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Reflection

It is my week off and I went to the ministry center to give support to Olivia and observe her in action. It was great to see her working with the Primary 1 students the equivalent of a kindergarten class but generally in this primary school in Uganda they are about 2-3 years older than they should be in that class. She was managing a class that had 30 students and she told me that they are only on single sounds still because there are 5 groups of the same class. She teaches Primary 1 students every day of the week only one time because there are so many. She is also teaching other classes in the school up to the Primary 5 level. I was overwhelmed by how many students are in school and that they are one of 54 primary schools in that district. The cool thing is that we have a space designated for teaching reading and they actually get to then look at books they are learning how to read. I was encouraged to see how Olivia was able to manage a class and try and make it an interactive experience. I was able to give some feedback to hopefully help ease her burden, and offer some strategies to keeping order and encouraging good participation in the sessions.

I was also reminded of our needs that still exist in the Gayaza office. We run on solar power for many reasons, and that morning we were low on power. See at night we have security lights for the protection of the school and our building to deter theft. We have security cameras that run all night. That means in the morning hours when it is a cloudy rainy day power is very low. The lights might not turn on or the computers run on their backup power. Yesterday Matt was replacing our printer for a more efficient running one. But I still reflected on how much of an impact we are doing even if the things in the office aren’t running we still show up and we work hard. Even when it starts to rain and you can’t hear over the tin roof clanking. Meetings with coaches were being done, sessions with the secretary were being conducted so that work and ministry could continue. I don’t get to see the day to day operations often because I am working at school, so it is a good reminder of things that are hard and things that are working.

We have been reflecting on our 10 years of ministry and we asked the staff to do a little memory video of their memories of us. We still haven’t seen it because I am sure it needs a lot of editing (wink, wink). So many good memories came up as we were talking about how it all started and I was reminded of how faithful God has been. We have made it through some incredible challenges and I am in awe at times at how God has remained faithful to complete a good work in us. The odds were stacked so high against us and we could have so easily just given up, and no one would have even faulted us for it; except us. We knew deep down from the very beginning when we were only 24 and 25 years old and newly married. We quit our successful jobs, sold our things, moved to Uganda where we had no one to help us or hold us accountable. We had frontal assaults, spiritual warfare, behind the back attacks and much more. One thing remained for us though, we had God and we had each other. To me that is so amazing to reflect back on, but also propels us on because if we can make it through these past 10 years, no one but God can stop us from continuing on for another.

Through these times of reflection, I am reminded of those who did stick with us. The people who were worried for us and prayed fervently for us. Those who wanted to tell us to come home, but knew that we had work to do in Uganda. Those who gave money when they didn’t have much to spare, those who helped us get paperwork filed and mail posted. The ones that put on fundraisers for us and gave us a place to stay when we were visiting “home”. Those who told their friends and hosted parties to raise awareness, gave big donations so we could purchase things we really needed. Ministry is a partnership that is more than Matt and Brecka and we have always tried our best to tell the kids here and relay our thanks to those who have stuck with us all these 10 years and those who are new supporters. We appreciate and we continue because you make it all possible. Please keep giving and praying and sharing we love you all.

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I forgive, because He forgave

I forgive, because he forgave.

I am going through the Gospels and I am particularly fascinated these days with the disciples. Jesus is nearing the time of his death and resurrection. Before that he is betrayed. He knows he will be betrayed and he knows who will betray him.

But I didn’t know I was going to be betrayed and I didn’t know who was going to betray me. I sure as heck don’t expect to be put to death. So how then do I have the mindset of Jesus? How do I forgive someone who has betrayed me, someone who really could care less if I forgave him?

I can because Jesus didn’t just die for me he also died for people like him. I am a sinner and he is too. He died for all of us.

A friend of mine who has an inspirational blog called sonyabrunner.com Fifty Shades of Grace. Is someone who is constantly helping me to see that no matter what someone has done to you. You are the one who can take control and not let it control you. That Jesus died for someone like me and someone like him.

