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"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . ."(Matt 28:19)

16 November, 2013

Drawing Closer to Truth


God uses all things to teach. He uses all things to draw us closer to Truth (Himself). And this past week was no exception.

True confession time. It is not infrequent of late that we get discouraged. Most of our WGM Uganda colleagues are on home ministry assignment. It seems they have been gone for so long. We are filling in for several people. We are helping in a variety of roles and places and situations. But sometimes it seems like there is so much to do and so few to do it and we end up feeling like nothing is happening when there is so much that could be happening.

In those moments of discouragement the darkness seems to close in. We hear disappointing news from ministry partners and/or we hear frustrations from co-laborers in the church. The local news reports crime and abuse and all manner of evil.  You all know what we mean. It doesn’t matter where in the world we are, darkness is all around us.

But God meets us there. Last week we got some really great views of the solar eclipse. Our location in Kampala did not allow us to see the total eclipse but we saw about a 98%
Solar Eclipse in Kampalaeclipse. And you know what amazed us? Even with only approximately 2% of the usual light from the sun reaching down to our place on the hill, it was still very light. It definitely got darker than usual for that time of day, but it was amazing how much light there still was when we could only visualize a very small rim of the sun.

A couple of early mornings later Christine awakened with a headache. She reached over and turned off the alarm, deciding another 30+ minutes of sleep was in order. However, it was difficult for her to get back to sleep because the curtain was left open in the bedroom and the bright light was too much. She vowed that when she got up she would close that curtain. When she did actually get up, she could only see the tiniest gap in the curtain, so small that at first she thought she had only imagined the opening in the curtain. Again, the smallest amount of light made a big difference.

And God spoke to us. Yes, darkness is all around us. But Light is within us and also all around us and Light dispels darkness all the time. Even the tiniest amount of light is enough to make a difference. We need to change our heart focus to look for Light rather than be discouraged at darkness. He showed us some of His light shining through others.

We had a lovely evening of fellowship with Ugandan friends recently. They shared their burden for the children in their church and in their community. They hope to one day establish a Bible School for children, empowering kids to share God’s word with others. It was wonderful to pray together and share ideas and see how Light is moving to dispel darkness.

We prayed for our colleagues involved in a retreat for young people. We rejoice in the report that Salvation was found.  As youth repented and came to God He met them and transferred them from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Jeff has the joy of meeting weekly (at least) with a small group of young men associated with local university ministries. They discuss how God is enlightening them through the book they are studying. The heart-sharing brings Light into the discussions and teaches truth. Jeff also meets once a week with a Kenyan friend/pastor and together they walk closer to Light Himself because of the mutual encouragement and learning.

We recently read words of encouragement sent to us by email. Some of those folks mentioned in their messages that while they don’t regularly write us they are glad to be a part of what God is doing in Africa through prayer and through reading what we report. Those timely words brought light to us.

God reminds us He is Light. He invited us here to let His light shine. Our presence on this compound on this hill in this city in this nation is hosting His Light in the darkness. We are confident in Him. He is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all. What a relief. What a tremendous encouragement.

Standing in the Light,

Jeff and Christine

18 October, 2013

Pondering . . . . .

This time of “breathing space” between travels and teachings gives me time to ponder. Pondering is one of my favorite past times. I enjoy sitting and letting the Lord speak into my ponderings and self-musings. I like thinking about lots of things.

There is much to ponder these days, as always. Toward the top of my “frequents” is the sorrow of nations. Recently it was Kenya. Often it is friends around world who are embattled in disease. Nations of the Middle East repeatedly feature in sorrow of the nations. Government shut downs and political rhetoric send my mind a ponderin’. A couple of weeks ago we attended a church where one of the announcements notified attendees of a called prayer meeting in a neighboring community. They were to gather for corporate prayer against the demons plaguing the people in that area.  I’ve had lots to ponder from that announcement.

It is not uncommon for my ponderings to lead me toward a sense of insecurity. Apprehension may knock on my heart door. There is so much I do not understand, so much I do not know. Knowing only a little can feel threatening. Knowing too much can be a heavy burden.

Inevitably my ponderings morph into prayerful conversation with God. I pour out my heart to Him and listen to receive His heart into mine. I don’t usually have the length of uninterrupted time I wish I had but I am learning more about “pondering on the go.” I am learning to be keen in continuing prayerful conversation at all times. This is valuable for my mind and soul. It is/I am needful at all times.

All in all, my ponderings bring me back (via a Holy Spirit-guided tour) to one profound truth. My God is God-With-Me. Knowing this, knowing Him is enough. It chases apprehension. It brings awareness of security. The Sovereign God is with me. He is the Keeper of my soul. He is. He is with me. Pondering Him-with-me brings rest to my mind. Peace to my heart. Faith to my spirit. Hope to my soul. He restores my perspective.

