Saturday, January 29, 2011

Youth Group on Location: the Re-Cap

Well, in the last post I did, I was asking for prayer because I really had no clue about how our youth group was going to go this weekend. Well, now that it's come and gone, I can once again testify to how God was so good to answer prayer. I came home from having lunch with a friend to find my "guys" in the church practicing for worship and they were all wearing their youth group t-shirts. I almost wanted to cry because I was super discouraged all day thinking that I was just going to be hard-core disappointed with this event as everyone would end up staying at the graduation party, but they were there and ready to roll. But on top of my guys being there and getting everything all set to go to Loco, the party authorities (i.e. JB, Jess, and Bev) made sure that it was planned for the youth to get food early enough to make it to youth group. So by 4 we were at Loco with a good group of kids. We set up really quick, our worship team did a great job, and then Jacob translated as I taught Isaiah 40-66. They were awesome chapters reminding us of all that God's done, killer prophecy about Jesus, who He says He is, and His love for us. It all went really well, and I was blessed by the students coming and just having my guys step up when I needed them the most. God is so good because we worry, anticipate failure, etc... but it's all in His hands, He's in charge of the results, and no matter what they may be... to Him be the glory!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Youth Group on Location

This Saturday, we're going to shift youth group to a local slum area called Loco which is where many of our students live. We're going there for a couple of reasons: 1) To reach out to an area outside our compound, 2) To shake things up and kind of shatter the monotony, and 3) There's going to be a graduation party at the church that will really distract the students if we were there. As I've previously mentioned, in the youth group we're going through a series called "Race to Revelation" and so this week we're going to do a survey on Isaiah 40-66. God is so good because these chapters are so drenched in God's mercy and His Gospel, and not to mention just reminding us about how awesome God is. It really couldn't be more perfect for an outreach while staying within our series. I just humbly ask for prayers that the students would come and not get too distracted by the party and that the students who do come will either come to accepting the awesome gift Christ is waiting to give them for the first time, or have passion in their walks with God be re-ignited as we study these 27 amazing chapters of Scripture.

What do I know of Holy?

This is is one pretty awesome song by a group called Addison Road. Very sweet lyrics that if I were to verbalize a lot of my thoughts on God, it would be this song.

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life "its" name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A four letter word

Pride: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

This gnarly four (well five) letter word, is one thing that you don't realize that you have until it's hurt. We just got done with a pastor's conference here at the church - last week it was the youth...we're one busy little church sometimes. Ok... back to pride... well, this pastor's conference had the focus on teaching the pastors both how to spiritually and practically take care of their families and their "flocks" in the realm of finances, with a deep emphasis on running their own business. You know the whole "teach a man to fish", because our pastors really struggle in that area probably more than any other. So... needless to say, me being little miss, "I've graduated from an American university with a degree in business and I have to admit I don't know a lot things... but business I know", I was slotted to help teach part of the conference. Then as things progressed in the planning area, I was informed that Geoffrey, one of the kids who was sponsored for years and just graduated from business school, was actually going to cover all the teaching that I was thinking I was going to do. Now, to say that my pride was wounded would be an understatement. It's like rationally speaking I knew: 1) I had just come off of the youth conference and teaching this one would probably have done me in, 2) Geoffrey is a guy and a Ugandan, two things that I obviously am not and when you're teaching a group of Ugandan pastors, that's definitely a plus to be one or both of those things, especially when you're teaching about money, 3) he was someone who was put through school kind of indirectly through the church and therefore it's only right that he used his education to be involved in ministry. I was pretty much having my own little temper tantrum about this for a couple of days, and really it's only through God kind of going "Do I need to pull over!?" that I got an attitude adjustment. The reality is that even though he didn't teach necessarily what I would have taught or in the same manner I would have taught it, it was perfect for the guys at the conference and they all walked away with tangible ways on how to support themselves, be lights in the community through their businesses, and they heard it from someone who I think they took seriously.

