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


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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Karamoja Jaunt

Now, some may have thought that Kyle already had enough adventure with what went down over our safari trip, but au contraire my friends... we still had a little more adventure up our sleeves before the big guy leaves us. Originally we were supposed to go to Karamoja for a pig roast on Thursday (today) but that had to be cancelled so then on the fly we made arrangements to head up there on Tuesday. So we got the car all set late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning we were off on another whirlwind adventure. I had stayed up all late a couple nights before to make a playlist for our 6ish hour journey, but because of issues with speakers and connections, that didn't happen, so we began our long trek without speakers booming... I didn't even know it was possible to have a road trip like that these days.

We made great time getting from Jinja to where the dirt road begins heading into Karamoja, but then the fun began. Seriously within about 20 yards of the tarmac ending we encountered problems and already began sliding and that's when we knew we were in for it. More and more too we were getting texts from the friends we were going to visit telling us that they're getting reports as to just how bad it was. But we decided to keep on going. As drove on, Kyle's heart rate continued to rise and he had to focus on breathing (just kidding... but no seriously), my prayers got a little more fervent, and Ryan just kept enjoying himself. His lightheartedness and optimism definitely helped keep me calm. When we were about to go into a scary spot that involved quite a bit of fish tailing Ryan would yell out some form of a "God help us!" and He definitely did. We didn't get stuck once, except for when we got high centered because of cows not getting out of our way fast enough. Of course, Ryan's jovial attitude was a little dampened when we encountered a river that seemed to be not so terrible and it ended up going over the hood. That was intense to say the least and it definitely got all our hearts racing. We were able though to finally get to our friends by about 1:30 and have some lunch and rehash all our war stories from the drive up.

Our friends at the Orthodox Presbyterian mission were awesome to catch up with and such a huge blessing. Kyle not only got to take in the breathtaking beauty that is Karamoja but he was able to meet some more hard-core missionaries and their kids. We walked through a "river", took pictures, drank some coffee, and had some awesome fellowship. Then on Wednesday we all geared up to come this way because the other families had things to do down country so we all caravanned. Leaving by about 12:30ish we were able to hit the roads and God was so good at how he had allowed the roads to dry up and be exponentially better than they were the day before. We were able to get to the tarmac without incident and were pretty much home free from there.

Last night, I was tired and sore (my collar bone is bruised because of the seat-belt doing its job on Tuesday's roads), and there was more dust in my ears than I really ever thought possible. But really it was an awesome time yet again with a whole new layer of inside jokes and memories. I'm so glad my brother was able to experience this part of Uganda and continue to meet the people and experience the country that has become a part of who I am.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Signs of the times

I'm hearing all sorts of information coming in from what's happening in the States. Things like debt ceilings, stock market crashes, and more soldiers loosing their lives. I'm here in Uganda daily hearing of prices rising almost 100% (no joke) on staple food items, I hear of people dying of starvation, and drought. You look around the world and it seems like there's no hope. It seems like everything's crumbling around us. This world is like sand passing through ones fingers. Christian, Mayan, Muslim, etc... all lay claim to an end to the world as we know it. And just this year we had "the sky is falling" by one pastor who thought that although God said "no one knows the day or the hour", he was able to figure it out. No matter what your religious beliefs may be, looking around at the condition of the world, our minds should be churning over the concept of the temporary nature of this life. How one day you can have security and the next you have nothing and the very things you spent your life to accumulate are now gone.

As I said, we could look around and allow our fear to almost paralyze us saying that there's nothing we can do. But really, we need to "make the most of every opportunity" while we have the chance, we should be taking these events as wake up calls as to what really should matter in our lives. If you're a Christian, it should motivate you to get off your butt (sorry for the bluntness there) and share your faith with those you care about the most because you really don't know what tomorrow may bring.

I just heard about how the governor of Texas called for a time of prayer and fasting for the nation. I've also heard that there were several people (even Christians) who were not necessarily in support of it. But no matter what your sentiments are with such an event, the fact that he was willing to put his career on the line should get our attention. This world as a whole is lost and dark and very close to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord - no matter if it's in worship or fear because they have lived a life rejecting him. We're on our knees now, but what happens tomorrow if things get better? Will we go back to how we used to be? The nation of Israel during the time of the Judges rejected God, got punished, cried out to God, and God sent reprieve and then after time they went back to doing their own thing. Now someone who's a governor can make a huge difference with the exposure his actions can get, you and I may never be able to organize hundreds of thousands of people to earnestly seek God to change our country or our world, but we can change how we live. We can be the ones who live differently, we can be the ones who no matter what the world is saying is ok we live for something more, we can be the ones to show the love, grace, forgiveness, and holiness that this world has become so void of. I hope that the reaction to the situation in the States is not merely a one day/week/month emotional response to suffering, but a true lament over the sin and people committing to truly living to please God above anyone/thing else.

I know hearing of these things has challenged me because so often we complain, but often do we pray. So let's be challenge and let's be a nation/generation that truly, genuinely, and passionately seeks His face.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Do I have to?

One thing about God's Word is that vary rarely do you find caveats when He calls us to do something... REJOICE ALWAYS period, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES period, IN YOUR ANGER DO NOT SIN period, FORGIVE period. There's no room for, "But, you don't understand! They've done/said this, this, and this to me!" or "God didn't mean this when he said those things". But the truth is, God just knows us way too well. He knows that even if He had listed every possible scenario to those commands that we would always try and find some little loop hole. As children of God, we're called to be holy (set apart) as He is holy. That means we're not to be like the world. The world says, "you got a raw deal, go ahead and become bitter", "They said that or did that to you, you have every right to be nasty back to them", "They've hurt you time and time again, just forget them!". That's what the world says, but God calls us to be different...period. In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." So the answer to that question of "do I have to?" no matter what the world may say is a definite yes... even when it's not easy. (I may or may not be learning this lesson right now myself ;) )

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One wild and crazy month

A couple of months ago, God really opened my eyes to the fact that there are 17 million youth under the age of 15 here in Uganda. From there sprung the plan to do a tour of Uganda and visit our village churches and have day long youth conferences to get the students thinking about the things of God and realizing who Jesus really is. So needless to say, that's happening at the end of this month from August 25th through September 2nd where I'll be heading out with a small team to begin reaching the youth of Uganda one village at a time. In the middle of that, on the 27th, we will also have a day long conference here in Jinja that will cover the book of James. I'm so excited to see what God will do through this endeavor, but I'm also well aware of my flesh, and that's what has me worried.

Whenever a big event comes up and I get stressed, I freak out and basically become a monster to all those closest to me as I'm trying to make everything absolutely perfect. So knowing that, I'm trying to be proactive and put an SOS out there to everyone, that I desperately need your prayers as I gear up for that week. For me personally, that I would just breathe, have grace, be flexible, effectively communicate the ways others can help me, and realize it's all about God and not about me. For the ministry itself, pray that the students will come and lives would be eternally changed (and I'm not taking that part lightly). Also pray for safety on the road, provision for the food (overall it will cost about $1,000), and that I would know who should be a part of the team.

You can look forward to several other posts leading up to that week, so this is just the beginning. I know that God could radically change lives of about 1,000 youth through that week, I just need to not get in the way and just "let go and let God".


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