September 2017

I wanted to send everyone a quick follow up on the last several months. Many of you called, wrote, or came by to visit.  And all of you prayed.  Thank you.  I believe it made a huge difference.  

PRAISE REPORT

RESULTS –  After I hurt my back, my doctor began to suspect that something else might be up.  So I spent the summer shuffling from specialist to specialist and had ALL kinds of tests and procedures done.  It was a scary time not only because I was in pain, but also because so much was unknown.  Most of the results are in and the major concerns have been taken OFF the table.  There are only a few follow up tests and appointments to be had, but I don’t think it’s anything to be too worried about at this point.  For that I am thankful.  

PROVISION –  God is always right on time!  For those of you who don’t know, last February I got my old teaching job back.  This was huge since I’ve had major medical bills the last eight months.  I am so thankful to be employed at RMS where I teach Language Arts and Reading.

CONTINUED PRAYER

MY BACK – Although much better from a functional standpoint, my back is still a very real area of concern, frustration, and pain.  Those of you living with chronic pain of any kind will understand exactly what I’m talking about.  I’m still working on a pain management plan.

NERVE PAIN – I still have unexplained nerve pain, which is partly what led my doctors down the road of MS and Lyme to begin with.

FUTURE PLANS – At this point I can’t begin to imagine what God might have in store.  What I do know is that I’ve made a teaching commitment through June 2018.  I would really like six months or more of sustained and improved health before I begin to make drastic future plans of any kind.  I hope to revisit any options for Uganda sometime in 2018.  If I do not feel that God has kept the door open for me to return, I will be sure to let you all know through letters, e-mails and/or my blog.

YOUR TURN

Please let me know how I can support you.  When you have time, send an e-mail or a quick text to let me know what I can do to help or how I can pray (seblomstrom@gmail.com). 

Thank you again for all of your prayers and support over the last year.

Sarah

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My Happy Place

When His Path Doesn’t Seem So Straight

The last two weeks I’ve been ready to share an update on my blog, but I haven’t quite had all the pieces to make a full post. But last two days I’ve felt more of an urge to share not only because the pieces are starting to fall into place but because many of you have been so kind to follow up with me on a regular basis and ask about my departure date. The following notes are just a few things that have happened recently. Most of the events, in my opinion, are nothing short of miraculous and soon I’ll follow up with a longer blog on some of the ways God has moved over the last six weeks. But for now, here’s a quick summary and update on all things Uganda:

  • I’m basically fully funded (TBD end of January). This is nothing short of a miracle as it only took God six weeks to do it.
  • I hurt my back November 1st, injured it again in December and then again New Year’s Eve. I was in so much pain and discomfort that I finally broke down and got an MRI in January. I have two herniated discs, one with a slight tear. Of course this caused some uncertainty regarding treatment but also my departure. It’s been a long road, but fast forward to date: I am feeling better each day, the doctor feels that no surgery is needed at this time. Physical Therapy has been recommended which means only a slight delay in my departure. And speaking of:
  • I’m looking at a mid to late February exit date.
  • Right now I’m working on tying up all the loose ends that I put on hold pending the results of my MRI. Not that I am semi-cleared to leave I’m finishing up with things like packing, getting vaccinations, and trying to sell my car (Anyone want to purchase a 2010 Honda Accord?).

This next part isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. But many of you are taking this journey with me. You’ve committed to pray with me and for me. You’ve committed to support my efforts financially, and you’ve called and written to encourage me. Thank you. I can assure you that the last month has been particularly challenging as I’ve experienced a lot of spiritual warfare. It was to be expected.  But I’ve seen God use what the Devil plans for harm and instead use it for His glory and for my growth and dependence on him.   I’ve had dreams and visions of things to come and I’ve heard more and more from Jesus by spending precious time in his Word.

But at this moment I feel totally unprepared to move to Uganda. I feel ill equipped, unsure, and scared. Day by day, and as I move closer to departure, I feel less and less ready to make this jump. It’s in this realization that the awareness of my need for Jesus and total dependence on Him becomes more and more real. I can do nothing apart from Him and every time I try it is nothing short of a total mess. Just last night I was talking to one of my dearest girlfriends. I shared a few of my fears and she responded with: “Uganda might be part of the journey or it might be the destination.” I liked that. I really liked that. The truth is I probably can’t know just yet if Uganda is The Journey or The Destination. I might not know for months or even a full year, but my flesh wants to know now. I’m not questioning the call I received this summer to move to Uganda. I’m just struggling with the long-term outcome. What does moving to Uganda mean for my life one year from now? Two? Ten? It’s enough to make me want to get back in bed and pull the covers over my eyes.

