A different kind of Valentine’s Day

IMG_20140214_092651I was in the 8th grade when I had my first Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend. His name was Ben, and we were on our second-round of being girlfriend and boyfriend.

“Check your mailbox,” Ben said when I answered the phone.

“Why?” I asked.

“Just do it!” he said, and hung up the phone.

I walked out to the mailbox and opened it up. Inside was a rose, a card, and a small box. The small box contained a necklace. It was the ugliest necklace I’d ever laid eyes on. I can still picture it to this day. It was a gold chain, and on it hung a gold bow with what appeared to be fake opal painted on parts of the bow. It was hideous.

Ben and I didn’t last. Well, we broke up a few weeks later and then got back together a few weeks after that. This happened probably another four times throughout the remainder of my 8th grade year.

Valentine’s Day has ripped me apart some years and other years it’s made me smile. In college we had “S.A.D.” parties on Valentine’s Day- “Single’s Awareness Day” parties. They involved a lot of booze, dancing and some poor choices. That was ten years ago, and I must say, my feelings about this day have changed drastically.

This is my first Valentine’s Day in Africa, and I feel like it’s the first year I’m truly aware of what Valentine’s Day should be about: love.

When I think about it, Valentine’s Day could easily be a Christian holiday. Do you remember the story from the Bible about the religious leaders asking Jesus which commandment was most important? His response was this:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

For Christians, showing love isn’t something we should just be doing on Valentine’s Day. Showing love is what God wants us to do every single day.

IMG_20140214_092810We also need to take note of the fact that Jesus wasn’t specific about which neighbors we should love. He didn’t say to love our Christian neighbors. He didn’t say to love our American neighbors. He didn’t say to love our straight neighbors or our Caucasian neighbors or our neighbors who don’t do drugs. There are no footnotes in the Bible when it says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants us to love our neighbors, the very people He created, no matter what their situation, race, or sexual orientation is.

Not everyone is easy to love. I know this. I’m a teacher, and I’ve had more than 1,000 students cross my path over the years. They haven’t all been easy to love. But what better way to be a witness for Christ than to love everyone?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

I have a student right now who some teachers might find difficult. He knows he’s difficult, but I tell him on IMG_20140214_092929almost a daily basis that I love him. He’s told me that he doesn’t understand why. It perplexes him how I could possibly love him given some of his behavior. This student is also an atheist. What if I didn’t show him love? What kind of an example for Christ would I be if I didn’t love him?

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romantic love. It can be about the love we have for all the people of the earth. It’s easy to remember the importance of love as I sit here in Uganda, surrounded by people who were strangers to me seven months ago and are now people I love with all my heart.

Don’t feel sad if you don’t have a “Valentine” on February 14. God loves you more than any Valentine ever could. And if you love Him back, you’ll show love to everyone around you.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-8

You don’t have to be in Africa…

Sometimes here in Uganda… we can feel guilty. We look around at our beautiful international school campus and think, “This place is amazing.” We think about our remarkable students and their privileged backgrounds and think, “Why would God want me to help here? Should I maybe be in a village somewhere helping poor children?”

Our beautiful campus!
Our beautiful campus!

On January 10, my co-worker’s husband, Glen, spoke to all the teachers about our calling, about our influence and about how what we do is important. We don’t have to be living in a village and helping the poor to be a light for Christ.

“Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!”

1 Chronicles 16:24

You’ll notice that in most verses about spreading God’s love, God wants us to spread His love to everyone- not just the poor. And after hearing Glen speak a few weeks ago, I really realized that what we do at our school is important.

Our school’s students come from one of three backgrounds: missionary families, government employee families, and families who own major businesses in and around Kampala. We have students from nations all over the world: America, Australia, Singapore, North Korea, Congo, Kenya, Eritrea, Columbia, England, Sudan, and more. Some will stay in Uganda after they graduate, but most will go back to their home countries to attend college. Our hope is that they take their experience at our school and use it to impact the world around them for Christ.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:19

Don’t get me wrong, I love helping the poor. I love our trips to the village where we play with the kids at the jigger clinic, our Saturday afternoons we’ve spent with the babies at the orphanage and cleaning the place up. But I do realize that first and foremost, I am here for the students at my school, the well-off students with a roof over their heads and plenty of food to eat.

