Complacency; a wily assassin

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

~Poet Ralf Waldo Emerson

 

Recently a friend sent Sal and I a video about the man who started the Free Burma Rangers. His family tells an incredible story of being called to the mission field in the middle of a war zone and ethnic cleansing and how they demonstrated the love of Christ by helping the oppressed, extracting children caught behind enemy lines, equipping local peoples and more. As I watched him run through ISIS gunfire to rescue a young girl who sat clinging to her dead mother, I was convicted to tears. “Oh God,” I prayed, “I am so easily distracted and lulled by the mundane. Help me to keep running and not to take my eyes off the prize.”

Photo courtesy: Chris Sinclair; Christianitytoday.com
The Eubank family, founders of Free Burma Rangers.

 

Paul writes, “… we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame…” (Romans 5:3-5) I think the inverse is also true. One could say, “We know that comfort produces complacency; complacency, passivity; and passivity, apathy. And apathy is the enemy to love and will ultimately destroy us.”

Picnic tables encourage quality family time much more than couches do for the Sanchez Family

One of the greatest struggles in my life has been continually living with intentionality. Sure, it’s easy to stir up some fiery emotions and get motivated for a time, but as hours stretch into days and then into weeks and years, it’s so easy to be lulled into a stupor by the relentless cradle of the mundane. Comfort is one of my greatest enemies. When we are stateside and friends visit us, they often ask if we’d like a couch or a television and they’re confused when we decline. But the truth is, typical American comforts make me lazy. When we stay with friends and family who have couches, I find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time sitting and sending my kids to fetch things that I should be up getting myself. Now, to be fair, there is, of course, nothing inherently evil about the couch; the problem is my own lack of self-discipline. However, why needlessly subject myself to such a source of temptation to be lazy?

The temptation, however, doesn’t end with physical comforts. In the absence of these things I’m drawn to seek comfort in routines, schedules and programs. I start to conjure up a false sense of security which leads to a satisfaction with how things are- with the status quo. When I get comfortable, I relax and my awareness of the needs of those around me gets dull. What a precarious life we live!

A couple of our kids out in Rhino Refugee Settlement

Sometimes the things we see overseas and the abject poverty that surrounds us haunt me when I return to the US. I feel guilty about living comfortably while knowing that one of my unofficially adopted daughters overseas is facing eviction, or that a beautiful little girl who used to come to Sunday School in the refugee camp will be sleeping in the mud, or in a grown man’s bed. We will take our family out to eat at Pizza Hut and suddenly I see lovely but gaunt faces looking in through the window at me.

Because of this, sometimes I live rather existentially. By only focusing on what is immediately in front of me, I can avoid some of the unpleasant feelings, but this causes other problems. Without meaning to I can loose motivation, lose the heart that drove me forward to make a difference and deaden the voice of God in my life. I’m not saying that we should wallow in sorrows that we can do nothing about. Philippians 4:8 says, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” However, we do have to guard diligently against getting distracted and loosing sight of our mission.

After all, if we are children of God, we have a heaven-assigned mission to do good and to share the Good News in word and deed.

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

~John Wesley

Hadassah reading before bed

I believe that one of the greatest tactics of the devil in America is busyness and distraction. The statistics on the average amount of screen time we spend daily are staggering. I get it; when that notification goes off alerting me to a new message I’m like Pavlov’s dog drooling at the sound of a dinner bell. The amount of social media communication that people expect from us is insane. Demands on our time from work, school, family, church, sports, etc. seem impossible to satisfy. I’m always surprised how strong the pull of this American lifestyle is and how quickly I get sucked into it every time we return stateside. I’m constantly re-evaluating how I’m spending my time and reorganizing my priorities.

What does this have to do with a video I watched earlier this week? Please bear with me as I try to pull my thoughts together. Not too long ago I was unwittingly just going through the motions. Without realizing it I had lost much of my zeal, bogged down by the daily grind. We were moving forward, fundraising, sharing about our vision in East Africa and the Horn, making plans on how we would return amongst the Covid crisis and sending some aid to our partners still working in Uganda. However, my heart was heavy with a lethargic tiredness. That’s not to say that I had lost any belief in our work. On the contrary, I was and am genuinely excited about the direction God is taking us. However, at some point the necessary focus on things like budgets, travel plans and preparing another school year turned into being consumed by the concerns of this world and too much passion was wrung out from my heart.

Arua kids who come for one of our weekly children’s programs

Then I watched this video about a missionary family doing something truly extraordinary for Jesus and it was like a defibrillator shock to my heart. It’s crazy how our God-given calling is so intertwined with how we see God. All at once I was reminded of the bigness and goodness of God, of my love for Him and challenged to live radically for Him. I was reminded that God’s plans for us are bigger than our pocketbook or budget, wilder than our dreams and imaginations, greater than our natural abilities and so beyond us.

He fills my heart with passion and motivation, and like Peter, I have to keep my eyes on Him if I am to walk on water. The moment my attention turns to the cares of this world I start to sink. God will also guide me in processing the sorrows without detaching from them so that through sanctification I can become more like Christ who was at once a man of sorrows and filled with joy.

Rhino Refugee Settlement, Northern Uganda

And I wonder if I am not alone in this. If a missionary to Africa can get lost in the seductive draw of the mundane, distraction, comfort and complacency, I have to imagine that American Christians immersed in this culture can also fall prey to it. Please be encouraged to discover or rediscover your God-given destiny for adventure and a life that is significant because it makes a difference. God made you for a purpose and it will undoubtedly be a destiny filled with excitement, sorrow, joy, pain, adventure, love, loss and daring, but you have to break out of the world’s cookie-cutter to find it.

Thank you for reading this post and God bless.

