James 1:27

James 1:27

Sunday, June 3, 2018

May 3: Homeward Bound

Work for this team is completed. At least for this trip.  Emotional, challenging, spiritual, and exhausting.  So why?  Why do it?

Simply... because we can not afford in this world not to reach out to others in the name of Jesus.    For our team it means encouraging people in rural parts of Uganda.  Helping with medical clinics, at schools and churches.  The work continues in the States by sponsoring children, raising funds for church projects and building schools, as well as, the projects we pour into within our own communities.

Here is one example of the difference that is being made...

This is Sarah.  She was in a desperate situation when this team first met her. Pastor Edward encouraged her to come to His Mercy School.  She studied hard and is now graduating high school with the highest test scores in her region and plans to enter Nursing school beginning in July.  I am humbled that God would allow me to even be part of her life.  Simply, by partnering with a man who had a dream to build a school to help children in his community. His church and ours in the States working together to help a part of the world where so many do not finish past primary level - let alone go to college.   I got to congratulate Sarah and tell her how proud I am of her. This moves my heart. Sarah told me as we left, "God is good."
Yes, He is. Amen!
It isn't just about school.  It is about helping children become who God is calling them to be.  To encourage them to meet their potential in the God who created them.
There are so many more stories. 
The team is homeward bound and will return to NWA by Monday evening.  We would appreciate your continued prayers for safe travels and the processing stage of our journey.  Where we ask God, "Why is our world unequal?" and "How would you have us share Your great love?"

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1: A Day of Life in Uganda

We started out breakfast with our last team devotional, a great discussion about reflecting God’s glory in our lives. We asked the question, "How does that look?" Thought provoking team discussion...until the monkeys showed up. Seems a band of monkeys were lurking fairly close to us ... and our food. We were a tad on edge protecting our breakfast.  We won.  No food stolen!

We headed to Buwenda, a village on the other side of Jinja from Mayuge. His Mercy church is
located here, as well as, the matooke farm we were visiting. One of the projects Central UMC has helped support is this farm which is used to raise money for His Mercy Church and School.  The farm also provides food for the school and teaches farming techniques to people; plus, provides saplings for locals to start their own gardens.  Matooke is a root vegetable similar to a potato.

Patrick, a church elder, runs the operation while the farm is worked and managed by many of the church members. Patrick and his wife are amazing people.  Patrick's smile lights up every heart that encounters him.  He and his wife also take in orphans from the village.  We took a tour of the farm, which has expanded since last year. We were given hoes to join the Ugandans already at work. A little day labor for the Lord! The sight of our team working side by side with the locals was powerful.  The Ugandans explained the various plants and showed us how to to do things. Lots of laughs and smiles.

After working the land the church provided us with lunch. They served us roasted matooke with a peanut gravy, dodo (cooked greens mixed with g-nut s (ground nut or peanut sauce) and yummy French beans (green beans cooked with carrots and onions). The food was good. The fellowship was wonderful!

The children of the church put on a worship program of singing and dancing.  Many of the children were sponsored children.  Susan was able to see two of her sponsored children. One of those children, Alice, pulled Susan to the front and thanked her “mama”for her support and love. What a moment to see both these young ladies affirming Susan. Then Susan got to share how she became a sponsor to the girls.  She then affirmed them back by sharing how proud she was of them and how she loves them so much. Tears were flowing all around! Powerful indeed!

I must take a moment to talk about child sponsorship. My family has been child sponsors for many years. Currently we partner with Help One Now. They administer the program to sponsor children cared for by Pastor Edward at the church and school. For a small monthly fee you can make a huge impact in the life of a child by providing school fees, clothes, food, medicine, etc. It is truly an example of God multiplying the loaves and fishes to see what this small amount can provide. My family and I are big supporters of child sponsorship. I encourage you to pray about it. Ask God to provide wisdom and vision. Take the step of faith. If you are interested please visit www.helponenow.com and select sponsorship. When you pick the country of Uganda, all the kids available are cared for by Pastor Edward. You many never visit Uganda, but you can still be the hands and feet of Christ to a child through sponsorship. I appreciate you considering it.
Dr Moses hosted the team for dinner at his home. He and his wife are wonderful hosts.  We got to sing and fellowship together. He is such an incredible partner with us in Gulu and Jinja. Great way to end the day.

