Saturday, September 20, 2014

Human Depravity

I have seen human depravity in a different light this week. Actually it was dark, in the shadow. My emotions have been all over the board and I am still picking up the pieces of it all. Through different stories we found out that one of the girls that often comes to our school was being sexually trafficked by her mom.  She is 11 and doesn't even reside with her mother but is rather homeless, and paid less than a dollar a night, beaten if she doesn't produce the money. A punch to my stomach and sleep was fleeting. Questions came...why?...why would a mother do that her child?  Why do men find this okay? The flesh can make us do revolting, reviling things. Something has gone wrong with humanity, it is heinous, we are heinous. I will never look at a rainbow the same.

The morning I went to get E out of Kisenji the song Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline came on:

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be queens

Wrapped in Your majesty 
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

It said so much of what I was feeling. It was everything I could do to not burst out in tears. Tears of anger, tears of joy, or sorrow, of so much. And then thankfulness poured over me. God lets me be a part of this. He leads me throughout the day. He helped me find an organization to rehabilitate her with counseling, education, love, discipleship, and more. I have a community of friends here that can help to provide supplies when I didn't have the strength or time to go shopping for her, and that would even go with me and help me sort through it all. For the body of Christ coming together. That she is safe. Suddenly my circumstances and problems seemed pocket sized. 

Within the shadow I could see the light. It was tangible. It was at the foot of the cross. It is were I reconcile my own human depravity. It is where I find redemption. It is where I find forgiveness. May we take it to the darkness, and reveal the shadows with the light. 

Please pray for E. Pray that she wouldn't have a desire to run away. Pray that she would feel loved. Pray that we would have the compassion of Jesus, and that we would be able to minister to her mother. We assume there are more girls living like this so pray for us in this. Most of all pray that the Karamojong would be changed by the gospel, and that God would provide more laborers. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer Update

Forgive me for the lack of updates. Do not have any great excuses other than writers block and summer break.   I figure I could at least fill you in on what is happening in our lives at the moment.

A lot has changed in the last couple months. Joshua turned 15 and is now living with some friends in the town we come from called New Castle in Colorado. He is going to school there (Freshmen) and playing soccer. This obviously is not ideal but when you live abroad that word "ideal" doesn't exist anymore. Cody is currently there with him getting him settled while reconnecting with some churches and sharing what God has been doing here in the last year (side note: a huge thanks to Church of Redstone, and New Hope Church for helping with travel costs). He has been gone 22 days and I have 15 more to go. It has been extremely hard to walk this journey of not having Joshua in our home and being a single parent for a time but God has been extremely gracious. We have established such a great community of friends that have become like family to us. Of course having Briana here has been a tremendous help, meaning I can leave the kids with her to have lunch with a friend, or attend prayer groups etc.

Janaya (8th) and Samuel (6th) have started attending Acacia Classical International School. It is a new school and Janaya's class will be the first graduating class (That is why Joshua could not attend this school). They are quite fond of being around their peers.  It has taken some time for me to adjust to the fact that I am not home schooling 3 of my children.  Carter is in 4th grade this year and Malachi is in Kindergarten of which I am homeschooling both. Eliana is also enjoying doing a little school and her favorite thing to do is write letters. Azariah has done a good job of exploring and is on the brink of talking to express what he wants which will bring relief to us all, because he currently screams to express his desire or distress.

Anyway that is what is happening on the home front.

As far as ministry goes.....things are going well. Cody left John Lokwii in charge of the discipleship times twice a week while he is gone and they have been going great. Before Cody left he realized that 4 people have made a commitment to follow Christ since we came. Lokwii and Rosta are his main disciples who go into the 2 main slums where the Karamojong live and teach the Bible to them. Of course with this has come persecution and struggle but they are pressing on. Rosta has a desire to start a church on Sundays since there is no church for them in their language. We are excited to see where this goes.

