Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Introducing...

Hello good friends! Over the last year on our Facebook page we have been sharing some special people God has connected us with. We'd like to introduce them with you, our blog readers!

January 13, 2016: Meet Serge. He calls me "pastor" but for Jade he says, "Hi momma". He greets us with a smile that our family has fallen in love with. Serge is a young university student from Congo who attends KIU (Kampala International University). Every Tuesday night at 5:30 he comes to our house to join us in whatever we are doing. Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we watch a movie. Sometimes it's just Serge and I. Sometimes we have company over. No matter what the plan, Serge becomes our son for a night. At the end of every visit I spend time with him in the discipleship manual. He's always reading way ahead and comes very organized with pages of questions and thoughts. Last night we read a chapter about temptation. At the end of the chapter the book asks three questions of the reader. Question #1: What is the difference between sin and temptation? Serge's answer, "Sin is the physical and mental accomplishment of temptation." I gave him a high-five. He told me, "I've gathered a group of college students to go through this manual. Every 10 chapters we want to invite you to come help us with any questions we might have." I clapped my hands and shouted at Jade in the next room, "Did you hear that! Serge is leading a discipleship group!" We are proud of our Congolese son. We thank God for putting Serge in our lives.


December 7, 2015:  I look at Jajja and I'm struck by her beauty. The lines on her face tell stories of wisdom. Wrinkles cover the back of her hard worked hands. Silver strands sprinkled throughout her beautiful hair. Strong, thick arms from digging all day. The fullness of joy bubbling out of her mouth. Eyes sparkling with Christ. She is praised in her community for her faith in God and generosity. She has a small garden that she shares with those who need food. One of my friends, a single mother of 8, survives off of the food she and her children are able to dig out of Jajja’s garden.
Ladies, today you will be bombarded with anti-aging solutions that assume only youth is beautiful. Is that true? Absolutely not! You may see shiny silver strands begin to sprinkle your beautiful hair. Let those strands remind you of the lessons God has taught you that you can now share with others. You may see wrinkles lining your once smooth skin. Let those lines remind you of the acts of service in your past where others saw Jesus through you. Jajja taught me this: beauty is love exposed. Live a life of love and the aging of your body will be like jewelry celebrating a job well done. -Jade




October 29, 2015: Meet Julie. Many of you have been praying that God would give me a close friend here in Uganda. Meet Julie. Today we ran 4.2 miles in a downpour of rain from start to finish. It was a total blast. She is the kind of friend you can go to on your worst day. She too has a heart for the orphan and is a fellow adoptive mom. We make homemade pumpkin spice syrup together (in our pajamas) and love to explore the hidden gems of this amazing city we call home. Until we moved here I never realized what a sincere blessing friends are. I'm grateful God has given me them here in Uganda! -Jade



November 13, 2015: Meet Dora, Rita, Teddy and Harriet. These are Godly woman. Within a year Harriet lost 3 children, her mother and her father. When Rita accepted Christ as her Savior she was banished from her village. She has not seen her family in over 6 years. When you talk to Dora she lights up praising God that her husband is able to make enough money to send her children to school. Teddy is blessed with a house but now that she is a widow there is no reliable income for her family. These women help feed her and her children. When Teddy is able to make some money she praises God that she is able to give a tithe at church (pictured behind).
These ladies are the first women I have the honor of training to make The Dignity Project reusable sanitary towels. They are tremendous workers, talented seamstresses and hugely optimistic. The ladies excitedly shared, “These will not only sell in our village but everywhere! Every woman and girl will use these!” They hope to earn a sustainable income to help provide for their families and give to the church.




November 5, 2015:  My dad and I share similar stories with both of us coming back to the Lord and accepting His call to pastoral work. During this past week with my parents in Uganda my father and I took on a small side project. We bought some wood, came up with a design and built a pulpit for a local AGC pastor and his son. This morning we presented the pulpit gift to Wilson and Isaac with much clapping and celebration. I explained to Wilson how the cross on the front was made from Redwood, an American type of wood. I told him how my father found that piece of wood 35 years ago and built our family nativity from it. When his boys grew and left home the nativity was deconstructed to make a smaller one and this wood has come from that childhood memory of mine. The only things that wood has been used for are the birth of Christ and the cross of Christ. What an awesome story and gift to share from one family of preachers to another!