Tomorrow is a fun day. The team will go to Itanda Falls (the “bad place”on the Nile. This is a class 6 rapid and something to see and hear.) We will visit the source of the Nile River and take a boat ride to the spring. Then we will stroll around town to enjoy our last day in Uganda together with Edward and The Great Eight.

We are almost done. The team and our hosts have been amazing. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. There are lots of stories and details to be shared by the team when we return. Get ready to hear some of the incredible things God is doing. Please also allow your team member time to decompress when they return. It can be emotional re-entering the land of overabundance after coming face to face with a different way of life. You will also want to give them an opportunity to shower. Yes, the red dirt of Uganda will wash away eventually! When they are ready, the stories will it be something to hear.

Good night my friends. Since tomorrow is a fun day we will probably not write a blog.


Prayer Requests:
1) Continued rest and safety
2) For us to bless those we encounter even though we are on our fun day.
3) For each member of The Great Eight as they begin to process getting back into American life. As they ask the hard questions, "What has this trip taught me?" and  "How is God asking me to respond in my day to day life?"
4) Praise for tummy troubles going better.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 31: Let the Little Children Come to Me!

Students waiting during assembly for us to arrive.
We got to sleep in a little this morning. Had breakfast, another excellent team devotional, and then lounged a bit around the hotel.  Then we headed to the school.  There were no medical clinics today.  Today was all about the children.

We arrived to all the students waiting for us in the assembly area. They had a program prepared for us. Each grade sang and danced for us. It is such a joy to hear the voices and see them dance. Their joy showed through their movements and songs. Incredible!

After a bit the children summoned the teachers to the stage to dance. To hear their shouts and screams we could tell this was something they love to see! As the teachers were lining up I took it upon myself to encourage the team to join in.  The screams and shouts from the children when we took our turn sure brought joy to the school! Dancing Ugandan style involves a lot of hip shaking. Everyone took a turn. Each of us tried our best to keep up. We just let loose and danced to the Lord in joy!

After dancing we interacted with the kids for a few hours. They taught us some of their language's words, we took pictures and asked about their families. There are a ton of stories the team members will have to tell you. Each one has a story about a different child. All of them are a glimpse of heaven on earth!

I got to spend time with our sponsored kids. The siblings Viola, Reagan, and Mercy all ran up to me when they saw me and gave me a big hug. I love this little family and their Mama! Reagan and Mercy were more talkative this year. Viola, the oldest will take her leaving exam in the fall to go to High School. She is so excited! I got to share how proud my family is of them. How much God and the Thornton’s love them. So special!
With Stephan
I also met some new friends. Stephan, a soft spoken primary 7 student with a funny sense of humor could really cut loose on the dance floor. And Shadia, a sweet primary 4 student was always smiling.  She seemed shy, but I could tell has leader potential. We don’t just share to have fun with the students (although that would be reason enough.)  We really want each student to know of God’s love for them and understand that they are valuable.

With Shadia
God is using this school to grow children into his likeness.  To see the transformation of the students and the community from year to year is amazing.  I cannot help but have a tender spot in my heart for this school.
We ended the evening with dinner at Pastor Edward’s house. What a local feast! He and Julie treated us like royalty! He is my brother. And I love him.

We are winding down the trip. The team continues to be fantastic and work together. The last couple of days with our friends will be special. We plan to soak it all up!

Keep up the prayers. Thank you for your support.
Delivering Central UMC's Children's letters

Prayer Requests:

1) Some of the team are experiencing some digestive discomfort.  A prayer for healing would be nice.

2) To continue to be the hands and feet of Christ.

3) Thanksgiving for God putting together such an awesome team.

Girl's dormitory

School Library

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May 30: The Great Eight Will Dominate

Today we wrapped up our last medical clinic for this trip. There is always a sense of urgency at the last clinic; from both the team and the people. The team wants to see every person get medical treatment. The people know that this is the last time to see a doctor for possibly a year. It can make for some anxiety.

Aboard Rosa
But the Great Eight came prayed up and prepared to finish strong! We discussed some changes in the flow and the set-up for the pharmacy. We then had a great devotional time led by Gary. He and Greg have done an outstanding job in our team devotional to keep us centered and focused.

We prayed up and hit the road to Mayuge, only to have to circle back to the hotel, as I thought I had lost my passport. After a frantic search through my backpack, room and suitcase, I was panicked.
Then I emptied my pack and there is was! First time in 11 years to experience this. Whew!

Everyone was in the same stations, and today went incredible. Pharmacy was smooth. Gracie interacted with people waiting for the doctor. Greg ushered and helped me with triage. Susan, Abby, and Alley were rock stars in the pharmacy. Katie was the wound care queen again and always seemed to have kids around her! Her heart inspires me! And Dr. Thorn was calm, cool, and compassionate. He is the even keel of the team. I love his heart.

We arrived to what looked like more people than yesterday waiting for us. There was a lot to do and so we worked.... And ended up seeing every single person! 574 people got some sort of medical or dental treatment today. That is a major God moment! It seemed things would never end and we would leave people disappointed, but God used the team (local and American) to be His hands and feet. It was a powerful day!

The team is tired and drained. Clinics are hard and tons of work, but also incredible. Be proud of the Great Eight. They have been open to do whatever to help. And the love they have shown is bright!

Prayers for rest. Health. And to finish strong.

Good night.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 28/29


May 28:  Elephants, Hippos, Giraffes, and a Bus Stuck in the Mud...Oh My!

We said goodbye to Acholi land as we headed out at 5:30am for Jinja. We left early to take a driving tour through the Murchison Falls Wildlife Park. We left at dark but were privy to an incredible sunrise! What an artist God is!

As we entered the park we saw animals up close.  Giraffes, elephants, wart hogs, and a water buffalo, but we did miss the lions! (Which we were thankful for after what happened next.)

The team was having a blast! Then… Rosa (the bus) got stuck in the mud! (Just loving the Ugandan rainy season!)The team unloaded and began work to free the bus (I think offices should do this for a team development exercise.) It was an adventure for sure. We did look up and realize we were standing in the park...outside - where wild animals roam free! No FENCES!!! No worries, though, no animals even came close to us.... that we noticed anyway!
There was a delay in our travel, but seeing African wildlife made it worth the trip. We are now safe in Jinja.

May 29:  His Mercy School for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Today we drove to His Mercy School for the first of two medical clinics.
This school has seen a transformation that is truly a miracle from God. I love this place! I have seen kids grow up and head to Secondary school. I have seen kids shy one year and a confident leader the next. Located in the district of Mayuge in the village of Kikubo, a remote village about an hour outside of Jinja town.

We arrived to people waiting to see the doctors. We knew more where coming.  The team set-up the pharmacy while waiting for the doctors to arrive.  Also while waiting we were able to play with the children. What a blessing to hear kids calling mine, Katie, and Greg’s name! The joy of knowing those we are serving because we come back year after year.  Soon the whole team was right in the middle of the kids. It was a great break before the clinic to play and pour into the children. Lots of smiles on faces all around.

Once the doctors arrived the clinic began. Dr. Gary had a very busy day. Susan, Abby, and Alley were amazing in the pharmacy. Gracie was the usher to the doctors’ office.  Greg was an usher, plus worked the prayer room. I helped in triage  handing out tickets for people to see the Doctors. Triage is hard on me emotionally because I have to say no to people wanting to get in line in front of others; however, I do love getting to interact with those waiting (with the help of my interpreter.) I try all I can to show them they are loved and have value.

Overall it was a great day. We did have some communication issues with the local team. With the help of Dr. Moses and some interpreters we were able to get back on track. The afternoon flew by! The enemy always tries to distract us. Different cultures can clash, but in the end we are all one in Christ. Here to work together.

