Greeting from East Africa
Let me begin by introducing May’s Team Sunrise lead by Dr. Nancy Martin: Mike Wadel, Autumn Ridley, and Keith Riddle.
Our story really began back in January on our last trip when the Kenyan and Ugandan friends began praying for our soon return. After returning and sharing this with our faithful friend, families, and prayer supporters the project began to come forth and here we are back in Africa! Heartfelt thanks to all of you.
Dr. Nancy left before the team to prepare the final details. The rest of the team will leave on the 11th and arrive late May 12th.
Our first God story begins in Amsterdam. When I went to board the plane I discovered that the airline had given away my comfort seat and put me in the back in a very uncomfortable location. I told the steward what happened and he promised to check on it. Right before the plane was to take off he came and moved me to the front in a comfort seat that was the best place on the plane (except of course first class). He said the person who had this seat was a no-show. It was the very seat I had reserved!!!!!!!!
Awake at 4 am and heading back to the airport. The Lord had instructed me to fly to Nairobi first instead of straight into Entebbe. I didn’t understand why since it would mean spending the night in Kenyan, travel, carry bags back and forth from the airport to the hotel and back to the hotel just for a short over night and then fly on another plane to Uganda, when I could have gone on a straight flight from Amsterdam into Entebbe. Trusting I followed directions. God story number 2 & 3: my prearranged taxi driver did not pick me up for the return to the airport but the person God wanted me to meet picked me up instead. Imagine that! His name is Pastor Charles and after learning of what we do he has please requested that we return and teach his pastors and leaders. He is pastor of a large congregation in Nairobi. I also met a lady who was returning to Kenya for the funeral of her only son who died at 30. Of all the people in the airport she sat beside me!
I had fun today riding around Kampala on a bota-bota gathering my needed supplies.
Tonight I went to worship at Calvary Chapel Kampala. When I walked in, there were my friends Randy and Alisa. It was a wonderful surprise for them as they didn’t know I was in the country yet. The printer also goes to church there so he brought with him a copy of the training manual he was working on for my approval. Afterwards, The Vagas gave me a ride back to the hotel and we were able to finalize a lot of the details for next week.
It is a wonderful thing to have a hotel were the Internet works. I am tried and ready to sleep but am so blessed I have lived to carry on this work for another time….
Wow! Today I arrived at Hope Children’s Home and saw all the wonderful children. Their smiles are infectious. How can you not be happy around them. They laugh a lot and are as most children inquisitive and speak what is own their minds. As we were seating on the bench in the guard shack playing,singing, and joking Susan became very occupied with the bandage on my face. I told her the doctor had done surgery and I needed to keep it covered so it didn’t get dirty. But that did not satisfy her until I let her see what was under the bandage. She wanted to know if I had fallen down and then if her doctor had done the surgery. ( Susan is a special child she was burned very badly on her face and chest and lives daily with permanent disfiguring scars). I put my hand her scars and told her they were beautiful and from that moment on she never left my side.
Bosco, one of the guards and a dear friend, shared with me how it was such an honor for him to see me again and learn from my wisdom because I was “a very old woman” and “how I could travel so far so many times given I was so old”. :)))))) He is in Bible School and his teacher told him when you see and old person you can learn much from them.
You see why I love the people here. They are so real and refreshing to be around!
Finally at 6:00 Aaron (my son) arrived from school. He did not know I was coming. I wanted to surprise him for his birthday present. As he came around the corner and saw me seating there on the bench his face lit up like a Christmas tree and he ran into my arms…no words…. He said “this is the best birthday present in the world”. We talked, hugged, and began catching up on everything that has happened since I saw him in January. His favorite subject in school is physics and biology..yes that’s my son…..
We planned this trip around the school break so the older children would be available to attend the teen trauma and loss group. Upon arriving I have discovered that they changed the dates and school has been in session all week. We are still having the class but will only be able to see the other children in the evening…so my time with Aaron is limited….but we will cherish each second.
After a scary bota ride through the rain and red mud I arrived back at the Nexus Hotel. (many of you may remember the experience we had here in January 2010) Well guess what no Internet or electricity…a typical occurrence here. But alas, it is very clean and safe.
I was excitedly preparing to go and visit Ms. Madeline, my 95 yr old friend who as you may remember accepted Christ on our Jan 2011 trip. I was looking forward to bringing her a case of Fanta but that was not to be. Pastor Simmon said that she died after our last visit in January. I thank God that He allowed me that last visit to check on her and give her a party. Yes, and I said everything I wanted to say to her that day so I am emotionally complete and that feels good. I am considering asking God to let me bring her a Fanta when I join her in heaven. :)))))) What precious memories I have our friendship.
Tony called while I was at Hope visiting Aaron so he got to talk to his father for the first time..imagine for him how exciting that was and the first time he ever talked with anyone from America! That was a big deal for him…
After some scary last minute problems for Autumn at the Atlanta airport and several calls to me to talk with supervisors and a little begging & lots of prayer along the way, she is finally on the way via Boston& Amsterdam. Mike &Keith were rescued at the Chattanooga airport by my wonderful husband Tony, who used his credit card to repurchase the tickets so they would let them on the plane. Now all the team is in the air and on the way…. God must be getting ready to do some big things….there has been too many obstacles put in our way by the enemy to prevent this from happening. But he is barking up the wrong tree cause God has a mission and we will not be stopped from completing His instructions.
