0

Better to give…

Guess what I have been doing on my “summer break” …cleaning and organizing. I actually am not complaining; I love doing it. Matt thinks I am weird because I like watching that show “hoarders”. Over the years I have learned that most people fall into certain categories of why they keep things. Some are collectors they like to save memory items; they like to buy matching items that carry a theme. Some people keep things they think they will use in the future and they are so frugal that they will figure out a use for that pipe cleaner and empty jar of peanut butter. Then there are the people who don’t even know they keep things, they are so disorganized they don’t even realize they still have that shirt from 10 years ago that didn’t fit or look good then, but for some reason they kept hold of it.

I ended the school year cleaning up and storing items for next year (along the way found some things that did not need to sit in the closet all summer long). I then got to sort lots and lots of donated items for our football program (thanks to Puma) J. I then went on to our home and moved my art supplies from the guest house that didn’t end up being my sanctuary that I thought it would originally serve as. I went through the kid’s memory boxes and purged quite a few very random items. Then I spend a day and a morning cleaning out a storage container at the Gayaza office that I have sorted on more than one occasion. I have more faith this time it will stay a bit more functioning fingers crossed.

I have grown more sensitive to why people like free stuff or want to hold on to things. When we started fostering the boys they came with some of the strangest things and we would get people who would give us things to use for the boys and we also went to the markets and got items. It was so hard for them to let go of old items, items that would not fit, had holes, were made for the body type of a female and someone way shorter than them. I would try to convince them to give it to a younger brother or donate it to the kids in Gayaza and after some time of trust they were able to let some things go. I find here in Uganda with the people that I work with or serve alongside like to find a good deal. I can appreciate that, but I think that for so long they have struggled with obtaining “stuff” it is hard for them to let it go. They would rather keep it for a “rainy day” so to speak than to find someone else who needs it or even (gasp) throw it away.

I reflect on the verse Matthew 6: 19-21 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I just want to give people some way of remembering to trust God and not rely on the stuff that ultimately won’t protect them or provide fulfillment. It is easier to give up things when you feel that you have plenty some might say. But I have experienced loss in a variety of ways from selling everything to come to Uganda, getting robbed of lots of stuff and what I learned from it all is that God always provides. There will always be stuff some stuff is nicer than others, but it is still stuff that you will not need when you leave this Earth. I never want to be a person that has stuff lying around not being used just because I fear losing it or needing it someday. I choose to let other people benefit from it and hopefully they too will end up giving something they don’t need any more to someone who needs it more than them.

Advertisements
0

Summer trips

To all those wonderful parents sending their kids on mission trips this summer. Your child no doubt will have or has had a great experience because it was made comfortable enough and safe enough for you to allow them to travel. Most likely they didn’t get sick or have any real uncomfortable sleepless nights. They may even have had to give up electronics for a whole 10 days.

What were the missionaries they worked with? What does that missionary have to raise in support yearly to sustain their ministry? What is a typical day they experience like?Did you or your child learn about the people who are living there full time? I just want to caution you and your child to have a belief that going on a summer mission trip is their yearly contribution to the mission field.  No doubt your child was impacted and that is good, but how can they stay impactful long after their summer is over?

I ask these questions because when I went on trips as a student, I rarely remember anything about the long term missionaries we were serving. I remember taking pictures of all the kids and the scenery and (reflect now) how I was ill equipped to do really much besides give hugs and teach a few Bible stories that usually had to be translated.  While I do think exposing our children to missions is important (I was impacted from it) I hope that we can understand missions isn’t for most a onetime fundraiser. It isn’t a week away from home. It is a life commitment; for many that means years away from “home”. It is constant “fundraising”. It is constant sacrifice of many things that are over looked as just a normal, no thought, given right to life. Often times the missionary only is remembered for but a moment as the organizer of a youth group summer trip.

