Monday, December 26, 2011

The best part about Christmas

This is the whole reason why I came back for Christmas... getting to spend time with my family.

Some of the cousins went with our Grandma to the River of Lights.


The O'Hea cousins... they're all so HUGE but it's still like old times.


We decided to celebrate Christmas a day late since my brother had to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It was a great idea as we're all now just chilling out watching a movie.

My beast on "Christmas Eve"


On "Christmas morning"

Christmas goodness

My new obsession is with a website called Pinterest. Over the past couple of days I had fun trying out new recipes from there and then some old defaults. Needless to say the gym is a must this next week.

Cheesecake strawberries... these were so yummy!!!!


I was a busy girl... Strawberries, gingerbread and sugar cookies, pumpkin pie (everything including the crust from scratch), and my mommy made fudge.




This was made with Grands biscuits, syrup. brown sugar, and pecans and we had it on our "Christmas Morning"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Culture Shock

(This is for everyone in the past week who has told me they've appreciated the candidness of my posts)

Culture shock: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.


Being out of the country for two years, I have grown accustomed to a new "normal". Now that I'm back, especially during this time of year, I'm experiencing a rather intense bout of culture shock. I'm finding that even though I've now been back just short of one week and jet lag is pretty much over, I'm becoming even more tired. I think it's just because I'm processing all of the different things going on around me, especially all the changes. Coming to a place that was my home for 22 years and it was the epitome of the Cheers song of everyone knowing my name, to now where everywhere I look there are strange faces who look at me the way I once looked at random visitors who were coming into my territory is such a surreal experience. Looking around I just see things that used to be so familiar and yet now have changed just enough to throw me off and it's almost like I'm in a perpetual state of a border-line panic attack. I love seeing everyone who I've missed but I guess I was just so busy before leaving I never got a chance to really prepare myself for how different things would be. I'm very grateful though for those who are around who have either been on the field before or people like my brother who have been with me and know what life is like in Uganda in some aspect and who know the people and the stories I'm talking about. I know that as time goes by the culture shock will lessen and I'll get used to life here in some ways and meet new people and rekindle old friendships, but until that happens I know I just have to take things one step at a time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Made it!


It's midnight on Saturday morning. I've now been in the States for about 50 hours and it's been such a crazy whirlwind! I arrived in Albuquerque to my family and it was just amazing to see them (grandma, grandpa, aunt, cousins, brothers, and of course parents) all and I just can't believe how much all the kids have grown! My brother Keelan is now well over 6 feet tall and I really feel like I'm a black key on a piano when I stand in between my two brothers now. It was very nice getting home without any real traveling problems - both of my bags came and all of my flights went off with out a hitch.



I encountered the fun of jet lag as the next morning as I slept in until noon. My mom and I then began to tackle the to-do list: renewing my expired license, making a target run, etc... Then we partook of heavenly green chile stew! Oh my goodness!!!! And by 7:30 I was ready for some more sleep.

Today I woke up at 6 and was able to barrel through the day despite an incredibly gnarly cold I'm having at the moment and I got my phone finally all set up! We also prepared for my first speaking engagement with the folks at the Life After Fifty Fellowship. That's honestly one of my favorite ministries to share with and they were so sweet to allow me to come and fill them in on some of what God is doing with the youth of Uganda. I didn't realize just how raw I was until I started crying talking about our girl Naaziwa who passed away earlier this year.

So needless to say, cold or not, it's go time. I hope to start getting to see people tomorrow as these past two days I've been spending it primarily with my parents and my brothers. I know these next two months are going to go by so fast, I just have to try and really "make the most of every opportunity".

Furlough: Traveling part 2

Ok, so this post may be a little less of the deeper subject matter as the last one… As I am writing this, I’m sitting in the Washington DC airport. It’s 5:30 and already dark and pouring rain and I’m just praying that the plane won’t be delayed. I have just finished partaking in the main craving that I have in Uganda but can’t have… SUBWAY. I got off the plane here and passed by a Wendy’s and an Auntie Ann’s then a Dunkin Donuts and then as the angels sang… there it was: Subway. But even when I saw those other places I got a little veclempt because little by little it’s beginning to hit me that I’m back. Now I’m just going to have to be sure to start at a gym ASAP or I’m going to be in trouble… the “furlough fifteen” is just not something I want to encounter this time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Furlough: Traveling part 1

Currently I'm in Brussels Belgium partaking in a waffle and OJ waiting for my next flight and so I decided now was as good of time as any to post a blog:

To get anywhere from 8,000 miles away is a bit of an ordeal... and if you're going to be gone for 2 months well, you can up the stress factor quite a bit. Yesterday (or I think it was yesterday) was madness just trying to get stuff done, goodbyes said, and everything I needed to pack. Bev and I left Jinja at around 3 in the afternoon and got to Entebbe (the town where the airport is at) at about 6:15. We had some dinner and then it was time for me to check in. Gotta love the international flights where you have to check in 3 hours ahead of time. The ticket area was so loud and full of chaos but I made it through and I was very happy to discover that I was within my baggage allowance. I sat down to some good ol'e African Tea one last time and then headed to the gate.

Our plane was packed with quite a cornucopia of cultures - Ethiopia, US, Belgian, Ugandan, and the list goes on... It's really on this subject that I'm wanting to really focus on. People, cultures, this world... they all amaze me. I mean I was surrounded by muslim families and just really doing my own little anthropological observations of how they interacted with one another and those around them, the different people boarding the plane some were young twenty somethings others were older business people who still wore suits to travel internationally. I was able to sit next to a girl who slept most of the time but then in the last hour of our flight we started talking and it turns out she's also 25 with the PeaceCorps in Rwanda and has been disappointed by religion and fell away during college. It's in times like those with conversations with people who are great people with "good" hearts, and yet they're so lost. That's really what has hit me really heavily this morning that I was on a plane where a majority of those people did not know Christ. And my plane was just a microcosm of this world, there are more and more people growing up either not knowing Christ at all or being burned so much by "religion" that they use that as an excuse to run away from Him. Oh man, it just kills me as I'm thinking about that....

Anyway, be praying for that girl, and really all the "Lost" in your life. I have to go and check in now.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Get to Work


Since May of 2010 our youth group has been making their way through a series called The Race to Revelation. We have covered all the books of the Bible in a survey fashion up until the past two months where when we hit Revelation we slowed down a little bit in order to look at it a little more closely. It's been a crazy year and a half and definitely a challenge to try and cover the "important" verses and lessons of each book in just an hour's time.

Last night we finished our series as we covered the last 2 chapters of Revelation. It still hasn't hit me that we're done and that when I come back from furlough we will be able to change things up a bit and study a book more intensely and in an even more applicable way. To finish off the series we had kind of an extended youth group as we began at 1 with some worship and studying chapter 21 and getting the kids to understand how much we should be looking forward to heaven and live for that instead of this world that will one day pass away. We also had a couple of sessions on how the students can share their faith. So the first session was on testimonies and teaching the kids what a testimony was and getting them thinking about what theirs is.

From there we did some games, each with a lesson attached. We began with a boys team and a girl's team and each team had to have two key people who had to transport the rest of their team to the goal and back in a minute and a half and whoever they didn't get back were to get hit by water balloons. This was to show that we need to get to work and help people know Christ before it's too late. Then we had all the kids sit down with their backs to us as we threw water balloons at them to teach of how we don't know "the day or the hour" (of course, it didn't take long for them all to get up and start trying to run away, but it was still fun). Then we had four students with blindfolds and four cups each. In one cup there was a marshmallow, the next had some cookies, the other had honey, and finally a jalapeno. They were to be listening to their friends about which cup to take from. This was to teach that we need to do our jobs to tell people about what's coming but it's also the other people's responsibility to listen to what you're saying. Finally we played spoons and that was to teach about what the rapture will be like and Jesus will come and snatch us up to be with him in the air.

We had our final evangelism session about how we witness with our lives, through our relationships, and how to do it with just anyone we meet on the street. And then our final teaching was Revelation 22 again just about how awesome heaven will be and we need to be sure that we go there by giving our lives to Christ.

