Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Misérables

Certainly, a doctor would have seen in Jean Valjean an incurable misery; he would perhaps have pitied this man sickened by the law, but he would not even have attempted a cure; he would have turned from the sight of the caverns glimpsed in that soul; and, like Dante at the gate of Hell, he would have erased from that existence the word that the finger of God has nonetheless written on the brow of everyone- Hope!
~from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ~2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and Him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with Himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what He is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ Himself now: Become friends with God; He’s already a friend with you. 
~2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (Message)

God, through Christ, was pleased to “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” 
~Colossians 1:20, NIV

     When I saw the play Les Misérables in London, it instantly replaced Phantom of the Opera as my favorite musical. I have been slowly making my way through Victor Hugo’s novel this past year. And I have watched several movie versions of this story, but have always been disappointed that the powerful songs from the play were left out. So I greatly enjoyed the movie that is now in theatres.
     Do not be confused by the somber title “Les Misérables;” this work paints hope in the world- hope that through faith in God expressed in loving (albeit often difficult and sacrificial) actions towards others, a person can change and rise above their past, the expectations of others, and the oppressive, entrapping systems of society.
    A modern day example: in Uganda, the Street Child Project, along with other organizations such as the Sanctuary, Emmanuel House, and C.R.O., work with street children as rehabilitation homes and drop-in centers. These are the children that people in Ugandan society see as less than nothing, as unchangeable, hopeless cases. These are children who are caught in systems that work against them- the lack of fidelity and compassion of many step-parents towards their step-children leading to child labor, child abuse, and even death threats and attempted murder; greed tied to land possession that leads to terrible violence in a family after divorce or when the death of a father leaves a young male heir; polygamy spreading material resources so thin among a family that poverty pushes the children out and onto the streets; children orphaned due to diseases like AIDS or maternal mortality stemming from a lack of education, sanitation, or proper medical care.
     The stories in Les Misérables deeply impact people (the theatre I was in burst into applause at the end of the film) because they parallel the work that God is doing in the world- the work of redemption (a holistic redemption that brings peace to every area of brokenness- between humanity and God, between humanity and the environment/earth, and in human relationships~ see Colossians 1:20).
     God beautifully invites us to join Him in the work of redemption, spreading hope, truth, joy and love in the world. I went to Uganda for two months to do my small part of the work that many people are a part of. This may be my only trip to Africa, but I will never regret following what I believe to be God’s voice in my life- an unexpected tug on my heart calling me to a country I never expected to visit. I find that even if you only have five minutes to spend with someone- or even a few seconds give them a smile, you can choose to love them in that short time, and that love is not wasted in God’s eternal perspective.
     I now have ten stories of hope- ten names to pray for as they heal from hard pasts- ten boys that I believe can change and break free from the systems and lies that used to trap them. For in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come! These boys who used to be alone and miserable, who have been mistreated and have made their fair share of mistakes, now have people who believe in them and love them unconditionally. And more importantly, they know that they have a God who loves them so enormously that He has given His own life for them, and His Spirit working in them can change them from thieves and outcasts to leaders and fathers and godly men in their community.
May you pray for these boys today- for their protection from lies and for their ongoing healing from their past and present hurts. May you pray for those children still on the streets around the world- that those who are lonely would be set in families and know they are loved. May you choose to believe in someone in your life, and to faithfully love them, even when their change is terribly slow or hard to see. May you have the creativity and courage to love and forgive, in spite of what others expect you to say or do, or how small your actions seem. May you know the love and power of God in your own life and your own past, present and future.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mukana Yebazibwe (Praise the Lord)

“I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
I heard what I heard and I can’t go back
I know what I know and I can’t deny it.

Something on the road
Cut me to the soul.

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of
And what I know of love
Your courage asks me what I am made of
And what I know of God”

~Sarah Groves (1997)

“I came to learn to love and I am still just at the beginning of that journey today. I am just starting to learn how to love more. I believe this is my lifetime goal. I want to love God with everything within me. I want to love my neighbor as myself.” ~Heidi Baker

And O, that He fulfilled may see the travail of His soul in me. And with His work contented be. 
~Dora Greenwell

I am home after two full days of traveling across three continents. It is amazing that we are able to fly hundreds of feet up in the air; and this fact of height and the realization of how small you are compared to the vast expanse of sky and earth below cause many people to focus on other things during flight (sleeping, making small talk with your seatmates, etc.). My favorite thing to do is stare out the window- you see the frozen tundra of Greenland and the icy Hudson Bay, and the distant sparkles of Christmas lights on houses far below.

