Thank You For Being Alive

[Thank You] Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

– Proverbs 27:6 ESV –

I like to consider myself a realist. I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic, but I try to analyze situations and look at what the likely outcome is. I would say sometimes I could do a better job of having faith in God’s sovereignty in a situation (some might call that optimism) and believe more in the work that God has done and will do in people.

Proverbs 25:6 is the kind of verse that encourages people like me to always be sure to rebuke when there’s an opportunity…but maybe that’s not quite what Solomon had in mind.

This isn’t going to be an in-depth word study or exegesis on this topic, but instead, simply a quick look at something I feel God is saying to me today.

I am critical more often than I think I actually should be. As much as wise words of rebuke are worth more than kisses from an enemy, how much better is the encouragement of a friend, especially when you are already down?

Because of my critical nature, I have a hard time encouraging people unless I see them do something that is actually “impressive.” I only give credit where it’s “due.”

What about grace?

I’ve been blessed by God and encouraged by God, not because of anything that I’ve done, but because of what He has done.

Perhaps I should extend that same grace, not only when people fail and need forgiveness, but perhaps it’s a form of grace to give encouragement even when it’s not “warranted.”

Perhaps this world would be a bit of a better place and Christ’s light might shine through me a bit more if I simply approached people happy that they are alive. Everything positive beyond that is just a bonus.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that I’m alive. I’m thankful for the possibilities and the opportunities that I have each day to glorify God and to show Him to others.

I’m thankful you’re alive and I hope you are thankful for that as well.

Thank you for being alive.

Our Story

As it has been difficult to explain our story to the countless people at home who have been asking, my fiancée Lesley and I have decided to write it up. We apologize for the length despite all that we’ve left out. If you want to sleep well tonight…start reading 🙂

My account is written as normal text and Lesley’s account is written in italics.

I had been in Uganda for 9 days and my roommate, Billy, invited me to a game night with the mission organization he came through (Africa Inland Mission). I was opposed to this as there was supposed to be a game night with our leadership team for the ministry. However, this got cancelled and my roommate then coerced me into going…though I was quite reluctant.

It was Saturday and my friend and teammate, Martha, was hosting an AIM game night. I had ran errands all day and it was a particularly hot day…so needless to say, I was in dire need of a shower. It was time for the game night and as I opened up my door I saw 2 guys walk upstairs towards Martha’s apartment (I live on the first floor). I looked at myself in the mirror real quick and figured that there was no one to impress, so I went as is.

Shortly after arriving at the game night, a cute girl walked in and walked right past Billy and me and didn’t introduce herself…which I thought was a bit rude. However, I figured, I was the one imposing on their game night and didn’t think that much of it. But like I said…I thought she was really cute.

I realized that the 2 guys that walked upstairs ahead of me were Billy (who I knew) and this “other” guy who I’d never met and didn’t expect to be there. He was really cute, but I figured that he was someone who was in town for a short while…just another person to say hi and goodbye to…so why bother. He had an incredible smile so when he introduced himself I was distracted and didn’t catch his name. I spent the rest of the night trying to guess his name.

Like Lesley had thought, I was supposed to be leaving for Kabale (a town 2.5 hours away) to work at that house on the following Monday.  On Sunday I went to two different church services, and in each service they prayed for those of us who were single that God would prepare us for and provide us with spouses. This was kinda weird as no one had ever prayed that for me and coming to Uganda was partially surrendering that area of my life and realizing it could screw that up completely.

I knew Carl was helping with worship night and when I walked in and saw him my stomach leapt. I did my best to walk right past him. I was here to be a full time missionary and this guy was going to mess that all up…or just distract me. I had surrendered that part of my life to God’s timing and I figured that this wasn’t it!

We had talked a little bit on Facebook before the worship night and usually when that’s the primary way I talk to someone before talking to them in person, it tends to be quite awkward…but this wasn’t. This caught me off-guard, in a good way, but I wasn’t about to be distracted from ministry…especially this early on. However, it came to Monday and we ended up having to stay at the house in Mbarara (where Lesley was) because there was no electricity at our house yet.

Carl wasn’t leaving…I was shocked at how excited I was when I found that out! We spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday talking via text during the day and Facebook chat in the evenings. I was so excited to meet someone that I truly “clicked” with as fast as we did…I also know that having men as friends isn’t smart…so I had an afternoon where I prayed to let this friendship go…as hard as that would be. I was having fun! 🙂

Thursday night Lesley had a few missionaries over for pizza and a movie. Billy and I jumped on this because we were missing pizza bad. Though…I had ulterior motives. This was another chance to see Lesley and I was really starting to think maybe there would be something there…though I was trying my best not to think that way. Later that night, Billy asked me if I liked Lesley (through Facebook), so I leaned over from the bottom bunk, looked and him and simply shook my head as to say “yes.” Then I decided…for some odd reason…to tell Lesley about the exchange through a text message.

After the movie night, Carl and I are back to texting…I couldn’t get over how sweet and amazing this guy was!  He sent me a text explaining how Billy asked him if he liked me and that he did…and then continued to ramble about something. My response, “you like me :)”

To which I responded, “I do :)”

I very hesitantly typed, “I like you too :)” I knew when I admitted that to Carl and to myself that this friendship would become very different. Friday we had an AIM ice cream social which Carl also attended. I had a hard time looking him in the eyes…those eyes…(sigh). 

Admittedly, the only reason I wanted to go to the ice cream social was to see Lesley. I didn’t care about ice cream or the games, I just wanted to spend more time with her before leaving for Kabale. This girl had a hold on me. As they say here…I was hooked.

