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?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Celebrating

We are celebrating this month. We did not meet the goal we set to be fully funded and in Africa in October, but we are still celebrating. We have much to praise Him for and will do so with joyful hearts. Join us in thanking Jesus for all these exciting things He is doing!
  • Benjamin has lived to be 4! In Uganda they congratulate the parents when a child becomes another year older. We are celebrating the four years we have had Benjamin. He is a handful, but a major blessing to our family as well.
  • We got to see Meg's sister, brother-in-law and niece. We are blessed to have time with family while we are still stateside.
  • Our trip to Ocean City to connect with friends and supporters was GREAT! We were encouraged by some conversation and excited to see how God uses St. Peter's UMC to bring His Word to the people of Congo. It was so good, people have asked us to come back because they didn't get to meet with us yet! So we will be in and out for the next few weeks.
  • Lots of ministry appointments this month! People are getting excited with us and joining the team. Praise Jesus! We love sharing what God has done and inviting others to be a part of it.
  • Our teammates, the Metz family, have reached Uganda safely, and with all their luggage! We are celebrating the beginning of a new chapter for them and are excited to join them there.
  • We are praising Jesus for YOU! You are supporting us and holding us up. Through prayer, through special gifts, through encouraging words, and through faithful monthly giving. We need you and we are celebrating our relationship with you.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good Idea : Bad Result


The past few days I’ve been thinking about the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45). In the story, the man comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus, filled with compassion, reaches out, touches the man and says, “I am willing. Be clean.” The leprosy leaves the man and Jesus tells the man to go show himself to the priest and offer the proper sacrifice for someone who has been healed of leprosy as a testimony to the priest and the public. The man leaves Jesus but, instead of going to the priest, he goes and tells everyone else about what Jesus had done for him. The story says that because of the man’s choice, Jesus could no longer go into the towns freely, but stayed in secluded places and the people had to come to him.

As I have been thinking about this story there are a few things that stick out to me. The first is the man’s faith. There is no hint of doubt in the man’s question as to whether Jesus was able to heal him or not. Jesus was able and the man believed that he was willing. His faith is evident in the very fact that he asked.

The second thing that catches me is Jesus’ touch. Jesus knew as well as any Jew of his day that to touch someone with leprosy, or even something they had touched, would mean that you yourself became unclean. But in his great compassion Jesus reaches out and touches the man. And, you know what, instead of Jesus becoming contaminated by his uncleanness, the man with leprosy is healed. Could Jesus have healed the man by his word alone? Surely. But he chose to demonstrate his love by touching the untouchable.

The third (and maybe a fourth closely tied into it) is the man’s response to Jesus healing him. Jesus gives him very clear and specific instructions and the man, who had shown so much faith, allows his excitement about what Jesus had done for him to trump Jesus’ command to him. At first, you don’t even realize what is happening; Jesus heals him and he goes and tells everyone, that’s great! What a testimony! What could be wrong with that? 

And then you read a little further and begin to realize some of the implications of this man’s choice. In choosing to do what he thought was right, rather than what Jesus had told him, there were huge consequences. The priest missed out on the opportunity to see and hear what Jesus had done for the man in its proper context. The public missed a chance to see Jesus’ healing in right relationship with the Mosaic law. And Jesus wasn’t able to go and preach in the towns, which he had just told his disciples was at the very heart of his mission (v. 38). Now, instead of Jesus going into the towns and preaching, he was so mobbed by people looking for healing that he stayed in the rural places outside of town and still people came, not to hear his message, but seeking his healing.

Sometimes a good thing (telling people about Jesus had done for him), done in a wrong way (instead of going to the priest), has bad results. The man’s intentions were good, but in choosing to do what he thought was best rather than what Jesus asked of him, he actually hindered what Jesus was trying to do.

I wonder how often this man with leprosy is actually you and me? How often do we rush forward to do what we think is best for Jesus while at the same time ignoring what we know he has already told us to do? I think that sometimes we get so excited about what seems good to us that our good intentions actually miss what Jesus wants to do. I, for one, want to make sure that I am always doing what I know Jesus has told us, before I run off with my own good ideas.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Welcome Elijah!


