Saturday, December 20, 2008
Military Offensive risks the lives of child soldiers
Our position is that while it would be great is Kony got captured or assasinated, it is not worth the cost of losing one more young woman, child, or baby in this horrible war. We can't imagine our house without their faces and we don't want to imagine the countless others out there caught in the crossfire in an effort to "save" them.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
BUY A BIKE FOR A GIRL THIS CHRISTMAS
and bring a smile to her face.
This bike will help
Josephine get to vocational training school where she can accomplish her dream of catering and learn skills to become
There are many more like her. Do it in honor of a friend or family member this Christmas instead of buying them another pair of socks. :)
Make an online donation of $95 at Zion Project and put "bike" in the note
Or send a check to Zion Project
P.O. Box 321
Quinque, VA 22965
("bike" in memo)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A Thankful Heart
It's so hot in Gulu that I feel I might actually be losing brain functionality. Dry season. In Africa. Winds like the Santa Ana’s sweep through the town scattering dust into people's eyes. Nothing like a hot Thanksgiving in November to make you feel normal.
It's dry and it's dusty, but it doesn't hinder our progress.
We have a lot to be thankful for. In just the last four months…
*We've taken in 11 girls and 13 children from the camps into a home where they receive safety, love, a family, food, counseling, discipleship, life skills, parenting skills, medical care, and soon…vocational training
*Began a child mother support group in Awer IDP camp
*Girls and their babies received medical care that could have otherwise been life-threatening
*Girls got their feet washed and beautiful painted toes
*5 girls started a friendship with Jesus
*10 girls beamed after baking ginger cake
*Janet stopped having nightmares
*Stella forgave her father who abandoned her
*Josephine was healed of a blood disease
In the last four months I’ve…
*Killed about 1,000 spiders…two which were enormous and I don’t want to talk about
*Discovered that mice actually talk to each other because they live in my closet
*Been peed on 5 times
*Eaten about 20 kilograms of rice
*Painted a house
*Been called “mono” about 1.7 million times
*Gotten dirt on my face to the point that I looked like I had a really bad spray tan more times than I can count
*Wanted to throw about 20 computers because of the internet
*Done about 100 doctors visits. I shudder to think a child can actually die here of malaria—a preventable, treatable disease
*Learned about 4 more Acholi words my favorite which is "Amari"---"I love you"
*Loved when it hurt
*Been thankful for friends who listen when you need to complain
*Laughed harder than I can ever remember laughing
*Never felt so at peace that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be
We had a scare this week. Florence, our pregnant mama, was leaking amniotic fluid and we thought she was going into early labor. We took her to Lachor hospital where we waited for hours to be seen. It ended up that the baby just needed to be turned but she had to stay there for a few days on bed rest. We brought her food and everything she needed, but there was a misunderstanding on the day she was released. So poor Florence waited for us, and when we didn’t come her heart that has endured so much rejection and abandonment, resorted to anger. Such a normal, human response. We called to check on her and she said she was going back to Awer because we didn’t love her. I was crushed and told her to stay and that we were coming for her. But what I love most about this story is that Stella, one of my other girls---a real leader in our house---said she was going with me because she wasn’t willing to lose one of our family. And I realized that a month ago these girls lived their lives on their own, used to pain, used to disappointment, but now they’ve become a part of something they are willing to fight for. Something they love. So we hopped on boda’s at night and made the dusty ride at dusk to Lachor which is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but we were women on a mission. As I sat on the boda praying that God would heal Florence’s heart and that she would forgive us, God reminded me of the story of the lost sheep.
"If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away will he not leave
the ninety-nine on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if
he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one than all the
others who did not wander off." Mt 18:12-13
And He told me that the way I would drop anything to rush to Florence at the thought of losing her, is the same way He feels about us. I wanted to cry on the boda but I thought it would just make the dust stick to my face even worse. When I saw Florence, I threw my arms around her and told her sorry over and over and she held onto me and smiled.
The happy ending to this story is that Florence is home and she’s forgiven us. Baby is fine. And by Christmas I hope to be holding a tiny, Acholi baby in my arms. We have a lot to be thankful for.
We mess up. We drop the ball. Sometimes we're running after that one who is lost. And sometimes we’re the wandering sheep. But we have to love enough that we'd be willing to run after that one. That one who is wounded. That one who is hurting. We have to be willing to drop everything for that one. And somewhere inside of us, believe that God would do the same for us. Sometimes, we still feel a little lost. But we are still believing.
(from my friend Lee who came to visit while we were handing out supplies
to the girls I brought back from the US)
Friday, November 21, 2008
A month ago they did not smile.
Now, everywhere the sound of laughter and children showing off their teeth.
The same children who a month ago would cry in their mother's lap.
Now they play. Like normal kids. Like our kids. They build blocks and race cars.
A month ago they did not dream.
Now they sit around in circles and talk about going back to school or learning to do catering to continue the baking skills they've learned at our house (not from me, I know that would be too much of a miracle ! :)
Dream and drum in the morning.
Dream and go to bed with bellies full.
Dream and love on their children.
Dream without fear.
Today in counseling class Janet said she no longer fears closing her eyes at night because if she has a nightmare she uses the word of God and it goes away. Linda was afraid of being in groups of people, but isn't anymore. Josephine was afraid of singing in front of others, but now can sing with a smile.
A group called Pray With Africa came to visit and asked the girls their prayer requests. I was most touched by Pamela, my little 16 year old who was raped last year....she asked them to pray for me. I wanted to just ball right there, but I kept it mostly together.
I watch how proud they are to show me they can make cookies or the new stitch they've learned, or how our house is now decorated with their beautiful artistry.
Right now they are laughing in the kitchen making dinner.
It's the most beautiful sound in the world.
There are still things--still pregnant bellies and no fathers, still concerns about a good man ever coming into their life, still fears about there not being money to send them to school. There is still lizard poop on my bed, and computers and cameras that are stolen and sometimes the ants that crawl on me in the middle of the night. There are still worries at what I will not be able to give them for lack of resources.
But we are together.
Josephine, Florence, and Linda have all received Jesus now. And the girls make fun of me because when I try to say "What is wrong?" in Acholi it comes out, "You are squatting badly," just because I can't make the sound from the back of my throat.
But we laugh and I don't care that I'll probably never be fluent. Wajule. Welcome to our home.
And even though I still fall into bed at night sometimes exhausted and my prayers are usually short sentences I whisper under my breath for them during the day---I fall asleep with a smile because this life is a breathed prayer, an answer to prayer, a prayer God dreamed in my memory. And it's come true.
