Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The beginning of my day today was spent listening to the audiobook, “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. After listening to only the introduction I was hooked and finished the book by the time I had to go out for ministry. I was captivated by Chan’s simplistic yet straightforward way of discussing the Holy Spirit. His thoughts and ideas were not “fluffy” nor were they hard to understand, they were simply biblical. In the church body today we often forget to acknowledge the beauty and wonder of the Holy Spirit and how He is present in our every day lives. We tend to categorize one another into denominations and belief systems by the way we talk about or react to the Holy Spirit’s presence. And though there are many arguments and disagreements between us, one thing we all agree on is that the Spirit is part of the Trinity, so why do we belittle His presence and power. As each day passes I am amazed at how the Holy Spirit works in my life and am so grateful that He has dwells within me. I have finally grasped that all the Holy Spirit I will ever receive and/or need is already living within me. How spectacular is that! So before I ramble on with my thoughts I will admit that the rest of this entry can be found throughout “Forgotten God”, sometimes I have written it verbatim and other times it is paraphrased. Either way the message is clear, which is there is a “forgotten God” and that is the Holy Spirit. I hope that the topics I bring up from this book touch you and allow you to see the Spirit in a whole new way.

When we accept Jesus into our lives as our personal Savior, a supernatural event takes place. The Holy Spirit comes and takes permanent residence in our hearts and in our lives. So if it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again and say that they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them?

How many of us have truly surrendered all to Jesus and allowed the Holy Spirit to transform our lives. Salvation in itself is a transformation and a blessing but what areas of your live are you still holding onto? Look over the traits of the spiritual fruit in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Now ask yourself do you possess those to a supernatural degree? Do you exhibit more kindness and faithfulness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends? More peace than the Buddhist? More joy than the Atheist? If GOD truly lives in you shouldn’t you expect to be different from everyone else? What is most disturbing is that we are not bothered that God living in us has not made much of a noticeable difference. Most churchgoers are content to find a bit of peace rather than a peace of God that surpasses all comprehension. Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We are no different than the world yet we expect to go out and tell those of different faiths who Christ is and how He has changed our lives. How are we to even begin telling others when our lives show no sign of radical transformation or that of the Holy Spirit within us.

Most of us assume that what we believe is right but have never really studied for ourselves. We were simply told, “This is the way it is,” and didn’t question. The problem is much of what we believe is often based more on comfort or our culture’s tradition than on the Bible. I believe we need to reexamine our faith just as much as a person of another faith needs to reconsider theirs. We need to begin afresh by reexamining our preconceived ideas about the Holy Spirit and what it means to be a temple of the Spirit. There is much more to God and following in the Way of Jesus than getting a bunch of talented people together to hold a church service. Have you ever thought about the significance of having “another” Counselor who is “just like” Christ? Right now, imagine what it would be like to have Christ standing beside you in the flesh, functioning as your personal Counselor. Imagine the peace that would come from knowing you would always receive perfect truth and flawless direction from Him. That sounds amazing, and none of us could deny the benefit of having Jesus here physically, guiding and enabling us every step of the way. Yet why do we assume that this would be any better than the literal presence of the Holy Spirit? Those of us who believe in Jesus would never deny the truth that we have the Spirit of the living God, the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, living inside of us. I’m just not convinced we’ve internalized this truth and enjoyed His blessings as He intends. It seems like this is mostly head knowledge to us, and that we have not owned it. It has not really made much of a difference in our lives, to the degree that if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it is not true the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, most likely our lives wouldn’t look much different. This is a sad statement yet holds much truth.

Instead as a new day begins we should ask “Who do you want me to love for You today?”. For from the Spirit we receive power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth, Acts 1:8. It is the Spirit who draws people to the Gospel, the Spirit who equips us with the strength we need to accomplish God’s purposes, Romans 8:26. The Holy Spirit not only initially draws people to God, He also drives believers closer to Jesus, Ephesians 3:16-19.

It really is an astounding truth that the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. He lives in me. I do not know what the Spirit will do or where He’ll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me. But I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me. I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit’s leading on a daily basis. Christ said it is better for us that the Spirit came, and I want to live like I know that is true. I don’t want to continue in my old ways when I know that the Holy Spirit has a better life in store for me.

