Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Missions Council

This last Saturday at our church's Missions Council meeting Bill & I had the opportunity to quickly share about our trip. There is no way to summarize the trip in just 15 minutes. We decided to talk about what has been on our hearts since we visited: the children's "remand homes" in Uganda and the ministry of Sixty Feet. We were short on time and I hadn't done any form of public speaking in a while so I was a little nervous, but managed to get it out.

Here is what we shared:
"This summer Bill & I were able to visit Uganda & Ethiopia for two weeks with Visiting Orphans. We fell in love with both countries but particularly the children's remand homes in Uganda & the ministry of Sixty Feet.

We saw extreme poverty everywhere & it was very humbling. We were continually served by those we came to serve. They were so happy we could come that they gave us their best.

One thing we didn't expect to see was they had JOY despite their desperate situations! All the children we met were being ministered to. They knew Christ and clung to His promises! They don't have all the stuff we have that gets in our way and each day is a blessing. I met Lori* at M2 and saw she had a Bible. I asked her what her favorite passage was and she told me Psalm 63:
1 You, God, are my God,
   earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
   my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
   where there is no water.
 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
   and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
   my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
   and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
   with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
 6 On my bed I remember you;
   I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
   I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
   your right hand upholds me.
 9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
   they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
   and become food for jackals.
 11 But the king will rejoice in God;
   all who swear by God will glory in him,
   while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Verse 1 catches my breath every time & tears well up. I can't read it without seeing her lying in bed too weak to get up from being ill for a few weeks from who knows what. "I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." I hugged her and prayed for her healing. I assured her that even though we cannot understand this season of life, that the Lord has a beautiful plan for her life. There is very little hope for the children at M, but they have hope in Jesus!

So if they're already hearing about the love of Christ, you may ask what the point is of our short term visit. Since I came back I have discovered there is some controversy about whether short term missions are even worth it. I say YES! The Bible tells us in James 1:27 that "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world." There are many other verses that tell us to care for the fatherless. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." I go because the Bible tells me to!

These children are starving for physical touch; for someone to hold them.
They desperately want to know they are loved. A heartfelt "Nkwagala Nyo" (I love you) brings the biggest smile to their face.
They need to know they have worth in this world.
They need to be encouraged to achieve their dreams and dream big.
They need to be told they are loved no matter what and that above all God loves them.
Normally these assurances would come from a parent, but in their absence, we can deliver them.

We don't go to tour the slums, feel bad, take a few pics & check it off our bucket list. We go to pour out God's love on these children!

The general population of the M are children found on the street and taken there by police. Some are orphaned, some have families that sent them to beg, some left their abusive families, some just wandered away and got lost, while others are serving time for a crime. Moses, the in country director for Sixty Feet, is working tirelessly on behalf of these children to give them a second chance. He visits each center weekly. He cares for their well being while at M and tries to either reunite them with family or find somewhere else for them to live when they get out.

I am a very visual person so rather than talk about M, I'd rather just show you some video. These are videos from Sixty Feet's website."

to enlarge click the arrows to the right of HD

*name changed for security reasons

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trip Summary: Uganda / Ethiopia July 2011

Bernard, James, Frank, & Gideon at Canaan Children's Home
Here's a summary of our trip. 
We'll blog more about each ministry shortly.

Thursday July 14
Our super early flight from Indianapolis to DC left at 6am. We met the rest of our Visiting Orphans team at the Dulles Airport then left for Africa at noon. It was a long flight and I slept a lot. Bill, however, was enthralled by the touch screen monitors each passenger had on Ethiopian Airlines' new 777. He doesn't sleep well on planes so he watched plenty of movies, played solitaire, sudoku, etc.

Friday July 15
We land in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to change planes and then onto Entebbe, Uganda. We retrieved all of our luggage (yay! every piece made it!), loaded it onto a truck and piled into a separate van to drive about 3 hours to Jinja. We wanted to take in Uganda and look out the window the whole drive, but after a very long day of travel I think everyone in the bus nodded off. We pulled up to Canaan Children's Home where lots of children ran to the bus and greeted us. We spent the evening playing with the kids and making new friends. I connected with James, a sweet 9 year old. Bill started talking to some of the older boys who don't get much attention.

Saturday July 16
After breakfast we drove down the road to Amazima Ministries started by Katie Davis (check out her blog here). We played with the kids on their new enormous playground, worshiped with them and helped serve them lunch. We got to meet Katie Davis and she spent time talking with us and sharing her story. That evening we took a boat ride from Lake Victoria to the source of the Nile River and had dinner at a local resort.

