Will be right back…

Hi!  I know – I am 6 months behind in posting here.  I took off during my sabbatical, and in catching up on the ground, I just haven’t gotten to the blog. But I will very shortly.  

If you are new to the blog, feel free to browse old posts!! 

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2016 In Review

Here is a rundown of some of the things that went on with Finding the Way in 2016. It was a good year in so many ways, and it was cool to see God work in people’s lives in special ways! Click to watch:

FTW 2016


Christmas Bash

So, a swell time was had by all as we celebrated the end of the year with a day of thanksgiving and fun!   The Rising Stars football team and all of the sponsored kids and some of the widows all joined together for a lovely day. 

We are so grateful for all God has done this past year. 


Because, God

“I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. I am blessed beyond the curse that His promise will endure. And His joy’s gonna be my strength. I’m trading my sorrows. I am trading my shame. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.”

So, I suspect most of you know this worship song, “Trading My Sorrows.” Been around for some long time.

I haven’t heard it in years, but the lyrics keep going through my head today. We used to sing it and jump around. The song is very upbeat. It would be a declaration.

Here’s the thing. I do declare these words and truths. But, the joy of the Lord I feel and know at the moment is not one of jumping around. It is simply the joy, the security, of knowing that He is with me and for me. That in all things, God remains faithful. It is a settled joy, yet with the realities of life.

Last month I did a teaching and used Ps. 22 as the basis. David is struggling. As you read, you see that he does a lot of getting quite real with God. He lays it all out. Then, He will suddenly remember that God is God, and He will begin to praise God, via acknowledging who God is and who He is in God. Finally, it’s like David’s strength and resolve starts rising up, and he says how he will then be telling others about God and his power. img_4645
I found it to be relevant and relatable. Life is hard. Life following Jesus is hard (even Jesus says it will be), but God is God and good and holy and powerful and with us and all this. And as we let that soak in, it empowers us.

This is a bit of my experience at the moment…

Here in Uganda this last year or so, I have had a series of disappointing things with the work and with people and friends I’ve known and trusted. Even today, we had to let one of our FTW team go. Joel, the young man who has been part of our things since the beginning. I love this kid. He and his family have held a special place in my heart. Relationship will remain, but we had to release him due to some serious issues.
Anyway, there has just been a lot to be discouraged about. I end up tired. Weary, really.
Sure, I could share all the nice things. The feel good things.
But, in reality, when investing in people, it is generally messy. People’s stories take twists and turns that are seldom smooth. The enemy will do all he can to steal, kill, and destroy. People’s traumas, cultures, addictions, and so on get in the way of living fully the life God intends for us all.
Plus, we have our own personal things – grief over losing someone, loneliness, wondering if God isn’t coming through, unforeseen challenges, tiredness, etc., etc., etc.
And sometimes, honestly, I want to shut down. I think I can’t take anymore.
I mean, is any of this really worth it? Really?
I want to stay living Ps. 22:1-2, 6-8, 12-18. Sure seems easier.

But see, then I had a reminder last month of God’s true faithfulness and power. A reminder to me that I must remember. Remember what God has done.
You see, God blessed me 14650678_10154507839391678_1401039708727616182_nand gave me the honor to be able to see His work in progress in a tangible way.
There was a gathering in the name of Jesus of at least 2500 women and men who met in the heart of the Navajo reservation. This may not sound like a big number by western standards, but trust me, it was a big number in this setting. Native people gathered from at least 12 tribes.

What took place, essentially, was God and His forces taking back ground in the Spirit. I don’t want that to sound funny. But, in this spiritual war, the one among Native people and those who serve among them, this was like a D-Day in the spirit – a significant moment of moving on ground the enemy had taken and reclaiming it for Christ.

As one who has been both a casualty and a victor in battles on the rez leading up to this time, I cannot express how meaningful this day was. (and no, not just the one day – this taking of ground has been as people have prayed, come together in unity, will continue to have influence,etc.)img_4712
It was grace to be able to spend the weekend with the Follow the Word family (for those who only really know me from Uganda things, this FTW makes up the house church I led for some years before going to Uganda).

