Saturday, November 11, 2017

I've Persevered!



In my 6 1/2 years living in Africa, I’ve seen some really hard times. But this year has been different. A steady stream of one emergency, trial, and conflict after another has kept my spirit weary. Each one has not held the intensity or trauma that I’ve experienced in past years, but it’s been the never-ending tension that’s so hard. With at most a couple days of calm between each new struggle, the weariness of body, mind, and spirit has been overwhelming at times.



From confronting malicious lies about me among the teachers, to grieving over the consequences of sin in some co-workers. From having to be the vet for my kittens (including learning how to put in a sub-cut IV, give injections, and do post-op care), and burying the ones that died in my arms, to cleaning out the fridge that either switches off, spoiling all the food, or freezes all the fresh fruit and veggies. From dealing with sullen teenagers in class, to battling the spiritual warfare that imprisons many of my teachers in the belief that Allah is the same as God, or that Jesus was just a created ’Son’ to God. From fighting the new loneliness of life without my best friends amid the struggle of settling into a more isolated place, to the continuing health challenges that are a typical part of life in Africa. One thing after another surged up to drain my spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental energy.



Plus, settling into Kamonkoli is going much slower than I expected. While I lived in Mbale, I really did feel like it was my second home, and now driving from the supermarket in Mbale back to Kamonkoli still feels like I’m going to work even though it’s where I live now. My first living situation in the village was also far from restful. Constantly pulling out my bucket and bleach as I covered my nose and mouth with a scarf to wipe up the ever-aerosolizing black powder of bat feces that constantly drifted down from the ceiling to cover the surfaces and carpet in my bedroom and sitting room made it difficult to relax and rejuvenate in the evenings after work.


Most mornings I would wake up and have to just make the conscious decision to press on. Because of all of it, Romans 5 has become my theme…



“…we rejoice in our sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts…”


Suffering  >>  Endurance  >>  Character  >>  Hope  >> Experience of God’s Love


Just think of it…I get to experience God’s love BECAUSE of the hardship. The character that produces hope that He is working in me is what enables me to know and experience His love. But that character only comes through endurance! Without the chance to endure and watch my character be refined, I would be lacking the full expression and experience of His love for me.


I know what it is to wake up and teach purely out of obedience. I know what it is to drive to school pleading the whole time with Jesus to give me enough temporary relief from the stomach problems, weakness, and pain to be able to stand and teach for the next 3 hours. I also know what it is to watch Him do literal miracles so that I can teach my kids and teachers the message He supernaturally brings to my cloudy mind and stumbling lips.


I can’t say that the thrill of watching those miracles and being used by Jesus made the struggle any easier. The physical and spiritual exhaustion and pain stayed just as vivid…but I think that’s the whole point! Endurance isn’t necessary or even possible without the sting of pain and ache of struggle. The cost is huge. But so will be the reward! To take even one step deeper into intimacy with the God of this universe has to be worth absolutely whatever the cost. And it has been.


After a full 10 months of struggle, I have the gift of being back in the States until January. Every year I get to help HUM fundraise and connect with supporters across the US. It’s always a precious time for me as I get to remember and tell about all the ways Jesus has been at work in Kamonkoli. I know this time will be no different! I’m so grateful for not only the chance to see some of you, but also to recuperate and process everything that’s happened this past year. There were so many miracles and blessings tucked amidst the hard, and I can’t wait to share some of those stories with you in the coming weeks!



I love this picture because it's the very mist and cloudiness that make it beautiful. Isn't that just like God?!?


Friday, May 12, 2017

To Persevere

After I graduated from Moody, I thought I had learned pretty well what the word ‘perseverance’ meant. Don’t get me wrong, it sure did take a lot of perseverance to get through those 4 extremely busy, challenging, painful, and rewarding years. But this year ‘perseverance’ has a fresh meaning for me. Even before I moved to Kamonkoli, and ever since, one crisis or illness after another has reared its head. It’s been only a matter of days or hours between the dimming of one and the start of another.


