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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.

 

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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.

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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!!!

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Good Good Father

Getting real with you again. I struggle with race. I struggle with why it matters. I know people will say it is because I am white, I have white privilege. Yes, true but when it comes to being a human being I can honestly say I care what race you are, what nationality you are, what religion you are. I care because you are a child of God. When we came to Uganda it wasn’t the first time that I helped people different from me. I don’t help people because of where they come from or what they look like. I help people because they are in need. I don’t help people because I am white, I don’t help people just because they don’t look like me. I help people because Jesus tells me to and because I love Jesus I love people.

Why am I writing this because I know that people won’t always understand why we are adopting 3 boys from another race, country and tribe different from our own. People won’t always understand why we are living in another country other than our own, helping people from a different race, religion, country, tribe, tongue than ours. Simple, because Jesus did. You see I am proud of who I am what God created me to be and I can’t change that. I embrace who God made me to be because I don’t want anyone to feel they need to be ashamed of where they come from, who God created them to be.

Adoption is not an easy calling and often I feel people who adopt get a bad wrap. The stories of the children often are the ones people hear about. The stories of the parents who adopt are often forgotten or not even heard. I am not trying to discount all the pain that a child who is adopted goes through, but open your heart to the heartache that someone who adopts goes through. People who adopt do so for a variety of reasons and some can be selfish, but most often it is because they feel a calling to help.

An adoptive parent has to handle all the emotional trauma that the child goes through. Raise a child that is not theirs, often one that doesn’t look like them. Raise a child who may never call them mom or dad, a child who always longs to be with their “real” parents. Raise a child who they couldn’t have, raise a child along with their biological child, raise a child after they have already raised their own. An adoptive parent has to balance what is emotionally healthy for the child to have interaction with biological relatives, learn a culture that is not naturally theirs, learn a language or traditions that don’t come naturally. Worry that they are raising a child who will one day leave them to live with someone else, reject them, resent them, never grow to love them.

Very rarely is there a child who literally has no one still alive that has their blood. Unless their entire family was killed in war or accident they have someone who has relation to them. The idea that you should place a child with a relative sounds good in theory. To place a child in their own culture also sounds great in theory. To place a child with someone who can relate to them because they “look” the same as they do also great it theory. But what happens when those people who are related to them, looks like them, comes from their same culture are the same people who tortured them, abandoned them, enslaved them, abused, neglected and rejected them. Then is that still the best placement for them. What if no one wants to help three boys and keep them together. What if their own family can’t provide for their basic needs to live. What if their own family left them, sold all their things and abandoned them.

Adoption usually isn’t a beautiful process, there is always hurt involved in adoption. Always financial strain, emotional strain, marital strain, and relationship strain. Adoption is a beautiful thing but the road and journey is not easy, the reality is that adoption happens only if there is something that has been lost. The hope is that adoption can work only with intervention from Jesus, healing can only happen through Jesus.

I will leave you with this if you are someone who has adopted, thank you for taking that leap of faith. If you have been adopted, understand that everyone’s story is different and I hope that you have been able to find healing in Jesus’ name. If you are considering adopting, I will let you know it is not an easy road, but if you are doing it for the right reasons then it is something you should do. If you are a sceptic or critic of adoption I hope that you will attempt to look at adoption from all sides of the story. The way that I look at life is that Jesus is my “adoptive” father, he is the one who will never leave me or hurt me. Jesus is always here for you and for me no matter what our earthly father means to us and our story.

*I must say I am thankful that I have an earthly father who has always loved me, cared for me, prayed for me, supported me and disciplined me. I am thankful that my earthly father has pointed me to my heavenly father so that I knew no matter if my earthly father left this earth I would always have a father with me.

I love the song- “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and can honestly say I have been blessed.

 

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Trials of 2017

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

What are my trials that I am facing? I want to try and be authentic about this part of my life right now. 2017 has not been the best year of my life, nor the worst; but I can say that many trials have been faced and continue to be faced. The most obvious one is the new addition of 3 tween boys who have lived with us full-time since January. To say it has been an adjustment is an understatement. When you think you might have a good thing going it often changes with the weather, especially when there are now 7 different moods, opinions, behaviors, schedules, stresses, and coping strategies.