It was really cool as I didn't really know how many people would come and by the end of the day we had around 70. It was a lot of fun and definitely humbling as God taught me a lot of lessons gearing up for the event (see previous post). God is good, and His word is faithful and true. These 70 kids hopefully now know the truth of what their future can hold, the question is, do you?

Organized Chaos

I am a control freak.... there I said it and they say that acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery, so here's hoping... Anyways, being that I do enjoy having things organized and under control, especially with big events, I make sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, the schedules are color-coordinated, and everything little detail is covered and everything is communicated ad nauseam. But lately God has enjoyed making life a little more interesting as I embark on putting on the large-scale youth events. Last time He decided that I should loose my voice so I had to rely on others to help me, and then we had a big event yesterday and He thought I needed to learn that I still can't control everything.

The past couple of weeks, the power has been absolutely ridiculous! Technically it's supposed to be off every other night from 7pm to 7am, but that's apparently a mere suggestion as the power company here enjoys having our power off sometimes every night (like this week) and for longer than 12 hours. That's item number one that set things in a chaotic motion for this event. Then I'm also watching three of my friends kids (ages 15, 14, and 9).... that's fun in and of itself, but then the 9 yr old got Malaria.... another contributing factor to the chaos. Being that I was staying at their house and divided between there and the church with my time it was just like there was no real constant I felt very much like I had little or no control over really anything. And not to mention in the midst of all that I'm preparing to head to the States for two months in just a couple of days so that would make even a normal existence crazy. But praise God that He is in control even with the things that are impossible for me to control. The event happened and even though I knew all the hiccups beforehand, God made the event a success and so yet again He reminds me that He's got it and I need to trust in Him, not myself or my neurotic organization of things.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sad day

It's funny how attached you can get to an animal. Last July I was in a cast, two of my best friends left, and it was just not an easy time but in that time we got a new German Shepherd puppy, Kaabong. I loved him so much, he was the biggest bunch of fur out of the litter and was playful from the beginning and never really grew out of that. A year and a half later, as he continued to be my buddy and the one who if I was having a tough day feeling the "nobody likes me, everybody hates me" syndrom I would go and just hang out with him. Last night he was not 100% himself and was vomiting during the night. Even earlier this morning he was still hanging in there, but then during first service he passed away. It appears to be that he got into some rat poison and it acted so fast we didn't know what it was until it was too late. My family here tried to protect me from finding out until after the morning services because they knew how hard I would take it, but of course I found out and although I tried to hold it together I finally broke down. It's been one of those weeks anyway and I'm running on empty approaching furlough so this just came at a really tough time, and honestly it's in times like this that he was my default "go to" guy so that's what's really hard. I'm going to miss him so much!

These are pictures from when we first got him.


Friday, November 25, 2011

A long fuse

The Irish are known for telling stories, enjoying their "beverages", and wearing their emotions (including anger) on their sleeve. I definitely have the first and third one down. The command to be "slow to anger" is definitely on my list of top ten most difficult commands in the Bible. I would have what most would say a, "short fuse" it doesn't really take a lot to get me annoyed or angry, I typically get over it just as fast but still watch out. Part of growing up is learning to not have such a quick temper because basically, people will hurt you, annoy you, and upset you... that's life and you might as well get used to it.

As I read the Bible, I'm amazed at what a long fuse God has. Many think that the way He is shown in the Old Testament especially is that He's a rather harsh and angry God. But this morning I was reading 2 Chronicles 33 and about how what an evil king Manasseh was, and you read in verse one, he was allowed to be king for 55 years! God has been known to strike people down for a whole lot less than what Manasseh did. But then you get to verse 10 and how God laid the smack down on him, and then verse 12 about how he truly humbled himself before God and repented of his ways. And in verse 13, we see how God forgave him. After he made it back to Judah, he removed all the evil he had put into place before and really showed how he repented in his heart and didn't just say "sorry" to get out of being punished. You can't help but think of how God knew that's what he was going to do, and that's why he didn't just strike him down early in his reign. God is so unbelievably patient with us, it amazes me! To think of all He puts up with as we choose to ignore His warnings and commands, fail to thank Him for the amazing ways He works in our lives, and how we may even choose to turn our backs on Him completely, and yet He still is willing to welcome us back to Him with open arms just like the dad with the prodigal son. God's mercy and grace amaze me pretty much on a daily basis, and how I get irate when someone speaks to me badly or cuts me off... Our God is so good and how He treated Manasseh definitely laid some gnarly conviction on my heart on how I should be dealing with situations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Weekend's Teachings

From Friday to Sunday I end up teaching at least three separate times and it's amazing how each time God allows me to teach, He continues to lay on the lessons for me as well.

On Friday, we finished our study through Acts at Jinja SS. Studying Acts 27-28 and recognizing the truth of God's promise, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" in how God was with Paul through the storm. In the storms of life, God is there, even when we don't see Him, when as it said in chapter 27, "all hope was lost". But God is there. That's a truth I constantly have to remind myself of. We are called to live by faith and not by sight, something we say so often yet very rarely put into practice.

On Saturday, the youth group made their way through chapters 17 and 18 in Revelation in our series Race to Revelation. God blew my mind as it had rained HARD right before youth group was to start and as I was sitting there with my worship team drinking tea and watching the rain praying for blue sky, I had no clue God would bring all of the student that He would. We had as many students last night as we do when we have a special event, it was really cool! As we studied those two chapters the emphasis was on the archetypal Biblical theme that God wants our complete devotion and us to depend on Him alone. We were challenged looking at our lives and what we spend our time and thoughts on to see what we really "worship" instead of the only One who truly deserves it.

Then today, with my students who I used to call kids but are now past that stage, we are in Leviticus 13:24-28 and Daniel chapter 3. We do Leviticus because my students are determined to make it verse by verse through the whole Bible (I promise it was their idea) and so we're trying to take it little by little through these more difficult to apply passages. Today's passage in Leviticus is about burns becoming infected and the lesson we will talk about is that the "uncleanness" came from something painful and for us in the same way, suffering may prove to be a temptation for sin to enter into our lives (gossip, bitterness, anger, etc...) but we have to look at what that suffering is there for and why God has allowed it. One thing I have tried to drill into my students heads is that WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE FOR SIN, God ALWAYS provides a way out (1 Corinth 10:13). With Daniel chapter 3, we will look at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they refused to worship anything/anyone else other that the one true God. We will discuss what things we may feel tempted to do that are against God, the ways people may try to make us do those things, and the way we should stay strong and be faithful to God, no matter what the consequences may be.

I continue to be amazed that from Genesis to Revelation, God's Word is living and it's just so so cool to see students learn powerful biblical truths that can give them a strong foundation as they continue to grow and seek to live a life devoted to Him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"A man plans his ways..."

Ughh... one of the most obnoxious things is when you work and work on a project and then realize that basically you just wasted your time, that it won't work the way you hoped, and you have to start all over again. That's the story of my life when it comes to a lot of my plans for ministering to the youth here. I keep making plans, start making outlines of booklets, flyers, etc... and then I realize that the way I had set it all up won't work because of some reason or another (typically it's involving knowing their reading levels and time commitments).

Right now, the problem I'm facing is the desire to get my students into their Bibles. I've tried all sorts of ideas, and I do recognize that it's about them developing that hunger and not making it into something legalistic, but basically I'm just trying to give them as many tools as possible to make it as easy as possible so that they are without excuse for not delving into the riches that are in His word. I've tried to break books into bit-size chunks but then the goal-oriented girl that I am can't quite handle the idea of the book of Matthew taking 80 days for them to read. Ughhh.... I guess I just have to continue praying through it and recognizing that the important thing is not how fast they're going through it, but that they're in it at all and I need to try to encourage that as much as possible.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Use your words

To give you a little insight in my handling of small children, when they're crying more often than not the phrase "Use your words" comes out (and it doesn't matter if they're 6 mos or 6 years, the expectation is still there - I know I'm hopeless). Words, vocal chords, the ability to communicate verbally is such an awesome gift. One you sometimes forget about until your ability is taken away. Lately, my body's favorite way of handling a cold is to loose my voice (I'm sure much to the entertainment and relief of those around me). But as I've said, I'm learning what a gift it is God has given us to communicate. But as it's been said "with great privilege, comes great responsibility". I mean, when you think about it, at the end of the day what did the words that came out of your mouth accomplish? Did you encourage someone or tear them down? Did you let words slip out that you would blush if you heard your child repeat them? Did you tell someone how great you thought someone else was or gossip about them?

