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12 December, 2012

Feeling at home in the midst of everything unfamiliar . . .

Africa Gospel Church (AGC)Uganda held their annual pastors’ and wives conference last week.  We felt so at home as they worshipped in song and dance.  Praising the Lord together in several different languages, three of which we knew enough words to join in (Luganda, Swahili, and English) made us feel right at home. It was refreshing to sing familiar choruses and go through familiar motions to some of the songs. The freedom to dance to the music, praising the Lord wholeheartedly moved our hearts to dance even when our feet were out of step with the African feet. We will never match the African sense of rhythm but we sure do enjoy it and they don’t mind when we try J

Our dear, dear friend, Rev. Dr. Robert Langat, Bishop of Africa Gospel Church Kenya, was the guest speaker. It was such a delight to meet him as he arrived, guide him to the conference, and then bring him home with us to spend a night. We have a long history of friendship and prayer partnership. It was wonderful to catch up with all that is going on with him, his family and AGC Kenya. We stayed up too late and still had too little time together but oh, it was grand.  We prayed together and it gave us that wonderful feeling of home.

God challenged our hearts through His word as we listened and prayed at the conference. Hearing the hearts of the men and women attendees as they asked questions, as they sang and as they prayed helped us learn a little more when all is unfamiliar. We have so much to learn in AGC Uganda. We forged new acquaintances which we pray will, over time, help us feel more at home where all can seem so unfamiliar.

God is so gracious to us.  He alone can lead us into feeling at home in the midst of everything unfamiliar.

21 November, 2012

So different and yet still the same (thankfully)…

“Yes, it is very different. Yes, it is hard.” These are our answers when asked about our first Thanksgiving in Uganda. It is not the same as in Kenya. It is not the same as in the U.S. And it won’t ever be the same again, which is hard. It is so different and yet still the same (thankfully).

Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Uganda. It is not a holiday in Kenya. Just like in Kenya the fourth Thursday of November is a regular working day.  Children are in school.  Adults are busy in their jobs and responsibilities. We are used to that.  No difference there.  It’s not hard or wrong. It’s just the way it is and we are used to it after 20+ years of saving our corporate Thanksgiving celebrations for a more convenient time than Thursday lunch.

Still, this year we experience a great difference and yes, it is hard. We will not have any corporate celebration with our children. This is the first Thanksgiving day in the past 24 years we won’t have at least one of our children at the table with us. It is very different. But thankfully it is still the same in so many ways.

We have so much to be thankful for and we have many people with whom we can share the giving of thanks.  We have a friend staying with us for several days, including Thanksgiving. He is a delight to have around and he helps fill the hole that could feel gaping if we looked at it too long. Our mission staff will all gather for a meeting of giving thanks and worship together as we pray and set goals together this weekend.  There will be a mission staff game of American football played on Saturday afternoon. We will also share a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal on Sunday as a mission family.

We see and experience God at work all around us and within us. We know the love of family and have all the happy memories of celebrations with them. We have the great privilege of serving the Lord in Africa, sharing the good news of salvation and freedom in Christ. We have loving friends right where we are who freely join us in giving thanks to the Giver of all good gifts.

We know that if we would ponder too long how different this Thanksgiving is for us we would totally defeat the meaning and purpose of giving thanks.  We choose to focus on what is the same, and to give thanks, freely and generously, in all things. So different and yet still the same….THANKFULLY!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

PS.   We've uploaded some photos from our trip to Kenya.   Click on "Kenya Trip" photos on the left.

03 November, 2012

So close and yet so far . . . . .

We feel so close!  We are close to the completion of the painting and carpentry work being done in this house.  Close to completion of the first three months of language study.  Close to feeling at home here. Close to going home to visit Kenya.  We are so close, and yet so far in many ways.

This is the longest time of transition we have been in. There is hardly any furniture in the house while we wait on completion of the work being done inside, and while we wait to bring our things from Kenya.  Even when we went to Kenya the very first time it didn't take this long to get things from home there.  It’s the small things we look forward to when our household goods can join us here…like having our tools ready-at-hand when we want to do a project; like having favorite recipes at our fingertips; like having enough hangers for our clothes; like having the hair clippers we are used to using….they are so close and yet so far!  Of course, we could get those things here, but when they are so close to joining us why purchase more?  And so it goes…we’re so close and yet so far. But that’s OK.

We are close to the end of these initial months of language study.  We know a lot of vocabulary in Luganda.  We are close to simple conversation level with other Luganda speakers.  Yet, we seem so far from being able to speak the language.  All our conversation is halting at best.  We laugh at ourselves because we hear what is said in Luganda, we think of the reply in English and then figure out how we would say it in Kiswahili (which we studied in Kenya) because the grammar is similar to Luganda, and then we translate it from Kiswahili into Luganda as we “hunt” through our minds for the right words.  No wonder it takes us a while to get anything said!  So close and yet so far. But that’s OK.

We listen keenly to what we hear.  We observe intently that which we see.  We notice what is said and done.  We are listening and watching, waiting and observing to know what all God is inviting us to join that He is already doing.  We pray.  We read.  We listen and watch.  We hear Him speak.  We see Him at work.  We are close to “diving in” when language study is done.  We are close…and yet we wait, not wanting to be far. We want to be right with God as He continues to move and speak and draw others to Himself. Even when wishing to be more at home, it’s OK. We want to be right where God wants us to be…right where He has us now. It’s OK.

We are close to going into Kenya.  Mid-November will find us at Tenwek for the graduation exercises of Tenwek School of Nursing.  We will also visit the Africa Gospel Church (AGC) Kenya that commissioned us as their missionaries.  We can hardly wait to go home.  We are so close…and yet, we are sure it will feel a bit far as we visit.  That is not our home anymore.  It will always be home to us, but it is not our home anymore.  We will be so close, and yet so far. But that’s OK.

