Friday, April 11, 2014

Satan: Robber of Joy

Daniel 3 (13-29)
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.  Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.  Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 
He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

Despite the countless amount of talking points that this chapter has to offer, I wanted to focus on the fact that these boys didn’t smell.  {Insert witty comment here}. In all seriousness though, God not only shielded them from what appeared to be their imminent death, but He went so far as to preserve them from even carrying the burning scent of what they just went through on their bodies after it all. Think about this for a little, because I think this is a detail that could totally get overlooked.

Often, when we go through a messy trial or storm (be it a trauma, a breakup, a loss, or just anything awful and traumatic) we come out with a “smell” so to speak.  Something that we have lingering with us to constantly remind us of the bad, the terror, the regret, the guilt, etc.  Some smells come in the form of depression, haunting memories, triggers, perhaps even physical scars, consistent flashbacks, etc.  This smell robs us from any and all joy.  It robs us from seeing the good in what might have been the most terrible experience that we have ever gone through.  It robs us from seeing Jesus through it all and recognizing His redemption and sovereignty. It robs us from hearing Jesus, knowing Jesus; and above all, from praising Jesus.


“… I think there is no doubt that one very great effort of the adversary in the fiery furnace - if he cannot stop us getting out and cannot consume us in the fire - is so to leave the marks and smell upon us that for all succeeding days people will associate with us the matter of suffering and trial. You see what that does - it draws attention to us; and the devil does not mind that, because if attention is drawn to us, the Lord is hidden. Having a smell of burning about us means that the suffering and the trial that we have been through have beclouded the glory.”  T. Austin Sparks      


All to often we become cynical, embittered, fearful and ultimately paralyzed after a great hurt or great loss.  Sometimes we’ll attempt to avoid anything that may cause us to ever become vulnerable again, anything where we might set ourselves up for a repeat hurt.  We’ll quit missions, we’ll give up on going to church, we’ll NEVER open up our hearts again, we’ll give up trusting people or better yet trusting God, we’ll stop reading our bibles and we’ll start blaming God. We’ll carry this hurt with us just as if we are wearing the same smoke-filled clothes every day. Day in and day out.  We’ll smell it and you better believe others will smell us too.  Oh, and Satan wins.  


Instead, I believe God calls us to wash that smell from the fire off of our clothes, or get some new ones if that’s the case! Yes, no doubt we will be forever changed from what we just went through, and some memories will always be with us, but no matter, we are stronger because we got through it! God calls us to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative. He calls us to focus on Him not us! God calls us to rely on His character found in His word. God is sovereign and there isn’t anything that occurs where He is not in control.  We may never know why things happen, or be given explanations or reasons for some things, but we can rely on one ultimate truth: He is faithful.


Keep praising, even when it hurts. I know I am.


“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”    1 Peter 4:13


“And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 1:21

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two of the most disastrous forces that we are most commonly challenged with here:
1. The lack of hope in Christ.
2. Malnutrition. 
Please join me in prayer against these two highly preventable things.  By coming alongside me and praying against these two issues I believe that great things can and will happen in this country.   I know this because a movement is already happening.   And that is ALL due to prayer and the amazing work of our Savior.  Over the past two years that I have been here I have seen the lives of close to 200 children and their moms be changed for the better.  I know seeds have been planted, I am just left to hope and pray that by the grace of God they are being fed daily and are growing.  I feel that it is no coincidence that over half the children/moms that have come and gone through our program are either Muslim and/or come from families that practice witchcraft.  I know that God orchestrates the coming and going of each and every person here.  I know he has a plan for them ALL, while they are here receiving treatment and even after they go home.  Because He is sovereign and He is good.  

So I guess as you can see, I sort of stopped blogging for a while.. It wasn't really planned, it just kinda sorta happened.   I suppose for a little while there, I just sort of lost my "vision" for this blog or what it is that I really wanted to share with people on this thing.  But here I am, back and ready to fill you (or whoever is still left out there reading this thing) in on some updates on my life here in Uganda.

First things first, I should tell you I was fortunate enough to go back to America for a few months back in March.  (In missionary terminology I believe you could call that my Furlough).  It was pretty great.  I really had an excellent time.  Some much needed rest and time with my family & friends was had and yeah, it was just overall really great.  Though it was pretty hard to leave this time around,  I am now back, and for now I really do believe this is where God wants me.  Well, I should clarify, I have been back since June... (again sorry for my terrible ability to write a blog).

Since getting back, life here has been nothing short of pretty amazing.  In just this 3 months time I have seen 36 little lives go home healthy, happy, and fully restored.  Once having been so weak and frail - now strong and full of energy.  Their moms once being so hopeless and ready to give up on their children - now filled with hope and wisdom and knowledge of both Christ and the importance of nutrition both in their lives and the lives of their children.   It has been amazing to witness and experience.  I am, and continue to feel so blessed and honored each and every day to be part of the ministry work that God is doing here in this place.   I'm so happy to work alongside of people so dedicated and willing to go above and beyond to help their neighbors.  I am honored to call each and everyone of them my friends. 

And unfortunately in this life along with the joy comes sorrow.  In my time being back I have seen eight precious lives taken away from this world [in my eyes] way too short.  Some of them, not even being here for more than a few days, they were simply here one day and gone the next.  I suppose I/we will never know the why's or what if's, or what their reasons were for being so sick for so long without going for any treatment...  But we can choose to believe that they were brought here for some sort of reason, even if it remains unknown, and that our paths just didn't cross by coincidence or chance, but rather on purpose and for His good and His glory.  We can choose hope.  Because after all, isn't that what we were commanded to do?

In awesome news God has answered a great prayer of ours and has brought us a woman by the name of Peace!  She is a Ugandan Nutritionist and has been an awesome asset to our team here at SHC.  She has a lot of experience under her belt and has so far been working great with our moms and nurses.  Praise Jesus for Peace! We are still in the searching process for a Doctor so continue to pray for us as we do that. 

In other news, our dairy goat Margie has had somewhat of a tough year.  As some of you know she had a baby girl earlier this year.  Well, due to a tragic event (falling into a pit in our backyard) our baby goat drowned.  Many tears were shed over that goat (and from personally speaking I can tell you a lot of them were my very own).  So awful.  But, Margie has pressed on and has been continuing to produce A LOT of milk for us! Which has been really great and not to mention nutritious!  Recently, we just bred her and are praying for another baby girl.  Fingers crossed. Proper fences have been put up in the yard and I am trying to stay hopeful :) 

I think that's about it for updates.  Again, my apologies for failing to update this blog at a normal rate.  Here are a few pictures to possibly make up for what a disappointment I have been.

Thank you for praying!  Be blessed.




Photos by: Jacqueline Kramlich


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1


This verse has been sticking with me a lot as of late.  For more reasons than I could even begin to explain really.  As I sit here and think over a lot of my life’s happenings, this verse literally applies to each and every one of them.  Everything has its time. Everything has its season.  Everything.  God controls it all.  Nothing is in vein. Nothing is just by chance.  And as I meditate on this verse and reflect on all the words that it’s made up of, He becomes more real, more evident, and my faith begins to increase. I begin to realize in a deeper and more meaningful way that he is right here with me, with us all, governing over everything, ruling over it all.  Orchestrating perfectly with a purpose. His purpose.

This verse brings me peace.  Even if I haven’t a clue as to why something happened or what possibly the purpose or reason could be in something.  This whole chapter in Ecclesiastes tells me that there is no such thing as coincidence.  There is no such thing as chance.  But in turn, there is order. There is purpose.  There is reason. And he is sovereign. 

He is real.  I know this because even in the midst of total devastation and disaster I can still feel his presence.  I can feel a lasting peace that sort of just hovers over the circumstance or situation.  A reassuring comfort letting me know that he is who he says he is and that no matter what, in the end all things will work for his good and his glory.  I won’t lie, in these very circumstances and situations I still feel anxiety, stress, fear, doubt, frustration, guilt; you name it.  Every awful, scary feeling or thought, I have thought it, I have felt it.  I still feel them. But, I pray through them, and just like everything that isn’t true or real, they slowly start to diminish and his truth is revealed.  His peace begins to surpass it all. 

I know that he is real simply through his provision.  He provides. He provides. He provides. I will never be able to say that enough.  Whether it be through finances, through friendships (both new and old), peace, and grace, he has provided for me countless amounts of time.  In these past few weeks alone, God has provided in such amazing and astonishing ways. 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1: 6-8

Through the fire we are refined.  Therefore its having gone through these devastations, these trials, these circumstances that I am found to be even more thankful.  Though these times are hard, still are hard, I will continue to praise him through it all.  I will praise him because he is in total control.  He knows the purpose and reason in everything.  I will trust in him. I will choose to put my faith in him and not in my worries or fears. In him alone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“I lit my love and watched it burn. Asking nothing in return except the lessons I will learn, holding Crazy Faith.”

Crazy faith.
Before this year, before coming here, I would say I never really had experienced this type of faith firsthand.  I had read about it, sure, like in the bible, or heard stories of people going through insane situations or circumstances and never ceasing to be faithful; but personally this type of faith was kind of foreign to me.  Over this past year though, I have come to know this type of faith quite well. And as exhausting, as hard, as risky, and as draining as it is, I am grateful for it, because in the end it’s always worth it.  Honestly, this faith is the only kind that I ever want to have from here on out.  The kind of faith where to the world it seems maybe crazy to be so hopeful or trusting, but to you it seems only right. This is the type of faith that I personally feel we are all called to have. This type of faith is what makes God all the more real. This is the kind of faith that seems to come almost naturally to my friend Renee, each and every time a new child is admitted to be rehabilitated here.  This is the type of faith that keeps this ministry alive and running.

Sometimes, well a lot of times as of late it seems, children come here in a really severe state.  They come so malnourished that you can physically see the damage done all over their little bodies.  You can pretty much see how their entire body has been affected by the lack of nutrients given to it; their skin, nails, eyes, everything… They come suffering. They come sad. They come weak. They come scared.  Some people might even consider this point to be at the brink of death.  And that is probably a true statement for some, considering if their outside body appears to be that damaged, its scary to think what their internal damage might be. 

These types of children come from all different situations. All different families. All different backgrounds.  All different stories.  All that being said, I have come to know that it is not our job, or my personal job even, to judge their stories, to judge their caretakers, or their families.  And as easy as that is to do sometimes, we have but one responsibility here and that is to love them.  Love not just the children we are treating but their caretakers as well.  Unconditionally.  As if they were Christ themselves.   And in doing this we need to serve each and everyone of them wholeheartedly, having faith that is, well… kind of crazy.  Faith, believing that these children will be fully healed both physically and spiritually.  Faith, that after being in our program their caretakers will be changed for the better, and that this type of situation won’t reoccur.  Faith, that no matter what, God is in pure and total control.  Faith that His will will be done here, just as it is in heaven.

The risk for heartbreak, for the most part, is certain working here at this center.  It’s one thing to just care for someone when they are sick, but it’s another to pour out your heart to someone who is so sick that you honestly don’t know if they are going to live to see the end of the week.  I am aware of the importance of guarding your heart, and I am in constant prayer asking for help in doing just that everyday, but it would be selfish of us to refrain ourselves from opening up our hearts to these children just for the sake of avoiding the hurt that might come.  Right? Yes, it would be foolish really because each and every time there is a lesson that we are taught.  Each and every time we are more refined. Whether the outcome is joy filled or sad filled, we can be certain that there was and is purpose in the lives of each and every child.  I know this because I have faith in His promises.  I know this because I believe that what seems impossible to us here on earth, to Him is possible.  I know this because this is what He asks of us - complete trust and total surrender.  I know this because I have crazy faith.

