Saturday, July 20, 2013

ABO is...

...30 adults and 25 children from the United States, Canada, South Africa, Namibia, and South Korea. at Scott Christian University in Machakos, Kenya for three weeks.

...sharing dorm rooms.

...showers that have been described as two temperatures: surface of the sun or the arctic circle.

...long days of sitting and learning about crossing culture and effectively building relationships in our new contexts.

...making new friends who will serve all over Africa.

...getting out into the community to practice what we've learned.

...certainty of God's sovereign power, becoming a belonger in your community; language learning for a lifetime; becoming a life-long learner; becoming a part of the AIM family.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Off We Go

As of Friday night, we arrived safely and without incident in Nairobi, Kenya. I though I better share a quick update with you all while I still have reliable internet access. After a couple days of filling out lots of paperwork at AIM's US headquarters in Peachtree City, Georgia, it was time to start loading the U-Haul with our luggage.

Three families, another single gal, and I checked-out and traveled together. There were 19 of us and 55 checked pieces of luggage... not the mention the multiple carry-on pieces we each had!

 The Delta Sky Caps saw us arrive at the airport and immediately sectioned off a portion of the check-in desks for our use. Getting the luggage inside went surprisingly quickly! It helps when you pile 15+ bags on one luggage cart.

Some AIM staff came to help us unload the bags, as well. This is Kristen, my candidate facilitator. Basically, she's the one who made all of the logistics of me getting to Africa possible. I sent her so many emails every week, and she answered every single one of my questions. Her ministry with AIM is indispensable. 

 50 pound weight limit. Nailed it.

Most of the luggage waiting to be checked.

The Halvorsons: one of the sweet families serving with AIM AIR (Dan is a pilot) in Nairobi, Kenya. 

After 24 hours, two flights, two security checks, one layover in Amsterdam, and successful purchases of our visas....

We made it!

We've been staying at AIM's Kenya guesthouse, called Mayfield. We will leave here on Tuesday afternoon and travel about an hour and a half east to Machakos where we will spend the next three weeks for orientation.

I'm going to enjoy soaking up this last few moments of rest and relaxation before the hard work begins!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Word

"Count it all as grace."

"No, you didn't hear me... Count it ALL as grace."

This is the message that I keep receiving over and over again this week. It's clearly something that God is trying to work into my heart and soul.

I first heard it in Ephesians 3:7-8
"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, 
this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ..."

Oh yeah. This journey I'm called on right now...these terrifying steps of obedience... they are grace! In asking me to commit to serving mothers and babies for two years in Uganda, God was pouring out His grace on me, giving me the best gift He could think of!

And then I saw it in his faithfulness to keep His promises.

Next, I heard it the words of prayer and petition sweetly prayed over me by my most precious friends.

Tuesday morning, as I sat waiting for my plane to start boarding, the grace came in the form of a familiar and friendly face. A sister in Christ and member of my sending church in Iowa City just happened to be at the next gate over with her family, waiting to leave for vacation. She spotted me and came over to say hello and offer support. Grace upon grace.

I was seated next to an elderly woman on that first flight. As I unsuccessfully tried to fight back tears, I glanced over to see what she was reading. A Nora Roberts paperback. "Opposites Attract." Ha. But there is always grace when you're looking for it... and I really needed it right then...and I found it. Written on her bookmark: Hebrews 10:23-25 
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful..." 

Ah, there it is again. The Gospel I have received by grace is hope.

Going to Uganda in 2011 felt more like entering the Promise Land. Going to Uganda now, in 2013, feels more like the 40 years of wandering in the desert.

But great things happened for the Israelites as they lived in the desert. God drew near. He dwelt among them. He provided for their needs in miraculous ways. Bread from the sky. Water from a rock. He molded and shaped His chosen people until they resembled Him more, and then he deemed them to be a royal priesthood. A holy nation. Set apart for His purposes in the world.

Even the desert is grace.

Release of Rights

We live in a world that is full of rights. Our particular culture is one where we take pride in our rights. As a matter of fact, the rights of individuals are constitutional, but as we see the demanding of individual rights increase, we see much of the moral fiber of our society decrease. Jesus Christ laid down His rights to the heavens and all his glory to become a man and to serve, not to be served.

I must lay down my rights over the coming years in both professional and personal relationships. Not to lay them down for better or for worse, but to entrust them to the Lord and transfer the responsibility of them to a place of safe keeping.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1

I Give Up My Right To:               I Entrust To God:
A comfortable bed                      My strength and endurance
Having 3 meals a day                  My health and strength
Having familiar foods                   My likes and dislikes of food
Dressing fashionably                   My security in Him
Seeing results                             His purposes and fruit in His timing
Control of myself                         My need for His Spirit's control
Control of others                         His workmanship in others
Control of circumstances            My circumstances to His purposes in making me Christ-like 
Having pleasant circumstances    The privilege of suffering for His sake
Making decisions                         His sovereign hand on my life
Taking offense                             My deepest needs
Being successful                          My security in His love
Being understood                         My reputation
Being heard                                  My need for recognition
Being right                                    My need for His righteousness

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Marathon Month to Come

July 9th - fly to AIM's US headquarters in Atlanta

July 10th - check out and finalize logistical details

July 11th - Goodbye, America... Atlanta to Amsterdam (8 hours 45 minutes)
July 12th - Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya (8 hours)

July 13th- 15th - Stay at Mayfield Guest House, a ministry of AIM, for a few days

luggage tag

July 16th- August 6th - Africa Based Orientation (ABO) held at Scott Christian University in Machakos, Kenya (1.5 hours SE of Nairobi)

August 7th - fly from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda to stay at Matoke Inn, AIM's central region headquarters and guesthouse, for a few days

August 8th - one-day orientation to Central Region

August 10th or 11th - travel to Mbarara with a new teammate who will have just arrived from the States!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mail Time

After spending a year in Uganda, I can assure you that one of the best feelings is walking up to the post office, opening the tiny P.O. box, and seeing something with your name on it! Whether it's a postcard, an envelope, or a slip of paper indicating a package waiting for you inside, joy abounds every time!