The weather here is wonderful like Spring days at home….life is good.
The rest of the team arrived early in the morning on Sunday the 13th. We hugged, they got settled in, and fell asleep. Even after 27 plus hours of travel they all joined me for church at Calvary Chapel Kampala, followed by a special dinner to celebrate my son Aaron’s birthday. It was a wonderful day with the exception of the 2 hours we sat in a traffic jam trying to get home!
The team hit the store to grab a few last minute items before we went to Hope Children’s Home. As we drove by the fence one of the girls shouted out, “Our guests! Our guests!”, prompting a wave of children to descend on the van. Talk about a warm welcome! Mike, Autumn, and Keith got the grand tour of the place, dragged around the small compound by the hand in the midst of a sea of smiling faces.
A minor fender bender snarled traffic – they won’t move their cars until the police come – but we still got back to Field of Dreams in time for dinner before the jet-lagged team turned in early.
Breakfast and hot coffee roused the weary team enough to keep their eyes open as we drove to Wakiso Worship Center for the pastors conference. We were expecting 30 – 40 church leaders, but were greeted by less than twenty. However, by the end of the day we had printed out around sixty certificate”s of attendance as people trickled in all morning. This is Africa! Sound system problems and ambient chaos aside (us Mzungu – white people – tend to attract quite a bit of attention!), the attendees were grateful for the teaching and were eager to take these concepts back to their congregations.
There’s no doubt that the Lord is at work – we’re getting beat up pretty good! We’ve had tech problems (video projectors not working), interruptions from a severely disturbed man (possibly even demonically influenced), and some on the team have had terrible nightmares (does NOT help with the jet lag). Praise God, He watches over us and holds us in His strong right hand!
Mike and Autumn stayed behind to work with a group of teenagers from Hope Children’s Home while Keith and I went back to Wakiso Worship Center for day one of the Grief Recovery Specialist training. Eighteen pastors, counselors, and church leaders circled around as I outlined the basic concepts of grief recovery. With the help of our translator we laid a foundation to build on for the rest of this week.
Teens: Day Two
You would probably never know it to look at them… they smile… they laugh… they sing… they dance… but behind the facade of these precious faces, lie hearts shattered by a life racked by loss and devastation…. A life that will ultimately lead them to become broken adults destined to a life of pain and defeat.
With each passing day of working with the 8 kids from Hope Children’s home it becomes more and more obvious why we are here… In the US, we cannot imagine the suffering that these children experienced, some on a daily basis, before coming to Hope. We would be horrified at the level of abuse and neglect inflicted on these children; to be abandoned and left in the streets, or to handed off as indentured house servants to abusive families, or even worse to be beaten and told over and over again that they are worthless as they are moved from supposed caretaker to caretaker. We have no idea what it is like to go without the bare necessities, or to watch others in the “family” eat while they are left to fend for themselves. Our work here, to help these children heal their broken hearts, may be the only thing that allows them to grow up to be “whole” adults, free from the heritage of brokenness that consumes this country. They have seen loss on a level we do not know at home. Every one of these children has stared death in the face, several times over, as they watched parents, siblings, classmates and friends be taken from them. All “normalcy” is stripped away and they are forced into a life where nothing is certain and no one can be trusted. Is it any wonder that young people grow up here with little hope of a happy, fulfilling life? They are bred and taught to simply survive; a mindset we can barely comprehend.
As we work with these amazing kids, age 11-14, we are encouraged as we see the light begin to go on in their eyes as they realize they do not have to live as victims, and can leave the pain of the past behind. They are beginning to get a glimpse of their ability to rise to a life of freedom and wholeness in Christ. Each day we encourage them to take baby steps toward letting go of the past and taking responsibility for healing their hearts by making any apologies necessary for the wrong actions that were within their control and by unconditionally forgiving those that hurt them. We are teaching them to trust again, and to be open with those who are trustworthy in their lives. We are showing them how to a true friend; to be open and listen without judging, and to respect one another no matter what their experiences. We praise God as we see it working.
These teachings are new to them… to the whole culture in fact… and yet they are embracing it vigorously. We were so encouraged today as we began our time together in review of yesterday’s class that they had grasped and remembered all the major concepts… things they had never heard before. They were enthusiastic and ready to go forward, in spite of the fact that the exercises were scary and often painful. No one likes digging up the past… especially when it is cloaked in hurt and confusion… but they pressed on, through the pain, and now are beginning to see the results.
Tomorrow will be the final day with this group. Please pray for them and ask God to help them finally, once and for all, let go of their past and say goodbye to the pain associated with it. We praise God for your support and care. Thank You!
Grief Recovery Specialist Training Day 3:
Communicating across cultural lines is difficult enough. Teaching new concepts to an unfamiliar culture is daunting indeed. You pour out your knowledge – and your heart – and receive blank stares and restless shifting in return. Never mind the language barrier, the basic idea of grief recovery is as foreign as our white skin.
For two days we shared, encouraging a group of 18 Ugandans to open up, face their pain, and in doing so, learn to help others heal. Was it wasted time? Had we connected at all? Did these new friends understand these radically new ways of thinking?
