Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lydia's Writings

If Lydia isn't reading in her spare time, you will find her writing. She loves to express herself in words and be creative in writing (where did she get that from?). She does a great job and she was thrilled when her high school English teacher told her that. I was touched this year when she wrote her English paper comparing me to Corrie Ten Boom - totally humbling! Lydia's writing often reflects her faith. She knows and loves the Lord. The other day God spoke to her through the same sermon He spoke to me. I have been wanting so badly to write about it but haven't been able to. So, I thought I would share Lydia's. I also added her Bible writing on the Great Commission. Be blessed!

Luke 9:51-62
Credits to Joshua Shaarda, my beloved Dad.  Keep on inspiring people to better follow the Lord!
Have you ever been determined to do something?  If so, you know that it doesn’t have to be a big “something”.  Even small feats become important to us when we are set on completing them.  The task becomes a personal quest for something that we desire. Usually, our want- or desire- fuels our energy and pushes us forward.
Does it take pain to accomplish this?  Do you have to give a sacrifice?
If you are truly determined, then you certainly will be willing to give a sacrifice.  You might even say that toiling through storm, pain and opposition makes the result seem ever better once you accomplish the task.  
Are we, as Christians, equally as determined to follow Jesus?
Seriously.  If I were to ask, “Will you follow Jesus anywhere He goes?” would you agree?  Saying anything is easy, therefore many Christians say, “I’ll follow you, Lord.  Anywhere you go, let me go too.” In fact, that’s the promise we make when we accept Jesus into our hearts.  
There’s nothing wrong with being wholeheartedly committed to the Lord.  We should be completely committed to Him!  But, we should also understand what that means at its fullest.