Sunday July 17
Sunday morning at Canaan we broke up into groups and had Sunday School lessons for different age groups. Our group learned about creation and we made lion masks. The kids had a lot of fun. Then the adults went to worship. After lots of singing we sat down to hear Pastor Isaac's message. He went off on us fat, lazy, privileged Americans and all of our luxuries. He said how we have so much stuff. It was a little comical at first, but then I'm thinking, "Ok I get it! You can stop beating us over the head!" Then he went on to say how special we all were because we left all of that comfort to come visit them for 2 weeks. They really appreciate our visits and the love we pour out on the children.

After church and lunch, we spent a while organizing all of our donations. Whew! We each had two 50 lb bags and most of it was donations. We’ve since decided that less is more. We’d rather take money to spend in-country for donations or for multiple teams to save toward a larger item that the orphanages really need. It was a pain to haul all that luggage around between two countries and then get taxed on our donations in Ethiopia on top of that.

We spent the rest of the day playing with the kids and buying magazine bead necklaces that they helped to make. They were so excited to see us buy some of their handiwork!

Monday July 18
Yay! Our 13th Anniversary and we’re in Uganda to love on the fatherless! We drove into Jinja to do a little shopping. We bought some drums for our boys and cool paintings for our walls. Then off we went to Kampala to love the children in prisons through the ministry of Sixty Feet.
Or so we thought. Our driver took us to M2 instead of M1 (we can’t name the prisons to protect the children). Since we weren’t able to be there without Moses, the in-country director of Sixty Feet, we had to leave and check into the guest house. My heart sank because I really wanted to visit these children!

Pastor Samuel from Return Ministries Uganda was able to come by for dinner and share his testimony afterward. Then Moses of Sixty Feet came by to share his. I hung onto every word! I was so heartbroken for these children!

Tuesday July 19
Through divine appointment 9 of us were able to fit in Moses’ van and visit M2 & M3 while the rest of the team went to Return Ministries. For Bill and I it was the day that opened our eyes and hit us the hardest. We are forever changed.

M2 is a prison for 12-18 year olds. Yes, I said a children’s prison. Their crimes range from petty theft all the way to murder. 165 kids all in a place designed for 50. M3 is a government ran home for discarded children 8 and under. These are babies found in trash cans, children abandoned on the street, children whose parents are in jail, and children with handicaps. M3 has 175 kids with only 3 staff. We were shocked at the conditions. We will focus on Sixty Feet in a future post. They are doing amazing work.

Wednesday July 20
The whole team heads to Return Ministries to lead VBS and serve lunch. I’ll admit that after seeing the kids in prison the previous day, my heart was not into serving the kids at Return. Though they still had very little, they had so much more, in comparison. I prayed for the Lord to give me an attitude adjustment and then this sweet girl, Samalie came over and sat next to me. She was such a sweetheart and such a blessing! We were friends the rest of the day.

That afternoon we said goodbye to Uganda and boarded a plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. What a crazy learning experience trying to get all our luggage/donations into the country! Despite all our puppy dog faces and arguing our team had to pay over a $100 in taxes and leave a duffle bag full of Ugandan necklaces at the airport until we returned to leave the country. We met up with the drivers and translators for the week. They got us to guest house safely.

Thursday July 21
The team headed to Korah where we spent the day learning about Project 61 ministries (this was started by a past VO team member, Summer Yates). We met the minister of Great Hope Church who partners with P61. Our team broke into groups and did VBS with the kids. One group each did crafts, singing, and Bible stories. Then we were given the privilege of serving injera and wot to the kids and also some of the local lepers. The latter were unable to really feed themselves due to the ravaging effect of leprosy prior to modern medicines.

After we finished with lunch we broke into smaller teams for home visits. We visited a woman who was suffering from TB and HIV while trying to find ways to feed her two children. We prayed with her for health and that someone would sponsor her two children. We then walked through Korah to the Alert hospital which serves the Korah community and has free medicine for HIV and TB. The lepers at the hospital make textiles and rugs to sell to visitors.

After leaving the Alert hospital we stopped to do some quick shopping and buy some Ethiopian coffee. Everyone raved about how good it was & Sarah bought a bunch for herself & friends back home.

Friday July 22
The team packed luggage into the vans because we were changing guest houses. After we were all checked in we spent the rest of the day at Restoration Orphanage. This is an orphanage that recently moved from Korah to a better area in Addis Abbaba. The orphanage was in good shape and had quite a few staff to help with the roughly 45 babies and children. But we found out that was not the case just a few months ago. A transformation had occurred in large part because of the efforts of Ashli York and Ordinary Hero. They had cleaned the facility and helped get clothes, toys, and formula for the orphanage.

