Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To Him who hung on the cross and rose for me

When reports come of a little boy watching down the road, waiting for his daddy to come home, we shake our heads in sadness knowing that a daddy has abandoned his family.  Our hearts and our souls ache and we know our trust cannot be in man.  We must look to the cross.  We must hold on to the promises that come from looking to the cross and the Savior that hung there.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

I am aghast as my friend relays the unthinkable nightmare she witnessed today involving a 2-year-old little girl and a young boy.  My heart lurches within me.  Evil is prevalent in the world; we need a savior.  Praise the Lord, we have a Savior.

“For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Col. 1:13-14

The story is told to me of two children whose mother died soon after childbirth and the father is suffering from an unexplained illness.  The doctors cannot find the cause, and those around are convinced it is from a curse.  All I know is that those little boys do not have the privilege to be loved on by their mom and dad.  But praise God they have a Father who purchased them through the cross. 

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of His glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:5-6

As I ponder the events of the day, I am made aware of my own sins and inadequacies.  I feel my soul sinking to despair; evil seems to have won.  There is nothing I can do for any of these situations save the cross.  Look to my Savior!  Evil has not won.  Redemption has come and there is victory in looking to Him who hung on the cross and rose for me.

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”  I Corinthians 1:28-31

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I stand amazed!

Dealing with the medical system here in Uganda can at times be very frustrating and a nightmare, but fortunately, we are also so often reminded of our God who is in control.  I have experienced much the last few weeks as we had 3 children at GSF who had surgeries in 2 weeks.  The most extensive surgery was Kathy's colostomy.

Our nurses spent time talking to the surgeon and getting information about where to take her, when to take her and what to expect.  I called the financial assistant at the hospital to ask questions about the cost and to arrange payment.  We arranged transportation and picked an awesome caregiver Christine, our special needs helper, to be with her during her 7 days hospital stay.  We confirmed that food would be provided for the two.  So on the appointed day, they went, the nurse, Christine and Kathy.  They spent all day there waiting for the surgeon to come so he could do the proper paper work to admit them.  At 4:50 pm they called to tell me that the hospital would not admit her because we didn't send enough money.  So I frantically called my financial assistant friend who would be getting off at 5, and she sweetly went to find our trio to help them be admitted for the night and our nurse to return home.

The next day as we were awaiting news of the surgery, our nurse told me that she was told that the pair wouldn't be getting food at the hospital.  She had given Christine some money to help for a couple of meals.  So I agreed to call my financial assistant friend to make sure their meals were provided.  The day continued and news came in periodically about Kathy and her surgery.  She did well and rested through the afternoon.  I kept informing everyone who was praying.  There were also various issues at the land so I kept very busy.  At 5:10 pm, I got a message from our child care manager, "Christine doesn't have money or food for supper."  I totally forgot!  I had made a commitment to ensure our sweet caregiver for Kathy would have meals and I blew it!  Messed up.  I knew the financial office was closed for the day, but I tried the phone anyway.  Yep, no luck, no answer.  I started to pray and asked others to pray.  I couldn't have Christine go without food because of my mistake.

I have two friends who live and have connections in Kampala.  I asked if they could get money to Christine or knew anyone who could.  Both were trying to help.  One of my friends, Julie realized the hospital was close to where one of her friends lived.  She said she would call and see if her friend could walk over to the hospital and give Auntie Christine the money.  A few minutes later, Julie called me back to tell me the incredible news.  Her friend was walking NEXT TO the hospital when Julie called her and would go in and give the money to Christine!  Incredible.  This is not a large hospital that spans a block or two but a tall very skinny building, so that she was walking right by it is amazing.  God is good.

I found out later that this sweet lady went in with another friend and prayed with Christine and Kathy.  They not only gave her money for food but encouraged her soul.  I was able to call the next day and arranged for Christine and Kathy to receive food from the hospital.  I stand amazed again at a God who knows.  He is a God who provides in spite of our faults, shortcomings and sins.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Yesterday I went to encourage her to wash her clothes, brush her teeth and take care of herself, as I had been told she was not.   At one point to explain more why I was encouraging her, I said, “I love you.” 
She turned and glared at me, “You don’t love me.  I don’t believe it, and many others don’t believe it.  . . But I am not going to tell you who.”
My heart lurched and ached.  I wanted to argue, remind her of all the ways I have shown love.  I wanted to tell her how much I truly loved her, but I knew my words were not going to speak truth to her in that moment.  So, I just said, “I don’t need to know who, I know the truth.”  And in my heart I was crying out to the One who is truth.

