Sunday, May 31, 2009

Knowledge and Responsibility

I've always believed that with knowledge comes responsibility. On my first trip to Kenya, this became clear. I could not see, touch and smell third world poverty and then walk away and do nothing. God not only filled my heart with love for the people of Africa but challenged it to make a difference in what I saw. This increases my excitement to work with Hope Alive! as they are making the kind of difference that I have prayed about for years. I often state that what Ugandans need is not just a cup of rice but the Bread of Life; not just clean water but the Living Water. It's this holistic approach that has stirred my heart for years.

These past few weeks, God has been filling me with all sorts of knowledge. It is these opportunities for knowledge that have given me a greater worldview and a passion for the world. I have this stack by my bed of things that don't belong to me that I need to return to others. Much of this stack consists of books that need to be read. I'll reference three of these as they have impacted me greatly.

The first of these is a book called "Refuge: A True Story of Faith and Civil War" which you can find here on Amazon. I have recommended this book to so many and I encourage all to get it and pass it on to as many as they can. Here's why. It is a documentation of the lives of a family living in Liberia in 1990 when a rebel group took over the country. From what I've experienced with many Africans, they do not express their emotions and feelings well. Though we live in an individualistic society, they live in a communal one. They experience life as a community thus making it difficult to express experiences individualistically. This book is written by an American man telling their story and therefore, the reader is able to glimpse into the lives of this family as they experience the instability of life in a civil war and as refugees. For the first time, I was able to understand the human side of a refugee. Often we only read statistics and commonly think that that kind of life is "normal" in Africa. It's not. It's horrific. Every human being is created in His image and thus it is tragic when any one dies, especially in this way. For each event, there are two chapters covering it: one written from the husband's perspective and the other by his wife. This book reveals how our God can do the impossible and highlights His miraculous ways! It truly helped me understand the heartache that so many Ugandans have experienced as well. It broke my heart in a new way for them.

The second is a movie called "God Grew Tired Of Us". This has been in my stack since a couple from my church gave it to me to watch. It is a documentary that follows the Lost Boys of Sudan as they trekked from Darfur to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. After three years there, they're forced out and head back through Sudan to at last end up at a refugee camp in Kenya. The film followed three specific boys as they were chosen, after 10 years, to leave the camp in Kenya to relocate to the United States. Those details could be slightly wrong as I really haven't researched them a ton although now I'm on a mission to. At the beginning, it shows footage of these thousands upon thousands of boys walking the hundreds upon hundreds of miles. It's literally like watching skeletons walk. My jaw dropped repeatedly not only at their bodies of bones but also at the tragedies that they experienced. The opportunity to go to America seems like it will be a trip to paradise. It is incredible to watch these boys as they experience many things for the first time like light switches, toilets, escalators, refrigerators, etc. When two of the boys came to Pittsburgh, there was this sweet African man that was showing them around their apartment. He showed them one of the bedrooms that had two twin beds in it. One of the boys stated something like, "so we all sleep in here?" as to them, that would be normal. It was explained to them that they, in fact, get their own bed. The movie highlights their difficulties in adjusting to American life including the guilt they have for those that they left behind. Incredible.

The third is a book called "The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun". The title is pretty self-explanatory. :) This book (which can be found here) has been in my stack for a LONG time (sorry, Whit) and is chock FULL of the miracles of God. Yun pretty much started the house church movement in China that has resulted in thousands upon thousands of people coming to know Christ. Throughout the past years he has been imprisoned and tortured for the name of Christ. Story after story of how God worked is just stunning. It is a challenging, inspiring, encouraging and thought provoking book.

All of these have given me knowledge of the different things that God is doing throughout the world. This knowledge gives me a responsibility. Although I can see how God will possibly flesh out Refuge and God Grew Tired Of Us (you know, that whole moving to Uganda thing :)), I'm really interested to see what God's going to do with the knowledge of Chinese believers. So, that's my encouragement to you. Gain some knowledge. Become responsible.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tickity Tick

This morning was a morning like every other. My alarm went on at 6:30am. I squinted, turned off my alarm and groaned. Insert a few blinks of the eyes here to encourage them to open. Stumble to a shower. As I was drying off, I noted this weird dot on my arm. At first I just thought it was a little blood spot which made me wonder when I injured myself. A closer look revealed legs. A tick! How the heck did I get a tick? When did it get on there? How did it get on there?

