Monday, May 21, 2018

The Art of Sharing

I have so much to learn. 
A beautiful African woman sat at a table near us. She ordered a pizza and a huge plate of chips (french fries) for her and her family to enjoy. A short time later, the store manager approached her table and asked, “how is your food?". Her face lit up with a huge pearly white smile. 'Goodness, she is gorgeous’, I thought to myself. She raved over the food and then said something astonishing, “Would you like a piece?” He smiled and humbly declined.
Later in the afternoon, Ruby and I made our way to the playground near our home. A family (who we didn’t know) was at the park celebrating their daughter’s birthday. The adults were dressed in suits and fancy dresses. The children were wearing their Sunday best. (African’s dress better than anyone I know, myself included.) As we approached the swing set, the African family caught a glimpse of us. “Would you like to join us? We are celebrating our daughter’s birthday. Would you like some cake and soda?” I thought, “What!?!” Again, I was astonished. We were strangers and they were inviting us to sit at their table. They cut the slices of cake smaller than they needed to, just to share with us. I sat there in awe as they carved up bite sized chunks of cake just so they could share it with passing strangers. If I were in Indiana at the park celebrating Ruby’s birthday and strangers walked by, the thought wouldn’t even cross my mind to offer them a slice of cake and a can of soda. If I were having a backyard barbecue I wouldn’t think to offer a passerby a hot dog.
The cake and soda didn’t just give me a sugar rush. It deposited value. It said, “you are worth me having less so that you can participate in my life.”
Later that night, Ruby and Ezra were praying with Nathan before bed. They thanked God for the “cake and pepsi in the park”. We realized that this kind of community love...the sharing, involving, including kind of culture…it’s normal to them. It’s not a crazy, standout action…it’s just a piece of pizza or cake in the park…it’s “normal".
I have so much to learn.
-Jade 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Dignity Project Mother's Day Campaign


I was so nervous to share this year's campaign with you. Sharing the horror of what many women with fistula's experience here felt risky. What if you didn't understand? What if you were silent? With a stomach filled with nerves and a tender heart, I clicked "post" and released this year's campaign video to you.
And God wooed my heart through you. You rallied around me. You rallied around daughters scared to be teased at school. You rallied around lonely women lying in hospital beds. You rallied around orphans who don't have a mother to ask senstivie questions about their bodies. You rallied around husbands who work long days to provide for their families but still struggle to afford a luxury like a sanitary pad. 
May you not forget that to the majority of the world, sanitary pads are a luxury. 
Our seamstresses have been hard at work building up our stock. Now, it's time to distribute some pads! Stay tuned!
Thank you Church. 
{ Many of you have asked if you can give to The Dignity Project throughout the year. The answer is YES, of course! Our account is open all year long! thedignityprojectuganda.com }

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mother's Day 2018 with The Dignity Project


You heard it right! Your $5 allows a woman with a fistula to walk freely without shame. Your $5 ensures that a school girl won’t miss class. Your $5 brings a hug and smile to a woman in the psychiatric hospital. Your $5 is allowing our seamstress’ to pay their 8 children’s school fees. 
+ please watch and share this video
+ click ‘give’ to sponsor a woman today
+ download the Mother’s Day card to give to the woman your honoring

Thank you! I love you people!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Very Best You


I’m the best me when the people around me are nothing like me. As a father, I need father’s from other cultures and backgrounds to show me what works. As a husband, I need to watch a marriage succeed in a culture other than my own. I need my biases questioned, my traditions demoted and my preferences lost in a sea of another majority. I’m the best me when my “hear me” turns into “show me” and my security rests in the hands of some other shade of skin. The best man you’ll see me be is the fish out of water kind of man with flailing arms and gasping breath because my go-to power move has no traction here and I’m forced to follow the pace of “them”. My son needs men who aren’t like me. My daughters need examples besides my own and my children are the best them when people completely unlike their parents lead them, share wisdom with them and obtain a place of consistent respect in their lives. We are the best family we can be when the families around us are not like us. In the video, you see my son running, kicking a soccer ball and laughing. I love him and we love spending time together but I have not once witnessed him moving in this way. It’s not the surgery from last August. It’s not just a good day or just a game he likes. Ezra is being influenced by men who aren’t like me. I’m not threatened, I’m thrilled. In the past, I’ve asked other men to help me discipline and instruct my son in the lifestyle and expectations of honorable men. Jade has asked women who aren’t like her to speak into the life of our daughters from their own perspectives. The “other” people in this world are a missing piece in the very best you. Love isn’t just a bridge between cultures, it’s a wholeness and fullness within our own.  -Nathan 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Snail Mail


Hooray! We can receive mail! Every Friday our mailbox gets checked and we love hearing from you! It currently takes about 3 weeks for us to get packages and letters from the States. 
If you want to brighten our day sometime throughout the year:
Nathan misses: watermelon Bubblicious gum & Jolly Ranchers
Jade misses: Dark chocolate & taco seasoning packets
Maddix misses: Hot Tamales & sour punch straws 
Sophie misses: sour gummi worms & sour punch straws
Ezra misses: warheads & lemon-drops
Ruby misses: twizzlers & gum filled lollipops

We love you all!

