Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Strength of a Tent

I have a friend who had an unexpected call from the hospital: life altering tragedy; another with a report from a lab: life altering diagnosis; and their very lives change in an instant and it spills over to the lives of their families.  We know local pastors whose lives in the village are amazingly difficult. And you and I both can add so many stories of suffering – great and small.

I’ve surrendered to the sadness just before each of my weekly shots.  In their help to quench my body’s confusion (auto-immune disease) they also produce nausea and exhaustion.  It’s not so bad now.  But it is annoying and makes me sad that I can’t do the things I want to do every Saturday.

In our brokenness:  we need.
I want to go back in time and change some domino that fell the wrong way.

I read:
We often treat suffering as if it's to be avoided at all costs, yet it's often the best display of a life transformed by Christ.  Robert Murrey McCheyne, a Scottish minister of the previous century, said, "There is a great want about all Christians who have not suffered.  Some flowers must be broken or bruised before they emit any fragrance" (cited in More Gathered Gold: a Treasury of Quotations for Christians, edited by John Blanchard [Welwyn, Eng. : Evangelical Press, 1986], p.  315).  Do you view afflictions, trials, and sufferings as things to be avoided, or as the greatest opportunities to project the fragrance of a transformed life?

And I stumble upon some new translations of the Word we are given as rama, specific words, we can use to battle the difficulties that Satan relishes in throwing at us.

2 Corinthians 12:10
So I most happily boast about my weaknesses, so that the strength of Christ may overshadow me. That is why I take such pleasure in weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecution, and difficulties, which I endure for Christ's sake, for it is when I am consciously weak that I am really strong.

Most gladly therefore will I boast rather of my weakness, that over me like a tent may be pitched the power of Christ. That is why I rejoice in weakness, in ill-treatment, in troubles, in persecutions and calamities for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I am well content…
   that over me
like a tent
may be pitched the power of Christ

So that the strength of Christ can

The strength of a tent in a storm is folly to the world.

The storms are sure.  There is evil in this world who wishes nothing more than to destroy us.  
Shouldn’t this tent be folly?

But the promises given to us, God breathed to us, are our dagger of protection when the battle is close at heart.

I can’t hold back a domino, I can’t fix tragedies, I am not able.

As soon as we recognize that—that we need—then He can be our strength.

I need His strength to overshadow my own.

    The tent may just become like a strong tower.

Why we are 'into' training pastors

Originally posted Thursday, May 16, 2013 - I needed to read this and think about this again...

Amazing leaders trained at Uganda Baptist Seminary

The past week we spent some time on the road, specifically to hear some stories of a few leaders across Uganda (and beyond).  We wanted to hear about their lives, and specifically if or how Uganda Baptist Seminary has been helpful to them in ministry.

These were my reflections after spending time at the far southwest tip of Uganda...just minutes from Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.  We talked to leaders from each of those 3 countries who have...what word to use?...stories.

These are not pleasant stories to read or think about.

Our host left our 2nd day to teach at a conference elsewhere. So we have her house and her worker to ourselves. Our first day there, she was supposed to meet with 3 pastors, but only 2 showed up. Not long before she left the next day, the missing pastor showed up.
The M23 rebels saw this pastor's neighbor who had just received the dowry for his daughter- money, goats, a cow. So last Tuesday they stole it all and cut the owner's head off. (The neighbor). The next day when it was being figured out, the rebels convinced someone in police to arrest the neighbor for it- which everyone knew did not/could not. So the pastor went to jail. Someone let him out. Rebels got mad, want him back in. So that is why he didn't come to the original meeting. We can't communicate at all with him- he sat in the living room all afternoon. Then he went back to where the man worker stays. Seems this pastor is staying here for some ? time. I guess today he is sort of hiding out? Says his family is safe, but he is not.

We are so shielded from this stuff in our home in Jinja. Seems so far away. But now this is in 'our' compound and I start hoping that key people don't find out...

The youth we've encountered have given such a different impression this time- stare like normal, but laugh at us, point and laugh, follow us out to pit latrine and laugh at us. The young children don't smile- of course they are mesmerized by Karis & Sophia. A foreigner in this area is strange enough.  But a child mzungu?  Amazing.  And there is no rudeness in unabashed staring here, it seems.

The rumor in town is that the Ug army are coming here next month, along with the first in history UN army. The M23 rebels have gone thru the villages telling people they will give them pangas, knives etc to fight against the army. The people want the army, not the rebels. By the rebels have warned they will slaughter the villagers if they don't fight against the army.   And everyone knows they will.
So then, I wonder if news reports that blame this or that group have ANY idea what is really going on. These people are addicted to evil, and being this close makes me feel uneasy.
There is a sorting camp here - people are flooding here to be sorted in to which refugee camp they are placed in. Our host said the one she went in not too far has 50 thousand people. And the ones fleeing do NOT want to be in a camp as conditions are so terrible, women and girls are not safe there either.

