Compassion in Peru

Remember how I was blessed to meet Racheal, the girl my husband and I sponsor through Compassion?

It was an incredible experience to be able to actually spend time with Racheal and show her face to face the love we have for her. And for the Lord to use a precious woman to teach me that Racheal is in fact, my own child. She is my flesh and blood. And how can you turn from that which is your very own? From a child who is a part of you?

There are plenty of incredible Sponsorship programs out there. Programs that give you the privilege of helping to raise and feed and educate and love on children. We just happened to choose Compassion. And God just happened to choose Racheal.

Since I’ve been home, it has been my great honor to have the space here and elsewhere to share the stories of those whom my life crossed paths with. It’s been my goal to share their stories in both the written and spoken word, and to give the Lord the space to do whatever He see’s fit after that.

Not only do I want to share their stories, but I also want to partner with others who do the same. So once in a while, I’ll be writing and sharing things that Compassion is up to. Sharing their heartbreak for children in impoverished lands, and sharing how the Lord is leveraging their lives and hearts for His Kingdom purposes.

And this week, Compassion is in Peru!

A team of Compassion Bloggers have traveled to Peru to witness Compassion International’s ministry to children in the highlands near Lima. This week, these bloggers will be traveling around Peru, experiencing firsthand the daily challenges of children in poverty and witnessing how Compassion works in their lives.

Would you consider reading this recent post from Shaun Groves, one of the Compassion Bloggers currently serving in Peru?

Thanks be to God that there are people who are letting the Lord so gloriously wreck their hearts with things so far beyond themselves. And thanks be to God that they aren’t just ignoring the wrecking, but are allowing the Lord to leverage their lives and hearts for the least of these. If you think of them this week, won’t you pray for the Compassion Blogger team and for the lives of those they will cross paths with?

And won’t you consider what the Lord is asking of you? There are lives literally waiting to be forever changed based on your obedience to God. Your obedience, dear friend.

Consider sponsoring a child and bringing them hope and a future.

Consider not turning your back on your own flesh and blood any longer.

This will make all the difference in their lives. A difference all eternity will behold.

A letter to all the Children

Dear child,

My emotions are ripping right through and I have to say this.

Once, I heard about you. I heard about your life and your struggles. I heard about your heartache and disease. I heard about your broken life and bleak future and death and destruction.

I heard about you. I knew, I wasn’t naive. I didn’t like the way your life looked and wanted things to change for you but I wrapped it up in a box with a nice bow and hid it in a dark corner to forget about.

Because I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to seek further, dig deeper, and wrestle these things out with the Lord. Wrestle out the things in my own dark heart. I didn’t want to get it. Didn’t even know what I was missing with God to even get.

—-

But then all that changed. I went, I saw, I knew it all face to face.

I saw you.

I saw your life, your struggle, your heartache and disease. I saw your broken life. I saw your bleak future and death and destruction.

And then I couldn’t un-know it. I couldn’t un-see. I can’t un-touch and un-love and un-experience the broken and crumbling. Even if it hurts so bad that I want to wish it away. I can’t. And I would never dare.

Because now I know. Now I see. Now I am responsible. I am your voice, your storyteller, the one relied upon to tell it all.

Me, simple old me. Nothing spectacular about-cha, me.

These are big shoes to fill…

You are depending on me. Your very life and breath and future depends on me saying something. On me doing something. Even just one small tiny step of something.

It all matters. Because God chose me and He doesn’t intend to un-choose me.

—-

And so I say. And I do. And I hope that just one hears, that just one really hears. Not to hear me, but to hear you.

Your story. Your life. Your future.

And when they don’t hear like I once didn’t? It hurts. Hurts because they are closing their ears to you. Because what they are really wishing away, what they are really asking for no more of isn’t me, it’s…

You.

They don’t want anymore of You.

And the breaking, of your heart and mine, doesn’t stop. Won’t mend. Maintains the ache that drives down to the ugly core of our sin.

We don’t care.

We don’t care about You. We don’t really love You. We don’t want to change our lives to do something about yours.

And we don’t want to hear anymore about you, thank you very much. Wiping our hands clean of all responsibility, of all hope of tender, breaking heart. Of all hope of a heart that bends and reaches out to just, you.

—-

I am so sorry.

Can you please hear me on this one?

I am so, so very sorry.

If I could snap my fingers and help us all to know and fully see, I would. Because I know how much your very life and breath and future depends on it. Depends upon their caring. Depends upon my caring.

I love you. I really do love you. Do you know that?

Even when I don’t show it, don’t live it, don’t speak it. Even when I fall so incredibly short of what you deserve from my heart and life. I do, sincerely, love you. And I will keep fighting. Against this world, against my very flesh. I will fight for your love because you are worth it.