October 8, 2015: Meet Mercy. She has been fighting for her life since the day she was born. At 1 day old she was nearly killed simply because she was born with no arms. Two weeks ago she was brought to the orphanage I volunteer at. She has gained so much weight, is full of JOY and has a contagious smile.Today the caretakers and I discussed how God has incredible plans for her future. This girl is going to change the world! -Jade


September 14, 2015: Meet my friend Agnes. Our birthday's are only 1 day apart. This morning we celebrated and during the car ride home we sang 'This Is The Day The Lord Has Made' like children. She is an excellent cook and for our monthly outdoor movie nights she always brings homemade treats. She is unashamedly passionate about God and you can't go too long in conversation without her saying, 'I love God so much'. The house she and her family were living in was surrounded by people doing witchcraft. Last month her son nearly died because of it. Through the power of prayer he is alive and well! We were able to help her family get a new home in a better neighborhood with great neighbors. Every single time I see Agnes she says, 'Thank you for loving us. Thank you for helping us.' She and her family are easy to love. We are grateful for friends like Agnes who enrich our lives. -Jade 

August 4, 2015: Meet Winnie. Some of my favorite times in Uganda happen when I'm sitting on the kitchen floor, sipping coffee and chatting with this awesome woman. I've coined her as my "cultural coach". She's taught me everything from how to properly greet to how long my skirt should be for different occasions. She's taught me that's there's no sense in delaying prayer--if something needs prayer, pray now. She's taught me what it means to give God glory in all circumstances. She's helped me to embrace my style, my frame and my outgoing nature. She's taught me that there's always time for a long conversation and that people are more important than tasks. When I do something kind she always, always says, "Thank you for that heart." She spoils me with cinnamon rolls and she is my friend. -Jade 



May 3, 2015: Meet your new brother in Christ, Lawrence. On Easter Sunday he and Nathan prayed together as he repented and committed his life to the Lord. Nathan arranged a discipleship partner for him who is a trusted young Ugandan friend of our family. When we arrived at church today we were elated to see that he had joined the worship team on stage. Lawrence displays a deep spiritual transformation. He is working hard at trying to read the Bible. His Bible was sent to us by a generous family from Brookhaven Wesleyan Church. So cool! Today he showed us his Bible saying, "I love the poetry" and said he is going to work hard this week at trying to read Psalm 139 so he can share it as his testimony next Sunday at church. Lawrence is very special to our family. Will you commit to praying for him?


May 16, 2015: Meet our friend, Pastor Benson. He is a district superintendent (here called 'overseer') in Nebbi, Uganda which is in the Northeastern part of the country. He is a school teacher (to pay the bills), a pastor, a community leader, a radio host for a weekly Christian program and an administrator with
 the Africa Gospel Church. We've spent the past 24 hours with him at our home talking, eating, laughing, dreaming and reflecting on our pasts. I (Nathan) was so impressed by this man. This morning I wrote in my journal, "I have a lot to learn from Benson." Before he left he told us he had called his wife saying, "I feel at home here like I do at our home." What an amazing privilege to host a great man of God like Benson. Let's pray for him, his family and his ministry! -Nathan 


January 24, 2015:  Meet Patrick. He's with me at a training in the village of Patete. This good man lives on the slopes of Mt. Elgon near the border of Uganda and Kenya. He is a bee farmer who has worked very hard to make the most of what's available to him. As a result of his hard work the government has given him $5,000 of equipment and arranged for him to attend a conference in Tokyo, remarkable achievements in these parts of the world. He is an encouragement to his community, a man quick to smile and be supportive and an absolute joy to talk to.

Hope you enjoyed "meeting" these terrific people! Follow along with us on Facebook here


Monday, January 11, 2016

Masese Fire: Beauty For Ashes

Thursday evening we got a message from our friend David that a fire had ripped through the slum near the church where he pastors.  Over 20 families lost their homes. Imagine pastoring a community of some of the world's poorest people and then watching helplessly as fire destroys their makeshift housing structures. Commenting on a place where people have nothing David wrote, "Many have lost everything."  Nathan could not stop thinking of David and the Masese community and asked our leadership how we as a team could respond. On Sunday our team rallied together and went to Masese to pour some hope and love on the ashes of suffering and loss.

We worshipped together in song, dance and study of the Word. Here are the children of AGC Masese with our WGM missionary kids.  
The kids had a blast playing jump rope and tag!
Here are Alex, Seth, Sumini, Isha, Lukiya, Mercy, Fatuma, Florence and Nathan. They are among the 25 families who lost their homes. A leader of the community said of the fire victims, "Some thought maybe they would just throw themselves in the lake."
This bed frame is all that remains of a burned home. It's been pulled from the ashes and set aside with the building materials for the new structure. 
Within 3 days of the fire this resilient community has already started to rebuild! 
 This community is filled with witchcraft. In-fact, many believe that the fire was caused by a spell by someone practicing witchcraft. What I love about this photo is the reminder that right in the center of the community are Christians who love Jesus. Yes, their homes were destroyed but their faith in God reminds. 
A child's school work remains among the ashes. 
Here is an example of what most of the homes in Masese look like. 