It is good and hard to be home. It is wonderful to see my family and friends who are like family to me, and to be home in time for Christmas. I feel clean again- after a warm shower and getting to wash my clothes in a high-powered machine. I do not have to worry about purifying water or sleeping under a mosquito net any more, and have a much-needed break from the nasty beef flavoring “royco.”

And then there are the challenges- tears waiting on the brim as I grieve the new distance between my 11 Ugandan brothers and other friends I made, and as I process all that God is teaching me. Walking into Target, which has always been at least mildly overwhelming to me, sent me reeling with the sheer amount of stuff… wishing I could take the entire clothing department, and all the extra clothes in my closet, back to the slums with me for those who do not even have a pair of shoes to their name.

This is a season of needing rest as I slowly adjust to the 11-hour time difference and drastic temperature change (there are no true seasons at the equator).  My heart is weaving between gratefulness for this experience and the incredible choices and opportunities available to me, and being brokenhearted for the excess that we have in our culture. My bedroom is larger and more insulated and cleaner than many of the huts I saw in the Ugandan slums. My family has a beautifully decorated Christmassy home, and I know another family that has only a simple 3-foot strand of lights as the only decoration they could afford. My emotions sway from desiring to share about the experience to being overwhelmed and needing time to ease back in to all the well-meaning questions about the trip. And I miss black people, and the beauty of worshipping God in multiple languages at once.

Here is my hope: our God is a rock- He has been my unfailing refuge and unshakable foundation in every challenging and uncertain time in my life. And just because this is a hard time, does not mean it is bad, awful time- I can consider it a joy to face this adjustment back home, knowing that God uses times like this to smooth out my rough edges and grow me in perseverance, character, and hope. And I am confident that as I press into Him, He will not let this experience go to waste in my life, in those I have met in Uganda, and in those who will hear my stories.

I pray that in the midst of whatever is going on in your life, that you will pause during these next days to come and adore the Lord, Jesus Christ.

May His peace reign in your life!
Lindsey ( : 

goodbye cards for the boys

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Hello! I am in the Heathrow airport, about to board for California in about an hour, and just enjoyed a yummy lunch with my last few pounds from the trip over.

It was hard to say goodbye to the boys- I carried little Calvin out to the taxi that was waiting for me, and waved goodbye to all of my favorite faces. The boys and uncles and Rachel sent me off with prayer, and after being pulled over three times on the ride to Entebbe (Mzungus in a car at Christmas season!), made it to the airport for a long wait till the 1am departure.

It was such a blessing- I was invited to change seats with a man, and sat next to a woman from England who attended Wheaton and also Westmont (my small college) in 1987. We got to share about how we see God working in Uganda so powerfully- weaving a tapestry of His kingdom around the world, with each of us who love Him playing our beautiful part.

Much love to you all! I will be back to my Mount Hermon home on Wednesday evening.

Lindsey ( :

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kupendwa (to be loved)


A friend of mine used to be frustrated that there were so many NGOs and missionaries in Uganda- but God spoke to her one day about how He has brought people from all over the world here and is rising up Ugandans to do a mighty work of healing in this country.

I get excited when I see an organization doing things well. Last week, Rachel and I stopped by Kupendwa, a word that means “to be loved” in Swahili. The woman who runs this ministry, Amy, was concerned about the prevalence of orphans in Uganda. As she spoke with the locals, she realized that many children are orphaned when their mothers die in childbirth due to a lack of sanitation, knowledge about birthing, or access to advanced medical care. This organization provides for spiritual, physical/health, and educational needs of women in several slums and villages in Uganda and runs a maternity home for pregnant teens to support them in their choice to keep their infants, and protect them from further assault, abuse, and other difficult situations in their lives. 

a little man
Amy invited us on an hour-long ride to a remote village with her crew, over very bumpy dirt roads, dodging huge speed bumps that scraped the bottom of the van, and passing pineapple bushes (no, they do not grow on trees). We arrived and were warmly greeted and made to introduce ourselves to approximately 30 women, several children, and a few men who joined their wives for the meeting.

pineapple bushes
Amy’s mother shared a devotional from Galatians 6:7 about how we reap what we sow. Take corn for example; you plant a kernel and end up reaping the same kind of thing that you sowed (more corn), you reap later than you sowed, and you reap much more than you sowed. This can apply to qualities like anger and kindness as well… if you sow kindness among your family and friends, you are very likely to reap kindness later on and in greater quantity than you sowed.

