Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gift of Esther.

I walk slowly ahead of her as she crawls on her knees.  Her name is Esther and she’s 8-years-old.  I’ve only known her for 11 days and I already feel like she is changing my life.  Really, like God is using her to change my life.  Esther is such a gift to the GSF family.  Girls who have always shut down around me have suddenly opened up to me mainly because they see that Esther and I need their help to communicate {she doesn’t speak English} and they love Esther so much they want to help her.  It opens them up to me and seriously, I have had girls who have run away from me before {slightly playfully} come running up to me to give me hugs.  This is huge – I thought I would never get some of these girls to let me talk to them or even just sit with them again. 
Esther got ‘sick’ when she was two years old and can no longer walk.  If I said this limits Esther’s ability to move I would be a big liar.  She is just like a normal little girl only she has horrible wounds on her hands and feet and she ‘walks’ on her knees.  When I say she walks I really mean it.  She puts shoes on her knees holds her legs up off the ground and scoots around.  She can walk a long way like this and she is fast!  She can keep up with all the other girls walking at a normal pace.  She dances – oh, she loves to dance!  And the swings, she asks me to take her to the swings every time I see her and how can I say no?  She’s already on her way anyways when she asks me.  As I was walking down to the swings with her the other day and the other kids were watching, it hit me.  We are watching a miracle through Esther.  It doesn’t seem so obvious because we didn’t get to watch the first half of this miracle.  She learned to take care of herself and do everything a normal little girl would do before she came to us.  We didn’t get to watch that, but that’s ok because as we watch her, we are watching the second half of her miracle happen.  She is learning so many new things every day.  She’s learning that we are her family for right now and we love her so much!  Hopefully and prayerfully, when her wounds heal up on her feet, she will be able to walk again.
Please be praying for her as she adjusts to this new life.  She will be taken to a clinic that specializes in skin diseases in Tuesday, so please be praying that they will be able to help her!  We are very hopeful that she will be able to walk again but please be praying for that as well because she currently has no feeling in her feet.  The nurses here say that she will probably regain that feeling when her wounds heal up, but we can’t really be sure.
Praise God with us for the gift of Esther!
Esther and her beautiful smile!
Esther standing on her knees to sing with the rest of us at Church.

Friday, August 16, 2013

City on a Hill

In October of last year, 2 men who work at GSF started a Church in the village.  Although this is not a GSF Church, the GSF family is members there.  The first building we rented was a school during the week and Light of the World Church on the weekends.  There is a passion in this Church.  And seriously ... I never knew such short people could jump so high!  It was very crammed in this little building and very hot, but these people still praised God with all their hearts.
Sunday, June 23, 2013.  One of our members was cleaning out the Church building getting ready for the services that morning when people from the school came several times and told her to get out.  The elders were actually planning to announce to the Church that morning that we would be looking for a new building.  But, it came sooner than they expected and we couldn’t meet there according to these people.  Yes, you read that right.  We were kicked out.  Evicted.  {In Ugandan words…} Fired.  What would we do?  After a little bit of a discussion, it was decided that the best thing to do was just meet right there outside the building.  Pastor Sam preached a powerful message about the Church.  ‘We are the Church, turn to your neighbor and tell them, ‘you and me, we are the Church’.  
When your sitting outside and the hot sun is burning you and you don’t know what will happen next week, you realize that nothing else matters.  All we need is Jesus and a crowd of others who will worship him with us – that is the Church.  When your sitting in front of an empty building and people are throwing dirt inside so you cannot meet – this is when we realize what the Church is.  The CHURCH is a group of believers who stands by each other even in the hardest of times.  It all seemed so surreal.  This could not really be happening.  
At the end, we – the Church – stood in a circle and joined hands and prayed and sang for about 20 – 30 minutes.  And God had already answered our prayers.  It was comforting to know that that morning, God hadn’t freaked out – He already knew what would happen and he had a plan.   As we stood in the circle, we sang a song called, ‘Bind Us’.  It says,
Bind us together, oh bind us dear Lord, with cords that cannot be broken, bind us dear Lord.
And as we stood there, He did just that.  We were bound as the Church.  Watching these people after the service was so hard.  We were going through the fire, but God used this to build an even bigger fire in each of our hearts. 
God surely provided in some amazing ways for Light of the World Church.  As I mentioned before, the Church elders had seen it coming that we would be kicked out, so they were already searching for land.  That very Sunday afternoon, someone who had been offering to sell us land called Pastor Sam to come to his house.  He told Pastor Sam that he knew we did not have enough money for the land but he wanted us to go ahead and use it.  He was fully aware that even within a year we may not have all the money, but he felt called to let us start using it anyways.  The best part?  He didn’t have any idea what had happened that morning.  So Wednesday, the Church elders, after looking at the property decide to go forward with it.  Throughout the week, part of the land was cleared.  It is in total 1 acre, but the man who owns the land has been growing maize on the entire thing.  Part of it has been cleared for our buildings and the rest of it will be left until harvest time.  Throughout the week, many people in the Church volunteered their talents and by Saturday the Church building/operation was in full swing.  They moved incredibly fast – I have never seen something happen so fast in Uganda.  Several people in the Church offered their papyrus leaves, one man volunteered to lead the building project.  The poles are from Eucalyptus trees that we are growing at GSF.  Someone made uniforms for the choir.

