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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.”

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Go into all the world and preach the Gospel

So yesterday when I left school I went out to Gayaza to help in the distribution of ice cream to the students who had earned it. It was then that I asked three of the older children if they wanted me to lead Bible Study tomorrow and they nodded their head yes. I said okay what do you want me to teach about? I had told them a while back that I wasn’t going to be teaching them the same old Bible stories that they had heard for years. I wanted to get out of the baby stage of their faith and really challenge them to want to learn more about the Bible. So I got what I asked for that day, they gave me a list of some really deep lessons that I could talk about and I was able to teach a lesson on the Holy Spirit (I felt very underqualified) it was only through the Holy Spirit that I was able to teach that day.

That was a great day and I had one young man who was searching and I was able to tell him about Jesus Christ and I feel he really got it. See, he was worried about doing the right things and wondering how he would know if he had the holy spirit. What a great opportunity God gave to me. This Friday the three boys said they wanted to 1. Learn how to be a Christian in today’s society. 2. What prophecies have been fulfilled in the Bible? 3. What are miracles that were performed by people other than Jesus?

Again, I thought really; how am I going to be able to do this by tomorrow. I got home and there was no internet to bail me out either; but I did google it this morning and printed something that I thought could at least give me a start. I decided on prophesies and focused on the prophesy that Jesus and others talked of regarding the signs that the end times were coming. I had a larger group than normal due to the many activities of the day and I started out with two questions what is a prophesy and who are some prophets? We had a pretty good list, and then someone said Muhamad. What an opportunity to talk about false prophets too.

Again God provided me the opportunity to share the gospel as one of the prophesies is that the world will have heard the Good News. So I was challenging them because I said that obviously there were still people who have not heard the Good News and that is why I am in Uganda. I also told them a little bit about “The Case for Christ” and his testimony. Challenging them to collect the information, to find the facts, but that ultimately they would have to have the faith to believe it all to be true. I stood on the bench and said to them that I believe in Jesus, that he is God’s son, he died for our sins, and rose again and that he is preparing a place for me and he will return one day. I said to them that I can only tell them the truth and it is them that has to make a decision either accept or reject.

In essence I actually was able to answer all three topics in one lesson as the miracle that Lee Strobel who was an atheist came to believe in Jesus Christ, prophecies of the end times and how to be a Christian in today’s world; tell everyone about the love of Jesus.

I put some kids to sleep, I had some kids never take their eyes off me, and I had kids giving me a hand clap and a hallelujah. I felt good that I had done my part and that I didn’t have to worry that God would do his part. Pray for these boys and girls as they are teenagers who don’t really have any other program targeted for them. They are a forgotten age group and we have a huge responsibility to reach them and to equip them to reach their friends for Christ. I must say though God knows how to motivate me after a week of some frustrating adults, he refreshes me with these crazy kids.

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Just so you know…

Matt and I are often perplexed about relationships we have and we see other missionaries have. We thought that maybe it was time we shared with our friends and family some helpful tips.

Just so you know… We know that each one of our friends and family members only want to help and at times don’t know what to say or do. We thought it would be a good way to just let you know what helps us in our time away from all of you. We love you so much and it gets lonely, we get jealous, feel guilt and just want to make everything perfect. Just know that no matter what we love you and even if you are the perfect supporter or may say something hurtful by accident we will always be family in Christ Jesus.

Things people say that hurt more than help missionary friends.

  1. When are you coming home to visit?

This can be hard for us to answer because we are “home” and we don’t know when our funds or time will make it possible to visit. We also really miss our old “home”, friends and family so this only puts more pressure on us to make it happen. 

  1. I could never do what you’re doing, it must be so hard.

Yes, it is hard and not everyone is called to go to a foreign land. However, everyone is called to do something and when your emphasis is that it is hard, it makes it even harder for us to cope with some of our fears of not being good enough for the job.

  1. Take more pictures.

We would love to share with you all that is going on especially through pictures but we are busy in the moment and to get out a camera might ruin what we are doing. You see some of the best moments in life are not captured through pictures. Just trust that I am trying and when I get a moment I will share, because what God is doing is awesome.

  1. Without you they would be so lost.

Well actually without me they will be just fine. God can use anyone to share his message. I am just so happy he chose me and I chose Him.

  1. Well don’t feel bad if you have to come home, you lasted a really long time.

Instead, just say I am praying for you as you go through this time of (fill in the blank). What you are doing is giving us a way out and we don’t need that; we need someone to hold us accountable to continue, even when it is hard.

Things people say, or don’t say that hurt missionary friends.

  1. Let’s Skype (but the connection is bad, time difference is a struggle, too busy)
  2. We will send you a care package (and they forget or realize it is really expensive to send stuff across the ocean)
  3. When you come home we will hang out (but then they are too busy or on vacation)
  4. We would love to hear about your ministry (but can’t find the right time to get together)
  5. We will tell all our friends about what you are doing (and then find it never comes up in conversations.)

