Thursday, March 13, 2014

Prayer Letter

February 2014

                With no leap year, February has come and gone quickly! It is hard to believe that both January and February have come and gone so quickly leaving me about halfway finished with my internship with and my time here in Uganda. God has definitely blessed me with wonderful people to surround me and help me in my time here.
                The first group of individuals that God blessed me with are the other Uganda Studies Program students and staff that are here on the Uganda Christian University campus. Not only do they help me with processing day to day life and different educational trips that we take, the class that we all take on faith in the Ugandan context pulls in large topics for us to question our worldviews, culture, and faith to ascertain that we are placing God and not ourselves on the throne of our lives.  
                To cement everything that we learn in that course and over the last three years as social work students, I attend my social work internship at Compassion International in Lugazi, Uganda four to five days a week. At Compassion, I am working under a wonderful Supervisor who guides me in the Child Survival Program. We work with around 40 children ages 0-3 and their mothers making sure that they are surviving and thriving physically, spiritually, socio-emotionally, and cognitively. On a practical level this looks like visiting the homes of the mothers and doing short lessons with them, doing monthly skills training, monthly discipleship, and other activities ensuring that the mothers have the community and assets that they need in order to help their family survive. The above picture shows one of our mothers working on a chore chart with her three year old daughter helping to teach responsibility.
We celebrated the last week and a half of February by completing our rural homestay with a host family in Kapchorwa, Uganda near the Kenyan border. I learned so much more than just how to milk a cow from my host family and my host village. This week not only taught me about the importance of humility as I relearned seemingly simple tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and cutting vegetables, but also taught me the importance of being present with a family. I am amazed time after time how the family of Christ can be found all over the world. Situated in a little village on top of a mountain, I found a community that cared for each other as Christ cares for individuals and shares with each other as Christ called the Church to do.
I want to encourage us to do the same. In Philippians 2, God encourages us to be united with other believers being “one in Spirit and purpose” (v.2). We do not have to be half way around the world to serve Christ. He calls us first and foremost to be a community as loving and humble as He was (see Philippians 2).
                                                                                                                             In His Amazing Grace,


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Worth of a Name

What does it matter if our name is Sally, George, or Serena? When I was young, I always thought that names were just random names that were significant to the parents at the time of the child’s birth. As I have grown, I have learned a little more about the importance of the name that each child receives. You never know if you name your child Serena, she might actually turn out to be “serene” like my mother. With this in mind, beware of naming children Jezebel or Hitler.
                While teaching a lesson at Compassion on attachment through making a baby book, we gave mothers the task of writing out the meaning of the name that they had given their child. Though many did not know at the moment, when they asked their families about it, the found great significance.
 While spending some of my time in rural homestay, I was reminded once again of the importance of a name here in Uganda. Names depict experiences and realities that were happening at the time of your birth. One person I met had a name that meant “the moment when the visitor comes.” When I asked the mother about it, she told me that someone had come to visit them the moment the baby was born.  Similarly, a child’s name can be affected by the child that they follow. If they follow a set of twins, they have a particular name. The importance of the child’s name continues on to adulthood as a circumstance such as having a set of twins, changes a name forever. A mother’s name immediately changes from “Marie” to “Nalongo”, or a father’s name from “Petros” to “Ssalongo.” On another note, when I spoke to a Muslim who had converted to Christianity, he mentioned that they changed their name to mark the event and to show that he is a new person.
What is our name? What is the meaning behind it? In Romans 9:26 it says that “we will be called ‘sons of the living God’.” How amazing that our name changes as well! We have had an experience, an event that has changed our name forever, even that name will be written in the book of life (See Revelations 2)! Even more important, who is Jesus? He is Emanuel- God is with us!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Flower Petals in the Snow

                I stared at the bullet mark in her arm and the straight emotionless but beautiful face as she shared of being stolen from her home at twelve years of age. No, they did not take her twin sister, because her brother begged for her, but one person had to be the sacrifice. They didn’t trust her to not run away, however, so they brought her back to her home and killed her mother in front of her to give her shame. This was the least of the heart-throbbing truths that she and the five other ex-captives told, but still it left a weight the size of the bowling ball that I accidentally dropped when bowling against my Grandfather in my stomach. How can she say it without emotion?  
                The war that started around 1986 devastated Northern Uganda. It still has not officially stopped. How did I never hear about this? When Museveni took over the Ugandan government, Western Uganda and Northern Uganda began their conflict. A man named Joseph Kony and his sister started a rebellion movement called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to take the government back for the North. His way of doing it, however, consisted of stealing children from several villages in the North to either form part of the army, be the wives of the soldiers, or both. Stories of the atrocities the LRA’s actions include rape, murder, cutting off lips to make people in a perpetual “smile”, cutting off noses, and other forms of torture that have the name of Kony rivaling the evil dripping from the name of Hitler.   
                The hurt did not stop just with these acts, unfortunately. Because of hateful thing that the LRA was known for, on return to their villages and homes, these women were met with contempt, fear, and rejection. Their community did not know how to respond to them, how to help them heal, how to heal themselves.

                Despite the evil that these women have lived through, however, here they are standing in front of me as a testimony of their strength and God’s grace. Instead of seeing the death and the evil, I saw the smiles on their faces as they interacted with each other. Instead of the broken community that they had to consider their own, I saw the community that they had formed in Amani (the project that taught them to sew and helped them form a healing group). Instead of the wounded skin and torn hearts, I saw the beautiful creativity that went into every bag, card, and necklace that they made. Truly God makes all things new!