Saturday, June 11, 2016

Eleven Years

Eleven years ago we did not begin planning for today. When I watched my bride walk down the isle I had no thought of Africa. When we dated we didn't talk about what kind of tires we should put on our vehicle that would help us get out to the villages. When she asked me about my dreams I didn't mention any of the things I do now. I'm certain that when I saw her the first time I didn't think "check out that missionary". Today was not our idea. Tomorrow isn't either. God has brought us together and set us on a path. The past eleven years of marriage say very little about Nathan and Jade. It is our hope and prayer that the next eleven say even less about us. This marriage, these children, the arms, legs, voices and partnerships formed in our familial love are all a part of God's hand at work. Monday morning we begin two weeks of packing and preparing to return to America for a year. I can think of no better way to celebrate our anniversary than to thank God for the work He has done through us in our first term. This is what we were built to do. The greatest accomplishment of our marriage, the truest picture of its health, is to complete and conquer the work God has set before us. After our year in the States we will be returning to Uganda for another three years of work. We anticipate with optimism and excitement the victories down the road. In all those things to come, God be glorified.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

University Discipleship Group

Yesterday we capped off the end of this discipleship group with a Memorial Day party at the Metz house. We played basketball, yard games and ate some good food. These university students are such an awesome group of people. It's been a privilege to get to know them! As we close out this chapter with their group, I've been reflecting on the things I've learned about discipleship.
Discipleship isn't a scheduled meeting time, it's life together. It isn't a book to read together, it's a way of life. It isn't impersonal, it's intimately personal. It isn't academic knowledge, it's the wisdom of experience. It isn't theoretical, it's practical in every way. It isn't organized, it's responsive to the moment. It isn't man's idea, it's God's plan for man. It isn't fruitless, it's fruitful even if we can't see the fruit. It isn't additions by a strong leader, it's multiplications by an indwelling Spirit of God.
I'm proud of this group of students. One of the last things I heard in my house was the question, "Can we start our own groups right away?" I was speechless. Seriously. I wasn't sure if it was a serious question. Eventually I responded with a massive understatement, "Um, yes, that would be good." In this process of discipleship I have found that the process is mutually, powerfully, internal and divinely changing for all parties involved. As a parting gift the group gave me a handmade picture made from banana leaves that shows a group of people with the words "African Discipleship". Incredible. What an awesome memory and inspiration for the future!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Who Is Like Our God?

For seven years James and his 10 relatives have been living in a 400 square foot UNFINISHED home. A four foot gap between the brick walls and tin roof ceiling allows for rain and mosquitos to pour in from outside. Malaria and colds are a common occurrence in their family. In fact, one of James' baby sisters is at the clinic now getting treated for malaria. The unsealed dirt floor is a breading ground for jiggers (a tiny parasite that burrows into feet). One of James' brothers has 20 jiggers in his tiny little feet. 

Why are we smiling so huge today?!! BECAUSE JAMES' HOUSE IS GETTING FINISHED! I cried nearly the entire hour ride to his house in anticipation of seeing the work being done. The body of Christ has rallied around this family! Before leaving I went on a walk with their pastor and he shared, "Madam Jade, the community has been watching you and your friends bringing this action gospel to this family over the last year. They see that God's love did not end on the Cross. Over the last year our church has gained 10 new believers through this families testimony." 

 How good is our God? Who is like Him? He is worthy of our praise! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

A New Reason To Celebrate!

“We’re tired of being tortured by this gospel.” These words woke me up this morning. Yesterday I traveled a few hours to the East to visit a beautiful little church nestled in a lush valley. Pastor Francis was as tall as I am, dignified and confident in his stature, humble and engaging in his demeanor. He started the church on the corner of some land he owns. Two weeks ago he found an old copy of the Discipleship Manual I wrote last year. Sunday morning he stood, paced the front and told his congregation why we (the missionaries) had come. He said, “We’ve had people in here telling us to give money and claim a miracle! We’ve had people shouting about prosperity in here! And for what? Oh no, we don’t want those miracles anymore. We’re tired of being tortured by this gospel. Today we have a new reason to celebrate, a true Gospel we can listen to!” The rest of the service was dedicated to the teaching of holiness, the rich, deep, truth of God’s saving grace. As I preached, I watched their reactions to hearing about sanctification for the first time. I watched eyes tear up at a description of a deeper maturity, a greater freedom, a holy life made possible today. And all this happened in the face of poverty. There was no gift, no mention of money or healing and no empty loud promises. We spoke only of the Gospel, as it is written in the Bible, and they cheered and waved their hands and scribbled vigorously in their notes.
God has confirmed again and again how necessary the holiness message is here. I’m so thankful to be a part of this!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Journaling About The Dignity Project

