Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'd Rather Have Jesus!

The song goes, "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold, I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land, I'd rather be led by His nail pierced hand. Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins' dread of sway, I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world can afford today!"

How about you? Can you sing this song with the passion of life that has come from the very breath of God in you? As I sat this morning listening to this song over and over again I was reminded of some very important yet simple truths. I have begun to see the world much differently over the past several years in light of these simple, profound truths. Jesus is life. Jesus is provider. Jesus is Redeemer. Jesus is Lord. My thought today is how have these truths about Jesus impacted our view of this world?

In the Experiencing God study by Henry Blackaby we find this great word, "People who struggle to spend time with God don't have a scheduling problem; they have a love problem." It is the love of God that draws us to Himself to develop this love relationship He has begun with us. It is love that compels us to become more crucified than comfortable. It is love that drives us to go into all the world with the Gospel message of hope. It is love that stirs our heart for His Kingdom work.

So in a short word today from my heart, can you this day realistically say you would rather have Jesus than anything this world has to offer? The worries of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth causes the life-breath of every Christ-follower to be strangled out and cut off to hinder the work of the Spirit in each of us. The root of this is not in the influence the world has on us but in the impact we allow Jesus to have on our heart. It is not the focus on the don'ts of this life that bring about a strong faithful journey. Rather it is the intense gaze and grasping for the "do" of this love relationship.

Sing the song whether out loud or quietly in your heart and ask yourself, can I truly say this is true of my life and my heart? Today ask the Spirit of the living God to teach your heart to cry out this day, I'd rather have Jesus than anything this world can afford today!

In His Grip,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reflections On My Days...

Today marks my 43rd year alive on the planet. This morning as I have read messages, listened to encouraging words and experienced the love of my family, I have begun that process of reflection and looking forward.

I have reflected today on how the Father has blessed me with some amazing friendships and the most incredible family a man could possibly have. Just yesterday I was reminded by the Lord of His love for me and His overwhelming grace that has been demonstrated to me through friends and fellowship with close relationships that have come because of His love for me. I am a blessed man with many many things in my life to be thankful for every day!

I listened this morning to the lyrics, "this is my story this is my song...praising my Savior all the day long" and I am doing just that today. Yet, I have realized something in the midst of this reflection. In the middle of looking back on the ways the Father has taken care of me and guided me back to Himself time and time again, while looking back at the amazing ways He has blessed me with friends who are the same to me yesterday and today and will be in the days to come, while listening to His voice remind me of the sovereign control and freedom He has granted me in this life...I have an amazing opportunity!

I have an amazing opportunity to look to the future days and see His glory revealed in my journey. So many times we look at life through the lenses that have been clouded and colored by this world's struggles. We see situations and people with a less than perfect clarity because of our own past experiences. We have allowed the enemy to cloud our view and as a result we look at everything from a slightly wrong angle. This awkward angle causes us to respond in a completely different manner to all of life.

Well, today is the day the Lord has made! This is a day to rejoice and be glad in His grace and His mercy and His love. Even though I clearly understand that I bring nothing of value to the table with God in and of myself...In Christ I bring an eternal value that releases His Spirit to teach, guide and bless my life in many ways. The Father has marked my days and my journey. He has a plan to help me grow and become more like His Son everyday. The Lord has ordained the days of my life for His glory and for His purposes. So, what am I waiting for?

What is it that we all are waiting on to experience God in His fullness? Well, I know what I have been waiting on...ME! I have no power over the waves of the ocean. But I do have power over the waves of my emotions. I may not be in control of the clouds and the rain, but I am in control of the position of my life under the clouds of His Spirit as He pours out His Word and His blessing on my life. Today I choose to stand beneath the wings of the King and recognize my place at His table. It is time to start acting like His child and focusing on the future He has provided and stop trying to fix the past. This is my story and this is my song! He has ordained my days. He has mapped out for me a race that will end in victory. I have nothing to fear as a child of the King! It is time to live in the hope of the future and anticipate His glory being revealed in and through my life at every turn in this journey.

Today as you look forward, will you join me in releasing the grip you have on the things of the past. As the line in the Fellowship of the Unashamed states, "My past is redeemed, my present makes sense and my future is secure." It is time we walk fully in His light as a redeemed child of the King and face the coming days as the greatest days of our lives!

Thank you to all of those people who have been used by the Father to be a blessing to me. I cherish the memories and hope for the future. You have been a willing tool in the hands of the Master to help shape and form the journey He has allowed me to walk. Please know that I am thankful to my God upon every remembrance of you and eagerly await the next time in our journeys that He allows our paths to cross! Blessings to you all as we build His Kingdom together!

In His Grip,

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Day Is Almost Gone...

As we sit and watch sunsets and marvel at their beauty, are we mindful of the days that are gone? Gone are the days of my youthful football career. Gone are the days of my worry-free eating of anything I wanted whenever I wanted it. Gone are the days of someone else thinking about tomorrow for me. Gone are the days of all night lock-ins with teenagers. Gone are many days of things I did when I was younger!

The more I ponder my days and consider how many are gone, the more I think about what each day I have in the future will hold. The sun is setting on many lives each day. This picture from Africa reminds me of how many children will close their eyes for the last time while you read this blog! The sun is setting on the day for the church. The Father has clearly given us a mission to reach the world! How are we going to finish this race He has set before us?

All across the globe the church is gathering. People in places all over the globe are seeking the Father in these last days. The church is alive and turning its heart to Him. In Uganda this summer as well as in Guatemala, I saw the church praying for revival. According to Henry Blackaby's model of revival the people of God have a choice to return to God for revival or to die! Across the globe men and women are returning to Him. Yes, world religions are on the rise and false prophets abound in every land. Religion is very popular in coffee shops and bars alike these days. The world has a very spiritual sense about her in this post-modern age.

Are you...am I taking advantage of the open hearts and minds that walk into my life's path every day? Do I see the people around my journey as those the Father is placing in my path specifically for me to speak to concerning the truth? Am I gathering with the church globally to humble myself, seek His face and pray, turn from my wicked ways and hear from heaven?

