Tuesday, August 22, 2017

He Walks with Me

I'm so thankful for the many promises I find in God's Word; promises that sustain and give needed encouragement on the hard days of life.

Over the years, Psalm 37 has been a favorite of
mine. It's packed full of so many verses that bring such encouragement to my heart. Psalm 37:23-24 are particularly ones in which I find so much comfort:

"The steps of a good man are ordered by 
the LORD, 
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly 
cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand."

I love the promise that God upholds me. To be honest, sometimes it feels as though I'm "utterly cast down", and yet I take comfort knowing that even when I do fall, Jesus will pick me up; He'll raise me up again. It might feel as though I'm utterly cast down, but in Jesus there is always hope. I can rest knowing He will be faithful to uphold me.

This verse reminds me of a day back when I was in Africa. It was a beautiful day, and Danyal and I went to visit one of the families in the village. We made the climb up the steep hillside to the house, and the view from up top was spectacular. It was such a beautiful day in the country I love, and I remember being very blessed by our visit.

One of the things I love about the Ugandans is how giving and hospitable they are. Even if they might not have much to give, even if they have already worked a long and tiring day, they are so happy and ready to receive their guests with a smile. Danyal and I sat and talked with Naturinda, and his wife soon came and served us a hearty meal. We visited for some time, and then Naturinda took us on a little walk to see where his family gets their water. It was near to their house, and again, I loved being in the beauty of God's creation.

Since Naturinda and his wife had to go work at their store that evening, they walked with Danyal and me back down the hill.

As I started down the hill, I began to comment about how someone could easily slip, when I started to slip myself! Naturinda quickly grabbed my arm and steadied me, and then he continued to hold onto my arm as we walked down the hill. He let go at one point, but as soon as we reached where he knew I would again lose my footing, he grabbed my arm and held onto me.

On that beautiful day in Uganda, I was reminded of Psalm 37:24:

"Though he fall, he shall not be utterly 
cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand."

The promise in that verse suddenly had new meaning to me. I thought about how just as Naturinda held onto my arm to help me down the hill, so too my Heavenly Father holds onto me and helps me through the difficult places in life. Naturinda had been down that hill many times before, and thus he knew the places that would cause me difficulty. He was there beside me to help me over those rough places. I couldn't help but think about how my Heavenly Father goes before me, and how He too has already walked the path ahead of me. He knows the difficult places of life, the places in which I'm prone to struggle, and He is holding onto me all along the way, helping me over the bumpy spots. When I stumble, He is always there to lift me up again, and through every season of life He will remain faithful to uphold me.

I'm so thankful for this truth. Lately, I have felt weary and "burnt out". I know God is working on me through this time, but it's been rather hard. I've had a lot of days of discouragement and feeling down, but I'm thankful for the Lord's faithfulness, even on the hard days. Even on the days I feel down, I can take heart because of God's promises. Though I might feel cast down, my God promises to uphold me. He won't ever fail. I take comfort knowing that God's Word is filled with promises to the weary, the broken, and the weak. Times like these are when I learn to lean upon God's grace and strength, and feeling the sorrow of life makes my heart look toward heaven and eternity. There might be days when the weight of life knocks me down, but my Heavenly Father will raise me up again. He will walk down the hill with me, and He can use this time to draw me closer to Himself.

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you.
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
~Isaiah 41:10 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Song

The Lord has been teaching me that He is my song. This may sound simple, but it has been so good for me to learn.

I loved being in Uganda; it was so good waking up each day to do what I was so passionate about and loved so much. Even as I was in Uganda, I was well aware of the struggle it would be to come home. Don't get me wrong, a part of me was happy and thankful to be going home, but the other part of me was deeply saddened. I'm thankful though, even for that sadness, because it's a testimony of all that God allowed me to be a part of for those three months.