I’m going to Uganda. I’m moving forward on the path I believe God has placed before me. I’m moving forward with faith, shaking knees, and a pounding heart. I’m moving forward with a quivering lip and tear filled eyes.

Um Lord? Can I ask you something? I’m not upset or anything. Well, not really. Well, maybe sometimes. Maybe sometimes I’m upset. Or sad. Or confused. But you always say that I can come to you with anything. You tell me, in the quiet and when it’s just you and me, that you’re my Heavenly Father and you want me to tell you everything. So I’m just wondering: why does my path look so different?  For almost everyone else the path has been Marriage. Partnership. Family. Children. Nine to five. Friday  afternoon happy hours. Saturday morning soccer games. Schedules. Pot-luck Dinners. Lord, why is my path is moving me away from, and not closer to, the people I hold most dear in the world? Lord, this path seems really long and scary and maybe even lonely. And Lord, this path seems really hard. And yet, I see that you’ve gone before me. You’ve prepared the path every step of the way. Now all I have to do is go forth and walk in it. So how could I not? And you’ve promised to come with me and be with me every step of the way – which is really great since no one else on Earth is making this journey with me. And it’s really great, Lord, that there’s this verse in Proverbs that talks about trusting in You and you’ll make straight our path because right now this path doesn’t feel very straight. Right now this path feels a lot more like ‘the long and winding road.’

Lord, in spite of all my fears I also know that last six weeks with you have been a little bit like the makings of a real Love Story. I’ve never felt more loved and cared for. You’ve never been more real to me.   You’re real. Your presence is real. Your love for us is real. And I can rest in that. So Lord, I’m going to share these thoughts with the world because I believe that you’re going to do something real and powerful with these feelings and emotions. They are a part of my story and a part of the journey…or destination. And I want others to see and know that this was all a part of your bigger plan for my life. Your path doesn’t feel so straight right now. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but I trust you. With shaking hands I trust you.

Get Real.

It turns out we’re supposed to give thanks in EVERYTHING.  No, really.  It says so in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  And I find that just a little bit annoying only because I’m a rule follower (most of the time) and also believe that the Word of God is living and active and true.  So if I’m supposed to do what Scripture commands then that means…

I’m supposed to wake up and give thanks when it starts to sink in that at thirty seven years of age I find myself living at home with my parents because I’ve sold nearly all my possessions, rented my house, and now must work full time to raise support?

Get Real.

I’ve felt confident for quite some time that God wants me in Uganda.  How long I’ll be there, I do not yet know, but I’m surrendered and ready to be obedient.  Now if those words (surrendered and obedient) place a vivid picture of Yours Truly polishing her halo, then you can just toss that image right out the window.  Why?  Because two months ago I took another step in my ‘Journey of Faith’ and started to get some training on raising support.  And it’s rocked my world and caused me to feel all kinds of crazy.

It might come as a surprise to many, but almost all ‘missionaries’ must raise their own funds in order to go forth and do what God has placed on their hearts.  This means they must ask their church, friends, family, and community to partner with them in taking the message of Christ and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

And I, friends, am no different.  In order to live in Uganda, I too must raise all my monthly expenses.  I thought I had Winter’s supply of faith to see me through the next season of rolling up my sleeves, pounding the pavement, and making things happen.

Instead…

I got a heavy dose of reality.  And things just. got. real.  This juncture in my life is super scary and yet, I know God is going to provide.  I’m seeing it even now.  God is bringing people to me and I to them and people are responding.  It’s exciting.

But first and foremost support raising is humbling.

As I’ve prepared over the last several weeks the Lord has brought a few things to my attention.  Allow me to briefly share the TOP 5 sins that God has shown me this week alone.

  1.  Self-reliance
  2.  Pride
  3. Fear (and let’s add anxiety while we’re at it)
  4. Shame
  5. Selfishness

Just being real.  And I don’t share these as a Confessional Hour, to swap sin stories, or to compare – but because I have been humbled and even a bit horrified by what lies just beneath the surface.

But in everything give thanks, right? So I’m thankful that God loves me enough to say, “Excuse me, but were you aware…?”

To which my answer would be:  I had no idea.  Not really, anyway.  I mean, maybe a little…

And I can’t totally explain it, but the season I’m in now, the one of raising support and continuing to prepare for the move, is a season that I’m slowly learning to be thankful for. My faith has NEVER been walked out like this before.  And for that I am thankful.  Sure, it’d be a lot easier if I won the lottery and could ‘fund’ my own work, but God has made it clear that it will go down differently.

And I’m kinda starting to see the beauty of being stripped of what I call My Life…being stripped of what I call Security, Safety, and Certainty and instead walking through what is NOW a very real and tangible Faith Journey.  One where I must actually place my faith in Christ not just as a Savior, but as my Provider.  Because that’s what he wants anyway.  He wants ALL of our heart for HIS glory.

And we are made more and more into His likeness the more we come to know Him, walk with him, and place all our faith and trust in him.

We go from Glory to Glory.

And are forever changed in the process.  It doesn’t get much more real than that.

Happy Thanks Giving.

2 Corinthians 3:17 & 18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Listen to Bethel’s Glory to Glory

Just a quick note: My plans are to be fully funded by February 1st and leave shortly after that.  The Secondary school opens February 13th and I want to be there as close to the opening as possible.  If you want to know how you can help me get to Uganda by February (or sooner) please FB message or contact me.

That Time God Wrecked My Life

There was this time in 2012 when God completely wrecked my life.  Forever.  And in the best way possible.  You see, he took me to this country called Uganda.  It’s located on the continent of Africa.  I’d never been and had no plans to ever go.

But then I did go.  And I was ruined.  Wrecked.  And oddly enough, Almost Home.  As believers, we’ll never fully be home until we reach Heaven, but in 2012 God began to speak to me – very clearly – about making my Earthly home in Uganda.  It didn’t make sense at the time and yet somehow I knew in my heart of hearts that it also made perfect sense.  

Over the next several weeks I will share (through this blog) the miraculous and amazing ways God used my love of writing to record all the ways he was calling me then (in 2012) and has continued to call me now.  It’s been a journey full of challenges and some wrong turns along the way.  But God’s plans can never be thwarted and I write this blog today as a testimony of God’s faithfulness to continue what he’s started.

And so it is with great joy and excitement that I’m finally able to share God’s plan!

I’m moving to Uganda and this time it’s without a return ticket.  

 While in Uganda, I’ll be serving with two organizations:

My primary focus will be to further the development of a Christ-centered, Bible-based school curriculum and to work collaboratively alongside Ugandan teachers.

The opportunity to serve long-term is completely voluntary.  I  am moving forward with the faith that those God calls he also equips and that he will make a way.  If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to support global missions or a local ‘missionary,’ please consider partnering with me as I move forward to serve the teachers and children of Uganda.

To learn more about Our Call Missions, please watch the video below.  

CLICK HERE to become a financial partner.

Many Blessings,

Sarah

 A big thanks to Quinn Neely for creating this video and allowing me to share!

The Many Gifts Uganda Gives

Danielle and I have already started the long journey back to Texas.  We began on Tuesday by heading south (via a puddle-jumper flight) to Kampala.  After several years of going back and forth, I’ve decided that an overnight stay in Kampala prior to leaving helps to break up the twenty nine plus hours of continuous and exhausting travel (including airport layovers).  And to be sure, staying over in Kampala was a perfect way to end our trip.  In fact, it was a gift.  It also occurred to me, as our plane took flight and I drifted off into a Benadryl-induced sleep, that Danielle and I were given many gifts throughout our six week stay in Africa. giraffe

