Friday, December 07, 2012

A New Season...

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins

Five years is a long time.

It's a lot of sweaty bus-rides. It's a lot of roach killing, and mouse killing, and eating posho and beans. It's a lot of swatting mosquitos on your legs, and running out of water just as you soaped up your body.

It's a lot of pouring out your life. 

And it's a long time without air-conditioning, that's for sure.

A lot of time to fall in love with a place and it's people.

And even more time to love the reality vs. the rosy colored version.

It's a lot of time to learn what it really means to be a missionary, to love the ONE, to try to build God's Kingdom while still maintaining your sanity (sort of.)

A lot of time to learn what it's not. 

Lots of late-night tears, and snorting laughter. Lots of proud moments as you watch your people starting to “get it.”

Lots of evenings in the studded darkness.

Plenty of moments of needing Father's grace and actually experiencing it. 

Plenty of mistakes.

And glimmers of glory. 

So many transformed lives just by starting with the one in front of us. 

Over the past few years, I've come into a deeper understanding of the fact that when God heals us up, He trusts our hearts, He trusts what He has put inside of us, and He trusts our decisions.

I've come into a deeper revelation of His love and His goodness towards me, even in the darkest places on earth. 

Sometimes He is asking us to trust that new heart He's put in us to guide us into the next phase of our destiny. 

We are on the verge of a new season that I'm excited to share with you.

For over a year and a half now, Tyson and I have been praying about our future, and the future of what God has for Zion Project.

We knew that a change was coming, but it was a blurry pin hole of light that hadn't come into focus yet. 

Then God really began to speak to us about making some changes.
I'll admit, I was not a fan at first. But Father, is as usual, very patient with me, because I'm really hard-headed!

The last five years of living in Uganda has been a beautiful, joyously heart-wrenching adventure of personal and ministry growth. 

Father has taught me so much and I treasure every minute of having lived life here.

I've learned that I really can't do it all (ha! And it only took me 5 years to figure that out!)

But seriously, I think it took my heart a while to come to grips with the fact that one season was ending, and a new season was beginning which would involve spending more time in the USA and abroad, and less time in my beloved Uganda. 

Slowly, I began to see that Zion Project cannot really grow in healthy ways unless I am in the States to nurture it---to share my heart, connect with like-minded people, raise support for our mission, to recruit amazing missionaries, to dream bigger dreams and help us focus on our vision of healing people and nations.

We have truly come to the point that we can't continue in our mission until a host of people join our vision to transform nations!

So this will be my focus in the States.

We're also feeling God leading us into greater depths and new places to bring counseling and inner healing to more war-torn regions and we need time to really focus our vision. (without the constant serenade of babies and roosters)

Also, as many of you know, our desire to begin our own family beyond our darling Ugandan family has really grown, and I've seen way too many births here to even contemplate that level of crazy!

I also really want to be a support system for Tyson as he pursues His entrepreneurial dreams. (I mean, he has kinda been great about supporting me these past few years. I guess it's time for some payback!)

I am a mom to many, but I've come to grips with the fact that I'm not super mom (even though I do have the big hair for it) and I truly want my family to come first. 

We also feel that after six years of back and forth to the field, it's time for a season of rest.
I think we're pretty smart to be doing this as we've seen way too many people start to burn out, implode, or get weird (not in a good kind of way :)

Also, to be honest, after a lot of sicknesses and the loss of our baby due to an ectopic pregnancy, I'm pretty pumped to focus on letting God take care of me for a bit and getting healthy.
I'm going to be Jane Fonda-ing it up!

I will still be working full-time on Zion Project from the US, supporting our staff, but my job will no longer be requiring the same unrealistic expectations of me (picture trying to load photos and video to a newsletter using dial-up speed while simultaneously leading people to Jesus in the slums!)

I will also have many wonderful opportunities to be filled up, poured into, and trained in new counseling techniques with new partners, which I'll then be able to bring to my team on the ground. (hooray!)

And hopefully lots of time at Bethel!

And I'll finally be able to focus on finishing my book (it's true! I've been promising for way too long)

I'm excited to meet all the new friends Father will join to us. 

So this last year has been a time of really training and equipping my staff on the ground to run things in my absence and I'm excited to empower them to really own this thing themselves. I know they will be successful because I know they are really getting God's heart.

We leave behind a beautiful group of people whose lives God has touched, who every day are thriving and growing in Him. (although we really can't take the credit--God kinda helped)

I also have a wonderful, multi-talented replacement on the ground, Brittany Dunay, who will be our interim Country Director until we find someone more long-term.

So we will be moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area in 3 weeks!  

We will celebrate Christmas here in Uganda, and the new year in California to start our new life. How crazy is that!??

This is not goodbye to Uganda forever, just goodbye for now. I'll be going back and forth and have a return ticket already so they really can't get rid of me yet!

I know this may come as news to some of you, but we have such peace about this. 

If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer them, although I'm kinda in losing-my-mind town right now trying to train up staff and pack of 5 years of a life. (I've literally found things that I don't know what they are or where they came from!)

We're really looking forward to this next step, to renting our own apartment, putting pictures up on the wall, being close to family and friends, being able to press the easy button for once, turn up the AC, and enjoy things like gyms and real lettuce salads. (well, at least I will, while Tyson is downing a cheeseburger.)

We're excited to bring our experience of living in Uganda to ignite the local church and friends at home. 

So we can love many more!

We're so grateful for each of you and your support over the years!

Pray for our hearts in this departure that God will hold us in His arms as I know it will not be easy to leave our home.

Pray for our team that they would continue to grow and mature into their leadership roles, pray for a smooth transition—for jobs, place to live, and peace.

Oh and pray that God will help us pay for things like furniture and blenders.