Music has always been a way of therapy, a way to connect to God, a way to release emotions. One of my favorites lately is Mercy Me- Even if.

verse-                                                                          chorus

They say it only takes a little faith                            I know You’re able and I know You can
To move a mountain                                          Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
Well good thing                                                             But even if You don’t
A little faith is all I have, right now                                   My hope is You alone
But God, when You choose                                           I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
To leave mountains unmovable                        Would all go away if You’d just say the word
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing                      But even if You don’t
It is well with my soul                                                     My hope is You alone

verse-                                                                              chorus

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good                   I know You’re able and I know You can
All of my days                                                       Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
Jesus, I will cling to You                                                 But even if You don’t
Come what may                                                            My hope is You alone
‘Cause I know You’re able                                              I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
I know You can                                                      Would all go away if You’d just say the word                                                                                            But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone”

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Truth because Fear is a Liar

I am sick of all the lies! “Fear is a liar” by Zach Williams is an amazing song and I heard it a lot on our trip in America. (I love that there is Christian music that you can tune into on the radio without streaming.) Mostly I am sick of people in our lives that continue to spew out lies to others about us; lies to us about themselves. I am sick of not being able to trust someone at their word and take it at face value. I am over the people who lie so much they start to even believe their lies and then try and come “clean” about the truth only to speak more lies about others.

It is really hard for me to make real relationships in Uganda; relationships with Ugandans, expats, and people who are in America. It is hard to be open and allow people into my world; the thoughts that I have and the things that I hold dear. Hard, when I have to have relationships over the internet; internet that is less than reliable, expensive and now even being taxed. Hard to have relationships with Ugandans because we have been burned more times than we can count by people who know how to talk the talk and then screw you over the moment you let any guard down. Expats are hard to open up to for fear of judgment, lack of dependability because of frequent turnover and they too are very guarded about what they let others know about them. They too have been taken advantage of and lied to by the people of the world.

I am not saying that this problem exists only because we live in Uganda. We have plenty of pre-Uganda liars in our life. We have people who are family that have held major lies, who cover up sin and deception. I have been lied to recently and will continue to be lied to because I understand that there is sin in the world. Lying is a sin and sin is everywhere, but I am still really sick and tired of lies and liars.

So where do I go from here? I have to trust people and I have to have faith in people. I am called to forgive people, but how do I stay safe from the lies and the liars? How do I make sure that I am always open and honest and also not putting up a façade? Often like the song “Fear is a liar” I think the reason people choose to lie is out of fear. Fear that they are not good enough on their own, fear that they are not going to be the right one for the job, fear that they can’t stand up to someone so they just lie and run away from their problems.

But I also think that people often try and live a life of fantasy; they try and live a life that they want and they want others to see them as living. They lie to themselves that it won’t hurt anyone or affect anyone if they tell “little lies”. They lie because they don’t believe that there is God our Almighty Father who knows our thoughts, fears, intentions, actions and the words we will speak before we speak them. They don’t want to believe that God is here for us and he is asking us to first just listen to Him. To listen to the truth and not believe the lies that we tell ourselves or we hear from others. It all comes down to the fact you have to be in the Word of God the BIBLE and believe in Jesus Christ for any real truth to rule your life. We are all born into this world as sinners and one of those sins is lying. We can’t overcome that sin if we continue to listen to the ultimate liar; Satan who tells us we don’t need Jesus and we deserve things so it’s okay to lie to get what we deserve.

So today I am praying for all the liars the ones I know and the ones that I don’t. I am praying that they find Jesus, they confess and they turn their life of lies into truths. I will continue to live my life as honestly as I can and tell Satan to go away. I am praying for strength to form relationships and not let fear get in the way. I am not going to deprive my happiness I am casting my fear in the fire, because fear is a liar. Pray for me because this struggle is a daily decision that has to be consciously made. My prayers for you is that you can find truth in Jesus and that He will guide you as you cast out your fears.

