----- African Connection --------------
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16 December, 2016

Too Much!

Recently, I was in a long line of people, all of us waiting our turn. I watched people, some seeming to carry heavy burdens by the way they moved and interacted with others. Snatches of conversations overheard were filled with unkind words. I thought of many things I had recently heard and seen. I felt the weight…

Then, completely unbidden, my eyes began to leak. My heart felt too heavy for breath to come and I thought my knees would buckle. I cried out in my spirit, “O God! The weight of sin is too much. The burden of sin is too much, too much to ask of us to see the sin of others and feel its weight. O
God, help me!”

And it was almost as if Jesus Himself spoke in an audible voice within me, “My daughter. I am come. I already bore the sin of all mankind that you might know freedom and never have to carry that weight. I am the Savior of the world and I am come. I am here.”

Immediately, my spirit cried out in deep gratitude, tears flowing as I soaked in the joy of knowing my Savior, of having Him here, of His being with me. My heart cried out with Mary, mother of Jesus, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for The Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name!” (Luke 1:46, 47, 49-NASB)

I felt released from the weight as suddenly as I had felt it come. I remembered the words of Zacharias as he prophesied over his newborn son, “To grant to us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” (Luke 1:74-75-NASB)

I reached my turn of being served, then turned to walk away. It was SUCH A RELIEF, realizing all over again that I need a savior, and He is come! He is present. With me. Always. I have not to carry the burden of sin. I have Him to offer instead.

I still am broken by Love Himself. I still feel the heaviness of sorrow over sin. I still cry with those who cry out for help in their brokenness and/or sin. But I don’t carry the weight. Instead, I offer Jesus. Not some platitude, not some shadow of someone yet to come, but the Real One. Jesus is here. Now. Actively present, He is.

It isn’t heavy. It is a privilege, “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God…” (Luke 1:77-78a-NASB)  I am not John the Baptist, but like him, I have the privilege of offering Jesus to others, serving Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all my days.


26 November, 2016

Remembering, with Gratitude in My Heart

 Today I cut up a mango. Three of them, actually. And as I did so, I remembered this conversation.

“You live in Africa. Please, tell me the perfect way to cut a mango.” (Said with a friendly smile.)

“Well, I don’t know if there is a perfect way. I just cut them like this because it works for me.” (Laughing.)

“Yes, well, I guess there really isn’t a perfect way for much of anything, is there? Not much perfection this side of heaven.” (Said with a slight sigh as she watched me cut the mango.)

“So true. But one day we will know perfection and it will likely astound us.”

Janette Stoltzfus and daughter Melissa
The friend with whom I shared this conversation, the one looking to find the perfect way to cut up a mango, left for heaven a year ago. She knows perfection. I have no doubt she was initially astounded.

But then again, I doubt she was all that astonished. At least not for long. I mean, I doubt she experienced culture shock in any great degree. She had been practicing the culture of heaven for as long as I have known her, which was not nearly long enough.

My friend, she gave. And gave. And gave some more. And actually she is still giving, for through her generosity others learned to give and as generosity became her culture so it continues in her family and friends and through her community-at-large. She is still somehow giving us all so much.

She loved. And loved. And loved some more. She is still loving, actually, through all she taught her family and her friends, loving in how she established the culture of her home and her life. Yes, she still loves. Love never stops. It just keeps on giving, keeps on living.

She worshiped God. A lot. She worshiped our God and Savior as naturally as she welcomed people into her home. She led us in worship. She showed us living is an act of worship to the God who made us, who died for us, the very one who created heaven for us. She trusted God and served Him with her whole being. I find great joy in knowing she is still worshiping God, wholly and truly and without any hindrance or distraction. I feel eager to do the same one day, where she is, with her, smiling together as we worship our God.

She prayed as she was taught, “Your kingdom come and Your will be done here as it is in heaven.” I heard her. We wept and prayed it together; around the table in her home in Oregon, around the table in our home in Kenya, at church….she prayed, praising God for His faithfulness. And God answered, by the way. His Kingdom is at hand. My friend lived there even as she is now living there.

And so, having lived in the Kingdom of God for most of her life, I know my friend may have been astounded at the first glance of perfection, but then I presume she recognized the Kingdom right away and felt quite at home. I have no doubt it was but a moment before she turned and smiled, ready to welcome the next one in.

I cut a mango today. Three of them, actually. And I dripped a tear or two as I remembered my friend, grateful for her in my life. I remain grateful Janette is still giving and loving and worshiping and praising.


28 September, 2016

A Season of Flurries

We are in a season of flurries. Flurries of activity are frequent, almost constant some days. This season is marked by lots of people coming and going; travel, trips to the airport, arrangements to be made, and lots of, “hurry-up—let’s-go!” We have the privilege of welcoming people into Uganda, showing people the ministries in which WGM Uganda missionaries serve, hearing testimonies of transformation in lives and communities and hearing how people are being served.

Some days this season is very tiring. Some days we hear heart-breaking stories. Some days the flurry requires traipsing through the mud. Some days, it doesn’t even matter and we don’t even notice the fatigue and our hearts rejoice and we don’t even see the mud.

Worship during Masese AGC service
After a traffic-hassled trip from Kampala to Jinja and a restless night in a noisy town, we experienced our Living God in the worship service at Masese AGC. The music was beautiful, the children adorable, God’s Word was inspiring and the Holy Spirit moved among us. People chose to go deep with Christ, leaving behind the comfort of shore and the safety of shallow commitment. What a joy to pray with them. And joy flowed again as three young people prayed in repentance of sin and acceptance of Christ’s free gift of salvation. We rejoiced with the angels in heaven!

Overlooking the Nile River
Before the next flurry we had a bit of Sabbath rest as we paused on the shore of the great River Nile. 

Streams in the path
Tuesday evening it rained, hard. Large drops pelted down, creating streams of flowing water where just a couple of weeks ago the dry and dusty path felt crunchy beneath our feet. Today, the rain eventually slowed and mamas carefully made their way through the mud and filth to hear God’s Word taught in truth and to pray. Missionary mamas joined in, interceding and asking for Truth to be revealed and for Living Water to flow and cleanse. Women found hope in Jesus and a new freedom in His cleansing.

This is a season of flurries, and all of heaven is rejoicing!