Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hosting Angels Unawares

There is a definite ebb and flow to life on the island. Something like the waves of the looming lake, which lap the shores or sometimes rock the boat.

My absence here is because life has been "flowing" a bit faster lately with activities at the school, but also in hosting visitors at SHIM.

Regina, Dr. Terry's dear wife, spends quality time with David and Johnathan.

Each year, we host between 40-50 people at our ministry compound. Some come for a night, others come for several weeks or several months.

I still find it amazing how our small island attracts people from all over the United States and around the world. Is it the peacefulness? The ministry? The island people? The banana pancakes? :) (As the breakfast chef, one of my favorite foods to prepare for guests is the ever-popular banana pancakes. ;) Or is it a combination of all of the above? Maybe.

But I think God does something in the hearts of people who willingly cross lands and oceans to visit a remote island - to witness the work God is doing there. And as they witness, or better yet, become involved, they invest their hearts. And where your heart is, there your treasure is and vice versa.

Once you've given your heart to a place and people - you are often drawn to return.

Such is the case with Claudia, a neuroscience major, who returned this month for her third consecutive year. Dr. Terry, a S.C. professor of social work, has made seven trips to Lingira, over the same number of years. This year, four members of his dear family joined him, including three who had also visited in 2010.

Advising the SHIM staff in setting "measurable outcomes" is Dr. Terry, back.

For some, they are "newbies." Last week, 15 people from the Mercy for Mamas organization spent a packed 24 hours on the island - teaching and encouraging women in two island villages and conducting pre-natal clinics.

Delaney, a math major, is dedicating her summer to building meaningful relationships on the island, and seeing how she can encourage the local teachers and students in their grasp of math skills - one of the more challenging subjects for our rural youth.

With a degree in visual media, Dr. Terry's oldest son, Matthew, spent much of his days filming and taking photos of our dairy project for a soon-to-be-released short film.

His wife, Bailey, an occupational therapist, spent quality time with some of the more needy, vulnerable, and often-neglected of the island - the children with special needs. She worked one-on-one with several and was instrumental in helping to form a much-needed support group for the parents of these little ones.

Delaney and I watching the US vs. Germany World Cup game.

Time and space do not allow me to share all of the ways our visitors have blessed us at SHIM, but especially those of the islands. They have helped to lighten burdens, brought joy and encouragement with listening ears, kind words, new stories and plenty of fodder for laughter. They have helped us see and fill in "gaps" in the ministry, some of which we lack time or energy for, or the right skill sets.

I personally have been encouraged and incredibly blessed by such dear people who give of themselves in substantial and sacrificial ways. I have truly met amazing people and built special friendships among them.

Each person and team that visits brings their own perspectives, skills, heart passions, backgrounds, and goals. But each makes an impact, and God, in His glorious sovereignty, weaves it all together in the continuing story He is writing of the islands.

The islands and their people were created to sing His praises and I am so thankful for the many and diverse people He draws here to "teach us to sing"!

The Mercy for Mamas team heads back to the mainland after their island visit.

"Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where is "Home"?

I've made my "home" in Uganda for 4+ years.

“Home is where the heart is.”

For many of us, this is a familiar and loved phrase. I used to think I knew what “home” was or meant - the place where your family is, where you grew up, where you always go back to.

However, lately God has been redefining “home” for me. I have been in Uganda for about 4 ½ years and it has become like a home to me, yet it doesn’t always feel “homey.” At times the unfamiliar encounters and the difficult moments, make me long for my “other” home. But I also feel disconnected from my American home as I watch from afar as friends marry, bear and raise children, and pass through various life seasons. As one friend described it, perhaps it is like having a foot in two different worlds – I am part of each one, but not fully in either.

I have come to realize that no matter how long I live in Uganda, I will never be Ugandan. And, when I go back to the U.S. to visit or perhaps move back someday, it will not feel like home the way that it used to – because I have given part of my heart to another place.

And sometimes I live in a “third” world, which I have created and is kind of a composite of the other two. At times it exists only in my mind, or is more obvious when I am with Americans in Uganda, or enjoying an American meal here. But that third world is temporary, it comes and goes.

At times I find it frustrating not to have a “permanent home” anywhere – here or there.

It has lately occurred to me that this frustration I feel of not fully being in any of these worlds is okay and is even encouraged.

