Sunday, December 29, 2019

Coming Back Around

An interesting development has taken place this term in Uganda.  When new people come, one of the first questions they ask us is, "How long have you been here?"  When we state that we have been here since 2011, we get "the look" and are told how long that is.  Even when we meet Ugandans or others from around East Africa, the same thing happens.  I guess 8 years is indeed a long time!

One fun development that has happened due to being here for 8 years is getting the chance to reconnect with some of those first people we journeyed with.  There have been quite a few who have moved on from Kampala for different reasons and every once in a while they come back for a visit.  If you have followed us at all since 2011 than you have heard me talk about Edwin Eregwa.
Edwin and I - 2013
Edwin and I- 2019
Edwin was without question my first friend here in Uganda and ministry partner.  Edwin is from Kenya and worked at the university ministry we spent some time working with.  Edwin and I were in the trenches together, took a few hits alongside one another, and spent a lot of time before the throne of God pleading for His transformation in the lives of those we were ministering to.  Nothing else draws you closer to someone than that!  Edwin now lives in Kigali, Rwanda with his little family and we miss him terribly.  How exciting it was though when he came through Kampala and made a point to spend a couple days with us.  It is a joy to hear how God has provided for Edwin there in Rwanda and how Edwin is finding many opportunities to use his ministry giftings to serve God.
Mary and Kelly- 2019

Mary came into our lives as we served with the University Discipleship Movement 2011-2015... but I had no idea she was still in Kampala until I happened to drive by and see her walking on the road. She reached out online and asked if we could start meeting weekly. From there we took a deep dive into learning what it looks like to walk with God, how to navigate relationships, and what surrender looks like. She asks the best questions and is really hungry to know God more and experience His best in her life. I've seen her lay down some big things, pray bold prayers, and seek His absolute best for her life. She is shifting to Kenya, and I'll really miss her. He is doing a beautiful work in her life and I know He is not done yet!

Johnson and I - 2017
And then there is my friend Johnson who comes from Nigeria.  If you follow politics in Nigeria, keep a lookout for this guy!  I met Johnson when Edwin and I started ministry at a university nearby.  Johnson was the student guild president and we needed his support to start the ministry.  Thankfully, Johnson loves Jesus and quickly became a huge ally for us.  Eventually, Johnson also joined the men's group I was leading and was a great source of encouragement to us all.  Johnson goes back and forth between Nigeria and Uganda and so I get to see him every few months.  The other day my phone rang and I did not recognize the number.  When I answered I heard the distinct voice of my friend and was very excited to learn he was back in Uganda.  Johnson asked to see me as he was about to return to Nigeria but had an issue he was dealing with and he desired our advice.  And so Kelly and I spent close to 2 hours with Johnson around our dining room table listening, sharing, and praying.  We believe God has great plans for Johnson and these trials he is facing are part of that journey.

I share these stories because we are at a fun point in this missionary journey in Uganda to begin seeing the ripple effect of the ministry we get to be a part of.  Because of your partnership, we are able to partner with the likes of Edwin, Mary, and Johnson and now have a reach into Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria.  Pictured below are also Habu and Demian who are UDM alumni and now involved in our Home Fellowship- it's such a blessing that we get to see them every week even after they graduated university! All praise and honor to God above!  Thank you for standing with us since 2011.  Your partnership is having a great kingdom impact!
"Alumni" who came to visit us this year!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Close to home

the transformation that has been happening at heritage and our home fellowship is all well and good- but if it comes at the expense of the ones in this photo- we have failed to some degree.

our first ministry is to the ones closest to us- your first ministry is to the ones closest to you. I cannot escape the mandate to love and serve my husband and my children because I am a missionary. in fact, the ways I love and serve my family can actually be a powerful testimony to the love and power of God in my life.

in my flesh I don't love them well. without dying to self I fail to serve them the way Jesus wants me to. I don't have enough patience without Him. I can't see their heart needs without Him opening my blind eyes. my love wears thin when I don't let Him fill me up-when I haven't settled into my belovedness. and as He has been working in me, I think my people would tell you that I am a bit more gentle, a little more gracious, my temper doesn't flare as often. He is transforming me and that is transforming our home.

It was a gift to witness Caleb be baptized in 2018 and Seth be baptized in 2019. Elizabeth and Rebekah have both invited Jesus into their young hearts. Josh and I are celebrating 15 years of marriage (which feels like a pretty big deal in a world where marriage is targeted by the enemy of our souls who wants to steal, kill and destroy). We certainly don't get it all right. And there are days when I wonder if the benefits outweigh the challenges of raising a family abroad. There are still wounds we are each healing from, and wounds we would love to avoid passing on to our children... but even in that there is grace and fodder for redemption and transformation.

parenting is hard. children are unique and their needs are complex. but there is freedom in knowing it's not my job to transform them. transformation is His job. I can create space for Him to work. I can die to self and allow His power and love to flow through me. I can train and disciple my kids. I can pray for them. I can ask their forgiveness when I blow it. I can love my husband well. I can live a surrendered and transformed life in front of them. and that's really all He asks.