“Why do so many people do nothing? I think it’s because most of us look at the evils and injustice around us, and we become overwhelmed. The problems look too big for us to tackle. We say to ourselves, ‘What can I do? I’m just one person.’ One person is a start. One person can act and make a change by helping another. One person can inspire a second person to be intentional, and another. Those people can work together. They can becoe a movement. They can make and impact. We should never let what we cannot do keep us from doing what we can do. A passive life does not become a meaningful life.”

~John C. Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters

An official relaunch

Welcome to Love’s Training Ground!

We are a missions family who have worked in North, South and Central America and East Africa. We work largely with traumatized children and youth, although we do a lot

IMG_20181208_105818_20181211141235984_20181212230420942
A young boy at Ofua Refugee camp in northern Uganda. He is one of many that our team worked with.

with adults also. We’re relationship based and believe in working with and alongside the locals to help them raise up strong communities with native leadership committed to integrity.

This blog will follow us in our day-to-day existence: the good, the bad, the trials and the triumphs. We hope it will be a source of inspiration, encouragement, entertainment and humor. You can read more about me (Heather) and my family by clicking the “Who am I?” tab.

For those who follow this blog, you’ll notice that it is no longer “Borderlands International.” They are the nonprofit organization we direct and partner with, but trying to combine the organization’s updates with our personal blog simply wasn’t a good idea. In an effort to communicate our lives in a transparent and authentic way while maintaining the professionalism that the organization demands, we’ve opted to divide the two into different web pages. Hence, you are now on Love’s Training Ground, our personal family blog. If you are looking for, or interested in Borderlands International, please go to borderlandsinternational.org.

So, where are we right now? Last year we left Uganda, Africa and returned Stateside. We’ve been in northern Michigan catching up with extended family and getting our feet back under us. Our plan is to move to Charlotte, North Carolina at the end of the month

IMG_20190308_192429
The girls on their way back Stateside. Despite the long travel time – our return trip was only 30 hours which isn’t bad – they love to fly.

where we’ll prepare for our return to Africa. From renewing passports and acquiring the proper visas to building an emergency evacuation fund and getting cyber security training, there is quite a bit to do prior to getting back to Africa and the process will take months. However, the first step forward requires that we move to Charlotte. With the help of friends and family we have acquired an RV and an SUV and we’ll be RVing for the remainder of our stay in the US.

Our goal is to return long-term to Ethiopia. We loved the work we were doing in northern Uganda, but we were faced with two awesome “problems.” For one, new missionaries and missions families are arriving weekly. We prayed for God to send the workers, and He’s done just that. For another, many of the South Sudanese we worked with in the refugee camps are returning to their homes in South Sudan, which is also an answer to prayer. On top of this we feel like the Lord is leading us further north to Ethiopia.

IMG_20190221_072322
Talai in a gift shop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She and Sal did a scouting trip there last February

When I’m running low on new content to post, I might reminisce and share some stories from our past adventures. We’ve been very busy the past few years and I’ve neglected this blog. Hopefully I can take advantage of the slower pace of being Stateside and “catch up” a bit. Again, I hope this blog inspires, encourages, entertains, challenges and makes you laugh. My goal is to maintain a sort of “missionary life unplugged” attitude built on an honest, authentic and holistic representation of our life and work. Our previous posts representing both us and Borderlands International will remain on the blog, but from here on our we are relaunching as Love’s Training Ground.

Thank you for dropping by today. Please keep us in your prayers.

God bless.

IMG_20181209_164936
Taken from one of the final walks the girls and I took with the kids from the missions base we lived on. Walking and playing with the base kids was one of our favorite things to do.

Mingone! Hujambo! Marhaban! Hello from Uganda!

IMG_0572
Yes, this guy is wild!

We are living in Uganda, Africa and loving it! Please allow me to begin this first update from within Uganda with a huge thank you to everyone who has been praying for and supporting us. The transition has had it’s challenges, (ie: jet lag, sickness, general adjustments) but we are doing very well, making friends, connecting with locals, getting along well with other YWAM staff and settling in. Much has happened over the nearly two months since we’ve been in Uganda so I will give an overview of our time with this update and use later posts to zoom in to our everyday lives.

Our flight here was blessedly uneventful and, although long, went more-or-less as

mila on plane

planned which is the best one hopes for. We arrived in Entebbe Airport, Uganda just shy of 11pm and were picked up in our new (used) Land Rover by a driver named Frank who had come highly recommended by fellow missionaries. I must admit, there is something about driving around in your own Land Rover in the middle of Africa that makes you feel pretty cool and adventurous. Anyway, we spent the night in a hostel and headed for Arua, our new home, the next day.

Considering that we had purchased the vehicle sight unseen, we were a little nervous that our first drive with it would be clear across the country through national forests and down rural dirt “highways.” We were both relieved and delighted to find that it ran

IMG_0577
This guy chased us down the highway

solidly. That said, we got a late start and when dusk came we still had over 100 miles left to travel. We stopped at a guest house with the intention of spending the night but they tried to take advantage of us so we left. When the manager warned us that there were no other guest houses open at that hour for the rest of our journey we assumed he was bluffing. Well, turns out he wasn’t. So, less than 24 hours in Africa and we were already going against sound advice and driving at night. In an attempt to reach our destination quickly, Sal took the pot-hole-filled dirt road a bit too fast and we blew a tire, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully we were also covered in prayer and likely surrounded by angels because when we coasted to a stop, we emerged just past a bunch of tall grass and found ourselves stopped in front of a police checkpoint virtually invisible from behind the foliage. I guarantee that a car full of Muzungus (white people) was probably the last thing the police expected to see when they shone their flashlights into our vehicle. The police were great though. They laughed and chatted with Sal as they helped him get our tire swapped out with the spare. They never asked for money and one even gave Sal his personal phone number to call if we ran into any trouble along the way.