From common colds to Malaria, this year has had a constant stream of different illnesses. I’ve struggled with my health for so much of my life (thankfully nothing life-threatening!), and often thought about why Jesus would allow me to be sick so much of the time. Especially when I’m stuck in the bathroom and need to be teaching a lesson in 10 minutes! :) But I do wonder if part of the reason is to allow me to experience the miraculous power of utter dependency on Jesus. I’ve had days when there was no physical possibility of me standing in front of a classroom for 3 straight hours, and yet there I was. Of course, there were also other days being stuck in bed and learning that Jesus’s work will actually continue on… with or without me!



Two weeks ago, the crisis was the death of my maternal grandfather. He’s been declining for quite a while, so his death was not unexpected, but still so hard. When I moved to Uganda, I did so with the expectation that I would lose my grandparents at some point while I was here. But knowing it is an inevitability doesn’t stop the pain of being so far away from your loved ones while they are grieving. I wanted so much to be with my mom and grandmother. To make lunch for them, reminisce, and process the grief together. Mostly just to be there for them.



Being so far away (and in a culture that grieves and processes death so very differently) has made his passing seem so surreal. More like a bad dream than an actual reality.



What did make it a bit more real was having to watch my kittens die in my hands. Because of a vet overdosing my cat, Bunny, and her four kittens with de-worming medicine, Bunny and two of the kittens died. These kittens had brought me so much laughter and entertainment in the first months of living in Kamonkoli. Then struggling over the course of a week to stop the seizures and keep them alive only to have to bury them in the garbage pit was so hard. Remembering the light leaving their eyes makes the reality of death that much more vivid, and honestly more painful as I remember my grandfather. How my heart cries out for the day when death and mourning are no more!!



Meanwhile, the daily challenges of Kamonkoli life have lost their newness appeal and left me with the mundane reality of doing life in the village.



Jerrycans have to be filled, carried, and emptied into my 10.5 gallon cans in both bathroom and kitchen. All 20 lbs of water must be hand ladled into the toilet reservoir before flushing every time. On the chance that I actually have water in my large storage tank outside, the water heater is switched on 30 minutes before a hurried, conserve-every-drop-possible shower. If that water is gone, then water (usually cold because heating up water on the stove is just one more thing between me and bed) gets ladled from head to foot one cup at a time.



Ants, beetles, moths, and thousands of fluttering ant wings need to be swept out of the house and courtyard every morning, and the mud tracked in from yesterday’s rain mopped up. I used to think there was a lot of dirt, dust, and mud in Mbale, but I have built up a whole new tolerance for it here! If something gets dirty, don’t worry. It can be washed (except….bat poop from carpets. That has shown a remarkable level of resistance)!



And all the while lessons have still demanded to be taught. Papers have piled up for grading. Lesson planning has plodded on. In the jumble of the mundane and the crises, I’ve searched for creativity and pleaded with Jesus for inspiration. But some days have felt like an accomplishment just to reach the end, much less be productive. 



Plus, when your whole job and reason for being here is to teach, train, and disciple people in God’s Word, it’s hard even to judge when you have or haven’t been productive. Do some teachers’ resistance to my teaching mean I’m being ineffective? Does a lack of participation and response in some of my classes mean that I’m not fulfilling my purpose here? It can be so hard to measure results in ministry! 


I don’t think there has been a season here in Uganda when I have so wanted to just be home. In the 6 years, there have been uncountable hard days, but in the majority of those I have still desired to be in Uganda. The feeling of homesickness is very unfamiliar to me, and I can’t say I like it very much! There have been so many ends of days when I’ve sat with tear-filled eyes, refusing to increase the ache by looking at pictures of home or loved ones, but still not being able to stop my heart from longing to be home.





So why do I stay? Because it’s my purpose. My calling. Because I know I am exactly where God wants me to be. Without that rock-solid conviction I might just be on the first plane back. Because of it, I have to choose to persevere.


And honestly, that perseverance is not a joyless one...




30 bright faces swarming around my courtyard just wanting to be with me brings joy

Small hands exploring the keys of my piano and small voices marveling at the lack of electricity required brings joy


A long talk with one of the nurses about our true identity in Christ over a dinner of chicken and chapati brings joy


Studying Scripture and marveling again at the nature of Jesus as both God and human flesh in one brings joy


Watching understanding start to light up in the eyes of my teachers after a long struggle to help them understand Jesus’s deity brings joy


Children begging for a chance to recite even just one of the verses they have memorized brings joy


Having Christine (our Ugandan sponsorship administrator) brave the rain to bring me a cup of porridge brings joy! (and having her live just next door!!)


