Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday: Peace

Today was laying in bed & cups of tea & Lady and the Tramp. I have a cold, which is stupid. I’m in Africa, and I want to be outside, covered in dust and breathing in all the smells and grace. Today was not adventurous or eventful. But sometimes that’s okay.

Sometimes we’re called to rest and be filled up, even if it’s not a spiritual filling up, but just a nap and Disney movies filling up. Sometimes we’re called to peace and quiet. There was this one time last month, where I was falling asleep and I just kept hearing the name Solomon in my mind.

So I sleepily flip on my light and reach for my Bible. I’m not at all certain this is God speaking to me, but if it is, I don’t want to miss it. I open my Bible to 1 Chronicles and find David speaking to his son. He is commissioning Solomon to fulfill the dream of building a house for God. David tells Solomon that his life has been filled with war and bloodshed, and that God is preventing him from fulfilling the dream because of that. God wants a man of peace to build His house. So God gives David a son, Solomon, and God grants Solomon peace on all sides, and makes him to be a man of rest.

It hits me. On these days where there seems to be nothing to do, when I’m stuck in bed because I’m deworming or I have a cold, when things move at snail pace, I’m called to be made into a woman of peace.

I want my words here to build a sanctuary for God. I want to make MUCH of Him with my life. It’s only a person of peace who can build a temple. We must learn how to rest, how to be people of peace, if we hope to live lives of worship.

There will be hectic days. There will be chaos and markets and boda rides and chickens. But if I allow days like today to transform my heart, if I ask the Holy Spirit to come and make me into a woman of peace, I can build a temple for Jesus with my life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday: Grace

It’s 9:00 am when I arrive, and Oliver’s family is rushing to eat breakfast and dress up before the move. The government is expanding the railroad that runs through Namuwongo slum, and they’ve knocked down homes and displaced masses of people. Our rental truck pulls up, and my ministry partner, Eve, along with Oliver’s mama and the kids squish in the cab and head off to their family’s village, all their belongings in tow. We get a phone call a few minutes later that they’ve forgotten the chicken. I love Uganda.

After seeing the family off, Silvester and I have a mission. Both Sarah and Oliver’s homes have been demolished, so today we’re house-hunting. Sometimes people ask me what a typical day looks like for me in Uganda…I never know what to say, and maybe now you’ll see why. Yesterday I celebrated Eid and feasted with the Mufti, today I'll ride on boda after boda, walking dusty road after dusty road, trying to provide a fresh start for these mamas, tomorrow…who knows?

It’s on days like this when I remember the only thing good in me is Jesus. Boda guys and taxi drivers constantly overcharge us because of me. It’s not fun to look like walking shillings. I get so frustrated sometimes, but I thank God for Silvester and his calm and gentle spirit.

Uniquely Woven: Powered by Novida 

We praise God because we found a house for our mamas! (Rent is just $100 a month! To donate, go to The area is safe, and it’s within walking distance of my church. I pray that these mamas and babies will experience Jesus’ love in this home. Who are we that we get to be a part of all of this?

Next on the list is buying some mattresses so our mamas can sleep in their new home tonight! We’ll go to the downtown market to buy the rest of the furniture and home essentials as donations come in.

I will go to sleep tonight more Ugandan than I was when woke up this morning…we fit two mattresses and three humans on one boda. Go us!

Silvester takes the mamas and their few belongings to the new home, and I hop on a boda to go pick up a few things for our Bible study in Namuwongo. This picture brings joy to my heart! God is making all things new.

It’s 3:50 and I'm zooming to Namuwongo carrying bags of muffins to serve to our pregnant mamas. As we weave in and out of traffic, all I can think is I’m frustrated because of the countless people who have been rude to us and overcharged us today, I am super tired and I think I’m getting a cold, I’m stressed out because we have so much to do and so little time, I’m late for Bible study, and nothing is going according to my plans! And God must be thinking “For real?” He is not surprised by today. I should be rejoicing that everything must be working according to HIS will, because it’s definitely not working according to mine. I try to pray, but my mind is just racing with lists and worries. And so I take a deep breath and exhale the words “Grace. Grace.” Over and over I pray this one word. Give me grace for my shortcomings, teach me to be gracious in this mess, help me see the grace in today. Grace. Grace.

I’m standing behind twenty pregnant mamas, listening to my friend Isabelle teach Bible study. How can I miss the grace in a woman, who just a month ago tragically lost her baby, and is now standing here sharing the love of Christ with other pregnant women?