The Gift of Time
When going on a “mission trip” I am of the opinion that staying longer than seven or so days allows a person to really dig in.  Of course, there are advantages to going for a short time versus not going at all.  Even in seven days (which is often all people can spare due to work, family etc) one still gets to see, experience, and then hopefully return to their lives with a new perspective on missions and how they might get involved or partner with an organization long term.  But when a person is able to go and really get rooted in an organization it allows for collaborative partnerships and long-term visions.  Time allows a person to arrive, observe, hear, reflect, and participate on a deeper level – and I believe that the longer one can remain in a particular place, the more invested they will become.  Such has been my experience and I am so thankful for a career that allows me to spend extended amounts of time with people in far away places.  The gift of time has been priceless this summer.  Time has allowed Danielle to soak everything in and invest deeply in the lives of a few special children.  And time has allowed me to experience Uganda this summer in a whole new way.  Some of those experiences were extremely hard and challenging and through those experiences, Uganda became more real to me.  She has become less of a destination and more of a real location.  My rose-colored glasses lose a little of their hue every time I come, but that is very OK with me.  I want to see Uganda for who she really is.  I want to see Uganda the way God sees her.  Broken, conflicted, and in need of delicate but intense repair.  Uganda and I have a lot in common, and it will take time for both of us to be who God intended us to be.
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The Gift of Forgiveness – 
This is the first trip where I brought others along to see and experience RG and Uganda.  I have not felt at peace, until this summer, about bringing any one person or a group along with me.  But when I met Danielle I knew she was just perfect and that God was calling her to come.  I’m not sure I did a very good job leading a team. To say that both Nathan and Danielle were patient with me would be an understatement.  I can be high strung, stubborn, quick-tongued, and moody.  Just being honest.  And there were several times I had to go to each of them and ask for forgiveness.  Towards the middle of our time at RG, I lost sight of a few things and started to head in the wrong direction with my attitude. Danielle was ever forgiving and long suffering as I sorted through the murky waters that can be “missions,” “helping,” and learning to say no.  It occurred to me towards the end of my time in Uganda that the gift of forgiveness, like time, is also priceless.  For someone to really forgive and embrace you as if the wrong never occurred should never go unrecognized.  Such healing takes place when a person says I’m sorry and the recipient not only forgives with his mouth also with his heart.  For someone to know you and know about you and say, I like you anyway, is so freeing
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The Gift of Laughter
Danielle and I had a lot of laughs on this trip.  I realized that traveling alone does not often afford me the opportunity to laugh about things.  There was so much more joy this time around simply because I had someone to share Uganda with. Someone to laugh about sticky cultural and food situations, the ever challenging squatty potty, and anything else associated with travel and different cultures.  Danielle and I also had the precious opportunity to spend ample amounts of time with Janice McCall.  She and her husband, Dr. Tim, started Restoration Gateway eight years ago and continue to live in Uganda for most of the calendar year.  And because our housing was within shouting distance of Janice’s it meant lots of stop overs and drive by’s throughout the day.  I loved Janice the moment I met her three years ago and the gift she has to make me laugh is priceless.  There were plenty of times when Danielle, Janice, and I found ourselves sitting in the green shipping container Tim and Janice call home, giggling like small school girls. The age difference between the three women spans three generations, but the gift of laughter has no age limits and how sweet it was to laugh my way through my time in the bush.
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The Gift of Friendship
And then there’s Collines.  Man, can we laugh and carry on.  Her friendship truly is a gift. She fills my heart with so  much joy and laughter and Uganda would NOT be the same without my friend and my sister, Collines.  When I extended my first trip to Uganda in 2012, I never thought the extension would include gaining a new best friend.  But that is exactly what happened and I could not be more glad for the gift of her presence in my life.
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The Gift of Reflection
One of the reasons I value ‘alone time’ so much is because I use that time to read, to write, to pray, and even just sit and think. Not having any alone time for six weeks proved to be quite challenging or someone like me.  It’s absence only reminded me what a gift it truly is to be able to pause, slow down, and reflect on life and the things going on around me.  I look forward to the coming days when I will be home and can process so much of what happened over the course of this summer.  I know it will be in those times of reflection that God will reveal more about his plan for my life…of this I am sure.
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The Gift of Closure
As my time in Uganda comes to a close (for now) I am reminded how precious all of the aforementioned things have become to me: Time. Forgiveness.  Laughter.  Reflection. And last but not least, Friendship.  Sharing Uganda with friends is so much better than coming alone.  Sharing RG, sharing Collines, sharing the kids, and sharing the red clay that seeps in to the soles of my feet and reaches up into my heart is something I should have shared long ago.  Apart from my dear friends like Christie, Muffin, and Amber, not many know or understand what it’s like to be in Uganda again and again.  She gets to you.  She takes you in and changes you.  Sometimes it’s a little unsettling because if you let her, she may even change the course of your life.  And so it is with Christ.  He will change us for the better if we let Him.  And what a friend we have in Jesus that he would lay down his life for us and then still call us Friends.
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The Gift of Life –
Soon I will return to American soil.  Soon I will return to life as I know it and try, once again, to live life on two continents. I also believe that soon there will be a change in my life.  When and how it will all unfold is yet to be determined, but it’s coming and I can feel it.  In the mean time I will enjoy the gifts God has given me presently and trust him for the gifts he has in store…be it in one home…or the other.
Until then.
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The Gulu Gazette

It’s been a bit of time since my last post, but also very overdue. Hence, the name Gulu Gazette. I will attempt, but likely fail miserably, to cover all the major events from the last two or so weeks. Anyway, I know that the few of you who are reading this might be wondering what Danielle and I have been up to the last week or so. So to start, I am writing to you all from Gulu, and more specifically, from Collines’ living room. And the best part of it all is that for the first time in five weeks I am utterly alone.

And as Soon as I typed that very sentence (the previous one) the front gate to the house opened – and just like that – everyone is home. Well, the five minutes alone were glorious while they lasted.  

You see, since leaving America almost six weeks ago, I have either slept in a bed alongside, shared a toilet and bathroom with, taken the bottom bunk from, sat at a kitchen table next to, or cooked around and between another person (and not just Danielle!). This old woman isn’t as flexible as she used to be (wait, was I ever???) and I find myself needing a bit more alone time and/or space than seems to be available on a trip like this one.  