The message of grace and mercy and forgiveness takes on a whole new difficulty that we Americans know nothing about. Nothing. 
Yesterday I felt as if the youth find us so foreign that they perhaps think we have no feelings or can't discern their contempt despite the language barrier.   Then I think that perhaps it is many of THEM who are so calloused to not have or allow feelings. How else do you survive a place so used to this tribal and rebel fighting? For more than 20 years.

This place makes my 'mother' side afraid.
We are indeed helpless. So the beauty of the Creator's landscape, the passion of these pastors, wells up deep tears of awe of indeed God's grace in this place. Even video can not give a real picture of these roads along the base of the volcanic mountains. Pastors walk often an hour or more, church members do the same, to meet together.
Yes, I did think George needed a strong dirt bike. But seeing how many times his personal cell phone rings (we estimated 40 times a day), how many people show up to speak and get guidance from him, how many other pastors respect him, and driving some of the roads in the rain, makes me even more sure that gift was a true blessing to this whole area.

I am near this place, and still I can not really understand or even want to remember their stories. In one ear and out the otherseems the only way to cope with some of the horror stories.

We are here to listen to stories- and hearing how being able to go to the peaceful Jinja, get the training, and then bring it back here is what encourages some to keep on. And meeting some local pastors of smaller churches and hearing how the UBS students come back and train them here: this is the real and active and live picture of 'each one reach one'. But in this case, our goal is not just one. UBS will reach and train about 500 leaders this year. These leaders live in huts, many with no electricity, having to get every drop of water from a tap in some central location and carry it every day back home in jugs- well, the women & children get the water. I see the pastors' shoes with holes, the children with no shoes at all. Because they LIKE this way? How can anyone not want to invest in these amazing people?  How can anyone not realize these leaders are exactly where they need to be, where many foreigners can not effectively go?  THIS is as indigenous as it can get. 

And light in these dark places is light indeed.

So this pastor sitting outside quietly, what will he do? How long will be stay? Will this trouble fade so he can go back home to his family?   He is not in some far away land I see through a tv or picture. I am looking at HIM.


Another leader who graduated from UBS traveled from his nearby country.  He is a well respected leader there, and is also now an adjunct professor at UBS.  Some of his story he told:
The genocide came when he was 15. He got separated from his parents and taken away with a large group to be killed. He decided that he must run away right when they were marching. Others ran after him, also risking for freedom. The ones behind him shielded the bullets, and as they all fell into the ditch they were trying to get to, those who were killed fell on top of him in the ditch. He knew he had to stay there, and in the afternoon it began to rain. He said the blood if those above him ran down with the rain. After darkness, he got out of the ditch and walked 16 km to a village where they cut the ropes that tied his hands behind his back.
He knew that his entire village was slaughtered. So, after some time he became a street kid. A Muslim boy befriended him and asked him to come in their home. The M father said he would put him back in school and provide for him, but he must become a M. This young man came from a Christian background, and that day he knew he could not leave God.
Amazingly, 6 years later he found both of his parents.  He realized that he had been a street kid for so long while he still had parents.
He said he realized then that the struggles he passed thru were to make him who he is today, to make him a stronger person. 

The pastor who slept here last night is from about 20 km from here. The rebels went thru his village this week, and George said already many of the pastors from the Association have called to say that their churches are receiving people from that village who have fled and don't want to go to a refugee camp.

Another current student from a neighboring country is  sitting out on the porch telling his story. He is from DRC and began a church in a camp near Goma. He is young, and a young lady has come with him- the one he has chosen to sometime be his wife. He has talked about the training he gets at UBS is helping to save him from many false doctrines and know how to encourage the people and even train them.  A few months ago, he told us that food relief was coming in, but there was no fuel to cook the food on for the several thousand people.  They could not go back to their village areas.  Some time ago, the rebels came through his village.  They did not want to use their few bullets, and said the village had too many people in it.  They had the mothers and children watch as they used hammers and other tools on every man in the village, including this man's father.

Today, Anthony traveled to another area in Uganda that was ravaged by Kony and his rebels.  He spoke today to a new church member of a pastor trained at UBS.  The pastor has recently gone back to his home district as it has become safe again to try and start life again.
This woman is one of the 'wives' of Kony.  She is left with 2 of his children, and the further reminder of those years every time she needs to use her hands.  Her fingers were all cut off years ago.

I hear these stories and want to forget them, and not tell you about them as they are not pleasant.

