Every Little Word Matters

An AuntyPeople often ask me, “What do you DO in Africa?”  They are looking for a job description or clear “deliverables.”  And I try to oblige by explaining that I do a lot of consulting around management issues, leadership development and capacity building which basically means that I train folks in Africa to use databases, templates, develop status reports, schedules, to communicate more clearly, etc.  And that is all true and a part of my job that I love.  It exciting to help teach someone how to use some basic tools to make their job easier and more efficient or how to better lead others–whether in Africa or the US!

But the truth is, that is the easy part of my job and isn’t really what I see as my main mission which is to remind people how much God loves them. The training pieces and the projects allow me to be invited into people’s lives in many different contexts here in Africa.  Just this week I visited two refuge camps, was in a middle class home and saw 3 university campuses.   As I get to know people, I ask about their lives and listen to their stories.  I am always blown away about what people will share when you just ask.  They share about their hopes and dreams and their heartaches and challenges.  They really share their lives with me and whenever I can, I try to pray with them and include God’s perfect love into the moment.

I often wonder what people think about this crazy while lady asking questions and praying with them.  Overachiever Tina wonders what is the return on investment in these scenarios?  Many times I get distracted from praying with people because of the “real work” at hand.  But this week I had a good reminder that every little word matters and why this calling is equally important.

One of my “projects” while I have been here has been preparing students for a videographer that was coming to capture some footage of the impact of These Numbers Have Faces work.  So I spent a lot of time talking to students and learning about their lives.  One student was very shy but early on explained that he had a large scar on his eye because of violence when he was a child.  We sat down with him and he told us the whole story.  He is a 19 year-old Congolese but has spent very little time in his home country.  The violence in Rwanda in the 1990’s bled into the Democratic Republic of Congo and stirred up hatred and racism in the already unstable area.  Over the last 2 decades over 460,000 Congolese have sought assylum in neighboring countries, with over 70,000 Congolese refuges in Rwanda alone.  This is exactly how this young man found himself in Budende Refuge Camp in 1997.  His mom and dad had brought him to safety in Rwanda.  Horrifically, the Interahamwe (the Hutu militia) forces attacked the refuge camp and brutally massacred hundreds of people.  His father was one of the lives lost. Tears began to stream down his face as he explained that he was just 2 or 3 at the time and they were hiding in bushes but he was so scared that he decided he just wanted to run away and left his hiding spot and began running.  As he ran two men saw him and grabbed him.  They knew he was Tutsi and were there to kill all Tutsis–even children.  By the grace of God they were in a hurry and didn’t have time for a proper murder.  So instead, they threw him into a house that was burning and left him for dead.  Somehow, he managed to get out of the home but unfortunately not before the fire had severely damaged his eye.  He was moved to a safe hospital and spent months getting treatment and surgery.  He still has a large egg sized scar around the eye and frequently suffers from headaches and eye pain.

I listened in horror as he told this story but my heart broke completely when he told me that his mom had survived the massacre only to die in an accident a few years later leaving him orphaned at the age of 5. He then explained how it has been hard to be an orphan. A loving uncle has created a home for this young man and his siblings, but he explained that losing your parents creates a hole that is always with you. He doesn’t remember his father at all and has but a few memories of his mother. He said living without your own parents makes you feel alone in the world.  

Then he got quiet.  After a few moments, I wiped some of the tears from my own eyes and sought the proper words to respond. I told this young man that I was so very sorry for all of the pain that he has endured in his young life.  I thanked God for saving his life.  I explained how amazed I was at all he had accomplished so far in his life in spite of everything and told him that I know that God has a plan to use his story to inspire others and that God is always with him.  And then I grabbed his hand and looked into his eyes and explained that he is not alone.  Through These Numbers Have Faces he has Scovia–also an orphan–and she is his advocate.  She is with him and when he needs advise, help or even a hug, she will be here for him.  I explained that he has me as an Aunty–someone to keep an eye on him and to support him–someone that cares.  He shyly shook his head and we all got quiet.