Prior to a few months ago, I had never even dealt with a tick. It was when I was dogsitting for the weekend that I had my first experience. The dogs came in from outside and one of them, my favorite Moags, jumped up into my lap. I noticed a big random black bump on his ear and went to inspect it. Never having seen a tick attached and huge before, I wasn't really sure what it was but figured it might be a tick. I called the Reesman's and they gave me advice on how to remove it. Of course it had to be the most active dog in the house that I needed to sit still while I attempted to stick hot objects on the tick. FYI, I no longer believe that anything hot will make a tick stick its head up. It's getting a huge buffet of food and neither time did the tick budge. Anyway, I at last got some tweezers and removed the huuuge tick from his ear. I don't think Moags appreciated all my effort as he wanted to get away from the hot objects but whatever. I saved his life and I knew it. :)

Back to this morning. When I realized it was a tick, I couldn't believe it. Seeing legs moving and knowing there was a head underneath it sucking away was sick. Groooss. Luckily, Mrs. Reesman was my lifesaver and tweezed it out. I've been researching Lyme's Disease all morning because, yes, I am that paranoid. It would totally be my luck to have some form of crazy disease right before I'm moving to another continent. Here's to hoping that I don't get Lyme's!

On an American Idol note, Adam didn't win and with Danny gone, that's all I cared about. I like singers, not screechers. Danny totally deserved the win though!

On a Uganda note, I am getting SO EXCITED to go! I feel like I can't even begin to express the absolute excitement inside of me! I want to just burst! I cannot wait to get over there...baring any deadly disease, of course. :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Case of the Monday's and Marsico

Ah, Monday. It's a day that's dreaded by all. Some are particularly more Monday-esque than others. Today was such a day. You know those days where you wonder, "what else could possibly go wrong?" and then something ELSE does? Welcome to my day.

Beyond being a Monday, there was an added sadness to my day. For the first time in 4 years, I was not on the trip to Kenya but instead was one of the well wishers and prayer supporters that came around the group to pray as they went. It was truly harder than I expected. Maria and I were the first ones there. Oh, my dear Marsico. It would have been our third trip together. We first met at a meeting for the first trip to Kenya. After a bonding trip to Charlottesville to get our much needed shots for Africa, I think we both knew that we were going to have a fun trip to Kenya. What we didn't realize then was how much our personalities would click and that a lifelong friendship was forming. That first trip to Kenya could have been the Sarah and Maria show which had to annoy everyone else around. Really. I mean, we thought we were SO funny ALL the time. A glance back at the videos and pictures from that trip show that we perhaps weren't as funny as we thought we were then. God used that trip to transform the direction of my entire life; He also gave me a lifelong friend that I will always cherish. As we were the first to arrive today, we laughed at the variety of inside jokes that two trips to Kenya have given us. It was only right that the Kenyans going on the trip were an hour and a half late. Before loading into the van, the whole team circled together to pray. Prior to the prayer, the worship leader for the team led everyone in a song. What song, you ask? "How Great Is Our God". You'll need to check out my below post about this song to know why it was this that made tears fill my eyes. My arm around Maria, memories of Kenyan children singing this song floating through my head, I was again reminded the incredible work that God is doing in Africa. As we hugged goodbye, I remembered a conversation that we had the other night. Maria brought up that God has used Africa from the beginning until now to connect our friendship. As His work in our lives continue, this friendship will continue as well. I am so honored that God has put this woman of Him in my life.

God has truly blessed me with the friends that He has put into my life. It is these friends that listen to me dramatically rant about my Monday's, that laugh at my sarcasm, that encourage me when I'm down and sharpen me in my walk with Christ. Saying goodbye to these treasured friends makes me tear up at the thought of it. I bask in the fact that the bond of Christ will never truly part us. Please remind me of this when I'm thousands of miles away from each of them and desperately wishing to hear their voices and feel their hugs. :)

So, to all those treasured friends, THANK YOU! You mean the world to me!

On a totally different non-sentimental note, I was also watching the season finale of 24 while writing this blog. At least this was wasn't some crazy cliffhanger that made you wondering how the next season would start! Whew. Here's to hoping that I can watch the next season in Uganda! :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Running to Stand Still

U2 worded it well when they wrote "running to stand still". No really. That's how I feel. This past couple weeks have been a blur of activity. I can't even remember that many specifics as it's all just flown by. Let's just start with the weekend.

