Preface: I wrote this for a friend who was writing a book and was using women’s testimonies that she knew in it. Although I was never picked I learned a lot about God’s blessings through writing it. The featured image is from the day we left Uganda May 2010, Jonah is still apart of our family as he is finishing his first year in University.
I truly believe that God allows you to live your life as you want to, but every step of the way He can and will guide you to living a better life than you could have chosen for yourself. This is one of my journeys that the Lord took me through living in Uganda, East Africa.
Although my husband and I met in an unusual way I believe that is how God intended to unite us. Two people from different family backgrounds, different educations, and even different states; God guided us to each other knowing He could use us to glorify Him, if we only obeyed. One night, Matt shared with me his life verse, Romans 10:14-15 I knew that day I would marry this man who also had a vision to serve.
October 7, 2006 we were married and during our ceremony we had a time where we washed each others feet dedicating our lives to the service of God and one another. I moved to live with Matt in Michigan where he was working for the Detroit Pistons as a TV producer and after sometime I was able to find a job working at the Judson Center and that is where I met Joanna.
Though seemingly a successful young couple, Matt and I were not satisfied with where our lives were headed. We felt God calling us to make a change, to trust Him and be willing to give up everything, everyone and follow Him. Through much prayer and questioning God about what He was telling us to do we surrendered and the journey got that much more interesting.
When we started telling people about what we felt God was telling us to do we got several different reactions. “Wow, really Africa”, “Cool, I have always wanted to go there”, “Good luck”, “You’re fired”, “Financially we just can’t make the sacrifice to support you”, “You’re in our prayers”, “Don’t leave us”, “It’s not for me, but we will be praying for you.” We had people who we thought would understand and support who didn’t and total strangers who gave with out questioning what we were doing. We had family encourage us and discourage us, church families embrace us and churches reject us. Two years after we said “I Do” and a year after we said “I Will” we landed in Uganda to serve in whatever capacity God wanted to use us.
I am finding that in each triumph I can reflect back to a past event in my life that directly affected the outcome that I was experiencing; some many years in the past and others days before. I had a Sunday School teacher Mrs. Garrett who lead me to a relationship with Christ at the young age of 5. I now lead children of all ages into having relationships with the Lord. My family moved when I was in the eighth grade, I met Rachel Maly “Kolb” who was one of my first true friends and through her passion for missions I experienced my first out of country mission trip. My junior and senior year of high school I had an amazing mentor Christine Shafer who taught me about being a woman of God and allowed me to be a part of her family. In college I had roommates and hall mates who helped me through some tough relationship issues, and lead by example on how to truly love one another. I married a wonderful man of God who continues to challenge me to be better, loves me unconditionally, grows spiritually alongside me and prays with me daily. I have a mother who has always been a spiritual rock in our family, and a father who I have seen grow spiritually throughout my life. I have a God who thought of me before anyone else did and put specific people in my path who have helped and taught me along life’s journey.
When we are in the moment we often times don’t see who God is putting in our lives to help us. In my moments of weakness, He gives me a glimpse of my past experiences to use in getting through my present struggle. For the first three months in Africa I was literally crying out to God asking Him why me, why us. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy getting used to the living conditions, food, people, and the language. But I didn’t know how Satan would attack us with corruption, deceit and daily spiritual warfare. I was afraid to tell my friends and family for fear that they would tell me to come home, not support us or say “I told you so.” I was finding myself every Sunday literally crying because I was so thirsty for God and felt so alone and vulnerable. One Sunday Matt and I heard about a church in town, we boarded a taxi and gave it a chance. As we were surprisingly put near the front of a very packed church the pastor had us pray with the people around us. A woman not knowing the pain I was going through prayed a prayer asking for God to give me strength through whatever circumstance I was facing. The choir then started singing “Stronger” by Reuben Morgan. For the first time since we arrived God allowed me to feel His arms wrapped around me. And as I sang with tears of peace streaming down my face, I knew that this journey was indeed going to make me stronger. That God could handle everything; I just had to fully surrender it all to Him.
Almost two years have passed and God has taught us so much. We truly believe that He is “stronger” than we will ever be; but through His grace, He can teach us and mold us into the person He wants us to be. Looking back at all the many emotions that this journey has brought I know without any doubt that God continues to give us only what we can handle James 1:2-3; putting people in our lives that help us through the journey.
I wrote that excerpt nearly 6 years ago, and when I read it, it was as if it was yesterday. Interesting thing, in spite of all the trials we went through those two years, we decided to do it all over again (with a bit more insight to help us). I can say it is a different experience all together for many reasons. One, we were our own organization, and had specific plans (inspired by God) to fulfill. Two, we had two more members of the team (Jacob and Parker) Three, we have other missionaries to learn from, grow with and fellowship alongside. There are many other differences the list is pretty long, we had a very tough two years of ministry the first go around, for various reasons. One challenge is still the same and will always be as a missionary and that is support. It is a tricky balance when you are trying to fund a ministry, life, futures, hopes, dreams, all without technically being able to create an income on your own. Support through prayer when you can’t physically hear the prayers. The awesome thing is that God always provides just what you need, when you need it, when you are faithful. The key is trusting that you are hearing correctly what God is telling you, because there is a lot of useless background noise that can get in the way. We are approaching the 1-year mark for this time around and I couldn’t be more excited for what we believe the future holds. God is doing amazing things here in Uganda and we are blessed enough to be here to experience it. I will be excited to read this entry in another 6 or more years from now to see what God has done in our lives. Because God is good all the time…all the time God is good. Be blessed!