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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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Women’s day…everyday am I right?

Last weekend I was blessed with the ability and opportunity to have a weekend away with some amazing women. I knew a few of them but the majority I had never met as they were coming from all over Uganda and even South Sudan. As I was reflecting about that weekend I am amazed at how strong God made us women. Throughout my life I have come to know and cross paths with some of the strongest women that God is using for his Kingdom. I truly believe after hearing stories of trials and tribulation that women face, it is only through God’s grace that women can turn a tragedy into a triumph for His glory. I am so thankful for the testimonies and the amount of prayer that went on this past weekend. God has a world full of amazing women who are faithful to complete the work that He has set before them. I wanted to highlight a few amazing women, ones that I won’t name but want to give the Glory to God for the impact they make in my life and in the lives of countless others around the world.

One woman came into my life through her amazing music. I always love hearing her sing and all for the glory of God. You can tell when someone has passion for what they are singing it radiates through them and just gives you goosebumps. I only found out about her life story years later when she was open enough to share with the world the horrible life she led as a child. But even though she had to deal with a whole lotta crud she is dealing with it and she is make a difference in the lives of others who also have dealt with abuse.

Another strong woman is a friend I made when we first returned to the United States and God intentionally put our lives together for a reason. We did life together and it was wonderful to have a friend and a fellow mom who also was just doing her best to raise tiny humans. Then for a reason we will never understand her son died and the heartache that followed at times seemed unbearable. But what I know is that she has never wavered in her love for God, and she is brutally honest about how hard life is, but she still lives it and loves in it. I am proud to be her friend.

Another woman who probably never knew how much she meant to me because she left this earth too soon for me. She was caring, friendly and a bit of a rule breaker. She was a great mother and wonderful grandmother and even got to be a great grandmother. She fought through injuries, cancer and a whole lot of responsibility. She loved to travel and meet new people and I believe that is how God used her. God used her outgoing caring personality to reach people wherever they were and she didn’t even have to mention God because they saw it in her. She was a witness of how amazing God is just through her presence. She was social, she was relational and that is what made her special. She has taught me to be okay with who I am and to take risks by how much I love others, even strangers.

God has placed so many women in my life who I can learn from and grow because of. I am eternally grateful that women in my life have been the ones who led me to Christ, taught me how to be a mother, a teacher, a leader, a speaker, a singer, a missionary, a friend, a mentor and much more. This journey that God has placed me on is not an easy one but He has placed women along the road to help me, pray for me and guide me into being a woman that God can say…”Well done my daughter, you good and faithful servant.”

 

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Called me Higher

Today we sang a song in church that really challenged my heart. It made me think about all the times that I have wanted something to happen, but didn’t want to put the effort into seeing through; like self-sabotage. But then I also thought about times where I was feeling like I was supposed to sit and wait for His goodness and feel His presence. In the silence, he was revealing his plan. Times when He has told me to just stay where I am and eventually it would feel good again. But He is always changing me on the inside and I have obviously heard Him tell me to leave home (more than once).

The chorus sums up my life, He has called me higher, deeper and to go where He leads me. And I will be His for all my life and I really do want His mercy to shine a light onto the path that He is leading me to.

I am thankful for this message today! Artist-Sons and Daughters- “Called Me Higher”

Lyrics

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence

And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside

And I could be safe, oh
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

Where You lead me

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life

And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy

Oh, and I will be Yours, Lord
And I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me

And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord
Oh, ’cause You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord, where You lead me

Where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

 

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“Be the Church”

Today was a great example of how amazing “the church” is. Flashback to 2008-2010 when we were first here in Uganda and I was seeking so much to find connection with fellow Christians. It was hard because we were the only missionaries in our area and to get to church with fellow missionaries meant we would need to travel to town, we didn’t have a vehicle and town was more than an hour away. When we decided to come back to live full time in Uganda I knew that life would have to look different. I knew we would need support from a solid church family that understood the stresses of being away from one’s home country and the tough ministry life.

It took some time, but we found KIC-B (Kampala International Church-Bugalobi). We found our church family that we knew we would need to help us when life gets tough. Today the pastor was preaching in Daniel and he had a “radical” idea, he asked his people to stand if they needed prayer, if this week didn’t go as planned. I stood and as uncomfortable as it is to be open and vulnerable it was freeing, because I knew one, I wasn’t going to be the only one that would be standing and two, I would be prayed for. What he asked next was that those around us would lay hands on us where we were and pray for us.

I thought back to a moment when I was first in Uganda and we went to Watoto church a “mega” church in Kampala and one Sunday we went when we had just been broken down and something similar happened a woman prayed for me. She had no idea what was going on in my life, but God did and used her to pray exactly what I needed to hear. God does that for us and it is so amazing! I can remember hearing the song “Stronger” that Sunday and thinking yes He is stronger and I will be okay.

This church family is from all over the world gathered together to worship and to be the church for each other. We come from all different backgrounds and religious groups, but one thing remains true is that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. How amazing it is to go to church each week knowing that people have each other’s backs; that during the week I can connect with someone from church and they will offer love, support, prayer and just a listening ear. I am so blessed!!!

The ”church” is not perfect and maybe you have been hurt by the church; but I want to encourage you to find a place that is not caught up in the politics of church. I beg you to give it another shot, because when you find a place that feels like family, you can make it through all the crazy that life brings you. If you are a part of the body of Christ- the church I challenge you to pray for people when they need prayer and to allow yourself to be prayed for when you need it. I am so thankful that through-out most of my life I have had people from the body of Christ who have prayed for me. The power of prayer is unmatchable and amazing to give and to receive. Take time today to pray for someone or ask someone to pray for you. Let me know how I can pray for you, I promise I will lift you up in prayer if you just let me know how I can be praying for you.

