Friday, December 20, 2013

light for the next step

So I just held my 10 year old, us both in tears.  
She realized the imminence of our departure and having only one more full day with my parents to herself to do nothing else but all kinds of fun projects that the “Grands” are so good at.
She felt paralyzed, and not able to know what the very next thing she was supposed to do-- actually was.  So I cried too and told her what that next moment held, and that we had to get through the moments one at a time.  Tonight is a sleepover with The Grands, so the next moment for her was to snuggle next to Gran in the backseat.

The gifts in life that she (we) experience are so indescribably amazing.  Missing a field trip to a park due to bad weather ultimately does not compare to our World History field trip to London together.  Or our search for snow landing us together on the ski slopes in Colorado.  Or spending hours making a wooden jewelry box together with Grandad…sewing a doll dress together with Gran…making a gourmet ‘meal’ for their uncle from items collected out of the front yard.  Going to our school co-op together, beside the flowing Nile River.  Showing the delight of bubbles to Ugandan children who had never played with them before.
Those things are true—and many more!
But the debilitating reality of spending the next 3 or so years away from our family puts us in a tail spin for a bit.

If you love one place, do you hate the other?  How can I miss one place but not want to leave the other?

During a conversation with my sister-in-law 3 years ago—as we were preparing to leave then as well—I realized something.  Our calling and choice causes us to sacrifice things much more important that Walmart (ie time and experiences that bond our lives with family) while at the same time my choice demands that our family that lives in the US sacrifice us as well.  And they likely didn't choose that.

starting the 50th year together, celebrating 49!
I don’t like it (I dare not say “it’s not fair!”). 

It only gets harder, not easier. 

It doesn’t help me when I’m crying with my daughter, to think of how many people have done this already.

So that’s when all I can find comfort in, is that it’s ok to only have enough emotional strength for the next step.  That it’s ok to cry in front of my kids—the reality is hard for them the same as hard for me and we will walk through these next steps together.

Isaiah 42:5-7
5 This is what God the LORD, YAHWEH, says-
       He who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
       who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness, in accordance with the righteous purpose;
 I will take hold of your hand.
 I will keep you and will make you to be a pledge and promise for the people,
 and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Were these words to Isaiah, or telling of the Messiah to come, or perhaps even reach through the ages to apply to you and me?

The next weeks for us hold dear and precious days.  The holidays bring family together, and we will relish every moment.   But that’s jolted here and there by hugs and tears of saying goodbye again.  And mental and paper tallying of estimation of shoe sizes for the girls for 3 years, and (not counting house-hold furnishings) can we reduce what we need and want for 3 years into those 12 trunks?  Am I prepared for my 9 & 10 year old kids to come back at ages 12 & 13?

I have spent so much time and energy planning and preparing for the road ahead.  I have figured out how many toiletries I need to take of this or that x 4 people x 3 years.  
And now, I am reminded by  my precious girl that we need just light for the next step sometimes.

I ran across some words that I don’t know where they came from, sounds like A Voskamp:

“You are doing something great with your life – when you’re doing all the small things with His Great love.
You are changing the world – when you are changing one person’s world.
You aren’t missing your best life – when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.

Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.
It’s about realizing– Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place – wherever you are, right where you are, dirt road Africa or side street America.

Because it isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love. 

Radical isn’t as much about where you move – but about looking into the face of Jesus – and letting Him move you where you are.”

tail spin - roller coaster - multi personality  season of life...

At the time when we give gifts to many of those we love, and ultimately remember and celebrate the Life who gives me life.

One moment at a time...

Monday, October 28, 2013

a day of rest...

Well, yesterday, Sunday, I had a day of rest.  Literally.  I didn't do much!
In the evening I started feeling guilty for not getting anything done.  And, someone I love reminded me I needed rest and that it would make me feel ready to get back to it.   Hmm, wise words.

So, the alarm this morning started the get-ready-for-school thing.  It's Red Ribbon Week with fun things to dress up in at school to get conversations going about the purpose of the Red Ribbon
Red Ribbon Week is a United States education and prevention initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. During the official Red Ribbon Week -- celebrated from October 23rd to 31st of every year --, the initiative promotion encourages students nationwide to make a pledge to live drug and alcohol free.
The red ribbon became the symbol for prevention in order to reduce the demand of illegal drugs in around 1985.
This is similar to one wearing a pink ribbon in honor of breast cancer awareness.

And, today the dress up at school was SHINE BRIGHT (wear neon colors)

Having Daddy paint neon fingernail polish on his not-so-little little girls has to be a highlight of the early morning, right?

