Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mustard Seed Faith

July 15th

I've thought about for the past few days exactly what to say. Story short: I'm leaving Sunday from this beautiful country, a few days earlier than planned.

Last Sunday, i woke up to a normal Sunday morning in Kampala. Everyone was pumped to watch the game that night. At 8:30pm we walked down to a local restaurant/cafe (one of my favorite hang out spots in Uganda.) Little did i know what a 10:30pm a bomb went off in Kampala, and another went off a minute before the end of the game. We left for home a little before the end of the game. When back at the house, i remember hearing something that sounded like fireworks. I thought it was just celebration from the game, but little did i know it was a bomb.

I woke up the next morning was a message from a friend asking me about the bombs. I immediately scrolled through my CNN homepage and saw the headline about an al-Qaeda linked group from Somolia the al-Sharab being responsible for the attacks. The orignial estimation of death was 9, however, by the end of the day the death toll reached 76, one being an american who worked for invisible children and a few being friends of the staff at EAC. al-Sharab has claimed responsibility for the deaths, saying that "Ugandan tear are our happiness." However, they are angry because the African Union, which is trying to establish peace, has many troops in Somalia. Uganda is the main player in this and has the most troops out of any country in the African Union. The al-Sharab says they will continue to raise hell until the troops are removed. The African Union is having a convention all next week in Kampala in which 66 officials, the same officails that are responsible for putting 6,000 troops in Somalia, will be in Kampala. My flight was originally scheduled to leave the last day of the convention. However, i am now leaving Uganda on Sunday, a a few days earlier than planned. However, other bombs have been discovered (confirmed to be planted by the al-Sharab because of the ball-bearings present) but they were luckily discovered before they were deployed. There was another bomb found in Kampala today (also discovered before deployed) and the al-Sharab sent a message to the president of Uganda declaring this was only the start and there was more to come, so the situation is serious. But, i Praise God that i am safe

With all of this said, I am coming home a week early on Sunday. It don't understand why this happened, but i do know everything happens for a reason. I keep being reminded of the verse Matthew 17:20 "He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." I have so much faith that all of this happened for a reason. Just like God knew me before i was made, He also knew that my trip would be cut a few days short.

I'm choosing to have faith. Faith that God can stop this tragedy and bring glory to His name through it, faith that He will bring comfort to all of those affected, faith that no man-made scheme can quench the power of God, faith that God can move and work in BIG ways, and faith that i am coming home changed (even if a few days short.) I may never know why this happened at the time it did, but i do know that the past 7 weeks have altered my life. I choose to not let this man-made scheme over-shadow the big ways that i have seen God working this summer. Faith means believing in something you might not see, trusting that there is a plan, and realizing that God has everything worked out if only i would sit still and listen to his quite voice saying "Trust me. You are in the palm of my hand." God can move mountains and i have His power inside me, and even if i have faith as tiny as the smallest seed, God can work in big ways through me. I will proclaim the name of Christ through my actions and words for all to hear, whether that is in Uganda or in the States.

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/07/15/somalia.uganda.threat/index.html?hpt=T1&fbid=X7dc5sCiKqE

Pray
I'm choosing to have a mustard seed faith.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Self-Sustainability



July 10th

For those who don't know, i love the idea of self-sustainability and i believe that there is much success in its principles. This week we traveled to the village of Zirobwe where we stayed for a week building 4 families goat sheds.

The principle behind this is simple. The goat shed houses 2 goats, one male and one female, with the hope of reproducing more goats which can then be sold. If good care is taken of these goats, the goats can provide a guaranteed salary about every 4 months when more baby goats are produced.

This week was one of the most beautiful weeks i've had here. Even though we worked very hard building the goat sheds, even though i stepped in mid-calf deep mud for a full day, even though i lived without running water, any form of a shower, or electricity, even though i hauled jury cans full of water every day, and even though i slept 2 to a mattress in a school house it was worth every inconvenience.

Every night we had a bonfire where most of the village attended. The first night i scooped a little girl up on my lap and about 30 minutes later i noticed that she was sound asleep on the chest. As her head bobbed back and forth in deep sleep, i kept placing her head back on my chest making as minimal movements as possible not to disturb this precious girls sleep. While she was lying there, i couldnt help but think that this was the perfect picture of Christ's love for me. Even when i am dirty and untouchable, Christ scoops me up in his arms and allows me to rest with Him taking my burdens upon Him while He gently keeps my head from falling off His chest allowing me to fully rest in Him. I kept being reminded of one of my favorite songs by David Crowder "Can I Lie Here."
"Can i lie here in your arms, can i lie here in your arms. My only calm is You. Save Me."

We left Zirobwe with 4 goat sheds built, hope instilled into those families, and hope instilled into the community. I left being inspired by these families that we had built for: most of which are either widows with children, or families that took in orphan children out of the goodness of their hearts. I left having a better understanding of the rough conditions of those living in the villages of Uganda having experienced them for myself and that it is really not easy. I left being reminded of the meaning of simplicity and as always i left being humbled: so humbled over the fact that people could live like this being so grateful for something a simple as a goat shed, while i live in America with everything i need and SO much more.