 I remember being so blessed during Bible study one day, as Danyal shared about how even a bird in a cage still sings. I remember wanting the Lord to give me a song to sing as I went home. I wanted a joy in my heart and a song that would carry me and sustain me as I went back to the states.

These are words I wrote one day while still in Uganda, as I was reflecting on my time there:
"Lord, thank You for Your goodness. Thank You for how You display Your greatness in my life. Thank You for these months in Uganda. Though my heart is sad and breaks at the thought of leaving in a couple of weeks, I thank You for the time I have had here. I thank You that You've done what I thought was impossible by bringing me here, thank You for giving me so many babies - a goat included. :) Thank You that although You sometimes must take away, You give so much. So many undeserved blessings You have given me, Jesus. While my heart is sad at the thought of leaving, help me to not focus on what is being taken, but on what You've given. Help me not to question Your plan in not allowing me to stay here, but to rejoice in Your goodness in bringing me here at all. Oh Lord, truly You are good. You are my reason to sing. Please be my song, even as I return home. And in the meantime, please help me to rejoice in the day You have made and not worry about tomorrow. This, right here and right now, this moment is a gift You have given me. May I rejoice and be glad in it."

After months of being back, I realize that Jesus answered my prayer. He has indeed become my song. I'm so thankful that the entirety of my life belongs to Jesus, thus I can sing and rejoice every day, no matter where I am or what I'm doing. He is my song; He is my constant. My location and job may change, but He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." In the midst of the changes and the uncertainty of life, I find so much comfort and peace in that truth. There is so much comfort in knowing that, even when it feels as though I'm in a cage, not necessarily where I want to be, I can still sing with joy deep in my heart.

The truth of matter is that even though being in Africa brought a deep fulfillment to my heart, Jesus is still the only One who can truly fulfill and satisfy. Though I felt as though I found a place where my heart rejoices and sings, I can't let my heart forget that my reason to sing has always been Jesus. If I let myself mistakenly think that being in Uganda is what fulfills and brings purpose to my life, I will end up disappointed, because only Jesus can fulfill and bring purpose to my days. It is true that I love being there and I am thankful for the fulfillment and purpose I had there, but I must remember that it all comes back to Jesus.

Lately, I've been feeling tired and I guess you could say "burnt out", but I take comfort in knowing that Jesus is my song, even in the dry seasons of life. He is my song even on the days when I have to deliberately choose joy because it does not come easily.

One of my favorite worship songs right now is one that Kutless sings, "King of My Heart". I love these lyrics:

"Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh He is my song

Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh He is my song"

Jesus is the fountain I can drink from, the One who can satisfy, refresh, and renew me when I so desperately need it. I think sometimes He takes me through things so that I can once again be reminded of His character. He might take me through days of frustration when joy seems hard, but always He is faithful. As I remember the Lord's great faithfulness to me, I am once again reminded of my many reasons to rejoice. He is my song and my reason to sing. 

"The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation."
~Psalm 118:14

Thursday, July 27, 2017

God Sees and Cares

Psalm 33 has always been one of my favorites; it's one of my "go to" Psalms. As I read it yesterday, a couple of verses seemed to jump out at me. I've read them many times before, but suddenly they ministered to me in a sweet way. I love how that happens! Truly God's Word is alive, and through it He is so faithful to speak to His children.

"The LORD looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works."
~Psalm 33:13-15

I love the truth in these verses. I'm thankful for the fact that even though the Lord is in heaven, even though He is God Most High, still He chooses to look upon humanity. Though He is in heaven, He chooses to be intimately involved with mankind, which is the whole reason He came to this earth to die upon the cross. I'm very thankful for that sacrifice He made. He chose to give up His life so that He could be a part of mine. Truly I could never thank Him enough.

It brings me much comfort to remember that my God has His eye upon me. He fashioned my heart and He holds my heart, my days, in His hand. I'm thankful to be able to worship the God who made the heavens and earth, and I'm thankful to know that my life matters to Him. He cares about His people so much more than we could ever begin to comprehend.