One big thing God showed me was how how faithful He has been among people’s stories.
None of us in this group has had a perfect journey. None have avoided going through the fire and into the valleys and via the dark places. There have been many tears crying out to God to help for various reasons.img_4694
YET, GOD IS HOLY. YET, WE REMAIN HIS CHILDREN. YET, HE WILL TOUCH THE NATIONS.
I sat at breakfast with this whole group as God allowed me to see what He has done. Lives changed. Families changed. His Kingdom expanding.
Victory remains. Hope endures.

Ps. 22: 3-4, 9-11, 19-31 wins the day.

So, in the midst of the challenges right now in Uganda, where the battles rage on for people’s souls, I must remember that people’s stories are not finished. God promised here to do miraculous things in impossible situations. The impossible here through the years has been less about seeing people fed, educated, and having clean water, and more about thinking the deep affects of trauma could ever be transformed into new life – God’s culture winning out.
But you know what, I saw miracles happen last month in Chinle. Miracles in individual lives. Miracles in the spirit. Allied forces in the spirit pushing back the powers of darkness and shining light that cannot be snuffed out.
Ps. 23 moments.14711664_1191130387593104_7655526122620096365_o

God’s also been reminding me a lot about GRACE. Before this day in Chinle, I told a friend that I just didn’t think I had it in me anymore to give grace to people. I was just so done with being misunderstood, betrayed, disappointed, not supported, wrongly blamed, and more. And, I just didn’t think I could give grace anymore.
And you know what? I couldn’t. I can’t. I shouldn’t bother trying. None of us can or should.
We are human. That’s it. We are not people of grace by nature.
It is God’s grace. We can be a conduit of that.
And the way that happens in large part is by remembering how much grace we have received and need. Man. I need it constantly. I will sometimes say, “may I breathe You Lord, Your Spirit be my every breath.” Why? Because in every moment, my nature wants to not be God’s.
Good intentions do not equal letting God control us. Trying to give grace on my own strength – with good intentions – is exhausting. Trust me. And at some point, we will snap.
God help. Come and work through me.
Then, there is peace. There is that joy that brings strength. Our souls will have rest.

I may finish writing this and still have a crappy night struggling with being hurt or lonely or frustrated. But somehow, I can remember what God has done in so many things, the grace He gives me so undeservedly, and give the things of today to Him – like David – cry out to Him. Then, let Him do the rest.
I don’t think the fruit of the Spirit, patience, is just about not losing our temper when traffic is bad or our flight is delayed; I think it is also being patient to see how God is going to come through for us and in situations. It’s waiting and trusting and letting His strength get us through the next day, or hour, or 8 minutes.

So, maybe I’ll just put on “Trading My Sorrows” and jump around a bit. Hope you can too.

 


July team trip

So, here is a photo rundown of the Crested Crane Football group that came in July.  It was a great time of investment in various people we work with.  It’s cool to see the relationships build over time. 


Team Trip June

So, I have been both anti and pro short term mission trips throughout my life. Trust me, I see both views of whether they are worth it or not, whether the money could be used better, whether whether whether. Some people have strong opinions – especially on the anti side.

For me, over time, though, I hope I have become more balanced about the effectiveness and value of these kinds of trips.  You see, in our western worlds, we have no problem sending kids to sports camps, summer camps, band camps, and special fun days at church.  We have no problem attending a conference, retreat, or festival.  Actually, we encourage all of these things because they are often worthwhile.  We can be uplifted, have a nice break, hear a fresh teaching, learn a new skill, build relationships, and so forth.

When a group comes from outside, at least for us as Finding the Way, it is allowing the people we work with here to experience the same types of things.  People here rarely if ever get the chance at something special – something out of the norm that has a positive benefit.  Learning about art, doing real football training, having different people do music and teachings, experiencing other cultures, and more are all things that have a real impact on people here – at least when done as part of the natural flow of what we already do – in relationship with those we already know.

Plus, quite honestly, when people talk of how the money used to come on a trip could be used to give directly to the organization being served, the reality is that that just doesn’t happen most of the time, if at all.  That would-be trip money doesn’t transfer to general donations.  People often raise money and give money toward a specific purpose.  So, though I get it that lots of money is spent to travel and be here, it is money that would otherwise never be raised at all.  At least now, when in the flow of our purposes and vision, it really does benefit the people here by way of relationships, all they learn, receiving encouragement, and so forth.