I guess the bottom line is that it doesn't matter where you come from, your age, color, gender, it matters what God has called you to do, and who you're called to do it to. I'm learning that my lot in life here in Uganda isn't to teach vital business principles to Ugandan pastors (go figure :) ), it's to teach something else to a whole other set of people. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1, "We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of HIS calling". It's not about what I think MY calling is at all, but to live according to His calling, His purposes, and be so obsessed with bringing Him the glory that it doesn't matter if I'm the one in front, or who I'm in front of, it doesn't matter what piece of paper I have hanging on my wall, it matters about humbly coming before Him to be His servant be it in a board room, a church sanctuary, in a coffee shop, or under some tree in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blows after a victory

Well, the general consensus after the conference was that it was one of, if not the, best conference many of the students could remember. They talked about not only did they have fun but they learned a lot and were reminded about a lot of important things that can radically change their walks. I love getting to hear those testimonies because it really does make the sleepless nights, the ulcers, and the nails bitten down way too far totally worth it (ok, those may have been slight exaggerations but only slight ones).

Of course, after the conference was over, I knew that I needed to prepare for the things that could be coming my way to basically 1) either dampen my excitement and forget the joy of it or 2) humble me and make sure that I wouldn't exalt myself through it all. I kind of expected it to be something from the outside, you know someone close to me experiencing pain or suffering, or something physical like me needing to be in another cast. But low and behold, it really seems like it's more internal struggle this time. I've been surprised lately hearing about just how many people refer to me always smiling and having joy, which is cool because I never realized that the Spirit manifested Himself in such a clear way in my life. But really starting today, I've basically fallen into a deep pit of thinking that no matter how busy I am, no matter how many people I'm pouring into, no matter how many Bible studies I'm teaching, I still feel... I guess the only word to describe it would be: Alone. I yearn for depth in my relationships, I crave times when I can talk to people about what unreal things God is teaching me and revealing to me in his word, but I look at everyone's lives around me that are so full of their own things and that seems like it's not really possible, and as I'm in this rather gnarly self-absorbed "woe is me" moment of feeling oh so very alone it's basically a very foreign place for me. I realize and recognize that God is so in control right now as I'm going through this time, that He is with me even in the times when I feel so alone that I can't breathe, that "this too shall pass". But I wouldn't stay true to my transparent nature if I didn't convey to you this very real struggle in my life right now. I know it corresponds to the conference for the very reasons that I listed at the beginning of this paragraph, and so I get that. But boy does it hurt. I just can't imagine people who go through times like this who don't have Christ in their lives, and I rejoice in His promises, faithfulness, and comfort that even in the midst of this time, He's still reminding me about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Standing Strong Youth Conference: Day 3

Well…it’s over. It’s funny how you plan for months for an event and then it’s over in a matter of a couple of days. Today zoomed by and it was chuck full of some pretty awesome stuff.

The day started the same as the others with the leaders getting together and meeting over some cof cof. Then the students came and had tea and mandazis. We then had quiet time this time in Ephesians 4-6. I will never get tired of seeing students scattered around the campus with Bibles open and taking notes. We then had worship and Ryan taught about the importance of worship. That was then followed by an extended worship set which was really a cool way to wind up the conference. From there, the kids broke out into small groups and we had the kids who wanted to get baptized come for a talk on what it all meant. We had 8 students and one leader get baptized and it was so cool! It’s really always a neat reminder of “this is what it’s all about”. From there, we had Rolexes for lunch and cleaned up.

All in all, it was an absolutely awesome conference where several kids got saved and countless others commented on how much they really took away from it. These events always show the beauty that is the body of Christ. The worship team, the teachers, the leaders, the cooks, the sound techs, etc… they are what make these events possible. I am just so thankful for answered prayers like none other and the support team God brought together. There’s really no other word to describe it…it was AWESOME!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Standing Strong Youth Conference: Day 2

So once again, I'm up much later than my little body so wishes, but I couldn't help but share about the awesomeness that was today. It started with meeting with my guys and going over the day and hearing some of what the kids had been learning (That's the one bummer about being an administrator, you don't get to have as much interaction with the kids). We then prepared for the day. I then sent them to go and have their quiet times before the kids got there because so often with events like this, leader's quiet times fall to the wayside.