At the YWAM base we were given a very warm and open reception indeed. The

img_20180710_181335
Talai and Hadassah playing with some of their new friends

 girls were making friends literally from day one. Many people came by to welcome us but they also gave us much needed space to rest, adjust and reset our biological clocks. I was surprised at how powerful a force jet lag was. For the first few weeks I walked around all day like a belligerent zombie. Then, as I lie in bed at night, I would get this burst of energy and clarity. One night Sal and I were awakened around 3 am to the sound scuttling feet in the living room. My poor husband, who sufferers from hyper-vigilance, jumped out of bed, immediately on high alert.

“The dogs aren’t barking Honey,” I mumbled. “It’s probably just cockroaches or maybe a rat. Why don’t you just come back to bed?”

Unconvinced, Sal stalked silently to the bedroom door and flung it open. Two shadows in the moonlight disappeared behind chairs.

“Come out now and show yourself,” Sal commanded.

After a couple seconds of muffled giggling, Talai and Hadassah stepped out from behind the chairs.

“What are you ladies doing?” Sal asked. “It’s three in the morning.”

“Shhh!” Hadassah exclaimed.

“We’re spies,” Talai said to her somewhat bewildered father.

Needless to say the girls had a bit of trouble adjusting to the 9-hour time difference as well.

After about six weeks we were all feeling settled in. During this time we explored the various existing ministries that the base is involved in and spent much time in prayer as we seek to figure out just where we fit in here at YWAM Arua. We are also learning Lugbara (local dialect), Ugandan Sign Language and Juba (S. Sudanese Arabic) with Cacua (S. Sudanese tribal dialect), Luganda (another dialect) and Swahili on queue.

img_20180603_151703
Shopping at the local market in Arua, our hometown.

One day I went to the local prison with Nelson, the prison ministry leader. Normally Sal visits the prison and thanks to him I knew that they would be expecting me to share “the word of God” with them. I envisioned a group of lady prisoners around a table for Bible study as I prayed and prepared something to say. Then Nelson informed me that we’d be going to the men’s prison. Well, I thought, I’m not sure how I’m going to relate to a bunch of male African prisoners, but if that’s what it’s got to be… I prayed and prepared something to share, still envisioning a Bible study gathered around a table in a quiet room. Nelson and I went just the two of us one Wednesday morning to the prison. When we arrived, the guards were rude and condescending which was a little intimidating right off the bat. After making us wait outside for some time, they summoned us inside. On the other side of the gate, a couple of the prisoners were swatting at a wasp hive on the entrance gate trying to remove it and then running as the wasps dive-bombed them. The guard kicked open the gate, staying as far from the wasps as possible, and then told us mockingly, “Go on. Your God will protect you.” We passed through the gate into the prison yard with the guards’ laughter trailing behind.

Hundreds of eyes looked up from their work and games in the prison yard to stare at me, surely wondering what this sole Muzungu woman was doing. Thankfully they were all smiling pleasantly. Then came my next surprise: they were holding church service in the open air of the prison yard and I was preaching. It was not the quiet Bible study I had envisioned at all! Around 50 or so men came and sat on benches for church while more listened in a little ways off. Did I mention that my “audience” consisted of Christians, Muslims, Animists and Atheists? No pressure right? God, however, is so good. He used this small white American girl with stage fright and took over to share a message of hope and encouragement. Seriously, it was as if I didn’t do anything but open my mouth and God did the rest. The men were great. There was a lot of hooting and hollering and music making. They were kind, polite, appreciative and such a huge blessing to me. I felt genuinely welcomed.

Our church service ran late and Sal waited outside the prison for about a half hour to

img_20180710_175245
We are not allowed to take pictures at the prison so I thought I’d post this picture of Sal teaching these boys some art instead.

pick Nelson and I up. Growing suspicious the prison guards approached Sal and questioned him. They were very surprised to hear that he was waiting for his wife to come out from Bible study inside the prison and that he had allowed her to enter the prison at all without his accompaniment. They returned to their posts shaking their heads and muttering, “Crazy Muzungus” Whereas I can’t expect them to understand what motivates us, the whole ordeal reminded me of what an awesome and supportive husband I have. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in following the wind of the Spirit that I forget how much faith it takes Sal to entrust me into God’s hands and give me the freedom to freely serve God. I know that is not the case in every marriage and am so thankful his unceasing support.

Although I’ve only gone once since arriving in Arua, I’ve committed to going out to Rhino Refugee Settlement with the children’s ministry. We do a sort of “Sunday School” program with the kids which is hosted by a local church in the camp and visit a

36396278_669671863375367_8865349163697569792_n
A children’s program at a church we are working with in Rhino Refugee settlement

children’s home for orphans that was relocated to the camp after the war broke out in South Sudan. The children are wonderful. Of course it is difficult to see the abject poverty. Children show up filthy and half-dressed to hear a Bible story and you keep asking yourself, “What else can I do?” When asked who spent the night with parents or relatives a significant minority raise their hands. My heart shudders to think about what happens with the vulnerable young orphans with nowhere to go as night falls. They’ve been termed “unaccompanied minors” by authorities, those children who emerge from the Bush and cross into Uganda without any adult accompanying them. They are so numerous and only one complication of many involved with the refugee crisis and no one has yet come up with a workable solution. This entry is getting long however, so I’ll share my experience in the refugee camp with the children in a later post.

We do, however, have one more announcement to make before concluding this article. Often while walking about Sal and I would peek our heads through the broken glass window of a poor little derelict library nearby. We spoke about what a shame it was to have a library closed and neglected, especially in a community where children play in the streets during school hours because they can’t afford the fees. “What if they had a library to go to?” we said. As many of you know, Sal and I are great lovers of books andimg_20180710_161857.jpg finally the injustice was simply too much for us to bear. Sal started inquiring about what it would take to fix-up and reopen the library. And, this week we found ourselves officially with the master set of keys and blessings to resurrect the library! Although our whole family will be involved, Sal is the driving force. The potential and opportunities of running a community library are endless. We’ve high hopes to use it as a launching pad for teaching children things like reading, writing, responsibility and, of course, Bible stories and morality; training young adults in Apologetics and worldview; starting reading clubs, game nights; running kids programs and much more. The opportunity for sharing the Gospel in both word and action are limitless. Please keep this effort in your prayers as we are just getting started.

