Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The class

One of the high points of last week--quite literally, now that I think about it--found me in a garage-turned-classroom down the road, perched on a plastic chair that threatened to plop me on my uncoordinated derriere with the next wrong move. Sometimes, I honestly wonder how much of my ministry efficacy exists simply because of my willingness to make a fool of myself. I was sweating profusely from the gathered heat, my throat like sandpaper, but there was a grin that stretched from my soul all the way to my cheeks. I was belting out, slowly and with exaggerated enunciation, a Seeds Family Worship song: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Before me, forty or so brown faces stood, clapping and singing just a few beats slower but with gusto. They are just second-level English students of a number of different religions, gathered from nations all around East Africa and some, even further. The verse was scrawled behind my head in dry-erase. Large smiles spread as our lungs filled; the beat gathered momentum African-style; and my palms stung, pink from clapping.

See, I've been wondering how to tell you about this new year, as we've been back--particularly a new class I've been excited to tell you about. But blogging, to me, has some degree of trepidation. Paging through the Sermon on the Mount, I am intrigued by Jesus' words from one chapter to the next: Let your light shine before others so that they may...give glory to your Father..., then, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing--that warning against doing good things for people to see us, not see God. I know all too well--and still not well enough--the stinking crevices of my own heart, and my love for others to think well of me. And still, I know that I need you to pray, that God is doing something here that I want to tell you, and that you are a part of this in sending us here! The Psalms talk about proclaiming His works of salvation in the assembly.

I'm so energized to tell you what He is doing in Uganda! I have heard statistics that since the conflict in South Sudan has begun, Uganda has been deluged with some 64,000 refugees.  Even when we arrived back, I was amazed by the increased number of darker faces, the long, lithe forms of the Sudanese that ambled down the street like so many leggy marionettes. So when I called too late to the YMCA--their term had already begun--I decided to pay a call to the refugee center you may remember from the Passion conference to which eMi sponsored their attendance over a year ago. (Those of you who have taken Worldwide Perspectives will remember how God can use displacement, too, to bring people to Himself.)

Sure enough, the center is bursting at the seams. They have over 500 enrolled in their English classes, career training, and Bible class program. And that's how I got to teach Bible stories twice on Thursdays to men and women that I so look forward to seeing every week. We're going through the Bible story by story, not jumping ahead.

But these students have limited English ability. So I've been pulling out the props (a basket of vegetables and a stuffed [puppy-turned-] sheep of C.'s for last week's story of Cain and Abel), the artwork, and the songs to help convey even a shade of the vibrancy these true stories carry. It is powerful to be able to convey the value of women, particularly to those covered heads in my class; to find out last week that enthusiasm wasn't just replacing comprehension as they related in detail the stories we've heard so far. Their oral/aural cultural abilities fascinate me.

And as much as my shoulders slope when I finally pull in the driveway at the end of the day, my heart soars. It is a devotional experience for me to pore through the Creation story, for example, and search out the clues it tells us about the kind of person God really is. I brought popcorn the first day, to show that God, too, showed people His kindness when He had delicious food ready for them when they were created on that sixth day.

A friend of mine, a former missionary kid from Chad, relayed some of her father's stories from teaching his Bible students the same way: story by story, laying the foundation of God's timeline that pointed to him. When they got to a verse in Isaiah 53, she said, he asked them about who this sinless man could be? It could only be God! they declared! And they threw a spontaneous party that lasted into the evening.

It is challenging to teach the surpassing grief of man's Fall, of the story of Cain and Abel, without much hope other than God's promise in Genesis 3 of someone who will crush the snake's head (even now, I see my sandal stomping in front of them as a visual). But I can't wait till they get to hear the whole story. I would love for you to pray for these wonderful students.

And for now, I will still endanger my life on a plastic chair now and then. It is so worth it.

 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us.
Acts 17:26-27

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back from the top of Africa

John is BACK!

He climbed to the top of Africa for the second time, and I can't wait to hear the stories. You should have heard the kids whooping and hollering over here when he made it to the top!

I respect this man beyond words for many more reasons than just his courage, perseverance, and leadership...but I must say, those are pretty awesome. Welcome back, hon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kilimanjaro update

John's got a bit of a stomach bug, and his team is hoping to summit Kilimanjaro today (early Saturday morning our time). I'm sad to report that one of his group of climbers had to descend due to extreme illness.
The remaining team would like to see the sun since they have yet to do so--in order to dry out their gear for safety's sake and enjoy some of the great views. But from John's brief call today, they sound encouraged and hopeful. Just before we hung up, I asked him if he was having fun. His answer: "I'm having a blast!" He is just loving it, virus or no virus.
Would you pray for this team today?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

There and back again

Today's the day: John has left for Tanzania to lead eMi's fundraising climb up Kilimanjaro. He's so excited...had such a fantastic time last year. He does have a strained thigh muscle though, and would love your prayers for his team, God's presence, and a safe climb.

Wife's note: I am pretty proud. :) And--though there were some tears and dejected looks from the kids when he left, I'm thankful for a man who leaves that kind of a gap when he goes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

You might have heard of this one!

I walked through the eMi gates this afternoon to a flurry of activity, with two separate project trips arriving back: teams of architects and engineers, who've traveled from their homes around the world in order to do volunteer their services to ministries here. One of the trips traveled to Restoration Gateway, the 500 acre plot in northern Uganda that John surveyed with one of his Kyambogo University surveying classes and additionally on his own. That team carried the goal of developing the hospital zone, surveying an additional 200 acres, and developing the hospital buildings there; the area has been particularly ravaged by war and HIV.

The other project trip ventured up to Amazima ministries in Jinja, about two hours away. Part of me is wary of name-dropping, but another part of me knows how many of you have referred to Katie Davis' blog or book Kisses from Katie in your correspondence with us. Her non-profit organization, Amazima (meaning truth) ministries sponsors over 600 children in the Jinja area. It's recently received full funding for a secondary boarding school in light of the dearth of educational opportunities there. (Did I just use "dearth" in a blog post? You bet I did.) John surveyed the property just before we left for the U.S.

This team of 13 from eMi came from seven different countries! Today, the team leader and a close friend of ours, Jeff, traipsed down to retrieve their station wagon from our house, a.k.a. eMi overflow parking. (You can read his explanation of the trip and Katie's ministry here.)  As I asked him about the trip, Jeff smiled and said that though he already told John, he just wanted me to know that many on the team had remarked at how thankful they were to have the survey in place upon arrival. According to Jeff, the team has already produced a 108-slide Master Plan--which would have been held considerably back without an existing survey.

So I thought, hey. You guys haven't usually heard of most of the ministries we work with here, and let's just say that most of what God's doing in member care or strategic management isn't necessarily something you'd want splashed on a blog. But ta-da! Here's a connection with what God's doing around the world that you might already be familiar with. Thank Him, if you would, that His people are working together to relieve poverty--and to make His Name great in Africa.