But still…I have to fight to remember the joys. I fight not to let the cloud of disappointment and pain cover over all the blessings. I fight to hold the good square in front of my face so that the negative doesn’t block everything in my view. Some days I’ve really lost that fight. I’ve let the pain wrestle me flat to the ground, and while my body has continued the routines of going to work, teaching, planning, and problem-solving, my heart has been down for the count.


It’s one reason I stay quiet sometimes. I’m afraid that you’ll get tired of hearing about the struggles and pain….or even think that I’m really just being a baby about all of them and should be able to just deal with it. Either way, it’s my fear that keeps me from seeking your help and encouragement. But I’m here asking now….I so need your prayers! I know many of you faithfully and continually pray for me, for which I’m so grateful! Here’s some ideas of how you can pray for me now…but feel free to add your own too :)




  • For Jesus’s joy (that can defy any circumstances) to guard my heart and mind from the lies of the enemy.
  • For Jesus’s presence and voice to be vivid and sustaining. 
  • For endurance and patience in teaching even if I’m not seeing any results.
  • For my heart to really believe and experience the truths that my mind keeps preaching to it :) 
  • For physical healing and protection from illnesses (or supernatural strength to minister through them!) 
  • For the teachers and students to allow me to get close and cultivate deep, real relationships and not just superficial ones.

  • For the courage to continue fostering those relationships, even with the risks of betrayal and disappointment.
  • For Jesus’s supernatural wisdom and discernment for how to meet the physical and spiritual needs that are ever before me. 
  • For wisdom and patience in dealing with my housing situation.


To those of you who through prayer are like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’s arms in battle (cf Exodus 17) to me, thank you!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Living in the Village

I moved to the village. Well, as they say here, 'somehow' the village. As someone aptly noted, our office compound in Kamonkoli is "like town in the village." It’s not brick or mud huts with tin or thatch roofs. It’s not dirt floors, or pit latrines. It’s not cooking outdoors on charcoal stoves. It’s indoor plumbing, and normal (for here :) ) windows and doors. It’s the same furniture and decorations that I had in Mbale. It’s carpet in the bedroom, and a bathtub and shower.



My bedroom



But it is also hand carrying water in jerrycans. Because city water hasn’t reached us here in months so the only way to have running water is if the one and only firetruck in the region brings water to fill the tank. And even then, everything other than showering is done with jerrycans in order to conserve water.



It is learning that a toilet needs 10 liters of water (a half a jerrycan, or more than 20 lbs of water) in order to flush...and learning how many times you can use it in between flushes :)


It is the (worse than usual) power outages, and slow internet.


It is the challenge of making sure food in the freezer doesn’t defrost and spoil before power comes back.

It is dashing through the outdoor courtyard from the main section of my house to the kitchen and fumbling to open the padlock while dodging raindrops or the insects attracted by the security light. And then racing back again without said water and bugs falling in my dinner.


From my room, the distance to the kitchen seems so much greater in the rain!





It is the ongoing war against the stink of bat poop that had been pouring through the ceiling cracks (even onto my head while sleeping one night!) and saturating the carpets.




But I have so much to be grateful for.




I have people willing to climb up into the attic and fumigate for bats. And sweep up the many pounds of feces, insects, and dirt they've deposited. And collect the carcases of the bats once they’ve died. And I don’t have to be the one to do it!


I have people who will go fetch water for me when I’m too sick to go for it myself.


I have shower gel that smells just as sweet with cold baths as with warm showers.


I have people to help me wash clothes, sheets, towels, and everything else that can be so challenging to wash by hand!


I have a toilet that flushes without the flies, smell, and challenge of a squatty potty.


I have essential oils to diffuse in my bedroom to help manage the smells.


I have a miracle-car that I can just load my jerrycans in, drive to the orphanage property, fill from the well-water tap, and drive back home! Carrying them the 100 feet to the kitchen or bathroom isn’t anything compared to the miles that some walk for water!


