Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Jesus is All The World To Me"

As a small child, I remember one of my favorite songs to sing was Jesus is All the World to Me.  At that time, I was too young to truly understand the implications of that song, but after living for thirty-six years, seven of them being in Africa, I think I can now say that the essence of that phrase strongly resonates in my heart.  Many of us speak of Jesus as though He were any other person we know, but after some of us experience the power of His name we can never speak it flippantly.  When we speak it, His name resounds in every ounce of our being, and we cannot help but be overcome with joy and gratitude because we understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us.  About  two months ago I had another encounter that deepened my love and appreciation for all Jesus has done for me and confirmed the reality that even though I may lack certain things on this earth, having Jesus gives me everything I need. 
On Sunday evening, my husband, Caitlin (our intern), and I were home with Caleb and Vanea.  I walked back to our bedroom for a minute,  leaving Caleb and Vanea in our living room with one of our boys, who was mopping the floor.  Caleb and Vanea were singing and dancing to one of Vanea’s favorite praise songs, which speaks of glorifying God.  Vanea climbed on top of our coffee table, but when she tried to get down, she fell off and hit her head on the cement.  I was still in the bedroom, but I could hear the thunderous bang.  The sound was horrifying.  I sensed it had to be Vanea, and soon I heard her cry out.  I ran to the living room, but as I reached, I could see her staggering across the room and collapsing into Victor’s arms.  (Prior to this, Vanea convulsed  and then tried to get up and walk toward Caitlin who was calling to her.  Caitlin terrifyingly watched her eyes roll back in her head before Vanea became unconscious.)   I started crying out “Vanea!, but her whole body was stiff and she wasn’t responding at all.  I cried out, “What are we going to do?”  Victor calmly said, “She is going to be okay, Jesus is here.”  As I heard him speak Jesus’ name, it reminded me that even though I knew there was no hospital to evaluate her head injury, Jesus was going to help Vanea recover.  We began praying.  Vanea regained consciousness in few minutes, but continued to cry for 45 minutes.  I immediately asked my mother and Caitlin to contact as many people as possible to pray for Vanea.  I knew there was no better place I could run to than in the arms of Jesus and in the prayers of others. I then went back to our bedroom and began praying for Vanea’s total healing.  As I prayed, I envisioned her dancing and jumping and thanked God for giving her an excellent brain.  Vanea began moaning and then vomited twice.  She wouldn’t talk, so at this time it was difficult to ascertain what she knew and didn’t know.  We continued to pray, and I kept asking God to help me believe and not be afraid.  Although we wanted to keep her awake, we couldn’t because she was so exhausted from the events of the day.  We decided to wake her up throughout the night to check on her.  In the beginning, I found it difficult to wake her up because she was so out of it.  Then, at 2:00 A.M., she woke up and asked for water.  I was very excited to hear her request and knew she was getting better.  When she woke up in the morning, she was completely normal and back to herself.  I cannot express the joy I felt in my heart.  As I looked at our daughter all day, I continued to thank God for touching her.  I knew her recovery truly was miraculous.  I felt much gratitude to everyone who had prayed for her.  It was very evident to me that prayer truly does make a difference, and as we stand together to believe in God’s healing power, wonderful things happen.  The previous night I felt renewed courage to pray and believe because I knew many of our hearts were joined together in prayer.  I once again realized missionaries would never reach the places we do, if it were not for those who support us.  We are who we are not only because of who Jesus is, but because of who He is through other people.  Some of you may never perceive all your prayers have accomplished.  Some of you may never know the victories that have been won because of the battles you have fought on your knees.  However, don’t grow weary in your efforts because they are yielding results!  Vanea’s life is a testimony of that.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.   We love you and thank God for you.  Please continue to stand with us.  Hold us in your minds and hearts, as we do the same for you.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas ~ An Exchange of Love

