Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Day Before

Today is Christmas Eve and over the years this day has taken on its own "holiday" status with special services and activities planned for this day, and especially this night, exclusively.

It is special primarily because of its lead-in as the day before "the" big day - Christmas.

Have you have ever had a sudden, life-changing event occur and then you reflect on the hours and days leading up to it, realizing you were clueless then how your life or your family's lives could change in a matter of minutes or hours?

Though the Jews had been waiting for hundreds of years for their coming Messiah, in their "Christmas Eve" they had absolutely no idea that their world would be turned upside down - The. Very. Next. Day. All of heaven knew what would soon transpire, but few on earth had a clue.

God made very little fanfare in the months and days leading up to Christ's birth. A few people were given a heads-up like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, but really no one else.

The political and religious leaders did not receive a "pre-birth" announcement. Do you think the shepherds had a tingly feeling or a premonition about something coming? I doubt it. The majority of the Jewish people were not given a solitary clue that this point in time was unlike any other. They had been waiting for hundreds of years, so what would make tomorrow different from any other tomorrow?

But isn't this how God works? In unpredictable, surprising, catch-your-breath, I-didn't-see-that-coming kind of ways? He gives us His solid promises to hold on to, to keep our eyes on the horizon, but He often doesn't fill us in on His timelines.

He promises, "I am going to do this." But the details, like the when and how, He keeps for Himself. The fact that we are not made privy to these details, does not make His promises any less valid. God Himself backs up His Word and there is no one or nothing greater to do this.

So, perhaps you are waiting, believing God for a promise to be fulfilled. Don't give up hope. Wait expectantly. God is in the tomorrows. He is fulfilling His plans and purposes - one day at a time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Moving Pictures with Sounds! (i.e. Videos!)

There's just a way a video can convey so much more than words and photos even combined.

My friend and fellow missionary, Melody Warford of Stone Soup Media, visited the island earlier this year, spending several days at Shepherd's Heart and filming the various missionaries and projects. What she did with the information and footage is truly amazing!

The mission field requires many people of diverse skills and I feel blessed that Melody shared her gifts to help proclaim the incredible things God is doing on the islands.

The first video focuses more on what I am involved in on the island, and the second is more about the overall ministry of Shepherd's Heart, the ministry I am privileged to serve in.

What is Cool About Living in Uganda

I read the following blog post yesterday and couldn't help but smile as I read. Uganda is a beautiful, hospitable and diverse country, and there are so many great things about living there.

Some of these "perks" I have tried to describe to my American family and friends, with limited success.

Enjoy and maybe you'll even be convinced to visit me some time. ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Adventures in America!

When you walk with Jesus, life is an adventure! The amazing thing is that Jesus doesn't send us on ahead - alone into unknown territories, to "figure things out" on our own. No, He is with us each step of the way. So, you may feel like you are venturing into what is strange, different, unfamiliar, difficult or stretching, but you are never, ever alone. And, if He is with you, everything is okay.

God showed me this throughout my time of preparation to leave Uganda, traveling 30 hours, and now readjusting to being back in America. When I needed a suitcase, He told me He'd take care of it. And, He did - providing a quality bag for a very reasonable price from a friend. When I didn't know how I would get to the airport, He prompted good friends to take care of all of the arrangements and I had the incredible blessing of being escorted by two good friends. When I "needed" coffee and water on my layover in London, God provided them free of charge - a funny story, but I was again assured of His presence.

These may seem like small things, but for a single woman, they meant so much.

Upon arriving back in the states, I spent an amazing two weeks with my dear sister in Pennsylvania. During the first week, I tagged along as much as possible around the Bible school campus where she lives and works. This included a Sunday trip to New York City to watch the students present a service - very fun!

Summit students presenting a service at Times Square Church.

Leah and I in Times Square Church during our evening walk. The city was amazingly bright at night with all of the illuminated signs and buildings.
The ice skating rink and the Christmas tree being assembled at Rockefeller Center.

