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. http://youtu.be/1moOAN6UJZQ

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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why I Love Fundraising

"Fundraising is not for sissies." 
"I could never raise all the money for my salary and ministry expenses like you do."
"Why don't they have someone else do that for you?" 

These are some of the things we have heard lately. And, while some days I can slide right into the attitude of, "this is too hard," or, "why do I have to fund-raise?" most days it is a joy to share what I've seen the Lord do and invite others to be a part of it. Recently we had a great example. 

As we were doing normal paperwork and reviewing a list of supporters, and a name jumped out at me. I prayed and asked the Lord, "Why are you pointing this couple out?" I clearly got the impression that it was for funding. I pushed back against this thought. "But Jesus, they already support our ministry regularly." And Jesus sweetly answered, "Ask for more. Ask them to increase their giving." Right away, excuses came to my mind. I can't do that! It will seem like we don't appreciate what they are giving. And what if they feel like we view them as dollars instead of people. But after wrestling with this, I still felt like the Lord wanted me to ask. So I called. 

The wife answered the phone. We talked a little about life, and just as I was about to ask, she said, "You know Meg, I am glad you called. My husband and I have been talking and we think the Lord wants us to increase our giving. We just don't know how to do that." I laughed and told her about my prayer time earlier. I LOVE that God spoke clearly to both of us. 

It's not easy to ask people to give, but it is a privilege. When I am listening to Jesus it is a joy to invite others to be a part of our ministry. Not every call ends with us closer to reaching our financial goals, but every call ends well. I am thankful.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Growing

Are you the same person you were a year ago? Oh, I hope not! I hope you are "growing" every day. If you are a disciple of Jesus, I pray that you are becoming more like Him; following Him and letting Him change you. If you don't know Jesus personally, I hope you are still growing. I hope you are considering others before yourself. I hope you are kinder and have learned new skills.

It is getting colder here in New Jersey and, sadly, we needed to pull out socks and shoes. We were blessed by a family at church who has an older boy and gave us a box of shoes ranging in size. When we found shoes that fit, Tim and Ben had laces for the first time. So they need to learn how to tie their shoes. We found a cute rhyme about an Indian making a teepee. It is fun to see them growing.



Our boys are not just getting bigger, they are growing in their understanding of others. I have been amazed to see Tim take care of Elijah. I never expected him to be cruel, but his sweet heart shines through. Ben has become a leader in his bible club at church. He used to, and sometimes still does, struggle with wanting to do his own thing and ignoring others. Last week his teacher told me that he has been teaching his classmates how to pray using a song he knows. Josiah has grown into being a helper. He is always the first to volunteer to help with a chore. 

I am growing too. One of the things Jesus is teaching me is to find what God IS doing instead of looking at what He is NOT doing. Our last blogpost was the beginning of that. We have a God that is for us. He is on our team! Sometimes we miss what He is doing because we are so busy looking at what we want Him to be doing. So I am growing in my walk to become more like Jesus by trying to see where God is and thank him. 

What are you learning? How are you growing? What "new thing" does Jesus want to teach you today?