Humanness

30422126_10214097321079936_1569348578_nTo be human is to be broken and messy; imperfect. This is humanness. I’m convinced this is found all over the world. All over the church. All over any place where humans exist.

Before moving to Uganda, so many people told us, “Uganda is so beautiful! The people there have so little but are so joyful! It’s inspiring. You will love it.” Or, “I love Ugandan people, they are so joyful.”

Well, I’m writing this to say that I disagree.

I’m not saying they are the opposite. But I am saying that Ugandans are human, just as Americans are. Just as Canadians, Asians, Europeans, Arabians…etc. Just as every other broken human, they are broken too.

Living here over 3 months now, I have come to see how broken and hurting this people group truly is. Yes, they have very little, and yes, some of them are very joyful through that. In America, I can say the same thing. There are some really special people all over the globe who have found their joy in Christ alone, not in circumstances. But unfortunately, they do not define an entire people group.

Most of us have learned in psychology courses, or human development, about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our humanness requires some needs being met. Quick recap…

  1. Physiological: Do I have food and water?
  2. Safety: Do I have shelter and security? Are my body and mind being harmed?
  3. Love and belonging: Am I loved? Do I fit in? Do I have friends that accept me?
  4. Self Esteem: Am I enough? Am I too much? Am I confident in who I am?
  5. Self Actualization: Who am I anyway? What is my soul purpose here? How can I reach my top goals and desires of life?

Here in Uganda, some people are lucky to say yes to our first need question of having food and water. Some are not. Need number two, rarely yes. Three, rare. Four, very rare. Five, not likely.

The school system in Uganda is based off of memorizing, cramming, and spewing it out by taking many tests. If you pass, you can reach the next level. If you fail, you most likely drop out because you are not given a second chance.

Many schools are boarding schools. There is one Matron (female supervisor) and one Patron (male supervisor) per 100+ students. Picture a cafeteria with bunk beds that have 3 beds per bunk, crammed tightly near each other to fill the entire room. This is where the kids sleep. This is where the one Matron for the girls’ room supervises, and the one Patron for the boys’ room supervises. Abuse is extremely common. Around 75% of girls are sexually abused by the time they reach secondary school. If they are lucky enough to attend school in the first place, since school fees keep many children at home picking through scrap metal and rubbish to try to sell to support their families.

Speaking of girls, they are told many terrible things about themselves from day one by men, and even other women. Many girls sleep with male teachers in order to make grades and pass on to the next level. Many girls are slept with by their dating partners before marriage because the men want to make sure they can produce before proposing for marriage. Even then, lots of our boys’ fathers have multiple wives. Many girls are told to keep a condom on them when walking through the villages to protect themselves from HIV and pregnancy. You can connect the dots.

Women sit on the ground, while their husbands sit in a chair. Most tribes, women are to kneel when greeting any male, especially their husband. They are responsible for cooking and cleaning. Men are hardly ever seen doing any of this. Last year our head master, Mark Guthrie, said to the group of students, “Raise your hand if males are better than females. If you think boys are more valuable than girls.” The entire student body raised their hand, including the girls.

Speaking, now, of raising hands. This is rare. In most Ugandan schools, if you raise your hand to ask a question and the teacher does not know the answer, you get caned. Caned is when the authority figure takes a large sugar cane stick and beats you with it in front of everyone. If you raise your hand to answer a question and you are wrong, you get caned. So you stop raising your hand and then teachers just call on people and if they are wrong they are caned. If you fail a test you get caned. If you mess up you get caned. If you get in trouble you get caned. Sometimes just in front of the class you get caned, but sometimes in front of the whole school. So you stop asking questions, you stop wanting to answer, and you stop critical thinking. You just make sure you listen and memorize.

Then you go back to your dorm room of 100 and your bunk of 3 and try to study. But there is drama around you. Girls are back-biting (gossiping) and boys are fighting. Your friends are having to drop out of school because of pregnancy—its not allowed if you are a student anywhere in Uganda. You go to church on Sunday and praise God for living through another week, and pray your family at home is still alive as well.

I have seen this and heard this with my own eyes and ears.

Ugandans are not just a joyful people group, they are hurting and broken. They are really good at slapping on a smile when a Mzungu (white person/ wanderer) walks by and waves or talks to them for a few days and goes home. But the hurt is there underneath that smile and it is very real.

Our boys started off smiling, laughing, dancing, so joyful. The time goes on and they are learning that they can trust us. That we are not going to abuse them. That here, at The Amazima School, we DO NOT CANE YOU EVER. We actually love when you raise your hand and ask questions. We support you when you are failing or struggling. We are here for you if you need to talk about or process anything going on in your life. There are 3 mentors for you when you come home from school. 24 other students in your house, 6 in your room, 2 in your bunk. You are loved and valued and we care about you and your future. Critically think. Dream. Grow. Learn about the character of Jesus Christ and imitate him.

I am convinced this school is going to change the country of Uganda. I pray that more schools will follow after this model. Discipleship is happening for the first time with teenagers. These boys are going to treat women differently, we have already seen it. They serve their sisters. When other schools come and the boys try to touch our girls inappropriately or “abuse” them verbally, our boys swoop in and protect them. They tell the other boys that we don’t treat women like that.

