Monday, March 30, 2009

Sweet friends,

I come to you today on my knees, asking, begging you to join me. My family and I are staying in prayer today over sweet Maggie Oatsvall. She is the daughter of my dear sweet friend Gwen (yes! who answers all your questions and comments, haha). Maggie had surgery on her head last month (she had a scalp extender put in to prepare her skin for reconstructive surgery later on; her head was badly burnt in China when she was an infant.) The scalp extender was injected with saline as planned last week, but the skin was stretched too fast and opened (it is not supposed to do this!) causing an infection. Maggie is scheduled for emergency surgery this afternoon.

I am sad and angry that the surgery may have to be re-done after a whole month of discomfort for sweet little Maggie, not to mention a lot of transitioning and sacrificing by her whole family, especially her mom (they are pretty much house-bound due to the open port in Maggie's head.) I know, as Gwen and I discussed last night, that God can do a miracle for Maggie. I also know that if he doesn't, He is still God, He is still good, and He will lead the Oatsvalls down this path He has for them.

I also ask for prayer for Gwen. If you don't know her, you should. She is a courageous warrior. She is one of very few people who really get my heart, and she is one of even fewer people who live completely by faith, completely trusting, worrying only about today and totally obeying the Lord. She and her husband Scott are amazimg people with huge hearts for the orphans of the world. Even in the midst of all this with Maggie, they are bringing two more little ones home from UGANDA. When they recently were asked by an orphanage here in Uganda to consider taking a boy who has some special needs, they excitedly agreed to pray about it. COME ON! How many people in the middle of a series of surgeries with their first special needs child would just jump on taking another one? ONLY faithful servants, that is for sure. I so overflow with love for this family who have taken me as their sister and come along side me wholeheartedly.

Oh please cover them in prayer today. Ask that they feel filled with the Peace that transcends all understanding, ask that they feel courage and strength for all God has called them to, ask that they feel refresfed, the beautiful children of God that they are. Ask for wisdom and ease for the doctors that care for Maggie, and freedom from fear and pain for this sweet child of the King who has been trough so much already.

Here they are, my precious ones! Maggie bandaged and resilient, Gwen displaying her orphan-advocate T-shirt, boldly declaring God's word and love!

Gwen, I love you. You make my heart sing. I am always inspired by your blind faith, your crazy, overwhelming love for the Father, His children, and all those around you. I am so blessed to call you my sister.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I have entered a new phase in my life. Potty training.

I decided to just buckle down and do it since right now is a pretty slow time for me (if life can be slow with 14 kids?). All the children in our program are in school with all of their supplies until a new semester starts after holidays in May, cold and flu season is ending meaning less sick ones to take care of (THANK YOU JESUS!), we pretty much have our feeding program down to a science, and my employees do a fantastic job keeping home visits, school Bible studies, and village ministry running. My life is NEVER boring, but it has been a bit more relaxed these days.

Usually when people ask me what exactly I DO in Uganda, I answer simply, "Just love. I'm just a stay-at-home mom." Well, stay-at-home mom has taken on a whole new, quite literal meaning. We are talking really STAY at home, as in never leave the compound, mom. I have two three year olds now, Grace and Jane, although Grace functions closer to an 18 month old. Both have been trained (or forced) in their previous lifestyles to just use the bathroom where ever they are seated. This is not super fun for me. So I pretty much spend my days sitting and playing on the floor with them waiting for one of the to yell "MOMMY! JAAGAAAALAAAA FOOOOFAAAA!!" (correct spelling is njagala fuca, which basically means, I have to pee). I then scoop them up and zoom them to the nearest potty (Jane still doesn't usually let me know that she needs to go until after she is already going on the floor, and while Grace is making huge progress, she cannot yet walk herself to the toilet). Some days this keeps me so occupied that I wake up in pj's, spend the day in pj's, and go to sleep in the same pj's.

