Sunday, July 19, 2015

Too Comfortable

I made friends! We had a full schedule of ministry! My boys had a rhythm of play group on Tuesdays and library on Wednesdays. I was building relationships with our watchmen. I was starting to understand the layout of the grocery store. I had learned where to get the better produce. I finally knew which switch went to which light. I was comfortable living in Kampala.

I looked at Scott and said, "Can't we stay? We have ministry here. I have friends. I can do this city life thing." 

He responded with, "Where God has called you? We need to go where He tells us."

"Oh yeah." 

"Don't choose the good over the best. God's plan is best. We have to follow even if it's uncomfortable." 

I realized I had become too comfortable. I wanted to stay in the "known" instead of the unknown. Right then I made the decision to embrace the move. So I started packing. I made a calendar showing how many days we have left. I made lists of things to do, who I needed to call. Scott and I are getting to visit Kasese Sunday - Tuesday, and then we will move as a family on the 29th of July. 

It is exciting and an adventure when you choose the right attitude. It could be scary and overwhelming, but I am learning that when I trust Jesus, life is an adventure that He is with me on. What a better way to live!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

We are "Fine"

We are fine. In Uganda that means “we are good. things are good.” In the states when I say I am fine, I mean I am ok. Not good, not bad, just fine. Right now, we are fine, in the Ugandan way and in the American way.

We are doing great in some ways:

  • we adjusted to the time change and the change in diet
  • we are settled into the house we are staying in while we are in the capital city
  • we are driving again, no small thing in a third world country
  • we are connecting with old friends and the church

We are still struggling with:

  • the taste of some food, cheese and peanut butter specifically
  • getting used to being warm and sticky without the option of air conditioning 
  • some of the Ugandan phrases and remembering cultural customs

To be honest, the first week we were NOT fine. It was hard. I (Meg) found that I just wanted to go home. I missed all that I knew. I missed the people that I had deep relationships with. I missed my bed. I missed target. I missed my church. I felt trapped in a house that was not my own. Our missionary teammates were great, they checked on us and made us meals, but they were not enough to make me feel at home. They offered to help with anything we needed, but I really just needed to trust Jesus and lean on Him. And He was enough. He was enough help us with each of the things that we are now doing great with. He is enough to help us with the places we are still struggling with. And He will be enough for all that tomorrow will bring. Jesus is enough for each day.

So NOW,  I can say we are fine. We are making it, and most days thriving. I hope to write more about some of the above changes and adjustments. Stay tuned, and watch for an email with an update on our move to Kasese and Scott’s trip last week. (If you don’t get our newsletters, feel free to sign up in the column on the right!)

Thanks for walking this road with us. Your prayers make the difference! Keep praying for our full transition as a family and that we are able to be in, and begin ministry in Congo by Christmas!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Waiting Vs. Go Time

We have 4-5 weeks left. We are in "go mode." We have churches we want to get to "one more time." We are sorting and packing, packing and sorting. Scott and Josiah got their Yellow fever shots and updated passports are in our hands. Our travel agent is looking into flights for us. We are making plans with friends to enjoy these last days. And we are still working on our funding and support team. Life is busy.

Because we are so busy, and feeling the urgency of 4-5 weeks, I finally felt like we were out of the waiting season. We were waiting for Elijah to come, then we were waiting for funding, now we are going.

As I was talking to Scott's grandmother, Grandmom Rambo, she asked me about the plans for when we get to Africa. I shared with her the plan of living in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, while we find a house in Western Uganda. She asked, "When will you move into Congo." I told her we would go as soon as it was safe; we would WAIT on the Uganda side until then. I told her our ministry plan to work with the Africa Gospel Church (AGC), the church we worked with last term. We were in the northwestern part of Uganda and this time we will work with the churches in the western part. AGC does not have as many churches in the west and we look forward to helping there. I shared that we will build relationships that show Jesus' love wherever we are, Uganda or Congo or the States.

As I left, I realized we are not done waiting. Even though we have already done A LOT of waiting, there are still things we are waiting for. It got me thinking about what God must be wanting to teach me through these seasons of waiting. I opened my book for the women's bible study I have been blessed to be a part of and saw that this week we were studying Hannah: Surrendering in the Waiting. God is so good! Here is the link to watch it.

God is showing me that I need to learn to live in the here and now. Fully live and fully serve and fully give and be fully present, wherever I happen to be. It brought me right back to my phrase for our first term, "wherever you are, be all there" said by Jim Elliot. I don't want to miss the opportunities that come each day just because I'm waiting for what is coming.

Where does God have you? How does He want to use you where you are today?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Opportunity of a Lifetime: Thoughts on Joshua, Caleb, Trust, and Congo

Two weeks ago Scott had the opportunity to preach at Zion UMC in Egg Harbor Twp, NJ. He did a great sermon on moving into the promised land. If you have 25 minutes to hear a sermon it is worth it. This message shares our heart and lets you know what we are learning right now. Let us know what God is saying to you through this message!

