Thursday, May 31, 2012

a (happy) change in plans.

We got an email from Autumn yesterday sharing that we will no longer be going to Amazima during our time in Uganda. I want to challenge my other team members to see this as a blessing! The reason we're not going to Amazima is because they don't need us! The ministry itself focuses on empowering the people of Uganda to serve their own community and, because the community has become so involved over the past few years, hosting large groups has become more of a hindrance than a help. How awesome is that! Now we can spend the time that was allotted for Amazima to help orphanages who actually DO need us!

There are many people who sign up for trips to Uganda because they want to meet the founder of Amazima: Katie Davis. Though I think it is wonderful that God has used her to shine His light on Africa, it's incredibly important to remember that these trips are about serving Jesus and doing what He commands in James 1:27 [" visit orphans and widows in their distress..."].

He calls us to be His hands and feet. That is why we go on mission trips like this. It's not about us. It's never about us. It is always about Him and being His servant.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This morning I was feeling really anxious about coming up with the full amount for the trip to Uganda. Logically, I know that all anxiety is unnecessary anxiety since God's got it all in His hands, but sometimes that logic takes a little time to travel to the heart. Especially in my case. I've got until August to come up with the majority of the funds, so why am I worrying about it now? I texted one of my sweet friends and asked her to give me some good verses about God's provision. She sent me the following:
Philippians 4:19 - "God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Malachi 3:10 - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."

Genesis 22:14 - "Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh [The Lord Will Provide], as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'"
And so, in the middle of my work day, I laid down my head on my desk and prayed these verses. I prayed that God would take away my anxiety about these finances and that He would provide the funds needed to help me get to Uganda.

Fast forward just three hours later. I was walking back to my office from one of my patient's rooms when a friend stopped me and asked if I still needed money for the trip... and then she told me that she would like to give this month's tithe toward it.

I am absolutely floored by God's provision. And I am astounded at my friend's generosity. I am incredibly thankful. And in giving thanks to God, I heard Him tell me not to worry - as always, He will continue to provide. My job is to listen and to trust.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

learning through experience.

You will probably hear me say this a lot in the next few months, but it's true: I cannot stop dreaming about Africa. It's like my heart is already there. However, I am praying that God will help me focus on the day that is in front of me - I know that the time between now and then is when He will do a lot of work in me to help me prepare for the trip and for whatever is ahead. It's all just so exciting!! I've been dreaming of this trip for the past five years and now it is finally happening! God is stretching me and challenging me in so many ways, and I'm actually enjoying it, even though sometimes it can be a bit painful.

Today's devotion talks about how the true meaning of mercy cannot be taught, as it must be learned through action and experience - see Matthew 9:10-13. I'm always telling God, "I want to be more [patient, forgiving, honest, loving, etc], but I need You to tell me the steps on how to do it!!" When it comes to most things, I'd say that I learn best through lists and bullet points. But... that's not how God teaches us. He prefers to teach through experience so that we really and truly understand. Many people have asked me why I'm going to Uganda. My response is that I want to love and serve and give - and that's the truth. But I'm also going so that I can learn how to really do those things in every circumstance.

I think I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

Friday, May 25, 2012

a fundraising update.

Well, I'd say that fundraising for the trip is going great! Just yesterday, I reached $1,130 - I'm a third of the way toward my goal of $3,500! Thank you so much (again!) to all who have contributed so far and to all who are going to contribute. It's amazing to see how many people believe in the purpose of this trip.

Do you want to know about another way to contribute? I got an email from Visiting Orphans today letting me know that a portion of the sale of VO merchandise can be preferenced to me as well. Go to the VO store and check out the jewelry and apparel that they have for sale. Then, at check-out, select "Yes, I would like to donate to a team member", select the trip "Uganda - October 2012" and put my name in.

One of the items that you can buy online at the VO store are necklaces made at several VO ministry partners in Uganda. Each bead is made from strips of paper that are then dipped in glue to hold them together. Every time VO sends a team over to Jinja, the team buys more of these necklaces from the women and children who make them, and they bring back more of these necklaces to sell in various places around Nashville. I have a few of these necklaces myself, and I absolutely love them. They are beautiful works of art, and it is great to know that so much of the money goes directly to the people who make them. Because of these necklaces, many women and children in this program have been able to do honest work, build up their savings, and get their families out of poverty. It's incredible, when you think about it! When you buy a necklace from the VO site, $8 goes towards my trip, some goes to VO for general fundraising, and the remainder of the money goes to the women and children who made them. It's a great way to give, no matter how you look at it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

a mini-benefit.

Courtney and I have decided to join together to have a little benefit here in Nashville so that we can raise money for our trip. Courtney has a friend, Sehal, who moved here from Iran and is willing to share her story at an informal "Dessert and Discussion" type of event that we'll have at Courtney's house. My lovely friend Erin has agreed to lead worship before Sehal speaks - she is amazingly talented and we are blessed that she has agreed to help us out! My main role will be to make the desserts for the evening, and thanks to Pinterest, I've got quite a few ideas up my sleeve! Hopefully a lot of our friends will come to show their support, and we'll have Acacia necklaces there in case anyone wants to buy them (Visiting Orphans has a program where we buy them for $10 a piece and sell them for $20 - the extra $10 goes toward the seller's trip). When we've got the date confirmed, I'll let you all know! It'll be a lot of fun and really great fellowship!

Monday, May 21, 2012

truth by Beuchner.

"The place God calls us to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." - Frederick Beuchner

Sunday, May 20, 2012

story time.