Friday, March 2, 2018

God's Economy

In an orphanage seven hours away lives a 9 year old little boy.  My son is 9, too.  This little boy in the village is suffering with epilepsy. My son did, too.  Not now, but once.  For this boy, up to nine times a day, his little body collapses into seizures. Those who know this little warrior describe him as a “beautiful worshipper”. 

I look over in the passenger seat at my Ugandan son, Ezra. We are on our way to the clinic to see the best pediatric neurologist in Uganda to discuss this other boy’s case.  “Do you remember this clinic, Ezra?”, I asked him as we pulled into the compound. “Yes, this is the place where they did all those funny tests when my seizures started increasing.”  We sat in familiar plastic chairs in the waiting room. I nervously pulled out a pad of paper and pen to pass the time. The pouring rain outside echoed the noise flooding my head.  As we played hangman and tick-tac-toe my mind danced between belief and unbelief. I couldn’t believe God brought us back here.  Then again…yes, I could. He is known for thoroughly redeeming. In our family, He is famous for it.  When we go through something, He often turns us around and takes us back through again.  And again.  We’ve discovered that it’s in our "agains” that the real work happens.

Two hours later, the doctor God used to put us on the path to Ezra’s healing, leapt out of his seat to hug Ezra. “A miracle is standing in this room! Ezra is cured!”, we exclaimed.  Two years ago, when untamed seizures clouded our hope, Dr. Justice believed for us. Now that we’re on the other side, he touches the faded scar on Ezra’s head and scribbles down pages of notes to share with the medical community. He calls in the clinic staff to celebrate and snaps a photo. In a country where brain surgery is impossible and medications are unaffordable, the majority of children and adults with epilepsy are sent to the psychiatric hospital for the rest of their lives. I could see it in the staff’s eyes, Ezra’s life was a beacon of hope for the uncured. 


“Thank you for enduring,” Dr. Justice said to us. I began to weep.  Few understand how taxing this process has been.  Few know what is required and how many children have no chance because the requirement for healing is too high or not understood.  Dr. Justice knows what it costs, not just money, life and energy and stress and failure and try again.  He knows and he said the words I didn’t know I needed to hear: “thank you for enduring”.

Astounded by the present moment, we went on to discuss this other boy’s case. How can our “enduring" ripple and impact more than just Ezra?  I suppose God’s economy sees one Ezra as a thousand children.  He sees one Jade as a thousand mothers.  Through Christ, one is way more than one.  I wonder what God can do.

On the drive home, Ezra and I took a selfie while sitting in a traffic jam. 


There are people who are depending on you to show up, flight and persevere. 
In Him, your one is way more than one.  Give one and watch God blow it up.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Squinting


For the brightest of lights, we need to squint and today I am squinting. Beaming upon my face is the classroom experience I’ve been witness to over the past three weeks. Today we finished Genesis, the first of five books in our Pentateuch class. We took a quiz covering the family line of Abraham, the 12 sons of Israel and the great themes at work in the Old Testament. During the final hour of class (which is 3 hours long) we played a game. I divided the class into three teams and I divided the chalkboard into three sections. The teams were to work from memory to retell every major event from their portion of the book of Genesis. Team #1 = chapters 1-11, Team #2 = chapters 12-36 and Team #3 = chapters 37-50. At the end, the teams would critique the other sections by finding “missing” events and try to persuade me to take points off that team. The team remaining with the most points at the end was the winner. Moments into the game I realized how much the students know. With only 4-5 persons on each team, they completely filled up their 1/3 of the board with detailed descriptions of chapter by chapter story line. When they began to critique each other, they could often quote not just the chapter but even the verse where the missing information could be found. All of this was done from memory. One student said, “Until I saw what we put on the chalkboard, I had no idea how much we really knew!” In their quizzes, they explained how sin is relational and how God is faithful in his covenantal relationships. Amazing! After class, one of my students told me he is from South Sudan and he would like advice on how to improve training among his people. A few minutes later he sent me an email describing the problems he deals within his country: “Our country has been in war for a long time and left most of the people uneducated. The church is the most victimized organization lacking qualified personnel.” This man is a part of the solution. He is a gift of the Church to the Church and I have the incredible honor of training him. I don’t know how to explain what fulfillment and joy is in my heart from serving God in this way. The excitement and emotion is so bright, I feel like I have to squint just to look at it. I tried reading through their quizzes in class but I was overcome by emotion and had to put them away. 
I’m so thankful that God has asked me to drive over an hour across town in the middle of Africa and teach on a concrete floor with no equipment but a blackboard, chalk and a rag. I’m so thankful that my American culture is regularly overshadowed by the African majority in my class. I’m so thankful that my ideas of intensity and serious study fall short of these students worthy of deep admiration. I’m so thankful that a teaching position puts me in a student position time and time again. I’m so thankful that by opening my student's eyes to Biblical interpretation and theological accuracy, they are opening my eyes to sacrifice, faith and the reality of putting everything on the line for the Kingdom of God. I believe God had blessed me in this opportunity. I said “yes” to God and God said “yes” to me. God blesses yesses.