Goodbyes Suck. Planting Trees.

This is a post that I intended to put up long, long ago.  But I never wanted to write it. But yesterday I finally sat down and made a photo book about my summer at Rafiki Africa Ministries.   Then I saw on a current Rafiki volunteer’s blog that she is heading home in two days, and it reminded me of how hard it was to say goodbye and transition back to life in the states.

Turns out, I eventually had to come home from Africa.

I love Emma, Don, Carol, Jerom, Esther, Annet, Brenda, Oscar, Fauziya, Joel, Joshua and Cocus like they are my own children.  Saying goodbye to them and not knowing if I would ever see them again was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It was the kind of sadness that translated into physical pain.  I felt like my heart was being squeezed tightly and then ripped out of my chest.

To sum up non-eloquently: saying goodbye sucked.

What encouraged me was the reminder that God is using all sorts of aunties and uncles in these kids’ lives.  He is blessing this ministry with volunteers who are coming to do His work in different seasons.  And none of our work is in vain.  We might not be there in person to see the fruits of our labor, but that is ok.  And with this great thing we call technology, we can still watch these kids grow up through Rafiki’s blog, facebook page, and monthly newsletters.

Andrew Peterson wrote a song called Planting Trees that I think captures this idea really well.  Basically I cry when I hear it.

I would like to share with you a video that captures my time in Uganda really well.  I don’t often take the time to watch videos on blogs, but I would love it if you took a few minutes to watch this one.  Not only does it include video of my time there (which shows Africa so much better than still photos) but it also includes the song Planting Trees, so you can hear it!

Planting Trees

We chose the spot, we dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground to have and hold
As Autumn falls to Winters sleep
We pray that somehow in the Spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

He took a plane to Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light
Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees

She rises up as morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake
And her heart is so full; it overflows
She waters us with love and the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone

loves like a hurricane

God has taken such good care of me these past few weeks.  To be honest, I’ve been dreading this time from when school would be winding down to when I would leave.  Months ago, when I was looking ahead, all I could think about was how stressed I would be.  Ending the school year is always hard.  It is emotionally draining as well as physically exhausting.  We have multiple field trips where we are spending the day out in the sun and the heat.  My whole classroom has to be taken apart and packed up and all the furniture moved and it is such a big job.  Then there is this whole packing for two months deal.  And I suck at packing.  Or moreso I just don’t like it.  Last week as the school year was ending I would go to bed at night thinking about how tired I was.  I would think about the type of ministry schedule I’ll be on this summer and I felt weary and exhausted thinking about it.  How would I ever muster up the energy to love and serve.  I didn’t know when I would ever have time to sit down, much less catch up on sleep before I go.

But you know what?

God is good.  And He has taken such good care of me these past few weeks.

Ending the school year was still emotionally draining – it is tough to send some of these kiddos on that final bus ride home, knowing that their home life leaves much to be desired.

But the packing up of my classroom was the least stressful time in the past 7 years of doing this.  I had friends who dedicated hours of their time to help me.  I was truly blown away by their amazingness.  I still am.  You guys are awesome!

Friday after work I started packing for my trip, and by the end of the night, I was packed!  I have a few things to still tuck in, but overall it was a pretty effortless process.  I ended up with three suitcases, each one weighing just under 50 lbs  (and that was my goal).  I was able to organize my personal things and the many items being donated to the orphanage as well as fun teaching supplies and evenly distribute the weight on my first try!  So great!

And now I have been able to enjoy the weekend, relax, spend time with family and friends, and soak in the last few days in Minnesota.  I drove to church this morning reflecting on God’s goodness.  In the grand scheme of life, ending a school year and packing for a summer aren’t that big of a deal.  But still God is taking care of me and providing for my every need – even lending me some packing super powers.  :)

We sang this David Crowder song at church today and it really expressed how I am feeling – totally overwhelmed by God’s love – in the best way possible.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

The Grace of Giving

Right now at Hope Community Church, we are in a series on 2 Corinthians called Bridezilla Returns.  Within that, we are in a mini-series entitled The Grace of Giving.  Through raising financial support to go to Uganda, I have been so blessed to see this idea lived out.  People who live generously and are excited to support what God is doing.  I thank them for giving and they thank me for going, and round and round we go.  What a tremendous example that has been set before me of giving not being a command or a burden, but being a joy.