How can I miss the grace in Jesus, who is the reason I’m here? The grace that He has chosen US, imperfect, stressed out, crazy humans to proclaim His love to the ends of the earth?

Grace. Lesson learned. Some days will be stressful and overwhelming. I will be tired and I will miss lunch and there will be a never-ending flow of red dirt rinsing out of my hair in the shower. But there is always grace.

Jesus, I’m sorry for missing the grace. I’m sorry for being blinded by stress, and for being caught up in tasks. Teach me to keep my eyes fixed on You, my mind stayed on you, my hand in Yours. May I be more like You tomorrow than I was today. That is my never-ending prayer.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday: Sabbath

The Sabbath. This is my favorite day of the week.

I am wide awake and it’s 7:00 am. I take a shower, then bundle up. It’s been ridiculously cold lately, especially considering this is dry season.

Sunday is the Sabbath. Sunday is remembering and Sunday is communion. My friend Sarah and I walk down to the main road and meet a boda on the way who gives us a very low rate. We squish on the seat together, and “tugende” (we go!). As we bump along the road I ask the boda man if he’s been to church today. He hasn’t, and naturally I tell him he MUST come with me! He laughs and says “But I’m not smart,” (smart means dressed nicely!) and I tell him that Jesus doesn’t care. After thinking for a few moments, he accepts! And so Sarah, boda man Andrew, and I walk into church, and I cannot get over how beautiful this moment is.

We’re twenty-two minutes late, and we’re still among the first to arrive. We sit on the hard wooden pew and wait. Sarah and I talk about communion and life and how glad we are to be friends. I love the way God knits lives and stories together. 

This church is home to me. I cannot even describe to you how much I love it. We are made up of Ugandan and Congolese members, so the first service is in Swahili, and the second service is in English, with a Luganda translator. But today is communion Sunday, and that means we combine the services and remember the cross together. Oh, I love communion Sunday. The music minister stands in front and begins. “Luganda hymnals: page 108, Swahili hymnals: page 73, English hymnals: page 271” and we begin. It is beautiful chaos as we sing one melody in three different languages, proclaiming Jesus with one heart.

We sing “This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long,” and I am overwhelmed. Jesus truly is our all in all. When He gave up His life on the cross, the veil was torn and the gap was bridged and we were made whole. Jesus transcends every culture and language, HE is our heritage, HE is our story. The people filling this concrete building on a hill in Uganda are my family because of Jesus. We are only sojourners in this world, walking, one foot in front of the other into glory, when every knee will bow and we will be one with The Father forever and ever. This is my story.

Sarah and I laugh as cold drops of rain sting our faces on the boda ride home. I have two packages of bacon in my backpack, our offering to the brunch in which we’re about to partake. My beautiful friend, Milica, is leaving Uganda in a week. The nature of living in this city is friends leaving. It’s a sad thing, but some moments are too sweet to forget, sitting on our porch on a cool African night, sharing our souls over a plate of bread and cheese. Milica is a light.

Somehow five hours pass, sharing laughs and coffee and hearts. I am thankful. I’m thankful for friends, unconventional and new, different and the same. I’m thankful for deep communion, with The Father over bread and wine, and with friends, over pancakes and orange juice. I’m thankful for diversity, that we are all so very different, but in Christ we are one. I’m thankful for hymns in three languages, and one heart. I’m thankful for Jesus, that the chasm was filled and we can commune so deeply with Him.

Grace. Grace.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday: Significant

Today I have a 7:00 am Skype date with Presley and Ashley!

These girls are my tribe. I cannot speak highly enough of them. They love The Lord and love people so well. Praying with two of my best friends from oceans and time zones away is too beautiful to describe.

In desperate need of coffee, I drag myself to the kitchen and boil some water for the French press. Pushing the press thing down is one of the most fulfilling things in the world, am I right?! I love it!

Every Friday I read Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones, and pray these words over my lost friends.

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” -Ezekiel 37:4-5

Long sleeves on a Friday…there’s only one place I could be going.

As I walk down to the main road to catch a taxi to town, I lift my eyes just in time to see a purple petal fall from its tree ahead. I praise God for allowing me to be a part of this moment. He knew this would make me smile and consider the beauty in the seemingly insignificant , and so He let me see it. Isn’t God good like that? I believe He is highly involved in every single moment of our lives, even the ones that don’t seem to matter. It’s all part of the story He’s writing, and it all leads to His glory.