I have a piano to enjoy, worship, and sometimes use to pound out my frustration :)





I have the home of a good friend just next door that I just pop in anytime.


And… I have 4 kittens born just after I moved that have kept me laughing, smiling, and quite entertained all these weeks!






I truly have so much.




So this has been the war in my heart these weeks…feeling the challenge, frustration, pain, and sickness that has come from these difficulties, but wanting so much to be grateful. It’s constantly reminding myself what conditions most of my children live in, and hearing over and over again the small voice of one of them that said “Teecha, you have a beautiful house here!” It’s fighting to see that beauty...without the smell coloring my appreciation for it.


But still, there are hours and days I’ve fought (and lost!) feeling sorry for myself. I’m reminded constantly of the conditions the Mary Slessor (The missionary who’s my life example and inspiration) endured and ministered effectively under. I know how spoiled I am compared to her situation. And I also know how many people would just love the chance to have as much as I do! But as many times a day as I remind myself of that, it's amazing how often I can still fall prey to discouragement and frustration.


I’ve tried consoling myself with the thought that once my house is built on the orphanage property, most of these things won’t be major issues anymore. I’ll have access to the generator when power goes out. I’ll be connected to the well water that is both unlimited and clean! I won’t have snakes running under my feet when I run to the kitchen for drinking water at night. I won’t have a bat colony in my ceiling. I’ve told myself time and time again, just push through these months, and one day it’ll be worth it. Many, many missionaries have made it through so much worse, and you can too! One day being close enough to the school for my kids to stop by afterwards for a tutoring lesson, or heart-to heart conversation, or a painting session will make everything worth it.


But that’s not good enough. I know it’s not good enough. It’s not enough to just promise to praise Jesus for what will be in the future. I need to praise Him now. Like Corrie ten Boom who learned to praise Jesus even for the fleas in a concentration camp (http://deeprootsathome.com/betsie-and-the-fleas/), I must praise Him for everything. And like Corrie, my heart cries, “How can I thank Him even for the bats?!?!?" But also like Corrie, I will (one day) come to discover the beauty and blessing that Jesus was bringing through that challenge. That’s His promise to me: all things (aka bats, water, power, cockroaches, malaria, typhoid, and even betrayal, gossip, and backbiting) will be turned into something to benefit me (Romans 8:28). Whether I discover that benefit this month, this year, or not until one day in heaven, I am confident it will be there. So I’m here begging Jesus to fill me with a spirit of thanksgiving, and give me an eternal perspective. I’m here begging Him to help me release my grip on what I've been trying to hold on to, and instead fill me with the joy of trading my temporary comfort for eternal glory. I’m learning yet again to offer the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). A praise that does not flow from something that costs me nothing, but rather exacts a sacrifice. A praise that defies all expectations and definitions of what is possible.


This praise that makes it possible to say wholeheartedly…


It is worth it.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whiplash


This is a post I wrote right after coming back to Uganda in November, but was never able to finish publishing it. I thought you still might like to read it :) Many of the situations and feelings are just as true coming back this week after Matthew’s wedding!




Whiplash is the best word I can think of right now to describe this past week. Well, whiplash without quite the level of pain that comes with actual whiplash :) It’s not exactly painful per-say to be tossed back and forth between two very different cultures and lifestyles, but it certainly is a challenge!


In the 2 1/2 months of being back in the States, I actively tried to fit myself back into American culture, values, and thought patterns. Some of that required active thought choices, and some of it was a more natural change. But public speaking and connecting with Americans requires me to get out of my African mindset and back into my American value system.


But now I find myself back in the thick of African life. My day guard, Issac, has a list of requests and problems to solve that he’s been waiting to address until I came back. A variety of repairs, changes, and decisions around the house and school have also been waiting for me to get back. It’s back into the swing of African living… like calling the electrician 6 times a day to be told each time “I’m on the way coming.” It’s a guessing game whether or not he will actually show up that day (and 6 weeks later the problems is still not fixed!).


Everyday I also remind myself not to get lost in my work or thoughts and make sure I greet every person I see. Greeting it a big deal here. It’s so easy for me to have an issue I need addressed by someone and jump right into the problem only to remember after a couple sentences that I haven’t properly greeted that person yet.


