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.

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Poem By Sophie


I Am From::
I am from Tide detergent and big African baskets.
I am from a cozy green house with a small blue car.
I am from strawberries in Grandma’s garden.
I am from stupid jokes and Fairmount Family Camp.
I am from empathy and night-time prayers.
I am from; whenever we are together, that is home.
I am from pepperoni and beef jerky.
I am from Papaw and Grandma Jane's cookouts.
I am from funny uncles and defensive basketball.
I am from a big white wall filled with family photos.

-Sophie, age 11

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fighting For Dignity


This morning I woke up to an alarm on my phone. It was charged with electricity. I washed my face and brushed my teeth over the bathroom sink. We have running water. I picked out a striped t-shirt and a pair of jeans from our closet. I had dozens of clothes to choose from. I woke up our kids from their beds. They sleep in beds. They picked out breakfast; cereal with milk. Our fridge and cupboards are filled with food. I made their lunches; salami sandwiches, crisps, juice boxes, vanilla wafers, and bananas. I know our kids will be fed 3 meals today. Before walking to school Ruby said, "Take a photo for Grandma Sandy. She got me this necklace." They have loving grandparents that spoil them. I walked Maddix, Sophie, Ezra and Ruby to school. Our kids get to go to school. 
This afternoon I had a Dignity Project meeting about a recent distribution in the slums. Ninety young girls received their washable sanitary pads, learned about their bodies, their value and the One who designed them. My friend shared, "Thank you for the work Jade. A twelve-year-old girl shared that she has been forced to prostitute herself for her monthly pads."
I thought to myself, "What do you mean she *had* to prostitute herself for pads?" It's easy to criticize the live's of those whose shoes we've never worn and whose struggles we've never known.
Then I thought about my morning and how it was no different than any other day of my life. We all woke up in warm beds with closets full of clothes, a stocked kitchen and supplied bathrooms, running water, strong bodies to accomplish the days work and community that supports us.
The love of God compels me to fight for dignity and girly joy in all women, from my five-year-old daughter to the twelve-year-old in the slums and the women I call my sisters-in-Christ. 
 -Jade  
****
To Grandma Sandy,
Thank you for the necklace.
Love,
Ruby

Monday, January 22, 2018

Show Up


My mind is a huge battlefield here in Uganda. Accusations like "What difference will you really make by going?" and "What difference will these pads really make?" are landmines that threaten to take me out. While putting my makeup on this morning I had to audibly speak truth to myself, "I believe the world will change by sitting with strangers. I am not called to win or loose, I am called to fight. Go and fight. Make friends with strangers. See what God will do."
I finished putting on my makeup and went to work. I spent part of my day visiting a new friend's home in the slums. He was very surprised by my visit and I learned a lot about the area he lives in. IF people have a job, they usually make around $1 to $1.50 a day. I learned that families in this area can't afford to birth their children at the hospital and struggle just to find enough food for their families to eat. The rest of my day I spent alongside a brilliant midwife taking blood pressure for pregnant mom's in the very same slum my friend lives in. I fed, burped and cuddled a 3 month old miracle baby weighing only 3 kilograms. I told the pregnant mothers in the clinic how beautiful they were, dressed in their best for their appointment. I was astounded by a woman in her third trimester, though tired and covered in sweat, she used her own umbrella to shade me from the sun as I took her blood pressure. As I knelt there on the dirt ground being shaded by her umbrella, I thought about goodness. I thought about how a person with goodness adds value to other peoples lives. Her small gesture made me feel more valuable. 
What if this is how we change the world? Visiting strangers. Listening to people's stories. Offering a hug, a handshake, an umbrella.
Today, as you put on your mascara or straighten your tie for work, you might hear the same land mines I hear. You might catch wind of a lie about your capacity or your value or ability to influence others. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that fighting IS winning. Show up for life today. Make friends with strangers and see what God will do.


Life Together


Uganda taught me something this week. I was under a table working with two Ugandan friends to attach the table top to the legs with metal brackets. I had a big drill in one hand, a screw in another and with my pinky I was trying to keep the bracket in place while leaning on my elbow at an awkward angle. I pushed hard and tried to hold everything in place but the twist of the drill caused the screw to wobble and I dropped it. I dropped a screw. In unison, both Ugandan men sighed, "ohhh, ohhh, sorry". I looked at them and saw they were still holding down the top and focused on the work. I started laughing and remembered how other Ugandans have done similar things when I've bobbled something or slipped or tripped, even in the most minor of ways. "Ohhh, ohhh, sorry!" That little moment with the dropped screw sparked a long conversation about the differences in our cultures. I told them I noticed their audible concern and I asked why they both acted that way. Their response: "We live our lives together in Africa. When something happens to you, it also happens to us." This concept is consistent with everything I've learned about Africa during our time living here. America tends to value a life based on what is accomplished. Africa seems to value a life based on how it's connected to other lives. The dropped screw led to a conversation about how communities work together to mourn the loss of loved ones. I was fascinated by the conversation that ranged from a bobbled screw to a lost loved one but remained centered on the "life together" thread. From the smallest moments to the largest, life is lived together. All real living is meeting. I hope that this table is a place of meeting where connection occurs in every moment of life, from the smallest to the largest. 
How can you connect with someone today? Regardless of the size of the event or the magnitude of the moment, every step of life is an opportunity to join in the journey of someone else. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Home


We are home in Uganda. God did it! He really did it! We have so much we want to share with you in the weeks to come, but for now let us tell you about our kids. 
It took us 31 hours to travel from our front door in America to our front door in Uganda. The kids handled the car rides, plane rides, airport stops and bumpy African roads like champs. Sure, there were tough moments of exhaustion but they redirected their thoughts and conquered! 
In historic African fashion, we were greeted once again by no power at home. For the last 36 hours we have been without electricity. The kids didn’t skip a beat when Nathan read them their bedtime story by flashlight last night. 
This morning I walked Maddix, Sophie, Ezra and Ruby to school. We thought they would want to wait a few days before starting but they were eager to see their old friends and meet new ones. As we arrived at school, several friends noticed them and cheered. That made my momma heart so happy! 

To all of you who pray for our kids, thank you!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Uganda, Here We Come!




Our suitcases are packed and we are ready to head to the airport Friday morning. Uganda, here we come! 
Some time ago, God gave us a family word: LINGER. Uganda taught us that word and we lingered in every way we could, with every person in front of us, to the best of our abilitly.
We are convinced that our lingering with others ushers in the presence of God. His presence saw the healing of our son, the restoration of our souls, the energizing of our spirits, the orchestration of our schedule and a wide-spread community impact that leaves us humbled and heartened. 
We have no idea what the next 3 years will bring, but we are far more impressed with the Planner than the plan. He has been faithful and we are merely checking the ink in our pens to insure we have enough to write His story. 
Thank you Church for joining our plot by inserting a chapter that is nothing short of epic. We love you!