Saturday, December 31, 2011
I've been staying at Reuben and Florence's home (he's the director of AMG Uganda). It's been a nice stay. Florence makes excellent food. I spent today resting a little, shopping for some needed items and attending my first Ugandan wedding.
Tomorrow I will head to Upendo where I will stay until the team leaves for one of the villages halfway through their stay. I will set up the house and get settled in after church. I will cook for myself and basically make it my home for the next 2 weeks. It will surely be an interesting experience.
Please pray for me through this week before the team comes. They arrive on Saturday. There is much to plan before they come. Also pray for me as I will be staying alone in the home (with no electricity). Pray for my parents also as I know they are worried. But I know that God is here with me. I feel His presence all around me.
I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year! I will try to update again soon.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I spent all day today packing. It really seemed like nothing could go my way. Nothing was fitting right and the bags were always too heavy. But finally we figured it all out. Although I do keep finding things I forgot all over the house and am trying to find places to cram them in.
I ask for your prayers as I head out tomorrow. Prayers for me, that God would give me courage and strength and that I would feel his presence like never before. And also prayers for my parents, frieds, and family, that God would give them peace in their hearts while I'm gone.
This is a huge step of faith, and I would be lying if I didn't say that at times I feel overwhelmed with fear. Afterall, I am just a regular person. But God has called me to do something amazing for Him and I know He will bring me through whatever is ahead. My job is to just take it all one day at a time. I know that I am going to learn so much about God and myself over the next three and a half weeks, and I also know that lives are going to be changed, my own included. I pray that I can be open to whatever He has for me, and that I can enjoy every moment I have on this journey whether good or bad, happy or sad.
I'm glad you are on this journey with me. I will try my best to update the blog as often as possible. But, as always, I don't know how internet connection will be during the trip. You may be hearing from my parents as I will be calling them to update them on what's happening.
I honestly can't thank you enough for your thoughts and prayers. I can feel the surrounding me.
Monday, December 19, 2011
It's amazing to me that in just 10 days I will be headed back to Uganda to see her for the 6th time.
I can hardly stand the cuteness!
With his sister and his Santa hat!
This is our friend Denise. I love the look he has on his face as she's showing him the hot wheels car!
As a result of that first sponsorship of Eva, my life has changed so much. Having our family sponsor her led me to Uganda where I met the girls I sponsor, Mariam and Sophie. Meeting them has had a lasting impact on my life. In fact, meeting them was why I chose to sponsor them in the first place. It led me to meet countless other children that I love with all my heart. But it also led me to Rodrigo.
When I started sponsoring him 2 months ago, I made another silent promise, one that I know will change my life. And one day I hope to go visit him. To see him and hug him and love him myself. And it is amazing to me how God has used these children, no more than a handful of years old, to a better understanding of His love for us and to allow me to do things and go places I hadn't imagined of before.
Monday, December 12, 2011
But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about today. My dear friend Karen wrote a blog post today about a girl she met in Uganda last summer. (You can read the post by clicking the link here.)
Her name is Angel. She was one of those kids that Karen just happened to find while out on home visits one day, but really I think Angel was meant to find Karen. You see, Karen hadn't been to Africa before. She works in the child sponsor department at AMG, so she has read the stories on paper. She's seen the faces through photos. But this trip, the stories and faces became real. And Angel is one such child.
After following Karen around, holding her hand, not wanting to leave her side it was finally time for us to get on the bus and leave. But just before we did, Karen found out that this sweet face that smiled at her, the precious hand that held hers all day long belonged to a child who is HIV positive. And a piece of her heart broke.
This child is a total orphan. If you read the information on Karen's blog you'll see that she was abandoned in a pile of garbage by her family after her parents died. She was literally plucked from the trash by a man who doesn't have the money to care for her. She's a child who is broken and in need of hope, so Karen is searching for someone to sponsor her.
Proverbs 3:27-28 says, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, 'come back later; I'll give it tomorrow' -when you now have it with you."