By the end of the second day the class had heard the information, complete a graph of their losses, and chosen a relationship to focus on healing first. As the mid afternoon storms rolled in on the third day, the air cooled and the class wrote their letters to the person who had caused them the greatest pain. Each counselor in training ended their letters with a final “Goodbye”, closing the chapter on old pain. Now was their chance to share what this Grief Recovery program had meant to them.
“I now know that grief is about more than just death.”
“Because of this class I understand that I can forgive without having to forget.”
The basic concepts had been communicated! But how deep did this new understanding reach?
“I have forgiven much in my life. Today I have forgiven more, and know how to deal with the things that will come in the future.”
“My heart is now free!”
“Sometimes the way to get rid of the pain means to go back through the suffering, but I realize that it is my responsibility to do the work”
“This has been a conformation to me that I’ve totally forgiven him, because even when I write this letter I feel no resentment even when I remember the things that happened because I understand why he did them.”
The rest of the team joined in with the Field of Dreams staff and the missionary kids playing a game of “Signs”; so funny to watch all their antics. Everyone gets along well and genuinely enjoys each other’s company, even if their humor sounds more like siblings than friends that have known each other less than a week now.
Grief Recovery Specialist Training Day 4:
Friday morning I went over the training portion of the class, helping these new specialist understand their roles. The responsibility to share their new knowledge was impressed upon them, and they assured me they would use these Grief Recovery concepts and exercises to help heal their nation and continent. Their hearty handshakes, hugs, and bright smiles confirmed their words. They told me repeatedly how meaningful the training was. Again and again I heard promises that these skills would not be wasted. Behind the words and the smiles I heard hope, and I couldn’t be happier if they had renewed hope to go with their training.
Everywhere we go we’re greeted by a chorus of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” – the term for us white folks. The older kids stand at a distance and stare, maybe waving shyly. But the younger ones are fearless. They run up to us smiling, waving and yelling “Mzungu! Mzungu!” We must be the most exciting entertainment in the village! These precious babies have such beautiful smiles. Mike and Keith snap pictures like madmen and Autumn and I plot how to smuggle them home in our suitcases.
Saturday, May 19:
Traveling the world is fun and exciting – except on days like today. The team was up by 3:30 in the morning to grab a cup of coffee and some toast before we hit the road at 4:00. The van that picked us up was comfortable, so the first leg of the trip, while early, was relatively smooth. Even so, we were late getting to the border of Uganda and Kenya.
The car that picked us up was a small station wagon. Fitting in eight suitcases, eight carry-on bags and all our grief recovery materials was a challenge, but with ingenuity and effort we fit everything in or on the car. Keith, the team pack mule, carried two of his bags on his lap. The country is beautiful, but the roads are not. It took over two hours to go 20 miles because the roads are so rough and washed out in so many places, making us even later for our meeting in Saiya.
The Grief Recovery Specialists we trained back in January were gathered to discuss their experiences over the past four months. I wanted to hear what worked for them, and what didn’t work. They were anxious to clarify a few points and ask questions. I gladly answered their questions, and then asked about their experiences in using the training. Unfortunately it seemed that some of these specialists had fallen prey to fear and had only discussed grief recovery as a concept, not used their skills to lead hearts to healing. May God encourage them and enable them to shine brightly for the Kingdom as they reach out to the hurting around them.
Exhausted and hot, we sat down for lunch around 2:30 – our first food since 3:30 that morning.Our gracious hostess brought out a feast, a banquet fit for three times as many people. In America we tell our children to clean off their plates, but in Kenya if your guest cleans off their plate it means they didn’t have enough food and are unsatisfied. As hungry as we were, the heat shrank our appetites to the point that eating one plate was a challenge, making a dent in the piles of food she laid out was impossible. Trying not to appear ungrateful and rude, we stuffed ourselves to the limit, and still, because of how little we ate, they asked if we were unhappy with the food! Such generous, kind hearts!
We drove on to Usenga, a small fishing village right on the edge of Lake Victoria, where the church Pastor Osbourn leads is located. This would be our base of operations for the next five days. At this point the road had taken its toll and we were tired and flirting with frustration. But God is good, and after we unpacked and got settled we ate a quick (small!) meal and got some much needed sleep. Thank you for your prayers!
Sunday, May 20th
Praise God for His sweet rest! What a difference a good night sleep makes. Add in a little breakfast and we were ready for church, and what a wonderful service. The praise and worship was acepella and beautiful – heartfelt and sincere. In Kenya they believe that if they have a guest that God has sent them with a special message, and that they must be given time to speak. Prepared or not, it was time to stand and share with these warmhearted people.
First Keith shared about love for our neighbors and unity in the body. Autumn stood and told the small congregation about Psalm 139:16 – God has written our story in a book before the very first day has passed. Lastly, Mike compared John 3:16 to the Hope Diamond – the jewel of our promise from God. However, even with three of the team speaking we still finished long before church was scheduled to end. Understand, they started at 9:00 with prayer, had an hour of scripture reading and then an hour of preaching. Add in time for testimonies, offering and worship and they typically leave church after 1:00.
Once again we were invited to break bread in fellowship at lunch. The pile of food was smaller, but no less generous – or impossible to finish. The team stuffed themselves on Nile Perch, freshly caught by our host, and piles of meat, vegetables and rice. Time for an afternoon nap!