One of the verses that I sometimes wish I could blot out in my Bible is Proverbs 10:19, "Where words are many, sin is not absent" just because of how much it convicts me sometimes. Throughout Proverbs and even the book of James you read verse after verse about your mouth and the effect it can have on those around you. Isn't it funny that we hate to be talked about behind our backs, yet when we do it about someone else, it's ok because you were just "sharing a concern you were having about another brother/sister"? That saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me", is so many levels of not true. Now, of course sticks, stones, sidewalks, and doctors have broken my bones... but that's another story, but truthfully the greatest pain I have felt is the sting of certain words as they penetrate my heart and what's worse is that I know words I've said have hurt others. Sometimes I can really understand why monks partake in vows of silence, can you imagine how much less damage control we'd have to do and I'm sure for most of us our sin tally for the day would go down drastically if we weren't allowed to speak? So I guess what I need to continue telling myself is "use your words", and use 'em well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Special Announcement! Furlough Dates


Well, the time has come for me to head back to the States for a couple of months. I will be there from December 7th through February 6th. It's funny the thoughts that go through your head as you prepare to go back to the life that you left years before. And it's also interesting to compare this time to when I went home for the first time two years ago. It seems like the longer you stay away, the more you become content with things here, the food, you know where to find certain things, and you really just get into the swing of life more and more. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely jonesing for some Dion's pizza (ABQ people know what I'm talking about), and legit green chile, but over all, I'm really not dreaming of much as I anticipate going back in less than a month. This furlough, the only thing I'm really thinking about is spending time with my family. Two years is definitely a really long time to be away when you have a family as awesome mine. Other than that though, I don't really have many big plans except spending a couple of days in Arizona, So Cal, and Tennessee visiting friends and attending a youth worker's conference. My only real "agenda" is drinking LOTS of coffee and getting to share what God's doing here in Uganda both in me and through me. Two months may seem like a long time, but I know it will be over before I know it, I just pray I make the most of it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Ugandan Fish Story

So I love to fish. My family loves to fish and my grandpa, uncles, dad, and brothers are all avid fishermen and even my aunt and mom can hold their own with a fishing pole. Being that I'm a rather impatient person, fishing wouldn't seem to be my thing, but I love it! Of course I prefer fly fishing... and part of that's because I can keep moving, but I love fishing no matter what. I have been wanting, yearning, desiring with all my heart to fish here in Uganda but never have been able to because of lack of gear, knowledge of where to go, and people to go with. Well, that dilema which had been plaguing my existence for the past 3 years was finally resolved this evening.

This past Sunday some friends of mine told me they had taken up fishing and I all but begged them (well, come to think about it I kind of did) to let me come with them the next time they went. Today I got home from Kampala and got the call ten minutes later that they were going. So I got my new little pole that I had bought just today and set out to meet them. Four of my friends and I went down to the bank of the NIle - I only almost fell a couple of times - and pulled out the bag of worms and got to work.

Now, the pole I bought was rather cheap and may or may not have been meant for children and it proved it with its reel. It was very sad, and by the end of the evening I was using the "traditional" method of bank fishing here of just throwing out your line and using your hands to feel if you caught something and just pull it in. I was dirty and smelly with worm guts on my hands and I really didn't mind one bit. As we were fishing, the sun was setting over the Nile and the fire flies were coming out and it was really such an awesome unexpected adventure.



And now the important question, must be answered.... "Did you catch anything?" - I can proudly say yes... yes I did catch something and no it wasn't a rock or sea weed. I could tell you it was a 5 foot long Nile Perch, but I'm not ashamed to show off my first catch here in Uganda...


And yes, I know you're most likely laughing right now, but hey, in an hour or so of fishing and without any special gear, I'm ok with this guy. (And for those of you asking, yes I did put him back. And yes, I also was laughing very hard when I brought him in).

It was awesome to be out there again with the sun and the water and just having fun with friends. We're going to try and do it again next Monday and this time for the whole day, it should be fun to see what other stories are to come from my newest favorite past time here in Uganda.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cha...cha...cha...changes

Today I'm studying Acts 20 to teach at Jinja SS tomorrow night. It's mainly about Paul saying goodbye to the Ephesians knowing he won't see many of them ever again. Listening to a podcast on the chapter, it was all about goodbyes. God amazes me sometimes because I'm at the onset of another goodbye and with this goodbye will come change as I learn to grow up a little bit more and continue finding my place in life here. I've never liked change, but I know it's necessary. Without change, there's no growth. If we never allowed changes to happen in our lives then we'd never get to experience all that God made us to do. Life is full of changes, some are small and seemingly insignificant, others are huge and life changing and God is in control of them all. Goodbyes are tough, especially when it's someone you've grown so accustomed to being such a large part of your life and all you really know is how to do things with that person as a part of the life you live. But God has His calling for each one of us, and like snowflakes no calling is exactly the same. We need to not allow the fear of change or the pain of goodbye to keep us or others from being a part of the work God has called us to. It's about trusting God not only for the path He has for you but for the path He has for others and truly "let go and let God" and rejoice in the tapestry His is making with the different personalities and changes He brings our way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Hope

Music is a crazy thing. I may be rhythmically and vocally challenged but music is still hugely important in my life and very often comes to define certain chapters. When I was a sophomore in high school it was a David Crowder concert that brought me to my knees and basically defined the beginning of me truly walking with God. This morning, as I had finished my quiet time, the song that came on immediately after I said "amen" was My Hope by my old friend Dave. It was crazy because the words to the song were pretty much exactly what I had just finished praying, and were in line with the two of the psalms I read this morning. It was so cool, and again a definite reminder that He hears us when we call.


Here I am again
In this raging sea
On my knees again
Deep calls to deep
I feel I'm drowning
My arms are
Just too tired to swim
I feel like I'm sinking
On my knees again
In the roar of Your waterfall
In the storm of You
May You find me holding on
May You find me true

Chorus:
And I put my hope
And I put my trust
And I put myself in You
In You, Lord [2x]

Here I am again
In need of you
Broken, Beaten
Needing You
In the roar of Your waterfall
In the wonderful storm of You
May You find me holding on
May You find me true

(Chorus)

Bridge:
Wash me clean
Set me free
Hold me close
And cover me

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baseball, locusts, and sharing your faith

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when there's no camera around a memory sometimes is even better. Last night at youth group, we had a really cool time and I wished I had a camera to capture some of it, but that didn't happen and honestly I'm kind of glad because now it's captured in a memory. The afternoon started when I was getting everything set up for youth group. These days, I'm flying solo with the youth group as life happens and those who had been helping are no longer around but God has given me a couple of amazing students who step up in the times I need them the most. When you ask me about what I feel blessed by, one of the things is service... just helping when I need help without needing to be asked, that's what these boys do. I was all set to do my usual stuff, and one of my guys just jumped in and did it for me, it was so sweet and a total testimony about the kind of guys they are. It didn't matter how tired I was, that alone was God giving me the shot in the arm to have the strength for the rest of the evening.

As the students started coming I had gotten out an old nerf baseball bat and a softball and asked if the kids wanted to try it out. It was so much fun because I was the one teaching them how to play.... it was hilarious because I'm not much of a baseball player myself and we all were laughing and screaming. I quickly decided that the softball hurt way too much so we switched to using a hacky sack... much better on the hands (and shins). It was a blast and a sweet time of fellowship before the Bible study started.

For the teaching, we were in Revelation 8 and 9 and if you want to read some crazy chapters in the Bible, those are some good ones. We learned about how God warns us about what is coming and the suffering and how now is our chance to get a clue basically and come to HIm and if we have already, we need to get to work sharing Him with those around us so they don't have to go through that time. It's a sobering thing realizing that as bad as the final 3 1/2 years are of the tribulation... eternity in hell is even more intense. It was a heavy message for students who ranged from 10-17, but they got it.

