An Open Letter to the Girl in the Maxi Skirt and Chacos.

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Hey you,

I have seen you in the airport on several occasions.  I watched you pull out your passport with trembling hands as your feet meet foreign land for the first time. I see you lean in to understand the lilting accent of the immigration officer. Maybe we have met eyes and smiled at each other as we walked those red dirt roads. I can see the newness in your heart and the adventure in your eyes, this traveling the world to meet the poverty and the broken is all unfamiliar to you.

But I hope it seeps into your soul and crashes your life like a hurricane leaves debris and the need for a brand new beginning.  My prayer for you is that in this journey, you will never go back to the girl googling photographs of Africa, because you have tasted the bitterness of poverty and all the destruction that surrounds it. The sweetness of adventure giving way into the burden of what your eyes have seen. The gospel you once longed to share is suddenly the last thing your mouth wants to talk about because you have seen the darkness and for a split second you wonder where God is in all of this. And still, the hope shines through and God’s goodness is staring right back at you.

Oh, I hope that you see the dying and the broken and the grieving. Hold hands with the starving child and carry the sick baby in your arms.  Listen as the young boy tells you how his hunger pains are giving way to ulcers and he wishes he could have more meals. I want you to get ring worm because that means you loved without fear. I hope that you experience the reality that most of the world faces, touch the poverty and be wrecked by the injustice.

In all the moments you spend trying to seek Him, you see that He’s already there. In every hope filled glance, in the rusting old church, in the dirty shack where the child you have fallen in love with sleeps on cardboard, in the beggar on the street clinging to grace. Jesus does not need you to rescue and redeem, He’s already done that and He’s making all things new. He just needs you to allow your hands and feet in this broken and exhausting service to Him. There will be days when the beauty is overwhelming and nights when you fall asleep before your head touches the pillow, your heart will be yearning for more and holding onto the glory your eyes have seen.

I hope that you experience the joy that overflows in the poorest places, in those dark alleys of the slums, in the church that in falling into the river. See the faith that exists in the midst of corruption.  The grace that floods into the earth is the same in America, Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and the middle east. Our God is sovereign and is a Father even in the hardships that we want to only shake our fists at. Oh, see His love that He pours out upon those who serve Him.  Just watch as He lavishes mercy so freely and beautifully.

When you return home, I hope that you walk through Walmart or Target or Best Buy and you realize how shallow our society is. I hope that your Amazon wish list shortens and the gratitude in your heart only grows.  Maybe you will sit in the airport (as I have done) and convert USD into that currency of the country your heart beats for, you will ponder over the fact that a latte could cure malaria and a meal could feed a village.  And when this truth flows into your heart you will realize how much you take for granted and how little is poured over in thanksgiving. When you allow water to flow into your cup I hope you remember the frail little girl you saw carrying water in a jug, her bare feet carefully taking one step after another to prevent it from spilling over onto the ground. Do not grow disconnected from where your feet have journeyed, the stories your ears have heard and all that your eyes have seen.

So, sweet girl in the maxi skirt, strap the Chacos on your feet, lather on that sunscreen, and let the malaria preventative course through your blood stream. Open your hands and your heart so you may find the beautiful in the ugly places, go be love and let Love transform you in glorious ways.

Sincerely,

the one who’s walked in your same shoes

P.S. just metaphorically, I don’t own Chacos.

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the gospel & orphans.

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I met Patrick on my recent trip to Uganda.  He lead us through the muddy roads and into the slums, children ran to him, grabbed his hand and followed. He shook one sleeping boy awake and told him to follow, the boy rubbed his eyes and stumbled after him.  I have never seen a clearer picture of Jesus, His beauty shone through Patrick.  The boys who had followed him were mostly orphans, they had come to the city as an escape.  Some had parents who had died, some had experienced severe abuse, and some only came in search of better.  But each of them had one thing in common; they all came looking for hope, anything that told them they belonged.

The boys were beautiful, but they were oh-so-broken.  They sang worship songs as they got high, the words of grace and a good God made absolutely no sense to them, but they sang and they clapped and they danced. Patrick provided them a safe haven for those couple hours, he fed them and tended to open wounds.

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I saw myself in those boys. Far from home, searching for anything to fill the loneliness. I have walked the journey of life, stumbling over my own two feet and wondering if I am really enough. I wonder if the void in my heart will ever be filled with joy or if the unworthiness in my soul will pour out and fill the hole like asphalt. Though I know Jesus, I forget that I am known by Him. I have referred back to my orphan self, the one that does not know the graces that flow into the earth and the love that fills the emptiness.