I am honored to be here and be a part of this vision for this country that I have absolutely no affiliation with. It really feels so random that we are here. I never felt called to missions as a child, never dreamed of moving to Africa, never had Uganda on my heart. But here we are. Because Jesus was on and in our heart. We feel called to make him known, we dream of people knowing they are supernaturally loved by God.

So here we are seeing the hurt behind the smiles. Our boys started off smiling, laughing, and dancing, yes. And then we see the days that are really hard. We see tears because family at home has no food to eat, family at home doesn’t exist, family at home has disowned them for following God and not following them. We see hurt through their mistakes that they made in the past, through broken relationships, through traumatic events that they have been through. We see them fight and get angry. We see nasty notes written to and from other students. We see stealing happening, and sin right in our face.

And we are here to love them through it. To believe in them when nobody else has. I specifically love watching our Ugandan partners do this through their own brokenness and pain. They can say, “I get it. I was exactly where you are. My father died when I was young too. My family has gone days without eating before too. I used to be really stubborn in school too. But God…” To see discipleship happening in this way is so incredible. That’s the goal of this school, as well—to become fully Ugandan. Katie Davis’ dream is coming to fruition slowly but surely. Westerners are not here to make it more western, but we are here come alongside Ugandans and help spread God’s value over these people. Here to delcare that you do not have to cane, or cram, or feel invisible. You can feel heard, and loved. And our amazing Ugandan partners are right there with us spreading this, and believing in this change of raising their own children.

This job is exhausting. I am so tired. There is no clocking out. There is no work-life balance. But I am so encouraged by what is happening here at The Amazima School. I wish I could write every example down of why, but I would be writing a book, not a blog.

If you are following along and supporting us, please know this people group is hurting behind those beautiful smiles, and you are making a difference whether that is financial or through prayer. We so need and appreciate you all. God is moving here and it is a privilege to witness.

Sorry I didn’t do prayer and praise last time. Here it is:

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for our boys to come to know how loved they are by God. Pray that the Lord would help them value their sisters and women in general. That they would be the ones to change the way men treat women here in this country.
  • Please pray for Ben and I as we are able to come home for break in order to visit family and attend my best friends wedding!!! Light & Lex here we come! Pray that we would both be excited to come back to work here in Uganda.
  • Please pray for joy, faithfulness, patience and energy over me. Ben is loving every aspect of this job, and I am struggling with it. I think being super introverted and not being able to have a balance with my own life here is very hard for me. On paper it looks wonderful, but in reality it is a lot harder than what I imagined. Still very rewarding though, as mentioned above.
  • Pray for our marriage that it would continue to strengthen and display Christ’s love for the church, specifically to our boys and students.

Praise Reports:

  • One of our boys came from a Catholic background and did not really understand what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. He knew religion, but not personal relationship and what it really means to call God a Father, and Jesus a friend and savior. After learning more about Jesus through scripture and asking many questions, he came to the decision that he wants to have this relationship. He prayed on his own with one of our mentors standing by him, “Father, please forgive me of all of my sins. Jesus, I want to live for you.” We all celebrated on his behalf and rejoiced with him! The beauty and simplicity of Jesus just calling us to believe.
  • We have been through so many discipline issues—it feels like a new boy and issue every week, but these have been so transforming for our house. Through the issues we have had many intentional conversations with the boys, most have gone until 11pm or midnight. We have seen break through and completely different kids with big attitude adjustments. Our house has become more unified because of it and brotherhood is happening at the David House!
  • We are growing very close with our Ugandan partner, Amos. He feels like a brother to us. We seriously appreciate his genuine spirit and heart. He’s not afraid to be open and honest with us, which has personally given me a lot of comfort.
  • Another couple on campus has split a car with Ben and I! Our great friends here, Keeks & Zeeks. Praise the good Lord. It was very hard not being able to leave campus…where you work every day. We had to always ask other families if we could borrow their car. We were very dependent, and now we feel much more independent. There is a new sense of freedom being able to leave and get away if we need to (when we’re not working). I will be straight up and say our payment towards the car was $2,700. Our bank account here is now very low. If you would like to contribute towards our car and bless us in that way, we would really appreciate it. If you know of anyone who would like to do this, feel free to pass it along to them! HERE IS OUR SUPPORT PAGE IF YOU’D LIKE TO DONATE. Thank you so much.
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for praying. Thank you for supporting. 2 more weeks in Term One, can you believe it?! Talk to you Term Two.

Lots of love,

Ben & Lo

Now Now

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Mackenzie Leigh Photography at Samuka Island

 

In Uganda there’s a big difference between now and now now. Now means pretty soon, and now now means literally this second. Ben and I have found ourselves asking similar questions  the boys ask, “Auntie Lo, we go now or now now?” “Uncle Ben, we have a meeting now or now now?” It actually works nicely.