Luke 9:51 begins by telling of Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem.  Having the perfect knowledge of God, Jesus knew what He was facing. He knew He was going to die a sinner’s death on the cross.  He knew the weight He would bear for all of our sins.
But He still went.  He still set out. He was determined to reach the city.
He would have to experience pain.  He would toil under the accusations hurled His way.  He would give the ultimate sacrifice. He would be treated worse than any human being ever would, or ever should.  
The Son of God, slain.  The One who was since the beginning, taking our spot.  The great I Am, choosing to take the blame. The Most High, becoming lower than the least of these.  Why would He ever be determined to do that?
Because He also knew the result.  He knew the victory that would come afterwards.  It was the rescue plan He and His Father had been working on since the beginning finally unfolding and taking action.  
You see, God loved us so much- more than anyone else could.  In fact, He loves us more than we can even comprehend! But because He is just and holy, He couldn’t have our sin in His presence.  We were stained. We had messed up and we wore the proof. We were supposed to die as a punishment. But the mercy and kindness of God is too great to allow His creation to die.  He had to do something, anything.
So, Jesus stepped up and took the job.  He became determined even before the beginning of time to rescue you and me.  He knew that we needed a Savior, that we were too weak to do it on our own. In a sense, Jesus is our knight in shining armour.  He is the hero of the epic novel that takes the stage when everything seems lost. In the darkest moment, Jesus brought life. He gave us free grace that we never can earn.  He took care of it.
We did nothing, but we gained everything.
Our response shouldn’t be trying to buy back this gift.  No, a gift is given and it is free. It costs the receiver nothing.  Instead, we should respond with zealous commitment to the Lord and burning desire to do His will.
However, doing God’s will doesn’t mean life suddenly becomes rainbows and sunshine.  We still live in a sinful world dead set against stopping the very the very work of God.  Luke 9:52-56 reveals this. When Jesus passed through Samaria on His way to Jerusalem, the people there wouldn’t give Him a room.  
We can’t control the situation, but we can control our reaction.  When people, troubles, or unexpected bumps come in our way, it’s our choice how we respond.  There are two reactions we can have. Choice number one is too get upset, throw a fit, and go home.  This is what comes naturally When we choose this, we assume that the problem means God isn’t with us any more.  Or even that we’re not doing the right thing. Going down this road leads to frustration, heartbreak, and anger. This isn’t God’s plan for us.  
Choice number two is to keep right on going, dealing with the problem as it comes then putting it behind and moving on.  When we take this path, we know that even in God’s will we will meet up with bumps. That’s part of life and we can’t let it bring us down.  
Moving on with the plan was Jesus response.  He wasn’t deterred the least bit by the Samaritans hostility.  May it be so with us! Our hearts should be set on walking in the will of God until we reach our goals, our Jerusalem.
God has much to say about following Him in His word.  Luke 9 gives three basic guidelines for the blueprint of walking towards our Jerusalem.
#1: Know what you signed up for (verses 57-58).  
The man passing Jesus told him that He had his full commitment.  He’d go wherever Jesus went. He’d made up his mind that he would follow Jesus.
But where was Jesus going?
To Jerusalem.  To His death. To gain the freedom of the whole world, but giving the biggest sacrifice the world could ever imagine.  
When you commit yourself to following Jesus, you need to be prepared to give a sacrifice.  In fact, you need to be prepared to give your very life. Before He died, Jesus told His disciples that if anyone wanted to follow Him, they needed to pick up their cross.  Symbolically, that means we are willing to die- if that be God’s will for us.
But it doesn’t end on a sorrowful note!  Jesus promises us in John 14:1-3 that He’s going to come back for us.  Jesus’ story didn’t end in death. Rather, it ended in victory over death!  He conquered it for good!  We no longer have to fear death, because we know that our Lord is greater!
Because we are hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) our story doesn’t end with death either.  Christ is the Life. As a result of being in Him, we have this life (1 John 5:11). In celebration of this, turn and follow Christ.  No matter what it costs.
#2: Jesus first, ourselves later (verses 59-60).  
This time, it was Jesus calling someone to follow Him.  Plain and simple. This man was more hesitant than the last one.  He told Jesus that he needed to bury his father first. Jesus’ response of “let the dead bury their own dead” seems a little harsh at first.  But like with any Bible passage, the more we study it, the more sense it makes.
Let me start unraveling this verse by asking, where would the man be if his father had just died?  At the funeral. He wouldn’t be walking around where Jesus and His followers were. So why did the man tell Jesus he needed to bury his father?
The man used it as an excuse.  It was his way of saying, “Maybe later, Lord.  Today I have better things to do. Yes, I’m interested in You, but full commitment...Ummmm, let’s try that later.”
Sadly, many people today are like that man.  Jesus is calling them clearly. They hear His calling and know what He wants them to do.  But they aren’t sure that they want to follow.  They know Jesus is good, and that He offers salvation, but they want other things first.  Maybe it’s pleasures of this world that they know God won’t approve of, or it might simply be that they want to hold back in fear of what they’ll lose.
However, Jesus shouldn’t be the One waiting on us.  We should be following Him immediately. Why? Well, Jesus isn’t going to come back until the whole world has heard the gospel preached in a way that they can understand.  It’s our job to take the good news to them. The sooner everyone hears, the quicker Jesus comes back and takes away all the junk sin has brought into the world.
So let’s not give Christ a 20% yes, but total commitment that puts aside our own fears and longings.  Christ needs to be our center and focus. He isn’t looking for people who say, “I’ll follow You, but first…”  He will only use those completely committed to Him.
#3: Don’t look back (verses 61-62).  Remain with your eyes fixed on your goal: being home with Jesus.
A third man comes along and tells Jesus that he will follow.  The catch is that he needs to first go say goodbye to his family.  Jesus replies to him by saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”.  
Many of us have put our hands to the plow.  We have accepted to follow Jesus and even do His will.  But, too often we look back at the things left behind. When you look back while plowing, no matter how good you are, you always end up with a big mess when you get across the field.  
Similarly, Jesus says those who look back aren’t fit for service.  They would make a mess of things and create a stumbling block for people trying to accept the gospel or new Christians trying to get a handle on their faith.
Sometimes, plowing for Jesus means we need to leave behind our comforts and desires.  Our dreams and plans. Our prized possessions. Even our success in life and things that bring us self confidence.  
Plowing also requires tuning out distractions to our left and right.  You’re guaranteed to have the world screaming on either side, trying desperately to get your attention.  The world doesn’t like you being committed to the will of God. The world wants to drag you right out of the Jesus path.  The world will try to lure you away by promising pleasures and good times. But we need to realize that the pleasures- whether in the form of money, popularity, material possessions, etc- are short lived and don’t give you lasting satisfaction.
Keep your eyes on Christ as you plow.  Hold tight to the hope that Jesus has a reward waiting for you in Heaven.  Run your race! You’ll hit the finish line soon enough and it will be all worth it.
Whatever happened to those three men that the Lord met on the road to Jerusalem, we may never know.  Whether they paid attention to Christ’s word and obeyed remains a mystery. However, how they responded isn’t what’s important.  What you need to worry about is your response.  Are you going to listen Christ’s instructions?  Then will you put them into practice?
It may be hard at times, and it may provide us with a daunting task, but Christ promised that He is always with us.  That’s not all! You’re not alone. There are many other Christians around the world committed to the will of God. We must pray for each other and encourage each other when we’re tempted to turn away from our goal.