Below is a link to an mp3 recording (taken on Scott's phone, apologies for the quality).

Click this link to listen. (Approximately 23 minutes)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Africa has changed me

All life experiences change us. We come out better, stronger, hurt, wounded, enlightened, or somehow changed. As I was meeting with a friend a few weeks ago I realized that I have changed in ways I had not thought about before. And not just in how we did things or the tans we got.

First there were the obvious changes when we first got back. We used different phrases such as trousers instead of pants, the trash can was the rubbish, and we used a few Swahili phrases with our boys.

My concept of "dressed nicely" had changed. For my Ugandan friends, there was no "latest fashion." To be dressed nice had to do with clothes that fit and were clean, not stained or ripped or showed wear. Modesty also looks different over there. I brought back a lot of their definition of modesty with me.

But time has passed. And in many ways, Africa feels so far away again. I have returned to saying "come here" to my boys instead of the Swahili word. I am back to struggling with the concept of need vs. want, as the American culture defines it. And my diet has completely returned to pre-Africa.

Culture changes us, not just international travel. When we went to live in MS we heard "y'all" everywhere, and it quickly became a part of our vocabulary. Just like culture changes us, the Word of God can, and should change us. We have found as we have engaged scripture we are not the same as we were before. This was so clear with the pastors we worked with in Uganda. It was a blessing to see Jesus come into their lives in new ways and in new places, even as He was doing that same thing in us.

As we look toward moving into Beni, Congo, we get excited about the transformation that will come. We cling to Is 55:10-11.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

We know that HIS Word brings change. And we can't wait to see it! Thank you for being a part of this. Please keep praying for the Lord to make a way for His Word to transform lives in Beni. Pray for peace so that we, and other missionary families who are waiting to go in, may move forward and settle into the work to be done. 

Also, pray that YOU will allow the Word of God to change you. Are you open to what He might want to change in you? Seek and ask. God will show you how you can be a little more like Him, even today. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Frequently Thought, but not Asked, Questions

We get lots of questions. We love questions. When people ask questions, it give us an opportunity to share with them what they care about and what they want to hear. It also can let us know where we may have not communicated as well as we would have liked. Questions are great. The most common questions we get are: "What is the weather like?" "Do your kids like living there?" Or, "What kind of food do they eat?" But we know that there are many other questions in the back of someone’s mind that they don’t feel okay asking.

Here are some of the frequently thought, but not asked, questions and the best answers we have to them.

Aren’t you a little crazy to bring your family to Africa? 
Maybe. But we know that there are people there who need Jesus. There are pastors who desire to be discipled and trained. We have been blessed (growing up in the church, Christian college and seminary educations) to be a blessing and we want to share that with our African friends. 
"To whom much is given, much is required."

Is it dangerous?
That depends on what you think is dangerous. For some it is snakes, other think of illnesses, and others think of violence. Danger is a reality in Africa, but it is here in the States too. Car accidents, cancer, school shootings- all have had their toll on American soil. But each day we each need to get up and do our part. Whether that is our part of society or our part in God’s plan to bring the whole world back to Him. We each have a part to play and we need to trust HIM to get us through.

What about Ebola?
We are more likely to get it here in the US than we would in Congo or Uganda. Congo had an outbreak separate from the one in Western Africa and handled it well. It was contained and now Congo is officially Ebola free again. We will live aware, but not in fear.

Isn’t there a lot of instability in Congo?
Yes. We would be lying if we tried to say that Congo has been peaceful. But in our minds, that just makes the field more ripe for harvest. People are broken and looking for peace and hope. Neither of those things are likely to come from the political situation in Congo anytime soon, but Jesus can bring both. We don’t want to rush into danger, but we do want to bring the Word of God to a nation that is hurting. We are trusting Him with our safety.

What do you “DO?” What does "work" look like?
Scott disciples and trains pastors. Daily stuff includes working on curriculum and stories to teach the pastors, calling or meeting with the ones he is discipling, challenging them in their walk, encouraging them, and praying for them. Some of the time it is actually hosting or attending a training where he teaches or supervises some of the trainers doing the training.
Meg mostly takes care of the kids, tries to stay connected with family, friends and supporters in the states, and build relationships with African friends she sees regularly. She hopes to have a small group of university ladies to do bible study with regularly.

What are you doing while you are back? Are you just sitting around waiting for God to provide?
When we first got back, Scott did still help with some of the curriculum writing. We attended about a month of training and debriefing and the rest of the time has been fundraising. Oh yeah, we had a baby. :) Fundraising is part faith and waiting for God to provide, and part doing everything we can. So what do we “do?” We meet with people to share our ministry vision for Congo and our financial goals to return to Africa. (Want to meet with us? Send us an email!)We share with small groups and churches. Between these we write thank you notes, newsletters, ect. When time allows we work on language learning and other things to get us ready to go. So in case you think we just sit on the couch and watch football, that only happens when the Eagles are on, which is not so often any more!

