Saturday, November 21, 2009

And the tears flow

I've been looking at pictures of Uganda. I know that probably doesn't surprise you, but what might is that I don't really look at them too often. While I was at school, I didn't reminisce too much since I was way too busy. Now, I'm so busy talking about Uganda, it is rare that I get a moment to really remember my time there. This time, I've been going through my pictures choosing ones to use in my presentations at churches and for my display board. Wow, those were some incredible trips!!! So many faces with so many stories stared at me as I clicked through those pictures again and again. Rose, my translator of several years and African Sister. Justine, my school team partner and singing buddy. Joseph, another favorite translator and fellow keyboardist. All of my muzungu team members through the years. Face after face of people who professed faith in Jesus for the first time with me. It's overwhelming. The Lord has poured His blessing out on me year after year through each of those trips. Remembering all the incredible moments definitely makes me long to go back... tonight. But I have to remind myself, it won't be just like that everyday once I'm there fulltime. I will have my share of difficulties, conflict, and challenges. I can't even begin to imagine what it will really be like actually living there. But I do have a wealth of memories. And I pray that one day when I'm discouraged and frustrated with the ministry, or with the people, I will remember. I will remember what a privilege it is that the Lord chose me, Melanie, of all people, to be His servant to the people of Uganda. Those precious, beautiful people whose faces now bring me to tears.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Here we go!!

My budget's a go!!! This is a big piece that is finally in place so now I can start contacting pastors and mission boards to set up meetings. I've finished designing my prayer cards and trifolds, and I'm working on finishing up my introductory letter that I'll send out by email and snail-mail. Basically I can throw myself full-time into deputation now! I'm a little bit nervous, but a LOT bit excited! :) I can't wait to see what the Lord will do with me and through me!

Right now, I'm at the missions conference at Frontier School of the Bible, and was blessed to lead a workshop on single woman missionaries. Least to say, I've been stretched a bit beyond my comfort zone, but it has also been a tremendous blessing. The girls here have been so encouraging, and the Spirit has been working! I've had some wonderful conversations about deep and at times difficult subjects. I have been reminded over and over again how hard this life can be, but at the same time how much greater the grace of our God is. Please pray that I will stay sensitive to the Spirit and speak only what would please Him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally...part 2.

Ok, here's the personal post :)

After my ministry trips, my family and I took our annual trip to Vail, CO for a family vacation. Our family has gone up to Vail every year for as long as I can remember, and I was finally able to join them for the first time in 4 years. Mom did end up getting sick near the beginning of the trip, and was sick for most of it. Partially because of that, we ended up mostly just staying around the condo and resting. It was wonderful. :) I got a whole week just hanging out with my family and recovering from the travel the previous weeks. On the trip back, I started feeling bad myself and ended up with a full blown sickness. I think I must have caught something else on top of my original cold, because I ended up in bed for 7 days. I haven't been that sick since last fall semester, but it didn't seem nearly as bad with my wonderful mother close by to take care of me. There is absolutely no comparison between being sick at school and being sick at home! I almost didn't mind it...ok, well maybe I did a little :)

Just as soon as I was starting to feel better and get up and around, my mom started feeling worse again. She was in so much pain, she actually went to the doctor! He told her she needed to have her gall bladder out, and a couple hours later, she was in surgery. The surgery went very well, but it was a good thing she had her gall bladder removed, because the doctor said it was mostly narcotic and very infected. It was a great surprise and relief to us all that they released Mom to come home that night. Since then, she's been healing. She is recovering quite well, and while she doesn't have 100% of her energy back yet, she's coming along nicely. While she was in bed recovering, it was left to me to play mommy to the rest of the family. After cooking, shopping, and cleaning for them, I was more than ready to give Mom back her job when she was ready!! I have a new appreciation for my amazing mother! I've always known she was super-woman, but after trying to fill in for her for just a week, I think she's even better than super-woman! :)

Now life is starting to get back to normal...well, as normal as life can be on deputation :). We'll just have to see what's around the next bend....

Finally... part 1.

My friends, I am so sorry I have been so negligent in keeping you updated! These past several weeks have been absolutely crazy! I'll try to recap a couple things, but I think I'll divide it into 2 posts: personal and ministry.

