Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ezra's heart

  As we were eating breakfast this morning Ezra made a comment that was so precious that I had to share it. Out of the blue, in the middle of a bowl of cereal, Ezra says, "Do you know how I feel about kids whose parents have died? I want us to take care of them 'cause they will be sad if we don't take care of them." Thank you, God, for giving my boy a tender heart and a desire to care for orphans! I am so thankful that God is growing our whole family as we follow his call on our lives.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Good Shepherd's Fold Group Photo

Here is a group photo from Good Shepherd's Fold from 2011. This was taken before we visited, but I thought it might be helpful for you all to see the many lives impacted through this ministry.

Mercy and Compassion

I have just begun reading Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, by Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison, and Henry Nouwen. In the introduction they quote Luke 6:36- "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate." Many translations interpret this word, "merciful" but there is much similarity. I am excited to read this book, because it begins with reminding us of our "compassionate God who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, because God's own compassion constitutes the basis and source of our compassion." The reason we want to go to Uganda to live compassionate lives among the orphaned and abandoned children at Good Shepherd's Fold, is because we have received much mercy, love and compassion from our Heavenly Father and we want to pass that on to these children.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Confirmation of Calling

After many months of uncertainty regarding God’s leading, we have accepted an invitation to join the team at Good Shepherd’s Fold in Uganda. This seems like such a pivotal point in our lives that I can’t help but recount some of the events and emotions that have led up to this point.  So please bear with me.  This has been a winding path that has included excitement, fear, joy, frustration and, at times, a strong sense of God’s peace.  In some ways this process began about six months ago with a conversation that Lisa and I had while driving.  God had been causing me to reexamine where He was calling us to serve long-term.  The next question in my mind was, “If not this, then what?”  Over the next few weeks God created a desire within me to minister to missionaries by helping them educate their children.  This seemed like a great fit for Lisa and me because God has given us a breadth of experience that could be quite useful to Him in the mission field.  So, I mentioned this idea to Lisa during that car-ride conversation.  It caught her off-guard, to say the least. However, within the span of a week she moved from shock, to curiosity, to excitement.  It was during this week that Lisa reminded me of a comment that I had made nearly a year prior.  Faith Presbyterian was having its annual missions conference and after hearing one of the speakers I said to Lisa, “I could see myself doing something like that.”  The missionary that was speaking was involved in helping the missionaries do their work.  It was the first time that I had realized the need for missionary support staff. 
            As I look back on the process that God has brought us through, I realize that in many ways the path does not go back six months, or even six years.  It seems to me now that God has been preparing us for this ministry opportunity for all of our nearly fifteen years of marriage and even prior to that.  This preparation has included our education at Covenant College as well as our professional development in teaching.  Because we have been teaching at small Christian schools, we have been asked to teach a wide range of subjects over the years.  This was usually a source of frustration for me because of the increased demands on my time, but I can now see how this was helpful in preparing me to teach in a one-room school house scenario.  Lisa’s breadth of experience in teaching math to kids of nearly all ages in addition to other subjects is another example of God’s preparatory work in our lives. 
            The will of God for our lives unfolds day by day and this is requiring more trust and patience than I am used to having.  I am finding that much of my sense of confidence and security were not founded on the goodness and sovereignty of God, but on my own plans and sense of self-sufficiency.  God has been stretching us in the area of security and confidence and this has been somewhat painful.  It has been very encouraging, however, to see Him give us the grace to stretch as far as He has asked. 
            As we began the process of determining where God might be calling us to serve it became clear that there is a great need for teachers of missionary kids. We were told by many missionaries that this is a major issue for families. As we explored various opportunities, none seemed to be the right fit for our family.  It was at this point that we were put into contact with a friend of a friend who was preparing to go to Good Shepherd’s Fold in Uganda.  Following a very encouraging phone conversation, Lisa and I each visited the GSF website and independently felt very interested in the work being done there.  We began praying for Uganda and for the nearly three million orphans that live there.  The need for workers to meet the physical and spiritual needs of these orphans is so obvious and we both began to feel a desire to be a part of that ministry.  This couple that was preparing to join the team at GSF mentioned that having teachers for their children was essential for them to be able to serve long-term at GSF.
After corresponding some with the team in Uganda, we decided to go on a “vision trip” in order to meet the team and see the work and the place. It is hard to describe the experience. The physical needs are immense in a country with so much poverty and so many orphans. In many ways it was heart-breaking, but it was also so exciting and beautiful to see the work that God is doing through GSF. We had the privilege of meeting a young man who grew up at GSF and was back at GSF to teach and help lead worship. He was just one example of how God is using GSF to not only meet the physical needs of the orphans, but also to make disciples who are in turn discipling others (II Tim 2:2).

