Sunday, February 26, 2012

The story of ministry

Ministry is not easy, anyone who tells you otherwise is obviously not in ministry. You invest sleepless nights, money, time, energy, and tears into various people and projects and many times you find yourself briefly asking the question "What on earth am I doing this for?" Sometimes it's rhetorical, sometimes you don't know, and sometimes God gives you a glimpse as to why He gave you that opportunity.

This past week has been one very long week, and I'm walking around today in a somewhat comatose state after we had the grand finale of kind of phase one and two of the fire relief. We spent every night feeding 60+ people, greeting them (sometimes being bouncers) washing dishes, filling drinking cups, and getting to work as the Body of Christ as people from different organizations and churches joined in to help. Seeing just how hungry these people were and hearing their sincerity as they said thank you made all of it worth it.

Yesterday was a very LONG day. We began the day sorting the donations of goods people gave and then shopping for everything else we felt were "needs" with the money people donated as well. It was definitely an adventure as while we were in the market, the people started to beat up the Mayor... yeah long story. My friend Jen, and two of my students ended up filling the back of Jen's SUV with sigiri stoves, basins, sauce pans, cooking oil, paraffin, soap, and mingling spoons. Heading back to the church in 2 hours we tackled sorting out everything so that it was evenly distributed amongst the 26 families who lost their homes. At the end of the sorting, I was smelling of paraffin, was covered in oil, sunburned, dehydrated, and exhausted and it was time for youth group.

Youth group went amazingly well! I'm so blessed by those students each and every week. We are getting a lot of new students these days and I'm just excited to see what God has in store. I had them all make a logo for themselves as we began our journey through the book of John. It was a blast, yet with a rather heavy theological punch. God totally blessed our time together and although it was "work" it gave me a new burst of energy for the rest of the evening.

After youth group I invited the students to hang around as we served the fire victims one last time. Seeing my students out there serving these people was one of the coolest things! After the food was done, we handed out the donations to the people. I heard later that they were saying how it was like they never lost anything as some of them got things they never had before. While we were doing that Johnny and Jesse brought the projector and screen to the site of the fire and showed the Jesus film. Although we had some technical difficulties and were not able to finish the film, it was quite possibly one of my favorite times of ministry as my students were sitting at the truck watching the back side of the screen. Talking and laughing with them and then acting like a heater some of my girls who were freezing was a moment I wished I had a camera for but realize that it was too precious to capture.

By the end of the night, it was about 11:00 and everything was torn down. I couldn't help to feel so blessed even in the midst of my exhaustion. We were able to pour into a group of people who normally never set foot in a church. We served people who have been known to talk about us and not be our number one fans. And in doing so, we were able to show them the love of Christ in the biggest possible ways. We pray that they don't turn and thank us, but they thank Him as we were the ones who were merely the tools He used to care for them. We recognize that it was not an accident that the fire happened basically in our backyard and God challenged us to make the most of that opportunity. I just pray that lives were changed and people came to know Him through it.

At the beginning of this post I said how sometimes you ask "what am I doing this for?", and this morning as I looked and people came and sat in church wearing clothes I remember sorting. As our second service is currently in progress I know of several people who are there because of what God has done in this past week, and first service was the same. I praise Him for the opportunity, the provision, and the reaction of the people. TO HIM BE ALL THE HONOR, ALL THE GLORY, AND ALL THE PRAISE.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After the fire...

"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ". - 1 Corinthians 12:12

After the initial reaction to fire, it was time to kick it in to another gear. Our church members gave of what little they had, some giving money, clothes, etc... to try and help the people who lost everything. We found out that it was a total of 26 homes that were lost.

Some fellow missionaries who also live in the area also got involved in trying to minister to these people. Combining our efforts, we are now working to try to feed the people a meal a day for the next few days. Last night having people from different groups working together to share the love of Christ was really just the coolest thing! Families with their kids came to hand out food and serve these people. And as the week continues we also continue to pray about the wisest ways to help these people get back on their feet. I'm so blessed to see our church, staff, and my fellow missionaries stepping up to meet this need. And honestly it is one of the most beautiful depictions of the body of Christ I've seen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fire, rain storms, and ministry

On Friday night as Jess and I were working on assembling a couple of machines (I more or less was just doing it to the point where Jess could have the joy of taking it a part and putting it back together), our Ascari (night guard) knocks on our door and asks if we had seen the fire. We had no idea what he was talking about but then as we stepped out the front door we see a tower of smoke and flames just behing our fence and we hear all sorts of screaming and wailing. We surveyed the situation from a ladder and discovered that it the fire was engulfing homes in an area we call Works (basically a slum area full of shanty stile houses). We could hear different little explosions made by what we think were the bars that burnt or areas that held petrol. Jess decided to get to work and he and Steven hosed down our hedge in the back in case the fire turned direction and because it was so dry it could all go up in a second. By then most of our staff was gathered on the balcony above my house or actually at the scene of the fire. At one point the fire truck came and really didn't do a whole lot as it seemed to not have a lot of water and they had to continue going back to get more.

