I get it. But in a way, I don’t…

IMG_4833I get it. A&E censored a Christian from speaking his mind. It’s not the first time a Christian has been censored. It won’t be the last.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Timothy 3:12

I get it. It’s frustrating that everyone else in America can express their opinions, freely worship and denounce things they don’t believe in, unless you’re a Christian. In that case, the world wants you to be silent. But God never told us it would be easy. He flat out told us we would suffer.

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:17

I get it. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. It says the same about drunkenness, adultery, fornication, gluttony, idolatry, jealousy, etc. etc. Everyone else’s sins seem so much worse than your own, don’t they? So you hate. You’re tired of rights being given to people who sin. You see these people as your enemies.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

I get it. I may not agree with you, but I get it. It’s ruined your week and maybe even your holiday to know that a Christian spoke his mind and was then persecuted for it. Now, your favorite television show might not be on the air anymore.

But I ask you this holiday season to open your eyes. Think about the things that are getting you fired up. Is it politics? Is it Obamacare? Is it A&E and Duck Dynasty? Is it Miley Cyrus? Think about the things that, as a Christian, make you the angriest. And then, think about these things:

InIMG_3875 September I met a little boy here in Uganda who survived child sacrifice. He’s been through multiple surgeries because his head was literally cut open with an ax. He was one of the lucky ones because he survived. Here in Uganda, witchdoctors sacrifice children. They spare no mercy when it comes to abducting a child, chopping them up for body parts and organs and leaving them for dead.

The other day I went with some co-workers to a local orphanage. The place is filthy. The playground is insanely dangerous. The orphans’ noses run with no one to wipe them. Bath time means fitting as many children in a tub at one time and hosing them down like they were dishes or something. Orphanages like this are all over the city of Kampala.

To the north of Uganda is South Sudan. So not only does the violence in South Sudan hit close to home because it’s literally close to home, but one of my best friends here is from South Sudan. She has family and friends there, and has to wonder each day whether or not they will fall victim to the violence.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t be the one to say, “Look at what’s making you upset! And yet there are people dying because of such corruption and evil in the world!” But then I started to wonder… maybe that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do. Maybe part of the reason I’m here is to tell you about these things, to tell you that they are really happening.IMG_3976

As a Christian, what makes your blood boil? What gets under your skin? Is it the fact that your favorite reality television star was suspended? Are you going to let that ruin your day when there are people dying in South Sudan, children being sacrificed in Uganda, and orphans being treated like animals?

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t irritate you that Christians are so often censored and persecuted. I get it. It irritates me, too, but the Bible warned us about this, over and over again.

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13

I get why Christians are upset about A&E. I get why homosexuals are upset about Duck Dynasty. I get it. But when I’m seeing the things I see here and experiencing the things I experience here, I really don’t get it.

Open your eyes. There’s so much more going on.

Christmas is Wednesday? Are you sure?

There is a little boy with a small homemade broom sweeping the dirt in front of his tiny home across theIMG_4842 street from us right now. His mother is hanging lots of colorful laundry on the line, and his father appears to be mashing up something for lunch.

The intense Ugandan sun is beating down on the tin roofs of the shacks behind our apartment. The beautiful, towering palm trees are a stark contrast to the dirty, rickety homes surrounded by chickens and naked children.

I hear birds- lots and lots of different birds who sing their songs from the tree tops where they no doubt have the best view of Lake Victoria and the rest of Kampala.

Our day guard is sitting under his favorite tree, wearing the same t-shirt and pants he has worn for the past few weeks. My friend’s little boy approaches him with a stuffed Sponge Bob and hands it to him. The guard, who appears to be only about 15, just kind of looks at it and hands it back. He speaks no English so we know absolutely nothing about him… except that he likes to climb trees.

IMG_4847I get a whiff of the familiar nauseating smell that so often permeates around our apartment. From our second-story balcony I can see piles of trash in the nearby field. Chickens and goats rummage through it to find something to eat, and a handful of Ugandan children play soccer, dodging the hordes of garbage people have dropped off in the field.

A rooster crows and someone turns on their radio. A local radio host gives the morning news report in Luganda. The sound of it is temporarily interrupted by a big truck driving by, carrying policemen in the back who proudly hold their rifles as if to say, “Don’t mess with us.”

It is hot. It is smelly. It is dirty. It is beautiful. It is Uganda.

