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! 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Best Day of the Year

July 30. It was the best day of the year. And that’s saying something! There were multiple red-letter days this year such as the day Michelle arrived in Uganda, my first safari in Africa, and the day I fed a lion with my best friend (read about it here!). But this particular one was my favorite. The whole year had really been leading up to it, and it was highly anticipated by more than just myself!


At the beginning of the school year, I gave my kids in grades 3, 4, and 5 a challenge: memorize and recite 16 answers together with supporting verses to these 4 different questions (which some of you might recognize these from AWANA’s T&T book 1):


Who is God?
Who is the Lord Jesus?
How does God want me to live my life?
Why did God give us the Bible?


They had a total of 36 verses to memorize and recite word-perfectly by the end of July. The reward they were promised was an ice-cream party for all those who successfully finished every last verse, and for those who were able to actually do the entire challenge a second time and review all those verses, I promised to take them swimming. For the next 6 months, I had 62 children clamoring every day to recite! There wasn’t a single day that I wasn’t asked, “Teecha, reciting today???” I absolutely loved their eagerness!!



As they tracked their progress on sticker charts, the excitement grew. But as you can imagine, listening to 63 children recite all those verses takes a lot of time. I was so thrilled when God sent Michelle to Uganda over the last 2 months of the challenge so she could help me listen to the kids! I don’t know what I would have done without her!


On the last day before our party, there was a mad rush and desperate push for some to finish reciting, and a few to finish reviewing. We finally wrapped up a long day with 44 finishers and 22 reviewers!


We did have a rather exciting *ahem* moment when we realized that of the 22 kids who finished the review challenge and were to come swimming, exactly 2 had swimsuits. Ha! What followed was Michelle and I plowing through racks of used clothes searching for any type of short (and t-shirts for the girls) that could remotely work in a swimming pool. Finding enough of the *approximately* right sizes was a challenge for sure, but on the day every child had at least something to put on.


That Saturday morning had us up early with my little Rav4 filled with ice-cream, decorations, confetti poppers, cake, prizes, and 2 big trash cans full of water balloons. Together with Michelle and the wonderful help of 3 other interns, we pulled off a party that was an absolute blast, and was talked about in the village for weeks to come!



Kids intently observing Teecha Angelina telling
them about some of the prizes




At first the confetti poppers startled them.....
...and then they loved them! 




























The relay races were a hit too! 

Michelle and I demonstrating a relay

After celebrating the morning away, we said goodbye to half of the kids and loaded the other half up into ministry vehicles to drive them the 30 minutes into town to the hotel swimming pool. Only a couple of my kids had ever been swimming before, and at first there was a bit of trepidation. But when they figured out that the baby pool was shallow enough to stand or kneel in and still get a great splash, every loosened up and had an absolute blast!









To these kids, ages 8-14, the greatest thing might be the reward at the end. But what I know personally, even though they might not understand themselves yet, is that hiding Jesus’s Word in their hearts has intrinsic value and power. The Scripture they learn now will be used by God throughout the rest of their lives to encourage, guide, and strengthen them, especially as they are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I remember memorizing all those verses in AWANA growing up, and if I’m honest with you, I’ll admit I was totally doing it for the trophies. And the ice-cream parties. And the kudos from my parents and friends. And you know what? They totally kept me motivated and eager to do the single most helpful thing of my entire life: Know God’s Word.


There hasn’t been a single day of my life that I haven’t benefitted from the mounds of Scripture buried deep in my heart, and that is my prayer for these kids too. I believe that these 36 verses will only be a start to the mound of Scripture Jesus will first help them to memorize and then remind them of for years to come.

Plus, it really was incredible for me to watch the joy on my kids faces! I think one of the ones who made the most impact on me was E. She’s been a tough nut for me to crack for a while. She and her siblings have an incredibly difficult and painful home situation with their father out of work, and their mother abandoning them last year. E has been thrown into the position of mother, cook, housekeeper, and so much more (in village conditions!) although she’s only 14. I’ve seen her harden herself from affection and withdraw even from my attention. But that day was different. I don’t know whether it was just being in a completely different environment, or the chance to just be a kid and play for once, or feeling special with a sense of accomplishment, but her whole demeanor changed. For the first time, she was interacting freely with me, responding to my playfulness, and even seeking my attention. It was remarkable. For the following week that I had at school before leaving Uganda, she continued to be free with me. I pray it is just a start to a relationship that will bring her to a deeper understanding of just how valuable and loved she is by both Jesus and me!