In these days my “frequents” in pondering include Psalms 103, 104 and 121. I read Isaiah 32 with a growing hope and excitement as “the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high…” I delight in knowing God is with me now! His Spirit is within me. No matter what comes. No matter what happens. No matter what measure of suffering. God is with me. It is well with my soul. My mind is at ease. My pondering does not take me where God does not intend me to go. God is with me. “Let my meditation (pondering) be pleasing to Him.”


Christine

12 September, 2013

A Skink in the Sink…and other Startling Discoveries

The committee meeting was going well and we had many things to ponder as we looked for the way forward in the myriad of ministry opportunities available. I excused myself so I could “go to the small room to help myself” (Kenyan lingo to go use the restroom). After helping myself I stepped up to the first sink to wash my hands, only to be startled by a skink in the sink. A skink is a lizard-like creature and this one moved its head quickly as I reached for the water, causing me to startle and quickly jerk my hand back to my side as I stepped sideways toward the next sink. A perfectly harmless creature but I was not expecting one to be in the sink! Those skinks are usually seen on a sidewalk or a wall where they can be noticed from a distance and I don’t startle. Not so this time. The skink in the sink was a startling discovery!

For some time after that startling encounter I pondered other recent startling discoveries:

1) I was startled to realize anew that I don’t always communicate as clearly as I intend. A perfect example was this conversation during my recent bus trip into Kenya:
Me: Driver, remember we want to alight from this bus in Kapsoit town please.
Driver: Yes.  Kapsoit is about 15 minutes ahead.
Me: Yes, thank you. We want to stop and get off the bus there in Kapsoit.
Driver: Yes.  
…Entering Kapsoit town…
Me: This is Kapsoit, where we are to alight.
Driver: Yes.
…Bus exiting Kapsoit town…
Me: Are you stopping for us to get off the bus?
Driver: Here? You want to get off here?
Me: Yes, please, we wanted to get off in Kapsoit town.
Driver: We don’t have a bus stage (stop) here.
Me: But this is where we are to alight and meet our people.
Driver: You mean to get off here? Do you know if it is ok for you?
Me: Yes, I am very much at home here and we are to get off here.
Driver: (quickly stopping bus on road side) Are you very sure?
Me: Yes, that was Kapsoit town where we were to alight. We will get off here and walk back.
Driver: Yes.  (Bus stopped and we got off.  We were just fine and met our hostess and off we went to the conference.)

2)  I was startled by the depth of my response while joining nearly 300 Kenyan (and 2 Ugandan) women singing the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in Kiswhalili.  Raising our voices together in praise. Raising our hands in worship of our Father. Noticing tears falling as my heart swelled with thanksgiving and joy. What an honor. What a great, great privilege to sing these time-honored words with ladies whom I know have suffered much. What profound joy to sing in worship with those dear ladies who love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts. I don’t know how to describe it…but I was startled to discover the depth of my love for those dear women.

3)  I was startled all over again to discover anew how powerful God’s word is. Testimony was given in the orality training session (see www.sts.org  to read more about this) that in a different training several Muslim men confessed their sin and received Jesus as their Savior after hearing and discussing the Bible story found in Exodus 17:1-7. In the story the people of Israel are very thirsty because God commanded them to camp at a place with no water. After the people persistently cried to Moses, Moses cried to God and God told Moses how to get water. It was a miracle for sure. And those Muslim men were so struck that God had compassion on the people and gave what they needed that they denied their faith in Islam and turned to follow the God of Truth. Wow! I would never have picked that particular story to lead people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, but God did. Wow!

4)  I was startled to get a call from Jeff during his routine medical check last week saying the doctor detected a new heart murmur and Jeff was going for an echocardiogram. I was even more startled when the echo. revealed that Jeff’s aortic valve in his heart is not working properly. We were pretty shocked.  Even though my “nurse brain” could acknowledge that right now this is not any big problem the rest of my brain zipped on ahead to all the potential complications later on down the road.  And yet….

5)  What a startling discovery to realize that just the evening before God spoke powerfully to me through the “Storm Story” in His word; the story where Jesus invited His disciples to cross the sea with him after a very busy day of teaching. So they headed out in a boat into the darkness crossing the sea. A violent storm arose and threatened their lives. Jesus calmed the storm. Reviewing that story God reminded me that He had also invited us to join Him in the dark, crossing into the unknown as we moved into Uganda. God reminded me He is in control of everything, even in the dark even when we can’t seem to find our way. God reminded me that He always responds to whatever small measure of faith I use to call out to Him. He is always there for us.

