Friday, December 30, 2016

A Photocopy of the Father

Will and his "photocopy", Ellie putting up
the first piece on the advent calendar together
Almost every time Will, Ellie and I go out in town together, someone looks at Ellie and says, "Wow, she looks like the father!". We've heard this so often that I hardly process it anymore when someone says it. I simply smile and say, "Yes, she does!" and move on. However, a couple weeks ago we were at a market we only go to in route back to Fort Portal from Kampala. Someone at that market looked at Ellie and exclaimed, "Wow! She is a photocopy of the father!". I chuckled at the detailed nature of this comment. It was so specific and technologically savvy that seemed funny to hear in the middle of a dirty, side of the road market in the middle of our journey. However, this phrase stuck with me.

I love the description of Ellie being a "photocopy" of Will because it doesn't just mean her eyes look similar to his. It means her face is the exact same as her fathers. There is no denying that they are related because they are a copy of each other. Obviously this word isn't a great description of how Ellie actually looks, but it made me crave being called a "photocopy" of my heavenly father.

I think it would be the best compliment we could hear as Christians to be told, "Wow! You are a photocopy of the Father!". Would there be anything greater? It would mean that everything in our life reflects perfectly and identically our Father in heaven. When people see us, they immediately see and know God.

Ephesians 5: 1-2 says, "Therefore, become imitators of God, as well as beloved children and walk continually in love just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God."

My prayer is that no matter what we are doing as Christ Followers, that people would see our lives and say, "They look just like God! I now understand His love more because of the love they are showing me!". May we seek to be photocopies of our Father and may we love the people around us with His love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gifts for a King

Christmas has become a season where we are consumed with gifts. Gifts that we want others to give us and gifts we pick out specifically for those we love (or those we get stuck with in Secret Santa exchanges ;)). In the midst of thinking about what gifts to give this year, my mind has gone to the gifts that were given to Jesus. 

On the first Christmas, the Wise men brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. These gifts represented who God was- King of Kings (Gold is for Kings), that He was to be worshiped (Frankincense was used in worship) and the type of life he was going to live (Myrrh was use in burials, so this represented the fact that Jesus would endure suffering and death). These gifts were expensive and had meaning and weight. They weren't chosen randomly and they were fit for a King. They also risked their lives by choosing to not tell the King where Jesus was.

Another time in the Bible that Jesus was given a "gift" was when a woman poured very expensive perfume on his feet (story in Luke 7:37-8). This passage says,

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:37-38)

This (nameless) woman was scolded by Jesus' disciples. They were aphauled that she would use such expensive perfume to put on Jesus' feet and thought the money should be used to help the poor. However, Jesus' response was, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (Matthew 26:10-13)

In all of these examples of gifts given to Jesus, the giver was so consumed by the King that the cost didn't matter. The gifts were given out of love, honor and respect. 

The question I have been pondering while reading about all of this is, "What gifts am I giving to the King?". There are many areas where I feel stretched beyond my own human abilities lately. It honestly would be easier to throw in the towel rather than continue to be obedient and follow what God has called me to. I'm learning that it is in these areas where gifts are given to the Lord. When I reach the end of myself, but still chose to be obedient. Still chose to seek forgiveness, to move into relationship, to push past what I am capable of on my own strength, this is where the obedience truly comes in. Like the woman who poured perfume on Jesus' feet, she could have fallen at His feet and repented. However, she did more than that, she wept (which makes us believe she was repentant) and she poured someone of great value on Jesus as a form of worship and admiration. In the same way, we are called not only to be obedient, but to do so with a  joyful heart- one that longs to give good things to it's King. 

As the Christmas song, "Joy to the World" says, "Let every heart prepare Him room", I believe this is where we start. Our life becomes a gift to the Lord when we have prepared room for Him in our hearts. The wise men went on a long journey to find Jesus and this women went into the house of people she probably didn't associate with. They went out of their way for the King. This Christmas I am meditating on ways I can prepare room in my heart for Jesus. How can I go out of my way to spend time at His feet, in complete worship of the King? In this, I believe we give Jesus the gift He wants the most from His children- our time and our worship. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tree-za

When we lived in Nigeria, "Theresa" was a recognizable name. I even had a student named Theresa. When I said my name, people could hear it (once they got past my difficult English) and would say my name in a manner that sounded "normal" and familiar to me.

