Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Passing by Crazyville!

I headed into the Christmas season saying that this year things were going to be different. I wasn't going to get all crazy and busy and hectic and fly right through Christmas. While this was my goal, yesterday I realized that I was headed straight into Crazyville!
I am kinda embarrassed to admit this, but yesterday I actually was sitting in my car thinking that I needed to write a Drive Thru Rule Book. Oh, yes I did!
I had a deadline looming over my head and I was on my way home and stopped to get a quick bite. The restuarant was crazy busy with the drive thru line wrapped around the building. As I sat waiting for my turn to order, I noticed that someone up ahead was causing a delay. And then I started thinking that I needed a rule book to hand them so they would not cause anyone else's blood pressure to sky rocket. Here are a few of my rules:
  1. Always looks straight ahead
  2. Never talk on your phone if its going to distract you from looking straight ahead
  3. Get your money or card out while continuing to look straight ahead
  4. The drive thru line is not the time to clean out your back seat, unless you can do it while LOOKING STRAIGHT AHEAD!

Were you able to pick up on the theme of the rule book?

Luckily I was able to get back to reality before I set up camp in Crazyville because no one wants to spend Christmas in Crazyville.

Do you know what happens in Crazyville on Christmas?

Well, the mayor of Crazyville gets you busy doing all this stuff that really isn't important only at the time you are doing it all it seems like the welfare of Crazyville hinges on you doing all this stuff. And then you wake up on December 26th and you realize that you missed it. You actually missed Christmas.

Oh sure, you were physically present for the events, but in your heart you totally missed the meaning of the day which is JESUS! And unfortunately, that is the mayor of Crazyville's whole goal. He wants to get you so distracted that you don't focus your heart on Jesus because he knows that life, hope, forgiveness, love, freedom, redemption, peace and joy are found in Jesus!

Oh Jesus, thank you for leaving the glory of Heaven and wrapping yourself in human flesh. Thank you for being born of a virgin to ultimately hang on a cross to pay the price for my sins. Thank you for offering me life and for pursuing me. Help me to focus my heart on You alone! Praise your Holy Name!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Maybe I'll Try Out for the Circus...

This week has been a juggling act for me. I had gotten really good at it until today and for some reason when that extra ball went into the air, well I just felt like everything was about to come tubbling down!

Do you have days like this?

You know, the kind of day where sitting in the floor crying seems like the most logical thing to do!

Yes, yes that was my day today.

As I was on my way to fulfill my volunteer duties at my children's school, I grabbed my cell phone to call my husband. I reasoned since I felt overwhelmed he should at least know about it. He answered the phone and without me saying a word said "Can I call you right back?" Which is code for "I have a customer in my office and I can't talk right now."

As I hung up the phone, I knew in my heart that God had planned it that way to teach me a valuable lesson. My first response shouldn't be to call my husband, mom, sister, girl friends or anyone else that will listen. No, my first response should be to cry out to the One that can actually help me.

Today I needed to be reminded that while I may feel overwhelmed at times, God NEVER feels overwhelmed.

I love back in Exodus 3 when Moses is talking with God and he says to God "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

And God's response is so awesome! "God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.' "

I really am trying to contain myself from shouting because I am so excited! (It's late and everyone in my house is sleeping!)

Do you know what God was saying here to Moses and that He is saying to us today? Basically He is saying that whatever we need, well He's that!

You need healing...I AM the Healer!
You need forgiveness...I AM the Forgiver!
You need peace...I AM Peace!
You need comfort...I AM the Comfortor!
You need love...I AM the Lover of Your Soul!
You need victory...I AM the Victor!
You need freedom...I AM the Freedom Giver!

You need ? ........ I AM!

Rest in knowing that there is not a need, circumstance or situation that can arise in your life that God can not meet. Oh, how He loves us!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Heart Like His

Last night we had the opportunity to share with some of our friends about our trip to Africa. We shared our pictures and videos and told some of our favorite moments. Tears were shed because neither one of us can really talk about Africa without crying.