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

This weekend, another one of our teens struggled with the lies from her past.  “My mom’s brain stopped working, and my grandma told me mine would too.  Last night, I was afraid that my brain had stopped working.”  We reminded her of truth.  That God is the only one who knows her body, her mind and her brain.  He protects, He heals, and Jesus is her Savior.  We talked of her salvation, quoting scripture and reading God’s word.  As we prayed, as we sang to God, as we read scripture, she found peace and freedom from the only one who could give it.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you free.’” John 8:31-32

Last evening, Mark and I sat in the living room with most of the girls age 5-14 at GSF.  Mark told them how beautiful they are to God and to us, and how God will use them for His kingdom.  I looked around the room at these beautiful little ladies in the making.  The world has been full of lies for them . . .  some have been abandoned, some abused, and some have had family members lie saying they didn't belong to them.  All have felt unloved and unwanted at times.  They need the truth; we all need the truth.  When we get overwhelmed with the lies and circumstances of the sin-filled world around us, we need to be guided in His truth.  All girls bowed their heads and prayed this verse together:

“Lead me in your TRUTH and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5

The lies are there; they linger in our minds and prevent us from seeing the truth.  The truth that God is not giving up on us—He loves us!  The lies keep us from telling others of His great love and from accepting it ourselves.  How many times have I not loved someone well or told them the truth of God’s Word because I also believed the lies.  May God ever teach us His truth!

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your TRUTH; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

A special thank you to Heather Grace Photo (http://heathergracephoto.com/)

GSF Vision Statement

The GSF missionary team was recently encouraged to develop a Vision Statement – a simple, concise statement of WHY we are doing what we are doing here.  We have a Mission Statement and we have worked in the past on vision, strategies and self-evaluation.  But when asked about why we are here and what is our overall vision, we were lacking.  Not that we were wandering aimlessly, we just didn't have a unifying statement.

The missionary team began considering this and our Ugandan management team was invited to join in.  A day of fasting and prayer was set aside as we asked God to make His Vision known to us, to clarify our direction and work.  Input was invited from this group of 20 leaders at GSF and we compiled a list of 23 words, phrases and statements that define GSF.  On Thursday, 19 September 2013, ten of us gathered to discuss and work through it together.  In the end, we came up with the following statement, the Vision for Good Shepherd's Fold:


This is why GSF exists.  As we evaluated all the input there were 5 key words that emerged as themes:  Discipleship, Family, Children, Word of God and Proclaiming.  The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 was read and we discussed the emphasis of our Lord on making disciples and going out to the whole world.  As Claudia Arango and David Malisi shared about the history of GSF and the vision of the Founders, Wayne and Bonnie Sue Walker, discipleship again was the emphasis along with the idea that the children of GSF were to be trained and sent out beyond GSF, even beyond Uganda.  Our team further discussed the ways that GSF is presently ministering, not only to the children in residence here, but also to school children, elderly, families with babies, staff members, pastors and the local church in our village.

An amazing thing to me is how God drew together the input of the leaders here at present, evaluating where we are now and where we feel God is leading us.  He brought in His own vision statement in the form of the Great Commission given 2,000 years ago.  And He revealed how the founders of GSF had this same vision on their hearts when GSF was established in 1994.  Past, present and future brought us to this statement that is very much "ours" - our own calling and instruction from God that makes is personal and exciting for us.  It is also much bigger than any of us individually and larger than GSF as a whole.  It's a God-sized task, just as it was for the disciples so long ago.

Recognizing the ways the Lord has already fulfilled this vision so much, we also humbly acknowledged that GSF has strayed away from the vision to some degree.  We had to confess that and renew our desire and intentional effort to put this vision into practice.  By God's Spirit and grace, we now endeavor to do that very thing – Making disciples, impacting the world for Christ – with greater fervor.