I climb into the back of the taxi and I’m overcome with relief that I didn’t get stuck in the seat where the conductor sits on you. I am not a fan of that seat. I greet the woman next to me, and quickly realize she’s in a hurry. I have never heard so many sassy tongue clicks in one hour. She is not happy with how often we’re stopping to pick up more passengers. 

We finally arrive in town, and I walk until I can find a boda who won’t charge a ridiculous amount. Here is the conversation I had (partially in Luganda…yeah!!!) with the boda man.

Me: I’m going to ______

Him: You give me 3000

Me: No, I have 1000

Him: That’s little money, at least add 1000. It’s very far.

Me: Ssebo, I can see the place from here. It’s not very far.

Him: You can see the place? Uh huh, where?

Me: Okay, it’s behind that building!

Him: You add.

Me: You want to charge me mzungu price. I don’t want.

Him: 2000, that is the price. That is the price for white people, for Bugandas, for Acholis, for Mtorros… (this part was all in Luganda! Score for understanding his sassy joke!!)

Me: (Laughing) Okay, we go.

After arriving at my destination, I meet up with some friends and practice greeting them in their traditional words, of “Peace be upon you.” We catch up and laugh as we wait for time to pass.

The next hour is spent praying Ezekiel 37 over a mass of women who are desperate for new life.

I grab a banana and some pumpkin seeds for lunch on my way to Namuwongo.

Silvester and I make the trek to Oliver’s house, Uniquely Woven contract in hand. They are knocking down all the homes within a certain distance of the railroad tracks in Namuwongo and displacing so many people, Oliver’s family included. Uniquely Woven is taking 8 months pregnant Oliver into our program and helping her move to a new home.

Now we head down the tracks to the bar where Sarah lives. Sarah and her six year old daughter will also be moving into the new home with Oliver. (For more information on how to help us provide a fresh start to these mamas, visit Official stuff like this is not my favorite, but luckily Silvester likes it. He explains the contract in Luganda, while I play with Sheila, Sarah’s daughter.

Sheila thinks I’m fluent in Luganda, and talks 100 mph. She doesn’t even realize I’m only responding to 1 out of 50 things she says.

Silvester and I spend the next two hours walking around trying to find this rental house we had been to once, and we were really lost. He asks me to carry his maize (basically crunchier corn on the cob!) in my backpack, and that is just really funny to me. I wish I had a picture of that corn on top of all my books.

At 6:00, I roll up to church on a boda for prayer night. I sit on a hard wooden pew and thank God for this place. Pastor Jameson calls the five of us to gather together to spend time in prayer before everyone else arrives. When Mama Pastor (how precious is it that they call Pastor Jameson’s wife Mama Pastor?) comes in, we are all served rice and cabbage, with tea and bananas. This is communion, I think. I am sitting in a concrete church building with strangers-become-family, sharing in a meal and prayer. In moments like these, my eyes are wide. I look at the bowl of cabbage in my lap, and my Ugandan family gathered around, and my mind races with all the seemingly insignificant moments that have brought me to this point. I think of how I was in second grade when some missionary I will probably never meet started Muyenga Baptist Church. I think of my thirteen year old self deciding I wanted to go to Uganda. I look at the church members around me, and wonder at their stories. Some of them are from other parts of Uganda, and some from Congo. I think of my sixteenth birthday and my brand new passport in hand. I look at Pastor Jameson and thank God for saving him not so many years ago, when he was in the midst of darkness. I think of being on the phone with my mom at eighteen, purchasing a ticket to Uganda. I look at The Lord and thank Him for the way He works all things together for good.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On the Daily // Thursday: SCORE!

I FaceTimed with my Dad and got both the “we need a blog post, baby” lecture and the “take more pictures” lecture once again. I have decided to make Dad happy with the ultimate Dad-pleasing thing…a blog post. Full of pictures. Every. Day. For a week! So at the end of each day, I’ll give my dad (and you, friend reading this, if you are still somehow interested in a blog post about what I did today!) a window into my world and all the tiny moments that often go unshared. Maybe it will make you want to move to Uganda! You can come stay with me!! :)

I wake up as usual to the sound of birds singing outside my window. Truly, if we don’t worship Him, the rocks will cry out. Or if we’re asleep in our beds and not worshiping Him, the birds will cry out. Very. Very. Loudly. They love Jesus. It’s 7:02, and I roll over and fall in and out of sleep for a few minutes before making the decision to be awake for real and start my day. I climb out of my bed and hang up my mosquito net, then grab my Bible and a pen and head to the porch. I make a stop in the kitchen for some tea (thank you, loving sister, who sent me a box of chai! Why is Kroger brand chai so good?) and a banana.