I challenge churches as they raise funds and send children to places to serve; that they spend more time getting to know the people who are “on the ground” all the time. Find out how they can actually not only send people for a week to experience life, but how they can stay connected as a body of Christ and help the missionaries long term. Serve them with prayer, encouragement, money, time, resources, and most importantly Share! Share! Share! The more people hear their story the more it helps them spend more time “on the field” than “at home” fundraising. Often the real benefit of your child going on a missions trip is that for a moment that missionary was remembered and their ministry was given a spotlight.

This post was triggered by a few posts that people were making about their child going on a missions trip. And lots of posts about VBS and kids raising money. I was hit with a sad stat that I saw was a church advertising (seemingly boasting) they had over 900 kids participate in VBS and they raised $12,000 to help people in need. Wonderful, but if they did the math that is about $13 for each kid. Imagine if they each brought in $50 or $100…that would be $45,000-$90,000 wow that would make such an impact on the life of a missionary (and thus even more the people they are serving).

I am just saying that all too often (and I am reflecting) as I was once a short term mission goer, and VBS attender and teacher that we need to always be thinking about the reason we are doing what we are doing. Are we going on a mission trip to teach our kid to think about others? Are we raising money at VBS so we can make difference? I believe we are, but if we could think bigger and deeper and just remember your summer donation and momentary sacrifice is something that someone who has made a lifetime sacrifice takes very seriously and wants you to remember longer than a week out of your busy summer.

 

0

My apology to those I never got to know

I want to apologize to all the missionaries. As a child I didn’t understand really what you did except live in a place I had never been and I knew that sharing Jesus with people was part of what you did. I remember there being a board in the hallway that had people to pray for that were missionaries and military, but I didn’t really know more than that. In fact, I don’t know if I ever met a missionary when I was young. I do remember going to Mexico, sleeping in tents and not being able to flush the toilets. I remember we tried to learn Spanish or at least a song and we did arts and crafts with the kids. The boys played soccer/football and we weren’t able to drink the water. I also remember other trips that we took as a team and looking back I am sure we were amusing to the locals, but I don’t know that we were impactful. I think that short term trips are actually something that makes young impressionable youth feel that they are blessed and it makes older people feel like they have done their good deed for the year. I don’t remember the missionaries that stayed there all the time and had to make our “trip” comfortable. For that I am sorry.

I think that as a whole Christians and non-Christians have no real grasp on what a missionary does. I don’t blame them; I don’t blame the missionaries; I blame the Church. Why do I blame the church? I blame them because for a majority of churches they are focused on the people who are seated in the church pew. They are thinking about how to serve, preach, teach the physical people in the building they call the church. But we are not only supposed to serve, preach, teach the people entering the building we are supposed to also be serving, preaching and teaching the people who don’t enter the physical church. We are supposed to be praying for the people who are not in the church, the ones who don’t go into those spaces because they don’t want to be judged. The people who can’t go to church because they are being the church to people who don’t understand what the church is really about.

I have written a few blog pieces on what being the church is and obviously it is something that I am passionate about. You see we do need the physical place that we can come and worship, pray and be taught. We need the physical place where we can gather and make friendships. But we can’t only be that physical place as a church, we also have to be aware that being a Christian is not just about what goes on “at church”, but what the church does OUTSIDE of the church building. We need to be aware of how we can support people who have been instructed by God to go and reach the very people that we are trying to draw closer to God. If the church never reaches the people outside the building, then they will always be doing a disservice to what Christ wanted the “church” to be.

It is weird for a church to think that giving money is all that people need to be supported by the church. Being supported by the church is so much more; it is praying, advocating, hosting, servicing, defending, and recruiting missionaries. Supporting someone who is in full time ministry is not just about the money, it is about providing support in ways to help that ministry/missionary carry out the job that God has sent them to do. Imagine if you worked for a company that never checked in on you to see if you needed help, never acknowledged that you showed up to work every day, never allowed you a vacation, never said you did a good job, never wanted you to visit their office, never wanted to give you anyone to help you…just said well you get paid, you should be happy. I think you might be a disgruntled employee.