**Side note: Yes, I am aware that the lyrics above are to a love song that is not really all that relevant to what I am talking about in this blog, but it’s ok, because they are from an Alison Krauss song, and well, the song is great.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

So, its that time again.  Time for america. Yes, that's right.. this blog comes to you from the living room of my mom's condo in new jersey.  I have been back for just a few days now and will be here until the end of the month, and then it's back to Jinja, Uganda for me again.  What was once only supposed to be a 6 month short term volunteer trip turned into an additional 4 month trip managing the house at Serving His Children for over the summer, has once again turned into another trip.. but this time for a bit longer.. and this time a bit of a different position. 
This time I will be traveling back to Uganda where I have committed the next 2 years of my life serving as the assistant director of Serving His Children. Yep, a pretty big commitment that is for sure, and quite a scary one when I really start to think about it, but after quite a bit of time in prayer and lots of thought and consideration I am at peace with my decision.  I really don't know what to think when I try to imagine the next two years of my life, but I'm okay with that.  I'm okay with not really knowing what will come of the next couple of years.  I'm okay with not knowing because I know in the long run I am in good hands.  
The last 10 months have been amazing.  And as cliche as it sounds, they truly have been life changing. They have been filled with joy, and although there have for sure been some trying times, God has been faithful and the joy has outlasted it all.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given, each and everyone of them.  I'm so thankful for all of the people that have come in and out of my life in my time thus far.  I'm so thankful to be able to work alongside someone who has become a great and dear friend of mine.  I'm so thankful to be serving a God who is so good, so powerful, and so so merciful and full of grace.  
In my short time back I plan to fill it with friends, family, food and sleep. I'm happy to be back, yes I am. God has blessed me with so many wonderful friends and family members to be my support system and I can't wait to spend some time with them. And just as equally, I can't wait to get back to what I have known for the last 10 months of my life.  I'm excited for what's to come and even though there is a lot of "unknowns" out there, I am hopeful.  
I wanted to share with you all some pictures.  Pictures of just a few of the awesome and powerful transformations that God has so graciously given me the opportunity to witness firsthand.  I'm so happy and will forever be blessed to have been a part of these children's lives, to be part of their stories. I hope you enjoy.  It's these very pictures that help us to remain hopeful in hard times.  It's these very pictures that are living proof that our God is at work here.  He is the ultimate healer, all glory and honor belongs to him forever and ever.
thanks for taking the time to read! 
be blessed!

Brian Before

   
Brian After
Muzafalu Before


Muzafalu After
Scovia Before

Scovia After

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I haven’t blogged in a while. Actually, I haven’t blogged in a long while. And blogging few and far in between like this is kind of tough. So, I will attempt to have at it. Please bear with me.

As I sit here my brain flashes through the last few months since I have been back in this country and it’s almost too overwhelming to process everything all at once. So many things have happened. So many things here have changed. To be honest my brain is still going through the first few weeks let alone the last few hours… So my apologies in advance for what may be a very, very scattered blog post.

I have been back here for almost 4 months now and truthfully as I sit here and recount the happenings of these past few months it feels like almost a years worth. Now, granted I don’t have the best memory, but as my mind flashes through the memories that have been piling up, it’s hard for me to believe that it really has only been just a few months. 

My mind first flashes through the images of all children that I have encountered here in our program.  I go through the images of all the moms that have also come and stayed here with us watching as their children go through the rehabilitation process from beginning to end.  And as I go through each and everyone of these memories engraved in my mind are detailed images of all their sick, sad, small faces with bodies too weak to even lift their arms, some too weak to even cry.  Their faces filled with looks of such hopelessness and exhaustion.  And right along with those images I go through all of the faces of their moms and other caretakers.  Faces filled with fear and distress.   Faces terrified at the thought of possibly loosing their babies forever.

These are the hard times.  These are the scariest of times.  These are the moments where we have to cling to our savior and plead for His will to be done.  Where we must trust that no matter what the outcome is, that He is in control and will always use it for good. These moments are temporary. These moments are just the beginning. 