After the teaching, we spent time discussing how to share our faith and just some of the questions they had about what people have asked them. These kids deal with some intense questions and opposition, but the coolest thing was that when I asked "who has shared the Gospel with someone before?" I would say around twenty kids raised their hands. These kids who are so young yet passionate about the things of God. That's one of the reasons why I love youth, because even when adults put so much stock in rejection and what people might say/do to them these youth are fearless.

I love my students. I love their excitement. I love their care-free attitudes and I love seeing what God is doing in their lives and how He's continuing to shape them into students who love Him with all their hearts, soul, mind, and strength.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ma Girlz


In Uganda, it's very common for students to be in boarding school especially once they reach secondary (high) school. I have a couple of girls who I have seen God do awesome stuff in over the past three years and this past year they had to go into boarding school which meant I wouldn't get to hang out with them and pour into them as much as I used to. Their school is very strict and doesn't allow outsiders to come in and teach Bible studies so I can't even see them in that capacity, but we were able to find a way for me to get to hang out with them by me coming on Thursdays for an hour after school before they go to dinner and just casually hanging out with them. I love my time with these girls! I get caught up on all the happenings in the lives of 12, 15, and 17 year old girls. We spend the hour laughing and also talking about deeper things other than just how scandelously some of the girls dress. Usually for the last half we discuss what they're reading and what God's teaching them.

I love these girls! Achiro and Peace, the two on the left are seriously the most amazing girls who have yet to conform to the pressures of the world and I pray all the time that they will continue to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Achiro has shown awesome leadership and passion for the things of God and is so disciplined in putting God first even though this year is the hardest year of school as she's in S4 and is about to take one of the most important tests for students here in Uganda. Pray for these girls that they would be different from the others around them. That they wouldn't cave to the peer pressure, that they would remain pure, and that they would remain passionate about their walks with God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A glimpse of domesticity


I don't cook a lot... it's not that I don't like to, it's just that well... it takes patience and I don't really have much of that but every now and then I try my hand at it. I really do like to cook as there's a sense of achievement when you make something that others can enjoy. Yesterday, I felt rather proud of my domestic abilities as I finally achieved something I'd been wanting to do for quite some time: I made bagels. And not just bagels, but BAGELS (which we don't really have much of here). They were chewy and beautiful, a little small, but glorious none the less. I can only imagine how entertaining my running commentary on the whole escapade.

Perfectionism

Noun: "Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection"


In a human sense being a perfectionist has a lot to do with pride: getting straight A's, being a teacher's pet, receiving all awards and pats of the back. And When you don't receive those or live up to your perception of perfection, well... let's just say it's bad juju. Just yesterday I was cooking and realized it's a dangerous hobby for me to pursue because it definitely infringes upon my perfectionism as I try to learn new things and typically fail in some sort of aspet. Most of the time what I make tastes good but the appearance of it is another story. The problem that also comes with being a perfectionist is that you tend to impose your expectations of perfection not only on yourself but on others as well and that's just simply setting yourself up for trouble.

Well, I'm that kind of perfectionist... the bad kind, the proud kind. God, on the other hand is the good kind of perfectionist. He may accept failure in some ways in His kids but He still works in them in order to achieve his perfect perfection. Jesus even called us to "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect". God is perfectly good, perfectly loving, perfectly merciful, perfectly holy and that's the perfection I should strive for. In our sinful selves this perfection is impossible, and it's in times of struggle and trial you see just how much you fall short in this call. It's easy to think that you're doing "alright" when life is good and even take pride in just how "good" you're doing, but when you're wrung out like a sponge and you see what comes out, you see that you are far from that perfection that you thought you were getting closer to. That's when we can rejoice in promises like Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. " I love how even though God is a perfectionist in His perfect way, He doesn't give up when we fail to be perfect but He perseveres until His goal is complete as His Spirit works in us to remove what's not of Him to conform us more and more to His image. I swallow my pride as I admit that I'm far from perfect in any sense of the word, but I rejoice in that I serve a perfect God and one day I will be able to stand before Him with His work in me complete and the trials and fires that brought about His perfection in me will be more than worth it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Help!

Helpless (that I can't do anything in myself to fix what's happening around me).... emptied (of everything that is of me) ....broken (not just a scratch or crack but shattered of my self)....weary (without any of my strength left.... those four words pretty much sum of how I'm feeling right now.

On that happy note let me say that one of THE biggest struggles of being on the mission field is being away from your family when they're going through tough times and for the past couple of months my family has had to deal with a lot (well, actually the past year.... but the past couple of months have been crazy). I'm having to come to the end of myself and realize that what I am forced to do here is really the only good thing I can be doing to help my family no matter where I'm at and that thing is pray. Pray to the one who's the Great Physician knowing He knows exactly what's wrong and if He wants to, can heal in the blink of the eye. I can't run tests, give diagnoses, or treatments, but I can pray and I can trust that He knows what He's doing.

My family facing their own struggles is just part of what God is using in my life to bring me to my knees right now, there are several other things happening but again, I'm not writing this to provoke sympathy or any real response, I'm writing this to in my own small way encourage those who may be hurting and can identify with those words that define life right now. It seems as of late that I've frequently reached bottom, on a fairly consistent basis I find myself literally crying out to God asking Him for strength, asking Him to heal, and just "casting all my burdens unto Him" 1 Peter 5:7. And it's in the midst of those rock bottom times when He shows time and time again that "if we are faithless, He will remain faithful" 2 Timothy 2:13. I know it may sound somewhat like your typical answer but what God used David and the other writers of the Psalms to do was just yet another thing that shows He is, "The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort," 2 Corinthians 1:3b. As I begged Him to speak to me through His Word, He really blew me away with meeting me where I was at in just my normal reading through Psalms. One time it was Psalm 31 and He reiterated His goodness and how I need to trust and wait on Him. And then today He spoke so clearly yet again in the classic Psalm 51 and it was verse 17 that hit me the hardest, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Let me tell you, reading that when you're really broken gets your attention. People say that God, Jesus, religion is a crutch... I'd say "AMEN!" to that because He is that and so so much more. If I didn't have Him in my life, I don't even want to think about what would be happening. I can see how so many hurting people turn to drugs, alcohol, and relationships to try and ease the pain and make sense of things because they don't know they have a God, Father, Savior, Friend who cares infinitely more for them than anyone ever will. I praise Him for how in the midst of the tears, He is there, in the midst of the confusion, He is there, in the midst of the pain, He is there. And it all is a part of His ultimate purpose to conform me into the perfection He calls me to.

I'll just end this with kind of the reverse of my opening paragraph. Yes, I'm feeling helpless, but HE knows what He's doing and is God Almighty. Yes, I'm feeling emptied, but He's bringing me to that point to fill me with Him. Yes, I'm feeling broken, but He's there to put me back together and this time without my nasty, gnarly disgusting flesh that keeps me from knowing Him the way He wants me to. And yes, I'm weary, but He calls me to come to Him and He will give me rest.

Bottom line... it's about HIM, not about me. It's about His glory, His perfection, His plan, His timing. Not mine. Days like today definitely leave scars, but they're the good kind, the kind that remind you of your desperate need for Him and how He so faithfully, tenderly, and powerfully heard my cries for help and reached down to pull me to Him.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We are family...

Throughout Scripture you find that in Christ, He sees us all the same. It doesn't matter our skin color, language, nationality, tribe, etc... We are all one in Him and last night was a beautiful example of that. As we were coming home at around 9 last night I got a phone call from Bev that Princess (a little girl adopted by Julie who is the mom of Nazziwa who passed away March 1) was possibly dying. We reached the hospital and there sitting in the waiting area were Jess and Mama Awi (her and her husband, Martin, are our staff members). It turns out that Princess had a terrible fever during the day and then last night she began convulsing and went unconscious. Because of what we went through with Nazziwa everyone panicked not wanting to experience the pain of loosing yet another one of our kids. Princess regained consciousness and it turns out she had Malaria so they started her on an IV to treat her. While Jess, Bev, and I went back home to get the stuff needed for Julie to stay the night there with Princess (the hospitals here don't have anything other than a bed really) we found out that Benji, Julie's son, who had also had a fever during the day had just thrown up so we decided to take him to the hospital as well. So Jess, Martin, and I headed back to the hospital with Benji in tow and it turns out he's been exposed to Typhoid. What a night huh?