Since I have not written here in 5 months, maybe I'll try a quick catch-up...

In May we welcomed a newly graduated Elementary Education (& Special Ed certified) teacher to our small home-school co-op.  She has done a great job of loving on and guiding the kids at our school, as well as beginning her own ministries to children in a baby home for children with disabilities, and a Saturday Kids' Club teaching through some main stories of the Bible.
June had another new group of students at seminary, another month of school for the girls...  and a highlight retreat!  A group of volunteers with friends in Jinja had a plan.  They wanted to include in their trip to Jinja, a small retreat for missionary wives and their children.  So, they had fun things for the kids to do in the daytime.  And we ladies had refreshing time, and some fun crafts they brought with them too!

July started off with fireworks for a big 4-0 party!  It was a full month that didn't stop there!
We were preparing to leave Jinja for our Stateside Assignment of 5 months.  Wow, not an easy task to get things organized to keep the dogs happy and fed, house security people prepared to be paid while we are gone, things put up and cleaned up for a great house-sitter to have a home of her own...

Then off to a great week at our Annual General Meeting in Kenya - cool weather, friends from around the region, and *great meeting times too, right?

The girls both got opportunities to face any fears and play some music for our mission family!

After that week, we were off for our "Medieval Times Field Trip" that led us to London.  :)

 St Paul's Cathedral, begun in 1675 actually just after the Middle Ages time period, but we didn't mind that.  We had studied a bit about the architecture of the early Gothic churches and how the arches developed and improved the structures during the Renaissance so that walls could be thinner, and allow for windows that could let light in.
The Tower of London was begun in the 1080s...

The "Traitors Gate"    weebee-jeebees.

THE  Rosetta Stone
Amazing -and the girls could identify 2 of the types of script (not read, of course)

And we didn't mind passing through the Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the British Museum

 I was so proud of my girls...when we went through the ancient Mayan and Aztec rooms, the (real) glyphs were amazing to see!  And, the girls were able to recognize some of the letter sounds since they had made their own names into glyphs during our Middle Ages study of those cultures.

                                    I THINK this says "Mi-si-tee"
And the end of July came with another celebration!

Could August compete with the adventures we had just had?

The Ross Perot Museum with cousins...and many more fun days playing with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and...!
Rangers game with PawPaw and a neighborhood pool with a friends.  Wow, neighborhood pools have changed since I was a kid...

Fun last of summer days at Gran & Grandad's

 Their favorite driver- Uncle Troy.  After several runs, Karis figured out how to turn them all over (after doing it by accident and finding out they were all ok)
So, she thought it was fun to do it again, since they were all ok!  "just" hop back on!

Soon, September was upon us, and a busy new pace to schedule in the U.S.
And a friendly reminder left behind on the London train from dear friends...

And to be honest, the shock of U.S. television has been great.  We used to enjoy watching commercials to catch up on the life of Americans.  Now, I turn the TV off when I can or at least change channels.  It is disgusting what is now normal commercials during kid appropriate shows.
Anyway, a favorite of ours is the cooking shows.  And, one weekend the girls were quite busy at Gran & Grandad's with picking fresh produce, cooking soup and sauteing, to present a fresh meal...of sorts!

Yes, I think I did need that day of rest...
       I haven't mentioned anything of why this time is called "Stateside Assignment"...  I'll save that for another day.

"...through the eyes of parents and two growing girls..."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kony victims in Uganda rebuild and spread hope

Kony victims in Uganda rebuild and spread hope

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Amazing leaders trained at UBS

The past week we spent some time on the road, specifically to hear some stories of a few leaders across Uganda (and beyond).  We wanted to hear about their lives, and specifically if or how Uganda Baptist Seminary has been helpful to them in ministry.

These were my reflections after spending time at the far southwest tip of Uganda...just minutes from Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.  We talked to leaders from each of those 3 countries who have...what word to use?...stories.

These are not pleasant stories to read or think about.

Our host left our 2nd day to teach at a conference elsewhere. So we have her house and her worker to ourselves. Our first day there, she was supposed to meet with 3 pastors, but only 2 showed up. Not long before she left the next day, the missing pastor showed up.
The M23 rebels saw this pastor's neighbor who had just received the dowry for his daughter- money, goats, a cow. So last Tuesday they stole it all and cut the owner's head off. (The neighbor). The next day when it was being figured out, the rebels convinced someone in police to arrest the neighbor for it- which everyone knew did not/could not. So the pastor went to jail. Someone let him out. Rebels got mad, want him back in. So that is why he didn't come to the original meeting. We can't communicate at all with him- he sat in the living room all afternoon. Then he went back to where the man worker stays. Seems this pastor is staying here for some ? time. I guess today he is sort of hiding out? Says his family is safe, but he is not.