And it is Christmastime.

You would never know it.

Sure, inside our apartment we have nativity scenes, a small Christmas tree, even stockings hung. But other than that, it’s life as usual for most people around here.IMG_4844

I don’t want to go off on the whole, “Christmas isn’t about all that commercial stuff anyway” tangent that so many people seem to go off on. While that’s true, I don’t think God has any problems with decorations and festivities that celebrate Jesus’ birth. And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t miss all of that. For me, it’s a big part of what makes Christmas special.

Christmas is different this year. For 32 years I’ve spent Christmas day with my mom and dad, and this will be the first year that I don’t. However, it’s also the first year that I’m 100% sure that I’m exactly where God wants me to be. I am blessed, I am thankful, and I am humbled by this experience. I am thankful for a Savior who loves me enough to send me here.

For some reason, God didn’t want me around the glitz and glam of an American Christmas in 2013. He wanted me in Uganda… surrounded by chickens and goats, and a group of new friends who have become like family.

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Another early goodbye…

IMG_20130914_080640Four months ago when I went to pick up my friend Katrina at her apartment here in Uganda, I was greeted through the security gate by a precious little face and painted fingernails. I instantly fell in love with the little girl peering through the hole in the gate and snapped a photo.

“Who is that?” I asked Katrina when she got in the car.

“That’s Florence, our day guard’s daughter,” she told me.

Time went on. Katrina moved back the United States, and I ended up moving into her open room on the compound. I remember my first day going home to the new apartment after a day of teaching. I opened the gate and tiny little Florence came running towards me. You would think I was her best friend that she hadn’t seen in years. Behind her waddled Gideon, her little brother.

I thought it was because I was new, but as it turned out, that’s how I was greeted every single day- with love and hugs from two of the cutest kids in all of Uganda.

IMG_4757I quickly learned that Florence loves to dance. She would twirl for me, hop around, sing and dance for as long as I would watch. And she would always say, “Look!” in her little Ugandan accent, which actually made it sound like she was saying, “Luke!” She spoke very little English, but enough that I could tell her every day that she was beautiful, and she would reply, “Yes!”

Florence loves having her picture taken, and she especially loves being in videos. We’ve had fun with my camera and computer just being silly. She’s been the first child here that’s made me think, “I get it. I now know why people come here and go back to America with a child.”

But Florence isn’t an orphan. She isn’t without a family. She’s got a mother and a father who have gone through the very worst in order to do what’s best for her and Gideon. I learned recently that they are refugees from Congo. They arrived here on foot. They have seen two children die already. They’ve been through things we can’t even imagine.

On the worst of days, and I’ve had my share of them here in Uganda, Florence has been the shining light that makes me smile. Today, Florence and her family leave to return to Congo.IMG_20131116_002418

To say that this breaks my heart is an understatement. Not only am I sad that I won’t be able to spend time with her, but I’m horrified for the family’s safety. The worst part is, I’ll never know what happens to them. I’ll never know if they make it back to Congo safely. I’ll never know what happens to them if they do make it.

My initial response to the family returning to Congo was one of shock. Why on earth would they return to such a war-filled country? They escaped! Why return? I was somewhat relieved to learn today that apparently things have been peaceful for a few weeks now. Also, they cannot afford to send Florence to school in Uganda, and in Congo, she will receive an education. If that’s what’s best for Florence, I am all for it.

The compound is going to feel really strange now. I know I’ve only been here a month but I’ve grown to love Florence and to always look forward to her smiling face. I’ll even miss Gideon, even though he was prone to peeing on our front porch. It’s hard not to love that little ball of goofiness with a smile that melts your heart.

Please pray for Florence, Gideon and their parents. Pray for their safety and that the move is what’s best for the family. Pray that God will provide them with whatever they need to live a happy life.

And pray for the rest of us who will miss their glowing faces and their giggles that once echoed throughout the compound.

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From one house to another…

My new apartment is on the second floor of this building.
My new apartment is on the second floor of this building.

It was after 1 a.m. when I arrived at my new home in Uganda on August 1. The sight of the towering house literally took my breath away, and I was shocked as I was then shown to my very own bedroom and bathroom after walking through the giant living room and eating area.

I certainly didn’t expect to live in a hut. My adventure in Africa would be teaching high school English at an international school in city of more than a million people. I knew my place would be decent, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be primitive. However I also didn’t expect it to be really nice.