Carl left for the ABIDE Kabale house that Saturday…not a happy day. I skyped with my sister later that day and she shared that on the previous Monday she felt the need to pray for my future husband. She has never felt the need to pray specifically for me to find a husband, but that day, she just knew that it was needed.

The ride down to Kabale was incredibly bittersweet. I was very excited to get to the house and begin the program there with the guys, but I was also really not looking forward to what this could have potentially meant for Lesley and me. I didn’t think this was going to be the end, but I knew this would get difficult pretty fast, especially for how early things were. But this is where God had us for a reason, and I found a bit of comfort in that…not much though.

Carl was gone. What did this mean? I had no idea. Was this someone that I was supposed to allow into my life…I had no idea. I knew that every decision made here, has a much bigger impact than on just myself. I had an AIM team who counted on me to be open and honest with them, a teaching ministry to stay focused on, and a life in Africa that I had only just begun (it was my 6th month anniversary the day I met Carl). I was terrified.

The distance, as much as I wouldn’t want to admit it at the time, made all the difference. Where most couples would struggle with not kissing too soon or getting physical, we had no choice but to simply talk through Skype. I learned to love Skype despite how terrible connections would be at times. I had a conversation with Matt, my director and friend, asking for advice. I expected the conversation to be difficult and challenging, but I felt affirmed in everything I had been feeling and thinking. The result of this conversation was a solidifying of my stance, I was “all in.”

It was incredible that no matter how scared or hesitant I was, Carl was not. He insisted that he would be patient with me and that no matter how long it took me to be ok with “us” he would wait. I couldn’t imagine anybody seeing me that way.  Carl expressed viewing me in a way I wished I could see for myself. I had to tell Jill (my AIM mentor whose husband is our team leader). AIM has a “guideline” about missionaries not dating within their first full year in country…which I clearly hadn’t reached. We went for or usual walk on Thursday morning…and I told her flat out, “I like Carl and he likes me…what now?” That conversation led to a second one involving her husband a few days later where they both set up clear expectations and strict boundaries. I felt like a teenager all over again, but I knew that I needed to respect the authority over me and that this was just part of the process. Dating in Uganda was going to look very different. Carl came back into town for 24 hours and we finally got to go on a “date.” We went to the bank, grocery store, Indian restaurant, and coffee shop where we sat side by side, not able to make eye contact or even hold hands. In Uganda PDA means that you are in a very physical relationship and we both didn’t want to project that, knowing that it would not just reflect negatively on ourselves but on the ministries we represented as well.

Getting to go on a date in person was great, but it also marked having one month apart from one another due to conflicting schedules and Lesley traveling to Kenya. To cope, I wrote her four songs in one week. I’ve never done that before…especially with liking the songs! Besides one of them, I wrote each in a day and performed them over Skype for her that same evening. The third song is probably my own favorite of the four. I went to record a “sample” of it for her because there had been a series of crappy events going on and felt like it might help cheer her up a bit. I went to record the video inside but there wasn’t enough light, so I went outside. After noticing the sun was setting and I was on a mountain, I realized this was a great opportunity. I went up the mountain a bit and had my roommate hold the computer while I recorded the first half of this song for her and sent it via video message through Skype.

Sunday, February 10th. It had been a horrible weekend.  A baby had passed away and Martha had just left Uganda for good. I skipped church and per Carl’s encouragement, spent the day praying and praising God for who he is and the promises he has given me and has promised to give all who love him. It was a very emotional day. I got a message from Carl telling me that there was a video message waiting for me on Skype. I logged on and waited, impatiently, for it to load…internet here is so frustrating! I watched as Carl sang me a song, on a mountain, at sunset. The words he sang went straight to my heart. He said, in so many words, how much he loved me…with out saying “I love you” out right. I realized that at this point I had a choice…allow this man to love me and love him back…or something else…that I just didn’t want to think about. I began to cry…pulled out a piece of paper..and wrote Carl a letter letting him know the moment that I fell in love with him. 

Lesley sent me a text while I was in a nighttime fellowship saying there was something she needed to talk about. That’s never a good thing. So I was somewhat anxious to talk to her as soon as possible. It was late and we weren’t Skyping much at the time and were more using the chat feature and she essentially asked me to say, with words, how I felt. I didn’t know what to think and was opposed to the idea of writing it out for the first time I said it and was worried she wouldn’t say it back…but again, I was “all in.” I went on video and told her that I loved her and that I’ve tried to say it in every possible way I could without words (as I had stated in the third song) and explained what loving her meant to me. Then she read me a letter and I couldn’t help but cry. I’ve never felt the way that I felt when she told me that she loved me before in my life. It was…incredible.

Other than family, I had never told a man that I loved him. I nervously read my letter and didn’t look up at Carl until it was finished. I loved him and I was able to admit it aloud.  I was “all in!”

Things changed pretty quickly. This was about three days into the month of seeing one another. Within the time of our schedules not lining up, we Skyped quite often and our conversation had changed from simply being curious to having purpose. From this point on, we knew that this was it. I was given one of my first opportunities since I went to Kabale to be alone on a short walk to a nearby hotel (a refuge of sorts for me when I have free time) and I spent time in conversation with God. I prayed to God and went to say “please don’t let me hurt her and please help me not do anything dumb”  but I couldn’t. I felt such peace. Instead I simply asked God, “what do you want me to do?” and I felt the answer “Love her.” I asked my friend Dan, who would be visiting with Trinity International University, if I could order a “special package” for him to bring over for me. I ordered a ring.