I think so often we have this someday mentality. "I'll sponsor a child someday." "I'll get involved in ministry or missions or volunteer work someday." But according to this verse, if we have the time, resources, or talents to do something to help others right now then we need to do it.
We shouldn't spend our lives relying on someday because someday may never come. We may never have enough money, or have enough time, or get whatever it is we think we need before we can act. If we keep putting things off until someday then we will miss out on the blessing God has in store for us when we decide to act today.
So what do you say? Are you willing to turn your someday into today? Will you take a stand to help this child become who God has called her to be by sponsoring her for $28 a month? Today is the day you can change a life for eternity.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I spent the weekend visiting with my friends Karen and Ashley. I met Karen last April when I traveled to Chattanooga for meetings at AMG headquarters. We had been emailing before that and became instant friends. Karen was on the team that went to Uganda this past summer and she brought her friend Ashley. We all struck up quite a friendship in the two weeks we spent together and have been planning this get together for a few months now.
But just as everything else in life, it had to come to an end. I said good-bye yesterday, hopped on a couple planes and headed home. This morning I woke up, went back to work, and coached the girls in a hard-fought loss this evening. Life is still moving as quickly as it ever was, but after a few days away and a little perspective on things that I can tackle the obstacles ahead of me.
Just do me a favor. In a few days or weeks when the stress piles up again, remind me to take a step back and get some perspective again. I think I'll need it.
If you're finding yourself in over your head today, don't be afraid to take a moment to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Things may be rocky now, but God has a much bigger plan than what we see.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
In the time it took you to read that paragraph, another community lost an important member.
And over the next hour, 240 more will die of the terrible disease. Over the next year, approximately 2 million people will die of HIV/AIDS.
Out of all the areas of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has been affected the worst. This area of the world holds just 10% of the world's population but is home to 67% of people in the world living with AIDS. Most people don't know they have it. They are among the walking dead. And those who know they have it, often can't afford to buy the medication that will save their lives.
The people who are impacted the most are the children. They're left behind as the family's breadwinners, raising their younger siblings, growing up faster than any child should have to all because of this silent killer.
Today is World AIDS day, a day to raise awareness about this global pandemic that is now second only to the Black Death as the largest in history. It's a day to look at the facts before us and take a stand.
I'm wearing a special shirt in honor of my brothers and sisters at Upendo who've been affected in some way by this disease. These are sweet kids who have stolen my heart over the years.
On the front the shirt says 147 Million Orphans (the estimated number of children living without parents in our world today). On the back it says this:
That's all God calls us to do, just to love one. When we see the statistics they can feel overwhelming. 2 million people will die this year of AIDS alone. That doesn't include the million more that will die this year of malaria, or the millions more that will die from hunger. By ourselves we can't rid the world of these statistics. But we can make a difference if we would do what we could for one, if we fed one, if we helped give medical care to one. The world is much too big for one person to do all the work. But we can make a difference if we just love one.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
be greeted by street vendors,
seeing smiles on the faces of the children I love,
saying hello to ones I don't know yet,
and joining together with my sweet brothers and sisters in Christ to make a difference.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
The author talks about his friend Jim Wallis who, as a seminary student, conducted an experiment with a few of his classmates. They perused all 66 books of the Bible, underlining every passage and verse dealing with poverty, wealth, justice, and oppression. After this, one of the men took scissors and cut out each of those verses leaving a tattered Bible that barely held together. When Jim would speak in public about poverty he would hold this Bible up and say, "Brothers and sisters, this is our American Bible; it is full of holes. Each one of us might as well take our Bibles, a pair of scissors, and begin cutting out all the scriptures we pay no attention to, all the biblical texts that we just ignore."
That is a very powerful illustration that at times is hard to accept. But unfortunately it is entirely accurate. If you don't believe me, then just watch the news. Did you see all the footage of the Black Friday madness? People were getting beat up, and crazy ladies were pepper spraying people because they tried to take an X-Box she wanted. I understand that's the extreme end of the spectrum but as Americans we live with a mentality that everyone in the world lives as we do. Unfortunately, it's just not so.