When I got home that night, I wondered if anything I had said was fruitful or encouraging to this young man that has been through volumes more pain than I may ever know in his short 19 years. I questioned my arrogance at thinking I could even bring any kind of wisdom in his life. And I ended my day praying for this young man. I thanked God for his Leadership Loan to attend University through These Numbers Have Faces. I prayed for peace in his heart and complete healing of his eye.  I asked God to encourage him and prayed that he truly understood that he was not alone.

A few days latter, I was back in Gihembe Refuge Camp with this young man and the videographer.  From the moment I saw him his eyes had a new light to them and he greeted me with a warm hug.  He had been so shy at every other meeting that I was surprised. When we got to his home, he introduced me as his Aunty with a proud flair.  As we wandered through the camp, he stayed by my side and asked me questions about all kinds of topics.  He opened up more about himself and even joked quite a bit.  It was almost like a new person filled with peace and joy and hope.

When I got home that evening, my heart was full of praise.  God had answered my prayers.  Somehow he had used me to properly communicate how special this young man was and how deeply loved.  Looking back, I have no clue what actually got this message into the young man’s heart, but it was a reminder that every word of encouragement, of love, of hope matters.

And that is my main mission, to speak words of hope in the broken places. I never know what will help, but I just faithfully try and trust God to work.   It’s a pretty great mission and I invite you to join me.  Look around you today and ask someone what their story is.  Make time to listen.  Ask God to be present in the conversation.  Say a prayer with them or let them know how their story impacts you.  Mostly remind them that God loves them endlessly and trust that God will stop at nothing to help them understand that truth.

Psalm 86:5-7 (ESV)

5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

Yep, Too Much Joy

 

Ntihemuka Iranzi

 

So many stories to tell of God’s faithfulness, grace and joy.  And simply not enough time.

So let me just thank God for a few things and post a few pics.

  • Such a great comraderie and partnership with Mutesi Scovia in the TNHF office.
  • Quality time with so many amazing TNHF scholars. These young men and women are simply amazing.  Bright, ambitious and deeply called to improve life for their communities in Rwanda and Congo.  I look forward to the day that I can say, “I knew them when!”
  • Good adventures and great joy in the work.

Thank you so much for you prayers!  I promise to post a story or two from the ground this weekend.  You will be inspired, I promise!

Uwimana Jeannine

Nyirabashyitsi Yvonne Nshimiye Ndayisaba Lenny

 

Africa Rising (and I get to help)

Mutoni Scovia

When I returned from Africa last year, I was left with one compelling thought:

To heal the wounds of poverty and injustice in Africa and move forward, we simply need to help build tomorrow’s African leaders.  Africa doesn’t need more things.  She has the solutions to her own problems sitting at desks at secondary schools across the continent. 

I knew this was the work I wanted to invest in and shortly after leaving AOET, I started watching These Numbers Have Faces.  TNHF is a small nonprofit started in 2008 with the goal of helping young adults become the change makers in their communities.  They started in South Africa but are now in Rwanda, Uganda and hoping to expand.  The model not only addresses the financial gap that prevents students from getting to college but also has a holistic curriculum that includes discipleship, financial management, entrepreneurship and leadership training. Students also commit to community service hours and learn the joy of helping others from their own experiences.   The model is really strong!

Mutoni Betty

A few months ago, I connected with Shoshon Tama-Sweet, the Global Programs Director and he mentioned the idea of sending of me to Africa to support the staff, grow partnerships and gather stories from the students.  I remember, he casually mentioned the possibility—I assume to get my reaction—and I was stunned by the idea.  Here was an organization that I really believed in and they wanted to send me to Africa to help build the capacity of the work?!  Sign me up!

Well, a couple months and lots of prayer later, the funding came through and I booked tickets to depart 2 weeks later.  Many of you haven’t even heard me talk about this at all and here I sit in Kigali.  I’m sorry if I didn’t have time to keep you all in the loop and I hope you will forgive me. Once I got confirmation and we got tickets, I was in preparation mode and had some tunnel vision.  I will be here for 7 weeks—about 5 in Rwanda and 2 in Uganda.   I will arrive home just before Christmas!