You are worth it.

Did you know that? You, dear one, just you…

You are worth it all.

Thoughts on a cloudless night

Sitting by a warm fire. Warm smore’s, warm company. Not wanting the stillness and the wonder of this moment to pass.

Stopping, to remember..

All the peace, all the spilling over content-joy, all the fullness of the magic of these moments of our lives. However many or few times they show their faces..

They are only and always just that. A moment, a fraction, a mist.

A beautiful shadow of the full-knowing, full-loving, full-wonder to come.

“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

So, soak it up. Drink it in. And cherish it all.

Spend your one life well and love the one beside you through the ugly-beautifuls of this life. Grasp hold of the magic and child-like wonder but always, always remember. It’s only just a glimpse.

A very, very small glimpse.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fullyeven as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Soon, seeing and knowing fully. But not yet.

It’s mist. It’s a moment. It’s a mere fraction of time.

Only one small moment leading into eternity upon eternity of face to face full-knowing.

Of fullest wonder, of fullest life.

“If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…” C.S. Lewis

Feeling Mom-ish and other things..

That’s right, off and on today I’ve been feeling like a Mom.

Why, you ask?

Because I have children? No. Because I’m expecting? NOt that I’m aware of. Because I’m a Mom to a 75lb Golden Retriever? Well yes, but no!

Because yesterday I worked up the nerve to chop off all my hair! I was scared, I had cold feet, and I seriously almost freaked when my hairdresser made the first cut. But I did it!

Annnd, I like it. Expect for when I hop in my Subaru outback with my short hair and feel like there should be screaming kids in the back.

Not a Mom-cut, not a Mom-cut, not a Mom-cut.

In other news…

Wednesday was the first time sharing about my trip to Uganda! What started out as a pretty discouraging day turned into a huge blessing as I had the chance to really dig into the details of my trip with people who truly wanted to hear about it. They were very engaged and the Lord blessed our time and my heart by their involvement in all that He is doing in my life.

At the Open House, I was able to talk more in detail about Ekubo Ministries and sell some of their handmade goods after the talk. And as promised, I wanted to post some pictures of what I am selling for those of you who are interested in partnering with this Ministry!

I’m selling necklaces. Long ones, medium-sized ones, and short ones. The long ones are multicolored, and the medium and short ones are multi and solid. Here’s some pictures with their varying prices.

Long, multi. $22

Medium, multi and solid, $20

Short, multi and solid, $18

I’m selling bracelets. Wire wrap-around-wrist kind and stretchy kind, both are $10.

Wire ones, $10

Stretchy-kind, $10

I’m also selling earrings! Wire hoops and small dangly ones with varying prices.

Wire-hoop earrings, $10

Dangly earrings, $5

And I’m selling headbands because obviously everyone likes (or if you’re like my little sister, LOVES) headbands! These have stretchy elastic at the back too.

Headbands, $10

All of these items were made in the village that Ekubo ministers to and all of the funds from these sales go straight back there. Funds that will provide for the needs of the children in the Ekubo Sponsorship program. Food, uniforms, shoes, education. Funds that will support other ministry goals like the Baby Cottage and the Clinic. And funds that will give women in the village a reliable source of income that brings pride in their work.

Obviously, all of these pictures are only a small sampling of the variety of colors I have in all the jewelry as well as the headbands. If you see anything you would like to purchase or are interested in another color you don’t see, please comment on this post or send me an email/txt/etc! Also, if there are specific colors you are interested in seeing, check out “Ekubo Ministries” on Facebook for more detailed pictures of what they sell and you can order directly through them!

God bless you as you give and as you support and provide for the very real needs of the people of God.

How should we then live?

How should we then live?

It’s a question that’s been asked before. It’s a question that we should be asking now.

After you have seen and touched and tasted the realities of this broken world, how should you then live?

What are you going to do about what you’ve seen? What are you going to do about the things you’ve now witnessed and know to be real and glaring and ugly? What are you going to do about the shattering your own heart now better understands?

It’s a question Israel and God wrestled out through the prophet Ezekiel in the 33rd chapter of the same book. Israel had yet again turned from God. They had been led astray by false gods and were paying the penalty for their sins; they were deported from their homes and exiled to Babylon. The wickedness that was first present in their inmost hearts had overflowed into their living, and a holy God cannot dwell with an unclean people.

And for a moment the people got it. They knew they had greatly grieved God and they cried out in their distress saying they were wasting away in their sinfulness. God heard their cries. And He reminded them that He didn’t want their deaths but that He wanted their hearts and lives and ways to change and to know full and abundant life. He wanted them to live.

“Turn! Turn from your evil ways!(vs 11). Do what is just and right and you shall surely live.” (vs16)

Do what is just and right and you shall surely live.