Keep the faith.  Be sure of what you hope for (Christ’s return) and certain of what you do not see (He will reward our hard work) - Hebrews 11:1.

One of Jesus’ well known commands is the Great Commission.  Most people in the church know it; pastors teach on it multiples times a year; and people love to discuss it.  However, do Christians really carry out this calling as they were told so many years ago? This commissioning to teach the nations is not only for the first apostles, but Christians today as well.

Real obedience of a command begins with a full understanding of it.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19-20 are quoted many times today, but people fail to do everything they are told.  The command begins with the action word “go”. As long a Christians don’t go, they cannot complete the work of Christ’s commissioning.  “Go” doesn’t always mean travel to the ends of the earth, though that is the calling for many. This action can also take one down the street, across the room, or to a person in one’s life.  Actions like this require getting off of spiritual couches and stepping out of comfort bubbles. As the next words of Matthew 28:19 reveal, when Christians go, they are told to make disciples as well.  Making includes creating something that isn’t already there. So, Christians need to invest in places and people that don’t already have the freedom found in salvation through Jesus. Making disciples includes nurturing these new followers, as is revealed in use of the word “disciples” rather than “converts”.  The starting point of this discipleship is marked by baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Being baptized in name of the Trinity shows that the new believer has salvation only through Christ. This is a reminder that no one is saved by works, but through faith alone. In verse 20, Jesus tells Christians to teach these new found disciples.  Teaching is a long process, whereby the teacher tells the learner how to do something. The teacher must set an example for the learner to follow. Teachers also need to use mistakes and questions to expand the learner’s knowledge. Christians need not worry about how to teach, because Jesus has promised His constant presence. In fact, that is His promise concerning the whole commission!

The apostles wonderfully carried out the Great Commission, as recorded in Acts.  One example comes from Acts 3, which tells the story of Jesus healing the crippled beggar through Peter and John.  Verse one begins with the words, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple…”. These apostles’ actions showed understanding of the commission.  They needed to go somewhere first so that they might share the gospel with those who did not know it. Using the attention that came through healing a crippled man, Peter explained to the crowd how Jesus had died for the sins of all.  After presenting the gospel, Peter also instructed the crowd how to do what God desired, therefore obeying the command of Jesus’ to teach the disciples.

A second example is given in Acts 8:1, 4-5.  This passage also describes the movement of Christians.  In this instance, persecution pushed the Church beyond Jerusalem.  The believers continued to share the gospel wherever they went. Therefore, ministry began among many other nations.  Acts 8:12-14 tells of the new disciples being baptized and some apostles coming to teach them.

Jesus gave the Great Commission to all believers, not just those who lived long ago.  Therefore, each Christian today needs to follow this command in their own life. I, too, have been careful to follow these words Christ spoke so many years ago.  My daily life is one example of my obedience, as I live in a foreign country in order to tell people of God’s love and teach disciples. Every time I share the gospel with someone on a crusade shows my obedience as well.  

Christ promised to return after every nation has heard of His love (Matthew 24:14, 2 Peter 3:9).  This means He won’t come back until Christians fulfill their calling to make disciples of all nations.  Each Christian should pray, asking God where He desires them to go and how He wants them to teach the new disciples.  In this way, the obedience of the Great Commission won’t be a topic discussed in Acts alone, but an action that takes place even today.   

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oh What a Night

What you are about to read may not make sense to you but it is true and we pray God will use to turn His people back to Him.

One of the young men from our neighbor's home was living with a girl who he is not married to (but treated her as a wife), which means he has not paid the dowry for her.  They have lived together for almost two years and have a small child.  This week, that girl was in town to get her prenatal check up (she is around six months pregnant), she was hit by a car, and died.  The driver of the car fled.