The time is at hand! The evening is coming and soon the sun will be gone! The time for the Body of Christ to rise to her feet and speak boldly the whole truth of God's Word is now! Will you join the gathering? Will you join the others around the foot of the cross? Will you go to Him as a small child with purity of heart, full expectation and complete dependence? The day is slowly fading away as we walk this journey. The darkness is creeping in on every side, thinking it has won! The Father is waiting to start the feast until all the children have come home. Will you join the search party as we go into all the nations seeking out the lost and hurting children of the Kingdom? Will you reach the world and teach His Word?

In His Grip,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Are You Listening To?

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2 Timothy 4:3

Today the Christian community is being overshadowed by a rapidly growing Islamic population. We see in the world today a weakening of the Christian influence among people groups across ethnic and nationalities like never before. Reports come out every day spreading the statistics about the rapid growth of Islam and its influence in communities in every corner of the globe. Christianity is slowing its once rapid progress into unreached and forgotten areas of the world. WHY?

As I reflect on what the Lord has been doing in my own life this year I see a very critical thing happening in my own faith journey. My bookshelves are lined with the latest books by this person or that whom I have determined to be a great man of God and a writer who will inspire me. I have awaited the next book in a series of books by guys out there who seem to have answers for my struggles with this journey and my issues I face along this path. I have built a list of quotes and concepts in my head of great wisdom from men who have been down the road of ministry or are walking this road with amazing stuff happening to them and their church.

Like never before in my faith journey I have seen my desire for someones words to motivate me overshadow the motivation of His Word! I have seen this year the Church communities draw in close to men of faith and listen to what they are saying and repeat their quotes on every social media outlet possible. Yet, the Word of God is far from our lips in our coffee shop conversations. We will sit for hours and debate the theological implications of this or that persons views on doctrinal thought while struggling to get out of bed and spend quality time listening to the One who breathed His life into our bodies!

Islam is growing all across the globe. However, it is not simply because of its strategy to invade every culture and community with its doctrine that is bringing this rapid growth about. As we have seen before in our faith journey, it is because of the relative silence of the Body of Christ that others' voices are being heard. Other world religions are not growing because they have stumbled onto some amazing new method to produce their message on the global scene. World religions are growing in popularity because the church is relatively quiet on the world scene.

I have found myself stumbling into this less vocal and more subdued mode of communication of the Gospel is due to one primary thing...I have begun to listen to men more than the Father! Who are you listening to? Who is the most influential person in your life right now? Whose words are you quoting when responding to life's difficult times? Whose words are coming to your mind when you are facing the difficult decisions of this journey?

Today we must return to the truth of the past! (2 Tim. 3:14-16) It is time we as the Body of Christ return to the simple truths of the Word of God and rally our lives around His Words to face the day. I know within my own journey I have relied on others words to help me face the day and I have allowed those words to take the place of the very Words of Jesus! Today I recognize I must return to the words that transform lives. I must again plant the Words of Christ deep within my bones so I will respond to the world's attack with words that carry eternal power. It is time to evaluate who it is that I am listening to and return to the place of knowledge and understanding that brings about Biblical wisdom and discernment.

Will you join me today? Will you come along on this journey back to the Word? Will you take some time to evaluate who it is that you are listening to and find your way back to His voice and His Word?

This picture was taken by Sam Torres while with us in Uganda. I am reminded of the simple truth behind the picture. Our children trust us to teach them the truth. When we pour into them they will proclaim what we have taught them with their whole life. Who we are listening to will be proclaimed by our children. Who are you listening to?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Dump

This is a post written by one of the summer interns, Michael Di Giacoma. It gives great insight into the differences in dumps in the US and the dump in Guatemala City.

I went with my dad to the dump today.

Now many people would say that going to the dump is not on the list of exciting places to go, in fact they might look at you funny.

At first I thought it was just an ordinary delivery of garbage to a common dumping area. The smell had started to pierce my nostrils the instant we got out to unload. We finished unloading the trash and drove to the scale to be weighed. The bill: $30.89 for 989 lbs of junk lumber. Just under half a ton. Which for Delaware is 1 ton of trash is $80. We left and it was finished.

I give this context for the following. I went into a different dump today. Completely different from the one I was in over four weeks ago. In Guatemala City its called the "Dump", in Uganda they call it the "Dustbin" and in the US we call it the "Landfill". Sure there was trash and garbage trucks and people working and it stinks. But as a I am breathing in the filth of my home county, the one thing I notice is that this is not a place in which people live; where children work alongside adults; where people horde their earthly belongings.

This is the trash dump and here is where you get fined for stealing trash. Where you spend $80 for removal of the unwanted.

What I believe I am trying to say is that I am very blessed to have been born in the United States not in the sewage of the city dump. Not to live close quarters with my neighbors, not to work along side my parents as they earned $2 for the day. God as a human being I cannot comprehend what it would be like to be those people in the dump. You have a plan though. You are in control. When the rain comes and washes away a family's home or the family itself you have a plan. You have a purpose. I trust in you and when I become annoyed with life in this bountiful country and I begin to complain about the minuscule problems I have, let the stench of trash reach my nose and remind me that there are those who have it harder than me.

It is the dump that I have heard some of the most interesting stories. Women who have lost husbands to land slides and children who have lost parents to drugs and fathers abusing their own daughters and water trucks and many other stories, but the one that has come from a few different people is that of women who have nothing but trash proclaim Jesus as Lord and trust Him to provide for their every need. I can't tell them to sacrifice for the Lord, I can't speak anything into their lives but I can pray for them. God help your church to reach out to the hurting universal church, help me to reach out to the hurting church.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Clear the Way Through the Wilderness....

Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting,"Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!"
(Isaiah 40:3-5)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Revival In Africa!

After a few days of catching my breath, I am now beginning to fully grasp some of the things I experienced this summer. The most significant lesson I learned in Africa about the church this summer is about revival. For years now I have been asking the Father to guide me in the3 journey toward revival. I have been praying to see and be a part of a movement of revival with a freshness and passion unlike anything I have ever experienced. For the past couple of years I have been reading and searching out truths about revival experiences across the globe.