That thought is overwhelming me tonight. As I sit warm and safe in my own room, one of many rooms in my home, complete with a bed, electricity, the computer I'm typing on and more, there are young women just like me sleeping on the hard ground. They have no dressers filled with clothes. For some, what they are wearing might be all they own. There are children who went to bed hungry tonight, and tomorrow morning they will still be hungry because their families have no money for food. There are babies crying who won't be held, and old grandmothers who have no idea how they will provide for their grandchildren now that they have been left orphaned by AIDS.
Please know that it was not my intention to make anyone feel guilty, but rather I am trying to give perspective, as well as process all the thoughts in my head. What we see today, everything that surrounds us right now, it isn't the norm in this world. It's easy to think that because it's what we see immediately in front of us, but over 40% of people in this world live on less than $2 a day. That's almost half of the 6.5 billion people living and breathing on this earth.
And tonight, I can't quite seem to wrap my mind around that.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A few months ago I was talking to my dad outside when out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful monarch butterfly sitting on the grass a few feet away. I quickly grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures of this elegant creature, one that typically doesn't stay still to get many good shots.
But I haven't given you the full picture. This butterfly, though beautiful, was anything but perfect. In fact, it was in what was probably the last moments of its life. You see, it had lost a good majority of its wings and couldn't fly anymore.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Our family has been so blessed by those of you out there who have supported us both in prayer and financially. When we are in Uganda, we never forget to tell the workers and children that even though we are the only ones they see, there is a network of amazing people back home who help us do what God has called us to do.
This really is a team effort and without each of you out there supporting us in some way we couldn't do what we do. Whether it's reading the blog and saying a quick prayer, praying for us every day or every week at church, supporting our work financially, making bracelets, donating clothes and supplies for us to bring, or sending us a word of encouragement, each of you have a role in this ministry and it's impacting the world for Christ.
So I just wanted to take this time today to thank you for the role you are playing not only in our lives, but the lives of people all over the world. When each of us work together, we really can make a difference for Christ in this world!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Since returning to full health from my long-term sickness, I haven't had many colds or flu-bugs. But when I do feel under the weather, I find that I can't stand resting. I know it's what my body needs to get better. But after spending so much time before laying around doing nothing, the thought of laying around all day drives me a little crazy. It's funny because while I was so sick, I learned how to be still and I didn't want to forget how important it is to slow down every once in a while. But now, being still feels like torture, like a child in time-out. I just want to keep saying, "Can I get up yet?"
But I have to remember that sometimes being still is exactly what we need. It gives us time to stop and listen, to process what's really going on. It may not be fun, and it may not be easy, but sometimes it's necessary.
I know I'll be back to reading stories, teaching multiplication, and shooting jump shots before I know it. But for now, as hard as it can be, I'll try to enjoy being still.
Friday, November 18, 2011
But it hasn't left much time for updating the blog, or really anything else for that matter. But today is a special day as I prepare for my next adventure to Uganda. Yes, for those of you who have been reading for a while now you may know where this is headed...
I am 40 days from leaving!
Now there's two ways to look at this. First is that I still have 40 days before I leave. It's over a month. There is still time to get things done. But on the other hand. I only have 40 days until I leave! There's so much to do and I only have a little over a month to get it done. See the difference there? It's all about what perspective you look at it from.
But either way there are 40 days left. I may only have 40 days left to raise my support, buy any needed supplies, and pack. But I still have 40 days to spend time with family and friends, sleep in my own bed, eat American food (hello Thanksgiving and Christmas!), work, and encourage 28 middle school-aged girls every day. Just as always, I want to enjoy every part of this adventure, which starts long before I step foot on distant lands. And I know without a doubt this will be a trip like no other.
I will try to update every day from now until I leave. But if I miss a few days, please forgive me and know I didn't drop off the face of the earth. It just means I'm caught up with soaking it all in and enjoying each moment of this journey.
