Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Namiti Adventure

Fishermen doing some morning work on Lake Victoria
It had been a year and a half since I last visited Namiti Island, so I was excited for what I might find there.

Namiti is like a second home for Shepherd's Heart. Last June we "officially" re-opened a medical clinic in this very rural place. Also, a couple of members have made their homes there, raised their families and invested many hours on Namiti and the surrounding islands through various ministry outreaches.

Folks like Pastor Samson and Oraygi are from elsewhere in Uganda (like the eastern part), but feel called to serve the islands as "missionaries."

Namiti is a "southern" island in the Buvuma group and one crosses the equator from north to south to reach it, if traveling from Jinja or Lingira Island. Unfortunately, I am not sure where that equator "line" is since we are traveling on the water.

Our original departure time from Jinja on Tuesday was delayed by a storm and as we waited in the boat to leave, the sky seemed to only darken. Yet, we set off. Five hours later and after much "rockin' and rollin'" through heavy winds and waves, we landed wet and tired at Namiti Island. (Sorry, no photos of the trip there!)

One of the few trees on "Namiti" - the "tree island."
"Namiti" means "tree" in Luganda, yet it really doesn't have many, since most were cut for firewood and other purposes some time ago. It is rather sparsely vegetated and flat, too. Yet, it has its own unique beauty in the people and surroundings.

My purpose for visiting Namiti was to meet with sponsored students and their parents, and if possible also visit the students in their homes. The group meeting went well, though as usual, started about an hour after it was planned. :) (Meetings or other activities rarely start on time here, mostly because people trickle in slowly by slowly.)

Namiti Clinic Collage: (from top left clockwise) immunization day; visiting Nurse Bambi (an RN and midwife) talks with expectant island mothers; Nurse Alex attends to a patient; children on the clinic's veranda; immunizing a young patient; a view of the front of the clinic.
After lunch, and time for photos and a bit of reading, I was taken by a student into the village to visit. I so enjoyed meeting students' families, "impressing" them with my little Luganda, and seeing more of my students' world.

Some village homes are as small as an American bedroom, with mud walls and floors, thatched roofs or the occasional tin roof. Narrow, meandering "streets" or "alleys" separate the homes in the village, with some huts so close together that you could stand at your doorway and touch your neighbors' abode.

The sun was setting as I entered my last home for the day - Fauza's house.

Fauza, who is nearly 18, has become quite dear to me. I met her in 2010 - the year I came to Uganda to work with SHIM on Lingira Island, and the year she started studying at Lingira Living Hope. Last year I began one-on-one discipleship with her as I sensed her genuine desire to walk with Christ and to know Him more. She is coming out of her shy, reserved shell - even now singing in the school choir and wanting to gain more boldness as a Christian.

I watched as amazement as Fauza laughed and talked freely with her family and friends as I sat in their small home, enjoying orange soda, matoke (cooked bananas), peanut sauce, cassava and fish, prepared for me as a "visitor."

Fauza is the only born-again Christian in her home, with a Catholic mother, Muslim step-father, and siblings who align themselves with either of those two faiths. Yet, Fauza's quiet walk with Christ is strong and growing. Despite her reserved personality, her love for Jesus is becoming clearer and more evident.

Student Betty, right, and her lovely mom standing in the door of their home.
In our time on Namiti, myself and the others I traveled with, enjoyed the hospitality of Pastor Samson's wife, Joyce or "Joy," whose name fits her in so many ways. A warm, welcoming woman, she is also an excellent cook. :) Amazingly, she can take virtually the same ingredients, but make the rice, potatoes and other dishes taste wonderfully different and good. Samson and Joy also have a "choir" in their home - six children. The oldest, Emmanuel, a boy, is followed by five, sometimes spunky, younger sisters. Some of the children even sang and danced for us while were there!

We awoke before dawn on Thursday morning to catch the boat, which we were told left at 6 a.m. After a couple of hours of patient (or sometimes impatient) waiting at the shore, we boarded our boat at 8 a.m. and headed back to Jinja. We were grateful for bright, sunny skies and smooth waters - much different weather than our journey to Namiti.

Fishing boats at the shore
All around I felt blessed by this trip. I saw and experienced God's protection and peace on the journey, had a chance to share the Gospel on the boat with a young man who had walked away from his faith, observed the clinic nurses and other healthcare workers busy providing services to many needy patients, enjoyed visits with students and their families in their home environment, and once again came to the realization that God is very much at work - even in remote and rural places, like Namiti, somewhere just south of the equator.

Note the phone number on the side of the boat.
Fisherman takes in the lake

Sanyu ("Joy"), a little cousin of one of my students. (Isn't she adorable?)
Island woman carrying basin of small fish

Scattering the small fish for drying

Our "bus" coming in for the ride back to Jinja.

Clouds over Lake Victoria. I love the clouds here!
Looking back on the Namiti shore.