My heart aches for the orphans of the world. Oh, Christians, take up your cross and follow Christ into the messy. Follow Christ into the pain and the joy, where the orphans are waiting. I am convinced that adoption and orphan care reflect the Father in a powerful way, and because of this I am compelled to care for orphans because I yearn for the world to see less of me and more of this extravagant grace-offering Father.

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I have seen mighty works of God through caring for the orphan, I have also seen orphan care start to become a trend.  Recently at a concert an sponsorship organization asked who would like to go to heaven, those who raised their hands should sponsor a child. No, by the redeeming blood of Christ we are welcomed into heaven, not by works.  While we are commanded to care for the orphan, it is not an obligatory task that we are to check off on a to do list. We do not care for orphans to gain our way into heaven, but rather to bring heaven to earth. When we care for orphans because we want into heaven, it becomes empty and selfish.  However, when we care for orphans because we long for the orphan to experience heaven, we become joy-filled and selfless. We should reflect not a Christian trying to get out of hell free, but rather a Father’s love that refused to leave us where we were.

As we left the slums that night my Ugandan friend said to us, “I grew up in the Kampala slums, but never have I seen things that bad and so dangerous.” Oh, but the beauty we had witnessed in that dark and shattered place. These boys who once were strangers to Patrick, now were sons.  I saw grace lavished upon the boys, as they hid drugs that were their only antidote to numb their pain. I watched as food was placed in front of them and hope was offered.  Patrick did not seem to mind who they were, he only saw who they could be.  The gospel of Christ was displayed to me, stooping to the low places to find the lost and the hurting.

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Christians, rise up your battle cries for the orphan. The gospel is painted in glorious ways when we go beyond comfort and we sacrifice self-fulfillness in order to care for those who are really so much like us. Maybe today that means losing yourself, selling your possessions and moving half way around the world to live out the gospel on the ground. Maybe it does not look so extreme, maybe you are called to adopt a child or foster children as they wait for a family. Maybe it means seeking out young pregnant mothers and saying “this is our journey now.” Taking their hand and preventing an adoption from occurring. No matter what, it will be hard, you will face resistance, you will fall short, but the redemption of the cross will remind you of why you are that beautiful broken vessel seeking to run this race well.

I cannot tell you how caring for orphans is supposed to look like in your life, but I can tell you this: as adopted and redeemed children of a all-powerful, all-beautiful, all-loving King, we should be compelled not to turn our backs on opportunities to display the gospel. Instead we should run towards the opportunity even if it is costly and means sacrifice.

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I loved an orphan in Uganda, one who stole my heart and never returned it.  For seven months, I loved this little one, I tried hard to protect both my heart and his heart.  I could have loved him forever. But then all the earth shook and shattered beneath us, and I was left broken.  I walked away in tears and heartache, I blamed myself for months that if I had never allowed myself to love so deeply I never would have been hurt.  I worried that I had given false hope to an orphan by loving him so well during those days together.  I dreamed of him at night and I prayed that his little heart was being mended. He was eventually reunited with relatives and most likely does not remember me any more. But I wondered why I had cared so much for this little one, the one everyone seemed to overlook.  To this day,  I do not understand why. All I know is this:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

That little one taught me a lot about what it is to love selflessly and without fear.  I learned that in orphan care sometimes you are the one who receive more than you give.  Sometimes the lives you set out to change are the lives that actually change you.  Sometimes orphan care is you pouring yourself out only to come out broken, bruised and empty handed. Sometimes sacrifice will leave you wondering where you went wrong. I am convinced that when heaven and earth meet, it is messy.  There is a battle to fight, but you will solider on because the precious ones in front of you have never experienced love or faithfulness or tasted and seen that the Lord is only good.

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Orphan care is beautiful yet some days it feels like a minefield just trying to find hope, but let us love the orphan because earth is in need of more heaven.

who peter became.

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Three years ago I landed for the first time in Uganda. I remember those first steps onto African soil, I was beyond overwhelmed by the sights and the smells and the people with the accents I could not understand. The place that I thought I would love, suddenly was the place I wanted to run from.  I wanted to jump back on the next plane and head back to the comfort of home. I felt somewhat like Jonah must have, where turning and high tailing it was all that I wanted to do. I knew God had called me to Uganda, and I tried my hardest to trust that He was sovereign.  Being thousands of miles from home and choosing to trust God is, honestly, hard.

