The tragedy you don’t even know about…

I knew people were starving.

I knew children were being forced to kill their families and become soldiers.

I knew AIDS and malaria were taking the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

I knew witchdoctors were destroying the lives and souls of the people of this beautiful continent.

What I didn’t know was that children were being sacrificed. How did I not know?

I feel like I’m pretty current on the tragedies that claim so many victims here in Uganda, but I had absolutely no idea that children, innocent and blameless children, were being sacrificed by their own communities and sometimes, their own families.

Today, some of my co-workers and I participated in a 10K to raise money and 1235116_194109344093303_1813041655_nawareness for Rose’s Journey. We even got to meet Rose, who once walked more than 50K to escape her family, a family that was active in witchcraft.

People in America don’t understand how active witchcraft is in Africa, or how dangerous it really is. It seems like worlds away when you’re in the US. It seems like something that just can’t be real, but it is real, and it’s claiming the lives of children.

One of my friends works with another organization that rescues children who are victims of witchdoctors. She told me about one little girl who was found on the brink of death in the middle of a field. A witchdoctor had cut her tongue off and she was left for dead.

Rose told us more about child sacrifice this morning before the 10K. She told us about the witchdoctors and the things they promise people who “believe.” Want to make more money? A witchdoctor might request a child sacrifice. It might be your own child, it might be someone else’s. The rest of the ritual usually involves drinking the blood of the sacrificed child or eating parts of certain organs. The results are supposed to be wealth and good health for the person who partakes.

In one national magazine, an interview with a witchdoctor revealed that they often don’t even kill the child before removing their organs for sacrifice. Instead, the children die after the extraction.

The article also revealed that members of high society sometimes use witchdoctors to get what they want. One witchdoctor said a female member of parliament came to him because she wanted to keep her seat, and in order to do so, he requested a child sacrifice and she agreed.

IMG_20130824_071605Doesn’t this all sound so unreal? Can you even believe this happens today? It makes me sick to think that the Ugandan government isn’t doing anything to stop it. There’s little the government can do against witchcraft, but you would think something could be done to stop the slaughtering of innocent children.

I know these children being sacrificed are so far away from most of you. But things like this take on an entire new meaning when it’s happening just down the road. Someone’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother, sister, is being sacrificed. Does it really matter how far away it is? The fact is, it’s happening.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have met Rose today and to walk for her wonderful cause. I hope to learn more about Kyampisi Childcare Ministries and what can be done to help these families who have either lost children to sacrifice or have children who need medical help after a near-sacrifice. Sometimes causes jump out at you and grab your heart so tightly that you just have to get involved.

Please join me in praying for these families and for the future of the children of Uganda.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.””
Matthew 19:14

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Additional information on child sacrifice in Uganda:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8441813.stm

http://www.theage.com.au/world/australians-take-lead-in-fight-for-survivors-of-witch-doctors-20121228-2bz8n.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8444047.stm

http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Child+sacrifice+on+the+rise++report/-/688334/1674568/-/24ivi7/-/index.html

“Different…” she said.

We were sitting on the ground in the Zambian sun when the precious little girl sitting next to me lightly ran her fingers across the top of my hand. She was a student at Lifesong for Orphans, and while her first language was Bemba, she did know some English.

After touching my hand, she put her hand next to mine, and with her other hand she IMG_3013touched hers and then touched mine.

“Different…” she said, pointing at my pale white skin next to her dark skin.

It was one word that said so much to me. “Different.” Maybe that’s a good way to describe my mission trip to Zambia. The terrain was different. The food was different. Our skin tones were different. The list of ways things were different was practically endless.

Our first morning at Lifesong for Orphans I knew we’d be attending a school assembly. When we think of a school assembly, we usually picture an auditorium or a gym. I knew that wouldn’t be the case at Lifesong, but I was still a little surprised to see Monday’s assembly take place in the dirt area between two mango trees.

Assemblies in Zambia… different.

IMG_3391The morning assembly held more power than any assembly I went to in elementary school in Ohio. Children from the baby class up to the 8th grade sang praises to God, sang the Zambian national anthem, and even heard a short message from a pastor. It was the perfect way to start off their week. It was perfect for our team, too.

Praising God at school… different.

I don’t have any pictures of that first assembly. The couple who runs the organization in Zambia has started asking teams to not take pictures on the first day or two of their time at Lifesong. I’ll admit, I was a little annoyed. That is, until I was there and was able to 100% focus on the beautiful life in front of me and not worry about capturing it on film. I now think it is something all mission teams should do- take a few days to just experience the new world around you. I do think photos are important so we can return to the states and be advocates for these amazing people, but pictures can be taken later.

No pictures for days on a mission trip… different.

Janeth and I were in charge of the Bible story each afternoon when we did Bible School with grades 1-3. One day we had some extra time with a group before they moved on to crafts, so we decided to play a game of “Follow the Leader.” Janeth was at the front of the line, and the eager second graders lined up behind her. For as long as Janeth walked in a straight line, all was well. But as she started to get fancy and curve out of a straight line, the kids went nuts! All of a sudden there were about 10 kids in front of the “leader,” running around wherever they wanted to. It was pretty hilarious, and needless to say, we didn’t attempt “Follow the Leader” again.

Childhood games in Zambia… different.

Our final morning at Lifesong we took all the pictures we wanted. The students held their Friday assembly in the same place as the Monday assembly, and they once again blew us away with their singing and sharing. Their songs in Bemba and in English were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. There was one song in particular that really got to me. It was in Bemba, so I didn’t understand the words, but I didn’t have to. They were praising God, and that was obvious.IMG_3403

Despite the fact that their assembly was in dirt, they were praising God.

