Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
In the coming weeks, we would like to introduce you to some of the people and programs we have the privilege of working closely with while in Uganda, so while we're over there, you will have a little bit of background knowledge when we refer to the people we're ministering with.
First off, my dad would like to introduce you to Dr. Reuben Musiime:
Dr. Reuben Musiime is the director of AMG (Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel) Uganda , Africa . I first met Reuben in the fall of 2005 when he visited our local church to share the ministry that was taking place in Uganda . Since that night I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with him in the many facets that he has been called to do In Uganda.
Reuben was born in the village of Bugongi which is located in western Uganda . After finishing high school a civil war was taking place in Uganda and the church was under heavy persecution by former military dictator Idi Amin. This difficult time forced Reuben to go into Kenya where he met some American missionaries who were teachers at a Bible college where he began his studies graduating in 1983. A short time later Reuben went to the United States where he received a BA from Calvary Bible College in Kansas City , a Master's Degree in Christian Education from the Dallas Theological Seminary and his PhD. in education from the University of North Texas . While studying in America Reuben's wife Florence joined him and it was here that he started his family.
While Reuben had many opportunities to stay in the States and enjoy a comfortable life, he felt the Lord was leading him in another direction. That direction, of course, was back to Uganda . Reuben shared with me, after dinner one evening, that he loved his country and his people & had a burden for the difficulties. After spending much time in prayer with his wife, and connecting with AMG International in Chattanooga , Tennessee , Reuben and his family returned to Uganda . A decision they have never regretted.
The ministry work consists of child sponsorship which provides for food, clothing, medical treatment and biblical teaching for 1200+ children. AMG Uganda operates 5 childcare Centers throughout Uganda in which 2 of the centers have on site medical centers to meet the needs of the local people. Also in operation is the Camp El Har orphanage which now is home for 40 children. A new facility is presently under construction to provide for the needs of these children.
While the spiritual needs seem overwhelming AMG Uganda's ministry also includes gospel radio broadcasts, prison ministry and pastor training. Many pastors in the remote villages have little or no theological training. Through partnership with churches and religious teachers from the United States , pastor conferences are held annually to equip and train these pastors with the ministry skills needed to teach the word of God faithfully.
Reuben is the first to say that it is through God's grace that many people are receiving much needed help and that all things done are for His glory.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The Choir of voices sang louder, singing praises to the King of Kings, the pastor was able to belt out the message loud enough for all to hear! Nothing would stop this body of believers from hearing the word of God that day. What a testimony to the neighboring houses and community that this body of believers didn't fear, but rather came together and stood united to worship in the house of the Lord that day.
Although the church wasn't sure how the electricity would be replaced, or where the money would come from, there was great hope and joy in knowing that God provides. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding:In all your ways acknowledge Him, And he shall direct your paths."
Friday, June 25, 2010
Muzungu (pronounced kind of like moo-ZOON-goo) is a word we hear over and over (and over and over) while in Uganda. The kids shout it on the street as we drive by, 'Muzungu!' When we're speaking at a church and the pastor is introducing us, he might speak in the native language. We have no idea what he is saying, but one of the words we can pick up on: Muzungu. It simply means white person.
So Muzungu Time is basically the white person's time. As Americans, we take time seriously. If you tell someone a meeting starts at 6pm, what you really mean is if you show up at 6 you're late.
African Time is a bit different. When the driver says he'll pick you up at 9am, and he's on African time, 9 am could mean he gets there at 9. But more often than not, it means he might pull up, at the earliest, around 9:15. You're better off not expecting him until 9:30, but make sure you have something to keep you occupied in case you're waiting until 9:59, or if something really out of the ordinary happens (like the driver needs to put new tires on the bus before you make a 6 hour drive) and he doesn't come until 11:30.
It goes back to what we said before about how Africans are people oriented. The task isn't quite as important as the relationships you build along the way. We've been able to build some strong friendships in the time we've spent waiting.
We joke back and forth about the different perspectives of time, but African Time has taught me a lot in life.
Last year before we left, I prayed that God would guide me in knowing His plan for my life. I had just graduated from college with my teaching degree, I had no permanent job lined up for the beginning of the next school year, I had decided not to start grad school right away, and I had an ever increasing desire to pursue full-time missions work in Uganda. I left home convinced that I would know exactly where God wanted me, when He wanted me to go, and what I needed to do to get there.
