Friday, July 11, 2014

Fully Funded and Living

"Elise, Elise," she whispered, "wake up! We want to spend some time with you this morning." And so I stumbled out of bed and joined my dear friends for our last breakfast, picked up their now one year old boy as he layed his head down on my chest to give 'Auntie Elise' hugs. He screeched and smiled with those dimples that make your heart melt as I tipped him upside down. We took pictures and exchanged hugs and as quickly as it began I found myself climbing into my car, driving away... and crying.

And so it begins. The season of goodbyes, once again. And it's bitter and it is sweet all at the same time. I was reminded this morning that this time is precious. I know the next time I see the young little faces, the babies will be toddlers and the toddlers will be going on teenagers. And that part, it never gets easy. Sometimes I find myself wondering, asking the what-if questions. What if I stayed in America? Would I post my happy married photos like the rest of the Facebook world? Would I get the good social work position advocating against sex trafficking or working in a prison? What if I was able to be an active presence in the life of my nieces and nephews? What if I could eat yogurt everyday?  What if's never get us very far except down a road of discontentment, so I try to come back to reality. You know... the crying in your car slap in the face reality that makes you thankful.

Yes, thankful. If I sit and think about what a blessing those tears are. Thankful that they represent love and support given by good friends, and to know that they are not the last. That there will be even more heartbreaking goodbyes and longer hugs to give as I prepare to go back to my other home. And that my friends, that is a know that you are so loved.

I was reminded again of that love this morning as I sat and read Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. "For we know brothers, loved by God, that He has chosen YOU" (1 Thess 1:4). I stopped to soak in the life of those words.


Chosen for what? What does that even mean? Paul answers in chapter 2. Chosen to share the gospel: "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (2:8).  The dear ones for Paul were the Thessalonians during that season, for me it is the Karimojong.

(photo by Lainey Johnson)
This morning I was reminded of love, but I was also reminded of life. Life that comes alive when an illiterate woman from the village is able to pick up the Living Word and read it to her children. Life that comes when a sick baby is able to get medical treatment because of the money given by a faithful tither. Life found sitting with a mother who was just beaten by her husband or the man who just lost his wife and being able to love in the middle of the mess and present hope. Life that comes from sharing not only the gospel, but my life in Karamoja.

Yep... this is life. This is the life I love, and the life I'm blessed to go back to.

Don't get me wrong, it's been a blast being in America, and you better believe that I will continue to live it up these next six weeks; but amidst the business, the speaking engagements, the early morning coffees and the late night heart to hearts - I hear my King whisper and remind me what is life.

"For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess 3:8; 2:19-20)

I'm thankful that even in the middle of the hard goodbyes, He has reminded me of life. AND! That He has has once again blown me away with His provision fully funded to return to this blessed life in Karamoja.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

To Those Who Send Me

I've sat down a number of times to write. Just write something... put words on this blog of mine.

I hear from friends and family that I need to update better, write more (specifically on here) and keep people informed. I never thought communication was a problem of mine, but I'm still wading through what this missionary insight is supposed to look like.

But today, I just have to say thank you. If I write nothing else, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you reading this. Because if you are, that means you've invested in me, you care about me and what the Lord is up to in Karamoja, and you've blessed me by walking on this journey.

My time home has been blessed. It's been a challenge to get back into the swing of things, and frankly sometimes I want to retreat back to Africa because I forget this fast paced life and how easily I get sucked into it; thinking about my next speaking engagement rather than the relationships the Lord has placed in front of me now.

Nearly a decade ago my mom lived in Hilsboro and I would spend my weekends and summers going next door to the neighbor's house. This couple kindly allowed me to come and play with their, at the time, toddler aged boys and share my struggles and the brownies I undercooked. Today I went back to that house, just on a whim hoping that the family still lived there. Sure enough, they did. I stood in her back yard visiting with this lovely old friend and once role model and told her thank you. Even then, the Lord was using her to sow seeds into the work He had laid before me. Thank you for being the body of Christ.

On my drive home I began to reflect back on this journey and how many people have came alongside to make it possible.... I never knew I needed you so very much. I never knew that it would be the love and support of other journeymen encouraging me and sometimes even carrying me that would keep me going.

So, to the sisters who are always there day or night, walking a similar path in a different culture - thank you for your love, your wisdom, and your constant encouragement. Thanks for embracing the tears and the not-so-pretty adventures.

