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What a year can bring

I am in awe right now of how great our God is. Last year around this time we had our two Ugandan worlds collide, but in a good way. Matt had agreed to volunteer at Acacia and he wanted to prepare his team for what was coming ahead, so he brought our Gayaza Rising Star team to play in a friendly match to give them a taste of what they could expect in games to come. Rising Star destroyed them, I mean it was not even close. The way that the Rising Star team was playing was just a beautiful sight of a family of players who knew how to play together. That day one of the parents of the Acacia team talked to Matt and asked how are they so great? I want to come and see your program out in Gayaza and I want my boy and his friend to come and see a training. Matt agreed and they came out to Gayaza and were humbled by the fact that these kids who come from nothing could be so happy and good at playing the game of soccer. That time came and went, but then God orchestrated something that day that is now so much bigger than we ever had envisioned. Rising Star Elite was created because this mom insisted that an opportunity like the one in Gayaza be offered to people in Kampala who could pay to have a program like the one in Gayaza. We were reluctant it would mean so much work and it could fail and really that’s not what we do; we are here in Uganda not for profit but to minister through soccer. But God had a bigger plan through her persistence and God’s approval we saw how this Rising Star Elite could benefit his kingdom.

Today the families and players from Rising Star Elite came to Gayaza to play in friendly matches and to donate equipment, clothes, books and other gifts to the kids in Gayaza. See God has used this Elite team various times to bless our ministry. The coaches we use for Gayaza are also used for Elite and now are getting paid from the money we gain through the Academy. A burden off of the shoulders of Rising Star. We are getting much needed donations, kids are getting opportunities to travel as the Elite team pays for players from Gayaza to compete with them in tournaments in and around Uganda.

Today ended the holiday for the Gayaza Rising Stars as they return to school Monday, some of them will be going to school with school supplies and backpacks. Over this holiday time they were given an opportunity to come to the Rising Star center and read books, research and give a presentation on a famous person and complete Math exercises. Yesterday they earned and ice cream party; today they got to play in matches, eat a great meal and enjoy meeting new people. Blessings were in abundance today as God continues to provide from amazing people from Uganda and abroad. So thank you to those who impacted us today and to those who impact us every day. We are truly thankful!

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View from Parker

A while back I decided I wanted to hear from my kiddos what they thought about their lives in Uganda. Their perspective of what we do in Uganda. I can’t help but laugh when I hear Parker because honestly she is always talking like she does in this video.

Remember that show “kids say the darndest things” well sometimes I wish I had a recorder at all times with this girl because she does say some of the oddest, funniest and cutest things. She definitely gets her vocabulary from her great grandma Dee and my mom (grandma).

I do wonder and pray that her experiences in Uganda will be filled with blessings. She has a love for Jesus and the knowledge of a 4 year old of who God is and his son Jesus. Along with the desire to go to heaven, the idea that Jesus died for our sin and forgives us. My prayer is that as she gets older that curiosity and desire to understand more grows and turns into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Parker is someone who can make friends with anyone. Talk until you can’t handle anymore. Gives great hugs and kisses and would love for you to carry her or hold her hand everywhere she goes. She is smart and can memorize scripture and retell stories with great detail. Don’t tell her a secret because she won’t be able to contain her excitement and will just have to tell someone. She makes cards for literally anyone she can think of and can pray the sweetest prayers for people. She hates getting her hair brushed, but wants it to be nice and long. She wants to dance and be a ballerina “but I need ballerina shoes and the costume too”. She has a contagious laugh and the funniest facial expressions. She is dramatic in every sense of the word which can be good and frustrating at times.  I think she has a tinge of car sickness only because she has thrown up in the car at least 3 times since living in Uganda (2 of those times we were in a traffic jam and she vomited out the car window).

My prayers for her is that she continues to love education, cares about others, loves Jesus and is protected from harm. I love my little snoopy…Parker bean.