But there are things going on today in our world that we need to know about.  
We need to know how insignificant many of our complaints can be.
We need to know how great the things are which we take for granted as standard and due to us.
We need to know that the church around the world looks different around the world--and yet ask if there are ways we can be more productive?

How can we impact these far away places that most of us will never set foot in?

One way is by believing in and helping in the training of nationals who live the culture, speak the language, and can impact their own people with a message founded in grace.  Not ONLY a simple spread of "Jesus loves you"  THOUGH THAT IS A NECESSARY PART!  But a deep foundation of Truth that can stand the storms these men and women and children go through day to day.

These leaders must have a place where they can wrestle through the concepts of grace, and forgiveness, and mercy, and salvation, and laying down one's life, and twisted or false teachings with colleagues and teachers.

In this country, loud speakers (literally) are all around luring anyone into what seems pleasant and beneficial to self.

I for sure don't have all the answers. But we can NOT give up the fight of training in those things of The Light.  And of having a relatively safe place to do so.

...find those who are trustworthy to pour into, so they can also find yet others...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


You know those words to likely a familiar song?
“If His grace were an ocean we’re all sinking
did you also notice these in the same song:
“I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory”?

It struck me recently, that you can’t sink or drown in the shallow end or standing peacefully on the sand.

So this idea of sinking…normally as a Christian we think of that as negative.  Like Peter who took his eyes off of Jesus.  We see the life storms and feel as though we are sinking in to worry, stress, fear, fatigue, headaches, illness, flares…

And yet Crowder challenges me to think of sinking in a new way.

Sink into His undeserved goodness.

When I gaze at some of the waves ahead, I see
    we lost  seven full time missionaries at the seminary last year for various reasons both expected and unexpected
    it appears UBS lost most of the support that was attached through them which forces us to make a backup emergency countdown plan  or what we are counting on is until God makes another way in His amazing way because He can do things like that.  
   I watch someone I love giving their all to do a job God did not equip them to do naturally (tho God gives and builds!)   I watch them have to leave behind the thing God put in them as a passion and a skill and a gift and a purpose because duty calls.
  UBS in the red, but the city water ‘has a problem’ again.  When you have almost 100 people on a campus with no water?  You have to call a water truck to come and fill your water tanks, and pay that bill on the spot.
I wonder if a job teaching in our miniature school will be filled for next fall, and who is going to do that?
  I realize that I’ve been unintentionally trying to find my ‘edge’.  How far can I go toward a normal lifestyle before the physical pain is too much and before a flare has a chance to begin?
  Is this normal for a kid this age to say these particular things and act this particular way?  Where is the line for a parent between over-reacting and under-reacting?

But I don’t need to walk on those waters.  Those are the wrong waves to fall in to.  Though I have to admit it’s tempting and easy to do just that.

“If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking”
            Are we?  All of us?  Sinking in His grace?
I mean, this isn’t Scripture and I can’t give you a verse, but this is an idea I’ve been tossing around in my head for a while now.

“When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great Your affections are for me.”

“Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
   If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

  God brought us some amazing people to temporarily fill in some large gaps at the seminary.  Seriously.  They are all amazing people who pour out from themselves.
  The campus is full of students who are here to be better equipped for their current and ongoing ministries across five countries.  The job that we have been called to is to pour into and equip and train and encourage and train in doctrine and in the faith-- almost 100 lives this month for almost 50 hours a week.  Times 3-4 weeks!  And next month?  A new group to do the same thing with!
  God equips and builds us all for service.  When He’s doing that, can we look to keep our passion alive in the midst of being broken?
  Turns out, we’ve had to call the water truck before and know the number and just the person to call.
  We are confident that if God desires for this ministry of equipping in Truth to continue, He will bring partners alongside.
  Although we do not have a commitment for a teacher for the girls’ school, we do have avenues to share the need and also some interest shown by some amazing sounding people.
  I’m listening to a pair of wild, real African Grey Parrots in my back yard.  That is still amazing to me!
  A wild monkey joined my girls’ and their friends while climbing in a tree.  So what did they do?  Went to get a banana and then fed it to the monkey.  Yes, monkeys do like bananas.  They peel it just like we humans do.
  Two or three years ago we were hard pressed to find other international girls in town.  Yesterday I had 21 in my backyard learning how to play volleyball.  Twenty-one.  International including Ugandan.

So this is my way of an update, and what God is showing me lately. Situations can all of a sudden make you feel like you might drown.  But maybe I seek to drown in a different place?

We can’t drown in Him from the shallow end.

When I’m walking on the beach with waters tickling my ankles and waves far off, they look beautiful. And that is tempting to feel I don’t need because I just am.