Life and all it’s chaos is always hard no matter where you are.  I stand here on American soil, blessed beyond belief, and still I struggle against God’s will.  God calls me out onto the water in the darkness, and in those moments I have to decided who I believe Him to be.  Those moments where fears throws my heart into panic, but I choose to trust.  I choose to walk on the waves in front of me, I choose to put my doubts on hold and meet Jesus on the water.  In those moments, I see who Jesus is, who I can be because of His grace.  In that place there is peace and uncertainty has been washed away by the One who is reaching out for me.  The darkness is washed away by the light and the storms are calmed by just knowing He is standing in front of me.  Unspeakable joy overflows from my soul, it’s in those moments that I know without a doubt that I am loved.

But then I look down into the waters and I realize where I am, and I want comfort.  I want dry land, I want a boat to take me to shore.  I allow the doubts and the fears and uncertainty to control me. Just like that, the waters over my head and I’m drowning.  I’m drowning like Peter as He allowed fear to take over his heart.  I’m longing for my Jesus to reach down and pull me from the darkness and into the storm, because I want to be anywhere but here. I want comfort, I want the known, and I want the certain.  I want Jesus, but I don’t want to have to trust Him that much.  I am the one of little faith.  The one hoping and praying that my mustard seed faith is truly enough.

I’m like Peter a lot these days, struggle to find my way back to the surface because I can’t swim in these waves. Chaos and worry that fills me and I long for the peace and joy that He offers.  I want to be courageous, but in these moments I am anything but that. I proclaim He’s the Son of God with my mouth, but then I turn around and fear controls me.  I deny Him.  I deny Him when my words and my actions are anything but good.  I deny Him when He whispers to go into the unknown and I am too afraid.  I deny Him when I forget to follow Him, and not make my own paths through life. He asks me if I love Him, I say I do.  But why am I too afraid to feed His sheep?  Why am I longing for comfort but He’s asking me to live an uncomfortable life?

How is it when God chooses to use us to further His kingdom, we continue to shy away?  When He says “this is your home” we assume that He will leave us stranded in a place we don’t speak the language. Why do we allow doubt to cloud who He is? When He tells us to walk on the water, and we attempt to but we become afraid and by our actions say “Christ, you are not enough to save me.” or “Christ, I am not good enough”. Our pride of failing gets in the way of seeing all the victories He has waiting for us.

I waited in Uganda, I waited to find out why God had brought me to the other side of the world for me to feel so afraid and so alone. Every morning as the panic of the unknown would settle into my heart I would open my journal and scribble “Jesus, you mean more to me.”.  As I began to focus my eyes upon the One standing on the waters in front of me, I began to see the beauty of where I was standing.  I saw the beauty in the red dirt roads that had pot holes and turned into a muddy mess every time it rained.  I saw the beauty in the endless skies and the hot African sun.  I saw the beauty in the people who found joy in the midst of poverty and their own storms.  But it was only when my eyes were fixed upon my Savior and I chose not to listen to my own fears that I saw the beauty in that little pearl of a country.

Jesus watched as the water swallowed Peter, He listened as the rooster crowed, but He still reached out for Him. He still loved Peter fiercely.  Jesus still looked at that broken man and saw everything He has in store for Him.  He saw the fact that Peter would teach grace long after He had departed the earth.  He saw Peter would be persecuted because of His name.  He saw that Peter in all his flaws would still be counted blameless because He had been redeemed.

I am always worried that I am not enough to fulfill all that Christ has called me to be. I am afraid that my heart is too much like Peter’s.  I want to be the one who walks onto the waves bold and confident, but that’s not me. I am quivering and falling apart.  I pray to God and then turn around and count off all the things that could go wrong.

But Peter didn’t stay the same.

Peter still doubted, he still was fearful, he was still Peter.  I think most days Peter must have woken like the rest of us, doubting his calling.  After betraying the Savior and failing to trust Jesus on the waters, how could a powerful God call him to teach His grace?  How could he be counted blameless?  Peter only knew grace because grace had been lavished upon him.

Right before the cross, Jesus came around to wash Peter’s feet, and Peter initially refused to allow the Messiah to wash his feet.  Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  And then, then Peter responded- “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”. In that moment, Jesus only washed Peter’s feet. But then soon after, hanging broken on a cross,  he drowned Peter in grace and changed him for forever

Peter’s identity was no longer who he had been or who he was, but it was who God was.  God took his failures, taught him pure and selfless grace, and then sent him out to teach it.

I will never measure up.