After much prayer and seeking we feel like we are starting to get some clear direction from God. We are very excited about what the months ahead have in store.

One quick note on pictures: Because we are not allowed to take pictures at the prison, there will be no ministry pictures from Sal there. Also, we’re more focused on building relationships right now than taking pictures, but we will try to get some good photos as well. Thank you for your patience.

Here are some things you can pray for on our behalf:

  • Physical Health- friends are surprised we haven’t contracted malaria yet. That and many other sicknesses are very prevalent.
  • Favor – We’re still in the middle of establishing many relationships from fellow missionaries to leaders to local authorities to kids in the refugee camps.
  • Spiritual Protection – The atmosphere of spiritual warfare is almost palpable and a very real battle is going on. For example, every morning during our quiet prayerNOVATEK CAMERA time we can hear the Muslim call to prayer from the Mosque down the road. Islam, Christianity, Animism and Secularism are all at a crossroads where we are and competing for disciples.
  • An ability to breach walls – Whether it is a differing worldview or the color of our skin, please pray that we can be effective at tearing down walls that divide us from the African people whom we seek to serve and bless.
  • Provision – Please pray that the Lord continues to “Give us this day our daily bread” and provide for all He has called us to do. We are still shy of our goal for monthly financial support.
  • Direction – We will have to move in the months to come as our home on the base is only a temporary arrangement. We are also seeking to follow God’s direction as we serve YWAM and northern Uganda.

If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation towards our work and ministry or are interested in financially supporting us on a monthly basis, please click on the “Donate” tab at the top of this page.

We thank you immensely for your involvement in our lives and, as always, pray that God bountifully blesses you and yours.

IMG_0866
These also are wild. We spotted them while driving home from Kampala

The Fifth Gospel

Salt and light… a light not hidden… a salt uncompromising…an understandable gospel for those who won’t read the the written Gospels.

Please, allow me to start by telling you a story.

Two nights ago in Arua, Uganda I was sitting with a new friend, Sheikh ***** **** Muhammad (for his protection we will refer to him simply as “Muhammad”). Muhammad was, a Sheikh (an authorized teacher of Islam) and has a wife and 15 children. His first-born is a Sheikh as well. In fact, his father, grandfather and so on for 5 generations have been Sheikhs.

Growing up he went to an Islamic school and eventually studied in a Shiite University in Kampala. Later he moved to Saudi Arabia where he taught as a Professor in the Sunni University for 17 years. After returning home, Muhammad, being a Sheikh, continued teaching Islam in his homeland of Uganda and developed quite a following. Until recently, that is. You see, Muhammad is now a Christian. He told me that one day, as he was out walking, a forum caught his attention. Christian missionary was explaining the difference between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Koran. Muhammad heard and instinctively knew some of it for true. Inside his heart he yearned for the truth.

7e59cf1864af52aca3d0f9b8f67fedce

“Josh” (the missionary) had said that Jesus was the Truth and that the Truth would set him free. That same day Muhammad secretly gave his life to Christ. Yet for two years, Muhammad lived publicly as a Sheikh who privately didn’t believe in what he taught. As I understood it, he finally felt that he couldn’t live that life anymore; it was hypocrisy. Only four days ago, he came out as a Christian. He told me that he could no longer put his light under a cover. “No.” he affirmed, “I must not be ashamed; no compromise.” Since publicly proclaiming Christ, all of his disciples have accepted the Lord which makes sixty in all, of all ages and races and all being former Muslims.

The day after his public proclamation, a car pulled up in front of a his home and the driver yelled, “Muhammad quick come here!” As he walked out the door, he was abducted. His mouth was taped and he was beaten and taken to a deserted place outside of the city and left for dead. “As I laid there I prayed, ‘Jesus You are still king.'” He told me. “And, as I was crying and praying, a woman came to me from out of nowhere. A woman came to me…Where did she some from? Where was she going? A woman came to me and she saved my life.” This woman took Muhammad to a hospital in Arua where he received medical treatment and was released.

This brings me to the day I met him. Sid (a YWAM buddy) said he wanted to take me to meet a guy he knew who had just been released from the hospital. We picked him up, took him to Sid’s house, made him food and encouraged him. He told us about how he would soon be returning to his home. Because, as he shared, “The time has come and there is a change in my City. They are ready for Christ.” He continued, “When I come back, many will see and not be afraid. Jesus will come with me…”

The former Sheikh had become uncompromising salt and light.

To better clarify for you what the Lord has been speaking to me over these past five weeks in Arua, Uganda, I have to tell you another story of another man, who I highly respect, of his pursuit of the Lord and for the way it transformed his family. It is a story of the change he made from being a passive Christian to a burning one.

Shane has set himself on fire with a passionate relationship with Jesus through His word, actions and prayer.

As he spoke with me he told me about a change that had occurred. Shane said, “I was living a compromised Christianity.” He shared how his family went to church every Sunday, how they invested time and money in the institution and were good people by American standards. But, something was missing. He had no burning desire for the Lord, and neither did his family. He made a conscientious decision to submit his whole life to the Lord and root out every compromise in his life and heart and to live a real gospel. He prioritized and completely reconstructed his daily life, right down to avoiding the TV shows he usually watched with his wife and kids. It didn’t happen overnight, but his family soon followed his example, seeing the Truth evident in his life. Him being that fifth gospel was more effective than a plethora of sermons on Sunday morning.