As the fire died down we began hearing reports about how thieves were attempting to take advantage of the goods that the people still had left that were now out in the open. The guys cleared the benches in the church and put matreses down in case those who lost their homes needed a place to stay, or at least have the women and kids stay here while the men guard the few things that remained. The interesting thing was though that no one came to take advantage of it as they really just couldn't bare to leave their things.

The next day, things went into full swing as the church provided porridge for the people in the morning to put at least something in their stomachs. We also put up a tent made with a huge Samaritan's purse tarp in order to provide some covering for people to protect them and their belongings from the elements.

That night we brought the youth group over to see if there was anything we could do to help, such as helping move the things under the tent but the people just wanted to take care of it themselves so we ended up doing an impromptu VBS and my youth and I realized just how little we knew what to do with kids. But we did our best and in the end the kids were in two groups and two sets of students laid out the Gospel to these kids (some of whom were Muslim). It was honestly one of the shining moments for me in ministry as I heard my students telling these kids about Jesus' love for them. I just can't stress how cool it was seeing these kids all with their own challenges (some were street kids and AIDS orphans) ministering to others.

Right after we finished with that, the skies opened up. It was amazing! We had been praying for rain for so long and finally it came. The youth group made a mad dash for the church as I got the van to take some of them to their homes. In the end I was wait, tired, and had a couple of battle wounds but it was totally worth it!

Now we are just praying about the next steps in trying to minister to the families who lost everything.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Some like to refer to February 14th at "Single's Awareness Day", and although I will totally admit that at times I had to make a conscious decision not to wallow, or make excuses for consuming large quantities of chocolate and watching a sappy movie it really was a pretty good day... incredibly busy, but good.

Waking up this morning was a little painful considering my brain wouldn't turn off last night so I didn't get to sleep until almost 1, but then we had ladie's prayer and I was able to do one of my most favorite things in the world: study. Part of last night's lack of sleep was due to the decision to teach on the book of Daniel at Jinja SS (one of the largest high schools in the area). I had been planning on doing a topical study through the Gospel of John but the lightbulb went off last night (or I guess you could say He kind of smacked me across the face with it) as I was trying to get to sleep. So needless to say I spent the better part of the morning studying and dissecting the first chapter of what is quickly becoming one of my favorite books. I then was able to have lunch with a friend at a restaurant called Ozzies where you can basically run into half of the missionary population if you're there long enough, and I guess we were because I was able to reconnect with so many people. Then I met with another friend for a Bible study and she decided it would be cool to study Daniel, and all I could think was "Yes!" (and a little bit of "oh boy what is God wanting to drill into my thick skull?"). After walking home, I hung out with one of our staff members for a little bit and we concluded he should get his wife a soda and write her a note for V-day (it's the simple things fellas).

From there I was able to start back to my favorite ministry (or one of them), and teach my students at Jinja SS. It was awesome how many from last year came back and it's just interesting how many of them are still caught up in some rather "interesting" theology but I try to just point them back to Jesus and what the Bible says and fight with all my might to not say "umm... are you crazy!?" We only got through the first part of the book and I won't lie it was one of those teachings where afterwards I thought I had pretty much bombed it, but then again that's when the Holy Spirit can definitely make it His own. One of my favorite things is that after the teaching, I take a bunch of them home. It's hilarious how they all pretty much have the system down of who sits where and they get a kick out of it too, plus it gives me some "informal" time with them.

From there, I rushed to our Tuesday night prayer meetings we call, "The Upper Room". It was awesome to spend the evening with about 10 of my "brothers" laying our requests before HIm and then discussing tough topics and questions we have from Scripture. It was a great way to end the day.

To top it all off, Bev hooked a sister up, and brought me a chocolate cup cake that was pretty much heaven and honestly made my day a little bit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coming home

It's 5:30 in the morning and in the background behind my worship music I can hear the mosque doing their 5:30 call to prayer. It really is one of the coolest yet scariest sounds as it reminds me all the time of the lost people that are all around this town, country and world.

On a lighter note though, it was so awesome to get to sleep in my bed that's 7ft in the air with my fan blowing on me (praise God we had power last night). I'm up right now, but thinking, hoping and praying that the jet lag isn't too bad. Slept all night the night I got in, and then last night I went to bed at 10:30 and got up just a couple of times so we shall see how quickly I get adjusted to being 10hrs ahead of what had been my past 2 months.