By 9 the kids were showing up, taking tea, and eating mandazis. By 9:30, it was time for the students to spread out and have their quiet times. This was by far my highlight to the day. Looking around and seeing these 80 + kids seated with their Bibles open, pens out, and just really being still and reading what his Word has to say; as well as seeing my leaders scattered around helping kids if they had questions about what they read and making sure that they were truly spending time ALONE with God. For this conference they were studying the book of Ephesians and it sounds like they really got a lot out of it. After quiet times, it was time for the first teaching of the day, which was done by one of our leaders, Jacob. This was followed by small group time. From there we again had more worship, and then it was Bev's turn to teach. We then rocked some lunch and went right back into some awesome praise and worship (I seriously loved hearing all their voices and seeing them just have fun praising their God). Steven, our prison pastor, then taught. Which again was followed by small group time. And then it was time for games.

We began with lining up water balloons and since we finished studying the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs), I asked them a variety of questions from those books. If they got the answer right, they would have one shot with a balloon. After that, absolute chaos broke loose as the balloons were thrown. We then had a short volleyball match while some of us set up for Spoons. Oh man...Spoons... you know, a lot of people can get into that game, but just imagine 100 youth in a dining area with music blaring playing that game. It was absolutely insane! The noise level in there was through the roof but everyone had a blast and those of us who didn't have room to play may or may not have had ourselves our own little dance party. From there it was a delicious dinner, and then cleaning up. Once that was all over with, I had to wait with a group of kids whose ride was running super late. Even though I was exhausted, it was really cool because I had never really hung out with that group before and some bonds were made.

This conference has definitely rocked my face off and according to what the students have told me, it's been one of the best. What I love in doing these sort of things, is that what I do isn't noticed. People don't have any idea about the schedules, the supplies, the menus, the planning. All they see is the finished product and the faces that go along with it - my leaders, the worship team, the cooks. The team God has blessed me with amazes me, and I'm just so thankful that He truly gets to be the one who's glorified. It's not about anything I am or do, it's all about Him and the work He's doing the lives of my students, leaders, and even myself. He's really done an awesome work in this conference and we still have tomorrow to go. I can't wait!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Standing Strong Youth Conference: Day 1

It's funny the difference that 24 hours makes. 24 hours ago, I was basically sitting right where I am right now basically having an anxiety attack about the event that was kicked off today. Tonight, as I'm sitting here, having just finally washed all of the jelly, flour, and dirt off of me, I'm able to wrap my mind around the day that has passed.

The day began bright and early at 4:30. I started to get everything lined out so that when my leaders arrived we could just go to town on set up. One thing I always make sure to do is hook my leaders up with some good coffee as we start preparing. So after my guys arrived (most of them actually on time) we had coffee and met about the upcoming day. I really am so blessed by the group of guys who volunteer to help me lead small groups. They really are stand up guys and I'm just so thankful I can rely on them and that they really do work so unbelievably hard during these conferences.

After banners had been put up, benches set out, and the music was bumping, it was time for the students to come. By 9:30 we had about 50 or so students and it was time to begin. We had an awesome worship set from our CC Jinja worship team. Then I taught about how Nehemiah was broken over hearing the condition of the wall and how we should be broken over both the condition of our personal walks as well as our youth group. It was then small group time. During this time I, with the help of my special helpers who were some of the kids who are too young for the conference, poured juice for snack time.

Then we had another worship and teaching session. This time the teaching was on prayer by Danielle. Then came what was my highlight for the day as all of the students (by then the number had climbed to about 60) broke off into their small groups to pray. It was really so cool looking around the compound seeing and hearing groups of students praying.

After that, it was lunch time of beans, rice, and chapattis.

We then went into a another awesome worship session and teaching by Jess about working together. He used the examples of all the people working side by side to build the wall. The kids were challenged to get involved and take ownership and I'm really excited to see what comes of that. There was then an extended small group time as I prepared for the games.

The games were a lot of fun. It was basically each small group choosing three people from their group to play. Each of the three had to smear jelly on their faces, run and put their face in a plate of cereal to get as much stuck on it as possible, then run to a basin of water and bob for marshmallows and put them into a plate of flour and then retrieve them from there as well. In the end we were all an absolute mess. Yes, I said "we" - the students decided they needed an example and therefore I had to do what I was trying to make them do (hence what I said earlier about the caked on jelly and flour). oh, and I almost forgot, the last person from the team to do everything, then also had to drink a can of coke with a sock over it. It was really a lot of fun.