Like the old gospel hymn says,
“This world is not my home,
I’m just a passing thru.
My treasure is laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

As Christians we won’t or shouldn’t “settle” here on earth – whether in a home or host country – or in a world in our minds. We are not meant to settle, to relax, to put down permanent roots. So, where do we make our home in this waiting time, as we anticipate our heavenly dwelling?

Make your home in Jesus. Heaven will only be our true home because our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus are there. Like some say, people make the home – it’s not about the buildings or the scenery. And, if our Father and Jesus were not to be there, we wouldn’t want to be there either.

So, we can begin now – making our home in Jesus. I believe when man was created, he was intended to live unceasingly forever and forever in God’s presence, with no separation. The Garden of Eden was I am sure a beautiful and breathtaking place, but it was not the true “home” God meant for them to dwell in. He intended for them to be with Him always.

When I make my home in Jesus, delighting in His presence, letting Him take the lead no matter where I am, I feel content, at peace, with a “settledness” in my spirit. I have tried searching for those heart “conditions” in people, places, work and play, but always come up lacking and more deficient than when I began.

But when I make my home in Jesus, when my heart is settled in Him, there are indescribable feelings, and a taste of what I think heaven might be like.

As Christians our security is to be in Jesus Christ – not in places, family, friends, governments, economies, jobs, saving accounts, technology, development, education, medicine, knowledge – not even in passions, professions or callings.

So, settle down in Jesus. Place your heart and home in Him.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jinja - In Video

I've been a "mainlander" for over a week now. Although, I consider the island my "home," I've been staying with some friends and caring for their children.

Jinja is considered our "port" city, from which the boats to the Buvuma Islands go in and out of. Jinja is the second largest "town" in Kampala, with a population of about 90,000. It is second only in size to the capital city of Kampala, with over 1.2 million people.

Jinja is a popular spot for tourists, since whitewater rafting, kayaking, the "Source of the Nile," horseback riding, bungee jumping, and some great restaurants and tourist shops are found either in or near Jinja. The "source" is right outside the city center and is where the lake flows into the Nile River.

Also, many missionaries and ministry organizations are based in or around Jinja, so I frequently see friends when I am in town. :)

Though I am not a "city" girl, I do like Jinja as it is small enough to easily walk from here to there, has restaurants for enjoying different foods, and places to take advantage of "high-speed" Internet (which is how I uploaded the first two videos). :)

The first video was taken this morning as I rode a "boda" or motorcycle from where am I staying, about 3 miles or so from town, to go meet a friend for lunch. I am sorry, but there is no narration on the first two videos, since it felt awkward to narrate sitting directly behind the driver. Also, the quality is not the best since it was bumpy, due to potholes and speed bumps.

You will notice I focus on the yellow and orange-red sign of "Acacia Community Church" as we as pass it. This is where I usually attend when I am in town. Also, note that the "bodas" carry many things - from people to boards, to milk cans to bags of charcoal, etc.! The little commercial area we pass through is called Kimaka (pronounced "chee-mah-kah).

This video is a portion of Main Street, Jinja. I really do like this street as I can do most of my business on or near it.

The last video is one I took from inside - of a rainstorm outside. When it rains here, it usually comes down fast and heavy!

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Jinja - one of my "homes" away from home. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Because of Them, Part 2

“Dear Dad, Since we've been in Africa, I have found that little in my formal education or professional experience prepared me to love, live, and work with Africans. But growing up in our family, the things that you and mom instilled in me…those are lesson and life skills that I use here every day.”

I recently read of a missionary’s account of his work in Somalia, including the above excerpt of a letter, written to the missionary’s father living in Kentucky. Like the author, I feel much the same way about my own parents.

This is the second post in a little series I entitled “Because of Them.” Click here to read the first entry.
I am not sure one can ever fully prepare for the culture, experiences, changes and challenges one encounters on the mission field. Yet, on many days and on many occasions I have gratefully thought of the things my parents instilled in me as I was growing.

My parents and I as I prepared to fly back to Uganda in August 2011.