A Quick Story

During my time here in Kampala I have had great days and not so great days. The not so great days are the ones where I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted. This past week I had one of those days/nights. The week had been packed with different programs and it seemed like I was constantly going. The ministry was great, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of each day as I sat alone in my room I felt drained. One particular night as I headed down the hill from where Ariel stays to my place I stopped and talked with my good friend and night guard Bosco. This is a typical thing we do every night just to see how each other’s day has gone. On most occasions I ask him how his day was and he will respond “Very good!” with a smile on his face. However, on this night he looked down and said “fair.” I asked him what was wrong and he informed me that someone had stolen a lot of money from him. I was shocked and asked him how it happened and how much they took. He told me that his wife Eveline had gone to buy charcoal and had given the lady who was selling it 20,000 shillings ($10) and expected money in return. The lady instead took the money and never came back. This devastated Bosco and his wife because this left them with no money to spend. After hearing this I shook my head and told him how sorry I was for what happened and that I would be praying for him. As I turned and walked into my room I immediately began to cry and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. Ten dollars was “a lot” of money for my friend and losing it left a normally cheerful guy, very sad. Ten dollars, which I consider nothing and spend on useless stuff everyday of my life was his source of living that week.

We often hear of how people in third world countries live on less than $2-4 a day yet it never really impacts us. Even I who have been in Uganda for over a month and have seen indescribable poverty never truly grasped living on so little. So as I sat in my room crying wondering how I, a poor college student, could help a friend in need God spoke to me. I was to show Bosco love and simply give him what I had on me, which just so happened to be 20,000 shillings. As I gathered the money I remembered something else. Each night when Bosco comes to watch futbol games in my room he takes of his work boots and to my surprise is never wearing socks. So I grabbed a pair of my socks and the money and headed to his security booth. As I walked up, Bosco came out and I handed him the money and socks. I told him that it wasn’t much but that I loved him and that I knew God put him in my life for a reason. I explained that I had nothing but that if he continued to rely on God he would be taken care of. After a minute of my rambling, Bosco looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Praise God!” He explained that that morning he prayed to God asking for help because he had no idea how he was going to feed his wife or himself for the next four days. He continued to say how the money would provide for him and how grateful he was for the socks. I asked him why he never wore socks with his boots and his reply was that he had never owned a pair. He looked at the pair of socks I gave him as if they were some treasure. He kept rubbing them and telling me how nice they were. As each word came out of Bosco’s mouth I was saddened more and more. Not only was ten dollars his lively hood for the week but he had never had a pair of socks. I was blown away and at the same time my eyes were opened to the basic needs around me. When he was done thanking me, I told him that I was happy to help in any way I could and that I was thankful for his friendship.

This time as I walked into my room I felt defeated. Bosco’s story is just one of many here in Uganda of those living in poverty so how I am supposed to help? Though I am certainly blessed beyond measure back at home, how am I supposed to provide spiritually and physically for all those in need? These thoughts began to consume me and left me in a depressed state. For hours thoughts like, “I am only a college student not a millionaire” and “I am just newly walking for Christ and not an ordained preacher” continually ran through my mind. To put it simply I felt inadequate. That’s when I remembered something a friend of mine recently told me. “Remember that we are all inadequate, but by the grace of God, and as we are encompassed by the Holy Spirit, we are adequate only because He is the measure by which “adequate” is coined. God= Adequacy.” Talk about a wake up call! I was right, I am in adequate but with God’s help and grace I can do anything through Him. I am only to “trust and obey” as the old hymn states. God knows the situations of His children in Uganda and I am only here to do what He asks of me. I am not here to save the world, but to show love and compassion to all those around me. I am to radiate God and shine for Him in all that I do. God will provide for Bosco and the rest of the people here whether it’s through me or not. I am only to be His vessel and to be used in any way He needs. If that calls in me giving out more money or simply praying for someone, I will do that. God is in control and hears the cries of His children. I take comfort in that because I know whom my Comforter is. He is greater than any person or any act of generosity, He is my Savior.

