Sunday, February 7, 2016

What do people see in me?

Several days ago, our social worker, Loyce, and I went to the offices for our district to get some paperwork turned in and to greet our district social worker called a probation officer.  Since I had been away, I had not seen her or spoken with her for 7 or 8 months, so it was important to go see her.  We greeted her and spoke in her very small office about some concerns of several people in the community.  During our conversation, a man walked in and stood there until we were getting ready to leave.  As we were saying our good-byes, he asked the probation officer if she was going to introduce us.  The probation officer seemed hesitant but told him who we were and we shook hands. Loyce was hesitant to shake his hand but when he reached out, she also shook his hand.  We said good-bye and headed home.  On our way home, I was told why the probation officer and Loyce were uneasy with this man.  Loyce told me that he was a witch doctor. You never know what you are going to respond in a situation like that.  My first thought was, "Man, I wish I would have said 'God bless you!'"

I sat there in the van wondering how often I don't even think about who I am greeting.  I don't think who the person really is that I am encountering and that they need Jesus.  I don't know if I have ever meet a witch doctor or not.  I don't know how many of you ever will.  But I have met a lot of people who are hurting and in despair.  I have met people who are unaware of their need for a Savior.  And so often I am so caught up in my world that I forget that I am to be a light in this broken world.

The man I met had no visible signs of being a witch doctor - no feathers or animal skins or magic potions in hand.  In the same way, most people do not have visible signs of being broken, hurting or lost.  But do believers have visible signs of hope, joy and peace?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Senior charge and a fun little story

Katie Fox, right out of college and newly married, prayed for a mentor and asked her pastor to help.  He matched her with Mark's mom. As they talked and prayed together, the subject of missions and Africa came up frequently.  Mark's mom suggested that Katie and her husband Cody contact Mark.  Long story short, Katie and Cody came on a 6 week trip and eventually moved to Uganda and GSF.  Katie now has a mentoring group of her own at GSF.  Two of those girls in her group are Megan and Caralina, her own mentor's granddaughters!  Isn't God good?  

Katie and her "cord group" that she mentors
When planning the graduation, Caralina's teacher told her she needed to ask someone to speak at graduation and give her a "charge".  Caralina asked Katie.  Katie's charge was so beautiful that I asked her if I could have it to put on the blog.  Here it is below:

I tried to write a fancy speech. I even Googled “Charges.”  I backed up my points with scriptures and incorporated verses…But it just didn’t seem right. Not here when I have a unique opportunity to say this to one person rather than an entire class of students. 

Then there is the thought process that since this is for one person, I could talk about all of her accomplishments, how AMAZING she is, how she loves God, serves at children’s church, is working to raise funds for Sharon’s heart, spends her time with the children who have special needs, and takes beautiful pictures that capture the heart of the ministry here…but if I went on and on for too long, she would be very uncomfortable…maybe even a little bit embarrassed with so much attention.   So I have not written a speech, or charge, or any other document, but instead this is my prayer for Caralina in this time of graduation and transition. 

I pray that you know and remember many things.
            I pray that you…
                        Know how loved you are
In America
By your family,
By your friends,
Through your blog
                        Remember where home is
It is with the people you love and not any specific place
                        Remember all you have already accomplished
You are NOT a missionary kid but a kid who IS a missionary How you have poured your heart into this ministry at GSF

You have already been making Lina’s Legacy for a long time
Know that being different is ok
 It’s good actually.
 There is no normal
                        Know that who you are is AWESOME
                        Know what you believe and why
Always have an answer for your faith
                        Remember when you’re not sure, that it’s ok to call home…a lot…
                        Remember that no one else really knows what they are doing either

I pray for your future.
            I pray that you…
Take chances
Not the dangerous ones
 Take some chances when you are unsure
Forgive yourself
Never Stop Learning
Guard your heart/ Choose good friends
                        Love both cultures for exactly what they are
Learn more about yourself
Your gifts
Don’t stress TOO much about school
Have a mentor
A little older and wiser to guide and help you
Walk through the doors God has for you
                        Continue to grow in your walk with God
                        Have clarity of His plans for your life
                        Have Peace, joy, and hope present in your heart

In conclusion:

Thank you for being a blessing to those around you. For loving others well. For being a peacemaker and a joy to this school.  Thank you for the example you set to both adults and children in how you live your life.  I think I speak for all of us that we are so proud of what you have accomplished in your time here and look forward with great excitement to what you will accomplish in the future.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Women's Day invitation

We had a meeting several weeks ago with some government officials.  The government official over our sub-county (here he is called the LC3) was there and is becoming a great friend to GSF, and we are grateful.  As he was leaving, he asked me to be the speaker at the sub-county women's day event. Although, it is out of my comfort zone, I truly feel like this opportunity is from God.

