Monday, May 28, 2012

Take Time to Remember

Against backdrop of Memorial Day, Wheaton couple prepare to bury their serviceman son

May 29, 2012

While the nation marked Memorial Day on Monday, Susan and Thomas Watts prepared to bury their son, Army Spc. Samuel T. Watts, who died earlier this month in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center of injuries he sustained from a improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

"We're proud of him. And I know he would be honored with all the things that people are saying and doing. He would be humbled," said Susan Watts, 50, of Wheaton. "But it's hard for me. He was still my little boy."

Across the region, people celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with backyard barbecues, the laying of flowers at grave sites, parades and parties. In Grant Park, a group of veterans and families laid wreaths at the Gen. John A. Logan Monument.

But the visceral, heart-wrenching reality of the holiday — enacted to remember those who died while serving in the military — has just come home for the Watts family.

On April 25, Samuel Watts, 20, was on a foot patrol in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated. Watts had been about 8 feet from the blast, and he suffered devastating wounds, including head, arm and lung injuries. "We were told he was in cardiac arrest in the field," his mother said.

He was rushed to a hospital at Bagram Air Field; airlifted to Landstuhl, Germany; and then brought to Walter Reed in Maryland, where his family stood vigil for two weeks. Before he died May 19, he was awarded the Purple Heart in a ceremony held at his bedside. His father, Thomas, pinned the medal to his chest.

"The thing about my son, he was so strong," said Susan Watts. "He was strong in stature. He was strong in who he was. He was a young man of character."

Samuel Watts was a strapping young man, who stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and who, in his role as an Army specialist, often volunteered to carry extra equipment.

"Sam probably had an additional 90 pounds of gear on him. But he never complained. He was proud of the fact he was able to do that," said Susan Watts.

At Wheaton North High School, he had been average student, but he loved history, especially the stories from World War II. Growing up, he idolized a great-uncle who had been wounded on Omaha Beach, had been taken from the battle but later returned to fight in the rest of the war.

"Sam admired him so much. That's the kind of man he wanted to be," Susan Watts said.

Samuel Watts had enlisted while still in high school. He had wanted to be a soldier since he was a little boy.

This Memorial Day, the family stayed close to home and tried to prepare for Tuesday's visitation and Wednesday's funeral.

"For the moment, we're so lost in our grief," said Susan Watts. "There's no sleep. When I eat, I get sick. ... I just really want to lie down and wake up from this terrible nightmare."

The family has been pulling out photos, which they plan to display at the wake and memorial service. But Susan Watts said she has trouble looking at the pictures of her son. "I just miss that face so bad. It's hard to know he's never coming home."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

37: Let's start a Fire

During the trip in January, my team had the amazing opportunity to do a radio broadcast in Uganda. Dr. Reuben, the director of AMG Uganda, does regular broadcasts in a city just outside his hometown in Western Uganda. He uses this time to preach the Gospel and teach scripture.
Our very last day visiting his home village, Dr. Reuben asked our team to record some interviews to be broadcast on Ugandan radio. He said our message would reach about 2 million people.
No pressure, though.
We split up the men and women. The ladies were asked to specifically target the adolescent girls listening. We were asked to share about our own lives. Before being recorded we practiced what we would share. But, as always , we ended up saying so much more than we planned.
There were only 3 of us women, but we covered 3 generations with a grandmother, a mom, and a single 24 year old. Each of us had a unique view of life to share, including our struggles and triumphs over the years.
When it came to be my turn, I was asked what I would want to share with teenage girls. This was my message:
"Focus on your school work and stay away from boys! They will tell you anything and everything they think you want to hear, but they generally only want one thing. If a boy really cares about you, he won't pressure you to do anything. Focus on God and doing well in school while you're young. Don't let the world pressure you to do anything outside of God's will for your life."

The ladies after our interview.

That day, our ministry wasn't the typical face to face work we normally do. We didn't get to see the faces of the people who heard our message. But I believe somehow God used our message, our mistakes, and our dependence on Him to change lives.

Sometimes doing ministry means that we will never really know or understand the impact we will have. We don't really know if what we did made a difference in someone's life. But even if we're not sure of the impact we have to do it anyways, because what if what we did made a difference for just one? It brought hope to just one? It gave courage to just one?

Our action, as well as our lack of action, affects others. And as Christians we can either let the fire smolder or we can create a spark that will ignite the world for Christ. I say, let's start a fire.

- Aly

Saturday, May 26, 2012

38: Movin' on Up

About a year and a half ago, I (Aly) applied for a position with AMG International to be the Team Coordinator in Uganda. The process led me down a long and winding road that has included traveling to Chattanooga for meetings, taking a written test that was reviewed by a psychologist, meeting certain requirements, and even going to Uganda this past January to get my feet wet in the work I'd be doing. It's all led me to where I am today: planning and preparing for my next trip in 38 days and moving out.

There have been 2 major requirements to meet. One is to find a sending church, a body of believers who will partner with me on this journey (more on that later). The other was to move out of my parent's home, the house I've lived in for the last 24 and a half years.

I've been searching for a place to live for some time now. But the world out there is expensive and I just couldn't find a place I could afford.