The grateful sticky notes written on our guest room wall so far read:

  • The most delicious mangos and mini bananas
  • Hugs and hand holds from Ruth House girls
  • Kayz singing Justin Bieber on the front porch even though he has had a hard week
  • When the coconut oil on your kitchen shelf finally hardens because the weather has cooled off
  • Shopping with new friends and buying cute skirts for 30 cents
  • Worshipping on top of Bugembe Hill when the town lights begin to come on
  • Honesty, reconciliation, and trust between our boys
  • Speaking and learning a new language
  • Dance parties and back flips on the veranda
  • Smiles that translate across languages

All things we will not see, taste, or experience together at some point in the future. But right now we do. Right now now I am grateful.

As I tell God how hard it is to be away from my family and friends, to be in an entirely new culture, to be looked at like I have 5 heads everywhere I go, to be in a different time zone from everyone I love…He tells me this is not forever, but it is now and you are going to miss it by focusing on the challenges.

I listened to a message from Christine Caine today. What a boss lady. I needed to hear this message that Jesus plus nothing is everything. Nothing needs to be or should be added on to Jesus for us to feel sustained and satisfied. For us to feel passion about who we are in Christ, if you are in Christ.

His spirit speaks to us: You can’t look back in your past. You can’t look forward to your future. I need you to look up. Look up at me and learn what it means to be so utterly dependent on me. That’s where I have you right now. Look up at me. Stop trying to strategize and plan your life and FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS.

Caine shared, “God is not some sugar daddy to make me happy. Sometimes what we really need is obedience, submission, and death to self.” I’m not feeling happy or I’m not getting what I want? Obedience. Submission. Death to self. Fix your eyes on Jesus who sustains you not those temporary things you’re trying to make sustain you.

We are a little over two months in. Ben is in complete heaven and I am having a harder time. It is difficult to be on different pages, but also beautiful to see how God is working in our marriage. I’m not fixing my eyes on Jesus every day. I’m not doing a great job obeying, submitting, and dying to my selfish ways. And I need to. That was my prayer going into this and God is answering me. He is good like that.

So each day I’m praying for God to help me not look back nor look forward. I’m going to look at and be present in the now now. Rejoice in the now now because that is what God has given and entrusted to me. And one day it will be gone. One day my grateful sticky notes will never read about Amazima student hugs, singing, or dance parties. I will miss the sweet mangos and mini bananas. The chaotic central market shopping, and speaking Luganda.

Friend, I don’t know what you are currently struggling with. I’m sure it’s hard. But I’m also sure that when we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ He will show up. He will help us to see the light. To see all there is to be grateful for in the now now. Because one day it will be gone. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss it.

Now now is a good time to rejoice– a good time to realize Jesus is enough.

Lots of Love,

Ben & Lo

Ps- All 24 boys are present and we love them all so much. Each one is so unique and different from the next. They are beginning to become very comfortable with us and test boundaries. Our first weekend “off” two of them got in a fight. Everyone is okay, but we’ve had to have many hard conversations. Detentions and punishment have been given to a few. Last week was the hardest week so far, but this week has already started off on a better note. Sometimes it takes hard weeks for the good weeks to feel really good. Sometimes it takes disunity before there is true unity. Each time I am with the students I feel so full. Their smiles and laughs are forever etched on my heart. God is doing a wonderful thing here at The Amazima School. Thank you to our supporters who have allowed us to be a part of it, and are praying for us through it. We love you ❤

Welcome Home

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The first words I heard my heart speak to me as we landed in Uganda one month ago. The first words our Head Master at The Amazima School spoke to us, sitting 3 rows back in the plane. The first words we now say to our 23, almost 24, boys as they arrive back from a day of classes, “Welcome Home”.

The months leading up to this move included quitting jobs, selling a house, moving in with parents from 2 different states, closing credit cards / opening new ones, switching insurance companies, selling things, buying things, making multiple lists, packing, unpacking, and packing some more. There were many tears, and many different emotions. I think a lot of times moving overseas to do mission work can be easily romanticized. I’ve heard some say it’s the “most attractive” thing to do as a Christian. Please hear me that there is nothing easy or super attractive about it.

Yet, also hear me that it is already extremely growing and rewarding. Our faith has been put to work every single day, and scripture has never felt so close to our face. That was our prayer going into this and God has already answered. Not so surprising when our desires align with His! In this month, we have completed cultural training and family mentor training. We have visited 8 of our Amazima boys in their homes, and have met their guardians. This Monday, the 5th, the students began their first day of Term 1 at The Amazima School. We have done house meetings, morning devotions, Chapel (aka Youth Night), and have shared lots of beans and posho/rice with our boys.

Speaking of those sweet boys, Amos, our Ugandan Family Mentor Partner, Ben and I prayed over the name of our House. We had a few different ideas, but ultimately landed on: The David House. We want them to be men after God’s own heart as David was in the Bible. This first week of devotions has been so encouraging to read through the life of David with our boys and point them towards his character and strength even with being the youngest and smallest of all his siblings. David was anointed King because GOD SAW his heart when men only saw his small stature. David was far from perfect, but we are reminded of his repentant heart, and we are able to follow his lead in that.