This is week 6 in this building and it just keeps growing – there is now a tarp over the roof, the poles inside are painted and they have even built a stage of sorts.  It has been so great to have this new building.  It is bigger than the old building, has so much more airflow and we have more room to renovate it.  We also have enough land for a Jr. Church tent.  This has been great because in the last building we just met standing right outside the Church.  Once the rest of the maize is cleared, the shelter will be moved further away from the main building.  This way we can have Jr. Church without worrying about disturbing main service {Have you ever tried to have 50 kids sing quietly before?  Yeah, not fun.}

One Sunday our pastor announces that Light of the World Church will be having their very first overnight AND they invited 17 other Churches to come and join us.  Let me pause to explain overnights.  Everybody in the Church and normally other Churches, goes to the Church around 8 pm and leaves around 7 am and they all stay up and sing, pray and listen to {Short} sermons.  So, after this announcement, 3 different people came and asked me if I was coming to the overnight.  At first I was not very excited about it, {I mean, just think – 17 Churches invited = about 20 pastors speaking} but, I told them I would try.  So, I asked a couple of people if they would be coming {so I could walk with them since it would be dark} and by the end of the day I found that I was actually very excited about it.  So at 8 PM one Friday night I grabbed my sweater, a cup of tea {so I could stay awake} and my phone.  We were planning to come back at 11 PM so we wouldn’t have to stay up all night.  As soon as we left the compound, I started second-guessing going to this.  The flashlight on my phone suddenly seemed very dim and the 9 girls I was walking with had no light at all.  I was tired and who knew if we would actually make it without someone falling.  It was so dark!  Let’s just say that I was very relieved when we got there!  There is not a single regret now that I went.  Around 500 people showed up!  And God came to that little tiny room and moved in big ways.  Pastor Sam told some guys to ‘tear down the wall in back’ {I’m not kidding} so that other people could sit outside without feeling separated from the rest of the Church.  They had me sitting right up front with all the pastors.  More people kept coming in, so they made me stand up {not that I cared – I felt awkward sitting with the pastors}.  I stood in the doorway because I didn’t want to miss out what was happening inside.  Then my friend from the choir {Esther} came and asked me to sit with her on the ground in front.  I seriously wish I had a picture of where we were sitting.  We sat against the back wall, behind the pastors and the choir with everyone facing us.  My friend put down a scarf on the ground and we just sat on that.  It was such a unique experience that I am forever grateful for!  People danced with all their energy {that was still left by 10:00}, they sang with all their hearts and they prayed what was really deep down inside and they meant every word.  Pastors preached and spoke and introduced themselves.  I could have stayed all night for the singing and dancing.  And the preaching?  Let’s just say I drank a lot of tea during those parts {Especially after 10 PM}.  It was just so amazing to see how God worked through our trials for His glory.  He brought us closer together as a Church, he filled us with more passion for Him and he brought us to the exact location He wanted us to be in.

The pastors and the congregations felt it.  They want more.  They want more of what Light of the World Church has.  There are some amazing things coming in the future for Light of the World.  People are asking for more and we are just waiting for God to put the details into place.  After all, he already brought us through the fire.

On a funnier note.  As we were walking back from the overnight, one of the boys asked me if I had met/seen my friend's sisters.  'No.'  ‘They were there, I saw them!’  Like because I know her I should be able to pick them out of a crowd of 500 dark people in dim light.  But the next story is better.  I went to the toddler house and one of the house mamas was standing outside with a man.  She asked me, ‘Caro, do you remember this one?’  Um, no.  {I honestly couldn’t remember if it was her pastor or her son}.  ‘Eeeehhhh, but you were there ‘together’ at the overnight.  He’s my son.’  ‘Mmm, okay.  Nice to see you again.’  But really inside I’m thinking, I was there ‘together’ with him and 500 other people and she expects me to remember him?  I was not introduced to a single person at the overnight, but they still expected me to pick out and remember people.  Geez, I’ve got a whole lot to work on!
Praise God with us for his grace and provision!  Read more about the big story of this little Church that my dad wrote over on my family's blog.