I will definitely be updating the blog as I go along.  Stay tuned and I value any prayers you can send my way.

 

Specifically please pray for:

  • Mutesi Irene
  • A quick connection and rapport with my counterparts in Rwanda and Uganda.
  • For ears to listen and consider points of view that are not my own.
  • That I am able to build on existing healthy  elationships and grow new relationships throughout both countries.
  • For too much joy!

In to Africa (Rather than Out of Africa)

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When I left Uganda in October 2012, my feathers were ruffled and I was tired.  The struggle of serving in Africa had taken its toll.  My faith, my passion and hope were all bruised.

I remember thinking, “I don’t think I ever want to come back here. I am done!”

Now it’s October 2013 and I have a full year of rest, healing and reflection behind me.  Last week, as I sat in Addis Ababa awaiting a final flight to Kigali, Rwanda for 5 weeks with 2 additional weeks in Uganda, I was elated.  As I got off my flight, a cool and lovely morning greeted me.   As I waited for shuttle two, I asked the airport representative if I could wait outside and take in the cool air.  He looked me up and down and said, “Only you.”  I made my first new African friend. 😉

For someone that specializes in communications, it’s ironic that I find it hard to explain why I am drawn back to Africa.  Somehow it just seems that I belong here.  Which makes no sense because I have never been any place less like my home , but somehow all my gifts, limitations and little quirks seem to  work together to help me thrive.

Even more than that, I feel like I have so much to learn from my friends in Africa.  Certainly living like Jaja is a master level class!  And African worship is a treasure always!  But more significantly, when I see people pushing against destiny—or hoping against hope as Paul says it—I am so inspired.  And I want to help them in any way that I can. In my world that means helping people with spreadsheets, computers, communications and just walking alongside them.

So here I am again.  Exploring God’s beautiful creation in eastern Africa and thanking him all along the way for the healing he has done in my heart, for the opportunity to do something I love and for the twists and turns he has ahead.

And who could really resist adorable faces like this little girl that I got giggling in Bugesera, Rwanda!

dancing into the new year

Working from your heart is a beautiful thing.  It can also be gut-wrenching or tedious or sometimes even a bit stinky.  As in most worthwhile things, getting paid to try to change the world is a complex dynamic. Lately I have been wondering if it is worth all the fuss.

Because it’s awfully hard.  At a normal job, you show up, do your thing and close the door at 5.  In ministry, you bind your hearts to the people you work along side.  You pray together.  You dream together.  You trust together.  You purposely place yourself at risk in a world of poverty–and trust me, poverty truly takes many forms.  You cajole friends and family to get involved in this wonderful work and you try to meet everyone’s expectations on a shoestring budget. It’s so much more than a job and it can easily become a burden.

And that is where I have been over the past few months.  After much prayer, meeting, planning and my share of tears, I knew that my time at AOET was complete.  There are lots of reasons why, but they don’t matter as much as my knowing it was time.  Yet, even with a deep confidence in the decision, it has been dreadful to say goodbye because the truth is, working from your heart is both beautiful–and dreadful at moments.  You place your thumping and vulnerable heart out there and it will get banged up.  You unintentionally can hurt the people you love.  You may see dreams fade away.  Worst of all, you may have to let go of your heartfelt hopes and just trust in a God that works through all things.

Sometimes this can happen because of a new amazing opportunity. Sometimes it happens because you lost sight of God and his calling on your life.  Sometimes it happens because we live in a broken world and things go wrong.  Sometimes your work is just done and it’s time to move on.  No matter the reason, leaving heart work is hard.

And as I have been saying goodbye to AOET this season, my heart has been heavy and I’ve wondered, “Should I do this any more?”  A “regular” day job has looked so appealing.  Good pay and benefits!  Structure and safety! And failing at my job won’t impact whether someone else can eat that night or go to school next term. It’s tempting.

Then I watch this video of Daniel, one of my favorite kids in the world.