Welcome Home to The David House, we can now say. Welcome Home Geofrey, Emmanuel, Benon, Henry, Marvin, Martin, Nelson, Topher, Hamudan, William, Caleb, Roderick, Akim, Joel, Kayz, Malach, Francis, Micheal, Samuel, Elisha, Denis, Paul, Kizito and Joseph. Ben and I never thought our hearts could be so full. Watching my husband thrive in loving these boys and making them feel valued and heard has been my deepest joy. I tear up thinking about it.

Yet, I am still waiting for my final Welcome Home. Last night I looked around at all of our boys in a circle on our veranda (front porch). I watched as they laughed with Ben, Amos, and myself while we stood before them continuing a dance party from Chapel. My heart continues to speak to me “Welcome Home…for now”. This is our temporary home. As joy-filled and full as I felt in that moment, there was still something missing. I am still not home yet. My soul longs for Heaven to be united with Jesus.

I read this morning in 2 Corinthians 5: Our Heavenly Dwelling,

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:1-9).

We groan because his mom abandoned him at a young age, and his dad died of AIDS. Because his mom is ill and cannot work; therefore, if they have food that day they eat, if they don’t, they don’t. We groan because his father beats him, his father has 4 wives, his father drowned in Lake Victoria while fishing, his father is not present, his father disowned him. We groan because he is an orphan and has no one to call family. We groan together with our boys. And we are of good courage as we wait, because this is not our final destination—this is not our last, “Welcome Home.”

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray for our last boy to gather the rest of his requirements and come to school! We know that God is a God who leaves the ninety-nine to find the one, and He is faithful.
  • Pray for our boys to continue to grow in trusting us, and feeling safe to learn here at TAS.
  • Pray with us that they would come to know Jesus as more than a religion, but as their personal Lord, Savior, and Friend. That they would know they are audaciously loved by God, and that the cross of Christ would become so real to them.

Praise Reports:

  • 23 out of our 24 boys of David House have met school requirements and are here with us!!!
  • TAS Year 2 has begun, and God’s grace has already been so evident.
  • We were told that our boys would be very shy and reserved at first based off of fear of being beaten/caned, since that is how it normally is in Ugandan schools, but they have already been warming up to us and engaging in devotions + house meetings. The returning S1 (Senior 1) students and staff have a lot to do with that success!
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Thank you so much to our support team, and prayer warriors.

Lots of LOVE,

Ben & Lo

“Homeless”

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Jackson Casey, 15, soon to be our next door neighbor, swinging over the Nile River.

We have homes to stay in, PTL, but Ben and I are currently homeless.

The day, I mean THE DAY, before we left for Uganda in October we received a great offer on our home. Our first home as a married couple, where we spent the first year and a half(ish) of our lives together as one. Now- sold.

Packing up, selling things, and throwing a lot of stuff away felt good. It felt like we were de-cluttering our lives. Purging the unnecessary. There were also a lot of other feelings, as one could imagine.

Standing in our kitchen for the last time, remembering all the dance parties, the pancakes, and the fellowship was bittersweet. I loved our little house. A few days before moving out I got to bake ALL DAY for two “Friendsgiving” parties. I made sweet potato fluff, green bean casserole, pecan pie, and over 100 cookies. God’s intimate spirit of peace was so close as I stood alone stirring, spilling, and not using proper measuring spoons…

I love that God invites me to be so incredibly honest with Him. He is my safe place. I told Him, through tears, that sometimes I just want to be a mom of four and cook all day for my family without ever leaving the house. “Days like this day.” And He is not surprised by my words. He’s very much aware of the desires of my heart (selfish or not), and how He created me. Yet, even more aware of how He created me for more. To leave the house, to follow Him, to love His people the way He shows me. Whether that is my next door neighbor, or my “next door” continent.

God reminded me that His plans for me are GOOD. That He is GOOD. He is who He says He is, and I am who He says I am (Great song, take a listen- I Am No Victim). And He wants me to truly believe it, because sometimes I truly don’t. Sometimes my anxiety is bigger than my faith. And *sometimes* is too often in and of itself, amen?!

Since moving out, we have stayed in VA a week, my parents place a week, Ben’s parents place a few days, Chicago, and now Nebraska, then Indianapolis, back to Ohio, back to Maryland, off to Uganda. In that order. Since moving out I have cried over not having “my own” kitchen. Yes, it is true, but just once and I was really tired so don’t judge me.

I think my emotions were (are) mainly a result of feeling unsettled, because hello ^^^. It has been hard, but it has also been REALLY beautiful and sweet. Ben and I have felt God’s word come alive more than ever before. We are beyond honored. Like way way beyond. To infinity.

We are also so incredibly grateful. There is such a strong community of friends and family that love and support us, who are sending us off with such love and care. THANK YOU FAM.

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Friendsgiving #1 with our small group from Grace Community Church. These people are family to us.

All of this put together has equaled Ben and I being super excited about moving to Uganda in January. Being in one spot!!! Hallelujah. Home base again with a kitchen! No dishwasher, or way to tell what temperature our oven is, but hey, its a kitchen and I am not going to take it for granted.

I’m convinced this experience is going to shape our perspective, and our marriage, for the rest of our lives. And thats pretty awesome.