To the church that I call my home, willing to send me out from the very beginning, thank you. Thank you for always welcoming me back, thank you for your generosity both in finances and in His Word. Thank you for loving me and for constantly seeking the Spirit.

To the 11-year-old who tells me I am her role model, who wants to be a missionary - thank you for giving me back my passion when the brokenness of the world seems to weigh too heavy.

To those who get my prayer updates, and wake up in the middle of the night praying Psalm 91 over me... you move the Lord's hand to protect me in all the ways He leads me. It's your prayers that sustain me in Karamoja, coupled with the Word, a dynamic, unstoppable duo.

To those who open up their homes and their hearts, who desire to hear the stories, the heartaches, and the joys of cross cultural living, thank you. Thank you for caring.

To the ones who send me off with chocolate chips, special coffee mugs, and friendship bracelets - you have no idea the gifts of encouragement they are when isolation knocks.

The Lord has called me to Karamoja in this season, during this time. I live a blessed life and am incredibly thankful for how He has lead me there... but let me make no mistake - I am able to lavish love upon the Karimojong, upon my team and whoever else the Lord brings in my path because of the love that sends me out.

So thank you. Thank you for your grace as I continue to run around trying to visit everyone. Thank you for the coffee dates, for the yummy dinners filled with glorious amounts of cheese and the occasional good beer. Thank you for your open arms and welcoming hearts that invite me back while pushing me into whatever the Lord has next.

If it weren't for the body of Christ, I wouldn't not be walking this road He's brought me to. Thank you for being your part of the body.

Thank you for your love.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Home is where the heart is

If home is where your heart is, then, as corny as it may sound, I think my heart is most certainly split in two; broke right down the middle. One half remaining in America and the other waiting for my return here in Uganda.

I'm sitting in the airport, waiting for my 3:50am flight to Turkey, then to New York, then to Portland to be picked up by one of the most special people in the entire world to me. No doubt I am blessed... but as I sit here and reflect on these last few weeks, I am not sure I can even put words to the stark contrast of my last days here, and the thing the Lord continually reminds me to do.

Two weeks ago in Kotido I was staying at home by myself. The rest of my wonderful team traveled down to Kampala for a little R&R, and I got a spoonful of life in "the city." Our friend Maria came to Kerri and Andrew's house in seek of help. Maria walks on her hands due to a disability and has seven kids in her care with no husband or man to oversee and help provide or protect. The Meadors and the Williams have both been helping Maria during their time here. She bear crawled onto our compound, heavy hearted and eyes full of tears to tell me that her son died, and to ask for help to go to the village and inform the rest of the family. I had no words, left speechless as this beautiful momma told me she wanted nothing more than to die after the tragic loss of her sweet boy. I prayed, because I knew the only true comfort during times like this comes from the Lord.

But it didn't stop there.

When Kerri and Andrew returned we were greeted by friends from one of our village churches. They came to inform us of the murder of one of our elder's wives. So Thursday, after our Moses Project meeting, Andrew and I went to see our friend and to pray. I can't comprehend losing a spouse, but his face gave me a pretty good picture, and her body below the earth within the manyata made it easy to imagine the pain. We prayed, because we knew the only true comfort during times like this comes from the Lord.

But it didn't stop there.

That same Thursday we went out to see the elder, one of my Moses Project mommas didn't show up. Sometimes, it takes a while to get things running regularly on this side, but this particular momma always showed up, and was always early. So I though it was quite strange when she didn't show up. We heard different stories, but by Saturday morning the truth came out that the husband that inherited her had beat her rather brutally. The Meadors and I traveled out to Kaceri to see how she and the baby that was on her back was doing... I'll spare you the details, but once again, I prayed, because I knew the only true comfort during times like this comes from the Lord.

And it still continued... As gun shots fired and we later were informed of those shots killing a young man for a simple cultural injustice.

I wish it ended there, but... they say when it rains it pours. I found myself incredibly sick, puking every five minutes for nearly six hours, excruciating stomach pain and an 'emergency' trip down to 'better medical care' in Kampala to find I had a bad case of salmonella and bilharzia. (So thankful it wasn't anything more severe, and for a wonderful team willing to make the long trek down just to make sure I was ok!)

It was a heavy week, no doubt about that.

