Saturday, December 29, 2012

The end of 2012 is fast-approaching, and 2013 will be here before you know it!

Some of my highlights from 2012 were

  • celebrating Pancake Day (a British holiday) for the first time
  • going to Rwanda for the first time
  • visiting with Jane, a Ugandan girl, that I sponsored
  • meeting my dear, sweet friend Laura
  • going on a safari for a school field trip
  • returning to the USA (I'm still enjoying and appreciating our many luxuries!)
  • the precious, new friends and church community the Lord has blessed me with here in Iowa City
  • getting accepted as a full-member of AIM and getting the go-ahead to move forward with pursuing long-term missions

I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that all gifts made to Africa Inland Mission are tax-deductible. And for those of you who choose to give on or before December 31st, you will be able to
take advantage of year-end giving tax benefits.

AIM has made it very easy to give one-time or recurring gifts online. Clicking the button below will allow you to give toward my current financial support needs.

But I still love to get good, "old fashioned" snail-mail, too! Rather than giving online, you may choose mail a check made out to "Africa Inland Mission" to my home address in Iowa City (contact me for address).

I hope the last few days of 2012 are wonderful ones and that 2013 gets off to a fantastic start for each one of you!

Monday, December 24, 2012


          "God with us." 
It is hell's terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, "God with us," back he falls, confounded and confused. 
"God with us" is the laborer's strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor, if that one word were taken away? 
Luke 1:49"God with us" is the sufferer's comfort, the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, the sleep which God gives to his beloved, their rest after exertion and toil. 
"God with us" is eternity's sonnet, 
heaven's hallelujah, 
the shout of the glorified, 
the song of the redeemed, 
the chorus of angels, 
the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky.
- Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Celebrate Light

As some of you may know, I am half Jewish by heritage. Growing up, we celebrated Passover and Hanukkah at my mom's parents' house each year. This year was no different. Hannukah, also known as The Festival of Lights, began at sundown on December 8th and lasted eight days.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history behind Hanukkah, here's a quick recap:
Antiochus was king of the Syrian-Greeks in 165 BC. He wanted the Jews to stop worshiping Yahweh and bow down to the Greek gods instead. The Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of Zeus. They desecrated the Temple and killed many Jews. Eventually, against all odds, a small band of Jewish soldiers (called the Maccabees) defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth. They drove the Greeks away, reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to God. 
When they found the Temple's menorah that was supposed to burn eternally at the altar, they saw that all the holy oil used to keep the lamp burning had been poured out. All that remained was enough to keep the lamp lit for one day. They lit the menorah and, miraculously, the lamp stayed lit for eight days... which was enough time to purify more oil to be used in the Temple. 
And so we celebrate the miracle of light.

This year, like always, we celebrated at my grandma's with the traditional meal of latkes and applesauce, a game of dreidel, chocolate gelt coins, and of course the lighting of the menorah candles.

The first Shamash candle is lit, and the blessing is sung.

hanukkah blessing 1
Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe, 
Who made us holy through Your commandments 
and commanded us 
to kindle the Hanukkah lights


Later, after the meal, we played dreidel. This is game using a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei, and shin. These letters are an acronym for Nes Gagol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there."

A great miracle, indeed.

And now we prepare to celebrate Christmas. A celebration that is all about Light. We decorate houses, trees, and porch railings with strings of glowing lights and twinkly stars as we marvel in wonder at the Light come down to us. The Light's name is Immanuel, which of course means "God with us." Our hearts are the altar of worship, and it is His light that shines eternally within us.

And so we celebrate the miracle of light.
Which was a great miracle, indeed.

But in the midst of all this light, there is still darkness.

The recent tragedy from which our nation is still reeling and hearts are still breaking is only one evidence of this ugly truth.

Before parting ways for Christmas break, I hugged each one of my darling preschoolers a little tighter than usual. And I had a thought that I know I share with many teachers across America, "I would indeed lay down my life for any one of them."

When hearts are too heavy to bear... and when all of our questions boil down to just one: "Why?"... I'm reminded of a simple truth.

Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world... They are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children.

In fact, he loves each one of us.

He loves us so much that He was willing to lay down His life so that we might be saved and live. He chose to leave His throne in Heaven, give up His power as Almighty Creator, and be born as the most helpless, dependent creature on earth: a baby. Born to die so that we might live.

And that's Christmas, folks.

Jesus came into the darkness to be a light. In fact, He is the light of the world, and in Him there is no darkness. And there is no darkness in whoever believes in Him (John 12:46).

And God's plan for the Light in our hearts is that we go find darkness.
Take our Light and spread it all over until there is no more darkness.

That's a reason to celebrate!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Film Premiere - I Like Adoption. from on Vimeo.

"The pure joy that will come from the rescue and ransom of a child's life 
is probably the most satisfying thing you can imagine."

Oh, how He loves us.

Oh, and that this vision of redemption would catch our hearts.... Like Christ caught ours.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Not My Story

Guess what?

I never wanted to be a missionary.


I know. I know... But it's true! I don't come from a long line of faithful missionaries. I didn't grow up reading missionary biographies and dreaming of far away lands. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

From an early age, I can specifically remember thinking, "God, please don't ever let me be a missionary. That is just not for me." Adventure. The unknown. Unfamiliar places. Leaving friends and family. These are things I don't seek out.

But God. Oh, but God.

He already had me walking on a road that was going to be full of experiences involving missions... from low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, to orphanages in Mexico, to high school students in Ukraine...Little did I know I was already on the path that would one day lead me to full-term service in overseas missions. God graciously allowed me to take one small, manageable step at a time knowing that this was the way to make my will His will.

Another confession.

I never wanted to do foster care.

I've had a heart for adoption for many, many years and hope to adopt children one day, but foster care was never a consideration for me.

I've always been an dog lover, and when I was a child, I learned about those seeing-eye-dog programs where dogs are raised and trained to be service dogs for blind people. For the first year of those dogs' lives, they live with a foster family who teaches them basic obedience and gets them used to being around all kinds of people. At the end of the year, the dogs are given back to the training program. Even as a child, I knew that foster care was not for me because I would be heart-broken giving up a puppy after a year, much less a child!

But God... 

Over the years, God has been teaching me that our children are not our own. He has given me opportunities to work alongside and learn from other missionary families who are involved with short-term emergency foster care in Mbarara, develop a relationship with my dear friend Laura who also cares for abandoned children, and cross paths with families here in the States who are involved with and passionate about foster care.

The little girl whose heart broke at the thought of giving away a puppy now spends free time time learning about foster care in Iowa. (Iowa alone has 4,000 children needing a foster family.) 

Fifty percent of the population in Uganda is under 18 years old and there are 2.5 million orphans* in Uganda (please visit this website to understand what that number actually means). And though my heart would certainly ache each time a foster child moves on, I now know that God goes before these children, advocating and fighting for their hope and future. He sets the lonely in families who will teach these babies "to exchange that inch-deep love for the unmeasurable, unending, my-heart-would-never-mend-if-I-lost-you love." Because that is the kind of love that each child deserves. The kind of love that Christ modeled for us and continues to pour out on us day after day.

And that's why I am planning to return to Uganda to serve vulnerable mothers and children.

And that is why this isn’t my story.

It’s God’s. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Version of Psalm 23

The Lord is my pace setter…I shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind 
and his guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, 
I will not fret, for his presence is here.
His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by 
anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours 
for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord 
and dwell in his house forever.

(from Japan, quoted in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver)