Monday, February 27, 2012

Life as we know it.

I’d love to be able to explain what my life as a missionary in Uganda is like, but I haven't figured it out yet. However, I can say that the Lord has definitely been at work in my life. He’s changed me and molded me in ways that I have yet to discover. I've experienced living in a completely different culture than my own and have learned to embrace it, to be flexible, and am constantly learning to allow God control over areas of my life that I'm holding onto. While I’ve definitely been challenged and changed, there are many things about me that just haven’t. Things about my character come out in a completely different way in a completely different culture. I don’t have any deep examples, but there are things about myself I didn’t realize until I moved to a developing country. So allow me to give you a little snip it of some common dialogue that’s recently been conversed in our house. They are questions that my roommates have casually confronted me with, and they  somehow portray our lives here better than I can explain. I could be disappointed in the way I cling to some of my American ways, but I think I'd rather just find the humor in them. There are things in life that make me happy, and then there are things that just make me laugh. Reliving the things my roommates and I talk about often just make me laugh.

Q: Why did you do your hair, put on make-up and paint your nails? 
A: I got a new Husker shirt in the mail.
- An indescribable new appreciation for my home state. And, taking advantage of any excuse I can to actually look nice.

Q: Are you cleaning your room for a Skype date? 
A: Maybee…
- Don't judge. 

(White person walks by) Missionary, med student or peace corps?
- We all tend to fall into one of three groups, and we're pretty good at calling out which category a white person fits into.

Q: Did you hear Pearl Supermarket has chips?
A: Yeah, we’d better go asap.
- Get rid of any picture of a supermarket you have in your head. We're not talking Wal-mart or Target, here. Tortilla chips are the latest food item they've been bringing in for us. They've also managed to stock some Oreos, Ritz crackers, and occasional chicken fillets. 

Q: Did you go to posta today? 
A: Should I be embarrassed to say twice?
- I've always loved checking the mail, but nothing quite compares to a letter from a friend or that little pink slip stating that a parcel has arrived. A pink slip here is most definitely a good thing. 

Q: Where are those voices coming from? 
A: Well, it could be those children up in the tree on the other side of the hedge trying to get our attention.
- Privacy is to be fought for. 

Q: Are you alright?
A: Am I ever alright after a ride down Nkokonjeru Road in Zillah's car?
- I could blame it on her driving (which might be partially true), but I'll attribute the majority of my carsickness to the deeply rooted, unbearably rocky roads that cause our stomachs to swirl and our heads to constantly hit the ceiling. 

Q: You know keeping the door shut isn’t going to keep the lizards out right? 
A: Let me believe what I want, okay?
- There are no words for the amount of disdain I have for those little things. 

Q: Do you think power's coming back on? Because it's dark, and I don’t know what else to do. I’m going to bed. 
A: Please don’t do that it’s not even 8.

Q: Did you hear that? 
A: Yes, but sometimes it’s more comforting to pretend like I didn’t, so don't ask again.

I’ve learned more about myself simply by watching myself cling to things I didn’t even know I cared about.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let us encourage one another daily.

We’re just a bunch of twenty-somethings living out our lives in Africa.

While that’s not entirely true because there’s a lot more to it than just that, sometimes I do look at the team of missionaries I live, work, and breathe with and smile.

We’re young, we’re single, and we live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the 6 months that I’ve lived in Uganda, I’ve been extremely blessed by the relationships of my teammates. So far I’ve made nothing but generalizations about my team, so let me clarify that not all of us are in our twenties, and not all of us are single. But most of us are.

For those of us that are, we love having a good laugh together and giving our team leaders, the Skinners, something to worry about.

So, in honor of our youth, singleness, and humor we had a little Valentine’s Day date. The gentlemen from our team picked us up, and treated us girls to a night out.

Some of the gang...

This Valentine’s Day date was one of a couple of experiences I’ve had among young singles here in Uganda that has struck me with the seemingly normalness of it all. On this evening date, we went out for dinner at Agip (one of Mbarara’s two finest dining experiences…) and then indulged in conversation as we kicked back and listened to the sounds of a live Ugandan jazz band, which included the American drummer who happened to be one of our very own team members, Harrison.

Then, this last weekend I went camping with one of the local church’s university groups. Not knowing what to expect, I was somewhat apprehensive about going. I pictured myself truly roughing it in the African bush. However, it was just another experience that proved to me people are people no matter where you are in the world.

As I socialized and fellowshipped with the university students at this retreat-like weekend, I couldn’t help but note the familiarity of the environment to that of a retreat with university students in the states. The bus ride to our location included rowdy college boys standing up on the bus and making jokes. Loud Christian rap from artists such as Lecrae and Trip Lee blared from the bus speakers allowing me to save my ipod battery. The young men and women both stayed up late engaging in smaller cliques of intimate discussions and large group entertainment. As the weekend went on, I was shocked to notice that I was the one taking the fewest pictures. I had also left my laptop at home thinking it would be silly to bring it; however, much to my surprise I spotted more than one student with a computer over the weekend and undoubtedly checking facebook.