But the week that followed, oh, well my friend, that was pure joy; and as I said a stark contrast to the week before. Nights full of laughter, speed boat rides to a tropical island at sunset, holding my baby caracal, tickling a chimpanzee, cuddling with a baby elephant, good food, and priceless time spent with a soul sister. It could have been as if nothing even happened the week before. And as much fun as I had, I didn't like that. I didn't like how easy it was to just submit to the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, as is our American culture. And I don't want that to be a precedent in my life.

As I process all of this, a word keeps coming to my mind - REMEMBER.

"You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you" Deuteronomy 15:15 

Over and over again throughout the bible the Lord tells the Israelites to remember. Remember who you were, remember your enslavement, remember how I fed you from My hand with manna and quail, remember how I delivered you from your enemies, remember how I always provided for you... remember, remember, remember.  If we are wise and learn from the Israelites, we quickly see that they failed to remember; and that it brought them nothing more than heartache, the weight of sin, and walking down the road that took them 40 years rather than a week long journey.

As I prepare to go home, I want to remember. I want to remember my friend Maria and the loss of her son. I want to remember that life is precious, and as overrated as it may sound, we aren't promised tomorrow. But more than anything, I want to remember how the Lord redeemed me. Because we can easily hype up Africa to be this awful, sad place. You know, where murder and death and disease is prominent - and it can be, don't get me wrong... but at the end of the day, all of our human hearts struggle with the same fleshly desires and the death of sin - regardless of our geographical location. I believe the Lord called the Israelites to remember, so that they were able to overcome that; and I believe He still calls us to do the same.

So as I sit in this airport and get ready to head back to the other mother land with half of my heart, I want to remember His redemption. How He redeemed me from miry pit as the psalmist says, and how the hope that I have in Jesus is the only comfort we have in this life. I want to remember where He pulled me from, and the things He redeemed me from. Because when we remember those things, we are brought to our knees in thanks, ears open for wherever He leads us next... that's where I want to be.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Promise Fulfilled

After I returned to the states last fall, I felt as if the Lord had dumped a jigsaw puzzle in my lap, and I was frantically trying to place each piece in their right place.

I hate jigsaw puzzles. I remember as a little kid my Aunt Vickie always doing them and asking my sister and I to help her. I would get bored and my attention would quickly go elsewhere. So when the Lord gave me that picture of a puzzle, I wasn't exactly thrilled.

However, as I've found more and more pieces that come together, I see the weaving in of His faithfulness, the truth to each and every promise, and just every now and again, I can take a step back and see the bigger picture. Sure, I still can't figure out what the thing looks like in it's entirety - but He gives me glimpses. And for that I am thankful. Last August I wrote about my vision for the Nangeye Mountains. I reread this post and realized I was very far off on a few things. For example, how to even pronounce the name... that one made me laugh. Or the fact that these people are neither Karamojong nor Acholi, but their own tribe - Nangeye (pronounced Naan-gee-ya). I also learned new things, like the Nangeye people seem to be more culturally similar to the Karamojongs than to the Acholis, and that most speak Ngakarimajong. That, sadly, their native language, Nangeye, is being lost and few in the villages know how to speak it. I learned that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few in this area. So I will continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send His laborers, and that I will be one.

This last year as I prepared to move back to Uganda on a more permanent basis, I'll admit I was initially rather disheartened that the Lord asked me to leave Kitgum and Latodore and come to Karamoja. I remember one morning I was driving in my old pick up to my place of employment in northwest Portland. I kept asking the Lord that He would allow me to come back to Kitgum and to work with the women I had already built relationships with. He told me no... which at the time I found absolutely devastating. But now I see His grace, even in that. Later He promised that He would indeed take me back to the mountains, but for now, I just needed to trust Him. I tried, trust is still something that comes in waves in my walk with the Lord it seems. But I set off to Karamoja and that was when I began to see another puzzle piece come together. Karamoja sits to the east of the Nangeye Mountains, and so it was easy to see God moving. I knew His promise would come to pass, but I didn't know when, or how simple it would be.

Saturday God fulfilled His promise. He took me to the Nangeye Mountains, and it was so incredibly beautiful my friends.

Beautiful because of the landscape and His fingerprints in the hills, but also beautiful because I was reminded of His faithfulness in so many ways.

