Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go Forward!

  It was so very good to be in a Ugandan church this morning!!  Today Amanda and I attended a nearby church neither of us had attended before, but one that was started by some Ugandan friends of ours just a little more than two months ago.

 I love the fact that the Ugandans love being in church and worshipping God. And they do it so enthusiastically, with much praising, clapping, greeting, dancing and jumping - how could you not be excited when in the presence of our awesome God?

 I just had to share, too about this morning's message as it was so very good. Both Margaret and Julius, the husband and wife who started the church, shared about moving forward - going forth into the new year and all that God has for us in it.

 Julius preached from Exodus when God led the Israelites out of Egypt. However, when they had their backs, in a sense, against the Red Sea, they cried out to God. And, He responded:

 "The Lord said to Moses, ' Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.'" (Exodus 14:15)

 Egypt was all that the Israelites had known. Although they had been in bondage, that had been their home for the last 400 years. But, God has something so much better for them. However, when they came to their first major obstacle, they doubted about the path ahead. But, God said to move forward - move forward and cross the Red Sea and go toward the Promised Land.

 In verses 13 and 14, God used Moses to assure the people.

 "And Moses said to the people, 'Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'"

 Julius pointed out that there may be things in our past that our holding us back, choices, relationships, etc., but there is power in the blood of Christ to be freed from what is holding us back from moving forward.

 As I prayed, I realized that in myself I cannot loose my chains because I myself am bound. Therefore, I must rely totally on Christ to loose me from those things that are holding me back and keeping me from enjoying all that God has for me in the future.

 So, I am encouraging myself and you to move forward. Don't keep looking over your shoulder to the past - to what was or what might have been. But look forward in hope and expectancy for all that God has for you, and rely on His power to "part the Red Sea" and bring you into His "Promised Land."

 "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:12-14

 Move forward!!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From Uganda

 Wow, this is exciting for me as this is my first post from Uganda! It seems like it has been quite a journey just preparing to come here. And, now I can hardly believe I am actually here. I was thinking yesterday, that I may need to pinch myself. : )

 I have had a good first few days - with both joys and challenges. I arrived in Uganda at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday night and then it took several hours to drive to Jinja where I have been staying for the time being at the office of Shepherd's Heart International Ministry, the ministry I am working with this year.

 Memories came back as I smelled familiar smells, saw familiar sites, and saw the dear folks who I had met on my first visit.

 I began feeling really at home the second day. Interestingly enough, God used a difficult circumstance to confirm to my heart that I am right where He wants me to be.

 We awoke Tuesday morning to find that the Shepherd's Heart office had been broken into. Several things were taken, including my laptop. At first I was rather disheartened and discouraged, but then God began showing us that there were even good things to be found in this situation.

 Thankfully no one was hurt or threatened as six of us were sleeping in the same building where the office is located. Our bedroom door was unlocked and could have easily been accessed. And, also we believe my friend Amanda was up at the time, at the other end of the house. The thieves entered through a window, but could not get back out through our tricky front entrance, otherwise, they could have taken more things. We recalled yesterday that both my computer and that of the accountant's, which was also taken, are both protected by passwords. We know of only one place in Jinja that could help someone bypass the passwords, and the police have asked them to be watching for our computers.

 Shepherd's Heart has already experienced some difficult things in this new year, with Karina's miscarriage and other serious complications, other thefts and now the break-in at the office. But we believe that Satan is trying to get us down and attack us because God has good things in store. So, we are looking in hope to what this year holds. And, we are thankful for a faithful God who is our Protector.

 While the theft of my computer might have had a negative impact on my outlook here, it actually had the opposite effect. I had been struggling with some doubts when I first arrived, but God gave such a peace and comfort after Tuesday morning's incident, that I knew I was in the right place.

 I have been so blessed to become reacquainted with those of the SHIM staff who I met on my first office, and to meet the others. God has truly put together a remarkable team, one that is diverse in gifts and personalities, yet united in spirit and vision. I will be introducing these great people in future posts.

 Well, I am going to sign off for now. BTW, Flex sends his greetings. He seems to be really enjoying himself. : )

Friday, January 8, 2010

Being the Best "Pipsqueak" I Can Be

  There is a dear lady at church who has told me several times that she can hardly believe that a "little pipsqueak" like me would be going to Africa. She means it well and sometimes I can hardly believe it myself, that God would allow me to go. Going to Uganda would have been beyond my wildest dreams five years ago, and a thought that would have never entered my mind. But I am so very thankful that God was not limited my ideas. : )

Me as a smaller pipsqueak.