Jajja could not stop smiling! She received new cooking pots, a new mattress and food. 
Each of the 25 families received new mattresses, food and clothing from AGC Masese. Many of our close friends here in Kampala donated clothing to help. As I opened the bags that kept piling on our front porch I was so touched to see some of our friends very best clothes in the bags. I love the body of Christ!  
After we arrived home Pastor David called Nathan and shared with him that many in the community are already talking about the Church's response. It is our teams prayer that they will visit Africa Gospel Church Masese and ultimately come to know Christ as their Savior!

Friends, I must confess that 
only six hours from our departure in the dark of the night I was plagued by my desire for comfort. As I have shared here before, I struggle with the "what ifs" and fear. I tossed and turned in the night struggling with my thoughts. I prayed through fear of possible car sickness on the 2 hour journey there. I prayed through fear of what our kids would see and experience. I pleaded with God to forgive my desire for comfort. God is so good to meet us in our need, isn't He?

One of us did struggle with car sickness and it turned out okay. Our kids saw hard things and we had the most beautiful conversations about how Christ is no stranger to suffering. Ezra prayed a heart-wrenching and God-glorifying prayer that night for those who lost their homes.  
Christ continues to call us to go, to step out of our comfort zones and to be with people. I praise Him that He keeps calling. That He wrestles with me through through my fears. That the being with people is always, always worth the "Yes, Lord."
  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Dignity Project + New Moms


I'm sitting on my front porch digesting the day. Tears are streaming down my face. What a privilege this life is...to share in the joy and suffering of those around me. I often feel like I need to apologize for my ever-leaking eyes because women here are so so strong. I have no apologies today as Jesus spoke over me, "Your heart was made to burden bear. You cry." 
Today with my daughters and friends by my side we ministered in two local maternity wards. Most women here endure labor alone and without pain medication. We prayed over dozens of women who had just delivered babies and comforted many women in labor. We wept with a woman whose daughter lived for only a few hours. We gave each new mother Dignity Project sanitary pads and a bundle of clothing for her new baby. I even had the honor of naming a little girl (Esther) and a little boy (Emmanuel). I left the hospital with "baby fever" for sure! Today my friend Caroline looked at me and said, "Jade, you know we do these things and think it's such a small thing. But these women will never forget today. It will leave a lasting impact".

The ministry of presence, my friends, is everything.
Sophie praying over mom and baby.

Baby Emmanuel (who I was asked to name). God with us. 
Our assistant bishops wife Caroline praying over a laboring mom.  
What we gave every new mother.
Baby Miracle. 
The moms really appreciated the sanitary pads. They raved over the design and thanked us over and over again!
My friends Caroline and Winnie took total ownership of The Dignity Project and explained to each mom how the pads work. It was incredible to watch them!  
Can you see why I have "baby fever"?! 
Praying over new baby. 
Sophie passing out clothes. :)

Thank you to all of you who pray for us, partner with us financially and lovingly sew Dignity Project pads. We love you!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

One Year in Uganda Video Update!



Hello friends and family! From the hills of Nakigalala outside Kampala we recount the work that's been done in our first year. Thank you to those who have partnered with us in the work! In this video we cover the major projects we are involved in. We love you!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Exciting Praise!

I have the COOLEST news ever! Last Thursday Nathan prayed over me, sent me out the door and I drove 45 minutes away (the farthest I'd ever driven alone here) to a small village called Nakigalala. I blasted praise music, giddily prayed and felt Jesus speaking, "You were made for this. You were made to simply spend time loving people," over me. I snapped this photo of myself when I arrived to the village. I wanted to remember the first time I had ventured out this far away from home with just my Jesus.


Weeks before I met a woman who had 14 children (8 living with her), all of them extremely malnourished. I couldn't get her off my mind and knew I needed to see her again. I arrived to her home with overwhelming love in my heart, arms full of food and prayer on my lips. I had never witnessed poverty like what they were living in before. The pastor said he hadn't either. Nine of them sharing a full sized bed. Rain was pouring inside their home through unfinished roofing. Each child with bloated bellies and hollow eyes from malnutrition. 
Well listen to this! The pastor just called and shared the most beautiful news. Sunday at church the woman I visited testified about our time together. She called it 'the action gospel' because it was more than words. After she told of our time together, she rededicated her life to Christ and FOUR women came forward to accept Christ as their personal Savior. They want to know this Man of the 'action gospel.'
God is SO GOOD. We are shouting in praises over here! Friends, there is nothing greater that you can do today than to love others by simply spending time with them!