However, I do pray that Bosco's small story brings us all to our knees in prayer. Not only for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world in poverty and suffering but for those in our own communities. Often times we use the excuse "I am not called to international missions" to exempt us from serving overseas and being obedient to God's will for our lives. We also use the phrase "God has called me to serve right here in America" as a way to free ourselves of any guilt in not going yet we rarely "serve" at our current location. "Missions" is not something we do only overseas or in a certain time frame but should be our lives. Being a Christian is being a follower of Christ, is being His disciple, is being like Him, and sharing His grace, love and power to all those we come in contact with. This is our EVERYDAY MISSION. We all need to stop compartmentalizing God and start allowing Him to cover every surface of our lives. This day and the rest of your days on this earth whether in America or in another country is a mission. It is your mission to tell others of Christ and to show His love. It is time we get of the church pews and into the world, for we are ALL called to missions. If we are truly saved by Christ and He lives within us, we should have a burning desire to let everyone know. If we spent half the time sharing the gospel as we did make excusing why we personally are not called, the world would be evangelized. My prayer is that we stop searching for God's will for our lives and start living for Him today. Each day as we take that step of faith, He will guide us. I pray that if you are called to serve internationally that you stop making excuses and go and if you are called to serve in your community than you start serving and stop using that as a crutch. For the world around us is suffering both physically and spiritually and it is our duty to set out with a sense of urgency to share the grace and love of our Abba Father.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Journey

As I promised in my last entry today I am going to write about our weekly routine here in Kampala. The people I have met doing ministry have been amazing. And like I have stated previously the believers I have come in contact with blow my mind. To say they have faith is an understatement. Their faith consumes them and radiates from every pore on their body. However, I would be lying if I said that every "Christian" I have met has been this way. Just like America there are those who do not walk the walk of a disciple of Christ. There are ones who are confused on their beliefs, ones who backslide, and ones that become believers to please "mzungus", which are white people. None of this is acceptable and that is why my prayer as always is that I am used to any extent God may have me. That I am able to show the Ugandans faith, hope and love. That I am able to be that brother to them in a time of need and a disciple to the ones who have never heard of Christ. With these thoughts in mind I set out everyday to different communities to share and build relationships.

Mondays are the days we often call our "off" day. This is self-explanatory but I will still explain. Typically on Mondays we go shopping for groceries or just hang around our compound to prepare for the rest of the week. Some of you reading may think that going grocery shopping every Monday is a little excessive, which in America maybe true but not in Uganda. Here there are no preservatives and food tends to spoil very quickly, so you must buy in smaller portions and eat what you buy within a week or so. This tends to be our basic Monday, but in our time here we have done ministry on this day. Ariel and I along with other missionaries go to a house church led by a guy named Deogracious in Naguru. The group is normally low in numbers but the discussion and growth that is produced amazes me. Plus the children of Naguru are great, as all children in Uganda seem to be.

Tuesdays are our days to work with a group of women who make beaded jewelry. Most of them are believers and attend a church called Grace Ministry in the slum of Soweto. The numbers vary each week going from 5 to 30 but no matter who shows we study the Word. Ariel leads this study and one of the deacons Michael translates into Luganda for her. Ariel has done a great job every week and has truly allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through her. We have also been able to help make beads since we have been going. The process is very long to make one piece of jewelry but the results are beautiful. The women take magazine paper and use a paper cutter to cut different size strips. They then take the strips and wrap them around a small needle making different shaped balls. From there they glue the paper together, garnish it, and then bead different types of jewelry. They then sell what they make to anyone who will buy, which helps each woman with her basic needs. Anything from paying school fees, to rent, to buying dinner for the night is how they spend their money, This group of women are truly talented and love the Lord.

Wednesdays Jan, Ariel and I attend a women's bible study group that started off as hygiene/understanding of poverty class. A guy named Prince has been working with these women and children for the past six months on how to stay healthy and how to change their surroundings. Throughout this time he has been able to open up a door to share the gospel and that is where we have come in. Every week Jan leads a study over the women. She also does a question and answer session to make sure they are all understanding what she has taught because there are three translations taking place when she speaks so it is easy to get confused. We have seen 4 people come to Christ in this bible study, which is a blessing. During Jan's teaching you may wonder what Ariel and I do. Well, we work with the 30+ children that are around the area. This way the mother's have a time to focus on what is being taught and are not distracted. We often just play games with the children and teach them funny things to do. They love to mock us so we make ridiculous noises just to hear them do it for our own entertainment. We have not been able to share any bible stories with these children because only one or two speak English and most are very young but I pray as time goes on we are able to share.