So here's the ministry part:

I was so blessed to take several trips throughout the month of October, including ones to Utah and Grand Junction, CO. Tentmakers had their annual field conference in Utah in which all their missionaries in the area come and share what the Lord has been doing in their ministry. We also had several missionary guests from other ministries come and share what they are involved with as well. What a blessing it was to fellowship with other missionaries of like mind and vision! It was also a privilege to get to meet some of the board members of TBM in person for the first time! I've spent so much time on the phone with some of them, it was a relief to finally have a face to put with the voice :) I was also blessed to share my vision and calling to Uganda with everyone and received no end of encouragement and affirmation. I am so thankful for these times of encouragement along the deputation road. I have found it is easy to become discouraged with the pace when I am eager to be in Uganda, but I am so grateful for the extra push these past trips have given me.

My trip to Grand Junction was for the regional IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) conference. As you may remember, I attended the national convention in June, and this was for the Rocky Mountain region. This one was especially key for me to meet pastors around Colorado where I will be doing the majority of my deputation. It was with no small trepidation I went to the conference, but I met so many welcoming and kind people, I was greatly encouraged yet again!

After living at Moody for 4 years and seeing the same people day in and day out, my life now is quite a change! From the very first weeks of moving back home, I have been meeting and developing friendships with new people. Even at my home church, after being away for so long, there are so many new people to get to know. It definitely has kept me thinking and evaluating myself constantly. Whenever we meet new people, I believe the natural feeling is to want to make the best first impression. So when I walk into a convention and am expected to make a good impression with everyone I talk to, it is very easy to slip into a performance driven mentality. This is when I find it so easy to worry not about how I am pleasing the Lord, but how I am impressing the people around me. I recognize that this is a pride issue, and I would ask for your prayers, as it is my true desire to act from a desire to please God and not man.

More good news is that I have submitted my proposed budget!! It took a great deal of work to put together, but it's done and just waiting approval. As soon as I have the go ahead on that, I can finish my printed materials and start sending out letters. The Tentmakers Board meeting is in less than 2 weeks, and I'll be presenting my final budget and ministry plans then.

I will be speaking at the Frontier missions conference on single women in missions. What a topic! It is one that I have thought and researched for several years now (for obvious reasons ;) ) but putting together a presentation on it will be quite the task! I would appreciate your prayers for clear thinking and a spirit sensitive to what the Lord wants me to say.

I think that gives you at least a basic understanding of what's been happening ministry wise and what's to come in the immediate future. Thank you for all your prayers and support! I couldn't do this without the people of God standing alongside me. Blessings!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

News

I have news!! It's been a long month with lots of waiting... and more waiting... and more waiting... :) I think I must be a very impatient person, because it seems the Lord is working extra hard to teach it to me lately. I pray I'm learning!

So now to the news... As you know, I've been waiting for Mama Aidah to come to Denver for her daughter's asthma treatments. She and Winnie were here for 2 weeks during which they were at the hospital every weekday. The doctors were able to figure some things out for Winnie, giving her some good tips for management as well as supplying her with Acid Reflux medicine to take home with her, which should help control her asthma as well.

I was finally able to meet with Aidah on Saturday! We sat down and talked through all the particulars of my living situation and ministry plans then took her and Winnie shopping in the afternoon so they could pick up the items they needed before leaving the country on Monday. So here's what we've decided, Lord willing:

I would be living with the Ogengas in a living area sectioned off from the rest of the house. It's a small bedroom with an attached bathroom and small living room. This means that I'll have plenty of privacy while still having the interaction with the family in the house. It also means that I have my own bathroom with a shower and flush toilet and my own water tank! The room has a padlock on it, for which I will have the key and all my personal items including my laptop will be secure. The whole living situation is really better than ideal! I am so grateful that the Lord seems to have seen fit to break me in gently :0)

As far as ministry goes, the plan is as follows: I would be working at Covenant Primary School teaching the Bible and memorization classes. Each grade memorizes a passage each week, and I would be doing a study on each verse and then helping them memorize it. Each grade recites their verse at the chapel on Friday, which I would also be teaching. As many of you know, I grew up in Awana, and memorizing God's Word is a passion of mine. I'm so excited to help these precious kids better understand God's Word and hide it in their hearts!

In addition, I would be a part of the evangelistic team that goes out into the villages to present the gospel in the outlying schools. We have done this in the past during our church planting missions, and I'm looking forward to doing even more followup after the summer programs.

Finally, I will be going to the different hostels in Mbale to do Bible studies with the youth. Youth from the villages come into Mbale for school, and board at the hostels during the week. This allows me the opportunity to meet with them in the evenings for evanglism and discipleship.