So weird to realize you're almost 32 and you don't own a sofa. Or a blender.

With love,
Sarita & Tyson

**In 2013 I'll have a lot more time to speak and attend events:
  • Our team will be at Urbana Dec 27-31st so come check out our table! 
  • Sarita will be speaking at James Madison University's InterVarsity Women's Conference Jan 26th in Harrisonburg, VA
  • Sarita will be at the Justice Conference in Philadelphia, PA February 21-24th
  • If you'd me to speak at your church/event in 2013 please book me early here

Monday, December 03, 2012

Death and Life

As we sat in the knee-high grass legs itchy, sun scorching, and the sound of worship heard over the wailing I concentrated on the yellow weeds at my feet growing wild and thorny.

I wonder if someone planted them here. 

I've been here before.

Death a part of my existence here in East Africa. No matter how many life-breathed words over cold, clammy bodies, the caskets seem to pile high. Tiny crosses engraved in the black cloth. Aids a raging killer.

But it is different this time. Years ago they would have been alone. Years ago they would have crumpled like a flag to the ground, and laid there without wanting to go on. They would have begged us to bury them beside her.

I first met Mama Matty a few years ago, the mother of one of the beautiful women in our community.

She used to drag her tired body on run-down buses to Juba to sell herself for a couple dollars more.

I remember because we used to pray for her.

On one of our outreaches with our Imani women, we went to pray for the sick, and Mama Matty let us sit on the red-sanded stoop of her home, looking broken.

We prayed and we spoke words of this Jesus who accepts us as we are.

Who never turns His back on us.

Something happened and Heaven touched her. She gave her life to Jesus and she joined a community of believers at the church. She knew her Jesus.

Mama Matty lost her fight on Friday night and there will be no parades, nothing will mark her epitaph but a pile of stones. To some, she will just be another statistic.

But not to us. It's a sad day for those of us who loved her.

But I watch the way our women hold the grieving, like trees standing firm in the wind. 

I hear them singing in the back of the pickup as we drive from the funeral site. I carry the image of their arms encircling the two orphan daughters and leading them through the tall grass towards home.

And I know that Father has done something here. 

He's sown hope where there wasn't any before.

He's made love to grow where there were only thorns. 

He's put His goodness inside of broken hearts. Hearts that can now help heal others.

And the yellow weeds don't look like weeds anymore.

They look like someone's fruit. 

*Please continue to pray for our community in northern Uganda. That our counseling and love will continue to touch many more so they might know Father's goodness in the midst of despair. Please continue to pray for Mama Matty's daughters. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Most often my days start with problems. A myriad of needs. Things which have “gone wrong.” The water has run out. Again. People who need my help. A mama needs more money for food to feed her kids. A girl who runs away from home because she still feels strange in the safety of love's arms.

How to build a jewelry program so she doesn't have to sell herself for bread. How to fill the holes when we don't have enough people to fill them.
A mission to heal this nation which seems too large and too undoable. 

All day I want to solve problems that feel unsolvable. And this is where I surrender. Fall into Father's arms as my tired body lets the day's dirt run off me in the shower.

Father, how?

I only know this leaning. This is the only way to survive this. The only way to get up the next day and keep on loving.

I read something Michele Perry wrote today in her new book An Invitation to the Supernatural Life,  it struck me how much I understand this and how much I need to be reminded of it:

“All my good ideas were still good ideas, but they couldn’t feed a growing family or heal a dying child, let alone help a warring nation. I needed an overflow that came from heaven, not from earth.”

We can't offer our solutions. There can only be heavenly solutions to the problems of how to do what's best for my children, how to train up a nation to think entirely different than their culture. And how to pay for it all. There is no Sarita answer. More often than not, I've had to say I don't know when the day picks these bones dry.

They can wear on you. Keep you up at night. Put that pain in your neck. The worrying. 

And yet it doesn't help. Because we're thinking of it all wrong. We have to flip it and look at it from another perspective.

Father has a solution. I just don't know what it is yet. But He does, and my time with him will figure it all out. That is where he speaks to me. That is where the genius lives.

His strategy is so much better than ours.

I cannot take the problems on as though it were my guilt or my badge of honor to bear them.

And always the enemy's voice saying we're not doing enough.
They are His. His kids. His heartbeat. His vision. His love spilled out for the lost.

Perhaps that is why he sometimes lets us come to the end of ourselves. So we can see clearly, it's only He who can do it.

Surrender is our invitation to let Him in, and watch him move heaven and earth for us.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

What six years has taught me

Six years.
I ask God sometimes, “how do you do it?”

How do you hold each of us in your heart? With equal importance. With so much love.
Doesn't it hurt?

Don't you buckle under our sea of faces?
An organization is just made up of people. Faces. Names. Friends. Ones who are loved.

And it is only as strong as it's relationships.

And just when you think there is not enough space in your heart for one more. One more person. One more story. One more face. One more friend. You fall in love again. 

I cannot say what I've done in 6 years. Because I don't know. I don't have the statistics. I didn't keep track. I just have people. Relationships. Faces. Hugs. Hugs I dream about before waking.

My person (s.)

And in the end, that is all we have, really. The one.

I cannot really reach the multitudes. I do not have what it takes to touch the thousands. I just have the one by one's.

The one I think about before I can sleep. The one I cry for and pray for. The one I believe God for.

It's the line from one of my favorite books, “We cannot weep for millions, we can only weep by ones.”
And I guess that's the way Jesus worked anyway.

I met Stella six years ago. 

In the most horrible place on earth. A camp where the only currency is hopelessness. Or what part of you, you can sell. After the rebels, and babies, there wasn't much left.

I don't think she had many friends.

And well to be honest, I didn't either. Just a little American girl who thought she knew how to save the world.