Before we left, my friend said to me that I looked so happy in all the pictures. And I was! I shared with her that none of the pressures that we face here are really prevalent there. I took four outfits and was gone ten days. (Yes, I washed my clothes) I wore the same outfit on the plane ride there and then also on the plane ride home. So I had three skirts to wear the rest of the time. There was no standing in front of the closet stressing over what to wear.

I also went all nat-ur-el with my hair. I have very curly hair that I flat iron every day. I had let my hair grow out preparing for my trip so I could keep it pulled back. I did not have a hair dryer, hair gel, mousse or hair spray. My pony tail plan did not work out because my hair looked all crazy. So, I would go to bed with a wet head and wake up in the morning and just have to go with it. And you know what the kids loved my hair. It was wild and crazy and they loved to touch it and I loved for them to touch it!

I did wear a little makeup because as my childhood pastor used to say "every old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint." And I'll just be honest and say that I do feel better with a little blush and mascara. What can I say, I am my mother's child!

My happiness, that was evident in the pictures, was not because of what I looked like on the outside but rather what was shinning on the inside. As Beth Moore likes to say, "there is no high like The Most High!" James 1:27 says that pure religion is caring for the widows and orphans and keeping oneself clean from the world. I have never felt closer to the Lord than when I was in Africa because I knew I was doing the will of the Father.

I want to encourage you that are reading this to busy yourself doing the will of the Father. We as the church, the bride of Christ, have the priviledge and responsiblilty to care for the orphans in our world. No matter what you do to care for them, the blessing you receive far out weighs any effort you put into it.

God has sealed Africa in our hearts. Not a day goes by that I don't think about those sweet babies and all the other wonderful people we met. We love it and can't wait to go back. We want to go back next summer and take our children. Please join us in praying that God will provide the funds we need to be able to return. I know nothing is impossible for my God!

Couldn't you just eat this sweet baby with a spoon!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tiny Dancer

Tonight we enjoyed a lazy evening at home watching videos from Africa. To say we miss it is an understatement. We had several people warn us that once you go, all you think about is going back. We want to go back this summer and take our children. Max is already thinking about which type of ball would be best to take to play with the kids. And Amelia and I have talked about all the fingernails we could paint.

I wanted to share a video with you that will make you smile. We call him the tiny dancer and if possible, he was even more adorable in person.

I just love how he comes out of the circle to be the center of the show again! When he runs off, he is running over to Cliff to see his picture. He would just giggle when he saw himself on the camera. It doesn't matter what continent they are on, children are all the same. They just want to be loved and have some fun!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

He'll Move Mountains

I have been in awe of God this weekend!

I was reminded of the lengths He will go to for us, to show His love for us.

This weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a women's Christmas dinner. The day before I was to speak, God completely changed what I was going to share. I felt that He was leading me to share part of my testimony.

I was hesitant because I was speaking at a Christmas dinner and my testimony really didn't have anything to do with Christmas. And since this was a last minute change, I did not feel as prepared as I like. But I have learned that it is always best to go with God. I hate to admit that I learned that one the hard way.

Still apprehensive about how it would be received, I opened my daily devotional about thirty minutes before I was to leave. The very first line of my devotional for the day was "Leave the outcome to Me."

I paused and said, "Yes Sir!"

After I spoke, I learned why God changed everything. There was a lady at the dinner that's testimony was almost identical to mine. The only difference is that she has not yet experienced freedom from her life of defeat. I did not meet her or get to talk with her but I was amazed at the lengths God went to to speak to her.

I was also amazed that He allowed me to be a part of it all. He loves us more than we can comprehend and He desires a relationship with us. God did not create us to be in bondage to sin. God created us to live a life of freedom in Christ. And if He has to change a speaker's message or rearrange a few things...well that is just what He will do to set someone free.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Colliding Worlds

You may not be able to see it in this picture, but these two little girls are holding a piece of my heart. I did not get it back when I had to say good-bye. This is my sweet little Brenda and the precious girl in the red dress. We never could understand her name but I know God knows her by name and He knows exactly who I am praying for when I refer to her as the sweet girl in the red dress. I was able to hug her and tell her good-bye. I fought hard to choke back the tears. I did not get to tell Brenda good-bye and I believe that God knew that I would not be able to let her go. And I feel very certain that I have not seen her for the last time. In fact, all I do is think about going back to see her.