The Lord's eyes are upon me, and I want my eyes to be upon Him. I was actually reminded of this just this morning as I read 2 Chronicles 20.
I like what was said in verse 12:
"O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

I love that. King Jehoshaphat said they didn't know what to do, BUT their eyes were on God. It's so easy for me to get caught up with so many anxieties and in my own thoughts. It is when I fix my eyes upon Jesus that hope and peace come.

How thankful I am for the peace that comes when I choose to fix my eyes upon Jesus; when I choose to fix my eyes upon the One who has His eyes upon me!

“The God who created, names and numbers the stars in the heavens also numbers the hairs of my head. He pays attention to very big things and to very small ones. What matters to me matters to Him, and that changes my life.”
~Elisabeth Elliot

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Choosing Jesus over Fear

I don't know about you, but I'm very thankful for all the times in Scripture that God tells His people not to fear.

Fear has been something that I wrestle against, and though I've had many fears over the years, God has always proven Himself so faithful and so much stronger than any fear. I just have to choose to trust Him instead of allowing my fears to control me.

Just yesterday morning, I awoke around 3AM from a horrible nightmare. It was one of the worst dreams I've had. It seemed so vivid and real, which made it that much scarier.

The truth is, it was only a dream that had so disturbed my peace - it wasn't even real. But I guess that's true of most fears, isn't it? So often the fear seems so real and so intense, and yet it's not even real; it's only in my head.
After that dream, I went back to these verses which spoke truth and comfort to me:

"The LORD is my light and my
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against
My heart shall not fear;
Though way may rise against me,
In this I will be confident."
~Psalm 27:1-3

Most of you might know that I used to be terrified of flying. I am very thankful for the fact that I can say "used to be". I am so thankful that I have found freedom from that fear. I remember having to fly to and from California for my doctor's appointments, and I was literally sick because of my fear. I remember telling my mom I couldn't do it; I remember feeling so trapped and paralyzed by fear. It was only a two hour plane ride and I had my mom by my side, but still the fear gripped me. If you had told me then that only a few short years later I would be flying to Uganda by myself, I probably would have cried at the thought! I'm so thankful though for how faithful my God is, and how He loves me too much to leave me in my fear. His perfect love casts out my fear.

God saw me through all those plane rides to California when I literally thought I wouldn't make it. He gave me the strength and grace to get on the plane each time. I knew that I needed to go to those appointments, and the end result would be worth it. He used all those trips to prepare me to fly to Uganda, and He allowed me to fly to Uganda twice with a group of amazing people before He called me to fly there alone. I love how God prepares His people for the work which He has for them!

Even so, the night before I left to fly to Uganda alone, I felt so fearful and cried as I was so nervous about making the trip by myself.  Nevertheless, God once again proved His faithfulness to me. God met me every step of the way, and He filled my heart with His peace which passes understanding. He gave me the strength to do that which I didn't think I could, and I'm so thankful. If I had allowed my fear to stop me from going to Uganda, I would have missed so, so much. Following Jesus is always worth facing any fear.

There's so much in life that can cause fear, but when I set my eyes on Jesus, I once again see that He is still on the throne, He is in control, and He won't ever let me go. I can find victory over the fears that seek to bind me, because His grace is sufficient and His love is stronger than any fear I face.

I'm thankful that I too can say what David said:

"The LORD is my light and my
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?"
~Psalm 27:1

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rooted in His Word

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life as dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." ~Acts 20:24

Over the years, this has been one of my favorite Bible verses. It's one that I often go back to, one that I can read again and again, and still find much encouragement.
Right now, at this particular season in my life, I find the most encouragement in the first part of the verse, where Paul declares, "But none of these things move me."
If you look at the context in which he spoke these words, you will see that he had already faced many trials and persecutions, and he knew that the future held more trouble. We're talking intense trials, and yet still somehow he declared, "But none of these things move me." This amazes and humbles me, it encourages and convicts me. I look at my own life and see how easily I am moved. How easily I let little things disrupt my peace, how quickly I am moved when faced with a challenge or struggle.