All of our neighbors began to fear that the clan of that girl would turn their anger against them - the boy's clan.  Since he had not paid dowry, the girl still technically belonged to the clan she came from.  Since the driver fled, someone has to pay.  They feared the clan of that girl would come unannounced with many men and loot, and burn homes and property, steal whatever they want...or worse.  For a few hours our neighbors came with everything they owned and packed it in our garage.  Food, mattresses, Bibles, dishes, sheets, clothes, water jugs, pots, school supplies...came on the heads of adults and children of all sizes.  They feel the clan that comes wont touch our home so people want all their stuff locked in our house.  

This is what Ugandans call "mob justice".  There is no justice in it!  It is evil and no one wins.  It is about anger, revenge and lack of trust in the local authorities.  I have heard many stories of mob justice here, but this is the first time it was close to home and involved my neighbors and friends - my Ugandan family.  Fear is a terrible thing.  I saw my friends shaken up, kids eyes filled with fear...and helplessness that all gripped us.  I felt sick as I watched my friends flow into our yard bringing their things.  I wanted to help and save them.  What do I do?  What can I do?!  I love these people.  

Once again I had to truly depend on the Lord.  And once again, my friends here showed me faith in the Lord.  They have no one to protect them, no one to save them, no government to help, no security, no justice...only God their Defender, their Rescuer, their Refuge, their Protector, their Peace.  This is when we need true faith to trust in God, when your home and maybe life are on the line.  Is God enough?  Wow.  Living in Africa and being on the mission field has taught me over and over again what true need and dependence on the Lord is.  And because of it I know Him and trust Him.  

We prayed!  Soon many other friends from the village (other clans) came to support and encourage.  Some of us gathered in our porch and read God's Word, sang and prayed.  It is a beautiful thing to trust in the Lord together.  

That night most people wanted to stay home to protect it but grandma and the lady who is injured went to another compound to sleep.  I know some children slept outside not wanting to be in their homes in case they were burnt.  I went to bed with a heavy heart but with God's assurance too.  I kept praying for God's protection, for Him to put a wall around this area, to work in the hearts of those who want to do wrong, and to be the Peace we all need.  I woke up many times and just kept proclaiming God's protection over His people.  If God is for us who can stand against us?

I praise the Lord He answered our prayers!  Early the next day the girl's family did come.  Although some of the younger ones did want to fight, the father kept the peace and said he just wanted to bring his daughter home to bury her.  Wise man.  The tension in the village slowly subsided.  Many of the men went to town with the girl's family to figure things out and get the body.  So many people were grateful for all our prayers.  One of my friends said it was a true miracle that everything is ok.  She said the girl's clan does not follow Jesus and are known for drinking.  They were sure they would get angry and react.  God heard and answered our prayers.  He loves when we put our whole trust in Him.

Little by little more of the story come out - or I am learning more.  The driver who hit and killed the girl was found and the owners of the vehicle agreed to pay the whole cost of the funeral.  This kept them from jail I believe.  There was another vehicle that helped after the accident and was able to prove who did hit her.  The six month old baby was removed from the girl and buried separately.  The "husband/father" is still hiding as far as I know.  It was all sad.  We went to the burial.  I am sure over a thousand people were there.  (Sitting most of the day in over 100 degrees.)  Can you imagine not going to your "wife's" funeral.  The child left behind was called an orphan even though she has a father no one mentioned him (because they weren't married).  This girl wasn't a believer so it was hard.  I definitely noticed a difference from other burials I have been to.  I just pray it is a wake up call to others and that they come to Jesus through this. 

Oh, this whole ordeal leaves me with so very many thoughts and prayers.  I really hate the fake marriages here where they get pregnant and live together and call each other husband and wife.  They don't last.  I can say this because God hates it too.  It isn't God's way and it will not be blessed.  Sin has consequences and most of the time many innocent people are hurt and suffer.  Think about how many families could have lost their homes, things or worse because their relative didn't do marriage the right way.  Now, I also know that it is very complicated and messy.  No one seems to have money to pay dowry, so youth feel there is no way.  Too many don't want to wait, don't trust God to provide and so they take matters into their own hands.  I don't always know what to think of the whole system here, but I do know that God's plan for marriage is above every culture and time.  His way works for all people, everywhere.  He will bless it when we do it His way, but He will not bless what He said is wrong.  Immorality is sin and it will never bring peace.  

