Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Singing & Dancing...

This past Saturday we went to the Music for Life Choir Training Center for a going away party. Choir 36 & Choir 37 are headed to the States, and we wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

It was such an exciting day! All the parents & grandparents traveled hours from the village in their finest clothes to say goodbye to their kids. They had the opportunity to learn more about what Music for Life does and watch their children perform. Afterwards we had cake & orange Fanta. Then the kids also had photos taken with their family. It was a great celebration!

For those of you that do not know what Music for Life does, let me explain. Music for Life is the parent organization for the African Children’s Choir. They pull kids out of hard situations & train them to be part of a choir. This choir then goes and tours the US/Canada/Europe for 1 year. The kids become ambassadors for Africa. When they return to Africa, their education is paid for through University. They also become part of the Music for Life family!

Many of you may love to travel. Obviously I do! You may dream of going to Europe or Asia one day. Financially it could be a difficult task so you may have a special travel savings account. You may plan to go in 2015 and work towards that goal. It requires hard work & diligent saving, but it is possible!

For these kids, travel is NOT possible. Most of them will never make it out of the city limits. They have never seen an airplane. There is NO savings account. Many can’t even afford to go to school down the road. Some days there is not even enough money to eat.

I sat in a room full of such beautiful people; people that have experienced hardship beyond my imagination…and I shared with them one of the greatest moments of their lives. The impossible became possible! Their children were going to get an education. Their children were going to see the world. Their children were going to be a hope for their family & their nation.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

-Matthew 19:26

I have never seen parents so joyful or proud of their children. When the kids came out in their beautiful costumes & started singing and dancing, the room was filled with shouting, clapping, tribal calls, & praise! I was overwhelmed with pride as well, I started to cry (Many of you know I have never been a crier, a couple months ago I think God flipped a switch. Who knew?!?!) Twenty-five kids were just singing & dancing for their parents. The same thing all of us have done at one time or another. It was truly a joyful celebration!

I am not a mother, just a pretty fun Auntie (I think). I get overwhelmed with pride at my nieces & nephew’s sporting events & school plays. I can’t even imagine the pride & joy a parent experiences when they watch their child succeed, love others well, and reveal the glory of the One who made them. Sitting in that room, their joy was so pure.

That JOY, is how the Lord thinks of us. We are His children, and I know he experiences that same joy when we are doing that which he called us to do. He experiences that joy when we rest in his fatherly love. He experiences that joy when we stand before Him… singing & dancing!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I have landed safe & sound in Uganda. No bags! But I made it. That in itself is actually pretty amazing. It was touch and go for a bit. I am so thankful to be here.

Picture the movie airport scene. I arrive late in Chicago. The sweet gate agent calls ahead to ask if they can hold the plane & tells them I am running. I gracefully glide through the airport just catching my plane to Heathrow at the last minute. Except...this is NOT how it went down.

I was late & the agent called ahead. But there was nothing graceful about it. Because of recent weight requirements for luggage, my packing buddies decided we should beat the system & put my heaviest items in an awesome pink rolly bag, courtesy of Meg Chapin. SO I am barely moving, yet I feel as if I am sprinting, while hauling a 50 plus lb bag, a computer, and my exhausted self through the Chicago airport. I arrived at the gate wheezing, in need of a shower already, and I had completely missed my flight. My journey had only just begun.

Now for all you flyers out there, I know we have all missed plenty of flights in our days…but I was so defeated! They had already re-booked me therefore adding an extra leg to Frankfort, then Heathrow, then Nairobi, then Entebbe. I had an amazing nap & shower planned for my long layover in London that was clearly out of the question now. I lost my window seat & had been moved to the middle row!

In international travel, all these factors are of the utmost importance. They help maintain sanity & I was on the edge (exhausted). Everything was stacked against me. It was time to loose it. And loosing it is not something I routinely do. I was trying to remind myself that God had made it clear to me that I am supposed to be doing this.

Just when I was about to break down in O’Hare my friend Kristin called. She could tell I was upset & prayed with me over the phone. She reminded me that I have been called to this time; she prayed for peace, for rest, & for an “upgrade” on my next fight. Ambitious, but It never hurts to ask. (Thanks friend!)