Prayer Requests:

  • Pray that we would say goodbye well to our loved ones here in the States.
  • Pray for protection and coverage over us and the Student Life Team as we move to Uganda in about ONE MONTH. The other two couples are leaving their young adult children in the States, and those mamas and dads are going to need some extra peace over their hearts.
  • Pray that we would be FOR unity and AGAINST comparison.

Praise Reports:

  • We are fully funded with our monthly commitments!!! Our minds have been blown. Thank you to all of our monthly supporters!!!! We are still accepting one time gifts if you would like to be on our team, and help us with flight tickets and travel– thank you in advance!
  • We have been able to travel so much to see so many friends and family before we go. Praise God for a working car to do so! We also met our team members, and that was super wonderful to bond and build relationship with them.
  • Our house is sold, and we are out! Such a large weight off of us as we prepare to leave.
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Thanks for following along. 32 more days.

Lots of LOVE,

Ben & Lo

Uncomfortable

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Ben and I walking on Amazima’s Secondary School Campus. -Mackenzie Leigh Photography

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27: 27-31).

How uncomfortable that must have been. To be stripped, mocked, spit on, stabbed, and crucified for all to see. Jesus could have gotten out of this at any point. He chose not to on my behalf and yours. He chose to remain in this uncomfortable place so that the scriptures would be fulfilled, God’s promises kept, and our sins fully forgiven. We say grace and relationship with him are now free, but then we minimize how much it cost him to make that happen.

3 days go by. God raises Jesus from the dead as he promises. Jesus tells his disciples to meet him in Galilee. And this is what He proclaims, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20). I am with you always. To the end of the age. What a strong promise I cling to daily.

Why I am sharing this when it is suppose to be an update on how our first trip to Uganda went? Because this is the “why” behind us going. Your “why” should compel you every day. Whats yours?

Being in Uganda made me uncomfortable. I have lived in Maryland, USA, for over 23 years now. I learned how to drive when I was 15 and have been doing so ever since. If I need food, there has always been a grocery store a few miles away with anything I could ever need. Healthcare has always been available to me– Johns Hopkins is right down the road from where I grew up. Coffee is abundant. So is basically everything here in America. My family is here. My friends are here. My comfort is here.

This trip reminded me of all of that. Everything in Uganda is new to me. Everything is different. I don’t know if I will ever drive on those roads! I’m not going to call up my best friend to meet her for coffee. Goodbye air conditioning. Hello bugs I have never seen before. The list goes on, but mainly: Hello to a deeper dependence on the Lord and deeper knowledge of what he did for me, and what it means to be his disciple.

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.‘ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:57-62).

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.‘” (Matt 16:24).

These are HARD commands. In my comfort zone, it’s really easy not to deny myself. Walking through Target…”Ok I will deny myself this purse, but getting this hat! I’ll put it on my cross and lets go!” Jk… but sometimes it be like that. I’ve denied myself sex before marriage. Time that could’ve been spent by myself doing my own thing has been spent with teenage girls from my church. My reputation that could’ve been higher with partying or high fashion or language or whatever…you can fill in the blank…denied to follow Jesus’ actions instead. But never to this amount have I denied myself. And I say this as a very personal thing, not to be compared. But, to deny myself the comfort of home, of America, of family and friends, of material things and safety– this has given me a new perspective and gratefulness for all that Jesus has done for me.

He never said following him would be easy. Yet, wow, it is worth it. “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.'” ( 1 Corinthians 2:9). So we press on towards the hope of heaven, the hope of ETERNITY with him.

Now…how was our trip? It was great! Above is me processing how I was feeling with this bittersweet taste of what life will be like the next 2 years. With all of that, Ben and I are so excited.

The Amazima staff and students welcomed us SO WELL. Literally we heard multiple times, “You’re so welcome here!” We stayed with Mac & Zach for the first 5 days and became FAST friends. They are hilarious and so much fun to be with. We would come home from a long day around 10pm, and say we are going to pass out, then stay up until 1am talking and laughing together. They took us to the village of Buzika where we rode our first boda boda, which was fun…and hard to do in a dress. (Boda’s are a main source of transportation in Uganda and they are basically motorcycles.) They also took us into town, showed us main street and all the hot spots, showed us where to go grocery shopping, and where get produce.

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Our new friends, Mac & Zach!

Afterwards, we stayed with Danlyn and Kelly Miller, the Dean of Student life. They blessed us big time with a meal and dreaming more about Amazima’s future. We also shared meals with the Bookers’ and the Caseys’, the other current house parents. It was very life-giving to Ben and I. Hanging out with the Amazima Student Life team felt similar to when you take upper level courses in your major, or master program– it’s like everyone is passionate about similar topics and interested in learning more with you each day.

Our favorite part was listening to the students worship God in their native tongue: Luganda. And then also worshipping to contemporary songs like Good Good Father. That one got me in the heart strings hard. Hearing 72 students declare they have a good heavenly Father, knowing that I can count on one hand how many of them have a good and present earthly father. That is the power of the gospel!

Ben and I are even more excited about moving now, and so glad we did this preliminary trip to help us prepare for January. It was a great reminder that this will be very challenging, but also very rewarding. Thank you to everyone at Amazima who came around us and cared for us so well. And thank you to all of our supporters for helping send us financially and covering us in prayer! We love you guys!