For the first year I will be doing intensive language learning and inculturation. Many Ugandans do speak English, but for speaking in the schools as well as just living around town, I really want to be able to share God's word in their heart language. I will be learning Luganda, a tribal Bantu language that is very common througout the whole of Uganda. Since there are not any offical lanugage schools for me to learn Luganda, I will have a language helper to come every afternoon to help me learn the language. Living with the Ogengas provides a wonderful opportunity as well since the family speaks Luganda in the house, so I will have complete immersion into the language. Living with the Ogengas will also be a blessing as they can teach me the culture from the perspective of Ugandans who also understand Western culture and thought very well.

Now that I have a ministry plan in place, I just need to finish up a couple details for my budget and I'll be able to start travelling to churches. The past couple months have been wonderful for resting and recovering from my demanding years at Moody, but I can definitely say I'm ready to get busy!!

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. I know I couldn't do this without all your love and prayers!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CAR!

Good news!! Our prayers have been answered! I was given a Buick Skylark on Saturday! I have to admit, I'm still getting used to the idea that I actually have my own car. :) After months of praying for the Lord to provide just the right one, He did! I love to watch the way He works! The car itself is even better than I expected or even hoped for. I am truly loved by God. Isn't that just a remarkable statement? I forget too often how much my Lord loves me, so I'm trying to say it differently each time just to make myself think about the truth. For some reason, "I am loved by God" means more to me than "God loves me." I also love, "I am the beloved of the Lord." So incredible! And on that beautiful thought, I will sleep.

Thank you Lord, for loving me so abundantly. Thank you for the practical reminders that You care more about every detail of my life than even I could. Thank you for Your incredible provision and unfathomable agape for this one little child of Yours. I love you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Uganda update

As you know I've been trying to put together details of my ministry in Uganda. I recently talked to Mama Aidah (the pastor's wife I'll be living with) on the phone. She said she'll be coming to Denver at the end of this month to bring her youngest daughter, Winnie, to the Jewish hospital. Our conversation was brief as she was driving from Mbale to Kampala (the capitol of Uganda) so I'm not sure what's wrong with Winnie. Please pray for her overall health and that the Lord would heal this particular concern. Since Mama Aidah will be here Aug 29th, she asked that we wait to iron out all the details until we can talk in person. So I'll be sending her a list of all my questions to go over with Pastor Morris and we'll get things settled in Aug.

I have to admit, it was a bit discouraging to hear I needed to wait another month before I could get everything together and start setting up meetings. But I also know that this is all in the Lord's timing, and I have every confidence that He'll get me to Uganda the exact day He's had planned since the beginning.

On the upside, I'm getting really excited about moving!! My church is sending a team out to Uganda in mid March, and their preparations are starting now, and I'm realizing that I'll be moving out there not too long after they go! WOW! As you know, I've been waiting for this my whole life, and it's actually starting to sink in that it's right around the corner. There are so many details to think about....long term anti-malarials...preparing for tropical diseases...death or hostage situations... emergency evacuations...drinking and bathing water...how to bleach fruits and vegetables...everything that goes with moving into a third world country. I think a lot of people would find it intimidating, but praise the Lord, He just kicks in my sense of adventure :) Uganda, here I come!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Car

Well the Lord seems to love stretching my faith...I figure I'd better learn to enjoy it. With my personality, I tend to LOVE fun in everything I do. Even if something in and of itself isn't the most enjoyable, I'm usually able to find some way to bring fun into that too. So if the Lord intends on making this a life-long habit (as I've heard He's prone to do...) I figure I'd just better find a way to bring fun into this too. It'll make it so much more enjoyable along the way... and plus, if I'm having fun, it's easier to have faith too! Ok, bunny trail aside, here's why the whole thing came up:

I've been praying for a car for months now, and apparently the Lord just doesn't think I need it quite as badly as I think I do. I've been looking at several I found on craigslist and they just keep falling through. I thought for sure I had found one that looked GREAT! The guy selling it was saving it for me until I got back from my trip to Atlanta, but when I got home and called him, he said that he had decided not to sell it after all. So here I am again car hunting. I know the Lord has just the perfect one picked out for me... I just don't know where it is at the moment. So I'm waiting...