I remind myself that this is just a season. It will pass and I will look back and laugh at the days that I didn't change my clothes and spent all day running back and forth to the potty and cleaning bodily functions off the floor.

I tell you all this in simply asking for prayer. Some days, I am just tired. I am happy, beyond happy. There is NO WHERE I would rather be. I am trying to remeber that what I DO is not what makes me valuable to the Lord (this is a trap I fall into often). It is so easy to feel useful feeding 1,800 children. It is not so easy to feel useful sitting on the floor of my little cement house all day.

It is just a season. Please pray that I would not grow weary. I love my life. But in lots of sitting there is lots of thinking and in lots of thinking the enemy reminds me of what I miss. I miss my mom. If you know her, you understand. The workers at a local orphanage affectionately refer to her as a "beaming ray of God's light to this earth" (copyright Rachel and Arielle) and it is so true. I miss the rest of my family too, just talking them at the end of the day, and I am easily saddened that I miss watcing my little brother play some of the best lacrosse of his life and go to prom and just live life. I miss Strong Tower Bible Church, being spiritually fed every week and having Gwen and Suzanne's sweet shoulders right next to me to cry on. I miss the YMCA, for those who don't know me, I am pretty addicted to running (I don't know if there are treadmills here... I would totally put one in my house and run while potty training, but I think that would be against all my "more than enough" theology...).

This is where I am. This is where I want to be, and I know that I know that this is where God wants me right now and that He is holding me. This is just a season. I share only because I know you will pray. I am a DO-er, sitting still gets me. I am learning; I am always learning, and I am thankful for that.

Jane needs to FOOFAA. I guess I do run a little bit...

Friday, March 20, 2009

My heart is pretty sad today as my sweet "vis-tas" (my children's pronunciation of visitors) leave. But, as in the goofy picture above, I am reminded that while I am sad when I have to kill a chicken, I am so blessed that my children are able to eat meat. While I am sad my dear friends are leaving, I have been so extremely blessed by their visit! We had an absolutely marvelous time and I am so thankful that God ordained this trip, worked out every detail, and held us all week in the palm of His hand!

I was so blessed to be able to squeeze my sweet friends and so happy to watch them taste and see and DO my life with me. They truly served me and my family, loving on my little girls, making coffee for Christine and Joanne, and always making sure that one or two of the big, strong men escorted me to the market. I'm pretty sure they also were able to reach their goal of getting me to gain ten pounds with all the power bars, peanut butter, and beef jerkey they brought us!

Just watching the Mayernick family, who have been such a huge help and support to me, touch and interact with all the children was incredible for me. Seeing my girls embrace and fall in love with these new friends was wonderful.Suzanne always uses a beautiful analogy of Nehemiah building the wall. It seemed like an impossible task, but he said YES to God and with much help from others laying their bricks, the wall was built. So often 147 million orphans seems like an impossible task, but we say YES and slowly we are breaking down that statistic. I am so thankful for eight beautiful friends who came to lay their bricks down next to mine this week.
More stories when my brain is working properly again... Did I mention we did a lot more "fellowshipping" than sleeping? Totally worth it :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I am so blessed and so full. I can't even think straight enough to write.
Most of you have probably seen the button on the side of the blog linking you to "Joining the Journey," the Mayernick Team's blog. I encourage you to check it out, as I have given them my internet connector for the week and probably won't be on much. They will keep you updated on what we are up to.

Suzanne and Mike (Amazima Board members, not to mention wonderful friends of mine), their two oldest children, Grace and Michael, their nephew Landon, Grace's best friend Mallory and her dad Scott, and my sweet friend Anna all made the journey to Uganda Thursday morning. When they arrived at the airport in Nashville for the first leg of their series of flights, they were told that their flight to detroit was cancelled and there was no possible way for them to get to Uganda before Sunday (they were supposed to arrive Friday). They immediately joined hands in prayer and texted Gwen to spread the word to pray. Soon exactly 8 seats were found on a flight to Dallas that connected them to Amsterdam just in time for their flight to Entebbe. Only GOD.