The school is going well too and we were thankful to have Erin Mulcare for some of the summer to help with teaching the kids and teaching the teachers. Briana has been the main teacher to lead the school and she departs in 2 weeks. She has been working with Lokwii and teaching him how to do it on his own. She has already started stepping back in some capacity to let him be on his own. His love for the kids and for his community will no doubt live on.  As most of you probably know he is also living with us and after getting through some cultural difference we are living pretty harmoniously. We will be extremely sad to see Briana go as we have enjoyed watching her grow in God this year and also love on our kids as well as the street kids.

The women that I have been discipling are doing as well as one could expect given their circumstances.  One of the women lost her baby right after it was born bringing deep sorrow.  There are 3 that have saved enough money to start their vocational training which will hopefully start up the beginning of October. I am pretty ecstatic about this. It is a pilot project and we are hoping that the women can begin working instead of begging on the streets. Another goal we are hoping this brings is that they will stop trafficking their children. Prayers here would be appreciated; wisdom especially.

I feel there is more I want to tell you but I will leave it for the next blog. One of which is something we are going to start incorporating into the ministry. Stay tuned, as I promise not to go so long before writing.

Pictures from the last couple months:

Cody, Rosta, Lokwii and Francis discussing Acts

Both of our cats had kittens within 2 weeks of each other. The kids have enjoyed having baby animals around. 

Sunday, one of my favorite girls in Kisenji. She is so cute! 

Our washing machine broke a couple days after Cody left so we were washing clothes by hand. We made it into a party. I put the kids in the tub and had them stomp around the clothes for the first washing cycle. Thanks to New Creation Church for donating a new washing machine! 

Lokwii and the kids.

Showing of the Jesus film in Kisenji. 

We got a new puppy in hopes that it would distract Eliana from missing her dad. It has helped and we are excited to be able to have an indoor dog. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Opportunity to Purchase Art Portraits

I wanted to share an opportunity for you to have someone sketch a portrait of you, a friend, family member, etc, while helping a phenomenal artist in Kampala. His name is Kenny and he has become a good friend of ours. His talent for art is astonishing, and his portraits are incredibly life like.

Prices are as follows for 29.7 x 42.0cm, 11.69 x 16.53 inches:
Color portrait (one person in the picture) is $150 and $40 for each additional family member. Here is an example of a portrait he has done.

Black and White is $100 (for one person) and $30 for each additional person. Here is an example of a black and white portrait.

Check out more of his work at
If you are interested please email me ( a photo you want him to recreate, and I will arrange with you how to get money to him, and how we will get the portrait to you. Thanks and pass this on!!! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Give them Eyes to See

One way we are trying to help the community is by creating jobs. We are not big on giving handouts. For some of you that may sound strange, to that I recommend reading "When Helping Hurts," by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. After being involved in the community for over 6 months we are seeing the detriment of organizations that just come in and throw things at them and leave. Well meaning people who are trying to patch a bullet hole with a bandaid. Spiritual poverty being the hole. These handouts without relationships leads to more chaos, and more dependance, and more problems for the gospel, for the Karamojong anyway. Difficult to understand if you haven't seen it first hand. We have seen the importance of building relationships and being involved in the community to really see what the needs are. I used to feel a bit more sorry for the women begging on the streets to earn a living. Thinking this was their only option. I was wrong, and perhaps a bit naive.  Don't get me wrong their lives and situations are troublesome but not changed overnight. Talking to different people in the community has opened my eyes further to see that you have to change the person's character to make a change. How do you do that? You don't, God does. You just plant the seeds, and let Him water them. Strenuous for control freaks.  So I pray, and pray some more. That God would transform one, two, three, and then the whole community. I know it seems far fetched. I am a dreamer, I'll keep believing.

These stubborn women have really grown on me and I pray and hope they can rise out of the pit of addictions, that they can be examples of the community of someone who used to be on the street begging, women who used to traffic their children, who used to be spiritual impoverished.