After another small dinner we sat around the table and talked until the swarms of mosquitoes drove us into our rooms where we prepared for the pastors training in the morning and got another nights rest.
Home in a week! Thank you for continuing to remember us in your prayers.
Monday, May 21:
Since my illness I don’t eat very much at all, but our breakfast is included in our rate, so Pastor Osborne joined us and solved the problem of what to do with my plate of food. I’m glad to be able to bless him with a free meal, but it’s his company that makes the mornings bright. He has wisdom and grace far beyond his years, and we treasure his assistance and his friendship.
We fit 37 pastors and church leaders into the church as I outlined the basics of grief recovery. Now that they have been exposed to these concepts have it is my hope that they will put the Grief Recovery Specialist I train this week to use for His Kingdom.
Tuesday, May 22
Training Day One:
Today we started training 22 new Grief Recovery Specialists. It’s always an exciting time when I meet the new class and the Lord uses us to open their eyes to the concepts and process of Grief Recovery. How blessed I am to be here and strong enough to teach these precious souls how to heal their hearts and those of their neighbors.
After the class ended we had a few minutes while we waited for our ride back to the hotel. As usual, we were swarmed by small, smiling faces. At one point Mike and Keith broke out into a show tune, followed by Mike attempting to break the language barrier with a game of Simon Says. The results were adorable. I tried to teach them “Deep and Wide”, hand signs and all, then Mike tried to get them to sing silly song in a round with Keith and I leading one section and he and Autumn leading the second section. We actually made it a few rounds through before it fell apart!
We told the kids that we’d bring “sweeties” to them tomorrow, so we stopped by a small shop to buy some candy. We bought a few bags of lollipops, prompting Mike and I to sing the “Oldies” song “Lollipop”. I wish you could see the looks we got! We laughed and laughed as the Kenyan’s stared, smiled and pointed at the “crazy mzungu”.
To reinforce their perception of us we howl with laughter as we play card games after dinner. Doused with gallons of bug spray we sit around the table and fling cards at each other as we play Spoons. Such a competitive group! Thankfully we’re all good natured and lose gracefully.
Training Day Two, Wednesday, May 23:
We’ve survived the swarm! Mike and Keith fought off hordes of flying bugs through the night. Keith sprayed the door frame with bug spray and shoved a bath mat in the crack under the door. Unfortunately Mike left the bathroom window open, so every mosquito in Usenga held a family reunion in his room. Between the mosquitoes covering the ceiling and the May flies carpeting the floor, Mike decided that discretion was the better part of valor, dove under his mosquito net and hid until morning.
Daylight revealed a carpet of dead bugs and another hot Kenyan day. This is the cool season for them though, and it’s amazing to us to watch them walk around in parkas and winter hats as we drip sweat.
Grief Recovery has some basic rules that all Certified Specialist must follow to ensure that clients feel safe and respected. There aren’t many, and they’re not difficult, but they are required. Today we had to enforce a few of those rules and inform a Bishop that he may complete the basic class, but not the training and would not be certified.
The rest of the class has been great though, and we’re excited to be able to equip these generous hearts to reach out in love to those around them and help heal some of the pain in Africa.
Saying “Yes” African Mission Trip
January 3, 2012 – January 22, 2012
Kenya & Uganda
Jambo (That’s hello in Swahili)!
First, let me say thank you for all the love and support I have felt in prayer, thoughts, and kind words sent my way from all of you. It sure makes coming to Africa even more amazing when I know I have people who are at home loving and praying for me and my team.
Second, since access to the internet is very limited, this mission journal is going to have a general group view as well as a personal view. We are combining the two in order to give all the details for you to see.
Now onto the details!
The majority of the first part of our trip can be summed up into 4 words:
Hours of travel time. Around twenty seven, to be exact. But we had great time killers. Would you like to see one? Check this out:
Yes, that is the result of sleep deprivation. We will sleep anywhere – even on the cold floor in the middle of the Amsterdam airport. Of course, there were other fantastic time killers. We all bonded and decided we had a family order. Ready for this? Mike became the middle child (a.k.a. servant and tech support assistant), Shannon the baby (a.k.a. Organizer extraordinaire, prayer coverer – in other words, “Shannon’s got Nan’s back”), and Nancy the oldest child (a.k.a. Super specialist and therapist for the middle child). By the time we had been awake for over twenty-four hours, we went a little further and became Curly, Larry, and Moe. Who would like to decide who was who? Be careful.
When we arrived in the Nairobi airport, along with the over 400 people who flew alongside us, both the luggage belts in baggage claim were broken for a time. Imagine the chaos and time involved in finding our bags! Mike and Shannon worked great together by standing on opposite sides and grabbing each of the bags. However, when we reached the hotel, Kenya Comfort (room 409 – yes, the 4th floor – thank goodness for their one elevator), at midnight, we discovered we had left one of the bags. We all banded together and were able to contact the airport and they held the bag for us until our next flight to Kisumu! Even in the little things, God is there. My feet felt light as I stepped back onto African soil. I loved the smells, the people, and knowing that I was finally in Kenya! We were all incredibly jetlagged and went straight to bed after working to find our luggage! As I lay in my bed, I prayed and thanked the Lord for allowing me to live to be here in this land. It was such a present from Him and I knew He had great things in store for our trip!
