Same storm, different boats

I have seen this meme or image around lately, and while it’s mainly talking about Covid-19 and all that this past year entails, I think it also speaks volumes about our life in general. We are all in the same ocean or storm, depending on which image you see, but we are all in different boats. Meaning, we do not all live with the same status, same education, same wealth, same abilities. We each live in different and unique circumstances. We all have different life stories, wounds, struggles, and perspectives.

The biggest impact from this image came also from the quote “we may not all be in the same boat but we’re sailing the same storm. Some may be in a yacht, some in a canoe, some in a dinghy, and some may be drowning. So just be kind and help whoever you can.” Be kind. Help whoever you can. That is so true, for life in general. We don’t truly know what someone is going through, so that annoying student, that unhelpful salesperson, that angry coworker, the unfair boss, that rude neighbor, that homeless person on the street, that struggling shopkeeper, and the list goes on…. We don’t know the situation they are going through and we are called to be kind, showing love because that’s what Jesus did when he saw people hurting or when people were hurling insults at Him. He was LOVE. He is LOVE. We are called to love.

Romans 12:9-21 is very clear about love: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This is a brutal reminder for me. How often have I been so caught up in my own world, that I have not cared about others? How often have I made snap judgements about someone? How often have I griped about someone without asking questions first. So I am challenged to love better, to be kind and compassionate towards others.

A long time ago, someone taught me about 1 Corinthians 13, and suggested to replace “love” with my name to help check my attitude and how well I was loving people. I have used this many times as a reminder of how I should be treating people.

2020 In Review – A Year Unlike Any Other

Discipleship Groups – Before the lockdown, we were continuing to meet with our discipleship groups and seeing personal growth in many of them. They have been testifying that their marriages have improved, their role in discipling their children has increased, and the work of the churches they serve has deepened through discipleship groups. During the lockdown, we began hearing feedback from church leaders about ministry going on in their areas. We were encouraged to hear that Relational Discipleship and Discovery Bible Study groups were flourishing even during lockdown.

Discovery Bible Study Trainings – After hearing from church leaders about the impact that Relational Discipleship and Discovery Bible Study groups were having during lockdown, the Mission Leadership Team decided that the best way to continue equipping churches for ministry was to train more local churches and church leaders on how to use DBS to impact their local congregation and community. Between July and October, we brought a total of 40 leaders representing 5 churches in different areas here in Eastern Uganda to train them on how to have DBS groups in their village. We will be following up with them shortly to encourage and ensure that the ministry is having an impact.

Long-Distance Church Visits – Before the lockdown, the Mission Leadership Team was able to visit churches in areas far away (Kyankwansi, Kitgum, and Lira). We encouraged the churches in those areas, but also had in-depth conversations with church leaders about the future of the work in their areas. The focus must shift to training leaders that can stand faithful in those areas. Because of these visits and discussions, we are bringing leaders from these areas to MTI for training and discipleship.

Messiah Theological Institute – In January and February, we met with 57 students for Messiah Theological Institute. With in-depth theological training AND relational discipleship focused on life-change, we had high hopes for another great year. Sadly, we had to close MTI from March through December due to the Covid-19 pandemic and government restrictions. We have plans to re-open MTI in March to continue what we started in 2020.

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Tribute to My Dad

Just recently, I went to a funeral for a little girl who battled sickness in a wheelchair most of her life, and she finally “ran to the arms of Jesus” at age 11. At the funeral, someone said “To be born is a blessing and to die is a must”. While we all mourned her death for being so young, that statement rang so true to me for my dad as well. My dad has been battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since spring of 2019, although the doctors didn’t know that’s what it was until June 2020. While 2020 was a crappy year in so many ways, the shutdown of Uganda in regards to Adalyn’s school and our ministry allowed us to be able to travel to the U.S. at the end of July 2020 and spend 5 months in America, and about 3 of those months of quality time with my parents. Continue reading

Thanks be to God

While we were in the U.S. and traveling to many different places, I saw this sign at a friend’s house, and I took a photo because it captured my attention and hit my heart pretty hard…

We can all agree that 2020 was a big, huge mess! It was a year of change, frustration, change, adapting, change, flexibility, change, disappointment, change, fear, and more change. One of the biggest realizations I had about myself pre-COVID, was how I thought I could control my life by planning. And while I would say, “God is really the one in control”, I would still plan and expect things to go how I want them to go. I would get frustrated when things didn’t go my way. And I still do this. But this past year has opened my eyes to realize that I can still plan, but it needs to be with flexibility and with the understanding that God is ultimately in control and my life is in His hands, not my own.

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Happy Birthday Adalyn!

Adalyn has turned 8 years old. This is her first birthday in the U.S. since we left for Uganda when she had just turned 3 years old. We had the crazy realization that we traveled across the world with a toddler who was barely 3 years old! Wow! It has been a blessing to watch her grow and mature into the feisty, strong, caring and adventurous little girl. As another year has passed, here is another round of questions to see where she is this year…

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Missionary Merit Badges

This post is for our fellow missionaries and expats, trying to find humor and victories in the simple, mundane things of everyday life. Just like the Scouts, expatriates and missionaries should start collecting merit badges for the things we have accomplished. Here are a few that my friends and I thought about to get us started… Continue reading

To Obey or Not to Obey, That is the Question…

I read a devotional that hit me hard, and I want to share it with you as a way to commiserate with you about the Truth and the challenge in it…

“The issue is not that we can’t obey God – that we can’t forgive that parent who hurt us so deeply, that we can’t  love that colleague at work, that we can’t give thanks in the midst of the storm, or that we can’t be content with our one-bedroom apartment. The real issue is that we won’t forgive, we are unwilling to love, and we refuse to give thanks and to be content with what God has provided. Obedience is a choice made in dependence on the supernatural power of God. By the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to forgive, choose to let Him love others through us, choose to give thanks in every circumstance and choose to be content.”

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Gains and Losses

I don’t think any of us expected things to go the way they have over the past few months. We have learned new words and experienced new things: global pandemics, markets crashing, national lockdowns, social distancing, infection rates, and so much more. The world has drastically changed since we visited America in December. Many of you are aware that our family made the decision in late March that we would stay in Uganda, our home, during these unprecedented times. Through much prayer and discussion, we felt this is where we should be. So far, Uganda has still managed to prevent massive spread of Covid-19, and we are all so thankful for this! As with many people around the world, we are processing the gains and losses during this time. There are many blessings and things to be thankful for. But there are also everyday losses that we feel because life isn’t normal and it’s a bit more stressful with extra restrictions. Continue reading

Serving during Covid-19

Obviously everything has changed across the world over the past few months. Maybe we should have been prepared for something like this, but I don’t think many of us were ready for the extent that a global pandemic of this nature would effect our daily lives. For us, it has impacted EVERY aspect of how we live. Many of you have read our newsletter and know the different ways life has changed for us here in Uganda (the picture here is of the empty streets of Mbale). But one thing we haven’t spoken much about yet is how we are SERVING during this time. Continue reading

Other Parts of the World…

It has been a struggle to watch this pandemic sweep across the world. It has been hard to watch my fellow Americans panic and become upset with one another for the different ways people are reacting to the lockdowns, isolation, and social distancing.

But it has been most difficult to balance the reality that the world is so much bigger than what’s posted on social media. Here in Uganda, we are less concerned with the virus itself (although the government has put some serious restrictions on movement and businesses to prevent rapid spread), and more concerned about the ramifications of all the closures and lack of movement. There is a good chance that in developing countries there will be more people effected by starvation than COVID-19. Continue reading