In South Sudan and Kenya, I was "Ter-A-sa". As long as I said it like this, people understood the name and could hear it well.

Here in Fort Portal, "Theresa and TerAsa" are not understood. When I pronounce my name this way, I get blank stares and big eyes. They just can't hear it. It's like when someone here tells me their name is, "Araali" or "Atooki", I have to hear it several times before I think I heard it well enough to attempt saying it, and then even after that I feel like I'm completely butchering it (because I most likely am).

Here my name is pronounced "Tree-za". It's the only way they can hear it. If I attempt to say it any other way, the name is completely lost on them. So, Treeza I am. This is now how I introduce myself and the name I respond to when I am called (well that and "Momma-Baby" as Moses prefers to call me.. hehe).

When we first moved to Africa I remember feeling really particular about how people pronounced my name. I wanted to be known and I felt like I would only be known if people fit into the box I was already in and used to. Anything outside of that was unfamiliar and didn't feel natural or normal. After our 4 years in Africa, I'm learning that the most loving way to approach culture is to enter as a learner. When I come in admitting that I am needy and that I don't have it all together, I am much better received than if I tried to pretend I have it all figured out.

Each time we move around in Africa, I learn how the name, "Theresa" is pronounced in that culture. It is a familiar name in most countries we have visited, but they don't realize it's familiar until it said the way they pronounce it. When I am willing to take the time to adjust the pronunciation of my name according to the culture I'm currently in, it ends up saving a lot of time and miscommunications. It's also a simple way for me to adjust to the culture and approach the culture as a learner rather than someone who needs others to fit into my box and my "normal".

For this season, I am Treeza. My prayer is that God would continue to give us grace as we are learning yet another culture and people group. I hope we would have humble hearts as we come here needy and as learners- willing to stumble in our speech and adjust our names to the culture we are serving.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Introduction

We had the privilege of attending an Introduction on Saturday for our friends, Maggie and Pheastus. An Introduction is a big event before a couple gets married. Culturally, it is the second step in the three steps you take to become husband and wife. First, the couple gets both families together and they discuss a bride price, or dowry. Then, the couple has and Introduction where the groom goes (with family and friends) to the bride's village to pay the dowry. The last step is a church wedding (if the couple wants to get married in a church and can afford this last step).

Maggie is our landlord and our next door neighbor. She went out of her way to include us in this event and even helped both of us clueless muzungus figure out what was appropriate to wear. The Introduction was at her father's village, which is about an hour and a half outside of town. It is located in the midst of beautiful tea fields with mountains in the distance. It was a long, bumpy ride, but the view was beautiful!

The lines of men and women
ready to enter the event.
We arrived with Pheastus' family. When we got there, everyone from his side separated into two lines- men and women. The men entered first and some carried crates of soda on their heads and other gifts for the bride's father. The women entered next and shown to their seats. The even started right away and was almost like a drama. There are four groups of women who come out before the bride and the groom looks for his bride among each group. He finally finds her in the forth group and that is when the celebrating begins. During the whole event, the groom is presenting gifs to the bride's father. At one point, the women in the groom's family present gifts to the bride and her mother. It is all very fascinating and so much fun to watch!

We learned that this event, although extremely entertaining and fun, it's a bit overwhelming for a little baby! After almost 2 hours in the car, Ellie was quite overwhelmed by the amount of people and the loud noises, so she and I ended up at the car where she could be loud and move around.

Here are some pictures from the Introduction. We are so grateful that we were included and loved getting to experience this part of culture.
Some of the dancers. The colors were so beautiful!

The first group of girls that came out. The groups came
in order of age, so he searched among the children first.

The women in Pheasxus' family bringing gifts (in a cart) to Maggie and her mother

This is where Ellie and I ended up most of the time!

Ellie all dressed and ready to go to the party!