Housing here is so strange. The school takes care of our housing, but not all housing was created equal. For three months I have lived in a two-story house with two girls. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom. We had house help six days a week. We had double beds, large bedrooms, a huge kitchen and a nice yard. Other people have tiny apartments, twin beds, bedrooms less than half the size of mine, and house help only twice a week. I’m not blaming the difference in housing on the school, but it is pretty extreme, because they have to take what they can afford and what is close to school.

While the house is beautiful, it isn’t my ideal living space. I have always wished I lived closer to school, and I’m definitely not bonding with the dog I’ve been forced to live with. Simba is a great guard dog, but he causes me more stress than he’s worth, even though I try to pretend he doesn’t exist.

Meet Ashlie- my new roommate!
Meet Ashlie- my new roommate!

As I mentioned about a month ago, my friend Katrina left Uganda. Her leaving here opened a space in one of the apartments closer to school. The opening would be with my friend Ashile, from America, and the new girl taking Katrina’s spot is Dutch. Lots of wheels were turning in everyone’s mind as we realized how this could work out great for all of us- where Ashlie wouldn’t have to have a roommate she didn’t know, and the new Dutch girl could have Dutch roommates. And yes- I could be closer to school and not have to deal with the dog.

Yesterday was moving day. I moved to a smaller apartment, smaller bed, smaller bedroom, and I’ll be sharing a bathroom. But to be honest, the great house I was living in isn’t what I ever expected to have here. I’m happy to make the sacrifice of moving into a smaller place. In the end, I think it’s exactly what I need for the rest of my time here in Uganda.

I’ll certainly miss Debby and Elize, but I look forward to new adventures with Ashlie and our awesome neighbors!

Here are some more pictures of my new home here in Uganda:

The view from this different apartment is much more like I expected things to be here.
The view from this different apartment is much more like I expected things to be here.
Smaller bed, but works just fine for me!
Smaller bed, but works just fine for me!
Favorite part of the new apartment - our porch!
Favorite part of the new apartment – our porch!
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View looking out the back of the apartment.

Saturdays

Pumpkin spice lattes and football. Back in the United States, those were my two favorite things about this time of year. My Starbucks intake increased dramatically in September and October, and Saturdays were spent cheering on all my favorite football teams, from my little nephews’ games to the NCAA games on television.

I’m not sure it ever dawned on me that someday everything could change.

Saturdays in the US were spent supporting my nephews' football teams.
Saturdays in the US were spent supporting my nephews’ football teams.

Pumpkin spice lattes have turned into Stoneys and Novidas.

Driving around in my Camry with the windows down has turned into boda rides and boat trips on Lake Victoria.

Instead of cheering on football teams, I’m cheering on groups of Ugandan children just running around an open field being silly.

My Saturdays have changed. And while I miss the old… I love the new.

Since I arrived almost two months ago, I’ve spent a Saturday taking supplies to an orphanage in a village. I spent another Saturday visiting a village on an island. Another Saturday I walked a 10K to help raise awareness about child sacrifice. And today we went back to the island to help run a jigger clinic.

A year ago when I sat in my comfy Colts chair at my nephew’s football game and sipped my latte, I never imagined that a year later God would have me at a jigger clinic in Uganda. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have known what that was. But today, I found out.

We thought "she" was so precious in her little red dress.
We thought “she” was so precious in her little red dress.

While we expected the people to come in masses to the clinic where jiggers would be removed, no one actually showed up. Since the process involves using a safety pin to cut around a jigger buried in the skin, then squeezing it out along with a bunch of disgusting bodily fluids, I can’t say I’m completely devastated that there weren’t a ton of people there.

We thought our mission had changed. Instead, we would play with the kids. But while doing so, Tiffany discovered our first patient, a little girl in a red dress who had jiggers in her toes. Tiffany scooped the little girl up and we followed them to the clinic.

The child was probably three or four years old, and once her filthy red dress was removed so the child could be bathed, we were shocked to discover the “she” was actually a “he.” This precious little boy was wearing a red dress, probably the only thing he had to wear.

Tiffany and Allison were quick to put on gloves and grab washcloths to start cleaning the boy and prepping him for the jigger removal. He didn’t fight it. He didn’t cry. He just kind of sat there in the water, allowing them to clean his soiled body. The love that Tiffany and Allison showed this child reminded me so much of Jesus, who was never too good to do things for those who were dirty.IMG_4094

Finally, the nurse took over and started to work on the removal process, and just as it was time for us to leave, more and more children showed up, their tiny African feet filled with jiggers.

