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.


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