But I saw something in her. Even then. That she was true.

When we lived together in our makeshift home, Stella would teach me how to start a charcoal stove to make chapati, or how to end a fight—with laughter. She taught me how to put a baby to sleep, and how to wash clothes by hand.

Somewhere in the middle of punching the bread loaf down, we became friends.

When someone tells me how fabulous she is, I want to cry. Because I know her faithfulness.

And I know what she's come from. I know though it's hard, she will face the new day with joy.

I know the last 6 years will not look like much when people peer into our window.

I know we will seem small. And maybe insignificant when the world so often asks us for numbers.

But I know I will write a story about Stella.

And I will really know her. Not as a story, not as a number, but as one I have loved. 

Because it's her I am dreaming of tonight.

There is always room for more, if we open ourselves to love.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Always Enough

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever Father does, the Son does also. For Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. He will show him HOW to do even greater works.” John 5:19-20

As I step foot upon this red earth again, I remember why I need Father so much here.

Feeling broken by my own inadequacy to know how---how to bring revival here, how to heal hearts, and change lives for eternity. 

When everything is so much harder here. Raw.

The culture-shock hits me full force as the traffic piles up and people jump into the road with no thought or care to their lives. When we realize the truck is broken because the mechanic we trusted gave it to someone else who stole parts out of our engine, when no one takes responsibility for their actions, when I'm sick with the flu still, and jet-lagged, constantly sweating without ac or a fan, where everywhere I turn is a face that looks hopeless or empty, where so many things are out of my control, and when I feel the full weight of this ministry on my shoulders---all the people we need, all the resources to fulfill this call---

this world can often seem too much. 

Especially when I remember there's no delivery pizza. 

The burdens pile high. The losses feel too real. And there have been a lot these past months.

Loss of friendships and betrayal,

Loss of the baby and miscarriages of friends,

Loss of rest, 

Loss of trust,

Loss of baby Faida who died somewhere in Congo when I wanted her so badly to join our home

Loss of “Precious,” fought so hard for out of the slum, only to lose her back to a life of selling her body

The losses can seem too much.

The clouds roll in thick and ominous.

The storm is coming as dark as my soul feels in this moment. 

But I've missed the storms here so much.

I sit on the porch trying to feel my Jesus. To get hidden inside His heart. 

Am I ready to come back to all of this? My heart a patchwork of scar tissue, still tender where He's put me back together. Time and time again. 

I read through John and I see my Jesus again. How he's felt everything I feel.

I see him teaching and giving away, healing, and getting hidden again, feeling anguish, feeling concern for his disciples, praying that they will love each other in unity, being frustrated, being joyful, but always listening to His Father's voice and beginning again.

And I see him suffer. Lay down his life for the ones that he loves, for his friends. 

And that this is the life we are called to. To suffering, to joy, and to dependence. 

“The spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.” John 6:63

That's from the Bible. I let it sink deep into my soul on this porch in Uganda where I feel His pain, my pain, and my own frailty.

His spirit, is the only thing that matters.

And I feel the strongest desire I've ever felt, just to be with Him, in heaven, just to look into his eyes and have him tell me that it's all going to be ok. Just to hear him say, “well done.” 

But it's not time yet. 

And I know that I can't run away.

Africa is a mirror. Where you have to look deep into your soul and see that you are not enough.

Some people crumble up under it.

But I know that He is. His spirit gives life, where there is no life. 

He breathes, and situations shift. 

I do not have what it takes, but by His spirit, everywhere my feet will tread, He will give to us. 

I am weak. And I can do nothing on my own. I'm completely dependent on Him. 

And perhaps my surrender, perhaps my “can't,” perhaps my weakness is an opportunity for Heaven.

And perhaps this is where He wants me. So desperate, hiding away in Him. 

Only able to fumble through imitating His goodness.

I do not know the “how.”

I only know Who. 

But I trust, 

that He is always enough. 

And slowly, I remember this is part of what I have come to love about living here---amongst the poor, amidst the challenges---how easily it exposes my need for my Savior, for my Father---for a goodness and a love that is beyond myself. 

And that it's ok to be needy for Him.

For His words, for his breath, for His spirit. 

And it's never too late to get hidden. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012



“Even a modest pleasure can be a luxury if its scarce enough---ordering coffee at a restaurant, buying a book, which is why deprivation is one of the most effective, although unenjoyable, cures for the hedonic treadmill.” -Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project-

It strikes me that after two and a half months of living in a land full of luxury, I'm ready throw myself back into a place of lack, because of love. And I do look forward to it. To unpacking my suitcase (finally) and settling into my own little home, with my dogs, in the raw beauty and infuriation of all that is Africa.

And that actually, not having things for a little while, is quite healthy for the soul. When you don't have running water, or when the power is out, or the food is not what you're used to, something as simple as turning ona light, or eating a croissant, can bring you such happiness.

Happiness is important.

Some might think it's selfish, but actually statistics show that happier people bring other people happiness, and are more altruistic than unhappy people. I mean is there anything worse than being around an unhappy person?

I've been reading this book, The Happiness Project for the last month, and really ruminating on what does it mean to be happy, and what does it mean for me, and for all of us? I'm beginning my own Happiness Project. 

It truly takes a dedication of the heart, mind, and soul to choose joy even in the face of tragedy or more often than not, small annoyances.

How to learn this with small children's shoes, and stuffed animals, and office supplies strewn across a floor that somehow has to magically make it into six duffle bags.

Still wishing I was Snow White with a room full of helpful birds.

It has been a glorious and yet heart wrenching season jam-packed full of days with family, new friends, and days of runnings around speaking, trying to spread this message of hope:

that God's heart beats for us, and for the least of these, and for my tribe in Uganda.