Monday, November 9, 2015

Life in Him

I remember it like it was yesterday.  The airstrip dotted with twinkling lights.  The immediate health inspection from masked nurses and the scramble for 21 pieces of luggage containing everything we currently owned.  A very dark parking lot. As we were loading in 2 vans, Uganda greeted us with a power outage. My heart began to race and fear welled up.  I couldn’t see anything; only sounds.  In a small crowd of people with my husband and children, I felt completely alone. Nathan and our teammates quickly turned their phone lights on and began packing the vehicles. We then made the windy, dark, one-hour trip to our new home.  Someone said, “almost there” when the van turned onto a narrow dirt road littered with potholes and my fear grew yet again.   My mind raced, “What has God called us to?”  As the big iron gate opened I saw unfamiliar things like a guard in a long black raincoat, tall concrete walls surrounding the property and razor wire lining every side.  When the van was unloaded our teammates left and Nathan shut the iron door to the house locking it from the inside like some bunker.  I was so fearful that night I had our children sleep with Nathan and I.
The first time I went for a jog alone, I was afraid I would get hurt. The first time I was pulled over by a police officer, I was afraid in the uncertainty of the protocol. The first time I was asked to speak at church here, I was afraid of making a fool of myself. The first time Nathan left us to minister in the village, I was afraid he would get hurt. The first time I was invited to a bible study, I was afraid that the women wouldn’t like me.
“Keep moving”. “Do it”. “Press in”. “Die to yourself.” These are the things God begs of me in moments of fear. Isn’t that what Christianity is at it’s core? A call to die to yourself. 
There are moments even still that fear rises up in me. But as I look over the last year of my life, I have realized in the dying to self, I have found life and freedom in Him.   

I now enjoy daily morning jogs where I'm often surrounded by giddy children cheering me on. 
I love exploring this beautiful city. 
Nathan’s village trips have become so rewarding I can’t wait for him to get back so I can hear the stories.  
My bumbling attempt at Luganda is met with kind smiles and gratitude for making an effort to speak their heart language.  


The weekly bible study I attend has been such a warm place of friendship and encouragement.  
So, brothers and sisters, what will we do? Will we choose to believe God even when our knees are shaking and our hearts are racing with fear?  



Let's live in the fullness and freedom that Christ offers today. Moment by moment. One choice at a time. It's life in Him.



Friday, October 30, 2015

The Dignity Project Update!

Who is ready for an exciting Dignity Project Update?! May God be glorified! 

I love the Church. In the last 2 months we have received over 350 reusable sanitary pads to distribute. 
Women all over the U.S. have been gathering to make these in their homes and churches. 
 
We have been working with several of our AGC pastors to bring The Dignity Project to their villages, schools and orphanages. Due to the lack of proper feminine products many girls miss school during their menstrual cycle. God has given us the opportunity to teach both girls and boys. Nathan and I designed a curriculum that caters to ages 12-18 years old.  We discuss who God designed these teens to be, purity, holiness, correct expressions of love, marriage and gender. We came up with a fun 'true' and 'false' game that the kids absolutely have a blast playing!  
Over 150 kids came to learn at Kisugu Primary School!
Here at Kisugu we donated 90 reusable sanitary pads to the girls and teachers. Many of which were made by women from McGrawsville UMC.  McGrawsville is the church where I was discipled and mentored as a teenager.  Isn't God's plan incredible!
Here I am with the younger girls at Kisugu; the older girls needed to leave class early go to a prayer service for their upcoming exams. One by one the girls came to me after class and knelt to thank me and the women who made the pads. It was humbling and beautiful. 
Women in our community have been hearing about this project. It's been fun to get knocks at our gate and phone calls inquiring about them.  There is a group of Ugandan women who are making these for widows in their church. A popular seamstress here has been using the product, loves them and is going to start making them for a sustainable income. It's so awesome to watch God work!
Here we are at God is Good School and Orphanage in Katale, Uganda just outside Kampala. 
After we teach them all together, we separate the boys and girls. Many of them stayed after class for an additional hour to talk privately with Nathan and I about more sensitive issues. Most of the children here are orphans and it was an honor to pray for them individually and speak truth into their lives.
These photos bring tears to my eyes. Girls across the world bringing encouragement to one another! 


We distributed 40 reusable sanitary pads to God is Good Primary School and Orphanage. The day after we left, their Pastor called to say that the girls were so excited that the Headmaster had a hard time getting them to go to sleep that night. 
Here we are with my friend Julie (on the right) who volunteered to help me this day. Women from the church connected to this school/orphanage are going to begin making these products in the months to come!  


It's been awesome to hear positive feedback from the young girls and women who have been using these. I am so proud of my sisters in Christ in America for responding to this need!  The whole Church has come together showing love for each other!  Nathan has been studying 1 Thessalonians.  The activity surrounding the Dignity Project reminded him of Paul's word to the churches in Macedonia: "And in fact, you do love all God's family..."  So, as Ugandans often say, "Thank you for loving us!"

Please keep praying as some exciting things are on the horizon!

Many thanks to all of you who through prayers, time and resources give so generously to make this project successful! We are so grateful!

Comment below with your email address if you would like more information about The Dignity Product.