Thursday, January 5th
“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing, Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalms 100:1-3
I surprised Mike and Shannon with a God blessing today – we jostled down the red dirt roads to The Lion Hill game park in Nakuru. I wanted us to be surrounded by nature and filled to overflowing with the Spirit! What an amazing way to begin! One of the best moments of the day: driving to our destination and seeing numerous herds (cattle, sheep, and donkey ~ all together) with one shepherd to guide them. It reminded me so much of Jesus being our Shepherd and guiding us. He guides all of us. And it was beautiful to see the different animals all peacefully surrounding one another and walking together as their Shepherd led them with the staff. Lesson in that moment: God is in the big things and the little things in whatever country we find ourselves in. We just have to take the time to look. Everything can teach you something.
While we were at Lion Hill we were surrounded by God’s creation. The desire of my heart was to be surrounded by flamingos. We saw a few. Unfortunately, it had rained for many days and many of the flamingos had migrated to another lake. In this I learned that I was happy and content to see whatever God had for us. In my peace, an amazing thing happened. We saw a lion. It ambled slowly and confidently next to our truck for quite some time. It finally climbed into a tree so that we would stop yelling, “Simba, roar!” It was an amazing moment. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the zebra’s, giraffes, and baboon’s. The baboons were very rambunctious and it was interesting to watch the parents carry the babies and the grooming that they did with one another. Baboon’s picked off the bugs and then ate them. Even in the midst of being cold (I was freezing!), as we were driving, watching, and praying, I was moved and amazed at all God had created. Our God is an amazing God!
We arrived back to our hotel very dusty. I was quite cold. When we walked to our room I was amazed to see a hot water bottle on my bed. This was only placed for me. I had never talked about being cold to any of the staff at the hotel. God knew and God provided. I think a resounding theme from this trip will be “Our God is an amazing God!”
At dinner tonight they had a live authentic tribal dance. At one point they asked for members of the audience to participate. Mike, unknowingly to Shannon at first, was pointing above her head so that they would choose her. Of course, they came right over and grabbed her hand. Shannon was a trooper. She went up to the stage and tried her best to perform the moves. At the end, her companion dancer gave her a great big hug. She enjoyed herself immensely, and we enjoyed watching her. Tonight is our final evening here, and then we travel back to Nairobi to prepare for our flight to Kisumu. Jetlag is beginning to ease up, but we are all still a little off kilter. Maybe one more day!
Friday, January 6th
“God is showing up and showing out!”
Jambo! God is showing up and showing out! We finished out safari this morning. There were even more amazing creatures to see. We saw a large black Rhino pass before us. We saw gazelle. The land here is beautiful. We left later in the day to travel back to Kenya Comfort and God blessed me with the most wonderful gift. Imagine this: Mike, Shannon and I were in a store in the middle of a city with over four million people. It is called Nakumatt and has many items that we needed (the most important was a phone as we had left ours at Lion Hill)! Someone came up behind me to give me a hug. I was startled, but as I turned around to see who it was, I realized it was my long lost friend Kioko. I had not heard from him in a very long time, and had been so worried that something had happened. I was humbled by God’s perfect timing. He’s always right on time. I was even further blessed when Kioko offered to see us off to the airport in the morning. How good to know my friend was still alive
Saturday, January 7th
“Flat tires save souls!
Packing up this morning on our final day in Nairobi. We are headed to Siaya! Ready for yet another God story?
Before we left for this trip we were scheduled to fly through Kenya Air. However, they had restrictions on the luggage allowance (and we had a lot of luggage to bring for the people)! Pastor Isaac suggested looking into a little flight call JetLink. I looked it up and one of its premises was “flying for the glory of God.” So not only were we able to bring our luggage, not only was the flight swift and smooth, not only was it a flight to the glory of God – but it was much cheaper too!
Pastor Isaac here we come!
When we arrived in Kisumu we were greeted by Bishop and his wife Angeline to begin travel to Siaya. As we were headed to our destination, Mike sneezed. Immediately thereafter, a tire blew. Shannon joked with Mike and told him he had “one powerful a-choo” and we all supposed it was true, when we realized what God had planned. A wise man once told Shannon, “How do you know this is a bad thing?” We have learned through the years in our walk with the Lord that what looks difficult, horrible, frustrating (you know… all those adjectives) with our fleshly eyes is actually something amazing and powerful that God is working in and if we look with our spiritual eyes ~ we might catch Him at work. It was a hot day and we had been traveling for many hours. We all got out of the van and walked across the road to visit the family we saw there. After all, why not make use of our time. Every minute is precious. We approached a lovely lady who began to show us the process of building a floor in her home. She was using cow dung, soil, and a little tool to place a design in it so that they floor “looks like tile.” There was a beautiful brown eyed girl that smiled at us and talked with us. She was curious of the “muzungu”, but very bashful. We were then encouraged to walk a little further and meet more of her family. It was a compound of one husband and three wives, along with all of their children. The great grandmother introduced me to her great grandson (couldn’t have been more than ten months old or so). She told me his name was Silas. We held and kissed him and lay his head on my shoulder. He slobbered all over us and it was glorious. We then began to pray for the great grandmother and she asked to be saves. As we were leaving another family member also asked us to help her pray for salvation. They then blessed us with fresh peanuts that they had grown themselves. So friends,… how do we know a flat tire is bad? I think they are stupendous, fantastic, amazing (you know… all those adjectives) and I pray that you will be able to have a flat tire experience! Asante (thank you)!