Thursdays are one of my favorite days here. This is the day Ariel and I go to Equatorial College, which is a high school in Namuwongo. Every week we meet up with a Ugandan friend of ours named Robert at his shop and then proceed to the high school. Since we have been going the numbers have been very strong ranging in the 30's every time. This is a blessing in itself because the time we meet, which is from 1 to 2, is their lunch time. This means that 30 students are willing to give up eating lunch and having a break to hear what the Lord has put on our hearts. Praise God! The worship and praise is spectacular and the students really focus on this time to give everything they have to God. The past few weeks I have been teaching on being doers of the Word, suffering for Christ, and what it means to His disciple. It is a lot easier here because the students all understand English so I do not have to go through any translators. They are all so eager to learn and grow in Christ, which excites me. Every time I am done teaching we have a time of questions and boy do they ask some questions. They challenge me to know what I am teaching and to be ready at all times for anything they throw at me. Ariel and I have gone on other days to this ministry because we love it so much and we plan on going more, if the Lord gives us time. We are also going to start attending a university forum every week on Thursdays where we have been asked to share and give testimonies. Though this will be new to us, I know God is going to do great things.These ministries are truly a blessing and I am consistently in awe of how God works!

Fridays have been a day of mixed ministry. We have done many random types of ministry on this day but my favorite has been the food distribution. Early Friday mornings we meet with a group of Ugandan pastors who are apart of a group called International Missionaries for Christ. This ministry has many facets from food distribution, to working in high schools, to preaching in prisons. However, the food distribution is the only one we have been apart of thus far. These pastors go throughout different slums and interview families who are in bad living situations. Some are sick from HIV/AIDS, some have no jobs, and others are just old and can't take care of themselves. Once they find 50 families who are in extreme need, they interview them and give them a photo ID. At the beginning of every month the pastors come to the slum and bring food and supplies to these families that will last them a month. The families line up and once their names are called they show their photo ID and proceed to get their supply of food. This is where my part comes in. I, along with a group of other friends, follow the people back to their homes to check up on them. It is in these visits that my heart breaks. We ask them questions like how has the food helped them and how has God worked in their life over the past month. Some of the questions are hard to ask and even harder to hear the answers to. Not all are believers but some have accepted Christ since I have been here. The testimonies that come from these people would touch anyone. To hear how they have HIV/AIDS, have no job, and how because lack of money they have had to send their children to the villages to live breaks your heart. But as always they PRAISE God! What a witness! Some even break down their portion of food they receive so that they can help their neighbors. "Love your neighbor as yourself," Mark 12:31. God is truly seen in the lives of His people in Uganda and I am continually blessed every day I leave my compound. One more really cool experience during a food distribution was the honor of giving the Christian name to a 3 day old baby girl whose name was Achomi. After much deliberation Ariel, Lynn, and I chose the name Rebecca. The mother loved it and I was honored to even be asked. So as you can see Fridays are also a day of great joy for me.

Saturdays are when Ariel and I go to Soweto and work the children in the area. We gather at 3 pm every week to have praise and worship, do a lesson, and then play some games. The children love it and so do we! So far we have taught Daniel in the Lion's Den, the story of Noah, David and Goliath, the Creation story, and soon we are doing Jonah and the whale. God is really blessing this ministry because every week it is growing and we are able to build more and more relationships. The children are also learning and every week we come back we ask them to tell us the story from the current week and the previous week and they always are able to do so. I am so blessed to work with these children and see how God is working in their lives. This generation is going to do great things for God not only in Uganda but across the world and I pray I am able to see it.

Sundays are like any Sunday back in the States for a believer. Each week we go to a new church to experience all facets of worship. We have gone to everything from slum churches to Calvary Chapel Kololo. Calvary Chapel is the church I attend in Florida for those of you who do not know. Though each service has been very different each one has opened my eyes to something new. By going to such contrasting services each week I am able to see how different people of the world praise God. This really has made me think how one day for all eternity we ALL as the body of Christ will be praising Him together. No more will it be Ugandan worship and American worship but instead just plain worship. This took a little bit to grasp because at first I felt like I got nothing out of some of the churches I attended because I didn't understand what was going on. It wasn't what I was used to and I felt awkward leaving and not knowing what just happened. However, since the first two weeks God has shown me that whether I get everything that takes place or I don't I am there to glorify Him. I am not there to examine and judge anything. I am there to join my brothers and sisters in Christ in a time of complete reverence to God. So for these experiences I am truly grateful. I now have a better understanding of what "church" means to people of a different culture.