This week we had a taste of home.  The first fruits (greens, actually) of our garden here were eaten with a friend from Kenya (who lives in Uganda) and a friend from Uganda in celebration of God’s faithful provision for us all.  We had a “Kenyan” meal of sukuma wiki (the greens), ugali (maize flour cooked up just as we like it), beans and chapatti.  YUMMMMMM!  It was grand to us.  Made us feel right at home…so close…so very, very close.  And that’s OK.

Lessons in transition are worth learning, even when they pain us. Contentment is worth realizing. Planting a garden and bringing in harvest is worth the effort. Listening, watching, hearing and observing bring new insights that remind us to be content in all circumstances. God called us here to be laborers in His harvest.  It is worth the effort.  It is worth the wait.  We are close, even though it sometimes feels far. And that’s OK.  It really is OK.  We are content in Christ alone.

15 October, 2012

A great weekend . . .

Thank you for praying!  We appreciated your prayer as we traveled.  Saturday the traffic was thick and slow, mostly due to attendees at the soccer match between Uganda and Zambia.  Our slow travel might have been frustrating to some but we enjoyed the time to see many things along the route, ranging from little shops to scenic fields of sugar cane.  Our vehicle worked very well.  We really enjoyed getting out of Kampala and seeing the countryside.
We were blessed to be with our missionary colleagues. They are excellent hosts.  We enjoyed playing, chatting, eating, pondering and praying together.  The visit was altogether refreshing for us.

Sunday we were warmly welcomed into the church.  The Ugandans were pleased that Jeff began his talk in Luganda, introducing himself, mentioning our family and telling why we are in Uganda.  He then explained that since he is a student of the language he would proceed in English.  At the close of his use of Luganda they cheered for him.  That was very affirming! Jeff felt the help of the Lord in speaking what God laid on his heart.  Again, thank you so much for covering the service in prayer.  God’s spirit was evident in the service.

Jeff posted some photos from the church service, as well as some of Lake Victoria as seen from the location of the church (see the link on the left).  

Again, thank you so much for your prayer.  We appreciate you!
Christine, for Jeff too

12 October, 2012

A couple of firsts

Time for a new first in Uganda! We are packing a suitcase to go visit friends overnight.  We have done lots of unpacking our first six weeks in Uganda but this is the first time we have needed to pack a suitcase for travel.  It is rather exciting J  Last night we mentioned to each other that it has been years since we have had six weeks at home without needing to go anywhere overnight.  Wow!

We are excited to get outside our compound gate and off our “beaten path” we have traveled these first weeks as we get to know where to shop, where to visit friends and attend meetings.  Today we are headed to Jinja, a town about 1-2 hours away.  It will be fun to visit a WGM family in their home!  We are eager to be with their kids as we have time to relax and “play” together.  Our fellow missionaries are ministering in the greater Jinja (click) area, including on Buvuma Island (click to see more about the ministries).  We look forward to hearing more from their hearts!  Please pray for our safety in travel and for us to be a blessing to the Burke family!

Tomorrow, Sunday, Jeff has been asked to preach in one of the Africa Gospel Churches in the Jinja area.  This is the first time for him to preach in Uganda.  God has given him words to share with the congregation there.  The title of the sermon is “All I ever need, has already been provided.”  Jeff plans to give his greetings and introductions in Luganda.  That will be another first. Please pray for God to speak through Jeff and minister to the hearts of those listening.  More than anything we desire to join God at work in connecting people to Jesus!

Thank you for praying.  Mwebale musaba!
Christine, for Jeff too

28 September, 2012

All this noise !!!!!!

So OK, Lord, I didn’t ask to live in the city.  Actually, I asked to live on the plains, where it can get so quiet I might hear a lion roaring.  And it can get so dark I can fall asleep with my eyes open.  I didn’t really want to ever live in a city.

But I love You, Lord, so I am living in the city.  You asked Jeff and I to join you here so here we are.  But the noise, Lord….I can’t get past the noise!!

Metal gates clanking, dogs barking, weed-whackers droning, engines revving, horns honking, babies crying, birds calling, airplanes flying, motorcycles roaring, generators humming, chipping cement, music blaring, brooms sweeping, voices yelling, construction pounding, fans whirring…city noises.

I don’t like the noise.  Noise is stressful.  I want it quiet!  I read on Facebook last night of a 4-year old trying to fall asleep in another city not so far away, distressed by loud music in his neighborhood, telling his dad, “Dad, I wish we could teach the whole world to be quiet!”  I add my hearty AMEN!

And yet, in the midst of the cacophony, when I quiet myself I sense You at work.  I am reminded in Colossians that Your plan includes reconciliation, it includes redemption.  I am distressed at all the noise.  My spirit is unsettled.  Maybe the point You are teaching me is reconciliation…. “and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:20)

If I can’t trust You, can’t believe You to redeem all this noise in the city, how will I ever convey to someone else that I believe you can redeem a life, believe you can redeem a person?  If I let the noise make me grumpy, causing me to complain and to be distracted from the quiet of my time alone in You, then how can I have any testimony of Your reconciliation and redemption?  Your plan, Your way, is reconciliation of all things.  Hmmmm, OK then……

God, I choose to let you redeem all this noise in my life.  I choose to let you renew my mind and transform my thinking so I can turn this cacophony of sound into a symphony of praise back to you.  I choose to believe You when Your word tells me through Christ You reconcile all things.  You really are actively redeeming all of creation, all of the time.  I choose praise…I choose joy!