And He's calling all of us into something deeper with Him.

So is it selfish to pursue our own happiness? Especially if its not going to hurt someone else?

Sitting in the sun and breathing for five minutes with our eyes closed.

And that part of happiness is keeping our own resolutions, our own set of principles which guide our lives and help us keep our integrity.


Love generously.

Run more.

Be more positive.

Take care of me.

Be less serious.

I think it makes us better people.

“A sense of growth is so important to happiness that its often preferable to be progressing to the summit rather than to be at the summit.” THP

So even, if I haven't yet attained my goal, if I'm growing towards it, I should allow myself the pleasure of happiness.

And celebrate the small victories when I'm able to keep one of the resolutions I've made to myself, to God, to my husband, or to my family.

While the last two months have been crazy busy, and hard, I'll allow myself the brief pleasure of feeling that I finished well. I did what I set out to do. I listened to my Father. I said, yes.

And while there were losses, and I'm certain some balls got dropped, I was able to thrive through the midst of extensive travel, a surgery, the loss of a baby, a speaking tour, stress, demands, deadlines, and still managed to crawl back up into His arms, where I find my home.

So even though I'm not Wonder Woman, and I can't do it all, as my hair, my toe nails, and my bags have seriously estimated at this point--

I've been faithful with the little I've been given.

I've stared in the face of some of the biggest challenges of my life, and what they mirrored back is that I have the strength to overcome them.

Broken, yes, but not hard.

Somewhere in Africa, God's been building something inside me. If we stay tender, and we let Him, He can do something awe-inspiring.

And sometimes we need to stop and celebrate that.

The spitfire moments of joy, we can grasp and hold, before they slip in between our fingers.

A slice of heaven.

Before we move on to the next enormous task in front of us.

Jesus told the disciples, “Freely as you have received, freely give.” And He sent them out.

It's all about receiving more, and giving more away.

And as I stand at the precipice of this next season, I carry this truth in my heart.

If I let Him, He will do it.....

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Weeping Room- A Pathway to Strategy

I'm at Bethel Church in Redding, California and had an encounter last night with Father that was so real and so amazing. It reminded me of the teaching of Jennifer Toledo (my personal hero) on The Weeping Room which I am re-posting here. (Jen, I hope this is accurate--it's one of the most beautiful revelations of Father's heart.)

But also that entering into Father's heart and feeling how His heart breaks---for all the raped women, for all the scared children, for all the lonely missionaries, for ALL His children----that it is a pathway into strategy.  I feel like this is where I'm at right now. I've spent many years in the Weeping Room, and I think, I hope, I've gotten small enough to enter through the other door where all the blueprints of Heaven are. It's been a lonely room with Father, but I feel that is about to change.

Last night, as I laid on the floor weeping, I felt I was also birthing something. I don't know what it all looks like yet, but I know that it is a new thing. Something new is coming and that it only comes through intimacy.  Through Papa's heart. A stamp of approval that isn't about which thing I'm a part of, or what ministry is my backing, or who knows about me, but the fact that Father is behind me and He is the one covering me and sending me. And He is joining together those who have the same heart.

He gives His plans to His kids. To those who are willing to go deep with Him.
I pray you find the courage to do so.
Because on the other side there is so much reward.

To all the Kingdom carriers, to all the pioneers, to all those on the front lines taking the hits and carrying His heart. He sees you.

Help is coming.