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade Danielle coming for anything and can’t imagine sharing this trip with anyone else. So it is not Daniella (as Ugandans call her) I need space from — but every once in awhile I just need a little space from life in general. Danielle has been easy-going, patient, flexible, adventurous and more than gracious and forgiving towards someone such as myself. She doesn’t bat an eye at smells, surroundings, social situations, or even foods. The other night she even tried to graciously consume goat intestines when it was served to her. We were eating underneath the stars and she couldn’t really see. Being the flexible person she is, Danielle simply popped everything in to her mouth. After chewing on something for awhile she decided to ask about it and, sure enough, it was intestine. I, on the other hand, had my head lamp amped and ready and practically inspected each piece of food before it entered my mouth. The culturally sensitive and gracious person in this situation goes without saying.  

After one sticky meal situation and three full weeks at RG, my culturally sensitive friend and I met Collines in Karuma. For the few of you who may not know Collines, she is one of my most treasured friends. We met here in Gulu back in 2012 and since then have spent many months and summers together. She knows my family, my niece and nephews, and many people in my home community. I love her like a sister and when I stay with her here in Gulu it feels like home. In fact, we are so comfortable that we feel free to come and go as we please. I had dinner with a friend tonight (shout out to Liz) while Collines is out with another friend (hence my earlier moment alone). 

Anyway, Collines has asked for years if I would greet her mom and visit her home village of Namasale. This time it finally worked and so we made the seven hour journey (that should only take five) for an overnight stay in her village. One flat tire later and an extended repair in Lira Town, we found ourselves in the place where Collines and Ritah (one of her many siblings) spent their childhood. Namasale is a fishing village located on a small lake Lake Kyoga (“Choga”). Collines spent most of her childhood living in town, but in 2013 her mom moved onto their family land which now boasts a cement house, cows, pigs, chickens, corn, sim-sim (sesame seeds) and many happy children (relatives). The land is peaceful but full of life and activity. I loved being ‘at home’ with Collines, finally meeting her mom, and seeing what life was like for Collines as a little girl. Of course, Danielle fit right in and made everyone laugh with her monkey impressions (it’s a real thing, people).

Mama Collines cooked feasts for us at every meal and I have never had such good fish in all my life! It was such a sweet evening and time with family. When it was time to leave Collines’ home I got so choked up. I don’t know if it was being cared for by a mom, meeting her mom for the first time, or just the overall experience of connecting with my friend in a deeper way, but the whole thing left me emotional. I almost cried real tears which is saying a lot for me (at this point in my life). And one of the most exciting things about visiting Colllines’ home was having the opportunity to see the school she is building. The school is on her own land and while I promise to write another post about her school later, you can learn more about the project now by visiting http://www.farawayfriendsuganda.com. I was so encouraged by what I saw and cannot wait to explain the vision Collines (and Far Away Friends) has for the school in Namasale.  

We arrived back to Gulu on Sunday night, exhausted from the five hour drive. I wish I could say it is possible to get used to travel here but I don’t think I ever will. It is so bumpy, and dusty…and hot. I feel like a kernel of corn on a hot surface. By the time it’s over I am greasy and ready to pop (if I haven’t done so already). So coming back to Collines’ home in Gulu was such a treat. We slept fitfully (in spite of lots of rain) and put Danielle on a bus back to RG first thing Monday morning. I was so proud of her for getting on that public bus all by herself. I won’t lie…I was a little nervous and felt a bit like a mom sending her child off to school for the first time, but I knew she would be fine. With Danielle on her way, I headed out to Sanctuary of Grace Primary School to meet Lisa and begin the second part of my reason in coming to Uganda.  

Originally from Alabama, Lisa and Keith run a school just outside Gulu Town and have lived here in the north for about nine years. Lisa has almost singlehandedly developed a new Christian-school curriculum written with a Biblical world-view and intended for African schools. She and Keith have also spent a great deal of their time investing in their primary school and the village surrounding it.  I first met Keith and Lisa back in 2013 and have enjoyed partnering and supporting them when I am in town. This week I will focus my time helping Lisa prepare for an ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) Summit meeting while also working on curriculum and National standards. It might seem like a daunting task, but Lisa is a wealth of knowledge and sitting under her teaching (so to speak) only furthers my understanding of all things Ugandan (especially related to education). As if running a school, writing curriculum, and preparing for Summit meetings weren’t enough, Keith and Lisa also run a teacher education center (called the Educator Development Institute) where young men come to learn Biblical foundations along with instructional practices for teaching one-room classes in rural schools. They took me to see the Institute today and it, like the curriculum, is also fantastic. For more information on Keith and Lisa and their ministry Our Call Missions, visit their Facebook page (Our Call Missions) or go to ourcallmissions.blogspot.com.

