Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Absent. Present.

Maybe he's just late, I thought. Typically punctual, he was nowhere to be found. Confused and curious, I went on with my day and just waited to find out what the explanation could be for his absence. Fast forward to the following day. Out of breath and apologetic, Masato hurriedly came into class explaining why he wasn't there the day before.

Teacher, lost...my wallet...lost. I take bus--first bus...lost wallet. 

"Well, Masato, how did you get to school?"

Call my host family...pick me up. No wallet...no pass for bus...no money. Nothing. 

"Oh no, Masato! I'm so sorry! That's terrible!"

Gathering my thoughts and shuffling papers together to continue on with my lesson for the day, I listened intently to the conversation that was taking place between Masato and another student of mine, Hussein.

Once Hussein had heard what had happened to Masato, he looked Masato square in the eyes and said, "Money. Do you need money?" Shocked and slightly embarrassed, Masato quickly gasped "No! No! So-k!" Hussein--still insistent--replied with this:

"Please. If you need help. Ask. Anytime. We are family--like brothers."

These students have been together in class for about four weeks. Hussein is from Saudi Arabia (where most of my students are from) and Masato is from Japan. Though their English is limited, these two had an incredibly weighty exchange. What lacked in eloquence and impressive vocabulary was made up for in honesty, generosity and loyalty to one's brother. Hussein meant what he said, and I was moved, challenged and inspired.

I realize that this brief anecdote sheds light onto a number of cultural implications, but at the root of it all, I was reminded how we are put on this earth to love God and love others--bringing glory to His name. Do we put each other's needs before our own? Are we being intentional about staying aware of our surroundings so that we can meet the needs of those around us? Are we selfish or selfless in our day-to-day?

That simple yet profound response to a brother's difficult situation has stayed in my head for days: We are family--like brothers. Even if we only understood a morsel of the power behind this statement, our lives would be much richer as we get to experience a bit more of the heart of Christ.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Long Overdue: A Ugandan Thank You [Afoyo]

Friends and Family,

With the semester over and summer here along with time for me to process and pray through my experience in Uganda, I've finally been able to write a letter of thanks: 

It was a six-hour drive from the city of Kampala to the village of Gulu. As we traveled across the unpaved roads of Uganda, I found myself staring out the window of our 16-seater bus for 5 of those hours with my mouth wide open in sheer amazement or with eyes full of tears—overwhelmed by our Creator. The experience of deep worship for those hours returns to me now as I reflect and share about my sweet time there. Looking at the endless skies and vast expanse of land that seemed to go on forever covered in the most stunning splashes of color, I couldn’t help but marvel at the work of God’s hands—thanking Him for filling this earth with His art that we might partake of His beauty. As I thanked Him for all I was seeing, He spoke to me in a most loving voice: Do you see how amazed you are at all that you see—the nature, the clouds, and the trees? All these things I have made are beautiful, but YOU [all of my children] are my favorite. You are the most beautiful and most precious of all of my creation; I’m amazed by you. For the remainder of the trip, He wanted me to see the depth and breadth of those words He had spoken. He also wanted others to experience the power of those words, and for reasons all stemming from His indescribable love, chose me to share them. I’m forever changed.

Though there are countless stories I could share about how God showed His love, grace, mercy and power and how His Spirit moved, I will limit myself (and spare you the novel) by sharing one that will forever be in my heart. Each team member was given the opportunity to give his/her testimony. My day came on the third day of our medical outreaches—in the village of Alero Cuku. The Passion of the Christ was showing when the generator shut down. In the dead stillness of night and by the light of a few flashlights, I was led up in front of 200 something gorgeous faces, staring intently at me. I had asked the Lord to make my story relevant in so many different contexts on this trip because His story is always relevant. As I opened my mouth to speak, He removed all nerves and inundated me with His confidence. It was as though the Lord gave me a script to read. The picture He gave me was of all of the children and young people (those whom I was sharing with) as gifts during Christmas time and how He couldn’t wait to open them because He knew exactly what (who) was inside. Through that, I was just able to share with them how beautiful they are, how much God delights in them and can’t get enough of them, and how they don’t have to do a single thing to earn the love of Christ. Again, the words He spoke to me on the bus became a driving force of His love. His children are His favorite and he chooses us over and over again. That night, God gave my heart the biggest gift: As Pastor Martin finished translating for me, he asked the crowd if anyone wanted to receive Jesus. Knowing that He chooses them, countless hands shot up into the air as they chose Him. The joy of the Lord saturated that village, and witnessing that number of children come to know the Lord was the realization of one of my heart’s songs. Praise the Lord.

