Thursday, August 29, 2013

5 years

August 29th, 2008 is a day that will go down in infamy in my life. It was the day that I officially moved to Uganda to serve as a missionary in the lovely town of Jinja. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago that it happened, and in some ways the life I lived in the States seems like it was just last week. As I've already documented, my life dream was not to be a missionary in Africa, I wanted to do business, that's what I was good at and just seemed to be the course my life was going on. It was the short-term trip to Jinja that I took in 2007 that changed everything. Like the joke goes, "If you want to make God laugh, make plans".

When I landed here, I had the commitment of 2 years in mind and nothing more. I figured I would "get it out of my system" and then get back to "normal" life. I came kicking and screaming with more or less a Jonah attitude of being angry with God for sending me here away from everyone and just couldn't believe that I had to come 8,000 miles away to a place I didn't know and live with people who were basically strangers to me. I know, it was a terrible attitude and it took 5 months of wrestling for God to finally break me and bring me to the point of surrendering to His will and not mine.

I had a lot of ideas of how things would go and what I would do and I'll be honest, about 100% has changed in the past five years. I've learned that I LOVE teaching and have been given unreal opportunities to do so. I've had to deal with pouring into people only to have them turn around and bite me in the back or spreading rumors that I didn't like someone I actually loved. Let's just say teenage girls are not easy to break through and if you're in ministry to youth, well... just be ready for some heartbreak.

God has caused me to learn about the fact that missions is quite possibly the most difficult yet most rewarding job you could be called to, and every day I'm reminded of what a "foolish thing" I truly am. I'm FAR from perfect and honestly I've almost reached a conclusion that the mission field is full of the biggest pieces or work rather than all of those who have it all together. He has called us here because we (well at least I) needed some serious work on refining our character. When I got here 5 years ago I would have told you in more or less words that I was basically fabulous and that God and the ministry were lucky to have me... as ugly as that sounds to admit. That of course has now taken a 180 and I'm just blown away that God hasn't struck me dead on the spot as I fumble through life and make mistakes, fall down, and then He has to swoop in and rescue me. There have been so many people God has used to help me learn and grow though, and the woman I am today would not be the same if I had not have come here and gone through fire after fire as God continues to burn more of "Kelli" away and replaces it with more of Him.

The staff at the church, fellow missionaries, but more specifically it's people like Jess and Bev whose patience with a young, naive, proud missionary were priceless as I went through growing up on the mission field. Their care and guidance has been priceless and I really don't think I would have survived these five years here without them. (This is just an aside to anyone praying about going onto the mission field... I HIGHLY recommend not just coming out here on a whim, make sure you have mature people who can help you navigate the incredibly rough waters of the culture and ministry you're getting into). Along with them there are various friendships along the way both missionaries and ugandans who have taught me so much words can't describe it. Things change an people go, but their impact remains. I can't help but also mention that my family, care team, and parents are out of this world. Their ministry as "serving as senders" has made living here much more bearable and making the 8,000 miles not seem so far away sometimes. I know many people don't get the support I do from loved ones in the States, and it's definitely not something I take for granted. And with that, I want to thank all of you who have financially supported the ministry here (some of you since i first came) and God has used your service to Him in doing that to reach and minister to hundreds (if not thousands) of youth around Uganda and I can't put into words my gratitude for that.

Of course... what kind of wife would I be if I didn't mention my husband. We have only been married 6 months (Sept. 1 is our 6 month anniversary :) ) but God has used Davis in such a way as to guide me and speak into my life that I can't even begin to tell you. His gentle, loving, yet strong approach to lead me to be the woman after God's own heart blows me away each and every day.

God has amazed me with what He has done these past five years and I can't wait to see what all He will do in the next five. Thank you for all your encouragement, prayers, and support over the years!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Holiday Happenings

Well… it’s the school holiday which in my world I call it “Go Time”. During the school term I have such a limited time with my students… only 2 hours on Saturdays and then those who go to Jinja SS I see another 2 hours or so during the week, that’s it. But the holiday gives me extra time to pour into them and disciple them and every holiday my prayer is that I would “make the most out of every opportunity”. After much prayer and planning the calendar for the next three weeks is set.

This week we have:
Guys day at Kingfisher (a local resort) on Thursday and then the girls turn is on Friday. I’ve asked several men and women from our staff to help out with this even to spend the afternoon pouring into the students as they swim, eat, and have a good time. I’m excited to see what God will do during these times when they can be themselves and be real as they will also spend time in discussion and prayer. It should be a cool way to kick off the holiday events.

On Saturday, we will the Sunday School team put on a big kids event which will be like a VBS carnival of sorts. My students will help the School of Ministry students as well as the Sunday School teachers as they teach and play with hundreds of kids.