In the second week, Leah and I ventured on a 1700+-mile road trip. In the space of four days, we traveled through 10 states - Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio -  through some beautiful country and reconnected with some amazing people. I had the blessing of visiting 10 different people whom I first met in Uganda and many who had been on the island. I thank God for His protection and the great weather we had for most of our journey.

The Wolfer family graciously hosted us during our time in South Carolina, for a great time of fun, food, fellowship, and lots of laughter. :)

How amazing to reconnect with Delaney, center, in SC after having the blessing of her presence on the island this past summer. She was an awesome tour guide, showing us around the beautiful campus of the University of South Carolina, and great company for a fun evening afterward. :)

The stunning USC campus.

After two nights in SC, we headed north again, this time traveling a bit west. A stop in Marion, North Carolina gave us a chance to see the Wise family - Mark, Michelle and Josh, whom I first met in Uganda. We enjoyed a delightful lunch before hopping back on the road, headed north for Ohio.

Leah drove most of the many hours on the road. There was a weird correlation between my driving and her getting sick. Weird. ;)

Traveling essentials: Triscuits and gummy bears, as well as chicken nuggets from Wendy's and lots of cups of coffee. :)

Driving through Kentucky on Wednesday evening. We passed through some beautiful country and by so many tourist and historical sites. But, because of our tight schedule, we had to just keep driving. :(

All of our driving, however, took us to more amazing people, like my friend Mindy, in southwest Ohio. We crashed at her place on Wednesday night and had a wonderful time reconnecting. 

This stop in Ohio also yielded my first visit to a Chick-fil-A. It was a delicious success!

We saw more snow on the ground in Ohio than anywhere else during our travels. Thankfully, no snow fell while we drove.

Beautiful Ohio farmland.

We joyfully returned to Pennsylvania on Thursday night, grateful for our fun adventure, but glad to be back "home" and our own beds.

Before flying out to Oregon on Saturday afternoon, I had one more full day with my dear sister on Friday. Some dear friends treated us to a day at the spa at The Hotel Hershey, an early birthday gift for Leah and a nice change from four full days of intense travel. We had to get used to walking around in bathrobes, but enjoyed a delightful and restful day of swimming, a delectable lunch, and pampering with manicures and pedicures. :)

In our very comfortable robes at the spa.
Our fun Friday ended with a surprise birthday party for Leah, hosted by her wonderful housemate Bethany. So many people came out to celebrate Leah and the blessing she is!

It was with mixed emotions that I boarded the plane in Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon, sad to be leaving my beloved sister behind, but looking forward to seeing my parents and so many dear friend and family members on the West Coast. 
I believe my adventures in America have only just begun, but I am so far very grateful for God's protection, provision, and the incredible people and blessings He has put in my life. I'm looking forward to what else is in store - only God knows! :)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Helping You Help Me

Hi y'all! I am writing this blog post from beautiful (yet, too cold) Pennsylvania.

I safely arrived stateside on Friday and am thoroughly enjoying being back on U.S. soil. :) I am in the midst of a two-week visit with my beloved sister and then will head west on Nov. 22.

My sister Leah and I. Leah is one of my most favorite people in the whole world and I'm loving being with her, after almost two years of being apart.
I am still adjusting to the time change (8 hrs. difference) which means I am sleeping like a rock at night, but then am also feeling sleepy throughout the day, but it is improving. Like I said, Pennsylvania is cold - about 40+ degrees different. Oh, and my home area of Portland is expecting a half foot of snow today! Yikes! I don't think I am ready for "winter."

Thus far, my transition back has been smooth, but it is possible there will be some bumps ahead. Fellow missionary friends shared the following videos, which I think will be helpful in helping you to know how to help me in this time of furlough. Though the missionary who made the videos is serving in SE Asia, there are still a lot of similarities in that culture and the one of Uganda.

Happy viewing!

The first video is entitled "The Stare," which describes the blank look a returning missionary may assume when faced with a perceived overwhelming situation.

