Monday, October 20, 2014

We Have Discovered Our Best Transitional Tool

I began to see a few boards at the top of my windshield inching forward.  Ezra was the only other person in the car.  He said, “Um…dad?”  I was driving downhill at forty-five miles an hour with a solid mile of rumble strips that would do exactly what they were meant to do.  I slowly put my foot to the brake trying to reduce speed while avoiding a jarring stop that would set the whole pile loose.  My straps weren’t holding.  The speed came down to 38 miles an hour before I hit more rumble strips and the pile moved forward until I could see several feet of it hanging over the hood of the truck.  My foot pushed harder on the brake and the truck decreased to about twenty miles an hour.   More rumble strips.  This time they were especially rumbly and I sensed the pile bounce free and slide forward.  Immediately, I slammed on the brakes hoping that all twenty-five boards would sail over the hood without causing any damage to the vehicle.  Fortunately the truck was unharmed but my ego was not so lucky.
Today marks one month of time here in Uganda.  So far we have been settling in.  I’ve been learning to drive, navigate, buy things, fix things, etc.  Jade has been nesting.  The kids have been acclimating and finding their place here.  Yesterday we turned a new page.
Jade and I began our language lessons.  So now if a Ugandan asks, “Do you speak Luganda?” we can reply “Mannyi Katano” which means, “I know a little”.  I will admit that “a little” is still an overstatement.  Our teacher, Florence, will be visiting our house every day from 9am-12pm for lessons for the next three months.  Today it was a beautiful sixty-two degrees and she wore a winter coat.  We told her that it is much colder than this in Indiana and showed her a picture of a huge snowman we built last winter.  She said, “Did you use your hands?”  We laughed and told her we had gloves and she said, “Oh my!  How many?”

Florence in her winter coat. :)
While we are feeling more and more at home there will continue to be experiences that remind us how much we have to learn.  Once I got that lumber home I commented on how warped and curved the boards were.  A fellow missionary said, “Do you see those marks?  They cut these things with chain saws.  Isn’t it amazing they can use a chain saw to cut a 2X4 ten feet long and still keep it that straight?”  In our adjustments we must be careful to stay in the moment and in the place.  We have grown the most when we embrace Africa for what it is and enter into the culture.  We want Africa to work itself into our minds and hearts so that we can truly minister.

When I finally got out of my truck to begin the clean up I walked around the vehicle and saw a Ugandan man standing and watching.  He smiled a big toothy smile and said, “Hello!  How are you?” as if nothing had happened.  I burst into laughter at his enthusiasm in the face of my very public spill and said, “Bulungi!!!”  He was shocked that I replied in Lugandan and he too burst into laughter.  Perhaps in that moment I stumbled across our best tool of transition: shared laughter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lord, Bend Me

"Someone here needs to allow the Lord to bend them."  Dr. Anthony Graham had excited a packed tabernacle.  "Lord, Bend Me!" he belted with his deep voice.  The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I was moved.  Those three words have been the cry of my heart since hearing them in July at Fairmount Family Camp.  He continued, "If you need to come and say to the Lord 'bend me' then come forward now."  I knew the invitation was for me.

So here we are in Uganda where the grocery stores are laid out differently and the shelves are filled with different brands and foods than what I am used to. Here we drive on the opposite side of the road and have different traffic laws. We brush our teeth with bottled water and have to plan an hour ahead to take showers so the water heather can warm. When everything in me wants to complain and say, “I wish they had ____  here or I wish they did it ___ way here, God is helping me to say, “Lord, Bend me.” I am the one who needs to bend, to flex, to adjust my thinking. 

When bisquick isn’t readily available here, I invite Him on my front step, crank up the praise music and He bends me as I make my own.

                   When the power is out and I can’t use my dryer, I ask Him to bend me as I hang our laundry on the line hoping that the rain clouds will not break loose

When my heart longs to connect with a local Ugandan woman, He invites me out of my comfort zone and bends me enough that I trot up the hill to a local woman selling banana's. In His abundant goodness He gives me a new friend to love.  Her name is Elizabeth. 

When I want to throw my hands up in the air about not knowing how to use a stove with nobs and buttons I have never seen, I invite Him to come change my attitude and I whisper in exasperation, “Lord, bend me.”  He bends and I feel joy as I cook a pot of vegetable soup.

I am here to share the love of Christ with these precious people. I want them to see His joy in me as I wait in crazy traffic, search in the isles of the grocery store and fumble my way through English/Lugadan conversations.

In the process of being bent there are crushing blows like that of a hammer against the anvil and soft sculpting nudges like the potters hands on the clay.  When the hammer strikes we have a choice.  Will we complain about the pain of the hit or celebrate the shape which we are becoming?  When we feel the cultural smash in our bones will we holler "enough!" or will we humble ourselves to say "Yes Lord!  Bend me!"?  So far, I have found joy in the latter.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our First Update From Uganda!