I shared that my trip experience and my world here at home had not collided. They are starting to collide and I know that my purpose for going on a trip to Africa was more than me just seeing poverty first hand. And I think my purpose may have something to do with this...

This is Brenda's foot and she did not have any shoes. And unfortunately, she was not the only child without shoes. They do not have lush green grass to walk on. They are walking on rocky, red dirt roads. They also get parasites in their feet called jiggers.

I think I can do something about this...

I think I have to!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday in Africa

This time last week, I woke up to this. Isn't it breathtaking! This is the view from Royal School and Orphanage. The school sits a top a mountain and it had been described to us a piece of heaven.

The ugliness of poverty can not fade the beauty of God's creation. God really showed out when He created Africa. Every where we looked shouted of the greatness of God!

Every morning the students line up for Morning Glory. They sang a little and then the older students were dismissed for worship. The boys wear blue shirts and the girls wear red. Cliff said he sure wished someone had told him that bit of info while he was there. (Ha!)

The boys were great on the drums!

And these girls did an amazing job leading us in worship!

And this is the 2012 choir that will be touring in the U.S. beginning in January. I'm not sure if they are coming to our area this year, but I would encourage you to go check the Pennies for Posho website to get their schedule. They sang several songs for us and they were great. I can't wait for them to get here.

At the bottom of the hill before you get to Royal sits another orphanage called Morning Star. They are really struggling and several of our team members went for a visit. Our team also took them posho and sugar. The bare bottom you see above is a very common site. In fact, it is rare if you see a baby or toddler with underwear. I held many a baby with a naked bottom and was never once wet on. Others on our team were not so lucky. Some mothers had scarves that they wrapped around the baby's bottom when they handed it to you to hold.

This is a picture of the boys dorm. They have at least three children sleeping in each bed. The conditions were pitiful...

...but when these children opened their mouths to praise God, you knew you were in the presense of hearts that knew the meaning of worship. The sound was more than a sweet melody, it was angelic!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Relaxing Day in Africa

We started the day by visiting with Katie Davis. She is the author of Kisses from Katie. I would highly recommend this book. She is a 22 year old girl that grew up near Nashville. She left her American life to move to Uganda. She is now the mom to 13 girls and God is using her powerfully in Uganda. We were amazed to learn that she lives just down the street from where we were staying. She was very gracious to allow us come for an early morning visit. (She is the one in the white jacket on the right. )

This sweet little girl and her family was staying at Arise Africa with us. Her family has been there for 6 weeks adopting a little girl. This sweet little one has treated this chicken like a dog carrying it everywhere. Her mom said the chicken slept in their window seal. We think the chicken might realize that its gonna be dinner once she leaves! I even got up the nerve to hold the chicken.

This is a picture of our group on our last morning at Arise Africa. We really had a great group!

We went to "the market" this morning to get a taste of life in Uganda. This was a common sight. They tried to get this mazunga to buy a chicken but I passed.

Anyone care for some goat? Or at least that is what we think it is! Their meat just hangs out with nothing to keep the flies away.

After leaving the market we did a little more shopping in Jinja and then we headed to Bujagali Falls. It was so beautiful! The falls are a part of the Nile River and unfortunately are going away in a few weeks due to the reworking of the dam.

Oh, how precious!

After leaving the falls we drove for a couple hours to get to the Royal School and Orphanage. The school was described to us as a little piece of heaven. It sits atop a mountain and the scenary is absolutely gorgeous! It was lightly raining and the kids were waiting outside for us. They greeted us with singing and dancing. I was very humbled by these sweet children!

They were so cold but kept on smiling and singing! They were so excited to see Pastor Ted (aka Big Daddy).

