IMG_0436 IMG_0435Sabbath. After a long three days, our spirits and bodies were in need of rest. I have made many a trips down the Nile on the boat and every time it is a “pinch yourself” moment but today was more than that, it was Holy. Beth, who I just met a week ago today as we were all preparing to come over to Uganda together, has now become a friend that will forever hold a special place in my heart. When we started the journey in the airport she said, ” I feel so unworthy to go on this trip. Look at all of you- Pastors, Pastor’s kids, stellar christians, a missionary…I am not any of those.” I looked at her and said, “because of that you are more qualified than all of us. ‘But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise…’ You will see. You are more than worthy to be on this team.”

I love Austin Christian Fellowship. It has truly been one of my greatest blessings in life to be sent forth from a church that believes in this calling that God has placed not only on my life but the lives of us all. They cultivate their people to be those that “go”. Ones that will be the ones to sacrifice for the revival. I have stood back and listened, watched, and been laborers in the vineyard with the pastors of ACF, and I am so thankful that they would call me one of theirs. It is humbling and I don’t feel worthy to be sent by the ones I have served with this week. So we have become family…closer than before. And as a family today we embraced what we knew He could do as He took the one that felt the least worthy and together we gathered around her as we celebrated what He did through her and in her just in 4 days. A new life. A new perspective. Change. It wasn’t her first baptism, she has been walking with Him for a long time, but she is now ready to “dive into Him and what He has done in Uganda has created purpose for her life that she has been looking for”. This is what we are looking for. Pouring ourselves out when we don’t think we have anything in us worth pouring out. Seeing that there is no greater treasure than to be found poor yet rich in knowing Him. Beth has discovered it…this is what makes my heart rejoice!

So today she asked me to stand with her in the water as her “hero”. All the while I am looking to her and to those gathered around me as my heroes. He has sent me, that is for sure. But they and you are the ones that hold my arms up when they are tired. Beth is my hero. Pastor Will, Steve and John are heroes that I pray I have the legacy of the ministry that those men are leaving. My new friends…who have given everything they have this week and their whole lives. And we are all here, half-way across the World because we are serving mighty, great warriors…who are all of our heroes and mentors.

All standing in the Nile River…not only the Nile but the Source of the river! The Source. I will let that sink in.

What a beautiful Sabbath.

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Miracle. Update on Douglas.

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I wrote about Douglas awhile back.  http://wp.me/s2mzwi-362 Douglas was brought to Arise Africa through the medical team of one of our partners, Rick Via Team. When they brought him to the clinic it was because he could not open his right eye. When they were examining him the nurses discovered a massive tumor right below his rib cage. We sent him off for test and it was confirmed that it was cancer.

When I went to visit him at Malago (government hospital in Kampala) they doctors confirmed that his cancer had spread and they were pretty convinced that the reason his eye was not opening was due to the cancer spreading to his brain. When I found him laying in that bed, I broke down and cried. His family had left for the time I was there to wash their clothes, so it was just myself and Douglas. He was so weak he could not open his eyes and with a sweet new friend of mine that worked at Malago…we gathered around him and asked for healing in Jesus name. I prayed with every ounce of my being.

I was discouraged to hear a few weeks later that they had dismissed Douglas from the hospital. This usually means they have done all they could do and they were just going to have him come in for check up. He was going to continue treatment but the doctors didn’t seem too hopeful.

Today I was amazed when they showed up at our home. I didn’t recognize Douglas. Both of his eyes were open and he came to me with a big smile on his face. He was so eager to talk to me. They asked me to feel his stomach, and when I did, I cannot explain what filled my heart. I can say that I have not witnessed a miracle like this. Ever. I shouted for joy.

As we went outside to take pictures, when we asked him to smile he would just start laughing.

I sing because I serve a God who performs miracles still. Today. Forevermore.

