Friday, February 27, 2015

When the Lord is on Your Side…”

Incredible cloud formations over Lake Victoria.

“When the Lord is on your side,
Things already better,
Things already better
Things already better!”

This is a popular praise song here in Uganda and one I’ve likely sung hundreds of times in my time here. I have learned to not add the “are” to make it “Things are already…” and to pronounce “better” as “beddar” in the style of Ugandan-English. J

This simple song contains a powerful truth – when God is on our side, our situation is better because we always, always have hope in Him.

Today I joined with the members of the SHIM family as we gathered for prayer and sharing, reflected on the joys and challenges of last year, and looked forward in expectation of what God will do in 2015. Even in the first two months of the year it seems every member and/or family in the ministry has encountered difficulties with health and relationships, frustrations in work, ministry and finances, or disarming calamities and discouragement.

After last fall’s intense season of spiritual warfare, I am more aware that such challenges which take place in the physical realm are often strongly connected to the spiritual realm. And, this is one of Satan’s tricks – distraction and diversion. He seeks to shift our focus off what is really important – the eternal realities – to what is in comparison, superficial and less significant.

Yet, God calls us to lift our eyes off our circumstances and unto Him; to shift our gaze off this temporary reality to the promise of an amazing and glorious eternity with Him. But, how do we do that when the flood surrounds us and threatens to drag us under its powerful swells?

At least twice today as we gathered, people spoke of storms and recognizing that God is in the midst of our storms. One wise member commented that if we choose to leave the storm of our own accord, we may leave Jesus behind in it. Yet, Jesus is not only present in the challenge; He is most importantly above it as the Sovereign Lord.

“The LORD rules over the floodwaters. The LORD reigns as king forever.” (Psalm 29:10 NLT)

From what I can tell the Hebrew word for “flood” here means a type of destruction or destructive storm. Whether the psalmist was referring to Noah’s flood or another type of flood, it is not known. But, the author’s point was to emphasize the sovereignty of our God. He is above, He rules, He reigns – over all.

And while our Awesome and Powerful God is ruling over every single atom of this world, He is ever mindful of His own. Verse 11 concludes the psalm:

“The LORD gives His people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.

While He holds absolute and unchanging sway over the countless affairs of the universe – both large and small – He supplies, surrounds and fills His children with His amazing strength and peace.

This is our hope, this is our promise, and this is our reality. It is why we can confidently sing, “When the Lord is on our side, things (are) already better!”

Praise Him, for He rules in and above every storm. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Back to the Familiar and the New

My first sunset back on the island.

Two weeks have passed since I stepped foot again on Ugandan soil.

For those who thought I had fallen off the face of the earth because of my silence here on the blog; have no fear, I am still here. ;)

I enjoyed a very blessed furlough, Nov.-Feb., and I am so grateful for the special times I had with my dear family and friends, and the amazing opportunities to share about the ministry here.

In the 14 days since my return, I have had a grab-bag mix of emotions – excitement about my re-entry and being reunited with my Ugandan “family” and friends here; blessed relief at finally reaching my destination (after my customary 30-hour trip extended into four days); some uneasiness and anxieties as I reorient myself again to the island and school life; refreshment and replenishing at last week's ministry staff retreat; so missing home and the dear people I left behind; readjusting to the heat, the humidity, the dust, the insects, the litter, the lines, and the sometimes laborious ways of life here; but having a perpetual gratefulness to my God who is so faithful to show His abundant love and grace on a daily basis.

A few days after my arrival, I joined the SHIM family for our annual staff retreat. With the theme of “Appointed to Bear Fruit” (from John 15:16), it was a great way to kick off 2015 as a ministry and as individuals. A mix of teaching, fellowship, rest and fun filled each day's schedule. I was grateful for this time to help me transition back into life and ministry here.

Most of the SHIM family at our annual staff retreat. Sadly, we were missing a few members who were not able to be with us or who had to leave early.

On Saturday I journeyed across the waters back to my Ugandan “home” - the island. Friends had already helped to set up my room, even making up a bed for me. :) On Monday, I resumed my classes at the secondary school and continued through the week. I am happy to see many returning students and a number of new faces as well, even among the teachers. God blessed us with three new individuals to help fill some gaps on the staff.

New teachers and school alumni Danze and Sarah bring with them a familiarity of life here, a deep love for the school and the island, and an even greater love for Jesus and a motivation for others to know Him. My heart is full as I see these young people with such an earnest desire to “give back” to a place that was so formative for them.

This week I have been reminded of one of my favorite scriptures:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” - Philippians 1:6

God is continuing the work on the islands, at the school, in SHIM, in me, and in you. And He won't give up until it is finished. What a blessed assurance.

I thank God for a new season and all that He has in store for this year.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Smiling, Part 2

Fresh snow falls in Chicago as crews prep the plane for London. 

This is the continuation of a post I wrote two days ago, which began the crazy chronicles of my return to Uganda.

And, the saga continues. :)

After an enjoyable and relaxing two-night stay at my friend's home in Denver, she graciously drove me through the pre-dawn hours back to the Denver airport on Tuesday morning. The "plan" was for me to try and go standby on an early flight to Chicago, and if that failed to take a scheduled one in the afternoon. The drawback of the latter was that I would arrive a mere 10 minutes after a scheduled departure to London.

Thankfully, I was near the top of the stand-by list and easily made it out on the first flight out to Chicago. Yippee! There were no complications and I arrived in the "windy city" with plenty of time to spare - about 6 hours or so - before the flight to London. However, upon checking in I was told the flight was delayed by about 1 1/2 hours, but that was okay because I had a 4+ hour window to make my connection on the other side of the flight.