Disclaimer: there will probably be fewer pictures for at least a month. Camera and computer stolen. Crushed. But surprisingly mitigated by an armful of screaming girls and hugs I received upon my arrival back home.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I watched two grown black men cry last night. And it was beautiful. Last night, the world was part of something historic and whether you are white, black, Republican or Democrat, it doesn't really matter. Last night, we proved to the world that the barriers of our skin are dissolving. It was a promise. A promise for a continent that I love that change is possible. People were holding each other over the noise of people shouting and shushing and for a moment I sensed the unity that the crowds must have felt listening to Dr. Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. There was love in that room. Love and a promise. And somewhere inside of us we are finding the strength to believe in it again. To believe that Africa is not less-than and that for a moment, and maybe in time, we can be one. To believe that girls who are raped and girls who have killed can start over. To believe that God will not leave us in our mess for long and that love really can change the world. To believe again.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Top Things I Miss about Uganda:
- The sound of my girls laughing in the kitchen
- Going home to a place that is actually my own
- Hearing the girls say, "Welcome back," as if I'd been gone for days
- Dancing around with the drums in the morning
- Baking ginger cake in the afternoons
- The way rice and beans does not mess up my stomach as much as Western processed food (hello Pepto Bismol)
- The rainstorms in Gulu
- Being on the back of a boda boda racing through the streets
- Being on the back of a boda boda in a rainstorm :)
- Everything raw and real and closer to the truth of life than I've ever felt
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can try calling me at 540-908-9301
Monday, October 20, 2008
Very rarely do dreams actually come true. So when they happen we have to be careful to stop for a moment, breathe in, and give thanks for the miracle of our lives aligning with our purpose. This has been a journey of deep hope and deep disappointments. A journey of love. One that is unending and unrepentant in what it asks of us. But today, the dream became a reality, the thing that I hoped for, became a part of my life.
Today we danced to a drumbeat. In our home, we danced and we laughed and I realized it was actually happening. Today I watched them grow young again. And all the fights with the contractor over why I have two shower heads and no hot water, and all the boda boda rides in the mud, and all the times I cried at what I could not give them when they told me of their pain....it all seemed worth it. I'd do it all over again, a hundred times.
I watch Janet shaking her hand-made shaker---a girl whose chest was crushed in by being stepped on over and over again by rebels....and I cannot believe we have come this far. Now, we are not just surviving, but we are beginning to live.
Pamela leads us in the songs and just when we think we are finished, she begins another...she doesn't want to stop. I am not forcing them to sing, not forcing them to be happy for me, the white person. Here, we are just a family and we are happy because for the first time we have hope.
Our house is a bustle of activity. With six girls and eight children inside and 2 women and 6 kids outside....we're like the African version of the Brady Bunch. With much less pig tails. The girls are teaching me to cook things I never wanted to learn to cook, and they show me their sewing skills Mama Shekinah has just taught them, so proudly that I want to start crying all over again.
All in all, we are loving 10 girls and 12 children day in and day out and it doesn't seem like a very big start, but for me, and for us, its all that matters. One life at a time....going deep with a few and I couldn't be happier than if we had a center with a thousand girls. I was born to do this.
So when the babies cry at night, I just smile because I'm happy the house is full.
I'm not a special person. I'm very flawed and yet I realized what a big difference it makes when one person finds their purpose and follows it without giving up. And even for those of us who don't know what our purpose is...we just start by loving someone and slowly, a life changes. What greater legacy to leave....
Jesus started with 12. I've got 10. But I think its a pretty good start. Me not being the son of God and everything.
For now I've gotta run home for lunch before class starts. I've never been happier to say that.
So for all the cynics, believe me, I understand...
but don't give up.
When it comes, and it will come, its what you dreamed before birth...what you've been waiting for all this time, without settling even when it was hard not to settle. It may never be perfect, but it can be close. So be brave. And fight for it.
Here, these girls are fighting for their future. I am too.
So believe in us. And believe in yourself.
Maybe someday we'll be together teaching each other about what can happen when the world is brave enough to hope.
Note: Big thanks to Kelli Brazzel for coming over and doing some medical treatment for our girls. If you're interested in volunteering contact email@example.com
Note: I'm going to be in the States in Charlottesville and DC for two weeks due to a family emergency...until Nov 13 and am looking so forward to seeing family and friends. Please contact me via email during that time if you want to get in touch with me.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Here, they do not cry. But I watch an Acholi girl cry. I think in the end, what scares her most, what scares all of them, all of us, most, is being alone. I think of her---being left. They promised to stay, but left. I think of the moment she knew she was pregnant and how a place inside her wanted to die. Not wanted. That belly, a scarlet letter. And home is now a place of disapproving looks and stares.
I think of Pamela, or Irene, or Beatrice….who didn’t have a choice.
I think of what it would be like to give birth alone. To know, that this world is just something to be faced—in loneliness.
On her own.
And I think for a minute, I know what that feels like.
Just because they are Acholi, just because they are strong and they’ve learned to be strong, doesn’t mean they still don’t bleed.
Sometimes life is not kind to us. But what they learn here is that still, they must make a way. Here, only the strong survive.
But it costs something. That bravery, to get up---try to find some work, try to find food for the baby, try to move, try to breathe.
In the surviving, the loss of heart. The loss of hope for tenderness or the putting back together of dismantled dreams.
In our child mother group on Thursday we talked of strengthening ourselves in God, of putting faith in the promise, even though we can’t see how. We spoke of being thankful for what we have in the midst of our lack. Some said they are thankful for our time together. And I cannot see it, cannot see how sitting in a circle for a few hours and sharing, can help them in the desperateness of their situations. Most days, I feel like I’m failing. And yet…I keep going. And they keep coming and I find that most times when I’m talking to them, I’m also talking to myself something my soul needs to hear.
In one week we move in together. The toilet is finally in the house. The walls look more white than brown. The oven has been bought. The beds are almost done being made. Soon, we’ll hang curtains and make it look like a home. And I’m scared to death as we embark on this—the passage into becoming a family. But as much as they might need this…I’m realizing I need it too. To believe for them, and myself, that some dreams come true.
We do not need another program, another handout, another promise, another one who will not stay. We do not need charity. We need love. We need the kind that God gives, in constancy, in excess. So that maybe someday we’ll find we are not just moving, not just breathing, but that somewhere along the line, we recovered our hearts.
Monday, September 15, 2008
"Home is where one starts from….
In my end is my beginning." -T. S. Eliot-
The love of God is such that when we lay something down He is faithful to give us something better than we thought possible.
For the past week my prayer has been God—your will…(but if I can put a special request in…..)I’d sure love to have my own space. After close to 5 months of looking much like a pack mule melting in the midday sun and staying in rooms where I dig through my exploding suitcases looking for that one thing I’m almost positive I packed…I’m ready to put down some roots.
It’s more than the Virginia Wolfe urge to have a place to call my own---it’s about beginning…beginning to make a home, to create a safe atmosphere to bring in girls and children into a family. The family is the most underutilized, taken advantage of, agent of transformation in our society. There comes a point when you’ve done the research, you know the needs, you’ve visited the programs, you’ve been overwhelmed, you’ve been intimidated, you’ve cried, you’ve died, you’ve prayed and you just have to say…
Now is the time.
I can’t spend my life in fear of beginning because I’m looking around and seeing everyone do it bigger or better, with much more money, or with better hair :)
God gives you a burden for a reason though you may not understand all the intricacies of why it’s not better done by someone else. The answer has something to do with the fact that no one else is you. No one else is me. Your giftings, your love, yourself…its what you bring to the table. I’m ready to bring it…
So why the new-found confidence…
I’m pretty sure I saw God move heaven and earth for me.