Being in Uganda has been such an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful to be here. Words can't express my gratitude and praise to God for making the impossible possible for me. I'm so thankful for that, though it has not been without some challenges.

Cultures vary, and thus what is culturally acceptable to say varies from culture to culture. I knew this beforehand, but it still has been something which I have been learning more so as I'm here. Let me just say that it is completely different living here for three months versus coming for less than three weeks. You begin to see and learn things that you simply can't know in a short amount of time. I'm going to be very honest right now and say that some of the things that are deemed culturally acceptable to say I have found to be hurtful. This has been a real struggle for me, but God is using that struggle to teach and refine me. I had read this quote on a day that was especially hard for me:

"At home you can never know what it is to be alone – absolutely alone, amidst thousands, as you can in a Chinese city, without one friend, one companion, everyone looking on you with curiosity, with contempt, with suspicion or with dislike. Thus to learn what it is to be despised and rejected of men – of those you wish to benefit, your motives not understood . . . and then to have the love of Jesus applied to your heart by the Holy Spirit . . . this is worth coming for." ~Hudson Taylor 

God's timing is perfect, because on that specific day I found so much encouragement and comfort in those words. It was as if God spoke that directly to my heart.
I found those words to be so very true! Maybe I have not experienced all of what Hudson Taylor said, since I have been blessed with such sweet friendship with fellow missionaries (Thank You, Lord!), but I have really found the rest of those words to be so true. Even the ones you come to serve will sometimes hurt you, and sometimes wound you with words, but Jesus is so gracious to give us His love for them. He doesn't just ask us to love others, He gives us that love. It is worth coming for indeed.

This brings me back to my verse, Acts 20:24. I realize how Paul wasn't moved by the trials and tribulations he faced (which mine are nothing in comparison), and I must confess that I have allowed myself to be moved by the words of others. I have let the words of others have far too much power in my life, I have let them move me when instead I should be standing firm on the rock of God's Word. This makes me think of Psalm 1:1-3:

"Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,

Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper." 

Oh, how I love God's Word and how He so faithfully speaks to me through it. I realize that it should be His Word, and His Word alone, that moves me, that breaks me, that changes me, not the words of others. I want to be so firmly planted and rooted in His Word that the words of others would have no dominion over me, that I wouldn't be moved by them. Instead, I want to be moved and blessed by the words of my Savior. When I go to His Word, I'm reminded of how great His love for me really is, how He is with me, how He strengthens me, how He is enough, how I'm fearfully and wonderfully made, and that's all that really matters. I want God's Word to be what defines me, not man's.

Paul was not moved by the trials of life, but instead, he counted his life as nothing that he might finish his race with joy. That's how I want to live, not counting my life as dear to myself, but daily giving it in surrender to the Lord's plan and purpose. By God's grace I want to run this race well, and I want to testify to that amazing grace.

What a good God I serve! I'm so thankful for His faithfulness to work in my life, I'm very thankful for the ministry He has called me to here in Uganda, and for all He is teaching me through it. God is faithful!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Life Lessons in Uganda

Sometimes, it doesn't make sense what God is doing. There is so much that happens in this life which we just simply cannot understand in our flesh. God's ways are past our understanding. While that can be hard and cause us to question at times, I'm thankful to serve a God who is so much bigger than anything I can comprehend.

As most of you know, a week before I left for Uganda, I lost my beloved dog, Gidget. It seemed like such bad timing (though really, there never would be a good time for such a thing), and I really lacked motivation to prepare for my trip. It even caused me to not want to leave home, as I struggled more with leaving my loved ones, thinking more about the "what ifs".