Tim Keller wrote a book called “Generous Justice” that has shaped and helped me to better understand the high priority God places on just living. God has been and always will be about justice. That’s who He is. He doesn’t separate His love from His justice, they are one and the same. And we are commanded to care about it as well.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

If we have received the remarkable grace of Christ through the Cross, we will do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God. Not because we are trying to be good people, but because we will be compelled to truly care. Because the grace of the Cross makes us just and if we don’t do justice, have we ever really tasted the grace of the Cross? Because you can’t have one without the other.

Or maybe you have tasted the grace of the Cross but you just don’t believe it or understand how that very grace is absolutely vital. Not just for a singular proclamation, but for every waking moment.

Because if you have tasted grace, you would know what it is that the LORD requires of you.

Justice. Mercy. Humility.

How should then live?

It’s a question I’ve been chewing on for a few weeks now. What was the point of this trip to Uganda, Lord? What are you asking of me? How can I follow you? How do you want to leverage my one life for your Kingdom purposes? How does all of this fit together?

Oh Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

I don’t know what the Lord has in store in the next months or years or entire seasons ahead. I do know that He’s asking me to obey Him now. So I’m taking a few steps, testing the waters, always waiting on the go-ahead from God. Because at this point in my life I can’t GO permanently (see Japan!). But I can give and give and use the many things God has blessed me with to support those who can and are there being the hands and feet of Christ.

So I’m doing some small things that could change the life of a few.

I’m hosting a party, finding creative ideas to cut corners, and sharing my story to as many people as will listen closely. Tomorrow, I will receive in the mail a large load from Ekubo Ministries (see FB page) and will be selling their goods to raise funds for their ministry. Funds that will put vulnerable children in schools. Funds that will share the Gospel to a whole village. Funds that will feed kids who don’t get a meal everyday at home. Funds that will unite and support families. Funds that will cover a clinic with a roof. Funds that will finalize a Baby Cottage for abandoned infants.

Funds that will be Christ to this broken and aching world.

Will you join me? Will you prayerfully consider how the Lord is asking you to be a voice and support for those who have none? To be the loving hands of Christ to a world that is desperate for Him? To the orphan, the widow, the distressed, the down-trodden, the oppressed, the marginalized, the “least of these”? Here and wherever the Lord directs your heart.

This definitely will look differently for YOU than it does ME. But will you at least take the first step and ask God? And if He directs your heart to partner with what He’s doing in my own, will you obey Him?

How should we then live?

God has shown us what is good and what He requires of us! Ask Him to specifically show you how He has uniquely made and gifted YOU to be a part of the solution. Ask Him how He yearns to leverage your life for the least of these.

Ask Him. Trust Him. Obey Him.

DO justice, LOVE mercy, WALK humbly.

Each of us, linking arms, taking just one small step in obedience that changes hearts and lives.

How will you then live?

Day 11/12–Sangaalo and Racheal

As the end of my trip was drawing near, Day 11 brought forth an awesome final ministry day in Uganda.

Our team headed to Sangaalo Babies Home to love on a handful of the sweetest babies ever!

Sangaalo is located near Jinja and was founded by an incredibly faithful and amazing woman, Damalie, who has had a heart for orphans her whole life. Sangaalo means Joy, and there was plenty of joy to be had and seen there! The words she shared with us as we sat on the floor in her home during a Ugandan rain storm spoke directly to my heart, and I knew that she was a strong woman of God. Her testimony is one of obeying God and taking the initial step of faith for the Lord to then prove Himself faithful to her. And we were witnesses to the joy and purpose and fulfillment that comes when a woman does just something in the Name of our Lord and how it makes all the difference. Makes a life-and the living-of a difference.

Damalie and her daughter

Sangaalo has five staff members including Damalie who care for fifteen orphaned babies. Theres was some of the best care we saw given to these children. We spent the day with them caring for the babies; playing with them, feeding them, bathing them, and changing an endless amount of diapers.

Sangaalo seeks to reunite babies with their original families before attempting to find homes for them through adoption. They have many needs including several items for the babies and the funds to build a new and larger home on the land that other teams have helped them purchase. Damalie trusts the Lord to provide for their every need. Not just for next month or next year, but for the very next day. You can learn more of their needs on their Facebook page (Sangaalo Babies) or through Voices 4 the Voiceless (voices4thevoiceless.org).

Feeding sweet William

Her story, more than any other’s, stuck with me during my trip because I saw in her life what the Lord was asking from my own. He is asking me to fully trust Him. He is asking me to fully surrender to Him. He is asking me to fully obey Him.

Even when I have questions and don’t understand. And especially when, like Abraham, I do not see and have absolutely no idea where I’m going.