Thank You for the man chipping our cement wall so it can be repaired and painted.  Thank You for the lovely yard across the fence that is being mowed with a weed-whacker.  I praise You with the birds and the dogs offering their voices of praise.  I pray Your blessing on the baby crying and on the person yelling instructions.  I thank You for placing me in a location with many people, offering limitless opportunities to build relationships.  I thank You for fans to cool the air.  I thank You for security and people at work caring for the environment, sweeping and clipping and mowing.  Thank You for allowing me the privilege of joining You in this city. Thank You for redemption, for Christ my Redeemer. 

We do have an enemy and he does prowl like a lion.  I don’t need to be on the plains to hear his roar.  It might just be happening right outside my gate….I choose to proclaim My Redeemer and help others get connected to Him.  I choose….


23 September, 2012

Unity, can it happen?

 This weekend we had the privilege of gathering for the first time with our “new team”, the Uganda team of World Gospel Mission missionaries (see picture at right) .   In addition to team members serving in and around Kampala, there are several who base their ministries in other cities around the country.   

The backgrounds from which our team members come are diverse, the locations in which each of us serve are diverse and the ministries in which we serve are unique.   Such diversity!

In scripture we can find diversity among many of the stories we are familiar with.    The disciples came from different backgrounds and different vocations.  They had different ideas as to how to accomplish the work Christ laid out for them.   Even in the midst of this diversity the disciples demonstrated their unity as they followed Christ and as they followed His call to go and make disciples.  

It seems today’s world is more diverse than ever.  Can true unity really happen amidst the differences? Can unity happen in the midst of this diversity?   Yes, it can!   We are seeing firsthand development in unity among our missionary team here in Uganda.  God is building unity among us.  This unity will strengthen the ministries God has called us to.  Ministries in which lives lives are being transformed.  

Christine and I are excited to see God at work building unity within our team.   Unity.  Can it happen on the team(s) on which you find yourself?   Your family, at work, at church?    Unity, it can happen! 


16 September, 2012

In His Presence . . . .

Over the last month or so God has been bringing to my mind a recurring theme.    With so many transitions in our lives right now, this theme has been a tremendous blessing and challenge to me.  In the midst of these transitions, when everything has changed, God is reminding me that He doesn’t change, and all I need is to daily live in His presence.
What does it mean for me to live in His presencei?   What does it look like to live in His presence?       

This morning while listening to a podcast,  the pastor speaking closed his sermon by quoting from a hand written note found in the office of a young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa, following his  martyrdom for his faith in Jesus Christ.  I had heard this before, but today in the context of what it means to live in God’s presence,  I sensed God using this in a new way to help me better understand what it means to live in God’s presence.   What does it look like to be in God's presence? 

"I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. 
The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, 
let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes 
sense, and my future is secure.  I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, 
small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions,mundane talking, 
chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. 
I don't have to be right, 
first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live 

by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, 
lift by prayer and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, 
my companions few, 
my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, 

compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, 
diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the 

face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the 
table of the enemy, 

ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, 
stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must 
go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until  all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.  
My colors will be clear."

This pastor knew what it took to live in God’s presence and he lived it out!   For me the answer to what it means to live in God's presence is a bit clearer today.   My desire, as was this young pastor’s desire , is to live and serve in God’s presence.  ---  Jeff   

12 September, 2012

A story worth repeating . . . .

Grace.  A “simple” single-syllable word.  Easily spoken.  Freely offered.  Difficult to grasp while easy to overlook.  Too often missed.  The difference between life and death.  Grace.

We heard a teenager’s testimony today.  It told a story Jesus allowed to be written into one’s life.  A story of lies, shame, self-defeat and a slow death of spirit. A story of the Redeemer freely extending grace and redeeming one’s story so one can forevermore live in freedom of forgiveness.  A story which, when shared, extended grace in Truth so clearly that others began (maybe for the first time) to believe they are not beyond forgiveness; maybe they too can know the redemptive work of the One that gives grace and forgives.  They can know Truth and live in Him, abiding in His redemptive clothing (grace and forgiveness).  It is a message worth sharing.  The message we are here to live and share.

We heard a testimony today.  We worshipped our Redeemer.  We cried.  We hugged.  We rejoiced.  Our Redeemer lives, and because He lives I can face tomorrow without condemnation.  Grace.  A story worth repeating.

26 August, 2012

"Home ???"

While waiting to disembark the plane in London, the steward smiled at me and said, “Welcome to London.  Are you going home?”

“No,” I answered, thinking how weird it feels to not be going home, but to a new place.

“Oh, then you are on holiday. Enjoy your holiday!” was his cheery response.

My heart skittered a beat or two.  This is not my idea of going on holiday!  So I wondered, “Am I going home?  I mean, I am on my way to Kampala.  I will live there for the next several years.  Am I going home?  What should I have said?  Should I have said “yes?”

“But it doesn’t feel anything like going home.  No kids traveling with us.  We won’t have our household stuff for who-knows-how-long.  Don’t know my way around the neighborhood and beyond.  It doesn’t feel like going home.”

Echoing in my head I hear myself telling our young children, “Home is where your pillow is.  Even if we are in a different place than we have been before, if we are going together and our pillows are there, we can say we are going home.  Soon it can feel like home.”

“Ok, my pillow is in one of the myriad pieces of luggage traveling with us.  Jeff and I are going together.  Yes, I can say I am going home.  Hopefully soon it can feel like home.”  I repeated this to myself several times in the airport, talking myself into the reality that we are going home.

But it didn’t feel like coming home.  Nothing seemed as familiar as home.

And yet….the morning after our arrival I awakened to familiar birdsong.  Musical sounds my heart has been longing for during the last year…the birdsong of Africa.  Even if it included pied crows cawing and ibis “maaaaahing” it is familiar and sounds like home! 