Saturdays are so different now. Today I really stood back and observed what was going on around me. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, wanting to capture everything in photos and now in words, but I did feel a little overwhelmed today and really got to thinking, “Where do I fit in?”

It was wonderful and simple to know my role on a Saturday back in the United States. I was an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a niece, a cousin, a friend. Here I’m just Natalie on any given Saturday, a child of God trying to find her place in Africa.

Me, Justin Beiber and Jesus…

“Mzungu” is a word that has become a part of my everyday life here in Uganda. From boda drivers to little kids, many locals are quick to yell “Mzungu!” to any white person who walks near.

Today we went to Nakalanda to spend some time with a missionary wife, a mzungu, who doesn’t get many visitors. It’s not exactly the easiest place to get to. First we had to drive to the shore of Lake Victoria, take a very slow boat across to the island, and then a 30 minute boda ride on bumpy dirt roads to reach the village.IMG_3961

There were ten of us, each on our own boda as we zoomed across the island. Since the place doesn’t get many visitors like us, we were pretty much a rare parade of mzungus. Children would bolt from their homes and out of the trees to run to the road and yell, “Bye mzungu! Bye mzungu!” or simply shout, “MZUNGU! MZUNGU!” and wave their little hands and smile.

We would smile and wave back, and often the kids would run down the road awhile as we disappeared into the dust.

The excitement. The thrill of simply seeing us from afar. It was so huge to them. For a moment I felt like a celebrity, like I was Justin Beiber with a bunch of screaming fans who just wanted to be noticed.

And then I thought of Jesus and when He entered Jerusalem on the day we now call Palm Sunday. Mark 11:8-10 says, “The people gave Him a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out rushes they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

It made me think about how excited the people were to see Jesus, and I felt like I could imagine it as if I was actually there. It was like the little kids running towards the road to see us today.

IMG_3928The excitement the kids had for us. The excitement Justin Beiber fans have when they go to a concert. The excitement the people of Jerusalem had when they saw Jesus. What do we have that excitement about? Are we that excited about Jesus? Or have we forgotten what He’s done for us and how excited we should really be?

The things we put our enthusiasm in are the things that mean the most to us. Sometimes it’s a good idea to reevaluate what really makes us happy and excited. Then we can see where our priorities are.

Those of us who went to the island today weren’t anything near all that Jesus represented on Palm Sunday, but I’m hoping that our little “fans” saw more than just a bunch of mzungus. I hope they saw the love of Jesus on our faces and felt Him in our hugs and high-fives.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

I said I’d never teach again…

In December of 2011, I packed up my belongings at North Side High School and left the profession of teaching for what I thought would be “forever.” I gave away nearly all of my teaching materials. After all, I was never going to teach again. Why hold on to all those things?

Fast forward to today: I am not only a teacher again, but I am a teacher at an international school in Uganda. God certainly has funny plans for us sometimes!

It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been a high school English teacher. I’ve had a year and half of teenage-free life. It’s been great, and it’s been sad. I miss “my kids,” as I so often call them.

Today was the first day of school at Heritage International School in Kampala, Uganda. All six years I taught in the US, I was nervous on the first day of school. But this, for so many reasons, was pretty horrifying for me. With God’s help, I survived.

5:00 a.m. I awoke to a mosquito buzzing in my ear. So much for that mosquito net around my bed. I could go back to sleep for another hour or just get up. I tried to go back to sleep, but the mosquito wouldn’t leave me alone, and my mind began to race with the typical first-day jitters.

6:30 a.m. I left the house and walked to school by myself. The sun was slowly rising, it was cool outside, and I had wonderful prayer time as I made the trek to Heritage. It was so serene as I thanked God for the simple things like palm trees and sunrises.

7:30 a.m. From the teeny kindergarteners to the towering seniors, Heritage was flooded with students of all sizes, ages, and nationalities. Many of my high school students greeted their teachers they were familiar with. It made me think of when I was at North Side and Troup, and students would greet me with hugs and high fives. Now, once again, no one knew me. I was just “that new English teacher.”