Why don’t you just go on short trips to train and come back to live in the states?

We saw that, over our two years in Africa, people who drop in and do a program and leave can be really great. We saw some good ministry done. But some people need to stay. By staying we get to know the people better. We learn the culture and customs that make them who they are. And this helps the teachings and trainings be much more relevant and effective. By staying we also get a chance to evaluate our trainings. We can see what works and what doesn’t. We get a chance to follow up and hold the pastors accountable to what they have learned. There are so many benefits from staying, we are thankful that we can stay.

Why do you need so much money to live in Africa? Shouldn’t it cost less? I don’t even make as much as you raise per month.
Our budget does seem overwhelming at times. And no, it doesn’t go into our bank account so we can be rich. And no, it doesn’t go to some CEO of World Gospel Mission so that he can get rich. Think of it this way, the funds we raise cover all our family expenses and business expenses. Ministry is not a business in the normal sense,  but it still costs money to do.
Here is a breakdown as they write it in our budget.

Monthly: salary, social security, life insurance, pension, medical insurance, taxes, children’s schooling, headquarters support, housing, Uganda taxes, prayer letters and printing, work travel, visas (for Congo).
One-time cash need: airline tickets to and from Africa, funds to relocate a family to Africa and back, Legal fees and papers to enter country and get work permits, furnishings (refrigerator, stove ect.) Stateside trainings, equipment needed for ministry, and a vehicle.

And yes, some things cost less in Africa. A two pound bag of rice is less than a dollar and bananas often cost less than a dollar for a whole hand of bananas. But then other things cost more than here. Gas is currently (even with the low prices here in the US) $4.81 per gallon. If we want to buy cereal we can get a small box of very cheap tasting cereal for $4 and a larger box of a name brand is around $10. So yes, it costs less to live in some ways, but in other ways it costs more.

Won’t your boys miss out on an American life?
Yes they will. But for all the things they will miss out on, they will get a lot of other wonderful opportunities. Our boys will grow up knowing what it feels like to be a minority. They will get to see things through others' eyes. Their friends will look different than them. They will get to experience other cultures. They will learn other languages. They will miss out on some things, but we are trusting Jesus to fill any holes with His grace and wisdom.

What do you do for “fun” in Africa? Isn’t it really boring?
We enjoy time with people. Where we live there isn’t a movie theater or a bowling ally. There isn’t anywhere to go snowboarding or rollerskating. There is no zoo or amusement park or arcade. But there are people who became our friends, and where there are friends there is fun. We get together for meals and sometimes board games. We share a soda and a story. And at birthdays we get together to celebrate. So not the same, but we still have fun.

How do you do it? I could never do what you do!
Sure you could! We don’t do it in our strength. Jesus is bigger and stronger than we are  and He carries us. If He calls you, He will provide for you; He will walk with you and He will strengthen you. He doesn’t make it easy, but He is with you through it all. All He asks of us, is to listen and obey.

Why in the world do you go?
We go because there are pastors who WANT to share God’s word with their neighbors. There are hearts who are looking for hope and joy among the brokenness of war and rebel activity.

Romans 10:13-15 says it well. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

We are so thankful to be able to train pastors and leaders to be the ones who preach the good news.

What Else?! 
What other questions have you had in your mind, but not asked? We are not afraid of questions. Ask away! 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Great Joy for All People

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for ALL the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10

As celebrate this season between Christmas and Epiphany we have an opportunity to reflect on the reality that Jesus HAS come. And, through His coming, He has brought joy to this broken world.

His joy is my passion and played a crucial role in His calling me to Africa.

While I was in college, I went on a mission trip to Guinea, West Africa. While I was working there some women asked me, "Why are you smiling?" I remember looking at them and thinking through their question; I had no reason at that moment to be smiling. I was across the ocean from my family. Eating food very different than home. Taking malaria medication and sleeping under a mosquito net. Bathing with a bucket of cold water. And yet I was smiling. I answered them by saying, "I smile because I know Jesus loves me."

As the trip continued, I became frustrated with the way women are treated in that part of the world. Normal was being one of many wives. Most had no say in their marriage. Many were physically abused at home. All were expected to do and serve without question. And their value came if they could have children. Women were second class at best. I told God, "I want to change this." I wanted to go to Africa and fight for women's rights. He sweetly told me that I was not going to change a culture by myself. And that was not what He was asking me to do. Instead, He said, "I want you to take the JOY I put in you and bring it to these women. You are full of MY JOY and that is why you smile. MY JOY can overcome any circumstance." I knew the Lord had given me my calling. To bring His Joy to women, particularly women in Africa, who need it so much.

Our first term in Uganda I got to bring HIS Joy to some women through bible study, conversations over tea, the sharing of their hardships and just doing life together. One of them said as we were leaving, "thank you for your smiles." I know His Love and His Joy flowed through me to her.
So as Christmas is "over" for so many people, we rejoice because Christmas means that Jesus came and brought joy for all people.