Yes, one must be very aware of enabling vs. empowering.  We must always do our best to balance people helping vs. taking over, cultural humility vs. arrogance, and so on.  But, really, these things are generally not issues when you are aware.  We do our best to not have people come in, or even act out ourselves by accident, a westerner’s savior complex – spiritually or developmentally.  Development must come from the local people more than anyone outside – foreign governments, agencies, NGO’s, churches, or anyone.

Anyway, all this to say that – I find when our groups come – that it is a genuine blessing to those with whom we work.  They are uplifted and encouraged, as is the group; they learn about new things, as does the group; they work toward things they need, as the group just helps hand in hand.

Ok, here is a photo update of how the latest team trip went.  Blessings to all.  🙂

I have pictures below – in no particular order – from these weeks together.  Descriptions follow each image or collage.

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Last day of fellowship together…kids were already scattered to play.  Great times with the ladies and the kids.

Just a few photos from the Kids Day at the land.  They really love having this special time just for them.  We ate goat and rabbit – giving the kids portions that any of us could never finish!  But the kids eat it up.  They played all kinds of fun and silly group games, had races, and persevered through the rain.  Not only did we have our sponsored kids, but about 60 extra kids came from around the village.  It was a day for kids to have fun – plain and simple, yet so significant here where that just doesn’t happen much, if ever.

We took time to prep the land for the kids day.  I don’t have the photos here, but 3 cobras were found among the stacks of bricks we were moving.  Makes for a real African experience, yeah?

For 2 days, the primary sponsored kids came to the new boarding home to learn about painting, create their own artwork, and just play some games.  They had a really great time.  Many had never picked up a brush before, but they did very well!

Sharing about Jesus and God’s joy by using artwork was a main focus for this trip.  Just as we sing and dance and obey to express worship to God, we can also do that through other means of creativity.  We taught basic painting skills, and the kids really did their best to apply what they learned.  Then, they worked on guided paintings as well as their own creations to represent joy from God and in their lives.

Another main focus of the time was to do more Bible teaching with the widows.  Many of them have been believers for even some time maybe.  But, here in Uganda, especially for those coming from the village, they are not able to really learn Biblical principles and truth – having that foundation that many of us take for granted.  So, teaching was done on prayer and intercession.  The ladies really loved it, took part with much focus, and are excited to apply what they have learned.


Jubilee!

So, In many ways, this year has started late. This is due to a myriad of challenges since 2016 began: sicknesses to FTW team and deaths in the families, mechanical problems, election season, school delay, and general malaise about various things.

At the same time, I have been keenly aware that this month marks 7 years since FTW has officially formed. (the organic process started a bit earlier). And what hit me right away was – it is a year of jubilee! Now, it doesn’t really fit the true definition of jubilee in terms of Jewish and Biblical tradition. We have a ways to go for that (50th year). Still 7 is the number for rest and for recognition of all the work God has done.
My sense is that particularly this year, we are to have a jubilee – a celebration and recognition! We are to choose joy over all that God is doing and has done.

…watch this video to see reflections of the past 7 years.  The song is “Pocket Full of Faith,” quite fitting as so many times that is all we have as we step forward.  Jesus said that with faith as a bit as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains.  So, during the days of challenge and struggle and unknowns, I figure even the smallest bit of faith that God is in things and that He will come through is enough.  And so it is….

But here is the thing, at the same time, as I just stated, there have been many challenges and discouragements so far this year. There is a general tiredness and lack of umph, to be quite honest. This dichotomy has puzzled me. I am deeply grateful for all things, yet I am almost apathetic about much. It is weird.

Then, this very known and always relevant truth hit me from John 10:10, “The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy. But, I have come that you would have life and have it to the full.” The most fundamental ploy of the enemy. A topic I have spoken on and had to live through over and over again. Yet somehow, I forget. I look at all the natural things that go on with and around me and become discouraged, unmotivated, tired. Sounds a little like ways of destroying joy – of killing purpose – of stealing good.