Actually, that's another theme for me these days. Patience. While I've been trying to work everything out with my ministry in Uganda, it has been impossible to get ahold of my contacts in Uganda. I'm going to try calling them internationally tomorrow morning... but it has definitely been a test of my patience waiting for everything to come together. I think this is possibly one of God's ways of telling me to slow down. I tend to see a challenge or a goal and then relentlessly pursue that until it's accomplished. However, there are times when I need to just sit back, take things a bit slower, and wait on the Lord. I think now is one of those times. So here I am Lord! I'm Yours to do with whatever You like, WHENEVER you like! You just keep doing what it takes to teach this stubborn girl that You alone are at the wheel! I'll stop trying to be the backseat driver now.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Final Thoughts

I just finished up my 2 week missionary training today. I have to say I am so sorry to leave these wonderful people. If anyone is looking for a mission board, check into Biblical Ministries Worldwide! (They will be very proud of me for joining their recruiting effort! :)) I have learned so much these past two weeks... things about me, and things about what to expect in my ministry.

Funny moment from this week:

One morning I got all ready to go. I showered, dressed, had breakfast, and had gathered all my gear. I stood at the door all ready to go, and very proud of myself for the hustle I had made in getting ready. Suddenly a strange feeling washed over me... I was forgetting something. I went through my checklist. Key. Check. Laptop. Check. Notebook. Check. Minty-fresh gum. Check. Suddenly I realized... My SHOES!!!! I couldn't well go traipsing around Atlanta without my shoes! Feeling foolish, I hurriedly grabbed my flip flops and ran out the door. All the missionaries got a hearty laugh that day at the image of me wandering around barefoot without a clue what was wrong :) I assure you, I don't act quite that blonde all the time... but occasionally it gets the better of me!

Serious moment from this week:

I have to say, it's tough to choose. While this week was full of its fun, laughing times, it also had an abundance of stretching and growing times too. One thing I realized was just how much the Lord has been leading me and guiding me without my direct knowledge. This past semester I applied to 4 different mission boards and have learned so much through each one. The Lord has provided so many contacts and resources through those boards, even though I can go with only one. Through my interaction with CTEN, I gained valuable knowledge and experience in formulating an overseas budget. I also gleaned great cross-cultural communication guidance and insight. From my application to BMW, I gained 2 weeks of incredibly valuable training as well as many priceless friendships. If I hadn't been pursuing Deywa (even though it eventually didn't work out), I might not have considered Tentmakers and BMW for my mission board, and now I'm a missionary with one and trained by the other! I just love looking back on the incredible ways the Lord has cared for me and guided me. I know this is just a taste of what's to come. I also know that there will be times in the future I will need to be reminded of the faithfulness of the Lord, just like the Israelites.

Now, as I start out on a new, unchareted path--deputation--I'm tempeted to shout as Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace did: "Charge!!!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Monkey and the Fish

Why did the monkey help the fish by taking it out of the water?

Sounds like the first line of a joke, doesn't it?? It's actually a study question from a cultural adaptability story. I'll share the story here, but in the mean time, if anyone can think of a good punch line, share it under the comments section!!!

The Monkey and the Fish:
A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart,the monkey resolved to help the fish.

A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself. the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.

The moral of the story: Always ask the fish first! :)

Ok, seriously, we were discussing the need and criteria for evaluating other cultures. Going into a different culture creates a myriad of opportunities to misjudge and misunderstand the culture. If we're not careful, it's possible to do serious harm to others as well as your ministry just as the well-meaning monkey did. On the other hand, it's possible to go to far and adapt too much of the culture. Can you imagine what would happen if the aforementioned monkey decided he was going to live and breath in the water all the time, just like the fish? I've grown up my whole life desiring to be African, but when it comes right down to it, I won't want to take part in every part of the culture. Just as I have to be discerning about my American culture, I will need to be just as discerning about my African culture. So if you all would like to start praying for wisdom and discernment for me, especially in regards to culture and working with the nationals, I would greatly appreciate it!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I just flew into Atlanta today for a missionary training school with Biblical Ministries Worldwide. Long story short, I was unable to attend Tentmakers' training because of my finals week at school, so instead I'm getting schooled by BMW. It's a two week program, and it definitely promises to be intense. The sessions range from prayer in ministry to fund-raising, to inter-cultural communication. I'm staying in a guest house of the mission with 2 couples and another gal my age. It's interesting how much more I evaluate what I say and do when I'm living with strangers. It's definitely humbling and convicting. How I long to reflect Christ in EVERYTHING I do and say, and not just be careful because I'm with people I don't know.

Quick prayer request: I'm trying to buy a car to get around for deputation. I've been praying about this for months and I MIGHT have found one. It's a 1994 Camry that I could get for $1600. Please pray for wisdom on whether I should buy it as well as God's provision for the finances to buy it. Thanks everyone!