I retrieved my bags, which had arrived the day before, and with the help of some amazingly gracious people, loaded the four bulky, 50-pound pieces, plus a carry-on, on to a cart and carefully maneuvered my way to a British Airways counter to re-check my bags and check in for my flight.

I was quite pleased that I had to pay for only one extra bag, rather than for two, like I had been anticipating. After losing my "extra" 200 pounds, I was carefree and easily made my way to the boarding area to wait for my flight in about 4+ hours. I grabbed a bite to eat, caught up on some "Downtown Abbey," and people watched - one of the joys of loitering around airports. :)

The expected delay evolved into two more hours as we waited for the flight crew to arrive - they got stuck downtown because of traffic due to bad weather - again. Did I mention that last weekend storm's was Chicago's fifth snowiest ever with 19+ inches falling in like two days? Well, the snow began again in the late afternoon Tuesday and as it drifted down I wondered what this new precipitation would mean.

The flight crew arrived, amidst cheers and handclaps from the waiting passengers, and boarding began, and then we sat...and sat. De-icing needed to be done and the flaps had to be "fixed" because they were open when the plane landed in the first place, etc.

Finally we departed Chicago - about 3 1/2 hours after the original scheduled time. With some quick calculations I figured I would have an hour or less to make my connection in London. The flight from Chicago to London was good and I was very thankful for the open seat next to me and the few hours of sleep I was able to get.

We landed at about 10:20 a.m. London time, leaving me 40 minutes to reach my gate before it closed. London's Heathrow airport is a bit daunting with five different massive terminals. Thankfully, I remained in the same terminal, but had to go to a new section of gates, via escalators, hallways, trains, and security. I showed up at my gate less than 10 minutes after it officially closed, but it was still too late to catch the flight to Uganda.

My mom always said airports are like cities in and of themselves. Here is my view from Terminal 5, looking back across to Heathrow's other terminals.
So, now I wait in Heathrow's Terminal 5, having been rebooked on a Kenyan Airways flight which will travel via Nairobi and land in Uganda on Thursday morning. I am killing time as I still have 3 1/2 hours before the flight.

I just enjoyed a delicious lunch of beef stroganoff stew served over rice and accompanied by a big steaming latte. That was BA's attempt to make up for me missing my flight.

I know I will reach Uganda eventually and I am still very thankful for God's grace and provision throughout this entire adventure. I have met some very nice and helpful people, who have done their best to make my travels smoother. I have slept, ate, brushed my teeth, had access to the Internet, and been warm, dry and safe all along. No complaints here. :)

My Bible app's verses for today seem very appropriate for the situation:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Still smiling (peacefully) after four days of traveling.

Monday, February 2, 2015


With my dear parents shortly before I left Portland and started my grand adventure. :)

You've probably heard that quote: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans."

In a way I don't like this quote because I believe it portrays God as Someone who would intentionally "mess" up my plans just for the pleasure of doing so. Instead, I prefer to see Him as someone who is smiling because His divine plans are so much better than mine and He wants to give me His best, not the inferior, puny options that I often choose.

According to "my" plans, I would now have arrived back in Uganda - 11 p.m. local time Monday night and Monday noon Pacific time. But, according to God's plans, I am presently hanging out in the cozy family room of an old friend in Denver. Outside it is beautiful with freshly fallen snow and blue skies and brilliant sunshine. (Note: I told people I really didn't care if I saw snow during my furlough. I am sure this made God laugh. He is making sure I take in this winter beauty.)

According to "my" plans, all should have gone smoothly with my Portland-to-Denver-to-Chicago-to-London-to-Uganda connections. But, according to God's plans, yesterday He sent lots of snow and wind to Chicago, which meant virtually no planes were allowed to land there, including my original morning one and the rescheduled evening one.

According to "my" plans, I had no intention of spending more than a few hours in Denver and was just getting comfortable in my airplane seat with my breakfast in hand...when they told us to deboard because we weren't taking off at that time. Later, it was confirmed that numerous flights to Chicago were cancelled.

I spent all day in the Denver airport and considering the alternatives, I was happy to be there. It was warm and dry inside. Everyone was helpful and was doing their best to get me on the next flight. There were bathrooms, restaurants, plenty of seats, and free Wi-Fi (hallelujah!) My needs were being taken care of and I had peace through it all.

Via Facebook, I contacted two different friends - both from childhood - who live in the Denver area. One was willing to set me up in a guestroom in the home of a former missionary to Africa and the other wanted to pick me up from the airport and host me in her home for as long as needed. I had two great offers, but did choose to stay with my old childhood friend, whom I had not seen in a number of years. She was also excited about the reunion! Too cool!

According to "my" plans, I didn't need to pack in my carry-on any extra clothes, toiletries, etc., because I have almost never been delayed in my travels back and forth to Uganda. (I am sure God was not only smiling, but actually laughing this time at my naive arrogance.)

Always be prepared is not only a good Scouts motto, it's an excellent traveler's one, too. My friend graciously stopped at Wal-Mart last night so I could pick up the needed essentials. I have learned my lesson: at least pack a toothbrush and extra underwear. ;)

A beautiful Denver morning.
The "plan" (I am starting to use the term very loosely now) is to be at the Denver airport tomorrow morning to see if I can go standby on an early flight to Chicago. If that fails, I have a scheduled flight in the afternoon, which arrives 10 minutes after the departure of a flight to London, which may then mean an overnight in Chicago. I may not arrive back in Uganda until Wednesday or Thursday, only God knows at this time.

Honestly, I am not really worried about what will happen after this as I know my Heavenly Father and Divine Designer has it all under control.

God is smiling, and I am, too. :)

P.S. Sorry, not so many photos in this post. I was too distracted yesterday to take hardly any. Hopefully, there will be more later in my trek. :)