It was crazy to talk about getting engaged, and by crazy, I mean it was like a fantasy. I felt like I was living a story and at any moment I would wake up and realize that this amazing dream doesn’t really happen in real life.  I was at peace with the entire situation. I knew that this man would be my husband one day. The current problem was that I was on my way to Kenya to visit Rift Valley Academy to talk about my placement there as a dorm parent for the 2013-2014 school year. I was so scared that God would want me to stay in Africa another year and have my future with Carl wait. I wanted to allow God to ask me to follow him, no matter the cost…but I was not excited about the price of this decision. I left for Kenya not knowing where my future was going.

There was so much up in the air with details, but I wasn’t worried. God had it.

I had 3 separate meetings with different administrators at the school. I was ready for them to tell me how much I needed to come there and give God another year in Africa…like it was my duty since I was already on the continent…however, each conversation was essentially the same. They all basically said that marriage was also a gift from God and that if this was where God had me right now, I’d be foolish to think that I could fully devote my time to a group of girls who needed me, when part of my heart would always be with Carl. I spent a few days praying about my future in Africa. I was afraid that if I didn’t take advantage of being here, that I might never get this chance again. I eventually came to the same realization that I had over my singleness the previous year…my future was in God’s hands and I would rather have His plan than write one of my own. I could never have imagined meeting a man like Carl and in the same way, I  was sure that my future would be one that I could never imagine…and it would be amazing, whatever it was to be. I decided to go home and begin a life with Carl…and I gave my time in Africa an end date.

Going into this month, I knew that God had it all and it would work out, but I was a bit worried about it working out where I had to go back to school and Lesley would be staying in Kenya. When Lesley told me that she would be going home, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as soon as she told me it would be. She asked when she should go back to the states and I tried to be reasonable and say she could stick around here longer, but she told me there was no point if she was going home. So I looked up my flight number and told her August 1st. This is where we began doing some planning. I had a proposal planned already and simply needed the ring, to meet her parents, and to get her dad’s approval (which I had been told that we had his blessing, so I wasn’t worried).

Shortly after I returned from Kenya, Carl and I were able to spend a weekend in Kampala with the Trinity team as they wrapped up a short-term trip.  It was great after a month apart to get to spend an entire weekend in the same place. When we returned to Mbarara, Carl was told that he didn’t have to leave until Wednesday…which meant we would get to finish out an entire week together!

I had been planning to propose for a while. However, this was contingent on my friend Dan arriving from Trinity, which had now happened. I also needed to get her dad’s permission, which I was able to Skype with him to do so before returning to Kabale. After arriving in Kabale, my plan went into action. I left Mbarara on Wednesday night with Lesley thinking I wouldn’t be back for close to two weeks…little did she know I would be back in four days to ask her to marry me.

After being apart for an entire month, 10 days was going to be easy…or so I thought. By day 3 I was done with the separation and I wanted him to come back. Saturday was especially difficult because he was on a mission project the entire day and out of cell phone range (or so I thought). Also, that night he was “too tired” to Skype with me…even though he was wide awake and texting me around midnight! He always Skyped with me in the past and was never too tired to talk to me, ever! I was not sure what was going on, but I started to think something was up! 

I had actually gone on the mission, but I hadn’t stayed the entire time. Around 3pm on Saturday, I was driven back to the Kabale house and packed up my things so that I could head to town, have dinner, and then take the 8pm bus to Mbarara. I called Lesley during this time as we hadn’t “been able” to text much and I thought calling on the phone might help with not “being able” to talk for much of the rest of the night. After we talked on the phone, I got on the bus and waited a couple of hours before saying we hadn’t gotten back into range but said I was still in the car and unavailable to talk. That night was really difficult because she wasn’t feeling well and, like she had said, was done with the whole separation thing. I came across as a bit insensitive because I knew that I would be seeing her the next day.

The next morning I felt like I had the flu. I had been coughing for about a week now and my body was feeling the stress of it. I skipped church and was debating on whether or not I should go to worship practice that night. I had been asked the day before to help lead the worship for the monthly worship night at a local church. My throat felt like it was on fire and I wasn’t up for making it worse. Carl kept checking in on me, even though he was supposed to be “on a mission” that day, but when I told him that I was sick and not sure about going to worship night he wasn’t too thrilled with me…I got very irritated with him.

Little did Lesley know, she wasn’t going to be singing at the worship night…it was a setup. This was part of the plan because it was a space that had a small role in our story and she wouldn’t ever expect me to be there. I felt terrible lying the day before and I didn’t enjoy trying to convince her to go to a worship practice when she didn’t feel well…but again, I knew she wasn’t going to be singing. I spent the morning freaking out thinking that my whole plan was going to be ruined because she wouldn’t show up. I asked a ton of people to pray, had several others check up on her, paced a lot, prayed a lot, went on facebook a bit and played bejeweled (apparently a new coping mechanism of mine).

I got a phone call from Jill (fellow AIM missionary) who was wondering if I was feeling alright and going to the worship night. Crystal Kehn (the wife of Carl’s director) facebook messaged me (for the first time ever) asking me how I felt and if I was going to the worship night. Andrew (missionary who asked me to do worship) checked in and made sure I was still coming to the worship night…what was going on?!?  Carl was pushing me to go and apparently all of Mbarara was wondering the same thing. I figured that Carl was in town and was going to propose. In an earlier conversation Carl mentioned that he was going to be speaking to Trinity University during one of their chapels and that by the time they speak he would be engaged…I had read in his blog that he was speaking to them this upcoming Wednesday…so him proposing was the only thing that made sense of all this “insanity.” I decided to get Carl to call me…I just had to talk to him and see if I was going crazy.

I was at a local high school, about five minutes away from Lesley, when I called her. I explained what had been going on there and was able to articulate much better as I wasn’t making up lies about my experience, I was just omitting the location of where it was all taking place. I almost slipped up and said “Matt said…” who was in Mbarara but stopped after “Matt…” and then said “called me…” and felt like I had saved it…though I ran over to Matt to tell him what had nearly happened. There was only about an hour left until I would ask her to marry me…that was hard to contain in talking to her over the phone and it was hard to express how much I missed her, knowing I would see her incredibly soon.