Daniel is a kid that has been mistreated his whole life and yet he moves forward.  Over the year we became friends and he knows that I am always in his corner.  That doesn’t mean much practically. I’m not rich and I can’t solve any of his financial problems. I can’t adopt him and become the mother he desperately needs.  But I do pray for him. I do believe in him.  I regularly try to encourage him and I deeply love him.  Somehow I think this odd momentary sign of confidence and fancy footwork was a gift from him to me, a moment of sharing in his joy.  Being in Uganda, with all of it’s ups and downs, allowed me to share in what God is doing inside him.

Moments like that wipe away all my doubts and I realize that I will never break free from God’s work in the world, whether I get paid or not.  It’s easy to forget that the gospel is about reconciled hearts.  Jesus came to draw our wayward spirits back to God and then he sent us out to help him in his work of healing.  Jesus’ heart got beat up an awful lot but he always saw the end game–a world whole and true, like God always meant it to be.  A world where Daniel dances every day to glorify his God.

The thing about doing whatever mission God has for you, in whatever season you’re in, is that he lets you join the party. He allows us, in our own poverty, to be reminders of who he is to one another–a perfect father.  He lets you watch him take shards of broken pots and create something new, something perfect and something lasting. Over the last 3 1/2 years, I have given my heart, creativity, and even some sanity to the orphans and vulnerable children of Uganda and Kenya.  The journey has been eventful and I pray some day God allows me to return to Uganda to see what he will do next, but until then, I will just watch this video again and wonder at the beauty of the dance.

Isaiah 63: 1-3

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

an audible treat

So, I am running like a crazy woman but in between packing and selling my car and seeing if I can get my deposit back, I have also spent a lot of time with some guys at our Secondary School that have a band called Ryme Bushes Crew.  They write their own songs and have just recorded their first 2 tracks.  I love their songs, but more than that, I love their heart for God.   It has been a joy to get to know them and I even got to make a music video!  Check it out!

It’s been the perfect balance to the cra cra and a ton of fun in my my last few days in Uganda!

wow, a lot can happen in 9 months…

A photo shoot with the talented boys in Ryme Bushes Crew…

And no, I am not pregnant. Or adopting a kid.

HIGHLIGHT REEL:
I’m wrapping up my 9th month in Uganda and am so thankful for all that God has done.  We have worked with AOET’s staff on consistent reporting and now we have a monthly status report.  We have hired a new accountant and worked with him to get the books in shape and to develop reports that can be shared across countries.  We merged empowerment back under Child Welfare and it has been great seeing them make an impact on our guardians.  We even got the church network thriving again and had an AOET Staff prayer meeting. One of my (many) highlights! We made great strides this year and I truly praise God for all he has done!   Psalm 139 says:

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

So true! I feel that deeply in my soul.

AND SOME LOW LIGHTS:

This year I have also learned exactly what it means when the Bible says in our weakness He is strong, because I have felt small compared to the task, ridiculously inadequate and have had to face almost every one of my weaknesses straight on. There are LOTS that we did not accomplish this year and I just had to be OK with that and trust that God managed what he desired most.  I made many mistakes and definitely experienced the challenges of cross-cultural communication.  I won’t lie, it’s been a tough season with malaria and identity theft and visits to eye Dr’s in other countries, but what has amazed me most is that I have constantly felt God’s presence with me.  I certainly do not understand his ways, but he has not left me alone. He has been my ever present companion through 17 hour bus trips, meetings with tax authorities and maybe even in my dark hours with my head being cooled by the porcelain of my toilet. (TMI?…)

PRIMARILY, POVERTY SUCKS BUT THE GOSPEL IS STUNNING:
I have also experienced injustice in ways that will never heal. Over and over again.  Corruption, exploitation, broken relationships, broken bodies, kids all alone in this world.  And now the stories have names and faces.  They have called me Aunty or Mama and welcomed me into their lives. I have seen faith and strength.  I have heard music and seen literal mourning become dancing.  At times it has been so overwhelming and yet, I continue to fall in love with Dickens or Kakooza or Emma or Resty or Amongin or the sweet boys in Ryme Bushes Crew.  And when the mama in me hurts too much at what they struggle with, they remind me of the words of an angel announcing Jesus birth:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

The reality of that good news sustains and emboldens.  It is so much more than a spiritual ideal, but as I have worshiped alongside these kids, it’s clear that it is a reality to live by. They know that Christ loves them and has a way forward for each one of them.  They are constantly being transformed by the good news and it is ever shinning anew in their eyes.  It is sufficient and it a reason to shout!

