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


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!