After talking to Carl, hearing about his day, I knew that I had lost it! Carl was in Kabale, I was in Mbarara, and we had 6 days left before we would see each other again. I got ready for worship practice and walked to the church. By the time I got there I was sweaty and tired and already feeling like this was a bad idea. I opened the door and saw someone dart behind a curtain. When I walked further into the room I saw a table with candles all over it and Carl standing with a guitar at the front of the room. I stopped walking once I reached the doorway.  

I motioned for her to come to the front of the room, where I was, and said “I want to play a song for you.” As she walked up, she stopped to set her bag and travel mug down and I asked if it made more sense why I wanted her there so bad. When she got to the front and sat down I started playing a song for her called “Waiting Here to Know” which in the final stanza asks, “Lesley, will you marry me?” After playing the song through, I took off the guitar, picked up the ring, got down on one knee and asked “will you marry me?” to which I barely heard a “yes” before getting kissed.

I cried through most of the song. It took all that I had to focus on the words and pay attention to Carl and what was happening. Matt Kehn was taking pictures (the person who darted behind a curtain) and a ring was on the table next to me. When he got down on one knee, I couldn’t take it anymore. The man I loved was in the same room with me, asking me to marry him. I barely whispered, “yes” before kissing him! It wasn’t until after I had hugged him that I remembered I was holding a ring.  

Once she realized she still had the box and took out the ring, I put it on her finger. The worship leader came in and congratulated us and asked if Lesley still wanted to sing, but I said we had other plans. Matt then drove us (our chauffeur) to Katete beach (a waterfall) where we had cheesecake that Matt and his wife made for us (something they have every anniversary) as a tradition to pass on…it also happens to be one of our favorite desserts. After a great time together of enjoying the scenery, smiling at each other a lot, praying together, taking some pictures, and reading through some scripture, we went to the worship night. Best day of my life yet.

Best day so far!

Lazy people watching ads, television, and video-chatting with people while in chairs that are hovering along a specific course in the “company” of thousands of others doing the exact same thing.

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That is an image that Pixar’s “Wall-e” paints for us of the future. 

Sadly, most that saw this didn’t even catch the danger that we face of becoming that society and continued to ignore the many things that we do daily that lead us towards this.

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A Long-Overdue Apology

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[Before diving right into it, I would like to give some background…if you don’t want to read it, I’ll make it clear where the apology starts.]

11 days ago, I saw the movie “Blue Like Jazz,” based off of Donald Miller’s best selling book and adapted into a movie by Don’s efforts and Steve Taylor’s experience.

This movie reminded me of the book that marked a point in my life when I really started to love Jesus.

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Blue Like Jazz: The Movie [A Review]

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“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” – Donald Miller

I had forgotten about the above quote. That is one of the most powerful quotes of the book and the movie and something that we often forget. When people see us loving Jesus, they get a much better idea of what it means to love Jesus and it makes much more sense than just hearing that they should.

This movie blew me away. 

I expected a great movie. Somehow, they surpassed that.

Really, I don’t want to write all that much because I would much rather have you go see the movie.

I will say this much: this movie is going to reach a lot more people than movies such as “Courageous” or “Fireproof” ever did or ever will. Because those are so exclusive and cheesy that they miss the reality. “Blue Like Jazz” captures reality and shows how God makes sense in spite of difficult reality.

Please see this movie so that people that really need to see it can. Tell everyone you know about it.

What are you doing this weekend?

I think I misheard you, because it should have been “I’m going to see Blue Like Jazz” if it wasn’t 🙂

Trust me on this one. I plan on seeing it at least one more time this weekend.

The Face of the Movement Has Fallen…Now What? #KONY2012

It’s been communicated to me that when people think of Uganda or Invisible Children, they think of me as being knowledgable. Because of this, I had dinner with a few friends to give thoughts on the “KONY 2012” video as someone that has been following the work of the organization for the past 7 years. Following this, I went to a class to speak on this topic and to answer questions, especially as I had been Trinity’s contact with Invisible Children from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011.

Right before I went up to talk, I saw a post by Invisible Children on Facebook saying:

Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.  – Ben Keesey, CEO, Invisible Children

After reading this, I received a text from a friend saying, “Absolute worst about Jason Russell,” and I thought it made sense with what I had just read. However, upon getting up to the podium I heard someone say something about “he was caught masturbating in public” and I thought it might be a good idea to quickly search his name on Google.

The results made my heart sink, only momentarily though as I knew this wouldn’t really change anything, this would just add another unnecessary hurdle and stone to throw for critics. I briefly addressed it at the beginning as all had been reading about it and as much seemed to be speculation still, it felt safe to not dwell on it for too long.

After speaking of Invisible Children and connecting my own experience with Ugandan children that I had interacted with to show the reality instead of the abstract idea, I had no plans for the night.

As soon as I got in my car, I started to get really frustrated. I couldn’t believe that this guy that had just been seen by over 80,000,000 people as the face for Invisible Children (especially as a husband and a father of two [one of which had just become “famous” with him]) would go and do something this stupid now that, although presumably unintentional, the media’s attention is on him.

I felt that I should say something online as I know that people see me as someone who is “in the know” about Invisible Children, so I posted a link to Donald Miller’s thoughts (as I really liked his approach; Miller’s Post) and I posted this along with it,

Great words. This is really disappointing but it doesn’t change any of what Invisible Children has been standing for. Kony must be stopped. Don’t let the frailty of humanity stop the pursuit of justice for the oppressed. God help us and let our imperfections sober us and remind us that we NEED you.