He is asking that I give Him the space to prove Himself absolutely faithful.

And by the way, He’s asking you the very same things.

Andrew

And those babies were beyond precious, and maybe (I am hoping and praying!) the Lord has plans to someday set the lonely in my own family (Psalm 68) but right now, He is asking me to trust Him. To obey Him. To believe Him.

What is God asking of you? Is He asking you to be the Father to the Fatherless? Is He asking you to speak up and speak out for those who cannot and will never be able to speak for themselves? Is He asking you to live differently; with your time, your resources, your talents?

The reality is, He’s asking something of all of us, because we are all still so far from living and loving the way Christ did.

And just like Damalie, you and I will never know the fullness of the riches God has for us in this one life if we refuse to step out in faith and trust God. With our family, with our relationships, with our finances/job/career/talents/time, with everything. And this looks just as different for me as it does for you or the next person. But it will always look like losing your life for the sake of gaining it (Matthew16). Always.

As clear as day, through the life testimony of Damalie and through things the Lord has placed on my heart, He is saying to me, step out, believe that I am enough, trust me to be faithful. Because “God can’t steer you if you aren’t moving” and even if it changes the life of only one child, that is worth every moment, that is worth it all.

What is the Lord asking of you? Stay tuned, for tomorrow I’ll share more about what I believe God is asking of me.

Our lodging at Canaan’s

Day 12 brought me to an unexpectedly hard day. Because Day 12 was our day of goodbyes.

Saying goodbye to Pauline, David, and Bernard

I say unexpectedly, because I knew it would be sad to say goodbye to the children, but I did not personally expect to be so utterly ruined over the goodbye. As previously mentioned, I say goodbyes quite frequently in life. I don’t like them, and never will. And because I know how horrible they are, I find myself dreading them far in advance.

And so of course, I woke up Friday morning physically sick because of what was ahead of me.

I thought I was dreading it not so much because I had to say goodbye to the specific children who had strongly attached to me, but because of an overall having to say goodbye to these people and this land and this trip and all the weight I knew it held in my life. I was afraid of saying goodbye too soon, that I hadn’t fully understood what it was that the Lord wanted me to grasp from my time in Africa. I was afraid I had missed something.

But what I didn’t know at the time was that in fact, I had everything I needed. A firm reminder to trust the Lord and to step out in faith.

So when the goodbyes had to come, it was sheer surprise to me that saying goodbye to Moses and Pauline would nearly end it all.

I held it entirely together until Pauline broke down. And in a culture that shows no emotion, a waterfall of tears speaks volumes.

And what I realized in that moment will, Lord willing, stick with me to the end of time.

That visiting and caring for orphans and the distressed is wonderful and is certainly what the Lord commands us to do (James 1:27). But that will never change the utter heartache they know that is caused from the broken relationships of family. These kids at Canaan’s who can’t be adopted and will grow to be Godly men and women for Uganda have amazing care. They have food and shelter and education and opportunities. They have so much more than so many orphans. Their physical, spiritual, and mental needs will be met as best as they can.

But they will never know the love of family. 

They will never know love unique to them. They won’t know bedtime routines, and snuggles, and encouragement and the attentive love of parents who specifically love them.

And even the children who are adoptable and will (maybe) have their physical, spiritual, and mental needs met, they will still never know this love apart from us doing something about it. Apart from them finding a forever home.

And if this doesn’t rip us apart I don’t know what will.

And this, this is why God places the lonely in families (Psalm 68). Because He knows how necessary families are. Because He knows the love we need that only families can give. And don’t we all know that? Even though our worldly families will always fall short, don’t we know what it’s like to be adopted into a heavenly one? And isn’t our own caring and adopting-in the fatherless a shadow of how we ourselves have been adopted in?

Even in goodbyes, it seemed the Lord had something to teach me. And in the tears of a young girl He reminded me that the caring and showing of love to those who rarely receive it, even in the best circumstances, means the world and so much more. That every hug, smile, kind word, encouragement, attention, and gesture of love is utterly huge to these children.

That we do something, and in the meantime we GO BE LOVE.

I said goodbye to those sweet faces and hearts that will forever be etched on my own, and I said goodbye to my team as we parted paths that final day. Because there was one more face and heart to make sure knew they were loved.

For a few hours into evening, I was able to spend my final full day in Uganda with sweet Racheal, the girl Bryson and I sponsor through Compassion.

Racheal lives about six hours north of Kampala in a village near Lira. We were able to coordinate her travel down to Kampala for a few days in order for me to meet her and show her how much Bryson and I love her!

Racheal is six and tall and very healthy!