The weekend retreat’s focus was Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It was a call to the future leaders of Uganda to spread the gospel.

It was a call to all of us and especially to me. A call that reminded me to share the good news that a Savior came and died for the sin that makes us worthy of death. To share that it’s about the redeeming love, the grace, of God that saves me, not the tallies of good versus evil on my score sheet. To share that I’m not good enough, never will be good enough, and yet I’m saved for all eternity.

It was a call reminding me of the passion I have for Christ that led me to accept the invitation to come to Uganda in the first place. It was a reminder of the passion I have for seeing the gospel shared, for seeing seeds planted, for seeing transformation in the lives of people, for seeing the glory of God be displayed in my life.

As I sat there listening to the speakers, listening to the students, listening to the voice of God in my heart, I just kept thinking, Yes. This is why we’re here.

There are eight of us young, singles living here. Friends, who allow me to be a part of their lives, who allow me to share in laughter with them and challenge me by the way they live for the advancement of the gospel. There’s a family of four who love me, mentor me, befriend me, and let me intrude on their everyday living. We’re a team. And, regardless of where we are at in our lives or what part of our lives we’ve left in other continents, we are here today. Maybe not because of the same reasons, but definitely for the same purpose.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 18-20

Ability doesn’t have anything to do with it. My personal agenda doesn’t have anything to do with it. And, where I’m at in life, what might be better for me to be doing with time doesn’t have anything to do with it.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Wherever I’m at, whatever I’m doing, whoever I’m with, I pray that is a truth in my life. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We are family... all my brothers, sisters, and me.

Okay, you didn’t hear this from me, but yes, I was in the states for a whole 2 weeks.


I know. It’s crazy. It was unexpected. It was rushed. It was a mix of emotions. It was a thrill of excitement. It was a blur.

Three weeks ago I made the decision to fly home for two weeks to spend time with family during a somewhat difficult time. It was a powerless, Saturday night when I made the choice, and due to a short-life computer battery, I didn’t get my ticket booked before it died. So, Sunday morning I booked my ticket for 12:40 a.m. (that night/the next morning) and began throwing the 2 sweaters and 1 pair of sweatpants I could find into a bag. Clearly, my wardrobe isn't suited well for winter in the Midwest. And, that’s where the blurring all begins. Martha called some of our friends, who we'd heard were driving up to Kampala that day. They picked me up, and about 4 hours after our departure I was in Kampala. A little walk, a tasty dinner, and a quick nap later I was in a car with my carry-on bag headed to the Entebbe Airport.

A little over 24 hours later, my plane touched down in Omaha, Nebraska, whose motto is appropriately named, The Good Life.

Waiting at the airport were my sisters, my parents and a couple of my dearest friends, one of whom had just flown in from the great continent of Africa himself! Talk about divine timing! Before I knew it I was at the hospital visiting my grandpa and sitting with my beloved family members.

Highlights of the trip:
  • Irreplaceable time, talks, and memories made with my family
  • People I know walking right by me, doing a double-take, and then realizing it was me.
  • Taking the kids to school in the mini-van
  • Sledding on the back slopes of Ty and Pam's land
  • Wearing winter clothes, washing my hair with soft water, and feeling a little more like me
  • One-on-one talks with my closest friends and mentors
  • Driving! (and, having my friends with me)
  • A night of bowling with friends, including my sister Kaylea who makes me laugh so stinkin’ hard!
  • Sleeping in my bed and late-night talks with my sister Lilly
  • Scooter’s Coffee in the morning 
  • My mother’s home-cooked meals
  • Watching the Super Bowl live with my family
  • A night of country dancing… sorry, I just couldn’t resist the chance to go
  • Worshiping together with my Relevant Community Church family
  • Playing games with my grandpa (he's still quicker than me)
  • Did I mention just being with my family?

Sixty degrees and sunny one day, minus 12 and snowing the next.  

 Some of my brothers

All of my sisters.  

And, the whole gang in real life. 

As the rush of the two weeks came to a halt, I said my tearful good-byes until I make my next stateside appearance in June.

However, I left home feeling encouraged and refreshed and ready to embark on the next six months of living in Mbarara. Thanks to all of you who were a part of making that happen, who pray for me consistently, who bring joy to my heart. And, my deepest apologies to all of you who fall into the category “I Want to See You”, but I just didn’t have time on such a short, intentional trip to spend time with family. Please forgive me, and I look forward to reuniting with you this summer! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

You, God, are my God.

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:12

I love Uganda, and I love America. And, in some ways I’m thankful that those are the only two nations I’ve lived in because I’m pretty certain my heart would only continue to tear and ache for and belong to any other nation I lived in.

I think something I’m discovering is that there are so many variables that affect where a person likes or wants to live. But, if you have a heart that hurts for lost people, then it doesn’t matter where God puts you. Because there are lost people everywhere.

"And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another." 1 John 4:21

Let go of the biases and personal prejudices, and instead focus on Jesus. People are people. And, all those people need Jesus.

“… give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

My heart isn’t truly torn because at the end of the day, it’s committed to an undivided devotion to the Lord’s will in my life.

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness…”