I realize it was God's grace that allowed me to be there for Gidget at the end, and that it was also His grace which allowed me to leave soon after, because it was really a good thing for me to go at such a time. Everything at home seemed to remind me of her, and it was really the best thing for me to leave the surroundings that constantly reminded me so much of her.

Don't get me wrong, I still miss Gidget so much, I still think of her often, and I still cry. I still feel the pain of losing her; my heart does still grieve. But at the same time, I have a deep joy in my heart as I serve the Lord here in Uganda. I have a joy that comes from doing what I feel as though I was created to do, serving and loving His children. I can't really even describe it, but being here has brought such a deep sense of fulfillment, it feels so right, and like I said, it feels as though I'm doing exactly what I was made to do. I'm so grateful for that!

Since my arrival, there have been many deaths here. I wondered if this was normal, and Danyal said that it's not. I've gone to just two of the burials. The most recent one I went to was for a woman just a little younger than me, who was murdered. The whole thing is so horrible. I stood close to the front (honestly it seemed too close) at the burial, and someone told me that the man in front of me was the father of the girl. It was heartbreaking to see him weep as his daughter's casket was lowered into the ground. I cannot even imagine the pain he must have felt, the pain he must still be feeling. I cried, though I didn't even know her myself, but I cried for the loss of the family, and was thinking of my own recent loss and how painful it all is.

I think of Romans 12:15 which says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." We are called to have compassion and empathize with others, and I've realized that the pain we go through ourselves helps us to do that. I know that it may sound silly, and maybe even bad, to compare losing a dog to losing a daughter, and so know that I'm not doing that. I'm simply saying that I felt the deep pain of loss in having Gidget pass away. She was my baby for 13 years and it hurt so much to have her leave me. So, I feel as though I now better understand the pain of losing a loved one, and the deep sorrow that fills the heart.

Maybe that's part of the reason God took Gidget from me when He did, because He knew that coming to Uganda would mean encountering those going through sorrow and the grief of losing someone. He knew that me going through it myself would give me a compassion and an empathy for these people that I don't think I'd have otherwise; a heart that weeps with those who weeps.

I'm not saying I'm glad that God took Gidget when He did, because I still hurt, and I'm still sad. I'm simply saying that I feel as though I might have caught a glimpse of the reason for the timing of it all. I'm thankful for that.

I'm thankful most of all to know that Jesus has conquered death, I'm thankful that my Savior lives, and because He lives, I will live also. I'm thankful that He is the resurrection and the life. I'm thankful that although there may be tears and sorrow now, one day He will wipe away every tear, and everlasting joy will fill the hearts of His children. I'm thankful for the hope of heaven; it's hope that no sorrow can diminish.

Soon we will be celebrating Easter. I feel as though this year's celebration will be extra special for me, as I have a renewed thankfulness for the meaning of it. I'm so thankful that my Savior defeated death, and that death is not the end. I'm thankful that He is the resurrection and the life, and even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He walks with me all the way. ❤️

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live."
~John 11:25

He will swallow up death forever
And the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.
~Isaiah 25:8

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
~John 16:22

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves our comforted by God.
~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Uganda 2016 Update

It's hard to believe that I have already been home from Africa for over a month! I have been wanting to write about the trip for awhile now, but each time I think about doing so, I feel as though I don’t even know how to adequately express all that God allowed us to be a part of there. I know that I still can’t put it all into words, but I would like to share a little bit.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who prayed for us. We could not have been there without the prayer and support from those back at home. Prayer is so vital to any mission trip, and as those of us on the team had a great need to be in continual prayer, we also greatly needed the prayers of others. Thank you for being a part of our trip through your prayers. It means so much to me! 