 We found someone in Uganda who is helping us train about 15 women/men in different skills so they can make a living for themselves. We do want to help but we want it to be sustainable, and helpful. It is a trial thing and it seems there are a lot of "ifs" but I feel we have to start somewhere and try. There is never an ideal situation here, so we are just taking it step by step. We are first going to teach them some business management skills, along with some basic education to prepare them for this endeavor.  If you were wondering how to pray. This is a way to pray for the people we are involved with. Pray they can be able to save enough money to get started. They have it and for most of them it will be a choice of drinking for a day or forgoing alcohol and saving some money. Maybe not a struggle for all of them but for many. Pray for them. Pray that God would give them eyes to see.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Watching Him Work

I come from a place where bigger is better. It doesn't even need to be said for one can just look around and know the US operates under such a system. Without even realizing it I operate under this system too. It is not always a problem but it can be, especially when it comes to ministry and when it becomes about my agenda instead of God's. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that if a ministry is big it can not be effective. I am just seeing that in my own life I tend to revert to thinking, "What should be next, how do we grow?" Instead of just serving where God has me. Here is my new perspective.

We (remember "we" means mostly Briana especially since I am with the mothers now) have been doing school in the slums. We don't have an official building. We gather in a shack. Pretty normal for them, abnormal for me. It is hard coming from the "Land of Opportunity" and working in the slums. Hard to be around poverty of every kind. It feels so suppressive. It becomes natural for me to look at what we don't have instead of what we do. I continue to dream and press on toward the big picture forgetting small details along the way. If we did live in a fairy tale, I would wave my magical wand; I would build a boarding school for these children. One where they get great education, and are taken from the toxic environment. I wanted to move forward in this direction.

God has stopped me in my tracks. It didn't come with one defining moment but little whisperings along the way. One of these whisperings came last week when we were able to meet with a well respected Karamojong man to get his opinion on the issue of the Karamojong migrating to Kampala. One of the things he pointed out was that we don't want to have something that draws them here from their homes in Karamoja. That gives them a reason to put their kid on the street or move to Kampala. His suggestion is that if we wanted to do a school then maybe we could build one in Karamoja.

Another whispering came last Friday when I saw the response of the children with Briana. They wait for her with gleams in their eyes. They love her, and she loves them. Will they learn Calculus? Not while we are there. Will they even learn fractions? Probably not, but they will learn how to read and write, they will learn how to wash their hands properly and best of all they will learn love. They will learn about their Heavenly Father that loves them and what He has done for their people through Bible stories. This is enough. This I am thankful for and hold tightly to. I forget the small things. To serve God there. Jesus said in Matthew 10:42, "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” It is freeing knowing that all we have to do is build relationships with the Karamojong. All we have to do is show up. All we have to do is small. God does the rest and turns it into something beautiful and better than we could imagine. For that I am thankful. Pretty sure I would screw it up anyway. Thanks God for knowing what you are doing! Now for the fun part of sitting back and watching Him work! 

This is the school (12 ft. by 12 ft.) and students/teachers.

This is John who is from the community and is now helping to teach the children. A huge answer to prayer! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beyond Their Feelings

Do you find it challenging to love the people who hate you? How about serving them?