Day One: I pray
Day Two: Prayer gets answered/the impossible happens
I was given the number of a pastor who just happens to have a place just up for rent. Now, let me explain the rarity of this. Gulu has become a Mecca for huge NGO's who like to drive around their Land rovers and college students who watched Invisible Children and think going to Gulu would be cool. Not only is it more expensive than Kampala (the capital) but its getting to be just as crowded which makes finding a place to live or do ministry pretty much impossible, even though the needs are still great.
I call the guy up on a whim and he says "You come now now." So I go. Now. Now.
I’m praying as the boda boda winds his way through the town, past Peche stadium, on the red dirt roads and I feel I hear God say, "When you see it, you’ll know." Sounds very "if you build it, they will come…" incomprehensible eeriness, but I’m trying to trust, so I just say "ok God" thinking I may have just found the last reasonably priced mansion in Acholi land.
I gotta be honest, she ain’t much to look at. But there are about four huts to her left that make her a beauty. Turns out, a group of child mothers affected by the war and infected with HIV live there on the compound. The youngest is 15, and between the 3 of them they have about 7-8 children. The landlord tells me if I want them to move he can ask them, but he had let them stay there because they had no other place to go. I just start laughing and I’m like, no no, they can stay, I want them to stay (instant ministry 101) and then tell him my vision. He tells me he was just about to rent the place that morning but felt like God didn’t want him to yet because he wanted the house to be used for ministry. He is relieved because if someone else had rented they would have made them move. I go inside and notice another funny God thing that just makes you realize how intimately God knows you and cares---the walls are half-painted turquoise…my favorite color.
There’s even some space to build more huts next to the avocado trees.
She’s a fixer-upper, my house, but she’s mine and she’s the beginning of something new…something with a lot of laughter and a lot of love---and pancakes. And maybe some chocolate chip cookies. (mm, Mom, Nestle, send ‘em)
I go back home that night too afraid to just jump on my God-send without serious prayer and I open to this verse:
"The Lord your God has given you this land to take possession of it." Deut 3:18
And then because God knows I’m a skeptic…this one:
"You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you." Deut 11:18
And I realize God wasn’t up there in the clouds wringing His hands about where I was going to live….everything had a perfect plan and a perfect timing. And now is the time to take possession of the land, of the dream, of the future.
It will for sure go down in history as my quickest answered prayer.
And I’m not complaining.
Note: All you guys and gals who secretly love getting dirty and banging things with a hammer---you know from back in your Habitat for Humanity days….Karibu---you are welcome. It’s about $3,000 for a wall and gate for security and well it would be nice to have something in the kitchen other than just the kitchen sink. :)
Sunday, September 07, 2008
--S. African from Robin Island—
"Sometimes the king makes you wait, just to purify the outcome, so that all will be birthed through Him." -Finding Favor with the King-
Sometimes I wonder how Joshua must have felt to have journeyed through the desert to reach the promised land, only to find it inhabited by someone else. How did he feel when Moses told him "Be strong and courageous for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them and I myself will be with you." (Deut. 31:23) Did he want to laugh? Or run away? Did he think God heartless to give him an impossible task? Why did God tell him five times "do not be discouraged" Was it because He knew that the natural circumstances would overwhelm him?
And yet of all the heroes of faith, it is Joshua who does not falter.
But I wonder what was going on, on the inside, when he saw the armies, when he saw the walls of Jericho, when he looked into the eyes of children he was supposed to protect. How much doubt did he have when God asked him not to go with a sword, but with singing? I see him out there on the wide plains having a crisis of faith.
What kind of strength did it take to choose to believe…
Did we think faith could be had without a fight? Or trust given without a cost?
What kind of hope in God does it take for a woman with AIDS who walks with a limp to stand up and say, "Some answered prayers come slowly."
Here we are on the edge of the Jordan. Here we are staring up at the stark walls of Jericho. Before the waters part, before the breakthrough. And the question is there—needling underneath skin, speaking in the dark before sleep:
What will you choose to believe?
I am not as brave as Joshua. My wrestling comes in waves and in weeks, ceilings and stares and a host of unanswered questions. I watch Plan A and Plan B circle down the toilet, along with backup Plan C. I explain to God about how much easier my life would be if He would just let me keep one of my strategies. I complain about how I’m responsible for this thing and people are depending on me or about how nervous people get when things are out of control. No one wants to put their faith in a homeless, suitcase laden girl with a business plan that keeps getting thrown out the window.
It's not a long conversation.
Out here there are no pat answers. Out here trust is one un-illuminated footstep at a time on a red-dirt road full of potholes. We walk by the halos of candles in the dark.
Out here there is worship to ward off despair.
And a lot of laying down.
Our agendas, our plans, our swords.
Our self-sufficiency we wish to project to the world.
And probably our privilege to write the newsletters.
In the unknowing, before the walls come down---something is birthed.
Tenacious and clinging.
And I think it makes God smile---this thing--
that looks a lot like faith.
"Then the Lord said: You did not do it with your own sword and bow.
So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant…
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve." Joshua 24:13, 15
Disclaimer: For you worriers---Don't worry I do have a place to sleep :) And I haven't lost my passion or my mind! And all is not lost. I'm connecting and partnering up with other organizations that have started working with child mothers since I was last here. Getting the lay of the land before I figure what to build. Realizing God's plan is often different than our own.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
"The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert…See I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father." Jeremiah 31:2
Uganda sits in the heart of Africa. And this place, Gulu, means "heaven." These last few days I have seen God’s prophetic destiny for Uganda begin to be fulfilled. Those of us who have loved and lived in Uganda have felt for a long time now that we were preparing for revival in this place and that what would happen here would touch the whole world. Just as the heart pumps blood to the whole body, so Uganda will pulse out living water to the nations, streams of life for healing. We are beginning to seeing God touch down on earth. At night on the fields of Kaunda Grounds, where Todd Bentley’s team from Fresh Fire speaks from the stage of the destiny of this place…it feels like the fourth of July—that energy, that expectancy, that celebration of something you’ve been waiting for about to break forth from the sky. The Kingdom of God on earth—almost heaven.
Some of you may not believe in angels and demons. Some of you may not believe in miracles. I admit, I have a hard time believing myself. I always want proof. I want to know that God’s power has actually changed a life. I’m not interested in healings or signs and wonders for the sake of talking about them---I really want to see a life transformed, a heart healed, an outward manifestation of an inward change.
Before I came back home to Gulu, when I was with Heidi Baker’s ministry in Mozambique, I felt God say to me that when I got to Uganda I would begin to see the miracles I had so longed to see. He said that when I entered this place, the authority I carry because of my calling here would bring a greater anointing than what I felt even with some of the greatest ministers of all time. This is the life I have been longing to live—the gospel walked out like in the days of Acts where the blind saw, the deaf heard, and the mad people were freed from spirits of insanity.
I have seen. And it is beautiful.