One other ministry, which has become an every day thing is the time I spend with my two night guards and groundskeeper Edson, Bosco, and Julius. Every night we all gather in my room along with Ariel to watch the World Cup futbol matches. By doing this I have been able to find out so much about these guys. Their stories are spectacular and so are their personalities. They have become my closest friends here and I truly love them. Though at times there are language and cultural barriers it is great spending time with them. They have taught me so much about Uganda and the people here. I pray that God keeps allowing these relationships to blossom and that He is at the core of everyone of them. For I know we were all brought together for a reason and I am so ecstatic to see God's plan unfold.

So there you have it folks, those are my days here in Kampala. Though I have left a TON of stories out and have so much more to tell, you all now have a basic understanding of what I am doing here. Each day my American bubble is being popped and I pray that when I leave that bubble is gone. I pray I see the world as a place to explore and proclaim the gospel. A place where people are dying and going to hell but also a place where I have brothers and sisters in every corner fighting the same fight as I. I pray that when I return all anyone sees is Christ in me. For whether my ministry here is big or small I know that each one glorifies my Creator. I want nothing to come from me, but only from the One I serve. I pray God is praised and magnified in all that I am. I also pray that when people see me or read my blog they give thanks to God for who He is and all He is doing. I want not one ounce of me to be seen in the work being done here, for I am nothing but a sinner saved by the grace of my Savior. I want only to show faith, hope and love to those around me. The greatest of these is love. For "If my heart has one ambition. If my soul one goal to seek. This my solitary vision 'til I only dwell in Thee. That I only dwell in Thee."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Penny For My Thoughts

God is on our side. When you read that statement does it overwhelm you with great joy and a sense of peace or do you read it and say “of course He is.” I know when I have heard people say that in the past I have shrugged it off and never really meditated on it. But for a second clear your mind of all that is going on and say to yourself “God is on my side.” How amazingly blessed are we! God, the Creator of everything we see and even don’t see loves us enough to be on our side. If He wanted He could just be silent and leave us all here to die, but instead He sent His son for us to show His commitment and grace. When we read the Word we never hear of God only using the wealthy but instead people of every background. Jesus did not interact with the popular people of His day. He instead had fellowship with the poor, the wounded, the whores, and the criminals. The bible says in James 2 “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?" If we truly strive to live a Christ-like life than why do we fail so easily on one of His basic commandments: "Love your neighbor as yourself." And why has sharing the gospel with all we come in contact with become a choice rather than a burning desire?

Before coming to Kampala I had never seen such poverty in all of my life. To walk into a slum and see piles of trash burning, children playing in dirt with no clothes on, and men drunk off homemade liquor really messes with a person's view on life. In America I had been very comfortable with my way of living, never thinking of the world around me, but this has changed. As stated in my last blog I am amazed at the strength and faith of the believers in Kampala. And when I talk of believers I don't just mean the adults but also the teens and children. Everyone here clings to their relationship with Christ as though it is all they have and sometimes it is. This past week Ariel and I went to a high school in Namuwongo to have fellowship with the students during their lunch hour. When we arrived we had no idea what to expect except the fact that we would be working with teens. I wondered if the students would to want to talk to us let alone even show up, but that was me doubting as always and God showed me once again how crazy it is to doubt Him. As the program started more and more students came in till the room was filled with about 30 in all. The students led an amazing praise and worship that really helped me and everyone else focus on what we were about to learn. Here in Uganda when people say "praise and worship" it is not one thing but two separate focuses. A time to praise God for everything and a time to worship Him for who He is and that is exactly what we did for the first 20 minutes of our time there. It was then time for the message, which I was informed on the spot would come from me. As soon as I heard that my mind went raising with thoughts such as "I am not prepared", "Who am I to teach?", and "Where can I even teach from?". It was within that instant God gave me the scripture, which I had been reading in my quiet time the previous night. James 1:19-27, to be doers of the Word and not just listeners. This was a message that not only the students needed to hear but what all of us as the body of Christ need to hear.