In October we took the high school kids on a spiritual retreat.
In October we took the high school kids on a spiritual retreat.

Think they don’t need just as much support? I’ve got students whose parents have never come to a sporting event because they are too busy. I have girls with eating disorders. I have Muslim students questioning their beliefs. I have students who have suffered the escape of war-ridden countries to come to Uganda. I have a number of students who live completely by themselves because their parents are never home; their house help and drivers are a bigger part of their lives than their actual parents.

These kids need us. No, they aren’t poor, but they need us. Privileged kids aren’t any less in need of the Gospel and of good role models than poor kids. Often they’re in need of it even more.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

Glen also talked to us about our “mountain of influence.” Ours is here in Uganda at our school. In the same way that I don’t feel called to spread the Gospel in the villages for a living, maybe you don’t feel the need to come to Africa. And that’s OK! Africa isn’t your mountain of influence.

My roommate and I cheering on my students at a basketball game.
My roommate and I cheering on my students at a basketball game.

What if all Christians came to Africa? Who would be left to witness to the people in other places? We can’t all come to Africa or third-world countries.

God wants you to serve Him right where you are, and He thinks it’s beautiful when you do.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And who are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”
Romans 10:13-15

Don’t wait to move to Africa. Don’t wait to meet a homeless person. Be a witness for Christ in your mountain of influence, showing God’s love to EVERYONE you meet.

Not good enough for some, but good enough for One…

The maker of this beautiful Ugandan sunset loves me despite my many flaws.
The maker of this beautiful Ugandan sunset loves me despite my many flaws.

“Does he have a girlfriend now?”

My stomach did a flip-flop as I looked at the picture my friend sent me on Facebook. It was a picture of the guy who had a tight grip on my heart for more than two years… and his girlfriend. The guy who didn’t even want a girlfriend was looking as happy as ever in a selfie with a beautiful, petite girl by his side.

I once again realized what I knew all along: it wasn’t that he didn’t want a girlfriend; it was that he didn’t want me as a girlfriend.

It can be a tough pill to swallow. The thought that someone can be so attracted to you, enjoy your company so much, and can trust you with anything, but yet not love you in a romantic way, is quite a mystery.

I’ll never understand it. My friends will never understand why he and I had such chemistry and yet he didn’t want to be with me. It boils down to his selfishness and being shallow, and me not being the “ideal” woman for him to be seen with. He has admitted this.

I accepted the truth more than a year ago, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. And until August, I thought I had at least escaped the hurtful situation with a lifelong friend (silly me). Then some information was presented to me by a mutual friend, and I learned that even our friendship was a lie.

It’s all a reminder that people will hurt us. Not to say that you shouldn’t ever trust anyone, but you should never trust someone more than you trust God. You should never put all of your heart and soul into a person, only God.

For years I’ve allowed this guy to hurt me, to make me feel terrible about myself and to remind me that I’m not the poster child of the perfect-looking girlfriend. But guess what? I’m also not the poster child for the superstar Christian. I’m damaged, imperfect, flawed, defective… every word you can possibly think of that makes me not worthy of God’s love. He loves me anyway.

So while this guy from my past has made it clear that I’m not good enough to be his girlfriend, God has made it clear that I am a child of His and that He will always love me, no matter what. Only God’s love is perfect, and that’s all the love I’ll ever need.

“…nothing will ever separate us from the love of God…” Romans 8:39

Not alone in brokenness…

“It’s just been really tough.”

I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of her mouth.

“I’ve really been struggling with that,” someone else told me the next day.

I nearly fell out of my seat.

I have this tendency to think that everyone around me is perfectly happy. I see their positive Facebook posts, the smiles on their faces each day at school, and I assume that they’ve adjusted to Africa with ease. I then tell myself that I am a lesser person because I am not adjusting as well.

