Friday, July 31, 2009

Standing at the Fork

So, if you recall, I have had trouble knowing “where to go from here” in life. I’ve been asking God to show me a clear-cut answer... To give me a definitive Yes or No. I know there are times in your life when you come to a fork in the road and God will bless either direction you take. But, in this case, I’ve been asking God to make the decision for me. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust my own judgment at this point (I tend to let my emotions get in the way), or maybe it’s because every time I take a step of faith in the direction I THINK I’m supposed to take – I hit a wall! Well, I don’t have any new news besides this – that I am still standing at the fork, with no definite decision on which path to take – BUT, I now know God’s plan for me while I’m standing here deciding.

Since my trip to Africa, part of me has felt lost. At times I have felt like my heart was being tugged in 500 different directions. I was feeling even more confused than before I left!!! But, last week I attended a Bible study luncheon that a friend of mine has started. And, during this lunch, God begin to reveal to me what His plan is for me in all this. The topic at lunch always encompasses being a Christian in the workplace and how we can apply it to our lives. During the discussion, Kat spoke about Happiness, and the source of it. I felt so convicted as I sat there and realized that all this time, I have looked to other things to give me happiness. While I was still praying and believing God, I realized that I was also putting an expectation on my job or my boss or everything else, to provide me with satisfaction and joy. Yesterday on my Facebook, I wrote something that God was speaking to me:

“God is the source of TRUE joy. When we look to anything else- our job, our family and friends, the material things around us - we will only be disappointed. And until we recognize God's desire to fill us with true joy, we will only exasperate ourselves looking for it in other things.” (S.W. Dreamer)

And I was just that – exasperated! In all honesty, I have neglected my first Love. The One who has brought me more happiness than anything else in this life! Last night I stayed up late looking at old journals from when I was in Bible college. I almost felt like I wasn’t even reading my own journal. The faith portrayed and the love for God that was exuberating from the pages, almost seemed foreign to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love God and I love following Him – but I had neglected our relationship. I spent a couple hours pouring over these notebooks. Reading verses, quotes, and sermons that were life-changing. I realized that while my intentions all along have been good, God could still not bless my steps or ministry, unless my heart was right with Him first. I want to touch people’s lives and make a difference in this world, and all along I’ve thought, “If I only made more money, I could help the kids in Africa” and “If I could only do this and this, then I could bless these people over here”. I guess in reality, my motives were right, but my heart was not. Your ministry flows from what’s inside of you. If I haven’t been spending time in prayer and in the Word of God, then I’ve got nothing left to pour out of me. Regardless of what I’m doing in life, what amount of money I’m making, who I surround myself with... if I’ve got nothing on the inside (where it matters most), then I’ve really got nothing (of importance) to offer on the outside.

So, here I sit at the intersection of life. The “fork” of decision. But, I’m no longer looking for God to tell me where to go. I now know that His desire all along has been to bring me back to the basics. Back to a place of such rest and peace and trust in Him, that I’m not concerned about the future and what it holds, what I should do, and where I should go. He would rather that I find rest at His feet for awhile and soak Him in before I go any further. I am actually ok with this, because I know that only good things can come out of it. I miss Him. I miss time with Him. I miss the love and passion I had when I wrote those journals 10 years ago!

Sometimes, when we feel lost or removed from God, we want to ask Him “where have you gone?”, when in reality, WE are the ones that left.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Village of Hope Kids!

There are so many things to write about in regards to my Africa trip! If I wrote it all at once, it would fill a book, and you would be overwhelmed and stop reading half way through. So I figured I would blog in bite-sized portions (which still might be a lot, but hang with me, people).

I thought it appropriate to start by talking about Village of Hope (VOH), since that is the organization I went with. The VOH safe house was started by Cindy Cunningham, who lives in Dallas, along with Rose (the house mom at the orphanage) who lives in Gulu. I won’t go in to Cindy’s story of how God called her to Gulu, but you can read it here on her Blog. (start at the bottom of the page and read up!) Cindy started VOH for orphans who were once abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), which you can read more about the LRA here if you aren’t familiar. All the children at the VOH safe house were once former child soldiers, sex slaves, and made to commit horrible acts which we could never fathom. Rose has taken in what most would call the “worst of the worst”. Children who are most at-risk because of what they have been through, or what they will go through if they are not rescued. Children with no parents, who have been forced to take care of themselves and their siblings by any means necessary. There are 19 children in the safe house now and they are building on 100 acres to make room for hundreds more children - but that’s for another post.

Cindy with the kids

This is my compilation of multiple things that happened with the children at VOH within a 2 week period, but I’m trying to make it into one short story to keep it simple (and obviously, shorter).