 

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Family time

My parents have been here for about 5 days and it has been fun. We have all had a great time together and our boys have done a great job connecting with my parents. We have experienced some amazing things and the fun is not over. This is our stay-cation and we are enjoying our time around Kampala/Gayaza showing all the fun places we enjoy. The weather has been great and health has been pretty good with a few upset stomachs here and there. We have a fun water day planned on Sunday, my dad will get a massage while us girls treat ourselves to a pedicure…looks like Matt gets to play playstation with the all the boys (thanks to some generous friends donating a new one). I don’t often put pictures on my blog but there are a few cute ones that really capture the pure joy that we have experienced together as a family. What a blessing it is to have such wonderful people in our lives.

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Childhood Memories

You know when you have good intentions, but then sometimes the reaction you get you aren’t so sure it was a good idea; well that was me today. I was trying to get the kids to work on writing projects today and Matt gave me the idea to have the kids reflect on this past year, where it started and where we are now. The thought behind it was to help improve their writing, to provide an opportunity for reflection and to be thankful for what this past year God has been doing in their lives. Let’s just say Tendo the oldest eventually got it and did a great job, however Happy and Kitibwa were in tears and still didn’t put together a cohesive piece.

During my quiet time I was reflecting on that moment from earlier today and it made me think about childhood memories. I think some memories are made up of what other people have told us through stories. Through those stories that they remember we then imagine in our minds what it would have looked like and replay it for ourselves how we think it would have looked like. Other memories we remember because they were happy, painful, scary…just like that movie “Inside Out”. I don’t know that it is healthy to relive those moments but I do know we should recall moments to help us make decisions in the present and future. I think there is a purpose for recalling that God gives us to help us along the journey of life.

My memories- This one I heard (more when I was approaching driving age) and put my own visual recall. I lost my tooth at an amusement park “Peony Park” on the go cart track. I knew how to go but not how to stop. See I was a tall 4-year-old and I put the pedal to the metal in the wrong direction and ran into the attendant straight into the tires. I lost my tooth when I came to a halt and that was the last time that I drove a go cart until I was a bit older.

Praying to receive Christ with Betty Garrett and sharing it with everyone, even my friend Becky whose mom didn’t like that I was telling her daughter about Christ and then we couldn’t be friends anymore.

Cutting my wrist on broken glass when I was out collecting “treasures” to play house in my tree house out on the farm. My mom put butterfly stitches and I still have the scar today.

Selling my doll house back to my grandma when I had out grown playing with dolls.

Playing “college” with my cousin Bethany whenever we felt too cool to play with all the younger cousins.

My first “boyfriend” in middle school who asked my friend to call me for him to ask me out. Mind you I had no clue who she was talking about but to have an 8th grader ask me out “well sure”. Needless to say that lasted about 2 days when he had someone call me to dump me, because I wouldn’t hold his hand anymore. Almost as bad as the date I had with an 11th grader as a freshman where we couldn’t go to an “R” rated movie because I was too young, he wanted to take a romantic walk around the lake but I wasn’t that into him and I said it was too buggy and just wanted to go home. (he took someone else to prom, and got food poisoning)

There are so many childhood memories that I remember and most of them were pretty great. But I do remember the hard ones that taught me lessons and the ones that I reflect and realize God’s protection. Memories can be hard especially with our kids who have had more difficult ones, but it is always important to remember how God has protected us and shaped us into who we are today. Memories are stories that can help others learn and heal, protect and guide. Don’t be afraid to share your stories-even the ones that may hurt because how wonderful is the journey that God has delivered us from and how amazing is the journey we have ahead.

I challenge you to remember something today that may help you or someone else find hope and healing in Jesus name.

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Full tank

A few months back I signed up online to enjoy a day trip to Fort Portal to relax with other missionary women. When I filled the questionnaire out I thought that it was just another one of those things you just fill out, but no one really looks at. They asked what I would want if I could have one gift for up to $100, I thought well I don’t actually need anything.  I would like a lot of little things like makeup and food items, but I had never really been able to look at things that cost that much; let alone one thing. I admit I googled items that cost under $100 for women. I picked a Kindle white book… fast forward a few weeks later and we were robbed my list suddenly was larger than one item. But another thing that I didn’t expect was that when they asked me to share about myself and what I needed prayer for…they would actually hear me and mean what they said. I emailed my “prayer partner” and told her what happened and she prayed for me.