There’s another lie I often tell myself about other people, especially other Christians- that their lives have been magically perfect. That they’ve never made a mistake. That their families have no problems. That their lives have always been easy.

But I’m learning, the more I get to know my co-workers and become friends with them, that we’re all struggling in our own ways. We each have a story to tell. In some way, we are each broken.

Everyone on this planet is broken, but only some of us have discovered the glue that keeps us from completely falling apart when things get tough: God’s love and grace.

It’s comforting to know that many of my co-workers who, like me, are living in Africa for the first time and are feeling somewhat “broken.” And honestly, it’s a beautiful thing. If we didn’t feel broken, what need would there be for God? If we aren’t broken, we don’t need God to hold us together.

I’m learning to be content with being broken. I know I am only broken in a sense of this world, and that God is the one who makes me complete. I also know that no matter what the Facebook updates show, other people are broken as well, and with God leading our lives, we’ll get through this transition together.

“I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.”

Psalm 31:12

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Intimidating worship…

“I will not dance.”

There was a time in my life when I signed the dotted line. I would not dance. Dancing was a sin. Those of us at Indiana Wesleyan had to promise to refrain from dancing. No matter what. I even recall a night when my roommates and I were dancing around our dorm room to Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos,” and our RA came by and made us stop.

Now I live in Africa. Besides singing, dancing is the ultimate form of worship. IMG_20131006_113505

I grew up in a pretty traditional church. Hand clapping was pretty charismatic where I come from. I became a little  more open in worship when I went to a Baptist church in Georgia. I honestly felt pretty wild even closing my eyes during a song or holding out my hands to the Lord. That was nothing.

Worship in Africa is the most intense I’ve experienced. But I have to admit, as someone who has attended pretty conservative churches, it’s quite intimidating.

This evening we had a simply amazing worship service at Heritage House. Towards the end of the service, people were dancing and yelling and worshiping the Lord. I wasn’t feeling it. And because of that, I felt inadequate. I felt like an outsider. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like the people around me where so much closer to God than I was.

For me, worship is very personal. The slower songs speak to me more than the fast songs, but because I wasn’t jumping around, I felt like maybe something was wrong with me- like maybe I wasn’t as good of a Christian as everyone else. Their worship was so much more celebratory than mine.

“Behind every trial and temptation is a scheme to get us to doubt God’s goodness or our right standing with Him. Who is he that condemns? Not God!”

I found that written in my church notes from a service I attended in August. And it’s so true. The only one who would ever want to make me feel like my form of worship is inadequate is Satan. Not God. God knows my heart, He knows I don’t have to dance or jump to show my love for Him.

IMG_20131006_105813Billy Graham once said, “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service.” We so often forget that worshiping God doesn’t only mean worshiping Him in song. We worship God whenever we do something unselfishly for Him and to help others.

Don’t let how other people worship intimidate you. We all do things differently in life, and that includes how we worship. Just because you don’t raise your hands or dance during worship doesn’t mean you are any less closer to God, and it certainly doesn’t mean God loves you any less. Worship is between you and God. He knows your heart. He knows my heart. And I’m going to work on not being so intimidated by others that it makes me doubt my allegiance to my God.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…” James 4:8

From there to here. Not as easy as it looks…

IMG_20130801_093930I never once led people to believe I was moving to Africa to live in a hut and feed the poor. Anyone who had those ideas completely came up with them on their own.

My home here in Uganda is gorgeous. The school grounds are amazing. We have electricity (most days). I can Facebook and email on a daily basis.

The physical similarities end there.

I worked in my classroom all day without electricity. I was greeted by two lizards in my classroom- one behind a bookshelf and the other under my desk. I put up torn and faded posters around my room since I didn’t pack any, nor can I run to the store to buy any. Today I realized about a hundred things I still needed for my classroom and just had to accept the fact that I won’t be getting them until I’m back in the US next summer.

Transition. This morning at New Teacher Orientation we talked about transition. Anyone who thinks that because I have a nice house and a big classroom means I don’t have a transition to make is seriously misguided.

