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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Uganda Update #8

1/28/09 9:20am (PST) / 1/28/09 8:20pm (Uganda)
About a year ago, we were given brief biographies of each of the
full-time staff at Favor of God. I read through them trying to find a
female staff member that I might be able to connect with, in praying
for her and possibly keeping in touch through email or letters. As I
read all the bios, I felt I wouldn't be able to relate to most of the
women. I'm not sure why; I just didn't think I would have anything in
common with them. One bio stood out to me though. This woman was
responsible for several administrative aspects at FOG. I'm not sure
what it was about her, but I just sensed that we might be able to
relate to each other.

I pondered on that for a few days, but as is typical for me, I got
distracted and lost that idea somewhere in the back of my mind. So
here we are a year later and I am on the ground at FOG. I've spent
time with many of the staff and have enjoyed learning about their
ministries and a little about their stories. It's been hard, though,
for me to connect with the women. They are super friendly and very
helpful, but there is just something there that makes our interactions
seem a little forced and unnatural…except for one.

From the first time I met Judith, there was something about her that
was drawing me to her…something I respected, something I felt I could
relate to. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I talked to her one
day and shared that I would really like to spend some time with her
throughout my stay…observing her, asking questions about the ministry,
learning about her, learning from her. As she responded, I could tell
she felt the same way about me. She thought that was exactly what we
needed to do. As I shared with her, it triggered something in my
mind, and I suddenly realized this is the one who had stood out to me
a year ago as I prayed through the faces and the stories of the FOG
staff. I didn't know a year ago, and I still didn't know what this
pull was that I was sensing, but I was certain Judith and I needed to
spend some time together.

Throughout the trip, our schedules haven't really worked together.
While the team was here, I was running every which way, and when they
left, Judith left with them! I was really bummed that she was gone.
She returned yesterday though, which I didn't find out until later in
the afternoon, so I was hoping to connect with her today. As I walked
outside to find someone else yesterday afternoon, Judith caught me!
We were both very excited to see each other. We began talking and
couldn't stop.

What began as just a discussion about the schedule for the rest of
Charissa and my time here, became a passionate discussion about the
desperate needs of this country and culture. Our hearts resonated
together on so many points. As we talked, we began to revive in each
other passions that I know God has placed in both of us.

We talked about the school. The new school year begins on February
2nd. There is much to be done in Uganda in the area of education.
Another wise woman shared with me last week that this country will
never truly change without 1) Christ and 2) education.

Without real education, the people continue making decisions based on
false and faulty information which propels them on in the broken state
that they are in, and at times, even worsens the situation. The
greatest problem with education here is that students are often passed
without learning a thing, because it is easier to pass the problems on
to the next teacher instead of dealing with them.

Another, perhaps more tragic, problem is that very little is taught in
the area of critical thinking. Students are spoon-fed information,
and then given a test where they're asked to regurgitate that
memorized information, without ever being asked to process it, use it
in any practical sense, or even understand it. Many students complete
school here without any real skills. They apply for jobs and are
hired based on their diplomas, yet they are incapable of doing the
jobs. Many who get into the universities have no idea what's going on
because they've never been challenged to think before.

Favor of God has started a primary school to combat this. Their
vision is that the FOG primary school would stand out as a school that
holds to firm standards, a school whose graduates are actually
well-equipped and prepared for university, for employment, and for
life. Their desire is that their graduates would make a difference
for the Kingdom, for the nation, and for the community.

Unfortunately, although they've set and held to strict standards in
their first year and have a remarkable vision, they continue to use
many of the same methods of teaching that have been used
unsuccessfully for as long as anyone can remember. The good news is
that the principal and the teachers seem open to new ideas and
strategies, and they really seem passionate about genuinely equipping
these students.

On Saturday, they will have their annual teacher's meeting before the
year begins on Monday. Charissa and I have been invited to
participate in this meeting. After all the business is dealt with,
we've been given the open door to teach them anything we believe is
relevant. They are also preparing to share with us many of the
challenges and difficulties they have had in teaching.

I've been excited about this opportunity since before the trip simply
because that is what Riss and I do and I was hoping to be of some kind
of use while we were here, so I was more excited when something
finally got set in stone. After talking to Judith yesterday though,
my heart is so burdened for the students, heavy that they would
actually learn, grow, and be changed in this school.

So many of the ways of life here are so far from what the Bible
teaches and so destructive. I was beginning to wonder if it was just
cultural differences that I need to suck up and deal with, or if these
things I'm seeing are truly wrong and need to be changed. I asked
Judith because I don't want to challenge culture, but I do want to see
lives changed for the better. She completely agreed with me, that
although these things are a part of the culture here, they are, in
fact, very destructive, and that the people need to learn the ways of
God if there is ever to be any true hope of healing and change.

I think most would agree that societal change must involve the
children. Behavior must change. Mindsets must change. Attitudes
must change. Values must change. These children will become the
leaders of the nation. But how can we change the children? As I
realized how many children there are and how impossible it would be to
reach each one directly, I became a bit discouraged. But then I
realized that if the mamas and teachers were taught and built up, they
could impact countless children.

I began to see FOG school as a beacon of hope for this nation. It
sounds wild, but really. Their ministry already shines so brightly in
the north. I don't believe there's a soul in the area that doesn't
know of FOG, which is pretty amazing considering the vast number of
NGOs up here. But FOG is different. They stand out. I absolutely
believe their school will stand out; it already does to the
immediately surrounding community. What's really going to make it
stand out though is the quality of the education and the passion of
the teachers for their students. If those things are truly different
than the other schools, the enrollment at FOG school will increase,
which means more children will be impacted, not only academically, but
spiritually and emotionally. But the teachers must truly know how to
educate the students, not just get them to the next grade. (This
school, by the way, is where all the orphaned children from the House
of Hope attend.)

Another vision I had was of FOG school becoming a training hub for
other teachers. If their students' performance, attitudes, and
lifestyles begin to stand out to the community, to the high schools,
to the universities, my hope is that other schools would seek their
counsel and training in improving their own educational techniques and
strategies. Again, this has been seen in other areas of ministry
within FOG. I believe it could also happen in the schools.

I'm not sure if I've communicated all of this clearly, but here is my
request from you… Pray!!! Pray for our time on Saturday. I know
that God has ordained this time, but I have no idea what we're going
to share with these teachers! I know that we need to share our
passion and our hearts with them. I know they need to be challenged
and encouraged in taking their students to deeper levels of learning
including processing and using the information they're memorizing, in
critical thinking, in personal and character growth. I also know that
very few, if any, interactive teaching methods are used. Currently,
the teachers lecture, and the students listen and memorize. We would
like to introduce some new techniques.

We want to be sure to respect and appreciate the knowledge and
experience that these teachers have. We want to present ourselves as
colleagues, as brothers and sisters in Christ, not as experts. I pray
that we would honor them as we attempt to challenge them. I pray that
they would be open-minded and interested. I also pray that we would
learn from them.

I have one additional concern for the school. They have added two
more grade levels for this academic year (which will put them at
Kindergarten thru 6th grade). They are still short a couple
classrooms because they have been short on funding. They have secured
land and have built a structure containing 5 new classrooms. They got
the funds to complete one of those classrooms. They need to complete
at least one more before Monday. The total cost to complete the
building and make it ready for use is a mere $6,000, but the demands
on FOG have been high, and the financial support has not matched that.
They are being stretched thin in all areas of the ministry.
Preparing the school is one of the greatest needs though. $6,000
would have the school ready to go when the students arrive on Monday
(all the furniture is already available). This would not include the
new teachers' salaries, but it would at least have the facilities in
place. As far as the teachers' salaries go, there are 12 and they
each get paid about $130/month (PER MONTH!!). It would be such a
small sacrifice for us in the States to help provide for this school.