Christmas has always been a special holiday for me.  A celebration that is centered around an exchange of love.  Jesus was the first one who initiated with His sacrificial love and demonstrated to us all the true spirit of giving.  Then he filled us with his love and hope so that we could give it to others.  As I think about all I have seen and experienced in Africa, I could never be more thankful for Jesus and His gift.  With an endless list of people suffering and ministry needs, I'm challenged to forget that the gift He gave was large enough.  Add-ons were unnecessary.  There would be no need for any other offering because his one life offering encompassed everything any of us would ever need.  Whether it is hope to face tomorrow because your last living parent has died or courage to stay in school even when life is really difficult or provision for your family to survive, He is enough.  I think at some point in our lives most of us can begin to question, "Was it really enough to meet my need, my family's needs, my community's needs, my world's needs?"  The beautiful part of it all is that our lack of understanding does not diminish the power and effectiveness of Jesus' gift.  All we need is to believe in our hearts that Jesus is the answer for us and He will be!  The second beautiful part is that God chose to make us part of the gift.  He sent us into this world to bring light just like he sent his son.  Stars shining in a dark world, bringing light to those who desperately need it.  I am always amazed when I read John 14:12, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  I want to follow Jesus' example and give myself as a Christmas gift to the world-making it a better place because I came.  There are many out there waiting for a gift that reaches their hearts not just their hands.    

I know sometimes with the fast pace of Christmas and the marketing campaigns it is easy to forget that Christmas is not about what happens outside of us, but inside of us.  That Christmas is about what happens in the heart..which means that we don't have to wait for December 25th, we can give the exchange of love all year round!  Let us seek to give a gift that lasts way beyond the Christmas season and winter-a gift that lasts for a lifetime...for eternity.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Do Not Fear...I Will Uphold You.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
This weekend has not been one of my best weekends in Kyenjojo.  Friday night I again found myself ill with stomach issues.  I thought maybe it was the food I ate, but by Saturday night I was finding no relief and knew that I was going to have to see a doctor first thing Sunday morning.  As I woke up this morning, I was a little discouraged-thinking, “God I really don’t want to be sick again.  I am tired of being sick.  I just wish I could stay here without getting sick.”  I was sitting in our car contemplating all of this...when I looked out my window and saw a    person being pushed in a make-shift wheelchair.  I’m not sure the age of the person, but it seemed like he was probably in his teenage years.  As I looked at him and saw his frail legs and small body, it put everything in perspective for me.  I thought, “Here I am complaining about a sickness that will go away in some days, but for that boy he is living with a sickness for the rest of his life.  He has to endure all of the circumstances of Africa with a challenging illness that may never go away.”  My heart felt great sympathy and compassion, and it directed my attention off of my own illness.  I first thanked God that He brought this man into my path today, and then I thanked Him that He has blessed me with a healthy body.  Lastly, I prayed for God to give me strength and a thankful heart in each and every circumstance that comes my way.  
It was not long after this moment that God brought Isaiah 41:10 into my mind.  He reminded me that I did not need to fear....that He was with me...would give me strength...and would uphold me with His righteous right hand.  This verse filled my heart with such peace.  I knew that God had sent it at just the right time.  It reminded me that God was holding me now and would continue to uphold me through every situation I faced.  I was not facing anything alone.  I thank God for the power of His word that is a present help for us in our time of need.  I also thank God that He can bring great comfort and encouragement into our lives just when we need it the most-whether it is a diagnosis of typhoid in Africa or cancer in America or the death of someone dear or any other trial we may face.  We do need to fear....God is with us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back In Africa

It is amazing to me how spending even a little time in the US can make me forget just how much of a struggle life is for so many people here.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t take much time in Africa to be reminded of this basic truth.

During my second day in Entebbe (the city where the airport is located), Caleb and I were taking a walk near our guesthouse.  I passed a young girl carrying a large jug of water and a woman washing her clothes vigorously by hand.  I bowed my head and thanked the Lord for the blessing of water and a washing machine throughout my life in America...that so many times I have used without even giving it a second thought.

On the third day, Pastor Victor and I went to buy a few things at the nearby supermarket.  The moment I stepped out of the car, I was bombarded by four street children dressed in rags selling pumpkins and peanuts.  They pleaded with me to buy their products as they rudely shoved them at me and blocked my pathway.  It was not their shouting voices that broke my heart, but the silent cries of their eyes and their hearts.  As I walked into the supermarket, I struggled to fight back the tears as I thought about what life looked like for these children.  I could not get their faces out of my mind, especially that night as I laid Caleb down in his warm bed and gave him a kiss goodnight.