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Our future home. We will live in the center, and 12 students on each side!

Prayer Requests:

  • Please continue to pray for our 24 boys that we will build relationship with in the next 2 years. Pray for trust to be formed and unity within our house.
  • Pray for our future Ugandan Family Mentor Partner. We will most likely be paired with a male partner since we will be a boy house. Pray for our relationship to be one of mutual honor and respect, and that we would work well together to serve the students and the Lord.
  • Pray for my dad as his health continues to struggle, and my mom as she works full time and cares for him. Pray that they would be filled with God’s love, comfort, peace, and strength. That God would provide people to surround them with encouragement and support during this time.
  • Pray for Ben’s neck to heal! He got burned by a Nairobi fly. They’re the size of a large ant, and they don’t bite or sting, but their guts are more poisonous than a cobra’s venom. If you kill them on your skin, they will burn you. Ben did without even knowing it! He is doing a lot better though, and is in no pain 🙂

Praise Reports:

  • We are under contract on our house! The DAY before leaving for Uganda we went under contract. Closing date is November 21st. PTL.
  • We had an amazing and eye-opening trip to Uganda with smooth flights, and no luggage issues. Although I was nauseous the E N T I R E time traveling … 😀
  • We are 76% funded to move in January! Thank you all so so much!!! If you’d like to be apart of Team Dougli and fill in that last 24% : HERE IS OUR SUPPORT PAGE. You can also support us (win-win) by joining our Young Living Essential Oils community. Each Starter Kit purchased from me is discounted from $320 to $160! And $50 of that goes towards our move to Uganda. Message me for details or questions!
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Okay, that’s all for now. Thanks for keeping up with us.

Lots of LOVE,

Ben & Lo

 

Oh Boy

17458138_10208758771263027_3560278701239805331_nI mentioned a few days ago that Ben and I have some exciting/bittersweet news. And I’m finally finding the time to write about it!

The other House Parents we will be working with are our team. So, if you hear us refer to our “2018 Team”, we are talking about the other House Parents coming for the 2018-2019 school year– a.k.a. the “Student Life Team” as well! (Basically we’re really cool.)

Our team started with 5 couples:

  1. Denny and Sandra Thompson
  2. Trey and Amanda Mack
  3. Tyler and Molly Broomer
  4. Tyler and Krista Jones
  5. Ben and Laura Douglass

In June, The Broomer’s found out that God had blessed them in a different type of parenthood– not Ugandan House Parents, but biological parents of their own little seedling. Molly is an incredibly talented writer, and her blog moved me to tears. They have a long story with growing their family, and God’s timing in this really came as a shock. It is not a simple YIPEE WE’RE PREGNANT, but a lot more emotion to that with having to say goodbye to a house-full of Ugandan students.

At the beginning of this month, The Jones’ found out some life-altering news as well, which will keep them from coming in January 2018, but possibly allow them to come at a later date. I am leaving this vague because I’m not sure they have had time to process with family and friends yet, and I want to respect that.

But now, our 2018 team is down to 3 couples. Ben and I are excited to see what God has planned for the Broomers & Jones’, but also selfishly sad not to be able to work with them on a daily basis as they seem like really awesome folk!

So, where does this leave us? Last post I described our “Respite” House Parent role, relieving each main House Parent couple so that everyone works 4/5 days per work week + every other weekend. Going to every house and spending time with all 72 students– one house of 24 girls, and two houses of 24 boys. That respite role is no longer ours. Lord willing,

Ben and I will now be the main House Parents to 24 fearfully and wonderfully made Ugandan teenage boys.

Our initial thoughts: Oh boy…(s)

Then fear and insecurity, then excitement and confidence, and now pure joy. What a blessing and honor it will be to intentionally pour our heart and souls into these 24 boys that God has hand-selected for us. I know with my whole being that Ben will come to life each day getting to spend time with these boys, and I will be right there with him. It will obviously look a little different for me, but we have had a lot of encouragement from the current House Parents (2017 team). Specifically, they shared that being the opposite gender, and simply being present everyday means the world to these kids. Always greeting them when they come home or leave, being there for clubs or events, giving lots of high fives and love…etc. So, you best believe I’m gonna be present like my life depends on it! And still give proper space, of course 😉

Ahhh so now no respite couple, that means no breaks for you guys, right?! Wrong! The Amazima School has it covered. Our Ugandan partners will fill in the respite role and we will still have breaks to refresh and recharge.

Prayer Requests:

  • Our house is officially on the market for both sale or rent! We decided to make both available and see who bites first, plus whatever would be most convenient. Yet, after cleaning/painting/packing/staging our home Ben and I are so ready to have this puppy sold. So, please pray for a buyer and fast! We’d love to be out of here before we go on our Ugandan visit October 9th-18th, and then training 26th-Nov 2nd.
  • Pray for the Broomers and Jones’ as plans they reorient their life back here in the States.
  • Pray for unity, trust, and love over us and our future 24 boys. Pray that the joy of the Lord would be our strength, and that God would guide us and give us wisdom each day interacting with them.

Praise Reports:

  • We are a little over 60% funded to go in January, the 10th the be exact! Praise God for selfless and giving people in our community who are making ALL of this possible!! Thank you guys so much!
  • I started using Young Living (YL) Essential Oils, and along with that selling them with all proceeds going towards our support-raising! Ben and I have surprisingly loved the oils so much, and have been amazed at how well they work with our health and home. The Amazima School even uses YL oils in the kids dorms and medical clinic! I’ve had 3 people verbally commit to buying a starter kit, and with each purchase $50 goes towards our support-account! Thank you girls! Feel free to message me if you’re interested in one as well 🙂
  • Again, we got our house on the market! PTL.
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Next time I write to you will most likely be after October when we get back from Uganda and training! I have zero idea what to expect, how we will feel, how we will be changed from 10 short days, and all that God is going to do. But when I know, I’ll letchya know too. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this journey with us.

Here’s the part where I say “Mweraba”, meaning Farewell in Luganda, but found out that nobody actually says that there…So, good thing my ignorance is already kicking in.

LOTS OF LOVE***,

Ben & Lo

 

134 More

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134 more days until we pick up our American lives and move to Uganda. All of the feelings are happening. We’re excited, nervous, joyful, humbled, scared, curious, and anxious on multiple levels. But, mainly excited. For the faces we will get to put to names, the hearts of students we will get to know and cherish, and the soon to be friends that we will get to call family.

134 more days until we use our one way ticket to fly 21 hours to Jinja, Uganda– home for the next 2 years (Lord willing)! Just to reiterate in case ya missed it, Ben and I will be working as House Parents at The Amazima Secondary School. We have been describing House Parents as “RAs” or “Young Life staff, Uganda, except you live with the students!” Secondary schools in Uganda are mainly boarding schools, so like college for us here in the States. We will be with the students any time that they are not in class (Ben and I will not be teaching, lucky for those students). Thus, our schedule will look something like this:

5:30am – COFFEE. Students wake up and begin their morning routine and chores.

6:45am– Devotional with students, then help send them off to school + more COFFEE

7:30am– Students go to breakfast and then school. Ben works out and Laura probably falls back asleep…

Our Afternoon- Time will be spent intentionally with the Lord, going into town to get groceries, cleaning, creating future devos and youth group games/activities, eating lunch, spending time with other house parents, and doing home visits for the students families. Thats another thing I love about Amazima is they are not only concerned with the students, but the entire family of the student. We do home visits to ensure families are taken care of and feelin’ God’s love from us, too.

4:10pm– Students return to dorms, and the festivities of student life team begin!

Evening– There are different clubs (soccer, drama, art, singing, service…etc) that we will do with the students, JAM time = Jesus and Me time (my fave),

6:00pm– Dinner with students!

7-8:30pm– Study Hall with homework help (Lord help us remember high school material).

8:30-10pm– Fellowship with family teams–games, reading, talking, hanging out! Then Zzzzz.

HERE is a Youtube video from Kelly Miller, Dean of Student Life, describing our day as well with some footage of campus and students!

Ben and I will be the “respite” House Parents. This means we will be relieving each of the other three house parents of their duties, one day at a time. Therefore, each couple works 4 out of the 5 days (M-F), and then every other weekend– Saturday and Sunday full-time with students doing community serving projects, outreach, and relationship building. On our current 2018//2019 team are the Macks, Thompsons, and Jones’. We have already had the pleasure of meeting them via FaceTime conference calls, and WhatsApp chats, but are so pumped to meet them in person late October…right after we come back from our Uganda visit!

October is going to be very full and rich. We booked our flight to Jinja, October 9th-18th. During that time we will get to stay on campus with the Dean of Student Life, Kelly Miller and his amazing wife, Danlyn Miller (read more about them here). We will get to meet the current house parents of year one, and current students! Ben and I will explore the town and see where we will call home in just 134 more days. During the second half of the trip we are hoping to stay closer in town with a ministry called, Sole Hope, which helps heal foot-related diseases and provide shoes for kiddos to run around jigger-free!

Prayer Requests: 

  • Please pray for wisdom and guidance on what to do with our sweet little townhouse. Pray for a family to come soon to either rent or buy our house, so that we can get out by the end of September.
  • Please pray for our families to continue to grow in faith and encouragement as we prepare to move to another country.
  • Please pray for unity and strong relationships within our 2018//2019 team as we all get together for a training and marriage retreat October 26-November 2.
  • Please pray for our future students, that they would feel God’s love for them as they are being chosen to join The Amazima School in 2018. And of course, our relationships with them!

Praise Reports:

  • We are 55% funded to leave for Amazima in January! WOWOWOWOW. I have cried many tears, and have been in utter shock. I mean UTTER SHOCK at the way people have come around us and supported us. It is hard to ask for financial support when you are taught never to do that, and this individualistic culture we live in bleeds independence. But God has been so faithful, and our community has been so selfless. I am completely blown away. Thank you thank you thank you to our supporters. And if you would like to be on Team Dougli and help send us off with either a one time or monthly donation, HERE is our support link.
  • Ben let his [corporate finance] job know (very far in advance) that we are moving and working as House parents, and they were also very supportive! They have allowed him to work part-time starting September 1st- November 16th so that we can focus on support-raising and getting out of our house! This allows us to keep our medical benefits until we have to switch over to our RCE coverage.
  • God is alive and active, and oh so good.