Pastor Ted got all of us! He brought out a plate of fried grasshoppers and said that the team was going to show how much they loved them by eating grasshoppers. This is a picture of Cliff I snapped as he was enjoying his grasshopper. I ate one, too. I had some little boys watching me to see what I was going to do so I had no choice but to eat it. It wasn't as bad as you might think, but it is definitely not something that I want to eat again. To them, the grasshoppers are a real treat and very delicious.

I'll post more pictures from Royal School tomorrow.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

We're Home!

We arrived back in Atlanta Saturday at around 3:00. When our plane touched down, we all started clapping. Our trip through customs was very uneventful which we were very thankful about. And out of all of our luggage and tubs, our whole team was only missing two things. They were still back in Africa.

After my last post, we were without Internet. It is very common in Africa for the power to go out. Arise Africa, where we were staying, had a generator but if the power was out there was no Internet. In fact, I only remember having one hot shower while I was in Africa. The rest were ice cold due to the power being out. But again, once you've seen the things we had seen, a cold shower was nothing to complain about.

Anyway, I wanted to pick up and take you through the rest of our week. My last post contained pictures from Tuesday, so I want to pick up with Wednesday. On this day, we went to Tal-laga Church and School. This Church and School is sponsored by Tal-lage Baptist Church here in Georgia. The church raised money and built the building on the left in the picture below. The Preacher's wife and another church member from this church were on our team. They brought money from the church to buy a cow for the school.

These girls danced for us and they were wonderful. They were the only school that had skirts like this. You can't really tell in the picture, but they also had some type of animal skin tied around their waist.
This is a typical sight...children taking care of children. We usually saw them tied to their backs.

This is inside the girl's dorm. There were one set of bunk beds. Each bed had at least two children in it and then others would sleep on the floor.

This is where the teachers sleep. There were no mattresses, just mats on the floor with their clothes piled on top. The floor was dirt. Cliff and I walked down this dirt road for 20 minutes to deliver posho and sugar to a family.
This is the woman we delivered the food to. She is a grandmother. Her daughter and grand-daughter live with her. The only thing they have to eat is potatoes. Potatoes for breakfast, potatoes for lunch and potatoes for dinner. She was very thrilled to get the posho and sugar.

While the living conditions for most of the people are horrible, the scenary around them is beautiful. Everything is very green with a backdrop of mountains. Africa is a beautiful country!

I will post more later!

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Day In The Bush

Today we rode for three hours into the bush to arrive at this school. We can not even explain to you the condition of the rodes here. We travel in a bus which you can see in the picture below. We were on a dirt road for several miles and then Moses, the Pastor that travels with us, tells the driver to turn left. I am not kidding you when I say that it was a path in the woods. Amazingly the bus driver got us to the village. You can see the school in the picture above. It is the structure with the grass roofs.

Here is Cliff playing frisbee with some of the village children. They will repeat everything you say. You can say get in a line and they will repeat it perfectly. We got them to say "bye y'all" today which was hillarious in their heavy accents. It is truly amazing how fast they catch on. They learned to throw the frisbee in no time.
Oh yes, you now need to refer to Cliff as Preacher Cliff. This is him delivering a word to the people with his interpreter Sarah. Pastor Ted as a joke said "and now Cliff Wilson from Newnan would like to share a word with you." The villagers all starting clapping and Cliff got up and spoke. He did great!
These are some of the women in the village. I love to take their picture and then show them. They just laugh!
Sweet, precious children!

This is sweet precious Brenda's hand that I held yesterday. I would have brought her home in a second.

Today we had a great day! We were so deep in the bush and it was gorgeous. Cliff and I keep saying to each other "Can you believe where we are!" Only God, Only God! No matter where we go the children are always amazing and loving. They are amazed at us white people. It is hilarious how they want to touch us and when they do they just giggle. We go to another orphanage tomorrow. It never gets easier to see but the love of Jesus gets us strength to go.

Thank you all for the comments. They are very encouraging to us. Keep praying for us. We love y'all!

M and A - we love and miss you so much!!!

Cliff and Laurie

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Day in Africa

This was at a well where we stopped to pump water for people.

My friend in the red dress and my make shift nail salon!