God used us to help 294 people today (I forgot to report we saw 285 people in Omoro). While it is humbling to see the number of people that get to see a doctor and get treated for minor pains, I don’t want to make this a quantity deal. I love the quality of the interactions, even with the enemy trying to derail us, I witnessed the team having fun with people. We are here to show Christ’s love to others. The medical pain may return, as it does for all of us; but the hug, high five, smile, laugh, hand shake, conversation, and prayer make an even deeper impact. Medical clinics are both difficult and incredible at the same time.

Lots of encouragement and laughs from the team today despite the stress of this morning. Everyone rallied together, prayed and made the situation better. Love this team and their hearts!

Exhaustion is setting in, but overall everyone is in great spirits! Our health is still strong. Thanks for the prayers on that one.

Tomorrow we go back to His Mercy for the last medical clinic of our trip. We are supposed to see the children..... all 300 plus of them! We are so excited!

Prayer Requests:
1) Please pray for us to keep the enemy at bay.
2) For continued good health.
3) For the team to finish strong by continuing to be the hands and feet of Christ!

4) A good nights rest.

Good night all.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

May 27: Let Us Go into the House of the Lord

Children worshiping at Layibi

  We drove the Kitgum road until it was time to turn off. The Great Eight divided into two teams of four this morning to visit two different churches and maximize the opportunity to encourage.  For churches to have visitors from outside of their region brings much excitement, let alone people they do not see often – Muzungus! (White people.) We drove on another red dirt road until it was time to walk the rest of the way to the Fellowship. These deep country walks have become a favorite of mine. It was hot with no breeze today. The time walking the trail, greeting others along the way was special. The hospitality and sense of community just astounds me.
As we neared Lukodi, about 45 minutes north of Gulu, our group began to hear the familiar sounds of Sunday morning in Africa. The joy of the Lord was in this place! We were greeted with singing, dancing, hugs and high fives! Our hosts let me know how much a small fellowship like this feels empowered by the blessing of visitors. It truly was an honor to be there! Joseph, the local pastor of the Fellowship and his wife, Evelyn were incredible hosts.

I love Ugandan church! It is a full speed motion.  I was able to greet the church and introduce our part of the team. Pastor Edward brought the message. My Ugandan brother can preach! He is usually a quiet man of few words (as Abby and Alley put it), but when he is preaching… hold on! He brings it!

During the offering someone gave a bag of fresh picked greens. It drove home the story of the widow’s mite. Joseph set up an auction for the greens within the Fellowship for money so they could buy supplies needed for the church. I have never seen this before. It just started. (For context a $1 equals 3,705 Ugandan shillings.). A church member opened the bidding. Then Rev. David upped the bid. I bid.  (Love me some greens.). David outbid me. Then Edward moved to the lead.  The members absolutely loved watching the guest take action in the auction. When Edward was about to win the greens, Susan stepped in to blow us all away with a bid of 50,000 shillings (about $13.50) winning the bid! The yells and screams for joy warmed all hearts! It was fantastic! She then gave the bag of greens to an elderly lady she sat next to during church. They prayed together. Susan has a heart of gold. Her compassion and mercy for the people is pure love.

I was also so blessed to serve with Abby and Alley today.  They bring joy to everyone they meet, adults and kids alike. Their eagerness to serve and be a blessing shines through so brightly.  People cannot help but experience the love of Christ when these two start smiling and greeting.

We closed our time with a song before saying our goodbyes. Our team entered as visitors but left as part of the spiritual family.

In Layibi, The other half our team had a fantastic day, as well. Greg brought the message paired with
Gracie sharing her testimony. I understand they were both outstanding.  The team deeply enjoyed the worship time.
I have noticed something on this trip I want to mention. Katie remembers everything and everyone! She blows me away with her memory. Everywhere we go she recalls people and kids she has met on past trips. She remembers events that happened like it was yesterday. Her heart for Uganda and the people is amazing! I feel confident she will someday lead this mission!

Tonight we met for dinner and debrief with the local pastors. We discussed the mission, areas to improve and then took  time to affirm them. They are an amazing group of leaders in faith who truly care for the Lord and the people they serve.