We were introduced to our hotel: Kogelo Hotel’s. We stayed in individual octagonal concrete hut-like structures with thatched roofs. The complex was less than six months old and still lacked a few amenities, but the accommodations were very nice. The staff were amazingly friendly and welcoming. We felt free to talk to them about our work, our mission, and our God.
Sunday, January 8th
Today was glorious. I was able to stand before the people who had prayed for me for three years and say thank you. My greatest blessing was watching my two friends Mike and Shannonstep even more into their destiny in the midst of a God experience. It felt like going to a school play and seeing your children shine! As I watched them the Lord showed me this is only the beginning. This is a mission trip where we are encountering God and seeing His power and we will never be the same. I want that for all of you! That’s my heart.
From Shannon: My day was filled with immense joy – more joy than I deserve. Had the privilege of teaching over 60 children for Sunday school today at Future Life Ministries. When I looked into their precious brown faces and spoke to them of God’s amazing love for us, when I asked them what I could pray, their requests were simple ~ yet, more powerful and inspiring than words can say. They asked for wisdom, help… with not stealing, to be able to honor their father and mother more, and for healing. And I wept as 28 children asked me to lead them in prayer for salvation so God could come and live in their hearts. Mike, Shannon and I all stood in the center of God’s will today and watched as He orchestrated precious moments that only He could bring to fruition. We have a MIGHTY Daddy!
From Mike: What a blessing it was to be able to share with my brothers and sisters in Kenya! God blessed out time together. It inspired me and humbled me at the same time.
Monday, January 9th
When we arrived for the pastor conference today I felt the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit smiling down on me. He was all around! Many, many people came from near and far. What a blessing to share my heart with them and watch as they realized Jesus had an open heart in which He expressed how he felt and that they could too! In Africa it is very difficult for men and boys to share what they are feeling and experiences, as they are told “Be strong.” What a blessing when bishops and pastors alike said, ‘This was the missing piece in the land” and how happy they were that God had shown them what the missing piece was. Yet another amazing day. Glory to the highest!!!
Bishop Isaac asked Mike (with no advance notice… du-du-duuuuunnnnnnnnn) to stand before all the pastors and give them a word at the end of the conference. The Holy Spirit was moving and Mike blessed the people with an amazing message. Let’s not forget that a sweet pregnant lady walked up to Shannon and told her that if she had a girl she was going to name it “Shannon.” She thought it had something to do with the light that shined 😉
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
From Shannon: Nothing beats morning worship. This morning that’s exactly how we began our day. Let me explain a little further. Nan wakes up around 6 a.m. rain or shine, late night or no. It’s the most beautiful moment to open my ears to her whispering her song of choice, yet clapping so loudly because her earphones hinder the ability to realize how loud the clap truly is. It’s quite fantastic, actually. A great way to begin the day. Furthermore, Nan hates for me to sleep in (or lay there and simply listen and grin while she is preparing for the morning), so if I’m not quite fast enough for her, I get a resounding theme song of “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory” with a nice swat on the bed. Memories are special aren’t they?
Today we made many new memories. It began and ended with a Boda Boda ride. This, for Nan and I, was old hat. However, for Mike – a completely new adventure. He appeared a little uneasy, but was incredibly brave and hopped right on. I think Boda’s are the best form of transportation in Africa. When we ride in a car we remain relatively undusty, but we miss so much of the scenery and have to go slow, as the roads are full of ruts and such. On a Boda we feel free; able to wave and smile at the passerby and hear as the children yell, “mzungu, mzungu,” smiling broadly with delight. The colors seem more vibrant and the air more fresh. Nan and I have decided that we are most definitely Boda girls. The jury is still out on Mike being a Boda man. Perhaps he has a reason to be uneasy, as we are simply a little over-brave. Because here’s a question for you. How could one wreck on a Boda? Well, there are many ways, I suppose. But today’s answer? If one got knocked over by a cow! Today we had the amazing experience of weaving back and forth between the cows. They simply moved over and made way. Nature is amazing, isn’t it? We have the capacity to learn and grow in so many ways.
The Grief Recovery group understood the concepts discussed today very well. We were humbled and amazed at their hearts. They were so willing, intelligent, and open to learn. They were astounded and incredibly grateful to learn. Maurice, a pastor in one of the surrounding villages, declared, “I am so honored to be in this class. One thing I have come to realize is that I have killed so many people spiritually by what I have said to them. I will no longer say those things I thought were right. I just didn’t know any better”. Many of the participants emphatically expressed their hope that the culture will be set free by learning these tools, as they are beneficial and in great need in an area swamped with Aids, poverty, and death. Osborne, our translator, stated his thankfulness in now knowing how important it was to communicate his emotions with others. And as Nan was standing there in the stifling heat, I knew she could weep. I knew I could weep. We serve such a great God. It’s not just that Nan was healed to finish all that God had started… It’s not just that He would put us here to share…. It’s not just that we have amazing families who support us in our dreams… It’s the African people’s examples of true faith, real trust, and complete gratitude. They tell us all the time that they are blessed to have us here. For them, I know this to be true. But we are even more blessed to be here with them. We are even more blessed to know them.