I'm wondering if any of you have a burden for the FOG school. I know
I do. I am anxious to see what God will do through this school and
these teachers, and in time, through the students who have graduated
from this school. If you feel a burden for this school, I ask that
you would consider a one-time gift that would help complete the $6,000
of construction or perhaps even a monthly gift that would help to
provide for the teacher's salaries. This burden has been so heavy on
my heart that I couldn't help but share it with you and ask you to
join us in this vision, especially with the need being so urgent with
school starting in less than a week.

If you are interested in supporting this vision, you can give directly
online at http://favorofgod.org/donate/. You can also mail checks to
Favor of God, P.O. Box 4562, Riverside, CA 92514. Be sure to include
a note that it is for the FOG primary school.

My conversation with Judith sparked some other exciting things…I will
have to share those later! ;)

Thank you guys for all your encouragement and prayer. P.S. So many
of you have sent encouraging emails over the last several days, and I
know there are many I don't even know of that are praying. Keep it
up! It's working. Yes, I am still anxious to come home, but I am
actually thinking I am going to miss this place! That's huge. I had
several encourage me to let go…of expectations, demands, and pressure
that I'd placed on myself. I think to a large degree, God has helped
me to do that and to just go with it. The weight I felt on my
shoulders has lightened, I'm getting more comfortable and confident
moving around town and getting involved in different things, and I'm
connecting with people a little better than I was…all because I let go
of the pressure! He's allowed me to be a part of conversations that
have brought out my passions and my gifts, and I feel like He's
allowing me to use those a bit to help FOG and encourage people here.
God has also been reminding me to be in prayer as I move through the
town and participate in different activities. Pray that I would
remember to do that, and that as I do, He would open my eyes to what
HE sees.

Love you guys!

Jenelle

P.S. Attached is a picture of the new building at the FOG school.

P.P.S. Just a heads up on what I'll be up to today… I'll probably be
working with Judith most of the day on some administrative stuff –
organizing some information that we can use when we get back to the
States to help with the ministry here. I'll also be attending a Bible
study across the street at another orphanage. One of the mamas there
is learning to lead the other mamas in Bible study. It's pretty cool.
We got to meet with her earlier this week to help her prepare. Her
name is Christine if you'd like to pray for her. This evening,
hopefully I'll get back over to House of Hope to spend more time with
the kids and mamas.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Uganda Update #7

1/22/09 2:42am (PST) / 1/22/09 1:42pm (Uganda)
I haven't been completely honest in my updates. Although I have
shared a lot of our adventures, I haven't shared much of my heart at
all. I have been trying to be strong, but I think I need to be
honest.

I believe this is the hardest trip I have ever been on. I don't like
it here…not even a little bit. I've put a lot of pressure on myself
about that. I wondered if maybe my heart just wasn't prepared enough
before coming. I wondered if my heart and mind are elsewhere, which
hasn't allowed me to really be here 100%. I've wondered if maybe I've
just not been called to this place, so I need to just be ok with that,
be on my way, and let it be. I haven't been content with any of that
reasoning though. Although all of those ideas may be true in part, I
don't think that's the whole truth.

I've let little tidbits of this slip to a few on my team, but have
kept it to myself for the most part. Yesterday, though, I began
hashing it out with others. I was reminded of a few things… I have
never been in a country this "developing" or "third world". Nothing
is convenient, and nothing works as expected. Basic things like
roads, accommodations, electricity, internet, dirt and dust, and even
directions (there are no maps!) make everyday life a challenge. Add
to that the fact that there are four of us staying in probably a 10x12
foot room, stacked on top of each other, with everything constantly
covered in dust, our beds covered with mosquito nets, and using
community restrooms that are…not exactly what we're accustomed to at
home, there is not really any escape from the…lack of development.

There's more though. Interaction with people here is nothing like
what I have experienced in any other part of the world. It's easy to
interact with people, but very difficult to do so at any meaningful
level. Even the staff, who are super friendly and helpful, are very
guarded when it comes to matters of the heart. Guarded is really the
best word I can find at the moment to describe the majority of the
people we've interacted with here…at the mission house, in the
community, and in the villages. With me being such a relational
person, especially having had such success becoming part of people's
lives in other countries and cultures, it's been really hard not to be
discouraged and feel like I'm doing something wrong.

One of the mzungus (foreigners) here shed a bit more light on some
things for me though. It's so easy to forget what these people have
gone through. Just 6 short years ago, a white person walking into a
camp would have been killed. Just 3 years ago, people were still
living in fear every moment of both the LRA (the rebel army) and the
UPDF (the Ugandan government army). Both the bad guys and the good
guys were a threat to them. They were often abused by both sides.
And they couldn't trust anybody as many of their relatives and
neighbors had been abducted by the LRA and came back to murder. They
have been severely traumatized, and many have lost much. Even now,
many of them live with or near those who not too long ago caused death
or severe violence to them or someone near them. How could anybody in
those shoes be open and trusting, even to people they know, let alone
to strangers. Apart from Christ, I don't think it's possible.

We noticed a drastic difference as we visited a few camps that have a
large Christian body (the camps that had just completed or were in the
midst of the Portable Bible Schools). In those camps, the people were
a little bewildered seeing white faces, but they were friendly and
welcoming. The camps felt "warm" and hopeful. As we entered the
first camp that had not experienced that training, we noticed a huge
difference. Many on our team were even scared…they had inexplicable
instincts that the crowd could turn on us at any moment. (Come to
find out from Norma that this particular camp has begun rioting
against the mzungus in the past!) I later learned that there are very
few believers in this camp, and most of the people worship other gods.
It is amazing the difference we felt. The climate was just dark. I
couldn't figure out why we felt so uncomfortable until I learned more
about the spiritual atmosphere there. That feel, is how most of the
north felt only three years ago. Wild.

In my past experience, a wave and a smile was enough to open a heart,
and I've caught myself questioning why that doesn't seem to work here,
why people are so standoffish, why they seem so skeptical and
untrusting.

It's really me that is in the wrong… I need to be loving, gentle, and
kind, but I need to understand that they need time to develop a trust,
or even to develop a desire to develop a trust. I also need to be
more conscious of the spiritual climate. That is HUGE!

Anyways, I just wanted to be honest and share that I have been
struggling, and as I've discovered a little about why, I wanted to
share that as well. I have to be completely honest and say that I was
jealous that the rest of the team got to go home…I really didn't want
to stay another two weeks. But I know if I had left with them, I
would have quickly pushed my experiences here to the back of my mind,
slipped back into life at home, and been perfectly content to never
come back again. I know that's not where God wants me. I know He has
more to do in me on this trip. And I know that I would regret going
home and not knowing/experiencing those things He has in store.

1/24/09 2:00am (PST) / 1/24/09 1:00pm (Uganda)
You will be happy to know that the last couple days have been a bit
better for me emotionally.
I am finally starting to enjoy myself a little bit…today's the first
time I'm out in town by myself. We're on our own schedules a little
better now…So I feel less confined and frustrated! We've been hanging
out at House of Hope with the orphans and mamas the last couple days,
and that's been refreshing.

Today, we're doing a soccer camp from 2-6 and then going late to a
graduation party for one of the FOG staff…at House of Hope. It'll be
fun to see the kids again!