The Weeping Room – Pathway to Strategy
By Jennifer Miller Toledo
One day as I was in prayer the Lord began to open up my eyes to a spiritual encounter. I saw myself being taken up to heaven. Before me I saw a huge house with many rooms. I knew instantly that this was the ‘Father’s House’. I could feel the love of the father drawing me in, so I began to run as fast as I could to enter the house. As I entered, the Lord walked with me through many rooms, each one packed with spiritual meaning.
He quietly invited me to follow Him into the most beautiful room in the whole house – the intimacy room. It was absolutely extravagant and beautiful. Upon entering the room, I was overwhelmed with love and wanted to stay there forever. In the Spirit I could hear other people (other believers) in all the different rooms of the house. Some were studying books in the library; others were becoming intoxicated in the spiritual wine cellar. I was somewhat surprised that everyone wasn’t in the intimacy room since it was the most beautiful room in the whole house.
The Weeping Room
As I was admiring this intimacy chamber, I noticed a little wooden hatch door on the floor adjacent to the bed. It seemed really odd to me, because it wasn’t fancy and hardly seemed to fit with the rest of the room. I asked the Lord why it was there, and He told me that it led down to another room in the house. I asked Him why He would put this door so close to the most beautiful thing in the whole room, the bed. He responded, “I keep it here, because down there is where I spend most of my time”. Instantly my curiosity was stirred so I asked what was down there. He said it was called the “Weeping Room”.
Although it hardly sounded like a room I wanted to be in, there was a cry in my heart that said that if that is where the Lord spends His time, then that is where I want to go. I asked Him if I could go down there with Him, and He responded “Very few will choose to go down there, it’s not extravagant like this room, it’s lonely, it’s not comfortable, and you have to get very low to fit through the door.” I told Him that I didn’t care what the conditions would be like; I just really wanted to be wherever He was.
So we opened the little hatch door and began to slowly climb down a dark staircase until we came upon the tiny room. I had to get on my knees to fit through the door because it was so small. As we entered the room it was very simple. All it consisted of was a small wooden chair. One of the walls had a small window in it. The Lord took His seat on the chair and turned His face to look out the window. Instantly I became aware of why this room was called the weeping room.
You Could Hear Every Cry
As you looked out the window – you could see and hear every single cry coming from people on the earth. You could see every single act of injustice all at the same time. Every starving child crying out to God, every woman being raped, every moan of the rejected … you could hear every prayer, every cry all at the same time. The Lord sat in His chair and watched and heard it all.
At once I was overwhelmed with intercession and began to weep. I wept for hours. I wept for those who were hurting, but even more – I was undone by this beautiful King who would choose to spend His time in this place; This King who paid such attention to every cry and who was so full of compassion. As I sat and wept with the Lord, I began to ‘feel’ His heart-and all my selfish ambition began to fade away
While we were in that place I noticed that there was another door in the weeping room. I asked the Lord what was behind that door and He told me that was where the ‘Strategy Room’ was. As He said those words, instantly in my spirit I knew in that room divine strategy for end-time revival was available. Although the door was still closed, I recognized that Wisdom and Revelation where in there.
Divine Strategy Room
Heavenly blueprints were laid out to see the fulfillment of His kingdom coming to earth from that room. It was like the hidden room that everybody searches for. Everyone longs to have divine strategy. I immediately asked if I could go in there and the Lord soberly told me that I didn’t ‘fit through the door’. I instantly understood that I had to spend time in the weeping room. As I began to really apprehend the heart of God for the poor and the broken, then issues of my soulish nature would be stripped away until I would become small enough to fit through the door.
At that moment everything became clear. This was the only way to access divine strategy. From the place of intimacy God invites us in to a deeper level – He beckons us into the weeping room- a place where we choose to see what He sees and feel what He feels. And as we spend time getting the heart of God, things of our flesh begin to be stripped away until we are small enough to fit through the door that leads to the strategy room.
I had this encounter over two years ago but I believe that God is now moving many in the church from the place of intimacy into weeping. This will lead them into the strategy room. In actuality, you never have to leave the intimacy room; you just discover the deeper levels. Many have already surrendered themselves to the weeping room and extravagantly pursued the heart of God for the broken- they are now being invited into the strategy room.
Invitation to Divine Strategy
I had another encounter a little over a year ago in which I heard a loud voice say, “It’s Time!” and in the Spirit I saw the strategy room door swing open. God is inviting us into divine strategy that will release a global harvest of souls, and establish the revelation of His kingdom on earth through overcoming saints.
I believe that as we enter the “strategy room,” we will be compelled and moved by what we have seen and felt in the weeping room. I have a sense that some have gone before us into the strategy room. Unfortunately, most quickly forgot what the strategy was for and used it to build their own kingdom (Haggai 1:3-7). God is in the process of raising up a whole company of believers who are repulsed at the idea of building their own kingdom. This company will have their hearts truly branded with passion and compassion. These are the ones that God is looking to release into the strategy room. “It’s Time!”

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Baby E- story of adoption

Baby E* is just the cutest little guy ever. And he just got adopted! 
Baby E, 11 months

They say that once you hold your baby you forget everything that happened before. All the pain, all the tears dissolve into the glow of tiny fingers and tiny toes.

The red birth becomes bright.

Even though E* did not come out of my body. In many ways it feels like he's mine. And when I look at his cheeks and his eyes, and hear his soft baby noises, I too feel the memory slipping away.

But I don't want to forget that he's a miracle.

Early this year, N* showed up on our doorstep on a Friday evening. Just a young girl of 14. Just another child in need of help. She asked to sleep under our veranda, to stay warm from the rain. She said someone had told her we help girls.
I don't know what it was about N* particularly. Maybe it was those big dimples. But I felt a tug at my heart. Just let her stay.

We have so many kids that need our help and it didn't seem like the “smartest,” decision at the time. A decision that could have repercussions. But I guess it was the holy spirit breathing close.

She was an orphan. Her parents died leaving her to the mercy of relatives who had too many children of their own to take care of her. N* was a burden to them. So they decided to sell her into a child marriage to a local village man. N* refused.

One night as she was walking home from buying food at the market, the man jumped her and raped her, tomatoes smashed on the ground beside her.
So N decided to run away. Her only dream, was to go back to school. But here, you have to pay for it.

N* stayed at our office for 2 weeks while we tried to pray about what to do. She slept on a small mattress on the floor and she helped with cooking. Every day I saw her and looked into those eyes again and could feel the pleading.

Take me home.

Nancy was older than our other girls, but when I prayed, I felt God say “This one.”
When N* moved into our Rescue Home for girls we didn't know she was pregnant. N* didn't know she was pregnant. But a few weeks later she started showing signs.
I remember how defeated she looked when we told her she was pregnant. Like all the hope in her world had turned to ash in front of her. No more school. No more future.

She told me, “Mama I can't take care of this baby.”

And we told her she wouldn't have to.
I didn't have a plan. I didn't know what God would do. In fact, I had a lot of problems staring me in the face. How would we take care of a baby in our home?
Who would we find to adopt the baby?

It all seemed insurmountable. So I turned to Jesus.

All of a sudden, I could see God's plan all along. Bringing N to us so she wouldn't have to suffer alone, and allowing us to take her in, so she could be a party of a family, and so E* could be brought into this world to bless another family very far away.
When N* went into labor on Friday, I put God to the test again.

God, you brought her to us, now you have to see her through this.
I can say, it was one of the hardest, worst, few days of my life. To watch this daughter of mine in so much pain, for 3 days, and to know we were at the mercy of the medical facilities in northern Uganda.

I don't know how many times N told me, “Mama I can't. Mama I have a wound. Make them take the baby.” But when it came time to push Nancy was focused and calm. God had descended on her.

I held N's hand as she pushed. I watched E's head emerge into this world.
And we did it all without a doctor present.
Afterwards, N started bleeding a lot and her uterus was not contracting. Mama Joy and I just looked at each other just praying, and crying.

And once again, I told God, you did not bring her this far to let her die on me.