But when I choose to live with my identity fully surrender to Christ, grace is extended and we are equipped to be exactly who He is calling us to be.  I will never be enough on my own, but drowning in the redemption of the cross, Jesus has chosen me. His grace is sufficient to sustain me as I journey through the good and the bad.  It’s enough as I fly thousands of miles to a continent where I don’t speak the language.  His love is fierce for us.

I am enough, because His grace is deeper and wider and bigger than we could ever fathom.

Grace.

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Mama Grace found her in the rubbish pile along the roadside. A baby, only a few weeks old, her tiny and lifeless body thrown away like a possession. She was found around the corner from where I was staying in Uganda. My heart was burdened for that sweet baby, she should have known the goodness of life before she ever tasted death, she should have known what it was to be loved. But instead she tasted the bitterness of this harsh world, left among the trash that was to be burned. If only the mother had abandoned her at our gate, at the hospital or an orphanage, there would still be life in that small body. But she lay there unwanted, tossed away and forgotten.

Lying lifeless beside this broken path of life, Grace found us the same way. We were waiting for life to be breathed into our souls because we were unable to sustain ourselves. Living our sin filled ways in the rubbish and just longing to be more. Fear and doubt and shame consuming any glimpse of goodness. Our hearts empty of any hope, void of the sweetness of living a life of love and joy.  Oh, to be worth something, to be cherished, to be enough.

Heaven stepped down, stepped into the darkness, into the cold and filthy world. The unspeakable glorious one, welcomed by the animals in the stillness of the night. Heaven’s purity and the earth’s wickedness meeting. Jesus stepped into our place. He endured the mocking and shame, but He fought the darkness with glory. He was man and at the same time He was perfection and everything Holy.  He walked the earth in human form the sin, the burden of pain, the weight of the world was on His shoulders. Earth wasn’t ready for the Messiah, but I don’t think it ever would have been or ever will be.  They had waited, they had talked, they had prayed for the One who would save them from their iniquities.  Yet, here He was and they didn’t recognize Him.

Our blemished hearts could never have touched the beauty of heaven, we could have never tasted and seen that the Lord’s faithfulness is the only way we could ever hold our heads above the pain of this world.  We were broken, far from heaven and healing. But then Christ came in human form to make that ultimate sacrifice that would flow to the ends of the earth and through the ages.

Grace was born that day in Bethlehem, grace that is endless.  Grace that doesn’t see where we have been or what we have done, but only welcomes us with rejoicing. Grace that takes a lifeless body and makes it into everything beautiful.  Grace that unifies us with the Holy ones and sets us apart. In our deepest and darkest moments it tells us we are still enough.  It whispers through our afflictions that no matter how far from the cross we feel, we can never out run Christ.  Grace allows God to see past our broken spirit and see the holiness that once existed in the Garden of Eden.  The humans He created in His own image, and He loves us with a love we can never fathom.

Most days I forget grace, I forget that I have nothing I can do to prove my worthiness to the Father, because I am so empty.  I am running a race that has already been won, I try to measure up to worldly standards and church standards and I forget.  Grace that spilled upon the earth from a dirty manger holding a Holy One.   Grace that flows freely through the crimson blood of Christ. Grace that embraces failures and flaws and makes us enough.  Grace that bridges a gap between darkness and Holiness.  Grace that triumphs over a world that has been conquered by evil.

This world right now is terrifying, the bad that seems to be closing in on us, the danger that surrounds us, the sadness that threatens to break our hearts and leave us wounded. But because of this unchanging and unshaken grace, we continue on this broken journey.  We are perfection because of grace.  We are Christ’s children, His chosen ones, His reputation on earth.  Peace on earth and mercy mild can be lived through us because of grace.

While the world is trembling this Christmas with rumors of wars and death and riots, I choose to find joy through this grace that echos the promises of Heaven.  I choose to see the good in the world, because of grace.  I choose to look forward with this new year and pray that peace and mercy and joy and love will flow freely from me, that I may reflect the sweetness of Jesus. I choose to celebrate Christ’s birth 365 days a year, because without that silent and holy night, I would have never known life. I choose not to just survive but to thrive because the cross is finished, my debts are paid, and grace is freedom.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I hate adoption.

We hear all about the adoptive parents side– how challenging it is, how difficult it is to raise traumatized children, but we never hear from the adoptive siblings point of view.  All my life I have heard of what incredible parents I have (and I do), but never once has someone told me what an “incredible job” I have done or what my thoughts were on having adopted siblings.  Mainly, because I was just a kid when it all begin.  I understand that, and that’s okay.  But I’d like to share my honest opinion on adoption.