I don’t think that my own words penetrated my heart enough. Even in posting this, I was still bitter that Jason would do something even remotely close to this and wondered how he could not realize all that he is jeopardizing the credibility of. So, it seemed right to pray.

When I am deeply frustrated by realizing the fallen state of this world, especially in more than one fresh example, I find it hard to use a calm tone or peaceful words in prayer (this is never directed at God, simply voicing frustration and asking for help/wisdom). I went to start to ask what it was that troubled me and I had to keep stopping myself from using the “f-word,” and instead what ended up coming out was, “What the hell was Jason thinking?” to which I quickly clarified, “He probably wasn’t.”

As I know this place of “not thinking,” all too well, I began to think about my own crap (as Donald Miller puts it). I started to think about the positions of leadership that I’ve been in and others that I have almost been in. In thinking about this, I wondered about if I had received a Youth/Worship pastor position that I had applied for, would I still have made some mistakes that I had made that, if they had been found out, would have likely had me removed from my position?

I wanted to say, “no, I would have had control, this kind of thing never would have happened.” But I decided to be honest with myself and before God and I admitted that I probably still would have done wrong in the ways that I had or in others.

Don’t misunderstand this as justifying whatever may have happened in the case that it was not a literal “loss of his mind,” what I am simply getting at is that we really need to look at ourselves before being so critical of others.

I cannot imagine the kind of humiliation, frustration, pain, regret, and shame that Jason (if now of right mind or if not, once he is) must feel about this.

Within that, I know that if I was in that place, being left alone would not help at all. It would further the sense that, “I’ve screwed everything up.” Which, although he has participated (willfully or not) in producing a hurdle for the organization/movement to face, is not the case. Jason needs love, right now, more than ever.

Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony is still “The Worst.” Regardless of whatever happened, Joseph Kony needs to be stopped. Regardless of whatever happened, we cannot slow down.

Imagine if Hitler had not killed himself (or been poisoned, whichever it was) and the main person speaking out against him and leading others to kill him went and did something like this. Would that have meant that Hitler was no longer an issue or all that had been spoken against was rendered invalid? Of course not!

With all of this said, it seems rational to respond in these four ways:

1. Silence

  • Most of the accusations found in various articles seem to have no solid basis and the actual statements concerning what the police found/thought seem very vague and insufficient to talk about
  • If the accusations are true, that doesn’t mean that we need to spread the news or talk about it at all beyond looking at what this means for the cause or how we should react towards him
  • As a principle for the broader whole of the movement, don’t simply watch a 30-minute film, read several recent articles, formulate and assert opinions and then claim to know all there is to know; do real research before saying anything of weight

2. Reflection

  • Think about the mistakes you’ve made on any level (public or private) and think about what would happen if the worst thing you’ve ever done at your worst point was made public at a massive scale
  • The reality of it is, many of us would lose our jobs, our families, and our friends
  • Invisible Children, as an organization, has set a great example for how to respond in their care for Jason and support in his difficult time

3. Love

  • Regardless of his current mental state, Jason has fought tirelessly for the oppressed for about 8 years now
  • Jason is clearly in a difficult place and needs support
  • Kicking him while he is down in the light of what he is now known for and the suffering that he has dedicated his life to trying to eradicate, is disgusting

4. Perseverance

  • Jason’s personal problem being made public, whether a previously existing issue or an unforeseen trouble, does not change anything
  • Joseph Kony must be stopped, and Jason’s shortcoming serves as a reminder that we are all frail and imperfect and not one of us can do this alone; we need to stand together against evil and above all, we need God

My prayers are with Jason and his family. May God meet them in their time of need.

Continue to stand strong in the midst of injustice no matter how the largest proponents of justice may fail. We are human, we are imperfect. I can’t imagine that Satan would be happy about a generation rising up to seek justice and to fight evil. Is it possible that where good begins to grow, evil attempts to choke it before it is able to develop into a real threat? There is evil in this world, and it seems to find us most often when we try to fight it and don’t just allow it to exist. Get up and fight.

Ephesians 6:12 NIV – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

UGANDA UPDATES!

Check out chomkotravels.wordpress.com to hear about my trip!

I am Returning to Uganda.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 (NIV)

Friends,

In May of 2011, I went to Uganda. This experience left me unsettled. Then I came back and started seminary. The only thing that I wanted to do upon returning to the States, was get back to Uganda as soon as possible. But, for this time in my life, I felt like it was important to wait until it was God’s time for me to go back, even if it meant waiting until after Seminary (2-3 years). However, as usual, I couldn’t see what God had in store. I have been given the opportunity to go back to Uganda with Trinity in from February 29th to March 11th 2012. 

ABIDE (kehnsjam.com/abide) is a Christian leadership training program in Uganda designed to enable youth who have graduated from secondary school to transition into sustainable adulthood on the foundation of Jesus Christ by forming them in Christian faith, character and leadership. They essentially equip the students to be godly leaders in their communities, country (government or otherwise), churches, schools, and so on.

I will be working with ABIDE for the 10 days that I am in Uganda. I will get to experience the ministry through teaching, particpating in community outreach, and being involved in all other aspects of daily life on the compound. I will live life with them and be able to get an idea for if this is something that I could do for a longer period of time. The crazy part about this was that I had said that if I ever went back, I wanted to work with a specific ministry there called ABIDE.

One thing that’s difficult though, is the cost. It will cost around $2,650 for me to go to Uganda. As a seminary student who works part-time to pay for school, I am unable to fund myself to go. It is here that I trust in God to provide and ask that as you are able, that you would help me to go on this trip as a means of God’s provision (your giving is tax exempt). Prayer is incredibly necessary as well, that God would work powerfully and keep us all safe and healthy. If you are able and willing to do both, that is awesome! 