Those few moments seemed endless.
But she lived and is she is fine. Her only request has been lots of chicken. Which I am happy to concede to.
And E* is asleep in his basket beside me.

And I know without a doubt, God is a God of miracles.

I see it in the eyes of Bijou as she holds baby Priscilla who was also born this week. A baby who most likely would have died without us getting her to the hospital.
And both these children, and their mothers are alive because of Him.
I shudder to think what would have happened to both of them if we had not been here.
I shudder to think of the many children who die because someone said no.
Thank you for helping me do what I love to do. Thank you for helping us every day, to say yes.
Thank you for bringing a life into this world, who will be loved.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A little bit of heaven

This thing called peace. How we search for it somewhere out there in the deep blue horizon, on the helm of sailboat, in the bottom of a glass, in the perfect dress, or in the next adventure.

Peace is in a moment where we can feel God's love speaking to us in silence, in nature, in a moment of need. 

In His affirmation of who we are.

When I get really tired, when I wear myself out with all this world-traveling, and speaking up for the oppressed, and meeting of other people's needs, and when I feel guilty that I can't do it all---answer every email, be kind to every person, be there for my family, be there in Africa, save the world.....I go back to what I know.

That God is here, now, with me. I just have to be still enough to feel Him. Breathe Him in and let the shattering truth in---that He loves me. Regardless of what I'm able or unable to do.

I go back to this holy solitude. 

I used to think that Heaven was a place where we we went to get lots of stuff. Lots of crowns and jewels, and for all intensive purposes, got “bedazzled.” Where we got all the cool stuff we didn't get to have on earth. I thought that was the reward. To be honest, I never really contemplated heaven too much because I was so busy with all this earth stuff.

And it does consume me, more often than I would like to admit.
Those designer jeans. That person who pulled out in front of me in traffic. Delayed flights.

It was Tyson's youth pastor that said something to us the other day. Something I've been contemplating for weeks now.

That the real reward in heaven, apart from God's all-encompassing presence, is all the people, all the faces, those I have loved, and known and given my life away for, and those I do not yet know, whose life I impacted in some way. 

Them, their children, their grandchildren, all of us in Heaven together laughing and being happy that we all get to share in the joy.

As he spoke, I imagined all of them, coming up to me, hugging me, and honoring the small acts of love I did every day. Those relationships, those moments, where I chose love, chose joy, chose hope, chose self-sacrifice, chose forgiveness, and chose to share of Jesus' love to a stranger.

Even the acts I thought went unnoticed.

That the real reward is always based in relationship. Ours with Father, and ours with those we have loved. 

We don't get to take the “stuff' with us, but we do get to take the people we loved into His Kingdom.

Now when I think of Jesus on the cross, I think of Him imagining Heaven and this big party where all of us are there with Him and all the ones He died for are honoring Him for His love and His sacrifice.

I like to think that is the “joy set before Him,” that He was thinking of.

He was thinking of my face.
Your face.

And the big feast, with the wine flowing, and the people dancing, where we all get to share in His joy because we've been a part of making it happen.

It makes me cry to think about it. That is my joy. The joy set before me. To see more enter into freedom and into His Kingdom of love.

It really puts it all into perspective when I can lose sight of what we are really living for. 

Peace is really knowing that we've done what Father asked us to do.

And that He's really proud of us.

Now, when I get tired, I keep that picture before me.

All the faces I will meet someday, all my family, all the girls and women I love, and continually fight for---

All the generations together in one place, honoring one another for the love and the sacrifice.

And in the middle of it all, is Father, smiling.

*This post is dedicated to my fellow laid down lovers out there who fight on a daily basis so that more might enter into Father's love. You know who you are. I love you and I honor you. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Extended Family

When I come back to America, it's often hard for me to describe what exactly I do.

To say that I experience culture shock is an understatement. I am both in awe and terrified of Walmarts, large crowds of people, loud restaurants, and escalators.

I seem to be perpetually cold because my body is un-accustomed to the simple luxury of air conditioning.

I always want to sit outside because it seems more comfortable to me and any time I see a black person I want to run up and throw my arms around them like an escaped mental patient.

I am struck by the paradox and dichotomy of so many things.

How people can have so much and yet have seemingly little control over their own life, their schedules, or their time. 

There are all different kinds of poverty. And while some are shocked when they come to my slums and see the barely clothes bodies, or the thin-armed babies dying of HIV, I am just as shocked sometimes by the sadness in people's eyes here.

Chained in multi-faceted forms. Mortgages. School debt. Coach bags. Their iphones constantly bleeping their schedule.

The rush. The crowds.

How driving through the Bible-belt South I am constantly amazed at how nice people are to us, how much they want to help, and how their eyes well up at even the thought of a homeless person getting cold on the street. I really do miss the South. How much people care here.

How they open up their homes and their hearts.

I think to myself how will I ever keep them upright in Africa where children are picking through the garbage for a meal, or selling their tiny bodies for a piece of bread. 

And I think to myself, that I cannot blame anyone, or guilt anyone, for singing their same songs, or sitting in church on a Sunday morning and selfishly thinking that church should be about them and serving their needs instead of being an extension of Jesus to the poor and the fatherless in Uganda.

Because they must not know.

Because if they did know, if they went and spent five minutes with my little family, they would give the clothes on their back away and never want to leave. They would not see a number, but a face.

Not a story, but a flesh and bone hug.

They would see the love between us and get it all. Get why I gave up a boyfriend, and a family, high heels, and a home of my own. They would get what it is, that we “do.”

And it strikes me why it is sometimes so hard to frame it in words.  Because I don't run “programs,” or “projects,” and don't have intensive five-year strategies, or really developed sponsorship programs they can throw money at. Because I'm not a part of a denomination and I'm not connected to anyone important.