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When I was seven my parents started down the road of adoption, I was elated, so overwhelmed with excitement at the fact that I was going to have a new sister or brother.  I remember meeting them for the first time, and they felt like family.  We got along and we were happy.  Until the baby boy started screaming in the car and the little girl was cussing me out at bedtime.  I lost part of my parents the day my two new siblings got in the car and made the long journey home with us.  I lost a part of myself that I’ll never have back again- and although that’s hard, I am thankful for it.

Over a 12 year period my parents adopted 10 children– every single one of them unexpected and so worth it.

But over the years I have struggled. Struggles that girls with only biological siblings will never know and friends will never truly understand.  I have been lied to, lied about, stolen from, spit on, cussed out, hit, bit, and accused.  I have heard “Well, Kristianna gets whatever she wants…” “Kristianna is perfect…” and each time it crumbles my heart a little more.  I have heard that I’ll never understand the backgrounds these children have had to suffer through and to give them grace because I have always had what I needed.  In some ways that’s true, and in some ways my heart can’t bear the pain.

It’s hard being an adoptive sister.   The harder you pretend all is well, the further you get from the truth. Because all is not well. Adoption isn’t a fun way to gain siblings, it involves restoration and rebuilding a life that has been torn to the ground and trampled upon. All is not okay and it never will be.  Adoption is a fight. I’ve had days when I am so weary I don’t want to get out of bed. I have had days when I cussed out God and told Him to rewind it all and give me my life back.  I have had days when I ignored my sister because of how much her words cut into my very soul “we all hate you.”. Sure, she has faced her fair share of suffering, but day after endless day I face my own heartaches because of their pasts.

I will be completely honest, I hate people who abuse and abandon children. I hate women who desire drugs and men over their own children.  I hate men who cannot own up to the fact that they have children to be raised. I hate laws that make children orphans.  I hate poverty that rips families apart.  And I hate adoption.  Because adoption means there is pain and suffering behind the adopted, it means years and years of recovery. It means losing a part of who you are and who your parents are because of it.  We will never be carefree again, because carefree doesn’t exist when there is a child who has threatened to kill foster siblings in the past.

I think God hates adoption too.

Because adoption means brokenness.

Adoption means that the Garden of Eden has been destroyed and Adam and Eve have been engulfed in sin. Adoption means that the world He created in those few glorious days, the world that knew no sin, is forever lost.  It means the human made in His own image ruined their purpose. It means failure and emptiness.  Adoption is shattered pieces that will never fit properly together again, yet, at the same time, adoption is what holds those pieces together.   Adoption means perfection will never exist again, because there will always be scars and pasts that we cannot change. It means God sacrificing to bring light into a dark and hopeless world.

Hallelujah, redemption lives.

Jesus hung upon that cross in humility to suffer for the world of imperfection because He knew adoption was the only option.  His blood would not be our own, His flesh would have no biological relation to ours.  But He would rescue and redeem. His blood would be poured out for lost children He was choosing to call His very own. When all the heavens would see us as unworthy, there was One who became small enough to redeem.  He bent low, and didn’t demand us to change our ways, but told us we were wanted. We were worth all the suffering, all the nights of tears and nightmares.  He reached into the darkness to bring us into the light.  He didn’t care where we had been or what we had endured, He only whispered “you are not alone anymore”. 

Adoption is not beautiful.

Adoption is messy and terrifying.

Adoption is bridging the gap between darkness and light.

Adoption means children who walk through hell and endure what no child should.

Adoption means broken pasts and hearts full of scars.

But adoption is worth it.

Because adoption is redemption.

And I watch as their distress and heartaches pour over into my life and I cling to grace.  Because grace is the only thing saving us all. I cling to the One who has chosen me as a child when my own heart was only sin.  He calls me “child”, and I call them brother and sister. Adoption doesn’t always make sense- that He would love us as His children, or that we should love them as our own.  But love doesn’t ask questions. It’s not easy, but it’s good.

She walks around with a shirt that says “Family rocks”, she’s the one who was literally kicked to the curb.  The one who is terrified that family is not forever, that we are only temporary. That maybe she is not worthy of a family.  It’s a real fear, and it’s not only one she is carrying but so many children who are facing life with nobody to say you are not alone anymore.  One hundred and forty-three million– it’s a statistic that will make no sense to those who have never held an orphan in their arms. But they are walking around with their hearts beating, but they feel they have nothing worth beating for.  They will grow into adults always questioning why they weren’t worthy of a family.

