Friday, June 26, 2020

Letters to the Church

Beloved Home Fellowship and AGC, we are writing because we miss being with you.

Home Fellowship: we miss seeing your faces, miss popping popcorn on Thursday nights, miss ladder ball in the yard, miss opening the word with you, and miss praying together. 

AGC: we miss driving out to your churches, we miss the drums, we miss the smiling faces, we miss the warm greetings, we miss the matooke!

And so, like Paul, we decided to start writing you letters and posting them here on our blog. We will also continue writing family updates and other thoughts- but we wanted to share this space with you so you know we have not forgotten you!

Today I was reading Psalm 84 and was so encouraged!

"Blessed are those who dwell in Your house;
they will still be praising You.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca*
they make it a spring, the rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength...
For the LORD God is a sun and a shield,
The LORD will give grace and. glory;
No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!"

Blessed are those who dwell in God's house- they will still be praising You. It doesn't matter where our two feet land when we are in Him. He can take us where He wants us; we will still be praising Him. Can you find a reason to praise Him today right where you are?

Blessed is the one whose strength is in Him- whose heart is set on pilgrimage. I don't have strength enough for this journey. There are days when all I can do is grieve. Most nights I must force myself to stay awake until 8pm. My jet-lagged girls wake at 5am and want my attention. I find the GPS directing me toward a toll road and I have no coins for the toll. It's all too hard; but my strength is in Him. And I must stay the course, keep journeying towards His heart.

As they pass through the valley of weeping they make it a spring... they go from strength to strength. We must pass through the suffering and pain- we cannot go around it, cannot stuff it or ignore it, cannot pretend it doesn't exist. In order to process pain and grief in a healthy way, we must feel it, acknowledge it, ask it what needs to teach us and then we pass through it to the other side. Lament is a vital discipline as we pass through the valley of weeping (read more here). In the process, we become more of who God created us to be, and not less. In My Utmost for His Highest it says:

"Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow... You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you... if you will receive yourself  in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people." -Oswald Chambers

As I pass through the valley of weeping, and allow the pain to transform me into the image of Jesus- I become a source of comfort and encouragement for fellow pilgrims on the journey toward the heart of God.

Blessed is the one who trusts in Him! Oh, friends, He is trustworthy. He is a sun and a shield. He gives grace and glory. He is good. We can trust Him, even when we don't quite understand what He is doing. Keep trusting Him today!

*The Valley of Weeping

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

End of an Era

The world is in a state of chaos and uncertainty- challenging everything we have clung to for stability. COVID-19 has brought many communities around the world to their knees. We feel the weight here in Uganda as well. In addition to the weight of a global pandemic, just before Easter this year we were informed by WGM Uganda leadership that this would be our final term with WGM Uganda.

This chapter of our lives in Uganda has been one of the sweetest and one of the hardest. We have seen God draw our children closer to Himself. Our marriage has withstood the challenges of cross-cultural ministry and only gotten stronger. Students at Heritage are walking closer to Jesus, asking great questions, and giving testimony to His work in their lives. Our home fellowship is flourishing even during this quarantine (mostly on WhatsApp right now). Watching our home fellowship leadership team step into more responsibility and take ownership has been beautiful. We strongly believe God isn’t done with this home fellowship and can’t wait to see how He uses these men and women. 

There are many questions.  There are even more unknowns.  But through all of this, we know that God is still good, and God is certainly not done with us yet.  Once we return to the states, we will begin exploring with WGM leadership and seeking the Lord as to what our next assignment might be.  Right now, we are focusing on leaving Uganda well, saying necessary goodbyes, and leaning on His strength to do so during a global pandemic. We currently have flights scheduled for June 2nd; however, our airline has canceled all flights through May 31st.  We have no way of knowing if we will be able to leave on June 2nd or whether that will be pushed to a future date. Would you pray over that? Once we are able to return to New Jersey, we will begin the healing process needed after this sudden change and begin looking at what could be next.  We appreciate your prayers over us, continued financial support, and patience as we wait on God to reveal our next steps. 

We as a family are finding a lot of comfort in the story of Abraham these days.  During our family home church, we have begun walking through Abraham’s journey.  In Genesis 12 we read of God’s call to Abram to “Go…to the land I will show you.”  Abram obeyed God and left behind everything he knew, everything that gave him an identity, and trusted God to lead him.  Our family feels a lot like Abram.  While we may be returning to our “father’s land” in New Jersey as our next step, we don’t know how long that will be or what ministry will look like a year from now. But God knows and we can trust Him.  Thank you for standing with us for 9 years of fruitful ministry here in Uganda.  This is not the ending we would have written, but we are grateful for the privilege of being part of God’s work here in Uganda. We trust God to continue what He started, both here in Uganda and within our family.

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.

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