Racheal is a very shy girl, and she was the first child of her entire Compassion program of 200+ to meet their Sponsor. And to top it all off,  I was the first Muzungu she had ever seen! We spent the time coloring, talking, blowing bubbles, and reading together. Racheal loved the doll we gave her and it was the first she had ever received.

It was such a wonderful time with Racheal and Winnie, one of the Compassion leaders of their program in Lira, and it was certainly the icing on the cake of an amazing trip. I seriously recommend, if you ever get the opportunity, meeting the child you Sponsor. It will be an absolutely life-changing experience for your child and you will be beyond blessed in the meantime.

And the following day, the day I would head back home leaving my heart scattered across that foreign land, the Lord had one more encouragement for me. When one of the maids asked me where my daughter was, I was quick to explain who Racheal was and her relationship to me. But she was having none of that and interrupted me to explain,

“You pay her school fees? You help feed her? You support her family? You give her education?”

“Uh, yes?”

“Then she’s your daughter.”

She’s your daughter.

When we share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into our house and cover the naked and not hide ourselves from our own flesh, (Isaiah 58) we’re taking care of our own, we’re taking care of the children of God. All these things we do unto them, we do unto the Lord (Matthew 25). And that is what it’s all about.

So it was fitting really, to spend my last moments in Uganda with my own flesh and blood. With Racheal, a precious child of God.

 

Day 9/10—Ekisa and Karamojong

Days 9 and 10 for me were about as different from each other as could be.

One was really challenging, the other really comfortable. One bringing forth some hard questions, the other making things more simple. One way out of my comfort zone, the other right in the thick of it.

Day 9 half of our team spent the day at Ekisa Ministries (www.ekisa.org), an orphanage in Jinja that care for special needs and handicapped children. In Uganda, children born with any form of disability (physical, mental, or otherwise) are seen as a curse and are literally abandoned and left for dead. Orphanages abound in Uganda, but very few take in and care for disabled children. Ekisa was started by two 20-something gals who had a heart for these discarded lives. They founded Ekisa and have a staff of around 30 caretakers who care for around 15 children with varying needs. I don’t have any pictures of my time at Ekisa because the staff asked that we respect these children who may prefer to not have their pictures taken but who do not have the ability to make that known.

Our time at Ekisa was spent with the children in several different ways. We helped with their school stations, we played with them during their break time, we helped feed them and tuck them in for a nap, and we played and fed them after their nap and before we left. Ekisa was a hard day for me and others on our team for a variety of reasons. Personally, I felt hugely inadequate and almost a hinderance to the children’s care while we were there because I had no real understanding of their situation and the specific care each child uniquely needed. And this would have been just as out-of-my-comfort-zone there as it would be in the US, plus add on cultural differences, language barriers, and a host of other disconnects.

I did, however, get the opportunity to spend the majority of my time there with one small child, Isaac, who I really connected with. I don’t know all of the things Isaac deals with, but I do know that he is a precious child and was fairly responsive to my interaction with him. Isaac was probably less than a year old, and I was able to hold and cuddle and help feed him a few snacks and meals. It was hard to understand what Isaac was aware of and what he wasn’t, but I will never forget how he cried and then was soothed when I just stroked his legs that it appeared he had no use of. Just a soft touch, and a soothing whisper was enough to calm his little heart. To know that he was held and loved and safe.

I look back on that day and thank the Lord for providing the strength that certainly did not come from me, to jump in and love on those children in the way He knew they needed. I thank the Lord that He gave me a sensitive heart that day to just bring love and comfort to even just one child that day, little Isaac.

And setting Isaac down on the blanket as we were readying to leave broke my heart into a million pieces. Yes, because I had to say goodbye to a precious little boy, but because of more than that. Much more than that.

That day brought on a lot of personal wrestling. A lot of questions taken before the Lord. A lot of heartache, confusion, and anger. Why them? Why not me? Why here in this country and not somewhere else? Why like this? Where’s the line? What are their needs? How do we love them? What’s truly the best for them? Just, why God?

And even in the wrestling that doesn’t produce many answers, especially the clear-cut kind I want most, I know that God is there and that God is enough. For these children, for this ministry, for my questions, for the anger, for the heartache.

His love is enough.

And the area may still be grey but isn’t He in the middle of it all? Isn’t He there and doesn’t He know and doesn’t He care much more than I will or ever can? There isn’t a final answer and that means the wrestling doesn’t stop, but doesn’t it mean something that He’s there and that His love is enough?

Doesn’t it matter that someday God’s dwelling place will be with man and we will be His people and He will be our God. That He will wipe every tear from our eyes. That there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away (Revelation 21).

This doesn’t make the hard things go away, and it doesn’t make our responsibility to help bear them go away either. It just brings the peace that surpasses understanding and the trust in an ultimately good and loving God, even in the face of the dark and broken and ugly things of this world.