I look out the front window and see a “yesterday, today, tomorrow” bush with its purple, lavender and white blossoms, and it looks like home.  Blueband (margarine) on the counter, Hobnobs (oatmeal cookies) on the shelf and it seems like home. 

Beating African drums loudly pounding familiar rhythms in accompaniment of a church choir down the street call my heart to worship.  I close my eyes and even in the empty living room of our house I feel at home.  My heartbeat dances to the drum beats even while singing with the birdsong.  The sights and sounds of Africa….and my pillow on the bed.  Yes, soon it can feel like home.


21 August, 2012

Too blessed to hold it all in!

On the eve of our departure for Uganda we feel too blessed to hold it all in.  Blessed to be with our kids.  Blessed to rock our granddaughter.  Blessed to be invited by God to participate with Him in sharing His love in Uganda, and so much more!

We recently read the letter of a colleague in which she mentioned some “stones of remembrance” noted through recent months.  That is a great idea!  We are borrowing it. Below we lay out some of our stones of remembrance collected through our year of Home Ministry Assignment (HMA).
  • surprise visit by Chris and Lizz Bramble upon our initial arrival in Oregon
  • living close to where Chris Stanfield attends university and where our parents and siblings live
  • many, many gatherings with our parents, siblings, and other family members
  • attending “Sabbath by the Sea” on the Oregon coast
  • participating in a small group of folks intending to become more like Christ
  • watching Chris play basketball
  • attending Lizz’s graduation from university
  • attending the birth of our granddaughter
  • many people helping to get our prayer letters into the mail
  • many folks working together to share in what God is doing in Uganda
  • generosity of so many people
  • ministry time in churches and homes
  • spending time with colleagues in ministry
  • encouragement through friends and family
  • God’s presence ministering to us through our grief
  • the gift of a sense of adventure in new beginnings
  • delightful times with special friends
  • time with all our kids and our granddaughter together as we prepare to fly out tomorrow
  • many people committed to praying for us

There is MUCH MORE we could declare, but you get the idea.  We are blessed beyond all measure…too blessed to hold it all in.  Even as you pray for our safety in travel, for God’s protection over our luggage and for parting grace in once again moving away from our loved ones, we invite you to praise the Lord with us for his many blessings.  Praise the Lord!

15 August, 2012

It's that time again . . . . .

Bags packed.  House emptied.  House cleaned.  Car returned to the church. Family gatherings behind us. One last trip to the beach.  Done.

So it’s that time again.  Time for the great effort of trying to freeze-frame each interaction, each lovely scene, each favorite flavor, each person we love.  Time to savor all over again treasures-in- time with loved ones. Time for one last hug…over and over again.  Time to separate.  Ugh!

It’s that time again. Looking back, wondering if we spent the time within the year doing what was most important.  Pondering if we could have made more time to be with friends and family.  With each memory comes gratitude for time shared with others.  Prayer time.  Play time.  Meal time.  Exercise time.  Coffee time.  Church time. Friendship time. Encouragement time.  Gratitude for the time we have.  Now it’s that time again.

This time is hard.  No easy way through.  It’s that time between wanting to stay with those we love and wanting to get on with the new beginning ahead. This time is hard, and it is already that time again.

It’s that time again, when we feel the sweet peace that only God gives.  The time when we know without any doubt we are doing what is right, what is God-given for us, to us. This is the time when we firmly plant our feet on the foundation of God’s faithfulness and rest on His promises.  This is the time when we say all over again, “All our changes come from Him, He who never changes.  I’m held firm in the grasp of the Ro,ck of all the ages.  All is well with my soul, He is God in control.  I know not all His plans, but I know I’m in His hands.  Whatever is His way, all is well.” (words by Robin Mark, click on this link to listen to "All is Well")

Yep, it’s that time again.  All is well.

10 August, 2012

If you want to walk on water, you have to . . .

Christine and I are on a journey.  A journey on which we find ourselves traveling to a new place, joining ministries in Uganda.    A journey of obedience in following God’s call to join Him in the work He is doing in Uganda.

Though there are many decisions we have had to make along the way, there is nothing more important than the decision to live in obedience to God’s direction.       

A scripture passage which has been a blessing to me on this journey is found in Matthew 14:28-32.  This is the story of Peter’s challenge to obedience, a story of his faith tested.   Peter’s life had many “ups” and “downs.”  In spite of these challenges he ultimately responded to Christ in obedience. I’ve read the passage many times and I knew the story, but as we’ve been on our journey out of Kenya it has taken on a new, more personal meaning for me.  Just as God was using the experience of walking on water to help Peter experience a deeper and stronger faith in Him, God is also using this story to guide me in the journey out of Kenya.

Peter’s walking on water was only possible as a result of some decisions he faced before getting out of the boat:
1. BELIEVE  - Those in the boat, Peter along with the other disciples, found themselves in the midst of a storm, which probably created some uneasiness in their hearts and minds.  Amidst this storm they looked out over the water and saw Jesus walking on the water. After Peter questioned who this was walking on the water, Jesus said to Peter, “Come.”

The first decision Peter had to make when Jesus said “Come” was to believe.  He knew from past experience that walking on the water was not remotely possible.   He had to believe he could obey and “come” as Christ directed him.

2. MOVE – Peter had to make a decision to move.   Where is the safest place in the boat?  The center of the boat!  Peter had to step out of the “safety” found in the middle of the boat and move to the edge.     Without this move, Peter wouldn’t have been able to see “over the edge” and take the next step which was a BIG step of faith.  Peter moved to the side of the boat near Jesus. As he moved away from the safety of the “status quo” he kept his eyes on Jesus and began to see Him more clearly.