Upon arriving in Africa this summer I felt an urgency that I had not felt in my heart before. I had a team of young adults with me who were eager to share the truth of His Word with 1000+ children and then coast through a pastor's conference for a second week. The Lord had plans that we were unaware of as we made our way to southern Uganda.

After a couple of awesome days in Kampala with the Divine Farm Church and a couple of other churches we have relationship with through their pastors, we made our journey 4 1/2 hours south. Along the way we reflected upon the trauma that hit Uganda just one day earlier as terrorists attacked a large gathering of young people and tourists watching the World Cup Finals. The shock and fear of the event was felt over the entire country.

Our first week was a direct contradiction to fear and terror! Watching 300+ children and adults surrender their lives to Jesus brought an excitement to the team that most had never experienced. The stirring had begun in my heart for revival in Africa!

The following week I saw first hand the stirrings of revival. As we arrived for the first morning of the pastor's conference I was overwhelmed to find the church full of pastors and church members praying. They had been there for over 2 hours praying and singing. Throughout the next few days I would be reminded of the true foundations of revival. The church in Uganda is embracing the words found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. They are humbling themselves, and praying. They are seeking the face of God and turning from their wicked ways. Forgiveness is coming and a healing is beginning. Uganda is on the edge of revival sweeping the entire land!

I am so excited to be in relationship with so many pastors in Uganda who are seeking to follow hard after the heart of the Father. This summer He used their passion and commitment to stir in my heart the passion for revival. I have seen the beginnings of a revival movement in Africa. I have come home praying for the Lord to share that passion with the American church through our times of sharing and leading with teams on the field. God is so good to us to show us revival beginning and then stir our hearts to carry the excitement to the church in other parts of the globe.

It is time we the church seek His heart for a real fresh wind of revival and a true brokenness in our hearts. We need to turn to Him and turn from our own ways of thinking. We need to hear from Heaven!

In His Grip,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Unaproachable...

Just the night before, Brandon B. from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, had told one of the group leaders that he thought he was unapproachable. Brandon is 6'4 so he easily stands out in a crowd...how would that work in the dump of Guatemala City?

Brandon couldn't even talk about the experience that night as tears streamed down his face. But, when group members were asked to share a snapshot of their day, many pointed to Brandon. They had watched Brandon enter the Tabitha House that morning to find several children gathering around him. Can you imagine what Mr. Unapproachable thought....can you imagine what these little children thought of him?

As they walked through the dump that day, Brandon was carrying a little girl. He held her most of the time they were there...over 2 hours... Many people described their snapshot as the little girl asleep on Brandon's shoulder. What a contrast...what irony that the person who thought he was most unapproachable would be carrying a little girl...what a God story!

There's a great line in a song by Mandi Mapes that says, "I already know Who's gonna save you, I already wrote the end of the story." While Brandon was thinking he was unapproachable, God was writing a different story. Praise Him for changes in our lives that reflect His glory!

The group is finished two houses in the dump today as well as taking care of children at The Tabitha House. They are all exhausted and emotionally drained. Pray that they will be renewed by His strength in the morning! He is able to do far more than we can ever ask or imagine!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where do I fit in????

On Monday night the team met and discussed the day (which is a usual part of our day). J'Nelle shared something that struck me...it is a thought that usually invades the mind of every mission trip participant. Where do I fit in? What is my niche in this group?

On Sunday night, we told the group the options for the next day...VBS at New Jerusalen Church with 150+ kids, construction in the dump, or working in the Tabitha House. Each person prays about where God is leading, and he/she is assigned to that team. J'Nelle shared that she didn't really feel comfortable working with children, so she figured construction was her team.

The next morning each team gathered necessary supplies and headed out to their sites. J'Nelle's team found out that the contractor didn't have the necessary supplies yet, so they were going to make home visits in the dump. That morning they stopped on the way to pick up food....each food bag has corn meal, sugar, milk (non-refrigerated), oil, rice and beans...so, they made 10 food bags in reusable bags (for all of you guys who bought these bags, you were a part of what is about to happen...).

At the third house, Carol (our liaison in Guatemala) asked a group member to share their testimony. As Andrew and Michael recounted, all of the group except J'Nelle took a step back, leaving J'Nelle to share. J'Nelle has never been one to "cold call" people by just sharing her faith...she prefers to build a relationship and then share. But, God had other plans this day. The pain in her past was about to be revealed in such a way that God alone would get the glory. He had prepared her for such a time as this...

J'Nelle shared her life's story, and the eyes in the room were glued fast to her. They heard the Gospel, and people came to know Jesus. How awesome is our God!!! When J'Nelle didn't understand the pain in her life, God did. When J'Nelle didn't see the purpose of the pain, God did. When J'Nelle didn't see how things would bring Him glory, God did. When J'Nelle didn't see her niche on the team, God did. When J'Nelle didn't see how her testimony could be impactful, God did. And now, there are new believers in Christ...because God did it!!!

Do you ever wonder how you will fit into a mission trip? No need to figure it out..God already has the plan, and it will bring glory to Him alone!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seeing the true bride...

As we all stand in New Jerusalen church this morning in Guatemala City, we are struck by the concept of the "whole world." When we think of heaven, do we truly picture "the church" as the bride of Christ? Do we only see white people who speak English? That is an unbiblical picture of the bride of Christ.

We saw the bride today in church. While the songs are being sung in Spanish, we get a glimpse of heaven. There will be many people there from all tribes, tongues and nations. What a beautiful picture of His kingdom!

Today, the group is preparing for many ministry opportunities tomorrow. We will have 3 teams. One will lead VBS in New Jerusalen Church for over 100 kids! Another team will work with Fernando and Michelle as they teach a trade to the women in the Tabitha House. The third team will be building a house for a family who lives in the dump. Please pray that we will each seek God's plan for us tomorrow.

Everyone is feeling well, and our accommodations are great. Julia and Paula are taking great care of us and feeding us lots of fruit and veggies (which we love). We will try and post pictures later today!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We are here!!!!

