Mingone! Hujambo! Marhaban! Hello from Uganda!

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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

YWAM: Our Family

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Cute Challenges to writing an update: or “From point A to point B”

As I write this, I am hiding in a corner at the YWAM base (our internet access location). Earlier I sat up to a table in the community area as I composed the first draft. Linda, a very cute girl around 9 years old skipped up to me. She is mute and was having trouble with the other kids because of her inability to articulate. No invitation needed she jumped up onto my lap. I showed her some pictures on my computer which completely fascinated her. She stayed by my side, jumping on and off my lap, wiggling like she had a scorpion in her dress and trying to buy games through the Play Store on my phone. In her excitement she pointed to a picture on my computer and started swiping her fingers across its touch screen. Somehow her actions combinedIMG_20160506_193739 with my keyboard typing completely erased my first draft.

At that moment I had a sort of internal struggle where I lept between “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and “This sweet little girl just needs a friend. What’s the big deal?” Poor Linda looked at me, mouth open attempting an “uh-oh” and waiting to see how I would react… Well, I’ve always been a softie when it comes to kids.

After about half an hour of play time showing Linda more pictures and how to play a math game on my phone, I figured I’d better get to rewriting the update. I tracked down Linda’s parents and then found another spot on the base with a decent wifi signal and began to write. Within 10 minutes a young Paraguayan missionary and friend who is in cross-cultural missions classes, approached me. “Heather” he said with his Guarani-thick Spanish accent. “I really need your help. In one hour I am presenting on the differences between North American and South American culture. You are the only North American on the base right now so can I please interview you?” Without waiting for a response he started asking all about my “cold northern culture,” as he called it. No matter what I said I just couldn’t convince him I wasn’t cold-blooded. “You are from the north after all,” he said. “That is why it is so hard for you here with us warm Latins while Sal (my Mexican-descended husband) gets along so well. I hear North Americans don’t like hugs.”

“But it’s not difficult for me here,” I responded. “I love Latin culture and I love hugs.”

“Maybe you just don’t realize that our ways are really hard on you or maybe your husband is just rubbing off on you.” Oh well, my friend is sure to discover one way or another that not all North Americans are “cold cultured.”I believe we are the first US family he has yet met.

Forty-five minutes later he wrapped up his interview and headed to class. I turned on my screen to write and another young Argentine missionary (whose hair I agreed to dread next week) sat down next to me. She just needed a “big sister” talk.

After listening a bit and encouraging her not to hide big decisions from her parents, I excused myself and sook out a seemingly quiet spot of ground outside where I didn’t think I’d be disturbed. I loved all the interaction, but I had work to do. The update was coming along well until a group of kids stampeded around a corner IMG_20160514_115203and pounced on me. It was a mix of missionaries’ kids and our restoration home students.  “Tia Heather!” they yelled. They were so rambunctious it was all I could do to stop them from stomping on my computer. Once I climbed out from underneath them I explained that I had some important work to do but could come back later to play. “OK,” they said disappointingly. I reopened by laptop, sat down and found myself in the middle of a half-dozen kid huddle… “Where is Mila and Talai and Dassah?”… “What does that button say?”… “What are you writing?”… “Will you teach us to lasso cattle”…So much for not liking hugs.

After a short tickle fight, I decided I had better take drastic measures or I would never complete the update. That brings us to now, with me hiding from a bunch of very cute distractions in a dark corner of the YWAM base quietly writing. With that introduction, let me invite you to read:

 The Update

or, “Where we are and where we are headed”

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We have been working in Argentina while attending the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations from which we recently graduated. The school involved long days of up to 15 hours in the classroom and required us to put in many hours of hands-on work with children in the youth penitentiary, orphanages and homes and with the onsite restoration home or Casa Abierta. We worked directly with the kids and when possible their parents as well. We learned about: childhood sexual abuse, family restoration, human trafficking and extractions, restorative counseling, working with governments and much more. Now with our education paid off and our counseling certificates in hand we are headed for Uganda, Africa.