Next week:
My boys LOVE soccer/football and so this Sunday my team, Tottenham Hotspurs will be playing Arsenal (the favorite team of many of my students). So we’re going to pack a venue that will be playing the game, drink some sodas, eat some snacks and partake in maybe just a little smack talk ☺ It should be a cool time of fellowship.

Tuesday will bring a tournament called the Ignite Football/Bible challenge. This will involve the students being in teams of two with one partner who’s good at Bible knowledge and the other who is good at playing football (soccer). They will then be asked trivia questions from the New Testament and if they get them right the football partner will then do a challenge that shows off their football skills in order to get points. The team at the end of course gets a prize.

Wednesday and Thursday we will do classes on how to study their Bibles. We’ve already done a class like that, but this is kind of like How to Study your Bible 201. It was by request that we do this again, so if the students request something like this, then who am I to say no. Needless to say I was stoked by this suggestion.

On Friday we will bless a family who has fallen on rough times. We have many donations of clothes and various household items, we will then go out and buy food and a few other necessities and drop it off at their house and pray for them and seek to show them the love of Christ.

The Final Week:

Sunday we will go and serve alongside the Hospital Ministry where we will pray for those in the hospital. It’s a cool ministry and a great way for the students to get outside of their own world and see that there are so many hurting people who need Christ’s comfort and love to be shown to them.

Tuesday, our plan is to take a bus and go and do an outreach in one of our favorite outreach locations, Tororo. It’s only a couple of hours drive away and the ministry there is raw and awesome. We brought a small team there about a year ago and it was at that location that students stayed around in the rain to finish hearing the teachings and to give their lives to Christ. The church doesn’t even have a building but they meet under an awesome tree, and it’s just such a cool location for real ministry.

The rest of the week will be like the week before: How to Study your Bible and we will bless a second family.

It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks but I’m truly so excited to see what God is going to do! Please lift these events up in prayer, because if God is not at the center of them we doing them in vain.

Monday, August 12, 2013

To Save a Life

I’m going to be honest… I struggle with Christian movies. There I said it… I know I’m terrible, but really I just can’t get into them most of the time for various (mainly technical) reasons. But one that although I may have qualms with the caliber of acting and such, the message has struck me and it continues to even years after seeing it (I think I've even blogged about it before). The movie, To Save a Life starts with a teenage kid walking into a youth group and the youth pastor coming up to him and asking the typical questions that all of us in youth ministry have all asked at some point or another, “where do you go to school?” “what grade are you in?” etc… Then the youth pastor gets distracted and walks off and forgets to come back. Low and behold this kid was really hurting and his visit to that youth group was his last attempt to find hope and a sense of belonging. Within minutes we find out that the kid went home and committed suicide. (enter pit in your stomach)

In dealing with youth both in the States and here in Uganda, I have reached a couple of conclusions: 1) teenagers are quite possibly THE best actors on the planet, 2) many of them are dealing with stuff beyond our wildest nightmares, and 3) We’ve all got a past and a story to tell. In previous posts I’ve written about how I’ve learned the importance of learning the names of the kids who walk through the doors and are a part of the youth group. There is a HUGE challenge in pouring into the students that are in a formal ministry. They desperately need to be some place where they feel like they belong, that they’re valued, and that that they’re safe to be who God made them to be.

One thing though is that it’s beginning to hit me is that I have a group of about 30 students who I get to meet with on a regular basis, I know their names, where they go to school, what grade they’re in, what they want to be when they grow up, what their favorite food is, and what even their favorite football (soccer) team is. That’s not bad… but when you live in a town with THOUSANDS of students just like mine, that 30 just doesn’t seem like enough…. You know what I mean? I love, love, love my students. They have my heart and are my most favorite people on the planet next to my husband and my family, but there are so many of their friends and even more than that, there are so many of their enemies that they tell me about and as they share with me about them I realize that there’s a lot more to that problem person than the fact that they’re a bully, or a jealous manipulative girl. I’m not excusing the sin, but really the people my students tell me about are not Christians. They don’t know the sanctifying redeeming work Jesus’ unfailing love can bring in their lives. All they see are the problems in life, the fact that their dad doesn’t want to have anything to do with them, that their family doesn’t have enough money for rent and they don’t know where they’re going to go, etc… Each one of these kids has a story and more than that God knows their story and loves them and desperately wants them to love Him back.

My job, not just as a missionary, but just someone who is called by God to speak into the lives of students, is to point both the kids who are a part of our youth group and those who are so lost they don’t even want to come, to Him. I just pray that I would recognize the opportunities He brings me, that I wouldn’t waste them, or be too “busy” for them.


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