We are so shielded from this stuff in our home in Jinja. Seems so far away. But now this is in 'our' compound and I start hoping that key people don't find out...

The youth we've encountered have given such a different impression this time- stare like normal, but laugh at us, point and laugh, follow us out to pit latrine and laugh at us. The young children don't smile- of course they are mesmerized by Karis & Sophia. A foreigner in this area is strange enough.  But a child mzungu?  Amazing.  And there is no rudeness in unabashed staring here, it seems.

The rumor in town is that the Ug army are coming here next month, along with the first in history UN army. The M23 rebels have gone thru the villages telling people they will give them pangas, knives etc to fight against the army. The people want the army, not the rebels. By the rebels have warned they will slaughter the villagers if they don't fight against the army.   And everyone knows they will.
So then, I wonder if news reports that blame this or that group have ANY idea what is really going on. These people are addicted to evil, and being this close makes me feel uneasy.
There is a sorting camp here - people are flooding here to be sorted in to which refugee camp they are placed in. Our host said the one she went in not too far has 50 thousand people. And the ones fleeing do NOT want to be in a camp as conditions are so terrible, women and girls are not safe there either.

The message of grace and mercy and forgiveness takes on a whole new difficulty that we Americans know nothing about. Nothing.
Yesterday I felt as if the youth find us so foreign that they perhaps think we have no feelings or can't discern their contempt despite the language barrier.   Then I think that perhaps it is many of THEM who are so calloused to not have or allow feelings. How else do you survive a place so used to this tribal and rebel fighting? For more than 20 years.

This place makes my 'mother' side afraid.
We are indeed helpless. So the beauty of the Creator's landscape, the passion of these pastors, wells up deep tears of awe of indeed God's grace in this place. Even video can not give a real picture of these roads along the base of the volcanic mountains. Pastors walk often an hour or more, church members do the same, to meet together.
Yes, I did think George needed a strong dirt bike. But seeing how many times his personal cell phone rings (we estimated 40 times a day), how many people show up to speak and get guidance from him, how many other pastors respect him, and driving some of the roads in the rain, makes me even more sure that gift was a true blessing to this whole area.

I am near this place, and still I can not really understand or even want to remember their stories. In one ear and out the other seems the only way to cope with some of the horror stories.

We are here to listen to stories- and hearing how being able to go to the peaceful Jinja, get the training, and then bring it back here is what encourages some to keep on. And meeting some local pastors of smaller churches and hearing how the UBS students come back and train them here: this is the real and active and live picture of 'each one reach one'. But in this case, our goal is not just one. UBS will reach and train about 500 leaders this year. These leaders live in huts, many with no electricity, having to get every drop of water from a tap in some central location and carry it every day back home in jugs- well, the women & children get the water. I see the pastors' shoes with holes, the children with no shoes at all. Because they LIKE this way? How can anyone not want to invest in these amazing people?  How can anyone not realize these leaders are exactly where they need to be, where many foreigners can not effectively go?  THIS is as indigenous as it can get.

And light in these dark places is light indeed.

So this pastor sitting outside quietly, what will he do? How long will be stay? Will this trouble fade so he can go back home to his family?   He is not in some far away land I see through a tv or picture. I am looking at HIM.


Another leader who graduated from UBS traveled from his nearby country.  He is a well respected leader there, and is also now an adjunct professor at UBS.  Some of his story he told:
The genocide came when he was 15. He got separated from his parents and taken away with a large group to be killed. He decided that he must run away right when they were marching. Others ran after him, also risking for freedom. The ones behind him shielded the bullets, and as they all fell into the ditch they were trying to get to, those who were killed fell on top of him in the ditch. He knew he had to stay there, and in the afternoon it began to rain. He said the blood if those above him ran down with the rain. After darkness, he got out of the ditch and walked 16 km to a village where they cut the ropes that tied his hands behind his back.
He knew that his entire village was slaughtered. So, after some time he became a street kid. A Muslim boy befriended him and asked him to come in their home. The M father said he would put him back in school and provide for him, but he must become a M. This young man came from a Christian background, and that day he knew he could not leave God.
Amazingly, 6 years later he found both of his parents.  He realized that he had been a street kid for so long while he still had parents.
He said he realized then that the struggles he passed thru were to make him who he is today, to make him a stronger person.

The pastor who slept here last night is from about 20 km from here. The rebels went thru his village this week, and George said already many of the pastors from the Association have called to say that their churches are receiving people from that village who have fled and don't want to go to a refugee camp.