3. JUMP – Though Peter chose to believe and chose to move to the side of the boat, he still had to make the decision to actually “jump” into the water. This definitely was a step of faith for Peter.    He did “jump” and began walking on water.  Though at one point he became afraid, took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, Christ “stretched out His hand and caught him.” 

By being obedient and making the decisions to believe, move and jump, Peter’s trust of and faith in Jesus was strengthened and was an example to others.           

To me, this passage:
  • Communicated that in order to “get out of the boat”, I need to be willing to take a step of faith to the "edge of the boat".  
  •  Affirmed God’s calling for me to respond to His prompting to move out in faith so that I would be ready to “jump” into the unknown of the future.   It reassured me that in the midst of the unknown he would be walking the journey with me. 
  •  Demonstrates the need for complete obedience and response to God’s call.  I must keep my eyes focused on Him.

As we enter this new ministry, Christine and I want to allow God to use us in a deeper way.  Just as Peter demonstrated his faith in Jesus, we too must allow all we do, and all we are be guided by and be an example of Christ living in us.  We’ve got much to learn as we continue in His journey for us.


30 July, 2012

All We Ever Need to Know We Learned from a Newborn

Being a grandparent is awesome!  Our days with newborn Acacia gave us plenty of time to rock and think, admire and ponder, pace and wonder.  Without the responsibilities of parenting but with all the privileges of grandparenting we noticed with interest Acacia’s transition to life outside the womb. Watching our dear newborn granddaughter we learned all we ever need to know when entering a new culture.

Lesson  1. Recognize our dependence.
Acacia makes noise when she has a need.  Like her, we need be willing to let others know when we need assistance.  We won’t know how things are done in the new place, in the new culture.  We must acknowledge we need input from people experienced in the culture.

Lesson 2.  Communication is essential.
Acacia is good at communicating.  Her facial expressions, her different noises and her body movements all communicate what she is experiencing, making it easier for her caregivers to discern her needs.  Likewise, it is essential that we communicate with those helping us in our transition.  Otherwise we will hinder our own wellbeing and will shortchange our learning. We have to be honest about what we are experiencing.

Lesson  3. Trust our Parent.
Acacia settles at the sound of her parents’ voices.  She recognizes them, it seems.  She lets them know when something is not right, but she also lets them help her and calm her.  She trusts them to care for her and meet her needs.  And they do.  They meet her every need.  They are completely faithful to her.  In like manner, we need to recognize our heavenly Father’s voice and let Him help us and calm us.  We need to keep our complete trust and faith in Him.  We know that during transition it is tempting to follow so many other voices, and it can make us frantic.  It is vitally important for our survival that we trust our Father to meet our every need. He is completely faithful to us.

Lesson  4. Observation is key.
Acacia is very alert most of the time she is awake.  Her bright eyes seem to take in everything all around her.  She enjoys looking at bright shapes and they capture her rapt attention.  She observes and learns what to expect.  It is amazing to watch her learning take place.  We need to be very observant as we transition.  Observation brings insight.  Learning takes place.  We will learn what to expect, learn to predict others’ responses, etc. as we observe and remember.  We need to spend lots of time observing.

Lesson 5.  Learning is tiring.
Acacia is keen in her observation, sometimes seeming to use every muscle in her body to respond to what she is seeing, what she is learning.  And then, when she has all the input she can tolerate, she falls asleep (sometimes needing a little assistance from her loved ones).  We must remember this lesson, and be diligent to take the time for rest that we need.  If we fail to take breaks and rest when we need it, we might get cranky and end up needing someone else to tell us it is time to take a nap!  For learning to go well, our minds and bodies need adequate rest.  It is essential.

Lesson 6.  Smile often.
Everyone is delighted when Acacia smiles.  It makes us all feel better when she breaks into a smile.  Reflexively we all smile when Acacia smiles.  It is really important we learn to smile often when in transition.  Being too serious, too self-focused will create stress and hinder relationship-building.  Smiling with others eases tension and speaks of hope, contentment and understanding.  Everything just seems better when smiles come often.

Yep.  All we ever need to know we learned from a newborn.  How gracious of God to allow us to be part of Acacia’s cultural orientation to this world that we might learn what we need to know for our own transition.  How gracious indeed.

11 July, 2012

Experiences, our lives are full of experiences . . . . .

Experiences, our lives are full of experiences which shape us, which signify the passage of time.  My most recent experience which signifies the passage of time, is becoming a grandfather for the first time.   It seems like yesterday, Christine and I were bringing Lizz home from the hospital.  This past weekend we accompanied Lizz, her husband and their daughter home!    Wow, time does fly!    We are on a journey of experiences  as we celebrate the arrival of Acacia Joy Bramble.   

Throughout my spiritual journey in life, God has given wisdom, conviction, compassion, and direction as I have sought to learn from Him .   All of the experiences have been for my good, really for my best.   There have been times in which I readily received them and responded to them.    Other times I would find myself holding back, holding onto these experiences for my own benefit rather than releasing them and clinging to God.   Clinging to His very promise that He knows best and desires that I respond to Him in every situation.

Throughout life, I have encountered many changes and experienced many challenges.  In the midst of it, I've sought to remember that it’s all part of experiencing God.     Throughout our married life God's spoken words, to both Christine and I, have brought change, change that reflects God's work in our lives.    A change in which we found ourselves serving Him in Kenya.    With God,  life change is exciting and rewarding even in the midst of  the unknowns, amidst opportunities  to have our faith stretched and deepened.   Experiencing God is what we long for as we continue on the journey.  

When we truly experience God then we will experience life change.   This experience is more than just doing the right things or not doing the wrong things, it is an experience that comes from the heart that desires to live in the  the image of God.  This can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit.    Experiencing God may mean a change in location, vocation, or in earthly relationships.   More importantly this spiritual experience with God will bring about a change of heart and attitude.  This "heart change" will be evident in our day-to-day lives.    If we are experiencing God then others will see this change.  