Thanks for coming along with me.
To understand why I chronicle the 40 days before we leave, check out this post
Friday, November 4, 2011
But recently God spoke to me through a little boy in Peru. One Friday night I was sitting with my computer, enjoying a peaceful night at home. Every so often I check AMG's website for children needing sponsors. I love to look at the kids from Uganda to see if I know any of them. But as I scrolled down, a sweet 5 year old boy caught my attention. His buzzed hair and cheesey smile reminded me of my little cousin Joey, and my heart instantly melted. The information next to his picture said he lives in a very poor neighborhood outside Lima, Peru. His two-room house is built with bamboo and scraps of wood.
But it wasn't his sad story that stood out at me.
For just a moment, God gave me a glimpse through His eyes. I didn't see a poor little boy whose family struggles to meet his basic needs. Instead I saw what God wants him to be. A pastor, teacher, doctor, politician, a man of God with a purpose. And with that thought, a feeling stirred and a still small voice said, "Sponsor him."
Now you've met my sweet girls Mariam and Sophie. I have been so blessed to be part of their life as their Muzungu Mommy but since I started sponsoring them 4 years ago, I have constantly had to rely on God to provide the money for them. At times I've really struggled to keep up with their sponsorship, but I made the committment and I know that God will provide. The funny thing is, when I heard God telling me to sponsor this little boy from Peru I was trying to come up with all sorts of excuses as to why I couldn't.
I don't have the finances.
I can barely keep up with sponsoring my girls.
I have so much on my plate right now with the trip coming up.
I would want to go meet him and I don't know if I could get the funds to go to Peru ever.
Excuse after excuse. But this little boy wouldn't leave my thoughts. I went to bed that night thinking about him. I woke up the next morning thinking about him. That next day I went to Walmart and was buying some supplies for a project I was working on. Without thinking much of it, I spent more than the $28 it would take to be sure he has food and medical care for one month.
And it hit me. I can spend that kind of money on things I really don't need without batting an eye and here I am wondering if I should sponsor another child...I felt awful. I text my friend Karen right away. She works in the child sponsorship department at AMG and I told her that on Monday she needed to take him off the website because that boy is mine. I think she was a little shocked. Not that I would sponsor another child, but that it would be a child from Peru. And others at AMG were shocked too.
God spoke to me through a little boy with buzzed hair and a cheesey smile.
So I thought, what better day than today, my 24th birthday, to introduce you to my son, Rodrigo!
My birthday wish this year is to see more kids just like Rodrigo reach their full potential in Christ through sponsorship. If you're someone who has never considered child sponsorship before, I ask that you would consider it now. If you are someone who has thought about it but you're not sure you could do it, I want to encourage you to take that step of faith and sponsor a child.
For $28 a month you can help a child go to school, receive medical care and nutritious meals. And best of all, he or she will hear about the love of Jesus through AMG's programs. But most of all, he or she will witness that love in a tangible way through your giving.
You can email us at email@example.com or visit AMG's website here to find out more.
I want 24 to be the year with the biggest impact so far on these kids. Will you help start it off with a bang?
Saturday, October 15, 2011
After coming home from Uganda this summer, my mom announced that none of us were going again until we got the outside of the house painted. So my dad has been working hard to prep the house and last weekend the weather was so beautiful we were able to paint almost all of it! For it to be in the mid 70s to lower 80s in the middle of October is pretty amazing for Western New York so we soaked up every moment we could and boy were we sore after! We just had to get it done because....drumroll please....are you ready for this? Because this is my BIG NEWS!!! (You're sitting on the edge of your seat aren't you?)
I'M GOING BACK TO UGANDA FOR 3 WEEKS AT THE END OF DECEMBER!!!
Read that one more time. Did you catch it? I said I'm going back, as in me, as in Aly. Yes, I will be returning to the country I love so much just a few days after Christmas and coming back near the end of January. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more exciting there's more...