We are SO excited about the arrival of Elijah Ronald Rambo!

Rejoice with us in this new life.


Elijah was born at 12:20. 6lbs 9ozs 19.5." long fingers and toes. Mom and baby doing well, still waiting to move into a room from recovery

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting Ready

We are getting ready. Getting ready for Elijah's arrival and doing what we can to get ready to return to Africa. Two very different tasks, but both get us excited.

Getting Ready for a New Baby

Setting up Elijah's bed


Getting baby clothes washed and into the drawers


The big brothers each picking a present to give to baby Elijah 


Packing our hospital bag


Being given a wonderful baby shower 
 

Getting Ready for our Return to Africa
 
Scott learning to ride a motorcycle since that is a more common mode of transportation in Beni, DRC
  

Scott learning French using Rosetta Stone


Checking all our travel shots and getting up to date


Ordering FOUR years of home school curriculum for our boys


Getting all our paperwork ready for a passport for Elijah 


Sharing with churches, small groups and individuals
 

Making memories with friends in the states


And as we prepare, we also wait. 
We wait for HIS perfect timing in all things.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
     a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Pair of Ducks

Timothy, Josiah, & Benjamin outside St. John's UMC
One of the trickiest things missionaries deal with is "living between two worlds." It's not just a missionary thing, but it is more easily seen in those lives which tend to have more transition. Something we talked about a lot in our pre-field training is the idea of "good goodbyes" and "healthy hellos." It is rarely as simple as leaving one place and arriving in a new one.

Yay Duck & Yuck Duck
At the training, they even talked with our kids about this paradox we live in. However, to help them process, they talked not about "Paradox," which is a big, intimidating word, but about a "Pair of Ducks." They showed the kids two rubber ducks; one, all bright and clean and yellow, the other, marked, and dirty and discolored. These are the "Yay Duck" and the "Yuck Duck," the two sides of every situation and transition. We still use this language in our family as we come to terms with the realities of moving from one place to another.

As we were planning to come back to the States, there were "Yay Duck" things. We were excited to see family again. We were thrilled to sit and have coffee with friends we had missed. We couldn't wait to get a cheese steak and a wawa hoagie. We looked forward to reconnecting with churches and sharing about what God had done. And yet for each "Yay Duck" there comes a "Yuck Duck." Sadness of saying goodbye to those who had become friends. Leaving colleagues who had become family. The absence of the foods that had become comforting. These conflicting feelings of excitement and sorrow (paradox) make us feel a little crazy.

As we go through these times, we must also be aware of those around us. When we are leaving there are those who are NOT excited about us leaving. They don't have the happy feelings, only the sorrow. They see the "Yuck Duck" more. But when we reach our destination, we are greeted warmly and everything is excitement. Those receiving us don't feel our sorrow at what was left behind. These friends are focused on what is coming. It is all "Yay Ducks" to the people you are going to.
So there is a line to walk. With those we love on both sides of the ocean, but also within ourselves. How do we fully embrace both the excitement and the sorrow, both what we are gaining and what we have left? There is only one healthy way to do it. By relying fully on Jesus. Trusting Him in every moment, every conversation and every thought and feeling.

Right now we are going through these same feelings again, in a different way. This Sunday, we transferred our church memebership from what was our home church in Mississippi to a church in New Jersey. We are so excited to be connected and feel so loved by the people of St. John's UMC in Turnersville, NJ. It has been such a blessing to see how they have welcomed us and gotten behind us and our ministry. It has also been hugely important for our family to have a local church to call home here in New Jersey, where so many of our family, friends, and ministry partners are located.


But part of my heart is still broken at the loss of our former church. We still have many friends and some great supporters there. But, for many reasons, it became clear to us this fall that the church was in the midst of change and it was time for us to move on. "Yay Duck" meet "Yuck Duck." No matter what, loss is hard. But we are also excited about the new. Excited to see how God wants to use us at St. John's and how God wants to use this church in our lives, in our ministry, and for the sake of His Kingdom in Africa and around the world.