Ellie and I before the event. Maggie helped me get a dress made in town.
We went together to pick out material and then I had a tailor custom make the dress.

Will's outfit for the event. Every man at the Introduction wore the same attire.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Can I Skip Thanksgiving?

Wednesday night was rough. Ellie is a beautiful little teething monster right now and she was up multiple times EVERY HOUR during the night.

I woke up on Thursday morning in a BAD mood. I was tired, frustrated about Ellie's pain and the lack of sleep and just wanted to lay in bed all day and catch up on much needed rest. Instead, I looked ahead to the plans for the day: we were hosting our guards (plus one of their families) and the woman who helps us in the house for a Thanksgiving meal. We wanted to share the American Thanksgiving tradition with these wonderful people whom we are so grateful for each day. Hosting them sounded like a great idea earlier in the week, but by Thursday morning, I was in NO mood to see anyone, much less be in the kitchen cooking all day... while juggling a teething 4 month old.

So, I woke up mad about Thanksgiving. Because having a bad attitude is not a new thing for me, I immediately (well, maybe I moped a bit first...) turned to the Lord in prayer.

 I asked the Lord if I could skip Thanksgiving.

I'm not kidding.

I was tired and missed family and I thought it would be easier to skip the day all together. Once I got over my toddler moment, I realized the symbolism is what I had asked the Lord. I basically asked if I could have a reason to not be thankful. If I could give up on gratitude.. because, lack of sleep of course! This realization brought me to my knees. Oh how I needed grace. Instead of continuing my prayers to be able to give up on Thanksgiving altogether, I asked God to change my attitude. I realized I was in desperate need of an attitude-check. So I prayed all morning for a better attitude and perspective on the day. At one point, Will came into the room and, seeing me in my zombi state, asked if I was okay. To which I replied, "NO! I'm not okay! Please pray for God to change my attitude!". Yes... another toddler moment. A little while later he asked again and I again pleaded for prayer. This time he responded with, "Oh, I've been praying..."(meaning, oh trust me, I'm pleading with God to change your attitude today! haha).

Well, by 9:30am, I found myself in the kitchen, blaring praise music and dancing along while kneading bread dough. There was an obvious shift in my demeanor and I was actually looking forward to the cooking that laid ahead! God had met me in my temper tantrums and changed my attitude around. I found myself extremely grateful the whole day. Little by little, I saw more and more that I was thankful for. There were so many reasons for gratitude and praise!

Violet helped me peel potatoes, chop and peel apples, boil pumpkin, etc. We worked hard all day long and were ready for our (condensed version of) Thanksgiving by 4:00. Everyone arrived and Will explained why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and why we wanted to celebrate with all of them this year. He read a verse about gratitude from the Bible and prayed over out time together. We served roasted chickens, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, boiled pumpkin and apple pie. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and fellowship.

During the meal we discussed what we were thankful for from this year. One of our guards, Tony, said, "It is so good to have a time to publicly thank God for all He has done in my life!". I loved this line because this is such an important practice as believers. The art of coming together to give thanks and acknowledge what God has done for us is a beautiful thing! It made me very grateful that God didn't allow me to skip Thanksgiving, but instead gave me an attitude of thankfulness and joy. What a patient and loving God! Here are some pictures from the day.

Our dinner crew! 

How can I not be grateful when we have this little turkey around?!

Violet and I working on the apple pie.

Will's explanation of Thanksgiving before dinner. (please take note
of Will's stylish sock/flip flop combo- I married him for his style ;))

How do you get cooking done when your baby refuses to nap and you need
to start the rolls? Strap her in the carrier, of course :)!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New Land, New Language

Between the two of us, Will and I have intentionally studied 3 African languages in our 4 years in Africa. In the 4 African countries we have lived in, we have been surrounded by a total of 9 African languages that we heard spoken on a regular basis. Due to our move away from the Moru people and to the Botooru people, we now have reason to study a new language: Rutooro.