Saturday was commencement. Let's be honest here. I am thrilled that I will, Lord willing, NEVER be working Liberty's commencement service again. With that, I've fully discovered my absolute need for a full weekend. With my Saturday gone, I was exhaaauuusted on Saturday night. I came home in a daze and slept for two hours. Without energy to make a meal, I picked up some food and a movie thus spending my Saturday night singing along to High School Musical 3. Am I too old for this? Perhaps. :)

Sunday was a crazy busy social day! I spoke at a Sunday School at Thomas Road on Sunday morning then went over to the Verstraete household for lunch/taking pictures of cute kids/figuring out how to make a ginger glaze/getting repeatedly wished "Happy Mother's Day!" by a 5 year old/having a blast. My pregnant friend Brooke was in town so I HAD to go see her and that baby belly! It was great to catch up with her and feel little Ryland moving around. After that, I headed over to Amy and Derek's for HOMEMADE RAVIOLI. This is a big deal. Allow me to explain. Amy is Italian and her family makes incredible homemade Italian food for big family events, specifically Palm Sunday. I have casually (incessantly?) suggested that I would want some of this and have hinted (strongly) that it'd be awesome to go home with her for one of these events. All to no avail. Alas, this past Palm Sunday, they saved enough homemade ravioli for me to have some! At last!! It was melt in your mouth delicious and reminded me of when I was in Italy last year. Mmm.

With my weekend being packed, I started off this week exhausted and it's yet to calm down. Luckily, tonight I have NO plans. Here's MY plan:
-Go home.
-Get in sweats.
-Write ALL of my "thank you" cards that I'm ridiculously behind on.
-Make some more support letter envelope deals.
-Clean my room. This would be hours worth of organizing so I'm just hoping to make a small dent.

Most likely, I'll cook dinner which I haven't done in what seems like forever. I've really missed cooking. My basil plant is feeling sorely neglected. After that, I'll tackle my "thank you"cards while watching American Idol. Anything above this will involve me patting myself on the back as I did more than anticipated.

I'm currently toying with the idea of going to New Hampshire in a couple weekends. There's a church to speak at and some good friends to see. There's also cheap tickets! It'll make things a little extra crazy hence my debate. We'll see!

These upcoming days and weeks are all going to fly by and I know it. I'm trying to spend time with as many people as possible. Get as much done as I can. Cherish each and every moment that I can. Sigh. It makes me want to hold onto each day. To freeze time and make every second go slower. At the same time, every single day I have gotten more excited to get over to Uganda! I can't believe that it's all actually happening! That God has given me the honor to go over and be a part of changing Uganda for His sake! That I will be given the privilege to be a part of these hurting kids lives! I can't believe it. God is so good to me!

Friday, May 8, 2009


Wow, so my incredible trend of writing consistently went down in the drain. Dangit. I'll try better. Promise. Let's go back to training week. I flew out to Colorado and spent a week of training at WorldVenture. It was such a great time! We trained from about 8:30-5 each day. I learned so much about WorldVenture as an organization, how things work, what to do, etc. plus so many things that helped me grow personally but also as a missionary. Amazing. It was great to meet all of these people that have helped me so much along the way! It was also incredibly encouraging to hear how exciting the entire staff was about Hope Alive! and the whole field that I'm going to. I kept hearing what an incredible team that is there and it made me THAT much more excited and anxious to meet everyone there!

The one bad thing about training? I woke up the first morning...opened the shades...and saw inches of SNOW. Ridiculous, people. Ri-stinking-diculous.

One of the best parts of being in Colorado was the time that I got to spend with my aunt and uncle! They live about 40 minutes or so away from WorldVenture so I spent both weekends with them. What a blast! The time with them was filled with lots of laughter. Oh, and my oh-so-patient uncle taught me how to drive a manual. With Uganda being a former British colony, they only have manual cars and drive on the other side of the road. Ugh. Knowing that I HAVE to learn, I became my uncle's student. It went better than expected but I have a long way to go. Feel free to add that one to your prayer list. For those that would like to see what I'll be dealing with traffic wise in Kampala, feel free to check this out: 

Make you want to pray for me more? Good. I'm going to need it.

Since coming back from Colorado, I feel like I've been sprinting and getting nowhere. Currently, I'm absolutely exhausted. This weekend will give no break to that. Also, it is at this point that my date that I had intended on leaving will not happen. I expected to be more disappointed but knowing how insane things are right now, I need more time to get everything done. God knew. His timing IS perfect, right? :) I'm hoping to leave SOON still! I have this hope that the last of it will just FLY in and I can go from there. 

Tomorrow is Liberty's commencement. It'll be the last commencement that I've planned and I can't wait to never do it again. :) Tomorrow is also a day full of heart wrenching goodbye's. There will be many at graduation alone. After that, I'll be heading down to Greensboro to meet my dear dear friend Laura. We'll be meeting in the middle to have dinner, catch up, and say our goodbyes. Ugh, I'm tearing up even thinking about it. It's hard enough knowing that I won't meet her little baby boy when he comes in August. Sigh. This is just the beginning of my goodbye's. Whew. This is going to be rough. Life as I've known it for the past seven years is coming to a close. I'm at the edge of a new crazy life!

I have this odd feeling that the whirlwind is just beginning...