Now I don’t believe that the Lord grants every silly request we lay before him. And I don’t know what your definition of an “upgrade” is. All I can say is that I had the entire middle row (4 seats) for the 8-hour flight to Frankfort all to myself. My long legs stretched out across the seats, my head hit the pillow, and I slept like a baby. Better than First Class! It was a gentle reminder that the Lord has been, is, and will be with me on this entire journey.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

- Philippians 4: 6-7

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.

- Ephesians 6:18

God wants us to present our requests before him, no matter how silly they may be. That is his desire. We may not get the pony we prayed for, but our request is heard. He always has the bigger picture in mind. So while we may think our prayers are not being answered, it is truly that we are only privy to a piece of the picture.

My picture looks nothing like I imagined or even prayed for. I never would have thought I would be here in this place, at this time in my life, by myself. It’s hard to obey & know that He is there when you don’t see the finished work…so many of my prayers have yet to be answered. But I know that my prayers have been heard & I rest in just this one piece of the picture. When I look back, I see all the pieces he has put together thus far & it is a beautiful picture full of hardship, brokenness, redemption, love & joy! I know this piece in Uganda will be beautiful as well.

He is with me on this journey & He is with you on yours. There are so many days I don’t see Him. But just when we start to question & just when we start to loose hope; he gently reminds us He is there…and every once in awhile we get an “upgrade”.

(After a 6 day World Tour, my bags finally made it!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Away I Go...

For those of you reading this that do not know my story, I would like to share the short version with you. For those of you that do…humor me.

I am a nurse practitioner from Austin, TX and I have always wanted to “move” to Africa. It all started over 10 years ago in Nursing School when I read a book called The Hospital By the River by Dr. Catherine Hamlin. It is the true story of an Australian couple, both Obstetricians, that moved to Ethiopia and started a fistula hospital. I won’t go into detail about what a fistula is, but let’s just say that thousands of African women have been outcast from their families because of this complication of childbirth. This is a very common medical complication in third world countries and, unfortunately, being disowned & outcast is a very common social outcome. This couple started a hospital in Addis Ababa and began repairing fistulas, giving women back their lives & their dignity. After reading that book, I knew that one day I would be called to something similar.

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;

Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Rescue the weak and needy;

Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

-Psalm 82:3-4

Fast forward to 2008, after lots of hours, night shifts, and grad school; I made it to Africa for the first time. I had the opportunity to go to Kenya with Music for Life, the organization responsible for the African Children’s Choir. I went with a team of seven people for three weeks to run a summer camp in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums. My job was to teach health & hygiene classes and run a 2-day clinic. It was an amazing trip, one that would spur a heart change in my life. I was hooked. I saw extreme joy in the midst of great hardship. It was then that I knew Africa had so much more to teach me than I could ever teach Africa.

Since then I have been back twice to visit friends in Uganda & Rwanda. After each trip I have returned with new ideas of how I was going to stay connected to Africa, but not give up my life/job here in Austin. Clearly the Lord preferred his plan to mine, because I just took a leave of absence from my job & I am moving to Uganda through the end of the year. I leave tomorrow!

Never in my life have I felt so strongly that I would be walking in disobedience were I not to get on that plane & live out my dream. Every detail has been prayed over & every detail has been taken care of. I have 3 precious girls living in my home while I am gone, covering my mortgage. I have a sweet friend driving my car & paying my car insurance. I was able to take 6 weeks paid vacation (clearly I have been working too much to have that much time saved) before taking my leave of absence. I have never been a more perfect poster child for “nursing burnout”. Seeing what I see on a daily basis in my job is more than most people could handle in a lifetime. It was so clear that it was time to walk away. My body & soul needs rest …and the Lord said GO.

What I will be doing there is tentative. I have a few medical projects set up & I am surrendering the details to the Lord. It’s Africa, so lots of things work out & lots of things don’t. The need can be overwhelming & I have a skill that is in high demand. I ask that you pray for discernment & that I will allow the Spirit to guide my time there.

To be honest my friends, I don’t believe I could get on that plane in more pieces. I am more broken & raw than I think I have ever been. Broken by my job, broken by relationships, broken by the world, broken by myself. I can’t think of a scarier or more beautiful way to arrive in Uganda. I tell you this because much of what happens in the next 4 months will be posted here & please know that it will all be of the Lord.

I ask for your prayers. For what specifically, I don’t even know. When I emerge from the fog of preparation on the other side of the world, I’ll let you know. Until then, pray for the people of Uganda.

Away I Go…