How many of us do that? How many of us listen to the Word and then act on what God has said? Verses 22-27 state "But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Being religious means nothing to God. When we are saved God writes our new name only on those places in our lives where He has erased our pride, self-sufficiency, and self-interest. Some of us have our new name written only in certain spots. A true disciple is one who has his new name written all over him-self-interest, pride, and self-sufficiency have all been erased. One of the greatest barriers in coming to Jesus is our own wants and desires. It is when we gives ourselves over to Him fully that He will use us and our walks will bear fruit.

The other day a friend of mine asked me what I thought about the people who never hear the gospel and if God would send them to hell. This thought has run through my mind tons of times and often I have come up with no answer, until recently after studying the Word and reading "Radical" by David Platt. Platt states that all people have knowledge of God, all people reject God, all people are guilty before God, all people are condemned for rejecting God, God has made a way of salvation for the lost, people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ, and finally that Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples. The last point struck me the most and is where God showed me it is the body of Christ that is allowing these unreached people groups to go to hell. If we truly abandoned everything to Jesus, and came when He says, "Come," then He would continue to say, "Come," through us. We would be able to go in to the world reproducing the echo of Christ's "Come." That is the result in every soul who has abandoned everything and comes to Jesus. But as the body of Christ we are so comfortable in our own walks that we never think of telling others.

How many have died and gone to hell because of my idleness? I know that I can save no one but it is my call as a Christian to tell others of Christ and show His love. That is all of our calls as followers of Christ. Whether it be in your hometown or across the world, you should be sharing Christ with someone. As we grow in our relationship with God we begin to see people as He sees them, as sinners lost and going to hell. These thoughts never became concrete till I arrived here. The Christians I have built relationships with truly see their neighbors as Christ sees them. James 2:5 states, "Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?." That scripture has rang true to me throughout my time in Kampala and I pray it never stops.

I know this blog was started with the intention of allowing friends and family to see what I am doing here in Uganda throughout the summer, but every time I blog I can't help but to write what God is showing me. I promise to write an entry full of details and funny stories soon. In the meantime you can check out Ariel's blog for more of our day to day routine and her thoughts at: http://walkingwithhim1015.blogspot.com. I pray what I have shared allows those of you who read this blog to think about your walk and adjust the areas that need work. Until I write again may God bless each and everyone one of you and keep fighting the good fight!

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Arrival to the Country of Great Extremes

As I boarded the plane for Uganda leaving my family and friends behind I felt the abundance of prayers and love I had surrounding me and it gave me comfort. To realize that eight months ago God had a plan to bring Ariel and I to Uganda blows my mind. Every step of the way God had blessed and guided us. Through just the process of getting to Uganda I learned that God is faithful and that I should always trust in Him.

The plane rides from Atlanta to Amsterdam to Entebbe went smoothly and our flights were never delayed, which were blessings in themselves. In our layover in Amsterdam we were able to meet other college missionaries coming to Kampala, which was exciting and gave me a sense of peace about our trip. I love seeing the body of Christ work together, every generation for every nation.

Even though the plane rides went smoothly it was hard for me to sleep, but after awhile I was able to get some rest before we landed in Entebbe. As we got off the plane Ariel and I were both excited and nervous. Neither of us had ever been to Uganda so we had no idea what to expect. What I got was definitely different from what I had drawn up in my head. I had imagined getting off the plane into a desert with huts everywhere and meeting people who had spears. It was the complete opposite. Kampala is the capital of Uganda therefore it is very urban and people are everywhere. On our way to the Berry's house our taxi broke down and our driver left us sitting on the side of the road with no idea to what was going on. This was an intense way to start off our trip. In Uganda people walk in the middle of the streets and two lane roads turn into lanes six wide with cars. Traffic rules do not apply and drivers are crazy. Therefore, being stranded on the side of a road left me thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?"

However, the first night was not a sign of what was to come. My experience in Uganda to this point has been amazing. Ariel and I have been blessed with great missionaries, Andrew and Christina, who have provided us with a sense of home and great humor. For me, spending time with them and their family is a way to break free from the scenes we see on a daily basis. As the title of this post states Uganda is a country of great extremes. Mansions cover the hills looking over all the slums that make up Kampala. You drive down one street and feel as if you are in America and then the next you are in an area full of impoverished people. At times it is hard to grasp how people of such wealth can look down at an area full of people who have no hope of life or normalcy and go about their day. But I am no one to judge because I have only been in this country for a week and a half. Yet it still leaves me questioning and with a desire to learn about this country.