Oh, time of rest and pulling back are needed – are commanded. Rest for ourselves, rest for our land (work), rest to soak in the truth of God without the constant attack in the midst of things. And in many ways, rest is needed for FTW. And, we shall see how that will look.

But in the midst of jubilee, of celebrating and remembering all God is, there is also the need to be ever facing the truth of that which comes to “take” all that is worth celebrating and remembering – all that gets one stuck in experiencing new life. FTW’s tag line is, “Let New Life Begin,” so why wouldn’t the enemy of all that is good and God do all He can to constantly try to take from that.

So, as we honor God and praise Him for these past 7 years – and seek out how to best do that – may we also stand firm in the truth that despite the enemy coming to TAKE, Jesus gives life fully. He GIVES. The enemy TAKES. It’s an obvious choice for whom to follow, isn’t it?

God, may that truth be ever our motivator and strength!


Resurrection Day!

So it’s Resurrection Day – the day we choose to celebrate the victory in Jesus.  I love everything about taking time to especially recognize this gift.
I think most years I end up finding something different that sticks out to me.  And as I read through the crucifixion and resurrection stuff this weekend, I was reminded of an aspect of what happened that I has not hit me at least in sometime.

It has to do with loving others even when they’re not loving us back.  Today it hit me how it’s not just the greatness of God’s love in a generic sense, but how he chose to keep giving even when people chose to ignore it and even scoff at it.  I think that is what really stuck out to me.

I have been reminded of how hard it is to show kindness to people and help people when it seems all they do is not get it, or ignore it, or even think it’s strange that you’re trying to do something in a caring and loving way.  It becomes quite discouraging to bother trying to continue with the person you’re extending it to or even people in general.
And I know for me of late, I’ve wanted to simply say I am so done with it. What’s the point in trying to be kind or loving if somebody doesn’t get it anyway?image3

And then I look at Jesus. I look at the love of God during this time of ultimate giving.  Jesus healed people and gave of his time and gave of his energy and gave of his resources.  He helped the masses, and he helped individuals.  He helped strangers, and he helped his friends and those closest to him.
He did all of this despite all of them at one time or another missing the point, not understanding why He would do it, ignoring him, turning away from him, or making fun of him.

In the end, Jesus gave not only his life, but his physical comfort in terms of allowing himself to be exposed to so much physical pain.  Yet, there was also the emotional pain of having his friends walk away and the people who he tried to love and help overtime call him names and insult him.
He did not stop loving and helping people just because their responses were not the best.

I know this seems like such an obvious thing; it is very similar to the whole thing of – he gave his life despite our sin and all of that.
I guess it just hit me in a way of bringing it closer to home.  In the everyday moments of our lives, I think especially with the people we are around most often, are we willing to continue reaching out to them, helping them, showing them kindness, and so forth, even when it is not really received?  Even when it makes them uncomfortable to the point that they give you a hard time about it?  Even if it’s not reciprocated?  Even if it’s completely ignored as if nothing happened?

image2-4So yes, for sure I am reminded of wanting to be more and more grateful to God for his sacrifice, and to others for all the ways that they give to and help me.  I am also reminded of how much I want to be giving kindness more because a heck of a lot of times I just don’t. But also, I am reminded to continue loving people because it’s what we are to do.  And I don’t mean that in an obligatory kind of way. I mean it in the way that we all need Jesus. We all need that spirit of love and sacrifice and help an investment.  We all need that genuineness in our hearts and what we do and why we do it.  We love because he first loved us.  We love others the way we love ourselves.

And how do I know it’s possible to do this?  Because again, it’s Resurrection day! It is the day representing hope and victory and power and love.


Steady Progress

So, one of the campaign slogans used here in the recent elections was, Steady Progress. Some friends and I laughed at this because when it comes to leading a country, it is not the most inspiring phrase. In the world of politics, it may not be the strongest motivator. But, in the Kingdom of God, steady progress is not so bad. For much of life, the reality is that if we can simply have some steady progress, fall forward, and persevere, then that is really seen as success.

Paul talks of this when he refers to running the race with perseverance. The ideas of staying the course and being patient and enduring run throughout scripture. A fine wine or quality cheese does not mature overnight. It takes time – some steady progress – to reach its’ prime. As believers in our own lives, and in our outward Kingdom work, it is much the same.