I am crying out to God to teach the youth here His ways and that they will walk in His truth!

My prayer is that people will see what has happened and repent of their ways that are a part from God.  That they will change and live according to His good plan for them.  That they will trust Him and know His blessings when we obey His will.  I pray that marriage is honored here and that God transforms the hearts of the people to do marriage His way.

I see the cycle of sin in the parents and children and I pray that it stops here.  I pray for the immorality that binds God's people here is broken.  I pray that the power of sin and slavery and death it brings is defeated as God's people know who they are because of Christ. 

I pray for those who are still far from Jesus to encounter Him.  That God turns what was meant for evil and turns it into good.  That all will hear and know that God is powerful, rescues, protects, and loves His children.  I pray we are a testimony for Him.  

It grieves me that this girl lived three compounds away and died without receiving Jesus.  Almost every compound around her claim to be followers of Jesus.  Did we fail to share the Good News before it was too late?  Had she heard and rejected it?  I don't know but I am praying we as Christians here are shaken, repent and become intentional and urgent about sharing Jesus with everyone!

This is a different thought, but I have had it so I will share it.  It hit me that all my neighbors brought all their valuable things and it all fit in my garage.  Let that sink in.  I am rich.  I have a lot.  I have a big home.  My friends have very little.  They do not have worldly possessions like we do.  These are families with mostly nine plus children.  They live by having enough for each day.  I was struck again by the imbalance of it all.  Too often lately my wealth makes me feel sick.  I continue to wrestle.  I will write more on what God has been teaching me about that later, but for now I need to consider my ways.  

So that was our night and days since then that taught us so much and continue to make us cry out to God.  He is the only hope, peace, truth, and Savior.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Made it Home

Let the journey begin. 
The morning we left Emalai woke up with an earache and said it was popping so we were off to the doctor to hear that it was all ok.  On the way the windshield wiper totally broke in the snow store so we couldn't see and had to go get that fix.  It was a bit crazier than we wanted but it is pretty common to have "things" happen when we leave.  So in the stress we chose to know it was attacks and that God was in control.  This is why so many were praying for us!

Stop over in Holland.  We went to Harlem.
 It was really cold but I love seeing history and it's beauty. 

Grandpa & Grandma Beute journeyed with us (they are working on their adpotion of Achia)

Flying over the Alps

Over the Sahara Desert - for a long time!

All tired out!

Our friends picked us up at the airport and helped get all the luggage in - thanks guys!
We felt so loved and welcomed home!

Yes, that says 98degrees!

We are back home in Obule!  Thank you for all your prayers!  It is simply a long journey.  One week after leaving Michigan we drove almost seven hours and arrived home (we stayed a few days in the capital city with our friends - great way to adjust after jet leg).  There are many things I am thankful for and missed while we were in Michigan, but there are also things I really didn't miss and still don't like.  You can quickly forget when you are away.

What did I miss?  I love having the windows open and hearing the sounds of outdoors.  I especially like the sounds of nature at night.  I love the peacefulness of the village.  I like staying home, routine, and a quieter pace of life.  I love being in a community or neighborhood and visiting with my neighbors and friends as they go by, they stop over or we go and visit.  I even missed the local food.

What didn't I miss?  The heat.  It is not warm, it is hot!  Intense heat.  The kind you can't describe.  It hits you and can be overpowering.  Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe.  Can I say it hurts?  I guess it is a mix of the heat and dryness.  I don't know, maybe it is just how I handle heat.  It was 98 degrees in my house when we arrived.  (So, what would that be in the sun?!)  There just any escaping it.  Thankfully we have had relief at night and with clouds that have come in the later afternoons.  I love clouds!  I also did not miss the dirt and feeling dirty.  Everything is dusty and dirty here.  I don't exactly feel beautiful here.  It is also a lot more work to live here.  You have to haul water, conserve water, filter water, make food if you are going to eat, do school with the kids, drive down a terrible road to get to market or a the heat everything is harder too.

The poverty stands out to me again.  The little everyone has, the rags kids wear to play and work in, all they have to do just to have water, the shortage of food, money, and resources.  It punches you in the face compared to all we have, our excess and wealth.   It can make me feel ill.