You would not believe the number of children dressed like this or worse. Today we saw lots of children with no clothes.

Pastor Timothy's Church on the island. This is the place that does not have an orphanage.

The truck in the picture is loaded with the posho and sugar. This is the food that Pennies for Posho purchases each quarter to feed the children.

Don't you just love their smiles. Most of the children have never had their picture made or probably seen themselves. They loved when we turned our cameras around and they could see themselves. They all just giggle.

Boys on the island. They dry fish on those nets to boil and add to posho.

We are having a difficult time with the internet here but we wanted to share a couple of pictures. I can not upload pictures from my camera so we are just adding a few that we took with the bloggie camera.

M and A - We talk about you to everyone. We miss you terribly bad. A - I painted fingernails for hours today and I was thinking about you the whole time. I needed you here to help me. M - I met lots of boys your age today and told them about you. I wish you were here to play ball with the boys. We wish you were both here. We love you very much!

Today was my hardest day yet as far as having to tell the children goodbye. I can not even begin to put into words the images we are seeing. Yesterday we took a 20 minute boat ride to get to the island to visit a church. They were the poorest children we have seen. There is no orphanage in this area so these were the children that just have to sleep where ever. Pennies for Posho is making plans to build an orphanage there. No one had on clothes that did not have rips or holes. Most did not have shoes and if they had them they were very worn. The smells were overwhelming. Because they were on the water, it was very fishy smelling and then added to that is body odor. Most have never had a bath. Let that sink in for a minute. I had to take a cold shower this morning and the water went out during it but I would not complain because to the people I have been meeting a cold shower is very much a luxury.

We walked for a long time to make our home visit. Each day we go to an orphanage we also make home visits and give the families 5 pounds of sugar and 5 pounds of posho. We walked mostly uphill through a corn field to get to the homes. When we arrived, their homes were mud huts. No electricity. No running water. No bathrooms. About thirty people lived in this community of mud huts. They brought us out chairs and then they sat on the floor. They were so appreciative of the food. It was very humbling.

Today we rode for close to 3 hours to get to the orphanage and church. We were very close to the Kenya border. The children were singing and clapping as our bus drove up. They are amazed by our white skin and immediately want to touch us. I grabbed hands with one little girl in a red dress. She had a smooth bald head. She told the interpreter that she was 4 years old, but she was tall for her age. She was beautiful. Her smile would melt you in seconds. She stayed with me for most of the time and sat in my lap for a long time. Then another little girl came and sat in my lap. Her name was Brenda and she was 5 years old. She was tiny and did not have any shoes. She stayed with me most of the time. She sat in my lap along with my other friend in the red dress. We never could understand her name. Brenda got so comfortable that she laid back on me and rested her face on my upper arm. She then began to rub the rest of my arm.

I wanted to take her with me. Her face was as black as night and she had big brown eyes. Because of her poor nutrition the whites of her eyes were not really white. I painted her fingernails, along with hundreds of other children's. I cried when I had to leave her. That is what made today so hard for me. I have not had that connection with any other child...just Brenda.

Most of the people where we have been visiting live in mud huts. They draw their water from a community well. They do not have any electricity. You would not believe the conditions. The pictures you see on tv that you have to change the channel because they are too hard to look at, well they are real. And I just have to praise Jesus because when the bus doors open and you greet the people a love that is only Jesus just flows. I can almost feel His strength coming out of me. I think that will be the thing I miss the most about Africa. Jesus had healed my stomach and taken my issues with the smells away.

Today when I was painting fingernails, I was pouring sweat because the children were just pressed in on me. I am sure they smelled but I did not smell them. I just loved on them through a bottle of blue nailpolish. Even the boys got their nails painted they just love the attention. And you would not believe the excitement when we bring out the sweeties (candy). Each child only gets one smartie or one dum dum sucker and they are beyond thrilled. For some it is the first sweetie they have ever tasted. And for most of them it will be the last they get until another mission team comes.

Cliff and I said when we come back, yes I typed WHEN, we will bring a suitcase full of candy and shoes. Keep Praying!

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