I’ve been moving around with a team of Ugandan and mzungu friends from Mbale in Eastern Uganda. They came to get the impartation to bring back with them to their homes. Every day, it seems those who need prayer just find us. First, a woman who was crazy because she is possessed by demons sat behind us in church and she was laughing, as though mocking God. We followed her out and started talking with her and praying for her. Immediately the demons began manifesting. You could actually see the difference in her as they would come up or as she would come up—almost like watching someone with multiple personalities. We led her to faith in Jesus, which took a while because she couldn’t form the words because of the demonic power, but finally we were able to cast them out—firmly, but without the shouting and ridiculous display you see depicted in movies. Afterwards, there was such a change in her---she was no longer angry and antagonistic. We hugged her and she hugged us for a long time and you could feel that she just wanted love because she had experienced so much rejection within the church. Later she came to stand beside me in church with her arm around me and we worshiped together. The power of God was so strong I just felt like weeping. We bought her a bible and some new clothes and spoke to the church about caring for her and left with the lightness of knowing that God had freed someone from their prison.
I didn’t know when I began this dream of wanting to help girl soldiers, that it would lead me down this path where I actually get to witness the power of God. What I’ve realized though is that because of the pain that has happened in this place, Satan has taken up residence in so many lives and they need that deliverance along with that love to complete the work of inner healing. A life cannot change if a heart doesn’t change. I realize that this is much bigger than just trauma counseling or living in a safe home—what God is longing to see is people set free—in every way---from sickness and disease, to wounds of the heart so that we can be the true church. And I am getting to be a part of that. It is a dream come true.
I want to share one more story that touched me deeply. I’ve seen things the past few days I’ve never witnessed before. We prayed for a mute man who began to speak. It was amazing, but I wanted more….and God answered my prayer and I saw a transformed life.
Picture a young little chubby guy in a crowd of people at a crusade where he should be safe from ridicule. They say he is a mad person and that his brother is mad too. Probably a curse. The kids taunt him so he chases them with a stick and running and screaming erupts in the crowd. We see the pandemonium because it is close to us and we see him yelling at another boy, angry and belligerent. We make our way over to him and speak kindly, all the while praying and speaking peace over him. He calms, even though he stares straight ahead. We tell him we want to help him and ask if he wants us too. He nods so we tell him we want to fight the devil inside of him that causes these things and ask him to help us. He gives his life to Jesus and we begin to put our hands on his shoulders and pray for him. He begins to shake and breathe out the spirits and the power of God falls so strongly on him that he begins to close his eyes and fall backwards so we lay him gently on the ground. Later we hug him and he looks like he is going to cry as his arms shoot up towards heaven in worship to God. I have never seen anything like that---where the glory of God falls so strongly that the person cannot keep their arms down. I am singing to him and he looks at me and begins to sing with me as we rock him in the love of God. He is so full of the love of God that when it is over he hugs all of us and even hugs a man who he was angry at before. I can feel God’s compassion for him so much that I begin to cry. There, with thousands of people around us, we stand in a circle hugging this boy---this boy who has been rejected and is now loved, who was lost and is now found, safe in the arms of the Father.
And I feel we are a part of that heaven we so long for.
From the stage we hear the cry, "Uganda will lead one of the greatest revivals of our time." And I know that it is true.
And I know it is only a matter of time before the wounded will be held, before the displaced will return home---not just to their own land, but to the Father’s heart.
"They will be like a well-watered garden and they will sorrow no more…
So there is hope for your future,
Your children will return to their own land." Jeremiah 31:17
As for me…I am alone again but well. I’ll be serving with and alongside Favor of God while seeking God for strategy in how to build Zion Project.
But I am already seeing things unfold…
A possibility of moving in with a woman, "Mama Shekinah," who is taking in child mothers from the war into her home to do inner healing. Our dreams are so aligned so we are just praying through what God wants to do.
She is an amazing woman—she is from Paraguay and two years ago she was traveling with her husband from Uganda up to Sudan when their car was ambushed and he was killed by a group of child soldiers. Mama Shekinah remembers looking up into the eyes of one of the children and realizing it was a girl and seeing the hurt and emptiness in her eyes. And God spoke to her as she held her dying husband in her arms and said she had a choice---she could forgive or she would forever carry this wound. In that moment…she forgave and she knew she would come back to Uganda to help these girls. We call her Mama Shekinah because when her husband was killed she was pregnant with their first child. That little girl is now two years old and her name is Shekinah—"glory."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Beauty in the Slum
I awake to a bright dawn in Mbale (ok maybe not as early as dawn :) and then I spend a few lovely hours being with God reading and journaling. I am incredibly spoiled. I am loving this brief time of rest after the intensity of Mozambique and before the craziness of Gulu. I wonder how often we allow ourselves the pleasure of being a minister to God versus a minister to the world or how often we just settle into a feeling of complete acceptance without having to DO anything.
"A friend of God enjoys the favor and acceptance they already have and uses it to spend time with Him." -Bill Johnson-
As much as we might think this is laziness...waiting on God is an active thing, it is a choice and it is one that costs us something—mostly the approving gaze of the world. How much do we operate out of the fear of man and what man thinks vs caring what God thinks. What is HE after in our souls? Does He want our offerings of all that we “do for Him” or does He just want us. All of us.
I woke up yesterday and opened to this verse: "But the King (David) replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it (the threshing floor to build an altar to God) for I will not sacrifice to the Lord God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and he built an altar to the Lord there. Then, the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land and the plague on Israel stopped." (2 Samuel 24:24)
There is a slum here called Namatala.
Like most slums, the poorest of the poor live here. They have little access to education for their children, to medicine, to clean water...to hope. Many will live and die in this place and will leave their children to do the same. A few years ago JENGA started coming in and offering basic necessities for life along with the love of God, but gradually it has grown into a spiritual spring in the desert. Last night I went to a humble worship service on a Wednesday night where the voices of young children are heard leading songs to God. Their voices are strong and brave against the thick darkness of a night without stars or power. They lead the few adults there into a clearing of joy. They are honored, to have us, the mzungus, come to their service, but I am more moved to be there because I can actually feel the touch of God when they dance.
And I realized that it costs something. It costs to have joy in the face of no school fees for school, a parent in the hospital, a future that often looks bleak. It costs to have faith amidst despair. Belief in the middle of deep personal needs unmet. In their voices, the offering. In their rejoicing, a laying down of their life. In their dance, a whirlwind of hope...and God’s pleasure. Because they get it. They get that this is what brings a smile to His face.
This place has been prophecied to bring revival to the whole of Uganda. This tiny village of cracked walls and torn clothing. This place where God will use the weak things of the world to shame the wise.
I go back home and wonder what have I given God lately that cost me something?
How much do I give to him that which actually requires no change on my part. How many pieces of my life will I lay down only to cling to the part most precious to me.
This is where the real faith begins...
This is the setting for the extraordinary...
This is the beginning of answered prayer.
My whole life...an offering.
A season of springs.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I just want to attest to the amazing goodness of God as He answers prayer and how much He cares about each of His children.