     “It feels like we have just been talking about this forever.  Now we are actually doing it.”  Maddix spoke with giddy movement in the seat next to me.  Sophie sat to my left as she stared out the window at the twinkling lights below as they came closer and closer.  The wheels touched the tarmac and gave the plane a little bump.  Maddix breathed deeply and whispered, “We’re here”.  Ezra and Ruby were a few rows in front of us sitting with Jade.  We gathered our luggage and shuffled down the ramp into the airport.  Health inspection.  Visa.  Luggage.  Load the van.
     As we drove through the city at midnight I could hear the children in the backseat pointing at things they had never seen before.  “What’s he doing?” they would ask, “Why are they all up so late?”  In the front seats were Josh Hallahan and Jeff Stanfield, fellow missionaries serving as our welcome committee and transportation from the airport to our new home.  We reached the house after an hour and the men began unloading the vehicles.  “We can do this Nathan, have a seat.”  I was tired enough to accept the offer.  Jade and I scurried around the new house with our children as they laughed and squealed in excitement over every new corner and cupboard.  Within a few short minutes the excitement turned to fear and I returned to our room only to find every member of my family asleep in my bed.  I went to the kid’s room to sleep.  As I laid there with my head on my pillow and my heart racing I thought about everything my family no longer had around us.  The house we love.  The friends and family we love.  Images of my children enjoying our home in America flashed through my mind.  I wanted to cry.  “What have I just done?” my tired mind was running away from me.  God replied, “Relax, Nathan.  This was my idea.  Go to sleep.”  So I did.
     Jade woke me up.  She had been awake with Maddix since 6:30am drinking hot tea and standing on our front porch.  “Did you see our view?” I asked as I rubbed my morning eyes with the back of my hands.  Jade was encouraged about Maddix’s outlook after a good night's rest as well as her own.  These first few days were hour by hour.  Our family would feel confident and joyful in one moment and trembling with emotion the next.
     Every evening we've been treated to dinner with one family from our World Gospel Mission team here in Kampala.  Sometimes we would be picked up and taken to their home.  Other times they would bring food to our home and share an hour or so with us.  We were so encouraged by these experiences.  Very quickly they became a highlight of the day that kept us chugging through whatever trembling happened before 5pm.  On Saturday our team leader, Jon Mayo, stopped by the house to check on us.  Midway through the conversation he mentioned our truck and asked if I was ready to pick it up.  I’ve driven further and further every day since then.  Today I drove through Kabalagala to Gaba Road on my visit to a grocery store.  It wasn’t the most relaxing drive I’ve ever taken but I survived.  A boda (motorcycle taxi) driver with a big wooden box nearly met the passenger side of my bull bars but I don’t think he ever noticed.  I moved along quickly so I didn’t have to find out.
     Jade has been nesting.  Today I felt great warmth as I noticed her getting creative around the house.  She hung some things, folded some things and arranged the master bedroom.  Earlier today we visited a carpenter and put in an order for some furniture.  The house is coming together.  We are learning where things are and how to get food and who to send our questions to and how long certain tasks might take.  It’s a process that requires patience but we are seeing progress.
     We’ve been excited by comments here and there about ministry opportunities but our team has been insistent upon us taking things slow.  It’s good advice.  When we aren’t bogged down with the struggle of day to day normalcies our minds are searching for answers to important spiritual questions like “what do my devotions look like here” and “how can I best show love to the person in front of me”.
     I hope I’ve given you a picture of our early moments in Uganda that might help you to enter our world as you desire.  In that sharing of our experience we ask that you continue to pray for a thriving existence.  May God be glorified in everything we say and do in this beautiful country!

Maddix asked if she could read to Peter.  He loved it!

Ezra has spent countless hours chatting with our guards.

Jade has been adding her "touches" around the house helping it to feel like home.

We put in an order with this fine furniture maker.  We're excited to pick it up in 3 weeks!

This produce truck is just down the street from our house.  We will shop here often.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


We are here safely in Uganda! There is a paradox in this home. It is both an intimate cozy family space and a great community movement. We are a happy group of six sent by a passionate group of hundreds. There is a paradoxical pull between ambassadorship and fellowship. This building is both a home and an outpost. It both shelters our children and trains our hearts for ministry. To those who have sent us here and continue to pray for us: thank you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Everything in Him

Here is our empty keyring. After today's final preparations we are ready to go. We have no house here to unlock. We have no car to start. We've wept and asked God to receive our tears as worship. Our friends and family have loved us well and we've held their hands in prayer. Our keyring might convey the message that we have nothing. Do not be fooled. In Him, we have everything.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Being a Missionary

* Maddix is guest blogging today. These are the unedited, untouched, honest words of our oldest daughter.*

Being a missionary is hard. But there is happiness.  Happiness about going to new churches or making new church friends. What’s hard is that you have to say goodbye to friends and family but you’ll see them again. When you’re a missionary you are not going on one adventure.  You go to different churches and to training and adventures with friends.                          
At the party at Brookhaven there was snacks and drinks.  I had to say goodbye to some of my friends. Of course we took thousands of pictures and same with hugs. It isn’t easy to say goodbye to your best friends or teachers. But during training my family learned how to say good goodbyes so training was helpful. God has helped us through this past year.

Going to new churches and making new friends has been awesome! I was happy when I heard I was going to a cook out or fireworks or swimming or a pig roast. But most importantly I am happy to be a missionary! Bless the Lord!!!  

If God asked you to be a missionary would you do it even if it was not easy?    


(I took this picture)