4/18/16: With every "yes" that I say to Jesus, He takes me further and further into the outer edges of society. I first brought The Dignity Project to boarding school children, then orphans, then impoverished village women, then prisoners and now the mentally ill. It's been a progressive movement to the outside.
Today I spent my day in the largest psychiatric hospital in Uganda. Over 650 people find refuge there. Men and women who are survivors of genocide, war, human trafficking, abuse, trauma and neglect fill the wards. "These people are shunned from society. They feel utterly forgotten," my friend shared. 
Soon after I arrived I found the staff making sanitary pads for the patients out of cotton and gauze. I was so happy to see first hand what the women normally use. It really is quite a creative use of medical supplies! As you can imagine, the patients and staff were absolutely thrilled to receive new reusable sanitary pads that don't leak and last years with proper care.  
After one woman received the first pair of underpants she has had in SEVEN years she started dancing. I was so moved by her joy I started dancing with her! It was a taste of Heaven dancing in her celebration! I am telling you, it was as if she won the lottery. The ladies could not believe the care and detail that was put into these Dignity Kits made by you all! I am so proud of you!
Next week I have the honor of going back to the hospital to train a group of 12 women how to make our Dignity Kits. Several of the women are soon to be resettled back into their communities and want to make them for a sustainable income. 
There have been times when I have been ashamed to tell people what my job is here. I usually say something like, "I am a reusable sanitary pad missionary of sorts". Today I have never been more proud of my title.

 4/28/16: Within the first 5 minutes of being at the physictric hospital today I learned that a woman had just taken her life. A woman fiercely loved by God. A woman shunned from her family and society simply because she has a 'mental illness'. Today I walked around the hospital and my heart broke thinking of the injustices that take place in this country that I love. "Where is Jesus", I wondered? 
Today I saw Christ in the nurses as they tenderly leaned over in love helping me teach the women how to trace, cut and sew. I felt His warmth as I lingered long in the embrace of a woman who so desperately needed a hug. I saw redemption in a man who was once a tailor until a mental illness changed his life; he is now the tailor of the hospital. The experienced tailor worked magic on the machine and blazed through one product after another. I heard the voice of Jesus in the mouth of a woman who had no idea how much I needed to be encouraged.

One woman fluffed her posture up like a flamingo and said, "When I have these Dignity Project sanitary pads on, I can just stand up like this." Another woman said, "I think if I were a high jumper I could jump high without having a problem!"
Okay seriously, I know those quotes are ridiculous. But do you realize where they are coming from? We journey into some of the darkest pits this world has to offer and put courage and confidence into those people who are forgotten and lost. To hear anything positive come from their mouths is a sign to me that God is there, loving and moving, spreading Himself like a warm blanket over the coldness that plagues us.
My heart hurts, my feet hurt. I'm tired and emotional and confused. It could be worse and I won't stop. Nathan and I are convinced that this life means nothing if it isn't given to the benefit of the lost for the growth of the Kingdom and the glory of our Lord.

5/5/16: For the last 3 weeks I have been working with a group of 4 women who are soon to be resettled back into their communities. Our hope is that they will make our reusable sanitary pads as a way to earn a sustainable income. Each week I help them perfect one part of the sanitary pad pattern. We don't move on to the next step until the current one is mastered. These ladies are meticulous and take their time on every stitch they hand sew. The results they are producing are BEAUTIFUL! I am so proud! 
Today the ladies wanted me to read The Psalms to them as they stitched. I read one Psalm after another and explained verse after verse to them. It was so sweet! We shared our struggles and dreams with one another. We talked about how Jesus is our hope, our salvation and our joy. One lady shared about how Jesus is the only One who 'fully understands' her. We all nodded in agreement. 
This sisterhood between's just as life giving for me as it is for them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Meet Florence

Today I have the honor of introducing you to an incredible woman named Florence. The Dignity Project recently partnered with a trauma counseling group here in Uganda called Tutapona. Florence was a recipient of our Dignity Kits. 