1 John 3:16 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

My team stomping the mud!

the sweet, sweet widow we build the goat shed for

finished goat shed!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Help Change Someones Life



July 3rd

On Tuesday of this week i walked into the Empower A Child office and i decided to sponsor a child with the help of my four friends Carly, Joan, Amanda, and Andrea. Today, i got to meet the shy, beautiful, intelligent Joan (joe-anne).

I decided that i wanted to help sponsor a child when i started to hear all of the stories from the Empower A Child staff. Many are Compassion International kids and were sponsored when they were young to be able to go to school. Because of Compassion, their lives were greatly impacted. Empower A Child would not be existant if not for Compassion, children's lives that EAC impacts would not be impacted, all of the EAC staff that was sponsored would most likely not have been able to go to school, university, and be able to get jobs, and EAC itself would not exist. This is why i wanted to sponsor a child: to help change someones live, to give someone a chance they would not have, and to show Christ's love. I figured now was the time to do it, when i was in Uganda where i could meet my sponsor child. I didn't want to make any more excuses. I am blessed beyond belief and i wanted to help bless someone else.

Joan's story touched my heart and i am sure will touch yours. Her father is not present in her life and she lived with her mother who could not provide for her school fees, food, or other essentials. She was attending Victory Primary School when one of the cooking ladies took notice of her need. She decided that she needed to help Joan, even though she did not have much more money than Joan's mother. She took Joan in and became her "Auntie" and began to provide for her school fees. However, now Joan's guardian does not even have enough money for life's essentials. They live at the school and barely have enough money to eat. I hope one day i can have as much compassion as her Auntie.

When i walked into Victory Primary today, i was greeted by Joan and her Auntie. I could not stop smiling as i hugged Joan in my arms and my eyes started to tear up as Joan's Auntie took my hands and said "Thank you so much my daughter." I looked around and saw their "luggage" in the corner of the room. I asked her if they needed anything and she began to list off things such as a mattress, clothes, a pair of shoes, a school uniform, a mosquito net, books..all essential things if you ask me. Thankfully i am going to have the opportunity to take Joan shopping and hopefully be able to get Joan and her guardian most of these things.

Joan is one of the most beautiful 10 year old girls i have ever met. She is so meek and humble and her smile and hugs greatly touched my heart. Thankfully with the help of my 4 wonderful friends, we are able to sponsor her. To provide her with an essential right: the right to education. Something that she might possibly not get otherwise. I know now, her life is never going to be the same.

There are over 70 kids on the waiting list to be sponsored. Yes, 70 kids. Some of which have been waiting over 2 years to be sponsored. I believe education is imperative for a child, and should be given to all children and sponsorship only costs 30 dollars a month for school fees and other essentials for these children.

I never thought i would be able to sponsor a child right now, after all i am still in school and 30 dollars a month does add up. But, what if you would give up 1 soda a day? That is 1 dollar a day...you would be able to sponsor a child. What if you would give up 7 cups of starbucks a month? You would be able to sponsor a child. Do what i did. Ask a couple of your friend to pair up with you and help someone. I asked my 4 good friend to help me for the next 2 years until i am out of college and will be more financially stable to continue to sponsor Joan. Ask your friends to help you help someone. If you grab just 2 other friends, that is only 10 dollars a month. If you grab 3 other friends, it is only 7.50 a month. If you grab 4 other friends, it is only 6 dollars a month.

Seeing the EAC staff and how their lives have been impacted by sponsorship make me realize that it works. Sponsorship and education really DO impact these children. If you are wanting to help change someones life please contact me and i would love nothing more than to help. These children and their stories impact me every day and i hope they are impacting yours as well.

"Speak up for those who can not speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Proverbs 31:8

"Now that i have seen, i am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead. Now that i have held you in my own arms, i can not let go till you are." -Brooke Fraser

video


Joan and her Auntie


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Simplicity



June 30th

Simplicity.

The simplicity of a child overjoyed by a 35 cent soda, the simplicity of a make-shift volleyball game, and the simplicity of the joy on a child's face as they watch you attempt to break dance.

It's crazy to find so much joy on a child's face here when you offer to go down to the store, buy them a soda, and sit on the ground talking to them, or when high schoolers get to play volleyball against a group of mzungus, or when a child is beaming with joy as you attempt to learn to breakdance and you teach them american dance moves in return. Maybe they find so much joy because they realize that joy is not dependent on circumstance, but in Christ.

I find so much joy in simple things like these and i pray that i always do.

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."