The song “Thank you” by Ray Boltz brakes down for me what the church could be and should be. We should be teaching the children in the church, we should be giving to the missionaries, we should be generous and make sacrifices. Why? Because we are supposed to be impacting the kingdom in every aspect of our life, both in and out of the church. We are to “be the church” all the time not just celebrate how many years we have been a church “building”. To all the people who are “the church” to me and my family, Thank you for giving to the Lord, I have a life that was changed.

Lyrics for Thank you by Ray Boltz

I dreamed I went to heaven
You were there with me
We walked along the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name
You turned and saw a young man
He was smiling as he came.

He said friend, you may not know me now
But then he said but wait
You used to teach my Sunday school
When I was only eight
Every week you would say a prayer
Before the class would start
One morning when you said that prayer
I asked Jesus in my heart

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave

Then another man stood before you
And said remember the time
A missionary came to your church
His pictures made you cry
You didn’t have much money
But you gave it anyway
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave

One by one they came,
As far as the eye could see
Each one somehow touched
By your generosity
Little things that you had done, sacrifices made
Unnoticed on the earth, heaven now proclaims
And I know up in heaven
That you’re not supposed to cry
But I was almost sure
There were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord
And He said my child look around you
For great is your reward

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave
I am so glad you gave
I am so glad you gave.

 

0

The gift of sharing

I teach at an International school and some might think that I don’t see any needs. That everyone I teach and work alongside have it good especially financially. You see when you are in the “villages” needs are more obvious; more in your face. I bet you also go about your jobs and think about your coworkers as all having jobs, no real need. But what if you looked a little closer, who cleans your office? Who locks up at night or prepares the school lunch? Who do you see, but don’t hear? Well at Acacia some of the people you may not see or hear are the very people who work longer hours than me. They do the jobs that most don’t want to do. They help a lot in many areas whether it is in the classroom, the kitchen, the playground or outside acting as security.

A short time ago it was “teacher appreciation” and while I do think we should acknowledge all they do, I felt a bit weird. I felt like appreciation in general doesn’t happen enough. Mother’s day and Father’s day happen, but often people are left out. No special day is set aside to say thank you to them. I am proud of Acacia International School because we do have a few who “get it”; that there needs to be appreciation for all the people who make things “happen”.

A while back Parker had brought a show and tell and she was proud of a stuffed animal. One of the grounds keepers (do anything you ask people) James mentioned he wished he could get a nice stuffed animal like that for his child. He didn’t ask he just thought out loud. My assistant who is amazing and recently had a baby had just come back and all the kids at school were invited to wear pajamas and bring in a stuffed animal. She mentioned that nice stuffed animals are “so expensive”, again just thinking out loud.

I decided that my kids who have an abundance of stuffed animals could give up one. I sat down and talked with them and they agreed that they could find one stuffed animal that they could give. Parker also decided that for her birthday she wanted to invite “adults” to join in. So she wrote little invitations for the secretaries, the kitchen staff, the grounds crew, the security and the cleaning crew (and her principal).

mrjamesMsRachealSo if you could do me a favor, pray for those who are unseen. Do something kind for those who need a little acknowledgement. It doesn’t have to take much, everyone can find an area where they can sacrifice a little to make a big difference. Another thing, your children can teach you lessons in how to be generous, just keep encouraging them to think of others.

0

Don’t forget to say thank you

I am the wife of a coach. After another late night I decided that I wanted to let you in on my world as a wife of a coach. You see as with any relationship there is always someone you might not see or consider who is also affected by the spouse’s job. When his players need a ride, don’t get picked up right away after practice or a game, when no one comes to cheer them on…who is always there? My husband as a coach is always the first person to arrive and the last person to leave. He often has to eat on the run or warm up dinner, missing out on family time. When he wants more family time it means that his family often has to come to events, practices and games and cheer on other people’s kids. His family often hears the complaints from the parents and sees the demands of the process when the coach is working late. His family sees the hours he puts in to make sure equipment is maintained, uniforms are ordered, parents are informed, payments are made, matches are scheduled, practice space is available, manages the other coaches, settles disputes, and not to mention the actual job of coaching. And did you know my husband doesn’t get paid for any of that.