Please pray for us as we begin to share this fresh vision with our staff and children and as we strive to implement it into everything we do here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Week in Snapshots

Meet our newest, Esther!  She came to us after being in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  Our prayer for her is that the wounds on her feet would heal and she would be able to walk again.  

Many of our kids headed out this week to spend the school holidays with family members.  This sweet sibling group was excited to share the gospel with those in their village.
11 year old, Sam couldn't always go with his friends to play because his wheelchair was often not working.  But he got surprised with a new wheelchair this week!
Matthew really needed a wheelchair that he could push himself.  He got just that this week when all the kids gathered for a "surprise"!
Mark and I needed to go to Nairobi this week for my medical check-up and to get needed supplies for GSF.  Rebecca went with us while she is on holiday.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Church Amazed - Part 4

Previous articles in this series:

Children lined up outside the first service
June 30, 2013 – What a celebration!  Just one week earlier, 100 people stood outside in the hot sun to worship and to pray, asking God where we should gather next time.  Just one week earlier, a one-acre maize field was in desperate need of water and new life.  Just one week earlier, Light of the World Church had nothing, yet God had it all waiting.
News travels fast around here.  More than 170 people eagerly gathered for worship that Sunday morning and we have had almost that many people every week since.   Following that wonderful June Sunday, more of the land has been cleared.  A separate shade has been built for the children to meet under.  Latrines have been dug.  The roof and walls have been completed with more papyrus.  Decorations have been hung.  A stage has been constructed using extra dirt, a few painted boards and some cow dung to finish the flooring (it works!).  Exceeding, abundant, answers… to prayer.
New decorations and stage brighten LOTW Church
LOTW Church hosted its first “Overnight” on a Friday night recently in the new facility.  An overnight is a common tradition among Ugandan churches where believers assemble for worship and praise, preaching and prayers for the whole night.  People start gathering at 6 or 7 pm and they keep on coming.  Then they stay until 6 or 7 in the morning drumming, dancing and praising the Lord all night long.  Invitations were sent to 17 other rural churches. 
Around 11 p.m. I attempted to count heads and figured there must be around 300 people inside the church.  But there were many people outside, more churches were on their way and some people were sent to carrybenches from GSF to accommodate the crowds.  It was an electric atmosphere!  Some Ugandans said they had been to so many overnights in their lives, but never one like this!  Pastor Sam had asked me to speak specifically to the pastors and it was around 11:30 p.m. when I began, ending shortly after midnight with a charge to all of these pastors to be true to the Word of God.
Children's Shade at LOTW Church
Sunday morning, Pastor Sam announced that he had askedsomeone a little after midnight to count the people – inside and out.  The person reported back that they had lost track and had to stop counting at 650! Some even suggested that Light of the World Church should host a NewYear’s Overnight service instead of everyone travelling to Kampala for the annual New Year’s Prayer celebration, which takes place in the 50,000-seat National Stadium.  Who knows what God has in store?

How does an unfulfilled church at a rural orphanage plant a local church?  In prayer.  How does a simple Bible study group grow to more than 50 people?  By teaching the true Word of God.  How does a new church of 50 increase to 150 in just 3 months?  In prayer.  How are marriages and families reconciled?  By the Word of God.  How does an evicted rural church with little resources acquire land and structures and attract masses of people?  In prayer.  How does a church, not even one year old, influence so many other congregations near and far?  Bykeeping true to the Word of God. 

How do eucalyptus poles and papyrus reeds display the greatness of God?  Let me tell you!
(This is the final article in this series.  But the story is most certainly “To be Continued!”)