Another current student from a neighboring country is  sitting out on the porch telling his story. He is from DRC and began a church in a camp near Goma. He is young, and a young lady has come with him- the one he has chosen to sometime be his wife. He has talked about the training he gets at UBS is helping to save him from many false doctrines and know how to encourage the people and even train them.  A few months ago, he told us that food relief was coming in, but there was no fuel to cook the food on for the several thousand people.  They could not go back to their village areas.  Some time ago, the rebels came through his village.  They did not want to use their few bullets, and said the village had too many people in it.  They had the mothers and children watch as they used hammers and other tools on every man in the village, including this man's father.

Today, Anthony traveled to another area in Uganda that was ravaged by Kony and his rebels.  He spoke today to a new church member of a pastor trained at UBS.  The pastor has recently gone back to his home district as it has become safe again to try and start life again.
This woman is one of the 'wives' of Kony.  She is left with 2 of his children, and the further reminder of those years every time she needs to use her hands.  Her fingers were all cut off years ago.

I hear these stories and want to forget them, and not tell you about them as they are not pleasant.

But there are things going on today in our world that we need to know about.  
We need to know how insignificant many of our complaints can be.
We need to know how great the things are which we take for granted as standard and due to us.
We need to know that the church around the world looks different around the world--and yet ask if there are ways we can be more productive?

How can we impact these far away places that most of us will never set foot in?

One way is by believing in and helping in the training of nationals who live the culture, speak the language, and can impact their own people with a message founded in grace.  Not ONLY a simple spread of "Jesus loves you"  THOUGH THAT IS A NECESSARY PART!  But a deep foundation of Truth that can stand the storms these men and women and children go through day to day.

These leaders must have a place where they can wrestle through the concepts of grace, and forgiveness, and mercy, and salvation, and laying down one's life, and twisted or false teachings with colleagues and teachers.

In this country, loud speakers (literally) are all around luring anyone into what seems pleasant and beneficial to self.

I for sure don't have all the answers. But we can NOT give up the fight of training in those things of The Light.  And of having a relatively safe place to do so.

...find those who are trustworthy to pour into, so they can also find yet others...

Random thoughts...

You may have seen before that we meet with a group of internationals on Sundays--outside.
We were meeting in the yard of the pastor, but we moved not long ago to a rented property that used to be an outdoor restaurant.
A few Sundays ago, we were busy getting prepared for one of the girls to play an instrument with the worship team.  I thought of so many contrasts around me.
-Trying to find a shady spot so I didn't get sunburned while at church.  Not being under tree branches that birds favor is also a bonus.
-Moving mats around so that the neighborhood children could sit (an allow chairs for adults as we have too few chairs until the kids go to Children's Church)
-Looking between my girls sitting calmly--waiting for the timing of the song one was helping in--and the children on the mat with no shoes.  One of them spent the worship time trying to squeeze jiggers out of his toes.  If you are so inclined to learn more about jiggers (not chiggers) a friend here in Uganda made a YouTube video of it.  You can see it here.

Last Sunday while out of town, the church service turned out to be a special Children's Service.  It lasted 4 1/2 hours.

And I wonder about us all getting used to church in our homeland in a few months...

My eldest wrote out some questions as she thinks about living in the Homeland this fall...they included:
-what shoes do you wear to school?  (here my girls wear flip flops that are taken off and left at the door to prevent mud from tracking in)
-what shoes do you wear to church?
-what music do you listen to?  (mine have never heard of the pop stars there)
-what toys do you play with? (last time we perused a toy aisle was about 3 years ago)
-what toys do you wish you had?
-what do you do/play with your friends?

We will spend 3 days in London on our way back to the Homeland, and are beginning to plan the adventures of those days.  The  girls said that only other countries have interesting and cool things.  When reminded of the safaris she has been on, one conceded that things seem more interesting when they are not in your normal place that you are used to.

I have added a hymn book to most mornings...the girls recently heard the word "HYMN" and did not know the meaning or understand a definition.   Thus the realization I need to teach them some hymns...but wonder how many are even sung these days?

I attended a meeting of Children's Church teachers.  We rotate through the weeks, so only teach every few weeks.  One issue we are having in our new location is the neighborhood moms seem to be walking their elementary kids who have their baby siblings on their backs, the moms push the kids into the gate, and leave.  What to do with the dozen or so babies who come with only their elementary sibling to take care of them?  Who do they belong to?  Who will take care of them when the sibling wants to take part in an activity or game?

Well, my random thoughts...


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