My mornings on this porch have been the deepest communion I’ve ever had with The Father. It’s a knowing in my gut that He is right here. His presence abides deeply with me, and not because of anything I’ve done. He is near simply because He is God and He loves me. I call on Him, and He’s already here. Right here. I breathe Him in. 

After getting dressed and packing up my backpack, I slope down (that’s a common term here, when directing people…”slope up that road,” “slope down that side”) the hill to the main road to catch a boda to Muyenga. The reason this blog post is called “Score” is partly because of what happened right here. I bargained and paid only 3,000 UGX as apposed my normal 4,000! My favorite moment is when the boda guy and I are arguing and he finally says “You sit.” Win! 

I arrive at Eve’s house and call out in Luganda a word that means “the people at home?” or something like that…and I don’t know how to spell it, or I would tell you. She laughs and invites me in. Eve is my very sweet friend who is helping me with all things Uniquely Woven. She is a precious mama, and loves Jesus with all her heart. I sit down on the mat and we talk. 

Please pray for Eve, as she has fallen very sick!

She graciously serves me African tea (my favorite!) and we wait for Silvester to arrive. It seems half of my life in Uganda is spent waiting. Today I don’t mind. But some days I do mind, and those are the times when I have to ask God to take over and win out over my flesh, or else I’ll become a grumpy, bitter missionary…and ain’t nobody wanna be that girl.

Silvester walks in and we begin our meeting. I thank God for Eve and Silvester, their love for The Lord, their passion for this ministry, and their friendship. I could not have come up with a better team. God has been so faithful to provide people to further this ministry, and it seems He started this work in all of our hearts long before we ever even knew each other. And that’s how I know it’s HIS dream, and not mine.

I watch the chickens peck around their food as we talk and plan. There is so much to do and think about, and we’re all so excited, but so overwhelmed at the same time. My favorite part of our meetings is always praying at the end. It is a beautiful thing for a group of friends to pour out their hearts before The Lord in one spirit.

Our meeting ends in a big Amen, and Silvester heads to Namuwongo slum to meet with one of our mamas. There are lots of things to sort out, and he is very good at humbly and gently finding out the truth in a tangle of lies.

I have a lunch date in Lugogo at Good African Coffee with some missionary girls I met a month ago at a women’s gathering. I arrive a bit early, so I spend thirty minutes or so walking around Game. Game is the South African version of Walmart. They literally sell Great Value brand stuff! Isn’t that so fun? And here comes the second reason this blog post is called “SCORE!” I found these tiny bags of almonds on clearance for 1,000 UGX! Seriously! I’ve seen almonds sold here for 50,000 UGX before! Score!

I meet up with the girls for lunch and hear all about their ministry and how they’re settling in to Uganda. They are both so sweet, and I’m very thankful for every friend I make here. It is beautiful thing to sit with someone and realize you are sharing in the same joys and struggles. The phrase “me too!” is so sweet to my ears.

I hop on a boda and come home in the chilly post-rain air of the afternoon and meet again with Silvester to hear about his meeting and catch up on some Uniquely Woven administrative stuff. That is not my favorite part of ministry. I thank him for all his hard work, and the day is done!

With a little bit of daylight left, I decide to go for a walk around the neighborhood. I greet everyone I see in Luganda and love to hear their reactions. There’s a sound of surprise that goes something like “eh-eh!” Priceless. 

I didn’t take my camera with me, but please believe me that I saw the coolest worm ever on my way home. It had a yellow body with red hair (…do worms have hair?) and it was just really fun.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound to you Americans like enough to fill up a whole day. Life just takes a long time here. If I go to the grocery store and the ATM and the post office all in one day, I feel like superwoman. Things move at molasses pace, and I am learning to be okay with that. Jesus is in the slow and steady. He is in the in-between, the taxi rides, the waiting for who-knows-what. When I allow myself to be okay with the slowness, I can sense Him near. God doesn’t reserve deep intimacy with Him for just “quiet time” in the morning. He is with me kneeling on a dirt road, noticing the cool worm, or rejoicing over clearance almonds. When I live in the deep breath of sensing Him near, when I see the divine in the mundane, I am worshiping. 

Catch ya tomorrow! Who knows what it might hold? :)