Despite the fact that they have lost parents and siblings to disease, they were praising God.

Despite the fact that their only meals that day might be the two they have at school, they were praising God.

The God they were celebrating and praising… NOT different.

Although worlds apart, although we play our games differently and hold school assemblies differently, although our skin is different… we are so much alike in that we’re all worshipers of the same great God.

The little girl who noticed our skin was different will probably see a lot of mission teams come in and out of Lifesong for as long as she is a student there. Their skin will be different, as will their clothes and accents. But I hope that as she grows older she will notice what is the same- that we’re all God’s children, and He loves us all despite the differences that separate us.

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Enjoy some of these videos from the last day’s assembly:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW_CgoEkKgM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU54NeX-Llk

Most orphans don’t have curly red hair and freckles…

orphan – (n) a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents

My entire life I’ve feared the death of my parents. No one has supported me more, loved me more, or taken better care283670_3138899200926_1422215904_n of me. The thought of one of them passing used to bring me to tears. It was also something that kept me from serving overseas where God was calling me, but I’ve found a peace within the last six months. I’ve had 32 amazing years with my parents. That’s much more than many people get.

In four days we leave for Zambia where we’ll be working with Lifesong for Orphans. My heart is already breaking for these children who have lost both parents, usually to HIV/AIDS. Can you even imagine? As if survival wasn’t tough enough in a place like Zambia, they have to face the world as orphans.

Not saying it’s any easier for orphans in America, but at least orphans here often have other family members that can take them in. Zambia has a life expectancy of around 49 years. There usually aren’t older family members to take care of the orphaned children.

Our typical view of orphans comes from movies like Annie. Wow did I love Annie, her curly red hair and freckles when I was a little girl. I listened to the soundtrack so many times that I wore out the tape. The movie also led me to believe that all orphanages were run by women like the alcoholic Miss Hannigan.

Luckily, that’s typically not the case. That’s definitely not the case at Lifesong for Orphans, where their motto is “Bringing Joy and Purpose to Orphans.” The people who work for the organization have dedicated their lives to making someone else’s life better- the orphans.

God couldn’t have been more clear in the Bible about how Christians should treat orphans:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

7980_3138908681163_1818934831_nThere are many, many more verses in which God addresses the fatherless and how we should help them. Maybe that’s by sponsoring an orphan, visiting orphans, or financially supporting missionaries and mission trips… there’s something you can do to help.

I’m so glad Lifesong for Orphans brings the message to the Zambian orphans that they do have a Father in heaven who loves them very much. I can hardly wait to give them hugs with hopes that they’ll feel God’s love in the midst of my embrace.

Photos courtesy of Janeth Ibarra.

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?”

A Whole New World…

Tuesday, June 16, 2009, 11 p.m.

After breakfast here at the guesthouse we met the “Nationals” (I don’t know why we call them that. They are basically “townies”) at “the office.” We talked about the different ways to share Christ and then we were off to share the gospel in the dorms on campus.

Anyways, I was paired with Kaeli and a student. The dorms were old. The hallways were narrow and filled with shoes since you can’t wear them in a Muslim’s room.

The first girl we met with was a very quiet Muslim girl who is studying medicine. She even allowed us to pray with her for her exams. It was cute though- she asked why we closed our eyes when we prayed. They don’t do that I guess.

The other girls we visited were much different. Their rooms were the same though- small, blue walls, small cot-like beds and the windows were covered in newspaper to keep out the steaming heat of the sun.

These two girls were very outgoing. We had a good talk with them.

Both places we just kind of got into discussions about God and what we believe. (Of course they only spoke French, but Kaeli translated).

We had lunch back at “the office.” Everyone shared their experiences and we ate something weird for lunch. It was kind of like hamburger and salsa on top of noodles.

At around 5 p.m. we packed ourselves into the van and came back to the office. I should explain “the office.” About 30 minutes away from the guesthouse and only about a mile from the university is the Niger Campus Crusade for Christ. The few buildings with it are protected by a wall and locked doors.

We got into our Jesus Film groups, packed up the equipment and left for our locations. My group rode to a place about 45 minutes away on the outskirts of town. It was like a little village and really reminded me of a Bible-time city.

We met up with the pastor of a church in the “neighborhood”. He showed us where to set up and where to lock our things. Then we divided into two groups and walked around the village inviting people to the film.

From the moment we got there until we left four hours later, this one little boy in blue sweatpants was right by my side the entire time. He was so cute! Sad thing was, we couldn’t communicate through Abby or Bruce. All the people spoke Hausa (a tribal language) and not French. The video was even in Hausa.

We talked to lots of people throughout the village. Everyone was really friendly except this one group we came across. They were nomads so they were living in a little mud hut. They looked crazy. The one guy who talked to us had a huge voodoo-looking guy on his necklace. Very creepy. After we left them, Bruce said they spoke a special tribal language and that they worship their own god.

As we walked through the village, kids joined us and followed us. It was so cute!

We started the Jesus Film at dusk (around 8 p.m.) and I was amazed at how all the kids got quiet to watch. It was really loud- it echoed throughout the entire village. And people were sitting on both sides of the screen. We estimated around 100 people were there. About 70 kids and 30 adults.

When the film was over, about 30 kids and adults stayed to listen to the pastor. He told us later that he had never seen that many people stay to hear more about Jesus.

It took us awhile to pack up, but a bunch of little kids helped, so that was nice.

Boy were we exhausted when we got home. I’m so tired, and it’s only our first time doing this! We will be doing this EIGHT more times! I mean, it’s incredible what God is doing, but it’s also exhausting.