Mama Joy with three of her girls

Fishing boat on the lake

P.S. If you would like to see more photos of this trip, take a look at my Facebook album, found here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Plea to the Maker of Young Hearts

Some of Uganda's young people

I scan their faces and wonder what they are thinking. Are they hearing? I study their eyes. Do I see a gleam of understanding, of receptivity? Are they just taking in words, or are they grasping what is being communicated in heartfelt tones?

When I find myself facing a group of students in church or in a school assembly here, I often have such thoughts.

At times tears come to my eyes as I wish with all my heart they knew the depth of their Creator's love for them. I pray they someday grasp how great a plan their Heavenly Father has for each of their lives. I long that they know Jesus as a Savior, Friend, Refuge, Confidant and Guide.

Sometimes the Ugandan youth remind me of teenagers elsewhere. They live for today, but many often don't consider how today's choices will alter their tomorrows. Messages of purity, abstinence, standing strong, staying in school, etc. are repeated over and over again. I wonder if they become weary of these familiar themes and tune them out?

We exhort them to get good grades, respect their authorities, don't bully others, consider your neighbors, etc. Yes, these are among the messages we tell the island youth. Sound familiar, huh, to what might be shared with an American adolescent or teenager?

I believe young people around the world have dreams, passions, fears, and insecurities that follow the same veins. They want to be valued, listened to, appreciated, respected. Yet, their culture, backgrounds, family relations, poverty level, status, etc. are as diverse as their appearances, surroundings and locations on planet Earth.

I find myself sometimes stumped by how to reach these kids. Am I just spouting off streams of words that vaporize before they enter their heads and hearts? Or spinning my wheels as I teach, mentor, disciple, befriend?

Only God knows. And only He knows what will actually penetrate these young and impressionable lives to bring true transformation according to His  purposes. After all, He designed them, formed them and wrote out their days before they were born (Psalm 139). 

Heavenly Father, please give me grace, wisdom, discernment, patience and divine understanding as I work with the youth of Uganda. Grant me vision to see them as You do. Help me to be a vessel to show them Who You are and who they are because of Your love, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

(I very much covet your prayers as I pray, plan and prepare for the coming second term and the months ahead. I have run dry of creative ideas and energy and really need God's leading and inspiration. Thanks so much!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Live Out Loud"

I'd rather blend into a crowd, than stand out in one.

But you and I are called to STAND out, to be different, to be set..........apart, to not blend in.

This song inspires me to do just that - to "Live Out Loud" for my Savior.

Some of my favorite lines are:

"Think about this
If we really have been given the gift
of life that will never end
And if we have been filled with living
hope, we're gonna overflow
And if God's love is burning in our
hearts, we're gonna glow
There's just no way to keep it in"

"Every corner of creation is a living declaration
Come join the song we were made to sing."

Are you a "living declaration" in your "corner of creation"? 
I encourage you to be so!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Agony - Destiny - Triumph

 "The agony in Gethsemane is the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Saviour of the world.  The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God. 

"His agony is the basis of the simplicity of our salvation.

"The Cross of Christ is a triumph for the Son of Man.  It was not only a sign that Our Lord had triumphed, but that He had triumphed to save the human race.  

"Every human being can get through into the presence of God now because of what the Son of Man went through."

- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 5th entry

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Working Out of God's Vision

Over the past week or so my mind and heart have been swirling. Emotions of homesickness, loneliness, doubts, fears, etc. have been surfacing. Then yesterday I learned of a sudden and tragic death that hit my pastor's family and church family very hard. And I hurt for them deeply. I feel helpless being so far away.

Over and over, I come to the realization that life is not static. People and circumstances change. Life at home is not "paused" as the people there experience births, deaths, joys and sadness - same as here.

And then sometimes I wish for "changes" in my own life. "God," I pray, "I feel stuck."

The monotony is getting to me, as well as the constant battles against dirt, bugs, my own lack of cultural understanding and the almost constant reminders of my weaknesses and sin. The surrounding needs are great and often overwhelming. And "my" resources are limited and shallow. Speaking of needs, "God," I plead, "I need a home, family and children."

"When will they come?"

Then this morning I read:

"God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

In my Bible reading, I am traveling through the Old Testament and am frequently amazed at how God takes His time to tell His story. Twenty-five years to give a son to Abraham and Sarah. Ten plus years for Joseph to be made right with his brothers and for the truth to be revealed. Forty years in the wilderness before God called Moses from the burning bush to rescue His people who had been enslaved in Egypt for so many years. Lord, why so long?

Crafting a thing of beauty, substance and worth takes time. And God is willing to take the time with you.

"The vision is not a castle in the air, but a vision of what God wants you to be. Let Him put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision. Don't lose heart in the process. If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Ephesians 3:14-21, a prayer Paul prayed from his prison cell for the Ephesus believers. This is God's vision for us:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." 

Whatever you may be passing through, hang on to the Master Potter as He patiently works out His vision in you.
Images Source: Microsoft Office Clipart