The kids' first experience with water balloons!



And the winner for that round is... Purple!

 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Muganda Wange (My sister)

Almost every day I have the joy of introducing various people here to 'Muganda wange,' which translates to 'my sister' in Lugwere and Luganda. The common response is almost always, 'Yes! For sure, you resemble!' (aka, you look alike:) ). The many commentaries that have followed have been priceless! Showing her off to all my friends and acquaintances has been so much fun! This is a joy that I have longed for since the very first time I came to Uganda in 2003.

 



Over the past 5 years of living overseas, I have found that living in a totally different culture and environment from my friends and family in the States can certainly lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Struggling to describe especially the small things that make my life so different here can be frustrating to the point of not even wanting to try.


Things like…

making sure the water filter is full all the time so if water runs out, at least we have drinking water…

maneuvering the the potholes in the road that are changing on a daily basis…

being surrounded by such vibrant color and beauty every day…

the vast differences in my vocabulary (even when I’m supposedly speaking English!)…

needing to lift the bottom tray of the oven to light it with a match…

forgetting to properly greet someone (as in the very moment they see me) and having to make it up to them the rest of the day…

making sure every appliance is fully charged at all times for when power will inevitably go off…

feeling foolish and a failure if someone says something to me in Lugwere that I don’t understand…

how funny and irresistible my little ones really are, especially in their cute accents!…

and especially, my mindset changes and the way I approach many situations and solutions different now.




These are some of the simple actions and moments that make up my daily life here, and even trying to describe them on paper makes them seem simplistic. But they make life feel so vastly different here than in the States.


For years, I have struggled to try and describe and share with those I love on the other side of the ocean. I have my life in America, and I have my life in Uganda. But rarely do the two really interact with each other. I spend a lot of time talking about my American life and family to my fascinated children and friends here, and I spend a lot of time telling people on that side about my wonderful life here. But the whole time, I have longed to actually share these moments with someone from back home. Someone to help bridge the gap between my two worlds.


Finally, that moment came! After almost 13 years of praying for the day to come, it finally did! I welcomed my sister, Michelle to Uganda in the midst of a surreal haze of happiness and joy. I’ve spent the past month experiencing Africa again through her eyes, and realizing afresh just how different it really is. She makes me laugh at my own funny vocabulary and phrasing by finding them delightful also. She fills the seat next to me in my Rav4 and listens to all my ramblings each evening as I process the day and what happened. She hugs my friends, and high-fives my kids. She teaches in front of my classrooms, and has gotten to know the names and faces of my students. She knows which kids are quiet, and which ones are the trouble makers now. And all of these things, I no longer have to explain to her. She knows. And it’s heavenly.





I know the impact these weeks have had on my soul already, and I have an idea of how they will continue to affect me even as Michelle goes back to the States in just a few short weeks. The companionship of not just her presence, but her new understanding and insight into my life, work, and what I value has made such an impact on that somewhat distant, but ever lingering ache of loneliness.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Priceless Moment


Many of you know the incredible anticipation with which I was looking forward to my sister, Michelle spending the summer here in Uganda with me. Let me tell you, the reality has been even better than what I thought!!! Michelle has been here for over a month, and I still pinch myself to make sure it’s real. Her coming has been so timely in so many ways I couldn’t have anticipated… for example, I’ve spent an inordinate number of days sick the past month. The whole first part of the year I was doing so much better with sickness that I usually do, but the past 2 months a variety of different illnesses have knocked me down numerous times. Michelle has been a champ, not only in going with the flow and quickly adapting to the variety of paces ministry in Africa brings (everything from break-necked speed to sick-induced standstill, and everything in between), or even caring for me when sick, but also covering for me and taking up my slack at school when I’ve been down. She’s been so great with the kids, and they all love Teecha Meeshell. :) As she’s been able to cover many of my classes, I’ve had the chance to both rest and recover, and also spend some more time investing in my teachers.