Something has stuck with us that one of our close friends said… “I’m excited to meet you guys in 2 years.” As are we. 134 more days to go. Thanks so much for reading and keeping up with us. Until next time!

Mweraba,

Ben & Lo

WE’RE MOVING

WOW. We finally get to share with all of you what God has been orchestrating: Ben and I are moving to Jinja, Uganda for a minimum of 2 years to work as House Parents/ Family Mentors at The Amazima Secondary School. My heart fluttered as I wrote that.

What? When? How? …are the next questions to come. And I am about to write out many more.

This past January, six months into our marriage, Ben and I began to notice an overarching question pop up in our life– Is Jesus worth it? God asking us, Am I worth it? Am I worth following? Am I worth your devotion? Am I worth your career, your reputation, your time, your money, your life? The answer is yes. Jesus is worth it all, because He demonstrated that we were worth it all to Him– the great I AM.

So, we prayed. We asked Him to show us what direction He wants our marriage to go. We asked how He wants to use us together as one. Our time on Earth is temporary and we want it to count for eternity.

I started to feel a strong conviction about my level of comfort, dependence, and abundance here in America. While I rest my head at night with a full stomach and heart, many people across the nation and world are suffering from the pangs of hunger and loss. As I run clean water at my convenience from multiple faucets to wash my hands, take a shower, replenish my thirst, many people are walking miles to do the same with way less. As I went to public school for “free”, had my materials paid for by my parents, and graduated from college, many people cannot even learn to read or write because they are busy helping their family buy essentials to live. By people I mean both children and adults.

As followers of Jesus, Ben and I don’t want sit back and watch. If we follow Him, we follow His actions. We fall short! Oh my word we fall short. But we pick up our cross daily and follow. Jesus cared for the poor, the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the children, the marginalized. Whether it’s in our backyard, community, State, Nation, or third world country we want to make ourselves available to Him. As Mother Teresa would say, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

Thankfully, Ben and I have had the opportunity to serve in youth ministry the past 4-5 years. There have been other mission opportunities we’ve done right here in the good ol’ red, white, and blue, but the majority has been spent pouring into students. Now, God is leading us to very similar work. It just happens to be over 7,000 miles away. Further from the comfort of home in order to strengthen our dependence on Him, and to see/learn more of His heart. The USA is like, what? 5 % of His heart? “For God so loved THE WORLD…” (John 3:16, my emphasis). So lets go love the world, too!

We’ve been building relationship with friends currently at The Amazima School (Mac & Zach!), and they taught us that here in the States we struggle to believe our need for God because of our abundance, whereas in Uganda they struggle to believe God loves them because of their lack of resources.

It cost $20 for a child to go to school in Uganda and most of them struggle to pay that. This could be because over 50% of the population in Uganda is under the age of 18. Half of that number are orphaned. They don’t have a foster care system set up– most of these kids are on their own. Almost all secondary schools in Uganda are boarding schools. Often the students are physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by their teachers and/or house parents. These schools rely on memorization or “teaching to the test” for curriculum, and most students graduate with scarce problem-solving skills and creative thinking.

Enter The Amazima School. Some of the most vulnerable children in the surrounding villages of Jinja will have the opportunity to receive an education, medical aid, and three hearty meals a day. They will graduate as well-equipped leaders. One of our favorite parts is that it is a Ugandan School under their own government license. Each couple works closely with a Ugandan partner throughout their time there. The goal is not to westernize– we want to maintain the integrity of their culture. Transforming these lives, transforms the future society of Uganda.

There is so much more I could continue to write, but I’m going to pause here. Thank you for reading up until this point, and showing an interest in whats happening with our story! We will continue to update this blog with the haps, prayer requests, praise reports, and whatever else comes to mind. Ben and I would love for you to stay updated with us as we journey to Jinja!

HERE is a link to The Amazima Ministries website for more information. They also have a YouTube Page with awesome testimonials from students, and much more.

We will be raising support over the next six months. To be honest, this scares us. Most of this process scares us. But we know that in this and through this, God will show up in big ways, and we are eagerly anticipating whats to come. If you would like to support us prayerfully, subscribe to this blog or contact us with your name and email! If you would also like to support us financially, we would love to meet with you separately over coffee or a meal to talk more. Or, if you want to give right now, we will not fight you on it! HERE is our support page. We are being sent off by Resourcing Christian Education International. Ben and I so appreciate and love YOU for supporting us in any way. We truly couldn’t do it without you.

Mweraba (farewell in Luganda),

Ben & Lo

PS- Yes, if you have read the book Kisses From Katie this is the ministry that she founded + HERE is a video that Katie Davis and the Dean of Student Life, Kelly Miller, plus the Headmaster, Mark Guthrie, welcome Ben and I to the team. They are such incredible brothers and sisters. We cannot wait to work alongside of them to serve students!