During the short devotional we passed out a meal to everyone who came to the meeting, and then the women had a health lesson from the Ugandan midwife who works with Kupendwa. She shared practical, applicable lessons to help mothers keep their homes sanitary (ex. stop throwing trash and dirty rags and anything you don't like under the bed), and taught them about how to care for their infants now and after they are born (nutrition, AIDS education, resources for birth complications, a free birthing kit for mothers who are in their third trimester, etc.). Birthing kits are vital for women who may need to go to a free clinic, since nurses will not help them unless they bring their own gloves and medical supplies. This was followed by a short prenatal checkup for each expecting mother, and the midwife helped me feel a baby’s head and let me hear the tiny, fast pulsing heartbeat!

I admired the humility of the local pastor. He did not stand out from the crowd, dressed in a blue full-length construction worker’s outfit, and covered in dust, as he worked on a project in his community. This pastor is the reason that Kupendwa visits this village- he asked them to come because of the horrendous high rates of child and maternal mortality, and gives up his living room for the prenatal checkups. As we visited, he explained that the high-quality water filters next to his house are free for any family in his congregation who builds a few items for sanitation: the men must build their wives a pit latrine, dig a rubbish pit away from the home (not under the bed), and a dish drying rack outside of their hut. This pastor and congregation live out their faith in very loving, practical ways!

Our van was almost flattened by an overflowing, heavy-laden sugar cane truck on the return journey. The driver fell asleep on the long journey alone (a very common reason for accidents here) and careened into the side of the hill. It was one of those moments where the power of prayer becomes so tangible (“Jesus, Jesus, protect the truck. Save the driver’s life- don't let him die!), and I could just see God’s hands straightening the truck after the enormous load was inches from taking the whole truck down in both directions. We were grateful for God’s timing and his mercy in not allowing our driver to pass the slow moving truck at this dangerous moment.

ones who I will miss dearly
Right now it is Monday afternoon, and I just went to the market for some treats for the boys for my last night in Uganda. Tomorrow afternoon I start the long trek across continents, going back in time 11 hours (my flight plan estimates the entire trip to be 6 hours). Please pray for traveling mercies, and for the boys, uncles, and aunties during this transition.

Peace to you,
Lindsey ( :

how to fix a broken guitar in Uganda: apply glue, books and rocks

origami and paper snowflake night!

smart paper ties
Christmas card craft night

another use for old mosquito nets: football nets!

Bible study on identity in Christ

His word is sweeter than honey

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Human Sacrifice and Northern Uganda

 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” 
1 Peter 2:11, Message

This weekend Rachel, Eric (one of our house uncles), and I got to know the Ugandan public transportation system as we headed up north for three days. The taxis and busses here are readily available, and also hot, sweaty, and crowded, with long, bumpy roads across the stunning countryside. The man at the post office told us that this first stretch to Lira would take only 5 hours, but it is closer to a 7-hour ride typically. The postal bus ride, which carries people and Ugandan mail, turned into a 10-hour experience, due to many people bribing the conductor for a personal stop outside their village. We passed baboons and watched Michael Learns to Rock: Paint My Love and Greatest Hits” karaoke on repeat, an 80’s music extravaganza. After heading out east to Tororo, a town next to Kenya, we drove north to Lira, arriving after dark and needing an affordable place to stay since we had planned on sleeping further north in Gulu. A modern day Good Samaritan heard us asking around town for a safe and affordable place to stay, and drove us to a cheap hostel for the night, on the outskirts of Lira town (free breakfast, and only about $10 per night).
Otino Waa ("Our Children")
I was delighted to visit Otino Waa on Sunday morning, which is an orphanage that is connected with the people of Vintage Faith, my church in Santa Cruz. Many of the children were visiting family members for holiday, but a kind social worker named Emmanuel gave us an excellent tour. I was impressed by how people’s generosity from the U.S. (in money and relationships and time on service trips) has made a powerful, practical impact. The orphans have come from all over Uganda, and many were formerly abducted by the LRA or greatly impacted by its reign of terror. Now they have a home with a Ugandan housemother, medical care, an excellent education that also provides vocational opportunities like beekeeping and woodworking, fun opportunities like debating other schools and playing football (a.k.a. soccer), and an opportunity to know Jesus and heal from the past. I was blessed to see this organization and the hope, joy, and generosity of the children and staff that we met.