The past couple weeks have led to some incredibly fruitful and precious conversations and moments with many of them. One in particular was a long conversation with one teacher who confided in me the struggles she’s been having at home with her alcoholic spouse. Our discussion had started with a question she had on the biblical position on alcohol and led to her opening up to me and sharing so much of the pain and struggles her husband has brought into the home. I was so honored and honestly amazed at the genuineness and transparency she showed towards me. In this culture, it can be very difficult for someone to share openly and honestly about their real struggles, especially internal/spiritual ones. But this precious teacher spoke freely, not only about the circumstances, but how she felt and wanted to do about them. Then we were able to spend a long time encouraging one another with God’s truth and stories of His people who have also passed through trials victoriously. At the end, we spent quite a while praying for her husband and children, and that she would be a key instrument in the Lord bringing her husband into a relationship with Him.


I was also especially encouraged to here her mention several different truths I had taught about in Bible study over the past few weeks. She related them to her situation, and told me how they had encouraged her to respond in a particular way to her husband. I can’t even say how wonderful and encouraging it is to hear how the Lord has used the words and message He gave me to make such an impact! Every week as I prepare for Bible study, I pray that the words I speak to the teachers would not be my own, but from the Sprit. I pray that the Lord would speak to the hearts of the teachers, not just their minds, and that He would reach and teach them in ways that I am unable to alone. So it really shouldn’t surprise me when I get to see Him answer those prayers, but I’ll admit it does come as a pleasant surprise :) Maybe that’s just another demonstration of how much more room my faith has to grow. Thankfully, I know He’ll continue answering my prayers and proving Himself faithful until I’ve finally fully understood!


I would ask those willing to lift both this dear teacher and her family up in prayer to do so also in faith that Jesus will hear and answer. We ask and believe that He will bring her husband into a relationship with Himself, and quickly for the sake of her children! We ask that she would be overflowing with supernatural wisdom and grace in every interaction and word spoken to her husband, and that the Lord would guard and protect her children from every negative effect his drinking and absence would have on them. If there are other specific ways you are led to pray for her, and you’d like me to tell her how you’re praying, please drop a note and I will pass on the message!

I would also love your prayers for my body to get healthy and remain well for this remainder of time with Michelle here. It’s also only another few weeks after she leaves before I’m back in the States for my annual fundraising trip as well. I definitely would prefer to make the most of my time here.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Night of My Accident

Throughout the years living and driving in Africa, I have often thought and remarked that driving here is a bit like a Mario Kart game. Dodging potholes is only half the fun. The more unpredictable obstacles are the goats, chickens, cows, pikis (motorcycle taxis), bodas (bicycle taxis), wheelbarrows, and pedestrians. Everyday, driving is a challenge and and adventure. However, somedays the reality of the real-life impact of failing to successfully maneuver these obstacles is driven home. For me, one of those days was 2 weeks ago and everyday since.


As I was driving home from Kamonkoli one evening, the sun had set and it was just beginning to get pretty dark. I was passing through a busy market center on the outskirts of Mbale with people, bicycles, and motorcycles swarming everywhere. I remember seeing a man approaching on bicycle going in the opposite direction. Without any warning at all, he suddenly swerved into a u-turn directly in front of me. I barely had time to even touch the brake before he was on my windshield and the glass was shattering over me. From the impact, I couldn’t imagine that the man had survived. Immediately, people and pikis started swarming the accident site.


I knew from stories of other missionaries and drivers in Uganda that whenever an accident happens, the driver must leave the scene and go directly to the closest police station. If the car is disabled, or the driver stops, the mob that gathers is very likely to injure or kill the driver. Most of the time, they won’t even wait to find out what happened, who was at fault, or even if the injured parties have survived or died. They just react. Some mobs have even been known to start stoning the driver before they exit the car, or set the car on fire.