The ministry we have done since we got here has been one of growth. We have been going to the slums almost on a daily basis and working with house churches, which are basically bible study groups. We have also been working with children in the slums and this past Sunday Ariel and I both led a Sunday school class. It was a great time learning about the children and then being able to share with them the story of Noah’s Arc and Proverbs 3:5-9. I think they really enjoyed it and had fun getting to know us. Along with going to the slums and the children’s ministry we have been building relationships with the Ugandan people. Andrew and Christina have introduced us to some great Christians here, who are adamant about sharing the Gospel and truly walk what they preach. As Hebrews 12 states “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Here in Kampala I am without a doubt surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and know that God is moving.

One of the events that really stood out to me was visiting the Musana Children’s Home in Iganga, Uganda. The orphanage holds around 100 children and 60 more attend the primary school there. These children are amazing! When we arrived they put on a presentation for us that consisted of songs, dances, and poetry. They then led us around the orphanage and showed us all the classrooms and dorms. When I entered the older boys dorm I met five guys that quickly bonded with me. Joe, Joan, Joseph, Devvy, and Andrew were their names. We sat on their bunks and talked about life, America, their goals and dreams, and my life at home. This group of guys stole my heart and made me want to take them all home. They were so happy even though they had nothing. I have realized many of the Ugandan people are this way.

These people have nothing yet they are so joyful. They have a true “hunger” for knowing God and making Him known. Though faced with adversity they love the Lord and thank Him for everything. This brings me to the question that if Americans had nothing how many would stay faithful to God? How many would praise and worship Him? The answer is not many, which is sad. We are all so comfortable in our walks and are never hit with persecution that if we were I am afraid we would crumble. I pray that the American church learns what it means to fully rely on God and to praise Him no matter our circumstances. I include myself in this. How selfish and self-centered am I? I came to Kampala thinking I would bring the love of Christ to these people but instead they have shown me what it is means to love like Him. In a matter of almost two weeks I have grown in my walk just by watching the people around me. A lot can be said for Christians who have nothing.

I want to end with an excerpt from my journal on my second day here in Kampala. “Now the journey truly begins, now my faith is tested, now my love for God is challenged. Am I ready? I pray that I am and that God uses me to any extent that He needs. I pray my walls are torn down and that I look to Him for everything.” And as always I end this post as a sojourner for Christ, constantly searching, knowing that this home is temporary and that someday soon I will be reunited with my Creator and Savior.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

As soon as some of you read the title of this post you automatically started singing Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". This was my goal so if you did my plan worked and if not I failed. However, this is not what I am going to talk about. Instead I will briefly share my walk in Christ and what He has me doing this summer.

Throughout this past year God has radically changed my life and the way I think. For the longest time I was the object of my faith because "God loved me" but when I began to realize that God loves me so that I might make Him known, He became the object of my faith. For Christianity should center around Him, because "we are not the end of the gospel: God is." With this new way of seeing things I began to change my life. No longer were my wants and desires important if they did not center around Him. I began to remove all the junk out of my life and truly focus on my relationship with Christ and how I carry myself. This task was not always easy because in doing such an overhaul in ones life things have to change. Change is not easy when it involves losing friends and the things you think make you "happy." I had to realize that I was sacrificing nothing. It's nonsense to talk about sacrifice when you see Jesus dying for you on the cross. There's no sacrifice. Think of where we would be without Jesus. If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, than no sacrifice can be too big for me to make for Him.

With Christ being my foundation and glorifying Him being my way of thinking, I set off to Uganda for the next two months. Because to me the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts — it's falling in love with God and sharing that love with others. God loves us so that we might make Him- His ways, His salvation, His glory, and His greatness- known among all nations. That is why I have chosen to spend my summer this way. It is in Uganda that I pray I can be a small part of what God is doing over there. Because to me talk is cheap. All the authority does not come from the pulpit but from the lives of those who follow Jesus and live to proclaim His name. So in two days I leave for Uganda having faith that not only my life will be changed but also the lives of those around me. I will end this post with a quote from Brother Andrew,""I have come to see clearly that life is more than self. It is more than doing what I want, striving for what will benefit me, dreaming of all I can be. Life is all about my relationship with God. There is no higher calling, no loftier dream, and no greater goal than to live, breathe, and be poured out for Jesus Christ."