We are called to adopt because adoption is reflecting the Father’s love and grace upon us. As Christian’s, Christ requires only that we believe and follow Him, but as Christ followers, we should long to be like our Father. You have the ability to show a child that we’re all unworthy, but there’s a Father’s love that gives us a new identity and there’s redemption that creates a new beginning. It won’t be easy, but it’ll worth all the hard days, and the times when you feel like you are drowning.  It will be worth the rages and the stealing and the heartbreaks and headaches. It will be worth the sorrow and the pain and the long days of recovery. Because once upon a time, we were that beautiful mess of wounds and tears and emptiness.

I hate adoption because adoption means my siblings have walked through hell and back again. But I love redemption because it’s making broken things into glorious ones.  It’s taking pieces that are shattered and piece by piece redesigning them into the masterpiece they were meant to be. We are all being changed and made new in this love we cannot understand, this grace that is drowning us all.

Hallelujah, brokenness cannot survive when redemption lives. 

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Update

Things have really, really changed since I have come home.

When I returned to Uganda in August I had a vision for the ministries of Yesu Asobola that was so incredibly big.  I was able to work among some of the richest souls in the world.  God showed me how much He loves those children, how much He can do through so little. But, as many of you know I left my position of director of Yesu Asobola Ministries after I felt that the leadership was headed in a direction that I did not feel comfortable venturing. I love those 400 children more than anything and I still wish to support the families that I cherish so much- but I cannot continue directing a ministry that my heart feels so uncertain about. It hurt so incredibly much to make that final decision.

My heart breaks continuously over the precious little lives I got to know in Uganda, but they are His children. I didn’t go to save them but to serve Him. My life has been so centered on Uganda the last couple years and finding myself having to figure out this American life is more challenging than I could ever have imagined. I do not know what’s next for me, I have lost control over the life I saw for myself.  I have gone from a world of constantly serving others, to living life in America without getting lost in the busyness, madness and chaos of it all.

To those of you who have supported me through my crazy Ugandan life I cannot thank you enough.  Romans 10:15 says: “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  I have always loved this verse but recently when reading it I realized how we overlook the first part of the verse: “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” I was able to answer God’s calling to Uganda because many of you sent me, you were just as much involved in my journey to Africa as I was.  God brought me some of the richest days of my life, and I couldn’t have been there if it wasn’t through His provision through family and friends.  Those of you who sponsor a child through Yesu Asobola Ministries, since I am no longer involved it is completely up to you whether you continue to sponsor your child or not, however, I cannot guarantee what your sponsorship is going towards providing.  And those of you who have sponsored a child in the past, your child is enrolled in school for one year and will receive lunch 5 days a week– how awesome is that?!

The last 3 months have kinda been a waiting game, just being still and seeing where He would lead me– whether it be back to Africa to serve full-time or here.  He has ((finally)) given me the next steps though. In the fall I plan to register full-time in college, which is kind of weird for me, because it’s definitely not what I would have chosen to do.   He also is leading me on a trip to South Africa for 3 weeks this summer- another thing I definitely would never have expected…  I know that Jesus will provide for my every need- I surrender it all to Him.  He has never failed.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21 

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Coming Home.

I leave tomorrow on a 36 hour journey to go back “home” yet at the same time I’m leaving “home”.  It’s bittersweet always, and it never gets easier. I am always torn between these two worlds that are so opposite of each other.  It never ceases to amaze me that I can hop on an airplane and find myself in such a different place.

I love people watching in airports, and there is a lot of people to be watchin’.  They click around in their high heeled shoes, suits and carry briefcases.  Screaming babies and sleep deprived mothers and dad’s who are completely oblivious.  But it’s all lacking.  Vacations, work, adventurer- they are all minding their own business without the friendly, welcoming smile you find in Uganda. Oh, and there are so. many. white. people.  It sounds funny, but it always slaps me in the face “welcome to the grand ole U.S. of A.”, I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”. Except it’s Africa, and it’s not only just a “feeling”,  I’m definitely not in Africa any more.

Upon arriving in the states I usually go to Starbucks almost immediately, but then I start the calculating- $7 for a drink and a pastry? You gotta be kidding me… I could do so much with that money in Uganda-$7=18,000 Ugandan shillings... but I always give in and find a corner and connect to the WIFI. The Starbucks is good, but my thoughts are a thousand miles away.

