Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Uganda -Lord Willing, I'll Be There Soon

I am so excited I can hardly stand it! My bags are nearly packed. (Actually, they are over-flowing.) The time has finally come for my trip to Uganda!

I had hoped to keep my blog up to date and let everyone know how preparations have been going. Well, I have been very very busy, and last week we got away for a little vacation. To my blogging friends, I'm afraid I haven't been able to keep up with blog reading recently. Please be patient. I'll be back to visit all of you and catch up on your happenings soon.

Well, I’m counting down the final days and hours! John will drive me to Chicago on Saturday. I’ll meet another team member and fly to Detroit, where we’ll meet the other two team members and begin the long journey to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam it’s another long stint into Entebbe airport. We will arrive Sunday night and spend the night in Kampala.

I have learned that we will be greeted by Pastor Ruth of Smile Africa Ministries, Ruth's daughter, and George, who will be our “guard” and constant companion for the trip. Before we leave Kampala we will purchase and gather supplies and water to take with us.

We will spend the bulk of our time in and near Tororo. Our first full day in Tororo will revolve around a celebration for the glasses we are bringing. After that, we will spend our days teaching, doing crafts, helping out in the kitchen and the clinic, and visiting various sites in the area where some of the women work.

One of the days we will travel to Mbale to deliver some glasses there and visit the Kings Primary School. Lord willing, we will have 300 children’s illustrated Ugandan Bibles to deliver to them as well. (We are purchasing these for the school, whether or not we will actually deliver them depends on the immediate availability.)

We are also holding a one-day women’s conference. Each of us will be speaking, and we will give the women their own copy of the Gospel of John and a garden hoe.

These are the details that I’m fairly certain of. We are still working on some other things, and I know the Lord will have some surprises for us along the way. It is His work, after all, and we are simply tools in His hands.

During each step of the preparation for this trip God’s direction and attention to detail has been undeniable. His players are scattered across the country –across the globe, even! And yet He has orchestrated everything in His own perfect timing and harmony. What an awesome God we serve!

Over the past couple of weeks it has become so evident to me how many people are involved in an effort such as this. I am overwhelmed by the amount of various kinds of support I’ve received from neighbors, family members, friends, doctors, dentists, eye clinics, and the Lion’s Club. It is so very encouraging, and also humbling. I could NEVER have gathered and prepared all the things I’m taking without lots of help. Then there are those who have offered prayers, books and articles on ministries in Africa, and helpful suggestions of every kind. Until now I never understood how much support was necessary for an outreach such as this. Nor did I realize how exciting it is when the body of Christ rallies together. Incredible!!

I know you will be encouraged, as I have been, by this article from "Times Online" that a man from our church shared with me. Of course the author's conclusions didn't come as a surprise, except for the fact that he's an avowed atheist.

As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to this ministry in some way or another. And if you still desire to be involved, remember: Prayer is both powerful and necessary. We will rely heavily on your prayers.

I’m posting some pictures of all the people who showed up in my classroom one afternoon to put the crafts together. We had a lot of fun and great conversation. The pictures at the top of the page are from children's church last Sunday. Eli and I taught one of the lessons we’ve prepared for Uganda.

I won’t be updating my blog until after I return from Uganda. Please remember to pray for the ministry, as well as for our health and safety. The other members of our team are Denise, Jan, and Jeanice. By clicking on the title to this blog you will connect to Heart of God in Uganda, the group I will be traveling with. Lord willing, I will be back in time to celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Soaping the Pot

by Sharlyn Guthrie

“Always soap the bottom of a pan before putting it on the fire,” the wilderness guide instructed his less-than-rapt audience.

“What’s that do, make the fire purtier?” Slade’s comment evoked guffaws from his inner-city buddies who, like him, felt out of place in the Canadian wilderness.

“He who speaks first rests last,” the guide quipped, handing Slade the soap and skillet.

Slade cursed under his breath, but grabbed the skillet and began spreading the slimy substance over its outer surface.

“Swearing just earned you the title of dishwasher tonight, too.”

George, the boys’ counselor, had been silently observing, but dramatically retrieved a green pot scrubber from his hip pocket. “Soap the skillet, Slade. But leave the pasta pot to me. This wonder-scrubber can scrape the warts off a toad. If my scrubber doesn’t clean the un-soaped pasta pot quicker than you clean your soaped skillet, I’ll do the remaining dishes. Otherwise, they’re all yours.”

The guide couldn’t help smirking as George shook on the deal and smugly plunked his pot on the grate.

Experience had taught George that intervention was more than a long-range goal for this edgy group. It was a minute by minute effort. His quick thinking had eased the tension and prevented a situation from escalating. It was one reason why he was successful with at-risk teens.

George had earned the boys’ trust and respect, but their hearts were iron-clad. “Father, melt their hearts. Help me show them their need,” was George’s constant prayer. It was also his purpose in bringing them to the wilderness –far from broken homes and filthy streets, disconnected from cell phones, drug dealers, and i-pods.

Meal preparation continued under the guide’s direction. Soon all were engaged in raucous banter as they performed their assigned tasks. The meal didn’t look half-bad, and since it was the only offering, no one turned it down.

“Now for the pot scrubbing test. Observe.” George whipped out the scrubber and straddled a rock. He confidently began to scrub.

“Hey, man! What happened to ready, set, go?” Slade grabbed the skillet and dishrag.

The contest didn’t last long. Much to his surprise, Slade’s rag wiped a clean swath with each swipe over the skillet. George, meanwhile, grimaced and grunted as he scrubbed his pot, with little to show for his effort.

Slade slapped out a victory beat on the gleaming skillet’s bottom. The others began to chant. “Soap’s cool. Slade’s no fool…”

It was dark by the time George finished the dishes. His muscles ached; his hands were raw; and the blackened pot would never be the same. But God had spoken to him through the sweat and the grime. Maybe this was the message that would soften the boys’ hearts.

“Guess I deserved to do dishes tonight,” George admitted, rolling down his shirtsleeves. “My own stubborn pride is what did me in. I did learn something, though. Soaping a pot saves a whole lot of work.”

The boys chuckled and George grinned. “It made me realize that you guys are a lot like these pots.” He let their jeers and snickers fade before continuing. “You’re all headed for a fire of some kind or another. Some of you are already feeling it. Alex here has to work after school just to help his mom buy groceries. Jaydon’s dad died of AIDS two months ago. The fire is something different for each of you, but you’re all going to face it.”

“I can’t put out the fire, but I can offer you soap.” George raised the bottle of soap with one hand. “The soap is Jesus. I’m offering Him to you tonight just as I have many times before. He simply asks you to choose Him. He has already done the rest. He died so that you could live. He lives again to go with you through the fire. Will you still stubbornly insist on doing it your own way? Or will you let Jesus shield you from the darkness of this world? Will you soap the pot?”

George bowed his head. His shoulders heaved, betraying his emotions. Just then the bottle of soap was removed from his hand. He watched incredulously as Slade bowed his head over the soap. Then the next young man reached for it, and the next. Slowly, silently, it made its way through the entire group.

To an unenlightened observer such reverence for soap might have seemed an odd expression of faith, but to George it was perfect.

Whew! It has been a busy week, and I haven’t had time for blogging. I’m glad I can join Friday Fiction today with a previously written story. This one was a Faithwriters entry for the saying, “a stitch in time saves nine.” It received an editor’s choice award, and was 6th place overall. The story is fiction. However, my husband and I have often camped in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and soaping the pot is a trick we learned from one of our guides. It really works!

Be sure to visit Karlene at Heart and Soul for links to more Friday Fiction.