A group of street kids at Shalom

Lawrence puts me to shame with his break dancing!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A different kind of birthday

June 27th

On June 25th, I did not wake up to presents and a homecooked breakfast. Instead, i woke up, put on a pair of work jeans, a somewhat "clean" tshirt, I put my unwashed hair back in a headband, and i made the same piece of toast i always do. I knew that instead of eating at a nice restaurant, i would end up eating rice for lunch outside on the dirty ground with children with malnutritioned bellies. But, this is what i wanted. I woke up with one intention, TO serve and not BE served. I prayed to be humbled and to have a birthday that was not all about me.

I walked outside with my piece of toast and my bible in hand ready to read it as I do every morning. I sat down only to find i had sat in a big glob of ketchup from the night before. Here is when my humbling day began.

I started off by going to the village of Zirobwe, the future site of the Empower A Child training center. I began the day weeding a field of corn for 3 hours (something i never imagined doing on my 20th birthday.) The day continued by bringin a torential downpour to the village followed by my (ironically) fetching water from the well in jerry cans (much harder than it seems.) Since we had more work in Zirobwe than planned, we left 3 hours after intended. After returning to Kampala, I went inside to take a shower only to find no running water. I checked the internet only to find no connection which meant no contact with any family or friends on my birthday. I ended the night in a shopping center food court eating pizza. Everyone insisted i order icecream, only to find that after waiting 30 minutes, there was none left.

Looking back it was one of those days where i can't help but laugh. Sitting in a shopping center food court wearing dirty clothes, sweaty after a long days work, with muddy chacos and unwashed hair was not exactly how i pictured the end of my birthday, but i wouldn't have it any other way.

I prayed to be humbled. I ended up having the MOST trying, patience testing, humbling day ive had since I have been here.

I can only imagine what my birthday would have looked like if i would have spent it in the states. It would for sure have been a lot different. After all, isnt a birthday supposed to be all about you right?

I can only imagine how those here in poverty spend their birthdays. Probably similar to mine: doing chores that needed to get done, fetching water..no internet, no running water. Some don't even know when their birthday is. Maybe it is just Westernized culture that had taught me to think otherwise.

I kept replaying the verse in my head all day from Phillippians 2:5-8. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God did not consider equality something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obidient to death- even death on a cross."

I know i say a lot that i am often so humbled, but I believe that it is God slowly chipping away at my heart and my pride revealing something that I hope is a little more like Him each and every day. I am emensly grateful that i could spend a birthday in Africa and in one day i could learn more than i ever thought possible.

Monday, June 21, 2010

SAFARI




June 21st

It was one of those days when everything seemed perfect, where i didn't even want to blink, where i tried to refuse to wear sunglasses because i didn't want to distort the beautiful colors around me with a tinted lens, where no matter where i looked all i could see was beautiful creation, where you realize nothing around you is man made, and where even after 5 hours you wish you could turn back and do it again.

It was one of those moments when i stood in complete awe of God's creation.

We started off Safari weekend by taking a hike around Murchison Falls..one of the most beautiful places ever i think. We hiked to the top of the falls, to the very bottom, then to where the falls started. The next day we took a 5 hour game drive and saw land animals while we all were sitting on top of our van, and then we got to take a water safari! It was undeniably one of the most wonderful weekends of my life.







Friday, June 18, 2010

Thank you Uganda


June 18th

When you run for awhile, you eventually hit a wall. Well here i am and i have hit this metaphorical wall hard. After putting in over 10 hour work days in Rakai, my body had to physically tell me that it was time to rest so i ended up with a fever off an on for a few days and have ended up today with a cold.

Other than the fact that my voice still slightly resembles that of a man, praise God i am doing well!

Today we had the amazing opportunity of doing something awesome! We traveled to the village of Zirobwe, the soon to be site of a training center offering job or technical training for the people of Zirobwe by Empower A Child. One of the girls here purchased mattresses, jerry cans, mosquito nets, hoes, and other essentials for those living in huts in the village. The team had traveled there previously and asked the residents what exactly they needed to fully provide for their needs. My group went to 3 different families and delivered variety of all of these things.

Every time i see poverty, you would think that it would start to become less of a shock. But, every time i see someone else in poverty, the face of poverty just gets larger to me. Seeing a woman kneeling accepting a simple foam twin mattress, a plastic jerry can, a mosquito net, and a hoe in such gratitude only seems to humble me greater. At home, i have a huge mattress and nice bed, i don't have to fetch water from a far away well for drinking, showering, cooking, and cleaning, i don't have to worry about malaria infections, and i go to the grocery store instead of digging my own food out of the ground. These people do.

I NEED a new pair of shoes, i NEED a hot shower, i NEED to eat that piece of pizza.

Here i see people living with only one pair of shoes or most often the case no shoes at all, i see people and have only experienced a shower out of a bucket of water and never running water, and i see people that only get one meal a day of whatever is available.

I think my needs and my wants have gotten confused. I don't need any of these things. I am fed every day, at least 3 times a day, i have more than enough clothes and shoes, and i have running water. My needs have become preferences and not actual needs.

Thank you Uganda for daily shaping my heart, for humbling me constantly..

"Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1: 5

"These things i have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33