While we were in Uganda, God gave us both a sense of calling through the sermon which was preached about Matthew 19:16-30. Since we have been home, it seems like every sermon we hear is about God calling us to serve in Uganda. Every Sunday, we have both had a strong sense of confirmation of this calling either through the sermon, the worship songs, or the prayer time. Our individual times of prayer and worship have also led us to believe that this is where God is calling us. We believe that God primarily speaks to his people through his Word. It has been the preaching and reading of the Word that has been so clear in confirming this calling. In addition, in Scripture God frequently commands His people to care for the orphans or fatherless, and to make disciples. “True religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:17) This is only one of many passages in which God reminds us of the grace He has shown to us and tells us to extend that grace to those in need.   Jesus’ last words during His earthly ministry were a command to His disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  The ministry of Good Shepherd’s Fold is accomplishing both by discipling the fatherless.  So we are planning to go. While our primary role will not be directly serving the children at GSF, our ministry of educating the missionaries’ children will free them to do the work of GSF. We will also have some opportunities to directly love and disciple the orphans there.
We plan to go through a week of training in early June, with the hopes of raising full support by the following summer (2013). Soon we will begin the process of sharing this calling with others and asking for prayer and financial support. We do not currently know the total cost of this endeavor, but our week of training should be very informative in that way. They do not currently have a house on campus for our family, so we will also be raising support to build a home. We will probably be living in a temporary housing situation until a home is built on campus. This entire process has taught us that we need to trust God with everything. We do not know what tomorrow holds. Matthew 6:32-33 reminds us not to worry even about our basic needs, of what we should eat or drink or wear, because our Heavenly Father knows that we need these things. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well.” Please pray for us as we follow God and seek to be a part of the kingdom work He is doing at Good Shepherd’s Fold in Uganda.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Global Outreach Training in June!

Well, we still do not have a final answer about whether we will be heading to Uganda for long-term service in  the summer of 2013, but we are one step closer. (Actually, we never know what tomorrow will hold, but it is nice to have plans.) We have been invited to attend the Missionary Orientation and Training (MOT) for Global Outreach on June 3-8. Global Outreach is the sending agency that we would go with if we serve at Good Shepherd's Fold. The team at GSF is continuing to pray about inviting our family to join them. Please pray for us and our children during this week, as we will be apart again. The training will be in Mississippi. If you are interested in helping with the cost of this week of training, you can find information about that in the "How Can I Help" tab. Also, please pray for the GSF team to have wisdom and unity as they consider adding another family and the changes that would bring.

The Toddler house at GSF

We spent some time one morning playing with the children at the Toddler House. Auntie Mia is the house mom for this group of boys. She is such a sweet gentle woman who always has a contagious smile on her face. It is amazing as she has the care of 6-8 toddlers, some with special needs. The house moms at GSF are a really neat group of women who love the Lord and the orphans at GSF.

 David spent some time pushing all the kids on the swings.Those who could talk kept calling, "Uncle Fish." The others would just come over and pull on his shirt to get him to play. It was a fun time with the toddler boys.

This is Danny. On the first day we arrived he came right to me to be held. After that, any time he spotted us he came over and got one of us to pick him up. He is a very sweet boy who loves attention. Since we were missing our children so much, it was fun to have a little boy to hold. I miss Danny.