A skink in the sink, and so many other startling discoveries, all lead me back to Truth, back to reality that no matter what storms arise, no matter what blessings or difficulties we encounter, God is in control. And for that I shall forever be eternally grateful!


 Christine

23 August, 2013

A First Annual Reflection . . . .

One year. Twelve months. 365 days. Our lives reordered, lessons learning and finding our way. New home, new friends, new schedules and new responsibilities. Another culture, another language and another set of mores to learn. One year from 24 August 2012 to 24 August 2013. Whew!

And all of a sudden, just like that, here we are reflecting on our first year of living in Uganda. How is it possible a whole year has gone by? How is it possible that it has only been 12 months?

We still don’t have the house completely in order; the kitchen hasn’t even been repainted yet. Seriously? A whole year has gone by?

But then again, the hours of slugging away trying to understand a new language that is so different from what we have heard before and the myriad of days wondering what we are supposed to be doing and how will we know when we are doing it make it seem so much longer...like we have been here for so, so long.

All of this and so much more comprise our first year in Kampala. What an adventure it has been! Here are a few lessons learned...

  • Squash doesn’t grow very well in our little garden. So sad.
  •  If we lean just right while on our upstairs veranda we can see a finger of Lake Victoria. That little veranda is our home sanctuary. So nice.
  • It really, really matters how you pronounce words in Luganda. Missing the correct emphasis can really, really miscommunicate. Maybe that contributes to our timidity in using the language.
  • God is at work in Uganda. So great!
  • The enemy of our souls is bold and active, seeking to kill and destroy. So tiring is the battle!
  • Loving on missionaries is such a happy thing! Enjoying helping whomever whenever we can is so life-giving!
  • Living generously brings great freedom and makes any personal sacrifice seem non-existent. So freeing!
  • Prayer matters. Prevailing in prayer is absolutely necessary for survival.
  • African grey parrots are so cool, and they are loud. Our spirits still thrill to see them flying overhead or sitting in the neighbor’s tree. Parrots are cool!
  • Kampala isn’t a bad city, as far as big cities go…unless you factor in the traffic. And the best thing is, our God is the God of this city. So grateful!
  • We can do this. We can learn many new things all at once. We are not too old to change everything and still be useful. A very good thing to know of oneself.
  • It is best to take exercise walks early in the morning. The lower altitude here should make it easier than it was in Kenya to push up the hills, but the vehicular air pollution later in the day makes it harder.
  • Plantain eaters make us laugh every time they cackle to announce their arrival in the tree whose branches touch our upper veranda wall. Such funny birds!
  • Nearly every Ugandan who has shared some of their life story with us has life chapters that involve hunger, war and death of loved ones. Sobering.
  • Skype is our new best friend in technology. It has helped minimize our lesson on just how very, very far away our families live.
  • Grief is painful no matter where we live, no matter who is grieving. So tired of facing this lesson.
  • Hearts of gratitude enable us to neglect wrongs and appreciate all the rights so much more. So grateful!
  • It is best to choose to stand tall and bloom right where we are planted. (This lesson illustrated to us by our sunflowers out front of our house. They are so cheery and colourful!)
  • But sometimes we need help to keep on standing tall and keeping our heads up. (Also illustrated by our flowers. As their blooms became heavy they started to bend so they are now anchored to the porch railing!)
  • We can’t do this alone. We don’t want to. We are completely dependent on God and His people.
  • The people in the Body of Christ who are our “senders” are THE BEST and we thank you so much for giving us this privilege. So blessed! 




02 August, 2013

Change of position . . . .

“It was great once I figured out how to function in my change of position. Changing from being the player to being the coach took a little while.” That was our son’s response to our question about the first day of his helping out in a local basketball camp here in Kampala.  And his response of yesterday still has us thinking. 

“Change of position.”  This happens all throughout our seasons of life.  We change so much! From child to parent. From student to teacher. From passenger to driver. From player to coach. From cared for to caregiver. From employee to employer. Change happens.  And yes, it can be great once we figure out how to function in our change of position.

We all realized our change of position during our recent time in Kenya. It was great to visit places we frequented when we lived there. It was a delight to be with our loved ones again. We relished the experiences. And we became acutely aware of change . We had to learn to function in our change of position. (To see photos of our time in Kenya look on the sidebar of this page.)

The same is true in our spiritual lives. As we spend more time in God’s word and lean more into our lives with God we hear His invitation to change our position.  In the book, “SoulShift, the measure of a life transformed,”  by Steve DeNeff and David Drury (2011) we learned more of God’s invitation to our change of position. God invites us to make these shifts: from me to you, from slave to child, from seen to unseen, from consumer to steward, from ask to listen, from sheep to shepherd and from me to we focus. These changes of position lead us deeper in our walk with God as we allow His Holy Spirit to transform us into alignment with Himself. (click here for more SoulShift resources.)  And yes, it is great when we learn how to function like Him in our change of position.