I was writing emails to contact some of my friends about the current dire situation of the orphans I care for here in Uganda (see most recent blog)
and I just received an email from a dear friend and prayer partner who has agreed to pay off the debt on the home so they won't be evicted...which is nearing $900.00. I just want to say thank you to God and to those of you who listen to His voice and respond with such love and generosity. It truly is beautiful.
If you would like to give in some way towards their school fees for education or send a note to them you can send to Zion Project ("orphans" in memo)
P.O. Box 321
Quinque, VA 22965
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me....I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these of mine, you did for me." -Jesus, Mt. 25:35-
(me and mary)
2006 was a year that changed my life. Among those changes was falling in love with a group of 7 orphans in Kampala, Uganda. There are thousands of kids who need love in Uganda, but you cannot really choose whom you love or understand why God brings certain ones to you. When I met them, they were basically a child headed household. Seven orphans as a result of war in Kenya years ago. An American missionary found them all as babies, many of them she nursed back to health, and most of them were close to dying when she took them in. When she moved to kampala she brought them with her, so now they live in a small house but they have no family or friends here. The woman is nearing 70 and she works 3 jobs in the states to support them and put them through school. She does the best she can, but there are always more needs. The greatest is that they need someone to love and mother them on a consistent basis. Since I've known them they've gone through 5 caretakers and none of them loves them like a mother would. Every time I am back in Uganda I bring clothes and things for them and stay with them and love on them, but it isn't enough. They really are special children---they love Jesus and are so smart and I just feel there is a real purpose and call on their lives, that I need to nurture.
This last time I found them in the house and they had completely run out of food and were about to be evicted from their home on the 15th of this month. God's timing really is perfect. I had to pay and speak with the landlord because it was a desperate situation. Because of the fact that they are Kenyan, most Ugandans here will not help them so they would most likely be on the streets. They really only have each other. I have written about them here on my blog in the past and posted pictures, especially of little Mary, who is the baby, and is really attached to me. She says she doesn't care if she has to switch schools as long as she can be with me. She says she'll move to Gulu. Of course it just breaks my heart because I would so love to have them all with me.
I know my calling is the north and to the child mothers up there, but I also know that God brought these little ones into my path for a reason. And this last time, I felt something click---I had the kids spending the night with me...slumber party :) And I was making them food and we were eating together and laughing, and I literally felt---this is what i was made to do--to mother and love them. They are my babies. If I could, I would completely adopt them all...I just don't know if its possible....but I want it so badly. Or at least to have them close to me and find someone trustworthy to be a mother to them and really mentor them. I know having 7 kids would be a pretty crazy life, but then again, I've never really been normal :)
Mary drew me a picture of her and I holding hands and she wrote: "I dreamt when you came you told me to pack my bags because I was going to America with you to be a singer. I was so surprised and happy but when I woke up I got sad because it was just a dream. But I know some dreams can come true. So I trust God and I be waiting for you."
I am dreaming too.
I am going to be looking for sponsors to sponsor them monthly....since they are war affected kids and are vulnerable (especially the girls---they could be so violated if they ended up on the streets and I can't let that happen)
So pray for ways that we might be able to support them. Their housing alone is over $150 a month and that's not including school fees. And they were almost evicted because they are 1.3 million shillings in debt...which is around $900. We need to pay that off so they can stay at that house....even if I move them, it must be paid or the police will come after them. So pray for God's provision.
P.O. Box 321
Quinque, VA 22965
(write "orphans" in the memo)
or make a donation online at http://www.zionproject.org
("orphans" in the notes)
I also did a special project with my elementary school where I was teaching where the kids all wrote letters and sent some special items over to the kids, and the kids just loved it and wrote them back. It was really precious. So any special notes or drawings you'd like to send can be sent to the same address above. Their names are Samuel, Timothy, Samson, Grace, Rachel, Sara and Mary. Be praying for us.
With lots of love from Uganda,
Monday, August 04, 2008
Three months in Mozambique it seems passed by in a flicker. I thought it would be longer or that I would be more ready or feel more grown up. But I know I am different from the girl who left Uganda with a burden, with something that would not let go. I know she is still in there somewhere wanting to do everything her own way, on her own. But she has changed too. There is a surrender here. A relenting. There is a reliance, but not on anything here on earth. It is different than giving up. It is a release into God’s hands. Nothing is forced here. I am most myself. I am most in my element. And the future is simply something to step into with gladness.
The things I felt, the things I experienced in Mozambique, the lives I saw transformed with a touch of tenderness—these things build on each other within me and make me who I am. The drunk man who wept at a hug and the simple words that God loves him. Gaining the understanding that it is worth it to stop for each individual person and love them the way they need to be loved. But mostly coming into the sweet reality that despite all our efforts, despite all our do-gooding and our missions projects, despite all our tramping around the globe and giving up hot showers, in the end, it is about resting in the secret place with God; the place where He speaks to us and we listen, the place where we love Him not with our works but with our whole bodies, with our whole souls. When I first started Zion Project, I had such a burden, such an intensity, that I worked long hours and stressed about the details, and got consumed with the dream and consumed with making it happen. If I learned nothing else in Pemba, its that God does not give us dreams so that we labor without resting or labor without being filled up with love again so we have something to give. God gives us dreams and then lets us come to the end of ourselves. Because some of us are stubborn and learn the hard way. :)
But there is no glory in helping people without love. And without God, everyone becomes a cynic. Because people are not here to bend to our will. And we have to love them anyway. In spite of. Without love, our best intentions are simply the road to a place we never wanted to go.
So I am home. And as usual, I do not have big plans or big strategies. I am just a follower of God and often that means the way to get to the place promised, is unknown. I was supposed to go to Sudan with IRIS, but God had other plans, so I’ll be up in Gulu by the first week of September meeting up with Todd Bentley’s team there.
I’ve had the privilege the last week of moving with Stacey Campbell’s team to mobilize for The CALL to prayer which will happen in Kenya this year on December 6th. I am amazed how God is bringing together the body of Christ across all walks of life to prepare for revival. He is speaking the same words only to different people. It is so funny how as people from the West we think we have great ideas, only to discover that Africans have been doing those same things for a long time. We met with an Intercessors for Uganda team and the words God has given them for this country are the same words we have had for her future and they have been praying for years--even through the Idia Amin regime and it was their prayers that moved him out of power.
God is raising up leaders in Uganda who have integrity and He is going to make Africa into a giving continent. Not one that is dependent on receiving aid, but a continent that gives not only in resources, but in spiritual wealth. God is marrying together the streams of prayer intercession and missions so that one cannot move without the other. And we are a part of preparing Uganda for the great change that is coming. I truly believe Uganda will be transformed and that testimony will motivate even the church in America to be changed. But revival cannot come if we are not ready. I believe I’ll be a part of coming alongside our Ugandan brothers and sisters to build up houses of prayer intercession and discipleship that will not only birth revival but will receive those who need to be loved and mentored. Prayer is the engine room for all the amazing transformation I long to see in the lives of young women in northern Uganda. I am excited to get back up to Gulu to see the girls and begin strategizing for the future. But I really feel it is no longer my plans. I have learned so much from watching Heidi Baker in Mozambique, that it is really about hearing the voice of God and doing that thing and seeing what is good news to that one person---what do they want and need? How can I be Jesus to them?