Until Wednesday.

It was one of those things that only God could plan out. One of our supporters is looking to rent out an apartment she owns in town. It was a great location with great landlords at a great price. My dad had known about it for a little while and kept thinking that he should tell me to look into it, but he kept forgetting. When I finally went to speak to the woman she said that my name had popped up in her head a few times when thinking about someone to rent from her. I took a look at the place, went home to pray about it, and knew that it was a step of faith that God wanted me to take.

If everything goes as planned, I will be moving in on June 1. So just shy of one month before I'm leaving on a jet plane, I'll be moving on up (except since it's at the bottom of the valley I guess I'll be moving on down).

I could certainly use your prayers, that I would be open to whatever the Lord has for me on this leg of the journey and that I would trust the Lord to provide. At times I already find myself concerned about where the money for rent and groceries will come from or where I'll find all the things I need, but in the end I'm reminded that I serve a God who provides. He provided Abraham wtith a ram as a substitute for Isaac and gave the Israelites manna for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus fed 4000 men with just 7 loaves and a few fish.

And afterall, Matthew 6:25-27, 34 says, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

One day at a time. One step at a time.

- Aly

Friday, May 25, 2012

39: Snow Day!

Believe it or not, we had a snow day today. Ok, so it wasn't a real snow day, but since the school district my mom and I work at didn't use any snow days this year, we were given today off. One of the teachers I talked to said that hasn't happened in the 15 years he's been teaching there. And so our snow day this year was spent wearing shorts and tank tops, drinking iced tea, and sitting outside instead of how we normally spend snow days all curled up in sweatshirts and Granny's slippers, baking Christmas cookies, and drinking hot cocoa.

It was nice to have a day off after the crazy week we had around here. On Monday, our pool collapsed. I watched helplessly as water rused down the hill at warp speed and leaving a path of stones, metal, and hoses. So while I'd love to say I went swimming on our snow day, there wasn't anywhere to swim (though I was tempted to go buy one of those plastic kiddie pools at Walmart).

My mom has had a sinus infection all week. I woke up this morning with an eye infection. My dad's truck is acting goofy.

It always seems like things get crazier as the trip gets closer. But I honestly have to say that it's a good thing, because it reminds us that we're exactly where God wants us to be. Stationary Christians, the ones who are satisfied with the status quo, don't face spiritual battles. If you're not doing anything to further God's kingdom, then satan has no business with you. But the ones who are moving forward, doing what God has called them to do, those are the ones that will face opposition. And there's so much more happening than just these things I've listed. God is working in our hearts in so many new and exciting ways, but at the same time satan is working to undo all of those things.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing some exciting/kind of scary news with you, so stay tuned.

- Aly

Thursday, May 24, 2012

40 Days-ish

If you've been around our blog for long, you may remember that we consider the 40 days leading up to a trip to be very important. In the Bible, the number 40 is often associated with a time of testing or trials, and ends with a time of revival, renewal, or blessing. The Israelites faced one trial after another as they wandered in the desert. After 40 years, they were led into the Promised Land. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. After He endured testing, the Bible says angels came and took care of Him.
We have once again reached this significant time in our preparation for Uganda...sort of. This trip is unlike any others we have ever taken, since I (Aly) will be leaving first, followed by my parents 3 weeks later. But we take this journey together, so I will be documenting our preparation for my departure which, as of today, is in 40 days.

Already the Lord has been testing and challenging us on whether we have the faith to do what we say we believe. And while we feel the spiritual battles raging all around us, we trust that the Lord will bring a great time of blessing and revival, not only to us, but to everyone involved in our story.

So I invite you to join in on our story. Over the next 40 days I will do my best to update you on our preparation. No two trips are ever the same. The Lord is always giving us new adventures, allowing new hardships, and bringing us ample opportunities to grow in our walk with Him. So whether it's joy, excitement, nerves, trials, or just plain chaos may God be glorified in it all.
- Aly

Monday, May 7, 2012

Make a Difference for One

There are over 16 million children in this world who have lost their parents to AIDS. It is estimated that 14.8 million of those children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and that millions more living in India, China, and Russia are unaccounted for. Not only have they been through the trauma of losing a parent, they also face many other hardships. Most of them are not able to attend school, receive medical care, or even find food that will help them grow. They're vulnerable, and when left of the street are east targets for exploitation, being sold into hard labor or even as soldiers and sex slaves.

To us the thought of this is a terrible nightmare, but for millions of children around the world, it is their reality. They've been left alone with no one to love them.

Today is World AIDS orphan day. A day to stop and think about the millions of children who have lost hope, who know nothing more than a world full of hurt and abandonment.

I urge you to click here to read the story of a little boy, orphaned by AIDS, suffering from the disease himself, but more than anything plagued by a world that understands so little about his life. He is only one of millions cast aside with no one to kiss him goodnight, no one to hug him when he's sad, no one willing to teach him, no one to stand up for him in this world.

But that can change.

We need to come together and make a difference for these children. Will you stand up for the least of these?

Sponsor a child today or find out other ways you can change a life forever. With so many suffering children in this world, one person can't save them all. But if each of us makes a difference for one, if each of us loves on, we can change the world.

- Aly