Tomorrow's church… I think we will go early to Gulu Bible Church
because they are doing a baptism ceremony and that should be cool to
experience. Then we want to go to KPC (Kampala Penticostal Church) to
observe the children's Sunday School programs…they're supposed to be
pretty good and we want a little insight into how they teach children
effectively here. (We're hoping to meet with the teachers for FOG
primary school next week to give them some encouragement and training
to teach more interactively and effectively. I'm hoping what we see
Sunday will give us some insight for that.)

I think we've got a birthday party to attend Sunday evening too for
the daughter of one of the FOG staff. Monday is a public holiday, so
the staff get to rest! I am hoping to spend some quality time with
some of them while they're not stressed with work. We will probably
spend more time at House of Hope as well, hanging out with the
children and the mamas.

Love you guys and hope you're doing well. Less than two weeks!

Jenelle

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uganda Update #6

1/18/09 7:40am (PST) / 1/18/09 6:40pm (Uganda)
Well, it has been a couple days since I have written. The internet
hasn't been working (surprise!) and I've been fighting a nasty cold,
so I've been trying to rest whenever I get a chance. Took a nice nap
today. ;) Although, it was flaming hot out, with no breeze! The
sweat running down my face was so soothing! Ha! But the sleep was
good.

So, I believe I need to catch you up on a few big days from last week
still. Here goes…

1/20/09 5:30am (PST) / 1/20/09 4:30pm (Uganda)
Well, as often happens here, I got interrupted and had to head out for
the day right as I began to write before. So, let me try again… I
have 30 minutes until the internet café closes, and currently, there
is no internet connection! Gotta love it!!! ;)

Wednesday 1/14
On Wednesday, we headed out to a couple more camps. Our first drive
took about 5 hours. We got lost on the way to the camp, so it took a
little longer than hoped. It was a quite bumpy ride too!

When we arrived in the first camp, our purpose was to observe and take
pictures at the Portable Bible School (PBS) that was taking place.
The room where they were meeting was packed full. All the seats were
full and there were several sitting on the floor in the back. Come to
find out afterwards that this was actually a really low attendance
day. See, Wednesday is market day. It is the only day that people
are able to sell or buy goods at the market. So at least half the
students were gone. I can't imagine what that room must look like
when they're all there. There were two teachers – one teaching and
one translating. They always deliver the teaching/preaching in
English and in the native language of the people. It looked like some
pretty intense stuff.

When FOG puts on these PBS's, they run for two months. Each student
attends for 6 hours/day, 5 days/week. They are given tests regularly.
If they "pass", they are awarded a certificate and a Bible. It's
pretty cool. The Bibles are expensive and often hard to come by, so
FOG does not just give them to anyone. They only give them to those
who have had proper training on how to use it. It's amazing to me
that these people are so hungry for truth. I mean, really, how many
of us would jump at the opportunity to sit in class for thirty hours a
week and gain nothing except a certificate and a Bible – at least
nothing tangible. These people see hope in the gospel of Christ
though, so much so that they believe it will change their lives to be
in these PBS's. That is amazing to me.

We stayed at this camp only briefly, probably less than an hour, so we
weren't able to talk to any of the students or teachers (We didn't
want to interrupt their learning.). However, before we left, Godfrey
decided he needed to buy a chicken. Why such a pressing need…so many
hours away from 'home'!? I have no idea! I'm pretty sure there are
chickens in Gulu! Nonetheless, he bought one. This was not a dead
chicken, but a live one…in a little plastic shopping bag. She sat in
the back of the van (the bumpiest part of the car) with Blair and
Steven the whole rest of our journey…and what a journey it became with
the addition of a chicken! We were probably in the car at least 4 or
5 more hours that day…and Blair and Steven were having…well, 'fun'
might not be the right word, but I was amused! Let's just say that
there was a lot of screaming, laughing, petting, feeding, and even
seat-belting in that took place over the next several hours! Blair
definitely did some bonding. You can imagine how she felt the next
day when she found out the chicken was in Godfrey's fridge! Sad day…

So from the first camp, we went (chicken in tow) to another camp about
an hour away. At this camp, a PBS had been completed previously, and
the graduates were anxiously awaiting their Bibles. We had another
ceremony, and distributed well over 100 Bibles this time. Again,
there was much cheering. I think my favorite part, though, was
immediately after the ceremony.

The interior walls of the church are pretty low, and there is about a
foot gap between the top of the wall and the thatch roof. I peeked
over, just out of curiosity. There were cute kids peeping in, and I
thought I might be able to get some cute pictures. I was surprised
instead to find an older man sitting up against the wall. He was one
of the grads who had just received his first Bible ever. He was
sitting there, completely oblivious to the rest of the world, with His
new Bible open to the first page of Genesis. He had read half of the
first column and was tracing each word with his finger as he read
aloud to himself. He couldn't even wait to walk home, he had to begin
reading as soon as possible. I could sense his hunger for the living
Word of God as though it was my own. That is one of the most precious
things I have ever witnessed.

Later, when I was standing outside the church, several of the older
women were coming over to hug me. One of them was quite excited. The
women here do this interesting hooting and hollering when they get
exciting, particularly when they are worshipping God. It's akin to
the Indian sound affect children make by screaming and patting their
lips when playing cowboys and Indians. So this women is holding my
hand, jumping, and hooting. She keeps looking at me as though she
wants some kind of approval. Finally, I decided she must want me to
participate. But look so silly in front of the whole village!?!? I
was a little unsure about it. After several attempts though, I
decided I should try to appease her, so I gave in. I threw out one
little hoot. She was ecstatic. Apparently, she wanted more! So she
began dragging me through the camp running and skipping. Rather than
sliding behind her in the dirt, I began skipping alongside her and we
hooted throughout the camp. EVERYONE was quite amused. We developed
quite a fan club in our few moments of madness.

After that, we were back in the van for another few hours…bumping
along the entire way. Several of the sky pictures I sent were from
that drive home…although, I have taken several in the morning,
afternoon, and evening each day we've been here. It's been beautiful.

I think I have to leave you with that for now. I will share more
about the some of our other adventures when I get a chance. Thanks
again for your continued prayer and encouragement. Remember to keep
Rob, Leah, Abel, Marcus, and Happiness in prayer over the next couple
days as they finish their time here and travel home. Also, pray for
wisdom and discernment for Riss and I as we figure out how to best
spend the rest of our time here.

There are a few possible things on the table for me. I have met the
head teacher and four of the other teachers from the FOG school. I am
hoping to meet with all of them a couple times next week for some
teaching workshops and to get some of their testimonies. They were
really curious and anxious to learn some of the things we do in the
States, and would really like some tips and tricks to teach English
more effectively. I'm looking forward to our time with them. They
seemed really sweet and really want the best for their students.

Also, one of the pastors here has asked me if I would be willing to
speak at their upcoming youth conference. I think this is a pretty
big thing. It's the annual conference and they invite all the youth
from the entire district and beyond. The theme of the conference is
"Living the Victorious Life". I don't really feel like I'm in the
right place to be sharing with them, yet I feel like God may be
telling me to do it anyways and walk in faith that He will give me the
right words. So, I would love for you to pray for discernment in that
specifically.

Also, I've been helping a couple of the staff with their English.
That's been a lot of fun! Martine, one of my favorites, is studying
EXACTLY what I teach at home! It's been fun helping him to understand
verb tenses! I never thought I'd say that!! ;) Martine has an
amazing story… I will try to share it sometime.