Thursday, July 31, 2008
More updates soon! I'm ministering with Shara from IRIS and Stacey Campbell for the CALL. Two amazing women and I am just honored to be traveling with them, just praying into all God has for the future of Uganda.
New digits: 011 (256) 773875545
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I had an image. An image of a woman naked in the desert, bruised and bleeding. Like Elisa, whose body had been used, who had been chained in a chicken coop, like her, this woman was hardened and ashamed. But desperate. And I saw Jesus come and take her in His arms and wrap a white blanket around her that billowed in the wind. I saw Him draw her to the warmth of a fire and cook dinner for her underneath the moon’s light. I saw her leaning on him, her head tucked up under his chin as he led her out of the desert at sunrise.
They say the majority of our self image is formed in pregnancy up to the age of three. They say most of our issues come from that place. By the age of fifteen, 75% of the way we view ourselves has been formed.
I do not know what wrote itself on our souls. I do not know what taught us to believe we weren’t worthy. I do not know the memories in our eye as a child that made us believe we are alone. I do not know what was spoken over you before birth.
I do not understand why people hurt you, or why they killed the beauty of who God saw you as, who God knows you as underneath all your false selves or all the walls you build in self-protection. I do not know why they raped you, why they did not protect you, I do not know why they broke your heart the first time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable. I do not know why they left you though they promised to stay. I do not know why he died, or why she changed, or why your womb is still empty. I do not understand why it happened, or why as much as you tried, you could not make them happy.
But I see you. I see you everywhere born into chains. I see the past biting at your heels. I see who you long to be and who you really see when you look in the mirror. I see all the times you wanted to love, but didn’t know how. I see what it cost you to hope, only to be disappointed. I see the sacrifices. I see the people laid down, the dreams laid down. I see you reject before being rejected. I see you don’t know if you can begin again tomorrow. I see what it cost you to try to believe. I see all the flaws you see in yourself and know they are nothing.
I have never known this more fiercely.
We were born into slavery and the world was ready to fill our slates with broken things. Fear. Rejection. Abuse. Abandonment. Guilt. Responsibility. Inattention. Unrealistic expectations. Be good. Be better. Be perfect.
God so love the world…as we are….
I want to tell you a story. I want to tell myself one.
There was a man who fell in love with a girl who was a slave. He loved her so much that he worked 7 years for her to pay the debt off her life because to him, there was no flaw in her. He married her and made a covenant with her, but because she grew up a slave, she did not understand this love. Her whole life she had been abused and taken advantage of. Her whole life’s worth had been in serving her master and trying to make him happy, even though she never could. Her husband’s devotion made her uncomfortable. So she left him and went back to the one who had owned her before and she got pregnant with his child. She lived in guilt but she did not know how to be different.
Her husband came for her, he pursued her, not to tell her how much she had hurt him, not to hold her sin over her head, but because he loved her, with all her faults, with all her mistakes, he loved her as his bride and longed to be with her again. His love for her was unconditional, it was without limit and without end. The owner said he could not have her back because the child was his and would grow up a slave in his house. The husband could have killed him. He wanted to and he could have. But deep down he knew that it would not prove his love and that his wife would only run away again to someone else. So he offered something else. He said he would give his life as a slave unto death, if his wife and child could be free. The owner hated the husband so much, he hated his love and his tenderness, so he agreed to the exchange, to take his life to pay off the debt of her sin. The slave girl found out and begged him not to, she begged him because she knew she did not deserve that kind of love, she begged him because she did not believe she could ever change. But he just looked at her, as though there was no one else in the entire world and said he would gladly die so she could be free, so she would never have to return to being a slave. When they tortured him she could not watch, she could only sob. When they beat him up and pierced his side with a knife, she collapsed in anguish. She could not understand how he could love her so much. She only knew that he did. They mocked him, they mocked his love for such a woman, but he bore it all without responding. When he died he told his wife, “I died so you could be free. You are not a slave any more. Go back home and raise our child in the knowledge that you both were loved.”
Something snapped in her, something deep in a place long shut down by the life she had lived, in a place long devastated and long given up on, a place she remembered as a child before she gave up her soul. And she just knew--no more. She was a slave no more. She was a wife, a bride who was loved, loved enough to have a man die for her and his only request of her was that she live as one who was free. She had never felt love so much, love in her that made her want to die in his place. But it was done. She left that day for good. The owner would come to her house and tell her that she should work for him to pay for the guilt of her sins, he would tell her that she did not deserve the love her husband had shown. It was hard. In her heart, she believed those words, and yet she could not return with him though she wanted to pay off her debt, though she wanted to be free of guilt, she could not return with him because she knew that she had promised not to. She knew that everything her lover died for would be for nothing if she allowed herself and her baby to be enslaved again. Love had cost him everything. And she could not make a mockery of that love. Even though it pained her, even though she rather would have lived a slave in the owner’s house just to prove her love in some small way, she clung to the belief that she had been loved and that He wouldn’t want her to see herself that way. How could she become a slave again if he died for her freedom? It was the hardest thing she ever did, in saying no. Everything in her knew, she had not deserved such a love, and yet it had been given. Though she had not asked for it, it had been given. There were days she struggled with shame, but she kept trying to remember that He had seen her as worth the price, so she began trying to live as though she was worth it. And slowly, she began to believe it, began to believe that He saw something in her she did not see and He had wanted it to live.
For the first time in my life I have seen the anguish Jesus must feel when we live as slaves even though he died for us, his lover, his bride, so we could be free. I do not yet know how to live as one who is free. How to believe in that kind of love. And yet I know it is the lack of knowing that keeps us in chains, or stuck to our church pews paralyzed to do anything or make any difference in the world because we are so bogged down in the areas of our hearts that have not been healed, we do not know how to spread out leaves of healing for others, or how to offer fresh bread to the poor. How to give when we are so empty.
But our emptiness is authentic. Our need is what draws God to us. He longs to fill the need, to put to rest the issues in our hearts that keep us from truly living. Do you not see the good the Lord longs to give to those who love Him, to those who allow themselves to be loved. It is not easy for some of us. For some of us, being loved is harder than actually loving. I think of Elisa whose face would go from stoic, to ruined. I think of how hard it was for her to not get up and run away because our love was overwhelming. She was not sure, after all that time in darkness that it was real, that it could last. I think of the girls in Uganda whose brittle arms I want to hold in mine, even if they push me away because they cannot believe in love. I think of myself, struggling to believe, fighting for my freedom, that others might be free. It is so hard to hope, to actually believe we are beautiful, that to God, there is nothing more beautiful in the world than our face. That if we gave him nothing else than our time with Him, our sweet embrace, that it would make him happier than any other sacrifice of long hours worked, or churches built, or lives saved. All He wants is us.
It is hard to believe. Hard to have faith in. And yet nothing else---no person, no addiction, no hobby, no food, no drink, no work, will heal that place in our hearts that needs to believe in it.
