Friday, January 23, 2015

FAITHFULNESS FRIDAY: Kayla Cash shares about the Lord's faithfulness

From blog post written by Uganda Team Member Kayla Cash. Original post can be found here

Without you, we are nothing!

Tonight I felt the Lord press upon my heart to write out what He revealed to me today. I searched blog-spot to create a blog to write out what He's spoken to me about. Come to find out, I already had one that I had forgotten about and wow is all I can say in words. I reread what I had written a year ago. The Lord leaves me speechless all the time but this time I'm amazed at all that He's done. A year ago I was on a journey to fulfilling a dream that has been birthed in my heart for a while now. Now a year later in 2015 I can sit here and praise the Lord for keeping his promise. He's always faithful.

He's always faithful.
With that being said,I want to share a glimpse of His goodness with you friends.

This morning, I had the honor of speaking to my church about my trip to Africa. I was reminded of where I was this time last week.
A week ago today I was sitting in a church in the village surrendered by red dirt roads, children everywhere, and people filled with the unspeakable joy that the bible talks about. No one had phones out, nobody cared what time it was, nobody cared that it was hot, nobody cared that the words weren't sang right, and nobody cared that the electricity went out during it all. They never skipped a beat. They continued to praise God through it all. The continued to shout and dance and sing at the top of their lungs to their King that loves them. Their love for the Lord was inspiring. It was humbling to see people who have nothing, give everything of themselves in worship. They showed me what true worship is like. They taught me that the presence of God can manifest anywhere no matter what the circumstances are.

Today, I'm sitting in an American church. I was so excited to share what the Lord had done during my time in Africa. To be honest, my experience in the African church serivce wasn't even on my mind. I didn't plan on talking about nor even thinking about it. It didn't seem that important to me at the time.
BUT GOD, had other plans. I had a video to show all the pictures that I had taken on the trip so that people could see and experience the joy that I did. However, our media wasn't working at all. We waited and waited but still no connection. I had to get up and talk about my trip without relying on the video to cover up most of what I said. I was nervous, then Jesus recalled the memory of being in church a week ago. He reminded me that they didn't have media and they still gave God all the glory!
That's not even the best part. The best part was the fact that we didn't have a worship leader this morning. We worshiped to music off a video. The volume wasn't loud at all and it was awkward at first. I thought to myself, dang, I wanted to really get into worship this morning after being away from my church for so long. I immediately got convicted. The Lord was like my people in Africa didn't need anything, why do you think you do? I began to break under the conviction of the spirit. Most people in the service probably think it was the enemy who tried to attack this morning, but I believe it was the Lord showing me another glimpse of his goodness. Showing me how great He truly is. Showing me that He is worthy of all praise, at all times. I haven't praised the way I did this morning before. I truly was humbled at his power and my heart broke for the American church.

Lord forgive us that we've made church all about us. Catering to our needs. When in reality all we need is our heart to be open and our voices to proclaim your goodness. We don't need media, we don't need music, we don't need a building. All these things are nice, but they don't determined whether we enter your throne room or not. All we need is YOU JESUS. Without you, we are nothing!

Friday, January 16, 2015

FAITHFULNESS FRIDAY: Mandy Waldrep shares her story of God's Faithfulness

For such a time as this ~

As I was approaching my birthday this past September and reflecting back on life this last year - Where I'd been, what I'd seen and experienced & how my life was different or changed ... My heart first went to Africa - the people, the landscape, the beauty amidst such heartbreak and ultimately the indescribable JOY... yet my worldly mind quickly went in the direction of all the things I had NOT done or accomplished or had yet to experience. The constant struggle of head vs heart for me is one where I ultimately cannot lean on my own understanding and must rely on the TRUTH that was promised to me from the cross.

With a heart yearning for more of the Africa "joy" and experiences I felt called towards, I prayed and sought out where and when my next opportunity would lie. Quietly at first, I felt the passion inside me grow as I explored a trip to Uganda with Visiting Orphans while wrestling with possibly returning to Kenya solo. I sought counsel from my sister Christina, one of my most trusted confidants, and then began opening up to others and asking for their prayers as I tried to discern the wisest course of action. I felt God closing the necessary doors to help me ultimately chose Uganda and I was genuinely overcome with a sense of Peace that it would all work out, and only He would make the path.