Our trip began on April 25th. We flew from Portland to Seattle, and from Seattle we flew to Dubai, where we spent the night before flying onto Entebbe. We had so, so much luggage that we took…not only did we have our personal things, but we had things for the missionaries there in Uganda, medical supplies, and suitcases full of glasses for our vision clinics. Because of this, checking in at Portland took a good amount of time, and I was thankful when we were finally past that and on our way. In Seattle we had a bit of a scare, as a worker for Emirates got out a scale and began weighing each individual’s carry on suitcase. Never before has this happened, and so most packed the carry on as heavy as they could get it. We soon found out that Emirates really is strict about the weight restriction.

Thankfully, for those who did have carry on suitcases that were too heavy, Emirates checked them for no additional charge. I had tried my best to get my carry on close to the weight limit, and almost all of the things it contained were medication. I didn’t want to check the medication in case the luggage got lost, and Pastor Kevin explained this to the lady who worked for the airline. Thankfully, she let me by even though it was a little over the limit.

The flight to Dubai went so much better than I had anticipated! I was actually really nervous about that flight for some reason, mainly because I had never been on an airplane for that long of duration. I mean, two hours had seemed like an eternity to me when my mom and I would make our trips to Oakland, and so I was a little nervous about fourteen or so hours! I remember as we were getting on the plane to Dubai, literally walking on, I said to Deanna, who was ahead of me, “I hope we make it”. She just looked at me with this sort of nervous look and said “What do you mean?” Deanna also has a fear of flying, and so perhaps my sharing that thought and my fear with her was not exactly the wisest choice!

A lot of people were jealous of me when I said we were flying through Dubai, and it was neat to see a different airport and go to another country that I had never been to, but, since we were just passing through, we really didn’t see much of Dubai at all. The airport was nice though, and it was interesting to get even just a small glimpse of the culture there.

I woke up at the hotel really early the next morning. I think it was three or four something. My friend, Joey, and I had coffee and got ready for the day before we headed downstairs to meet the rest of the team for breakfast. It was exciting to think about the fact that that very afternoon we would be arriving in Uganda! Last year, when the Lord first made it possible for me to go, I remember waking up each day with such a feeling of thankfulness simply to be there. I had waited for what seemed like a very long time (in reality only two years) to go on another mission trip, and I didn't expect to be able to go to Uganda! Because of my treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, I didn't really picture myself being able to go there, and so it seemed almost unreal to wake up each day in Uganda! I was on my way back to that very place, to the place where I didn't think I would be able to go, and now I was going for the second time. God is good!

Because this trip was a medical mission, it was very different than the previous year. Instead of going straight to Ishunga, where Bill and Danyal (missionaries from our home church) live, and spending all our time there, we spent the first part of our trip in different cities. I will be very honest with you; I was disappointed that we weren’t going to be spending the whole trip in Ishunga, though of course I knew this long before we even left. I am thankful, however, to have been able to see different parts of Uganda, as well as for having the opportunity to also partner with others in ministry there. 

On the trip, I soon learned that I needed to continually lay my expectations down at the feet of Jesus, surrendering them to Him. On my very first mission trip to Germany, I remember being told to go with no expectations. I never really had a problem with this, as I knew each trip would be different, but, for some reason, this year I really did struggle with this. I think it’s because I so loved my first trip to Uganda, and, like I said, I awoke each day with such a thankfulness simply to be there, that I expected the same feelings and emotions to fill me again. I struggled with this, and even felt guilty for not feeling those same emotions as on the first trip, though I really was so thankful to be there again. A song by Kari Jobe, “You Are Good”, greatly ministered to me so many times during the trip. I love the lyrics..."Every day, I’ll awaken my praise, and pour out a song from my heart. You are good. You are good. You are good, and Your mercy is forever…” Even though, as I said, I struggled with not feeling the same emotions, I did feel so thankful for God calling me back there. 

As I mentioned before, this was a medical/vision mission trip, and I helped with the vision clinics. There were four of us who did the clinics, Bryan, Karla, Brandon, and me. This was the first time for all of us doing vision clinics like this, and I really had no idea what to expect. I’m very thankful for Global Eyeglass Ministry, and for all the training we received before we left. I still wondered how it was actually all going to work out once we were there! I’m so thankful that God went before us, and for Him allowing us to be a part of those clinics.