There are two ways of dealing with the paradoxes of life. One, you can choose to not engage, not invest, not give yourself to those around you. This way makes the transitions easier, the grief less, and your life empty. The other option is to choose to engage, to invest, to give yourself to those around you, and to love deeply. Yes, it will make leaving harder. Yes, it makes life messier. Yes, it will mean the struggle of loving and living in multiple places at once (think of the game twister). But it is worth it, oh, so worth it. Lean into the paradoxes of life and take each as an opportunity to lean into Jesus.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

crafting for Jesus

*sorry this post went live earlier while still in draft form. Here is the final :)

While we were in Florida, I had the privileged of sharing with the Hope Lutheran Crafters in The Villages. This is a group of crafters is made up of ladies at the church my grandmother attends. This group is special to me because they mailed us baby blankets and bears to give to children in our neighborhood in Arua.


It was a joy and a blessing to share with them about life and how God was working in Africa. While I was with them they showed me all the steps they go through to make bears for "Sojourn Bear, Making Cancer Bear-able." It was amazing to me to see how each lady has her own job and how they all need each other to make it work.

Here are the "steps" or "stations" that the bears go through.

Marking the pattern
Pinning the pattern to the fabric
Cutting the bear out
Sewing the bear together 
More sewing the bear together
Cutting slits in the edges to make the curves of the bear lay correctly
Stuffing bears
Stitching up the hole in the back
More hand sewing the back of the bear together
Knitting the sweaters for the bears
Matching the right sweater to the right bear

We all have  job to do. Big or small. Each role matters and is needed to advance God's kingdom. Right now, me and Scott's job is to mobilize the funds God wants to use to train and disciple pastors in Africa. It is a lot less fun than "doing the work" but it is the part God is asking us to play right now. Every part, done for His glory, will bring Him glory.

Keep doing your part! Is God asking you to become more involved in His work somewhere? Jump in! Do what you feel He is leading you to. Maybe supporting a missionary family. Maybe starting a ministry in your neighborhood. Maybe sharing with others on behalf of a another ministry. Only you know what part God wants to use you in. Ask Him and get ready for Him to show you. It's a joy and a blessing to serve alongside you.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wherever you are...

So, we are going to stay here in the US to have our fourth baby. (Who is a boy named Elijah in case you didn't see our newsletter) Some people have asked if I am disappointed and, to be honest, part of me is. I want to get back to Africa. But as I have been learning, part of trusting, is knowing that God knows better than me. 


In the meantime, what are we doing? Fundraising. We have almost 55% of our monthly pledges and 25% of our cash need. We have loved the churches we have been with recently and are looking for more churches to connect with. Either new churches, or churches we have been connected to already. We are also always looking for small groups to share what God is doing. Email us if you have a group who we could share with!


And then there is normal life. Homeschooling preschool and kindergarten. Trying to raise little men to know and love Jesus. This is where we are at in life.  Physically, we are in the States for the next few months. 


"Wherever you are, be all there." -Jim Elliot


We are being ALL here as much as we are able. The good news is that there are lots of great things to enjoy while we are here. Like Rita's water ice. Like swimming pools. Like friends and family. So we will focus on what we have and be ALL here, so that when we go back we can be ALL there.


Friday, February 28, 2014

What does it REALLY mean for us to Trust

What does it mean to REALLY trust God? I am learning a whole new level of trust right now. We are expecting our fourth baby at the end of July. We are excited about this new life but we (and everyone else) are wondering what this does to our timeline of returning to Africa. 



My first response was that if we prayed enough and really believed that God could, we would be funded to return in May before the baby came. We would love to go back before baby because if we stay it will be September or October before we could return because of the paperwork and passport for the baby. Our hearts are ready to be back in Africa serving Jesus in the role we are called to. So we prayed. I asked others to pray. And I know God COULD bring in the needed 50% of our support. He did it last time. In less than 3 months, God provided the money we needed to get to Uganda the first time. So I thought that it was a matter of trusting Him to provide.