Then as I was driving to the airport I got a flat tire... but as the Lord is always giving me new and exciting job descriptions, I pulled over and a few nice men taught me how to change it! I have to say I was pretty impressed with myself... haha. But seriously, me changing a tire on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Uganda, ONLY GOD. Then on the way home from the airport, Abdulla, driving the van carrying the luggage, Scott, and Landon
ran out of gas, but we were able to take care of that too. I have no doubt that big things are happening this week and satan is not happy about it. God's purpose for all Christians is that their hearts grow to love and serve orphans, and it is being accomplished right now! So we know that the enemy is not happy with us, but we rejoice in knowing that our God is mighty and He is ON OUR SIDE! Stay tuned for more miracles..

I could not be more thankful for these sweet friends. They have served my children and I in ways that bring tears to my eyes. I look into my kitchen and see precio
us Anna doing the dishes with my kids. I look on the couch and see Mike and Landon cuddling with my sweet girls for whom I have prayed and prayed for positive male influences. Scott is outside jumping rope with Joyce. Suzanne is learning how to help me cook all sorts of Ugandan food and makes a special effort to make sure my coffee is made for me when I get up (what a TREAT!) My kids LOVE Michael, Grace and Mallory, who joined in playing all the games with kids yesterday. It is so beautiful to me that my kids and Suzanne's kids see no difference in each other, no color, no gender, no different economic status. I'm a kid, you're a kid; let's be friends. Couldn't we all use a little more of that? Imagine if we just said, I'm a person, you're a person; let's be friends.
It's the little things. Suzanne making my coffee. Anna massaging my back. Mike reading my kids a Bible story. It is truly so beautiful. My kids are as enthralled with the new visitors as the visitors are with them. It is such a blessing to be able to share a little piece of my life with these people who are so instrumental in keeping Amazima going in the states. It is blessing me so immensely to watch them fall in love with the place and the people that they have been serving along side me from America.

Please continue to pray for a safe and healthy trip for our precious visitors. Thank you, thank you Jesus for sending these sweet friends to me!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

sometimes, life is a bit confusing.