 

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The Journey thus far

Our journey through fostering and adoption is reflectively not that long in the grand scheme of things. However, it has been a slow, painful, frustrating, heartbreaking, challenging, new, happy and learning experience. We are supposed to care for the widowed and orphaned, but often times it is those who are neither that often need some attention. I think though why did God pick us and prompt us to take these kids into our home? I mean we see neglect, poor, needy, abused and the whole list of children that need a better home life. We don’t take them all in, we try and work with them and their families to get it together and get it right. I was a social worker when we first got married and my job was “Family Reunification Worker”. That’s what I did I worked on reunifying families that for one reason or another had been separated by the state and now were ready to try and come back together and live. So it is interesting to be on the side of the foster parent who might have to give up on everything they have worked toward to help these boys and basically say okay mom you want another shot here you go. There is a huge difference in the process though because in the U.S. you are provided some funds and legal protection from the government. Here in Uganda we literally have done everything out of our own good will and with no support from the government actually because they are not technically from this country.

So right before Christmas we had just made a year of the boys living in our home and we had come to the time that we were looking at adoption. We had been given the paperwork and the go ahead to move forward from the Rwandan embassy. Then we got a message that changed everything, one of the boys sisters sent a message asking if the boys could come and visit because their mom had come back to Uganda and wanted to see them. We were shocked, their mom the last we had heard was very ill and still in Rwanda. This all happened right before school was being let out for the holiday break and everyone who we had worked with on this fostering process had left or closed for the holidays. We were able to get in contact with a social worker through our church family and she helped us break the news to the boys. Happy was “happy” as he said he thought his mom was dead and it made him happy that she was alive. Kitibwa had no reaction besides shutting down and even refusing to see a picture of mom. Tendo was worried that it meant he would be leaving our family and “things” but was still anxious to see her. The next week we met with a translator that could help us with the communication barrier between three languages. She was great being able to get Tendo to open up and talk about his past with mom. Also finding out that Happy said he would not recognize his mom had we not shown him a picture and wouldn’t even know if he passed his father on the street.

All these feelings as we approach the meeting with their mom tomorrow and I am feeling so many emotions because I have so many questions and am not sure any will be answered. Mostly I want there to be lots of talking between everyone and I want open and honest conversations, no matter how hard it might be to hear. One thing that Matt and I are is united, we have sorted through emotions through this past year all the ups and downs and we have become stronger together through it.

Today we met mom, it was basically what I feared would happen an instant connection from the boys and a total disregard of responsibility from mom. She was grateful, she thought they were dead, she has been trying to relocate them for the past 7 months and is happy to find them in a good place. She has no plans to care for them or herself really, she is still dependent on other people to take care of her. We did get some answers, some history, a glimmer of hope for the future. I am going to have to use my social work background to get some things in place for mom, steps and goals in place. I am forever these boys advocate and as much as it is way more personal than anything I have ever done, I will fight. When people don’t know how to fight for things, you have to sometimes point them in the right direction, push them, show them, and be there to help them when they mess up.

What I am not going to do is be someone’s scapegoat, excuse or reason to not do their best. I won’t allow it. I thought 2017 was hard but I have a feeling it was just preparing me for the challenges ahead.

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From Boxing day to New Years

Boxing day- there is not much that I understand about what Boxing day really is but I do know they honor it as a holiday here in Uganda. For me it meant that I decided to take down the Christmas decorations. There is now a big bare area in the corner of our living room, I spent the morning cleaning and got Matt to hang my new picture frame. Matt is finally taking the time to finish our picnic style kitchen table…a project started in the summer. I am hopeful it will be completed before the new year (fingers crossed).  When I think of boxing day it actually makes me think of two things actual boxes and punching someone. When I looked up the meaning I gathered these facts: A box- a present; servants were given the day off and possibly a “box” from their master; kind of like “black Friday” in America where stores had Big sales; celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other commonwealth countries (originated in England 19th century).

It made me wonder what are some traditions or “public” holidays that don’t really mean what we thought? There are holidays that are strictly American Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, (Independence day is universal but is specific to each country), Labor day, Columbus day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving day. In fact, the only two holidays that are celebrated pretty much universally are Christmas and New Year’s. It made me think about how people from all around the world celebrate differently. We hold different beliefs and traditions not only related to public holidays but also a whole list of reasons. The beauty in our world is that God created us all differently and it is evident in the variety of ethnicities and various backgrounds that we come from.

In this new year many people around the world think about what they want their new year to look like. Some have a word they choose to express what they want their year to represent. Resolutions to get something done or to start something new. I made a plan…a bit of a dream board style with goals and ways to get them accomplished. One thing that I want to do a better job of doing is to celebrate other people better. I want to be able to look at their culture and see it for what it is; invest more time in exploring people other than myself.

One way I am planning on doing this is with a project that I have dreamt about doing for a long time. I am working on making a children’s book to inspire children to explore the possibilities of doing anything they can dream of. I will travel around Uganda documenting jobs of people in Uganda and telling their story of how they got where they are. The real life stories of people they can relate to and allow them a way to dream bigger. My hope is that it will also inspire those who are doing a job they didn’t really want to do as a kid think how they can too dream bigger.

So what do you want to do this New Year that is not only for yourself but also for someone else? Maybe make this new year about getting to know someone else, celebrate a new culture or tradition, dream bigger and do something that you always wanted to do.

Have a Happy New Year!!!