Women's day is an international day celebrating women and is on March 8th.  Districts, organizations and sub-counties will all have celebrations that day.  Most celebrations will have lots of music and dancing and a traditional meal.  It is an event full of pride and celebration and I am humbled that I was asked.  I will wear the traditional wear for Uganda and particularly this tribe that lives around here to honor and respect the people here.  I will post pictures afterwards.

Would you please pray for me that my words will clearly speak God's love and His gospel to the women there?   Pray also that God will be honored and that at the end of the day, He will be seen and remembered more than my white skin and blonde hair.

Thank you for praying!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Today they graduated!

Kindergarten graduation always has seemed like a cute little ceremony with little significance.  But today I experienced one that reminded me of God's redemption; His ability to use all things for His glory; and His amazing love for children.  Here are 8 little, yet incredible stories of God's redemption that He has allowed our family to watch and experience...

One year ago, as a seven year old little girl, she was the primary caregiver for her dying mother. Seven months ago, she attended school for the first time in her life.  Today she graduated from kindergarten and although she began 1/3 of the way into the school year, she finished in the top 3 of her class.

Three years ago she came to GSF with her older sister and younger brother because her mother has severe and uncontrollable seizures.  Today she graduated from kindergarten also in the top 3 of her class.

A year and a half ago, we were told about a 10-year-old girl in a hospital with severe wounds on her feet that prevented her from walking.  After investigations, she was brought to GSF as a step down from hospital care because we have nurses on site and medical expertise accessible.  However, as time went on, it has been discovered that she has a rare genetic disorder that we are still trying manage.  But today, she graduated from kindergarten and gained respect and admiration from many in a place where a disability of any kind is seen as a curse and disadvantage.


When Mark and I came to visit GSF 7 years ago, a little guy arrived very malnourished and from a dysfunctional family.  Yesterday after years of investing in the family and sending him for visits, our social worker resettled him with his family.  Today, he walked to GSF with his family and he graduated from kindergarten!

Five years ago, a little boy was abandoned in a big town close by.  As time went on, it was realized that this little boy was high on the spectrum of autism.  Several angels - short-termers, visitors and teachers -  worked to find techniques to help him learn.  And today, he graduated from Kindergarten.

Three years ago, his father died and his little brother was in the hospital due to malnutrition.  Last week, his mother showed up again and is ready to have the boys for the holiday and begin rebuilding her life.  Today, he graduated from kindergarten.

Five years ago, a very malnourished little boy arrived at GSF.  Throughout the years, his family has neglected their responsibilities and he has struggled with learning disabilities but today he graduated from Kindergarten.

Three years ago, her father died in a motorcycle accident.  This little girl lives at GSF, because her mother has had difficulty providing a stable home life.  Today, her mom came to GSF and even brought a gift for her daughter who was graduating from kindergarten.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Island Ministry

I had the opportunity to minister with a group of pastors and church leaders on Namitale Island on Thursday.  It was a cool experience.  There is no electricity or running water on this small island of maybe 3,000 people.  The only vehicles I saw were a boda (Motorbike) and massive new earth mover.  They told me that the bulldozer was brought over on a ferry in order to make roads on the island.  There was indeed a good dirt road, but no evidence of vehicles to travel on it.  I guess they are preparing for the future!
Mukene laid out to dry by the lakeshore.
The day started by picking up a few men near GSF.  These had been trained in Bible overview and inductive Bible study for several months at GSF in 2013.  Upon completing that study, God opened a door for us to "go and make disciples" (our study theme) in Kiyindi, a fishing village an hour's drive from GSF.  We just finished up our 6-month study with a group from several churches in this village.  Along the way, I've learned that Kiyindi is the gateway to the islands (there are 52 islands in the chain nearest to this area).  It is also the harvest point for mukene (silverfish), which is a favorite food of many Ugandans.  The road to Kiyindi is rough and the atmosphere of this thriving fishing town is dark, but there is Light shining in the darkness.

We launched out to Namitale from Kiyindi at about 10:30 AM, singing as we went.  Several men and women from the Kiyindi discipleship group joined us as our hosts for the day.  We were 15 people in all.
Pastor Stephen Tenywa has been reaching these islands for several years, but he has come alive with passion as he began to learn how to accurately handle the Word of Truth through our studies.  He started another discipleship group at a church on Namitale 5 weeks ago.  This is the dynamic of making disciples!

About 30 people gathered for training on the island.

I was taught 12 years ago by my friend, Tim Miller (Disciple The Nations).  Tim has since written a book (30x60x100) which is the guide for our study groups here.  I've trained two groups of church leaders so far.  Now one of them has started another group elsewhere.  Other men are also planning to go and share the gospel in this way.  This is the instruction of 2 Timothy 2:2, "The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

Our training for the day was held in a small, mud structure (pictured left).  We were joined by about 15-20 people from Namitale and neighboring islands.  Some of the other pastors taught brief sessions from our studies and gave testimonies of how it was transforming their ability to teach the Word of God.  I shared a message about making disciples.  Then we had a short break before I led the next session, an overview of Old Testament history from Ruth through the kings and up to Ezra/Nehemiah.