Thursday, January 12th
Our training group is moving full speed and going remarkably well! Stay tuned.
Meet Irene Akinyi. She is a staff member here atKolego Hotels.She has been quite the worker since we arrived and is full of questions about the Lord. We have been ministering to her sharing God stories. She told us that she has one brother and a father who is still living (her mother died many years ago). Sheis working in order to support her brother so that he may get aneducation and then hopes to go to college herself once he is finished. She is very intelligent and has such a sweet spirit! God is moving. Please join us in prayer that she will come to know him in a MIGHTY way! Amen!
Friday, January 13th
What an over-the-top moment in time today was. I stood on African soil in Kenya and handed out certificate’s after a grueling week of training. The people “get it!” They will bring this to the people and healing will begin! They gave amazing testimony and Mike was able to record it all. He will be working on a video and I can’t wait to see it and give it to many more people to help spread the message! It seems words cannot express the emotions as I handed out the certificates – for both myself and the now trained specialists. I am overwhelmed and overcome. I know that God is a God of miracles and promises. He told me I would stand here and so I am. Thank you, Lord, Heavenly Daddy, for allowing me to stand here. Thank you for your amazing love. Thank you for my team. Thank you for the big things and the little things! Thank you!
Here is the first group hug of the first-ever certified specialists in Africa and a group shot after graduation! I cannot in all justice leave these pictures out because it just forces us to smile, doesn’t it? God is so good.
Tonight we went back to the hotel and sat with Irene for an extended period of time talking about God and ministering to her, answering any question she had. She asked to pray to accept Jesus into her heart! The team was overjoyed. The next morning Irene came to us and told us she had been communing with the Lord and he took her to the scripture 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
We serve a just, loving, and powerful God!
We leave to travel to Uganda tomorrow. God has moved mightily here. Can’t wait to see what else He has in store! Keep the prayers coming prayer warriors!
Sunday, January 15th
Made it to my home away from home last night after many hours of traveling. Before arriving at the FOD (Field of Dreams), we took a very bumpy road (in which our driver had to navigate potholes like an obstacle course) to Hope Children’s Home. I just couldn’t go any further until I wrapped my arms around the children and saw my son Aaron. It was such an overwhelming experience to see him run toward me. We embraced and I felt such a love pour forth. He was animated and smiling broadly. He hugged me as though he would never stop, and I returned the hug with everything that was in me. We talked happily and began to catch up (it had been a year, after all). He has grown and was very talkative! My cup runneth over…
If you ever have the chance to sponsor a child, do it. You will realize in a moment that the $35 a month is much more than money to the child you are helping. It’s a friendly face across the ocean, a message that somebody really does care. It may not build a Western house with indoor plumbing and a television. It will help build a school, help give access to clean drinking water, help a child not go hungry, and so much more.It can change the lives of one and of many. If a child knows that even one person cares… what a difference that makes. I love my son Aaron. And he loves me. Thank you God for allowing us to connect… across an ocean.
The Field of Dreams is still as beautiful and peaceful as ever. I am never any less amazed when I see how much God has accomplished on this land when I think of the bush I walked through just a short time ago. I am so grateful to the Varga’s for their hospitatlity and amazing spirit. They always make us feel so welcome.
FYI: While the FOD has electricity and internet, the power frequently goes out and the internet is very slow. We know that on some of these night we will work by candlelight (or by lanterns we brought from America)… and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We went to church this morning at Calvary Chapel, Kampala. The worship was powerful! I can’t even convey how beautiful and amazing it is, that God would knit my team together to experience this moment in time in such a powerful way. Words don’t seem to be enough.
We are finishing the preparations for our first teenage Grief Recovery group in Africa. It starts in the morning! Isn’t it amazing what happens when one makes themselves available to God? He can move in ways no one can imagine.The team will be teaching these children that even in the midst of their circumstances (and let’s face it – the circumstances are rough) – they can keep their dreams and live each moment to the fullest without focusing on the pain that comes from incompleteness.
Monday, January 16th
What an amazing day. The children are being healed during the day and the Pastor Fred is being educated and healed during the night. We are busy, busy, busy! Thank you Lord for the opportunity to be exhausted!
Tuesday, January 17th
Three years ago today I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I was told that I would not live. Yet, today I have been blessed to stand on the very ground where I was inspired and saw miracles! Satan wanted to take my voice, but God had another plan and now I can speak louder than ever! So up your nose with a rubber hose and twice as far as a chocolate bar Satan! God had bigger and better plans for me and here I am – alive and well! I am an over-comer!
Wednesday, January 18th
Sometimes we all want to just lie down and rest for hours. We want to go through a drive thru so that our meals are prepared in the span of five minutes. We want our hair to be clean… we want to soak in a hot bath with bubbles and a good book. I would like to ride around in an air conditioned vehicle on smooth roads. Reliable electricity would be nice. Even dial up speed internet would be nice. But I want one thing even more than all those things. I want to fulfill the calling of the Lord on my life.
