Wishing you a Merry Christmas from Uganda! Thank You for making our work to these precious kids possible!
The Zion Project Team
Check out this video of our babies at our Counseling Center in Gulu, Uganda. If you donate to us through Global Giving we can build a shelter for them and provide them with toys and teaching materials. Right now they only have a mat under a tree, but you can change that! Give as little as $10 today and we can stay on the Global Giving website for good and reach more donors!
Now you can spend Black Friday in the comfort of your own home buying beautiful gifts that mean something for your family and friends online. And what makes this even more special, is you are saving a woman from a life of forced prostitution and giving her a job with each piece of jewelry you buy!
Right now shipping is FREE! So BUY today and change her life! Be sure to "like" and share with your friends!
“You must enter into the rest of God and that, My children, would mean that you have presented to Me those things which trouble you to such an extent of love and faith that you are able, indeed, to enter in. For, it is in this rest that you shall be perfected, encouraged and renewed before My throne and in My presence.” -Bill and Marsha Burns prophetic word--
I've been thinking about what Bill Johnson likes to call the “rhythm of rest.” The seasons of work and rest and how important they are. And not just rest, as in watching our favorite tv show, but resting in God and gaining refreshment.
I find that even when I am alone with God, that thoughts and “to do” lists and worries and concerns can crowd out my time with Him. Sometimes I literally have to write out all the things that are bothering me before I can get quiet before God.
How often am I really “resting” in His presence?
How often am I really thankful?
How often am I present? Not thinking about the past or the future, but just soaking in the here and now.
Sadly, I fail a lot. Rest is not something that comes easy to our Western perfectionist culture. Our insecurities and our need to be needed, and our unswerving belief that if we miss a day of work things simply cannot go on without us often leave us tightly wound to the point that we can actually feel our shoulders tensing with stress.
People don't do what you want them to. Budgets need to be reconciled. Children fed. Bills paid. It can get overwhelming.
I think maybe that's why I think prayer is so brave. Because it is a surrender. Holding up a tiny white flag. The act of not doing, in order to accomplish something miraculous.
Because its telling God we are tired of fighting and we want Him to fight for us.
I never realized before how closely related are the orphan spirit and a spirit of poverty.
But each has to do and to plan because there is a lack of trust in God.
The orphan spirit says I have to be busy, because it shows people I'm important. If I don't do it, it won't get done.
The spirit of poverty says that I am never satisfied. I need to get all I can today, even at the risk of hurting others, because who knows if tomorrow I will go hungry.
I've realized lately that many of our women and girls who have been so brave to leave a life of prostitution and start over, are still operating under a poverty of spirit. Like children who are scared they won't be fed again, they grab at loaves of bread, eat them without swallowing and then beg for more. It can be frustrating, until you understand...its not their fault. It's what life has done to them. Taught them. It's what experience has proven over and over in their life before God and its not so easy to lose control and let go.
At first, it can be easy to judge them and wonder why they aren't always grateful for the ways we pour out our lives for them, or teach them, or give them employment. And most times they are grateful..its just that there is this insatiable need for more.
But then I think about us and how we run around as orphans thinking we will make Daddy proud if only we do more, accomplish more, or make other people notice us. We struggle with the same lack of trust just under a different label.
I for one, am tired of that. It's great to do good things. I'm not saying we should all sit in our lazy-boy chairs and do nothing forever, but I do think that sounds really nice right now.
The poor, no matter their issues, are blessed, because they will see God. Because they are desperate for Him. And He always shows up for the desperate. And I want to be right there with them.
Do I trust God enough that if I stop trying to do everything, He will still show up for me?
I think that's the deepest question I have to ask myself.
Someday, I'd like to move to Italy for a little while and learn from how they live. Less concerned with time. More concerned with food.
And somewhere deep inside maybe I will undoubtedly believe that He loves me just as I am.
Even if all I do is eat pizza.
Thanksgiving is coming up and even though we don't have many turkeys here to kill, we are still going to celebrate it. I forget sometimes that Thanksgiving is an American tradition and other people around the world aren't thinking about mashed potatos like I am. Or sitting around a table with their family and friends laughing and sharing what we're each grateful for. (Before you get too depressed for me, don't worry we're planning on doing that here too and starting our own Ugandan Thanksgiving tradition, complete with goat leg....not really, I don't eat goat except for on special occasions)
We're teaching our women this week on the importance of thanksgiving. I was thinking about it and I think that being thankful is really just being happy with what you have, and content regardless of your circumstances. To be grateful that even though you just had malaria, at least you are not that little baby you heard about dying from it because her parents couldn't afford the medication. A medication that literally costs a few bucks.