One thing that's been on my heart since we got here is to spend more
time with the staff and others in the area getting more of their
testimonies of how God has worked in and around them. We have done a
lot of video, but most of it has been overviews and details of the
different ministry areas within Favor of God. Pray for favor and
timing as I try to have some more personal conversations with the
staff in order to share those stories as an encouragement to you and
others.

Other than that, our time is open, and there are a MILLION things we
could be doing each day. I have a tendency to freeze up and do
nothing when I don't feel like I can make the "best" choice, so pray
that Riss and I would step out in confidence each day and be
intentional wherever we end up. And pray for God's CLEAR guidance if
there are specific places we need to be or conversations we need to
have.

Thanks for reading! Blessings!!!
Jenelle

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Uganda Update from Riss

This is from Riss. I thought several of you would be interested in
hearing from her. I'm working on one, but have run out of time at the
internet cafe! Hopefully I'll be able to send another one soon!
Thanks for your continued prayers!

Jenelle


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Charissa Six <riss_dawn@yahoo.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 5:47 AM
Subject: update


Hey,

I wanted to say "Sorry" as I have just been told that I am slacking in
my amount of story-telling e-mails. I will try to make up for it a
little bit right now. =D

A few things first though, I want you to know that I just got my first
mosquito bite. This is actually a welcomed bite as I was expecting to
be fighting them off the entire time I was here. But I haven't been
and still don't. Rest assured that although I'm happy with the one,
that's enough for me. So, the DEET is going to be layered on a little
bit more often.

So, ya, pictures are definitely going to be delayed until I get home.
I would totally send some now but I don't have a camera and if I did,
I don't have a flash drive to attach the pics to an e-mail. Bummer. =D
Can you imagine me smiling a huge smile and riding on dusty bumpy
roads in a 12-passenger van? If so, that's a pretty general picture of
something that happens every day.

Yesterday I had the thrill of a lifetime. I got to play soccer with
Ugandans. Not only that, but I was the only woman on the field!! Yeah,
that's pretty cool. There was a team of people at an IDP camp that was
doing trauma counseling. As a part of the ministry, for fellowship and
encouragement, that team had asked Favor of God to play a match
against the men that lived at the camp. Since I love the sport and the
guys were willing, I got to play the first half with them. So I
played, but I didn't have cleats and the field was not exactly what I
would call flat. Nonetheless, I played and still have a smile in my
heart. We lost 2-1. Not bad for a bunch of men who "haven't played in
years" and had never played together. I think our team leader,
Godfrey, is a little dissatisfied with the outcome. =D Sounds like
he's rounding up some more players for next time . . . which may be in
a few days.

I think the best part was the uniforms. Do you remember when I told
you about the soccer donations? Do you recall that I got a large bag
full of complete uniforms? Well, they just became the official
uniforms of Team Favor!! I had the honor of wearing one myself and
taking a team photo with the guys just before the game. What an honor
and a blessing it was to see the full circle of generosity and giving.
From the point of receiving them to looking around the field and
seeing my Ugandan teammates wearing them proudly, I was blessed and
overwhelmed.

I hope you are doing well these days. I will be in touch again soon.
Please let me know what you've been up to as well. I love hearing
about it. Definitely.

Much Love and Peace,

Riss

--
http://dualeoday.blogspot.com/

"Time spent in prayer will yield more than time given to work. Only
prayer gives work its worth and its success." ~Andrew Murray

"Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater
work." ~Oswald Chambers

Uganda Sky

I have not had time to write much, but I wanted to share this. It is
a collage of pictures I took of the Ugandan sky the first week of our
trip. Why is it so beautiful? I don't know! But praise God! ;)

Things are going well. I guess one of the greatest prayer requests I
have at the moment is that God would guide and direct the steps of
Charissa and I the last couple weeks of our trip. There are about a
million things we could do each day with Favor of God as there are so
many departments and so many minisitries going on. We need wisdom to
know where our time will best be spent...where we can be a blessing,
where we can be used, and where we can interact with people in a
meaningful way.

As we make decisions and plans, they are sure not to work out 70% of
the time!!! Please pray for patience, grace, and just that we would
take the initiative and get ourselves places when the plans and
transportation set up for us fall through.

The team only has one more full day on the ground. They will leave
EARLY Thursday morning. Please pray for their last day and for their
travels.

Also, I am having a hard time focusing. Pray that I would be able to
focus on the things that are right here in front of me and be fully
here!

Thank you!!
Jenelle

Friday, January 16, 2009

Uganda Update #5.5 (from Leah's eyes)

This is an update from Leah on my team. Several of you have asked
about her, Rob, and their baby, Abel. I thought you might enjoy
hearing her thoughts of the trip so far...

Jenelle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hello Everyone,

It has been good here in Gulu.

The good stuff:

1. I love being able to get to know the staff. They are awesome.
They challenge me with their worship, love, hospitality, and outreach.

2. We are filming interviews of different people on staff in charge of
the various ministries. It is so exciting to hear their visions and
the impact they are having. I have heard about these ministries for
so long but now I feel like I have a better understanding and can see
how they are actually being carried out.

3. I am blown away by Favor of God Ministries, the stories I've heard,
how much they love, how much they sacrifice, how much they trust God,
how the community and government looks to and respects them. It's
incredible and such an honor to be a part of.

4. Now Ugandans have the kind of music you can dance to! Actually,
you can't help but dance. I love worshipping with this culture.

5. The House of Hope Children's Home is a place of peace. We went
there last night, and I felt so refreshed. Those kids and house mamas
really know how to have fun. Also, it truly is a home for these kids
to experience childhood, be loved, and grow in the Lord. I am so
proud of this part of Favor of God.

6. Abel is enjoying the many new people. Everyone LOVES him and can't
get enough. He is doing really well.

7. Wow, it's amazing to see Rob with the Favor of God staff. They
love him, and he fits right in. I think this is my favorite part of
everything. We would have never ever thought up this job for him 2
years ago. He is perfect for this job and does it so well. He
interacts with all the Ugandans as if they were his best friends. I
don't think he has any kind of comfort zone. God has built him so
amazingly.

The challenging stuff:

1. I did have one day that was very hard. It was a day where Abel was
a hand-full, I felt some culture shock, and I didn't feel like I was
able to connect with the Ugandans. I am feeling much better. Thank
you for your prayers! It's amazing how much I can tell people are
praying for us. I am connecting a little bit better with the
Ugandans, but it still is hard. I get intimidated and don't feel like
I have anything to talk about. The rest of our team is doing much
better with this though, so I'm trying to follow their lead.

2. I am sometimes overly concerned with staying clean and healthy
probably mostly because of Abel. I sometimes get uncomfortable when
people and kids want to hold him or when he gets really dirty. I just
have to remember that God had all these details in mind when he led us
to bring our family. Just pray for strong immune systems.

3. I am being challenged spiritually, but I think there's still so
much more that we could see. I still want our eyes opened even more.

4. It's very hard for me to understand my environment. We have
poverty all around us. I still can't comprehend how what I'm seeing
can possibly exist at the same time as what I will experience when I
get home.

5. One of my huge dreams for this trip is to grow in love and respect
for the Ugandans. I think very highly of our Ugandan staff. But, I
want to be able to look at every other person and also see their
value. I want to be able to see the poorest, dirtiest, meanest,
laziest, most uneducated, most unattractive person and see them with
God's eyes. I want to see each person and honor them above myself.
This is very hard for me.