So, I couldn't seem to upload some of the videos to the post, but here are some links:

  • Learn the "secret" truth that missionaries are actually "normal" people, here. :)
  • Learn some good questions here to ask me to find more about what has been happening in my life during the past two years.
  • In the nearly five years in Uganda, I have developed new "normals," which can be far different than the normals I used to have in the U.S. Learn more here.
  • Yes, there is such a thing as "reverse culture shock," which may cause returning missionaries to bring into tears in a cereal aisle. Seriously. Find out more here.
The truth is, we all need grace. Every day. Thank you in advance for your grace and patience with me as I readjust to American life. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What If?

Sunrise seen from the top of Lingira Mountain.

What if the sun’s rays were not warm and consoling?

What if water was not cool, refreshing, thirst-quenching and life-giving?

What if fruit was not sweet and good for you at the same time?

What if kittens were not soft, cute and cuddly?

What if the earth did not have gravity? (What a mess it would be!)

What is music was not inspiring, motivating, comforting?

What if ears were only for decoration and not for hearing?

What if the world was only visible in grayscale?

What if the waves of the seas and oceans did not keep within their bounds?

What if the sun rose only twice a week?

What if there were no clouds to shield us from the sun?

What if the stars had no order, how would sailors navigate?

What if lips could not talk, sing, whistle, or hum?

What if hugs were painful, rather than warm embraces?

What if a smile was difficult to produce?

What if there were no seasons?

What if raindrops were heavy like stones?

What if birds did not sing?

What if we did not have memories and only “remembered” the current second we are in?

What if laughter was not healing?

What if light did not pierce and scatter darkness?

What if mountains were not high, waterfalls were not breathtaking, valleys had no end, and rivers ran neither upstream nor downstream?

What if there was no beauty, no love, no grace, no joy, no peace, no serenity?

What if lies were truth, evil was good, wrong was right, and injustice was accepted?

What if there were no such concepts as forgiveness, restoration, transformation?

At times we may doubt the evidences of God’s love, but each day He surrounds us with these gifts of love and grace – because He is good and loving and awesome.

Today, take note of the Creator's gifts to'll run out of numbers before you run out of gifts to count.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Preparing to Say Goodbye

This evening's sunset. Just think - without the sunsets today we would have no sunrises tomorrow.

When I volunteered to teach at the island school four years ago, I didn't count on something.

Having to say goodbye. When I was younger, I hated change and I hated goodbyes. I have changed some since then, but they're still not my favorites. Why should a good thing come to an end?

Now, as the secondary school enters its third term and the days march toward the end of another year, our graduating class has reached the beginning of the end of their studies here. Today they started their final exams and by early November, they will have finished and will begin leaving the school.

Many of these graduates joined the school four years ago, as I was starting my second year of teaching and serving on the island. I have watched them grow and feel as if I have grown with them. They are no longer the small boys and girls of 2011 - they have become beautiful, handsome, smart and wise young men and women.

Because of the nature of the islands and how far away the students' homes are, it is unlikely I will see many of them again. I will have to rely on an occasional phone call to hear about how they are doing.

It is hard to let go. I didn't bargain for this as a teacher, a mentor, and as a friend.

Separation has been a hard lesson for me while here in Uganda. But lessons are for learning and God has taught me that this world is truly not my home, and He is preparing a much better place for His dear children.

That special place, better known as Heaven, will be a place free of separation. No more goodbyes, farewells, or "see you laters." Sometimes my heart aches for that time and that place. And, with the more goodbyes I have to say the ache seems to deepen.

In the meantime, part of my heart goes with each of these amazing students. I wish I had more time with them, but I am thankful for the time God gave me, and I hope that someday we will have all of the time, not in the world, but in eternity.

Would you join me in praying for these young men and women as they do their exams? I really want God's grace, courage and peace to be upon them. Thank you.

Some of the amazing young people I get to work with! Back row, from left: Zaitun, Suzan, Celestine, Benjamin, Michael, Dick; front row, Petra, Scovia, Derick and Joshua. (I usually tell them to smile, so am not sure why they are so serious here.) Celestine, Benjamin, Petra, Derick and Joshua are among this year's "graduates."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My "Summer" Break

(So, I realize it is now October, but this is a "catch-up" post. I wrote it a few weeks ago, but didn't finish it as other things came up. If you want to know more about the "others," see my last post.. :) )

I put "summer"in parentheses because we don't have seasons like summer, fall, winter and spring. We have two - rainy and dry, which alternate throughout the year.