In the evening we had a traditional Ethiopian dinner. We have both had the cuisine before but it was a new taste for most of the team. We enjoyed delicious food while performers were on stage in traditional costume singing and dancing. The evening was capped off with a coffee ceremony in which Bill drank his first ever whole cup.

Saturday July 23
The team spent the day at an America World Adoption Transitional Home painting a mural and loving on the kids. Some team members walked a few blocks down the road to a second AWA Home and helped with laundry and disinfecting baby toys. All of the children at these sights are in the process of being adopted. Our mural was on a wall in the courtyard and featured a big tree, flowers, and butterflies. Because the paint had to dry we knew we would be coming back to finish in a few days so the drivers helped us hang a tarp above the mural (it was the rainy season). The drivers and translators were awesome the whole week and took great care of us.

Sunday July 24
We headed to Beza International for their 11AM service. On the drive we went right past the actual garbage dump that people in Korah dig through to find food and items they can sell. Even at a distance we could see people on top of the garbage everywhere. We did not get to see the dump in person on Thursday so this was our first time observing what happens there every day.

The service at Beza was in English and the worship was awesome. After church we ate lunch at the guest house and then drove to Entoto Mountain. This is just outside Addis and the change from urban clutter to wide open beautiful mountainside was amazing. We toured a very old Greek Orthodox church and just had a chance to breathe in God's creation (and clean air, Addis does not seem to have any emissions laws).

After we drove back down the mountain the team grabbed dinner at a restaraunt featuring ... American food. We were the only two that still grabbed Ethiopian food :)

Monday July 25
A day to follow up on loose ends! We returned to AWA and some team members finished the mural while others just hung out with the kids. Then we hopped in the vans and returned to Restoration with some additional donations and baby formula. We found out that they only had enough for the next meal and really do see God's provision as often formula arrives right as it is needed. We had a little time to play with the kids and then we headed back to Project 61 in Korah.

We had baby formula to donate to P61 as well. While stopping at P61 we were able to walk next door and see Mission Ethiopia. They teach local women how to make clay beads for necklaces and bracelets. The women form the beads and fire them. The income they earn allows them to feed their families and send their children to school. It was great to see the happiness on many of the woman's faces.

To finish this night off the guest house provided a traditional coffee ceremony after dinner. Then Mission Ethiopia held a "bead party" at the guest house so everyone could make custom jewelry by stringing the beads they selected. During the bead party we learned more about what Mission Ethiopia plans to do in Korah.

Tuesday July 26
Our last day in Africa. The morning started with a visit to the Fistula Hospital in Addis. A great documentary was made about this hospital called "A Walk to Beautiful." Our team had assembled 150 gift bags that would be given to the women at the hospital. The property was beautiful and the work they do is incredibly life changing.

Once we finished our tour of the hospital we grabbed lunch at Kaldi's. They tried to get a franchise deal with a certain American coffee chain I typically call Fourbucks and were denied. So they just made awesome coffee and food restaurants anyway that are very similar but different.

The team headed back to the guest house to grab dinner and showers before our long trip home. We headed to the airport where to our surprise the bag full of necklaces was waiting. We departed Addis Ababa at 10:15 PM for the States.

Wednesday July 27
The flight arrived at Dulles at 8:40 AM. We did the customs thing and then had to recheck our luggage. Since we had one of the first flights out we said our goodbyes and headed to our departure gate. We took off from Dulles and arrived in Indianapolis at 2 PM. We were met by our two little boys and other family in the airport and had a great time of reunion! Then a short drive home and back in our house.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Advance

We spent the weekend at Visiting Orphans leadership training titled: The Advance. Sarah and I were able to meet many incredible leaders who are sold out to reaching orphans and widows around the world. They are living out James 1:27 and we are humble to be a small part of it!

One of the VO staff members recommended calling it The Advance rather than Leadership Retreat because nothing about VO is retreating. I thought that was a great way of describing the mission. As we drove home today I was thinking about the meaning of the word Advance.

Advance often means moving forward towards a goal in the face of opposition. That opposition takes many forms. Friends and family question why you are wasting money on a short term trip and if it is really wise or safe to travel to another country. Raising funds and attracting team members can be a daunting task. Moving outside of your comfortable surroundings and into sometimes shocking situations causes doubts. Even people you thought supported you can turn their backs.

Many other things can thwart our Advance than what is listed above. How can we, by ourselves, advance in the face of these obstacles? If this were a military campaign the answer would be easy. You can not. A soldier is never meant to work as an individual. There are no victorious battle plans that read PFC Smith will advance to the enemy line and decisively engage the enemy division.