I had the most encouraging conversation today with Autumn and Courtney. Autumn is the executive director of Visiting Orphans and she is in the midst of adopting her son from Ethiopia. Courtney is a nurse in the same unit as me, and she went to Uganda in April - she loved it so much that she's going back in October with me! If you don't already know their stories, click on the links above and take the time to read their blogs. Both stories have God's fingerprints all over them! Autumn and Courtney are also just all-around amazing people, and I feel blessed to have gotten to spend time with them today. It was truly a gift!

my heart.

I desire to be a mother. I desire to have biological children and adopted children and foster children. I picture myself in however many years living in a big farmhouse with lots of kids and dogs running around. It's hard for me to not have this dream come to pass. It's hard for me to sit and wait and pray. I am so American, aren't I? I want what I want when I want it, and I want it RIGHT NOW!! I am sure God is just looking down on me, laughing as I write this.

God has put many people in my life, especially as of late, who have some connection to adoption. And as I hear their stories and continue to prepare for this trip, my heart to adopt grows bigger and bigger. The main obstacle for me is financial. And one on hand, I know that God would provide in some miraculous way if I were to start the adoption process now, six months from now, a year from now. All of my Christian friends and spiritual counsel who I have talked to about this agree. That's what faith is about: believing that God will meet you where you're at and provide for your needs. However, my family is on the other end of the spectrum. They know more about my financial situation, and they do not think adopting anytime soon is a good idea at all. I know that I could not do something this huge without their help in some way - whether it's emotional support, financial support, physical support, etc etc. Sigh. The trouble lies in that my friends understand more about my faith and my family understands more about the obstacles that would be in my way.

I am praying that, if God's will is for me to begin this process now, as a single woman who has a job as a medical social worker, that He would change the hearts of my family members. I also pray that He would open whatever doors need to be opened so that together we can make this happen. Would you pray with me?

Friday, May 18, 2012

a confession.

It's 10pm and I just got home from babysitting after a long day at work. I'm cuddled up with my very best friend - my dog, Claire - and I'm reading Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis. For those of you who don't know, Katie is a 23-year-old girl who was raised in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood. She left her home after high school, moved to Uganda, and started Amazima Ministries. We'll be spending some time at Amazima on our trip, so I thought it would be a good idea to learn about this ministry beforehand by reading Katie's book.

In the first chapter, Katie talks about how, on one hand, God blinded her from the sickness and disease in Jinja so that she could wholeheartedly love on these children. Now here is my confession: I'm terribly afraid of sickness in every way, shape, and form. Go ahead and laugh! I have to admit that it is quite ironic - for starters, I work at a children's hospital in Nashville and am around germs every single day. Secondly, I'm going to a third world country to love on these wonderful children who are exposed to all sorts of things because they don't have the medicine to treat them.

I haven't really thought about it before, but now that I am, it makes me laugh at the irony of it all! God has a sense of humor, putting me in situations that have me confronting my fears head on! But I realized: though I am still fearful at times of contracting some awful unknown disease (even here in the United States!), God has enabled me to do my job at the hospital without me giving my fear a second thought. And you know what? I'm confident that He will do the same while I'm in Jinja.

He's God. And He's got this.

from cold tangerines.

I'm currently in the middle of reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, and the essay that I read today is called "Broken Bottles". Incidentally, it is about her trip to Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia. Here's an excerpt that I wanted to share with you:
Africa is nothing if not evocative. It's a place of such unimaginable beauty and dignity and expanse and possibility, and such unfathomable suffering and despair and disease and decay. It is at once so alive and so wracked by death, so powerful in its landscape and physicality, and so powerless under the weight of famine and political upheaval and disease... Even now, four years later, I'm still piecing together what happened in me and what was happening around me in those cities and villages... You will see things and hear things, and then you will be responsible for them, for telling the truth about who you are and who you discover you are not, and for finding a way to make it right... Once you see something, you can't un-see it... There is hope for Africa, and there is hope for me, and for my neighborhood, for the shards of broken bottles that puncture and divide us all.
Wow. Two things are for certain: (1) God is going to work in amazing ways on this trip, and (2) it will be life-changing.

getting to know the team.

I am so impressed with the leaders of our trip! It is amazing how they are so on top of things - which is something that this Type A girl loves! They have created a Facebook group so that we can all get to know each other, and I've been checking out the other team members' profiles to soak up whatever information I can, since we'll be spending two weeks in Jinja together - I realize that this sounds kind of stalkerish, but it's done with the best of intentions, I promise! Anyway, a few of us have decided to do Kelly Minter's bible study on the book of Nehemiah to prepare for the trip, and after looking it over, I'm extremely excited to dive right in!

I forgot to mention that my darling friend Courtney has decided to come on this trip with me! She just got back from Uganda and Ethiopia a few weeks ago and she absolutely fell in love with these kiddos, so she's heading back! We had talked about going on a trip together about a year ago, and I have to say that I never thought I'd be going on one so soon. God works in wonderful ways, doesn't He?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

let's start at the beginning.

Hi everyone! I'm Lauren. I'm 27-years-old, and I'm preparing for a missions trip to Uganda. God laid the children of this country on my heart five years ago, while I was living in Denver. For many reasons - and a thousand stories later - this trip did not come to fruition until now. I'm going with Visiting Orphans - an organization that I heard about through my wonderful friends Casi and Amanda who are very blessed to be working in their Nashville office. The purpose of this missions trip is to love on the sweet children who are in the orphanages and hospitals of Jinja. I absolutely cannot wait!