Friday, August 23, 2013

Camp Hope

Last week I and several friends put on "Camp Hope" for the island secondary students. At the end of the term there are usually a few "free" days after the students finish their exams and before they go home.

For a long time we at SHIM have wanted to utilize that "free" time to keep the students busy and to teach them something new and beneficial. Finally, God provided enough people and resources to do it this term!

This was the backdrop for our main sessions, drawn by one of our Senior 4 students.
"Hope" was the overall "camp" theme, which we weaved into Bible and life application lessons about having good role models, making good life choices and setting goals. I was so blessed to be joined by Vanessa and Manuela, who work in Jinja and teach life skills to adults and students, as well as SHIM interns Jesse and Nathan, who were a huge help, and Omollo and Grace, graduates of Lingira Living Hope, who have since gone on to higher studies.

Photos are worth a thousand words so this post will be filled with photos from our camp, held on the school compound Aug. 12-15.

Almost all of the camp leaders, including Manuela, above, were able to share life testimonies and all were involved in teaching the various lessons.

One of the most popular camp activities was this fun relay game, organized by Nathan and Jesse.

Using only a sheet, cardboard and 2x4s, each team had to get all of their members from one end of the field to the other, without touching the ground!  It was a lot of fun to watch their teamwork!

After being beaten at least twice, Jesse's team finally wins!

Another popular relay game, using beach balls and soccer balls was played inside due to "cold" weather. 

Grace, daughter of Papa and Mama O, shares a testimony with the students.

Listening and learning...
"Camp Hope" concluded Thursday evening with a "Talent Showcase" as the students demonstrated what they learned during the week in skits, songs, and even an original poem.

Jesse's group performs a skit about a young man having to choose between going to the disco and going to church.

Manuela's group presented an original poem about role models.

Grace's small group performed a skit about the challenges a young woman faces at university.

A funny but close-to-real life drama about a polygamous family's challenges was presented by Omollo's group. 

My group sang the song "I Have a Hope" by Tommy Walker.

A grandson of one of the school's cooks gets in on the fun and dancing. :)

Hope is a dominant theme throughout the Bible and it was exciting for me personally to share with the students the hope that God has for us, how that "hope" was incarnated in Jesus Christ, and how because of Christ we can have hope of an amazing eternal life in heaven.

Our God is a God of Hope!

Our theme verse for the week:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, August 22, 2013

God is Not Fair

I recently came to the realization that I serve an unfair God.

For years I have prided myself on being “fair.” Make sure the cake pieces are cut and distributed evenly. Make sure someone (especially myself) is not falsely accused. Don’t make a prejudiced statement for which you don’t have clear evidence. In my book, be fair and you will be fairly treated.

One of my biggest struggles in Uganda is figuring out how to be fair. If I do something for this person, then I have to do it for everyone involved. So, rather than “shorting” someone, somewhere, I avoid many hard decisions and am very cautious in what I give and to whom. 

Sometimes I feel stingy, but then I remind myself I am only trying to be “fair.”

Then as I read The Romance of Grace, I realized God doesn’t treat any of us “fairly.”

I, like the author, struggled with the Matthew 20:1-16 parable, in which the vineyard owner pays the same wages for all of his workers – those who started early and those recruited at the end of the day, although they didn’t work the same number of hours.

The “early” workers believed this was unfair. They should have received more money, although the salary was agreed on from the beginning.

In terms of salvation, God gives His incredible gift very freely – to those who have been “good” and who come early, and those who have been as far from Him as possible and came “late.” The truth is, though, we all deserve death and, in all fairness, eternal separation from our Creator God.  

Only because of His abundant grace and longsuffering love does He gives any of us a second chance and generously rescues us from the wretched grip of death and sin, resurrecting us to new life through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:1-10). He is not fair in this. How could a just God do it? 

Because He chose to mete out the terrible judgment upon His own Son, so we could know grace to its fullest degree.

“We are truly all unworthy servants, and indeed we receive gifts that transcend and even ignore what we might have earned.  The truth is that fairness has meaning only under the judgment of a standard, and such standards were blasted away by the power of the resurrection.  In our service and life as believers, fairness simply is not the dynamic at all; fairness – petty and squirming and horrid – has been nailed to the tree and killed publicly.  Our lust for fairness is squarely of the flesh.” (From The Romance of Grace, by Jim McNeely III - emphasis mine)

Realizing that fairness is of the law and the flesh has given me a  much greater appreciation for the “unfairness” of my God, who daily bestows undeserved grace on you and me.  I have also found a new freedom in being freely gracious to others.  