For most, after about a week or so in the rehabilitation process these very faces begin to transform.  They begin to fill up with emotions that are just about everything that is opposite of what they were from the start.  Smiles emerge as their faces begin to fill out.  Smiles from both the children themselves as well as their proud parents and caretakers.  These are the moments that far out weigh those in the beginning.  These moments are living proof that our savior is at work here. 

For some, their stories come to an end much, much too short.  For some, the sickness taking over their bodies is just too much.  And why the Lord chooses to restore some back to health and others to come home with him we will never know.  His purpose needs no explaining. All we have to do is believe in his almighty and powerful way of controlling everything. Everything.  And know that he is with us, right by our side, always and forever. 

Thanks so much for all your prayers and words of encouragement. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

go.

These days we’ve been on the road a lot.  And by a lot I mean A LOT.  Some of the travel has been expected or planned, and at other times some of it has been just out of sheer emergency or spur of the moment - get in the car and go kind of traveling. 

Get in the car and go. 

That statement right there pretty much sums up my own as well as renee’s life these days.  On the road and behind the wheel I suppose is just where the Lord has us as of late.  And we can only listen and obey. Listen, obey and go. One day we can get a call about a child in Myuge (a village about an hour and half away) for possible admittance into our program, then the next we can have a scheduled outpatient clinic in Manafwa (another village about 3 hours away). One day we can have to go on an all out search, or as I like to call it a “hunt”, for blood for a child who is severely anemic and is in dire need of a transfusion, and then the next we can have to rush a child back to Kampala to get to a hospital and quick.  

Some of our car rides have been peaceful and relaxing, while at other times some have been filled with panic and urgency.  I can say though, that God has always gotten us to where we need to be, safely and always always always in His perfect timing.

Lately, in Jinja there has been a blood shortage.  We were told something along the lines of all the blood banks not being distributed enough reagents, so any and all blood that they had or have is unusable.  Hence, the “blood hunts” that Renee and I have been embarking on recently.  We have had to make several trips out as far as Kampala as well as other neighboring areas close to Kampala in order to get blood for a handful of children in our program.   To Kampala, it’s about a 2 hour drive one way, a 4 hour transfusion process, tack on another hour or 2 of waiting room time, and then another 2 hour drive home.  Needless to say our days have been full. But God is good and I am thankful for good travel foods, a great travel buddy and friend, clean healthy blood and safe car rides.  He is faithful and for that we are thankful.

Also lately, we have had some sick sick sick children come into our program.  Children that have just been sick for far too long.  Children, who’s malnutrition has so far advanced to the point where in order to reverse the damage done to their tiny little bodies it is a literal battle.  A battle that takes just about every last ounce of energy out of all of us here trying to help.  A battle that no child should ever have to fight.  A battle that requires you to put your heart on the line and allow it to be broken for the things that break his. And boy have we battled hard for some of these kids and still we are continuing to fight for others right now even as I sit here typing this.   But the good news is God is in our favor and even when it looks like we are loosing or even when it looks like we have lost, we have not.  In him we have victory.  Always.  Even after hours and hours then turning into day after day of staying up and monitoring a child who is just wasting away by the minute, He is winning.  He in control and He has won. Even after what was probably the craziest and fastest car ride that I have ever been a part of rushing to Kampala at 7:30 at night with a child struggling to breath as her organs slowly start to fail one after another, only to reach the hospital where she took her very last breath. 

He is winning. 
He is in control. 
He has already won.

Yes, in some of these times, I won’t lie, it is nothing short devastating. In some  of these times, it seems all together just too hard to even think straight or focus on anything.  The only thing left to do is pray.  Cling to what He has told us to be true.  And cling on to Him.

So in these moments of battle we need only to listen and obey.  We need only to fight for as long as he allows us.  We need to sometimes be able to leave what is comfortable and easy and sometimes go to those hard places. We need only to believe that He is here with us fighting right alongside of us.  

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.