Change happens. Having Chris (our son) with us for a few weeks is a constant revelation that change happens. Observing Chris adjusting to being home as an adult is a vivid picture of this. He is enjoying changing from being passenger to driver here. He is learning at basketball camp a measure of changing from player to coach. He has changed from child to adult and is learning to function in his change of position. (See photos of time with Chris on the sidebar of this page.)

Our prayer is that we might model the way well in learning to function in our change(s) of position. We long for others to see Christ in us. We want to reflect Him accurately as we change from being sheep to being shepherd, from consumer to steward, from asking to listener, etc. God invites us deeper in Him so others can also be connected to Him. He leads us into relationship with others so we can share Him.

May we go deeper in God and let Him transform us, guiding us as we respond to His invitation to change position. Our prayer is, as Chris says, “learning our new position(s) may take a little while, but it is great once we figure out how to function in our change of position.”
 
Christine

13 June, 2013

The most important thing . . . .

Early on in my adult life I discovered I am a task-oriented person. I enjoy being assigned or finding a task that needs to be done and accomplishing it. These tasks may be around home, in an office, in the lives of others and/or in the ministries God has called me to here in Africa. I love accomplishing tasks. During the many years at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I was privileged to accomplish many tasks relating to the implementation and maintenance of the hospital information technology systems. This past year I have been involved in accomplishing tasks which included language study, learning a new culture and tasks associated with our ministry in the community and church.  

During the last few years, I have been pondering, reflecting on an answer to the question, “What is the most important thing I can accomplish in life?”  Is it about finishing tasks?  Is it about doing all the “right” things?  Is it about being a missionary in Africa?   What is the most important thing God wants from me? 

Recently, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke10:38-42.  In this passage Jesus is visiting Bethany, a town near Jerusalem. He was invited into the home of Martha and her sister Mary. In the story we find Martha focused on her tasks, her work in serving others, her work in serving Jesus himself.  Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet to hear what he had to say. Martha and Mary are two people responding differently to the visit of Jesus. 

Three times when Mary is referred to in Scripture we read she is in the same place, at the feet of Jesus.  
  • John 11:32, Mary “fell at His feet and shared her woe”,
  • John 12:3 , Mary “came to His feet and poured out her worship”
  • Luke 10:39, Mary “sat at His feet and listened to His Word”
 
Mary experienced true intimacy with Jesus by being with him, by being in His presence.  Mary came, fell and sat in the presence of her friend, her King.  Martha was doing “good” things to honor and provide for Jesus out of love and respect for him. She was offering her works, her usefulness as a hostess to Jesus.  When Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me?”  Jesus responded with “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”   Mary chose the “good part” to offer herself, to sit in His presence, to experience intimacy with Him.  

Intimacy takes stepping away from the tasks, the life the world so easily makes a priority and recognizing our greatest priority needs to be the intimacy with our Jesus, the son of our God, our father.  It takes a conscious choice and intentional effort. It often takes sacrifice to make it happen.  It may mean sacrifice of good or great things in order to do the best thing. It often involves sacrifice of our schedule, desires, wants, physical and professional passions to focus on a spiritual passion for Christ.    

We talk about passions we have for life, for work, for helping others, and for ministry.  But, the most important thing is demonstrating in our lives a passion for (and maybe sacrifices too) experiencing intimacy with Jesus.   In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldridge have written.  "When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.  And we invite others to do the same."

For me the most important thing is to live with a passion for Jesus, a passion for His presence (but not by doing). I want to live out my passion for Jesus by entering into and remaining in His presence, for worship, for opportunities to hear and respond to His voice.

I desire to choose the “good” thing just as Mary did. But, as a follower of Jesus, I desire to help others develop this same passion for and demonstrating the presence of Jesus in their lives. 

Living in His presence,

Jeff

04 June, 2013

Follow Me . . . .


Sunday we listened to a podcast sermon. The title was, “Follow Me.” Jesus invites us. When we accept His invitation we move with Him, following and learning. Before too long we will be invited to go deeper, to participate with Him. He then says, “Help Me.” Christ’s model for us was simple. He went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom (His) and healing. And as He did this, “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36, NASB) When He invites us to help Him, He expects us to be wholistic in our helping, following His example. So we can choose to go deeper, to move from following to helping as we follow.  He reminds us that He desires compassion and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13).

I chose to go deeper. I chose to follow Him to Kenya. I had opportunities help Him there. I felt such compassion for the patients that came to the hospital. I felt great compassion on our nursing students. I saw Him in them. My heart was deeply moved for them. I knew His affirmation. I followed. I helped. I loved it.