I spent the morning with a blank piece of paper. And I asked God what He thought of me. And always, always, I am shocked by the answer. I am ready for Him to list my faults and my failures, I am ready for Him to tell me who I should have been or what I should have done instead. I am ready for another reason to loathe myself. But he is just holding me and the answer is sweeter than I think I deserve.
Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover…
I pray it is me
and then I pray it is you.
“Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come with me.
See, the winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…
Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:10
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I only have a week left in Mozambique before I go back to Uganda and I am still trying to process through if I’ve changed, if so how much, what God is doing in me, what God has taught me and what impact that has on the rest of my life…so you know, small things.
I was all prepared to write this blog about the amazing things I saw happen the last few days I was in the bush again camping in the dirt and ministering to a small village outside Pemba. I still want to write that blog. Because I did see lives absolutely transformed, which is truly the desire of my heart---to see hope spring forth in the midst of hopelessness. But I am really struggling today and need your prayers. I need to be really authentic and honest here that as a leader, I don’t always have it together---in fact most of the time, I don’t. And today I am just falling apart.
At times like this it is incredibly hard not to be home.
I just found out my grandmother got hospitalized with Alzheimer’s and her case is worsening. I just found out one of my best friend’s newborn baby is in the ICU.
These are things I should be there for. These are people I should be hugging right now. As badly as I want to do God’s will, and hug those here who need love, I want badly to be home supporting those who love me. These are the times when missionaries truly die. What are my priorities? Are they the children I hold in my arms who might die from a foot infection that doesn’t get treatment, or is it my mom who needs my love right now. I am so incredibly torn.
I want to tell you about Elisa. Maybe it will encourage my heart.
Elisa is a girl about 16 or 17 who we found two days ago locked up in a chicken coop for the last five years. When we found her she was naked on a soiled bed, dirt caked on her, staring in a catatonic state. At first she made no responses. She was there because her family didn’t want her. She was there because she was a “mad person” or “demon possessed.” She was there because she was an outcast. When we found her she couldn’t even look at you, she stared right through you. We sang to her, we loved on her and eventually were able to pull her out of the darkness of that chicken coop into the sun.
We prayed for hours, we held her broken, void face in our hands and just cried. God began to deliver her from whatever was oppressing her because there was a change in her. Slight, at first. She began to look at us. Into our eyes. I have never looked into eyes like her brown ones. I almost couldn’t hold her gaze. In those eyes, so much pain and so much emptiness, so much desperation and yet so much nothingness, I thought she might swallow me up into the desolation she endured.
In my spirit, within a few minutes I knew she had been violently raped. Maybe even given in “marriage” to the demonic spirit her family had built an entire hut for. She would shrink back in fear of men. She would lapse it seemed, almost in and out of consciousness where she would give us a blank stare and then come back to life again. I have never prayed so hard for someone’s life to be redeemed and healed. As I looked into her eyes and cried, a single tear rolled down her face and I knew that she knew that God was loving her through us. We held her and rocked her and sang songs over her and fed her and bathed her and it was as though she didn’t know what to do because she had never experienced love. It was overwhelming for her. But God allowed me to see for a second, what it is like to love like He loves, what it is like to look into the eyes of Jesus and know that whatever we did for her, we did for Him.
The next day we came back and with the family’s permission burned down the hut that had housed the spirit which held her captive. For the first time she smiled. It was the most precious thing in the world. We explained to her family how wrong it was what they had done and they repented and brought her back into the house. We arranged for the church to come visit her twice a day. Her trauma is so deep that I know it will take time for her to be completely healed. She cannot speak. But it is a beginning. There is hope and in her, I saw transformation. I saw a life saved, a life literally saved out of darkness. And if that is the only thing I see here in Mozambique. It is worth it. Her life, is worth it.
So I remember her today when I am crying at this computer. Because I have to remember it is worth it. All the pain of not being there for the ones who have been with me. It hurts. But when I held Elisa, I think they would be proud of me for being here, for loving someone who has never known the touch of tenderness. Even though it means I cannot be there. I want to say I’m sorry. Sorry what it costs to be here. Sorry that I miss the birthdays and weddings and baby’s being born and grandmother’s going into the hospital. Sorry that I have to do this. I hope you understand. It is for times like this, times like holding a girls’ face in my palms and letting love change her. I just pray that my love for all you at home, all you I long to hold in my arms and cry with, I pray you know I am with you in spirit and that today is one of those days I wish I could give this all up just to be there. Just to hold you.
With longing and love,
Saturday, July 05, 2008
I woke up with that verse in my heart "Mourning lasts for the night, but joy, joy comes in the morning." And I truly felt it in my bones.
And then the boy died. Hit and killed by a speeding truck.
They say it happens. They say it is normal.
Saw his little crumpled body strewn on the pavement
and the blood congealed
thick and red,
redder, than I've ever seen,
redder than my blood or an African sunset.
They took the pulse even though they said his brains
were out, spilled out like a piece of split fruit.
Hit little shirt up around his back. His tiny 5 year old legs.
I kept looking to see if he would move with the intake of breathe,
up. down. up. down.
But only stillness.
In the heat of the Mozambican midday sun we stood there
eyes filled with unshed tears.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry for this one, a lost one. One
that wouldn't matter to many. Just a village kid. Just one
more mouth to feed. Just one amongst the many who would
die of diarrea or malaria, or the lack of bread.
But I looked at him and saw the life he did not live, saw the
soccer games he would not play and the sermons he would not preach.
We huddled beside him in the street, cars slowing to our left,
we toucehd him and we prayed. We prayed for faith to believe in
They say he died in an instant. They say there was no pulse.
But we prayed anyway. Can the God who creates, not move His
hand to save?
They made us move behind the gate, but we prayed.
We prayed long after they peeled his limp body from the
black road and spilled blood.
I could hear the scream. I could hear the scream and I knew
it was one of a mother who has just lost a child. And I knew he
was just one. Just one. But one that mattered to her.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
I feel like I’m on a roll-a-coaster and I’d like to scream for someone to let me off but it just keeps going----ups, downs, and twisting sideways. They talk here about people having break-downs—just going off the reservation. Some days I can see why.
It’s intense. We’ve got witchdoctors spouting off their jabba jabba curses on us, and half the base falling sick with either food poisoning or malaria—take your pick. We’ve got people telling us to just be with Jesus and others telling us to serve more, we’ve got rules and regulations, we’ve got weddings and people wrestling each other over a slice of cake, we’ve got people coming and people leaving, and new schedules every day. And some days I just want to get up and walk out. And then I remember…this is what they were talking about---being stripped.