Lyrics to Fear is a liar and link to his video

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Oh, let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Oh, fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

‘Cause fear he is a liar

 

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The U.S.A trip

I am back in Uganda after 3.5 weeks in the U.S. what a trip! My husband and I with our 2 kids and 23 soccer players along with frankly 1 good chaperone and 4 other adults. It was quite the experience travelling from Uganda to Dubai, Dubai to Chicago where we had to go through customs, get all the bags, go to a different airline and check in and then RUN to our next flight to Detroit. We had an amazing experience in Detroit. I was overwhelmed by the amazing host families and I was less than excited about being a true Soccer Mom driving a 15 passenger van around the entire Detroit/Rochester/Canton/Westland areas. But my rule in my van was I am playing my praise music and you can put your earbuds in and listen to yours if you don’t like it. And I cannot say enough how much I love using GPS in the Good Ole United States. In Uganda you use it and you get taken to places no one should go and the lady pronounces every street (if you could call them streets) wrong. But in America they even reroute you if there is construction or delays happening!

I was brought to tears of joy when I was able to meet so many of Matt’s contacts in Michigan who were amazing hosts. We had some that were mutual friends and one that was my contact but overwhelmingly they were families that Matt had known through church and other childhood events. It was more emotional because without going into any specifics it wasn’t the best time connecting with Matt’s family. We did get to connect with a few but there are a lot going on and something to really be praying for. I saw with my own eyes people who have impacted my husband’s life from an early very critical point in his life and help shape him into the man he is today. I got to see families that stepped up and took him in as their own son, coaches that inspired him to love the game of soccer, churches that helped him learn about God and come to follow Jesus Christ. I was so blessed to witness those very people show up again at a critical time in our lives and again step up and show encouragement and love. God was present on this trip in many ways and for that I am thankful.

We then took a flight to Minneapolis and as we were in the airport I was sending messages back and forth with a missionary friend who was trying to get me a place for myself and my two littles to stay while we were in Minneapolis. God again is amazing (no surprise there) but she was able to find a great former missionary couple who lived just minutes from all the activities that were being done in the tournament. They were such a lovely couple and showed a genuine interest in investing in our lives even for the short time we were there.

My parents came and got us driving with a less than reliable vehicle all the way from Beatrice, Ne to Minneapolis and were able to take us home with them so we could have much needed family time. The Lord looked out for us and allowed the car to make it home. I was able to spend time with my parents and my grandpa along with visiting with some dear people who I would have otherwise not had the time to visit with. Matt was a trooper as he managed 3 groups of kids because two players who were older played as a guest on a team and then our only girl also played as a guest on a team. He had to get people where they needed to go and had to rely on the other adults on the trip to also help out (some did better than others- that’s a whole ‘nother story :p) I missed being his support and realized we really do make a great team.

The team travelled by bus to meet us in Omaha and again amazing people in our lives stepped up to the challenge of hosting us. I put the role of soccer mom on again as I drove a 15 passenger van and my mom also was the soccer grandma helping with transportation. This time it was a little bitter sweet as I was able to share my story of how missions is for a mom and wife for the last 10 years and how life has changed over that time in Beatrice. I was reminded of the hard times and the great times and the amazing work that God has done and continues to do. I missed out on sharing and being a part of what I would have called my childhood church as Matt took the soccer boys there, but also felt a bit of a disconnect with what that church now means to me as we have spent so much time away. It is a challenge to feel like anything is home when you live away and people move and things just change.

However, when we flew to Dallas a place I have never called home it actually felt very much like home. I got to stay with a wonderful family that I knew in Michigan and the church family there at Skillman truly get what it means to be the body of Christ they embraced our team, they hosted us in their youth room, they drove us around to different activities, they let us share our stories and spent time listening to us. Even when things didn’t go as planned they helped us process things and gave us encouragement and advice. It was the perfect way to end an amazing trip through the United States.

Would I do it all again…maybe ha! This trip was truly unique and I honestly believe it was ordained to happen when it did every single location, person and time all lined up just as God wanted it to. I also believe that it was more than just myself that was impacted and for that I am truly grateful. God works in amazing, mysterious ways and for that I am humbled and in awe of just how amazing our God is.

Thank you to all the amazing people who stepped up to God’s calling and made this trip a success. I hope you were blessed through your time with us and keep praying for us and the people who you met along the way. For those of you we didn’t get to see but sent us a gift or just followed our journey thank you for your prayers and your gifts. God Bless you!!!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.