I need to have my funds fully raised by March 23rd and I must have $2000 by February 13th in order to go on the trip.

Please, if you decide to support either in prayer, money, or both; email me  your mailing address so that I will have both your email and mailing address to contact you during and after the trip!

You can visit https://www.formstack.com/forms/tiu_forms-missions_giving_uganda to give through credit card and receive the tax deduction or you can send a check to: 

OCFM
Trinity International University
2065 Half Day Road Deerfield, IL
60015-9963

The check should be written to “TIU” or “Trinity International University” so that it is able to be tax-deductible (If you do this, please include a note saying that it is for me, but do not write my name anywhere on the check).

If you do choose to send a check, you can let me know and I can mail you a response envelope so that you do not have to pay for postage.

This is what I have to look forward to: Pictures of Uganda

Thank you so much!

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Carl Chomko

Lay Me Low

When’s the last time that someone said something that hurt you or accused you of something? How did you react?

Were you mad? Did you want to do something?

Why?

My initial reaction, I’m going to be real with you, tends to be a mixture of hurt and anger.  Especially if it’s not true, I feel the need to correct this misunderstanding or accusation.

Why though?

Why am I so concerned with how someone perceives ME as opposed to who I should be representing?

Pride.

I love Philippians as  Paul gives such a beautiful portrayal of Christ’s humility as well as his own.

Philippians 2:1-11 reads,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who , though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

How can I get mad when someone slanders my name, when Christ humiliated himself not only to becoming the creation in order to save us, but also submitting himself to being murdered as a blasphemer?  The simple answer?  Pride.  The not-so-simple solution?  Humility.

In further thought on this subject I thought about when the last time I got really angry or hurt about injustice in the world, or people suffering real things that are living much more righteous lives than the one that I have led.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (1:21)

That’s such a confusing verse.  How is living Christ?  That sentence sounds grammatically flawed.

To claim that living is Christ, is not making some lofty statement about one’s self, in fact, it’s the opposite.  This verse, to me, embodies the idea of dying to ourselves and our sin and being made alive in Christ.

When you truly have this kind of mindset, and are not worried about yourself, but instead concerned with the cause of Christ and fellowship with believers, you are able to truly live for Christ.

I quote Paul in saying, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brother, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:12-15)

I have not, by any means, reached this point.  I am merely writing you to share my conviction in hopes that the Holy Spirit will speak through my experience with scripture to your experience.

Join me in avoiding defending ourselves when it’s only our names that are at stake and saving our energy for others and for the sake of Christ.

Pray for me, a sinner.

Ugandan Vision Trip

Two faculty, two staff, two Biblical study graduates, two Christian ministries graduates, two current Graduate students.

Two by two we came.

We entered as strangers, foreigners, but we were accepted as family.

The humility and love shown by the Ugandan people was just breathtaking. They truly understand the concept of accepting a foreigner as a neighbor.

Personally, I had my heart broken, not only for the people of Uganda, but for the country itself.  Now, it may seem confusing that my heart was broken for a place that is so much more spiritually rich than we are and truly joyful, but it is not a matter of my heart being broken spiritually (though not all were strong in that area), but in terms of wealth. Wealth is not important, that seems fair to say to some extent, but in this world, clothes, food, and medicine, all have their costs.  Clothes and food may be produced by those who desire them, but most people are unable to make their own medicine.

One of the most painful things I saw was a little girl with malaria. Now, to most of us who don’t really need to worry about malaria, we know it as a disease from mosquitoes that is easily preventable. However, the disease, when not prevented is deadly and fast-acting. The little girl that we had seen with it was unable to even eat and in turn was unable to take the medicine to help. A huge issue with malaria is that in the countries that it is most prevalent, there is not enough food for those that need the medicine, so they are unable to take the preventative medicine and keep it down (this is the case in Zambia). I am not positive that this is the case in Uganda as it is a very fertile land, but here the case may be lacking funding for the medicine itself or preventative objects such as mosquito nets.

My friend Dan and I talked about the realities that we saw. We talked about how we both had been bothered anytime that we saw a commercial showing starving children in terrible conditions and the commercial asking for money. Dan assumed that they either looked for the worst area around or made it look worse than it really was. I’ve believed that they are simply showing things how they are but I’m not a fan of the guilt tactic. The main issue is that the CHURCH needs to be guilted into helping.

As will be seen in my journal entries below, when we visited a village that Trinity supported in building a well we weren’t thanked for it, but instead God was thanked for using us and for providing the funds for us to be able to help. As rich (whether you consider yourself rich or not, chances are, you are compared to most third world countries) Americans, we have been blessed financially and need to help where we are able. Most of the issues in the other countries are simply due to lack of funding, but we care too much about ourselves or having the latest cars, clothes, electronics, whatever to give our money for those that actually need it to live.

To avoid this turning into a guilt-tripping rant, if you would like to hear more, feel free to talk to me (through preferably not through facebook or texting).

I will end with this (my journals will be below this if you are interested): My heart has been broken for the people and country of Uganda and I plan to return, to what capacity, I have no idea. All I know is that God has more for me to do there or to do in me through being there. Someday, I’ll be there again.

Love,

Carl

 

Journals:

May 15-17

These have been an interesting few days so far. Not necessarily in a bad way though, but as we have yet to even unpack or sleep somewhere other than on an airplane. We flew out of O’Hare at 7:30pm on the 15th, arrived in London at 9am (local time), spent the day in the city and then hopped on our plane to Entebbe. The part that also makes it interesting is the lack of bedding and showers. Since the trip has begun (we are about to be in Entebbe at this point), I have slept approximately 4.5 hours and as the two days leading up to the trip had a total of 10 hours of sleep, I’m a little behind.