He also runs an organization which includes managing staff, building relationships with the community, finding donors, creating programs, and much more. Did I mention that he also volunteers as a coach at school, is on the parent council and is a dad? All that to say, I married an amazing man who shows his family that God is number one, working hard is to be respected, keeping promises is important, service is needed but not always valued, grace is always necessary and relationships take work.

So as you all have your own lives and responsibilities I just wanted to remind you to one, show some grace to your significant other. Show some grace to your kids’ teachers, coaches and leaders. But also don’t forget the families that those teachers, coaches and leaders have; who also have to make sacrifices you most often don’t see for the sake of others. Most of all, if you are also one of those who is a “be all” for others; you also need to prioritize time for self-care, because we as your family need you and we are proud of you.

Thank you to all the people in my lifetime that have been that person who has sacrificed for my betterment and for the betterment of my kids. Thank you for your service and you are not forgotten.

0

We are the Church

Recently at school we talked to my students in the early years about church. We talked about the buildings and how some are very big and decorated with lots of expensive things. We then talked about how church looks for some of us with church being held at schools, huts and some in big buildings. Then we explained that the church doesn’t always mean a building. We had them repeat “I am the church” as they looked in the mirror at themselves. Then we talked about how if you are a believer in Christ that you belong to the church and that being the church means that you worship God. Remember these are 3-5 year olds, we kept it simple, but as we finished I wanted them to have a feeling of being the church together and I put on the song “Come, now is the time to worship,” and as these cute little ones began to sing praises I fought back tears of joy.

We are the church and here in Uganda I needed a place to call “my church”. I remember that it was some of my most lonely of months when we first came to live in Uganda in 2008 and I couldn’t call any place my church home. This go around through God’s grace it was actually such a blessing to find a church we felt connected to. The international church is an interesting concept as we are believers from all over the world and we gather together to worship. We come from all backgrounds and denominations, but that doesn’t limit our ability to come together as one church body.

These past years the “church” has been the support that we have needed throughout this journey of ministry. Believers in Christ have prayed for us from all over the world, given us advice, support financially and so much more. I would also say that having Godly women in my life has really helped me emotionally to continue to do all the things that I do. I am blessed to work with Christian women at school and Sunday mornings worshiping alongside other families in ministry. Then the few important opportunities to go on weekends away to really refocus and have women who also have ministry life struggles to pray for you and lift you up. A few months ago I was blessed to have one of those weekends and I met many amazing women. One of them shared this song with us (she happens to be my new neighbor too) and it really gave me the boost I needed.

Singer:   Ginny Owens   Album:   Without condition  1999            Song:   If you want me to

Lyrics:

The pathway is broken

And The signs are unclear

And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here

But just because You love me the way that You do

I’m gonna walk through the valley If You want me to

‘Cause I’m not who I was

When I took my first step

And I’m clinging to the promise

You’re not through with me yet

So if all of these trials bring me closer to you

Then I will go through the fire If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen

When you lead me through a world that’s not my home

But You never said it would be easy

You only said I’d never go alone

So When the whole world turns against me

And I’m all by myself

And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help

I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through

And I will go through the valley If You want me to

My encouragement to you is to find out what the church means to you. It doesn’t mean just a building, in fact the building could be a distraction from what the church is supposed to be. Find people of faith that you can have a relationship with and can hold you accountable. Going to Bible studies, prayer meetings, retreats, Sunday morning worship and fellowship. I encourage you to meet people and as a person who doesn’t really like to try and meet new people, I know that can be a challenge. Pray for God to open up opportunities for you to get involved somehow in the church as it will not only benefit other people it will be a blessing to you. The pastor is not the only one in the church that can minister to you, WE ARE THE CHURCH. YOU ARE THE CHURCH. I AM THE CHURCH. Now GO BE THE CHURCH and be blessed.

 

 

 

 

0

So your going to Dubai, Why?