Today I need because He is the I AM.

"I AM, holding on to you.
  I am, holding on to You.
In the middle of the storm I am holding on to You."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tapestry of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2015

I’m up on Thanksgiving morning, enjoying my coffee and eggs with ham and cheese, and cinnamon roll.    Significant things. 
  The coffee is Ugandan from the Rwenzori mountains on the border of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.  The cream is pasteurized fresh from a local small business dairy, delivered twice a week to my gate.  The ham, I cured myself from a hunk of pork for several days.  But that was only after the skin (with hair) was cut off of the hunks of meat – the dogs will get a treat.  Meat from the open market comes like that.  The Kraft cheddar cheese was carried in a suitcase with a recent visitor.  The cinnamon roll dough was made from scratch, along with the frosting on top.
  And outside our sub-tropical birds are singing along all around, with a gobble-gobble interspersed from our neighbor’s yard whose hours are numbered now.  Come to think of it, I haven’t heard a gobble-gobble in the last 5 minutes or so…
  The kids are at school – why wouldn’t they be?  I had forgotten that it was unusual to have school on Thanksgiving day!    But we celebrated Thanksgiving last night by sharing a meal with mission family.  A colleague couple who is in the last weeks before retirement, a family who are colleagues as well, and two single gals – all friends, and now family when away from blood-family.
   We are family by the blood of Christ.

  I thought all day yesterday about making sure we gather before our meal together to stop and testify to what we consider the deepest reason to be thankful over the past year.    Last Thanksgiving I sort of remember, we had people here for meal.  But I was not well.  My body ached.  My appetite was replaced by nausea from medication.  And I was in a constant state of exhaustion.  I left the meat on my plate last year because I couldn’t use my hands to cut it, and was too proud to ask my husband to cut my meat for me in front of family.  I wasn’t hungry anyway so it worked out fine.  My brain was also fuzzy and foggy due to new strong medication so I remember staying mostly quiet because sometimes I couldn’t get my words out coherently.
  And this year?  Wow.  It is significant that we are even HERE.  I know better how to pace myself.  I pick the best-looking pieces of meat because I know I can cut those at least.  The food looks good!  And I’m happy to fill my plate!

  So, my thanksgiving this year?  Yes, it is for my relative health.  It has been God’s gracious mercy to have us still in this place.   This has been perhaps the hardest year of our lives.   And yet… in God’s grace I have something else to be thankful for…my rock in flesh.

  “Beloved Professor… your love and care are remarkable.”
  “…appreciation for all that you have done through your tiresome work.  I will always remember all you have done, you loved us well and the teachings which you imparted in me are great…”
  “I am glad that you have loved us professor…”
  “To the distinguished professor, harvester in God’s vineyard.  Let me humbly say thank you for your unique legacy, mentorship, role model and commitment towards us…”
  “Servant of God, we love you and we pray for you…”
 “We love you as a brother and delighted to have you as our professor…”
  “I’m so grateful for all that you have planted in my life.  It will remain and make a change to the community around me.”
  “I’m so happy for your generous heart with your family.  I will always remember your good advices you ever have to our class.”

These are all words written on a card of appreciation from a recent graduating class from the seminary.  They were having a class party one evening when we were all exhausted, and honestly he felt it a chore to go, and I was annoyed with him for going.  Isn’t it just like that though?     Turned out they gave some kind of speeches in appreciation for their dear, beloved professor.  I don’t know much else, other than the words written in this card.

  This past year, my rock has opened my bottles of water at restaurants.  He has cut and grated and stirred, lifted the cast iron, taken cookies out of the oven, poured from the pitcher, carried my bags, reminded the girls to brush their own hair, heard my cries, wiped my tears.  At least brought me tissues.  =) Never once have I seen him waver in his commitment to me.

   And yesterday when we girls suggested getting down the Christmas boxes late afternoon?  (Ie HIM getting down the tubs)  And had an idea to let our daughters and the single gals decorate the tree and listen to Christmas music?  He even rearranged the living room!  Re-plugged everything in, brought the tubs out, and put on the Christmas music.

  So we all enjoyed Thanksgiving in the dining room, and began transforming the living room to Christmas in the tropics.   I’ve had a set of big candles I’ve used for decoration every Christmas for at least a decade.  But we never light the candles.  Uh-un.  Nope.  They would burn down if we did that.

  But last night, I counted eleven lit candles glimmering in the buzz of Christmas music and giggles of Christmas tree delight.

This year, I am thankful for my God being my Rock, my hope, my light in the darkness, my constant help and giver of peace.   The One who continues to teach me more of who He is and who He desires me to be.   And I’m thankful for the man He gave me to be my rock in the flesh.

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