Tuesday, July 19, 2011

He must be 1st

-posted by Thomas     

It had to happen eventually and today it did.  We finally stepped foot on Suubi Village--the Watoto village where we spent 6 weeks earlier in the year.  In case you haven't heard, we had a little rain on our parade as we arrived in Uganda 5 days ago.  Our friend, Sandra, met us at the Entebbe airport at 1am and after big hugs informed us that there was a "slight complication" regarding our housing at Suubi.  The apartment we had formerly inhabited and were supposed to move into again was currently inhabited by some other volunteers.  The reader's digest version is that Watoto wasn't sure exactly how long it would be before we could move onto the village but hopefully within 2 weeks.  So we were driven to a very nice Watoto "volunteer home" on the outskirts of Kampala where our family would "wait" for further notice.  We were tired and just grateful to have arrived in one piece so we just smiled and said, "No Problem" and waved goodbye.  But as hours turned into days and we discovered that our "volunteer house" was on the opposite side of town as Suubi Village and that a taxi ride there would cost us at least $40--we couldn't help but feeling a little bummed about our delay.  We are sharing a 4 bedroom, 5 bathroom, 3 balcony, fully furnished, daily cleaned, beautifully landscaped home with just one other couple.  But our hearts are at a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bath, half furnished apartment on Suubi village, because that's where the souls are that we are called to.
             Sorry for such a long introduction.  Anyway, today at 7am our phone rang and it was the pastor's wife from Suubi Village.  They were sending the village van to come bring us for a visit!!!  Village vans are very busy and our location is out-of-the-way, so this was special.  At 4pm today we arrived at Suubi for our visit and it was almost emotionally overwhelming.  High School classes had just let out and immediately we were showered with hugs and greetings and cries of "REYNAH!"  One 16 yr old girl named Barbara wanted to immediately take us to her home to show us crafts she had made for us - earrings for Mika and a bird sculpture for me.  Then I turned around to see Roja - one of the basketball players I had spent time with.  A few other basketball players walked up and we started walking to the court together.
            I must interrupt with some more background information at this point.  When we arrived at Suubi back in Feb., I discovered a rocky/dirty dilapidated basketball court with bent rims and no nets.  However, I found some boys playing one day and joined them.  Within a matter of days I had bought some nets and was being called "coach" and had a dozen or so senior high boys playing with me.  We began having official practices and even had a youth vs adult scrimmage before I left.  Those boys quickly became my first ministry outlet on the campus.  I could pray with them and share scripture and truth with them and they received it wholeheartedly because I was "coach."  Before I left I taught them Colossians 1:18 and how the New Living Translation teaches that Christ "is first in everything"  I had them over to my apartment the Sunday before we left and told them that I would return with TN orange jerseys that said Suubi on the front and Colossians 1:18 on the back.  They were stoked.  Soon after we returned to the US, Watoto decided to spend some grant money to pave the Suubi basketball court.  This was a VERY BIG DEAL and the boys blew up my facebook with messages about it.  Now back to the story at hand. . .
          I walked with Roja, Alain, Joshua, and Mark onto the court with a huge smile on my face.  A real blacktop with while lines and everything.  The goals and rims are a different story, but the court looked beautiful.  I was going on and on bragging about it when Roja finally asked, "Coach, have you seen the center?"  I hadn't even noticed that there was a circle at the center of the court just like a regulation court would have for tip-off and within the circle was written  "Colossians 1:18"  I was speechless.

To discover that the Holy Spirit had impressed those words on the hearts of those boys so strongly in such a short amount of time was just incredible.  These are 16-19 year old boys and I had honestly prepared myself for the fact that most of them would just give me a blank stare when I mentioned Colossians 1:18 upon my return.  Instead they had it written at half-court.  I remember praying during our six weeks at Suubi "Lord, if I never get a chance to set foot on African soil again, thank you so much for the privilege we have had to minister here"  And now to realize that God was making eternal impressions already in the hearts of these students from that brief season is just so humbling.
           Anyway, our visit was heavenly but the ride back was not.  It was long with many stops to drop off various people and Reynah eventually decided that she was through with van riding so she serenaded us for the last 30 minutes.  Our hearts are overflowing tonight with the goodness and faithfulness of God and may yours be as well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

glance back as we step ahead

 - posted by T

     Well, we have spent the last 114 days in a season that we will forever remember as our “first itineration.”  Our family has traveled over 8000 miles through six states during that time.  We communicated with a little over 30 churches and participated in services with 18 of those congregations.  I was also able to speak at a couple of school Bible Clubs, attend 3 preacher meetings, conduct one funeral, and speak 5 times at Project Acts (a local missions camp here in  West TN).  We have met our monthly budget goals and raised $7500 for Watoto Discipleship projects such as Bibles and portable sound systems.  When we have not been “on the road” we have been living with our Pastor, Randy Carter, and his wife Nancee.  Living with two godly people eager to explore their spiritual gifts of grandparenting has been a wonderful pleasure.  For better or worse our boys have learned how to sweetly “take over” a Sunday School class with stories of Africa.  Along the way we graduated from a few Facebook pics and some cool stories to a display table, official promo DVD’s, prayer cards, a website, and monthly email newsletters.  For whatever it’s worth – we at least FEEL more like missionaries now!

            We are keenly aware that the fruitfulness of this season is a testimony not to our productivity but to Divine Favor and Provision.  God has continually, despite our shortcomings, poured on us a steady stream of support and encouragement from friends, family, pastors, churches, and even strangers.  It is so humbling to realize that all we have really done in this process is tell God “Yes” and He has absolutely been the wind in our sail from that moment forward.  If you are reading this note, that means you are one of those blessings of encouragement in our lives and we are so grateful for you.  Please pray for us as we depart Tues afternoon July 12 from Nashville at 3pm.  We know that two consecutive 8hr plane trips will be a grueling stretch for Reynah.  If you have seen her recently, you know that Reynah and “stop” or “still” really have nothing in common.  Please continually pray with us that our transition to long-term ministry with Watoto will be a smooth one. 
            As I “pause” at midnight to write this note, with only about 20hrs of daylight left on American soil before our departure, I am so joyful for my sons.  In the last year of their lives they have learned so much about calling, supernatural provision, and God’s love.  My sons are learning that surrender to Christ means partnership with other Christians.  They have learned that God is our family’s source of income.  They have learned to embrace God’s global campaign of redeeming souls.  They have learned that friends are the most valuable resource anyone can possess.  I pray this note finds your family focused on your Maker.  May you be found wrestling with your calling.  May you enjoy the rich fellowship of partnering with other believers for a greater cause.  May your children grow in the knowledge of God as they participate with you in a Kingdom cause.

Friday, July 1, 2011

just finished putting things in storage

all of our worldy possessions - it seems like too much.  It seems like too little.  It's just books, sentimental things, an old chair, and a rocker.  how can i "set up house" again someday with just this?  i feel an ache to cover it with a drop cloth and walk away... like i'm saying goodbye to my old life.  i feel exhilaration to be done with it all... ready to embrace a new season.  i feel that this is right.  so, i swallow hard the pill and keep reminding myself...

A man does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.  ~ Luke 12: 15