6. Rob has some very important meetings, discussions, and decisions to
help with for Favor of God Ministries. This could be a heavy burden,
so we need to pray that he can do it with God's strength and give it
all to God to carry. He has a board meeting tomorrow. Pray for that.


So, please just pray from these things that I've shared. Continue to
pray for safety, health, spiritual protection, unity, passion, and
open eyes. By the way (mom and dad) I feel very safe here. Traveling
is probably the most dangerous since driving is crazy! So, you can
pray for that. But still don't fear for us, if God told us to come
here, then he has it all under control. You can trust me that I know
he told us to come. No worries!

We love you!

Leah

Uganda Update #5

1/15/09 1:00pm (PST) / 1/16/09 midnight (Uganda)
Sorry it has been so long… In addition to not really having access to
internet for a few days, the days have been so exhausting that I just
can't bring myself to write at the end of the day. Good news…I've
slept through the last few nights…I got 9 full hours last night!
…which is good as I've come down with a cold and am hoping not to hang
on to it for too long! I feel great, other than being a little tired
and gunk flooding out of my face! But really, despite the cold, the
last few days have been incredible…and just in the nick of time, as
(for the first time in my life) I was beginning to struggle with a bit
of homesickness. God has been faithful though to draw me into some
amazing things here that have helped me, at least in the midst of
them, to forget how far I am from home and the ones I love. So, let's
see if I can recap for you… (Warning: This is probably going to be
long! Try reading it in a couple doses!! ;)

Tuesday… Staff Prayer/Worship, City-Wide Lunch Hour Prayer, & Prison Ministry
Each weekday morning, the staff at FOG begin their workday at 8am for
prayer and worship in the mission house. They spend about an hour in
worship, study, and prayer before they make announcements and hit
their ministry posts/offices for the day. It's pretty awesome to
see/hear and to be a part of. It is awesome to see the sincerity and
the passion in the worship and prayer. It is also clear that this
time brings a special unity to the team here at FOG. Although I don't
look forward to 8am (especially with as tired as I've been), I do look
forward to this time with the staff each morning.

Although we had several plans for the morning, transportation Uganda
style left us sitting and waiting…and waiting and sitting…and sitting
and waiting…until finally it was lunch time. We ate and headed to our
next scheduled activity…about an hour late and in make-shift
transportation…

Our next stop was Lunch Hour Prayer. Each day, 12:30-2pm is set aside
for prayer and worship. FOG has been able to rent a facility in the
center of town as their House of Prayer. All churches and all
believers in the community are invited to the House of Prayer, both to
participate and to lead. We found out today that there are over 200
churches in Gulu, and each of these churches has, at least in some
way, been involved in the House of Prayer. Different people
facilitate Lunch Hour Prayer each day, and believers from throughout
the town join together. It's an awesome thing.

I expected to go simply to observe, take notes, and perhaps take a few
pictures and some video. Instead, my world was rocked a bit. Instead
of being able to just hide in one of the seats, we were asked to join
hands with a person near us and share what has kept us from giving God
complete control in our lives. Gee…let's be sure to start light
before we hit the major heart issues, huh!? I guess not. They're
about getting to the real stuff and being real with each
other…refreshing, but slightly terrifying (sad coming from a Sandalite
where our church's vision is to be real with ourselves, others, and
God). Nonetheless, it rattled me a bit…in a good way…and as I was
shaken, God was able to reveal some cool stuff to me as we all shared
and then prayed our own prayers in unison.

We rushed straight from Lunch Hour Prayer to Prison Ministry at the
Central Prison. I was a little nervous…not because it was a prison,
but because we had been warned that we would be asked to share a
sermon or testimony when we visited the prisons…AHHH!!! We were
divided, one group going to the men's quarters (about 200 men) and the
other group to the women's quarters (29 women…and their
babies…interesting, huh?) Riss, Happiness, and I went to the were
assigned to the women's quarters.

I quickly requested/suggested/demanded? that Riss be the one that
share. Turns out, we all shared! Before we spoke though, we were
blessed to join the women in worship. Man, Africans know how to
worship! We're in prison, and they were just jammin'! Drum bangin',
maraca shakin', gospel singin', harmonies…the works. There was one
girl toward the front… I couldn't focus on much else. Her worship
was so sincere, so passionate…there wasn't a sole in the place but
her…just she and God. It was pretty incredible to watch. As they
worshiped, I couldn't help but watch the guards. Were they believers
too? I couldn't tell. They looked cold and distant, yet
occasionally, I would catch a couple of them singing along, and
sometimes even clapping and grooving just a bit.

We then shared some words of encouragement with them. It was
difficult because I felt encouraged by them. So I encouraged them in
that! I wanted so badly to know more about each individual woman,
but, being a prison, just hanging out is not really an option. Simon,
who had taken us, also asked the women if they had any testimonies of
what God had done in their lives. As the women shared, I was blessed
by their joy and their faith. One woman's had just come out of the
hospital and her husband had just committed suicide only days before,
yet she was praising God. That is a faith I know I should have, yet I
struggle to understand it.

Before we left, Simon asked that anyone who needed prayer come to the
front so we could pray over them. AHHH again…prayer!? Over
strangers!? Prayer is not my forte. But what does one do in this
situation? Pray, of course!

As a few women came forward, I realized what a joy it would be to
touch them and hear just a small piece of their heart, their story.
One by one, I put my hand on their shoulders, asked their names, and
asked how I could pray. It was amazing to be able to pour my love on
them, and to pray God's heart over them. The last woman I prayed for
was the one whose husband had just died. What an honor. As I prayed
for these women, I feel like my heart grew, like some of the layers of
hardness that I have let form finally began to be stripped, and I was
able to pray with more faith than I have had for some time. God had
just shown me the day before that I needed to spend more time in
prayer for others, and here, without my help (or my consent!) He gave
me the opportunity to be obedient to that. I freaked out at first,
but was so blessed by it. And I truly did feel honored to be able to
lay my hands on these women and hug them.

As we left the women, one of the guards came with us. While we toured
some of the new facilities, I was able to talk with this guard, Rose.
She was one of the initiators of the prison ministry. She has been
working as a prison guard for 29 years and had a burden for the
prisoners to be ministered to and to know Christ. As a result of her
conviction, her husband began working with FOG in prison ministry. A
year ago, he was in a fatal accident. Still, she walks in faith. She
fully believes that God has her exactly where He wants her. She
shared that God has taught her much through this position – Just as He
has made her a literal guard, she feels called to be a spiritual guard
– a guardian of the souls of the women in the prison. She feels it is
her duty to keep on watch over the women and do all she can to point
them to Christ. Wow! After wondering about the hearts of the guards,
it was amazing to talk with Rose and see hers. Pray for Rose as she
continues ministering to the women there. This culture is very
difficult for women. Although none of them were saved when they came
to the prison, and all of them are now, many of them backslide when
they go back into the community because of the struggles of life.
Pray for their foundations being built within the prison walls, and
for strength as they leave the safety of those walls.

OK…it is almost 1am, and I need to sleep! I hope to send this in the
morning when I wake up…and I hope to spend more time tomorrow writing
about the last couple days. Thanks so much for reading!! I know
these updates are long, but so many of you press on until the end.
Thank you for your support and encouragement. Please continue to pray
for our team and those I am sharing about. Just so you know what you
have to look forward to… Wednesday, we headed to another camp to
observe a Portable Bible School with a couple hundred students, rode
with a chicken, and did another Bible distribution…where I became one
of the locals and was hooting and hollering with the ladies, and
Thursday, we interviewed a handful of the FOG staff and visited the
House of Hope children's home where Blair killed a chicken and the
children's worship rocked our world. Tomorrow, more staff interviews,
another possible Bible distribution, a soccer match, and who knows
what else… Saturday, REST! Ya right…I'm sure our day will become
magically filled with "restful" activities! Ha! Thanks again for
reading.