Then back in Kyenjojo…two days later…I wake up to find no water at our tap (a very familiar memory)…I go to the office to try to do some work, and there is no electricity...Power has gone and our generator is not working properly…During these last two weeks, we have greatly rejoiced if we have even one day where we do not lose electricity…I think that might have happened once…

When it comes to checking e-mails or doing things on the internet, you begin your prayers early…not for speedy service, but for any service…(I have been trying to send this blog for the last four days.)

Living in Africa definitely changes your perspective on many things...and helps you appreciate both the big and the small.  Most importantly, all these experiences and circumstances are continual reminders to me to direct my gaze to the Lord-the giver of all things, the healer of all wounds, the keeper of all hearts, and the sustainer of all beings.  No matter how much or how little one has, he or she lacks everything without the Lord; no matter how challenging or easy daily life seems, one needs the grace and strength of the Lord to carry him or her through.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

As for me, I thank God I’m alive...

This statement is spoken by most of our people who stand up in church to introduce themselves and/or give a testimony.  The more I hear these words, the more they leave a lasting impression on me.  I come from a very blessed nation-USA, and I don’t remember frequently hearing church members, and especially visitors, thanking God they were alive.  When I first came to Uganda, I thought maybe this was just a formal way of greeting the church such as Praise the Lord and Hallelujah, but now I am understanding more that these people truly are thankful to the Lord that they are alive.  They realize they face many challenges in their lives and that others around them have died due to these difficult circumstances.   They are fully aware it is a blessing they have life this day.   
A few weeks ago, I was speaking with the Inspector of Health Facilities in Kyenjojo District.  He was talking to me about the lack of medical facilities and even medication in Uganda.  He was saying that if you survive an illness, it is just the grace of God.  He was talking to me about someone in the village who gets bit by a poisonous snake and has to walk miles to the nearest health facility.  He said that this person can reach the facility and find the doctor not there or the medication he needs is unavailable.  By the time the doctor finally comes, the poison has spread throughout the body, and it is too late to do anything so the person dies.     
Then just two days ago, Pastor Victor heard a story about a baby who died in December in a nearby area because the Doctor had no gloves to deliver the baby.  My heart breaks when I see and hear these things.  The medical situation here is sometimes unimaginable because of where I come from, but I keep praying to God that we will be able to make a difference in many lives and improve the medical standard around our area.  I pray that many people will be able to say I thank God I’m alive, and I thank God for God’s Care Ministries and Heart for Uganda that made it possible for me to get medication and treatment. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unimaginable Suffering

Sometimes I wonder why children have to endure so much suffering. They are purely innocent, yet they are forced to undergo an extreme amount of pain. When I reflect back on my childhood, I see I was very blessed to be born in the country and family I was. I sincerely cannot imagine facing even a small portion of what many of these Ugandan children face.

My biggest fears as a child were the dark, spiders, bears, and my house catching on fire. These children's biggest fears include hunger, bullets, death, being beaten, and having no place to live. As a child, I had everything I needed to go to school. In fact, I'll never forget the excitement I felt when it was time for "Back to School" shopping. In those days, I never had to think about being sent away from school. Now, as an adult, I see many of the children here don't even have a small notebook or a pencil or pen to take to school. I see and hear many children who have been sent away from school because they didn't have school uniforms, supplies, or couldn't pay school fees. (Actually it is almost a daily occurrence.) Additionally, I hear the orphans' stories about asking for these items from their extended relatives, who are acting as caregivers, only to receive abusive remarks such as "Go to the grave of your mother to get money for schooling." These children are left to beg from friends and others to receive or borrow one pen and notebook.