Oh, I should note that we do occasionally have "winter," like when the the temps drop below 75° and people are wearing jackets, complaining about the cold, and clutching cups of tea. Yes, I admit, I have become one of them. :)

After 5 weeks of "holiday," (Aug. 1-Sept. 8) school began "again" in that we started our third term. While the rest of y'all in the States were just starting your year, we are more than halfway through our ours. That is because Uganda kicks off its school year in February, while you are halfway through yours. Confused yet?

So back to my break...

It was fun and it was full, and despite ending with a nasty case of malaria, it was overall quite enjoyable.

In mid-August, to conclude her time in Uganda, Delaney and I ventured to Murchison Falls National Park - Uganda's oldest and largest park, spanning more than 5,000 kilometers. It was amazing, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring. We saw some incredible creatures, like giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, antelope, warthogs (okay, so warthogs are not really incredible, but they are odd looking critters), plus many types of birds.

A stately-looking giraffe. We saw a ton of these spotted fellas - I'm sure some of them were gals, too. ;)

A "cool" African tree.

The falls itself was also amazing, as well as the sprawling savannas and the endless rolling hills dotted with those African-type trees that you usually see in those cool wildlife documentaries. (They are even cooler when seen in person!)

At the top of Murchison Falls.
I shared a number of photos of our trek in this post and a couple of videos here, so will share only a couple of them here.

After sadly seeing Delaney off in mid-September, a few days later I headed east, accompanying one of our island students back to her home in Sironko, near Mbale, about 5 1\2 hours from the island. It is amazing how far students will travel to come to school!

Eastern Uganda is another stunning part of the country, with its hills, the Elgon Mountain range, lots and lots of green scenery, and of course, many warm and friendly people. :)

Tracey, far left, and her gracious family in front of their home.
I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of student Tracey's family and also visited some folks with island connections, like the dear family of Pastor Philip, the one who started the fellowship group in Katonga. That small weekly gathering yielded many new believers and 13 baptisms last summer.

Pastor Philip, center, his wife Harriet, far left, and their beautiful family.

Two days later and a four-hour journey home - in a packed car, on a packed taxi, and ending with a boda ride, I was back to Jinja - my mainland "home" when I am not on the island.

A couple of hours later, I was back on the road, but to Entebbe to pick up a friend who was returning from furlough. It was great to see her again after two months.

Interspersed with some rest, some work, and some house-sitting, I also had the chance to visit other friends. Julius, our talented farming guy, excitedly showed me the improvements to his mushroom-making endeavor, while his wife served us a delicious lunch. 

Ruth and Julius in front of their Mayuge home.

Julius showing his mushroom "house." They grow out of the plastic sacks!

With an impending storm, I left Julius and Ruth's place in Mayuge, also in eastern Uganda, and boarded a taxi for the nearby Bugaade. The dark skies opened and poured down torrential rain, making me thankful I had not taken a motorcycle for the trip, and that I was not sitting near one of the vehicle's leaking windows. :)

Upon reaching the town center of Bugaade, Fauza greeted me with a hug and a smile. I hadn't seen her since last November when she finished at the island secondary school, leaving as one of our 2013 top graduates. For nearly three years, I also enjoyed meeting weekly with Fauza at the school to study the Bible.

As is customary for visitors, I was served food - a steaming cup of tea - perfect for a rainy day - and half a loaf of soft brown bread, which I was expected to consume by myself. After only two pieces, since I was still full from Ruth's lunch, I asked for help from Fauza and her cousin, with whom I had been chatting.

"But, Madam, that is all for you. You are supposed to finish it," Fauza insisted.

I carefully, but not rudely, tried to explain that I simply could not finish ALL of the bread she had placed before me. Thankfully, the mountain of bread was not the center of our conversation, but rather the challenges that had kept Fauza from entering a new school, specifically having to do with spiritual warfare. Coming from a predominantly-Muslim family, Fauza had her share of encounters with witch craft, which is commonly intertwined with Islam here.