I am thankful we are welcomed back, people are excited to see us, and we have friends here.  It is hard to see some not growing in Christ, sin, or fall away but I try to remember they are the few among the many.  I also remember I am not responsible.  God is in control and at work and each one of His children is responsible to grow in Him.  Josh met with a former prisoner who is now back home.  He met Jesus in prison and now has a fresh start with his wife and family.  He is a changed man!  Praise the Lord!  It was a very encouraging testimony.

I feel really good about being home but can quickly get overwhelmed and want to do it all and restart it all right away.  I feel out of it with everyone and everything but that too will come with time.

We did start our home school again today...the kids did great, the teacher struggled.  It is hard to start the second semester in a different curriculum with preschool, elementary, middle school and high school.  Praise be to God we got the internet to work and Lydia can do her work!  I struggle to keep up with everyone and I don't really teach.  I just hope everyone understands and learns not just get the work done.  I have to just let today - this week - be messy and give myself and the kids grace until we are back into it.

I just wanted to put a quick "this is how we are doing" update out there.  I feel like it is a jumble of thoughts but at least you know we are alive.  So many of your prayers have been answered and now you also know what else to pray for.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Goodbyes Here and There

About five months again we said goodbye in Obule.  It was a very difficult goodbye with many tears.  But what a blessing!  It was not fun crying and feeling torn from our home, life and friends but it hurt because we love.  We have given ourselves and so separating is difficult.  Going deep, being real, going through life's joys and hardships together cause authentic relationships.  We were excited about seeing our family in Michigan and a break but it still meant separation.  As we cried, I would often remind the girls our tears are worth it.  It is better to cry because we love, than never cry because we never loved.

Our last couple weeks in Obule were full of blessings and sadness.  Many of our friends had us to their homes for a meal and shared with us how thankful they were for our friendship and help.  We were also able to express our love and appreciation for them.  Our girls were busy writing and sharing notes with each friend telling them how they see God working in them and how much God loves them.  In return many notes started to circle around and our girls were affirmed that their friendship and love for the Lord was mutual.  So many of our friends brought us gifts of peanuts, meals, oranges and more.  It was their way of saying we love you and thank you.  I felt loved and was humbled by their gifts that cost them.

Our last Sunday in church we said our goodbyes.  It was one of the most meaningful, memorable and holy moments I have had in Obule.  I began to share from Philippians 1 where Paul says it is his joy to partner with the local believers in the gospel.  As I spoke I could see Lydia crying on her bench and her friends began to circle her crying, I then began to cry, and then my interrupter, pastor and good friend was also crying.  The next thing you know there was a ripple effect of tears all around the church.  Young, old, women, men, my friends, neighbors, teen seemed everyone was touched and crying.  It was so hard but so beautiful!  I never felt so love.  Without a doubt our love for the people of Obule is mutual.  God did and is doing something special and something few people ever have the joy of experiencing.  God's Spirit was there.  He was there in the tears, the love, and each day that year as people were coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and transforming lives as His truth was being shared.  I stood there crying with my church family that Sunday trying to take in that holy moment.  All I could hear was sniffles all around.  Looking at faces of friends that God has touched.  Friends I have learned so much from.  I belong.  In Christ we are family and we love.

I stood there and reminded them that this goodbye is not forever and that we are so thankful we will be coming back home (to Obule).  I encouraged them that they don't need us, God remians in them and it is my prayer that they grow in Christ as we are away.  After church there were no hand shakes everyone was hugging.  Not a pat on the back hug but long, hard, meaningful hugs.  I just cried as youth hugged me, teen boys, David who came to Christ this year, Patrica who grew so much in Christ, leaders who are our team, women who are my best friends, old ladies who are dear to me...  We had lunch all together as as a church but it still felt like a funeral as people continued to cry and give me deep hugs.  The youth in particular looked so sad.  But I was so happy - loving and being loved is a beautiful thing.

Sunday night we continued to get gifts of food from our friends and the youth just didn't want to leave.  We said many, many goodbyes but no one wanted to separate.  It was hard to see my kids crying and sad.  Finally we told the youth they needed to go home, so they said first we need to pray together.  We gathered in our porch as the boys led us in prayer.  It was so touching to see the youth God was growing in and working in praying for us as we left.  There were tears all around the porch.  I knew the youth loved Lydia and Grace and they love just being together but now I realized how much our our family and home has also meant to them.  It is a place of peace, truth, acceptance, and love in a culture that isn't always loving and in a culture where you can be forgotten in a family and individuates don't always matter.  Jesus was using our home and family to love.