Right off the bat, everyone wants to figure out how much of my Lugwere and Luganda I remember or have forgotten while back in the States! So my ears and brain have to be back on full power just to understand what people are saying to me, and inevitably Luganda ends up popping out when I was asked a question in Lugwere, or vice versa. Thankfully my Ugandan accent is pretty steady and easy to slip back into.


Sitting properly is a big deal here too, and making sure knees are together and skirts are always at least to the knee whether standing or sitting is closely observed…so no more Indian style :(


I also came back to find that the main highway (which I hoped couldn’t get any worse) has been torn up even more than when I left! A large part of it is down to one lane that everyone tries to make into 2 lanes. This resulted in me nose to nose one day with a lorry stubbornly claiming the right of way and me having to back out into a wider area. Can I just say how much I wish I could be moved out to Kamonkoli already? :) :) My only comfort is that the roads will probably still be this bad in January, so I’ll be that much more grateful not to have the daily commute! :)


All of these small things throughout everyday life add up to quite a case of whiplash. A distinct feeling of disorientation pervades my days right now. My mind is in constant action trying to remind me how I should act, and what I need to do in this situation. All routines and auto-pilots are being reset again. And for some reason, I still find myself wondering why I feel tired! :)


But even though the differences between life in Uganda and American can be a challenge to adjust to, the incredible joys far outweigh the challenges!!


Like the way the whole school erupted in shouts of joy and welcome when they saw me driving up the first day! Or the number of hugs, jubilant smiles, and times I’ve heard “I missed you,” that have greeted me every place I’ve stopped. I love that hundreds of times since I got back, I’ve heard “Well be back!” It’s such a joy to be reminded of how much they love me back! I can’t imagine losing that. And if that means dealing with a case of culture-whiplash from time to time, I’m more than ok with that!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Whirlwind

What a whirlwind of a month! In anticipation of my move to Kamonkoli in January, I knew that I needed to be in Uganda these weeks, and boy have these weeks been full! Here’s some of the highlights of what I’ve been up too…


Time in the office after coming back gave me the chance to brainstorm and plan out some of the media projects we will use in fundraising next year. Our school fundraising video for this year has done well. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it now!


Andrew loved being a part of the video, and has come asking me several times this year if he’s going to be in the next one too! :) I will definitely be looking forward to introducing you to more of the kids that have stolen my heart, and I hope will steal yours too :)


I’ve also had the joy of multiple deep, genuine conversations with several dear ones here. Each time one of them trusts me enough to be open with their pain, joys, and innermost thoughts I am amazed again. Ugandan culture as a whole is so guarded with personal information. There is such rampant “Lugambo” or gossip here, that it’s hard to find someone you trust enough to share things that really impact your heart. Each time one of these dear people makes the decision to trust and confide in me, I know it is a work of the Spirit! I so treasure the opportunity to listen to their hearts and speak whatever truth Jesus gives me for them. I know that it’s often in the context of these deep relationships that change and healing take place. Pray for us, would you? I know I need change and healing just as much as they do, and in the beauty of Jesus’s ways I know that He can bring it to us through one another.



One of our partners, Orphans Heart had a team out here and hosted not only a day long women’s retreat but also a Christmas party for over 2,000 children in the village!

It was a crazy wonderful day that had been much anticipated by kids from all the surrounding villages. The promise of a tasty lunch and lots of fun to be had is certainly a major draw for everyone within walking distance!
One of the fun parts for me was helping cut the 20 twelve inch cakes into over 2,000 pieces. If you’re thinking American slices, obviously that’s not possible… but the kids were more than happy with their small square of cake and icing. They also enjoyed the lesson, crafts, small gift bags…and dance off!




The same week, we closed out our 6th school year at Genesis school with handing out report cards, final instructions for the kids and a gift of a plate and cup for the top students in each class. I’ll miss these kids like crazy until school starts again in late January! Until then though, I’ve got lots to do preparing for the coming year while at the same time moving!!



And this past week was full of starting to pack, getting things ready for a yard sale (a perk of living in equatorial Africa is having outdoor sales in mid-December :)), and hosting a Christmas party at my house for my coworkers at HUM! I loved having them over for cake, presents, and “christmas shopping” through a lot of the things I wanted to give out as I’m downsizing.