Well, the title of this post mentions family, and in the midst of trials you really do get to see the body of Christ in the most beautiful way. Seeing Mama Awi there so worried about Princess and had held her in the car on the way to the hospital because Julie was so distraught; seeing one of our school of ministry students holding Princess and rushing her to get her blood tested and princess clinging to his shirt; sitting there in the quiet with Jess, Ryan, and Mama Awi as we all prayed for God's hand on the situation; coming back and having a couple more school of ministry guys being so concerned that their usual smiles were lost in a face full of worry; and one of my all time favorite memories is looking in the back seat of the car where Martin had taken Benji in his arms and was trying to comfort him in his sickness. Let me tell you... Ugandan men are not known for their compassion and the tenderness Martin was showing to Benji was one of the sweetest things I think I've seen (but of course Martin's not your run of the mill guy either, he's amazing). And then there's the beauty in the midst of the situation of sitting in the hospital room with Princess on the IV and her fever breaking, Julie sitting next to her, Benji laying on the other bed with Mama Awi tenderly caring for him, and then Martin, Jess, and I there making jokes and just talking about life with everyone there. I was honestly so blessed by remembering what an awesome thing it is to be a part of a family, and not just my immediate family, but in Christ how we have a very large extended family. I thank God for how He unites us in love for one another, I thank Him for answering prayer and healing these kids, and I thank Him for how in the midst of trials He opens our eyes to how He's still there and in control.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here we go again

Chicken pox.... that lovely little disease that most of us got when we were small. It was miserable and itchy and you had your dad threatening to play connect the dots with them (or at least mine did). But the beautiful thing about Chicken Pox is that typically if you got a really good dose of it you could rest assured you wouldn't get it again. Well, when we go through difficult seasons in life we tend to develop the same mindset (or at least I do). I think, "Wow! that was painful and yet God did a lot through it, but I'm happy it's over and I won't have to go through that again." And yet again that is another time when God seems to go, "Awww... Kelli, that's cute you think that, but I'm not done with you yet and therefore you need to go through the fire yet again." In Scripture we read about Jesus saying how God prunes us to bring about growth, and the thing is that you don't just prune a plant once and then you never have to do it again, it's a thing that has to happen again and again to maintain the health of the plant.

About a year ago I would say I went through the most difficult season of my life between being broken both spiritually and physically and having to deal with loosing some of those I'm closest to. Right now, I feel like I'm embarking on another season that has similar traits to what God got me through last year. Right now, I'm basically (sometimes literally) crying out, "God, please! Not that again! I can't hurt like that again!" I feel like I'm on the beginning of a class 5 rapid, and basically when you're about to do that you either paddle or if it gets too rough you get down and hold on for dear life. Already any strength I have of myself is gone so "paddling" isn't exactly an option, but "getting down" is. One thing that God has already brought about in preparing me for this season is teaching me just what a vital thing prayer is. We so quickly turn to so many other sources to talk/complain about our problems, but very rarely do we lift everything to him in prayer. He continues to remind me of the fact that He's with me as I'm alone crying out to Him, He continues to remind me that He's still on the throne, and He continues to remind me that "His ways are not my ways".

I praise Him for His faithfulness to meet me in my times with Him. That He cries out to me through His word, and a lot of the time it's with things I've tried to avoid admitting to myself but have no choice when it's so clear what He's calling me to do. Sometimes I'm so afraid of what this season might bring. It's been said that sometimes God calms the storms for his saints, and sometimes he calms his saints for the storm. I pray He just continues to equip me to take on the storms of these next couple of months and as Peter trusted God to the point that he was sleeping the night he was due to be executed that I would have that "peace that surpasses all understanding". I guess all that's left to say is, "Ready or not, here we go again".

Friday, September 16, 2011

24 hours of new growth

In the past 24 hours I have seen some really sweet new growth with the students and ministries God has allowed me to be a part of. As I had mentioned before I've been feeling an overwhelming burden for the youth of this country and praying about how God would have me meet that need. I prayed that God would have the opportunities basically fall into my lap because I didn't want to pursue anything that would distract me from what He has planned for me right now. Today was one of those answers to prayer.

For over a year now I've been teaching at Jinja SS on Tuesdays and Fridays after school. I've had my group of guys (and lately two girls) and have been rather content with that. Jinja SS has been where several leaders have attended in the past including judges, national officials, and even the President of Rwanda. Going after school to a school that is one of the largest in East Africa, I kind of flew under the radar as far as the official stuff was concerned because the group wasn't big enough and it wasn't taking any school property except for a little plot of grass by the bike rack. I've definitely wanted to get the official approval, but honestly always felt scared (which I know I shouldn't have), that ministry has become one of my favorites and I didn't want to jeopardize it (which I also know I shouldn't have been afraid of because if it was from God it would work out). Today, however, all that changed. As I was about to meet my usual group, I hear one of our guys from our church call my name. He had finished his senior year and needed to pick up some papers from the office. He said that he wanted me to come meet the Head Mistress... I'm serious it was a total "GULP!" moment and my poor little heart started racing and I shot up a Nehemiah prayer. I went into her office knowing that this unexpected meeting could change everything. But as with most things we fear they are never quite what we had chalked them up to be. She was totally cool with our Bible study and completely supportive of even me coming on Monday to announce it to the student body. (They have to have two assemblies one in the morning for the older students and one in the afternoon for the younger ones because there are so many students there). I was ecstatic! I finally had the go head that I had been waiting for for over a year. I felt such freedom in knowing that the very top had given us the green light to study the Bible verse by verse without the oversight of the Scripture Union (the schools formal Bible club that's not very sound doctrinally). We shall see what transpires after the invitation goes out to the entire student body on Monday... if it remains my solid handful of guys or if God's desiring to grow this ministry in a place that has a chance to reach Uganda in a very big way.

Another sweet glimmer of growth happened last night as I visited my girls who are in boarding at a school here in Jinja. For an hour yesterday evening I was able to just sit and talk and laugh with my girls mixing current events and the latest news around campus with various Biblical lessons such as deception, gossip, and modesty. As I was talking to them, I learned that the oldest of the girls has continued to take leadership and teach the girls a Bible study on Sundays because the Scripture Union (as mentioned about Jinja SS) is not necessarily chuck full of solid biblical teaching. To hear that this girl who has been faithful in giving time daily to God's Word was now actively seeking to make disciples was pretty much the coolest thing in the world to me... disciples making disciples.

I could go on about other stories and things God's opened my eyes to, but these were the stories that sent be above and beyond cloud nine. I praise God for the opportunities and the growth He's bringing. I praise Him for the new students who He's planning on reaching and for the ones who've been faithful for years. He is building HIS church, and yet again I'm just humbled to be one of His many small tools in order to do so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eternal Power

This was written by Isaac Watts way back in the day. After reading it, I decided it was too beautiful not to share.

Eternal Power, whose high abode
Becomes the grandeur of a God
Infinite lengths beyond the bounds
Where stars resolve their little rounds!
The lowest step around Thy seat,
Rises too high for Gabriel's feet;
In vain the favored angel tries
To reach Thine height with wond'ring eyes.
There while the first archangel sings,
He hides his face behind his wings,
And ranks of shining thrones around
Fall worshipping, and spread the ground.
Lord, what shall earth and ashes do?
We would adore our Maker, too;
From sin and sut to Thee we cry,
The Great, the Holy, and the High.
Earth from afar has heard Thy fame,
And worms have learned to lisp Thy Name;
But, O! the glories of Thy mind
Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.
God is in Heaven, and men below;
Be short our tunes, our words be few;
A solemn reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just a wee bit overhwelmed

Coming to Uganda you are warned not to be overwhelmed by the need that you see around you. You see orphans, starvation, poverty, etc... all around you and if you're not careful you can loose sight of the very reason God has called you here in the first place. You see the massive amounts of need and all you want to do is help in whatever ways you think you can (even though really it's impossible). Well, after getting back from the youth tour, I felt (and continue to feel) and overwhelming burden to continue to reach the youth of this country. Because truthfully the only thing that will "fix" this country or any country for that matter is for the people to truly and passionately know Jesus and I've seen more and more how important it is to get them while they're younger.