His story touched me. I met his family and I prayed my girls would grow to be as Godly as his children are, burning with love for Jesus and the world. I heard what people said about him and his family, that he was a man on on fire for Christ, that he was a man who lived the fifth gospel. As my wife and I visited with Shane and his family and they told us their story about how the power of Christ transformed a family when the the father and husband relentlessly strove to know Christ deeper and be more like Him, I was convicted and inspired.

Finally and briefly, I’ll tell you about a man whom I love dearly. He is like a second father to me and my children call him “Grandpa Dan.” His name is, of course, Dan. He is a salt spreader. I could write a book about what he means to me and all he has done to shape me, but I will save that perhaps for a later blog. Just know, he is a walking gospel.

This brings me to the point of writing this post. As I’ve been praying, and I’ve been praying a lot since I’ve been in Africa, the Lord is giving me direction, or vision, or perhaps a mission. I believe that the Lord is guiding me, guiding all of us in fact, to be the Fifth Gospel. This is nothing new but I’m just now getting a hold of it, or maybe he’s just giving me revelation in a way that I can understand. With some luck, the lesson He is teaching me can become revelation to others as well.

Here in Africa there are a lot of people who either can’t read or would never read the Bible: Muslims, witches, Hindus and even ex-pats. But everyone watches, observes, listens, weighs. What has he gained? they wonder. What has he given up? they ask themselves. Why is he here? Where has he come from? Does he live what he say he believes? Is this Christian like the Christ I heard about?

I see the story I’m about to share repeated in my own life. But where my story takes place in a refugee camp in Uganda, the following story takes place in Tanzania.

A group from my church in Wyoming, Family Life Church, went to Tanzania to fix wells and drill some new ones. When they arrived in one village they saw that a well which they had previously drilled was broken and in need of repair. Throughout the several days it took to repair the well, it seemed as though the the village has assigned a man to supervise them, if that’s what you could call it. As the team worked fixing the motor, putting up protection for the solar panels and making other repairs, they would stop from time to time and try engaging this man in conversation. He made no reply but instead just stood stoically by watching their every move. The man was part of the village group of elders with whom the US team had been working with for years. Even after drilling and putting in the well years ago and promising to stay in touch and help in whatever way they could, the elders of the village seemed skeptical and suspicious. However, after days of labor to repair their broken well as well as teaching locals how to keep it running and repair it themselves, the “supervisor” finally spoke, saying something rather astounding. He said, “Now I know that you are true and you are a man of your word. Now I can trust what you say.”

This has great implications for the gospel. It shows that the gospel message is often best received from men and women who are living the Gospel, speaking Gospel, and demonstrating the Gospel. They have salted the food; they have erected a lantern on a hill; they have not compromised or taken the easy way out. Instead, they conquered all obstacles to prove themselves true to their word which in turn gave validity to Christ.

 

This is what the Lord is teaching me about: embodying Jesus, being the salt, shining light in the darkest places and bearing peace and calm even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t get what I want, or when I’m afraid, or even when I feel like I am taking on a very large burden, it is for His sake.

The Word commands us to take up our cross daily and to do all things for the glory of God. This is my mission: to be light and salt; to be a Christ bearer, the fifth Gospel account; always ready to give the reason for the hope that I have in Christ that he may gain glory and that people may be saved. Just something on my heart. Thanks for reading and may God bless you.

A week at the “Place of Leprosy”

The following is a correspondence Sal wrote me after his second week in Uganda.

FB_IMG_1517680544806.jpg   For the past week I (Sal) have been camping in the Ofua district of the Rhino Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Upon reaching the camp I was immediately told the meaning of the word Ofua. So too, I will start  this letter with the the place’s history. Ofua, literally meaning “the place of leprosy, used to be the designated area for lepers, and so became a leper colony. Today it is packed with thousands of refugees from countries all around Uganda who fled their homeland for varying reasons.

   After learning the history of the camp, we began setting up our tents. We arrived with IMG_20180201_135330enough beans, potatoes and water for our team of ten to eat for one week. Every morning we ate a slice of bread, for lunch and dinner we had potatoes and beans.
After breakfast we would start the work day by going to a workshop hosted by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) where we shared a message of encouragement to believers there. Next, we returned to the tents to prepare for door-to-door evangelism. We shared the Gospel, listened to concerns, prayed for peace in South Sudan, prayed for healing and the reuniting of families and more. It’s amazing how much simply taking the time to enter someone’s world, listen to their story and pray with them can do for a person. The first night, we found a high spot on a hill in Ofua where we worshiped and interceded on behalf of the residents and their home countries. All other nights we helped local pastors with “crusades” (this is a term used by locals with no negative connotation or offense). To be honest, I couldn’t even count how many people received Jesus but it had to be in the hundreds. Local pastors dived people who had received Christ amongst the involved churches and handed out Bibles and schedules for discipleship classes. I was very impressed with the pastors and their congregations who all lived within the camp. The church we partnered with, whose building had no walls or chairs, collectively cared for 40 orphans within the camp.
IMG_20180201_133744The amount of sickness in the camp was overwhelming. Every night people would stream into our camp with various needs requesting prayer or help. Many sick were healed, drunks became sober and, I believe, many strongholds were torn down. It was truly amazing to see and be a part of it. For some unknown reason, I seemed to be a drunk/drugged guy magnet. These guys would come to me and, usually through a translator, I would tell them about how Jesus had died and risen so that they could be free of the bondage of alcohol and drugs. During discipleship classes, these men would all come to the one I taught. Many of them seemed accepting but I questioned their sincerity and a few renounced drinking and drug use and immediately joined in helping with the crusades. One man renounced drug use in tears as he emptied his pockets into my hands. In the end I was left standing in front of the UNICEF building with cupped hands full of illicit drugs. Talk about awkward!
received_10213829429002484I also spent many hours playing with children. I  taught young men the importance of being strong leaders and God fearing men who would treat women with dignity and respect as Christ did the Church. Our last night they brought to our team a girl who had malaria and typhoid. We prayed for her through the night until we could take her to a health clinic in the morning. The experience was hard on our young international team as one lamented, “She is all alone; she has nobody. They just left her here.”
During our time there we also helped another YWAMer named Ntale Godfree who is IMG_20180201_135229planting orchards. We planted over 2,200 seeds in a nursery outside the camp. She said that she would transplant them into the ground one week before the rainy season.
All in all, the refugee camp was not what I  had expected. There is much hope for peace in South Sudan. The South Sudanese are a very strong and intelligent people, many speaking three to six languages. I felt very safe while there and the culture is very hospitable. I was not as short as I thought I would have been either, but that might be because, as far as I could tell, a majority of the camp is under the age of 15. I was very grateful for my week in the camp, and look forward to serving there throughout the years to come.