I want to leave legalistic “fairness” behind.  I want to continue to embrace grace and be a free and flowing channel of God’s blessings.  

Leave the tap of grace open and let it flow freely, unhindered unto others. That is what God has lovingly done for you and I.

Photo Source:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Can God...

"...spread a table in the wilderness?"

This question jumped out at me the other day as I was reading in the Psalms - one of my favorite books in the Bible. The ancient question seemed to echo similar thoughts revolving in my heart and mind in recent days.

Do I believe God can meet my needs here - in Uganda? Can He satisfy my deepest longings? Will He provide what I must have to continue in the coming months, or even years? If He does call me here "longer-term," will He grant what I believe I require to remain serving here - possibly indefinitely?

Lately, I have been swaying between loving what I do here and really longing to be home, between being fine with being single and desiring someone to share life and ministry with. I have been caught up in times of loneliness and then just wanting to be alone.

At times I have felt like a little girl beating her small fists against the big strong chest of her Father. "Daddy, why can't I have this? I want it! I need it!"

Psalm 78:19 convicted me.  

"They spoke against God, saying, 'Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'"

We as Christians know God will take care of our basic needs. The Gospel of Matthew teaches us that with food and clothes we should be content and Jesus instructed us to ask our Heavenly Father for "our daily bread" - not steak and mashed potatoes.

But, do I serve a stingy God?  Will He give me only what I require today, nothing more? After all, if He overblesses me, might I become a spoiled child?

Yes, I have food, clothes, a place to sleep - I should be content, right? But I am not. I admit, I am not satisfied with just having my basic needs met.

And neither were the Israelites. Actually, they weren't satisfied, period. God had just miraculously delivered them from 400 years of slavery to the world power at that time, and had literally crushed the pursuing enemy army and its fierce king. Now He was preparing to lead this new nation to a Promised Land, an abundant and incredible new home.

And all the people could think about was what was for lunch. It's amazing how hunger pains can fuel discontentment.

"They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved." (vs. 18)

So, God gave them what they craved - bread and meat. He threw open heaven's storehouses and rained down manna and quail - filling their mouths and their greedy stomachs and hearts.

"Human beings ate the bread of angels; He sent them all the food they could eat." (vs. 25)
"They ate till they were gorged - He had given them what they craved." (vs. 29)

And then God judged them for craving what was base and fleshly and corruptible.

"But before they turned from what they craved, even while the food was still in their mouths, God’s anger rose against them; He put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel." (vs. 30-31)

And this was only the beginning of Israel's idolatrous escapades, which would continue for years and even generations.

"They put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols." (vs. 56-58)

The truth is, God wanted so much for them - far more than they could even imagine.

"But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” (Psalm 81:16)

God wanted to foremost satisfy the Israelites with Himself. He wanted to be their only God, their only King, their first Source, their primary Satisfaction, but they kept setting their half-closed eyes on corruptible cravings, rather than lifting them to the One who could meet    every    single     need    they    could    ever     imagine.

And not just their needs, but their greatest desires. Better than that, He wanted to transform their desires, taking them to a whole new level.

Yes, God can spread a table in the wilderness. He can bring water from a rock and rain down bread and meat. He can and will meet our basic needs, but He delights to do so much for us. If we let Him. If we stop craving the corruptible.

Above all He wants to satisfy us with Himself. After all, He is the Source of all good things and the Giver of all good gifts. (Matthew 7:11) Why settle for less?

In recent days, I have been trying to raise my sights from base and fleshly desires to put my Hope in my Redeemer. He can do so much more than satisfy a hungry stomach or an aching heart, He can soothe and fill a dry and parched soul with His incredible presence and His glorious gifts. And He has done it for me.

Are you passing through a "wilderness" time?
Do you believe God can provide not just what you need, but your greatest desires?

Photo Source: Microsoft Office

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Video Blog!

It seems quite awhile since I posted any videos to YouTube and even though it took several attempts over the past few days, and then finally several hours to upload it this is done!

I guess you call a video blog a vlog, so here's mine. Click here.

Bear with me, it is over nine minutes long, but hopefully you will also enjoy the island scenery as I rattle on, as well as the "traffic" passing by SHIM. (Note: Watch for the bicyclists and the parade of goats.) I also apologize in advance for that nice breeze that I seemed to capture - at least its noise, but not its cooling effect. ;)

Have a blessed day and week!