 Yesterday's "Streams in the Desert" entry really blessed me and I hope it does you as well.

 "A story is told of a king who went to his garden one morning, only to find everything withered and dying. He asked the oak tree that stood near the gate what the trouble was. The oak said it was tired of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine tree. The pine was troubled because it could not bear grapes like the grapevine. The grapevine was determined to throw its life away because it could stand erect and produce fruit as large as peaches. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac.

 "And so it went throughout the garden. Yet coming to a violet, the king found its face as bright and happy as ever and said, 'Well, violet, I'm glad to find one brave little flower in the midst of this discouragement. You don't seem to be the least disheartened.' The violet responded, 'No, I'm not. I know I'm small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree or even a lilac, you would have planted one. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I'm determined to be the best little violet I can be.'"

 Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God's family
Can do it as well as you.

 So, I'm determined to be the best little pipsqueak I can be for God! And, I pray that whatever God has called you to do and be, that you would do your best to fulfill that, for His glory. : )

 Tomorrow is D-Day - Departure Day! I can hardly believe it is here! It seems like I have already been on a journey, with months of prayer, planning and preparation. I have a mix of emotions inside of me. I am excited and anxious to go and be there, but know I will also dearly miss many back home. This week has been full of send-off parties and gatherings, goodbyes, packing and more packing and taking care of little details that are beginning to drop off my to-do list (yay!). Through all of this, God has been reminding me that He wants to be the center of me and all that I do. I will post more on this later, but I am making it my top resolution to grow in intimacy with God. Unless He is at the center of all that we do, then it really is temporary and in the long run, meaningless. Living and working for eternity means all must be centered around our Lord Jesus. More on this later...

 So, I fly out tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 9, at 12:40 p.m. from Portland. I have a straight flight to Amsterdam (probably right over Greenland and those northern places). I then have about a two-and-a-half-hour layover in Amsterdam before departing to Uganda. I am to arrive in Entebbe, Uganda at 8:40 p.m. Sunday night, which is 11 hours ahead or 9:40 a.m. Sunday morning for those in the Pacific time zone. Then it will likely be a couple of hours by car to Jinja, my last stop for the night. I imagine I will be spending several days on the mainland before venturing to the island.

  I fully intend to keep posting and communicating with you all. Amazingly enough, we can get Internet on the island, but it doesn't have running water. There are priorities, you know. : )
  Well, probably the next time I write here it will be from much further south. Thank you for being faithful followers and I hope you stick around for more of the journey! : )

Watching the sun rise from a plane window.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Packing with My Pal Flex

 Hi, y'all! Time is passing quickly! If you wonder why I haven't posted in a few days, it is because I have been packing, saying goodbyes, trying to care of such details as taxes and voting, and just all around attempting to get ready to leave on Saturday for Uganda. Saturday, really? Wow, that is only like two days and a wake-up away! : )

 Part of yesterday and today were spent packing. It has taken longer than I thought it would be, hours in fact. But, I have had the companionship of my new frog pal, Flex. He was given to me by some dear friends who know my love of frogs. Flex is rubber and flexible, thus earning his name. He will be traveling with me to Uganda, so expect to see more of him. Here are some photos of our packing adventure.

The goal: To fit all of this, as well as my clothes and linens in a suitcase and storage tote, weighing a total of 120 pounds. Do you see my friend Flex in all this mess?

Ah, ha! There he is - trying to stow away in my bath tote! I'm learning that Flex is a sneaky guy! :)

Flex, up close and personal. (He really just wanted a photo of himself without all of my stuff.)

Not empty for long.

Just hanging out.

Flex doesn't weigh anything, so he can go. :)

Ziploc bags and rubber bands - a packer's best friends. :)

Flex takes it easy while I work.

Flex listens to violinist Joshua Bell while I slave away.

Oops, he almost got rolled up in one of my shirts.

Flex scales a mountain of clothes. He says I'm taking too much, but that's easy for him to say.

I had to move to a larger suitcase.

Flex gets caught in the middle.

 Well, you may be asking, did we do it? Did we fit all of my stuff in the suitcase and container? Well, you will have to wait and see 'cause we are still not done yet. :)  Flex and I will keep you posted.
 By the way, Flex said he's already packed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Captured by Heart

The following is what I wrote for this week's Trident (editorial column) in this week's edition of The Clatskanie Chief. I have only written the Trident twice in my almost 11 years at The Chief, so this was quite an honor.



It is such a small word, but one that can hold great depth of meaning and feeling.

There is an oft-repeated saying that “Home is where your heart is.”