Questions

I went to visit Douglas yesterday in the Malago Hospital in Kampala. Douglas is 7 years old and while the Rick Via Medical team was here, his older brother brought him to the clinic concerned about his left eye that would not open. After examining him, the nurses felt a huge mass on his stomach that was as hard as stone.

After running test, it was confirmed that he indeed had a tumor that was growing on his liver. We received the results of the biopsy last week and the tumor is cancerous. It had grown so large over the last few weeks that it has begun to affect his breathing, so he is now on oxygen. The doctors started their first round of chemo last week but are going to do a heart echo this week to make sure that his heart is strong enough to undergo all the chemo. They are also planning on doing a CT scan because they are now afraid the closed eye is an indication that there might also be some spots in the brain.

Malago is a hard place to walk into. I have been there too many times in the short amount of time I have been here. But I am thankful that there is a place that we can take our children. It is in these moments that I find myself getting so frustrated and begin asking the “why” questions? Why can’t He spare the children here with cancer and the diseases that can’t be treated the way we would at home? Why are there so many children suffering? But as I have been reminded so many times over the last few months…He is in our suffering. There is nothing that does not pass through the hands of God before it manifest here.

“With Christ, suffering is redeemed and redefined, and there is no meaningless wound. There is always a point to it, both for us and for others, and usually it is a point of growth or a point of departure. Life is never about our comfort. It is always about displaying God. Humanity is the canvas on which Christ’s glory is painted. We gasp when we realize that sometimes the paint is pain. And sometimes suffering is the brushstroke.” -Nika Maples

The bed right next to Douglas was a little girl that had her teeth clenched the whole time I stood over Douglas bed and I could just hear her making tiny groans under her breath. I knew she was in so much pain yet she did not have any tears. The Lord also led me to her bed to pray over her…her name is Mariam.

You feel so helpless. You feel as though your heart is going to break in two. But God whispers…my Glory, my Renown and My people. I hear it spoken over me as I take in all the horrific sights around me. It’s so much bigger than me. But the simple truth it is not bigger than Jehovah Rapha. As I prayed with every ounce of my being…begging the Lord to spare Douglas and Mariam. I asked that He would remove the pain. I believe God reveals Himself to children in ways we will never understand…so I am trusting that He himself is visible to them. He sits on the bed with them, when they close their eyes they see Him. I pray He is near.

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Who are You God? 
Cause You are turning out to be so much different than I imagined 
And where are You God?
Cause I am finding life to be so much harder than I had planned 
You know that I’m afraid to ask these questions 
But You know they are there
And if You know my heart the way that I believe You do 
You know that I believe in You 
But still I have these questions

Like how could You, God?
How could You be so good and strong 
And make a world that can be so painful
And where were You God? 
I know You had to be right there 
I know You never turned Your head 
You know that I’m confused by all this mystery
You know I get afraid 
But if You know my heart as completely as I trust You do 
Oh, You know that I am trusting You

So is it true that for every tear I cry, You cry a thousand more
As You weep with those who weep 
And are You just holding Yourself back 
From crushing all the pain 
And even in this world for reasons we just can’t understand for now
But isn’t there a day of redemption coming? 

Redemption is coming 
Come quickly Lord
Come quickly Lord 
Come quickly Lord 

So who am I God?
That You would raise me from the dust 
And breathe Your life and Your love into me 
You know that I believe

Stephen Curtis Chapman-Questions

Still we Praise

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will satisfy them with a long life and give them MY salvation.'” Psalm 91:14-16 I reflect. “I will rescue, I will answer, I am present, I will honor, I will satisfy….I will give you my salvation” I pray the Lord will awaken my heart to His words. Truly, His Word is my bread. It fills up this empty heart after a day of loss and this brokenness that looms here in this World. I ask to trust Him more, to trust His sovereignty over suffering and darkness. My last post I introduced you to Gerad. He came to us through the Rick Via Medical team. He has been suffering from a massive tumor on his left side of his body for over a year. His parents could not afford to bring him into town to see a doctor. The tumor had moved to the right side of his body.