people in santa cruz loving people in uganda
church at otino waa

We caught a taxi to Gulu later on, and visited a former street boy who graduated from the Street Child Project. Calvin showed us his art around town, in a café and sidewalk mural, and told us that he is employed as much as possible, and working to earn extra money for art supplies. I imagined seeing the boys I know now in a few years, grown up and living life on their own, and am full of hope for each of them.

calvin's painting of LRA violence he has experienced
That night was spent in Karuma with Restoration Gateway (RG), an orphanage out in the bush. We had to travel late at night out to the village by the time our bus arrived, and gratefully escaped meeting any armed robbers or animals (they have leopards, elephants, lions, hippos, pythons, etc.. since their extensive property borders the Karuma Wildlife Reserve). We also crossed a raging Nile river just before arriving- a bridge where bus companies up until the 1990s would occasionally sacrifice an entire bus full to appease the river spirits. Thank you Jesus that the Ugandan government has outlawed this practice!

Girls at RG

We stayed at RG because last week as I was getting ready for the day, I felt a strong pull by the Holy Spirit to wear my Westmont College track shirt. That is how I met Sarah, a woman who is working with RG and whose brother went to Westmont (God’s kingdom is so huge!). The staff fed and encouraged us, and we learned about the current condition of human sacrifice in Uganda- children are stolen from villages and streets and used by witch doctors for ritual sacrifices. For example, a new building will be constructed, and to appease the spirits with blood, a witch doctor will kidnap a child, make them work all day on the site, and push them off the roof or dispose of their life in another way. It is evil. We have a savior, Jesus, who gave His life and blood so we do not have to die and can be close with God, no matter what we have done in our lives. And these demon gods are not worthy of people’s praise, and certainly not their blood. It makes me sick to know that this is a reality here- our boys know friends who have gone missing due to child sacrifice.

People have learned about ways to protect children from being targeted. Piercings and circumcision help because the child sacrificed is supposed to be free from any scars or piercings. Girls at RG have pierced ears and wear a piece of grass in them to make their protection visible. Boys in Christian homes are circumcised as infants, to avoid the demonic worship that accompanies the male initiation ritual later in life, and this also can help protect them from a witch doctor if they are captured.

Check out this amazing Jesse J music video of RG:

Check out this documentary on the power of prayer in Uganda:

Chore time at RG
We returned to Jinja the next morning, after touring RG with Sarah, meeting many of the children and some fulltime missionaries, and keeping our eyes peeled for hippos, leopards, and the like out on this wildlife reserve. Traveling across Uganda made me appreciate the beauty of this country- jungle vines, rolling plains, sugarcane and pineapple and sunflower fields, giant Nile crossings, and signs advertising the local rhino population. World Vision is an organization that I have seen signs for in every part of this country, and the locals respect them as well.  The most obvious representation of the former LRA violence up north that I observed was a sign in a field warning against touching any foreign objects. This sign was constructed to warn people about the landmines left over from former violence, which are scattered in open fields and cause deaths and the loss of limbs each year.

I stopped in Kampala with Rachel and Eric to pay a visit to the market for some live roosters, a crate of sodas, and other holiday food items. Rachel’s family adopted a boy from Kampala this year, and was giving his family a gift from their nephew. We arrived laden with gifts, and were welcomed into their home in the slums- five people live in a room the size of my bathroom at home, with stacked beds and no air conditioning in the eighty-degree weather. They were so grateful for the gifts, shaking our hands again and again, and I admired their Christmas decorations- a simple, short string of lights is all they can afford. It makes you pause before complaining about other situations after such an experience.

Christmas dinner?

I am grateful to be back in Jinja- God taught me a great deal on this trip up north! I will be traveling home to California in less than a week on December 18th (arriving on the 19th) and will be adjusting to the 11-hour time difference for a few days. I look forward to sharing more about this trip with you all!

To God be the glory,
Lindsey ( :

Friday, December 7, 2012

Black Mamba

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give me one thing more, a grateful heart…
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare dayes,
But such a heart whose pulse may be
Thy praise
~George Herbert

Life here in Jinja has been relatively calm. However, there have been many moments that make me grateful for your prayers and for God’s sovereign control. Five of our boys recently traveled to see family members for a few days or few weeks since it is their holiday from school. Thank you for your prayers for traveling mercies and kind treatment by their families.