We have moved 4 times in Parkers 4 years of life from Omaha to Uganda House 1 Masoli, then to House 2 Bukoto and most recently House 3 Kasanga. We told ourselves I don’t want to move for a long time and then we get robbed in the very house that we want to stay in for a long period of time. That was a major trial and at times still is, our lives were forever altered. I had flashbacks to our first year of marriage where I was robbed outside our apartment at gunpoint. Matt had restless nights waking up to any little sound he would hear outside. Every night it would take hours to fall asleep because any noise outside would prevent us from being able to rest.

Not being able to travel “home” this year has been a big heartache for us. We miss friends and family physically being with us. We miss the comforts that a first world country offers. The familiarity and convenience of getting what we need and what we want. The reality that we are not financially able to just go “home” like other people are. The lack of flexibility we have to leave our ministry in capable hands and see that it would run without our constant support. The fact we can’t travel with our boys yet because they have no documentation or clearance to move around with us outside of Uganda.

Missionary families moving onto other countries and the relationships that we developed with them altered. Opening up ourselves to be hurt, lonely and at times envious of where they are heading and the lives they will lead without us. The stress of making new friends and always having to be the “outgoing” person because if you are shy and introverted then good luck finding friendships.

Friends and family dealing with loss and heartbreak a world away from us and we can’t be there to comfort them. We can’t experience the new births and the deaths, marriages and moves. You can’t be there when someone is sick or going through a crisis; you can’t physically touch someone, hold their hand, hug them tight or say I love you in person.

But if life were only the first part of the verse then it would be a complete tragedy not pure joy. The second part of that verse says… because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

As much as I don’t like facing trials those trials happen for a reason. I often don’t know what those reasons are and I don’t always face them joyfully. But I do know that my God will give me the ability to persevere. He will equip me when I read His word and pray to Him to be able to come out of any trial better than when I faced it.

We have had so many blessings in the midst of the trials, victories in the midst of defeat and hope in the midst of hopelessness. We have gained more than we have lost and loved more than we thought we ever could. It is all because of Christ and His goodness despite our shortcomings. Thank you God for that and through those trials and the ones to come I know that through it all I will always find God with me by my side holding my hand or when I am too weak He will be carrying me through the storm.

I will end with one of my favorite poems…

Footprints in the Sand

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Author: Carolyn Joyce Carty

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Where’s your green grass?

Is it possible to have a midlife crisis in your thirties? I find that I am in a weird time in my life especially now having three extra kids that I didn’t ever know I would have. I look at my colleagues and they are in their twenties and they literally have nothing tying them down and can do seemingly whatever adventure they want. I feel at times there are no other families that have the same dynamic that we do with kids ranging from 4-13 and three of them being only part of our family for a year. There are adventures that I still want to do but financially can’t for a variety of reasons…family of 7, missionary budget and living in Uganda. So I have been on the hunt for cheap local things to do that are different and unique, fun moments that will fill that silly midlife crisis I am experiencing.
I really shouldn’t complain too much because I do have some amazing family adventures coming up in April and over the summer. I think that I am just jealous of the seemingly freeing part of life where you don’t need to find a babysitter or bring along 5 kids and all the “things” they “need”. I am trying to be content with where God has placed me in this time of my life and see the true blessing it really is to be right where I am.
I think it is important to dream but to also realize that there are other people out there who are looking at my life and wishing they had “parts” of it. (married…kids…missionary…Uganda…teacher…soccer mom) I am truly blessed and at times in the thick of it things can get kind of foggy to see all the blessings.
“The grass is always greener on the other side…” If you are feeling some of the same feelings, I want to encourage you to take a closer look at all the blessings you do have instead of looking at the “pictures on Facebook” of other peoples seemingly better life. It is hard and that’s why I am typing out my feelings so I too can see that I am more than blessed to be where I am in life at the ripe old age of 33 and 11 months.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”