 The doctors here in Jinja immediately released him to go to Malago Hospital, which is the largest governmental hospital in the Capitol City, Kampala. Before he left the Guesthouse I stayed with him and his sweet spirit captured my heart. He just held to my hand so tightly. I gave him some new clothes and I have never seen someone who was in so much pain face lifted just for a brief moment. I held him tightly and believed with all my heart that Jesus was going to take care of him. He was so hopeful as I told him he was going to be ok. As he got into the car I told him I planned on going to visit him in just a few days.

Gerad did not make it through surgery. We all were shocked and took the news very hard. You wonder if you did everything you could? Were his last few days sweet?

One thing we know; at the medical crusade the Gospel was preached to him and his Aunt, who had brought him. He comes perfectly. They both accepted Christ. We are assured of His perfect timing. Our prayer is as we minister to his family during this situation that is all too familiar here, we will take Him with us into their grief.  This is the first death I have experienced that is close to my heart here. He is sustaining and our Anchor.

As I process just all that seems to be unfair and too much grief…I am reminded of what John Piper said in His book, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God-“If we are going to emulate our Savior, we have to identify with the people to whom we take his good news. I don’t advocate that we look for suffering; life brings enough on its own. But what I do advocate is that suffering is an important prerequisite to ministering to hurting people. Christ took on our likeness and subjected himself to the suffering that plagues us.” (Saint, 121).

Uganda the suffering is thick. How will I know how to enter into this grief unless He reveals? Jesus did that for me. He loves His people so much that He subjected himself to all that we encounter here on this Earth so that He can enter into our world that seems too much and even times when He seems to be far. He is near. It’s one of the beautiful parts of the cross. He relates.

After a hard day, He encouraged our hearts with this. We also received George, who is 4 and was suffering from a severe malnutrition where his whole body was swollen and it was painful for us to touch him. When we took him to my friend Renee, with Serving His Children, we could not get him to smile or interact. He was in so much pain. I called Renee on Tuesday and asked her if we could come to her house to see George.

Renee has a ministry that she runs out of her house where she takes in children and their mothers to teach them how to nurse their severely sick children back to health. When we walked in her house there were mothers and babies everywhere. I immediately saw George’s mom but I did not see George. I asked Rennee, “Hey, where is George?” She said, “He is right there! Sitting next to his mom!” I could not believe it. I would not have believed it if I didn’t trust Renee not to lie to me. Ha! It was like she switched out two completely different children.

After 4 days…

To see his face light up made my hard day of death feel a deep sigh of relief. He does miracles still. It was so beautiful to see Jesus in George’s face and to hold him.

Holding a boy who God had breathed life into dead bones. I was holding this new life, Jesus was holding Gerad in his new life.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in Him! Let the Lord’s people show him reverence for those who honor Him will have all they need.” Psalm 34:8

In Him we have all we need.

Thank you for the prayers and please continue as we still have 3 babies that are undergoing surgery and treatment.

Healing is His

This week we have had six children found in the villages while one of our medical teams have been in rural places holding medical clinics. Each day they would bring the worst cases into Jinja so we could get them the help they need.

My heart broke each day as I met the children as they got off the bus with their mom or their dad but I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief because they had been found. I would like to introduce you to each child. Would you commit to pray for them over the next month as they all will be undergoing surgery, receiving special care and most importantly we are praying not only for a physical healing but a spiritual healing not only in their lives but the lives of their family.

Meet Gerad, he is 13 who has been suffering from a tumor for over a year.