Looking back, I kind of have to laugh at myself. God sure did answer my prayer, but it wasn't in the way I thought He would.
We came home and a few short weeks later I was bed-ridden with some illness no one could figure out. This entire year hasn't turned out the way I had planned. When I started college, I never once imagined that there wouldn't be a job for me. I figured I'd graduate, get a job, and start doing what I love to do - what I believe God created me to do - teach. But life didn't quite turn out that way.
Last year when we arrived in Bugongi, a small village in Western Uganda, we received an itinerary for the week. At the bottom it said the schedule was subject to change.
Isn't that just like life? I think life should come with a disclaimer:
Life subject to change. God is on African Time.
God doesn't work in our time. We can't give Him a timetable, and He pays no attention to our deadlines.
Trust me. I've been sick for 10 months. If God worked on my time, I would've been healed approximately 9 months 3 weeks and 4 days ago.
I don't know what's going on in your life right now, but maybe God's just not showing up the way you thought He would show up. Or maybe you've been waiting for something to happen and it seems like God is not working in your situation, or even worse, that He's forgotten you altogether.
I want to encourage you to remember that His ways are not our ways, and His timing is perfect even when we don't understand it. God always has a plan. He knows where we're headed, and He'll get us there in His time. But for now we wait, we trust, and we love.
Life subject to change: God is on African Time.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Buddy is the fourth member of our team. He likes eating honey, cuddling, and long luxurious bubble baths. Ok, so maybe not, but he really is an important member of our ministry team. He's the unofficial spokesbear for AMG Uganda, and he even has his own passport.
We introduced him to the kids one day and they absolutely loved him. He wears the same uniform that the AMG sponsored kids wear, which they find pretty hilarious. We explained that in America, Buddy means friend, and that's exactly what Buddy is - their friend. And he comes with a message and that message is...and then we'll share a Bible message with the kids.
He's loved by children
He loves to play games, and share with the children. But his very favorite is finding someone who needs a hug.
Someone who needs a Buddy.
And just like the rest of the team, after a long day of ministry he likes to unwind by laying under his mosquito net (don't want to get bit), listening to MercyMe, and reading his Bible.
Buddy is one of us. And we're glad he's part of our team!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I'm so thankful today because a family has stepped up and chosen to help. This family told me the decision came after a trip to Walmart. They went to buy potting soil and flowers for the garden at their home. When they saw that the total cost for the materials came to $26 something happened in their hearts, and they knew that they had to sponsor a child. This family already sponsors a child through AMG, as well as children from other programs around the world. They are not an insanely wealthy family with money to just throw around wherever. They just ordinary people who believe in God's amazing provision.
When I asked why they chose to sponsor through AMG the mother replied, "Because we can see that AMG is bearing fruit. AMG is making a difference. There are hungry children all over the world. We could give our money here or there, but with AMG they are also fed the Word of God. They come to know the hope of Jesus. If we can do something to help children know Jesus, then we want to do it."
Wow. My heart is soaring right now! This family gets it. They understand the impact they can have on one child's life, a child like Solomy.
At age 11, Solomy was finally able to begin attending school. In a very short amount of time, she went from crawling around in the dirt to walking with the help of a walker. After some much needed (but impossible for the family to afford on their own) medical care, doctors believe that Solomy will be able to walk on her own by the end of this year.
But, unfortunately, without some outside help these children aren't even afforded what we consider basic human rights. Without some outside help, children like Solomy don't have a chance.
If it weren't for this sponsorship, Solomy would still be crawling in the dirt. She wouldn't know the wonders of learning to read and write. She wouldn't know what it's like to feel the wind brush her face as she walks.
The Bible says, "If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need, but shows no compassion - how can God's love be in that person? Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." - 1 John 3:17-18.
I'm not trying to guilt anyone into sponsorship. We must choose where and how we will focus our love to make a difference. Today I am simply conveying pure, Biblical truth. Jesus gave us an example of love when He gave His life for us, and He tells us we must be willing to do the same. This doesn't mean we need to go around looking for ways to die for other people, but we do have to be willing to give up the parts of our life that are important to us - luxuries, time, money.
It is $28 a month to sponsor a child. If you feel God tugging at your heart, I pray that you will email us at email@example.com. You have a chance to take part in an amazing story that will change a child's life, as well as your own.