Friday, December 27, 2019

It all started with a leaky roof

Remember our saga of the leaky roof two years ago? It was through that experience that I met Brian Bukenya.  Brian was the one who FINALLY fixed my roof.  Brian and his wife (at that time fiancee) Kathrine quickly became good friends of ours, and not just because he fixed our roof.  Brian and Kathrine love Jesus and we began having great conversations about the state of the church here in Uganda and across the world.  You see, both Brian and I were a bit frustrated with the lack of action coming from the church in reaching our lost communities.  After a certain conversation I remember saying to Brian, "You know, we can keep complaining, or we can do something about it."

I think it was that comment that finally caused me to do something I had secretly been wanting to do for a long time.  God had been stirring in me the desire to begin a fellowship gathering at our house with the purpose of building community and encouraging one another to go out and make disciples just as Jesus called us to in Matthew 28 and as seen in the early church in the book of Acts.  I shared the idea with Brian and his response was, "We're in!"

So, in February of this year, we launched.  We invited colleagues from Heritage, fellow missionaries, former students in the university ministry we were a part of, and few others.  After a huge showing on the first Thursday, we ended up with about 12 regular members showing up.  We were off to a good start.  Over the year God has blessed the group, taught us and challenged us A LOT, and enabled us to build a strong community among one another that really trusts each other.  It has been beautiful to watch.  We are now averaging around 25-30 people each Thursday and have seen it swell to 40 at two special events we hosted.  God is on the move!

Moving forward, we plan to split into two groups in February 2020 in order to create room for growth
and continue to allow for strong community and trust among one another.  Our prayer is to have 3 groups by the end of May of this year which can keep going while we go home for our home assignment.  We have leaders for the new group that is about to form but need a few more leaders for a third group and leaders to keep our group going in our absence.  Would you pray with us that God would raise up those leaders? Would you pray for wisdom as we move forward?  We also believe God may be leading us to a church plant, but we want to move in step with Him.  This is unchartered territory for us, but we are excited to be exactly where God is at work.

Thank you for being part of our team!  You are playing an important part in what is happening in this weekly fellowship and we praise Jesus for you!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sitting in a circle

A few years ago I felt led to begin a Bible study for the support staff at Heritage.  We have a team of staff members at Heritage who are the "unsung heroes".  This team of our Ugandan brothers and sisters take care of security, housekeeping, maintenance, and cooking for all 400 students and 100+ staff members.  It is not an easy task and yet they do it with smiles on their faces.

And so, I offered a weekly Bible study for these men and women and very soon found friendships I never expected and a 30-minute oasis for my soul.  I also found a place where I can learn from these dear brothers and sisters.  It has been an absolute joy to open God's word with them.

Then another idea came to me in an email from a colleague.  "What about a chapel service for the support staff?" Wow, what a fantastic idea!  And so I shared the idea with them with one caveat, I would take care of the logistics of the service but they would do the leading (singing, speaking, praying, etc.).  The idea was warmly received and the slots to sign up for leadership roles took about 60 seconds to become full.  God was moving!  I have to tell you that Fridays at 2pm are another oasis for my soul.  I sit in the back of chapel and watch my brothers and sisters lead one another into the midst of the Almighty and I can't help but join with them in worship.  I don't understand a lot of the songs and I certainly don't dance like them, however, God is in our midst and it is an amazing time of worship.

My heart has become full when I sit down with my Ugandan brothers and sisters and open God's word together.  My heart is full when I stand with them in worship and do my best to dance along with them. My heart is full when I see them on campus and they refer to me as Musumba (Pastor/Shepherd in Luganda). And then one day my heart overflowed.  On a certain Monday I walked into our Bible study time and noticed a change in the seating arrangement.  Normally they set up the chairs with me in the front and them in rows facing me.  There is a distance between "leader" and "student".  But then I realized that a change had occurred.  They made a circle!  We now sit next to one another as we open God's word.  I felt tears well up in my eyes as I realized (I am a bit slow) that for a couple weeks now this has been the seating arrangement.  The distance between us has been removed.  We are together on the journey.  Oh, what joy!  I praise God for my friends and being on this journey with them.  Thanks for standing with us on this journey.  You are part of our circle!
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