So yes, Day 9 was challenging in ways I know I am still unraveling out.

But Day 10 was a breath of fresh air that only the Lord could be the author of.

Day 10 was spent with Home Again Ministries which serves the people, and mostly women, of the Karamojong tribe.  The Karamojong tribe is a large group of people from Eastern Uganda who are seen as total outcasts in Ugandan society. They are traditionally cattle herders and were relocated to the Jinja area due to war and unrest in the East. Like I mentioned previously, there are 42 spoken languages in Uganda and they can be vastly different from one another. So a large tribe of people from the Eastern portion of this small country can have a totally different language, culture, and customs and look totally different than other areas of people. Or so they tell me! My Muzungu eyes couldn’t tell much physical difference.

We began the day heading into one of the local markets to meet up with Pastor Andrew, the head of Home Again Ministries. He began building relationships with the Karamojong years ago before they ever would trust him. We spent time in one of three huge villages (800-900 people) where the majority are women. Because they are considered the lowest of the low, the main source of income for many of these women is prostitution. That’s the way they can survive and care for their many children.

Pastor Andrew and his wife are seeking to change that. The women have now learned how to make beads for necklaces to sell in the markets as a source of income. They now have a school that freely welcomes the Karamojong children, where in other schools they were not as welcomed. It is the dream of Pastor Andrew that the school would also double as a Vocational Training facility for the women to learn other valuable skills in order to better provide for their families, and to not resort to prostitution. This includes things like sewing, computer skills, bead making, and other avenues.

New school open to the Karamojong

When we arrived, we spent time interacting with the women of the village who had gathered to meet us. Many of these women and their families have heard the Gospel and have accepted Christ, but many still have resisted Him. I had the incredible privilege of leading a Devotional for the women and shared some thoughts from a sermon on Leah by Tim Keller. It touched hearts, including my own, and when Pastor Andrew (who was translating the message) turned to me and thanked me and said it was beautiful I knew that the Lord had been in that place. If you haven’t heard TK’s sermon on Leah, you are seriously missing out (http://www.preachingtoday.com/sermons/sermons/2006/april/girlnobodywanted.html).

Our team was blessed to be able to pray for many of the women’s specific prayer requests, touched by a sweet heart who asked us to pray that her relationship with God would grow. Oh sister, I’m right there with you.

Home Visits

After our time with the main group, we were able to spend time with some families in the village and bless them with food, prayers, and words that showed we cared and would not forget them. This place, these women, and the heart behind this ministry were things my own heart resonated with. I cannot even begin to explain the love Pastor Andrew had for these people, the peaceful place that it was, and the beautiful women that we spent time with.

Sweet Doriah on her way home from school

My heart was full, and I knew that day in a way I had never connected it before that even though I come from affluence, wealth, and utter luxury, I too am an outcast. I too am the lowest of the low. Yes, in many ways I have little in common with these women because I do have a husband that is loving and faithful to me, I do have four walls that won’t wash away in a heavy rain, I do have enough money to not worry about tomorrow or the next day or the next, and I do have the love and respect of others despite the fact that I’m a woman.

But really, I do know what it’s like being on the outside with no way to get in. And so do you.

Without the astonishing grace of a Savior, you and I are always on the outside, always the outcast looking in. But through the precious blood of the One who spoke the stars into being, I know what it’s like to be fully included. I know what it’s like to receive the benefits of a Kingdom I have no business being in.

I know what it’s like to be loved and wanted for the remarkably simple reason that, I am.

And these women, who the world says are utterly nothing, they are hearing and being shown the love of the One who says they are everything to Him and so much more.

And this place felt like home in a way I couldn’t even explain, leaving me with their faces and the heart of this ministry impressed upon my heart for good.

Day 7/8–Canaan Children’s Home

As I mentioned yesterday, during the latter half of our trip we were based at Canaan Children’s Home. It was from Canaan’s that we would then go out to the remaining ministries we had left to serve at. Even though we spent many half days and all of our free time with the children at Canaan’s, I’ll give you an overview of what our time at Canaan’s was all about.

Canaan Children’s Home (www.canaanchildrenshome.org) is a Christian orphanage in Jinja that provides shelter, food, and education to the over 100 children that live there. They are run based off of sponsorships of the children, a list of which you can see on their website. Many of the children at Canaan’s are orphans, however some have varying family circumstances that couldn’t maintain their care. Amazingly, the children at Canaan’s are not up for adoption because their goal is to raise up Godly men and women to become leaders within the country of Uganda. Canaan’s is run by an amazing man, Pastor Isaac, and because I seriously would not be able to do his story justice, please go to their website and read his testimony and about how Canaan’s came to be.

The short story is that God is an incredibly faithful and mighty God.