Yet again, I found myself saying goodbye to another dear friend. Callie has been my friend and faithful housemate these past 3 1/2 years but Jesus is moving her into another exciting season of life! She will be marrying her fiancĂ©, George, in the States in January. Callie’s written some about their journey here. I’ve loved being a part of their lives as their relationship has progressed and am thrilled for them. But I’m also not very thrilled about having to say goodbye.

                                                  photo credit: Hannah Elizabeth Photography


When I went through orientation before moving to Africa, they taught us how important saying goodbye well is for a missionary…probably because we have to do it so often. It seems like it would be so much easier just to bury my head in work and not think about it. Pretend like it doesn’t impact me. But each and every goodbye does hurt. Even when the words are so common they almost seem route…”stay in touch,” “I’m gonna miss you,” “It’s been great,” “Can’t wait for heaven, and more more goodbyes.” Still the pain of those goodbyes will push through my busyness and distractions and remind me again to grieve.


I know January also holds another goodbye. Goodbye to the house I’ve called home for 3 years. That’s the longest I’ve stayed in one place since high school. I know all my Colorado Springs military friends will understand that challenge. As much as I’m excited and looking forward to a new season of life in Kamonkoli, there’s also a degree of loss in changing seasons.



But word has gotten out in the village that I’ll be “shifting” there soon, and everyone seems really excited. I’m still praying for funds to come in for the house where I and 2 other girls will be living. So far, we’re about 23% of the way there! Once we have enough to begin building, it will take about 3 months for construction to be finished. In the mean time, we’ve found a couple possibilities for places for me to stay in the waiting. Our biggest challenge has been deciding how to store all the furniture and appliances from my current house until my new house is finished. Safe storage space tends to be pretty limited here :) I’m confident that we’ll have a good solution when the time comes. With so much change and transition in these past few months and the months to come, I know I will be so ready and excited to move into the new house when it’s done! I’ve learned that feeling settled in is a luxury in Uganda. It’s one I definitely long for and miss, but also one that I’m willing to sacrifice for the sake of those long conversations, joyous interactions, and hugs from my kiddos. This life certainly isn’t easy, but boy is it fulfilling!


In this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus left everything He had (family, home, control, safety, consistency, etc) in order to come be one of us. That momentous moment in small stable when the King of Kings became poor for my sake. He sacrificed it all so that He could be with me. Oh how I long to not take that for granted. The way I do most days.


And how I also long to do the same. To be not only willing, but also actively pursue sacrificing whatever I hold dear in order to bring the truth and light of Jesus’s presence to my people. Writing this from the States where I’m soaking up Christmas with my family before my brother’s wedding on the 30th definitely brings the sting of the sacrifice home. I know that in 10 short days I’ll be leaving them again. But I know the pain of the gift is what makes it so valuable. I remember when David bought the field from Araunah in 2 Samuel saying, “I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing." So whatever the cost… the goodbyes, the constant change, missing my nephew’s childhoods, distance from my family, the physical comforts…I will count them all as a appropriate price for the joy of obedience. I know that my greatest reward will be seeing my people enter more deeply into the presence and friendship of Jesus.


And that is exactly my prayer for each one of you too. Whether in the daily grind, or the festivities of the season, may you know and experience communion with Emmanuel in your every moment. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saying Goodbye Today

Today is the day my best friend is leaving Uganda for now. Jesus has called her to a new season of life and ministry back on the other side of the world. Even though I’m not in Uganda at this moment putting her on that plane, and waving goodbye through the tall glass windows, I’m still overwhelmed by the grief of that goodbye.