The team from Birmingham has arrived in Guatemala! We just met the Lopez family, and we are getting ready to eat lunch. Then, we are heading to a local store to buy clothing and toiletries for the interns. Next, we will get to our house, and they will take showers!!!! We will be ready to meet the Indiana team later tonight. Pray for God's work to be done!!!

Around the world in just two days...

The team left Uganda on Thursday afternoon and has still not arrived home. After many discussions and much prayer, the group split into 2 teams. A group of 4 (Sam, Zippy, Meggie and Ryan) spent the night in Detroit. They will fly into Birmngham this afternoon. JT and the interns took a shuttle to Flint, Michigan. They boarded the only flight that would get them to Atlanta this morning. They have just landed here (8:20 am) and will board the flight to Guatemala City in an hour!

Pray for them as they haven't had showers in 3 days and have no luggage. But God is making a way!!! Praise Him!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Faith Alone...

As the pastor's conference came to an end yesterday, all of the pastors gathered at the farm church. They wanted to express their gratitude to the team for all that happened in their lives over the past few days....

Pastor after pastor told about what Peter and Phoebe, the team and the conference meant to them. Here's two of those stories....

One pastor was traveling from northern Uganda where fighting has still been rampant. Refugees have fled to his part of the country from many other war-torn nations. The pastor had 5,000 shillings in his pocket (that's only about $2.50). The cost of the ticket (one way) was 20,000 shillings. The pastor proclaimed that God told him to go to the conference despite the fact that he didn't have money for the bus. So, he packed his bag and went to the bus station.

At the bus station, he met another pastor headed to the conference who offered to pay for the remainder of his bus ticket. He came with NOTHING in his pocket...he had no idea what or if he would eat at the conference and how he would get home. What he didn't know is that some believers in the United States had given money so that he could eat...and so that he could get home. What a step of faith!!!

Another pastor told about his daughter who was very sick. The parents thought that she had malaria, and they needed to buy medicine. The pastor approached the Lord in prayer and laid his burden at His feet. It's either medicine for my child or this conference Lord...which one? The Lord told him to pray for His child and go to the conference. As a parent, I could feel the hairs standing up on my arms at this point...really? Would I do that?

The man prayed for his child and left. He called his family and was told that his daughter was healed. The sickness had left her body. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

We praise the Lord for all things..both good and bad! We praise Him during the difficult days, and we praise Him for the blessings! His name is good!!! He is worthy of all praise!

Our team has boarded their first of 3 flights home. Please pray for rest, strength and endurance. JT as well as the interns have to turn around and be back on another plane on Saturday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time to be serious....

After the morning session of the pastor's conference, the team assembled at the farm church for lunch. During the break, Phoebe said that a local primary school was expecting the team (this was a surprise to everyone). So, Ryan, Meggie, Zippy, Lonnie, Brittney, 1st Nation, Elizabeth and Kathleen went to the school.

The group at the conference worked together to share how God speaks to His people. Each person shared how God speaks differently - through His Word, prayer, the church and circumstances. The pastor particularly identified with Sam's story. He told of how he grew up in Venezuela, learned another language, came to the US, lack of work for his father, and the battle to get a green card. Going through those times prepared Sam for such a time as this. It was the moment that God used him most to share God's story of grace and mercy in his life. The pastors identified their own struggles with his. God is good!

Meanwhile, the team at the school shared testimonies with the 100+ students. Then, Ryan, who was very shy when this journey began, boldly proclaimed the Gospel message. When children were asked who wanted Jesus to be Lord of their lives, EVERY single hand in the school was raised. So, Phoebe stepped in and told the kids that it was time to be serious. Perhaps they didn't understand the seriousness and the commitment they were making. She presented the Gospel again. They ALL raised their hands again. So, she started over....again. For a third time, they all raised their hands and exclaimed that they wanted to follow Christ. Hallelujah - what a Savior!

Continue praying for the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in Uganda. He is on the move.....

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Sabbath

The team has had a packed week with ministry opportunities everywhere from sun-up to way past sun-down. Sometimes, I would get a text at 6:00 pm our team saying that they were just finishing meeting and heading to bed. That's 2:00 am there, so they must have been exhausted!

However, Sunday is the Sabbath! The team went to the Jjogo church yesterday which is a very poor community outside of Kampala. They were supposed to lead a youth rally, but due to security concerns and the Sozi's desire to really see the Sabbath be the Sabbath, the team rested! They went back to the home of Peter and Phoebe Sozi and cooked the goat that Sam T. had purchased at the auction.

Everyone is now well...although riding long distances on the bumpy road makes most of them sick! But, praise God, they are all doing well now!

The pastor's conference began today at 10:00 am. Conference will last through Thursday morning. Mainly JT and Tyler will help with this, and the remaining team members will be leading VBS for all of the kids (about 100-150 of them). On Wednesday, the team will be going to Jinga in the afternoon to visit the source of the Nile...

Keep praying for the team, as all of the interns and JT will arrive in Birmingham on Friday afternoon (early). We all have to be at the Atlanta airport the next day at 9:30 am for a flight to Guatemala. Pray for wisdom, discernment, strength, and endurance!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Animal Kingdom in the van....

This is the first text I get from JT this morning..."In case you are awake, we are at the school auction and just bought a goat for the pastor's conference next week. It's a big event and we're going to try and buy a cow too!" What a wake-up message!

Divine Grace School was holding a fundraiser today to raise money for a new kitchen and dining hall. Many of the students and teachers had arts and crafts to sell, there was food available as well as an auction of animals! The community showed up as well as government officials. The next text informed me that the local governor, council chairwoman and parliament representative had arrived as well!

The team bid on goats as well as a cow! They won the cow and everyone was very excited about how many people they could feed next week! They purchased 2 coats, a cow and two bundles of matoke (a dish in Uganda that consists of green plantains).

Thus, they were traveling back to Jgogo with the two goats, all of the plantains and now, three chickens!!! They will swap a bull at the farm church for the cow. They gave the cow to the school so she could reproduce there! I wish I had a photo of all of the team in a van with the animals! I'm sure they took plenty of pictures!

During the pastor's conference, many of our team members will be able to lead the children in a VBS type event (this was not planned but is exciting to know)! The cow and goats will be a TRUE FEAST for the pastors from the Upland, so this is all reason to rejoice!

