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."