received_10213787359270767

2018: A year of HOPE

FDP sattva
Photo courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net

As I peer out over the uncharted waters of 2018, there are tempests and waves, darkness and thunder; but through it all stands a man to whom the winds and waves obey, who penetrates the deepest darkness and who embodies love and mercy. The times grow increasingly uncertain, the urgency of the hour is palpable; and one thing rises above the melee: HOPE.

I believe this will be the theme of this new season which the Lord is drawing us into: hope. We sense it in our own lives and see it at work in the greater body of the saints.

“So the poor have hope, And injustice shuts her mouth.”

Job 5:16

As we counted down the seconds to midnight and bid 2017 adieu, our family was surrounded by abount 20,000 other Christians all gathered at the Kansas City Convention Center and bringing in the New Year with worship following the 2017 OneThing Conference. At a time where radical liberal agendas are forwarded in our nation and globally at unprecedented speeds; where civil discourse retreats before hostility; where Christian ideals are increasingly portrayed as dangerous and detestable; and where the kingdom of darkness seems to be steadily advancing, I looked around at the vast crowd of primarily young people lifting their praises to heaven, pledging their allegiance to the King of Kings and offering themselves entirely to the Lord and an overwhelming sense of hope swelled in my heart and spirit.

 

received_536450646735611

The Lord’s arm is not short. He is not surprised. He cannot be usurped. He is in control. And He is raising up an army of selfless and courageous Christians for such a time as this. I am reminded of what John Wesley famously said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”

New Year’s Day found Sal and I stuck in Kansas City without the funds to get home. Unforeseen circumstances had taken from what we had budgeted for the conference and we had enough either to pay for one night in our hotel or one tank of gas (which would carry us one-third of the way home). With our eldest daughter running a fever and outside temperatures dipping well below zero, we decided to purchase another night.

After check-out the following day, we thanked God that our daughter was healthy again and then headed to a neighboring cafe where we spent our last dollar on two 50 cent coffees. Normally Sal would have been stressed to breaking point, feeling the weight of his responsibility as protector and provider for our family. Multiple times he looked at me and said with a touch of wonder, “I should be freaking out, but I feel great and filled with joy. This is crazy.” He seemed…hopeful. The Lord has been calling us for a while to relinquish control and depend whole-heartedly on Him for our every need. I think as a woman this just came easier to me than it did Sal. New Year’s Day marked a pivotal moment when the obedient agreement Sal had made with God in his head to let Him take full responsibility for our family became a reality in his heart.

“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Romans 8:24-25

While enjoying our coffee we visited with an old friend and fellow missionary who had just completed an internship at Hope City in KC. She told us, “God told me to pay your way back to Wyoming, but I won’t have access to those funds until midnight.” We brainstormed but failed to come up with a good option for a place to stay that night, and since temperatures were still well below zero, the van simply wasn’t an option.

When a change of scenery was due, we headed to the public library. Our friend informedImage-1080_1920_20180111T065400.jpg us that she needed to pick up her friend but she would meet us there briefly. Sal, starting to feel ill himself, took a nap in the van while the girls and I read books and performed puppet shows. It was a very fun time. Somewhere between two and three hours later our friend and her companion arrived and we rendezvoused in the parking lot. She opened her trunk and produced three bags of groceries. With only a few dollars in her own bank account and unable to purchase food, she had visited a local food pantry on our behalf. She then instructed us to follow them to a gas station, explaining that her friend (also a missionary) wanted to fill our tank which would carry us until midnight when our friend would send us the remainder of what we needed to get home via PayPal.

We spent a brief but beautiful time in prayer huddled in the gas station parking lot. Not even the constant subzero wind could detract from the beauty of that moment where brother and sisters united in praise, petition, affection, faith and hope.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

Romans 12:9-13

We made it home without incident. The Lord even strengthened me to drive much later than I thought I’d be able to stay awake allowing Sal, now a bit feverish, to get some decent rest before taking over for me.

At home we prayed that the Lord would guide and direct us as well as open doors that we might fulfill His will. Our plan had been to drop Sal at the Denver airport on the way home, sending him to Uganda, but we had been unable to secure the tickets. We told God that, just as we had waited upon him in Kansas City, so too would we wait on Him to clear a way for us to head to Uganda. The following day our pastor from Michigan got a hold of us and told us that a large donation had been made to us. As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait very long for an answer to that prayer.

And so, Sal leaves for Uganda on the nineteenth of this month and will return on the

FDP poommy105
Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

22nd of February. During his time there he’ll set up a place for us to live, clarify our responsibilities with our YWAM leadership, get to know the people we’ll be working with, get a feel for the local people and culture and work in the refugee settlements. We’ll be around for approximately three weeks after his return and then we’ll move to Arua, Uganda as a family.