Praise be to the Father. And thank you all for your prayers for the sick ones. They are all doing much better today! Continue to pray for them as they lead next week!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Day at Divine Grace...

Today was the team's last day at the Divine Grace School. Each day, the community has been invited to join the team, and their numbers have been growing with the dawn of each morning. Today, over 750 people came from the community...that means there were over 1500 people at the school to hear the Gospel!!! Praise God for His grace and mercy!

Several of the team members were sick today, but they were able to rest while the remaining team members carried on! A soccer game was held this afternoon with some of our team (JT, Tyler, Indy, and 1st Nation) as well as a few community members. They played against the school's soccer team on a regulation sized field. They ended the game in a tie of 0-0. It was fierce! JT said that he started running toward the goal at one point, and many kids were sitting on the very edge of the field. They thought a big white man was going to run over them...so they started screaming and running away. Needless to say, no one was injured!

This afternoon the team took a one lane dirt road to the community secondary school (high school). JT had sent me a text earlier in the day indicating that there were 250 students there...JT's estimation skills were off. The school staff said that 500 students were there listening as Tyler presented the Gospel in a clear and concise way. Over 25 students made first-time decisions today. Pastor Peter then called for disciplers to come forward and take each person....one on one. Now, each new believer has a disciple-maker teamed up with him/her. It is a great way for the students to begin growing in their faith!

Tomorrow morning, the team will head back to Divine Grace for a "market day" where students and community members display their arts and crafts. It is a fundraiser for the school and a time for the team to say goodbye to everyone. Then, they will head to Jgogo for the remainder of the day (which is 45 minutes out of Kampala).

On Sunday, they will go to the church at Jgogo and then spend the afternoon at a youth rally. Monday will be the beginning of a pastor's conference in the same area. Please continue to pray specifically for sick team members, for rest and rejuvenation, and most importantly, for God's glory to be revealed and made known to the nations!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Bride of Christ...

As JT is quickly relaying details of the last two days to me, I am frantically writing...but in my mind, I see the bride of Christ. I see her getting ready...preparing and planning for their wedding. Oh, how I long for that day. The church in Africa is longing too....

Divine Grace School currently has over 700 students, but this week, they have invited the community to the school. So, the population swells to over 1000 each day as the team arrives. Today was a day given to the team, full of opportunities to share the love of Christ, and they took full advantage of it!

Just yesterday, Deanna stepped up to share with the crowd. She described how she too is from a tribal people. She spoke of a time when white man came to her tribal ancestors and gave them part of the Gospel. The people believed, but they didn't have the FULL Gospel...only parts. Thus, they were led astray and did not know the truth. But, what was about to be shared was the TRUE GOSPEL in its entirety from the Word of God. The people were able to relate to her and she spoke truth into their lives.

Today, Tyler and Megan A. led the Bible study time. They shared about Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life! Pastor Peter shared that today was the day of salvation for many of them. The harvest field is ripe in Uganda. Over 120 MORE people came to know Christ today!!! Every day, new people have been invited and have accepted the invitation to be a part of God's Kingdom. Unlike in the US, people are called to repentance and confession. They pour out their lives before the community and church. They are carefully walked through the Gospel to make sure they understand the life-long commitment they are making. Lives are being transformed. The pastors there quickly combine new believers with people in the church to start discipleship!

All of the community is gathering each day, and with the generosity of several of you, we have been able to feed them lunch! What a blessing this has been as many of them walk for hours to arrive on the school grounds. Today, they had indicated that they needed to leave after lunch in order to get home. But, still they lingered for over 2 hours because of the impact of Biblical community.

Here's a rundown on all the team members:

Sam is an incredible team member who is having a blast playing with the kids each day. His eyes are being opened to the continent of Africa. He is already picking up on the language!

Tyler has been placed in a position of leadership to preach to the adults each day. He has been leading non-stop and is a rock-solid leader for the team.

Megan A. is loving life in Africa! She has all of the community ready to come tomorrow because they have NEVER seen a girl who can truly play soccer! She will be in the huge soccer game to be held tomorrow at the school!

Lonnie is doing an outstanding job! She is the administrator/coordinator of all the crafts. Without her, the team says they wouldn't stay on task!

Meghan H. is taking hundreds of photos (probably more like thousands)! JT said he can lean on her for anything because she knows him best. She will always do whatever is needed!!

Deanna is sharing with the community each day. JT said he has been like a proud Daddy watching her boldly proclaim her faith!

Brittney is having a following of children each day wherever she goes. All of the kids and adults want her to stay at Divine Grace forever! She is always ready to jump in and do what is needed, and she is the most consistent presence on the team!

Kathleen has grown tremendously this summer! She is seeing the great need to learn from others on the mission field (don't we all wish we realized our need to be teachable at the age of 18). She celebrated her 18th birthday yesterday with a motorcycle ride (keep in mind there are no other vehicles on the roads there!).

Michael fulfills the servant-leadership role constantly. He is the first one to volunteer to do anything and does it with a smile! He has taken a great deal of video footage that will help to promote sponsorships there!

Zippy spent a good deal of yesterday crying...that point that every participant comes to of knowing that you just can't help everyone and the need is overwhelming. But, today she has spent most of the day laughing. It is truly a joy to watch her with children!

Elizabeth has connected with children well. She is always willing to jump in and play with kids or dance with them!

Ryan has come out of his shell completely. The first day, he was paired with Michael, and he was encouraged to step up and share boldly. Well...he has! Ryan is taking every opportunity to share the Gospel message with anyone who will listen!

Meggie loves Africa and knows that God is calling her there! She has a way of loving on kids that meets them right where they are. What a blessing to watch her connect with kids who need it most!

Please pray for the team as they head to the outskirts of Kampala on Saturday. They will be leading a pastor's conference next week. Specifically, JT asked that you pray for the pastors for the "Upland" (referring to the ones from the northern part of Uganda). These pastors come from a volatile part of the land and rarely get any encouragement or support. However, the team has been able to host them at the farm church all week! What a HUGE blessing this is to the pastors as well as the team. There will be a great deal of time for supporting the bride of Christ and walking alongside of them during difficult days.