When I was punished as a child I deserved it, and it helped mold me into a better person. When many of these orphans are punished, it is often without a just cause and creates even more fear and pain in their hearts. As a child, I had daily chores to complete in order to teach me the value of having a good work ethic. Some of these Ugandan children are forced to do a large quantity of hard work every day, even before they go to school. As a result, they come to class late and very exhausted. Finally, when I was a child I remember laughing often and crying little. However, many of these orphaned children cry often and laugh little. The pain and sorrow is seen in their eyes, heard in their voice, and shown on their bodies. This cry for help is clearly communicated, and I cannot help but respond. It is my prayer that God will continue to use all of us to intervene in their situations and rescue many of these children.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mixed Emotions

My return to Kyenjojo has been both exciting and overwhelming. I cannot express the joy that filled my heart as I attended my first service in two and a half months at God's Care Church. As I looked at the faces of all of my friends and especially the children heard the familiar voices and African songs, witnessed their exuberant dancing, and felt the strong presence of the Lord, I could not fight back the tears. These tears were tears of jubilation. I was so thankful to be back! As I stood to address the people, my voice choked and the tears again flowed. I did not expect to feel such strong emotions, but I know they came from the deep love inside my heart for these people.

It is truly beautiful to see how God has connected my heart to these people who live so far from where I grew up. It is incomprehensible to me how strongly my heart is drawn to this area. Even the people in the hospital in Kampala expressed their amazement for my love for Kyenjojo. They would say, "You and Kyenjojo. You must really love that place." I do love this area with all of my heart. I truly can say of Kyenjojo, "There is no place like home," because "Home is where the heart is."

On the other hand, I shed tears of sorrow and pain as I looked at many of our children at God's Care Church and was again faced with their numerous needs. Although I have spent one and a half years living in Uganda, I can say that the suffering of the African people and children still astounds me. I really cannot imagine what daily life is like for them or how much pain they endure throughout their lifetimes. When you look at their faces, their clothes, their bodies, and especially their eyes, you can only imagine what they have been forced to endure by no choice of their own. As I have returned to work, the many challenges and needs of the Ugandan children and people are again brought before me. For example, just this week these issues have come up. 1. A 13-year-old girl had to miss school on Monday to go get AIDS medication for her very sick mother. She came requesting transport money so she could travel 9 miles to a nearby village where it was offered for free. 2. The same girl has received counseling to address her question, "What if my mother dies?" She has been advised that she will be the one to care for her four younger brothers and sisters when it happens so she will need to work very hard to grow food for the family. (There are no adults staying with the children other than the sick mother.) 3. A boy of 7 is caned because he hasn't been going to school. When further investigation is done to see why he doesn't want to attend school, it is discovered that the reason is because he is hungry. He said, "The only meal I eat is supper. When I wake up in the morning there is no food, and it is very hard to sit in school all day without eating." At least if I stay home, I can find some little food. (Him and his two brothers age two and five look for small sweet potatoes in their garden or steal some from nearby neighbors' gardens. The mother and grandmother are both gone throughout the day, leaving all of these children to care for themselves.) 3. One of our sponsored childrens' mother's has come to ask for help because she fears her house is going to fall down. (We have many families in this area in the same situation.) 4. An older woman came to our house this morning saying she has been chased from where she was living and has no place to stay.

God continues to break my heart for these people. I have asked God to help me never grow cold or indifferent to their needs. I don't want to get used to hearing or seeing these situations. I want to hurt each time because if I feel no pain, I may not move in compassion and may lose my passion to bring hope to this nation. God continues to answer my prayer, but he does it through various ways. Even during my illnesses in Kampala, I was once again challenged regarding the suffering of others. I look at Uganda through different eyes because of the circumstances I personally had to endure. (Sometimes I wonder if my illnesses are part of my compassion training.) In these eyes, there is some sense of empathy and understanding because I too have had to endure pain and illness. But the sympathy is even greater because I know in the midst of my pain, I at least was given the opportunity to be treated in a hospital and did not have to walk miles to receive this service. I could rest in a bed, not on a hard dirt floor. I could ride in a car to the hospital for delivery, not in a taxi, motorcycle, bicycle, or no vehicle at all.

As I drive or walk on Uganda's bumpy roads and/or wait in numerous traffic jams, I look at the people through unveiled eyes and think about them with a renewed mind and compassionate heart. I once again find myself fighting back the tears and having a renewed urgency to do all I can to alleviate the suffering of others. I may not be able to solve all of the problems of Uganda or give assistance to each needy person, but I am determined to improve the lives of all I can. I have wholeheartedly resolved to commit my life to give new life to others.