This is Africa. It might not be the Africa you pictured, but it is Africa. I don’t have a television. I don’t have unlimited internet. I don’t have texting. I cannot drink the water from the faucet. I have to take public transportation (a sweaty, crowded minivan or a boda) whenever I want to go somewhere not in my own neighborhood.

Transition. To say I’ve got a transition to go through is an understatement. This morning a teacher was telling us about holding his crying children the night before who just want to be back in America. Another teacher has left her husband in America until he can get his immigration papers cleared. Some of my co-workers are teaching for the very first time. Others, like me, have a huge adjustment to make going from a public school system to an international school.

But there are others going through transition as well… our students.

Heritage International School was originally just for missionary kids. It’s since opened up to locals. We have more than 25 nationalities represented in our student body. Let’s face it- not all of these kids are thrilled at the fact that their parents have moved them to Africa.

People seem to have this misconception that doing mission work overseas means only helping the poor. While I plan on taking trips to villages to do just that, the majority of my time will be working with teenagers. American teenagers, English teenagers, Ugandan teenagers, etc. etc. Do they need Christ any less because they are not poor and living in huts? Also, don’t they need someone to teach them while their parents ARE out in the villages helping the poor? IMG_20130806_120151_new

There are also a number of my students that are NOT Christian. The school, being openly Christian, gives us the opportunity to witness to kids who don’t know the Lord!

Transition. We’ve all got a transition to make. The teachers. The students. The parents. Me.

If you think this has been a walk in the park so far, it hasn’t been. I’m as happy as ever, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough. I’ve got a lot to learn and certainly a lot to adjust to.

As you pray for me, please also pray for my fellow teachers and my students, whom I will meet next Friday. Also pray for teachers and students back in the United States. Starting a new school year is a time of transition for everyone, but with God by our side, we know we can face it and be successful.

“And he said unto them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15

No more “Summit City” for Summit City Single?

I woke up out of nowhere at around 4:30 a.m. on April 24 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to check my email HeritageLogoand there it was, an email from the principal at Heritage International School in Kampala, Uganda.

“I am writing to offer you the position of High School English teacher at Heritage International School, beginning in August.”

I think I blacked out for a second. I was excited. I was horrified. I was one huge ball of emotions all at once.

Yes, it’s true, and I’m now making it public. I’m moving to Africa for two years, and if God so calls me, possibly longer.

I’ve Tried this Before

When I moved back to Indiana after about five years in Georgia, things didn’t go as I expected them to. Probably the number one reason I moved home was to be with my Grandma Shideler. Sure enough, almost a month after I moved, she died. I was devastated. My heart broke. I instantly began to question my decision to move back to Indiana.

Things weren’t going well. I wasn’t making friends, teaching at North Side made me miserable, I missed my grandma, and I just wanted out. But for the first time, I taught a unit on Africa and genocide in my World Literature classes. It was something I knew little about, even though I have always been fascinated by Africa. My fascination grew as I studied Rwanda with my students. That’s when I decided- I would teach in Africa.

I looked daily for jobs. I applied everywhere. But… nothing happened. I wasn’t particularly close in my walk with Christ at that time. I was actually pretty bitter about God taking my grandma away from me. I look back now and realize why things didn’t work out. It just wasn’t time.

4788_103254166572_3645889_nGod did, however, work it out that I could spend two weeks of my summer in Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries. While the work we did there was good, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit as I shared the gospel with Muslim Africans, I’ll admit, I was more caught up in “being in Africa.” It was a dream come true, but too much of my focus was on the cultural experience I was having, not the GOD experience I should have had.

The Next Few Years

My dreams of moving overseas obviously didn’t work out, so I let it go. I figured maybe God just wanted to see if I was willing to go. I got over my anger at God, and  figured He was ready to introduce me to my husband, I would start a family, and all would fall into place. So when I met my boyfriend in 2010, I was so sure- this was The One.

Needless to say, he wasn’t. I was heartbroken and devastated for almost an entire year.