We saw so many people come to the clinics. It was amazing to me how many people would sit and wait, and how patiently they waited! Even if it was all day, the Ugandans did not seem bothered by having to wait their turn. To me, this was huge, as I’m used to working in a fast paced environment where nobody wants to wait! 

We did our best to stick with our numbering system so that it remained fair and that those who came first would be seen first, but it did get a little difficult at times. People would come with a really good reason as to why they should be bumped to the front of the line. Sometimes it was because they traveled from far away and really needed help, or sometimes it was due to their medical condition/age or because a doctor referred them to us. It could become overwhelming at times, and it was hard to know what to do sometimes, especially when so many people were waiting ever so patiently. It was hard not being able to see everyone who came. I remember thinking about Jesus and how the multitudes would come to Him. I wondered if Jesus was ever overwhelmed by the amount of people and their needs. Of course, He is God, so on first thought I would think no, He would not feel overwhelmed, but, as I think about it more, I know that though He was God, He also became man, and He experienced our weaknesses and limitations to a certain extent. One thing I do know is that Jesus had compassion on those who came to Him. He loved each one, and I really hope that that same love and compassion was felt there in Uganda. It is such a privilege to have been able to go and be a part of the vision clinics, and I am so thankful that, by God’s grace, He allows us to be His hands and His feet.

In the vision clinic, we tested the distance vision of the patients at the eye charts. If they saw any less than 20/30, we would send them onto the autorefractor, which is where their eyes were measured to see what prescription of glasses they needed, and hopefully, we had the right one. After testing at the eye charts, and before sending them onto the autorefractor if needed, we would test to see if they also needed reading glasses. For the most part, I helped at the eye charts and at the table where we tested for reading glasses.  I had said before the trip that I didn’t really feel comfortable doing the autorefractor, and so would prefer not to if possible. On our second to last outreach, however, I needed to help at the table with the autorefractor. I found that I actually really enjoyed it! After matching the patient with a pair of glasses, we would then test them at the eye chart again to make sure there was improvement. It was really neat to see how much of an improvement the glasses did make! I found that I actually did like to work back by the autorefractor, and so the next day my team made sure that I got to work back there again.

I really enjoyed getting to know our interpreters and building a relationship with them. We depended upon them so much! This year, I tried more than last year to speak a little bit of the language, and I had so much fun doing so! I loved greeting the Ugandans and seeing them smile and, yes, laugh at my attempt to speak the language. My go to word was “agandi”, since that was a simple greeting I could use at anytime of the day. I remember hearing one of the people in the crowd saying, “She only knows agandi”. Instead of being offended by this, I found it humorous. They really did appreciate me trying, and I enjoyed it too.

One conversation that I will always remember is a conversation I had early in the morning while it was still dark. I was sitting outside at the hotel where we were staying, having some quiet time. One of the men who worked at the hotel came up and started talking to me.  I told him about why I was there, and I will never forget his words to me. He said, “Thank you for loving us”. This touched me so deeply. I struggled with feeling inadequate, even though I worked at the vision clinic; I still struggled with feeling as though I wasn’t really doing anything of importance. I know that this was self focused, and that those thoughts were not from the Lord, but still it was a struggle for me at times. The words that Chris spoke to me ministered to my heart so sweetly. I felt as though God had sent Chris to speak those words to me, because I needed to be reminded of why I was there. Even though I was telling Chris why I was there, Chris was really the one who reminded me of why I was there…to show Christ’s love. It was easy to get consumed in what I was or wasn’t doing, but really what mattered was loving the people as Jesus loves us. It didn’t matter so much as to what I was doing or how I was serving, but what mattered was showing the love of Jesus. God knew that I needed that reminder.