I applied for the VO mission trip three days after my 32nd birthday with an open heart and calm reassurance that God would make a way, and low and behold He did! Three weeks after that, my trip was FULLY funded with an overage of $1,000 that was able to purchase medical supplies, sponsor 50 pairs of shoes and other needs. I continued receiving items to donate and carry with me up until the last few hours before departing Atlanta, wherein due to baggage overage and poor airline experiences I missed my first flight to meet the team in D.C. and fly to Uganda. Once again, I was not in control and yet He made a way for me to continue on this journey. I was a day late in country, though I met four families en route to Ethiopia to bring home their adopted children and experienced ultimate faith in knowing God had me exactly where He wanted me to be.
Faith undoubtedly was the ONLY way that I made it on this trip to Uganda, at this time and with perfectly dynamic and impactful teammates.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5

Monday, January 12, 2015

MEN WHO GO MONDAY spotlight: Shan Edmonds

Shan Edmonds is currently a senior in high school and was adopted just before he aged out. His biological parents both passed away within years of each other of illness and Shan eventually went to an orphanage. He was adopted by the Edmonds family and now goes to serve the least of these in Fushun. Shan is an absolute gift on this trip and does whatever he can to build relationships with the kids and his teammates. He's walked in their shoes, he speaks their language, he gets it. Going back is just not a question for him. The past two years that he has signed up to go his mom has made pies to help pay his way and both trips his account is paid for long before we leave. Shan and his family are a sight to behold. We are blessed to have him on our team.

Submitted by team leader Lori McMurphy

To join the Fushun Team in 2015, go here to read about the trip and sign up!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why Go? Wednesday spotlight: a blog post from team leader Callie Giersberg

From blog by Callie Giersberg originally postedon Saturday, June 21, 2014

a different kind of Africa

Why am I here? What are you going to do with this? How will this look in 5 years? Am I doing this right? 

These are question that replay in my head during the day sometimes. I let them go around and around for a bit and then I realize that it's not from Jesus, it's the enemy-- trying to make the doubts of my mind come out. So I stop them. I stop them. I take a deep breath of the dusty- firewood burning Uganda air, I look around at the smiles of the people here and I take it in. That is one thing that I promised myself that I would do, embrace the moments here because they will be gone soon enough. No need to rush them off by the thoughts that sometimes seem to be screaming in a megaphone. 

There are so many roles that come with co-leading that I wasn't sure if I could handle. I would have to pray over the entire team, I would have to get everyone into Uganda and so many other small jobs that come with the title. So of course I was nervous to begin with- I worried if I would be good at leading. I was worried if I would "be myself"-- be the one who my family sees, the one who my kiddos on Sunday morning see, be the one who my friends see or if I would be the shy one who hides behinds my insecurities. I got to the gate to meet the team, I sat down cracked a joke--- had all 9 laughing and knew immediately that the shy Callie who hides behind insecurities was gone. The flying process was just like any other........long. We landed in Uganda and there was Elisa. The leader who I had met for merely 10 minutes in Nashville at leadership training. That night we shared a room and talked about the team, about how the days ahead looked and about how excited we were to be here. 

The next morning was the start of the pushing from Jesus. That morning at the table I had to lead the devotion to a table of quiet strangers who said 'please' and 'thank you' after everything that they asked to be passed at the table. I listened to them softly talk to each other and then it was my turn to do devotion and I was nervous, who wouldn't be?! I prayed, I said what I needed to say and let Elisa take the rest of the table talk. I sat back wondering how long it takes for the team to become a family. 

We got on the road headed to Jinja and along the way I knew I was here - there was no denying it. I was looking out the window in awe of the beauty that Jesus was allowing me to see. We arrived at our hotel unloaded and carried on unto our first ministry. Abide Family Center- they believe that every child deserves a family so they have a social worker come in and try to keep the families together. 

I remembered Elisa telling me as we were preparing for the trip that it was a different kind of trip when you lead. I didn't really give it much thought, I just imagined it being like the rest of the trips where I find that one kiddo and play with her all day, not worrying about anyone else until I heard the call to the bus. Wrong. What I got seemed just as great.

I got to watch 10 people make those connections. I got to watch 7 of which had not been to Africa make their first connections with these joyful people. 

We did a photo booth for the kids and mamas. We brought Polaroid cameras and dress up things for them to have fun with. 

I wanted to come to bring help, to build something, get my hands dirty, do something that I knew was helping them in someway. And then I saw her, I saw this mama who was holding her infant. She was putting on a crown and sunglasses and dressing her infant in ten necklaces. She looked at me before I snapped the picture and her straight face that told a thousand stories broke. She let out the most pure giggle I've ever heard. Her teeth were so bright, her giggle brightened the pavilion, her baby even chuckled when he heard his mama laugh. I couldn't help but not giggle at her giggle. It was like watching a transformation. I'd imagine it's how Jesus watches us transform, except way different. I felt her joy in my bones. I snapped the image and just like that I knew we were doing something. 