Asserting her position in Christ, Fauza has and is recognizing that the Creator God is indeed more powerful than Satan; however, remaining firm in her faith is important, especially when her family believes otherwise. After sharing Scripture and a time of prayer, I reluctantly left, knowing it would be some time before I would see my young friend again.

A cold boda ride, another taxi ride, concluding with a bus trip returned me to Jinja again, thankful for friendship, hospitality, and God's gracious provision and protection.

Before I knew it, it was time to return to the island and begin thinking about the new term. The Sunday after my return, my friend Justus and I witnessed the baptism of 9 new believers, following a Sunday service in the new church in the small village of Dubai. Located on the back side of Lingira, Dubai has mostly been just a pass-through to get to the other villages, though at one time it was a bustling place of trade, which earned it its name.

Church in Dubai - praise and worship under the mango tree.

Celebrating the joy of baptism with a new believer.

No longer forgotten, Dubai now has a church, which was birthed after evangelism efforts earlier this year. Each week, believers from Dubai, as well as three other villages gather under a large mango tree to praise and worship and study the Word of God.

I have come to realize that there is no "forgotten"place or "forgotten"people to God. He knows each and every corner and each every heart. And His love and light can find and penetrate each one.

I am grateful for that full and fun (yes, I did do other work, too!) "summer" break. I think God knew I needed it before entering an intense school term. He knows best what we need, doesn't He?

Sunrise at the ferry landing on the Nile River, Murchison Falls.

The impressive Sisi (see-see) Falls in eastern Uganda.

"And, my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Battle is the Lord's!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” 

Sometimes we need to experience the heat of the battle to be reminded of the ongoing war. Last weekend I had the privilege to witness and participate in an intense battle for the souls of my students.

Starting Sept. 10, two days after the school began its third term, female students began suffering demonic attacks. At first, it was one girl, but then the attacks increased in number and intensity. Six would be attacked in one night, and seven another morning, until up to 20 total, boys and girls, were affected.

Last Thursday I went to teach a class and found students running out of the classroom – some in confusion, others unsure of how to respond to what was happening around them. Spirits of oppression, fear and confusion had descended on the campus.

Wisely, Headmaster Sam Okello, a strong Christian man, called for three nights and three days of fasting and prayer – to seek for God’s intervention. We began Thursday night and continued until Sunday evening. 

He recalled the stories of King Jehoshaphat with the imminent threat of enemy attack in 2 Chronicles 15, and of Queen Esther, with her people fated for annihilation. In each case, three intense days of prayer and fasting were called for first, before any action was taken. We understood we were not fighting alone, but the battle was the Lord’s, and we needed only to stand firm and witness His overcoming power.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” 

Honestly, I was scared, reluctant and unsure of how to respond. Yes, I have heard numerous stories of demonic activity in my time here, and occasionally, but at a distance, been exposed to it before, but not to this extent and intensity. Up to six or seven girls at a time were being attacked. They would become like entirely different people – wild-eyed, uncontrollable, needing to be physically restrained, screaming, fighting back, uttering strange things, making odd animal-like movements, and sometimes becoming totally unresponsive.

It broke my heart to see these beautiful young women, created in the image of God, being used and abused as tools of Satan. In this, my eyes were opened wider to Satan’s sadistic aim of exploitation and destruction of all souls.

Students, pastors and teachers would gather around, holding the victims, praying with great fervency until the students returned to their senses. For a particular group of 11 girls, they were being repeatedly attacked, and we did not know why.

Praying for the group of 11 girls.