Keep checking back as we’ll be posting articles and pictures of Uganda soon. May our Lord richly bless you and strengthen you as you face your own challenges, victories, battles, choices, sacrifices, joys and trials in this coming year. May you choose radical obedience to Him and reflect Jesus to the world in all  you do. May you be fruitful with the Good News, patient in suffering, faithful in uncertainty, repaying evil with good, giving love in exchange for hate and being abundant in grace. And may you be hopeful, keeping in sight the enormous hope that dawns on the horizon of 2018.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

 

Special Report: Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda is the primary receiving area for South Sudanese refugees. South Sudan, although the world’s youngest nation, is home of the fastest growing refugee  crisis on the globe. Below is our Special Report newsletter which takes a look at the situation in this West Nile region and explains what our family is doing about it.

If you would like to receive our monthly newsletters, please contact us via email at <hsanchez5811@gmail.com>. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” button in the right column.

Please click the link below to view/save/print our Special Report newsletter. Thank you and God bless.

Borderlands special report

Uganda, here we come! Calendar

If you receive our newsletter, then you have already received our calendar.  If you are not currently receiving our newsletters and would like to, please contact us at <hsanchez5811@gmail.com>.

Below is a calendar of where we’ll be and when during this short period before our family leaves for Uganda. We are making a loop to visit friends/partners and fulfill speaking engagements. If you live in or around those areas we would love to see you while we are there. Please contact us via email to connect. Also note: from November 15th through December 22nd Sal will be in Uganda. He is going ahead to work and prepare a place for the family.

You can also view/save/print our calendar in pdf form by clicking on the links below.

Sanchez 2017 calendar

Sanchez 2018 Calendar

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

February 2018

Thoughts on the cost

Last week the girls and I were doing our morning prayers and intercession when Talai prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, when we go to Uganda, please protect me, and please help me to endure if I become an orphan. No matter what, help me never to deny You, but always follow You faithfully.”

Hadassah prayed a similar prayer ending with “Jesus please help me to follow you no matter what and if I have to go to an orphanage, let it be one where they treat the children nicely.”

Whoa! Right? What kind of nine-year-old or six-year-old prays that in complete johnny-automatic-girl-praying-800pxsincerity? So came my moment to respond and I sat silent for a while contemplating what to say. Should I assure them that God would not allow Sal or I to die or that they would never be orphans? As a mother wanting to quench their fears that was my temptation, but I couldn’t honestly give them any assurances and I would not have them disillusioned with God because I put false promises in His mouth that He did not keep. How would you respond?

 

I fear some will misunderstand what I am about to say. I love my children more than life, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I have sacrificed a career, much of my education and more to stay at home and spend time with them, watch them grow and give them an exquisite education. This was completely contrary to my plans before becoming a mother, but I count it all a joy now and would not have it any other way. However, my love for them is ashes compared to the extravagant love their heavenly Father has for them. For this reason, the best and most loving thing I can do for them is to be obedient to God and trust Him with their lives.

That said, please be gracious as you read my response if I do not communicate as clearly as I should.

Firstly in response, I hugged all three of my precious darlings because even though Mila did not voice such fears I’m sure she wrestles with her own. I told them that God has a plan for each of our lives, for theirs and my own. If we are walking in His will nothing and no one can kill us until we have completed God’s intended plan. Just as God protected David while King Saul hunted him through the wilderness and how He protected Jesus when those of His own town tried to throw Him off of a cliff, so too will God protect us while we still have His orders to carry out on earth, orders that probably include being around to raise them.

However, that didn’t mean that God would not allow them to be orphaned. I told them that I did not think that Sal or I’s deaths were a part of God’s plan any time soon. God has promised much to us that we have yet to see manifested and given us much instruction that we’ve yet to accomplish. But we all need to be ready to give everything, even our lives for God’s Kingdom if it so requires. However, the Bible teaches that the angels who watch over children are ever before the face of God, and I assured the girls that, no matter what, God would watch over and protect them. I also told them they shouldn’t ever end up in an orphanage because they would live with family or friends should anything ever happen to Sal and I. And finally I encouraged and fortified them to never forsake Jesus for any reason. As long as we hold fast to Christ, we will see each other again.

reverse silloutte crossI know this response may sound radical to the Westerner, including many Western Christians. However, I recently heard Michael Ramsden speak on this topic and he said something that merits repeating; As Western Christians, we live in a time that is unique. The peace and prosperity that the Western church enjoys is peculiar not only historically, but also globally in our present world. The normality for Christians, that which has been typical since the day Jesus died, is a life of suffering and/or persecution, but even so, a life of joy and peace, of generosity and beauty.

Hebrews 11 gives us a goose-bump raising account of our Christian legacy:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (v. 32-35a)

How much would we love to see these kinds of miracles in our churches and in our lives? How many of us have inquired of God why these things tarry? Perhaps the key can be found in the very next words:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (v.35b-38)

This part of our Christian legacy continues today as many endure such conditions for the sake of Christ. If you don’t believe that, you should go on a mission trip.

I see a lot of the Western world’s desire for comfort and security within the heart of the Western church and even within my own heart. Yet how much of the security that we enjoy is an illusion? One has only to turn on the television to hear of wars and rumors of wars, of division and schemings. Ramsden also said that the type of persecution that we see in places like the 10/40 window is “only ever one generation away.” I truly believe that.

But even were peace not so fragile, what would I be should I not follow the call of God on my life? No one wants to be Jonah. No one wants to believe themselves a coward, and that is definitely not how God created us to be. But how do we overcome fear when called to a place where the odds are stacked dangerously against us?knightingoldenarmor-2400px

The beautiful simplicity of the trust and faith my daughters have in their heavenly Father was deeply convicting for me. It was unbridled by the the reins of doubt and burdens of past experience that so many of us grown-ups haul around with us. It is no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God!