SHIFTING GEARS:
It has been quite the year for me yet, as often happens, the grand plan has changed.  After many discussions, it has been decided that I am coming home this month.  Yep, I am a couple months early from the original plan, but I feel confident that my time has been blessed and fruitful and that we have actually accomplished more than we had any reason to expect.  There were many surprise challenges this year and yet we were able to make great progress, but the reality is right now–with the Chosen tour–we need more support in our US office.   We have analyzed the priorities and it’s clear that I am now needed far more in Portland than in Uganda.  So, I am in a mad dash to sell my car, move out, say good bye and wrap up.  That’s a lot and yet I am confident that this is exactly the right step to take and the right  timing!

I’d appreciate your prayers as we manage this transition and if you are in the US, I will see you soon!

dance like a 7th grader

I often refer to short term mission trips as a 7th grade dance.  All of the locals stand on one side of the room waiting to be asked to dance, while all of the visitors stand on the opposite side waiting to be approached.  Awkward tension is ripe in the air and everyone is wondering who will dance first.

For teams, it takes intentional relationship.  I encourage visitors to just get over their nerves, not worry about how good their Spanish is, or what they will talk about but  just reach out. And it works. Much like a 7th grade dance, everyone wants to connect but it just takes someone stepping out of their comfort zone and stepping into the awkward zone. Honestly, it is one of my favorite parts of missions because at worst, it can be painful (but normally downright hilarious–imagine a welcome event with your Senior Pastor where Salvadoran men dress in drag and lip sync) and best case you actually connect with someone.

There is no thrill like connecting with someone that God has placed in front of you.  You may not share much language and most of your relationship may involve pointing to things, but somehow you can still feel something.  There is a joy in connection, a rightness about unity.  Often this is the big aha that people take home from their trip. There is one person, one moment of laughter, one shared experience and we are forever changed. I have seen this to be true throughout El Salvador, Uganda and Rwanda.  God often calls us to unity but rarely do we experience it in such a intense shot of connection.

For me, that has happened pretty profoundly with a kid named Odongo Dickens.  I met him last year, wrote this post about him in June and saw him again on a trip to Lira earlier this month.  (Doreen made sure we went to his school because she knew I wanted to see how he was doing.)  As I wrote previously, Dickens is a tough little kid that has already been through hell.  He is a true orphan with no loving adult in his life. He has the most serious face of any child I have ever seen and always seems to be the odd kid out.  Last visit I had to work at getting some smiles out of him and he has never left my thoughts. Every day I pray that God is near him and that he knows how loved he is. Every day I worry a little about him and wonder if he has had enough food or shoes on his feet.  Every day his face burns in my heart.

Well, this recent visit was just as awkward as any other.  We were only there for about 30 minutes and he was yanked out of class to sit  in a circle of visitors.  He literally did not say one word the entire time.   We handed him a soccer ball and he mostly looked confused. And yet, it was a beautiful reunion because when Dickens came out of his class and seriously observed the faces of the visitors, he smiled when he saw mine.   OK, maybe he half-smiled but that is saying a lot for this kid!  And when he came to shake my hand as he did with all the other guests, he did not resist my fake out handshake that became a tight hug and leaned into it.  Doreen and the head Master teased Dickens about his “mzungu mama” and he grinned and sheepishly looked down.  The visit was over in the blink of an eye and that evening I realized that I will not make it back to Lira to see him anytime soon.  That was hard to take.