Natalie is the one who welcomed me to Uganda and taught me so much of how to survive (and thrive!!) in Africa. Even before I ever arrived, she made time to Skype me and give me packing tips (mostly what NOT to waste my luggage space on…thanks, Nat! :) ) She was with me during my first market experience, and the first one to give me tips on how to drive there. She pointed me to all the random places I could find things I was missing from the States (like dvd from the movie store, canned tomatoes, cheese, and even oreos!) She’s been a constant well of information and guidance….and in more than just food items :) :)

Nat and I during my first year

Overlooking Mbale during one of our adventures :)
Nat’s been a steady rock, and a kind but honest voice I can rely on. Jesus gave her that amazing gift of being able to say hard things in a way that I can both listen to and absorb well. Maybe that’s cause she’s seen me on some of my worst days and still loved me through them. Maybe it’s because she’s proven that no matter the tough conversation the day before, the games and fun to be had will always be there tomorrow! Maybe it’s because Jesus has taught her how to speak truth, but with incredible honor and grace. But probably it’s a combination of all of the above :)


We’ve walked through fire together, and through supernatural grace, pushed through situations that should have driven us apart. You know those friendships that you had to fight for to keep? They’re golden. And because of Jesus’s extraordinary favor, we have one of those friendships.


Like most friendships, there have been times we’ve been closer than others…and times that I’m just more willing to let her in than others. Sometimes that’s due to the stress and craziness of life hampering my emotional capacity to engage, and other times it’s just laziness. Many times its been fear based since her opinion means the world to me, and many times I’ve believed the lie that admitting to my real heart struggles will make her love me less. 





The truth is, establishing genuine, deep friendships with anyone requires a ton of intentionality and bravery. For me, living in a situation where people are constantly coming and going gives an additional factor to the challenge of establishing strong friendships. The luxury of living near close friends for years, and even decades, is one I have often envied many of those in my home town. Investing in friendship is always a choice, but sometimes that choice doesn’t seem worth the risk when I know the woman (precious and amazing though she might be!) might not be around for very long. It’s so tempting to keep things superficial and just not make the effort unless I think there’s a good chance that friend might stay for longer. Plus, the grief of saying goodbye to someone that has been that close is excruciating….and in Uganda everyone leaves. And who knows? Maybe one day the one leaving might be me. Only Jesus could really say.


I’ll be honest. I’m scared. I fight the fear daily that with my besties all leaving, I will be left without someone in Uganda willing to go deep with me. Vulnerability and raw honesty are some of the single most precious and elusive aspects of friendship that I both long for and fear. I know Jesus created us for community and connection. I know that interaction with other members of the body of Christ not only gives us the chance to minister to someone else, but also to grow together and be the iron that sharpens iron for each other. But the extent that we’re able to do that is usually dependent on how honest we’re willing to be with each other. And wow, is it hard to do!! Each moment of brutal transparency feels like an act of bravery that should be honored with a medal.


I’ve had those friendships in Uganda. I was extremely blessed with people who made it easy(er) to reach that level of friendship. But now they’re leaving my every-day life. We tell each other we’ll stay in touch, and it’s still possible to maintain long-distance friendships. But it’s hard. Things just aren’t the same as when you’re involved in each other’s every-day.


So I grieve the ending of a season. I’m here fighting to open my fists that are clenched around what was. And I’m fighting to believe and not just know that Jesus is big enough and good enough to not only maintain bonds across oceans, but also to provide new deep connections as well. I know that’s who He is, and I’ll keep fighting to believe it for myself. 




I love you Nat. Thank you for your incredible investment into my life! Here’s to many more years of us talking, laughing, and pestering each other :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Moving....

5 1/2 years of ministry in Uganda have been leading to this point….

When I first moved to Uganda I was doing language and culture study in Mbale, but after my first year there, Jesus made it abundantly clear that I was to join the team out in Kamonkoli for ministry. For a variety of reasons (including the fact that there wasn’t available housing), HUM and I decided that I would continue to live in Mbale and drive out to the village each day.


The view from my current porch

Jesus has abundantly blessed my time in Mbale! I’ve stayed in a number of different houses, but this latest place was my favorite. I got to be there for 3 whole years (so amazing after moving 5 times in 2 1/2 years!), and had over a dozen people live with me in these years. Callie has been my faithful housemate even from before this house, and such a huge answer to prayer. She’s an ideal housemate, and has been a wonderful teammate as we’ve taught so many newbies coming into our house to live in Uganda how to do life in Africa. Managing that flow of people in and out as well as constantly trying to find new people so we can afford the rent has been a challenge for both of us, but with her help and the grace of Jesus, these years have been a blessing. Callie will soon be marrying George and coming back to the States (check out her story and pictures here!), and while I am so thrilled for her, I am also sad for me. Losing friends is a constantly hard part of ministry overseas, but it's especially hard with the really near and dear ones. Life is about to look a whole lot different without her.

