Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Than a T-Shirt

Living for Christ isn't something that can take place in our minds. In theory. Through deep, theological discussion or quiet meditation.

No, living for Christ is hands-on. It's tangible, and it's often messy because real people are involved. Building relationships and living in community are essential aspects of loving Jesus. 
It's carrying each other's burdens, which can be heavy. 
It's spurring one another on toward love and good deeds, which can be uncomfortable. 
It's pursuing peace and building one another up, which can be hard work.

So here's my point: A true relationship with God shows itself in simple, practical ways. 

November 3rd is "Orphan Sunday." A day when "Christians stand for the orphan."

James 1:27 tells us that religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

This isn't a suggestion or a nice thought. It's not just a catchy slogan for a trendy t-shirt.

It's also not a "hot topic" to be celebrated and proclaimed on one Sunday a year
Because what about the orphans on Monday? 
And the abandoned, single mothers on Tuesday? 
And the widows on Wednesday?
Is one Sunday of attention and prayers enough?

James 1:27 is a command. It requires continual action.
Religion that God sees as blameless requires caring and providing for orphans and widows who are oppressed and afflicted, who are in distress. 
(The Greek word here, which we translate as "distress," literally implies "pressure." And, oh, how these young mothers in Uganda are feeling the pressure.)

Do you know what I would love to see happen this "Orphan Sunday"? I would love to see people spreading the message about how to prevent orphans. Not just how to support and care for and adopt them after they've been abandoned, but how to keep children from becoming orphans in the first place...

Maybe it's by sponsoring a family...
Or befriending a single mother and offering love and hope...
Challenging men to step up to be husbands and fathers who protect and provide for women and children...
Or supporting an organization that assists at-risk mothers to raise their babies, like Heartline Haiti or Mercy House Kenya...
" doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it."

So now here is my question: What are you doing to care for the orphans and widows? 
"It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. 
Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. 
That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: 
those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship." 
John 4:23-24 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Home Stay

Over the weekend, I stayed with my friend Laura. AIM requires all their long-term missionaries to participate in a home stay with a local family or individual at the beginning of their first term. I had already done a village home stay back in 2011 as a short-termer, so I was happy to not do that again.

Laura lives in Mbarara but on the outskirts of town in a more rural area, near my previous home. It was nice to be back in the "neighborhood" for a couple nights and spend time with such a sweet friend.

Laura has been caring for abandoned babies for many, many years. James and Emmanuel have been in her care since infancy, and she's now beginning to pursue their resettlement into permanent homes.

She recently opened her home for daycare services, as well. Laura desires to reach out to women in tough situations, so she is currently caring for another little boy, Marcus, whose mother is single and in medical school.

To see Laura with these three handsome men is to see love in action. Though she herself struggles to make ends meet, she continually turns to the Lord in trust and hope.

So what did my home stay actually look like?

Honestly, it was very relaxing. Laura employs and houses a young lady, also a single mother, to cook and clean and do the washing.This allows Laura to spend more time with the babies throughout the day. I basically did what Laura did in my time there, so our days generally looked something like this:

7:30am - wake up, play with the children
9am - children eat breakfast
9:30am - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat breakfast

breakfast/tea: lemongrass tea and white bread
10-2pm - Laura and I visit and play with the children
2pm - children eat lunch
2:30pm - children go down for a nap
2:45 - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat lunch

matoke and beans: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
3:30 - everyone rests or visits
5pm - everyone gets up, Laura and I play with the children

6pm - tea time
7pm - watch the local news...and when power cuts out, we watch the children sing and dance instead
8:15pm - children eat dinner, get washed up and ready for bed
9pm - family prayers and children go to bed
9:45pm - Laura, Dafeen, and I eat dinner
11pm - go to bed

Our Sunday looked a bit different as we attended church in the morning, had a visitor over for lunch, and visited a friend in the hospital.

going to church

Short and sweet... I enjoyed my time with Laura in her home! I will treasure those moments of exchanging words of wisdom, lifting each other up, sharing personal stories, and speaking scriptures to one another as gentle encouragement and reminders.

Please keep Laura and her ministry in your prayers!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Discipleship is Not Dead

Have you ever thought about why the Dead Sea is dead? 

No living creature, even seaweed, can survive in its waters.