I have been trying to Italicsee God's lessons in everything, big and small. The following are several unrelated stories and thoughts from the past couple days.. And I am trying to make sense of the lessons...
It has been particularly hot here recently. It is supposed to be rainy season, but the rain won't come. This makes for extra sticky sweaty days. On one of these days when I was feeling especially nasty (think sweating profusely in the middle of all the swirling red dust...) and grace had spit up me twice, I pulled into the gas station. The attendant looked at me and exclaimed, "Wow! You are so beautiful; your skin is glowing!" "Ha, It's sweat," was my unconvinced reply. "You have some really beautiful sweat," she said, as we pulled away. When you live in Africa, or maybe when you are the mom of fourteen children, moments when you actually feel beautiful can be hard to come by. I feel on many days that I am radiating God's love, but there are few days that I actually think that I look radiant. Not that God cares what I look like, but as a human and as a woman, sometimes I do wish to look nice.
Lesson: God cares about my feelings, even the petty ones like caring to look pretty, so He has someone tell me that my sweat is beautiful. Really, God has created and clothed the lilies of the fields, how much more will He take care of me!? Through this dear sweet woman at the gas station God reminded be how beautiful I am, we all are, to Him, after all, we were created in HIS OWN IMAGE. And He looks at me, at you, in all our sweat and dirt and brokenness and says, I CHOOSE YOU. You are BEAUTIFUL.
Yesterday, my sweet daughter Margaret, the most gentle and humble of all 14 of my children, beat up our neighbor, who happens to be one of her best friends. I was making lunch when Oliver, the little girl, and her mother came into the gate. The woman started shouting, "You daughter punched my daughter!" and then she left, leaving Oliver in our yard. I called Margaret, Agnes, and Hellen (all were accused of being involved) out into the yard. As we all talked with Oliver, the whole story came out. Oliver had been making fun of Agnes and Hellen for having a white mom. Her exact words were actually, "Your mom is white so you eat fish. You are going to get fat!" (At this point I walked away from our circle, pretending to be seriously upset, but actually resisting the urge to laugh.) After I composed myself I came back and explained to Oliver that since these girls were her friends, and their "white mom" happens to be in charge of the sponsorship program that pays her school fees, she needs to be careful to choose kind words. I explained to my children (though it seems Margaret was the only one involved in the actual hitting) that no matter what people say to them, as long as they are not being physically hurt, they must not hit their friends. We had a group hug and invited Oliver in for lunch, ironically, we were actually having fish. After Oliver left, our whole family had a talk about how we are all going to have to endure some teasing because of our family. Children often say mean things to my kids because they have a white mother. I explained to them that in America and here people often say ignorant and rude things to me because I have many children from many different tribes and cultures. We talked about how we have a choice. We live together as a family and sometimes hear rude remarks that we can choose to ignore, or we don't live together as a family and then we won't have to hear the mean words. It is no choice, we choose our family, our family from many different tribes and cultures and countries and colors. Sometimes its tough, but we wouldn't trade it.
Lesson: Jesus knows that we are a family. A REAL family, and He doesn't see our color. Beside, in Heaven I am going to be black, I have already asked God for it.
Another lesson: Parenting is sometimes tough. Parenting is almost always hilarious.
I went to visit Sumini's parents a few days ago and found her mother crying. When I asked what was wrong, she told me a horrific story of her neighbor who had killed his step-son, cut off his head, and sold it to the witch doctor for a little more than one hundred dollars. We cried together. Mama Sarah, who a few months ago was not a Christian, pulled out her Bible and told me how thankful she was that God had moved her children so that they did not have to witness this.
Lesson: Satan is not a fan of Christ winning this beautiful nation. Christ will win anyway.
I saw jjajja Nakibuuka today. She is the village leper. Her fingers and toes are missing. Everyone in the village thinks she is crazy because she burnt her own house down in order to live in the bush. She has no possessions, but lives completely on the land, by faith. Every time she sees me, she has one thing to say: "God is good and He is coming back." She says it over and over. "God is good and He is coming back." She believes it, and she lives it. She has nothing on this earth, she is fully prepared for Jesus to come and take her home. And they call her crazy. If this woman is crazy, I think that we could all use to be a little crazier. I ask God often as I pray for jjajja Nakibuuka, why He doesn't heal her wounds. I know that He can. Today it hit me. My faulty, shaky faith has to sometimes see it. I need to see the lame walk. Jjajja Nakibuuka doesn't need a miracle, because she already knows. God loves me enough and desires my heart enough to help me see; Jjajja Nakibuuka already sees. Her body may be broken but her heart is full. Jesus says "Now you believe because you have seen signs and miracles. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."
Lesson: Open your eyes. God is good and He is coming back.
I have really missed Ben lately. It is undoubtedly Celine Dion's fault. Thanks to wonderful donors like you, Amazima Ministries has recently purchased a van. Our van is such a blessing. It enables us to give out over 1,800 pounds of food to over 1,500 children. This is a very good teaching tool when learning the story of the Loaves and Fishes. It also enables us to all go to church together as a family which is truly wonderful. My point: Celine Dion is extremely popular in Africa. In town, she can always be heard coming from one market stand's radio or another. In the car, Celine is always on every radio station, often we come upon a Celine Dion marathon where she sings all of the songs she has ever written. Don't get me wrong, I love some good Celine. I love to crank it up loud and sing it all the way to town with Grace and Jane dancing in the back. I guess when I was eight though, I did not realize that Celine Dion is ALWAYS singing about someone she is so desperately in love with. Such longing, such agony as she is away from her lover. It does usually make me miss having a boyfriend to cuddle. But once again, even in these little things I am trying to see the lesson. I think that the way Celine Dion feels about her lover is the way God must feel about the church, that in some ways seems to have strayed so far from Him. I think he allows me to really miss Ben to get a tiny glimpse of what His heart must feel as the church strays farther into Religion and away from the heart of God, that is the impoverished, unwanted of the world.
Lesson: Everything can teach you something. God so deeply, passionately, desperately loves us. He so intensely longs for His lover, the Church, to come back to His teachings of giving everything they have to serve the poor, of living in community (see Acts 3). He wants to woo us, each one of us, as we are the Body that makes up the Church. I am still trying to get there, and it makes me feel special to know that He sings over me even more passionately than Celine Dion. That is pretty wonderful.
We are still learning. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, March 9, 2009