Moses (left) grew up at GSF and translated for me.

I finished with a favorite teaching from Malachi 4:6 (the last words of the OT), connecting to Luke 1:17 (purpose of John, opening the NT).  These passages both talk about God's desire to "turn the hearts of father's to their children."  This is a much needed message here in Uganda!  It also helps to demonstrate the connections within the entire Bible, which is one of the main points of our study.  The Bible is intricately interwoven, not a mere compilation of nice stories.

Launching the boat back into the water for the return journey.
Pastor Stephen and his wife (left) are our hosts in Kiyindi.  Pastor Moses (next to me) has a church near GSF.
The people graciously served us a lunch of fish, rice and posho when we concluded at 4:00 p.m.  Of course we had fish – we're on an island!  They asked me whether I preferred the head or the tail.  Not enjoying it when my food is looking at me, I chose the tail.

A rain storm blew in during lunch and we could see white caps all over the lake, so our return journey was delayed a bit.  Once the storm passed, we launched out again.  The praise and worship singing carried us the entire journey back to Kiyindi.  We said farewell to our brothers there and returned home.  What an amazing day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Praise to our God of transformation

I've always loved stories!  I especially love true stories, because I know the author of those stories and he is the greatest.  He is incredible at weaving redemption into every story.  One of the best things about living and working where we do, I see, hear and/or experience some incredible stories.  Here is one of those stories:

In August of last year, I got a phone call from a friend who runs another special needs home in the area.  She told me about a little girl who was abandoned outside of the large mental hospital in Kampala.  The hospital was looking for a home to take her in.  We agreed to take her in and quickly realized we had a very sullen, withdrawn, autistic little girl whose few words made us cringe as they seemed to indicate the story of her young life.  It was obvious that this little girl was in need of some tender loving care. 

The mothers in the toddler house took on the challenge in a beautiful way and allowed God to use them to be His hands and feet in her life.  They picked up on her ways quickly and learned what helped her and what gave her joy.  As she began to feel secure in her environment and loved by the ones around her, her vocabulary began to change and this little withdrawn girl began to accept and even desire being held and loved.  

A few days ago, I sat amazed at this transformation, as she crawled on my lap and leaned in for a kiss from me.  She began to laugh and lean in over and over again for hugs and kisses.  It was amazing and that can only come from the Author of Life and the Craftsman of Redemption.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Always A Family

About a year ago, Mark got a phone call early one morning.  A mom had died in the village and had left 4 children; one was a six month old baby.  They wanted to know if we could take the baby.  Over the next few days, along with the burial for the mother, investigations took place and the two youngest children came to live at GSF.  The baby, Maria was sickly and needed much care.  We eventually realized she had TB and then she got malaria and eventually she died.  The second child - a quiet 4 year old boy named Dennis - found his home in the GSF toddler house.  He was very introspective with a hint of mature sadness when he was taken to the burial of his baby sister at the house where his mother died.  

After  a couple of months, it was discovered that his persistent cough was probably tuberculous. We wrestled with what to do for this sweet one.  We prayed and consulted many. He couldn't stay in a house full of toddlers who were susceptible to getting the disease. We eventually realized that God had opened a place for him in our home.  So he moved in to our house and learned to like spaghetti sauce over rice and to quote "I do not like them Sam-I-am!"   When the alarm on my phone would go off every day at noon to remind me of his medicine and lunch, he would say, "time for eats!"  We all got used to his little routines, and our house seemed empty without those routines when he moved back with the toddlers.  

When this little guy had moved into GSF, the father promised that by December he would take all the children up north to family, land and home.  But by the end of the year, he still did not have the money so a plan was put in place to help him save.   The father and the other two children came regularly to see Dennis, to sit quietly together, to laugh and smile.  Then one day a couple of weeks ago, another man came with them.  He introduced himself as the brother to Dennis' dad.  This uncle had not heard from this little family in the sugar cane field for a long time and was concerned.  He finally found a phone number of someone who lived close to the family.  He called and found out the story that none of the family up north knew about--about Maria and her mamma dying.  Heartbroken, he told the family and then came with the purpose of bringing the family back together.  

So this weekend, our social worker and Dennis made the long journey to see his family, as his dad and older siblings had done a couple of weeks before.  They found a moderate home with a loving family who had already enrolled the other two in school.  So Dennis was resettled with his family.  He is now at his family land and home many kilometers away, but to tell you the truth, he still has family here.  He has lots of brothers and sisters who were asking me questions yesterday about his leaving!  There were mammas, teachers, and aunties asking about his welfare and sad to see him leave.  My kids made sure they went to say good-bye.  We all will miss him and will be eager to hear how he is doing.  That is the beauty of GSF and of God's family.  . . no matter where you go, you are still a part of the family!