Very few of us can change the world millions of dollars at a time, but each of us can change this world for good one child at a time.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
First of all, I've been seeing big improvements each and every day. (Oddly enough I say that as I lay in bed at 4:30 in the afternoon with a cold pack on my forehead, eyes squinting. I had a blood treatment today and we took it a step further to kill more of the virus. I can tell how well it's working by how terrible my head hurts. And it's working awesome!) The doctor sent me an herb that was formulated to help fight off tropical viruses and after about a week of taking it I noticed a HUGE difference. I have more energy, I ache less. I haven't taken a nap in the middle of the afternoon in 2 weeks! That's pretty amazing when you consider I had been taking 3 hour naps every day for the last 9 months. I still have bad days. I still walk at about half my normal pace. I still need to rest in the afternoon, watch what I eat, and try not to over do it. But from what my family says, there's a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eyes again. And I praise God for that!
I was talking to the doctor today during my blood treatment, telling him of all the improvements. I told him that there was a time that I thought I would never get to go back to Africa. For a long time I thought that was going to be a dream that would remain just that: a dream. It would no longer be a possibility for me. So to be 4 weeks away from leaving to head back to Uganda is so amazing to me. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of what the Lord has brought me through.
In other news at Houser Headquarters, last week I wrote about some confusing struggles we were facing. My mom had started to feel that we should consider going to Uganda for 3 weeks instead of 4. She said that as my mother she felt that was a better option for my health knowing that 3 weeks would give us enough time to do the ministry we planned, but not be too taxing on my still-recovering body.
I'm stubborn like that. But I've really felt all along that we are supposed to trust God even when it doesn't make sense. It was difficult for me when she suggested that, but I understood where she was coming from. It is a little scary to think I could go back and end up repeating this whole year. But I was also frustrated because I knew the only reason this was even a topic of discussion was because of me. It was my fault. I told my parents that I didn't want the reason for us not to go or for us to cut our time short to be that I didn't feel well. I feel that God wants us to trust Him in that way - that He would give me strength for every day. My dad felt the same as my mom, being concerned with my health, but also felt we needed to trust. So no one knew what to do.
This is all happening while we were talking to the travel agent about finding a flight. So we're feeling pressed for time to make a decision and we all seem to be on a different page.
We all prayed about it, and I still felt we needed to trust God in all aspects of the trip. After taking some time to pray about it, my parents felt the same way. We decided, as the verse says, to trust the Lord with all our hearts and not depend on our own understanding, seek God's will in all we do and He would show us which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6). We would trust God to go for 4 weeks.
As we continued talking to the travel agent, but we kept hitting roadblocks in our original plan. We had planned to leave July 15. She said, "Apparently everyone wants to go to Uganda on July 15 because there are no seats available." There were no flights, and the ones we could find were outrageously expensive. So wanting to be good stewards of the money people have generously given to our ministry, we started looking for less expensive flights on different days.
So we are now leaving on July 20 and returning August 13 (return date stays the same as originally planned). So that's a 5 day difference. The Lord cut off close to a week.
I think of the story of Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Burnt offering - like with fire...and his son. This is the son that God promised to bless Abraham through making him the "father of many nations." And we think that's insane! Who would burn their own son, especially one that God has promised to bless us through?! But Abraham followed God and brought his son out to the mountain. He even made the poor boy carry the wood for the fire. And then the boy asks where the lamb is that they're going to sacrifice. We all expect Abraham to turn around and walk right back down the mountain, saddle up his donkey and head home with his son. But Abraham replies (and truly believes), "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering."
And just as Abraham raises the knife to kill his on son, God stops him.
There are times in life that I think God just wants to know that we're willing to trust him in whatever he asks of us. A lot of times this isn't the case. Most of the time God prompts us to do something and He really does want us to go through with it. But every so often He doesn't. He's testing us. Will we trust? Will we walk the road with Him even when it gets rough? Will we keep trusting when it doesn't make sense or seem logical or convenient?
The thing about trusting God in times like these is that when we endure testing, we come out stronger on the other side. And when we increase the level of trust we put in God, we can begin to walk more deeply with Him. And that's what brings purpose and meaning to our lives.
We thank you for your many prayers and ask that you would continue to lift us up. Specifically we need prayers that the Lord will continue to provide financially for this trip, and that we would continue to trust Him in every aspect of this trip and ultimately in our lives.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
But now that I've grown older, and now that we've traveled halfway around the world, I've been able to share my dad in a new way. When we're in Uganda, he serves as "dad" to our sponsored children.
He's known as "Daddy Dean" to the kids at Camp El Har. And if you ask the girls I sponsor who he is, they say "Grandfather."
And he gives kids a chance to be kids - to do some things they may not normally get to do, like climb trees.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I never thought that such a small act of kindness would make it such a special day. God has given me such a love for Dean that has grown over the years, that it's not about the flowers, and gifts, but about serving others and sharing a very special kind of love. The kind of love that comes from our heavenly Father. That love was given back to us tenfold that day.
That was surely a "Happy Anniversary!" As we plan for another summer in Uganda another Anniversary will be spent away from what we call the comforts of home. I know that God will use our love for him as well as for each other to further his kingdom.
Friday, June 18, 2010
This is Bill.
Some people might say Bill is just another kid with long, skinny legs and dark chocolate eyes that match his skin. But they're wrong. Bill is so much more than that.
I first heard about Bill the same way anybody hears about anyone for the first time: my dad. After my dad went to Uganda for the first time, he brought back pictures of Bill, and he said to me, "Everyone just loves Bill." And I could see why.
Bill has what some might call a "million dollar smile." When Bill smiles, you can see pure joy in his eyes, like Christmas morning.
But a picture can't tell his whole story. A picture can't talk like Bill. It can't dance or play the drum like Bill. It can't sing like Bill. It can't giggle like Bill. And believe it or not, it can't even smile like Bill.
His smile is wide enough to cover all of Africa.
Yeah, I've seen a lot of smiles in my life, but of all the smiles in the world, no one smiles quite like Bill.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I wanted to write something cute and witty, but that just doesn't fit tonight. It feels like a lie. I said from the beginning I wanted this blog to serve as a way for people to walk alongside us as we prepared for and went on this trip. I said there would be ups and downs. Well today, I feel like someone put us on the Power Tower at Cedar Point. It's that wild ride that crazy people love. They strap you into a seat and take you 240 feet up in the air and let you free fall back down to earth, they take you back up again, and down you go. Up and down, up and down.
Or maybe we're on the Scrambler, the one where you spin in circles while turning in circles. Round and round.
So if I could sum up the mood around here, the word befuddled comes to mind. We're in the midst of strong and confusing spiritual battles right now. There are many questions swirling around in our minds and a lot of decisions to make. I think I can speak for the family when I say it's leaving us feeling a little defeated.
These decisions we need to make come down to whether or not we are putting our trust in God or trying to control our circumstances, whether we're following God's leading or falling into one of Satan's traps. The tricky part of all of this is actually knowing which is which. Is God leading us to do this, or is he leading us not to? And it seems there are always an equal number of reasons we should do something as there are reasons we shouldn't.
I'm sorry if I've lost you tonight. But it's just been one of those days.
It would be much easier for me to act as though we have it all pulled together. Trust me. I've already gone over this post a few dozen times and almost completely deleted it. But I think we all need to be a little more honest when it comes these types of things. We all face struggles, and some days are just not all that easy even (and especially) for "seasoned Christians."
So we ask for your prayers that God will give us wisdom in knowing what to do, and that we will be willing to follow His lead no matter what that means. And also pray that God will give us strength of the spiritual battles to come. We are still 28 days away from leaving and know there is more to come. (Which I suppose in a good thing. I'd be more concerned if we weren't facing any opposition at this point).
And please know that we are praising God tonight that He knows what's going on, for already having a plan, and for giving us a network of people who support us in prayer.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
For example, when we visit the primary school, we are brought into an AMG worker's office. The schedule says we've come to teach the kids, but we end up doing so much more. We speak to the AMG worker for some time. We catch up on life, talk about family, ask about certain kids at the school. Then she takes us up to the Head Mistresses office, and we do the same there. Then we usually take a tour of the school and see what's changed. And now, about an hour or so after we arrived...
We sit and have tea. We sip on our tea and eat bananas and talk some more about life. And then we get to work with the kids.
This is something that can be very frustrating for people who are experiencing Uganda for the first time, because we think as Americans. But with time, you understand that it's so much more laid back. You end up building such strong relationships with people, and really it's our relationships in life that matter most.
