandan prisons, it is so full of joy when there is no obvious thing to be joyful about. We then sit down and I teach. Right now we're going through the stories in the book of Genesis in a quasi expository fashion. After the teaching we rock some coloring pages since many of them have never really colored before and it's a good release for them and then we head out at about 3.

It is seriously one of the highlights of my week, I think because it's just so different from everything else I do or ever thought I'd be doing. They're all awesome ladies and this Tuesday I think God opened new doors for us to get closer. I'm truly just so amazed that God has blessed me with such an awesome opportunity.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Holiday season begins

So the school system here revolves around terms and in between each term there is at least a one month long holiday. This term's holiday is just getting underway and I have to be honest, it's a little overwhelming. Personally, here at the compound the time of peace and quiet that typically comes during the day is on hiatus. For the next four weeks I'll get to hear kids screaming running up and down the stairs and "Kelli" being called through my windows. Ministry wise, this time also brings a whole other realm of craziness. We have several of our students who go to boarding schools and during the holiday they come back home to stay with friends and family, I humbly ask that you pray for me to have wisdom in dealing with the girls who are coming back because there are times that my gift of bluntness clashes with them wanting to do whatever they want. It should be an interesting month, and I just pray that God would guide every aspect of it and that I would take every opportunity I can to continue to make disciples.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The "thorn"

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 could quite possibly one of the most cited passages in all of scripture, at least in my life it is. In this passage, Paul is continuing his defense of his apostleship, ministry, and character to a church that he poured his blood, sweat and tears into, yet they bucked against his rebukes in his earlier letters and started attacking him. We discover in this passage how fourteen years before the letter was written he was taken up to see to the third heaven/paradise and was able to hear things that we could never even fathom. Because of how awesome it was to be given that experience, God knew Paul risked becoming prideful and therefore sent something to come upon him that caused him frequent pain and suffering. In the Greek, the word "thorn" actually means stake, and I love the way one commentator put it when he said, think of a stake being driven into and killing your flesh...ah I love that raw image that comes with that description. Even though Paul cried out to God to have Him remove that stake, God continually responded that Paul should find all satisfaction in the fact that God is using this thing for a purpose: for His glory. It was sent to Paul, not merely as something that God went, "Oh no! Well, might as well make the most of it". No, God sent this to Paul with the specific purpose of making him and and keeping him humble. And after Paul is told this, he didn't just tolerate or endure the suffering but rejoiced in it knowing that its end result would be him being refined and molded more into the image of Jesus.

God is so good to know us even better than we know ourselves. He can see into the darkest places of our hearts and see those sins that we tell no one about and we even try to forget about ourselves. I think of how in my own life one of those sins definitely is that nasty, hideous, revolting sin of pride. It's sobering to think that in those times when you truly consider yourself humble are the very times you are the exact opposite. For me, my "thorn" would be the physical one dealing with all the "disabilities" I have. Whenever a spiritual high happens and I begin to puff myself up, no joke, it's like "WHAM!" I'm taken out of commission for sometimes weeks at a time because my knee is in so much pain or someone comments about how I limp. There are few things more humbling then overhearing a little kid asking their mom "What's wrong with her leg?!" or some group of guys as you walk by making jokes about how you're "crippled". I'm not sharing this for sympathy or throwing a pitty party but for the exact opposite reason because after studying this passage, I'm reminded of so many huge lessons that I need to hold onto. I'm so glad God knows me and loves me enough to send me a "stake for my flesh" to keep me on my knees and it seems like every time I try to stand up and walk on my own and full of myself, he just sends me right back to my knees again and once again I'm reminded, "My grace is sufficient for you".

Monday, August 3, 2009

And then there was light

So all I can say is...WE HAVE POWER! After four days without power, we finally have our electricity back! Today we were sitting around and all of a sudden we hear a big truck and hoping with every inch of our hearts that it was the truck from the electric company, Jess got out a ladder to check and see if it was them, and it was! The afternoon was taken up with us peering out at them from the backyard getting stoked to finally have fans, hot water, and lights. After about an hour and a half and a couple of false alarms, we finally have power!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A little "situation"

Power (both literally and figuratively) is a funny thing here in Uganda. We randomly have power outages and Bev calls the power company and a while later it comes back on, but this weekend we encountered an unusual situation to most, but here it's not that uncommon. The other day our power went out and when Bev made her usual phone call they informed her of how people had been stealing the petrol that is used to power the transformer that powers our block, and therefore we have no way of receiving power at the moment. It has now been three days we've been without power and going through Sunday morning service was quite interesting, but we managed and it all worked out. I do have a highlight to the our current lack of power: last night I took a shower with freezing cold water (no power to run the water heater) and using a flashlight. I have to admit I'm now proud to say I can rough it, although I can't wait for the power to come back on. Through this experience I've definitely realized how spoiled I am even living here, because we do have power while a lot of the people who live here still don't, I feel guilty wining about it when that's all they've know...oh man I'm such a little princess sometimes it's really sad.


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