Phew! So that is my laundry list slash report on all the things going on here in Northern Uganda. I won’t lie – I am tired. Really tired. I will admit that I have not rested enough on this trip and even now it seems like I am in a whirlwind of sorts. And how easy it is to get caught up with all the things that need to be done rather than enjoying people and slowing down to hear God’s still small voice. I know the next week will be just as busy as tomorrow we begin our last full week here in Uganda. I am trying to be intentional. I am trying to slow down. I am trying. 😉 The last two days have been good – even great. This morning was slow and this evening I enjoyed dinner and great conversation with my American and very age appropriate friend, Elizabeth. Now I am enjoying a quite evening at home where the only sounds heard are the mosquitos buzzing in my ears, Ritah working around the house, crickets chirping, and music playing faintly and from a few streets over. Life is quite, if only for a moment, but I’ll take it.

  Collines and a few kids who can’t wait for the school to open

  It’s Smiles in Namasale

  Collines and her sister, Ritah

  Circle of Friends

Mama Collines (Jassinta)

Times Ten

My days at RG are much like my days during the school year. Times ten. School starts at 7:30 a.m. so I am up by six every morning (or before) and just in time to have a little quiet before things and people start to bustle around me. I stay in the same house each time I come to RG. It’s a two story compound with bunkbeds, a cement floor, and screened walls on the second floor kitchen area.  These screens make the upstairs feel like you basically live outside. I love this home. It feels a bit like camping but with the luxury of a toilet and running water. At night you can hear all kinds of creatures humming and chirping, and when it rains on our tin roof the only word to describe the sound is glorious.  

Once I get to school, it’s go-go-go until 4 p.m. – The last couple of days I have added ‘book club’ to my list of afternoon activities. The Boxcar Children, book number one, is a big hit thus far. From there I make my way to our very outdoor but only semi-private shower where the cold water washes away my dusty tan (compliments of the orange dirt here in Uganda). If it is already dark Danielle and I eat by headlamp (if our solar isn’t working) and spend our time telling funny stories about the kids or reviewing the school day’s events. And if I make it 9:15 – if and only if – then that is a celebration in and of itself. Feeling wiped out would be an understatement, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

The school day here is much like that of any in the states. Classes, PE, crafts, library time, assemblies, and even morning devotions. It is (and has been) my desire to support and empower our permanent teaching staff here at RG and this summer that is exactly where I have focused my time. Most of my days are spent outside of the actual classroom while Danielle is working her tail off in the school and doing amazing things with both the students and the teachers. She is such an encouragement to the teaching staff and models great teaching practices on a moment by moment basis. Because she is here, I also feel more free to work together with Janice on things like logistics (master scheduling), teacher acquisition and hiring, rotations for the elementary kids, and further development of school policies and procedures

Oaks of Righteousness Primary School is an amazing place to work. Times ten. There are challenges here just like any other school but we are growing and even changing in many positive ways. The kids are happy, safe, and learning things that many Ugandan students outside of RG never have the opportunity to learn. Some of our students are performing at the very top of the district in English and Social Studies. We have veteran teachers on staff who are educational leaders in their own right and greatly help me when it comes to better understanding the Ugandan school system. We have a new librarian (Ugandan) who started this week and already has systems in place, scheduled library times for the kids, and yesterday I even found her reading to the young kids in a circle. We have another teacher (also Ugandan) who is certified in several computer programs and not only did she place all our master schedules into spreadsheets, but she also took over the PE program – and within one day had an entire scope and sequence created. She has even generously offered to provide basic computer classes to her professional peers (the other teachers) at no charge. 

I should continue celebrating the RG teaching staff with our Head Master who is a gifted artist and continues to work with students on chalks, paints, and sketching. Our first grade teacher could give any stateside teacher a run for their money when it comes to high student engagement and student-centered learning. She is a natural. Yesterday our math teacher played volleyball with his students for the entire period of PE and every time I walk by his clasrrom he is at the board teaching away. We have other teachers who show genuine care and concern over their pupils’ achievement when it comes to internal and external exams (meaning school based and National exams). They have advocated for an additional study hall time in order to better equip and prepare the 7th grade students for the National exam set to take place in November.  Unlike our middle school state assessment, this exam carries with it a point system. Students take these points with them to seondary school and then these same points (and others) are used to determine their post secondary educational route. It is a bit like a GPA but starts when you are thirteen. I am not a fan, but that is beside the point. 

Here is my point: The teachers and this school are doing amazing things. Times ten. I am so happy to be a part of the development process which, to some degree, will always be on-going. I love the challenge of finding what makes our teachers want to soar and then putting systems in place that will empower them to do so. I love being behind the scenes and seeing all Ugandan faces when I walk around the school. Simply put: I love seeing Ugandan teachers in the spotlight, front and center. They are the real stars and the ones to be celebrated. Times ten.  