He spoke again. “Follow Me.” I chose to follow, all the way to Kampala, Uganda. I have been following, studying, learning. But in all honesty, I continued to wish I wasn’t in the city. Sometimes I have actually longed to be in the village again, experiencing the freedom of life there. Even so, I have been following Him as per His invitation. I am serving my team, helping wherever I can, glad to lighten the load and love lavishly. I find great joy in this following with helping.

But now the ones I have been serving the most often are leaving for their months in the U.S. I wonder where my following will lead now. I sit on my veranda, looking out over a small part of this city and listen. What is He saying? I hear birdsong, dogs whining, people laughing, gates clanking, construction banging, vehicles humming and horns honking. But what is He saying?  Can I even hear Him in this city? Even while listening I am inwardly praying for “staying grace” as teammates leave this city. What is He saying?  Can I even hear Him while I am asking?

Then He speaks through a song. I hear Him. “Help Me. It’s all about Me. But I don’t just want your sacrifice of staying in the city. I want compassion. Help Me.”

                “God of This City,” by Chris Tomlin (click here to listen)
                                You’re the God of this city.
                                You’re the King of these people.
                                You’re the Lord of this nation.

                                You are.

                                You’re the Light in this darkness.
                                You’re the Hope to the hopeless.
                                You’re the Peace to the restless.

                                You are.

                                There is no one like our God.
                                There is no one like our God.
               
                                Greater things have yet to come
                                And greater things are still to be done
                                In this city.

                                Greater things have yet to come
                                And great things are still to be done here.

I hear Him. Here in this city I hear Him. He is the God of this city.  He is the King of these people. He is the Lord of this nation. And I hear Him saying, “Help Me.”

“Help Me be the Light. Help Me be the Hope. Help Me be the Peace.  Greater things are yet to come. Greater things are still to be done here. Help Me.  But truly, don’t help as a sacrifice. Forget that idea. It is no sacrifice to stay in this city. You are here at My invitation. Help Me. But do so out of compassion. Respond with compassion in this city, with these people, in this nation. Respond with compassion when you come into the darkness, when you encounter the hopeless, when you notice the restless. I Am, and I ask you to help Me. Be compassionate.”

Today I look out from my veranda viewpoint and I see this small part of the city. I pray for Light to come into the darkness, weeping for the slaves in bondage to sin to be set free. I pray for the hopeless ones walking the streets, pleading for even the tiniest spark of hope to once again be ignited within them. I pray the restless will find their peace in Christ alone and rest tonight. My heart cries with gratitude that I get to help, connecting people to the One who is their God, King and Lord….their Light, Hope and Peace. I feel so privileged to be here, in this city, with these people, in this nation. I am following and helping as I know how, and I discover all over again that I love it!

Christine

28 May, 2013

On a journey . . . .

I have fond memories of many journeys I have taken through the years.   Both in the United States and on the continent of Africa I have had wonderful opportunities to take journeys to new places, to experience new people, new sites and new sounds.   Journeys are enjoyable, they often provide me with opportunities to learn about and then reflect on something new.  

My recent journey is one of understanding more of my God, Who desires to bring restoration.  

When I hear the word restoration referred to in today’s world, it is quite often associated with one of the following:
     -  Restoring a house to a condition it once was
     -  Restoring a prized possession, often a car, into the condition as it was originally built
     -  Restoring habitat of fish or wildlife, that they might once again have what they need       
               to survive

With the thought of restoration, comes the realization that something is “broken,” something “isn’t right,” something needs to be returned to its original condition due to one or more reasons.  Restoration is needed because of neglect, because of age or because of numerous other reasons.  Regardless of the reason, there is within us a desire to bring restoration in order to restore value or function in something that is “broken.”

In order for restoration to take place there must be recognition that something is “broken,” something  isn’t right.  Once we’ve identified there is a need, it takes resources, significant effort and time invested to bring restoration. One of the key first steps in many restoration projects is a bit of tearing down or removal of some part or parts of the project being restored.   

Bringing restoration to the things we love so dearly is important. However. even more important is recognizing the need for restoration in our relationships with others, even our relationship with God.   We live in a world of relationships in need of restoration. Relationships which are not right.  Relationships that have been broken due to circumstances, words said or words not said.  

Restoration is not just about the actions of doing what is right to restore the relationship.  In order to bring true, lasting restoration there must be a deeper change in us.   Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Wild at Heart Boot camp put on by Ransomed Heart Ministries (ransomedheart.com).   During one of the sessions John Eldredge, shared,  If restoration does not reach our heart, we will not be successful.  Restoration comes as the result of a heart change, not an outward change in behaviors, actions.  Restoration in relationship with God and others can only come through a change in our heart. 