I’m so excited to be able to say that my summer missions trip to Uganda is fully funded – praise Jesus!

Not only is my trip fully funded, but I also have raised over $300 dollars in additional financial support that I am using to buy additional teaching, playing, learning, and living resources for the orphanage, as well as to pay for an extra suitcase to bring these things along.  In addition to THAT, I have had others donate books, toys, clothes etc for me to bring to the orphaned and abandoned children.

God gave me the time, desire, and gifts to go, serve Him, and share His love with these orphans in Uganda.  But on my own, I sure didn’t have the financial resources.  I am SO humbled and SO blessed by all of you who contributed to my trip and will be praying for me while I’m gone.

Raising support teaches me to trust Jesus.  To rely fully on Him, because I can’t do it on my own.  It helps me get my perspective right and my heart right.  This trip isn’t about me going on some crazy adventure to Africa (although I’m sure there will be more than enough adventures to share with you), but it is about serving God and loving others.

There isn’t a day that went by that upon finding a support check in the mail, I didn’t open it and feel overwhelmed and undeserving of your generosity. Or you handed me money at a birthday party, took me shopping for books for these kids, or called me to ask their sizes to buy appropriate clothing.

My heart is full.

So I want to say THANK YOU.

Thank you for living generously.

Thank you for your words of encouragement about God’s plans for my summer.

Thank you for praying for me.

Thank you for being excited along with me.

Thank you for being amazing.

And Thank You to God for your loving faithfulness… for surprising me, for providing for my needs in ways I didn’t expect, and for being trustworthy.

it was very good

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a 

 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Psalm 19:1

I love seeing God’s glory displayed through His creation.  God is so creative and so powerful.  I love it!  When I am surrounded by nature, I cannot help but praise God.

I’ve seen some beautiful places.  I’m seriously impressed by God’s handiwork.

Sunset from the top of a volcano in Guatemala? Wow.

Snorkeling in the East China Sea: breathtaking. And if you think it is beautiful above the water, you should see what God did with the coral and all the sea creatures. AWESOME!

Not pictured because I went here back in the day of film cameras: Foz do Iguacu – BEAUTIFUL.  (I have a photo displayed in my room.  Let’s just say literal double rainbow over magestic waterfalls.)

Brazil

the train ride from Vancouver to Whistler

Mountains? Yes, please.

Austria

the Wachau Valley

a day at lake

walking around a lake in Minneapolis

I love it all.  And I am so blessed to have seen these incredible places.

And yet I hear God whispering in my heart, “I can’t wait for you to see what I did when I created Africa.”  

Oh man, I can’t wait either.

I’m glad we have a creative God who shows off his power and glory in creation.

Good Friday

Sometimes life is hard.  We live in a fallen, imperfect world.

It hasn’t been the easiest week.

For example, yesterday included 

  • kicking
  • screaming
  • scratching
  • pushing
  • throwing
  • learning I’m getting a new (probably difficult) student
  • surprise meetings
  • forgetting my lunch
  • nearly running out of gas on the side of the road
  • and more.

Yet at the end of the day I didn’t feel defeated.  I wasn’t without hope.

Today is Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.  So yeah, this world is much less than perfect.  But this world is temporary.  We have a God who is with us our bad days.  And the good days.  And all the days in between. We have a God who is holy and can’t be around sin, but who loves us enough to not let that be the end of the story.  We have a God who died for us.  We have a God who saves us.

Good Friday - Antigua, Guatemala - 2008

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, Who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 

Good Friday is a day to remember that Jesus died for us on the cross.

But the story doesn’t end on Friday.

Sunday is coming.

On Sunday we get to celebrate Easter.

And we can say,

He is risen.  He is risen indeed!