Monday, July 16, 2018

Why Not Me?


Some missionaries are attacked by night terrors. Others, sickness and anxiety. For Nathan, it’s sleepless nights. For me, it’s doubt.
Before our Dignity Project distribution, I had three African’s check my teaching manuscript and outline for the day. I have learned that my well-intentioned, well thought out plans might not always be culturally appropriate. So, with their review, I left for the training feeling equipped.
After a beautiful 1.5 hour boat ride across Lake Victoria, we reached Buvuma Island. Hundreds of excited children ran to our boat to greet us.
Seventy-eight eager teen girls gathered in the chapel. “What am I doing here?”, I thought to myself, “Who am I to be teaching them?”
The attacks began.
“Why not me?”, I thought to myself and started sharing my testimony.
I told the girls how I had once sought to find my value in all the wrong places as a young adult and how it wasn’t until I felt God’s love for me that I felt true worth. Ugandans rarely cry and yet here I was with tears streaming down my face.
“What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. “Who am I to be teaching them?"
The attacks persisted.
“Why not me?” I thought to myself and I pressed on.
We scoured the Scriptures as we studied sex, holiness, who we are in Christ and living a life of purity. We played a true or false game to add some fun and laughter. Sometimes, when I thought the girls understood a concept, I'd realize they didn’t quite get it yet and I felt a pang of defeat.
“What am I doing here? Who am I to be teaching this?”, I thought to myself as I explained and reexplained.
“Why not me?", I thought to myself and resolved to move forward.
I asked the girls to stand up and tell the class what they learned. One by one, they stood up and shared:
“I learned to honor my parents.”
“I learned I am valued by God.”
“I learned to respect my body.”
Realizing the things that were sinking in, my heart began beating fast and tears welled up in my eyes.
The girls received their gorgeous, handmade Dignity Project sanitary pads. I caught a glimpse of Sophie passing out the pads and felt tremendous gratitude. All day long, my Sophie heard about my mistakes, my redemption, who she is in Christ and how we can live holy lives for God. She saw that a redeemed life is a life of service to God.
We ended the day by giving the girls an opportunity to pray and commit to living a life of purity for God. I wanted the prayer time to be sincere, so I gave the girls the opportunity to leave if they wanted.
“What am I doing here? Who am I to be teaching them? What if no one stays behind to pray?”, I thought to myself.
“Why not me?" I thought to myself as I looked around the room.
Not a single girl left.
All 78 girls, including the Muslim girls, stayed behind to pray.
I walked outside the chapel and cried a sigh of relief behind a huge palm tree. All throughout the day I felt scared, vulnerable and even silly at times. But God helped me.
He always helps me. In the midst of my doubts, he speaks to me saying, "Why not you, Jade. Why not you?"
Why not you?
Love,
Jade

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hidden



I woke up this morning to the sound of birds overhead and babies next door. While the sun warmed up, I drank coffee, read the Bible and ran through the plan for the day with Jade. Today, like every day lately, we’re hidden. No, we aren’t in hiding. We’re hidden. Hiding is a place for shame or fear. Hidden is a place where your unseen by mostly everyone but God. Today, like every day lately, our work is mostly unseen.
With a second cup of coffee I sit down at my computer to plug away at another chapter in a book that isn’t finished, another lesson in curriculum that isn’t done and a list of emails that will mostly solicit a reply or two. I push my work aside when an eager university student arrives at our gate. We study and discuss for an unplanned 4 hours. Jade isn't going to the village today, she’s going down the street to a tiny shop in the slums. Before she can distribute or teach, she needs products to take with her and lessons to follow. She affectionately calls days like today in the tailoring shop ‘a laboratory for her heart’. She’ll spend her day inspecting seems and cuts and quality. She’ll take three hours to do 3 minutes of work because conversations are most important. Our hidden work is the heavy lifting of ministry that happens before most people know anything has happened. It’s preparation but it’s also the core of the work. Hidden work is the study before the teaching, the training before the delivery, the hours and hours that come behind and before. I’m fulfilled in the hidden work of interviews, heavy study and prayerful thought. Jade is at her best in the work before the work where discipleship happens one-on-one. We move in weakness without a preceding hidden.
As Jade and I think about our hidden work, we wonder who else is hidden this morning. What are you doing that is vastly important to God’s ministry through your life while remaining unseen, unrecognized and hidden to everyone around you? Before the famous walk on the water, Jesus showed us his hidden ministry: “After he had sent them away, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Who are you when you’re alone? Hidden ministry is a potent force. Are you hidden?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Everything's Better Together