So with my windshield shattered across the drivers’s side, I carefully drove the half mile up to the police station. It was terrifying. I can only thank Jesus for keeping me safe the rest of the way through heavy traffic, with limited visibility and the adrenaline of trauma still pulsing through my body.


When I walked into the station to report the accident, I was covered from head to foot in glass shards. I told the front desk what had happened, and they immediately called a police patrol close to the accident site to go and check the scene of the accident. I stayed at the station for a while waiting for my co-workers to join me from Kamonkoli. Soon after they came, the responding traffic officer also came.


Thankfully, he had been able to pick up the man from the scene and take him to the main hospital where he was conscious and being treated for his injuries. Throughout the rest of the week, my days were filled with sitting in the police station, visiting the patient, and negotiating with the family of the patient and the police. I am so thankful for Pastor Charles, our Assistant Director, and Bumba, one of my coworkers, who were there through the whole thing to advocate for me.


Even though the statement that the man later gave to the police confirmed that he was trying to execute a u-turn directly in front of me, since I was a white driver, I bore the entirety of the liability. Though it hardly seems fair when I was not the cause of the accident, I am constantly reminded of how much worse it could have been. I continually praise Jesus that the man survived, and actually didn’t even break a single bone! He was treated for several days at the hospital for a concussion and head laceration, as well as a dislocated knee cap. He’s recovering well, and everything has been settled and finished.


Sitting behind the wheel of my Rav4 is constantly a sobering thing now. I am daily reminded that if not for the intervention and protection of the Lord, I could be in an accident every day. Since Uganda has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world, it is inevitable that even the best drivers will be involved in accidents.


Through the whole incident though, Jesus was so close and comforting. He surrounded me with wonderful people who loved and cared for me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I was amazed at all the specific verses and words He gave people to speak over me, and the strength of His supernatural peace was extraordinary. I know that some of my Ugandan friends here were scared that going through such a trial (especially the unique challenges of dealing with the police and patient’s family) might turn my heart away from Uganda and make me want to leave. But the truth is, suffering and pain will happen in every place on earth. Here in Uganda, I have seen Jesus transform too much pain into works of beauty to doubt whether He will do it in every situation. He is so good!


For those of you who were aware of the situation through Facebook and friends, thank you so very much for praying for me! I felt the strength and the impact of those prayers every day.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Compassion in His Eyes

I've never seen such compassion in a child's eyes as I did that day. I had woken up on a Saturday morning feeling pretty awful but not wanting to miss AWANA that day. So I drove myself to Kamonkoli, determined to grit my teeth and push through the pain. By the time I navigated the mess of a 'road' we're calling a highway these days and arrived at the church, my endurance was already tottering. I climbed out of my Rav4 and weakly handed over the bags of supplies to one of my boys to carry into the church. The kids were already singing, jumping, and clapping in the sanctuary as they exuded the excitement that comes when our teams of western visitors are around. 10 minutes in, and I knew the tears converging behind my eyes would soon make a full appearance. Crying and tears are just not understood or accepted here, and I knew how uncomfortable they would make the kids. I stepped outside behind the church and vainly struggled to hold back the flow.

Just then, two of my boys, Andrew and Tingu, sauntered around the corner, arms draped over each other's shoulders. They stopped abruptly when they saw me. Soberly, they stood and observed me for a minute as I hurriedly tried to conceal the evidence of my tears. With concern, Andrew asked me, "Teecha, are the eyes paining you?"

I half-smiled, tried to put on a brave face and said, "Yes, but I know I'll be fine." I expected him to agree and continue walking on, eager to escape the awkward situation, but he didn't. He just stood there with Tingu another minute, gazing at me with the most intense compassion I have ever seen.

It was not that long ago, I stood in the tiny 2 room house that he shares with his grandmother and sister, watching the way he pulled a mattress from under the lone bed, laying it out on the floor to sleep on that night. I listened to his grandmother tell of how his parents died from Aids, and I felt the compassion for his lifetime of struggle well up within my heart. But never would I have expected to also be the recipient of this same boy's compassion.