I will be serving in a provisional role as "Team Coordinator." So I'll be working with the AMG Uganda staff to plan the ministry work the team will be involved with, including activities during the weeklong youth conference, children's programs, church services, and home visitation. I'll also be organizing other details of the team's stay like their transportation and accommodations.
I've already begun planning with the AMG Uganda staff and look forward to what God has in store for me over the next few months. It will be the first time I've traveled to Uganda without my family. I'll stay at the guesthouse at Upendo, so I'll have plenty of opportunities to interact with the children who stay there during their holiday break. I'll have one full week of in-country planning work prior to the team's arrival. Then I will join together with the team for the other 2 weeks taking part in the ministry work and working as a liaison between the Uganda staff and US team.
I ask for your prayers as I press forward. Please pray for the people of Uganda, that we will know how to best serve them. Pray for the team members. Pray for God to give my family strength and courage to let me go. Please pray for me, that I will know God is with me every step of the way. And finally, pray that God will provide the financial support I need to go.
I'm very excited about this new adventure God is taking me on. I'll try to keep sharing along the way as I prepare for this trip, so keep checking in.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
We also spoke for the first time at church about our trip to Uganda last Sunday. In some ways we were very excited to finally start to share our experiences, but at the same time it was very difficult to share some of the stories. It was a very emotional presentation. We have a few more churches lined up and are looking at setting up some more. Our ministry doesn't end when we step off the plane at home. It's more like it's just beginning. We love going to Uganda and joining in the ministry there, but we also love to come home and share our experiences with our sponsors as well as new people in the hopes of raising awareness of the needs and ways each of us can help.
If you're from around us and would like to hear us speak, here's a look at our schedule for the next few weeks:
Sunday, October 2 - Jamestown Community Church Service on Camp St. in Jamestown @ 10:50am
Wednesday, October 5 - Open Door Baptist Church off Rt. 60 in Cassadaga @ 7pm
Sunday, October 16 - East Leon Wesleyan Church Service on Mosher Rd in Cattaraugus @ 11am
Sunday, November 6 - New Covenant Assembly on Arlington St in Jamestown @ 10:30am
Sunday, November 20, Ellington Community Church on Thornton Rd in Ellington @10am
If you'd like to have us come speak to your church or group, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to set something up with you!
Stay tuned to the blog for some exciting news coming your way. It's another reason that things have become so busy around here. I can't wait to share with you what God is preparing me for...but I will. (And good golly if any of you are thinking I'm having a baby then I might have to slap you silly!)
I'll leave you with a photo because, let's face it, blog posts are much more fun when there are pictures. This little one was happy to take a drink from my mom's water bottle just as long as she didn't have to look directly at her.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
For months my days consisted of laying on the couch with barely the energy to be upright long enough to eat or shower let alone go to church, which I didn't for 3 months. I was so weak I couldn't open my own waterbottles or even the bag inside the cereal box. My brain was clouded, and I (a teacher and lover of writing) found myself unable to think of words or able to focus. My heart pounded just a little off beat. I slept all afternoon while staying up unable to sleep half the night. My muscles felt like someone was constantly sqeezing me, and my joints felt like they'd been replaced with sandpaper that someone lit on fire. All as a result of something I picked up on our trip to Uganda in 2009.
Never in my life had I felt more alone, misunderstood, helpless, or useless. Yet for some reason I still could usually find it in me to smile.
(January 2010)Afterall, I had parents who took care of me night and day. My best friend came almost every day to just sit with me. Countless people, many complete strangers, prayed for me. I was anointed and was given 3 healing services at different churches. Congregations at churches we speak at throughout the year laid hands on me to pray for my healing. Others prayed for me in my absence.
But God chose to withhold healing for almost a year. Even then it wasn't some instant act where I jumped out of bed one morning declaring my healing. It was a slow and often painful process filled with diet changes, treatments, and herbs that made me feel worse before I felt better. Becoming healthy was a conscience effort on my part that took months more of constant reliance on God for strength to carry on.