Much love!
Jenelle

Monday, January 12, 2009

Uganda Update #4

1/11/09 11:00am (PST) / 1/11/09 10:00pm (Uganda)
Today was a much needed "Day of Rest", although, we all still feel
exhausted! We all got to sleep in. I woke up at 5am! Go figure. It
was nice, though, looking out the door – which was open right by my
head – watching the sunrise and listening to the interesting sounds in
the neighborhood. We had a typical Ugandan breakfast – tea and bread
– and headed over to meet the rest of the team, where we lounged
around for hours. Traveling wore us out much more than we realized,
and our schedules will not slow down at all beginning early tomorrow
morning, so we took advantage of the opportunity to rest.

In the afternoon, a few of us ventured into Gulu town with a couple
guys that have been living here a few months. It was nice being out,
but I'm still hungry for a bit more interaction with the locals. I
guess after being immersed in several other environments, I'm a little
antsy to feel at home here and to have real relationships and
meaningful interactions with the people around me. I've got to give
it time, and give me time to adjust. So I'm going to be good and
actually go to bed before 11pm tonight! That's a miracle for those of
you who don't know me well.

Tomorrow begins at 7am (or earlier if it was anything like today) for
some alone time. At 8am, we will meet with the Favor of God (FOG)
staff for their daily prayer and worship time. Afterwards, we will
eat breakfast (tea and bread), and then we will head out for the day.
Most of the team will likely head out with a few of the FOG staff to
an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camp near the border of Congo,
about a three-hour drive from Gulu. Recently, FOG completed a
Portable Bible School (PBS) session there, and traditionally, all the
graduates receive a Bible. There was a shortage of Bibles at the time
of their graduation, so we are going out tomorrow to distribute those.
Our team's goal is to get some video footage of the ceremony, take
notes of our observations, and interact with the people as much as we
can to learn more of their stories and their journey to, through, and
after the PBS. It will be our first time in a camp, so that in itself
will be an adventure and will probably be a bit overwhelming. Pray
that we will be able to effectively observe, again, with God's eyes
and not our own. Pray that our hearts and minds will be open to see
and understand things beyond ourselves, and pray that God will give us
the wisdom to know what to record and document, and the insight to
know how to best use that information to communicate to others the
realities here.

Alright, I'm wiped out! I hope to send this soon… still waiting to
get set up on the internet here at the mission house. Until then,
I've got to write when I have time and hope that I get to an internet
café eventually to send it. Sorry for the delays… Thanks for your
prayers though!

Jenelle

P.S. Thanks for all the personal emails. I've been able to read all
of them. I only wish I had time to respond to them too! Unless the
internet situation improves, you'll have to just trust that I
appreciate them! Thanks!! ;)

1/12/09 12:00pm (PST) / 1/12/09 11:00pm (Uganda)
The trip out to the camp today was amazing!!! I took tons of
pictures, recorded some music, and got some video footage. I'm
exhausted and don't think I can type much, but…

After the 4-hour drive…driving through camp after camp of huts…we
arrived in Nebbi. Two months ago, there was a graduation ceremony for
individuals that had completed the two-month long (5-day/week, 6
hours/day) Portable Bible School. It is tradition to give each
graduate one Bible. It is VERY hard to come by these Bibles and they
are not just given to anyone. They are a VERY treasured commodity.
Well, circumstances were that no Bibles were available at that time.
The graduates have been SO anxious to get their Bibles, so as soon as
the shipment arrived, the FOG team drove out there. When we arrived
to the village, there were at least 30 people waiting in the middle of
the dirt road waving tree branches. As we approached, they began
singing and banging on drums they were rolling with them on the backs
of bicycles. They surrounded the van and marched with us all the way
in to the church, singing worship songs and drumming with all their
hearts. Wow.

Inside, we had a time of worship and praise, thanking God for bringing
us safely and for bringing the long-awaited Bibles to the grads.
Man…I've never seen so much energy in such a small place. They even
gave me a little maraca and I got my groove on along with all of the
precious and VERY energetic and joyful Ugandans.

After things calmed down, the international visitors (us) were asked
to present the Bibles to the students. I felt like I was stealing
their gratitude that should have more appropriately been lavished on
the staff of FOG who had worked so hard putting on the Portable Bible
School and getting the Bibles to the grads. However, it made me
realize that the staff at FOG are absolutely unconcerned with their
own recognition or praise. They humbly asked us to receive that
instead. Wild.

The grads were called by name, and each one came and shook our hands
and/or hugged us. (I learned much about Ugandan hugging customs
during the ceremony!) I also walked away bearing a much different
aroma than I'd entered with. Nice, huh? Some of the hugs, the
thanks, the tears, were so sweet. Many squeezed us like we had
rescued them and had given them the gift of life. I guess, really, we
had…by the hard work of others, of course. It was crazy to see how
much they treasured the Word of God. Many of them grabbed their first
and only Bible out of my hand and clinched it as though it were worth
more than their life, and several shouted and cheered for joy, raising
their Bible with tears in their eyes.

I wish we recognized the value of God's Word. I was overcome with
guilt and shame for my own lack of reverence for His Word. How many
copies do I have?? And how easily can I access it anytime I want on
the Web…in writing, in audio format…with notes, with commentaries,
with countless translations and study guides?? Yet, how often do I
choose instead to watch a movie, go to sleep early, or push the snooze
button just one more time, and completely neglect to read it? Pretty
rough reality check. Something for all of us to think about.

As we left, I talked with one of the graduates named Jen. So many
nationals ask for money or resources or help. As I tried to encourage
her to make wise use of her new Bible, do you know what she asked me?
"Can you please continue to pray for us? Can you ask your friends to
pray for our ministry here?" As I encouraged her to share the stories
and truths from the Bible with the children in the village, she shared
with me that she is the Sunday School teacher for the children. She
also ministers to the women in the area, providing training and doing
several other things. She was thrilled that since the graduation
ceremony two months ago, three people in their village had accepted
Christ. What an amazing woman…and her only request – that we would
pray. Please pray for Jen and the other 78 graduates in Nebbi (10km
east of the Congo border) that now have their own Bibles. Also, pray
for the next 2-month Portable Bible School that will begin right on
the border of Congo and Uganda on Jan 19th. Riss and I will likely
visit that PBS and participate and witness some of the hands-on
training activities. I can't wait to share about those with you.

OK, I'm exhausted…again! I woke up at 3am this morning and couldn't
get back to sleep. Pray that all on our team would sleep through the
night and wake up wonderfully rested tomorrow.

Tentative Plans for the rest of the week so you know how to pray:

Tomorrow: 8am prayer and worship with the FOG staff. Noon-time
prayer (daily city-wide prayer in the middle of Gulu town).
Afternoon: Visit to Prison Ministry where a few of us will likely be
asked to speak.

Wednesday: ???

Thursday: Interviews with FOG staff. Pray for wisdom in preparing
questions to ask and favor in setting up successful meeting times with
the staff.

Friday: Interview all day with Martin, co-founder of FOG. Again,
pray for wisdom.

Thank you all so much! It's such an encouragement that so many of you
are taking the time to read these. Lots of deep stuff to communicate
today. Will try to share some more fun stories next time I get a
chance. Internet is still sketchy, so thanks for bearing with me.