Callie (second from right) and I with beloved
past-roommates, Jess and Gloria, and other friends

Callie on the left with me and Natalie


Last year, the HUM board asked me to consider moving out to Kamonkoli, and throughout this year I have constantly sought Jesus’ will for me and the ministry He has gifted me with. There have been many challenges to me moving out to the village, but over this year I have seen one obstacle after another removed. I have been left with all positive reasons for moving from Mbale to Kamonkoli, so we have decided that as soon as my lease for this house is up on January 31st, I will be moving out to the village!


The only challenge that still remains is…..a house! At the moment there is no appropriate housing for me to be in long-term, and we are needing to build a place for me and other long-term missionaries that hopefully will be coming soon. I know… having the actual house would seem to be step one for me to move to the village :) But I’ve talked with Jesus about that too, and I am convinced that He is eager for me to be living in Kamonkoli and He’s got the whole situation covered.


Our contractor has given us an initial estimate of $67,000 to build this house on the HUM property. When Katherine and I were designing the house, we were anticipating closer to $45-50,000, so when that estimate came in, I was a bit shocked. And discouraged. My heart belief (even though I couldn’t have verbalized it at the time!) was that Jesus could have handled providing for $45-50k, but surely $67k was too much for Him. Ha! I love how ridiculous the lies that we believe sound when we actually say them out loud! :) You see, I know conceptually that Jesus always funds the work and ministry He has led us into…and I know intellectually that He’s an ENORMOUS God who possesses all the resources of the universe and can feed 5,000 from just two fish and five loaves of bread… but when my own need is in front of my face, my real heart beliefs are exposed. And I’m so grateful that Jesus is calling me into a place where once again, I must bring my fears to the feet of His cross and say, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”


So that’s where I am right now: choosing every day to believe that Jesus is going to work an INCREDIBLE miracle in the next 4 months in order to provide this house that has already been intentionally designed, prayed over, and dedicated to ministry and the kingdom work.


Ever since the decision was made for me to move to Kamonkoli, Jesus has been filing my mind with all kinds of ideas and dreams for ministry within that house! The sitting room is designed for a play place and study station where I can have kids over to do homework, play, and develop deeper relationships with them after school (instead of needing to make the 40 minute commute home immediately after class!). I also have a prayer room (or War Room!) with outside access so that I and other people from the ministry can come find a quiet, set apart place for prayer and communion with Jesus.


My prayer room right now...soon to be replaced!


While living in town, having teachers, friends, and my children over to my house has been a logistical challenge with the distance and limited transportation options. Now, I’m greatly looking forward to being in a place where I can welcome people into my home! My hope is also that living in the community and being constantly surrounded by Lugwere (unlike in Mbale where the languages are Luganda and Lugisu) will also help me complete my language studies faster! All in all, there are so many things to look forward to about living in the village, and I can’t wait to see how Jesus is going to conquer every last one of the challenges before I can move.


I firmly (and constantly choose to!!) believe that Jesus will work a miracle to provide this home. I get to participate in the miracle by constantly praying for it, and I would like to invite you to be a part of this miracle as well! Will you pray for this house to be fully funded and quickly (but excellently!) built in time for me to move into it on January 31st? Will you pray over each of the bedrooms, kitchen/dining room, sitting room, bathrooms, laundry room, and prayer room that they would be filled with the joy and peace of Jesus? That they would be a safe haven for so many people to come and experience the love of Jesus and grow to know Him better? Will you pray that God will surround it with His protection and blessing? I know Jesus might show you even more things to pray for, and I’d love to hear about those! Just leave a comment, or use the new “Contact Me” box on the right hand side!


And finally, if Jesus would lead you to participate in this miracle in a financial way, any checks can be written to HUM, designated for “missionary housing,” and mailed to PO Box 620727 Littleton, CO, 80162. Or for online giving, click here and enter your amount at the top and "missionary housing" in the Other/Special Instructions box just above the payment information.

I can't wait to tell you about the ways Jesus will answer our prayers along the way!