The day of our departure finally came.  You can only say goodbye so long.  Once we were on our way we were ok and excited.  We have prayed for our friends in Obule everyday we have been away.  Praying they are growing in Christ as we are away.

Here we are now preparing to say goodbyes in Michigan.  Five months here was allowed us to reconnect with family, invest into friendships, adjust to live here, be apart of school and church.  We have loved family, friends, Michigan, seasons, supporters, church, comforts, beauty...and now it is difficult to separate.  To say goodbye comes with tears.  We love and so it hurts. To not hurt or cry is not to invest, give of yourself, feel, experience, and be present.  We have no regrets.  It will always be hard to leave but it is always worth it.   

Thank you for your prayers as we leave.  It is the transition periods that are so hard and we would live to skip over.  We have to choose not to be stressed at these stressful times.  Each time we leave again it reminds me this is when my faith takes action.  I need to put into action all I say I believe. 
We fly out of Detroit Monday January 29 and will arrive in Uganda on February 1.  We will stay with some friends before we drive 6 hours to our home in Obule.  We will most likely gain 100 degrees from Michigan to Uganda!  Pray for our adjustment.

We want to thank everyone for receiving us, helping us, and loving us!  It means a lot to us to be welcomed back to Michigan.  Thank you to our family and friends for letting us in and out of your lives with grace.  Thank you to Georgetown CRC for providing a home away from home for us.  Thank you to Hudsonville Christian and Unity for allowing our kids and receiving them to be a part of your schools.  We are grateful for positive experiences.  We are grateful for all our supporting churches and supporters for giving us time to share and sharing our excitement for all God is doing in Obule.

It is our prayer that you continue to grow in Christ until we meet again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One-of-a-kind Dress

Lydia got this dress in Kampala, Uganda in July (for her birthday) and finally got to wear it last week to the winter banquet for school.  She was excited and looked so beautiful.  As hard as it is to see her grow up and now do things you remember doing, it is a joy to see her do so as a godly, beautiful young women.  Her dress was a one-of-a-kind Ugandan dress.  It was a special piece of her and her home.

With her friends

More friends

Her cousin Alex and second cousin Ginny were at the dance too

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Our MI Christmas, New Years, and snow...

Here is a look at our Christmas, New Years and Michigan snow!  
Fun with Grandpa's 4-wheeler

Decorating Christmas cookies with cousins

Malai sleeping in her coat to keep warm
Our family Christmas party

 My parents joined us and we both got world necklaces.
Malai's gifts to G&G she was so proud of.

Luka got a real set of little drums

Emalai wanted a violin, diamond and penny for Christmas.
We found a little violin (musical family this Christmas - Josh got a harmonica too) and she got a penny but the was a beautiful fake little girls ring. 

Here we are at the Beute Christmas party on Christmas Eve

Emalai and her cousins she loves to play with.

Beute family Christmas sweaters!

Having fun!

Dad and Mom and their grandkids

Shaarda family Christmas party Christmas Day

The grandkids

Christmas Day was snowy and cold!  We had so much fun outside behind the 4-wheeler!

Lydia's homemade present for G&G

Grandma's cookbooks she made for the girls

Ice skating on Christmas break

We got lots of snow on Christmas break and it was cold.
Here is my snow angel! 
So beautiful sledding

Gotta have all the fun we can in the snow and cold while we can!

Malai turned 5 on Dec. 27!
Happy Birthday Emalai!  You are a joy in our home with smiles, giggles, imagination, dancing, and sweetness.

The quilt Grandma Shaarda made for Malai's birthday.

More Michigan snow to enjoy!

Freezing cold sledding

We went sledding at Uncle Marks which is super fun because he makes a trail to go down and takes us up in the tractor scoop!

And then the kids convinced him to put the scoop up!!!

So pretty

New Years Eve fondu

 More freezing temps and more fun!
Sledding again with my sister Jenna and her kids

Ice skating on the lake my parents live on.
Lydia is a great skater like her dad.

A walk in the woods...

New Years prayer

Thank you Father for a New Year!  I am so thankful for Your faithfulness, control and plan over each new year.  I put my trust in You.  You are before, in and over all.  You hold the plans, control and power perfectly.  Lord, you are so good, worthy and true.  I need You and look to You and rest in You.