More to come soon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wow! What a week! The past 9 days have definitely been the craziest I've had since leaving school! Recap: Drove for 2 days out to Kalamazoo, MI for the Independent Fundamental Churches of America convention. The purpose was not only to be refreshed by the preaching and teaching of God's Word, but also to make contacts and network with pastors who might allow me to come speak at their church about my upcoming mission in Uganda. Just before we arrived in MI, we received word that a dear, godly man in our church had died. We made plans to leave a day earlier than we had planned to get back to the Springs in time for the funeral. The conference was wonderful, albeit a bit draining.

On Thursday my pastor, Jeff, his wife Nancy, and my two friends Catherine and Eric and I all drove through the night to arrive at 6:30 in the morning in the Springs. The family had been so good as to ask me to accompany for one of the granddaughters who was singing an arrangement of His Eye is on the Sparrow, so we rehearsed at 9:00 and the funeral started at 11. It was a beautiful service that honored the work of God's grace in the life of Gary Anderson. His son gave an incredible tribute to the incredible things that God had done through his servant Gary. What a privilege it was to be a part of the service. Thank you, Gary and Barb for your wonderful testimony of God's love and grace to all those around you.

Yesterday, I was also blessed to attend the wedding of one of my close friends growing up, Rachel. We've known each other for so long, it was a bit strange to watch her get married. It was also an incredible time of joy and rejoicing in the faithfulness of God to provide every good and perfect gift. Congratulations, Rachel, and may the Lord pour out His blessing on you, your husband, and your marriage!

This past week I have been reminded of Ecclesiastes when it says there is a time for everything: a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing. The past 2 days have seen both, and how grateful I am for the goodness of God that provides comfort and strength through all the seasons of life. I have done nothing to deserve the love and commitment of such and incredible God, but how thankful and humbled I am that He has chosen to bestow His favor upon me. Oh Lord, my God, how great Thou art!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deputation

Tonight Robert Alderman spoke for the general session here at the conference. He was speaking on the need for greater personal involvement of the churches in their missionaries' lives. He challenged the current deputation system that we have where missionaries travel all over the country asking all different churches (most of whom don't have anyone they know at all) for money to support their ministry. In this system the personal knowledge of the churches and the missionaries is almost impossible. In addition to the ministry suffering, and a lack of accountability, the simple time and cost efficiency is positively impossible. Not only do the missionaries have to travel around initially, but then they must report back to all of those churches spread across America every 4-5 years to give a 40 min presentation that people may or may not remember and get involved in. The strain on the budget is not nearly as important as the strain on the missionaries and their families. Instead, he challenged pastors to consider a different system: that of training up missionaries from within their churches, commissioning them, and fully supporting them on the mission field. This has a number of benefits. The missionaries can get to the field 10 times as quickly, the church and the missionary have a close relationship that enables quality accountability and a close interest in each other's welfare, and the missionary has a higher quality network of support from the people that know them personally.

I have been thinking about this issue for several years. As a young female and inexperienced missionary, I did not feel it my place to speak out to pastors exhorting them to adopt this model of missionary support. Therefore, I have accepted as inevitable that I would be under this form of support raising myself. I have been commited to doing whatever it takes to get to the mission field and to enable the work that God has called me to. However, I grieve for the missionaries and their families that have been hurt and hindered by this model. Please don't get me wrong. I don't think that deputation is the sole reason for the casualty rate of missionaries, or that each missionary that does deputation is scarred for life and must endure the agonies every fulough there on. I'm also not saying that deputation doesn't have its benefits. Many missionaries have found it to be a time of growth and preparation for the field. The opportunity to bless others across the nation during your time of fundraising is indeed an honor. However, I do believe that the investment model is much closer to Biblical examples and is more effective.

Some might suspect that my feelings on the matter are motivated by self-interest and fear of deputation. Am I intimidated by the concept of deputation? Yes. Do I approach it with a slight sense of trepidation? Yes. However, I am also working to value it for the potential to reach out and minister to people I've never met. I know that it will be a time of growth and learning and I will embrace it with open arms. I will, however, continue to pray that the Lord changes the hearts and minds of pastors and mission committees around the world. I pray that He burdens their heart to embrace this new concept and approach to supporting missionaries. Whatever we do, I pray that it may all be to the glory and honor of the Lord Jesus Christ!

TBM Website

Just wanted to encourage you all to check out the Tentmakers Bible Mission website: tentmakersbiblemission.org... also, if you search for Uganda project under their missions projects you'll find my biography and mission.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vision

What is vision? Many people have been spoken of as visionaries. Is it something to be aquired? Can it be learned? If you're not a person that simply spews forth vision, can you master the art anyway? Hmmm. The thoughts of Melanie's mind without sufficient sleep.