8:30 a.m. The morning assembly was well underway! We sang a few worship songs, prayed, and new teachers were introduced. After the primary grades were released, the middle and high schoolers stayed for additional information. I gave the presentation on the school’s “Honesty Policy” and had to talk about my Journalism class so kids knew what they were signing up for!

IMG_20130815_1048289:45 a.m. These kids already impress me. The high school was divided into four teams for “team building” out on the basketball courts. I experienced something I never once saw in the US from teenagers- encouragement and support. If someone messed up, someone else would say, “Nice try. You’ll get it next time!” It was clear that they look out for each other. They have a bond that students at large high schools will never understand.

10:50 a.m. The cool and dreary day turned into a wet one. Rain fell from the sky as I prepared my classroom for the 12th graders that would be there in 30 minutes. As if the thunder wasn’t loud enough, the pouring down rain on the tin roof of my classroom made it incredibly loud. Nerves started to come back as I anticipated the seniors walking into my classroom. There were only eight of them, but before they came in I started to feel like the little kindergartners coming to school for the first time.

11:20 a.m. The seniors naturally sat in the desks in the very back of the classroom. No problem- I just moved closer to them. What a group! They come from India, South Korea, UK, Germany, Uganda and Massachusetts! They certainly made me smile a lot with their questions and comments. One student and I especially hit it off. He is the one from the US, and he loves the NFL and NBA. The students got a chuckle when I high-fived him for liking “real” football.

12:45 p.m. Five students. You might think it’s a dream come true, but teaching that small of a class can actually be quite a challenge. The good thing is, they are great kids and have a great sense of humor. They come from the U.S., Canada, South Korea and Uganda. They asked lots of questions about Journalism, so I’m hoping lots of them sign up!

1:40 p.m. I sat at my desk in an empty classroom as yet another gecko scurried by my desk. My day was done. While I have to stay at school until after 3 p.m., my day of teaching was finished!IMG_20130815_104900

Now, after a long walk home in the rain, I am home with just our dog, Simba, and Domalee, our househelp. I am more than satisfied with my first day at Heritage. I know I said I’d never teach again, but I’m so glad that God’s plans for me were different!

Do you hear what I hear?

IMG_20130809_174901The view of the hills astound me. The taste of Stoney has me addicted. The feel of a warm handshake from a local leaves me filled with joy. The smell of the fresh African air on a cool morning brings a smile to my face each new day.

Sight. Taste. Touch. Smell. Africa certainly appeals to all of these senses in a major way.

But I have noticed that there is once sense that it constantly overwhelms: sound. The sounds of Kampala, Uganda never seem to quit. It could be early morning, middle of the afternoon or late at night. The sounds are constantly flooding my ears with beautiful noises, both natural and man-made.

I’ve been here less than two weeks, but I have already come up with a list of common sounds heard around Kampala and my home here.

“Mzungu! Mzungu!”
If I had a Ugandan shilling for each time I’ve had that shouted my way, I’d be a rich lady! I have seen many different “official” definitions of the word, but around here it simply seems to mean “white person” or “visitor.” It’s commonly shouted in markets and along the streets. Sometimes people are trying to sell you something, and other times they just want to be seen. Apparently it’s not necessarily derogatory, but it’s much nicer when a Ugandan says, “Madame!” or “Nyabo!”

“My heart will go on…”
Doesn’t Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic make you want an ice cream treat? Apparently they think so here in Kampala. This must be a favorite of the ice cream man around here, because it’s what he plays as he tries to make a living selling ice cream off the back of his bicycle. Another favorite is, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

a“Beep! Beep!”
Whether traveling by boda, taxi or car, you can’t avoid the constant beeping from other vehicles. It’s not like America where a bunch of road-raged drivers are taking their aggression out on other drivers by honking their horns. People here honk simply to let people know that they are there, and to make sure they are seen. This is crucial to a town like Kampala where there are always people walking and enough bodas to fill the state of Texas.

“(Insert Arabic call-to-prayer here…)”
Wow. Muslims like to pray early. The “Call to Prayer” is announced over very loud speakers, and I wake up each morning at around 5 a.m. when they start. The sounds of the Arabic language and Muslim prayers to Allah echo throughout the city multiple times of day.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!” “Roof! Roof!” “Cockadoodledoo!”IMG_20130804_142647
There’s really no end to the animal sounds in Kampala. Dogs are constantly barking, birds singing and roosters loudly exclaiming, “Cockadoodledoo!” I’ve heard bird sounds here I’ve never heard before, some of which sound like monkeys and others like crying babies. The animal sounds sometimes leave me feeling like I live in a zoo!