Me with Pastor Isaac

Day 7 of our trip was a Sunday and so of course, began with church. Canaan’s has a church on their grounds (Buziika Full Gospel Church–not partial mind you) that is the main church for the area. It was packed, to say the least, and for those of you who’ve been to Africa you totally understand why after church and lunch our entire team crashed for a two hour nap. Prior to the crashing, our team had the awesome opportunity to lead the Sunday School for the church–yes, the whole church, from the littles all the way up to the bigs. I was a part of five team members who got to talk about trust with the High school-aged kids. We shared the Matthew 14 story with them about Jesus walking on the water and how trust is a hard and scary thing.

Can you say trust falls off of desks and can you guess who was the demo person? It went really well considering.

The church service that Pastor Isaac led was very moving, but I especially loved the time of worship at the beginning of the service. Man oh man do we Americans have much to learn about releasing inhibitions before the Lord and being even more undignified than this (2 Samuel 6) and truly celebrating before the Lord.

Clearly, a nap was in line.

The Canaan’s property includes several things other than the community church. It holds a few dormitories for the children (ranging from five to eighteen year olds), a kitchen, Pastor Isaac and Mama Rebecca’s home (she is just about the sweetest thing ever!), two school rooms, a clinic that is open to the community, another dorm where we stayed, and an administration building among other things. Canaan’s also has a Primary school located about a quarter mile from their grounds along with farmland and pasture land with a few animals. Even though Canaan’s is very well established, especially compared to the other ministries we visited, they still have daily needs.

Our time at Canaan’s was spent playing and interacting with the children before and after their schooling. Several people on our team made very strong attachments with some of the children there.

These two, Moses and Pauline, were glued to my hip the entire week and would literally fight other kids off me because I was their Muzungu (white person/foreigner).

There were also a few days (Day 8 and others) where our team got the chance to spend a few afternoons at Canaan’s Primary School. This school is run by Canaan’s and the children who live at Canaan’s go there, but it’s also open to the community. This is a huge ministry to the community as a large portion of the people are Muslim. It holds “grades” 1-7 with the youngest class having over 100 students in it. And yes, just one teacher.

Those days were awesome because we would have to impromptu come up with songs with motions or skits or entire hour “lesson plans” for the kids as we were given charge over their classrooms. Yes, my team was great at being flexible!

But probably my most favorite thing about our time at the Primary school was my interaction with this sweet, sweet little boy. Kamya.

Kamya is a very soft-spoken boy in P4 (grade) whose English was very good so we were able to talk quite a bit. He loved seeing the pictures on my camera of different people and things in Uganda. He also loved looking at a photo album of my family I had taken with me. Unfortunately, Kamya was also probably the most malnourished child I saw on the trip. His wrists were probably the thickness of my two fingers and his school uniform socks slouched at his ankles with nothing to grab hold of. I don’t know what his situation was, I just knew that this boy instantly had a special place in my heart and that I wanted to make sure he knew he was loved.

So when, in typical Ugandan fashion, the kids would fight over a chance to hold your hand, pushing off the weaker ones to get to you, I did my own wrestling. I made sure that at any cost, sweet Kamya got to hold my hand.

Not because I’m so great or anything, even though yes, my skin did look pretty alien to them with the blue veins showing through–but because a simple loving gesture and kind word speaks volumes to these children. Words that fall on parched earth desperate for the nourishment. Things they may have never heard before. Things they may never hear again.

In Lugandan (one of the 42 languages spoken in Uganda), I learned only a few phrases and said them every chance I got. Thank you. And, I love you so much.

I love you so much.

And when a sweet, sweet boy asks you for water and maybe a little bit of food and your hands are empty, your heart rips right in two and how to stop the aching? The aching that’s more than just about food, but of what I have and what he has not. The love I know, from so many places, and the love he (maybe) does not. The security and trust I know, and he doesn’t. The comfort and stillness, and he doesn’t. The education, opportunities, and always the chances to improve my circumstances. He doesn’t. Because he was born there and I was born here.

How is any of this right or even fair?

And when he writes you a letter and gives you a picture of himself asking that you please, please come back, the ripping of the heart won’t stop. And if mending it means forgetting this sweet child and aching and fighting for the wholeness of his one life, I never want it to mend.

What do you do when reality stares you in the face. Do you open your arms and accept it, loving and cherishing it through your words and actions? Do you shun it and distance yourself? Or worse yet, do you witness it, forget, and feign indifference? Do you see it, and pretend that it isn’t there staring right back at you asking you to please do something and please love me in the meantime.

Please, please love me. Please, please care. And let that motivate you to action, even if that action affects only my one small life.

Because even one life, just one life, is worth it.