There have been lots of pictures and video taken, but we cannot upload any of them from Africa! But, we'll keep you posted!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Great Day at Divine Grace...

Today was a great day for the team. I have just gotten off the phone with JT, and here's what is going on....

The team arrived at Divine Grace School this morning and spent half of the day with the 5th-7th graders. This afternoon was focused on 3rd and 4th graders. Tomorrow will be for preschoolers-2nd graders!

The team is teaching the "I Am" sayings of Jesus in the book of John. Tyler wrote a song to teach all the sayings which does a great job of helping the children to remember the words of Christ! The children LOVE the song and want to sing it over and over again.

Today's lesson focused on "I am the Light of the world," so the children heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. Each child was given a candle (with the memory verse on the drip holder), and they were all surprised that they could keep the candles. The children had never been given candles before...useful for their homes and a good reminder of the lesson.

Phoebe told JT that she felt led to have an altar call today (this is unusual in this type of setting), but they did it anyway. God's presence was clearly there, and over 30 kids made decisions for Jesus today. Praise be to the Father! He is good indeed.

One side note of the day is that when JT introduced all of the interns, he gave a bit of insight on each one of them. When Brittney stepped up, all of the kids remembered her from last year. They beginning clapping for her. They were cheering her name and were so thrilled that she was there. What a way God has to connect the body!

Please pray for the team as they continue to work with the school in Rakai this week. God has some amazing opportunities for the team...pray that they obey whole-heartedly! Continue to pray for Peter as he will join the team tomorrow (after the burial of his niece today). The country has been rocked by this violence and needs time to heal. Only God Almighty can heal them all now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Morning...

Overnight, we received an official message from the US State Department. Here's the details:

The bombings on July 11 at the World cup viewing events at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant and the Rugby Club, which resulted in 64 dead and scores injured highlighted the vulnerabilities associated with visiting large public gatherings in Uganda.

At this time, the Department encourages U.S. citizens in Uganda to strongly consider the risk of attending large public gatherings because these events can provide vulnerable targets for extremist or terrorist groups.

U.S citizens in Uganda not directly affected by today's events are strongly encouraged to contact friends and family outside of Uganda to notify them of their well-being.

The missionary we are partnered with in Uganda, Peter Sozi, lost his niece in the bombings. Their family is grieving, so please pray that our team will minister to them in ways that bring glory to God alone.

We are receiving regular updates from the US State Department and will pass those along. Please continue to pray that what man intended for evil, God will use for His glory!!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bombs in Kampala

Last night around 10:00 pm, there were 2 bombings in the capital city of Kampala. The team was already back at the place where they are staying. So, the team is safe and sound. In fact, they didn't even know about the details of the bombings until I called. JT had indicated that they took a different route home and their morning schedule would be different but they didn't know the reason.

Apparently, the two venues that were hit were restaurants where people (especially foreigners) were watching the World Cup soccer final. A mission team from the US was at one of the locations and they are among the injured.

Continue to pray for our team. Updates will come as they are available. We will only post actual information that comes from our team in Uganda.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Full Day....

The team had a late breakfast this morning after everyone had some much needed rest! They were able to go to the "farm church" today. This was the first church plant of Divine Grace, and it meets under a tree on the dairy farm. Phoebe Sozi shared her life story with the team, and they were able to understand the beginnings of Divine Grace Ministries.

Pastor Silva, the pastor of the farm church as well as the leader of the staff, took the team to visit in homes of church members. He spoke of the growth of the farm church. Now, there are over 100 kids who come each Sunday! In addition, over 25 youth showed up to walk the property while the team was there. When asked what they were doing, the team was told that the students come to prayer walk the property and then practice for leading worship on Sundays. What an honor to watch teenagers serve the Lord so faithfully.

One of the women from the farm church who went with the team to visit in homes has 2 children that attend the Divine Grace School nearby. However, she has four other children at home that she cares for along with 7 orphans. Because we are adopting from Uganda, this led to many questions from JT!

During the evening, the group met with Pastor Henry's church. Deanna shared her story and encouraged the body of believers. Tyler preached and challenged the teenagers to live lives that would bring glory to God alone.

Tomorrow the team will worship with the farm church and then eat a late lunch (it's always late on African time). In the evening, they will attend Pastor Ben's church on the other side of Kampala (one of the poorest sections). Monday will be their first day at Divine Grace School which now cares for over 1000 children. Please pray for the team as they follow the Holy Spirit in however He leads them!

Friday, July 9, 2010


The team has officially arrived in Uganda! They just touched down a few minutes ago, and all is well. The team has a huge opportunity in front of them, and they all want to be obedient to what God is telling them to do. Pray for them as they settle in to the 8 hour time difference and head to church on Sunday morning! On Monday, they will travel to Rakai (pronouced Rock-eye). For 6 days they will minister to over 1000 kids from the Divine Grace School as well as the community. Your prayers are coveted and appreciated!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Air Travel Antics...

The group (all 14 of them) made it to the Birmingham airport with no problems today. Everyone was on time, had their passports and yellow fever cards and got through security with few issues (note to travelers: peanut butter can go in your checked bag but not in your carry-on!). Their flight to Detroit was 45 minutes late which made their connection evens shorter (30 minutes).

When they arrived in Detroit, their 2nd flight had been moved UP by 20 minutes, which now left them 10 minutes to deplane, get to the 2nd gate, and board. JT called me while running through the airport (I would like to remind the team that God prepared them for this run a few weeks ago in Atlanta....). I called Delta and they were being rebooked on a flight to Amsterdam 2 hours later. However, as I finished talking to Delta, they made it to the gate. The gate agent was calling for the final boarding, and the group was thankful! God's timing is always perfect!
The kids (Christy, Kaitlyn, Madison, Jett) and I cried many times as we are going to miss them terribly. We took the opportunity to go to Treat Your Self in Hoover to eat some yogurt. I inserted the picture above of Christy and Jett pretending to be intertwined and feeding each other.