Clean restrooms, drinking fountains, nice floors, no chance of the power going out, roads without potholes and driving without dodging goats, cows or chickens.  Fast food on every corner and running water in every home.  The sweet dishwasher and washing machine… the washing machine always get me… I get used to the fact that I have to wash my own “baby clothes”  while we pay our friend to wash everything else.  The fact that eggs and milk are found in the fridge at the grocery store- unlike here where they are kept on the shelves. No more walking past men who yell “mzungu, i love you! you are beautiful!”.  I can’t just hop on a motorcycle taxi and go where ever I choose for a quarter- yes, a quarter. There is no need to boil water before drinking or spray for mosquitoes. No more ants eating anything and everything we leave on the counter. Oh, and no more soda made with real cane sugar… It’s a whole new ballgame.  A whole different culture.

It’s hard readjusting, harder than you might expect actually.  Jet lag has nothing on me- but the cultural change is always hard to wrap my head around.  It too much, too fast, too busy and not enough all at once.   I have a meltdown every time I arrive home in the states, it’s normal, nothing some good chocolate can’t cure.  It’s all good in the end.

But something I have learned in coming and going so often is that no body truly understands where you are coming from. 30 hours of traveling… man that’s cruel!  They ask how I am, and I answer with a “fine” “good” or “great” and that’s the end of that.  But if I were to really tell you how I am, it would take a lot longer than that.  Missionary life is hard.  It’s more than the adventure and the African heat, food and animals.  It’ poverty and the woman knocking on my gate for money and the man with the crutches who makes his home on the side of the road.  It’s the abandoned child and the boy with malaria and the girl who has ring-worm covering her head. It’s watching a mother bury her last born, her baby, and listening to the sorrow filled cries.  It’s the rumors going around that work for the devil and am going to steal children from the village parents.  It’s the sadness and the goodness and the joy and the heartbreaks.  It’s the finding life with a purpose, and if you really wanted to know how I am and how life in Africa is, it’s gonna take quite a bit of time.  But honestly, I don’t think many understand the emotions of a missionary.  Unless you’ve walked a mile in my dirty flip-flops, you won’t know.  But friends, that’s okay.  It’s okay that I have to be dependent on Jesus.   Oh, it’s hard not to pour my burdens and challenges upon friends, but it’s something I’m learning.  Many people will never fully understand Africa, or my heart for this new home of mine.

But Love knows. It knows where we’ve been, it knows what we are fighting for, it knows our pain and our struggles and hears our heart breaking.  When nobody else can understand, when nobody else can look through and see what you have seen, when nobody can take the burden from our souls- Love does.

As I’m headed home I remember that He is always here.  He doesn’t leave me at the airport- say good-bye, wish me well and send me on my way. He will not leave me, He will go before me.  He knows every burden, every cry of my heart, every emotion I have felt.  He won’t leave me at the security check in, because He is so much bigger than that.  His love is enough.

USA, here I come.

Africa is emotionally exhausting.

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The waiting on African time for things to fall into place,  the experiencing a world beyond what you are comfortable with, travelling dusty roads on dirt bikes or overcrowded buses.  Seeing a dead man on the side of the road laying in a puddle of blood, watching old women beg and young children carry babies on their backs instead of playing with friends.  The African sun is too bright or the rain is too hard, and we need the village to have a good crop this year.

We were feeding 400 children last Saturday, we had a line of older boys waiting for food, I saw a tiny 18 month old baby boy standing behind me as I dished out beans.  He was naked, very obviously malnourished and was extremely dirty.  I asked where he came from- they shook their heads and said they didn’t know who he was but he had come from the “bush”.  I whispered “make him a plate please.”  they looked at me, “no, feed the big boys first and then him.”  I glanced at him again, his eyes were hungry and his face covered in snot.  I reached past and made him a plate.  The older boys would be fed, but this one, right now, needed it more.  I wasn’t going to continue plating food until I saw that he had it. How could ignore this beautiful child?  How could I say ‘I’ll give these boys food, but unless there is some in the pot, this little one who is malnourished cannot eat’.   I won’t.  

I’ve gotten used to African poverty in some ways, some of the hard doesn’t surprise me any more.  I used to be wide-eyed when I would drive down the roads taking in the scenes and the sense of hopelessness, but now, it’s all so normal.  But I will not let my heart go numb to the cold reality.

One of the hardest challenges is going home and adjusting to the emotions that African has brought me to feel. It opened my eyes to the fact that  people don’t care much .  Sure there’s a handful that do, there’s that small amount that are generous and their hearts truly are broken for the orphans and they want to fight poverty, but the majority just doesn’t care. They prefer their lattes extra sweet, and their pizzas extra cheesy, and their beds extra soft and pillows extra fluffy.  They don’t care about Africa and they don’t even know where Uganda is.