I broke up my first fistfight a few days ago. Two of the boys had let tensions build, being home on holiday, and started kicking and punching and screaming at each other. As the only adult nearby, I stepped in between the boys, which threw them off for a few seconds so that they could listen, and told them to go to their rooms to have some space from each other. They spent some time alone that day, after the uncles came and talked with them, and had cooled off considerably by the afternoon. It was fitting to get to teach on forgiveness that night in Bible study. We did a tabula rasa (clean slate) exercise, reading verses on forgiveness and making a mark on a white board to represent what we need forgiveness for and the people we need to forgive. Each of us spent time praying and telling God we were sorry for things we have done against Him and others, and at the end I thanked God for His love and complete forgiveness, wiping the whiteboard clean to symbolize this truth. My sin O the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin not in part but the whole; is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; bless the Lord, bless the Lord O my soul!

That night, Jonathan thanked God for protecting him and me from a big snake that crossed the road as we were running. I had some nudging from the Holy Spirit early on the run- there were two distinct moments when I did not feel safe running through the grass on the side of the trail instead of the road. I was a few feet ahead of Jonathan when the snake passed between us, and this brave boy who fears snakes kept running till he could warn me. As we turned to go home, we ran side by side, looking both ways for this deadly creature. I told Jonathan about the time when the apostle Paul was bit by a poisonous snake and survived, because God protected him with a miracle. We were both grateful to not see the snake on the return journey because local opinion says it may have been a black mamba.

Black mambas are snakes that you do not mess around with: the fastest snake in the world (10-12 mph) and the longest, most aggressive, and deadliest snake in Africa. Its bite is known as the “kiss of death.” It is no wonder that many Ugandans are terrified of snakes, and take measures to stop them breeding- we keep the grass and thorny bushes in our property cut short to stop such snakes from inhabiting. After this adventure I have a new appreciation for the local wildlife, am limiting my runs to other areas, and am so grateful we escaped from harm.  

One of my favorite experiences of the past week was trying stand up paddling for the first time. This, unlike the extreme rafting on the Nile, was a serene, majestic, peace-filled experience. Rachel and I went to the Bujagali Falls area, which is now a virtual lake due to local hydropower dams being constructed nearby. Our South African tour guide led us on an hour long paddle, teaching us the basics of using the board, and telling me all about the local wildlife: snakes, giant swimming lizards (no crocs in this area thankfully), and birds- storks, egrets, kingfishers, and two types of eagles. I experienced this river in another light, and was full of awe and admiration at the Creator of the universe as I took a dip in the Nile and paddled past African villages and all the beautiful islands around.

What's SUP?
There has been so much to learn on this trip; learning about this culture and getting to know the people here have been main goals of coming to Uganda for two months. On Sunday I was with the church in Jinja and got to say hello to some of the children after we worshipped together. Little David jumped on my back, with a Spiderman shirt on, and another small girl came up to me, pointed at the bracelets on my wrist, and held out her hands for one. After teaching the boys how to make different kinds of bracelets, I had made several to give to children at church.

As I passed off this handmade bracelet, word had gotten around about the gift giving, and a stream of children came running over to me, pushing each other and trying to get multiple bracelets. One shouted, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” as I passed out my collection, which made me cringe, and no one offered a word of thanks as they grabbed at my hands. I felt used and embarrassed afterwards- the boys and girls were not able to see that the gift was given in love because of how desperate they were to grab a bracelet. I had perpetrated the classic mistake of acting as the rich Mzungu who has material wealth. The fact that the gifts were handmade had been a factor in me making them for the children at church, but I saw that passing out a gift at all had probably been a mistake. I do not regret the love that I shared with these little ones, but am learning to give love in other ways here- through a kind word, a smile, a hug, or a blessing.

As I prayed about these moments later on and the feelings that came with them, God was speaking to my heart about how He is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. And just like these children, sometimes I focus on what I want from God instead of focusing on Him, the giver of the gifts, and the One who gives good gifts to me because He loves me. I want to turn to turn to God not just for what I need or want or hope for, but because His presence alone satisfies my soul and fills my heart to the brim with love, joy, peace, and freedom to be who He has made me to be.

Rachel and I leave tomorrow morning for northern Uganda (Lira and Gulu), and appreciate your prayers for traveling mercies on the journey. We will be there for three days, and hope to visit a few different orphanages: Otino Waa, Watoto, and Restoration Gateway.

Peace to you,
Lindsey ( :

Origami night turned into a "make your own tie" occasion
Local artwork

downtown Jinja

My first professional portrait, by Issac