So, I have to admit, that when I first pulled up to the safe house, I didn’t know what to expect. You find this cute, little house with bars on the windows, and high walls with glass pieces stuck to the top of the walls to “keep out intruders.” It’s nestled in the middle of a refugee camp, surrounded by mud huts, chickens running amuck, and half-dressed little children everywhere. Our van pulls up to the large metal doors, which also acts as a gate for cars that pull in. Suddenly, a sea of smiling faces bounce out of the gate and greet us as we exit the vehicle. Before I can say hello or ask their name, I am wrapped in their hugs and warm welcome – being swept through the gates of Village of Hope by 19 kids who are about to steal my heart. Our day with them consists of playing futbol (soccer) with the boys along the side of the house on a small stretch of cement (but they don’t notice or care); the girls help cook, read books or color, and play a jump-rope game with some string they tied together. Over the course of the day, they dance and sing, but there is none like the singing that happens at night. At first the songs are playful, with a few hand motions here and there... “a big, big table , with lots and lots of food” is a popular line! Some of the songs are in Acholi (their native language), but several of them are in English as well and we all sing along. After about 20 minutes of singing and dancing, their voices turn to worship. This is what gets you the most. The sound and feeling in the air as their sweet voices rise to heaven. Then, one by one, they slowly drop to their knees and the feeling of God’s presence overtakes the room. I sit on the couch and watch, almost ashamed that I too am not joining them in worship. I don’t know the words to the song, and I don’t speak Acholi, but I know through their actions that they are deeply in touch with God, their Redeemer, Protector and Provider. Tears stream down my face as I watch this beautiful sight. One child, Norman, is on his knees, pounding his chest in prayer to God as tears are running down his cheeks. Most of the kids are wiping tears from their eyes as they sing and you can’t help but wonder “what are they saying?!” Norman is asked to say a prayer and while I can barely hear the translation from Rose, I do catch a few things that make me realize that this 12 year old boy is spiritually more mature than many men I know! His heart-felt prayer lasts about 2 minutes and consists of him asking God to protect us and to send His Holy Spirit to guide us... the prayer continues as the mzungus (“white people” in Acholi) wipe our own tears at the beautiful scene in front of us.
(Left pic: The kids singing) (Righ pic: Norman Worshipping )

Later on in the day, the children all gather around to play Bingo. They love this game, especially because we play with M&Ms, and those are their favorite! After several games of Bingo, and more soccer, it is time for the children to go to bed. There’s no official bed-time routine of “change into your pajamas and brush your teeth.” They just simply go to their rooms and hop in their bunk bed. Of course, that isn’t before they lock all the doors in the house – including all the inside doors – living room to kitchen, hall to living room, and then each respective bedroom door. The guard dog is also let out, to roam the perimeter of the house during the late hours. This is how they live - every night. This is the system they have implemented to “protect” themselves. So, I tuck myself into a top bunk (a 3 level bunk bed), and fall asleep. Half way through the night I wake up and hear the sound of 9 precious girls sleeping –I hear deep breaths, some tossing and turning, and a couple of girls are snoring. What a beautiful melody – I wish I had had a tape recorder!

(Left pic: Playing futbol/soccer) (Right pic: Me leaving Norbert on our last day (and a note he wrote for me))

I wake up to the sound of children cleaning the floors, washing dishes, and playing soccer outside the window. The children here aren’t told what to do. They just see a need and meet it. If they are told what to do, I never see them complain. Walking out into the hall, I bump into Irene who diligently wipes down the hall floors. Clinton is smiling and swaying to a song in his head as he washes the dishes. Stella is outside helping prepare breakfast for 23 people, and as I turn the corner, I see Peter washing clothes in a bucket of water and soap. Gloria is throwing the clothes over the line to dry and Norbert is pushing a wheel barrel of water out of the gate to dump into a cornfield across the road. All this occurs with smiles on their faces and not a single moan. I even offered to help Moses with the dishes one day, and I think I got in the way more than I helped. So, this all made me realize something – that I’m taking my children to Africa if they ever complain about house chores!

(Left pic: Peter washing clothes) (Right pic: Clinton washing dishes )

This was definitely a shortened version of all that happened with the kids at Village of Hope, and there will be more stories in more posts... this is just the first, so please be patient as I try to sort through my thoughts and get it all into a post.

Me with most of the kids!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Like I said in my previous blog, I’m not sure where to go from here, but I do know that I like this timely quote on my calendar...

“Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, a willingness to fail, if they
are ever to be anything more than dreams.” Bryan Linkoski

post signature

Monday, July 20, 2009

Actions and Truth

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue,
but in actions and truth.” ~ 1 John 3:18

I know I have a lot to write about and catch up on... and I can’t wait to blog about my amazing trip to Africa where God is doing incredible things. However, I do not have time to write all of that now. Instead, I wanted to start off with the Scripture above, which is what is heavy on my heart right now.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been dealing with the “post-ministry letdown” syndrome that Cindy warned us about. The feeling of, “Ok, what’s next”, “How can I help?” I am burdened, happy, sad, rejoiceful... all at the same time. I keep staring at the faces in my pictures and remembering their smiles and laughs. I keep watching the videos of the kids dancing and singing. I’m haunted by the feeling that there are children in refugee camps scared everyday for their safety. It’s hard to explain all that I’m feeling. But all I know, is that I MUST do something. I’m not sure what the “something” is, or even the possible “somethings”, but I’m praying for direction and wisdom. I have a few ideas, but there is still this overwhelming feeling of “will it ever be enough?!” But, God is reminding me (AGAIN), that HE alone is God. I am not God, and it is not my job to BE God. It is only my duty to do what He leads me to do.

With that... let me introduce you to one of my favorite pictures from the trip. This little boy lives in a refugee camp in Gulu, Uganda. He was falling asleep in the middle of the crowd, and I motioned for him to come sit in my lap. He was so precious.

Pleas pray for me. That I will find my part in all this and that I will prove my love for these kids, my love for Village of Hope, and most of all, my love for the Lord, through “actions and truth.”

post signature