Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Uganda Update

Here is the letter I sent out as a thank you to those who supported me and prayed for me. I am still internally processing things that God taught me over there. I'm sure some of thoughts will come out eventually! In the meantime, take a peek at some stories:

On August 16th, my team (8 others) and I began the adventure to Africa, one that would have us in the country of Uganda for two weeks. As the plane lifted off American soil, we wondered what experiences we would have and who we would meet. The goal of the trip was to minister at three conferences (for pastors, women, and youth) and visit existing and potential water tank sites for The Ugandan Water Project, a ministry started by James Harrington and Derek Levendusky. I watched the land of America, a place of comfort, get smaller and smaller, and I couldn’t help but quietly sing, “Father, my home is You.” There was a realization that no matter how this experience unfolded, it was going to be marked with the love and blessing of our Father. This set the tone of the trip.

God’s first, tangible way of showing His favor was through refreshing rain. It began the first night we arrived, which instilled peace in me because I fell asleep to the sound of it, knowing that God had me in an unfamiliar place for a purpose. When it rained in Uganda, Derek, one of the leaders, explained to us that it was a sign of blessing in the natural and the spiritual. Not only were the water tanks being filled, but God was confirming to the Ugandans that we were sent by the Lord. We were welcomed with such honor, and God enabled us to bring encouragement to churches that had been experiencing natural and spiritual drought. One pastor, in his thankfulness, donated a cow for the Pastors’ Conference, a gift equivalent to a person giving $20,000 in an American church. The first day, the cow was tied to a tree across the road, and the second day, each person ate meat, a rare occurrence for Ugandans. Another church, deep in the bush, gave us a rooster, which accompanied us back in our van for the 2-hour ride. This same church had never encountered “mzungus,” white people. A Ugandan friend explained that when these people see a white person, it is if they have seen an angel, a miracle that they will talk about for generations. Talk about not knowing how much impact one person can have on another!

One of my favorite experiences was serving food to the children in the slums. They normally do not eat on Saturdays, but our team was able to provide two meals for them that day. In the midst of desolation, poverty, and the continuous fight for survival, I felt God’s love for these children and the calling that He had on each of them. One boy sang a song of his rejection and of God’s redeeming grace. Listening to him, I was reminded that nothing—and no one—is overlooked by God. He is at work in each place in the world, including the slums of Uganda.

When the African youth found out that I danced in America, they were instantly intrigued. I found that dance could be a way of creating a bridge between our cultures. The youth performed many dances, in their unique African way. Then Derek asked me to dance for the Youth Conference. He told them that this would be a type of dance that may be unfamiliar, but to picture a princess dancing before her King. This set the tone for a powerful experience in dance. It was a blessing to me to be able to use my gift on the other side of the world.

Another gift that God allowed me to use was public speaking. Christy Harrington and I were invited to speak at a women’s conference at the Elim church in Kawanda. (The women thought it was so neat that we came from the original Elim church!) God placed in me an affirming and encouraging message for the women. As I began to speak, my intimidation became confidence, and God enabled me to be a conveyer of His love. It reinforced to me that we are humble vessels that God uses in spite of ourselves. He receives all the glory for all that we do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

33 years

I am breaking this blogging hiatus to celebrate my parents' 33rd anniversary. They are an incredible couple...a fact that I've been re-realizing this past summer. Plus, I'm in the "marriage" mindset after rejoicing with Eric and Rachel as they got married last Saturday. More about that later on.

Thirty three years ago today, my parents got married in a quaint parlor at Big Tree Inn. They had only know each other for 9 months and had decided to get married because God told them to. They were not madly in love, which is a necessary ingredient of marriage as defined by my generation. God had orchestrated events and had woven their lives together in such a way that they figured they should obey God and get married. This story always baffles me because I can't imagine marrying someone I was not head-over-heels in love with and barely knew. Their interactions over those months were few and at many points during that time, each wondered what God was up to. He had quite an adventure for them in mind.

It has been neat to take a front row seat to their marriage, especially this summer as I have returned home. They have worked at establishing a Christ-centered marriage and raising three dynamic children, who would follow all that God has for them. I have seen a deeper commitment in both of them as my mom has struggled with her sickness. My dad is more attentive and supports her as she aims to walk in public places. They take time to listen to each other and then be a voice of reason and wisdom for each other. They also have taught me that marriage is for a lifetime...in every circumstance and season.

So cheers to their 33rd Wedding Anniversary! May there be many more to come!