Love you all!
Jenelle

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Uganda Update #3

1/10/09 1:40pm (PST) / 1/11/09 12:40am (Uganda)
Well, I just got all tucked away in the bed where I'll be sleeping for
the next 4 weeks. Ordinarily, this is a rather simple task. However,
add the obstacle of cautiously securing a mosquito net around the
mattress and then weaseling your way in, only to discover that you
need a few more things before you sleep, and the task becomes a bit
more daunting. So you finally settle in, and think you're set for the
night… Then comes the dreaded buzz in your ear. Not only have you
secured yourself in the mosquito net, but you've trapped one of the
little buggers in there with you! I've been tracking him with my eyes
for several minutes now, and have made a few swatting attempts, but
alas, I think I have an unwanted sleeping buddy. I have not yet seen
him land, so I'm not sure if he could have malaria or not (apparently,
the type that can carry it land upside down…rather strange if you ask
me). Hopefully I make it through the night unscathed.

A brief recap of our travels…

It feels like we've been traveling for days…we have! Abel did very
well the whole time. Although…he had quite a bit of energy, so Rob
and Leah haven't gotten much sleep. Marcus and Happiness have had
some unforgettable "first-time-overseas" experiences. Their luggage
was lost in Dubai (no worries…it made it to Uganda!) and Marcus was
racially profiled in Customs and they did a full search of his bags.
Riss found a small bolt in one of her airplane meals and got a free
gift to make up for her traumatic experience. And my only pair of
tennis shoes I brought began falling apart before we even reached LAX.
Crazy glue got me to Uganda, but I think it's time to say farewell!

Nonetheless, after about 24 hours on planes, two layovers, one hotel,
and about 6 hours on some very bumpy roads in a van, we are finally in
Gulu. Tomorrow is our day of rest – literally – and Monday, the
craziness begins. I hear we will wake around 6am and work until 10pm
on most days.

Pray for our health. Pray for unity on our team. But most of all,
pray for spiritual eyes, that we may see the things God wants us to
see.

Thanks!

Jenelle

Friday, January 09, 2009

Uganda Update #2

1/9/09 7:31am (California Time)
Well, I’m somewhere over the Middle East right now. I just realized most of my flying has been over an ocean. It’s interesting being over places like the Grand Canyon, Ireland, Kuwait… Kind of unreal.

This plane is unreal too. I’ve never been so spoiled on a flight… Countless movies, TV shows, games, and so much more at my disposal. I don’t think I’ve ever watched so many movies in one sitting! (Literally…I really have to pee!) ;)

We’re almost through our second flight and should be landing in Dubai soon. I hear it’s a gorgeous city, but I’m not sure we’ll get to experience much other than the hotel. Hopefully we’ll take in a lot of scenery on the ride from the airport to the hotel. I’m looking forward to one last night in a comfy bed and morning with a fresh, warm shower.

It’s not quite real to me yet that I’m about to spend 4 weeks in Gulu. I don’t think I’ve adjusted emotionally, physically, or spiritually. If you could pray for those adjustments, that would be great. I’ve been sitting on this plane for nearly 13 hours. As I’ve watched movie after movie, I keep thinking I need to be preparing my heart and mind, but honestly, I’m not sure where or how to start.

…And we’re landing…

1/9/09 2:05pm (California Time) / 1/10/09 2:05am (Dubai)
We made it to our hotel in Dubai at about 11pm, had some dinner, and showered. We get to sleep for a few hours, then we had back to the airport at 6am for our last flight into Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We’ll land at 3pm (Saturday, 4am PST), hop into a van, and drive about 6 hours up to Gulu. We should arrive in Gulu, Uganda around 10pm (Saturday, 11am PST). Hopefully we’ll get a good night’s sleep, and then the real journey begins.

Please pray for rest (especially for Rob and Leah as they’re sleeping around baby Abel’s schedule) and adjustments (to the time, the climate, and the culture) as we settle in in Gulu. Also, pray that our hearts and minds would be ready and open for whatever God has in store.

Thanks a million!Jenelle

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Uganda Update #1

We're leaving tomorrow morning!! ...at 5am! We will be traveling for about 48 hours before we arrive in Gulu, Uganda. I'm excited...and overwhelmed. Still packing! We raised MOST of our funds, but could use a little more help. We would also still like to raise more for the farm project. If you're still interested, please let me know.
If you want to receive updates (I will try to send them as often as possible while we're gone), PLEASE respond to this email ASAP. I will do my best to get a mailing list together, but the internet access is going to be rough. I will also try to post updates and photos (if the internet connection allows) on Facebook. If you're on there, find me there!
Thanks so much for your prayers and support.
Jenelle

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Uganda...9 days and counting

Almost a year after my last post, I'm back! I'm leaving for Uganda in NINE days. That's crazy. As I go, I want to write. I hope you guys will hang with me through my journey.

It's crazy to think we leave so soon. Life has been so busy that I haven't really been able to process much regarding the trip. As I sat at our team meeting tonight, I realized how excited I am. Until tonight, I have been consumed by other emotions...

I'm scared... It's going to be really hard to leave some things that I love. I have no idea what to expect. I don't know if I'm strong enough or wise enough to handle what we will encounter. It's not the safest place in the world, and the spiritual warfare will be different than anything I've ever experienced.

I'm unprepared... I still don't have the money for the trip. I haven't studied nearly as much about the culture and the country as I would like to. I have shopping and packing and several other things that still need to be done.

But I'm excited. My heart has ached since I last returned from Vietnam (about 3.5 years ago). My heart longs to be in other cultures, to learn, to stretch, to discover... I miss it so much. I can't wait to be out of my box, out of my routine, out of my world and my life... observing, absorbing, being shaken. I can't wait to meet the people, see the sights, and just be rattled. The most important things on the packing list: camera, notebooks, laptop. I'm so anxious to be a sponge.

Now, if I could just get all the other details taken care of before I hop on that plane!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Busted Thumb!

For those that know me well, you know I love to pester people. Oddly, it's often how I show my love (I know, not so loving!). Anyways, I've been gone for almost two weeks, staying with my parents for the holidays, so when I got home, I was excited to see my roomies. So of course I started messing around with Sixy. Another thing about my messing around...I always win! Well, this time, Six kung fu karate chopped me and about took off my left thumb! It's only slightly puffier than my right thumb, but it won't move! I've sprained and even broken countless fingers and toes in the past, but never a thumb! I'm pretty sure it's sprained.

Thanks, Sixy, for the new experiences - first, losing a battle, and second, busting a thumb. Oh, the joys of friendship! ;)

Long, but worth it (at least I think so!)

I had the wonderful experience yesterday of visiting with a dear friend, Cresta, who I don't get to see much (see, she lives on the other side of the world!). God blessed our conversation and encouraged both of us so much through our time together. One question she asked though really triggered some thought. What it came down to was - Do I really trust God?

I mean, in my head, I know I can. I know that He is the only explanation for so many things. I know that when I'm at my lowest points, it is Him who wraps His arms around me and gently lifts me up.

But the question came down to trusting Him in my everyday. I want so desperately for Him to break me, that I might give all of myself to Him once again, trusting Him completely, truly believing that He loves me and that all things work together for good for those He loves and has called according to His purpose (Rom 5:8), allowing Him to use me for His purposes regardless of what that means for my life.

I don't have that kind of faith. I'm afraid when I can't predict the outcome of my choices. I'm afraid that I might fail in the things He's called me to. I'm afraid that falling at His feet and allowing Him to do with my heart whatever He pleases will cause me to break in places I feel I must be strong. So when it comes down to it, no, I don't trust Him. That is heartbreaking.