It touched me in a way I can't even express. This child who had seen so much suffering himself extending such kindness to me, though my pain was but for a short time. I will never fail to be amazed at how much these people minister to me.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One Courageous Conversation


We sat face to face, with only a table separating us. I leaned in close and looked into her brown eyes.
I have something to tell you. 
She was so scared as she cringed in her chair waiting for me to continue.
God will never remove His grace from you.
Her eyes immediately welled up in tears as she quietly stared at me.
Yes, I understand what you did. I heard you say that you know that it was wrong, and you felt the burden of shame and guilt. But dear sister, please know that even when you sin, He will never remove His grace from you. Because you are His. His precious daughter who He loves more than anything.


Today brought one of the most precious conversations I’ve ever had with this dear friend of mine. My heart balloons with the joy of remembering the courage she had to admit her sin to me. A sin that had brought great shame and sorrow. A sin that had her feeling like God had removed His grace from her, and she was no longer free to come before Him. And yet, she found the strength and courage to confess her sin to me.

As I listened to her speak, I saw the guilt she had felt over her failure, and the steps she had already taken towards repentance and walking again in holiness. But I also saw the continued shame. I saw her fear that she was no longer worthy to come close to God. And I knew that Jesus was giving me a unique and powerful opportunity to speak words of truth and life to her.

The incredible beauty of our relationship with Jesus is that He has already paid for and covered every sin we have ever and will ever commit in one remarkable, devastating act 2000 years ago. Centuries before we ever experienced God’s forgiveness for sin for the first time, Jesus had already finished His work to provide atonement for every.single.one.

And there is absolutely nothing we can do to add on to His completed, finished, breath-taking work. Self-inflicted or friend-inflicted shame does not make us more worthy to receive His grace, or make Him more willing to bestow it! He has already given His children the full measure of His grace, completely, freely, and without condition.

So then why are we so afraid to come running back to Him when we have fallen? Is it because we expect the same disappointment, reproof, and judgment we often see in the eyes of other believers when they discover our greatest failings?

From the time I was young, I remember reading the verse in James 5 that commands “confess your sins to one another.” There were few verses in the Scripture that could fill me with as much terror as that one. If we’re talking about confessing the common run-of-the-mill sins like snapping at my sister or being selfish with my roommates, then fine. We can talk about those, and I might even earn some piety points by confessing them in a very humble, transparent way. But if we’re talking about the really shameful sins like lust or gluttony, then I’m out. The thought of voicing my struggles and failures in the areas that I feel the most shame brings absolute terror. What if that friend thinks as lowly about me as I do about myself??? How will I face the condemnation and disgust in her eyes when she hears just how badly I’ve messed up?

And somehow, I imagine the same response from Jesus. Surely because He knows exactly what I’ve done, He won’t even be able to look at me. Surely He won’t be able to stand being in the same room as me. Surely if I attempt to pray, He’ll watch in incredulity at my audacity to pretend like everything’s ok. These are the feelings and beliefs that have buried the lies deep in my heart, stubbornly rising to the surface each time I’m faced with the reality of my own failures.

But what if I had a true, full understanding of what Jesus really did for me? What if I felt and experienced, not just knew about, the extent of His extravagant grace towards me. What if I truly believed deep deep down (and not just in my head!) that nothing could separate me from His love? What if the picture in my mind of Him wasn’t an angry, toe-tapping parent, just waiting for me to ‘fess up and face the consequences, but an ever-kind friend who had already stepped in to suffer the consequences on my behalf? What if instead of the condemnation I feared to see in His eyes I found pity and compassion? What if I was rock-solid convinced of who He really is, and who I really am to Him? Wouldn’t it change everything?? I know it would.

So I proclaimed just as much to myself as to my friend the words of life and truth that Jesus gave. And I will keep proclaiming them until I believe them not only in my head, but deep deep down in my heart.