Tonight as I sit back and think about Dickens, it dawns on me that God placed him into my life to burn a hole in my heart for kids like Dickens. A hole that is permanent.  A hole that is bigger than any management frustration.  A hole that will leave a scar.  A hole that will ever lead me to action and never let me be OK with a little boy struggling in life on his own.  I’m not sure how God will lead me to act.  Prayer is obvious.  Thanking the Krill’s for sponsoring him and keeping him in school is important.  Checking up on him in any way that I can is good.  Yes, I have even considered adoption, but no matter where God leads me with Dickens, I know I will never be OK with him being alone in the world–with him not experiencing the deep love that Jesus has for him.

It seems this is where some of the power comes from reaching out across an ocean or across the street or across a junior high cafeteria.  God works through people and we have the power to impact one another like nothing else. I have always felt deeply for orphans, but Dickens has a name and a gorgeous half smile and there is no way I will ever forget him.  I hope that in my mzungu goofiness I have also impacted Dickens and at least made him feel a moment of joy, a little lightness–at best that he truly is remembered and loved.

As I prepare to sleep, I encourage you to look around and see who god has for you to connect to today. I am sure there is someone and I bet it will be a little bit awkward, but that is where the best stories begin!

some days are lovely

I am thankful that life contains many moments of God’s perfect grace, joy and love. This past weekend I was invited to attend the introduction ceremony of Mugisha John, a sponsored student.  John is a hard working and smart young man that shows great promise and I was honored to attend.

In Uganda, tradition dictates an Introduction ceremony for any couple wishing to be married.  This is the formal opportunity for the bride to introduce the groom to her family and for the groom to show up with the gifts for the family–yes, cows, chickens, bags of sugar and lots more.  It is an elaborate ceremony where the families get to know the bride and groom and have the opportunity to welcome the new members of the family.  This is a critical event in any person’s life and an Introduction is often more costly than the wedding. In fact, the Introduction is sufficient for Uganda to consider a couple married, but the church has said that a marriage before God is necessary.  (Personally, I think God is ok with an introduction because Jesus was definitely present this past weekend!)

It was a joy to celebrate with John and Claire.  All who attended had to wear traditional dress–kanzu’s for men and gomez for ladies.  The ceremony is always interesting–even when you only understand 1/10th of what is being said.  Ugandans love to laugh–so there was much laughter throughout the day.  A good portion of the AOET staff attended and it was wonderful to celebrate together as one family!

But the romantic in me mostly loved seeing the look of pure adoration in John’s eyes. After the cermony, we were eating a feast fit for a king and Claire entered the room. John’s eyes lit up and he said, “Tina, that is my WIFE!” He was so proud and hopeful and joyful!  He calls Claire his princess.  And although we just met, Claire has a spark in her eyes that made me like her from the beginning. (And Jaja says she is great. So if she has Jaja approval, she has my approval.)

I posted a ton of photos in Facebook for so many of Johns friends that could not be there.  So head to my Facebook page if you want to see lots of pretty things but if just you need a quick glimpse of joy, check out this video that I think captures the day perfectly.

I <heart> hearting.

over acheivers lament

a bumpy road

I am an over achiever.  My brain is always thinking about ways to make things better. I love multi-tasking.  I give myself a virtual high five if I can avoid traffic through some “shortcut.”  Even when I was a kid I liked spree as a candy because it was the most cost effective and efficient form of sugary bliss.  I have the Ivy degree and a good looking resume. I over achieve, therefore I am.

…and I now live in Africa.

Not surprisingly, it’s been a tough year. Daily I must fight my inner force towards momentum.  I must slow down.  I must narrow my list of goals continually.  I must accept that no matter how  orderly I think a single file line can be, Uganda will always prove me wrong.  And mostly, I must trust that God is working–whether I am running or not.

This is absolutely brutal on the old self-esteem.  It goes against my will and can-do attitude.   It shows how tiny I am in the grand scheme.  The reality is, I am not necessary to the sun coming up every day.  (Shocking news for all of us, I know.)