 - Like being patient and adaptable. Since our family was notoriously known for being nearly the last ones after every service and function, we learned to just wait and not complain. If you wait long enough, any situation is bound to change – sometime. J

- Finding joy in what some might consider menial tasks like washing dishes, sweeping and mopping floors, and even dusting (ugh). Interestingly enough, a lot of a missionary’s time is consumed with the “mundane” everyday tasks. My sister and I were taught to do them well, often, and with a good attitude. The one time we were split up for dish washing duty because we couldn’t keep from arguing, also helped us learned how to work well with others. J

Leah waves goodbye to me on my first day of kindergarten.

- Being social with all age groups. As I mentioned in the first post, we were involved in ministry as a family – and from a young age. We learned to interact with different ages and with people in all walks of life. I learned each person has a story and inviting them to share their history is a way of showing care and concern.
- Showing simple, but important, courtesies like smiling, saying please and thank you, writing notes of acknowledgement and appreciation, responding to and returning messages. Also, asking forgiveness and making restitution when necessary were also stressed.

- Listening to and showing interest in others – making people feel important. My parents have a gift for making others feel significant and special – whether it’s giving a needed listening ear, offering a word of encouragement or praise, or lifting up one who is down. By the way, listening is a very valuable skill. If you cannot listen to others, then you may not have a right to speak. When entering a new culture, it is better to enter as a learner and a listener.

- Eating just about anything and everything put before us. As children, we were not permitted to complain if some food served us did not suit us. Grin and bear it, and above all, clean your plate! Food was not wasted in our house. If you put it on your plate, then you better finish it. Since I now regularly consume food that is “non-American,” I appreciate the reinforcement of eating with a grateful and gracious attitude.

My cool parents and up and coming "scientists"
during a visit to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).

- Planning and being organized. My mom is a gifted organizer and planner. I remember well the lists she had before we left on family vacations - everything from food lists to detailed packing lists. We never regretted having to follow those thorough records. Though I am not as naturally an organizer as she is, I sure have learned to be over the years.

- Cleaning and de-cluttering! Clutter was like almost a curse word in our house. Anything that did not have a place did not deserve to stay around. Sorry, Mommy, I still battle my “pile-it” programs. ;) But whenever my clutter becomes too much, I think of you and what you would tell me – “Get rid of that clutter!” (In case you haven’t personally noticed, clutter seems to have an effect on one’s brain and the ability to think clearly. When I reduce the clutter in my work space, I accomplish so much more.)

Sisterly love - and it continues today!

- Considering others. Always think of the other person - put them first. When dividing the pie, give others the larger slices. This was something encouraged and instilled in us from before I can recall.

- I read recently that one quality which almost always guarantees job success is being conscientious - “Wishing to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly.” My parents are conscientious in the seemingly small and unnoticed things and when it comes to the “more important,” like their care for people, and doing a good job, but above all, in their walks with Christ. If one cannot be trusted with the small and few, one should not be entrusted with the large and many.

Me and Leah a few years ago. Note that Leah's arms are crossed - 
I think we had just finished a "sisterly spat."  ;)

- Being truthful, open and transparent. One of my childhood weaknesses was lying and I remember more spankings for that sin than for the others I committed. (I was a stubborn child and often deserved more discipline than my sweet, often-innocent little sister, who wisely learned from and thus avoided my frequent mistakes.)

- Open and honest communication was encouraged and cultivated in our home. Sharing our joys, disappointments and needs only strengthened our familial bond, as we learned to laugh, cry, and stand by one another through thick and thin.

 “I took for granted so many of the everyday things that I did and learned growing up. But it’s now very clear to me that God intended me to be your son (daughter) in order to prepare me to live among the people of the world.

“You trained me in ways that few people are trained and you gave me what college and seminary never could have given me. I just want you to know how much I value and appreciate our family heritage.”

The above words which the missionary author used to close the letter to his father could also be my own. This list of what my parents taught and instilled in me could go on for pages, but I have captured the highlights.

Children and young people, listen to your parents and the people God has placed in your life. You never know how God is using them today to prepare you for tomorrow.

Parents, keep up the good work of raising your children in a biblical way to love, serve, and follow Jesus! You are shaping future Christians, leaders, teachers, pastors, missionaries, mothers and fathers.

Whoever you are, do not despise nor neglect any interaction with another human being, of any age or station.

No investment in another person is “small” in the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Remembering Uganda's Martyrs

I first wrote the following in September 2009 and have re-posted it since, but want to share it once again. Today, June 3, is Martyrs Day in Uganda - a day to recognize a group of men and women who chose death, rather than deny their faith in Christ.