Karen introducing a lesson to
the language helpers during
the training last week
This past week our good friend, Karen Masso, came from Kijabe, Kenya to host a language training week in Fort Portal. Karen and her family are Serge missionaries and Karen has been learning how to train language helpers for the past couple years. Having trained language helpers is a big need on the field. In most settings, you don't have the privilege of meeting with someone who has been trained in how to teach a language, so you have to be extremely self-motivated because the process usually entails teaching your teacher how to teach, while trying to learn. However, the amazing Karen Masso did this for us this time! Karen (with the help of some friends on the Bundibugyo team) hosted a week-long training with several language teachers from Bundi and 4 language teachers from Fort Portal. She walked everyone through a language learning curriculum and taught them how to teach several of the lessons. After Karen taught the teachers, they would then go on to teach the learners in the actual language being learned.

Worship time 
It was a very successful week and Will and I are so grateful to have 4 language teachers ready to go for us and our new teammates who are coming! The language helpers are very excited about their new skills and one of them told me "The week was too good!!". Please pray for Will and I and for our new teammates coming to be able to soak in the Rutooro language well. To be honest, it's hard to feel motivated to learn yet another African language because they are each completely different and the language part of my brain feels rather fried at the moment. Please pray for a supernatural ability to learn this language and for us to keep a healthy perspective as we do so. We put in the effort to learn the languages of the people we are ministering to because they are worth it. It is very meaningful for people to see that you are trying to learn THEIR language. You are working to communicate to them in their heart language. Yes, they giggle at our sorry attempts to do so, but they love what our effort communicates. Languages are hard, but they are an avenue into relationships, and that is always worth the effort.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

When Things get Stolen in Africa

Last Wednesday my laptop and Kindle were stolen from our house. Ellie and I were home and Will had just left to go into town for a few hours. Our day guard was working, but was in the back of the house when the theft must have happened. We believe the thief must have hopped over the side of our gate, entered into the open front door, and grabbed the first things he saw within quick reach. I was in the back of the house and oblivious to what was happening.

I’m used to having to let go of “stuff”. My family had a house fire when I was 15 and it was my first introduction to learning to let go of things and cope with losses of items that are dear to you. Having everything we left in Mundri stolen was my next big reality check of how quickly things can be gone. I’ve learned to work through the heartache that comes with having your things sifted through and stolen. But with each loss, there is usually something deeper that gets triggered.

I am very bummed that my laptop and Kindle are gone. I use my laptop daily and it is the only way I keep up with work e-mail and blogs (did you notice the long delay in blogging recently?). Without it, I get very behind. However, it is still just “stuff”. In our technological world, most of us don’t only have one electronic device. I’ve just depending on my phone more frequently with the loss of the computer. What hurts deeper than the loss of these objects is the loss of security in our own home. I have been home a lot with Ellie as she is still so young and we are trying to get her on a good schedule. Having home feel a little less safe makes me feel even more unsettled here. We have been keeping our front door locked at all times now so we don’t have to be concerned about walking to the back of the house and not hearing what is happening in the front room. The locked door is constant reminder of my insecurity in my own home.

In all of this, like with any big event, I have to be on guard. I feel like Satan would love to use this to make me consumed with our safety at all times and feel chronically unsettled in our new home. He would love for me to respond to this situation with constant fear and with disgust towards the people here. However, he does not get the last word. God has reminded me this week that our only security is in Him. He is our safe place. He has also reminded me that our calling to a place is not dependent on how comfortable we feel once we get there. When He calls us, He goes with us. That doesn’t always mean we are ‘safe’ by the worlds terms. But it does mean that He is enough for us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

Will you join us in prayer? Please pray that Satan would not use this to make me bitter about being here. In a season where we are still adjusting and trying to find our footing, this feels like a major set-back. Please also pray for the heart of whoever took these items. Pray that they would feel convicted, but more than that, that they would know the love of Christ and seek God to meet their needs in every way. I pray that we would have the opportunity to show this person grace in person. Our hope would be that the person would confess and we would be able to forgive them in person. However, even if this does not happen in this manner, pray that we would extend grace in our hearts. Even with the items stolen and not in our possession, our hope is that grace would reign in our heartland bitterness would be far from us.