Saturday, December 31, 2011

Made it!

I made it safely to Uganda late last night. The flights were long but aside for some minor turbulence and a shaky landing into Entebbe, Uganda it wasn't so bad. I was a little nervous when at first my bags didn't arrive. But eventually they came around the carousel next to each other. I met up with Michael, the driver, and Dorothy, a former AMG child and off we went.

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.

- Aly

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Day at a Time

Tomorrow's the big day. I will take up my suitcases and head off to the airport to depart on a new adventure.

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.

- Aly

Monday, December 19, 2011

Life Changing Promise

Seven years ago, we made the 10 minute drive to church and listened to a man talk about children in Uganda. That day we took home a little girl named Eva and began sponsoring her. I made a silent promise that day, one that would change my life. I promised to one day go and visit her.

It's amazing to me that in just 10 days I will be headed back to Uganda to see her for the 6th time.

Last week I received what I consider to be a very special early Christmas gift. I told you how I started sponsoring a little boy named Rodrigo from Peru. He's brought such joy to my life since then. My sweet friend Denise went with AMG on a Bundles of Love trip, which is the program they put on to give gifts to the children at Christmastime. She hopped on a plane headed for Peru and brought back some pictures of my handsome boy (and, yes. This is where I shamelessly brag about this sweet boy God blessed me with!)

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.

- Aly

Monday, December 12, 2011

Turning Someday into Today

I know, I know. I've been neglecting the blog lately. I've said it before, but I really can't begin to explain how crazy it is to work, coach, prepare for Christmas, and on top of all that prepare for the trip. I've never had to prepare for a trip this time of the year, and I must admit it's left me feeling a little off balance.

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.

- Aly

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wondering Where I Went?

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.

It was a time to spend hanging out, catching up on life, and enjoying each other's company. But it was also a time to just get away. Sometimes it's good to take a step back from everything. For me it was a time to gain some perspective on a few of the things that have been going on in my life recently. For one weekend I could just step back and have some fun instead of stressing over the trip (which starts in 24 days). Some things that had been cloudy in my mind are now a little clearer.

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.

- Aly

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Love One

Every 20 seconds, someone loses their life to AIDS. But the impact of those deaths reaches far beyond that one person. A mother just lost a son. A young girl just lost her best friend and playmate. A teenage boy just lost his mentor. A school just lost its best teacher. The shop down the street just lost its owner. And a hospital has one less nurse to treat the sick. Wives are left heart broken and children are left orphans without any hope.

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.

- Aly