All I have is a family. Relationships. A group of people I care for on a daily basis. A Jesus who saves.
And a heart that said, “yes.”

I'll give my life away for one of these.

For one. 

If only one knows the height and the depth and the breadth of the love of God, like I know it, then it's enough.

I can't give really good numbers. We don't feed the thousands. I have people.

Faces I know the lines of, the crinkly smiles. Names.

Names that I know.

Names like Christine, whose mother tried to kill her with a machete. She now worships her Jesus with a smile. No longer rejected or angry, no longer trying to fight the arms that try to hold her, because she has experienced real freedom. She is twenty-something years old and she calls me, “Mama.”

What I do, its more than counseling. It's transformation.

It's letting God loose on the earth through me. 

The only strategy I have, the only one I know is to help people have encounter with the Father that I know can set them free.

Free from their past, free from themselves, and free to be the new creation He intended them to be with a heart bursting full of dreams of being the next Billy Graham or an astronaut.

Dreams that don't involve the dry crack of a gunshot, or the creak of a dirty bed for a dollar. 

Love is just a lot of seeds. A ride to the hospital here. A three hour conversation there. A prayer breathed desperate for the one in my arms. 

Relationships that shape each other into better human beings. 

Healing that extends into a life-time.

Love that can end wars and stop cycles of hatred.

Four years later the fruit starts to throw tiny shoots from the ground.

This girl getting married and preaching to the masses. Another, taking children into her home. A father who gets saved and starts caring for his children.

Pauline. Elizabeth. Alex.

The invitations to Congo and Rwanda. The hope of spreading the healing love around.

One by one, we build our family. We make sacrifices for each other. 
This is what I do. And this is what I miss on a tarmac four lane highway somewhere in North Carolina.
I don't miss the roads there.

But I do miss my people.

When I left America, at 24, I don't think I knew what this verse meant, “And whoever will lose His life for my sake, will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

But now I do.

We have nothing of our own, but we have everything.

I really am one of the few people I know who is doing exactly what they were made to do.

Bringing glory to God and loving it.
And God's goodness just keeps overtaking me.

Everywhere on this journey people like you on the road who offer up homes, and beach houses, and cards, and pizza, and support, making me believe again that we are all part of a larger family.

My prayer is someday you get to meet the other half of mine.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Niclete's Redemption

Last year, Niclete was just another woman in Uganda living in the slums, trying to provide for her family of growing children, alone. Last year, she did not have a job, or access to maternal health care. Last year, Niclete gave birth to a still-born baby boy, body too twisted. 

Last week, God redeemed all that.

As I struggle through the why's and wonderings of why bad things happen to good people or any people, for that matter, I look at a picture of Niclete, and I am satisfied that God remembers us. That His intentions towards us are always good. 

Even though last week, I lost my baby, last week Niclete gave birth to a healthy baby boy she named Joshua. 
He's perfect. In every way. 

Last week she had a family surrounding her as we all welcomed this new little one as one of our own. Last week she had money to buy him blankets because she has a job working for our jewelry program, Imani. Last week she had sisters from Zion Project to surround her and hold her other babes, while she took care of this new one. 

This is the miracle of love. The miracle of redemption. 

And all the dusty trucks rides to hospitals, and doctor appointments, and sonograms. And all the love poured out, is worth it. And if you still don't get why I do what I do--then you'll understand now. 

Love makes all things beautiful in time. 

I hold hands with her in the dark knowing that just as the morning came for her, it is coming for me too. 

Because God is that good. 

If you want to help us reach more women with our maternal health care programs we offer all our ladies then you can give here.

But mostly, give thanks.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


It feels like the inside of me is being wrung out like a wet towel which no longer holds water.

I wanted my first blog back in the States to be full of stories from the vacation we've been meaning to take for 3 years, or the crazy adventures of seeing family and friends we've missed so much, or a blog on rest, and how I was getting it. All the many testimonies of God's faithfulness to us in Uganda over the last six months.
This is not a story about that.

It might get too real and too honest for some of you, and many of you I wanted to share with in person, so please don't feel left out, or bad that you didn't know. But I'm a writer. I have to write it out.
It's the only thing that helps.

It feels like yesterday that I was happy.

Yesterday, I was pregnant. They said somewhere between 8-10 weeks. By 8 weeks your baby has a heartbeat. By 8 weeks your baby has tiny nub-like hands that will form into fingers you will kiss with your mouth. An internal organ system. A brain.

My tiny blueberry baby.

I dream his blond curly hair and dimpled smile that creases just like my husband's.

We're never prepared, and yet, this one was so wanted. Being pregnant, creating love and life in the world, is such a joyful experience. It should be. We already had 10 names for him.

I never had a fear about pregnancy. 

Never doubted if I could get pregnant or if my body would carry a child. I never let those twisty thoughts in. I am after all half-Latina. These hips should be made for birthing. And every day in Africa I see women who are pregnant. All the time.

They pop out 7 or 8 kids like a gumball machine that just doesn't quit. So fertile, so strong.

Every day I love them, help them go to sonograms, and spend hours in hospitals, and help give birth. Every day I hold babies. At least one.

Every day she holds one child while carrying another in her belly. It all seemed so easy. If they could do it without pre-natals, without proper nutrition, and exercise and good doctors, how much easier would it be for me. I held their children, but never with envy, because I knew someday it would be my turn.

It's not something people talk about much. Everyone says to wait those 12 weeks, until you “know for sure,” but it doesn't really make sense to me. To go through this kind of trauma, alone. Because its part of my life, and its happening to me.

And maybe if we can talk about it, we can help each other.

I read a book yesterday that says that we have to hold our heart open, because when we close it, we begin to shut down, we begin to die on the inside. So I have to let it open, let these things pass through me. And let it go.

