Life Goes On

One of the hardest things about living overseas is the amount of family and friend fun stuff we miss. Graduations, weddings, birthday celebrations, new babies, vacations, parties, and so much more. We know we can’t complain because we chose this life and we don’t regret our decision. But that doesn’t make it any easier when it feels like the world is moving on without us. And of course the world is moving on.  And so are we.

Throughout all our training, we were encouraged to love well and to be loved well. And while that’s great, it also means we hurt too. We hurt when we have to say goodbye; we hurt when we can’t give hugs or be there when our people need us; we hurt when we miss out on good things; we hurt when tragedy hits and we can’t be there for support. Sharing life together is such a special thing and we have been blessed by so many people whom we’ve shared life with. And we miss those people.

Don’t get me wrong, we love our life here and we are making friends and sharing life on this side of the world. We are making lifelong friendships with people who get us and all our craziness of living in Uganda. And we know everyone has good times and rough times, no matter where they live, and that’s a unifying feeling. But moving on in life is still hard. It’s hard when friends drift apart, it’s hard to not be as connected with family, and it’s hard to not know what’s going on a regular basis.

We don’t want to wallow in the challenge of being far away, but we also don’t want to brush off the difficult feelings as if they aren’t real. So whenever you think of someone you love, send them a text or an email, make a phone call, or write them an encouraging note. Let your people know that you are thinking of them, and it’ll help bridge that gap in distance, time or relationship.


Word for the Year

So I’m not fully sold on the concept of having only one word for the year, as I feel like God moves so much in a year and I don’t want to be constrained to one word. But I like the concept of focusing on something God may teaching me rather than feel scattered by all the possibilities.

As I woke up early one morning (not by choice), I was reading my daily devotional and the word that came to mind for me at this time is “FOLLOW”. In the past, I have followed God in choosing a university, I have followed God along with my husband in youth ministry, I have followed God to Uganda. But the “FOLLOW” I am challenged about is Matthew 16:24-25: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

And those Jesus spoke to in Matthew 8:18-22: When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Am I willing to follow Jesus even without the comfort of my family, the security that Leland and Adalyn will be okay? God wants us to care for the needs of our families  but not to neglect our spiritual calling in the process. Am I willing to follow Him no matter what? I’m not sure I can answer a whole-hearted “YES” yet, so my challenge for this year is to follow Him in all the ways I can and continue to pray for His strength in all the ways that I can’t. As I figure out what it means to fully FOLLOW Jesus, I ask that you also join me in this challenge in how you can fully follow Jesus as well. Let’s do this together!

Humbly Serving

I think that all of us struggle with pride and humility. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself to feel better about it. But I feel the inner pull, the tension to seek after my own benefits and well-being before others. I struggle with it in my family, relationships, ministry, and pretty much everywhere. On most days, I submit to God and “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). But I confess…I struggle with pride.

Pride is a big deal here in Uganda, especially for men. Uganda is not unique in that way, but here we see this struggle unfold in many churches across the country. It usually manifests itself in the leaders and they set the tone for the whole church. We regularly see church leaders fighting over control, authority, and power. They jockey for resources and being close to those who have resources. And most commonly, they fight to keep other leaders from growing and developing within their churches. And so when we talk to them about raising up leaders from within their churches, they automatically feel threatened. They fear this idea because it could cost them their title of pastor and their authority over the church. “If someone else comes up, then I must be down. And if I’m down, then I have nothing.”

Which is why Albert has been such an interesting person to disciple over the past year. Like all of us, Albert has his struggles. But unlike many of us, Albert has chosen the path of John the Baptist when he said, “He must become greater, and I must become less.” (John 3:30). Albert has been a pastor for many years. In fact, a few years ago when a church was in trouble and needed help, the other pastors from the area thought that Albert should be the one to go there and help them. So he had been pastoring that church for several years, away from his family and traveling a good distance to serve. When some things happened at that church, it was decided it would be best for Albert to return to his home church. People in the area assumed that when he returned he would retake the position of pastor and would be the authority at the church. But Albert chose a different path.

Albert looked at the men who had been leading the church he was returning to and saw many strengths and gifts in them. In talking with Albert, he said, “I want to see them grow. I know that they are the ones who can take the believers to the next level.” But he also wanted to serve there. So he offered to disciple the current leaders at the church but to take no title or position. He is pouring into them what he has received. And I do believe that God is using Albert’s humility to set an example in his church and area. I pray that God expands that example and it becomes contagious amongst the leaders.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

My prayer is that Albert’s story is an encouragement and a challenge to each of us. How are we serving? How does pride get in our way? How are we seeking after our own desires instead of the “interest of others”? We are all still on the journey to be made into the image of Christ. Let us not forget that humility is the way of Christ. I know Albert challenges me to be humble and play in the background!

Hospitality is a Gift

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:34-40

True hospitality, true service, true love…whatever you want to call it. I have enjoyed getting to know my Ugandan friends and how they view hospitality. Some Ugandans are beautiful examples of hosting others in their homes and they see the true meaning of treating people as if Jesus himself is visiting them. The “could be entertaining angels” is a very real perspective here. The true feeling of hospitality is when we don’t groan at daily interruptions of visitors, when we are willing to help someone in need, and when we open our homes and our lives to other people. Continue reading

Living in a Judgemental World

I have read a few books over the last months that have really challenged me in how I love people. “You and Me Forever” by Francis Chan was more about my relationship with the Lord and serving His people than it was about marriage. And “Tattoos on the Heart” by Greg Boyle with Homeboy Industries is a beautiful testimony of how people need Jesus but they won’t know Him without finding love first.

We all battle judgement, both in feeling judged and in judging others. I’m not sure anyone can go anywhere without knowing judgement. And judgement is equal opportunity – singles, couples, poor, rich, men, women, moms, dads, kids, outcasts, celebrities…the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, it’s part of our flawed human nature. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it or let it handicap us. Continue reading

Women’s Discipleship Update

If I am honest with you, this new year of women’s discipleship has been challenging to me in all aspects: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In January, we celebrated meeting for a year. And while I didn’t verbalize my expectation, deep-down I was anticipating way more spiritual growth and eagerness to be transformed by Jesus than had actually happened.  After a couple meetings in the new year, I was discouraged and frustrated. Continue reading