 God has given me the opportunity to spend time with the mothers of our students at the school in Kisenji, where a large Karamojong community reside (if you have not heard about the school, read the previous post). I started meeting with them once a week and am seeking my way to building relationships with them. Trying to teach them the Bible, how to be a mom, wife, etc. Challenging to say the least. I feel worlds apart from them, and the color of our skin seems to be the smallest difference amidst us. In the midst of the separation God seems to be shining his glorious light. This certainly seemed to be the case last Friday. I have been storying different Bible stories and was having a hard time knowing what story to tell. After praying I felt compelled to just be real with them, to share my struggles and to share what God had been teaching me. After finding out how their week was, I began telling them the story of Luke 22:24-30. This is the story where the disciples and Jesus are celebrating the Passover with Jesus right before he is to be cruicified. The disciples are quarreling among themselves about who is the greatest. Jesus tells them that whoever wants to be great must serve, and think of himself as the lowest. After sharing the story I started walking them through some questions to faciliate discussion. They begin admiring how everyone in the story was together eating, and recognized that it was favorable to be together. Although I thought this was valuable for them to recognize I felt it is a value they already possess in their culture, I was nervous this was the only thing they might take away from the scripture. I prayed to myself and moved on, asking them more questions. One question I asked was, "How many see yourselves better than your children?" They were honest and said, "Daadong" meaning they all see themselves better than children. I share the story again and then it happened. "So is God telling us that we are not better than our co wife that we should love them and serve them?" (For sake of context you must know that many of the Karamojong are polygamists.) My heart starts to race, and my spirit is excited. This is going to be a challenging thing for them to grasp. It is a challenging idea for me to grasp and I can not fully put my self in their shoes. I have had to forgive people but this issue is a whole new realm for me. But I know someone that can relate, and who has. The woman begin talking among themselves and discussing, all the while my translator is doing his best to fill me in when he can, while also chiming in on the discussion. I listen while believing the spirit of God was moving and instructing, planting seeds. I only hope that God will continue to water the seeds and they will grow into luscious fruit. Then a wise, older woman in the group speaks up and says that Jesus commands us to love our enemies and challenges them to go beyond what our human nature tells us. I stood back in awe and I get excited that I serve a God who can relate. I serve a God who came down in the flesh. Who loved his enemies, who hangs in agony on the cross and says, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." I share my heart and Jesus sacrifice and challenge them to walk in His footsteps. Challenge them to call upon Jesus for help. Challenge them to go beyond their feelings.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

God Make them Children of You

This is a story of a life of a Karamojong child that lives in the slums of Kampala. Maybe you have heard it before. If you have, hear it again. Some stories are worth retelling, and rehearing.

Her day consists of sitting or standing in the busiest part of a bustling metropolis. She pleads with people, holding out her hand with dark brown eyes to those who pass by. Your first thought is to fill the hand, but you know that she doesn't receive it and that it wouldn't help. In her case she is just a means to an addiction for her mother. At other times she stands at busy intersections and walks from each stagnant car. Car to car, hoping for something, anything. A bit of food is what drops into her hand. The feeling of helplessness resides in the deep part of your heart. Then you remember, Psalm 9:18 which states, "For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever." If only she could know; she will know. If only they all could know and accept. They can be released from the slavery. She fears the streets for multiple reasons. The dark nights there are frightening. Then the government authorities come and gather all the begging children off the streets in hopes to solve this horrendous problem. They do what they think is best and send them to a "rehabilitation center." A relative might come in hopes to retrieve children so the cycle can begin again. If not you stay until you are taken back to Karamoja just to return again to Kampala.
This is just an example of some of our children we are ministering to in the slums. Briana and I have started a school (mostly Briana, I am just helping establish, create activities and teach on Fridays). We get to hear some of their stories from them, from the leaders in the community and from their faces. Today when I asked our translator and community leader how many of the 18 children beg on the streets. "All of them but 2" was his reply. "It is how the parents can make money. It is not good, but how else can they make money?" He makes a good point, they are like refugees fleeing from the insecurity of their own fighting, and lack of resources. These choices have sure dug them a hole, that is not easy to get out of. So we go to offer something. You have to start somewhere and 2 1/2 hours for 3 days a week seems so insignificant but by the look on some of their faces it means everything. They get to hear about the God who loves them, and we have hopes of educating them. It gives them some regularity, and excuse to be off the streets. And so we start somewhere for it is better than nowhere. Our classroom is a glorified shack, glorified because it has a bench. But it is better than nothing (our new motto). I am quickly reminded there is no "drug free" zone, as a drunk woman crowds around our circle and wants to participate in our fun. There are a lot of quirks but through it all we are praying that God would change their story and reputation from children that beg on the street to children of God.