As we continue experiencing God, a deeper life change is experienced.    The deeper the experience is the deeper our life is changed!    In the midst of these often tremendous changes, including the change we find ourselves in as we enter God's work in Uganda, we know there are some constants.   God is unmovable, unchangeable, uncompromising, undistracted, uncontainable and unfailing.  His desire of good for us is strong.  His demonstration of love is endless.   During our experience with Him, we desire to see these attributes played out when we allow Him to work in us and through us. 

 We have experienced,  are continuing to and will  experience many life changes on our journey to God's "promised land" for us.   In the midst of these changes, I am so grateful God is the same today as we prepare for work in Uganda as he was "yesterday" when we left for Kenya.  He will be the same "tomorrow" as he will continually lead us through the life changes ahead.       My desire is to experience God in a new, a deeper way.   A deeper way in which I draw closer to him, a deeper way in which God can use me for His purpose to help others seek and experience God!


26 June, 2012

The Heavenly Cloud of Witnesses is Growing ….

Early Sunday morning as I was having my private worship time, Jeff popped his head in the room to tell me that our good friend, Marvin Mardock, was now in heaven.  Our first response?  “Oh, how happy for Marvin!  Wow…Sunday worship with Jesus!  What an amazing transformation…from coronary critical care to heaven!  Wow!  Oh, Marvin is feeling fine now!”

And then? Tears formed as we thought of no more notes of encouragement from Marvin.  Thoughts of his wife and family.  Thoughts of how much his is already missed.  Heavy sighs.  Drooped heads and spirits. 

Grief.  Settling in anew.  Ugh!

Less than an hour later Jeff pops his head in while I am getting ready for church.  “We just got an email in…Emmy Mugisha died suddenly.”  Our first reponse?  “WHAT???  He is a young Ugandan church leader.  He died?  He is our friend too?  He died?  The great cloud of witnesses is starting to feel like a big storm cloud!”

And then I blurted out, “Maybe Emmy and Marvin met near Heaven’s Gate!  Marvin had so many questions about Uganda and what the church and mission are doing there, last time we met.  Now Emmy can answer his questions, can give him a clear picture of what God is doing in Uganda.”

And then, upon further contemplation of entering Heaven, these thoughts spilled forth…

Marvin and Emmy will have lots of time to visit and worship together.  They won’t need cultural orientation in Heaven.  They are well experienced in Heavenly culture. They have been living within that culture while on earth for some time. They have had a heavenly perspective in their lives, their worship, and their witness.  They won’t need to go through orientation at all!

Well, that is not Scriptural, we know, but it fits where we are in our transition and in our grief.  We just don’t understand why.  We don’t have answers to our questions.  But we still ask them!  We pour our hearts out to God.  We cry and we pray. 

We shift the mantle of grief a bit so it doesn’t choke us.  We lift it all up to Jesus, and He touches us.  He gently sweeps us up in His arms and carries us.  He speaks peace to us, a peace only He can give.  He strengthens us as we relax into Him.  He calls us by name and whispers His love to us.  He reminds us that He is at work, He is not surprised by who enters Heaven when, and He is doing far more than we can see or understand. 

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (The Message):
                So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

And so, we choose to keep on keeping on, living in His unfolding grace, expecting to see one day 
see what is now unseen, knowing that is what will last forever.  And we will spend forever in 
fellowship with Marvin and Emmy and a host of others, enjoying the lavish celebration prepared 
for us.    (Do you suppose Marvin or Emmy might get asked to set the table?)


11 June, 2012

Making a list . . . .

About two months from now we will be on a plane headed to Uganda!  That is good news!  However, it means the weeks between now and then are BUSY.  It means we have lots of lists going and we check them often!

We have lists of what to be sure to do before we get on that plane.  They include health screenings and sorting through stuff we’ve had in storage through the years.  Getting this one ready to cross off the list has been both fun and tedious.  We’ve discovered forgotten treasures, laughed over photos, teared up reading sentimental cards, and tried to remember why we thought “that” was so special.  Not ready to get rid of this list yet! 

We also have lists of what we want to purchase in this country, including chocolate chips, linens, shoes, computer stuff, garden seeds, etc.  We try to carry this list with us at all times so when we see a bargain we know if it is on our list or not J

Other lists we frequently revise include menus aimed at using up the food we have in our freezer and cupboards, questions to ask our co-workers in Uganda, and ideas on “what to share where” throughout out travels and speaking schedule.

We feel like we are living in several time zones at once trying to keep up with ourselves J  We are planning for time in Uganda, arranging for closing up time in Oregon, planning for the arrival of our sweet granddaughter next month, helping Chris plan for next school year, etc.   And we have a list (at least mentally) for each of these and more! 

In the midst of our busyness of mind and body we frequently call ourselves to check one list that helps put us back in balance; keeps us from getting lost in all the listed things of our days.  This is the list given in Philippians 4:8.  A list of those things on which we are to think:  “whatever is pure, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  (NASB) 

It’s not wrong to have many lists.  It isn’t wrong to check them.  It is wrong to let them consume us.  It is wrong to worry over the items on them and spend all our mental energy trying to figure out how to accomplish them.  God’s word tells us where we need to discipline our minds to dwell.  He knows what we need to be balanced, what we need to experience His peace.  We are so grateful He wrote the most important list and gave it to us to read, for our good!

19 May, 2012

A Great Cloud of Witnesses . . . .