A heart change takes time, commitment, work, brokenness, recognition of the need for some “tearing down” and removal of hindrances to heart change which we have in our lives!  If there is not first a recognition of the need for a heart change, then no amount of time, commitment or actions can bring about restoration in our earthly relationships. The same is true, more importantly, in our relationship with God Himself.  A heart that that has truly been refocused, renewed and restored is a heart that has experienced the forgiveness of Christ.

As I continue to ponder these thoughts, I have been asking myself the following questions:
    -  What relationships in my life need restoration? 
    -  What am I willing to “invest” in order to bring about restoration in these relationships?
    -  What I willing to “invest” in order to allow God to bring restoration in my relationship            
           with Him?   

Restoration is a journey.  A journey I am travelling.    At times it is a difficult, yet necessary journey in order to bring all of my relationships back into a state of wholeness, the state in which God intended them to be.   

On the journey with Him,

Jeff

02 May, 2013

Two Seasons . . . .


We were told when we first moved to Africa there are basically two seasons in the year here, wet season and dry season. And true enough, there are months when it rains a lot and months where it rains less. They were right that flowers bloom through them all and a vegetable garden will produce all year. But even so, there are two distinct seasons.

My personal experience is also summed up in two seasons. Our lives seem to cycle between the two seasons of Lent and Advent. Sorrow and anticipation cycle through with great regularity, each one following the other. Sometimes I let them get all mixed up and then neither season can produce the fruit intended in my life.

Sorrow shows up like an unexpected thunderstorm in dry season, showering me with heaviness and pain. I know that entering into the sorrow is what brings joy on the other side, but when the billows of grief seem to never end and continue to build day after day it is hard to desire to lean into the storm and forge on ahead. I don’t expect Lent to show up when I am eagerly anticipating someone’s arrival, or some happy event or some long felt desire to be fulfilled. But Lent storms in nonetheless, unbidden but with the purpose of refining and cleansing and fulfilling God’s purpose.

Loss brings sorrow and catapults me into Lent. Co-workers departing for their Home Ministry Assignments, experiencing the effects of sin in our world, witnessing an unforgiving spirit, death of loved ones, broken relationships and so many other losses keep the season of Lent lashing its effects much longer than I want. Can’t I just hurry up and get to the next season?

I like Advent. I enter that season with deep gratitude and a sigh of relief. It is refreshing when it comes. I love anticipating good things coming! Currently I am looking forward to our son’s arrival here. He is coming in just two months! I get so excited when I let my mind carry me forward to seeing him walk out of customs at the airport, getting to give him a big hug, having time to talk without fearing the internet connection will drop off, etc. Ahh, so eager to get there.

But that isn’t the only thing I have to anticipate. I celebrate the Advent of Jesus into lives of people I know. I have such fun hearing testimonies from my Ugandan women friends who freely share how God is working in their hearts, how others are telling them they can see a difference in them. I look forward to the singing and dancing in worship on Sunday mornings in church (though I get tempted to let the LOUD volume send me tumbling into Lent). I prepare for the arrival of Jesus into hearts of those for whom I am praying. I pray with celebration, claiming Jesus’ victory over sin and death to bring victory over evil spirits in local communities here.

Advent gets me through Lent. Looking forward to Jesus’ return and being in heaven is my lifeboat in the deepest sorrow. Christ is coming again and He is redeeming all of creation to Himself and He will fully accomplish His purpose. These truths shine hope and joy into the darkest of griefs and help me enter the sorrow of Lent, knowing that true enough, life will bloom and I will grow and be all that Christ intends me to be. His best is both seasons, working together to bring the best fruit.

Two seasons aren’t so bad…the cycle brings life and hope and joy in the morning.

30 March, 2013

Changing perspective . . .

We have been hot when exercising hard. But nothing like we were hot just walking across the housing compound in South Sudan. Being in Tonj, South Sudan in the dry season changed our perspective on hot.

We have been excited when we’ve learned God’s revelations to us through His word. But maybe never as excited as some of the South Sudanese during their recent training on Biblical orality. Their excitement at learning how to simply tell the stories of the Bible brought tears of joy to our eyes.

One man told us, “I am old. It is too late for me to learn to read and write. But hearing and learning Bible stories will allow me to share the Word of God with others and I am so happy!”  By the end of the three days of training he then said, “Now I realize that I must learn to read so I can read the Bible myself. Then I can learn more stories faster and be able to share more of God’s word with people.”

Sarah told how she planned to apply the storytelling she learned. “This is good for even an old woman like me to learn. Where I live the water is far and we have to walk long to reach there. I will have enough time to tell the story and help the other women discover for themselves the treasures in God’s word.  Thank you for teaching me this.”

Hearing these testimonials changed our perspective on excitement about learning God’s word.