I think every missionary can testify to this. There's nothing like it. If spreading joy is something you like to do, please keep reading. (Yes. That was a blatant effort to convince you to send me mail over the next two years.)

Letters and manila envelopes take anywhere from 1-3 weeks. Packages have been arriving in about 4-5 weeks when everything is running smoothly.

If you're interested, this document explains more details about sending packages to me in Uganda. Opening a package always feels like Christmas... and home.
(This information can also be found on the right sidebar of my blog's home page.)

Now what you've all been waiting for: my Ugandan mailing address!

Carolyn Smellie
P.O. Box 547
Mbarara, Uganda
East Africa

On a similar note, I have fairly regular internet access in Mbarara, so please also feel free to send emails, Facebook messages, or set up a time to Skype. I will also have a phone that makes texting and calling a very convenient and affordable way to communicate. 

I can't stress enough how important it is to me to stay in contact with you all! I love you, care about you, and appreciate those notes "from home" more than you can imagine.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not Alone

"There's a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious." 
C.S. Lewis

I can't think of better words than those above for this time in my life. My heart has been ministered to like never before in the past few weeks. I've been surrounded and uplifted by so many people, prayed over, loved on, and filled up. In the teacher world..."my bucket is full." From the Bible... "my cup runs over." 

My church in Iowa City rose to the occasion and now stands behind me in love and prayer and support. I'm thrilled to represent Jesus on behalf of them and report back about how God is using their faithfulness in Iowa to grow his kingdom in Uganda. It's exciting and hope-filled. Yet this is not something I take lightly...

commissioning service; June 30th, 2013

In the past two weeks, I've spent every moment possible with those dear, sweet ones who have made this year back in the States feel like home again. Those ones who have walked faithfully alongside me and beautifully let me in to their lives, as well. Friends who I've known for years upon years...and friends who I only just met but feel like I've known my whole life...those who have changed my life forever for the better. 

We celebrate life beginning (baby boy coming soon!) and life continuing.

She let's me be honest and speaks truth in return.

They show me Jesus.

She gives me one of the greatest gifts ever: laughter

And sends me out with the second greatest gift: a year's worth of letters.

I can hardly find the words to express my deep gratitude for their ministry of friendship to me. Life-giving, joy-bringing. It's the kind of happiness that fills me with seriousness and reverence. They are my people. And that's that.

be still my heart

I feel the weight of this privilege. Entering into relationships... being a part of this greater family... and being sent out for the sake of the Gospel. It's no small endeavor, and though some days it feels like the loneliest life I could be living, I know without a doubt that I'm not going alone. 

Christ goes before me.
I have a team to walk beside me.
And all these, plus many, many more, stand behind me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pearl of Africa

(originally published on March 21, 2011)

Winston Churchill was so impressed with Uganda when he visited that he gave it a name which has endured: the "Pearl of Africa". His observations about Uganda remain true today. "The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere... in the whole range of Africa"

The beauty of Uganda truly stood out to me when I visited in 2008. I remember on our first full day there our team took a trip to see the source of the Nile River, and the supposed two hour trip turned into a six hour drive. Everyone was jet-lagged, and many napped on the long, bumpy drive, but I couldn't stop staring out the window. The entire trip my eyes were glued to the scenery unfolding before me. It was like time slowed down as we drove for hours and hours, yet I couldn't soak it all in quickly enough. I never could have imagined such simple and untouched beauty! From the deep, crystal lakes to the snow-capped mountains... from the rolling, green hills to the majestic rivers... Uganda is a "pearl" in Africa in every way.

Pearls have always been my favorite gemstone, and I have recently been reflecting on the significance of this. A pearl is formed when a tiny sandstone finds its way under an oyster shell, and it is so irritating to the oyster that it works on the stone, and eventually this sandstone becomes a beautiful, smooth, shiny pearl.

The past few years have been ones of refinement for me. God has planted something deep in my heart. Something of great importance and significance. It has been stirring in my soul for years now, and I've never been able to relieve the irritation that it brought to my life.

You see, my experience in Uganda was also a redeeming one for me. I was changed. My worldview was altered in a way that I couldn't deny and couldn't ignore. My mind and heart were opened to God, his people, and his world in ways I've never known.
I was redeemed from the American Dream.
I was rescued from my plans.
I was saved from wealth and my own selfish ambition.

Has it been easy? No. Has it been comfortable? No. Does it scare me to my core sometimes? Yes.

These thoughts, emotions, and ideas continue to roll around in my mind and heart, over and over. Churning. Challenging me. Uncomfortable.

In fact, I know that some parts of my life in the coming years are going to be more than just uncomfortable. At times, they will even be irritating or painful. But I know that in the end it's going to turn into something beautiful. The thing that God  has planted in my soul and that has consumed so many of my thoughts and emotions since then will become something incredible because I am "confident of this, that he who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 1:6)

God is in the process of refining me...
It's not always comfortable.
But I trust that it's going to have a beautiful outcome.