When we think of third world countries like Uganda we think that they have so much to learn from us. But, in some ways I think it's the opposite. Shouldn't we, as Christians, have this same people oriented mindset? Should people be our focus? But so often we choose to focus on the task at hand. We'd really love to stop and help that older lady get her groceries to her car, but it's raining and we really need to get back home.
But if we just took a minute to focus a little less on our tasks and a lot more on people, we could change the world. It's just like the verse in Hebrews 13 says, "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
It comes as no surprise that due to our fast-paced mindset, we'd prefer to hear statistics. We like numbers because our brain can process them quickly and move on. I could sit here and tell you that the life expectancy of the average Ugandan is 52 years old, the literacy rate is 66%, and for every one thousand live births in Uganda, 63 children die (as opposed to 6 in the US). And while that information might boggle your mind, you won't remember it near as much as if I show you.
That's what yesterday's post was all about.
It could've been me.
I could've been the one who was born in Uganda. It could've been you or your daughter or your best friend. It could've been any of us.
We truly live in a blessed nation. I am not saying any of these things to make you feel guilty, but to help you understand that it could've just as easily been any one of us living the life I described yesterday.
But it wasn't. And there's a reason for that.
God has blessed us, but He doesn't want us to hold on to that blessing. I was reading a novel by Chuck Holton titled Island Inferno. In it, one of the characters said, "What we have loses its value if we don't share it." As Americans, we are taught from a very young age that what's mine is mine, and I don't have to share it.
God calls us to a different way of living. The Bible tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27), faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17), and that our love for one another will prove to the world that we follow Christ (John 13:35).
Whether we like to think about it or not, the truth is that right at this very moment a child is suffering. She may have been infected with malaria, or lost her parents to AIDS. She may be hungry, hot, and searching for love. And if we're being really honest, she may be all the above.
Does it break your heart as much as it does mine?
If you knew there was something you could do, would you do it?
Wel there is something we can do.
Currently there are over 110 children in Uganda who are in need of sponsors, 10 of which live in Camp El Har orphanage. This isn't just a number. These are real children with real faces who have real struggles.
Today marks an important day in our 40 day journey to departure. The amount of days we have before we leave equals the number of days we will be gone (30). So I would like to propose a challenge.
Will you join in helping us make a few less children in need of sponsors? It is $28 a month to sponsor a child through AMG International. The great thing is that money we send goes directly toward caring for the child, and AMG keeps an eye on each of these kids and knows their needs.
The money would help give a child a hot meal every day. It would give them an opportunity to receive an education. And most importantly, this child would hear about the love Christ has for them.
Sponsorship is a sacrifice. And it's one that we, as a family, make every month to support our sponsored children. People say they don't think they could afford it, but I know from experience that when we take on sponsoring a child, God will provide. When I first started sponsoring Mariam and Sophie I said that it would be God who was providing for them, not me. I have college debt to pay off, and I don't have a steady income. For the past 10 months I haven't worked at all due to my sickness, and I've been living off my savings account. A week ago I had no idea where next month's sponsorship money would come from. But I prayed that God would provide for them, just as He always has. A few days ago I was called to babysit. Then a neighbor offered to pay me for looking after his dog. The Lord always provides.
$28 a month. That's deciding one night not to order pizza and rent a movie. That's foregoing the cup of Tim Horton's coffee a couple times a week or resisting the urge to make a daily vending machine run. That's less than we pay for a tank of gas (unless you drive a hybrid, in which case it's what you save in gas)!
With a few sacrifices you could help a boy like Matiya.
After 1 year of sponsorship, Matiya is a healthy and joyful 7 year old boy. He laughs. He sings. He plays. And most of all, he loves. He has learned of God's love for him and he loves God too. But Matiya loves someone else also. It's someone he's never met before, only seen in photos. Matiya loves his sponsor, because she brought him hope and now he knows that in spite of our struggles, we can have great joy in Christ!
Sponsorship may be a sacrifice, but it yields great blessings.
If you have any questions about child sponsorship or would like to sponsor a child, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help find a child just for you. You can also find out more by clicking here to visit AMG's website or by clicking the picture of the baby on the left sidebar. We do not work for AMG International, but we believe in what they are doing to help children in need all over the world.
I challenge you to pray about sponsoring a child. Talk to your family members and friends and challenge them as well. It's a great family project for people with younger children. Get together with someone you know and tag team the sponsorship, alternating months throughout the year.A few small changes in our lives can make a huge difference in the life of a child.
Will you join us and help a child today?