We enjoy gardening and get pleasure out of planting and harvesting. Being part of the Community Health Empowerment training in South Sudan, including teaching on “Farming God’s Way”  (click here to read more) changed our perspective about good stewardship of our agricultural resources. Experiencing the excitement of pastors and other subsistence farmers as they learned truths from God’s word that apply to their farming practices thrilled our souls.

The shared experiences in South Sudan changed our perspective. Somehow it was no longer too hot to be out working the fields for harvest. The harvest is plentiful and praise the Lord for the laborers He is raising up in South Sudan! (See links to photos of South Sudan to the left)
 
Now in Uganda again we pray to understand in ever increasing measure God’s perspective in every situation, every day. Yesterday we received word from one of our Africa Gospel Church leaders that many sorcerers have gathered in his community from all over Uganda. They are drumming and sacrificing to the demons, proclaiming they are setting people free from spirits that burn people’s houses. They are spreading the word that Christians are weak and have been defeated by the demons.  He requested prayer for his community.

Please join us in praying for that community. Please pray that God’s perspective on what is weak and who has been defeated might be known. Pray that Truth will be proclaimed and many will turn to Him. Pray that God alone will be glorified and the Christians strengthened as they praise God and call upon Him for protection and deliverance.

The spiritual battle is strong this Easter weekend. Join us in boldly celebrating our Victor and claiming His victory. Our perspective as His children is different than that of the world, and we want to be useful as His change agents, changing perspective wherever He leads us.

01 March, 2013

The cup . . .

March seems to be “coming early” this year.  It was just the other day we were anticipating Christmas, anticipating celebrating the birth of Jesus and now we are in the midst of Lent, the season of Easter.  

Often during both the Christmas and Easter seasons a word or a phrase related to the season becomes a focus of my thoughts.   Recently, I’ve been focusing on the phrase “the cup”. 

The cup, what is it?   The cup was a common Jewish metaphor either for joy or for divine judgment against human sin. Jesus applied this figure to Himself for He was to bear the wrath of God’s judgment against sin in place of sinners (cf. Mark 10:45; 14:36; 15:34). He would drink the “cup” voluntarily.  The cup, for Jesus was his emanate journey to the cross.   It was a journey to the place of willing sacrifice, willing obedience to do the will of His father, to do what he had been sent by the Father to do.  

During this Lenten season, Christine and I have been pondering thoughts written by Henri Nouwen in his book  “Can You Drink the Cup?”  (click here to read more) In this book, Nouwen reflects on the question Jesus asked John and James after their mother asked Jesus if they may sit on His right and left hand sides in His kingdom: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Nouwen uses the cup as a metaphor for our lives and breaks it down into three parts: holding, lifting and drinking. “Can we hold our life, lift our life, and drink it, as Jesus did?” 

To hold it:
Before anything else we must hold “the cup.”   To hold the cup is more than just living our life.   Nouwen states, “Holding the cup of life means looking critically at what [how] we are living.”   Christ demonstrated he was living for His father’s purpose.   The question which comes to my mind is, “Am I living courageously for Christ in every joyful or sorrowful circumstance?   Am I living in a way which helps connect people to Jesus?”

To lift it:
In lifting “the cup” Nouwen shares it is “Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living.”  The question I’ve been pondering is,  “Am I lifting my life with all of its joys and its sorrows for others to see and encouraged so they too can lift their lives and connect others to Jesus?”

To drink it:
Nouwen writes that drinking “the cup” means “this is my life . . . I want this to be my life.”    Drinking the cup is recognizing we have been created uniquely by God and for His purpose. Regardless of circumstances in our lives, whether joyful or painful, God’s love and contentment in Him is enough.      The question I’ve been pondering for myself is, “Am I content with what God has given me and am I content where God has placed me?”    

Just as Jesus demonstrated unconditional selflessness and love for me, I too desire to demonstrate that same kind of love by holding, lifting and drinking “the cup” God has given me.  


Serving Him with a grateful heart,

Jeff

19 February, 2013

Relief . . .


One of the hardest parts of transition, and one for which there is no specific timeline, is the unknown. Not knowing. Not being known. No history. Transition.

Last week we were suddenly able to push the “pause” button on our transition and step into the known. Whew! What a relief. It is difficult for us to articulate to each other, let alone to someone else, but what a relief to know!

To know where to expect potholes in the road, to know where to find what we want, to know it will cool off every evening, to know how to greet people and how to respond to their greetings. To have history with those we meet because we have been to their home, we have held their children, we have prayed in their church, we have cried with them in their losses. To have people inquire about our children because they watched them grow as they helped us raise them. To know the schedule and the most likely time to find the people we need to see.  All of this brought relief to our souls and refreshment to our spirits. All because we know and we are known.