We give God our sacrifice of thanksgiving when we praise Him no matter what life looks like right now.
We are thankful. Because He loves us. Because our greatest worry is not where the next meal is going to come from. Because we are blessed. Because finally we can rest.
And all around the world, hands are clasped, and heads are bowed, in offering.
*I am slowly getting better from my bout with malaria thanks to my husband, you're the man, babe.
*For more on healing from an orphan spirit read Jack Frost, “Experiencing the Father's Embrace,” and “Running on Empty by Fil Anderson.”
Salome is a beautiful girl I met two years ago in the slum. When I met her, she had such a sweet, sad smile. A smile full of regret. But there was a tenderness in her I was drawn to. She was pregnant with yet another man's baby. A man who paid and left. I remember how brave she looked, and how amazed I was that she had not aborted this baby, unlike so many others I'd met. Just another mouth they can't afford to feed. Just another one they can't bear to see starving.
Salome's face haunted me. Always when I visited the slums, I would seek her out to hug her. I felt like Jesus with his lost sheep, just dying for her to come back home.
This year, Salome knew love. Real love. The love of Jesus and she gave her life to him. She finally came home. She attended our counseling course in the spring, and she is now employed by our Jewelry Project. Sometime during that time, we discovered she was pregnant again, but we just kept loving on her.
Last week, we dedicated to a time of worship, prayer, fasting, and visioning with all our staff, and of course, the community, because they always seem to come when there is prayer. It was incredible. We dreamt about what it would look like to see revival come to Gulu. To see what God's Kingdom would look like. We watched Heidi Baker videos and asked God for his strategy here in Uganda, to see heaven come down. We laughed, we cried, but mostly we got closer.
God really showed up and women were delivered, and healed and empowered to reach their own communities of women and sex workers who still have not had the heart to leave the industry.
For the first time, I really saw them get excited about giving to others. That they are the pastors, teachers, and ones who lay hands on the sick to see them get healed. We commissioned them and anointed them with oil and the holy spirit came upon us all and we got excited about what He is going to do.
Salome came every day even though she was very pregnant and tired. She walked. And she came. And on Friday she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Without hesitation, our community of women was like, “Let's go visit Salome in the hospital,” so after a long day, a group of 14 women and volunteers got into the back of the pickup truck and drove down the dusty road to Lachor hospital. Salome was so excited to see us and receive our gifts. But mostly, I think she felt the love. That she has a community around her.
And she'll never be alone again.
This is what the Kingdom looks like. Outstretched hands. And ones who are healed, healing others.
We strike a match and everywhere, there are flames shooting up across the horizon.
God is Faithful Even When We're Crazy
I often think I can do more than I'm capable of. I'm pretty sure I get this from my extremely loyal, overactive, Hispanic mother who tries to be all things to all people, whether or not her foot is broken, she's down with a cold, or has to drive her van up and down the road 20 times that day. She's also the kind of person who refuses to go to the doctor. Go figure.
So it comes as no surprise to me, that on my recent trip back to the States I took on a little more than I could handle. Pretty standard overcompensate mode which I'm sure is rooted somewhere deep in my parent's early growing up years in Catholicism and all that goes along with the idea that you should feel guilty 99.9 percent of the time.
So my month consisted of this: trying to help my very brave, but very pregnant older sister give birth on time through a variety of methods. 1. Walking. 2. Spicy food. 3. Episodes of “How I met your mother” (note this is not a proven method) 4. Pineapple 5. Eggplant parmesan 6. Breast pump. Notice that the methods become increasingly more desperate as baby's due date passes. And yes, we did contemplate castor oil. We had visions of a wonderful, natural birth with family around and lots of breathing.
However, this was not the case due to an infection and at 1am I was jolted upright in sleep by my father saying we needed to rush to the hospital. I had never really feared birth until I saw one of my pregnant Ugandan girls give birth in a hospital with nothing more than a flat table as equipment.
So when we arrive and we are told the baby is in distress and she is being rushed into an emergency c-section, to say I was terrified is an understatement. I think this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to faith.