Somewhere in the middle of that year when I was still spending a lot of time with my ex, I went with my church to Nicaragua. My mind was right this time. I was focused on our mission. My heart caught on fire with a desire to do mission work more often. One week every year or so just didn’t satisfy my soul. I needed more.216059_10150151389976573_735678_n

Sure enough, the organization we went with, Food for the Hungry, said they needed a journalist to work for them in Nicaragua. I have a degree in Journalism. How perfect! But my selfishness kept me away. What if things were going to work out with my ex? I could never leave him! I could never leave my family! They mean too much to me! I didn’t even meet with one of the leaders from Nicaragua when they came to our church months later. Even though my heart wanted to do it so badly, I couldn’t follow through with it.

2012

Ever since Nicaragua, I’ve felt that God has been nudging my heart, “Go.” I didn’t know where or in what capacity, but I felt like He was saying, “Go.” I knew I needed to talk to someone about my feelings. I needed to ask, “How do you know, for sure, that you’re being called to serve God overseas?” But I didn’t ask anyone because I knew what they would say, “Read the Bible and pray.” And I didn’t want to do that because I knew what would happen. God would tell me, “Go.”

So I avoided it. I continued to grow in my faith and my walk with Christ, but there was always that one area I avoided.

549779_10151265482271447_332404794_nIn November, my heart began to stir. I really wanted to go back to Africa and to keep my focus on God’s work. Long story short, I signed up to go on a mission trip to Zambia with my friend’s church in Texas. (You can read more about how God worked all of that out here.) So I was thrilled to be going on the trip, and I thought for sure it would satisfy my desire to serve God overseas.

March 2013

Although super pumped about Zambia, my heart wasn’t content with just another 10 days in Africa coming up in June. Then one day in the middle of an email from one of my Christian mentors she wrote, “I really think that with all of the unconditional love and mercy that you have for people, you need to be in another country…. It is not what I think that matters, though. It is between you and GOD.” I’m no dummy. That information came straight from God.

But I freaked out. I have student loans to pay off! I’m 32, can I really just enter the mission field now? What about all my furniture and stuff? I was still doubtful that it could all work out.

As if that nudge from God wasn’t enough. About a day later I got an email from my old small group leader in Georgia. He wanted me to read a blog about a couple who went into ministry in Africa. He concluded his email with the following: “When I read their story I thought of you. Let me know what you think after you read it. God can make a way! WOW! Can He make a way!” I broke down when I read that. Could God really be any clearer? I don’t think so. God was telling me that He will work it out.

And He did.

em0a5r7u5px09u4lhfwpI didn’t know where to start, where to look. A family friend had connections at World Gospel Mission in Marion. I checked out their website and flipped through the many openings they had for various positions around the world. One stood out to me: “Secondary English Teacher, Uganda.” I read about the job and it just seemed too perfect for me. There was no way it would be that easy for me to find something that quickly.

The Present

One month. I answered God’s call by saying, “I will go where you lead me.” Within one month I applied at Heritage International School, had a Skype interview, and was offered the position. One month. God made it all happen in one month.

I’ve never in my life felt more at peace with God’s plan for me. This is MY life. While I will miss them dearly, I cannot live my life for my parents. I can’t live my life for my friends. I can’t live my life for my nieces and nephews who I adore so very much. I have to live my life for God and the plans He has chosen for me. Some people don’t understand that, but I can’t let that hold me back. Some of the best wisdom I’ve received has come from Richard Stearns’ “Hole in our Gospel.” That will be another blog post in itself.

ugandaThe excitement I am feeling extends far beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. It’s a satisfaction that fills my heart with joy, more joy than any job, man or experience has ever brought me up until this point.

I know it will be a rocky road at times. There’s money to be raised, plans to make, the fear of entering what could become an unstable country at any given moment, leaving my friends and family, etc. etc. However, I trust God will take care of me.

I’ll write another blog post about all I will be doing in Uganda. This post is long enough already, but in case anyone was interested in how I got to this point, I wanted to share. I can’t wait to continue to share with you the awesome things God is doing in my life. And please, let me know what He’s doing in yours!