As we drove into Kenya and began to rise out of the lake basin into the highlands our sighs were actually audible. They were not breathed out of lack of contentment or out of regret. They were simply breathed in relief. The air was cooler and fresher as we rose into the rural highlands. The signs were in a very familiar language and in those places we had shared memories (history). We recalled “the first time we were here” and “remember visiting the pastor’s home there?” We laughed over stories of our children chasing the little chicks or being relieved to get out of the vehicle and be able to run free in the gardens as we passed through familiar territory.  We shared meals, laughter, information and togetherness with those we know and love. To know. To be known. History. Relief.

Yesterday we pushed the “pause” button again and returned home. Stepping back into transition, yet understanding with relief we know some of here too. We are known by some. We are creating history. We are learning. There is still so much unknown, so much we do not know. But we are in transition and change is happening. And in that knowing there is relief, for which we thank the Lord.

11 February, 2013

Show me for this day . . .


Pretty much every day I petition the Lord like this, “Father, for this day in this month of this year, please show me why you put me here in this house on this plot on this hill in this city in this nation.  I want to do what you want me to and I want to be whom you want me to be. Show me for this day I pray.”

And He does. He lays it out. I learn to make my plans with space for His showing me. At first it seemed like a lot of interruptions in getting stuff done. Now I see it as Him showing me, answering my prayer. Now it can take several days to finally get the two shirts ironed that came out of the laundry the other day. Now I don’t get to the computer very often. I pray with the young lady who has been diagnosed with a heart problem. I counsel a widow wanting parenting advice. I gladly welcome other missionaries stopping by. I delight in hugs from young children running to see Aunt Christine. I edit communications to be sent by others. Every day He shows me.

One day a couple of months ago God showed me that on that day I was to say “Yes” to an opportunity to speak to a women’s group. So that afternoon I said “Yes” when asked if I would travel north to speak at a women’s conference outside of Soroti, Uganda. I said “Yes” when asked if I could travel by public bus to that great distance. I said “Yes” when my dear Ugandan friend, Winnie, and I arrived there and they asked if I was ok sleeping on the floor like the other ladies. I said “Yes” when others wondered if I would use a pit latrine and a bathing room without a ceiling (it had ¾ height walls). I tried to explain that I feel most at home when I am out in the village like that. I did my best to put them all at ease. They soon said I indeed know how to live African.

 Truly, God shows me every day. And then He does what He wants to do. He blessed, encouraged, challenged and changed women (and men) throughout the shared time in the conference. I was challenged and my heart broke over and over again to hear others share their stories, but then joy came as I could see God speak His truth into their situations and hearts changed. He showed me and I was blessed. (see photos of that trip on this page)

One day we received an email about an upcoming workshop for missionary leaders on how to help missionaries during crises. God showed us we should attend. We said ”Yes.” We attended. We listened, wept, questioned, learned and shared. Every day God showed us more of Himself and how He uses His people to care for cross-cultural workers in all their stresses and trauma. God showed us how He uses you to care for us.

You, us, we serve our God together.  Us here and you there all together fulfilling His purpose for His Kingdom in this house on this plot on this hill in this city in this nation. I am so thankful we are together.  I am so grateful He shows us.

Christine (for Jeff too)

19 January, 2013

A New Experience . . .

New experiences!  Life brings us new experiences almost daily.   For Christine and I the past couple of years have been dotted with new experiences:
  • Our youngest child finished high school
  • Became grandparents for the first time
  • Moved to Uganda
  • Living in a big city
  • Studied (still have lots to learn) the language of Luganda
  • Participated in the recent retreat for World Gospel Mission staff in Jinja (check out pictures on the left) 
Each one of these new experiences brought new opportunities. Some even gave us the opportunity to have some fun (check out the pictures of Jeff on an all terrain vehicle[ATV] Safari)!     One of our greatest joys has been the new experience of building relationships with people around us; people in World Gospel Mission Uganda, in Africa Gospel Church and in the community.   All of these fresh experiences have caused us to learn, to grow and to be challenged.

Throughout these new experiences God reminds me that my experience with Him can be new each day. Through quality time spent with God I can have a fresh encounter with Him. Isaiah 6 gives us the story of Isaiah’s fresh encounter with God.  In the midst of his busy schedule Isaiah experienced a fresh encounter with God. This fresh encounter was “two-way.” As Isaiah sought the Lord, he caught a glimpse of Him, His majesty and His Holiness. Isaiah saw himself as he really was, in need of a special touch.   God in turn reached out and “’touched” Isaiah  and  restored him. 
 
Even in each routine often scheduled day, there are opportunities to experience fresh experiences with God.  There is so much more to learn as I seek Him along the way.  I'm excited to find those fresh experiences God has for me!   -- Jeff