Friday and Saturday were days of intense warfare, including many hours of fervent prayer. The day would begin with praise and worship and then move into prayer, especially as students would again fall under attack. Our pleas to our Awesome God were a threat to the demons, and they were very reluctant to go.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

On Saturday afternoon, Pastor Robert Wafula led us in a session of reading and repeating aloud the truths of God’s Word from Isaiah, from the Psalms, from the Gospel of John. It was emphasized throughout the weekend that the school, and specifically the students, must arm themselves with God’s Word – filling their hearts and minds with truth, to replace Satan’s lies and deceptions.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Throughout the weekend, God revealed truth to different ones – helping us to pinpoint the source of the “flaming arrows.” One of the school’s closest neighbors was a Muslim man and his large family. Since the inception of the school in 2006, he had threatened it, vowing to bring it down. Recently, he had taken a different posture, actually appearing to befriend the administration and the teachers, and even sending his own children to study there. But, God’s Spirit revealed the entire pretense was just a way of gaining access to the school and students – not for good, but for destruction.

The 11 girls who were being repeatedly attacked had recently drunk water offered by this man. This “holy water” contained words of the Koran written on a piece of paper. They had both tasted it and been “sprinkled” by it.

On Saturday evening, we divided into “battalions” and conducted a prayer walk around the entire school compound, praying over buildings, land, trees, gates, etc. We prayed in Christ’s name and by the power of His blood for the breaking of all demonic powers and covenants, and reclaimed the school campus for God’s glory and purposes.

Again, by His spirit, elements of witch craft were discovered throughout the campus – hidden in various places, like in trees and along pathways. That night, two male students had visions of a fellow student, a Muslim, mocking them as they tried to sleep. His properties were searched and witch craft charms were discovered, which he had been using against his fellow students. He was ousted from the school that night.

While we identified our Muslim neighbors as perpetrators of this evil, we understood they were only tools in the hand of Satan. And so we also prayed for this man and his family. We asked God to please remove them from the island, but especially that they would repent of their sins and confess Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Each day began tentatively as we were unsure how events would unfold. Sunday morning’s service was subdued, but reverential and still full of thanksgiving for the deliverance we had already experienced. In each of the previous nights’ sessions, students had come forward for salvation, many re-dedicated their lives, and others sought prayer for other issues.

Pastor Fred, who helped lead in the weekend’s battle, preached on “The Conflicting Kingdoms,” reminding us we are in an ongoing battle and we must “stand guard” over our minds, where the battlefield rages.

Four more male students, plus the wife of a staff member, came forward for salvation during the service. All, if not most, were Muslims. We also prayed especially for the 11 girls, asking for God’s protection of them in the coming days.

Joy filled our hearts as we headed to the nearby shore for the scheduled baptism on Sunday afternoon. Knowing many were to be baptized that day, two sets of pastors, plus helpers, stationed themselves and for the next hour or more baptized a total of 92 people! They would begin to conclude, thinking they had done all, when others would come to the shore – from the school and from the nearby villages. Some confessed Christ right at the shore, and were then baptized!!

What a joyous afternoon of celebrating 92 baptisms!

God had taken away our fear and given us His victory! He had turned our mourning into dancing and our weeping into rejoicing! Our potential destruction had become our deliverance!

That night we broke our fast and enjoyed a time of celebration – praising, dancing, and thanking Jesus for His power, His deliverance, His grace, and His amazing love which He had poured out on us over the weekend. We had seen Him powerfully act on our behalf and we were in awe. What Satan and man had meant for harm, God turned for our good – for the saving of souls, for revealing of evil plots, and for renewing the spiritual fervency of the school and community.

Though the weekend was long and intense, I felt compelled to be a part of it in every aspect. It was physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding, but I was undergirded by God’s spirit. I knew I wanted to share in the victory, and thus I had to join the battle. And, indeed the victory was sweet!

As of Tuesday evening, all demonic attacks had ceased and students were again sleeping peacefully at night and back in their classrooms undisturbed during the day. The Muslim man and his immediate family took their possessions and left the island over the weekend. A dog that he had been using as part of his witch craft rituals was caught by the students, killed, and burned, along with the dog house.

Almost the entire school has been rising at 3 a.m. for an hour of prayer. There is now a great need for discipleship and we praise God for He has already called up His servants for this important work. We believe the revival of Lingira Island and the surrounding islands has just begun.

There will be more battles, but we are on the winning side.