When you get to Pemba they tell you, this is the beginning of a holy fast---not necessarily the kind where you give up all food, (although there is that especially when you can’t stomach another bowl of rice)---but the loss of all comfort, all security, everything before that made us who we were, and everything we used to turn to when we were having a bad day. It’s the final frontier and out here there are no movie theaters or mountain bikes, no big bowl of ice cream or glass of wine, no big HUGE hug from someone that really knows you, no girls’ night out, no best friend, no boyfriend, no really hot shower, no big fluffy bed, no gym----well, we do have Pilates with Shara which is basically like boot camp, but also the thing I look forward to most in the week—in part because we get to leave the base
It is here that you come to terms with your most raw self and the sum of all your addictions. It is here that you realize you are not all those things that you do, just to maintain sanity, or the people you surround yourself with. It is here that you realize there is no sanity. No sanity at all without lots of God. Here---if I don’t want to go crazy, I have to be crazy after Jesus. There’s nothing else. Here, character is torn down and rebuilt, and torn down again. All day long, the people want from you---they want your backpack, or your skirt, they want your water bottle or your sunglasses…they want everything you have that they think will satisfy them. Literally today I saw a group of about 500 people standing in line for breakfast (which I served yesterday for about 3 hours---but was pretty controlled and therefore pretty fun) But today I saw them and I wanted to run the other way. I literally knew how Jesus felt when in the Bible it says, “He saw the multitudes and then went up to the mountain to pray.” Yeah. I get that.
Because there will always be the multitude. It is a never ending stream. If you are called to this, you are called to laying your life down and that means all of the rights you think you have----save one: your right to be with God. Lately, I have needed that more than anything. I literally feel like I could snap if I don’t get alone with Jesus. So today with my sore throat and baggy eyes from sleepless nights I crawled in my bunk and just cried, and prayed, and cried some more. Because I don’t really know what else to do. And God really met me. Really spoke to me and sometimes I can’t believe that He is that nice. But He really does love me even when I’m feeling pretty selfish. And I really do love Him even when its hard not to feel alone. And this is all there is---this is what life is about---that moment of meeting Him face to face and coming away changed. Here, I am a resting place for God.
“Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” Ps. 34
ps—after spending this day in prayer…this morning God had someone pray and prophecy over me, and it was so sweet. He does see. He does know. He is rocking us in His arms.
So I just got back from the BUSH BUSH, and by that I mean the kind of place where kids run up to you and then run away once they realize you are a WHITIE (“Acuna”—which is akin to Mzungu here) and they think you are going to eat them for lunch or something. But man, I think I would have just stayed out there forever if they had let me. The stars were enough to make me want to live out there in a cave somewhere. We drove about 6 hours on a bumpy bus ride out to an area near Nampula (of course you have no idea where that is…neither did I) but it was beautiful---mountains…greenery….it reminded me so much of Uganda. The village people were so welcoming. For them, this may be the one time during the year that they receive love from a white person. Which after all the colonialism and fighting, makes me feel pretty good to bring just a small piece of redemption. So we get there at night and set up our tents in the dark (reminiscent of my college daysJ) then we go show the JESUS film…only not the good JESUS film that I like to watch on Easter…its the one with the really corny Jesus with matted down hair—its about 2 ½ hours long in Makua…which makes it extremely funny because none of the mouth movements match the sounds. But still, hundreds of people come out of the wood-work to watch and the children were just enamored.
All in all it was pretty awesome. We asked all the people who were sick to come forward and we just started laying hands on them and praying for them. I’m tempted here to tell ridiculous stories of supernatural healing that I’ve heard of happening here and apply it to this outreach…but that would be slightly stretching the truth. The first few people I got were drunk, and in broken Makua and Portuguese we worked out that they wanted to be delivered from their alcohol addiction…which was pretty funny, as they were seriously intoxicated. So I prayed for them. I was like, “Lord can’t I just see someone get healed instead of all these drunk people?” Not sure if they got sober or not..but that’s really for God to work out. I prayed for several children who had headaches, probably from dehydration, and they said that it was better after I prayed….so I’m just believing that God healed people. Then I prayed with another girl for a woman who had a crooked thumb.
Now, when it comes to healing, I want to believe as much as the next person, but I’ll be honest and say I’m pretty much a skeptic. God is stretching me here to increase my expectations because often I find my faith is small. I want to KNOW that I KNOW someone is healed, and that’s hard to figure out when they speak a different language. But this woman’s finger literally looked broken before we started and we prayed and she could move it more. Then we asked her to take off her necklace, which in my spirit, I believed was witchcraft, and she did and her finger got even better. By the end she was smiling and moving her thumb and showing people…so I feel like God really healed her…which when you think about it...is pretty amazing. Most of all, I think I’m learning just to love them, as they are, whether or not God does something miraculous. This journey with God is a mix-up of mess with the miraculous sprinkled in there sometimes.
The next day we went around the village and we prayed for a Muslim man who had a serious eye infection. After about an hour we saw some improvement and he was getting better…but mostly we just loved him and spoke about Jesus and His power to heal him. He was receptive….but some things you just really have to leave to God to complete the work He has begun. It’s not all WOW here. Sometimes, you pray for people and you don’t know if God healed them or not, but you just stand in faith and you hug them, and you dance with them, and laugh with them and know that you might be the only white person who will ever hug them or ever share about Jesus to them. It’s pretty powerful….just love. And in the end, its not about us. I laid my hands on someone, they got healed. I laid my hands on someone else….they didn’t. And that could make me depressed….but in the end…its God and I don’t know His reasons….I just trust that He is a good Father. I have to choose to know that its really about loving people regardless of the results.
One thing I did love that I didn’t know was in me….was medical stuff. I put a ton of bandaids on kids with open wounds and sores. We cleaned them up as best we could and hugged them and they smiled, because they got a bandaid…but it was really sad---because some of them can die because of a cut on their leg that goes septic. That knowledge just tears me up inside. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go through years of medical school…but I’m open to learning “BUSH medicine”--the kind that just makes do with what you have
I haven’t had a lot of time to process how I’m feeling to be honest. As soon as we got back from outreach….we went straight into serving dinner to about 3,000 people for Heidi’s daughter’s wedding. It was total insanity. I think the idea was really beautiful—invite the lame, the poor…to the wedding feast, like in the Bible…WWJD…and all that.
And it was beautiful seeing the people rolled up in wheelchairs getting to feast on chicken, for once that year. But it was also really hard. I was outside manning the lines to make sure people didn’t like kill each other to get in the building….yes, little me, a bouncer basically. I don’t know how I get these jobs J But I love it. I had to end up taking charge because one line was going faster than the other….I realized, as much as I really don’t want to admit that I am type A, I think I am….and that really upsets me…but it was just going ALL wrong---people were about to riot because one line was going faster than the other…so me, who speaks barely any Portuguese has to direct the traffic and equal out the lines. But somehow we managed. I did somehow get punched in the mouth…but not too bad…they call it “holy chaos” here. Sometimes it just feels like chaos. Heidi is a complete idealist and I totally love that about her...she inspires people to dream with her beautiful outlook and positivity. I’m wondering though if there also needs to be a balance. But then again this IS AFRICA and you sort of have to roll with the punches.
Today I got back from the lovely chore of latrine duty. And yes, its what you think it is. But we just laughed and cleaned because we’re doing it for Jesus….right? And yes, I had those big yellow gloves on Mom that you sent me with that I didn’t think I would use. Just a day in the life. We are not super heroes, we are just here---getting dirty and getting stretched and some days it feels better than others. But always we are learning to lean on our Beloved.