I did all the right things.
I ate my greens. I did the stupid aerobic prenatal video.
I drank the water.
I took the horse-pill vitamins down my throat.
I journaled.
I tried to meditate.
I read 5 books.

I googled everything. 12 times a day.
I tried not to be “stressed out” for my baby. With all those pregnancy
hormones coursing through my body...yeah right.
I tried to be a good wife. A crazy wife. But a good one.

So why does it still feel like my fault? Because at the end of the day we always wonder. Did I do something wrong?

Because we want an explanation. Someone to tell us why. Because my Daddy God loves me. Because he loved the spirit of this yet unborn child.

The blood spotted slow at first. Then it was more like leaky faucet, bright red, and constant. Then the fear clutched. Can't breathe, hard to breathe. The pain. A little. But enough.

I felt it, in a place yet un-named.

Something is wrong.

Then the white lights of the hospital room without my husband. We don't think we can bare it but then we do.

And we go on living. With a hole in our heart blown wide open.

The waiting in between the space of what I hope and the worst of what might be like a minefield in the mid-day sun I know I will have to cross.

The belief is hard. The hope. Maybe its going to be ok. It needs to be ok.

I turn into Daddy's arms. Why?

I hold you in the palm of my hands.”

That's all he says, but I yearn for more.

I think of God, not just Father, but mother too. I think of how He holds us to His chest, how he would do anything for us. How it hurts him when he loses a child. How the mother heart of God beats true and fierce. Would go through it for me if He could. Like my own mom.

I think that this can't be happening to me. I go through all the possible worst-case scenarios first because it gives me the illusion of control.

No baby in my arms in 7 months.
No grandbaby.

In Rwanda, in April, they grieve the names of the dead. Maybe mine will join them.

And like the arms of Africa have always accepted me, maybe they will surround him too.

I can't write it all because its just too horrible. And this will end up sounding more like an over-dramatized version of Grey's Anatomy or Private Practice. I make fun of them, but I just watched a show where the baby was born without a brain. I put a hand on my belly and prayed. Not this one.

I'm not trying to make you cry. Or maybe I want you to know that it's ok to if something like this has happened to you. This happens to so many moms and they hold their heart in silence. With all the questions, unresolved.

Can I get pregnant?
Will I get pregnant again?
Does my body just reject my babies?

Every time I went to the toilet, my biggest fear was expelling him out into the world.

I go to the hospital again. This time they are being very nice and saying words I'm not understanding. They are giving me options that my brain cannot compute.

Ectopic. Things like:
1 in 4,000 women. Rare.
25% more likely to have one in the future
60% chance of having a healthy baby in the future.

The words slur drunken together. Try to breathe. Try not to break down.

My best case was the medicine. Where the baby is broken down and absorbed back into your body. 

I liked that idea, of him being with me forever, little particles of light.

But in my case, it was the worst case scenario. After hours of waiting, I had to have the surgery.

It was not what I wanted. None of it was what I wanted, but the doctors and my family and friends were so kind.

And my husband was able to get there. He was a rock. A refuge. We held each other close and said goodbye through so many tears that I feel my eyes will always be swollen. I could not have gone through this without him. 

Our love grows strong against the cold. 

Stephanie and I talk about his spirit. Him being in heaven. Growing up there. I think of a baby cherub.

Somehow, it makes me feel better.

I'm not sure how we survive things at all without friendship.

I like to think that I was brave at the end. 

Tyson tells me to be positive. To want to wake up. So I think these things. I imagine my big angel at the foot of my bed, protecting me. I imagine Father waiting to receive him. And it makes me feel better.

You know, I thought I would be angry. And maybe I will be. Oh but the grace of my Daddy.

This could have happened in Uganda.
Without technology.
I could have ruptured and bled out.
Without Trans-vaginal sonogram machines with really long wands that you hope are not going where they look like they're going.
But end up saving your life.

So many blessings peek their heads through my stained-glass shatter of pain.

Before I go in, I tell my husband I'm going to stop working so hard.

No better time to make a resolution than before you go under.

I think that in a few months we can try again.

The meds make me drunk and I think I tell the doctors they are the nicest people in the world.
I wonder when I'll be able to have sex again.

You know, really important thoughts.

For a minute, I forget about what they are about to do.

When I wake up, I remember.

The body lurches with myriads of pain. He's gone. Today, today I am no longer pregnant.

Today, I can barely move because of the hurt in my abdomen. And this heart that can't bear to swallow one of the worst days of my life.

I've lost many things in my life. First love. First baby. First happy sonogram with healthy beating heart. The enemy has stolen many things. Tried to destroy me.

But I try to keep my heart open. God helps me keep it open.

Like a prayer plant hungry for the sun.

I try to be strong enough to know that this doesn't mean God isn't for me. It doesn't mean there isn't double waiting for me.

After all, I'm still a mother to a couple hundred babes in Uganda. There are still very many babies to hold.

I'm still a broken one absorbing the light. A supernova.

Waiting for the day I'll give birth
into a luminous night.

**For our baby: “I carry your heart in my heart. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere you go, I go my dear....this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart. I carry your heart in my heart.” -e.e. cummings-

***Thank you for all the prayers, support, phone calls, and kind words. For those of you who did not know I was pregnant yet, sorry for the shock. I may be off the grid for a while, but I love you all. If you want to help and don't know what to do, the reality is,we are going to have massive medical bills. But mostly we need prayer and friendship. And maybe the space and understanding to get through this, even if we forget to call you back. We appreciate your love. You can send notes, words of encouragement, and any help to Tyson and I: P.O. Box 321 Quinque, VA 22965

***The picture is of my sister when she gave birth to her son Ethan. A ray of hope in the dark.