“I know Who goes before me. I know Who stands behind- the God of angel armies is always by my side. The one who reigns forever- He is a friend of mine. The God of angel armies is always by my side.”
– Chris Tomlin “Whom Shall I Fear?”

Life Without a Home

We were there to help, to lend a hand, to show God’s love. But before we could do any of that, I was approached by a boy who looked to be about 10 years old.

“Can I pray for you, ma’am?” he said to me.

I was caught totally off guard.homeless

“Uh… of course we can pray,” I said.

“I’ll find you later,” he said and went to hang out with some of the other boys at the center.

About a dozen of us from my church went to Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) to serve a meal and spend time with some of the residents this evening. I think it’s safe to say they probably touched our lives more than we touched theirs.

The families there were homeless without the help of IHN. But IHN gave them a place to live while they looked for jobs and went out on their own again. I can’t imagine life without a home. Having a place to stay is something we take for granted. We just assume we’ll always have a home.

There were about seven families there, different races and different ages. They were all so appreciative of the giant Pizza Hut pizzas we brought, and the smiles on the children’s faces were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

One family in particular really stood out. It was a mother and a father, a few sons and a daughter. The daughter looked to be about 13, but she was severely handicapped. She would repeatedly slap herself, make strange noises and could barely walk, even with the help of leg braces. Her mom and dad’s faces told a story of great struggle and of pure exhaustion.

I wondered what their story was. Could they have been made homeless because of medical bills? Was their darling daughter like this from birth or was she in an accident? I didn’t know the specifics, but I do know that it broke my heart, and I will be praying for them.

After we served dinner, some of the kids asked me to play Ninja with them. It’s basically the hand-slap game where you try to move your hands before someone else slaps them. We had a great time, and of course, I was almost always the first one out. Need to work on my reflexes I guess!

I spent some time with a little girl named Peyton who insisted that I wear one of her rainbow-colored beaded necklaces she had made at school.

I talked to one teenage boy who is finishing high school by taking night classes and plans to attend Ball State next year. He’s not sure what he’s majoring in, but his face lit up when I told him how cool it was that he wanted to go to college.

Eventually I ended up with a beautiful two-year-old girl in my arms. Her hair was beaded in pink, purple and white and her big brown eyes made me want to never have to put her down. She loved my jewelry and played with my earrings and rings for as long as she could.

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Pastor took some pics at IHN. Here I am, ready to serve some pizza!

The little boy who wanted to pray for me ended up having to leave early, but the fact that he wanted to pray for me at all was enough to make my night totally worth it. We were supposed to be there for them, for the homeless, and here was a boy who wanted to pray for me.

Jesus said we’re supposed to help the poor, and that when we do, we have served Jesus. But what about those who are poor? Who are they supposed to help? I saw tonight that they can help those of us who aren’t poor by asking to pray for us, or simply allowing us to come and serve them a meal.

I’ll be praying for the people at IHN, and as I learned tonight, at least one of them will probably be praying for me.

Experiencing true Niger culture…

Another excerpt from my journal on my 2009 trip to Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries:

Friday, June 19, 2009

IMG_0516 (2) - CopyAbby, Sheri and I met with a guy at 8 a.m. to talk about getting a dress made for each of us. First we picked a style, and then w went to the market to pick out fabric. Abby and I got blue material and Sheri got green and black. When we returned to the guesthouse we were measured. Our dresses should be done by Tuesday!

We didn’t have to go to the university so we went to the Gran Marche (Grand Market). It was huge and crazy. It was their version of a Wal-Mart, only outside. There were sections for shoes, meat, electronics, jewelry, etc. etc.4788_103253781572_1396633_n

For lunch we ate at the Lebanese bakery again. It was fabulous! Most of us had hamburgers, and the fries came ON the sandwich. How weird! We all thought it was pretty funny.

After lunch we went to a few places to buy souvenirs. We did some bargaining, it was fun!