I had heard rumor that there was another woman working in Karenga, a town that sits just adjacent to one of the first villages in the mountains, and that she was working on translating the Nangeye language. I was shocked, because for two years I have been asking if anyone was working in that area and no one knew anything. So my Ugandan friend who came with me and I ventured our way up to the mountains. We stopped in Kaabong first to talk with a man who grew up in one of the villages in Nangeye, and then continued on to meet this person - who I had just been informed wasn't a woman, but actually a young man (apparently he had long hair? So the locals got confused). As the mountains that I used to stare at from our compound in Kaceri got closer and closer my heart rate seemed to speed up with each passing mile! We reached Karenga, and we found the one white man in that area. He walked out of his house and said, "hey! I know you!" My mind tried to trace his face, but he was quicker, "I stayed with you when you lived in Kitgum!" Why yes, yes you did.

The Lord is rather funny. Two years ago when I lived in Kitgum another missionary I worked with had ran into this man, Sam, and a friend who was staying with him during that time. Sam is working on his PHD out of Colorado and so for the past few years he has been taking several months to come and learn more about the Nangeye language for his field studies. I laughed. All this time I had been looking for someone who had been working in that area, and low and behold, I had already met him. We exchanged contacts and now I have another source of amazing info - one more piece of the puzzle.

We spent the rest of the day traveling around the mountains. In and out of villages and I mapped out where Latodore was, where Kaceri sat, and how incredibly close everything actually was. I visited with the villagers and sat in awe of the beauty of this place. All this time I thought my dream to reach the Nangeye Mountains was so far away, that this promise wouldn't be fulfilled until the Lord moved me there. But His ways are not our ways, and His promises always ring true. It was an amazing, AWEsome, very beautiful day.

So... what is next? Well, I have the perfect answer for that:

I have no idea.

I know I am leaving on a plane in fifteen days to journey back to the states. I know I come back three months later and need to be faithful with the puzzle piece He has placed in my hand. One of those being to become fluent in Ngakarimajong (Lord help me!) which will help me when I one day move to the mountains. I will return to Kotido and begin life here in August, a new season and a new piece of the puzzle. Until then, I'll wait for the Author of the Universe to direct my steps. I'm learning He is pretty good at doing that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Preparation Time

Well, here I am again. Way behind on posting another blog, updating whatever readers out there on the happenings in Karamoja.

This past month seems that it has flown by. Shoot, this past year seems it has flown by. I once was told, or maybe I read it somewhere... that when you're 10, your life travels at 10 miles per hour... but when you're 20 it seems to double, until life passes you by and you just can't keep up. 23 miles isn't too fast, but sometimes I feel like the cruise control is set and I can't brake when I want to.

This past month has been a whirlwind. The Williams family packed up the house and traveled down south as they wait for the adoptions to finalize and then head back to America. Camille, my hutmate ventured down with them and boards a plane tomorrow to her next adventure. I moved out of the village, away from the snakes and the quiet and into the noisy city of Kotido. My cat and monkey both had to be put down, which was not my most exciting moment here. And now I'm hanging out in Kotido, planning logistics for when I go home for a "furlough" and working on the budget and next steps for when I return in August.

My apologies for being silent my friends! Life has just been a lot of day in and day out preparation work. Florence has been doing great, she is getting ready to deliver her seventh child any day now, and my prayer is that I will be able to be in the village when she does. She is still leading the Moses Project women in bible study and being a faithful steward with the hearts the Lord has entrusted her with. All of our babies in the Moses Project seem to be continuing in great health! We are preparing to graduate three of our one-year-old's, and I am working on a plan to make sure they will have enough milk and porridge for while I am away in America. So slowly by slowly, as they say here, things are coming together!

Please be in prayer for my team during this time. Transition is not fun generally and each of us are facing new obstacles (and with it, new blessings of course) that we did not expect.

Pray for Kenneth and Kristi that their adoptions can be finalized and completed so they can leave the country quickly and safely before Kristi can't travel due to her pregnancy.

Pray for Camille as she reintegrates back into America and seeks what adventure the Lord has next for her!

Pray for Andrew and Kerri, as we continue in the work the Lord has us doing here in Karamoja. Pray for strength, JOY, and perseverance as we all adjust to these new changes.

Pray for the Spencers (Jeremy and Katie) as they prepare to move to Karamoja in October and join our team, along with my new roommate Eileen.