As long as we are consistently trying to reach the mark, there is fruit.

When living in Uganda specifically, having steady progress actually is a huge accomplishment. Work and ministry that happens here may not look sleek and polished. Something that could take a day in the western world could take a week (or more) to do here. A seemingly simple process for accomplishing much of anything, over here, often brings a barrage of challenges to overcome.  The logical way to do something is not often the way it actually gets done.

My personal observation is that things that become so big so fast in the Kingdom tend to flame out.  (not always, but a lot).  They flame out or have some scandal that ends up attached to stop things.  It is surely the case over here. It is actually quite easy to have or do something that looks successful on the outside: host an event or service where loads of people come, do a training or conference where all the people coming rave over the teachings, construct whatever thing is needed to seemingly improve someone’s life.

It’s just that – what actually makes an impact and facilitates transformation in someone’s life?  (…as transformation mostly happens because we personally allow it more than someone brings it to us…)  I find more and more that it is steady progress.

Presumably Jesus was ok with steady progress while with His followers. He spent 3 years with the 12 and others who followed. He watched them question, mess up, be selfish, doubt, and more – right up until, well, until the time He ascended into heaven after the resurrection.  Still, there was steady progress – bits of faith and understanding and sacrifice and movement.  And after He did head back to heaven, there was even more. Actually, more fruit ripened as the followers kicked into another gear – after years of… steady progress.

Ask anyone who has worked in Uganda for more than a couple of years to give 5 words describing what it is like to work and live Jesus here within our work, and I’d bet most all would have either the word challenging (being nice about it) or discouraging/frustrating (being real about it) as one of the words. That is the reality. And not only here, really, anywhere.  Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus would have also said frustrating as one word to describe His time with the disciples.

Perspective is so key, though, isn’t it?  It is important to be real about challenges and frustrations; yet, we must also maintain perspective.  See the big picture.  Know that to which we are called.  Keep the truth of hope and power and victory fresh in our minds and hearts.  That must be what Jesus did.  He knew.  He knows.  He knows that steady progress vs. huge strides more often reflects reality.  He knows that momentary frustrations or even cultural mindsets (He dealt with a bit of cultural mindsets with some guys called Pharisees and Sadducees) are not more influential than the Holy Spirit in someone’s life. He knows that as one chooses more of Him and surrenders more and more, a person’s steady progress becomes real transformation and a real, new, Kingdom life – even while still on earth.

So, if steady progress is good enough for Jesus (and I thank God it is in terms of my own need for it), then I guess it is good enough for here.

Sometimes I can say that 35 people were baptized in a day. And other times I have to say, it is taking months to get a proper foundation set for the vision we have for the land. Sometimes I can say that 50 kids are being invested in and getting an education. And other times I have to say, this kid has a problem and that kid has a problem and the bank couldn’t release money because of the elections so now we are waiting and then running like mad to get everything sorted when it comes through and blah blah blah blah blahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

And so it goes.

Run the race with perseverance. Keep an eternal perspective. Fix eyes and focus on Jesus. Be patient. Press on toward the mark.

Here are images of some steady progress of late…

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Constructing a 4th hut for at the homestead land…

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Joel, who is now full-time caretaker at the land, helps with roofing.

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Sam has taught Brian how to tie the bamboo roofing.

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There are now 35 women part of the widow’s group.  A great day of fellowship and praising.

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The women had a lovely time together talking about encouragement and unity

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Well, we are never sure what to say when Curt is here and involved. 🙂

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Jennie tries to remember how to pound nails.  There once was a time…

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Rabbit cages going into the pen. A great system learned from friends at the Recreation Project.

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When the tools you need don’t exist in Gulu, you find a way.

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Kara applying a mixture of old engine oil and petrol to keep away termites.  Not a messy job at all.

 


Long Time

So, it has been quite a while since I have posted a proper blog post – either insights or pictures for updates and so forth.  I reached Uganda and had severe car trouble going to Gulu.  Then, I came down with a bad case of malaria, so I am still recouping from that.

Please check back soon for a real post.  I appreciate all who follow the blog.  I will get back on track soon.  Please be praying over the work and that God’s purposes would move forward unhindered!  Blessings.