I got to meet her this week and it was evident more than ever that not only was she praying for me, but so were hundreds of other people…people that I had never met; people I most likely will never meet.

The drive to Fort Portal started with me taking a boda to meet a woman who I had never met who would be driving me and another person to Fort Portal.  I ended up riding with an amazing Australian lady who is passionate about conservation, people and God. I also rode with an equally amazing Brazilian woman who has two sons that I actually know from teaching at Acacia. We talked for the 5-hour car ride about some of our amazing adventures in Uganda and other nations we have served. After a very bumpy ride with no lunch and using the side of the rode as our commode we arrived at our retreat. We were greeted by smiling faces of women wearing matching shirts and handing us a new shirt, telling us we could sign up for two of the three services a massage, pedicure or haircut. We were then gifted with an envelope that was later to be explained that would be worth $100 to shop at the gift shop. (I thought oh great some African knickknacks) I was wrong there was makeup, jewelry, clothes, housewares goods, food, lotions…Then I met my prayer warrior, she gave me a hug and asked me how things were going at home. She then gave me a bag full of goodies and I mean full included was the Kindle that I asked for. Now if I stopped there one would say wow how amazing is that! Right.

But God is so good it wasn’t about the stuff. We got to have time to talk and share about ourselves and people listened and people prayed. We laughed together, prayed together, worshiped together and cried together. I met other missionaries with incredible stories of their ministries and what God is doing and their heartaches. I was able to lift of the name of Jesus Christ in worship with other women who understand what it means to be a wife, mom, missionary and woman in a land away from home. I was paired with a lovely lady I had never met, but when we met; we clicked.  We started laughing together from the start (we also had an early mishap with our glass door shattering all over the floor, and me not being able to figure out how to open the other door to get out). We sat together at the dinner table where the vets would have the stories and the visitors who were blessing us would ask us questions. It was nice to have inside jokes that only people living in Uganda would know (funny thing is we were from all over Uganda, but we all had similar experiences with the people, food and muzungu mentality).

The next morning, I got sick, it might have been something I ate or the big bug bite I got on my butt the night before; but I was not well. I had so many women praying for me, serving me, nursing me back to health. We were blessed with day two of gifts, services, food, fellowship, worship and prayer. We had a great morning together before it was time to say farewell to the other missionary women from around Uganda.  The women that I rode with were staying an extra night in a hostel that was also hosting the team of ladies that had been blessing us. This is where I want to share about some amazing people, organizations and accommodations that we encountered this week.  The host was “Go Be Love” and they were awesome this is the first year that they did this “Be loved” retreat and their plan is to be full time missionaries starting next year and they will be doing more events like this one in the future. We stayed at an amazing place in Fort Portal called “Kluges Farm” and it has amazing wonderful accommodations, buffet style food, pool (it was rainy so we didn’t get to use it, but it looked nice) and the staff was so amazing! Mercy for Mamas was our sponsor organization and they brought women from the U.S. to serve more than just us. They are a wonderful organization that work with expectant mothers and mothers by giving them medical help, information on prenatal services, “momma kits” and much more. These amazing women had so many skill sets and they have been serving Uganda for years. Check them out at http://www.mercyformamas.com Melissa Busby is an amazing woman! The hostel we stayed at for one night was also run by an amazing woman who could be my grandmother and kind of reminds me of her. She has been in Uganda for over 20 years at Y.E.S. Uganda where she serves HIV/Aids orphaned children and youth check out her ministry here at http://yesugandahostel.weebly.com/about-yes-uganda.html

Basically it was amazing, highly recommended especially for those of us that don’t get to visit home very often, it was a touch of home with the benefit of everyone understanding how exhausted you are, not expecting anything from you and loving on you the whole time! (oh and 5 hours wasn’t much in comparison to the 2 days it takes to get “home”) A big thank you for everyone that made it happen and for all the people who helped by donating the goodies that we received from the oils, popcorn, clothes, books and much more that were donated I am so blessed and thankful.

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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.