What I am saying here is that we already know it probably won’t work out exactly how we would all like to stay connected when we are oceans apart; but don’t say it unless you are willing to work at making it happen. Let’s face it we are busy with life and even connecting with neighbors is hard. We get that; all we ask is you try and make an effort in the following ways.

Things that would help missionary friends.

  1. Praying by making an effort to find out what really is going on personally not just ministry.
  2. Contact Email, text, skype, WhatsApp, snail mail, Facebook message, packages (any contact that connects us to your family and life)
  3. Hospitality Make efforts to host us even if it means we just rest, play, eat or talk
  4. Share with others just as much as you share about the latest skincare, probiotic, wrap, oil or whatever you are interested in.
  5. Encourage us by telling us to keep going, to not give up, pray, support, communicate and stay connected.

Thank you

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Reaching the World

I came across a book that was donated to our center that wasn’t age appropriate for our kids to read but looked really interesting to me. Engaging Islam by Georges Houssney, I have been reading it on and off for a few months but during the holiday I decided to read it intentionally and have been rereading and highlighting as I go. I never really thought about ministering to Muslims in an intentional way. I figured well I am not a missionary in a Muslim nation, so I don’t have to worry about learning too much about Islam. Until one day when I was attending a church that had a guest speaker, the man came up to the front of the church with sunglasses on and I thought to myself he’s got swag. He even made a joke about how people were probably wondering who this rapper was standing up in church. He then proceeded to tell us his testimony of his life as a Muslim and how his dad was a polygamist and had several different wives and lots of children. To hear his testimony, click this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMWd7QnXY8E

Long story short he became a Christian against all odds and then became an evangelist. He was attacked for his faith with acid one Christmas eve after a very successful revival that he was a part of. He was left to die but through the grace of God was able to travel to Israel and have several surgeries to repair his face and ability to breathe normally again.

So I thought about how we engage with Muslim kids a lot and that they are not resistant to hearing the gospel. In fact, there is a family that attends Acacia an international Christian school that is Muslim. I wanted to learn more to equip myself for opportunities that may arise, so I started reading this book. One major thing that I have learned is to see Muslims “as people and not merely as representatives of a foreign religion, culture or political ideology. As people, they are products of those things, but they are also husbands and wives, children and students, truck drivers and heart surgeons. They are God’s lost children too, and he has given us the task of making disciples from among them, teaching them to obey everything that he has commanded.”

This past month Ramadan was taking place and since in Uganda there are many mosques I am often awakened by the “muezzin” the man in the mosque calling Muslims to prayer. I felt convicted to pray every time I heard the call for them, I felt like wow I should use this time to pray for them. In Uganda and other nations too, we are often labeled by what our family believes. For example, if our parents are Catholics we are Catholics, Muslims we are Muslims, and so on. Often times we don’t even know what we believe we just are “born” into the religion. There is a problem in this world were we often try and compare one religion with another and look for the similarities. The problem in this is that it leads to a pluralistic worldview that seeks to find similarities rather than differences and then we get confused and think all religions are relatively the same. As a Christian, I believe in the uniqueness of Christ and the distinction between the Christian faith and all other religions. The problem is that people are getting away from the truth of the Gospels and western Christian leaders often feel that we need to celebrate the similarities and not to emphasize the differences.

I think it is important to know who Muslims are and who they are not. The only real way to do this is to get to know some Muslims. Muslims are so diverse, just like Christians; they are people loved by God, not because they are Muslims, but because they are his creations. Here are some truths Islam is diverse because there are differences based on ethnic, national, tribal, linguistic and sectarian. Over 80% of Muslims are actually not Arabs and at least 10% of the Arab world is Christian. Not all people are Arabs in Arab countries there is a large Kurd population in Iraq among other countries with different ethnic groups. Muslims are descendants of Abraham through Ishmael- not completely true Muslims are all over the world in China, Korea, Italy, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United States and the only thing they have in common is their faith. Other myths are that Muslims are impossible to reach, face persecution if they become Christian, hate America, and a negative view of Christianity, and Christians need to be secretive when ministering to Muslims.

“In his sermon to the Athenian philosophers, Paul argued that, ‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set of them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.’” We are Christ’s ambassadors and we know that our mission is to bring the Gospel to all nations. We know that someday that all the nations will cry out, “How beautiful are the very feet of those who bring good news, proclaiming peace and salvation.” Isaiah 52:7. To fulfill the mission set before us we must engage Islam, and we cannot engage Islam until we engage Muslims.

I would encourage all Christians to first understand what they believe and to understand their own religion. This is an ongoing process as we read our Bible and continue to understand God and our relationship grows closer to Him. I then would suggest that we understand the differences and the uniqueness of Christianity and other world religions. What we learn through relationships with others is that we are all God’s creation and that we all need Christ. In life our goal should be to build relationships with others and point them to the ultimate relationship of one with Christ Jesus. The only real way we can do this is to see everyone through love, as Children of God created in his image and that we all need Christ.

*information in this blog is from Georges Houssney Engaging Islam.