Tomorrow we leave early at 5am for Jinja so we can take a slight detour to drive through the Murchison Falls National Wildlife Park. If all works out… elephants, giraffes, wart hogs...Oh, my! Along with other animals will join us on our long day, Ugandan adventure.

Good bye, Gulu. You are an amazing place and people. Thank you for your hospitality. You made us feel like family.

Team is great. Everyone is tired of course, but overall things are going fantastic. Please keep up the prayers! We feel them!

We probably will not have a blog post tomorrow due to such a long travel day.


Prayer Requests:

1.)    Travel Mercies

2.)    As we head into the second half of our trip, tiredness will set in.  We ask for prayers for rest when we have opportunity and for our attitudes to remain good and ready for service.

3.)    Thanksgiving for such an amazing team.

4.)    Thanksgiving for Susan’s back doing a lot better.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

May 26: A Walk to Otumpili

My American life tells me I have to always be doing something to make a difference.  Building, holding medical clinic, etc. Today, though, was about encouraging others in fellowship. It was an incredible day of grace and love. That’s not to say it didn’t hold some adventures…

We started off by visiting United Methodist Conference Center in Gulu town. This center houses the Iriaga, UMC led by Pastor Douglas, as well as, serves as a training center for leaders and pastors. They are also in the process of completing a guest house, too. This will be a way for the church to generate income to support the area churches. We got a chance to see the progress being made; plus, meet up with more of our local hosts. Douglas and Patricia, Titus, Josephine, Alphonse, Peter, Tony, and Dennis are incredible people who love the Lord and the people they serve.  

We then loaded up and headed out to a remote village called Otumpili. This was about an hour outside Gulu. There is a new fellowship (church plant) there.

Keep in mind, we are in the rainy season so the weather is always on our minds. Rosa (the bus) took us down the paved road, then we turned off on a red dirt road. After which we turned down a trail (think walking path). The bus got stuck once, but was pushed free. Then got stuck again.  Once free again our team decided to walk the rest of the way to the village. It was a hot day with a little breeze (stress the “little”).   We arrived nice and sweaty.

People came from the village to welcome us. The keyboard and speakers were assembled (yes they were carried on the walk by our hosts!). Then worship started. I love African church! The dancing and the joy. I am in the presence of God for sure. The team spread out among the people and settled in. To be present. To encourage.

It began to rain so they ushered us into a hut for a lunch of noodles, chicken, and goat. I am always humbled by the hospitality and generosity we are shown. We are guests, but I feel uncomfortable being treated differently. The culture values the opportunity to show hospitality to guests. So we ate and it was good!

The rain stopped and we went back outside. The children’s choir sang us three songs and then the team introduced themselves and a Greg shared a word of encouragement. I love hearing Greg share. His heart for the Lord and people shines through. I am honored to serve with him!

Pastor Alphonse (from Koch Chorom) shared the message and man can he preach! We got the opportunity to pray for people. Such a special time to hear needs and lay hands on people while offering  prayers to God. A "Wow" moment.

We said our goodbyes and began the long walk through the bush to the bus which was located back at the turn off. That’s a 3 mile trek, and combined with the walk from the bus to the village The Great Eight got their steps in for a total of 4 and a half miles. We talked and shared stories on our walk.  

This team is truly amazing. Susan, Abby, and Alley have become a comedy trio! Keeping us all laughing. Gary is the calm in all situations. He is always fully engaged when he is visiting with people. If there is one phrase I have said more than any other this trip it is this... “Katie and Gracie I am sorry but we have to go. Put the children down and get on the bus.” I would not have it any other way. Greg is the rock. Always keeping us centered and always encouraging. I am honored to serve with each of them.

Thank you for your prayers and support and encouragement.
Our Prayer Requests:
1)  Healing for Susan's back.  She's in some pain.  It's not slowing her down, but it hurts.
2) Us to be bold in Spirit and to be able to see the opportunities God is asking us to fulfill.

3) As always, a good nights rest.  (Tonight the Karaoke Bar next door is blaring pretty loudly.)

4) We are here to be a light, to encourage to love in the name of Christ and to share Christ.  Prayers that we would shine brightly.

Til tomorrow. God bless you.  - Chris