This week we were blessed to fellowship with a great cloud of witnesses who went before us in Africa. We had lunch together, remembering days past and funny stories. We shared testimonies of God’s faithfulness and answers to prayer. We had a lot of catching up to do! These dear people have been our mentors, our prayer warriors, our teachers, and our models. Our children know them as family, as do we. We love them and thank God for them in our lives. We are so grateful we had this time together.

Today we heard the news that our Kenyan father is now among the great cloud of witnesses worshiping at Jesus’ feet in heaven. Our hearts are grieved for his family and other loved ones in Kenya who are missing him. Pastor Phillip Bii taught us much, encouraged us repeatedly, chastised us occasionally, and challenged us to become more like Jesus. We love him. We already miss him.

Pastor Phillip was instrumental in beginning numerous Africa Gospel Church congregations in Kenya. He walked all over the countryside, sharing Jesus in word and deed. Phillip delighted in connecting people to Jesus. When we saw him in church, in town, and in his home he was usually surrounded by children, all eager for a chance to sit on his lap or snuggle up beside him. Phillip loved freely, knowing he was loved by God.

We have fun thinking of Phillip making his way through the great cloud of witnesses in heaven, smiling and greeting those he knows.  I like to picture him hugging tightly his dear friends, among whom are Dr. Ernie Steury and Mr. Joshua Rop.  No doubt they have been laughing together and talking non-stop. 

Perhaps they too, in a heavenly sort of way, have been remembering days past and retelling funny stories.  Likely they are sharing testimonies of God’s faithfulness and answers to prayer.  They have a lot of catching up to do! 

We love Phillip Arap Bii.  We thank God for bringing him into our lives, enriching us beyond measure.  We are so grateful for the time we had together. 

A great cloud of witnesses have gone on before us…into Africa and into Heaven.  We are so blessed.  We are so grateful.  

12 May, 2012

Grateful, Appreciative and Thankful

Grateful.  Appreciative.  Thankful.  Blessed. These are a few words to describe how we are feeling.        
  • Grateful for safety in travel and for health  
  • Appreciative for the training we received in Community Health                                   Empowerment (CHE).   Find out more about CHE by going to:  www.cheuganda.org
  • Thankful to have time with family and friends in Indiana, celebrating our daughter’s           university graduation and the advent of our granddaughter            
  • Thankful Chris S. thought his first weeks of work went well
  • Blessed to have so many dear friends joining with God in what He is doing in Africa

We are excited to put the CHE model we are learning to use in Uganda!  Joining with so many other missions folks during our week of learning enabled us to hear stories of lasting transformation witnessed in lives and communities where CHE has been used of the Lord.  It was great!!  Thank you for praying!

This past week we celebrated Lizz’s graduation, grateful to be there.  We joined with Chris Bramble’s family and enjoyed being together.  This weekend we celebrated the advent of our granddaughter at a baby shower.  Woo hoo for celebrations in life, testifying of God’s faithfulness and provision!!

We are grateful for the opportunity this past week to visit dear friends in Iowa.  Sharing testimonies, praying together and catching up on lifes’ stories with these folks we love blessed us richly! We returned to Indiana refreshed and encouraged. 

Wednesday of this next week we will travel to Florida and be there a week to visit more folks who have joined God in what He is doing in Africa.  We look forward to sharing with them!  Please continue to pray for our safety and health throughout our travels, and that we will be a blessing to others.

Grateful.  Appreciative.  Thankful.  Blessed.  That’s us!!  Thank you for being part of them all J

Jeff and Christine

27 April, 2012

Traveling . . .

I am still trying to avoid use of the word “leaving.”  It is getting harder, though, as we are traveling more.  We are getting more adept with phrases such as, “We are going…”, and “We will travel to…”  Somehow it helps J  Funny how we are….

We enjoy talking about “coming.”  Yesterday Chris came home from university.  He is working on settling in here for the summer.  It is our delight to have him around!  He begins his summer job on the campus of George Fox University bright and early Monday morning.

Tomorrow Jeff and I will board a plane and fly to Indiana.  It will be great to see our “Indiana kids,” the Brambles, as they meet us at the airport.  We will have supper together before Jeff and I drive to Monon, IN.  We are excited to share with a congregation there about what God is doing in our lives and in Africa! 

Monday through Friday Jeff and I will attend our first training-of-trainers in Community Health Empowerment (CHE) in Indianapolis, IN.  We are really looking forward to this!  If you are interested in reading more about CHE check out the following URL:  www.cheuganda.org.

Saturday we will attend our daughter’s graduation from Ball State University in Muncie, IN! 

We have a busy week ahead.  We are grateful many have committed to uphold us in prayer.  Please find below some specific requests for prayer through this next week:
  • praise for Chris’ successful completion of his first year at George Fox University; he feels       good about his year of transition socially, academically, and spiritually
  • for Chris to have a good start to his summer work
  • safety in travel for Jeff and I
  • good health for Jeff and I
  • that we might be a blessing as we share with the congregation in Monon, IN
  • for our learning and processing all the information given in our CHE training; clarity in thinking, adequate energy throughout the week, learning in such a way as to be able to apply it when we train others in Uganda
  • for Lizz Bramble during her finals and then graduation 

Thank you so much!  Be sure to let us know how we can uphold you in prayer.  We are blessed to be on the same team with you.

Christine, for us all

05 April, 2012

It's the leaving . . .

I awakened with the dawning realization it really is the leaving. I don’t like leaving. It just keeps getting harder and harder. Since Linda left us behind in her recent leaving, I don’t even like the word!  We need to be thinking of our leaving for Uganda in August, but I just can’t right now. It is far too painful, too much to bear.  It really is the leaving. 