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courtesy “africa” at freedigitalphotos.net

To reach and become established in Uganda is the second step in a multi-phased plan to ultimately run a restorative home and private school for highly traumatized youth in Uganda Africa. The plan looks something like this:

  • Phase One: Study and prepare, get certified (completed)
  • Phase Two: Arrive and become established in Uganda, Africa-
    • Prepare van for drive from South Africa to Uganda
    • Ship van to South Africa
    • Fly to South Africa
    • Obtain Ugandan working visa
    • Drive to Uganda
    • Work alongside other ministry, learn culture/worldview/politics
  • Phase Three: Buying and Building Phase
  • Phase Four: Running the home and school
  • Phase Five: If the Lord wills, help others start and run their own restoration homes and schools for traumatized youth

 By the first week of August we will leave Corrientes and head for Buenos Aires, the port we will likely be shipping the van from and flying out of. The Buenos Aires metropolitan area is home to around 14.5 million inhabitants and we are grateful to have contacts in several areas of the city who will help us navigate the landscape and bureaucracy. There is a lot of footwork

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Courtesy “photoraidz” at freedigitalphotos.net

and paperwork involved in transporting 5 people, 2 dogs and 1 van across the Atlantic! We expect the process to take about a month or so. Other than that, we are waiting on funding and will be turning a lot of attention towards fundraising. If you are interested in helping us in this phase of the project, please see our “Support Page” or go to

http://paypal.me/salandheather.

 We are excited about the adventure ahead and the opportunity to anchor in some roots in Uganda. We have been in a sort of transitional chapter in our lives for almost seven months now and we are anxious to establish a home that we can “come home to.”

 A Note on Driving:

 Several people have already asked us  why, considering the risks, are we driving half-way across Africa. Usually the question is framed something like, “Are you crazy?!?” Truthfully, sometimes I think perhaps we are, a little. However, ultimately we feel that the benefits of overlanding far outweigh the risks. Here is our nutshell explanation:1212151441

  1. With our experience overlanding Central and South America, we feel confident in our competence to minimize the risk involved in this trip.
  2. This trip allows us to create valuable networking and contacts which will be immensely helpful toward starting a home and school. It also provides for us the opportunity to learn African culture before jumping into ministry with them.
  3. A vehicle is a must-have in Uganda one way or another. Without it there is no way to dependably transport our family. We have a dependable van that is invaluable to us. Our van (donated by Family Life Church) is large enough to fit our family and has proven it is up to rigorous driving.
  4. It is cheaper this way. A used, questionably dependable vehicle in Uganda costs around $17-20K. Our trip, including gas and traveling costs, plane tickets and shipping the van should cost significantly less than that.
  5. It is less complicated. As foreigners, obtaining a vehicle in Uganda is complicated.
  6. After much prayer, we feel this is God’s guiding.

 That said, it would be a lie to claim that we’re disappointed with how things are working out. As explorers and adventurists at heart, our whole family is very excited at the prospect of driving through Africa, seeing new places, meeting new people, learning completely foreign customs and everything else involved with such a journey.  We are exquisitely blessed that God has merged our dreams with His plans for our lives. We get to do what we love as we serve His Kingdom and help the “statistically hopeless” to have and follow their own dreams.

Isn’t our God simply amazing?

We’re Back!

Wow… And thank you for your patience!world map

First bit of business: We just sent out our newsletters, so if you didn’t receive one and would like to, please write us at hsanchez5811@gmail.com and request to be added to our updates list.

We have been quite ill lately with some nasty viruses that have put us behind schedule in much of what we are doing. As happens with families, one person gets sick and then the next and then the next and so a week-long virus takes almost a month to work its way through a household. All this to say, “Thank you so much for your patience and we are happy to announce that we are back online.”

IMG_20160514_114316We are very excited to share our experiences and our vision. Bit by bit our page will be transforming, so check back periodically for updated information. That said, the current information on our website (including how to donate) is accurate, if not complete.

We have completed the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations and are now certified in counseling. It was an intense school with grueling hours and lots of hands on work in orphanages, street ministries, foster homes and the youth penitentiary. We are still working with troubled youth but we now have time to breath since our classes are over.

And now… drum-roll please…we are headed for Africa!… that is, as soon as possible. For some time now we have planned to work in Uganda long-term with traumatized and exploited youth. We have neglected to make a large announcement, however, because we’ve been unsure of God’s timing. Following graduation we spent many hours in prayer seeking God’s guidance and now are confident that the time is now. That said there is a lot to do in preparation, which of course takes time. We’ve finances to raise and lots of research and paperwork to do but our goal is to make it to Africa in a few months. Over the IMG_20160630_174325next couple of weeks we’ll be updating our website to clearly communicate our vision for reaching children in Uganda.