But, being the faithful God He is, He had some words for me. Last night, I went to Willie's small group downtown and we read through Mark 5. There are three healings in this chapter.

In the first, Jesus casts a Legion of demons out of a crazy man and into a heard of pigs which proceed to dive off the cliff and die in the sea below. It occurred to me that Jesus was unusually calm, simply discussing options with the demons. After much pleading from them, Jesus granted them "permission" to go into the pigs. This tripped me out. Permission!? Ya, God is that sovereign - He is the boss, He is in charge, He has the final say regardless of the havoc Satan wants to wreak.

In the second two healings, it was the power of their faith that brought healing. Now, I've been reading the gospels daily for some time now, and almost each day I read, Jesus performs a miracle as a result of someone's faith. I think, "Hmm, that's cool." But that's really been the extent of my response. Last night, it hit me. "Jenelle, when you ask me to transform your heart, I know you know I can, but are you asking in faith, confident that I can and WILL do it?" Whoa! See, God wants my heart to be fully His. He would delight in my faith if I only had the courage to ask EXPECTING Him to do it! Wow...so many times in His Word, He shows us that He acts in response to our faith in Him. God, I am sorry that I have had so little faith, and merely hoped that you would work in me for Your glory. God, increase my faith!

So then I come home. I have a tendency to write verses on little scraps of paper and carry them around in my pockets. I used to do this in order to help me memorize them. Now, however, I'm not so good at that and they tend to just sit in my pocket and get wrinkled, and then they move on to the big pile of all the other ones that I wrote down and never reflected on. Well, one had fallen from the pile and was laying on my dresser last night. When I saw it, I thought, "Hmm, I bet God has something to say to me." I opened it up. Here is what I read:
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over... (2 Corinthians 9:8)
And I'm worried that what I have won't be sufficient!?

Then I flipped it over and continued to read:
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. (Luke 6:38)
Again, a promise that what He has is more than sufficient for what I need. When I've read this in the past, I've often thought of material things. This time, however, God laid it on my heart that He was talking about my heart, about my life. He wants all of it, laid down as an offering for Him. What if I lay it all down, what will I have to offer to those around me, to the tasks to which He's called me? According to His Word, much more than I began with! For the amount that I give will determine the amount that I get back!! What a promise, that if I give Him every ounce of me, He will give me what I need to do what He has called me to do.

And He wasn't finished yet. This morning, I open up my Word, a little more convinced at this point that He does in fact intend to speak to me as I read. I flip open to my book marker, and it's the story of the Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Here is what jumped out at me:
...Jesus sent out two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, "The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly." (Mark 11:1-3)
Go STEAL a donkey!? What the heck!? Would I have the courage to do something that seems so absurd and inappropriate? And, by the way, that's a great comeback, huh!? Anyone would be cool with that explanation! Right...

But again, God showed me His faithfulness. Check it out:
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at the doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, "What are you doing untying that colt?" They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. (Mark 11:4-6)
Because, you know, most people who caught you stealing would be perfectly comfortable with that response and would just let you go! Uh...or maybe God is sovereign and can move the hearts, minds, and behavior of others in order to fulfill His purposes and promises to His people. Hmm...

I'm thinking that God is trying to show me that whatever He asks, whatever He calls me to, whatever He wants me to lay down at His feet, He is faithful and able to provide what I need and bring it all together for His good, even when it seems crazy and seems that it would leave me in a bad spot. He is faithful!

So, am I willing to have the faith I need to see His mighty hand at work? I sure hope so!

I can't wait to see what else He has to show me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

a camel through the eye of a needle

The other day, I read through the story in the gospels (Matthew 19:23-30, Mark 10:23-31, and Luke 18:24-30) about how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. I read through it thinking, "OK, well that's not me, so what insights can I gain from these passages?" Sadly, I came up with nothing. Today, these stories caught my eye again, and immediately, I had the same thought, "Ya, I'm not rich!"

But God challenged me saying, "Yes, Jenelle, you are rich!"

Immediately, I remembered countless statistics about how even the poorest American is richer than much of the world. The average bum in America eats better than middle-class citizens in other parts of the world. Just because I am not rich compared to those immediately surrounding me does not mean I am not rich.

A couple points to consider...
  1. Compared to much of the world, I make more money in a few hours than they can make in a month.
  2. When I consider my current "needs," the list looks something like this: shoes (sure, the ones I have are falling apart, but I still have several!), headphones (gotta have something to listen to songs on my new mp3 playing cell phone, right!?), a dressy coat (heaven forbid I wear my "casual" jacket to work even though it does its job and keeps me warm), a DVD player (it's too much work to move the one from the other room into my bedroom and I don't like leaving my laptop on all night when I fall asleep to a movie on it). Come on! I have no real needs!
  3. And this is the kicker... When is the last time I had no choice but to depend on God because I was unable to meet my own needs...or even the needs of those around me? Uh...can't think of one. Sure, I must depend on God for emotional and spiritual needs, but those are so much less tangible - and much more easily scraped under the rug and forgotten about.
I AM the rich man (or woman) Jesus spoke about. I AM my provision. I AM the solution to most of my problems. I AM... No wonder it is so difficult for me to depend on Him in the less tangible things! I haven't learned to do it in the things I can touch and see and smell.

Lord, teach us to depend on you as whole-heartedly as those who have no option. Help us to treasure your provision and not our own. Help us to determine our needs based on your priorities and not our own perception. Save us from our self-sufficiency that we may know your complete sufficiency.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas in Uganda

To those of us who love the work of Favor of God Ministries and who have been praying for the precious people of Uganda, the below message is for you:

We are writing to ask for your help…

Over the past few months, the groups and families that contribute monthly to the ministry of Favor of God have fallen behind in their giving. In addition, Francisco, the ministry's office administrator was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident while working last month and had to be taken by helicopter to a hospital in another city. Favor of God used all of their resources to ensure he got all the needed care (and thank God, he is on his way to recovery and should be back in Gulu next month). But because of these hard times, Favor of God Ministries was not able to pay their 25 full-time and 40 part-time employees their November or December salaries.

Will you help?

We are believing that the Favor of God family here in the states will come together to provide not only November and December's payroll but also a surprise Christmas bonus for these precious families!

To be an answer to their prayers, send or drop off a check to:
Favor of God Ministries
6640 Calvin Ct
Riverside, CA 92506

In order for the funds to be received in Gulu before the staff leaves for their winter break next Friday, we need to wire the money by Tuesday, December 18th at 2pm ! So, please EMAIL us back with the amount you will give, then send or drop off your check right away! If you are interested in supporting Favor of God on an ongoing basis, print, complete, and mail the Contribution Form to the address on the form.

All our love,
The Favor of God family in Riverside, California

Sunday, October 21, 2007

201 Great Questions

Several years ago, Sandals Church blessed all the small group leaders with a spiffy little gift - a tiny book called 201 Great Questions. It's filled with questions ranging from absolutely silly to pretty deep and even soul-searching. We keep it in my car and pull it out from time to time on road trips to inspire conversation. Today, while driving (shhh), I don't know why I felt an urge to grab it. This is the question that I found:

What does this statement mean to you: "Activity that does not result in progress toward a goal is a waste of time"? Do you agree?

Wow. Interesting after my last post. I think God was trying to take that conviction just a nudge deeper. I definitely fall into that trap...probably daily.

How about you? Let's get some conversation going. Share your thoughts.