“Doot doot doot dooooot!”
I am not sure who got the kids across the road a recorder, but sometimes I really wish they hadn’t. While I enjoy “When the Saints Go Marching In,” I tend to be less impressed with it at around midnight, coming from a recorder. However, it’s always beautiful to hear a young child making music.

“Swish, swish. Swish, swish.”
I am amazed at the Ugandan desire for cleanliness. Each day I see street sweepers, men and women with tiny brooms, sweeping the dirt along the sides of the road. Yes, sweeping the dirt so it is free of trash and other debris. The “swish, swish” of their brooms reminds me of the great pride they take in keeping their city clean.

The sights, smells, tastes and touch of many wonderful things around Kampala leave my senses overwhelmed and overjoyed, but it’s the sounds that have truly captured my heart and made me happy to call this new place home for a while.

ABC’s of living in Uganda so far…

On Wednesday at around 10:30 pm Uganda time, I arrived at the Entebbe airport. Although just three days ago, I’ve already learned a lot. Instead of just telling you everything I’ve done since I’ve arrived, I thought I would write the ABC’s of living in Uganda so far…IMG_20130801_111418

A – Amazing. I had no idea Uganda was so hilly! Apparently it’s nicknamed The City on Seven Hills or something like that. It’s so incredibly beautiful. And plop in the middle of these hills is Lake Victoria. It’s so serene!

B – Barking. Guard dogs everywhere, always barking.

C – Cab. We took a cab to the market the other day. It’s actually a minivan and they shove as many people as possible inside. It’s quite amusing.

D – Dutch. I have two Dutch roommates: Elize and Debby. They are so sweet and helpful, and I can tell that living with them will be great!

E – Entebee. That’s the airport about an hour away. The airport can’t be in Kampala because of all the hills.

F – Food. My favorite meal so far was my first night here and we ate at Café Roma. I had pizza with cheese, onions and tuna on it. It was so delicious!

G – Gaba Road. This is one crazy road! People everywhere, cars everywhere, bodas everywhere, it’s quite the busy road here in Kampala!

H –  Horrifying. Riding through the streets of Uganda is rather horrifying. I thought Niger was bad. I thought Nicaragua was bad. I thought Zambia was bad. No way. Uganda takes the cake. Chaos everywhere, along with chaotic drivers.

I – Indescribable. How I feel since arriving here.

J – Jumping Spiders. I keep having to kill them in my room. And apparently they bite!

K – Kampala. The capital city of Uganda, where I live. Full of life and beauty!

L – Lake Victoria. I haven’t seen much of it, just when it peeks out from between the mountains. I can’t wait to see more of it!

M – Mzungu. That’s what white people (visitors) are called in a lot of countries in Africa. The guys will yell this at us as we walk along the street.

N – Nighttime. Do go out at night by yourself. Scary stuff around here.

O – Oregon. This is where Jeff and Christine are from. They are the World Gospel Mission leaders here in Uganda.

P – Pineapple Fanta. I am so excited that they have Pineapple Fanta here! It’s so delicious!

Q – Quiet. This is something that rarely ever is here in Kampala!

R – Ramadan. This is still going on which means lots of Calls to Prayer and loud Arabic music coming from the mosques.

S – Simba. That’s our dog! He is a little nuts. OK so he’s pretty much on crack, but I guess that makes him a good guard dog!

T – Turkish Apple Tea. This is a scrumptious tea my roommates made me my first morning here, and Debby made me another glass this evening. It almost tastes like apple cider. Yum!

U – Uganda. I am mesmerized by its beauty and can’t wait to see more of this amazing country!

V – Vicious. That’s the best word to describe the pack of evil geese that are often waiting for us on the other side of the gate around our house.

W – Wet. It’s rained every day since I’ve been here, but only for a short period of time. Then the sun comes back up and all is beautiful again!

X – eXcited. I know, I cheated a little bit there. I am so, so excited to see what God has planned for me here in Uganda.

Y – Yard Signs. If you have a nice house, you have to spray paint, “NOT FOR SALE” on your outside gate so that if you leave on vacation or something, no one will sell your house while you’re gone. Makes sense to me.

Z – Zebras. There are no zebras around here. Sorry!

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?”