“He said: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.” – 2 Chronicles 20:15

My absolute favorite photo of the weekend - the baptism of Ngobi Swaibu, with his fellow students rejoicing with him. Ngobi, a former Muslim, is a brother-in-law of the school's Muslim neighbor. He boldly confessed Christ and chose to be baptized.

Scriptures in bold and without references are from Ephesians 6:10-17.

Armor image from

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Swimming Upstream

I remember as a girl when my mom would take my sister and I to a local creek to watch the salmon in their annual run upstream.

It was amazing to see these relatively small fish swim, jump and fight their way against the tide, over rocks and other obstacles, with a dogged determination. Only until reaching the same place where they were hatched from, would they cease their driven journey.

I believe salmon are unique in this way and it is God’s amazing design. Maybe because of salmon we have the phrase to “swim upstream.”

This life of “going against the flow” should also be that of a Christian’s. The Bible tells us to not be conformed (Rom. 12:2), to throw off the old, sinful ways (Eph. 4:22), to strip off the old nature and put on the new one (Col. 3:9-10), to imitate God and no longer follow the world (Eph. 5:1), and so many other commands about turning away from the old, making a complete 180, and beginning to walk as a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

However, do you know what that really means? We will be going against the flow of society, of culture, of media, of the world, and very likely against our neighbors, our friends, and possibly our family.

This past weekend, young men and women from Catholic, Muslim and other religious backgrounds, confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, cutting and leaving behind those strong religious ties. It is highly likely they will not be embraced as they once were by their families and communities. They may be rejected, disowned, or thrown out. Their father or mother may refuse to pay for their education or to give them food. They have begun the swim upstream.

Baptizing one of our female students, a former Muslim, on Sunday.

Jesus especially did and said things that went against the norm, against the accepted, even by the respected religious leaders. He used mud to heal a blind man? Crazy! He healed on the Sabbath? Insane! He associated with prostitutes, thieves, and drunkards? Had he lost his mind?!

No. God’s ways are not at all like the world’s ways, in fact, they are completely contrary and entirely opposite.

My fellow Christians, this is the life we are called to. Not to blend in, not to adapt, not to conform, not to adhere. It means there will be a struggle – a daily one, a life-long one. It is a battle. It requires perseverance, focus, dedication.

But, the crown is promised only to those who remain faithful (Rev. 2:10). Heaven’s fruits and manna are promised only to the victorious (Rev. 2:7, 17). Inclusion in the Book of Life is only for those who persevere in faith (Rev. 3:5).

Those who wish to share in Jesus’ victory must also join His battle.

So, my friend, which direction are you swimming? With or against the world’s tide?

“But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:12b-14

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Me on top of Lingira "mountain" - the hill that runs along the middle of my home island.

(Please note: The following contains raw honesty and though it may not look all pretty or what a "missionary" should be feeling or thinking, it is what I am passing through right now. So, bear with me. ;) )

When we are young, the future possibilities stretch out before us as far and as wide as the many years that lie ahead. Our young dreams focus on what we might be or achieve one day, whom we might one day call our own, where we will settle, and what we will name our children. As I was growing, I, too, had expectations and hopes in each of these areas.

However, expectations are wishes cast upon an unforeseen future. Some come to fruition, while others are "lost at sea." My expectations versus God's expectations - they can be drastically different from each other.

I expected to be married by now.

I expected to have had children - by now.

I expected to be "settled" in the life every young girl dreams of - with a family and living in a cute house, right next door to my beloved sister and her family.

I expected to still be close in proximity and relationship with each of the dear friends with whom I grew up.

I expected to be right there - seeing and actively participating in each new season of my friends' lives - dating, marriage, family, children.

I expected to be a close and doting "auntie" to the aforementioned little ones.

I didn't expect to live in a foreign country.

I didn't expect to be so far from much-loved family and friends for extended periods of time.

I didn't expect to not live in or be near my beloved hometown with its amazing quirks and qualities and lovely, friendly people.

I didn't expect to become accustomed to cold showers, scurrying rats and other critters, the endless battle with dirt, and the ongoing struggle with always feeling a bit "out of place."