Thank you for 2017.  I look back with joy and thanksgiving.  I am thankful I grew in Christ.  Your Word and Spirit have taught me, filled me, led me, helped, challenged and encouraged me.  You are my Way, Truth and Life.  Thank you for transformed lives.  For David, the youth, Patricia, the prisoners and others You continue to work in.  For those growing in Christ and sharing Your truth with others.  For the leaders we work with, learn from, and minister with.  For those in the villages and churches learning who they are in Christ and living free in Christ.  I praise You for the church choir that has grown and blessed us.  I am thankful for their togetherness, talents and worship.  For the youth growing, serving and participating.  For the work You are doing in the prison.  For each prisoner who has allowed Your Word to change them and for the officers who have welcomed and recognized the work of Your people.  Thank you for special friends you have giving us in Uganda.  Friends who understand us, encourage us, support, love, edify, and to have fun with.  For our home in Obule that we love and is a place of peace, rest, hospitality because it is the Lord's property and filled with His Spirit.  I praise you for our marriage and the oneness you have given us. For our children who are amazingly positive, thankful, flexible and challenge me each day.  Thank you that they know who they are in Christ and love the Lord.  Thank you that we can do kingdom with together with our children.  Thank you for home schooling and the blessing it is to be with our kid everyday, know what they are learning, learn with them and instill God's truth in them.  Praise you for the creativity we can use in home schooling, living in the village, and in our lives.  Thank you for the marriage conferences we could do this year and for sharing your design for marriage.  For providing in drought and sending rain!  For water, power, fans, food, and health.  For our supporters who bless us and pray for us.  For safety at home and over many miles.  For so many wonderful opportunities to travel and see your vast world.  Thank you for Freedom in Christ that we are a part of.  For our time in Michigan, speaking, enjoying and being with family.  God You are good and I praise you and thank you for all You have done!

Lord, put Your Spirit in 2018.  Fill it and us.  Lead, use, empower, be present, protect, provide and do great things for Your kingdom and Your glory!  Be our help and peace as we pack and transition.  Go with us.  Go before us.  Be our health and protection.  Continue to fill our marriage and our home.  Bless our home schooling.  Lead us as a family to see and do Your will.  Provide all we need spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Continue to open doors to do Your work.  Use us mightily in Jesus name.  By Your strength continue Your work in the prison.  Keep the door open and keep leading.  Show us Lord and do Your work.  Use our home, gifts and blessings.  Empower the leaders to continue to serve and teach.  Use Josh to write appropriate materials that can be used in Africa and around the world.  Continue to grow our friendships.  I pray for Achia and pray for Your will to be done in her life.  God be glorified through her and everyone involved in protecting and loving her.

I pray for the Your church to grow in Christ, know You, trust You, submit to You, live in Your truth, be willing to change, be different, go out, serve, share, forgive, to be Jesus in their marriages, in their homes, resit the devil and flee from sin, to let You truly lead and be the head of the church, to long for You, watch and wait for Your coming, to reject the lies and culture and choose Christ, to stand for Your truth, remove all footholds we allow in our lives and homes, to know who we are in Christ and live according to it, to be free and victorious daily in Christ!   

For the lost to come to Christ.  God may the enemies of Jesus, those who hate You and Your people, who do evil and deny the truth to experience You and be changed by Your love and grace.  We cry out to You to stop the persecution, evil, killing, pain, suffering, injustice...  God be seen, heard and felt there.  You are the power to change the world!  Change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.  As you changed Saul to Paul change closed countries to freedom, evil leaders to Christ followers, abusers to servants, false religions to truth...  This is our prayer and Your will.  Protect and provide for Your children who are hurting, suffering, scared, in need.  Defend and save Your babies being killed, Your daughters misused, Your children unloved.  Raise up Your church to each one do their part spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Give us Your heart that weeps and a righteous anger against sin and injustice.  Convict us for sitting and repent and stand with our hurting brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus.  May Your name be know, honored, and proclaimed!

Be near to each one of our friends and family who is in need of Your touch, power, healing, provision, comfort, leading, saving...may each one choose You and experience You.  You are able and it is in You we trust.

Lord may Your will be done in 2018 and Your kingdom come.