We took him to our local hospital and they immediately discharged him and referred him to a bigger hospital in Kampala. I went to pick him up and he instantly captured my heart. Under all the pain and weightiness I saw a 13 year old boy who was so thankful for a smile from someone. He has completed some school and was able to speak some English. When I brought him back to the Guest House and handed him these new clothes I saw a smile from this sweet child. I told him that Jesus was going to take good care of him and that we would love him through this. He has been sent to Malago and we are awaiting the news on how his surgery went on the tumor.
This is Douglas, seven years old. He has not opened his eye fully in a few weeks and he has developed a large tumor on his liver.
Douglas has also been sent to Malago, they were running test to see if the tumor is cancerous. We are still awaiting the results. I never heard Douglas speak a word but he has a very sweet quiet spirit. On his way to the hospital we were able to get a small smile out of him. I can’t imagine the pain this child is experiencing.
George is 2 years old, I believe. George is suffering from Kwashiorkor, which is a type of malnutrition.
This type of malnutrition is due to lack of nutrients and protein in their diet. We were afraid that George’s kidneys had started to shut down. When they brought him home I was able to call Renee with Serving His Children, who specializes in caring for the malnourished. It has been such a blessing to see her work up close and I can’t tell you how comforting it is to send a child and their mom to stay with her to receive treatment. Not only do they receive the best care and diet but the mother is also taught how to better care for their child and they hold a Bible Study every morning. Renee has called to give me the updates on sweet George and it has been confirmed that his kidneys are doing fine and they swelling has begun to go down in just three days! Praise God! He will be in this program for at least 4 weeks.
This is sweet Harriott and she is 4 months old. She was born without an anus. When she came to us she was suffering from very low blood and malaria. I went with her and mom to the clinic to discover her blood was so low she needed a blood transfusion immediately. The Lord is the sustainer of life. I reminded and have to cling to this truth daily as we went to three different clinics and hospitals to find this little one blood. Everyone was out. We had to return back but she too is in Kampala and she was able to receive blood! We are waiting for her body to get a little stronger before they can perform any surgery on her.
Arugue has something embedded in his eye and had to have surgery to remove it. I can say that when we went to see him in the hospital, the surgery was successful and we even got him to play with us a little. He allows the blind to see…
And today we travelled out to Iganga. When the Rick Via Medical team went to this village they found several children that were severely suffering from malnutrition. We went back out today with Renee and our Child-Care Development team to meet with these four mothers and their babies that are in much need of a miracle. We brought the two worst cases back with us today to also stay with Renee. The other two mothers we held a class this morning to teach them how to properly care for their children and nurse them back to health with a high protein and well rounded diet. We left them food that would last them two weeks and we will return out to this village to see if the children have improved.
I am fully confident in our Savior, who knows each of these precious children by name, by sickness, by each pain that occurs in their little bodies, will hold them and fight on their behalf. Jesus will meet them there.
I am so thankful to be working with a ministry that will go to whatever lengths to take care of the families, individuals, and children that are placed in our path. We are not here to perform the miracle but to be the vessel for Him to show up and get all the Glory and Praise. I am also so thankful for the two sweet girls that have been here in Uganda for several years allowing God to use their willing hearts to take moms and their sick babies into their homes to nurse them back to life not only physically but spiritually as well.
I don’t post these pictures so that you can have another image of what Africa looks like. I don’t post so that you can feel heavy or sad. I post to remind you that He is such a sweet God that He would allow these teams to find them and bring them to help. He knows the way to where these children are and He rescues. I ask you to instead of being sad, will you rejoice that He always comes for His children? Will you pray for each of these children that they will have a testimony to share when they are 40 years old of how the Lord has saved them? Pray for the doctors. Pray for their sweet parents. Pray that the Lord will continue to provide finically for all the people who are caring for these children.
Today wherever you are remember that He is our rescue. He is our anchor that always holds. It has been a hard week seeing these innocent children come into my life who are experiencing so much pain and suffering but this is our world here. He changes your views, He strengthens our arms to hold, He holds us together. All of our hope is in Him. In America, in Uganda, in Ghana, in Haiti….He is rescuing. I praise Him.
We rise together as prayer warriors. “Many will see what He has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord. O Lord my God, you have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list.” Ps. 40:3-4

A Tapestry of Grace

Maybe one day we’ll actually walk the orange roads together…

 

….and there we sat drinking coffee, reflecting on our shared days there in the place that united our hearts. The place we separately journeyed to following the author and perfector of our faith and story. Two stories, creatively woven together by divine threads of people, culture, passions, and fashion. We are thankful God led us to the same place. And as we kick up some orange dust together, God stitches into our heart a truth: the places he leads us to are holy, set apart from the places we travel to on our own will.