London was very fun (as the pictures show), but it may have put us in more of a vacation mindset, but I expect that mindset to be broken fairly quickly. Fish and chips make an awesome meal, but I am excited to try the unfamiliar food in Uganda. I’m not completely clear on the plan, but will update as I know. One last thought for now, in terms of long plane rides, British airlines is so much more comfortable and accommodating than American airlines.

Upon arriving in Entebbe, we packed our stuff aboard our drivers’ (Ronald) van and drove to a guest house in Kampala, to shower and get a tiny bit of rest before taking a six hour ride to Ntungamo. It was not the best or most normal shower, but it sure felt great after not having showered since 6:50am on Sunday. We then drove to Ntungamo, and along the way, we stopped at a restaurant for food and did currency exchanging. It is incredibly hot and humid here during the day.

Finally, after a very long van ride, we arrived at Ntungamo. We met Michael, who works for Living Water, for dinner at a Ugandan buffet. The girls stayed in the connected hotel and the guy went to a different nearby hotel. We had an issue at first with them not having as many rooms as we had booked, but it all worked out. I’m currently laying on a mosquito net protected bed in a single “hotel” room with Ugandan news playing in the background. Well, this is my first night in a bed, so I’d like to read and sleep. Goodnight!

May 18

Today we visited the village of which Trinity funded the construction of a well for clean water through Hands of Hope in conjunction with Living Waters. This was a great experience. The school, church, and community were all very appreciative. The thing that impacted me the most and I really appreciated, was the way that the pastor spoke of what God did. He was thankful that God provided through our funds and fundraising efforts and gave all of the glory to Him. This is how it should be as we are simply agents.

After playing with the kids, seeing the well, and hearing several prominent men in the village speak, we were greeted with song and dance by a group of older women and then a group of younger women from the village. Following this, we were blessed with a meal that, for this kind of community, was a feast that had very much time put into it. We then said goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel that the girls were staying in.

We were going to wash up, as it was very hot out, but our driver left while we debriefed what we had seen and experienced. However, in this, an opportunity arose to play music and dance for a bunch of neighborhood kids playing near the restaurant. Although we didn’t get to shower, this was a great experience.

Michael then arrived and we followed him to his house. He has a very nice house and an awesome family. We then had a great night of food and fellowship with one another.

After this, we went back to our respective hotels and were to get to sleep soon after. However, Dan and I went for a short walk. Near the end, we started an important discussion on what our purpose is on this trip. We decided to get sodas and sit outside of the bar and chat. Upon sitting down, a man (who seemed to have had a little too much to drink) asked if he could play Dan’s guitar. Dan approved and got it. It was hard to tell whether it was due to a lack of skill or due to inebriation, but did not seem to know what he was doing, and then asked us to play songs. Dan started playing “Guardian Angel” by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and a crowd gathered, so I went to fetch the cajon (hand drum).

We played for them many songs, secular and worship, switching off whenever our hands hurt too much from the cajon. Eventually our hands were worn out and our voices gone from the several songs that we sang that were far out of our voice ranges and we finished our “show.”

Dan noticed that they had seemed to somehow sense when we did worship songs, such as “How He Loves,” which doesn’t even contain the name of the Lord or any references to God. When we played them, people left, when we played secular songs, people gathered, despite not knowing any of the songs, worship or secular. This was odd, as we did better on the worship songs.

We decided to talk about this more on the following day as it is late.

May 19

This morning, we went for a walk (others ran, and yet others slept). It was very beautiful to walk up the Ugandan mountain and see wildlife and the terrain. It was a great workout too.

After this, we got back to the girls hotel for breakfast. Dan and I continued our conversation and Dan suggested that we step things up and incorporate telling the Gospel into any time that we play music for people because otherwise we were wasting an opportunity to truly show those watching, love. I agreed and was glad that he said something, as I had felt prompting of the Holy Spirit in respect to this directly following our decision to head to bed.

Following this conversation, kids wanted us to play again. My finger was bruised from the night before and swollen, so I did not participate besides playing “Lord, You Are Good,” though the kids were more interested in singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

We then began our drive back to Kampala. About an hour in, we stopped at Juna Amagara’s ABIDE ministry to visit Matt Kehn. This was an awesome experience as Graham, Dr. Washington and Dr. Moulder had not seen him in several years and I had not seen him in approximately 6 years. His ministry is awesome and is well worth checking out, as they definitely need support. We got to have lunch with him and some of his students that he and another few staff members are discipling, which was an awesome experience to see such men of God and to know that the future of the Church of Uganda IS being equipped.

We then made the long journey back to the guest house in Kampala. During this ride we saw Zebras, Antelope, and were able to stop at the equator as we crossed it. When we got back, we had dinner immediately with Onesimus, the archbishop’s chaplain (personal assistant). it was great to hear about his story and his intense past with life in general, and with the Anglican Church as a current member and a former division of the Church due to mainly misunderstandings. Adam Riddel also joined us for dinner, which was great (both the food and his company). Dan, Jon, and I are rooming together tonight, so I need to go have some pillow talk!

May 20

Dan, Jon, and I stayed up till around 2am local time last night, but it was well worth the conversation and we we able to be awake for the very important events of today. Today has been the most monumental of our dates so far, at least in my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved getting to see what Trinity did with the well project, but I wasn’t really a part of it; I loved getting to see Matt’s ministry, but I’m not a part of it; but this, this is where we begin our vision casting and truly start our mission as spies in another land.

