Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pushing Back the Darkness

An island woman carrying a basin of small fish (mukene) netted from Lake Victoria.

I spent two full days this week attending a gender-based violence prevention and response training, expertly taught by a well-seasoned American counselor and therapist, who is now serving in East Africa.

I have to admit I finished the training feeling overwhelmed - overwhelmed by the gravity and prevalence of violence. Overwhelmed by my very apparent lack of knowledge and experience on this topic. Overwhelmed by the numerous and disturbing stories that I know play out every day around me, whether I see them or not.

One in three women and one in seven men worldwide have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Two-thirds of Ugandan women have suffered from physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their husband or intimate partner.

Forty percent of Ugandan women believe "wife battering" is acceptable, compared to 36% of Ugandan men.

The above statistics and other harrowing numbers and stories told throughout the two days nearly took my breath away over and over. How? Why?

Some violence, such as in Uganda, is very culturally-tied. For generations, women have been de-valued - by men and by other women. But truly abuse and violence are present in every place around the world, it is just that they take slightly different forms.

Two cuties who live on the islands.

The violations of basic human rights and the devaluing of a person's God-given value and image occurs everywhere - in Uganda, in the U.S., in every country and on every continent.

Throughout the training I couldn't help but feel helpless knowing so many people are suffering and hurting, and many suffer in silence, hidden away.

Yet, when evil is present, light, goodness and righteousness must, must rise up. I so much appreciated the trainer's emphasis on seeking justice - advocating and representing the oppressed, giving a voice to the despised and down-trodden, despite opposition and criticism. We must resolutely move against the status quo.

Isaiah 1:17 was spotlighted:

"Learn to do right!
Seek justice,
Encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
Plead the case of the widow."

In this passage God is speaking to His people. He is directing us to act - not just to pray and ask Him to act.

I must act here in Uganda. You must act wherever God has placed you.The needs here are immense - as in every place around the world.

I am sure you have noticed, but our world is becoming increasingly darker and more evil. So, what is our responsibility as light-bearers? To snuff out or hide our Christ-given light?

No, but to cause them to grow stronger, brighter and to take them where the darkness is most intense, powerful, and pervasive. How? By following and living verses like Isaiah 1:7.

Light must push back the darkness.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"10 Reasons You Should be a Missionary"

This evening I came across this great post on one of my favorite missions-related blogs, "A Life Overseas: The Missions Conversation."

These statements are especially funny if you or someone you know has spent some time on the mission field. Truly, we tend to turn into a crazy bunch.

If the above "10" don't make much sense, read the post. And, if you need further clarification, leave me a comment. :)

Monday, May 12, 2014


I used to think life was about reaching this milestone or accomplishing that particular goal.

But I have become increasingly convinced that life is less about where I am going or what I am doing, and much, much more about WHO I am with on this journey.

I believe Jesus talked considerably more about being with Him (John 15-17) and Him being with us, than the specific things for us to accomplish before He takes us out of here.

I am not saying that we shouldn't be active, faithful, proactive stewards for our God, but let us not forget...

Who has called us...

Who chose us...

Who died to redeem us...

Who has justified us...

Who is sanctifying us...

Who promises us rest, peace, joy...

Let us not lose sight of Him. (Hebrews 12:2)

This journey is not a destination, it is about a Person - Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Because of Them, Part 1

My beautiful family - Christmas 2012, in one of our last family photos. From top left, clockwise, me, my sister Leah, my dad Fred, and my mom Bonnie.

Inevitably the question is asked, "What do your parents feel about you being in Uganda?"

I usually answer with a big smile and say, "My parents are my biggest cheerleaders!"

And, it is so true. Apart from God, I wholeheartedly believe I would not be in Uganda if not for the incredible love and support of my amazing parents.

I first met them when I exited the womb in July 1980 - 14 months after they married and a couple of years after they first met - in downtown Houston, Texas. I love telling the story of how God connected my dad, a reformed-hippie, transplanted from Oregon, to my mom - a city girl from Southern California on vacation to visit mutual friends. It's a long and interesting story of how God led them on their respective spiritual journeys to that point in time. But that's for another telling. :)

Three days after they met, my dad popped the marriage question. And their lives haven't been the same since, and mine hasn't either. :)

Married in a simple ceremony nearly 35 years ago, they began their wedded life - serving others. Lending a hand to the less fortunate - the homeless, jobless, destitute - giving a hand up and not a hand out, as they used to say. I was born into this family and into this focus on ministry and investing in people.

These three emphases - family, ministry and people - continued to be reinforced throughout my growing up. When I was two, we moved from Texas to Oregon - to be closer to my dad's family. And when I was almost 9, we made the best move ever - transferring from the big city (near Portland) to my amazing small town - Clatskanie - a place I am still proud to call home.

Mommy and Daddy made a lot of sacrifices to provide the best for Leah and I. My dad at times worked 2-3 jobs at a time, primarily so my mom could proudly fulfill the "mom" role God had given her. After moving to Clatskanie, they opted to home school, realizing that was the best choice for us, though neither had a background in education. Yet, my most valuable lessons went well beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.

Yes, we can be crazy - it runs in the family. :)
I love that my parents still passionately love people. They are frequently the last ones at church or any gathering. Why? Because they find great delight in sharing life with the folks God has placed around them. I so admire their generosity and attentiveness to needs. One of my mom's ministries is sending out notes and cards to others. She has likely sent hundreds over the years - brightening many days for many people.

A visit to a new restaurant or a new town is not complete unless my parents have made new friends - with the waitress, a shop owner, or some lucky random person. :)

Though no longer involved in full-time ministry as at the start, reaching out to others remained an integral part of our family. Before we could walk, Leah and I were taken along on regular visits to the downtown rescue mission or to sing and share at nursing homes. These focuses continued as we grew - delivering food to low-income folks, serving lunch at the senior center, volunteering at the library. Once again, investing in others was a family priority - and it was something we did together. We persevered through challenges and setbacks (and the occasional family squabble! :) and rejoiced in victories, delighting in seeing change in those we served, as well as in ourselves.

Some favorite things we love to do as a family - eat and talk. :)
Our family remains close because that was fostered from long ago. I have great memories of working and playing together, sitting and talking for hours around the dining room table, taking amazing family vacations, attending church and being involved in other related activities. There were few things we didn't do as a foursome, which contributed to our incredible closeness, a trait that remains today, even across the miles.

My parents aren't perfect and they will be the first to tell you that, but they have been open, vulnerable, and honest about their mistakes. They have fully embraced and stressed reliance on the grace of God. They have lived out and believed fully in keeping your focus on Christ - in every aspect of life.

My dad has frequently emphasized the idea that "You don't fit ministry into life, life is ministry."

I have learned and benefited from this philosophy and now embrace it as my own.

My parents are amazing and incredible people and I love them very, very much.

I have more to share about their indelible impact and influence on my life, but that is for Part 2. :)

My amazing parents!