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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.

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Momma always said…

Momma always said two wrongs don’t make a right.

There was a post on an expat social group where a guy was posting that he wished that people wouldn’t call him Chinese because he is actually from Korea. He was stating that it was annoying that everywhere he seemed to go he would have people try and talk to him or label him to get a reaction. People reacted to his post saying that he should just get used to it and that they didn’t mean any harm. Other people said if he didn’t like it he should go back “home”. A few people chimed in saying they also get called names labelling them as a certain race whether accurate or not they either said they didn’t care or it was annoying. Another expat then made her own post about this particular persons post saying that she was concerned that no one seems to care about racism and that only those people belonging to that nation could do something about it. But she also got a lot of resistance and people saying it wasn’t racism. That it is very minor compared to all the other things in history done to Africans.
So my mind went through a few questions.
What is racism? Can you define it or does a dictionary define it? Meaning can racism be something that makes you feel uncomfortable, ashamed, angry, sad, defensive etc.? Is racism the right word? If someone is labeling you and it is true do you still have the right to be offended.
If I was a minority in the situation does that make it worse? Is labelling okay? If someone means no harm from the word they use to call you does it make it okay?
Is it okay to sometimes correct them, or ignore them?
All I know is that it is never okay to let someone else’s actions consume you, allow you to lose control, to act in a way that is out of your character, harbor hate, or retaliate in anger.
All over the world people were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27. No matter your nationality, outward appearance or even the condition of your heart; God loves you, has a plan for you and created you.

Matthew 22:37-39 …“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The problem we face as a nation is that some people still do not understand the first, as they do not love the Lord; thus making it hard to love others. We need to do our part and show them what that LOVE looks like.

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Why we give an allowance

Today was a perfect reminder of why we give allowances at our house. We started this process of giving money for completing chores about a year ago. The idea was they would be given required house work daily and at the end of the week they would get payment for the work they completed. They then had to tithe each week 10% and they couldn’t spend the money until the end of the month. For discipline problems they had to pay money as part of their consequence. If they broke, lost or damaged something it was them to pay for it.

The value of money is something people can easily take for granted. For Tendo it has helped calm down his anger problems because there was one week he had lost everything he had earned and came to the realization that if he didn’t make some changes he was going to be broke. Happy is learning that he needs to listen more and also talk more as he struggles with understanding, guesses and then when corrected doesn’t always take that correction constructively. Today we were getting ready for the start of school tomorrow; last term we purchased all new items for the boys. Kitiibwa did not return home with some of the items that were purchased, so today he had to buy the replacements. He started sobbing as he handed over 26,000 shillings the cost of his school sweater (about $9 but when you get 7,000 shillings a week that is almost 4 weeks of work gone). Sure we feel bad when they feel bad but then we remember in the long run it is building character. For the littlest ones they understand that if they want a new toy or a treat it is them to buy it.

This Christmas all the money earned during the month of December went to the purchase of a gift for someone else. When kids get money they can learn to give back, to give to God what is His, to give a gift for a friend, teacher, sibling or parent. Sure they could choose to spend it however they want, but if we show them how blessed they already are, they may see that they should want to give back to others. What we are trying to help them realize is that we are meeting all their material needs with food, shelter, clothing, shoes, schooling, water, transportation, recreation and more. More importantly we are trying to show them love, Christ’s love and unconditional love, the type of love that focuses on the overall well rounded human being that God has entrusted to us to raise into God fearing, caring, selfless human beings.