 Almost 21 years ago, my family and I moved our hearts to Clatskanie. And since that time, this little community has been a treasured home for us and our love has only deepened over the years. Strangers have become friends and as dear as family. I wouldn’t trade anything for the privilege of growing up in this small community.

I have bragged about our one-stoplight city and the fact that you can rarely go downtown without meeting at least one person you know. There is comfort in the fact that you can walk right up and talk to our dedicated community leaders and know they will listen to your questions or concerns. It is a reassuring realization that in times of disaster or tragedy, this community knows how to pull together, like in the February 1996 flood or the Woodson slide of December 2007.

Rather than let a fellow citizen give up or be defeated by storms, floods or even bureaucrats, Clatskanites know how to form ranks and stand tall. This town may be small, but it has a huge heart.

We are also blessed to live in such a beautiful pocket of the world, tucked in a valley and surrounded by incredible beauty. Oh, Clatskanie, you are a gem.

A little more than 11 years ago my writing heart found a home at The Clatskanie Chief. Having never received a formal education in journalism, I came very green. However, I had the privilege of learning from one of the most talented and capable small town journalists, who is driven not by wealth or fame (and if she was, she’s in the wrong place), but by a fiercely loyal heart to her hometown and her fellow citizens. I have learned from her that there is more satisfaction in writing a well-crafted story or a piece that spotlights the good deeds of one of our hometown heroes, than the paycheck at the end of the week.

To tell you the truth, I have gained far more at The Chief than any college course or internship at a larger newspaper could have offered me. And, I have been enriched personally and professionally far beyond measure and what I could ever repay. Thank you, Debbie.

It is a dedicated team that puts this newspaper out each week as a labor of love. Hours upon hours are invested by a small, but skilled group who I am so grateful to call my co-workers and friends. They have also taught me much by their patience, attention to detail, work ethic and sacrificial efforts. Thank you so much to the ladies of The Chief (and to Phil).

It’s hard to imagine that any other place or any other people would capture one’s heart quite like Clatskanie and its dear folks.

However, call me a traitor, but ever since a journey three years ago, my heart has been divided between two places.

By a good friend’s invitation and God’s leading and provision, I spent almost five months, from October 2006 to March 2007, in southern Uganda on a mission trip. For most of that time I lived on Lingira Island on Lake Victoria, located about 15 miles from the nearest mainland city of Jinja. My original plan was to stay for three months because I was positive I would be homesick by then and ready to return to the good ol’ U.S.A. However, something happened in my heart. The island became a “home away from home.” I fell in love with the place, with the food, with the slower pace of life, with the sights and sounds, but I especially fell in love with the people. I found them to be warm, hospitable and generous and I quickly made lifetime friendships. Uganda captured my heart.

It was with mixed feelings that I returned to Oregon in March 2007. I was excited to see the friends and family whom I had missed during those five months, but now my heart was divided, longing to also return to Uganda, at least for a visit. For the past two and half years, I have waited, wondering if God would again make a way for me to go back to east Africa.

While I waited, I returned to work at The Chief, learning new skills as I began covering Rainier happenings and meetings, following the retirement of longtime reporter Betty Mayfield.

As time passed, I began having my doubts that I would return. But earlier this year, God brought to my attention a niche I might be able to fill there and not just during a short-term visit, but for an extended stay. This realization was confirmed and I am making preparations to leave Jan. 9 for a one-year term in Uganda.

I was happy to be accepted by the mission agency Global Outreach International and I am very excited to be traveling with my good friends Andrew and Karina (Thomas) Smith and their young son, David. I will be working in their ministry, Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry, and living on the island, my home away from home. I am anxious to be involved in the ministry’s child development program, a type of child sponsorship, and assist with communications and any other area of which I can be a part. Also, I can’t wait to see those who I left behind nearly three years ago and renew those dear relationships, as well as meet new friends.

I believe that is nothing is wasted in God’s economy. He uses every experience, relationship and opportunity in our lives, weaving them together into a plan that is far better than we could imagine. I believe my coming to Clatskanie 21 years ago was all part of His plan of taking me to Uganda in 2010 and He has orchestrated every detail in between. I heartily agree with the message of Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

When I board the plane Jan. 9 in Portland, I will be taking Clatskanie with me. This will always be my hometown. There is no way to separate what I have gained from this place and its people from the person I am.

Home is the place that captures your heart.

The property of Shepherd's Heart International Ministry (SHIM) on Lingira Island. This photo was taken in March 2007, just after the land was purchased and before it was developed. It now boasts buildings and gardens. I will be living here.