And finally, please be praying for me as I get ready to return home. I am trying to split my time up and down the west coast - making sure I get to visit everyone and say hello (and goodbye) once again. I will be in the US May 28-August 26! In addition to seeing everyone, I will need to raise $2,000 for start up funds as I return to Uganda... I know, you're probably wondering what start up funds does she need when she's already been there so many times? Well, I will no longer be living with a family and will have to get my own house supplies, along with coming back in under an organization (rather than independently like I have been) brings added expenses as well. No doubt in my mind that the Good Lord will provide, but please join me in prayer!

I wish I could update you on more happenings, but hopefully I can in person over a wonderful cup of coffee with you! See you soon my friends!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Armed with promises

"He will cover you with his feathers. 
He will shelter you with His wings.
His faithful promises are your armor 
and protection" 
Psalm 91:4 

I've read Psalm 91 over and over again since the event of the other night, thanks to a beautiful sister who encouraged me with it. 

I would say I have a healthy fear of snakes. Growing up in Oregon if you hear a rattle you either grab a rock or run fast and far in the other direction. I don't like them, but I've never been paralyzed in fear by them. But the other night, when a puff adder struck at me, well, I would rank that top of the most terrifying things I have ever experienced. 

I've been thinking about that night a lot. Thinking about how gracious My King is, how I got to experience up front and close His goodness and mercy. There is no reason I should not have been bit initially. And certainly no reason why that snake missed when it struck... no reason at all. 

None, except for Jesus. 

I get it, it would be easy to explain it away. To reason it with luck or the perfect circumstances...but I keep coming back to His word of truth:

"His faithful promises are your armor and protection." 

Most nights I go to the backside of our property and sit behind one of our buildings. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I just sit and think, but I always stare off at the horizon. 

Yesterday I did that very thing. Stared off at this mountain range, prayed to my Father and read Psalm 91. 

These mountains are the Nangeye Mountains. A promise from The Lord. Nearly two years ago The Lord introduced me to an unreached people group on these mountains. I didn't know a single person, didn't know anything about them, just was told over and over how they haven't heard the gospel. It broke my heart, so I just took that brokenness to The Lord and began to pray He would one day take me there. 

Most the time I love my life here. I love going into the village and sitting in Florence's home going through the scriptures. Or sitting with the women under the mango tree and helping them shell g-nuts. I love the beauty I see everyday, even in the midst of a wilderness. I love my team, being able to daily witness the hands and feet of Jesus. No doubt I was made for this life, for this season. 

And then there are sometimes I get weary and rather fed up. I want to pack my bags and move back to the land of comfort and hot showers without worms in the water and put things like ice cubes in a cup of coffee, just because I can. Sometimes it isn't even that I am weary or tired, but more so that I have just lost the vision and the hope that The Lord once gave me. My passion seems to have dulled occassionaly along with my prayers becoming fewer for the Nangeyen people. My heart would begin to turn inward again and focus on my flesh. But everytime I get to that place The Lord graciously redirects me, and reminds me the things He's already spoken. 

He always seems to find a way to release new information at just the right time... like how I've been pronouncing the name wrong for the last two years for example. Or how the Nangeye people are losing their native tongue and a good majority probably speak Ngakarimajong. Perhaps why He's been urging me and my team to focus back on language learning while we serve the Jie Karimajong. He shows me how every season has a purpose and is preparing me for that one day when His promise will become a reality. 

I know that "His faithful promises are your armor and protection." 

That snake reminded me to stay on track. To focus and be faithful where He has me, and it undoubtedly reminded me that My soverign King is the one who gives life and takes it away. 

"If you make The Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, " I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation." 
Psalm 91:9-16

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fire Relief Distribution

When I went to visit Losilang with Florence, I sat and visited with some of the mothers. One was the sister to a brand new mom, the day the fire came she was giving birth in the health center. She came back to her village only to find that her house had been burned to the ground and she had no place to lay her newborn. 

Another lady, before I was leaving, came up to me and began to lay out her arms, ensuring I saw all the children before me; saying, "I don't know if these ones will be able to live, all our food has burned." 

Another mom, she stood in the ash where her house used to lay, listing off everything they lost. 

These are just some of many stories of the fire victims. 

But I am so overjoyed, as is my team, by YOUR generous donations! It had not even been a week that we put the request out to all of you, and the flood of donations poured in. We received more support than we could have imagined, and it is all thanks to you! 

Our deepest gratitude for helping us help our neighbors! Here are some pictures from the distribution! 

Thank you so much, my friends. 

What an awesome God we serve. :) Many blessings to you all!