Today, as I spent time with the children, I talked with them about their dreams. I wanted them to know that they should never let anyone or anything steal them. When we are born God placed in each one of us a very special purpose and calling on our lives. Everyone is different. Some people sew, some cook, some work on cars, some people are doctors or lawyers. But one’s gift isn’t any more important than anyone else’s. If everyone had the same gift, we would never get things accomplished in the world. We all need one another. Sometimes the people or circumstances we live in try to tell us “you can’t.” We get discouraged and we want to give up. But if God gave you a dream He will help you fulfill it. In order to do that, it’s a two way street. If you try to have a relationship with someone and they don’t respond, then your relationship won’t work. God gives us those gifts and what we need to accomplish it, but we have to do our part! So what is our part? Our part is to set our eyes on the goal, like Paul talks about in the Bible. We can’t let the circumstances, situations, worldly distractions, or people lead us astray. This resonates with me so much. I told them that my family laughed at me when I told them I wanted to be a doctor. We were very poor and sometimes we didn’t have food to eat, but I kept my eyes focused on the dream God had given me and I didn’t allow my dream to be stolen from me. We can steal our dreams ourselves by focusing on the fun, worldly things in life ~ but we have to help God and stay focused and not be distracted or led astray!
They were riveted.
We all stood in a circle and each person “high fived” their promise, saying, ‘I will not let anyone steal my dreams!” It was awesome.
Lunch was full of bonding moments and happy memories. I sat with my son and hugged him. I asked him why he was wearing a jacket in the warm weather. He grinned and, at first, would not respond but only smiled quietly. Soon, however, he replied, “I’m wearing it because it looks “smart.” In Africa, “smart” means “good looking.” He is growing up so fast and is becoming brave and outgoing every time I see him. I watched as Robert and Ronald played the drums and the girls began to dance. Shannon got up and tried to do the same dances and the children tittered because she couldn’t quite get it. Mike and I decided to show them how it’s done and got up and began to do the “Twist.” They were all rolling on the floor laughing. The best part? They all got up and began to dance with us. These children need joy and simple moments of pure delight. Thank you, God, for allowing us to be a part of that.
I love this place unconditionally. I love the smells. I love the red dirt. I love feeling dusty and dirty. I love riding a Boda between the cows as their Sheppard walks them to find food. I love that Field of Dreams is growing and changing each and every time I see it. I even love beans, rice, and matoke. But more than all of that… I love the heart of the people. Thank you, Lord for the hearts of the people.
Thursday, January 19th
It was our final day working with the teens. They did amazing and were able to heal from the trauma and hurts the past held for them. The children had learned how important it was to communicate “recovery components,” and each child surprised us with letters to explain how they felt about the process and the team. They said it best:
“I thank God because before you came I would hear people say, “Be honest.” I was puzzled by that word and am thankful that now I understand what it truly means. I know that He brought you for a purpose. Now I know to be honest to God, my friends and relatives, and to other people.”
“I thank God for the opportunity of learning new things.”
“Other people are sitting in their house but you left your house to teach us. I thank God for that.”
“Thank you for the study of grief recovery. It has changed my heart and my life and taught me how to forgive. You know, it’s not always easy to forgive but thank you because you taught me how to forgive.”
What words are there to touch one’s hearts except for the truth and transparency of these precious children? They thank the team… but we thank them. We thank you for supporting our dream and praying for us every step of the way. We are so grateful…
Aaron has wanted to be a doctor since the very beginning. So I brought my lab coat and here he is (check out the sparkle in his eye – I think it might have been a “moment” for him!!! It certainly was for me.):
I want these children to know that God loves them and every dream they have ever wished can happen, if they only stay focused and draw close to the Lord. He has a mighty purpose and plan for them!
This evening I was also able to see Pastor Simon. The team all spoke at his church and then we were able to bless him. Please pray as he has a mysterious ailment that the doctors in Africa cannot seem to diagnose and treat. He is doing better but it has been difficult for both him and his wife. And OF COURSE, we walked across the street to see my dear friend who prayed last year to accept the Lord. She is 95! She was amazed to see me and I was so blessed to see her. The first thing she said to me was, “I still have my joy!” She brings me joy… and her name is Madeline. So we told her that she will now be called “Madeline Joy!” She loved that! We all prayed for her and it is a desire of my heart to see her again.
Thank you God. Thank you Daddy. My cup continues to run over…
Saturday, January 21st
69 Pastors educated in the Grief Recovery Method
20 certified Grief Recovery Specialists (19 in Kenya and 1 in Uganda)
9 teenagers and 2 adults set free
28 children and 3 adults saved
Value of our 19 day mission trip = priceless
Thank you Lord that people’s lives are changed by the power of Your Word! Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers while we were in Africa! It was an amazing trip and the changes we saw in their lives made all the discomfort of long travel, intensity of work,and being away from home worth it. Our time was busy and full, chaotic at times, but it was so wonderful. We hope to go back in May and do even more as we begin Phase 2, reaching even more people, training even more pastors, and working with even more orphans!There is so much loss in these areas… HIV, Poverty, Disease, Starvation… One man stated that he had been to 20 funerals in the past year alone. It says something when you drive down the road and see coffins for sale along the side of the road. How can we say no?
Please help us pray that God will provide the necessary funds to take a larger team in May to further impact the region. Again, thank you so much for your support!
Now onto getting past this Jet Lag!