Sign in the Canaan Courtyard

Canaan’s as our home base was a blessing in so many ways. Getting a big bear hug from the most loving Mama Rebecca every day helped fill the pieces of home I craved most. Children always excited and anticipating whatever you could muster up to give them from yourself told you it all mattered. The endless laughter, games, and joy-spilling hearts were blessing upon blessing upon blessing. We went there to serve until on E and we did, but we were filled beyond measure in the process. And truly, it was harder than I ever imagined to say goodbye to all those dear faces and hearts.

Hearts that knew joy. And hearts yearning for the love we could give and the only Love worth pointing them towards.

Day 5/6—Pillars of Hope

After our day of rest along the Nile River, we continued our journey onward to Jinja. For the remainder of our trip we stayed at Canaan Children’s Home, a large orphanage in Jinja, and then traveled out from there to the other ministries we visited. (More on Canaan’s tomorrow)

But for the next two days we had the privilege of serving alongside Pillars of Hope. Godfrey, Uncle David, and Peter are three men with huge hearts for orphans and the least of these and are the staff of Pillars of Hope.

Pillars of Hope Uganda (www.pillarsofhopeuganda.com) is a Christian non-profit that reaches out to destitute children and families in Jinja. Their ministry aims to provide food for the families, school fees for the children through sponsorship, and has dreams of providing vocational training for the children as they go through school. Their goal is to be able to purchase sewing machines for the ministry to teach the children valuable life skills. They currently have a hand loom that they train the children on and everything that is made is then sold and put back into the ministry to provide the funds for basic needs.

During the first day with Pillars of Hope, we had the opportunity to see their main “headquarters” where the hand loom is kept and we got to see it in action.

Yes, I know….the irony was not lost on me either! I start a blog before my trip to Uganda centered around the idea of our lives being woven together by God and before I know it I’m standing before a hand loom. You know I had about a million questions to ask! More on that another time…

That first day we also got to go on a few home visits with Godfrey and Peter where we met vulnerable families and children who are being supported by Pillars of Hope and had the privilege of praying over these precious families. I will never forget the utter poverty these families where in. Poverty so deep that even though these children have families and “homes”, they often go to the streets to beg for food, or money, or they resort to pickpocketing or any number of other vile practices to bring home a little food or money to their starving families. The kind of poverty that breaks people and forces upon them unimaginable things.

The kind of poverty that we will never know.

But thankfully, even though this stark poverty was etched into my mind that day, something else was too and it was a bit stronger and much more lasting.

I will never, ever, forget the love that Peter and Godfrey had for these children and their families. I will never, ever forget how they ran from their homes to hug on these men whose love towards them clearly meant the world and so much more. Because when you live in a country where emotion is rarely shown and you see grown women with smile-splitting joy, you know that something is up. And that something is the love of our Savior being poured out on them through people like Peter. And people like Godfrey.

The second day we spent with Pillars of Hope, I knew a little smile-splitting joy myself. It was my Birthday and there isn’t anything much better than a choir of ‘Happy Birthdays’ from precious Ugandan children to get the joy bubbling up.

We spent the morning with Pillars of Hope and learned more about their current needs. See we were meeting up with Uncle David and Godfrey and the kids at their typical Saturday morning outreach area except it really wasn’t a typical Saturday. The place they meet at is in front of  the space they had rented for their outreach program because they didn’t have the funds to continue renting it so it was locked up. This is a huge need. How can you share the love of Christ to a community if you don’t have a space to work from and support the community? A space that would hold sewing machines to train the children. A space alongside the highway to sell their handmade goods. A space that the community children could come to on Saturdays.

Aside from these hurdles, we had a joyous afternoon with the children playing games, blowing bubbles, jumping rope, and just loving them.

And in typical African fashion they had some songs to bless us with too.

And of all the singing-to we experienced in Uganda, those few children for those few moments and those few songs filled my heart to the brim. Because when you go to Uganda you expect to give and give until theres nothing left to give. But what you never expect is to be blessed beyond words by the hearts of selfless children who know the greatest gift of all to give; their love and the blessing of our Lord. (I’ll post the video somewhere else for a listen)

So the day ended with joy-filled hearts, Birthday cards and wishes galore, and a chocolate milkshake which in Uganda, is a life-changing experience. Yes, the food was delicious– because I really do love chicken and rice. But after the same food for every lunch and dinner, a chocolate milkshake really is a pretty big deal.

PLUS amazing coffee

Would you pray with me for Pillars of Hope? For more child sponsorships to fund their school fees. For more support to purchase sewing machines and to be able to buy a property from which to minister out of (the space the hand loom is currently in is not suffiencient). And for more people with a heart like our Lords to love and serve these children alongside Godfrey, Peter, and Uncle David. They and the children would, I know, be eternally grateful.