This morning, we traveled with Onesimus to the headquarters of the Church of Uganda. Here, we joined leaders of the faith in this country in worship and devotion (the archbishop was not in attendance, but we were to meet his grace at his place of residence afterwards). I don’t know that I have ever been more attentive in participating in a devotional time. We missed the opening hymn(s), but were there for the unpacking of Isaiah 48:12-22, which was wonderful; and we were also there for the first verse and chorus of “It is Well,” a hymn that is both powerful and beautiful, as most are. After this time, we were introduced and then prayed for.

Directly following, we walked out of his grace’s office door and followed a short path to the archbishop’s palace. We sat at the edges of our seats waiting to meet a man that has done so much in his country and also for the Anglican Church, all for the better. He then entered the room laughing, smiling, and greeting us all. This of course removed the tension, although the respect was still very obviously displayed by our team. He then spoke with us for a bit telling us the history of the Church of Uganda as well as telling us a little bit about his experience as archbishop. Following this, Dr. Washington explained our purpose and Dr. Moulder asked several questions.

We then took pictures and boarded our new transportation, a small bus (more spacious than the van, but as we would find out fairly soon, less comfortable for long rides). After about an hour-long ride, we arrived at Uganda Christian University. We met with the Vice Chancellor, who told us of the history while providing a great meal (though I wish I had recognized that one of the entrees was liver and not goat meat, I would have not had that). He then gave us a tour of the campus. I joked with Dan about after finishing my masters at Trinity, that him and I should pursue doctorates at their graduate school and teach seminary and/or undergraduate level classes at the school. Despite the joking nature of that conversation, that my actually be something that I would like to come to perdition.

After this, we boarded the bus for a four-hour long ride to Mbale with no stops. This was not fun as we had finally gotten hit with a wave of tired but it was warm on the bus (and far too windy with the speed we were going to open the windows) and not very comfortable. I can only hope that someone managed to get pictures of all of the odd positions that I tried to sleep in after being woken from my first nap but the sun, sweating. However, there were positives to this ride…okay, singular, positive. We crossed the Nile River, which is pretty cool.

We arrived at the Bishop of Mbale’s home for dinner after this perilous journey for a great meal not lacking in quantity or quality, including mangoes for dessert. We then were briefed on our plans for e week, but besides reading over it quickly, I missed the explanation due to making tea and coffee for people with Dan and also due to how tired and unfocused I was.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel. I have a very nice large room equipped with a bidet (a nonfunctioning one, sadly). It is nice to have somewhere that we will be staying for more than two nights. I have unpacked all of my luggage, and it feels great.

Dan and I played worship for a bit earlier and I started falling asleep while playing guitar, I should probably go to sleep since I have since unpacked and written this long post.

May 21

This update will be lacking in town names as I do not have the itinerary in my possession, but will do my best to not have anything be lost because of it. (Graham later said this was Jawa)

We first went to a little town that we may partner with to hear about their needs. It was a great community and seems like one that would be great for us to help with as they have so little. World Vision is in this town and I was able to see and make friends with a little boy, whose name escapes me after this long day, who has had his cleft palate restored. This was very impacting for me because I know people very close to me that have supported such efforts and this child looked just like the one from the picture that they have. I also made friends with a little boy, whose name also escapes me, who decided to hold my hand the entire time we were the, rub my arm and hand as well as carry my water bottle for me. I wouldn’t mind being either of these kids’ father because if any children have shown me love, it’s been these two.

Sadly, there was a very devastating thing that I witnessed while in this village. A mother was at the healthcare center in town with her baby who has malaria. Just thinking about it and being able to see how used to things like that that they appear to be, makes my heart hurt. After we left, Dan said that Uganda is growing on him and he may be less joking now, I replied saying that I agreed.

After this, we went to visit another campus of UCU and spent the rest of the day with them including lunch, conversation, visiting another campus, and dinner. The way back from the third campus was the most intense as we got stuck in the mud and it was getting dark. All of the men helped out though and all is well.

May 22

Like the last, this update will be lacking in town names. It’s now Sunday, which means preaching time. I was not one of the four that was going to preach, but still got to!

Becky, Dr. Moulder, and I went to the same village for the first service. We were pretty late as we came to a road that we were supposed to tke, but it was very muddy and we didn’t think we’d makeit, so we took a large detour. The first service was short and sweet because we were there so late, but then we drove to a second town (not knowing we were doing two services). This service was very long, so we must have come in right after it started.

After the service, we went to a room in a nearby building to talk and have tea. After a while, we were just sitting there and watching a movie about Jesus’ life, and then some odd worship music videos. I started falling asleep and had no idea why we were still there. It turned out that they were having food made for us and simply did not communicate that. It was great food. However, we were out there from 9pm (we left at 7:30) and we got back at 5pm. I guess we had a workday on the Sabbath?

We had a bit of time to rest and then at 7pm went to the Vicar of St. Peter’s church in Mbale for dinner, which was great. We ended up having an hourlong conversation about circumcision…which was pretty odd, but fit the topic prior.

May 22

Today was great, all in all. Things didn’t all go my way, but things went well and I found myself actively choosing God in quite a few situations, and that helped a lot. We visited a couple of schools today, which was great, as was visiting a waterfall. However, the big part of today was my realization that I will probably be in Uganda again for some form of missions for some amount of time. However, that’s the amount of clarity that I have on that subject.

I need to get up in 6ish hours and think I lost my camera and am really frustrated with myself about that, so I’m going to go to sleep. Sorry this isn’t more in depth.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

May 23

Visited two high schools (one super poor and one doing alright)

Meeting with the bishop of mbales office

(This was a debriefing meeting, I did not take any real notes about this day or the days after, but if you would like to hear more, feel free to contact me)

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