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. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"We Wouldn't Change A Thing"


This week is Spirit Week at the children’s school where each day is dedicated to some kind of costume or theme like “wacky” day. Today was Africa day. Maddix and Sophie decided to wear their hair in braids like many of the women do here. So cute right?! These girls have jumped right back into life in Uganda. They clean chicken poo off our eggs, don’t miss a beat when the power goes out and brushing their teeth with bottled water is now normal. They’ve made great friends and love their school. It hasn’t all been easy, though. The move back to Africa was quite hard for them, actually. It has been a long mourning process to leave family, friends, church and school. The last 7 weeks have been filled with many tender moments helping them (and their siblings) navigate the present pain of the call. We praise God that through their pain, they frequently come to the conclusion that He is good and this is right, saying to us, “Thank you for obeying the Lord. We wouldn’t change a thing.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I Am Not The Middle


I woke up dreading today. I got into the car and my eyes filled with tears. I am ashamed to tell you that comfort and convenience is an idol that I am quickly realizing I worship. Unreliable internet, broken ATM's and failed Skype calls home has produced a sinful attitude in me. For days I have been harboring bitterness. I sat in the car suffocating with a privileged attitude. 
Today's agenda: purchase Dignity Project fabrics for a new product we've designed for women suffering with fistulas in a refugee camp about 5 hours from our home. I started up the car with dread thinking that today would be another exhausting battle with traffic jams, a hot sun, miscommunication and tireless searching for materials. 
We pulled into busy downtown in front of a small fabric shop. My friends and I had never been there before but decided to go in. To our surprise, they had every single thing we needed! We literally walked from our car into the shop and back to the car. This is unheard of here! 
The traffic jam on the way home gave me time to think. 
There is danger in a view of the world that is restricted to one's own personal experience. I am not the middle. I am not the most. I thrive and grow when I broaden my view of this world to something bigger than myself. Tomorrow I want to see this world painted with a humble hue where traffic jams become thinking moments, a hot sun becomes quiet in the shade, miscommunication becomes a celebration of diversity and my tireless searching becomes service to those who need my help.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Jittery


This is me, preparing a lesson. I'm a teacher.
As we were preparing to leave the States and return to Uganda, many of you asked what I was planning to do. I told quite a few of you about my sense of obligation to the transfer of knowledge and education. I told you about how I wanted to give everything I have to equip eager young African minds and help them to become everything they can be. At the time, I wasn't quite sure how that would happen and I was quite prepared to endure a long search. Well, this is me, preparing a lesson. Next Wednesday, I begin teaching Pentateuch at Africa Renewal University. I've been jittery at my desk all morning either trying to hurry through other work so that I could finally get to my lesson prep or jittery in the lesson prep because I was so excited to be working on lesson prep. It's not just about the content (although the content is awesome), it's about the weight of responsibility and the power of the impact and the height of the potential! It's about gifting and passion lining up with schedule and activity and need. Is there any greater feeling than discovering your favorite work is in desperate need? I get to prepare 11 lectures complete with small group stuff, foundational theology, social and personal application time, creative exercises, wow, woah and yippee! Lecture #1 for our first course is "Creation and Fall" and the thrill of reading and prep is enough to knock my head off. Next week is "Covenant" oh my I'm going to pass out. Then we head to "12 Sons, 12 Tribes" and "Slavery and Deliverance" and then the big week on "Law". I mean, I'm gonna lose it! And, who got to design the course, choose the structure, write the syllabus, create a midterm and a final? Yea me.
Right now, I've only agreed to a contract for one semester. We'll see how that goes and then talk about something a little more permanent. In the meantime, pray for my students and pray for me.