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Church in Search - Part 3

This is the third in a 4-part series.
Eucalyptus and papyrus.   Do we need those yet?  Not yet, but soon.
Having been evicted on Sunday, the church elders met together on Tuesday.  Pastor Sam informed us that he received a phone call from a landowner with whom we had been negotiating.  While we were certainly interested in the property, we did not have sufficient funds to purchase it.  But this time the phone call – which actually came immediately following the Sunday service in the sun – was to inform us that the owners of the land felt God telling them to allow us to use that land and pay for it later.  They weren’t even members of our church, nor were they aware that we had just been evicted.  But God knew – and He was the one to whom we had been directing our prayers.
“African Time” refers to how slowly things move here.  Africa is simply on a different kind of timetable.   “God’s Time” is at times a long wait and other times miraculously fast.  With the offer of the land on the table, Pastor Sam was able to meet the landowners, the LC1 (local village leader, essential for all legal matters) and other witnesses that very same day when the elders approved the deal in principle.  By the time the elders met again on Wednesday, the official papers had been signed and the land belonged to the church!  No payment is due for one year and even then the church does not have to make full payment if we don’t have it.  Glory to God!  Answered prayers!
A church brings new life to an old maize field.
Next challenge:  A scrubby field of maize occupied the one-acre land and there were only 3 days until Sunday.  God brought the church body together.  One person volunteered to oversee the building of a structure.  A workday was organized for Saturday to clear the land and the village paths leading to it and to erect the structure.  Several church members offered their papyrus mats which are commonly used for roofing and walls.  The church had enough funds to purchase two large plastic tarps to make the structure more rainproof.  Another member offered to make choir uniforms.  A used signpost had even been given and a volunteer had painted it for the church – ready to use, but not yet planted in the ground.  Pastor Sam told the elders, “The community has given everything we need.  We are only lacking eucalyptus poles to construct the framework.”  Well…
GSF has not recently planted churches, but we have been planting eucalyptus trees for several years.  They grow fast and tall and straight.  There are probably over 3,000 eucalyptuses of various sizes on the GSF campus.  Given that GSF staff and children make up about one-third of the church, we also decided to give from our means.  Not mzungu money or donor funds or American-style capital campaigns.  We gave from what we had, just like the other church members were doing.  Light of the World Church could take as many eucalyptus poles from our land as they needed. 
The first Sunday in our rustic new church structure.
Within 3 days the land was cleared and the structure erected.  We met together on Sunday in a brand new 30x80-foot structure, which is about 4 times the size of the rented schoolroom where we met the week before.  Did God just answer our prayers, or did He go exceeding abundantly above all that we asked or even thought possible?  Beyond answered prayers!
(To be Continued)

A Church Amazed - Part 4

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Church is Born - Part 2

So where do the eucalyptus and papyrus come in?  We’re getting there!  A church had just been born in November 2012.  It was named Light of the World Church.
At that time, GSF reorganized its Sunday schedule.  Sunday school classes continued to meet and Junior church continued for the younger children.  Those old enough to walk to the new church in the village began doing so.  We were partnering with and taking part in a local church – just like the history of GSF and according to the advice received and under the prayerful direction of God.
Filled beyond capacity
The new church rented an unfinished schoolroom that was at least twice the size of the Bible study location.  Yet it was immediately filled beyond capacity.  Sunday services were accompanied by two midweek services.  Marriage seminars resulted in the reconciling of husbands and wives according to the Word of God.  Families were attending church together, whereas we previously saw children without their parents, women without their husbands, or elderly without anyone to support them.
The church’s reputation for being a solid Bible-teaching church was growing.  At a district gathering of more than 300 local churches, Pastor Sam was nominated to oversee the doctrine of the churches.  It was well-known that Light of the World Church stood firm in Bible doctrine.  Yet it was not even 6 months old!
Over 100 people were now in attendance each week.  In fact, when the children were dismissed to meet for junior church outside and those standing outside came in, the church was still full.  Discussions about purchasing land ensued and a larger structure was needed, but we were only renting a room.  Having little money, we continued to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ in prayer.

People gathered for church - June 23, 2013
Then on June 23, something amazing happened!  The church had tried to pay for two more months of rent, but it had been refused.  With only two weeks remaining on our current rent, the elders pondered what to do.  Lacking funds to purchase land, the need was going to be presented to the church for prayer.  Some people arrived at the church building early to organize things.  Upon arrival, they found workmen plastering the walls and all of our benches thrown outside.  Without notice, Light of the World Church had been evicted!
The church met outside on the compound that day.  Singing and praising under the hot sun, Pastor Sam preached more powerfully than ever before.  We had to trust and believe.  Unable to announce where we would gather the following Sunday, the church joined hands in a large circle and prayed.
Nowhere to go... A circle of Prayer
June 23, 2013 - Evicted.  Nowhere to go.  Little money.  A circle of prayer….
(To be Continued)
A Church in Search - Part 3