With each trial I faced, I felt God give the promise of healing, and so He gave me the strength to overcome. When I was at my worst physically, I penned this in my journal:
I find it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. Great things happened in Uganda while we were there. Great things will continue to come fro the work we did. I have no regrets, only the satisfaction of serving my Savior in one of the most amazing places in the world."
Despite the dark times I faced over the last 2 years, I learned first hand that even through trials, God remains faithful. He is ever present no matter our circumstances, and it is He who gives us strength to pass through the trials. Even though we often can't see it at the time, God has a purpose in our struggles, and one day He will begin to put the pieces together for us.
Today is a day of celebration for me. I am amazed at where God has brought me today. Back to full strength, healthier than I have ever been, and ready to once again take on the world. But this day will always serve as a reminder to me of God's power and faithfulness amidst the storm and his purpose amidst the pain.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Even today, after 10 years has past, seeing the footage brings all the emotions back, and my 23 year old mind still isn't sure how to process it.
Fear. Shock. Grief. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Outrage.
For those old enough to remember September 11, 2001, it will be a day that is never forgotten. Thousands of people died, but every person on this earth was impacted in some way. Even today, we live our lives differently. We can't walk through an airport or even go to a sporting event without some kind of security check. At times it's difficult to even remember what life was like on September 10, 2001, when you could see a loved one off up to the gate at the airport before anyone stopped you, or you could take a full bottle of shampoo in your carry-on.
But 9/11 wasn't just a day marked by tragedy. It was a day when, despite the acts of hatred poured out on our country, acts of love prevailed. It was a day when people gave their own lives just to try to save another. It was a day that, despite the tragedy that caused it, God saw the way His people reacted, how they pulled together, served and loved one another no matter the consequence. It was a day when the picture of what the Gospel should look like was painted in the present tense.
On this day 10 years ago our lives changed forever. May we always see past the tragedy to the picture of love shown through ordinary people. And let us carry on and honor the fallen through our service to God and to others.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
You've met Timothy. Now meet his little sister and competition in cuteness, Mariam.
So when they came back she was so excited! We said Timothy had lots of personality. So Mariam must take after him.
She is full of it! Always making us laugh.
We tried teaching her how to blow bubbles. She kept putting her mouth on the bubble wand. It was fun until she tasted it. She would scrunch up her nose and wipe the slime off her lips as fast as she could.
The name Mariam means bitter. But there is nothing bitter about this little girl. She's three feet of pure joy and sunshine!
Monday, September 5, 2011
But it didn't take long for him to be the same Timothy we remembered from last year.Let's just say he has a lot of energy.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
My mom and I spent some time visiting my 3 cousins. We taught the younger 2 how to ride their bikes with no training wheels. We tag-teamed it most of the time. Joey, who is 6, is definitely the more rambunctious of the two, so I guess I should've taught him how to stop without having to jump off of his bike before I let him ride down the street at full speed sending me chasing after him knowing I'd have to be there to catch him before he fell over. Luckily I kept up with him pretty well, but I must say my quads are sore!
Joey thinks he's pretty cool now!
And we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog...
And then there's Sophie, who loves me in her own spunky little way. And apparently when it was her turn to get her picture taken she was less than excited and stood there thinking, "Can we just get this over with already?"
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Buddy especially enjoys seeing old friends. So he was so happy to finally make his way to Mariam and Sophie.
Once Alice got her hands on Buddy, she didn't want to let him go. She was pretty confident she was taking him home with her which meant we kept a pretty close eye on Alice for the rest of the day. Luckily she was cuter than cute. My dad (of course) taught her to say okie dokie, and also got her to say Deeeee-licious!
(This post was approved by Buddy himself. He gave it two paws up.)
Friday, August 26, 2011
Some of the ladies at our church made some clothes for us to take with us to give out to the kids. So the last day we were in her village, Ashley tracked her down. She came and stood at the gate as usual. The unsponsored kids know they can't come in unless invited, so I went to bring her into the office.
"Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ." - Ephesians 5:2