   

       

Gone To Uganda

Gone To Uganda
It’s not always easy getting internet connectivity when you’re in the bush but somehow we have worked out the kinks and, as singletons (meaning not part of an official team), Danielle and I are officially bumming WiFi from a group of volunteers. It has already been two weeks since we left but every time I come to Africa some sort of Time Vortex sucks me in and I lose all tracks of hours and days. We started as a team of three and already Nathan has left back to America. This was his first trip to Africa and it seemed that once he got to RG he just soaked in as much as he could. There is so much to observe and Nathan asked so many great questions that allowed me to learn even more about Tim and Janice and their long term vision for RG. Several of the boys took to Nathan (and his phone) and followed him around the majority of the time he was here. Nathan also generously supplied many of the kids (girls and boys) with new clothing. I know many of you also graciously donated and I will post pictures on FB of some of the kids getting their new threads. The boys were especially excited to receive their basketball shorts and tops as they were greatly in need. Thanks again to all who donated, shopped, made, or gave money to purchase the clothing items. 

When Nathan, Danielle, and I arrived to Kampala we still had a six to eight hour car ride ahead of us. Little did I know that the Chinese Government has been working on the road to Gulu due to the Hydro Electric Dam they are building. This means there are speed humps every twenty feet for the last two hours of the drive to RG. Not only that but the road is orange dust and nothing more which means we mostly looked like orange dust and nothing more by the time we arrived. Arriving to RG and seeing the smiling faces that awaited us made it worth every painful second spent in that car. When we pulled up, I opened the van window and the kids (who didn’t know when I would arrive) started squealing. Danielle got it all on video and I will try to post it later.
We have moved rooms a few time and it took a couple of days to settle in since, like always, I hit the ground running and go until I collapse. But I think Danielle and I are finally sorted and already digging in. And speaking of Danielle…she has been simply amazing. She taught science several days last week and has learned the names of many of the kids. 

I guess the main thought I’ve had this week is that each time I visit RG I feel closer and closer to home. I don’t exactly know what that means but I just know it is how I feel.  

Gone To Uganda

Gone To Uganda
It’s not always easy getting internet connectivity when you’re in the bush but somehow we have worked out the kinks and, as singletons (meaning not part of an official team), Danielle and I are officially bumming WiFi from a group of volunteers. It has already been two weeks since we left but every time I come to Africa some sort of Time Vortex sucks me in and I lose all tracks of hours and days. We started as a team of three and already Nathan has left back to America. This was his first trip to Africa and it seemed that once he got to RG he just soaked in as much as he could. There is so much to observe and Nathan asked so many great questions that allowed me to learn even more about Tim and Janice and their long term vision for RG. Several of the boys took to Nathan (and his phone) and followed him around the majority of the time he was here. Nathan also generously supplied many of the kids (girls and boys) with new clothing. I know many of you also graciously donated and I will post pictures on FB of some of the kids getting their new threads. The boys were especially excited to receive their basketball shorts and tops as they were greatly in need. Thanks again to all who donated, shopped, made, or gave money to purchase the clothing items. 

When Nathan, Danielle, and I arrived to Kampala we still had a six to eight hour car ride ahead of us. Little did I know that the Chinese Government has been working on the road to Gulu due to the Hydro Electric Dam they are building. This means there are speed humps every twenty feet for the last two hours of the drive to RG. Not only that but the road is orange dust and nothing more which means we mostly looked like orange dust and nothing more by the time we arrived. Arriving to RG and seeing the smiling faces that awaited us made it worth every painful second spent in that car. When we pulled up, I opened the van window and the kids (who didn’t know when I would arrive) started squealing. Danielle got it all on video and I will try to post it later.
We have moved rooms a few time and it took a couple of days to settle in since, like always, I hit the ground running and go until I collapse. But I think Danielle and I are finally sorted and already digging in. And speaking of Danielle…she has been simply amazing. She taught science several days last week and has learned the names of many of the kids. 

I guess the main thought I’ve had this week is that each time I visit RG I feel closer and closer to home. I don’t exactly know what that means but I just know it is how I feel.  

I Surrender Some

We sing about it in church. The organ plays, the guitar strums. We close our eyes. Some of us even raise our hands. And with passion, we sing about surrendering everything to Jesus. This morning the hymn, I Surrender All, popped in to my mind. I began to hum the chorus as I went about chores. “All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all…”

But something didn’t sound right…something didn’t feel right. I sang it again. I surrender all. Surely those weren’t the lyrics because I don’t surrender all. Truth be told: I only surrender some.

I started to sing what little I could remember from the first stanza.

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Whaaaaaaat? That’s what I’ve been singing in church all these years? What a fraud I am. What a fake.

I went to my computer and pulled up the rest of the song and it left me speechless.

…All to him, I freely give.

Nope. Not freely. Not me.

…I will ever love and trust him.