Youth ministry and I have a love/hate relationship. I struggle with it sometimes because of the drama associated with it brought on by hormones and just students discovering who they are while having to deal with a whole lot of baggage. But all in all, I really don't think there's anything sweeter than watching students develop their own personal walks with Christ and I can echo John when he said "I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4). Our youth group here is awesome, not because of the organization but because of the students who comprise it. Tonight I was able to continue to see new growth in their lives and true pursuit for the things of Him and not the things of this world. The funny thing is that I started out discouraged because not a lot of students came because of school, but by the end of the night I was nearly ecstatic as I was able to be reminded that "success" in ministry isn't just a numbers game.

All that to be said, I see what God is able to do in the lives of youth. I see what God can do through them as their faith and lives are contagious to those around them. I also see just how much false teaching is around that is leading many students into a lifetime of unbiblical relationships with Jesus (if you can even call it a relationship). It hurts to think that millions of youth in this country are going through life without the true knowledge of God's love for them but also His call for them to be holy and how they are to live for Him. I can't help but see the need for real discipleship of the youth of this country and I wish with everything in me that I could meet that need. I know I can't do it by myself but I am curious to see how God will open doors for me to continue to at least play some small role in His plan for these youth.

I guess the purpose of this blog is just to ask for prayer. Prayer for the youth of this country. Prayer for more laborers. Prayer for wisdom about what new opportunities to pursue. And prayer for making the most of the opportunities that are before me right now.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oh death...

It's always interesting what God seems to put in your path. Lately it's been the idea of death... I know it's morbid (and I also know I've posted another blog about the same subject). Lately it seems like in almost every podcast, every book, and even in real life death is the prevailing theme. Two days ago the brothers of one of our elders passed away leaving three children behind. It got me thinking yet again about the brevity of life. Then in a book I'm reading the last chapter is all about death. In that book Spurgeon gives some sweet perspective on the one guarantee we have in this life. One of the biggest things that hit me is what he wrote about Wesley,
"Let us imitate Mr. Wesley's calm anticipation of his end. A lady once asked Mr. Wesley 'Suppose that you knew you were to die at twelve o'clock tomorrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?' 'How, madam?' he replied, 'why just as i intend to spend it now. I should preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the society in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin's house, who expects to entertain me; converse and pray with the family as usual retire to my room at ten o'clock; commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory' Live in such a way that any day would make a suitable topstone for life. Live so that you need not change your mode of living, even if your sudden departure were immediately predicted to you."

Sometime we have an idea when we're going to leave this life, like when the doctor gives you that prognosis that you have two to three months left. But most of the time we're not that lucky. If you were to die today, what would you have left that you wished you could have done? Things like making amends with a family member who you haven't spoken to in years, witnessing to someone that's been on your heart for a while, etc... All of which are things that we should take advantage of while we have the chance because one day either you or that other person won't have tomorrow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A whirlwind of a youth tour





After completing our two closest outreaches to Lumuli and Iguluibi, as well as having our Jinja youth conference and my voice being shot. I had to cancel our last close outreach because of my voice, but that gave me a chance to get ready for the biggest undertaking of them all... traveling hundreds of miles to host four conferences in a span of four days.

Bright and early Tuesday morning Ryan, two of our youth group boys Otim and Isaac, and Jen and Makenna Long packed up and headed to our first conference in a village near Pallisa which was about three hours away. We drove past some beautifully rocky landscape and reached the church where about 50ish students had gathered for our conference. My voice was still on the mend and Ryan taught the first couple of teachings for me. We rocked some question time, did the second teaching, more questions, lunch, the third session which laid out the Gospel message and then we headed out and pulled into Soroti at around 6ish. We settled into our hotel had some dinner and gave our boys a taste of "muzungu food" with spaghetti and then it was time for bed. (On an added note, I got a call today from our pastor there and he informed us that 15 people gave their lives to Christ this morning and a bulk of them were youth from the conference so that was really cool).

On Wednesday we headed out for the village of Ogongora by 8ish and got there a little late but made it none the less after some fun driving. Again the students were there waiting, this time it was over 100. It was a cool group and the pastor there is really legit and so it was neat time of getting to hang out with the students and going about pretty much the same program as the day before. By 3 we pulled out and decided to make the trek to Pajule. Originally I just was going to drive on the highway to Lira since the road from Lira to Pajule was not so great but as I turned out I drove the whole way and I won't lie my poor little blood pressure went up about 100 points a couple of times as I had to straddle rather large ruts in the road, but we made it just as the sun was beginning to set. It was awesome because in Pajule we were able to reunite with JB and his whole family of Grace and all the kids including Kenny and little Bev. After dinner we headed to the guest house for our special accommodations :) and were asleep before 9.

Thursday morning started with coffee and Rolexes at JBs and we got the conference under way at around 9 where we had about 150 students. It was definitely very interesting shifting to another language area and dealing with changes in programs but it worked out and again the students got to hear the Gospel. When it was all said and done we left at 5 and were absolutely exhausted. We took showers, had an amazing dinner and sweet fellowship with the Too-Lits and then time for bed.

Friday was a day for goodbyes as we left at 7 bringing JB's oldest daughter with us since she goes to school in Jinja. It's also when we had to part ways with Ryan as he went to go to Kitgum for the next three weeks. After we left Ryan, I drove on the worst road I've ever driven on when we were traveling from Pajule to Gulu as we fishtailed our way through some very muddy terrain I was very thankful for 1) God's protection and 2) His allowing 4 wheel drive to be invented. We also passed over a rushing river that was basically touching the bottom of a not so sound bridge. We reached Gulu at 10 for our final conference. It was definitely different as the students were from several different churches and older than we had worked with at the other conferences. After the third teaching we were ready to head out and settle in to our guest house. We partook of of the glories of the Coffee Hut and then a huge down pour hit and we were soaked to the bone and Peace, the boys, and I (and later Jen) watched a movie in my room. That was quite possibly one of my highlights of the trip for me just getting to hang out with them as they really are awesome students! After Peace and I tried to calm down and get to bed, it was lights out.

By 4:30 Saturday morning we were having our rather glamorous breakfast of bananas (although I didn't have one), coffee, and donuts that we had bought the day before. We piled into the car and by 5:15 we were on the road. This again was a drive that may have taken a year or two off of my life, but it was a learning experience as I dealt with oncoming trucks coming at me in the dark with their brights on (one guy only had one light and had looked like a motorcycle from a distance and then it turned out it was a semi truck :) ). At one point there were seriously like 20 trucks stuck in an array of situations in a 100 yard distance where we had to weave in and out of them like an obstacle course and by day light we came across the scene of a terrible crash where at least 4 people got killed as a bus and a rock truck had impact, it was really sad, and definitely a reminder about the roads here. Finally by 10 we were in the outskirts of Kampala (Kampala traffic was another driving first for me) and by 12:30 we were home.

Over all, it was an awesome trip. With the ministry, I'm resting on the fact that "God's Word doesn't return void" and that throughout the whole trip God's hand was so clearly evident. The weather was perfect when it needed to be, we never had vehicle problems, and we all got along really well. I definitely learned a whole whole lot from this trip and I look forward to what God has planned next to reach out even more to the youth of Uganda.




Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three Years

Three years ago today I got off an airplane in Uganda after leaving the place that had been my home for the past 22 years. As many of you have heard me say, I basically came kicking and screaming when I moved here. I wanted MY plans to happen and Africa was not a part of those, especially at that time of my life. I had had a good job, a great group of friends, enjoyed the ministry I was doing, and the best family in the world. But as I said, MY plans were about me staying in ABQ, possibly getting my MBA and becoming a consultant and let’s be honest…making quite a bit of money. HIS plans however were about me moving to where I had no “plan” other than working with the youth in some capacity and going to the School of Ministry here. The first five months I was here I had the heart of Jonah basically beng bitter with God for giving me this calling. Then as the School of Ministry wound down, I found myself basically like Jacob who had been wrestling with God and it was time for me tap out and submit not just on the outside to his plan for me here, but in my heart as well.

I had come out here with the plan to be here two years… that was it. And now honestly, I don't have any plans of leaving. I can't really imagine myself doing anything else. It's funny how God does that, He takes the last possible thing you thought you would do or be happy doing and then He makes it into something you can't live without. When I used to go on short-term trips people would ask me "would you ever consider long term missions?" and I was basically laugh in their face and say "NO". One thing I find rather amusing is when I hear podcasts and the pastor says "don't worry, it doesn't mean that God's going to make you go to Africa or anything crazy like that..." Because seriously the scariest more outrageous thing you think that God would never call you to, may be the exact thing He has planned for you.

Throughout these past three years, Isaiah 55:8, 9 have consistently been my theme verses, His ways are so not my ways. And over the past three years he's broken me in more ways that I can even comprehend, even in the past couple of months hes softened me and opened my eyes to even more things He wishes to burn away. I'm so thankful for this awesome adventure He's called me to and I'm so thankful for all who have supported me financially and prayerfully along the way. And I can't wait to see what the next 3 or 30 years have in store. To HIM be ALL the glory, ALL the honor, and ALL the praise.

Making assumptions

What's the difference between assuming and having faith? You look at Peter and he basically seemed to assume what God was wanting when in fact it was far from it. We can say we trust God, but really are we just assuming that we know what He's wanting us to do without really seeking him or listening to him when we do ask?

It's 6:30 on Monday morning and I have just made the decision to cancel our outreach to the village of Naiwakona today because I still don't have a voice. I prayed and thought I committed the decision to God, that if I woke up with a voice, sweet! that's my answer to what we should do. But if I woke up and my voice was still gone, well that was my answer that I needed to take a day off and prepare for the next few days. Needless to say though, I woke up and my voice was gone and my response was disappointment. I trusted that God was able to heal my voice if He so desired, but the thing is God has the prerogative to not do what I'm hoping/thinking he will do. Even this morning as I was struggling with the idea of canceling I began checking my motives as to why I didn't want to cancel, and honestly the biggest reasons weren't because I felt like this was what God wanted me to do today, it was more about pleasing others and basically my pride. Last night I was watching Evan Almighty where basically no matter how much he tried to do his own thing, God made it impossible for him to get out of what God was wanting him to do... that's how I perceive this whole thing with my voice. I'm so stubborn and my flesh is so strong that God knows this is what it takes to bring me down to stop me from working in my own strength and catering to my pride instead of working for HIs glory. One of these days I hope I will learn this lesson.

Running on empty

Have you ever been emptied of yourself? Like seriously you have nothing else to give? No energy, wisdom, strength of your own anymore... Well that's where I was at over the past couple of days and continue to be even today. In the midst of one of the biggest ministry seasons of my "career" I got a gnarly cold. Although, to me it doesn't seem fair to call it a cold because the word "cold" makes it sound not so bad... this thing is a doozy. And because of the yelling at the various children's outreaches earlier in the week and then the dust going to the villages and then this cold... well I lost my voice. Not necessarily the most convenient thing when you're organizing and teaching several events. But even in this God has still proven to be in control.

I'm a very proud person... shocker I know. I try and do things to the best of my ability and I'm a perfectionist to the core when I'm putting on events. I hate asking people to help me do the things that need to get done and try to do it all on my own. I do the behind the scenes and the on stage stuff. MCing and registering, teaching and making menus... and honestly being able to do that totally feeds into my pride yet I still get upset when people don't help. This past week has brought me to the point where basically I had no choice. I had to ask for...gulp.... help. And the cool thing is, God confirmed that's what he wanted because he surrounded me with amazing people who faithfully and selflessly served doing whatever needed to get done to make these events a success. From making sandwiches and filling water balloons to being my vocal chords. I've been humbled to the max to say the least and I'm so thankful for the people God used to teach me the lessons he has been.

Of course now as I'm sucking on throat lozenges and slamming back tea with honey and bottles of water, I'm really hoping that God will give me my voice back as this next week is a doozy...five village outreaches in five days. I was on empty before and have only been able to function by his grace and that will continue throughout this next week. It will be interesting to see how it all goes down.

The Basics Youth Conference


Yesterday we had our youth conference for this holiday. Normally it's three days long but because this holiday was shorter than usual and we had the other other outreaches planned this one was just one day. We started at 9:30ish and finished by 6:30ish and we had expected 80 students and there over 100 who actually came.

It was a day full of great teachings by Ryan, Steven, and Jess.






Our students did a great job at trying their hand at leading the two worship sets.


There was enough delicious food. And we had a blast playing games. One of the games was the students had to try and eat a sandwich with avocado, peanut butter, mukene (sardines), cereal, and olives.


We also had a water balloon tossing contest


and in the afternoon we had crab walk exercise ball soccer.


Oh, and I can't forget the final game of playing spoons.


It was basically all of the events of the three day conference crammed into one. The general consensus was that it was a great conference and God gets all the glory on that one (see the next post). I hope that in the end though that the games and good food are not all that the students remember because the teachings through the book of James really had a lot of wisdom from enduring trials, doing what the Bible says, and taming the tongue... if all 106 students who came would put those truths into practice I can't imagine what God can do through them in this town.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Outreach #2



I've found that the waiting process for my water heater is a rather convenient time for me to blog about the events from the day. I'm currently feeling like I may or may not want to crawl under a rock and at least hibernate for a while... I don't want to quite go to the extreme of the other option. The cold that I was getting yesterday hit me today... HARD. I woke up this morning not sure how today was going to happen but God's grace sprinkled with a dash of Dayquil helped get me going. We had a little bit of a late start but honestly it worked out fine. Today we had eleven students so we were packed into two vehicles and made our way to Iguluibi. The students went out to invite the others to come and by 10ish we had started the program. There were hiccups here and there, but nothing anyone noticed who wasn't watching it with a critical eye. The teachings went well and the students continued to come. The students we brought from Jinja said today worked better than yesterday basically because of translation and just us kind of finding our groove, plus the students seemed more laid back and approachable at this village.

It was right before lunch that I really started to feel bad... like really really bad. The worst part was that I was the next teacher and laying out the Gospel. Talk about a time to cry out for God to be my strength in a time of weakness. I literally had nothing to give, and even at first it was rough b/c of the translator not quite catching what I was saying (I would like to say I hope it's because of my cold, but you never know). We finished up the day and the kids seemed to be understanding at least some of what was being taught, I just hope that's really the case and that in the end lives were surrendered to Christ, or at least seeds were planted in order to do so. Now, it's time to continue to partake in Gatorade and cold medicine and make the final preparations for tomorrow's youth conference here in Jinja.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Outreach #1


Since I'm waiting for my water heater to heat up, I figured it was a good time to blog about the day.

So...bright and early today several students, Ryan, and myself headed out to a village just about 45 minutes away called Lumuli (although with the dusty roads it seemed longer at times). We left a little lit, and I may or may not have gotten little "me" at times but overall I was pretty calm even though we did leave about 30 minutes late. We got the village by 8:45ish and set up and then because there weren't any students yet, my students went to invite more. By 9:45 we got the show on the road with a drama and the first teaching which asking the question "Who is Jesus?", then we had question time. There was then a second drama and then Ryan taught on what Jesus taught about. We then had to find stuff to entertain the students since the food wasn't quite ready on time, but hey this is Africa. After lunch, there was some more music, and the final teaching on when Jesus died, rose, and will come again. Overall, it went really well. Prayers were definitely answered. Now we just ask that you keep the prayers coming as we still have six more villages to do basically the same program, not to mention a big youth event here on Saturday. God is definitely good in the opportunities he brings to share His Good News, that's for sure!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here we go

Yesterday we did our outreach with a team from Ft. Lauderdale and today we did a vbs at the church with them as well. Overall there were a few hundred kids who got loved on and heard the Gospel. That alone would make it a cool ministry week. However, that's not even the tip of the iceberg as tomorrow is when we begin our village outreaches for the youth.