The next couple of days were lovely. We went into the village to love on the "village kids"-- village kids here are rough. They have to be. Many of their parents have died or left them, only leaving them with their grandmother to care for them. We did VBS with the children in a huge field, pictures, made bracelets, told the story of creation and played soccer. After the rotation was done I watched as the team members held hands with kiddos, played and took pictures. 

I was walking around cleaning up, gathering things and checking in on everyone. On the other side of the field I saw them testing children for malaria, we were working with a ministry called Healing Faith, which goes into villages to end malaria and tell about Jesus. I saw a little girl get tested and come back positive. She was 2, I saw another little girl whose frail body just fit perfectly in Cara's arms. Cara, her husband and their 6 children have moved here to help Jason and Kari of Healing Faith and their 5 kids. Cara's daughter is only 12 and she was sobbing over the idea of this little girl losing her life to malaria. It was so powerful to watch a 12 year old little girl from America cry over a 4 year old little girl who she couldn't ever pronounce her name. 

Yesterday we went into the village again but this time to hand nets. We walked to each little hut and taught about malaria, hung the net and then got to pray for the people. When I tell you that this was one of the hardest things I've ever done - I mean just that. I was walking into a house the size of my bathroom to hand 3 nets. Two slept here, one slept there and 4 sleep over there. We walked into dark, dark clay huts where the beds were torn to shreds, what we consider trash decorated the walls and was reused to hang their few belongings. No couch, no kitchen, some didn't even have beds. But they still smiled and welcomed us in. As we were hanging one the lady who occupies the home jumped for joy. Jumped up and down, smiled, said somethings in Luganda and patted me on the back. I embraced her, shook her hand and watched her joy beam though her entire body.

Later we went to see Ja-Ja. She is the grandma of the village, most if not all of the children answer to her. She lost her son and is left raising his children. She was sitting on the ground in a yard wearing a beautifully tattered African dress, her grey hair and big smile was worth admiring. Jason, the man who started Healing Faith with his wife, sat next to her. He just sat there he told her that we were grieving with her, she smiled and shook her head. I was sitting and holding her granddaughter, who seemed to be 4. She was the best. Her face dirty, so I cleaned it with a wipe - she looked me into the eyes while I did it. She didn't say a word but none were needed. I knew what she was saying just by looking in her big brown eyes. We walked back to the buses and I watched the team say their goodbyes to their friends who stuck with them all day. 

I was starting to get worried a bit about my emotions, simply because I had not cried yet and usually that's a second day thing. I watched a team member as she said goodbye to her new friend who was 12. She told the sweet little girl who lives in a village, "I will never forget you"-- I felt it. I knew in that moment why I was leading, I knew in that moment why I didn't have a kiddo hanging on me all day long. My sweet team member with a heart of gold met her Joseani. Joseani was the little girl who changed my life. She was 11 when I met her in Rwanda and she is one of the reasons why I continue to come back. Simply because that one connection can change the world. That simple sentence that my team member said to her new friend wasn't a lie. It was the truth. She will never forget her and what that looks like, she doesn't even know. But because of that one connection I had almost 3 years ago, I think of Joseani daily - I remember her hugs when I'm having a bad day and here I am back in Africa again - watching other people make those connections. 

Throughout this trip I have felt Jesus allowing me to see certain moments, not just see them but feel them. Moments like the ones I shared above and some that are too precious to share. He is pushing me, molding me and teaching me to rely on Him. Fully. To answer a question from above: the team becomes a family whenever they all feel the same thing and that is the love of Jesus through a joyful smile from a person who has nothing.

I usually would love to have that moment with that child. Who is to say I won't on this trip, but watching 10 people make those connections and later getting to hear them process their emotions and me knowing what to say and getting to pray for them just like my first team leader did, is one of the most rewarding and beautiful 'jobs' I've ever had.
Join Callie on her upcoming 2015 Uganda trip. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

MEN WHO GO MONDAY spotlight: James Lawrence and his sons

We are starting a new Monday theme today! In honor of all the men who have answered the call to visit the fatherless, and in hopes that it will encourage other men to go, we are starting MEN WHO GO MONDAYS: James Lawrence travelled to Ethiopia and Rwanda with his 2 sons Chris and Cameron in December, 2011 along with their mom Elaina. It sure was great to have some guys to haul 25 and 50 pound bags of rice up the hill to Kimisagara Orphanage and we had some killer football and soccer games too; but more than that, the young men at the orphanages we visited, young men with very few positive male role models, were able to connect with men on our team. One of our favorite memories was seeing James, at every place we visited, talking with the older boys about their hopes and dreams and fears and being able to encourage them as they faced their future. We need more fathers and sons and brothers and men to go. be. love. Is God calling you to go in 2015?

photo credits to Wynne Elder and Alison Holcomb