I can’t thank you enough for all of your support; words are failing me. They can’t do what the Lord did and is doing in Gulu, in our team or in me justice (shoot—in all of us!). Through this trip, God showed me another layer of the calling He has placed on my life. I’m currently at Biola University getting my MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). While I was in Gulu, I learned as much Acholi as I could in a short time. In that, God showed me an ease and great joy in acquiring language—a glimpse of His provision for me to learn whatever I need to learn in the future. I ask that you would join me in prayer. I’ll be in school for another year and a half and am open to God calling me to any part of the world. Pray for clarity and discernment. Also, I ask that you would pray that my all of my schooling would be worship unto Him. I’m so thankful for the opportunity of such a rich education with professors who desire both professional and spiritual development for their students. Lastly and most importantly, I ask that you continue to intercede on behalf of the people of Uganda. God is moving mightily as He raises up outstanding men and women over there to be powerful leaders of His kingdom. Pray for continued restoration of the villages, of the people, and for greater vision of what the Lord is doing there. We trust that God has shown favor on Uganda for the purposes of advancing the Gospel to the rest of Africa and unto the world.
Again, thank you for partnering with me in the work of His Kingdom. Uganda holds a special place in my heart and I wanted to be able to give you a glimpse of that. We were there for about two weeks and 8 of those days were spent in Gulu. I’ve prepared a slideshow of some of our trip. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beauty in my life as I have over there. With that in mind, I know that the Lord is calling that type of vision for all of us—to His beauty—in any and all of our surroundings. I pray that the eyes of our hearts are further opened. Holy Spirit, come; we want more of what You want.

With so much love and gratitude,


Friday, June 11, 2010

It's Been a While: Inspired by Inspiration

The dust is finally settling (quite literally, I swept our hardwood floors for the first time and you should've seen the results of that!) from our move from the 5th St. Apt. to Casita Termino.

After about a week and a half of being surrounded by a maze of boxes and with clutter as forced decor, Amber and I are finally settling in--or at least trying to as we're both busy with work and life. It's the first time that it's just the two of us, and we're really excited that we share the same aesthetic amongst other things. She is a blessing. This new home is a blessing. We both desire that it is a place that brings life to all who come through those doors--a place of community and a place where we witness the many shades of Love.

A friend came over today to just chat (she's a full-time mom with a knack for capturing creative moments with her camera) and was inspired by the set up of our new apartment [Friendly Snapping]. As I watched her snap away, I was reminded what a blessing it is that i'm surrounded by inspiration.

As I took in my surroundings, I was overwhelmed by God's goodness--thankful for the people in my life, the love I experience, the home I have over my head amidst a plethora of other things. As I prayed, I was reminded:

With the eyes of His Spirit, that which is already deep meets new depths, all that is color embraces new vibrancy, that which is mundane transforms into beauty, farfetched dreams become reality, all that is still becomes a dance, that which is broken is restored and all that was dead comes to know Life.

What a gift it is that He gives us eyes to see out of His vision and His reality. May we see beauty in the big things, the little things, and the things we often too quickly deem as normal.  

An ode to our new home:

Tree stumps courtesy neighbors who decided to throw them away
Sweet pot/planter-->  a find at a neighborhood garage sale
Barrel courtesy of someone's alley trash-->Our treasure
Our mustard couch-->$20 dollar find from a slightly clueless neighbor :)

One of these things is not like the other...

Goodwill finds

Courtesy alley sale-->some of them are from the Prohibition

We were delighted by the older details but slightly shocked that there's no
trash disposal in the sink

Some call it old and worn down. We call it character

Our coffee table for the time being-->A trunk given to us for freeninetynine a
few years back

Our $40 couch find with its pillow friends

Our cacti. The little dude on the right is currently going
through a growth spurt 

Well, I suppose on some level I just gave you a small tour of our home :). Thanks for coming along!