Please pray for this time as they have a HUGE ministry opportunity in front of them. Pastor Henry posted today that they were having an all night prayer meeting in preparation of the team's arrival. This is ministry that only God can accomplish. May He work in such a way that He alone gets all the glory. We praise Him in advance for what He is about to do!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's a New Week...

Tomorrow will be the last day of our "official" resting break between coming home from Arizona and leaving for Uganda. Here's what we've been doing for the past few days...trying to catch up on much-needed sleep (so far, we're all still very tired), going to doctor's appointments, cooking/cleaning/eating together, talking through and praying about Uganda, planning, and most importantly spending time in God's Word.

On Tuesday all of the interns will be back together at our home. Currently, we are housing Indy, DiGi and 1st Nation all the time. Duckett has been in Louisiana with her fiance making plans for their wedding next summer. Lonnie, Brittney, Tyler and Kathleen have each been spending time with their families who live in the Birmingham area. We have seen Stick (Lonnie) and Navi (Brittney) several times though during this break! All of the interns enjoy spending time together and have become quite close. We prayed that they would develop life-long friendships, and they have definitely done that! It blesses our hearts to hear them sharing their lives with one another!

When the group comes back together we will be planning the rest of the details of the Uganda trip. There will be a lot to do there, and as the details are determined, I'll share them here in order that you may all know how to pray specifically for the team! The team will be 14 people including JT, all of the interns, Sam, Meggie, Ryan, Elizabeth and Zippy. They will be ministering at Divine Grace School, leading a pastor's conference and ministering to those in need everywhere they go. The schedule is FULL....they will definitely need prayers for strength and sustenance. Pray for their health while they are there in order to continue to minister with all that they have each day.

As far as the personal goings-on (that's a Southern term for all of you Northerners) here, DiGi had 3 hours of dental work done this week. Thank you Dr. James Sanderson for your generosity. You blessed him and us immensely! Indy is praying through her future and what God wants for her. We have developed an American dream of graduating high school, going to college, getting a well-paying job, etc, etc. That is not always God's way...we must each listen to what God wants us to do and not the world! 1st Nation has taken every opportunity to go to Starbucks that Lonnie offers....seriously, those two crack me up.

Crispy is leaving for Australia this month. Just when Indy brought it up today, I cried on the way home.....it makes me sad to think of her leaving but I know that it is God's plan for her life. I will miss her terribly, and a part of my heart will be in Australia for a while.....

Lonnie comes over quite a bit, and we definitely miss her when she's not here. She is loved by everyone and makes friends easily. She makes us all smile throughout the day, so we really miss her when she's not around.

As we begin to come back together as a family, pray that our hearts will be unified for the cause of Christ alone!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


While I was in Arizona the past 2 weeks, God showed me how great and faithful He is. He allowed teams to go out and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it is the only hope and unchanging truth in this world that we have. I had the opportunity to go into a couple of villages. The one that I was really excited about was Gunsight, because I had went there with a group from my church last year. The kids get older and it makes you really happy to see them and love on them, but what really stood out to me was how much they remember. When we interacted with them one on one and asked them questions about the gospel and their sin and what Christ had done to reconcile us to Himself, I could see the Holy Spirit at work. He was allowing them to recall and ponder the truth that was set before them about Jesus Christ through the Word of God. Even though none of those kids came to know God's grace in a saving way that last week that I am aware of, I know that God graciously allowed us to plant seeds that He will sow. Through continually speaking the gospel and showing it through our actions in the ways that we loved on the children and played with them,God will do what will most glorify Himself. And I praise Him for that. It reminded me oh so much about how we have no problem walking into an area such as that and being fully ready to proclaim that glorious truth yet how we won't branch out and walk next door and share that message of hope and salvation to our neighbor or doctor. God has
given me a deeper burden and desperation to reach the lost this week and humble
myself before Him who is great and able because I on my own am unworthy to
share the gospel. Yet encourages me to encourage you to cling to the cross of
Christ because He took what we deserved (the wrath of God) and our sinful souls are counted free. Therefore freeing us to share the gospel with boldness, lovingly obeying our GREAT KING.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Coming Home....

As we travel home, our hearts are heavy with emotions, burdens and joys. We find ourselves missing Arizona in many ways...

-Biblical community that sleeps, eats, ministers and worships together every day.
-The absence of the distractions of email and television.
-The joy of hearing about transformed lives daily (from people who have never seen it before).
-Being tackled by numerous kids who just want to be hugged and loved.
-Corporate worship daily.....

Of course there are things we don't miss including flies in our food, dust in every fiber of our clothing (and bodies), 110 degree weather, etc. But those things pale in comparison to the glory of our great God. We will gladly endure these small inconveniences for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Isn't He worth more than our comfort? our priorities? our wants/desires? our opinion? YES, He is! He is worth more than my schedule, my plan, my time, my desires, my way.... I surrender it all to Him and Him alone! He gets all of the glory for anything good that comes of the work done on the reservation. We have done nothing...He has done everything.

Thank you all for your prayers for us while we were in Arizona. We are coming home to Birmingham for about 8 days of rest before we leave for Uganda. The team will be in Uganda for 2 weeks. Please pray for the team as they will be working daily from before sun-up until late into the night. They are expected to lead in ways many of them have never done (e.g. lead conference topics for over 1000 pastors). They will be stepping far outside of their experience and education. This is something only God can do. And, He will do it. He has called us to it, and He will accomplish His work. Please continue to pray.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Loving on those in need

Last week I went to Santa Rosa. This was my third time there, but my second time to do VBS. I went last year and became friends with a boy named Gabriel. I didn't want to go last year because I wanted to go to Covered Wells. I had a good relationship with all the people in Covered Wells, so I wanted to do VBS there. I knew God was calling me to Santa Rosa last year, but I didn't know why so I went.

That was when I became friends with Gabriel. He didn't want to have anything to do with my group so I hung out with him and showed Christ's love. This year I got to hang out with him. One day while we were outside watching the kids playing in the water, he told me that he didn't believe in God. I as not shocked by this because I guess last year that he didn't. I asked him If he had always never believed or just now not believing. He said that he use to believe, but now he is not believing. I asked why and he told me his story.