i believe in miracles.
mostly, i believe in LOVE.

God's love.
big, extravagant, unconditional.
LOVE that moves mountains and changes the world.
LOVE that was given freely, that we may also freely give it to others.
Grace can WALK.
Not well, just a few steps with bent legs, but she can walk. Two weeks ago Grace came to our family and her grandmother explained to me that she was "lame". At three years old she could not stand, walk, hold her spoon, or complete a sentence. Unbelieving I took her to a doctor who said she had "ascending paralysis" meaning her legs were paralyzed and the rest of her would slowly become that way. Something didn't resonate in my spirit, and being that these doctors have been wrong before, I (with all my medical knowledge, ha) decided not to believe them either. Where was the fun in that anyway? We began stretching little Grace's legs, helping her eat, cuddling her constantly, and covering her in prayer. Grace began pulling herself up on the furniture. She began to take a few steps holding onto my hands. Today she walked about ten steps alone before she had to sit down. Grace can hold her spoon, and although she makes quite the mess, she can feed herself. Grace laughs about 13 out of the 14 hours we are awake each day. And Grace can say a full sentence without stuterring, "I lub lou mommy."
Her sisters LOVE her to pieces. When I was worried that she was pretty delayed, had some "special needs", her sisters never saw a difference. They knew that her only special need was love. Big, unconditional, extravagant love. Love that was given freely, that they freely gave to their new sister. They stretch her little withered legs as she sits on their laps, help her not spill her juice everywhere, and don't even complain when she poops on the floor. Jane, my only other child who does not go to shcool during the day, so desperatley longs for Grace to play with her that she can often be found holding Grace's hand and walking/dragging her everywhere she goes.

In two weeks I have been able to watch God give back to Grace everything that was taken from her the first three years of her life. I have watched Him not only begin to restore her physically, but restore her spirit, her little heart that He so deeply loves and desires intimacy with. He has reminded me how deeply He longs for each one of His children to know His intimate love. He has reminded me how He longs to restore our brokeness. He has reminded my girls what His LOVE can do through their little hands. Most incredible is that I know He is not done yet, but only getting started.
Lord, we give you our brokeness, that you may fully restore us. Remind us of the intimacy that you long for with each of us, your deep, passionate love for your children. Father, you have given so freely, you have loved so extravagantly. Let us give. Let us LOVE.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twice in Scripture Jesus is asked what needs to be done in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Twice He answers.

The first time, He says to Nicodemus, "In order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must be born again, baptised in water and the Spirit." We take this quite seriously and celebrate baptism with joy.

The second time, Jesus is asked the same question by an unnamed rich man. This time His answer is this, "In order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must sell everything you have and give it to the poor."


We skip this one because it is a bit more difficult.

But what if Jesus WASN'T KIDDING?

Every day I am hit in the face with how over-the-top blessed I am. Yea, you would think after two years or so it would wear off, but it doesn't. Every day I look into the face of Jesus in those people pictured above and my heart breaks. They are hungry. That's right. This means that the Body of Christ, Jesus, my Savior, goes to bed hungry while I sit on my bed with a full stomach. It is unimaginable.

It is easy to look to God and ask, "Why is there so much poverty in the world? Why is there so much hurt, so much inequality and unfairness, so much destituion?" I bet He would ask us the same thing.