I didn't expect the ongoing, daily struggle with my weaknesses, my humanity, my besetting sins and habits for days, weeks and years.

I expected to be more mature by now.

I didn't expect that God would take me away to a little remote island far away from all I held close so I could know Him more deeply and intimately.

I didn't expect to experience grace in so many diverse and indescribable ways.

I didn't expect He would take me away from my "comfort zone," so I might better learn forgiveness, freedom, and trust.

I didn't expect to be a witness to God's incredible and active work in a different corner of the world.

I didn't expect to meet and build precious friendships with so many people of different nationalities and backgrounds.

I didn't expect to encounter, learn from and come to value diverse cultures and different "ways of doing things."

I didn't expect to see such incredible, awe-inducing beauty, amazing places, and obvious evidences of God's creativity, power and majesty.

I didn't expect to be actively serving in areas I am so passionate about - youth, discipleship, teaching the Word of God, and communication.

I didn't expect the immense joy of walking alongside another as they discover and embrace God's incredible love and His marvelous plans for them.

I didn't expect to be forced to face and fight the dark, deceptive and enslaving ways of Satan.

I didn't expect to see the practice and results of witchcraft in such tangible ways.

I didn't expect to see God's light shine so brilliantly and pervasively in a darkened part of Uganda.

I didn't expect to see lives radically transformed, families miraculously restored, students given new hope, and people set on fire and on mission with God.

I didn't expect that I would thrill to see and be a part of God's ages-long, world-wide, love-sustained campaign to bring long-lost, "walking dead" rebels back to Himself - from every tongue and tribe and nation.

I didn't expect that I would not want to live any other life, serving any other God, choosing His expectations over my own, laying aside my childhood dreams for something much, much better.

I didn't expect that Gods plans and expectations would yes, be so different than mine, but above and beyond what I could think or even imagine.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him." - Psalm 62:5

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." - Proverbs 19:21

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liking the "Unlikely"

"God doesn't consider age, background, nationality...He looks at our hearts."

I fervently shared these words with my young friend, who was trying to bravely and cautiously think about her future. I knew she was doubting if and how God could use her, lead her, and bless her.

"I love the scripture in 1 Samuel that says 'man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart'."

I really think God likes the unlikely. 

He promises a long-awaited son to an elderly ancient, well-past-their-prime couple. (Abraham and Sarah)

He chooses the forgotten, smells-like-sheep little brother to be the next anointed king. (David)

He collapses an impenetrable wall - with crazy shouts and trumpet blasts. (Jericho)

He transforms an arrogant teenager into the second most powerful man in Egypt. (Joseph)

He creates an entire nation from a motley crew of 12 brothers born from a dysfunctional polygamous family. (The nation of Israel.)

He calls uneducated, rough-around-the-edges fishermen to be his first disciples. (Peter, James, John)

He almost seems to favor the very young, the very old, the poor, the despised, the overlooked, etc. (Samuel, Moses, the Samaritan woman, Zaccheus...)

Why? Because He likes the unlikely.

It is the "unlikely" who best display His radiant glory. The weaker the vessel, the greater His power is shown.

This is the message I wanted to convey to my friend this afternoon as we shared tea and sweet brown bread. She comes from a poor family, was raised in the islands, is shy and quiet, is one of the few Christians in her predominantly-Muslim home, and has struggled with many challenges over the years.

But, God loves these odds - He really does.

Don't even think there is anything you can or can't do, or that you were born with or born without, that will throw a wrench in His plans for you.

After we prayed over my friend's future and the coming steps and days that only God knows, I told her I was excited for what lies ahead. Because I really am.

I am excited because He has brought her so far already.

I am thrilled because she loves Him and wants to please Him in all she does.

I am very eager to see her unfolding story.

I am confident that the One who began His good work in her will continue and complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

The Author God loves writing in interesting twists and surprise endings, doing above and beyond what we can even ask or think. He's awesome like that.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

P.S. Please be praying for my friend, Fauza, that she would continue to trust and believe in the God who has good plans for her.