Then, as I was praying about the gender of our baby, my heart was crying out for a girl. I love my boys, but I would love to have a girl as well. To make dresses for her, to do her hair, to play dolls with. So again, I prayed and thought that if I asked, and had faith and would just trust enough, then God would move mountains. Isn't that what Matthew 17:20 says? If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.



It was during this time that Jesus spoke to my heart. He gently asked, "Do you trust me?" And I replied, "I'm trying my best to trust you." He smiled, (I could hear it in His voice), "Meg, are you trying to trust that I will give you what you want, or do you trust me that I will take care of you and that I know what is best?" 

I was stopped in my tracks. Trust is not about believing that my faith will give me what I want. Trust is knowing that God loves me, and has a great plan for me. Trust is letting Him lead, provide and take care of me. It is believing that God has got my back and has my best interest in mind. I can depend on Him.

I asked Scott what trust means to him. So he looked it up in the dictionary. Did you know comes from the word 'strong'? It is something you can depend on. Something you believe is strong enough. It's not some superhero power that Christians are supposed to have. It is knowing God is bigger and stronger.



So, we are having a baby! If it's a girl, I get to praise God. If it's a boy, I get to praise God. If we leave in May or if we leave in the fall, we know that God has a plan for us. There is so much freedom knowing that we are doing all we can do to serve Him and that His timing is best. We are trusting that God knows better than us. We just keep praying for His will. 



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Congo?

We did a post over on the WGM Uganda prayer blog trying to answer the question, "Why Congo?"

You can check it out here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

14 things we're praying for/looking forward to in 2014

We've been thinking a bit over the past few days about how faithful God has been to us over the years and specifically over the last year. Going hand and hand with that has been some thinking about what we're looking forward to in this coming year. We know because of how He has lead us in the past we can trust that He will continue to lead us.

Here are some things we're either  looking forward to or praying to see happen this year.

14. Our family returning to Africa
We can't wait to get back to Africa. Don't get us wrong, we've loved our time in America and with our families, but God has called us to Africa and that is where our hearts are.

13. People to join our team in prayer and support
We're excited to see who God is going to bring onto the team. If God is leading you to be a part of what He is doing in Congo, you can click here.

12. Continued safety and reliability as we travel in the States
Pretty self-explanatory, but we've been blessed with safety in our travels and don't take that for granted.

11. Moving into Congo
Our prayer is that after we return to Africa, that God would open the right doors and we'd be able to move to Beni and begin ministry there.

10. Improved facility with our Swahili and French
We've been working on our French and Swahili in preparation for our ministry and we're praying that we'll see some improvement there.

9. Some time, as a couple and as indivuals, for renewal and formation
Not sure exactly what that needs to or will look like, but we feel like this is an important part of what God wants to do in us this year.

8. Some more baseball
If you know Scott, you know he loves sports. He has a dream of visiting every MLB stadium for a game. Even more than that, it has become an opportunity for some father-son bonding as he takes one of the boys each time. The boys are already asking when baseball season starts.

7. A full schedule of churches and individual meetings in which we can share more of what God is doing

6. Peace in Congo, especially in the East
Peace has eluded eastern Congo for so long. They've tried military solutions, political solutions, international solutions. True peace will only come as Jesus transforms that country.

WGM Uganda team Sept. 2012
5. Our Uganda teammates who are currently on HMA to be released to return to Uganda
We're excited that God is raising up more people to continue the work in Uganda and we're praying that they will be released to return to (Burkes, Hallahans, Leisures, Hopsons) or begin (Metzs, Williams) their ministries.

4. Seeing how God chooses to provide all we need
We don't know who God will use to provide the funding our ministry requires, but we do know He has called us to it and He will provide all we need to do it.

3. Getting to see Grandma and Grandpa's new house in FL
Meg's parents moved this summer and we're thankful we got to visit their old house before they moved and that we'll get to see their new house all during one homeland ministry assignment.

2. Teammates to join us in Congo
God has given us a bigger vision for Congo than our family alone can accomplish. We're praying that God will raise up some people with hearts for university ministry, pastoral training, and community development. 

1. The healthy birth of our 4th child
Rambo baby #4 due July 28, 2014!