I got in at around 11:30pm on Tuesday night and it was amazing getting off the plane in 75 degree weather. My amazing friend Emily picked me up. We stuffed my 5 bags into the car and headed to her house in Kampala. She was such a trooper as we didn't get home and get to bed until around 1:30, thankfully though I was able to sleep until about 8:30.

By noon I was rendezvousing with Bev to then head back to Jinja. When I got to Jinja as we came into the compound, several of our staff members were waiting inside the gate singing and dancing, and the little kiddos were there to welcome me. It was awesome getting to have that sort of welcome from people who I've been missing so much. Then getting to my apartment there was a sign that Jess made welcoming home, and then another one from Mary and Steven's gang. It really just made my day.

I got into my apartment to find it cleaner than it's really ever been as Bev worked so hard to make it a place that was nice to come home to. I have a confession that in my life of going 110 miles a minute, my house is pretty much my last priority and so that was so so sweet of her!

And after a little settling in and unpacking, it was basically time for Bible study where yet again I definitely was feeling the love. Amazingly I was able to stay awake as normally the jet lag sets in around that time. Afterwards I had three of my kiddos who had just come back from school tackle me and it honestly just melted my heart.

Needless to say, it's good to be home.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I absolutely LOVE to travel, or I guess to put that more accurately, I LOVE to reach new places. The process in between is always an interesting one. You begin with the baggage scenario, and when you're going some place for extended periods of time you end up bringing a lot of things back for others, and these days the airlines REALLY don't want you to bring much so they basically charge you your first born child to bring anything. Therefore you're gathered with your family the night before weighing and re-weighing all your bags to be sure they meet the weight requirement. And I've found that ticket counter people can be either the coolest people or the ones who really need a hug. This morning (ehh...or maybe yesterday morning), I dealt with both.

Then you have the whole security debacle, and this time ABQ rocked it and there was literally no line, but then there are places like San Diego where that line goes on for a mile and a half. As you go through that process you have to defrock including shoes, jackets, sweaters, scarfs, and anything metal and even tissues in your pocket. You get to raise your arms above your head as they do a little x-ray and then you wait for the go ahead, grab your stuff, put your clothes back on and get to your gate.

From there you get to try and make sure you're in the general vicinity so you know if anything changes, while trying to also scout out the best place for some refreshments (which again could cost you some vital organ - my coffee and bottled water this morning was about $12). You also try to figure out the wifi status - free wifi is glorious because like right now, it's 10 Euros/hr which is about $20 and you figure out what to do with yourself as you sit there and pray that you don't see those dreaded words of "delayed" or "cancelled" next to your flight number. You then get to play the waiting game and they begin boarding and you strongly consider if it would be worth it to buy an upgrade and always you sigh and decide no - although one day I've promised myself I will do it.

After getting on the plane (and even in the waiting area), you scope everyone out to see what kind of people will be joining you on your journey, you know, how many small children, people speaking foreign languages, etc... That's possibly my most favorite part of the whole traveling process in seeing the different people and watching them and how they interact with those who they came with and even watching those who are by themselves how they handle themselves. I still get a kick out of how you get the flight attendants doing the security things in at least one other language, and right now around me I'm hearing people speaking a menagerie of languages. This world really is so crazy diverse and again it just reminds you about how big our God is and that not one of these people is here on accident.

And then there's the issue of jet lag. Traveling internationally you can get so thrown off on your time. Right now trying to process the time in ABQ, the time in Belgium, and the time in Uganda, well... it's making my head hurt a little bit. You get to be sleep deprived, hungry, sore, and yet with each mile you travel, that's one mile closer to your destination.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Goodbye ABQ

Well, all I can say is this furlough rocked the hisouse! It was such an amazing encouragement and I am in awe of all of the opportunities God gave me to share what He's been doing and what He's fixin' to do with the youth of Uganda. I'm currently in the Washington DC airport (it's funny how airports are where I tend to write a lot of my posts) and I have just said goodbye to a whole LOT of people who I love more than words can say. I hate this time of traveling after saying goodbyes like what happened this morning because it's like you're in such limbo. You ache for those people you just left yet are anticipating what God's got for you at your destination, and as you fly there is such an element of loneliness that you can almost touch. But as I'm spending that time alone, I have some time to just think on how awesome God has been in just caring for me and answering some killer prayers especially over the past couple of days. Everything from provision, to smooth luggage drop off, to comfort, He's been there. I love that He never leaves us, even when you're the only one sitting in the row 30,000 feet in the air I look forward to the fact that within less than 24 hours now I will be in the country that I now call home, and pray for those who I just left in what was my original home.


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