We leave for Dubai tonight with 18 soccer/football players 4 of which are from our Gayaza ministry. I think there is some confusion about why we are traveling not only on this trip, but for the summer trip to America. Let me back up two years ago when we were traveling around America and sharing our story with just my husband and my kids. We drove from Michigan, down through Kentucky, onto Tennessee, through Texas and then back up to Missouri/Kansas into Nebraska over to Colorado, back to Nebraska and finally back up to Michigan. I was studying for my teaching certificate and did I mention we have two kids and did all this travelling in a car?!

Why did we do that traveling? Simply put, to try and share our stories and our desires for ministry in Uganda. We loved seeing friends, but we also felt awkward; a burden and salespeople. You see we have to “sell” what it is we do for ministry to try and convince people we are worthy of their monetary support. Instead of taking a break from day in and day out ministry we were still doing it on “vacation” you know the ones that we are not supposed to take because we should be doing ministry all the time, because we are getting supported to do ministry, not take family vacations. (sarcasm)

Flip ahead to this past year, Matt was volunteering as a soccer coach at Acacia the Christian school that my kids attend and I work at (yes, working). He was presented with an opportunity to join in with a group of parents that had a vision for their kids. Expats (a person working outside of their home country) and local Ugandan’s that have successful ministries or corporate jobs (you know regular people) who wanted a program that would push their children into the world of football. There were other football programs, but all of them had the same problem they were all about money and not about the development of the child. These parents saw what Matt had developed in Gayaza and wanted that for their kids. Matt prayed and said “no” several times until he was given a vision for what this opportunity actually could mean for the success of our program in Gayaza.

Over this past year as we have started running this program Rising Star Elite- it has provided us with the funds to pay our coaches and add additional coaches (job security). It has allowed us to get more equipment (through donations made by these very parents who want this program). It has allowed for us to have money freed up to spend on renovations to our now amazing library, more books have been donated and even a donation from a local bank to get more material to help with teaching children how to read.

So some may wonder why this trip to Dubai and why this trip to the USA? Well for one we are fulfilling dreams that children from all nationalities and even religions have and we are doing it proudly in the name of Christ. Every single person who joins our programs knows why we have these programs and why we sacrifice our time and efforts is all for the glory of God. We are making an impact in children’s lives by giving them HOPE and when you have hope you are open to receiving what God wants for your life. These trips are allowing us to minister to not only these kids who come on the trips, but also the teams they encounter, the coaches, the fans, the parents, the world.

We were asked two years ago by a church that was considering supporting us. One of them asked how do you think you will be able to sustain your ministry? Are you just going to keep asking people for money year in and year out? Well now I have an answer that I didn’t have then. I work first and foremost because I love teaching, but also it provides a way to educated my children at no cost to our supporters. I also get a little bit of money that helps cover our rent expenses. Matt does A LOT of work day in and out trying to make everything work and has lots of obstacles that only people living in Uganda would understand and appreciate as a miracle he gets as much done as he does. The work he puts in pays for our staff and ministry. But then there is us, our family…we don’t have an income that we can live on. We don’t have money to pay for food, electricity, water, internet and all the other little things that add up. So when people ask why they should still support us, my answer is simple; if you don’t then nothing else can work. We need your support so we can continue to provide all the many services to so many people. So I can continue to teach kids from all over the world many of them missionary kids, so my kids can get a great education, so we can provide care for the other kids that may need shelter, food and education like our 3 boys Tendo, Kitibwa and Happy needed. So Matt can continue to teach coaches, coach children and provide opportunities for kids to travel the world and learn how to read a book. So that through it all we can meet people where they are and point them to the Cross.

So maybe what we are doing sounds unconventional as your perception of what a missionary should be doing, but I challenge you to look around and see what has God provided for you to do that could also impact his Kingdom. Maybe He is telling you to support two unconventional missionaries in Uganda who are working tirelessly to make dreams come true and ultimately impact the world for Jesus.

We need homes to stay in, we need rides, we need prayers and we need you. Please will you help us?

Go to www.risingstarministries.com to find out how you can be a part of our USA tour and how you can also make an impact in the life of a child.