And in these holy places, this creative God weaves together a colorful tapestry of grace with the people seeking his will, with the needs of the broken, with the ones who don’t know they need him. Interwoven together are these people and places with their stories and challenges and experiences, mutually shaping one another. And the tapestry displays an overarching story about a redemptive God, bringing people together for his purposes, for his glory.

The thread of a Michigan girl willfully torn from everything she knew to sew together, with her family, a lifelong bond of love with the people of Uganda. And woven into her story of grace is a relationship with Tom, who became apart of the very fiber of her family.

The thread of a Texas gal who followed the Lord to Uganda to work along side of Arise Africa International. Her passion for loving the fatherless leads her to a place of submission, learning to serve where she is needed. While sipping coffee at The Source Café she meets Tom, and he becomes the common thread that ties these two eccentric missionaries together. Tom recognized a kindred spirit in these strangers, separated by an ocean. We’d like to think what he saw was our shared desire to reflect the Lord with our life…..but chances are he first recognized our similar choice of wedges over tennis shoes and scarves over fanny packs.

Through an introduction on Facebook, these strangers were joined together by a mutual understanding of how the hardest places to leave are the places God leads us to. For these are the places we are hemmed into his grace and pieced in his likeness. Emails led to phone calls that led to this Texas gal boarding a plane to meet this Michigan girl.

For one weekend, Uganda became our common ground as we shared our experiences, fears, anticipations, and callings. And just a few months later, the orange roads became the actual ground we walked…together.

 

This is how we know the Lord is the one creatively weaving our story:

We both showed up at the airport in the very same riding boots. What? That doesn’t count as evidence of God’s divine intervention? Okay, here’s how we really know:

Our individual journeys have mutually blessed the other as we both struggle to know him more fully and receive the new life he desires for us. Dacia gleaned from Lori’s experience and understanding of Ugandan culture as she prepared to move there. Lori relied on Dacia’s wisdom and knowledge as she discerned the Lord’s intentions in an unfolding story that is not yet complete enough to share.

The fruit of our friendship has confirmed the Lord’s sovereignty in both of our lives. As Dacia packed her bags, quit her job and said good-bye to the community who has shaped her and journeyed with her, she feared the inevitable change that would occur when she pressed “pause” on her life and her friends continued on with theirs. Relationships are valued treasures for Dacia and she wondered who would intimately walk this new road with her. The Lord did not delay. He immediately began weaving a new community for Dacia. Not to replace the ones who already love her. But a particular people who would help her faithfully receive her new life and ministry.

At the very same time, the Lord was asking Lori to be available to him for a particular purpose. As she wrestled with the calling and discerned God’s intentions, she needed someone close to the need to be eyes and ears and heart. The place God was taking Dacia was the very place Lori needed someone to be. Our friendship has been a reminder that God knows his people. He is faithful to give them what they need. He is trustworthy to provide. We must not fear going to the places God leads us, for he will ordain our steps, overcome our obstacles and provide for us what is needed to endure.

The hospitable life is subject to encounters such as ours. If you are open to new life and you eagerly reach out to receive others, the Lord will weave into your life new people and ideas and experiences that bring about his creative purposes. We desire to be threads that hold God’s bigger picture together. Threads that weave God’s grace in and out of people’s lives. Showing his love, affirming his presence and strengthening the hope that God will redeem his people.