Also, over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting “Road Diary” articles which will share fun and thoughtful experiences from our journey driving from the United States to Argentina. Please accept our sincere apologies for not keeping our website better updated in a timely fashion. It is our goal to improve on that.

There are many exciting changes for us on the horizon. We will be posting more soon. Thank you for checking us out and God bless!

Two weeks to go! And some answered questions…

Firstly, thank you, THANK you, THANK YOU! to all those who have supported us through this unpredictable and often frustrating transitional period. Your prayers and financial support have been largely felt and truly, we could not do this without you. Sal and I would like to send a special thank you to our Gillette church family,

Family Life Church, for the donated van which we are confident will carry us safely across the dozen countries we’ll soon be traversing.

As we prepare to follow God’s will across borders, the wrapping up of loose ends and preparations have taken longer than expected. We just want to express our gratitude for your continued patience and understanding. However, we now have a take-off date: Monday, December 7th. After departing from Michigan, we have a short pit-stop in North Carolina and then we’ll be about 2 weeks in Austin, Texas visiting Central American consulates to ensure smooth border crossings (Truthfully nothing apart from God can “ensure” smooth border crossings, but it greatly decreases our risk of complications). This puts us crossing into Mexico within the first few days of the New Year.

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italphotos.net_supakitmod

Q & A

Q. How can we pray for you?

A. Please, please do pray! We cannot express how much confidence your prayers give us.

  • Pray discernment for us; we’ll face many decisions during our journey plenty of which could have serious repercussions. We need to exercise wisdom and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance continually.
  • Pray for divine appointments; God’s work doesn’t stop because we are traveling from point A to point B. Along the way we’ll be keeping a keen eye out for opportunities to share the Gospel.
  • Pray for open doors; we’ll be resting at YWAM bases, crossing borders and making connections on route.
  • Pray divine protection over us; we’ll be crossing about a dozen borders on a trip of over 11,000 miles and even taking a boat for a short stretch into Columbia. Bandits, cartel and illness are only a few things we could run into, but the good news is that we serve a BIG God!
  • Pray for a breakthrough in finances; we do not currently have sufficient funds to complete the drive and the YWAM School of Rescue and Restoration. However, we feel confident that we are moving in God’s timing and are standing on faith for His provision.
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freedigitalphotos.net_surasakiStock

Q. How can I get your updates?

A. We are honored that you are invested in us. Request to receive our email updates by clicking on the “Contact Us” tab. We’ll send a monthly newsletter and prayer requests. Also, connect with us on Facebook if you have not done so already. Follow these links for Heather’s Facebook and Salazar’s Facebook. Email and Facebook messenger are the best ways to contact us, and we’d love your updates from home!

Q. How can we get money and/or supplies to you?

A. Thank you so much for your tangible support! We are currently able to receive cash and checks and will soon be accepting credit/debit cards through a link on this website. Donations can be tax-deductible. Please click the “Support” tab for more information.

Because we’ll be traveling extensively we don’t currently have a system to receive items. Our plan is to establish this once we’ve settled in Corrientes, Argentina.
Q. How is the money I send being spent?

A. Our most immediate financial need is traveling costs (gas, food, occasional lodging, etc.) Once we reach Argentina our greatest expenses will be living costs and schooling. The YWAM School of Rescue and Restoration is an intense three-month program. Following the school we will likely serve an internship with a YWAM home of restoration. You can find out more about the YWAM base and school at: YWAM North, Corrientes, Argentina.

Although we will be putting financial resources into sharing the Gospel from the very start of our journey, relational ministry will become our primary focus following the school. This involves things like: reaching out to street children, mentoring kids from impoverished/inner-city homes, counseling/mentoring victims of sexual exploitation and other traumatic backgrounds and always sharing the Gospel.

Q. Are you accountable to anyone?

A. Wise question! And the answer is yes, we are. Our immediate church family extends to two main churches, Family Life Church of

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freedigitalphotos.net_Tuomas_Lehtinen

Gillette, Wyoming and Dwelling Place Ministries of Kingsley, Michigan. We hold ourselves accountable to the leadership of both of these congregations. In addition, our credit card processor is For a Friend, a nonprofit credit card processing company for Christian missionaries. As part of their policy, we are accountable to them for all donations made through them.

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