After those crazy games, we had a volleyball tournament which is always a great hit. We boom music, have funny commentary, and just have a good time. From there, we had some dinner. I got all my leaders set up to stay the night so they wouldn't have to travel so far, and took some of the students home. And now I'm absolutely exhausted, but stoked at how the day went. Tomorrow has some awesome potential too. Please just continue to lift us all up in prayer and that eyes would continue to be opened to the things in our lives and youth group that we need to change.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Anxious for Nothing

That fun little command Paul gives in the fourth chapter of that awesome little book of Philippians is resonating in my mind right now. As I'm writing this, I can feel my blood pressure soaring and the anxiety welling within me more and more with each minute I come closer to a rather large event. In exactly 8 hours and 53 minutes we will be launching our youth conference (see earlier posts) for this holiday. I expect around 70 or so students to be on this campus over the next three days from 9am - 7pm. The schedules are made, the playlists are set, the booklets are printed, the games are planned, the leaders have been recruited, my cooks are lined up, the supplies are bought, and the word has gone out. It's now just down to the wire of a few final things that I have to get done and I almost feel paralyzed by how daunting it all still seems.

This will be the fourth conference I've organized, not to mention other events, and so you would think that I would get used to the stress and I guess what it comes down to is the pressure, but I don't. Each time I have a big event like this I morph into a different person who is consumed by every minute detail and is honestly not a very nice person to be around because everyone just can't seem to "understand" what it takes to put on an event of this magnitude. I leave quite a wake during the preparation of these events of people I've kind of laid into and snapped at and I hate that.

This conference, things have kind of been taken up a notch because I'm flying solo for the whole organizing of it. I normally have a "number two" or at least I'm someone else's number two, but not this time. I never realized how nice it was having someone there who 1) understood the stress 2) knew when to help and when to stay out of the way and 3) didn't have to be managed and just did what needed to get done no questions asked (honestly, I hate it when people ask me questions when i'm in this frame of mind).

By now, I'm sure you're wondering what on earth I'm doing writing a blog at a time like this. And I guess I would have to give the answer that considering I was on the brink of seriously freaking out, I needed to kind of take a deep breath, process things, and remember why I'm doing this, and who is ultimately in control of the outcome of this conference. I really am so excited about it, but the perfectionist in me is keeping me from really enjoying the potential. I guess as hard as it may be, I need to just continuously lay it at His feet, trust in His plan and His strength, and "Be anxious for nothing".

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Song of Songs (dun dun dun)

So tonight I had to teach on the book that most teachers dread: The Song of Songs. In our youth group we have been going through basically a survey of every book in what we're calling the "Race to Revelation". We've been truckin' along, some books taking a little longer than others, but still our kids are now getting more grounded in knowing their Bibles than most kids even outside of Uganda. It's been really cool getting them to learn about books that they maybe never would have tried to attempt to read or even skim though. Song of Songs is one of those books.

I have to admit that I was pretty leery about teaching this one for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm 24, 2) I'm not married, 3) The kids in our youth group range from 10-20+. But really as I studied this book and listened to teachings, I got more and more stoked on how I was going to be able to convey some of the awesome truths that this book holds. Now, of course I made it PG (maybe even G), but I tried to still cover the important lessons this book has to offer with a bit of a comical twist and with a little Kelli flair. And for the hour long teaching, the kids seemed to stay pretty engaged and grasp what was being taught.

The kids here are bombarded by sex probably even more than the kids in the States. I seriously know only a handful of girls over the age of 20 who haven't had a kid (seriously!). As I was preparing for this teaching, I wasn't sure who was going to come but this morning I prayed that God would just bring the kids He wanted to come and the cool thing is that the kids who came, were who I would call our "innocent" bunch. These kids were the younger ones who had fairly stable home lives, and I just hope that what was taught would encourage them in their innocence.

Now, of course I was in a perpetual state of blushing even though I steered clear of some of the more embarrassing things for that audience, but there was still so much to teach them! The main thing that I was able to emphasize was "do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" and telling them that no ifs ands or buts, unless they are married, it is not the right "time".

Being reminded about the beautiful relationship that exists between man and wife not just physically but in true love, is just seriously one of those things that still boggles my mind. I believe that this book is to be taken literally, and even just seeing the sacred relationship between the man and woman, amazes me that God's love for us is even more awesome then that.

All in all, it really was a blast teaching it to the kids and I'm really glad I didn't "outsource" the teaching to someone else. It's very true when we read that "ALL Scripture is God-breathed".


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