The Jordan river and some other smaller tributaries flow into the Dead Sea with an estimated 6.5 million tons of water daily. Yet it's still utterly dead.
The only way water can leave its borders is for it to evaporate into the air.

The Dead Sea is dead because it has no outlet.
There is no continual flow.

Isn't this the same as discipleship?

James 2:26 says that faith without deeds is dead.
We can have abundant spiritual input and teaching, but if we're not doing anything with our spiritual gain, we will become spiritually fat. We can be in a continual state of theological learning and gaining knowledge of the Holy, but if we're storing it all up for ourselves and never sharing with others, it isn't actually healthy or beneficial.

John 7:38 says that out of our hearts flow rivers of living water.
Stagnant waters go foul. Where there is a flow, continual input and output, there is life.

Oswald Chambers says, in his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest:
If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you hoarded it. Yet if you had poured it out to Him, you would have been the sweetest person on earth. If you are always keeping blessings to yourself and never learning to pour out anything “to the Lord,” other people will never have their vision of God expanded through you.

It's not possible to be a disciple of Christ and dead at the same time.
Galatians 2:20 says that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Following Jesus means dying to myself and coming alive in Him.

And to be alive in Christ means to make disciples. There is no other option.

So if you are a disciple of Jesus, what are your outlets?
Who are you pouring into?
What are you pouring out?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comparing Cultures

East Meets West: An Infographic Portrait | Yang Liu
"The artist and visual designer Yang Liu was born in China and lives in Germany since she was 14. By growing up in two very different places with very different traditions she was able to experience the differences between the two cultures first-hand."

At a party
At a party.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats | Time
Depicting what the average family eats in one week and what it costs

Germany: The Sturm Family of Hamburg.   Food Expenditure for One Week: € 253.29 ($325.81 USD). Favorite foods: salads, shrimp, buttered vegetables, sweet rice with cinnamon and sugar, pasta.

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World | Twisted Sifter

Annual coffee consumption per capita

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The ABC's of Life in Uganda

A is for... airplane, it took four of them to make it back to Mbarara.

B is for... boda boda, public transportation via motorcycle.

C is for... central market, where I purchase the majority of my produce.

I buy a lot of my produce from Shakira

D is for... doxycycline, a malaria prophylaxis I take daily.

E is for... equator, we cross into the southern hemisphere travelling from the capital city to Mbarara. Living on the equator means 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness year-round.

team mates
F is for... fan, I can't sleep without the white noise to drown out the many other night sounds.

G is for... gecko, something I have NOT missed about Uganda. I will spare you from a photo.

H is for... hand washing, it's how my laundry gets done.

I is for... ironing, which kills any mango fly eggs that might be on your clothes after they dry outside (Do not Google "mango fly" unless you like disgusting things).

J is for... jackfruit, a funny looking fruit with a flavor that reminds me of banana laffy-taffy.

K is for... Kampala, the hot and crowded capital city of Uganda.

L is for... lantern, my main source of light when power is out.

M is for... mosquito net, sometimes I sleep under one to keep the geckos away!

N is for...Nakumatt, the first and only "big-box" store that recently opened in town.

O is for... Orange, my internet provider and key for keeping in touch with y'all.

P is for... potholes, which are sometimes more common than road.

Q is for... Queen Elizabeth, the safari park less than two hours from Mbarara.

R is for... Runyankole, the local Bantu language I'm learning.

S is for... shilling, the Ugandan form of currency. 2,500 shillings (ugx) = about $1.

T is for... team, we currently have 23 team mates. This breaks down to 16 adults and 7 kiddos, whose ages range from 8 weeks to 13 years. I won't tell you the age range of the adults for discretion's sake, but we have everyone from fresh college graduates to recently retired folks to someone who is about to celebrate his 50th anniversary of moving to Uganda!

U is for... Umeme, the electric company, which let us know we'll be without power from 6am-6pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for nine months... plus all the other times it randomly goes out.

V is for... the view, I look out at the mountains each day, and it never gets old.

view from my bedroom 

view from our road

W is for... water, it must be filtered or boiled to make it safe for drinking.

X is for... xenophobia, which I really hope you don't have if you come to Uganda.

Y is for... yellows, the nickname aptly given to this larger type of banana (called bagoya in Runyankole).

Z is for... zap! The satisfying sound and spark that come from this device when mosquitoes, fruit flies, flying termites, etc. collide with its electric shock. Praise Jesus.