I've been thinking about my vision for ministry. Being here at the conference I have ample opportunity to share my passion and heart for the people of Africa, but how do I pass on the vision of a ministry I don't even have yet? So, I have been crafting a short paragraph of the vision I have for my minstry in Africa. Do I know how it's going to be implemented yet? Nope. Do I even know how I DESIRE it to be implemented? Nope. But I do know that this is the burden the Lord has placed on me, and I pray that He will burden others with it as well.

The Lord has given me a passion for evangelism and a longing to love and teach the children of Uganda. Too many times I have seen the children neglected because they might be too young to understand the truth of the Gospel. Having been saved myself at a very young age, I am a firm believer in the ability of young children to understand and believe the Word of God. I have a vision for these young children to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ when they are little, then grow in the knowledge of Him as they mature, so that in the days to come, they might teach others also. In many cases the church of Africa is expanding rapidly numerically, but the spiritual depth and steadiness is lacking. My desire is to train these children up from when they are young in order to help them develop the spiritual depth and knowledge that will transform them and future generations. This is my dream. This is my vision.
I'm here at the IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) convention in Kalamazoo, MI. Over Saturday and Sunday I drove out here with 2 others from my church, Eric and my close friend Catherine. We had such a blast in the car! Long road trips are never quite as bad if you have fun people in the car. We shared our life stories, listened to the Bible on tape, read, slept, laughed, chuckled, and laughed some more. As most of you know, wherever Melanie goes, laughter will abound. :) Both Eric and Catherine have a love and desire for missions, (and both just happened to have gone to Uganda as well!!) and it was so refreshing to be in the company of ones who share my passion. Now here at the conference, I've gotten to talk to many people about that passion as well as hear the stories of like-minded men and women of God. I must say I'm a bit out of my comfort zone as I try to single out people to talk to among the teeming masses. I'd usually much rather a small group or one on one, but I recognize that this is the first of many ways I'm going to be stretched and grown during my "Damascus" time (cf Gal 1:17 when Paul was in Damascus after his conversion for 3 years before going before the disciples).

Ok, new updates.... Vince Tharp, TBM's mission coordinator, is recently back from Uganda. He said that Mamma Aidah and Pastor Morris have invited me to come stay at their home just as soon as I could get out there. I was just thrilled at the possibility of staying with them, but I am also needing to get my ministry finalized before I decide for sure where I'm going to stay. I've sent an email to Pastor Morris with a couple ministry ideas, and now I'll just have to wait for his reply. Patience, I'm reminded, is still a fruit of the Spirit....(not just a virtue as you might hear :)). I would solicit your prayers for Morris and Aidah. They're in the middle of the summer when most of the teams go out to do church planting. Morris is in charge of the church planting efforts, so this is the busiest time of the year for them as they coordinate teams and oversea the work being done. Please pray for strength, wisdom, and patience for each of them. Also pray for a rich harvest of souls this year as well.

Since it's rather late, and I have a full day of sessions tomorrow, I shall make one more attempt at sleep. Rest well, loved ones.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I have a new friend! We'll call him M, and he works at a coffee shop near my house. We have had a couple conversations, but the most notable was after my time at Garden of the Gods (see below). Our conversation was clearly God ordained, as he wasn't even supposed to be working at the time. We talked for a good hour and a half about a wide variety of spiritual things. M grew up in an at least nominally Christian household where his father was a preacher (even though he was abusive). M is very well learned in the Scriptures and has many memorized. He did the whole "Christian" thing most of his life; obeying his parents, trying to live a holy life and just do the right thing. In the process, he was utterly miserable. He has come to the conclusion that at the very least, God is not good, if He even exists at all. I can't keep the tears from my eyes even as I write this. I can't imagine living life without my good and gracious God who forgives without question and loves me for who I am. But that isn't how M sees it. Instead, he say he is the happiest he has ever been living for what he desires. Oh, how it breaks my heart, and how I plead with God to break M's too. I can just imagine the grief my Jesus must be feeling as He longs to draw M close in His arms and give him the unsurpassing fulfilment and joy that is not fleeting as the happiness of this world is. M did say, however, that he is not closed to conversations about God, and if his heart ever changed, he would go back in an instant. However, he is committed to following what his heart tells him, which right now is saying anything but God. Please, won't you pray with me that God will change his heart? And pray for me to, for boldness with grace, and courage with compassion.