Last year, I met a little girl named Halima who quickly stole my heart. I spent quite a bit of time with her on that first trip, and am so thankful that I was able to see her again this time! She is so sweet, and she says the funniest things. Her smile lights up the room! I’m very thankful that I was able to spend some time with her. Here is a picture of Halima and me:

When I look at this picture, my heart is filled with thankfulness, and I remember a couple of my favorite Bible verses.

“Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
~Psalm 37:3-4

 For two years I struggled with being home and not being able to go on a mission trip. I struggled with waiting for the Lord to fulfill the desires in my heart. I struggled with waiting on His timing, and wondered when and if He would allow me to return to the “mission field". I’m so very thankful for the Lord’s perfect timing. I now see how He was indeed working, even in my waiting. He was preparing me to go to Uganda, making it possible for me to be able to go. I felt as though the study for my new medication was keeping me from the mission field, but in reality God was actually preparing me to go, because with the new medication I have been so much healthier than ever before. I honestly don’t know if going to Africa would have been an option for me without it. God is so good! I’m thankful that He is so faithful to do what He knows to be best, even when we don’t understand.

I am so thankful and blessed that I got to be a part of this trip. I’m so thankful for all my team. We blended really well together, and it was a blessing being able to serve alongside one another. I’m thankful for the prayers and encouragement of my team in the rough moments, and how God’s love was displayed through them. I’m thankful for the good moments, the laughter and conversation we all shared. There was one night when a few of us girls were up really late, and we were laughing so, so hard. There is something about being overly tired that makes everything seem a thousand times funnier, but those are memories for which I am very thankful. One night, my roommate, Nancy, was helping me put a band aid on a cut, and she said something like, “You do realize we have only been here one day and already we are both falling apart".  It cracked me up. She would say the funniest things and it was such a joy to be there with her. 

It was hard coming home, and I guess I was prepared for that, but then again I wasn’t. 
During one of our outreaches in Ishunga, I remember shedding tears as I felt overwhelmed by the needs of the people, and I wondered how I could possibly go back to work after being there. How could I return to “normal” life after being a part of the clinics? How could I leave? There was so much need there, but I’m learning that there is so much need here. Too often I though think I’m just blind to it, to the need right in front of me. There in Uganda, the need was pretty obvious, but I think here in the states people do a pretty good job of covering up the need, of hiding their brokenness. Some may look like they have it all together and that nothing is wrong, but the brokenness might be shown in how they rudely respond to me at the checkout, or how they still complain when I do my best to make them happy. These are things I deal with at work, and honestly, sometimes I have a really hard time loving others and wanting to serve them. It’s hard for me to love the woman who is so demanding, or to want to serve the man who speaks to me rudely. And yet, I’m called to love. I’m called to serve. I’m called to love and serve wherever Jesus places me, right here, right now. Even though the need might have been more obvious there in Uganda, the need is just as real here. I want to have a heart that loves, a heart that reaches out to the needy. Chris thanked me for loving them, and how his words touched my heart! I want that love to be seen here in America just as much as in Uganda. I’m also very aware that God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need me to serve. He lets me do it. Even though I had to leave Uganda and the great work that was happening there, God hasn’t left. He’s still there, and that’s all that matters. He loves the people more than I do, and His hands and His feet are more than able to serve in the places where I cannot. He is always faithful to care for His people. 

I recently finished reading in Colossians, and one of the very last verses in that book really stood out to me:

“And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’” ~Colossians 4:17

I want to fulfill the ministry the Lord has given me right here. Maybe sometimes the ministry isn’t the one I wouldn’t have chosen, but it’s the one He has given, and I want to fulfill it with a joyful heart.

Thank you again so much for your prayers and support. I’m so very thankful to have been able to go back to Uganda. I’m thankful for all that the Lord did there, and for all I know that He is continuing to do. I’m thankful that God lets us be a part of His work. What a wonderful God we serve!