Knowing that to be true, I wish I could say that this battle gets easier.  That I am able to relax into this reality and just moonwalk forward in trust and faith.  But more often I find myself unsettled–and often by well meaning Christians.  Every day emails come into my mailbox about how I can better market Jesus and make the kingdom greater.  In our world of purpose driven living and God’s perfect plans in Jeremiah–my already bruised ego can be led to believe that failure to conquer the world for Christ daily means I am making Jesus cry.  Again and again, I am told that God needs me to be the model Christian leader, employee, church member or his kingdom will not come.

And you will excuse me if I say that is total crap.  Which is not to say that we don’t need to seek God’s calling in our life and when he tells us to leave our family and go, that we can stay on the sofa.  God does USE us but the modern thinking that God NEEDS us for anything is just not biblical. God does not need me for jack. In fact, the very thought is ridiculous, albeit not new.

God made this. He seems pretty smart.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8

The fact that God even blinks in our direction is downright divine insanity and what we can see consistently, is that God uses the failures of his people to bring his glory:  Abraham, David, Peter, Paul, etc, etc.  I’m guessing that’s because we are all sinful people–even the very best of us.  God knew if he had to wait for our successes, nothing would get done around here.  So if anything, maybe we should be looking for failures in our lives to use to glorify God! Which is why I almost wept when I read this earlier this week:

Look at God’s incredible waste of His saints, according to the world’s judgment. God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places. And then we say, “God intends for me to be here because I am so useful to Him.” Yet Jesus never measured His life by how or where He was of the greatest use. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.  Oswald Chambers

This I identified with.  I feel pretty useless in the face of poverty, injustice and even in the battle against ants in my home. The truth is,  I am not saving the world through my work here in Uganda.  Even my very best financial analysis or most comprehensive spreadsheet will not really feed a child.   So, why am I here?

  “To love your brother as yourself.” (Mark 31)

A little friend that I snuggled at our last Bible Dinner.

You probably know some Christian that loves so much that you want to be with them.  Peggy & Clancy?  Kelly?  Katie?  When you are with them, you believe that a God of enough love exists.  You feel known. You feel strong.  You are able to praise God in a new way.   As believers, this is the great vision God calls us to.  To love as best we can. And even that won’t be enough and we will fail at it.  But if I really applied myself to sacrificially loving folks–like Jesus did for me–I think I would find my purpose and place and the when things go to hell at the office or a whole week just refuses to behave, I wouldn’t lose myself like I do now.  And often, it’s not for lack of trying.  I am here, in Uganda, as an attempt to love the staff and children here and encourage them but almost every day I confuse the value of presence with the satisfaction of purpose.

Note, this is not to stay that God  flees from success.  In fact, I’ve been studying Nehemiah for months now as he rebuilt the temple wall in Jerusalem.  There are many times when God has stepped in and corrected injustice.  And as believers we are called to seek more righteousness and care about justice.  Over and over we are commanded to care for the poor and helpless.  I truly believe that the world we live in can be better and that we, as followers of Jesus, can be a part of that change.  I’m not afraid of tackling poverty, disease or cultural differences because our God is greater, but I think there is a conversation missing about our role.  Our role is to pray, wait on the Lord, trust and be obedient when he asks something of us.  Not to commando into the jungle and bend injustice to our will. Not to argue and bicker with people that disagree with us.  Not to “fix” all the sinners out there.    We are supposed to love those around us so much that they are drawn to Jesus within us.  It really seems that Jesus looks to actions of restoring justice as rally calls to himself.  Ultimately it is not about the justice which is finite, but about the relationship which is eternal.

So, I ask all of you to pray for me.  Pray that I do not get so caught up in the ministry, the theology or the ideology, that I lose sight of the relationships.  Pray that I am strong in prayer.  Pray that I am wise and patient and long suffering when need be.  Mostly, pray for love–God’s love to flow out of me.  In fact, pray this for every Christian you know.

ps: If anyone is interested, two books I have read that cause me to challenge so much of modern Christian prose are, “Humility: True Greatness” by CJ Mahaney and “The Call to Joy & Pain” by Ajith Fernando.  Two books I highly recommend!