My heart breaks every time I am at home in America.  People fly through life and miss the purpose, they think bigger and better is the way to have a good life.  While 1.5 million people die from starvation each year, Americans pull the covers a little further up and they get cozy in their over-sized beds and they sleep soundly to the noise of pleasure. They assure themselves that poverty is out of their control, heck, poverty is just a way of life.

But it’s not.  If we can spend $10 on Starbucks than we have the ability to change the world.  $10 would provide 22 pounds of beans and 10 pounds of posho to a starving family.  $10 could treat malaria 4 or 5 times. $10 could bring medication to a dying child.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make you feel guilty.  I just want you to be awake to the reality of poverty and face the fact that you have the power to fight poverty.  They don’t need much, and they don’t need a lot, they don’t need someone with thousands of dollars, they just need someone willing to take their hand and lift them out of the terrifying pit of poverty.  You can spend you life trying to become the bigger and better that you want to be, or you can surrender all that you have and face the fact that life isn’t always about you.  The world is a big, beautiful, ugly, scary, exhausting and hopeful place.

I have come to the realization that sometimes the poorest are the richest in the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes they have more than we can ever imagine.  They kneel further before the cross instead of standing on in their own abilities.

Life in Africa is emotionally exhausting. But when I feel the weight of poverty, it means I’m awake, I’m alive and I am ready to fight back.  I hear the rumors of child sacrifice season approaching and I watch as the children leave early.  I hear the village rumors that we were sent from the devil to steal their children.  But I hear Him above everything “take courage.”

When it storms, the skies look hopeless, they are dark and filled with rain, thunder, and lightning.

But there is always hope beyond the storms.

The sun is always above it all, just waiting to peek through the darkness.

Just as the Son comes to renew and restore in the hellish places of poverty.

There is always hope, we just have to wait in peace.

Take courage.

It’s all true.

CRW_6284 I am privileged to be part of something bigger than myself.  I am overjoyed to live life among those who’s only father is Him.  I see hope in the eyes of poverty stricken families. For years I heard the stories of Africa. Starving. Barefeet.  Miles for water.  Malaria. Dirty faces. Orphaned. Abandoned.  But now with my own ears I have listened to a father admit his son only receives one meal a day. I have felt the dirty hands between my own. I have heard the begging. I have watched the mothers and daughters carrying jerry cans back from the bore holes. I have taken a little boy to the clinic only to be diagnosed with malaria. Everything you hear about Africa, the pain, the poverty, the heart wrenching stories… it’s all true.

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But something else you usually don’t hear about Africa is also true- there is hope.  there is joy. there is peace. there is love. there is a village filled with future leaders. It’s all true. We currently have 109 elementary aged children and 15 high school aged children who need sponsors by December when the new school year starts.   Just $30 will send them to school and provide them with food and health care. Friends, you have the opportunity to care for the least of these. If you can go out for dinner or spend money on entertainment each month you have the ability to care for His children.  Whether you sponsor with Yesu Asobola or with another organization- you have the ability to change the world through a child.

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Obia, Yesu, Obia.

“I have seen the many faces of fear and of pain. I have watched the tears fall plenty from heartache and strength. So if life’s journey has you weary and afraid, there’s rest in the shadow of His wings.” -Jeremy Camp

Today my heart is heavy.

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I read the news last night of the shooting in Kenya. 10-15 gunmen attacked a mall, all Muslims ordered to leave, while everyone else were shot at.  59 dead. Over 200 injured. 30 possible hostages.  The numbers are still rising and the story is yet to be over. I think of the families member who got calls, who saw the news, who cried a million tears and felt as though their worlds were shattered. The children who survived are forever scarred by an innocent trip to a mall with their parents.

 

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Then today I read the news of Pakistan. A suicide bombing at a Christian church.  78 killed. Over 120 injured.   Those killed are resting at the feet of Jesus, forever whole, forever at peace in His presence. Those who survived will either chose to be stronger in Him, or will fall away and blame Him.

The world doesn’t make sense sometimes.

But at the same time, it makes perfect sense.

Jesus is going to come soon.

And when He comes every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

Including the gunmen and the bombers.

So, we wait.

As we wait for His return, I pray for His perfect peace for the Christians as they face persecution. I pray for the injured and traumatized that they may find healing in Him. I pray for comfort from the families who have lost loved ones and will continue to lose loved ones.  I pray for His boldness for those who will preach His good news to those who are yet to know of the Savior who became small enough to save.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. -Hebrews 12:1-3

Like the children in Onyerai village sing: Obia, Yesu, obia.

Come, Jesus, come.