Today is Sophie's 11th birthday. She designed her day and tonight before bed she said, "This was the best birthday ever".
To Sophie, the best birthday ever was waking up to the dining room filled with cheap colorful balloons laying on the floor. It was banana pancakes with fake maple syrup. It was opening a handful of presents from family in the States and taking video so that grandparents could “be with us". It was homemade chicken pot pie. It was lawn games, pyramids and gymnastic shows with our little family all evening long.
Tonight, as the sun was setting, God warmed my heart. I thought of all the times I wondered if this call was 'too much' for our kids. I thought of how much the call of God has cost them. But when I look at this picture, I see our failed attempt at a pyramid bringing six belly laughs. We rolled in the grass laughing until the guard said, “uh, their might be termites there”.
Sophie’s birthday has been a solid reminder of two massive truths. Number one, God’s will is always worth it. Number two, everything is better when it’s done together.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Art of Sharing

I have so much to learn. 
A beautiful African woman sat at a table near us. She ordered a pizza and a huge plate of chips (french fries) for her and her family to enjoy. A short time later, the store manager approached her table and asked, “how is your food?". Her face lit up with a huge pearly white smile. 'Goodness, she is gorgeous’, I thought to myself. She raved over the food and then said something astonishing, “Would you like a piece?” He smiled and humbly declined.
Later in the afternoon, Ruby and I made our way to the playground near our home. A family (who we didn’t know) was at the park celebrating their daughter’s birthday. The adults were dressed in suits and fancy dresses. The children were wearing their Sunday best. (African’s dress better than anyone I know, myself included.) As we approached the swing set, the African family caught a glimpse of us. “Would you like to join us? We are celebrating our daughter’s birthday. Would you like some cake and soda?” I thought, “What!?!” Again, I was astonished. We were strangers and they were inviting us to sit at their table. They cut the slices of cake smaller than they needed to, just to share with us. I sat there in awe as they carved up bite sized chunks of cake just so they could share it with passing strangers. If I were in Indiana at the park celebrating Ruby’s birthday and strangers walked by, the thought wouldn’t even cross my mind to offer them a slice of cake and a can of soda. If I were having a backyard barbecue I wouldn’t think to offer a passerby a hot dog.
The cake and soda didn’t just give me a sugar rush. It deposited value. It said, “you are worth me having less so that you can participate in my life.”
Later that night, Ruby and Ezra were praying with Nathan before bed. They thanked God for the “cake and pepsi in the park”. We realized that this kind of community love...the sharing, involving, including kind of culture…it’s normal to them. It’s not a crazy, standout action…it’s just a piece of pizza or cake in the park…it’s “normal".
I have so much to learn.
-Jade 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Dignity Project Mother's Day Campaign


I was so nervous to share this year's campaign with you. Sharing the horror of what many women with fistula's experience here felt risky. What if you didn't understand? What if you were silent? With a stomach filled with nerves and a tender heart, I clicked "post" and released this year's campaign video to you.
And God wooed my heart through you. You rallied around me. You rallied around daughters scared to be teased at school. You rallied around lonely women lying in hospital beds. You rallied around orphans who don't have a mother to ask senstivie questions about their bodies. You rallied around husbands who work long days to provide for their families but still struggle to afford a luxury like a sanitary pad. 
May you not forget that to the majority of the world, sanitary pads are a luxury. 
Our seamstresses have been hard at work building up our stock. Now, it's time to distribute some pads! Stay tuned!
Thank you Church. 
{ Many of you have asked if you can give to The Dignity Project throughout the year. The answer is YES, of course! Our account is open all year long! thedignityprojectuganda.com }

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mother's Day 2018 with The Dignity Project


You heard it right! Your $5 allows a woman with a fistula to walk freely without shame. Your $5 ensures that a school girl won’t miss class. Your $5 brings a hug and smile to a woman in the psychiatric hospital. Your $5 is allowing our seamstress’ to pay their 8 children’s school fees. 
+ please watch and share this video
+ click ‘give’ to sponsor a woman today
+ download the Mother’s Day card to give to the woman your honoring

Thank you! I love you people!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Very Best You


I’m the best me when the people around me are nothing like me. As a father, I need father’s from other cultures and backgrounds to show me what works. As a husband, I need to watch a marriage succeed in a culture other than my own. I need my biases questioned, my traditions demoted and my preferences lost in a sea of another majority. I’m the best me when my “hear me” turns into “show me” and my security rests in the hands of some other shade of skin. The best man you’ll see me be is the fish out of water kind of man with flailing arms and gasping breath because my go-to power move has no traction here and I’m forced to follow the pace of “them”. My son needs men who aren’t like me. My daughters need examples besides my own and my children are the best them when people completely unlike their parents lead them, share wisdom with them and obtain a place of consistent respect in their lives. We are the best family we can be when the families around us are not like us. In the video, you see my son running, kicking a soccer ball and laughing. I love him and we love spending time together but I have not once witnessed him moving in this way. It’s not the surgery from last August. It’s not just a good day or just a game he likes. Ezra is being influenced by men who aren’t like me. I’m not threatened, I’m thrilled. In the past, I’ve asked other men to help me discipline and instruct my son in the lifestyle and expectations of honorable men. Jade has asked women who aren’t like her to speak into the life of our daughters from their own perspectives. The “other” people in this world are a missing piece in the very best you. Love isn’t just a bridge between cultures, it’s a wholeness and fullness within our own.  -Nathan