I just finished meeting with my youth team from CCJ about all the details for the next few days. It was a lot of fun watching them practice the drama that I thought I had written but then when I watched it, I don't think any of the original script was kept (which I'm totally fine with because I'm so not of the theatrical nature). All of them were laughing so hard they were falling on the ground and it was just cool getting to see them get into being a part of these events.

Tomorrow myself, Ryan, and eleven students will load up and head out to a village called Lumuli which is about an hour or so away. Once we get there and get set up we will then boom some music, welcome the students and get the show on the road. There will be three dramas and three teachings about meeting Jesus as who Jesus really is is something that's gotten lost in this day and age. We'll teach about how Jesus is fully God and fully man, what he taught and said, and finally about his death and resurrection. We're praying for lives to be changed and for people to come into a saving relationship with their Savior. This is the first time I've ever organized something like this so it should be interesting with this first location and seeing what works and what doesn't. And as the old saying goes... ready or not, here we go.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Deep breathes

It's now the Monday of the first of the two craziest weeks ever. Yesterday I had moments where I could hardly breathe because I was so overwhelmed by all that I needed to get done and the things that were coming around the corner. Gearing up for these seven outreaches and the conference has got me on my knees more than ever before knowing that it is literally impossible for me to be able to pull off these next couple of weeks on my own. To add to everything, over the next two days we will also have another team that Jess and I will facilitate while Bev is taking the current team to the airport. So basically today is the last day to get everything squared away...gulp.

God is so good though because He knows our struggles and knows how to speak to our hearts. In a book I'm reading right now, they cite Spurgeon using the classic example of Peter walking on water to Jesus, and why he began to drown.

"Or else your troubles take another shape, and you feel that you are called to some eminently arduous service for your Lord, and your strength is utterly insignificant compared with the labour before you. If you had great faith it would be as much as you could do to accomplish it; but with your poor little faith you are completely beaten. You cannot see how you can accomplish the matter at all. Now, what is all this but simply looking at second causes? You are looking at your trouble, not at the God who sent your trouble; you are looking at yourselves, not at the God who dwells within you, and who has promised to sustain you....If Christ calls thee into the fire, he will ring thee out of it; and if he bids thee walk the sea, he will enable thee to tread it to safety"


As I read that part, I seriously let out a gasp while I was reading it before going to bed. God could not have used more clear words to get me to hear his voice speaking to me in my time of trouble. I'm still struggling, but with that encouragement it's much better.

Oh Lord increase my faith! Oh Lord keep my eyes on you and not allow the waves and the storm and impossibility of the task before me to take my gaze off of you!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gearing Up

Right now as I also get ready for youth group tonight, I'm getting everything set for the next two weeks. In just 5 short days we will begin to take Uganda by storm with a week's worth of youth outreaches. We will begin close to home (about 45 min away) for the first two days. Then we will have our youth conference here in Jinja next Saturday (holy cow only a week away!). Monday is another close one (about an hour away), and then it's on to the big shabang as a small team and I travel to four villages further away from Jina and stay in the village or in guest houses along the way.

Currently, I just finished making the permission slips for the students as I want to open up the closer outreaches to a few of our youth group kids as well. Figuring out who will be where when and doing what is a little intense right now, especially having a local youth conference in the middle of it all, but it continues to take shape so it's also rather exciting.

Continue to just pray that I would remain calm and allow God to guide the planning and surrender even the details to him (including the funding). These next two weeks could be some highlights of ministry or they could do me in if I let them, so pray that doesn't happen and again that many students would hear the Gospel and surrender their lives to Him.

Friday, August 19, 2011

James 1:27


"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Every Sunday I meet with a group of about ten students all basically between the ages of 9 and 13. We've met for almost as long as I've been here in Uganda and began studying the Sermon on the Mount and then we started just studying verse by verse through the Bible. It took us about a year to finish Genesis and then Exodus took less time because we rocked it double time and currently we're in the beginning of Leviticus. I LOVE this ministry! These students have shown so much growth in the past three years and I'm just so excited to see how God is working in their lives.

A couple of weeks ago as we were talking about sacrifice and serving we started to think about ways that we as a group could serve either an individual or a group. At first, the usual ideas were brought up, but then one of my girls told us about how her school's new building was near an orphanage and her teachers had talked about how they were needing clothes. The students all seemed to really like the idea of serving this group of kids and so this past Tuesday Awuma (the girl who came up with the idea) and I did a survey trip to check it out. There were 40 kids there and they really didn't have much. So yesterday (Thursday) afternoon the kids and I loaded up into our blue van and went to the market to buy the kids at least some clothes. Taking the kids to the market was definitely an adventure.... I just kept looking behind me and seeing a little trail of kids as we weaved through the aisles. We then took a nice fifteen minute drive outside of town to the orphanage. We gave them the clothes, played with the kids, and then they did some songs for us. It was really cool just to see my students who honestly live pretty posh lives comparably speaking playing and showing love to these kids who really don't have much at all other than some beautiful smiles. Getting to be obedient to God's call to show love to people was really my most favorite part of the day, as my students looked outside of themselves and to serve others was just too cool.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Success

What is success? Money? Numbers? Fame? In ministry success seems to be even more of an interesting concept to wrap our minds around. To most success in ministry is packed seats and tick marks of membership and "raised hands". I even was wrapped into that mindset until I heard about a book called "Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome", in that book God opened my eyes to what success in his eyes is all about. Moses when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, he may have seemed "successful" to the wold because the people got what they wanted but he failed in God's eyes because he didn't obey what God said. The bottom line is that success in God's eyes is not about the external things, it's more about our faithfulness and obedience to His Word. Even if you have to have multiple services/campuses, you have book deals and radio programs, yet you're not being faithful to what God's telling you to do, you're failing in His eyes. You look at guys like Jeremiah who even though he didn't have the greatest response from those he spoke to, he was still a success to God because he was doing what God had told him to do. If only we began to listen to God more than to the masses, just imagine what God could do in and through us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

GOOD things come in small packages... GREAT things come in really big ones.

Encouragement defined is to give confidence, support, or hope. A little over three weeks ago my brother, Kyle, was able to come here to visit me and he just left last night and he did exactly that... encourage. Before he came I had several people (actually it was pretty unanimous) advise me that I needed to let him minister to me and not plan and just enjoy the time with him. At first it took me back.... minister to ME? But I'm the big sister, how is that even possible? When he first came it was interesting adjusting to have another person to consider in making plans even just to go out to breakfast, but the more time we spent together, the cooler the talks and the sweeter the time. Considering that he's 18 (7yrs younger than I am), I was kind of not sure about how our talks would go, but then before I knew it the poor kid was the witness of several breakdowns and I honestly talked to him about struggles/concerns/insecurities that I had never told anyone. There was such safety in having family, someone who can now see everything first hand. He actually gave me some sweet counsel and was amazing to have around. He was able to get to know the people who have become so important to me and get a true tasted of Uganda from giraffes to crazy roads in Karamoja, and there are really very few things that he missed out on and when it was all said and done he didn't want to leave.

All today I kept thinking that I heard or saw him out of the corner of my eye. He was so cute last night (there's the big sister for you) as he was in line at the airport and doing so good to turn around and wave goodbye after each step of the check-in process and I'll always remember seeing this long white arm raise above the sea of brown as he waved goodbye one last time. Pretty much everyone I know on the field desires to have their family witness their lives and experience the calling God has placed on them, and I was able to enjoy that blessing. The encouragement he was to me and others... well, words can't express it. It hurts me to think of how he's not here right now but at least I get to see him in just about 4 months. I'm so proud of the man...gulp... he has started to become and I can't wait to see what God has in store for him.

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