We were not meant to Advance by ourselves either. We have the mightiest force ever known at our disposal. The Creator himself!

Don't be afraid, for I am with you.
   Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
   I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
                                 -Isaiah 41:10 NLT

The Lord is my light and salvation
   so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
   so why should I tremble?
                                 -Psalm 27:1 NLT

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.
Instead you recieved God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.
Now we call him, "Abba, Father."
                                 -Romans 8:15 NLT

(That last verse really hits home with me. I am adopted and my Dad loved me and protected me without ever thinking that I was not his biological child. How much more powerful is God's perfect love for his children?) 

The other meaning of Advance I thought about was the term used financially. An advance of funds with the expectation of being repaid. Now this might sound like I am about to advocate works based salvation. Not the case at all.

What I was thinking was Visiting Orphans teams go pour out love on orphans and widows. Why? Speaking for myself, it was not because I am an unselfish person who puts others before me. I went because I love the God who sent his Son to earth to die for me! Jesus was The Advance. He who was perfect died so that a broken world could be reconciled with God. Payment was made in full!

So when my Savior says to go and care for orphans and widows how else can I respond?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Child

I am seriously in the process of writing some posts about our trip. It's been a wonderfully busy weekend in Nashville, TN at Visiting Orphans leadership training: The Advance. I will have time to write during our drive home. In the mean time I ran across this and HAD to repost it! I am printing it out and mailing it to my sweet orphan friends in Uganda. It gives me chills to read it!

My Child

You may not know me, but I know everything about you ~ Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up ~ Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways ~ Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered ~ Matthew 10:29-31
You were made in my image ~ Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being for you are my offspring ~ Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived ~ Jeremiah 1:4-5
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book ~ Psalm 139: 15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live ~ Acts 17:26
I brought you forth on the day you were born ~ Psalm 71:6
I knit you together in your mother’s womb. 
You are fearfully and wonderfully made ~ Psalm 134: 13, 14
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me ~ John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love ~ 1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you simply because you are my child,
and I am your father ~ 1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could ~ Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father ~ Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand ~ James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs ~ Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love ~ Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore ~ Psalm 139: 17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing ~ Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you ~ Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession ~ Exodus 19:5
I want to tell you great and marvelous things ~ Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me ~ Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart ~ Psalm 37:4
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine ~ Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you ~ Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart ~ Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes ~ Revelation 21:4
And I will take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth ~ Revelation 21:4
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus ~ John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for your is revealed ~ John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being ~ Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you ~ Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins ~ 2 Corinthians 5:19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you ~ 1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love ~ Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me ~ 1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again ~ Romans 8:38-39
The Holy Spirit will bear witness that you are my child ~ Romans 8:16
And Jesus will prepare a place for you in My house ~ John 14:2
My promise is for you, who I have called to myself ~ Acts 2:39
Keep yourself in my love ~ Jude 21

Love, Your Dad, Almighty God

original post found here

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


At church the Sunday before we left for Africa we sang the song God of Justice by Tim Hughes:
"Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received now freely we will give

We must go, live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken, we must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action, we must go

Fill us up, send us out."

How appropriate! It is exactly how Bill and I have been trying to live our lives and we were GOING! I raised my hands and asked God to "fill us up and send us out!!!"

We had both read blogs, seen pictures, videos, etc (well ok maybe more me than him, but I'd sent him links :). I thought I had an idea what to expect. Ha! There is just nothing that can replace going, seeing, touching, daily holding hands with orphans, endlessly hugging a 15 year old who saw her parents murdered by the LRA, praying over a very ill 15 year old in prison, kissing the face of the sweetest shyest 8 year old orphan at a transition home...

Here is what none of us expected: to be served. We were going to serve them. James 1:27 says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." They cooked nice meals for us, did our laundry, sang songs for us, and gave their best. It was so very humbling. They also know a thing or two about praise. They treasure every day. They have so much joy in the midst of sadness. They may not have much, but they have God and they cling to his promises! We could learn a thing or two.

So a little about the blog name. I was trying to figure out a name that could sum up our past, present, and future. I have not been able to stop singing that Tim Hughes song. Standing beside the broken seems to be a theme in our lives. We do so when we talk to a stranger who is having a bad day, when we support fellow Christians going through hardships, when we feed the homeless downtown, and when we travel to Africa and love on orphans and prisoners. It also helps when we realize we are all broken and need Christ. Thank you Lord for your sacrifice for us!

We plan to chronicle our experiences in Africa, back here in Indy, and wherever the Lord leads us. We have been moved to action and can no longer sit still. "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12