Mama O and other women lead the Kyoya church in praise and worship
on a Sunday morning earlier this year.

Loyalty is a quality I admire. But, determining at whose feet your loyalty lies is of utmost importance.

As I was reading up on Ugandan culture a few weeks ago, I came across a remarkable story that I knew I wanted to share with all of you. It is the story of the "Ugandan Martyrs."

Before Uganda became a British protectorate in 1894, part of it was known as the Kingdom of Buganda, which was ruled by kings or "Kabakas." As Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries from France and England began coming to the kingdom and evangelizing, they found success in converting members of the court of King Mutesa I.

"The Christian religion was received with much excitement by the converts but it came with its own requirements. It denounced all the native religious behavior and practices as heathen and satanic. Therefore joining it meant a commitment to break away from the old life style, make and adopt new alliances, and adjust to new moral and religious standards, adherence and allegiance."(1)

Although King Mutesa himself never turned to serve the "King of Kings," since he would have to forsake his pagan ways, he did not prevent the spread of Christianity among his subjects. But, just a few years after the arrival of the missionaries, the king died in 1884. The kingdom was left to his young son, Mwanga II. As a prince, Mwanga had been enthusiastically supportive of the missionaries, but he did not emulate his father's tolerant ways when he assumed the throne.

King Mwanga became "an intolerant and vicious persecutor of Christians"(1) and other foreigners. He believed he was losing a grip on the loyalty of his subjects.

"The converts had diverted their loyalty to some other authority and their allegiance at all costs could no longer be counted on."(1)

Perhaps most humiliating to the king was that his pages, the least of his servants, rejected his immoral ways. It was simply unthinkable that a page would reject the wishes of a king.

Not even a year after Mwanga assumed the throne, he ordered the execution of the first three Christian martyrs, who were dismembered and burned on January 31, 1885. Later that year and in the following year, many others, including a senior adviser to the king, were killed for their new-found faith.

This time of persecution climaxed in May 1886. No longer willing to suffer the divided loyalties of his court members, Mwanga demanded they make a choice - either completely obey his orders or continue with their faith and so choose death. Approximately 33 Ugandans, Catholic and Anglican converts, including 12 boy pages, chose the latter. They collected the bamboo sticks that would be their means of execution and were burned on June 3, 1886, feet first over a slow fire to give them opportunity to recant. It is recorded, however, that instead they sang praises to God as they died. In the following months, other Christians were also burned or speared as they chose the Heavenly Kingdom rather than that of King Mwanga.

The spark from these martyr's faith ignited the spread of Christianity in Uganda. Those who had observed the martyr's deaths sought out instruction in the Christian faith and thus the followers of Jesus multiplied in Uganda. Hundreds of loyal Catholics and Protestants suffered horrible deaths. However, "...conversions outpaced executions as the church went underground." (2)

The Ugandan Catholic martyrs were canonized as saints in 1964 and June 3 is observed nationally as "Uganda Martyrs Day." It is estimated that 80% of Uganda's population is Christian, including Catholic, Anglican and Protestant believers. This small east African country has the largest percentage of professing Christians of any country on the continent.

Visitors share in a small village church. Buildings made of mud walls
and thatched roofs are commonly used as churches here.

I wish I could say persecution in Uganda was limited to the reign of Mwanga, but Muslim dictator Idi Amin murdered some 500,000 of his countrymen, among them 300,000 believers, during his reign of terror from 1971-1979.

I imagine that those loyal Christians of more than 100 years ago had no idea how the spark of their faith would ignite a nation's faith. For me, personally, I am grateful for the sacrifice of these souls for they helped lay the groundwork of what is occurring in Uganda today. There is much Christian activity in this nation. I am blessed by the many missionaries and nationals dedicating themselves to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Uganda.

So, before I wind up this post, may I ask "To whom are you loyal?" You may or may not ever have to face death for your faith, but if you did, what would you answer? May I note that the Ugandan martyrs were killed not just for a verbal profession of faith, but because they lived loyally to Jesus. They would not have necessarily been a threat if they had only been followers in word, but not in deed. Are you living loyally to Jesus today?

Other sources:

Rejoicing in the baptism of a new Katonga believer.