"My name is Florence and I am 39 years old. In 1993 when the war broke out in Burundi the rebels came to my home when I was 16 years old. The first thing they did was rape my mother. Then, they gave me alcohol and told me not to shout or scream as 20 men gang raped me. I was trying to fight back but they held a knife to my neck. My mother managed to escape to my stepsisters house and asked her to take her to the hospital but on the way to the hospital my Mum bled all over her car and so she killed my Mum.
I fell pregnant because of the rape but had many injuries to that area of my body. Because of the injuries I was in hospital for the entire pregnancy and then many months after the birth. One day when my baby was 3.5 months old the hospital was raided by the rebels. I never saw my baby again. I don’t know if he is dead or alive to this day. I went home but my step family chased me from our home because I had slept with rebels.
I eventually met a kind man and we married in 1997. I was leaking urine but not that much and we managed to get pregnant. The doctors ordered me to keep my legs up as much as I could and I finally gave birth to a baby girl. After I gave birth I had severe problems in that area such that I have had to wear adult diapers up to now. We lived in Burundi until my daughter was 8 but one day the rebels came again and I was not with my daughter at the time. My stepsister took her and I have not seen her since. I heard that they tell her we are dead. She is 16 right now. I have spent 8 years without seeing her. We fled to Kampala and I have now been in Nakivale Refugee Settlement for 3 years. 
I came to know about Tutapona and shared with them about my life through counseling sessions. They talked to me and cared for me. They are loving towards me. Before I met Tutapona I had lost hope as I thought no one cares for me, but they have restored my hope. God knows whether my son is dead or alive. Tutapona has told me that I will one day meet both of my children again in heaven." 

As I receive the kits that you all make, I ask God to open doors that will allow us to touch the lives of the women who need them most. As should be expected, He has been faithful. It is a tremendous honor to serve with you. 

[stunning images and interview by Helen Manson]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Trauma Of Ministry

I’m traumatized.  God directed me into the dark.  I trusted Him and I took His hand.  He led me to a place I didn’t know, to people with their problems and their pain.  His love stretches to the ends of the earth and in that end His servants toil, sharing the Gospel for His glory.  So I’m a soldier.  I’m a fighter.  I’m traumatized.
There is a trauma in ministry that is rarely spoken of.  Perhaps it is an embarrassment to some.  Perhaps it is misunderstood.  For many, it marks failure and signifies the beginning of the end.  Ministry to the Lord has stripped me of comforts and turned my life upside down.  In the evening hours I reach for a pillow but I am hemmed in by sadness, sickness and loss.  Not mine.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love.  Their pain hangs across my shoulders like dead weight, like a waterlogged carpet.  In our meal time I stretch my hand across our shiny table to a pan full of food but I find hunger and my hand is begging.  Not mine, though.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love.
In this ministry of love I am caught up in the whirlwind of wanting but not having, hurting but not healing.  Their pain is my pain.  Their trouble is my trouble.  When I look at my ankle I see the foot of James.  His was crushed by a father with a hammer in a drunken rage.  When I look at my children I see them wandering the streets, sifting through piles of fly covered refuse in search of anything with value.  When I bathe in the comfort of my home I’m covered in street runoff that provides the only water source for whole communities in our city.  Their pain is my pain.  It’s the trauma of ministry.
In the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry he saw and heard much.  In his humanity, surely he felt the trauma.  Countless numbers of sick and diseased people flocked to the face of Jesus for help.  Imagine what he thought as he laid down each night; their desperate faces flashing in his eyes.  He felt the pain of being hated.  He felt the deep distress of confrontation and public hostility.  He carried the enormous burden of love and compassion toward a people wallowing in a broken world that groans for deliverance.  Jesus endured the trauma of ministry.
I saw a truck on the side of the road.  The cab was collapsed from a head on collision.  A short distance further was a second truck with a similar appearance.  These two giant forces hit each other so hard that they were both crushed.  Trauma goes both ways.  Yes, there is a trauma in ministry.  The weight of the broken world hits the minister so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  However, the trauma goes both ways.  The weight of the Gospel hits the broken world so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  This collision sparks with light and draws the eyes and turns the necks of everyone who is near.

So, I’m traumatized.  This ministry has hit so hard that my pieces are broken.  My fabric is torn.  In my prayer I ask God to pick my head up out of the pain around me.  He says, “No.  Keep your head down.  Stay in it.  I’ll hold you up.  Let’s love them together.”  To God be the glory.  Great things He has done.