It’s so incredible to me to see how often I think I’m just doing the ministry God gave me of teaching and discipling people here, but through it Jesus is really teaching and discipling me. I can’t teach a single Bible Study for the teachers or lesson for the kids without being challenged, convicted, or encouraged myself by the words Jesus speaks to and through me. It’s an amazing thing to hear your voice speaking, but know that the Spirit is bringing those words just as much for me as for the other person! How privileged I am to be His messenger! What an incredible God I serve!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Weekly Challenge

It happens like clockwork: Every Tuesday night is rough. One thing or another keeps me tossing and turning throughout the night: mosquito bites, upset stomach, random pain, crazy dogs, or the pounding music from the local bar. Or sometimes I'm just unable to fall asleep for hours on end. I usually wake up on Wednesday morning feeling terrible. And even if I make it through the night unscathed, illnesses like malaria, typhoid, or the flu like to make their appearance on Wednesday too. Which is not great, since Wednesdays are my longest, most challenging days. In addition to my regular daily work like teaching Bible for 5 grades at Genesis, I also teach a Bible study for all the teachers at Genesis after school every Wednesday. And I am convinced that is the reason for all the drama the night before.


Bible study with the teachers is definitely one of the highlights of my week every week. The opportunity to teach, instruct, mentor, and love these men and women Jesus has so wonderfully placed in my life is a real privilege to me. Every week I labor over how in the world I can make the stories, laws, and precepts of Numbers come alive to my teachers. I think the hardest part of my job is remembering how much they don’t know and haven’t been taught yet. Even though many of them have been in the church for years (sometimes decades!), their understanding of God’s Word, and especially the Old Testament is often very limited. I’m constantly surprised to realize how much knowledge I take for granted. How much my wonderful mom, AWANA, church, and Moody taught me about theology and the Gospel. I came in assuming concepts like atonement, repentance, the sovereignty of God, and the fallen state of man were basic, understood, and accepted by even baby believers. Maybe new believers would not entirely grasp their fullness, but I couldn’t imagine they wouldn’t at least be aware and accepting of those foundational truths. But I was wrong. Each week I find the challenge of communicating the basics in a way that is understandable to people from a different culture and worldview than my own.


And I would fail miserably. Week after week, I know I would fail if it were not for the supernatural understanding and control of the Holy Spirit. The most amazing days are the ones that I can feel and know He is filling and using me. Those days I am certain I am not speaking my own words. I would not have thought of that illustration to illuminate the truth. I would have just pushed through the material without stopping where it was needed. I would not have brought anything to benefit the hearers if the Spirit hadn’t used my voice and mind, and even facial expressions! Every week when I finish, I breathe a sigh of relief, and usually go home with a song of praise in my heart for what the Lord has done.


But I know I have an enemy who hates what I do. He is furious to see people reading the Word and seeking understanding. He would like nothing better than to disable me and rob my teachers of this opportunity. But my Jesus is stronger!! I know He will fight for me.


Right now it is Tuesday night. Tomorrow is Bible study, and I’m asking for your prayers. Would you please pray for the Lord’s covering over my body, mind, car, home, friends, and everything else that will inevitably come under attack tonight and tomorrow? Would you please pray that even in my weakness and inabilities, Jesus’ strength would be made perfect? That He would fill me with His Spirit and give me supernatural understanding and ability to teach His Word?


I continually see the evidence of your prayers, and I’ll look forward to watching how Jesus works tonight too!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

An Epic Week

One of my favorite weeks ever in Uganda started with the first day of our 2016 school year for Genesis. Welcoming new students along with the old all while hosting a wonderful team from Bear Valley Church in Littleton was definitely a thrill! I had missed my kids so much while I was gone, so finally getting to be with them again was a long-awaited joy. Although many of my kids weren't quite as enthusiastic as I would have expected them to be... mostly because I had "cut weight" while I was gone, and apparently some of them weren't quite sure if it was really me. HA! Once they were convince it really was me, they quickly warmed up, and we're settling back into our Bible study routine.

Lining up by class for parade on the first day of school







On Tuesday we got to take our P4 and P5 student on a field trip with the team to Sipi falls. All of them had an absolute blast, especially when we reached the top of the 2nd falls and they got to play in pool that flows into the falls. These are the same falls I grew up visiting on most of my short term trips (when I was not much older than some of them!), and this time I got to share the memories with my students.