But at 1:30, we had to stop. There was a Muslim “call to prayer,” and since Friday is the Muslim Sabbath,  ALL Muslim men participated. All the shops closed and the town fell silent. The crazy, loud and obnoxious town of Niamey stood completely still. It was creepy. We were the only ones walking around (we had no choice but to find our way back to the van). There were HUNDREDS of men praying in the street. And there we were- the American Christians just going about our business. We couldn’t even get into our van because it was surrounded by men on their prayer mats.

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We returned to the Catholic Guesthouse to pack up. We didn’t really know what to expect at the new place except that if we wanted air conditioning we had to pay for it. I know I expected the worst. But then we got here and the place is only a few years old. The grounds are all gated and there are lots of security guards. Our guesthouse has two armed guards – Mohammed and Frank. We got a kick out of that- Frank. The place is super clean, modern, and we have an awesome common area for meals and devotions.

Tonight we went to new locations in new groups for the Jesus Film. I was with Kathy, Zac and Don. Our students with us were Solomon and Adam. This time we were in a city neighborhood. MUCH IMG_0578 (2) - Copydifferent than the other two places. There was a soccer game going on where we were set up. While we waited for it to end I played with the kids. A few of them knew a little English- I was surprised!

The game ended and we started to set up. Lots of kids helped us and kept yelling, “Cinema!” because they were so excited. Then, just was we were to start there was a “call to prayer.” We were just around the corner from a mosque. The students told us that the neighborhood we were in was a very devout Muslim area. We could tell.

4788_103256596572_4237979_n - CopyWhen the “call to prayer” was over, we started the film. There were probably 50 kids there and a few adults. About five minutes into the film, a Muslim woman chased all the kids away! They didn’t want to leave, but she was very scary that they had no choice! There were about 20 people left when she went away. I was very discouraged, and then it got worse. Parents started showing up and very aggressively began removing their children from the crowd.  So halfway through the first reel we had only about six people left to watch.

About 20 minutes later, some kids came back and more adults slowly trickled in. Still, I was pretty creeped out because of how angry so many parents were. I could totally understand where they were coming from, though.  Can you imagine someone of a different religion coming into your neighborhood and trying to preach it to your kids? You wouldn’t be happy either. I just pray we had a positive impact on someone and that at least one person now has an interest in Christ.

God’s love on a receipt? Not even close…

I am continuously shocked at the Christians in this world who don’t understand the concept of God’s love and how we are to display it for EVERYONE just as Christ did.receiptgrab

For example, a pastor and a large group of people recently dined somewhere together and were charged an automatic gratuity. This happens a lot with groups larger than 8 or so. Apparently the service was fine, nothing terrible happened during the meal, but the pastor felt the need to leave the message, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?” You can read the entire article here.

Wow.

I can only imagine, if the server wasn’t a Christian, what he now thinks about Christianity.

Does a server deserve more than God? Of course not. This pastor gives 10% regularly in his tithes to the Lord. Giving 18% on a ONE-TIME meal really isn’t that big of a deal. To compare it to what he gives to God is simply absurd.

This pastor clearly missed a rather important part of the Bible, and some of the greatest words Christ ever spoke:

“…just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

It’s one thing for this pastor to not leave the server an extra tip since the 18% was already added on. It’s quite another to make a connection between a tip at a restaurant and what God deserves from us, and to then write it on the receipt. What kind of love does that show?

Do we really need to give the world more ammunition against Christians? Will we ever learn that Christ wasn’t kidding when He said we were to love one another and show God’s love to everyone? I can just imagine an atheist reading this article and thinking, “That’s why I don’t believe- self-righteous Christians, who show no love, prove that there is no God.”

One of my favorite quotes comes from Brennan Manning:

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

It gives me chills every time I think about it, because it holds so much truth. Is it true? Are Christians the reason so many people DON’T believe in Christ? I think it’s highly possible.

I’m not saying this pastor is a terrible person. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be a pastor or that the rest of us don’t sometimes have poor judgment. But I do believe that the biggest step towards being a true disciple of Christ is showing His love… to EVERYONE.