My moment to be brave and prophetically speak life comes out choked and shaky. But there's hope: I see the glimmer of a stained-glass window pane. A chapel. Cool. Dark. And a reprieve from endless pacing.
Jesus, are you here? In this makeshift hospital chapel?
I need another miracle.
This one's a little more personal.
I need you to show up here.
I need her to be ok and for the baby to be ok.
Can you do that for me?
I throw in a desperate, Please.
For good measure.
And I feel peace. She's going to be ok. I just keep repeating it.
And then my mom is calling me to come see the baby. And he is perfect. And enormous. And doesn't have 12 toes. And Christina is ok.
And I think of all the women in Africa with no technology giving birth on hard tables or in bushes, and the reality that some women still do die in childbirth, and I am overwhelmed with waves of gratefulness.
And for machines. And for doctors. And fetal heart monitors. And America. (Insert National Anthem here)
Two days later, as I'm about to fly off to California, my grandfather passes away. I had been able to see him while home. Had showed him pictures of Africa as my father took care of him. And realized this simple fact which my father knew well: That sometimes love is to sit with someone as they waste away.
Love stays. Even when it hurts. Even when its easier to look away, or not visit the hospital, or go to the funeral, or grieve with those who grieve. In America we are oftentimes afraid of suffering. We don't know what to say to the person who has lost someone. We shy away from that which is uncomfortable. But to see my dad just be there, through the ugly grip of cancer and let a blind-slit of light shine through, made me see that is who I hope to be here in Uganda.
And God cares about the small things. Things like how I was desperate for a drink from Him and I needed to go to California to the conference where Heidi Baker is going to speak. So he worked a tiny miracle and made sure the funeral was on Monday just so I could get what I needed.
And here's where it gets crazy (er?)
I show up at LAX to meet my dear heart friend Cassandra (who is another crazy missionary in Congo) where we proceed to look around for our ghetto car rental company entitled Executive Van Rental.
Now I love Cass. But she is the cheapest person I know. She will sleep in a brothel if it saves money.
Not surprisingly our company does not have a pickup point and we still have 4 ½ hours of driving, after a 5 hour plane ride, on 1 hour of sleep the night before, to go. I'm what you might call...grouchy.
After phone calls where I describe myself (its harder than you think) a shady van pulls up with no markings. Now, Cass and I both work with sex-trafficked girls so the first thing I say to the Mexican man driving the van is, “Do you have any identification?” I'm not about to be trafficked on the streets of Los Angeles right now. (which does happen: Watch this trailer) I've got an Iris Reunion to get to people.
It is a wonderful adventure road trip adventure full of music and mexican food. And we make sweet new friends (shout out to Claire & Kylene and late night Denny's food) and see old ones and God shows up and worship is amazing, and its so good to be home in His arms.
And then Shawn Bolz challenges us to hear what God is saying for the next three months and I hear:
Congo (where 80% of women are raped)
And I'm like whoa all of those are unsettling and outsize my comfort zone and yet thrilling in a way that makes my heart skip a beat. (Still figuring out what all this means) But there is a chance I'll be visitng Cass in Congo in November.
Also in answer to that we are spending this next week with my staff and ladies praying into God's strategy for us for this next season. Please be praying with us.
But we haven't gotten to the best part:
Cass and I pull an all-nighter so I can make my 6am flight to be just in time to go out with my best friends, and then be ready to speak at Oakbrook church the next morning. Yeah, I'm crazy.
And God is good. Because even on little sleep, even knowing the fact that I had to rush off for family night, even being totally unprepared with what I was going to say---God showed up.
He had prophetic words for people, he had heart issues to heal, and my sermon turned into more of a ministry session, which was awesome. And in the midst of it all I realized how very little it has to do with me. That morning I just prayed, “Lord I want to be a fool for you.” And every day I want to be.
So I can see Him move.
So all in all, it was good.
The craziness never stops. A new volunteer. Uganda. Women who make way too many beads way too fast so they don't have to sell their bodies. Children who leap on me and make me think I might throw my back out.
A husband I missed who is starting a pineapple farm and has it in his head he wants to buy a sheep. Even though they're loud and dirty.
And a God who keeps asking me to go further than I ever thought I could.
Here we are, striking sparks together.
ps—thanks mom for somehow still managing to help me pack my bags in the middle of chaos. You're the best.
pps—no, I did not have a baby: the above pic is my little obsession with my new nephew Ethan