On Wednesday I went out all by myself to Garden of the Gods and found a nook in a cleft of a rock (yes, that song was going through my head the entire time!) to read, think, and pray. After 4 long years of craziness, the peace and quiet was almost frightening. With my personality, I tend to just go, go, go until I have everything accomplished. I'm very goal driven, which can be a good thing, but must have balance as well. The past couple of weeks have been wonderful to rest, but they have also been a time of reflection about who I am, and who I desire to be. During my time at Garden of the Gods, I was reading The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson. Included in that book is a list he has complied of verses telling who I am in Christ. One of his greatest points in the book is that you will act according to how you think of yourself. ex: If I thought of myself as a concert pianist, I would practice hours everyday. If I think of myself as just a sinner saved by grace, that is how I will act: as a sinner. If instead I think of myself as God sees me: sanctified and holy before Christ, that is how I will behave. It's a very powerful thought. I have so often thought of myself as entrapped by my own sinful behaviors and have failed to claim the victory Christ has already won for me. I know it's a long list, but I think it's very worthwhile to post it here. Please take the time to read through it out loud as well and take comfort and joy in who you are in Christ.


I am not the great "I am" (Ex 3:14; Jn 8:24; 28; 58), but by the grace of God, I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10)
I am the salt of the earth ( Mt 5:13)
I am the light of the world (Mt 5:14)
I am a child of God (Jn 1:12)
I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ's life (Jn 15:1,5)
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (Jn 15:16)
I am a slave of righteousness (Rom 6:18)
I am enslaved to God (Rom 6:22)
I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father (Rom 8:14, 15; Gal 3:26; 4:6)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Rom 8:17)
I am a temple--a dwelling place--of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19)
I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him (1 Cor 6:17)
I am a member of Christ's body (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:30)
I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)
I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor5:18, 19)
I am a son of God and one in Christ (Gal 3:26, 28)
I am an heir of God since I am a son of God ( Gal 4:6, 7)
I am a saint (Eph 1:1; 1 Cor 1:2; Phil 1:1; Col 1:2)
I am God's workmanship--His handiwork--born anew in Christ to do His work (Eph 2:10)
I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God's family (Eph 2:19)
I am a prisoner of Christ (Eph 3:1; 4:1)
I am righteous and holy (Eph 4:24)
I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now (Phil 3:20; Eph 2:6)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3)
I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life (Col 3:4)
I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col 3:12; 1 Thes1:4)
I am a son of light and not of darkness (1 Thes 5:5)
I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling (Heb 3:1)
I am a partaker of Christ; I share in His life (Heb 3:14)
I am one of God's living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house (1Pet 2:5)
I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession (1Pet 2:9, 10)
I am an alien and stranger to this world in which I temporarily live (1Pet 2:11)
I am an enemy of the devil (1Pet 5:8)
I am a child of God and I will resemble Christ when He returns (1Jn 3:1,2)
I am born of God, and the evil one--the devil-- cannot touch me (1Jn 5:18)
-compiled by Neil Anderson, The Bondage Breaker

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Last night, through a comedy of errors I got to meet Jeff and Van Harding, a missionary couple with TBM that will be moving to Kisumu, Kenya in July. The Hardings, along with the Harrises will be my closest TBM neighbors. I won't bore you with all the details, but the night included silenced cell ringers, unknown cancelled rehearsals, and a lonely piano...all wrapped up with free rootbeer floats at Sonic! What fun. :)

It really was wonderful to get to meet the Hardings and especially to talk with Van. She was so encouraging as we talked about our heart to reach these precious Africans. We also talked briefly about fundraising and the joys and challenges inherent in that looming task. I told her that I do approach this next season of life with trepidation, but also a bit of excitment as well. Ever since I went on my first trip to Uganda, I have not been able to talk about it enough. No one could ever have enough time and interest in the subject to suit me. However, for the next year, I get to travel around telling everyone I meet about the incredible opportunity I have to minister to a people that I have loved for years... and hopefully they'll give me money for it! Couldn't ask for a better deal, if you ask me! :)

These next couple of weeks are very key as I search for a new ministry in Uganda and start getting details arranged for the start of my deputation (fundraising). Keep on praying; He is listening!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Announcing....

I know that it has been quite a while since I last posted. This has been for several reasons, the main being that I was just not sure what to write. So much has been happening, and I have been waiting on so many more things to happen that I was unsure of how much to write/not write. But now, I find things settled enough to attempt communicating them to you! A couple of highlights from the past couple weeks: I performed my senior piano recital on May 1st, graduated from Moody Bible Institute on May 16th, and spent my last family vacation with all 6 of my family members in Chicago.