Yet in this Holy Week I ponder again that Jesus Christ chose to drink the cup that had my name on it.  He picked it right up and entered into all it contained, including the leaving. Jesus suffered the leaving of God, suffered that absolute separation from the One he most loved. Jesus entered into that leaving, suffered that God-forsaken time and place. That is what Jesus dreaded most when he considered the possibility of letting the cup pass.  It really is the leaving. And he did it for me.
Oh thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus!  I can endure all other leavings save for God.  Thank you for taking my cup, drinking my leaving, so I never have to. Through Christ I can bear my leavings for I have a sure knowing that you will never leave me, will never forsake me.

It really is the leaving.  I know that now. And I don’t have to.  I needn’t worry.  He already did it.


27 March, 2012

Connecting to Him in the midst of grief

So much we don’t know. So much we don’t understand. We have no idea. But we have God. He knows.  He understands. 

We did not know, did not understand, had no idea of what was ahead of us, of what is now, when we chose to follow God even into grief and sorrow. Good thing we did not choose lightly, or choose to go it alone. We had no idea.

Linda Thornburg
March 21st we got a phone call telling us of the sudden death of Jeff’s sister, Linda. SHOCK(!) is an understatement. Instantly plunged into profound grief, mired in not knowing, not understanding, having no idea, we muddle forward, slogging through the hard stuff with loved ones. Our daily pattern now involves frequent tears, spoken memories, voiced concerns, pondered questions. To our relief it continues to involve prayer, turning to Scripture, re-reading notes by comforting verses and journal entries, expressions of love, and frequent family time. All of this is wrapped in profound loss, steeped in the heaviness of grief, making all things harder than normal.

We keep reminding Jesus that he bid us to let him lead us into profound grief that we might experience joy. We doggedly pursue him, seeking joy, but in the process finding anew every day that he is enough.  Even if joy never comes, he is enough. Likely that is his point.

And so, we say again, even through the shroud of profound sorrow, Jesus is enough. We stand on Truth.  We have a Redeemer, and our Redeemer is alive. He is actively redeeming all of his creation, working his plan to accomplish his purpose, which is always for our good. We choose to continue trusting him, giving all of who we are, broken as we are, to him. 

We feel tentative in planning for leaving. Our dear sister left her husband, daughters, and us behind when she left for heaven. This makes us not want to leave for Africa because it means leaving behind those we love. It tempts us to cry out for mercy and be spared the leaving.

And yet, through God’s tender care we are growing into knowing, into understanding, into grasping glimpses of his idea. Resurrection brings us meaning through the cross.  And so we say once again:  we choose to follow wherever God leads, even into profound sorrow. We trust him. We will go wherever, do whatever, “leave behind” whomever, to follow him. We are not changing our plans to go to Uganda in August.

And along the way we keep reminding him that he promises joy. He whispers to us that joy will come in the morning.  (Psalm  30:5)

29 February, 2012

A season for entering in!

Continuing to meditate during Lent leads us to discover Lent is not as much about leaving behind as it is entering into. It is not as much about letting go or giving up as it is grasping a hold of and receiving. Our thoughts/intents should not be what will we “give up during Lent ,” but rather what we will “enter into during Lent.”

Jesus’ disciples were NOT expecting him to be crucified. Jesus’ death was a great finality to them. The unexpected end to their assumptions and hopes plunged them into profound sorrow. They could not believe what transpired! Jesus was dead. It was difficult, at best, to comprehend the finality of Jesus’ death. Gone. Lost. Dead. They entered into deep grief, sorrowing from the core of their beings.

Then Resurrection burst into their experience and changed everything! What? Jesus is alive? What? Excitement built and realization dawned. The impossible was reality! Dead was Living! What joy!!! Out of their profound sorrow was birthed indescribable joy!

We see there really is no other way to joy, save through grief. And Christ is telling us that if we desire to experience joy in his work in Uganda, we must choose to experience genuine grief in preparation for joy. God is teaching us about the profound sorrow of Ugandans. Grief is the preparation for joy. We cannot rejoice in a Savior if we don’t grieve sin. Joy rises from grief. If we want Easter joy we must experience genuine grief.

Truthfully, we feel hesitancy and move to enter in tentatively at first, but we do desire to experience Easter joy. And so we choose to follow where God leads, even into profound grief, in preparation for joy. Our hearts are breaking in need of our Savior. We open ourselves to love God’s people in Uganda and elsewhere. We open ourselves to sorrow, that we might be prepared for joy.

24 February, 2012

A season of preparation!

Lent is a time of preparation, a time of contemplation, a time of reflection.  There is always lots of discussion by folks related to what they are giving up for Lent.  We don’t usually hear much talk about what is being given up for Jesus, or given up to make time for God, or given up to increase our awareness of God.  So much of the conversational mention of Lent is centered on what one has the “strength” to do without for roughly 40 days.

Yet, Lent is a time of preparation, a time of contemplation, a time of reflection,  it is intended to be a time of entering into Christ in such a way that we can gloriously celebrate Easter.  We prepare so we might celebrate with a deep understanding that our very lives depend on the victory of Easter, or rather on the Victor in Easter.

Some of our friends are going to celebrate Easter in heaven this year, and then for all eternity.  We celebrate their lives with joy, knowing they now fully understand Love and his victory.  We long for that knowing.  We pause to prepare, to contemplate, and to reflect.

We also smile and talk with Hope, asking that these friends have a chance to meet one another during worship around his throne.  We get excited thinking that Don would really enjoy talking with Joseph.  Don sacrificed resources so we could work with our dear Kenyan friend, Joseph, in connecting Kenyans to Jesus.  We are confident Patsy would delight in conversations with Peter and other former students of ours.  Oh, so many fun thoughts during contemplation of our Victor and his preparation of heaven.

This Lent we pause to prepare, to contemplate, and to reflect.  We long for the knowing God intends us to experience!