More than a bit excited to be on the way

Standing in the cave directly behind the falls

Good thing it was hot and they could dry out quickly!

Then on Thursday, the team invited me to go with them on my first ever safari! Some of the precious women on the team paid my way to ensure I could see my first African animals since I started visiting Uganda almost 13 years ago. 

Every time I speak to kids groups in the states, one of the first questions I get asked is what African animals I've seen. Each time I smirkingly had to reply, "You know the usual....Cows, chickens, goats, and pigs." No longer! Now I have the memories, and the pictures to go with them :)

Waking up early was totally worth this incredible sunrise! 


I was not anticipating how many hippos we would see. Hundreds!!



Murchison Falls, the falls the park was named after.


These tiny Oribis were one of my favorites in the park.

There's nothing like being surrounded by 8 wild lions! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

An African Welcome

In my first 2 days back in Uganda, I’ve had quite the welcome and re-introduction back into life in Africa. I’ve just been at home so far, unpacking and getting things settled and in order before I jump back into work. There are so many joys and challenges about living in Africa that you mostly just get used to while you’re here. However, leaving and coming back again definitely makes the differences (both great and hard!) clearly apparent again! Such as…..


I found out as soon as I got back that our washing machine had been out of commission for quite a while, so naturally I called our ‘fixer.’ And in the most typical African fashion proceded to spend the next 2 days calling him every 2-4 hours to be assured that he was ‘on his way.’ He did finally come…. but after dusk so he couldn’t do any work on it (since we don’t have a light bulb in the laundry room). Here’s hoping he comes back today when power is on (fingers crossed) and with enough time to work on it!


I think Umeme (Uganda’s power company) heard I was coming back and wanted me to feel at home too, because power has been out about half the time since I got back. Definitely not exactly one of the things I missed the most while I was gone, but it was kind of them to think of me ;)


My little car must have been mad I stayed away so long, because it threw a fit and refused to start. Even with a jumpstart from a very kind friend. But only in Africa can you call the mechanic to your house, have him work on the car until it will start, then drive it to his shop for further repairs and a lube job, and bring it back to you washed inside and out for about $100. There are some things that really are better in Africa :)


Another thing that’s better in Africa is the option to call the carpenter to your house and have him come the same day to re-install your shower curtain rod and wardrobe clothes rod that collapsed while you were gone. And as a bonus, it all costs so much less than it would be to get a DIY kit from Ikea.


And in the midst of all the welcome friends and visitors that have come to greet me and welcome me back, there will always be the not so welcome ones…..


I suppose the usual way of entertaining guests doesn’t generally include smashing them with your shoe…but I prefer being unconventional.


All in all, I’m getting a lot of laughs, a few sighs of frustration, and so much joy to be back in a place my heart calls home!


Thank you all so much for your prayers for safe travels! My flights and entry through immigration were all completely smooth and uneventful, and I barely even noticed that I had a head cold! God is good! All the time!

Monday, January 4, 2016

24 hours!!

It's only 24 more hours until I'm on a plane back to Uganda again! I can't believe how fast these 3 months have flown by.

Christmas with my family was definitely the highlight of this trip, especially since I wasn't sick for it this year! Christmas has always been a really big deal in my family, and really a magical time since I was young, so it was such a joy to experience it again. Especially watching it through the eyes of my 3 nephews!






What I'm looking forward to the most about going back....


  • Giving out Christmas presents to my loved ones there!
  • Being greeted by my 164 kids at Genesis
  • Giving out more hugs in 1 week than I have in the past 3 months combined (most of my kids want more than one!) 
  • Playing my piano and learning the new music that I got while I was here
  • Driving on the newly paved roads of Mbale...after 1 1/2 years of them being completely torn up! 


What I'm not so excited about....

  • Negotiating another year of rent with the landlady
  • Figuring out what my little blessing car needs to be ok again
As always, I would so love your prayers, especially as I'm flying back and currently have a head cold! 

Happy New Year everyone!!