The past couple of months have been some of the most interesting, and at times confusing, times of my life. For the past several months, I have been applying to missions agencies and planning a ministry in Uganda with Deywa. Choosing which missions board to go with is definitely one of the most important decisions of my life. This is a decision I have been thinking and praying about for many years, even before I started officially applying to some. Well very long story short, I have made my decision. I am so pleased to announce that I have accepted an invitation to minister as a missionary with Tentmakers Bible Mission! This is definitely a monumental moment in my life, and I am just thrilled to see the ways the Lord has led me to this throughout the years.

Now you may be asking, "What will you be doing?" That is an excellent question! The answer: I have no idea. Along with the good news comes the bad: because of certain circumstances, I will not be able to minister in Uganda with Deywa. This was a great disappointment to me since I have been working for many months towards this goal. However, I am so comforted to see the hand of the Lord leading me so clearly, and I know that Deywa simply was not in His plan for me right now. I am not exactly sure what I will be doing instead, but I am still looking into going to Uganda. My first passion is evangelism, and I hope to be working with Uganda children as well. I would so appreciate your continued prayers as I seek out a new ministry and start fundraising. I am so grateful for the prayers you have offered on my behalf already, and I know they were instrumental in helping me make my decision to join TBM. What an awesome God we serve!

Blessings to you all!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Melembe!

Melembe (hello) everyone!

Welcome to the life of Melanie as expressed in these short blogs! I have decided it's past time to start publicly documenting my journey to a ministry in Africa. With this in mind, let me fill you in on what I've been thinking and pursuing lately....

Anna Beth (my friend from Moody) and I were talking tonight about how we think about ourselves. We both are American, but we have an intense love for the African people, and in many ways think of ourselves as African. Anna Beth said it this way: "I feel like I'm covered in vanilla frosting with chocolate vanilla marble cake underneath." Since she's an MK with both American and African influences, I think this is pretty accurate! I told her I think I'm more vanilla frosting with caramel cake that desperately wants to be chocolate. :)

My whole memorable life I've wanted to not only move to Africa, but BE African too. I think essentially this means I desire to be accepted and loved by Africans as one of their own, and yet I also know this is highly unlikely to happen the way I imagine. Like it or not, I am American. My thoughts and perspectives will continue to be colored by my American heritage, yet I also desire to understand and appreciate my African people too. This is where I get my self-claimed title: African Muzungu. Muzungu means white person, or foreigner in Luganda, and that is what I am. A white. But not just a white. I am an African white! This is my prayer, that like Paul, I may be all things to all people (especially those I'm ministering to in Uganda). I pray He will use and bless all of the details He fashioned in me since my birth. Whether it be my western upbringing, or my affinity for cultures, I know He has a design for everything. Now it's my turn to offer up all that I am and all that I love for His work and glory.

Now for the news! I have applied to be a missionary with Commission to Every Nation (CTEN), a missions agency that partners with other organizations around the world in spreading the gospel. I am working on plans right now to travel to southeastern Uganda in early 2010 to work with an organization called Deywa. As a Child Development Officer with Deywa, I would be concentrating on finding practical means and programs to address the needs of orphans, widows, and at-risk children in Uganda and Sudan. This might include music and drama programs in the schools, hygienic programs in the villages, and house visitations. You might be asking, "where does your music fit into this?" Answer: I have no idea. :) I really don't know exactly what the Lord intends to do with my gift for piano, but I have every confidence that He will provide just the right opportunities when He sees fit.

All of the details are still a bit hazy, and nothing is definite right now. I am waiting to be officially accepted to CTEN, and I have already recieved a formal invitation from Deywa. This is the direction the Lord seems to be leading me in for now, but it is still very much open to change. All of your prayers for wisdom, guidance and PATIENCE would be so greatly appreciated! I still have a month and a half left before I graduate, and I must continue to dedicate myself to the task at hand, even though my heart and mind are in Uganda.

As I continue to sort out details with Deywa and CTEN, formulating budgets and deputation details, etc., would you join me in prayer? Would you interceed on my behalf for all of the details that need planning, for my peseverance, and first and foremost that I would keep my eyes set firmly on the Lord, not just His ministry. I recognize that I cannot do this alone, I need each and every one of you. As you pray for me, I too pray for you, that the Lord might pour out His blessing on you and your individual ministries as well!