Again, that would be a no. I put myself first. A LOT. And I suppose that at times I trust Him, but only after every other option has been explored and carefully sought out. I trust him after I know there’s money in the bank, gas in my car, food in my refrigerator, and locks on my doors.

…In His presence daily live.

If only. I have moments where I seek his presence. I hastily go looking for it in between the pages of my Jesus Calling devotional or by listening to a song on K-Love or even at a stop light when I’m momentarily still. But do I try to daily exist in his presence? Meh…

How can I even pretend to sing this song at church? How did I ever sing this before without really taking into account the lyrics? Shouldn’t I really be singing I surrender SOME?

SOME to Jesus, I surrender, SOME to Him I SOMETIMES give. I SOMETIMES love and SOMETIMES trust Him and SOMETIMES in his presence daily live.

I read the second verse and became slightly more distraught.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

There are times when my mind and spirit completely reject the idea of ‘bowing’ to anyone (human or King). My flesh wrestles to forsake the things of the world. And newsflash, People, my vices are those which ‘Real and Mature Christians’ should no longer struggle with according to ‘Real and Mature Christians’.

And what did JW Van DeVenter mean when he wrote, Take me, Jesus, take me now? So I did a little research. It turns out the man behind the pen struggled for over five years between pursuing a successful teaching career verses a full time calling in ministry. Allow me to be momentarily transparent: His struggle hits a little too close to home. I continued to read the following stanza:

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

Finally, a few words I could feel good about singing. It’s a prayer, a request, and a cry to Jesus. Oh, how I do desire to know the Holy Spirit. To know that He is mine and I am his. I can even relate to his desire to feel the Holy Spirit because in February of this year the Holy Spirit came to me in a real and powerful way. He came to me in a charismatic, Pentecostal, and Hey, Sarah, that’s a cool story but also kind of strange kind of way. So I know He is present in my life and desires that I give all of myself to Him, but…

…Sometimes I just don’t feel ‘ready’ to surrender all.

Nonetheless, I had to keep reading to see if this song ever gets to the part where we all get real and sing something like, “I have a hard time surrendering. I have pride, I have fear, and I am stubborn la, la, la…”

But this song doesn’t ever go there. Instead it says,

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Basically Mr. Van DeVenter says,Lord, you win. Now please just give me what I need (your Love and power) in order to do what you’ve called me to do. I can’t do it on my own, so please bless me and equip me for whatever it is you’re calling me to do.

Now that’s a surrendered man. I’m betting his life became slightly less complicated when he finally did give in because the final stanza reads,

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

I couldn’t help but reflect on the words Now, Joy, Full, and Glory. 

Now: It’s clear there was a before and after in Mr. Van DeVenter’s life. Now, I feel it. Now, I understand it. Now I better see You, Lord.  

Joy: There is nothing in the world like joy. Joy is something Christ alone can give. I am also fairly certain there is joy to be found in giving up.

Full: Here, the word is used as part of a the phrase full salvation. Saving grace was made complete in Christ’s death and resurrection and yet there is a fullness we lack when we don’t surrender. Are we still saved? Yes, but are we living in the fullness of our salvation? No. So often I realize I’m not living in the fullness of Christ. That I’m not experiencing the fullness of my salvations because of un-forgiveness, pride, sin, or in this case, a lack of surrender in my life.

Glory: Surrendering is not just for our own benefit. When Christ calls us to surrender our wills, our desires, or the things we hold near and dear in this life, it’s for his glory. He allows us the benefit by being made more into His likeness, but ultimately we were created to bring glory to God’s name. It is in our surrender that God is glorified.

So here I sit. I’ve listened to the song repeatedly as I’ve typed out these thoughts and still I wonder, Can I do it? Can I really surrender all? Lord, do I trust that you’re enough? Can I truly give up what I’ve always thought I wanted for my life and believe you’re still enough?

Truth Be Told: I’ll always surrender some, but I’ll continue to struggle to surrender all. It’s a choice I will have to make daily and sometimes moment-by-moment. But this I do know, I’ll never sing the words to this song again without taking seriously what I’m proclaiming before the Lord as the organ plays and the guitar strums. I will be a little more cautious before closing my eyes and raising my hands as if I’ve really surrendered all and am happy about it.

But I will also take these lyrics to heart and ponder the sheer joy in surrendering, the joy in letting go, and the freedom it must bring to turn my face to Jesus and say “Take my life. I’m yours.”

I Surrender AllKern, Lester. “The Black Art Depot.” I Surrender All (Female) by Lester Kern. TheThe Black Art Depot, 10 June 2015. Web. 10 June 2015.

I Surrender All   (click here to listen to the song)

JW Van DeVenter  (click here to learn more about Mr. Van DeVenter)