Tuesday, September 30, 2008

“The city will be rebuilt on her ruins.” Jeremiah 30:18


(Pamela, age 16, raped, with daughter Maria--they live on the land at my house)

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

Crossing Over

"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…
enough already
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

The Journey

"Through our struggles, the dream is rooted more deeply in us."
--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

"Now is the time of the furnaces, and only light should be seen." -Jose Marti

"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.

(child been lifted up at the crusade)

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.

A revolution of love.

A revival of hearts.

Jesus walking through the crowds.

And everywhere….healing.

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."

It truly is.