I recently had a pastor ask me bluntly, “So what is the cost (of following God’s call)?” It was difficult for me to give an answer. Anything Sal or I have “given up” thus far seems quite unimportant and superficial and hardly meriting the title “cost.” Anything that may arise in the future remains hypothetical. So I suppose the costs we’re counting as we say “yes” to God are largely control, security and pride. To be willing to be utterly out-of-control of of our situation even when physical danger may be present, to be willing to face danger head-on without the security of a safety net and pride in that we may not always have the answers or solutions, and of course to look like complete fools in the eyes of the world.

Yet by God’s grace, we shall say “yes,” agreeing to whatever costs and willing to trust Him with everything. Hopefully we may in some way prove ourselves worthy of our amazing daughters who could school us on graciously surrendering to God’s will and perhaps take one step closer to being worthy dwelling places of Christ Jesus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and may God bountifully bless you and yours.

YWAM: Our Family

ID-100279206
courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

This Fall when we arrive in Uganda, Africa, we will be received by the staff of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Arua. We have been in contact off and on with these guys for about four years now, since we first believed God was calling us to Uganda. We have enjoyed getting to know them and learning of all they do. Their examples of courage and humble obedience to the call of God delights our hearts and it will be an honor to work alongside them and learn from them.

Interpersonal relationships within YWAM are a peculiar and special thing. Jesus taught us that Christianity is a brotherhood, that we are all family. Theoretically I know this, but it is a principle truly manifest amongst YWAMers. For example, if a ragged travel-worn stranger showed up at my front door and said, “Hello, I am a Christian. I was told you are a Christian also. May I stay here for a few days and rest from my travels?” I would likely invite them in, but my hospitality would not be so great as it is, for example, when my sisters come to visit nor would I likely trust them alone in my home. Please understand, I’m not saying

ID-10096320
courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

that is the Biblical response, I’m simply saying that in my flesh this is what I would do and I suspect most of those reading this article would react similarly.

However, if the same stranger said, “Hello, I am a YWAMer. I heard you guys are a YWAM family. I’m just passing through and a bit hungry and tired. Would you mind if I crashed here for a bit?” I would be genuinely excited to invite them in with open arms, open fridge and open trust. White, Black, Brown, Yellow, African, Indian, Russian, male, female, old, young it simply wouldn’t matter. This is the heart of YWAM.

Before you challenge that statement, or claim it unique to myself, I would share that we did this exact thing many times during our trip through Central and South America. Inevitably we would run out of food, gas and money and be unable to travel any further. At these times (and others as well) we headed to the nearest YWAM base, knocked on their front door and said something along the lines of, “Hello, we are YWAMers. We are from the USA and on our way to Argentina but we need a place to stay until God grants us provisions to continue on our journey. We have no idea how long that may take, but could we please stay here until then?”

Through the many countries we traversed they always welcomed us in with open arms and hearts. They would feed us, show us around the town, give us gifts, pray with us and bless us tremendously. They even let our dogs sleep in our rooms with us, which is culturally unacceptable in most of these countries.

IMG_20160505_163722Once in Columbia we called ahead of time and asked to stay at the base. We were told that although they would love to host us, they were packed to over capacity. With several visiting teams they had people sleeping on floors and outside in tents and simply had no space. After spending a week in a Columbian hostel while waiting to receive our van (we had shipped it from Panama), we picked it up and realized that we were too broke to continue. So, we prayerfully decided to show up at the YWAM base anyway where we asked if we could sleep in our van in their driveway. Again we were invited in with open arms. There truly was no space within the base but a few YWAM girls who lived down the road and were headed out of town gave us the keys to their apartment and told us we could stay there. And as always, they fed us too.

The following day a young woman we had not yet met walked up and introduced herself. “Hello, My name is Evenly,” she said. “There is a Bible school I’ve wanted to attend in Uruguay for a long time, but I’ve never had the resources to go. However, two days ago God told me that He was sending me there soon and to pack my bags. So, I packed my bags, prayed that God would provide a way and have been waiting for a miracle. I believe you may be the answer to that prayer. Could I ride with you as far as Corrientes? From there I can take a bus”

For Sal and I, there really was no question. She absolutely could come. We responded, “Of course you can come! After all, we are family. However,” we continued, “you must understand that we can’t guarantee a comfortable or safe place to sleep. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there and if we run out of money again we may be stuck on route until God provides finances to continue. We cannot guarantee you’ll arrive before the school starts. We can be loud at times and, just to warn you, when it gets hot our dogs drool a lot.  That said, if you believe this is your transport to God’s calling and are willing to trust Him in that, we would love to have you.”

IMG_5537
This picture is a little blurry but you get the idea

And just like that our traveling family went from five members to six. Well, actually as soon as we left town she announced that she had a friend on route who also wanted to take the Bible school in Uruguay. So, by sunset our traveling family had reached seven members. At one point we were up to nine for a string of our journey, but I’ll save that story for another time. Our family keeps in contact with Evenly to this day and we consider her a dear friend.

Back to my previous thought, however, this Fall we will be received by YWAM Arua, Uganda where we have made a two-year commitment to serve at (but with the intention of remaining in Uganda much longer) . Their work in Arua and the West Nile region is amazing. The daily risks they face by ministering in troubled and war-torn areas reflects a healthy and profound faith. Their vision is to “be a bridge of God’s healing to the nations” and they focus primarily on Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR). We are so excited to be joining them in all they do, and would encourage anyone reading this article to check them out. Below are links to help you do so.

YWAM_Header_0

Click above to go to YWAM Arua’s webpage

ywam aruaClick above to go to YWAM Arua’s Facebook page

 

 

Above is an informational video about YWAM Arua that they made a few years ago.

As always, may God bountifully bless you and yours. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward in preparations for Arua, Uganda. Thank you, and God bless.