Thursday, June 30, 2011

Off to Uganda Again!

I have some very important things to share here today, even though my poor blog has been neglected lately.

Once again I have been preparing to travel to Uganda. In fact, we leave tomorrow! So many preparations have been underway–talks, lesson plans, collecting and packing materials and ministry gifts. It has been a year-long effort, and especially busy during this month of June.

Two projects in particular deserve some special attention. Norma Vogt of Cedar Valley Bible Church headed up a project of sewing book bags.

She did an amazing job of coordinating this effort. An unbelievable number of people participated, and hundreds of bags are now packed for travel and distribution.

Following a presentation at Valley View Baptist Church in August, 2010, the ladies of that church began meeting to sew pillowcase dresses and collect shorts for boys. Consequently, we also have hundreds of dresses and pairs of shorts on their way to Uganda as well. Many orphans will be blessed through their efforts.
(photos pending)

Last Saturday a group of several individuals met to help sort and pack all the donated items, including bags, shorts, and dresses. It was a joyful event, and such fun to share it with some of those who made the trip possible. We held hands and prayed after all the bags were packed, and I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for each person who has given of themselves, their resources, or their abilities in any number of ways –young and old, even many that I don’t know.

Some of the packers really got "into it!"

These two women celebrated landmark birthdays by asking for donations for trip projects.

These two children gave money to buy fruit for hungry children. One emptied her piggy bank, the other ran a lemonade stand.

Another child asked each person who came to her birthday party to bring a pillowcase. Then she and her mom sewed them into dresses.
The stories could go on and on. In fact, if you are reading this and you know of another story, add it in the comments!

“Thank you” seems such an inadequate expression when I think of all the support and help we have received. As eight of us travel from Cedar Rapids and then meet up with twelve more from other parts of the U.S. we each feel a heavy weight of responsibility in taking not only these hand-fashioned and carefully selected items to the poorest of the poor, but above all, taking the free, yet extravagant, gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ to them as well.

Yes, “inadequate” describes my expression of gratefulness, and it also describes my ability to do this job. I know that many of us have been feeling this way. It is important to remember, however, that when I am week, that is when I am strong –strong in the Lord, that is. I couldn’t do any of this without Him.

I am especially happy that my husband, John will be going along this time. He has been supportive of the other trips and feels like he already knows many of my Ugandan friends. I am looking forward to them meeting in person. I also look forward to spending the time in ministry together. Our stay will be extended an extra week, along with our missions director, Denise.

Tomorrow we will all travel to Chicago by van, spend part of the night in a church there, fly out early Saturday morning for Washington DC, then fly from there to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and finally to Entebbe. Many of our friends in Uganda will be waiting to receive us. It will be such a happy reunion!

Please continue to pray for all of us as we travel and share God's love.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jen Hen and Her Fine Friends

Jen Hen and Her Fine Friends
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Jen, the little red hen, had big ideas. She was preparing to raise another batch of chicks, but first she had to ensure that her fields would be taken care of. Ever since Jen amazed her friends with that famous first crop of wheat, they had come around to her way of thinking –well, some of them had, anyway.

“Friends, I will be pursuing family interests for the next few months,” Jen announced one morning in April, “I won’t be able to raise wheat this year. Who will raise it for me? “

“I will,” said Digsby Dog.

“I will,” said Claus Cat.

“Whatever,” said Puddles Pig.

“Thank you, Digsby. “Due to your enthusiastic response I will give you five acres,” and with her wing Jen gestured toward a large bag of seed.

“Claus, you pack a punch for your size. I will give you two acres,” and with her wing Jen gestured toward a medium sized bag of seed.

“Puddles, I sense that you have a bit of an attitude. Still, I am giving you one acre. See what you can do with it,” and with her wing Jen gestured toward a small bag of seed.

Jen then disappeared into the hen house where she began feathering her nest, and each of her friends headed off toward the field –well, two of her friends, anyway.
Digsby and Claus got right to work, plowing their fields and then planting their wheat seed. Puddles stuffed her bag of seed behind a loose barn board and then snuffled through the muck, searching for a snack.

By mid-May Jen was seen bustling about the barnyard. She had her wings full with twelve baby chicks to care for, but sometimes she caught sight of her friends. Well, not Digsby so much. Most of his day was spent in the field. Claus went right to work each morning, but could be seen every afternoon napping in the haymow. And Puddles? Well, she rolled in the mud, basked in the sun, and grew a little plumper each day.

By August Jen’s chicks were nearly grown, but she was still busy trying to keep them out of trouble. She was ever so grateful for her hard-working friends. Soon the wheat would be harvested, and Jen could almost taste the delicious wheat bread that she, her chicks, and her friends would enjoy –well, two of her friends, anyway. “Who is ready to harvest the wheat?” Jen asked them.

“I am,” said Digsby.

“I am,” said Claus.

“Whatever,” said Puddles.

Digsby and Claus harvested their wheat and took it to the mill to be ground into flour. When they returned Jen called her friends together again. “Who wants to report on their harvest?” she asked.

“I will,” said Digsby.

“I will,” said Claus.

“Whatever,” said Puddles.

Jen smiled and nodded at Digsby.

“I planted five acres, and I have returned with five hundred bags of flour,” Digsby reported.

“Outstanding!” exclaimed Jen. “You have done so well, I will give you even more to plant next year.”

“I planted two acres, and I have returned with two hundred bags of flour,” reported Claus.

“Fantastic!” said Jen, “You have done well. Next year I will give you more to plant, also.” Jen turned her attention to the pig. “How many bags of flour do you have, Puddles?”

“You expected too much of me, Jen. I don’t do well under pressure, and I never could have made you happy, anyway. But at least I still have the seed you gave me.” Puddles pulled her seed from behind the barn board, but the sack caught on a nail and the seed fell into the muck.

“You lazy pig!” Jen clucked, “If you were truly a friend you would have at least given your seed to someone else to plant. Now the seed is ruined and your entire acre is a weed patch. I would call you good for nothing, but I have heard rumors that you have grown so fat you will soon be taken to market, so perhaps you are good for something, after all. Your acre will go to Digsby, the most responsible, faithful friend of all.”

And so it was that the aroma of baking bread taunted Puddles the following afternoon as she was loaded up and hauled off to market. But Digsby, Claus, Jen and the twelve chicks feasted until their bellies ached, and that night they all dreamed of bacon.

(loosely based on Matthew 25:14-30)

I hope you enjoyed this twist on a parable and a folk tale. It won 3rd place for the topic "Outstanding" in the Faithwriters Writing Challenge a few weeks ago. My friend, Rick at Pod Tales and Ponderings is hosting today's Fiction Friday. I hope you'll stop by and follow links to other great stories.