He said that when he as younger, he was abused by his parents. He said that he prayed to God to get him out of this, but he was never taken out of it. Years later he was finally taken out of this mess and was sent to live with his grandmother. I knew something was up with his family, but I was not quite sure. He wouldn't talk the rest of the VBS becuase he was emotionally overwhelmed with what he just said to me because I'm the first person besides his family that he told his story

It really hurt my heart and I cried for him because I went through the same thing he went through. He was like a new kid the next day. He said that he was very happy that I knew what he went through and I was able to understand what he was walking about. He said that he was relieved to get all that off of his chest. He is doing a lot better, but I ask that you all pray for him becuase he still needs love and people to talk to. We both are going to stay on touch so people pray for me about that because I want my words to be Christ centered. May God bless you all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday is full of firsts...

The Monday of any mission trip in the desert is full of firsts, even for those people who have been before. Though we have two groups (one from Indiana and one from Louisiana) who have been with us before, Mondays still bring newness.

Today, one group is going to Hickiwan, a new village to them. They have been to Topawa before, but this time, they were assigned Hickiwan. The leader of the group, Art, said that when he got the assignment, he picked up the phone to call and ask for the old village. But, God said "No, I want you in Hickiwan." So, he submitted to God's calling, and today, they are going to Hickiwan for the first time. We are praying for God to work in mighty ways in and through that group.

Monday is a day to meet new people and begin to establish new relationships with the T.O. people. Taking God's glory and fame to the nations....a new day for that especially!

It's a new day for the heat...it will be over 104 today. The predictions go up to 110 this week. But, we press on for His mercies, grace and strength are NEW every day. Praise Him for the newness. May we never forget that He alone causes the NEWNESS in each day.

Please pray for all of our staff, as the length of time here and the heat and the amount of work are wearing on all of them. Pray for continued health, strength and perseverance. Pray that God would receive all the glory for anything that is done or said. To Him alone be the honor!

On the Res....

It’s a new day on the reservation. Just as we get to see the sun rise over the desert each morning, we are in constant awe of God’s grace and mercies that are new each morning. While we go to bed completely exhausted and worn out from the day, we are refreshed and reminded of God’s goodness every day!
This past week we have seen groups come from Texas and Georgia, as well as many individuals from Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, and Delaware. Groups went to villages each day including Santa Rosa, Kaka, Little Tucson, Menegers, and Choulic. What a blessing to hear the stories of lives changed each day! God moved, and we witnessed it.
Today, the interns as well as Jodie, Lindsey and Sam helped to completely clean the church and Mosaic building. It was a TON of work, but we saw the entire team come together to make it happen. We are so proud of everyone giving their best effort. Christ was showing through each person as they worked diligently.
This week the groups are going to Chui-Chui, Hickiwan, Gunsight and Topawa. We are eager to see God at work in each of these communities. More than that we are seeing our ministry team become more aware of God’s goodness in EVERY thing. From the beautiful sunset to the gift of water on a hot day…or the opportunity to eat…or to have a bathroom…inside. God’s goodness can be seen every day in everything. We just have to be aware of His Sovereignty and thank Him for His gifts. We are awed to get the privilege to serve so that others can come to know His name! It’s all for His glory! Praise Him and Him alone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The return of 1st Nation to the 1st Nation

It has been one week since I (Deanna) have returned home to the Tohono O'odham Reservation and so far it has been an exciting, frustrating, eye opening, confusing, and overall, a difficult first week home. In Guatemala I witnessed people living in the worst conditions ever: famine, malnutrition, disease, rats (the size of cats), all living in a dump...literally. But, in the middle of the dump I met people, mostly single mothers and their children with absolutely nothing and yet they were so happy that if all they got from this life was that they received and knew the love of Christ, they would be content and happy with that. But, I come home and the people here are so unsatisfied with how much they do have, they want more and more and more, and they don't realize all they need is Christ's love. Bottom line, to know the love of God is all we really need.
I want to explain to people here the things I have witnessed and about the kids and adults I got to love on. But, no one will ever truly understand the picture that is forever in my mind of Guatemala and that makes it hard share because I know that I won't be able to change everyone. However, God CAN and this is something I have to constantly remind myself of.

Pictures will be up soon, we are having technical difficulties.

Friday, June 11, 2010

She Won't Go Away.....

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that won't go away? Something childish or annoying, and you can't make it stop? Or perhaps an image you saw years ago that keeps reminding you of something you've done? The image I have is a little different...it's a person..her name is Concepcion.

I met her last year in the dump of Guatemala City. She and her husband were both working. She made tortillas for a business, and he recycled items. However, Concepcion's husband was killed this past year by gunshot. He left behind 5 daughters, and Concepcion had to raise them by herself.

Earlier this spring, Concepcion's home was taken away by the "developer" of the dump, and she had to move to another area. As bizaare as it may seem, there are rules that govern the community of the dump. So, she left behind her home and had to start over. She was sent to a new area of the dump..right next to the fresh heaps of trash that are trucked in daily.

With funds sent by various people, a new shack was built for her with wood and tin. It has no holes and provides adequate shelter for them. The biggest gift...according to Concepcion..is a bunk bed that has 3 mattresses. All of them sleep on beds now (2 to a twin mattress). She is thankful beyond words.

As we talk with her, she begins to cry about the mattresses. She is so grateful to have them. But, she doesn't know how she's going to provide food today. You see, it's been raining for several days straight (including a tropical storm), so workers in the dump can't work as usual. They would fall through the trash and get hurt. No one is working right now, so there is no money. Keep in mind that Concepcion generally makes $1-$2 per day, so this is a great loss for her.

My heart breaks. The image of her crying and asking God to bless us overwhelms me. Did I even thank God for my mattress this morning? Did I thank Him for the ability to work? Am I just a healed leper who finds comfort in my own healing without thanking The Healer?

When we left the dump that day, a friend told me that Concepcion was longing for the day when she could own her own tortilla business. She could make more money and provide for her girls if she had her own tortilla maker. The thought never left me...God stirred us to make sure that she was able to have it. Now, she does. But, her image still lingers in my mind. I must get back to her...I must go...I must.