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Hairy Lemon…our family’s magical place

One of the sweetest pieces of moving to Uganda has been this gift of recreating as a family.

In March when we attended RESTORE, one of their greatest encouragements to our family was again, “REST”.  Get away together.  Play. BE.

So God in His kindness to us, has shown us a magical island in the middle of the Nile, not far from our home.  It is called the Hairy Lemon.  It has been a sweet place to leave the phone, internet, home, hospital, ministry, cooking, cleaning, demands, frustrations and be in HIS CREATION.  It’s camping (but a bit cushy, so this momma can handle it in Africa!)  Basically it’s an island with small cabins, some running water, and FOOD cooked for us!! It speaks right to my heart!  We sit and play and read and swim and kayak and eat and BE TOGETHER!! The kids can explore and enjoy and Dave and I can REST (as much as one can while camping with 7 small people:)…But we are so thankful and have been loving this island and it’s beauty!

So after a week of  BACK TO SCHOOL, we CELEBRATED!! And went camping with some dear (new) friends!!  Despite Laryngitis (on my end), and some exhaustion (on Dave’s and my end),  the kids had a blast and I was FILLED with gratitude for another year to learn and grow and serve together here in Uganda.  I was FILLED with gratitude for new friends, and places where God continues to heal and restore and refresh.

So Hairy Lemon, we LOVE you.  And God, we THANK YOU.

We’ll be back again SOON!!

The Vision into Reality…

There is no place on this earth that reaches beyond His Love.

We GO, because HE FIRST LOVED US.  HE FIRST CAME TO US.

Over a year ago.  This man of mine sat and like a little boy, shared excitedly, the vision God had given him.  It was clear.  It was specific. And of course, it was BIG.  So I took a deep breath, and prayed to have the faith to walk into this vision beside my man.

God has taken us through more than either of us could have known or expected over this past year, but HE HAS BEEN FAITHFUL.  He has proven Himself sovereign and strong.  He has done this.  And we really stand in awe.

The vision was for the Islands of Lake Victoria.  Really for the souls there.  God burdened Dave’s heart, as He has burdened many before us, to reach these precious (often forgotten) people with the Love of Christ.  And so…Dave envisioned a boat.  He asked God for a Boat.  He asked many of you for the funds.  Everyone said, “YES.”  God provided the finances, God provided JAARS (an amazing team of men and women) who brought the boat to life, God provided a shipping company, God provided over and over and over.

Today the boat sits in the waters of the Port of Mombassa.  Tomorrow, begins her final leg of the LONG journey from North Carolina all the way to Jinja, Uganda!  Let’s pray her Here.  We have named this vessel the SOLA GRATIA…”By Grace Alone”.  It’s really the whole story.  And it’s the message this strong boat will carry to many islands in our vast lake.

The ministry team God has formed is beautiful.  The Body of Christ.  These believers are passionate, committed and faithful. It has been one of the greatest gifts of our life to work alongside, to pray with, to vision with and to GO with these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Please cover SOLA GRATIA in prayer as she journeys to Jinja.

Please pray for the Islands of Hope Team.  That we stay united and Gospel centered! ONE HEART AND ONE MIND!

Here’s the Antenatal Team.  The amazing Anet & Margret!The Evangelistic Team: Many members but often, Richard, Ronnie, Mama & Papa O, Pastor Stephen, and many others.The Team ministering to people with HIV/AIDS:  Daniel, Margret, Anet, Keeky, Mama O and many others… (many of these women are receiving much needed care and medication.)

Please pray for God to move mountains so the taxes can be diminished and the Islands can receive more!

…And the line up for this year’s Ayer Academy…

The Story God is writing is getting fuller, richer, more messy, and far more beautiful than I had ever imagined.  Thank you, Father, for these precious children.  Thank you for your work in their lives…make them arrows ready to fly far in this world!

 

THIS YEAR…we focus UP.

Here are our themes for the year…

WHATEVER IS TRUE, 

WHATEVER IS NOBLE,
WHATEVER IS RIGHT,
WHATEVER IS PURE,
WHATEVER IS LOVELY,
WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE,
IF ANYTHING IS EXCELLENT OR PRAISEWORTHY,

THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS.  (Phil. 4:8)The littlest, and biggest personality under this roof…Isaiah!  He’s our nearly 2 year old.  Loud, hilarious, joyful, naughty, and strong!Here’s Selah Naomi…our sunshine -4 year old.  She is doing “real preschool” this year!  PRECIOUS, cuddly, SO cute, so so sweet, our encourager, and comic relief!Evelyn Faith…our Evie-Bear.  She’s beginning 3rd grade this year!  I can’t believe it!  Evie is so fun, such a strong and athletic girl, she is determined, full of faith, a great friend, and is very loyal to this momma!Sweet Riah Grace!! also a 3rd grader this year!! Riah is 9 years old and is excelling! She is kind, and compassionate, gentle and generous.  She loves all things about babies, dolls, and looking glamorous!! Maija Hope is 10!! She’s starting 5th grade this year! Maija is strong and confident, a leader, compassionate, and creative! She is moved by her faith and her love for others.  She is an encourager and incredible at back rubs!!Here’s our most recent “pre-teen”!  Caleb Matthew is entering 7th grade!  A Junior Higher!!  Caleb loves to talk, read, talk some more, play with GUYS, read some more.  Such a happy, faith-filled boy! he is growing into a young man with strong character and a strong mind.  We are excited to see what the Lord continues to do in him this year!And here is our FRESH WOMAN!!! Ella has persevered through a challenging season, but her character and faith have come forth like GOLD.  She is beautiful inside and out.  She is an amazing friend, student, sister and daughter…she loves to dance and sing and has an incredible gift of writing.  She is blessed this year to be attending the Amazima Missionary School.  She loves it and is thriving there!And I’m the blessed momma that gets to teach, play, disciple, discipline, laugh, read to and try keep up with all these incredible kids!Starting our second year here in Uganda has felt GOOD.  We rejoice in the roots God has given us, how He has grown and established us by His grace, and how He continues to call us to Himself and this life here.  Jesus, be glorified here.And over it all, through it all, IN it all… we are HELD TOGETHER.

Colossians 1:15-18

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,

whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,

so that in everything he might have the supremacy

new beginnings

The rain drops fell hard onto the dry and cracked soil. My Dad and I tilled the soil, watched as we uncovered new, soft black, ready for this rain. It’s how I felt. Since leaving Ethiopia, our roots had been pulled out of the bright orange mud and transplanted to this foreign place. The dry season has been long and I need the rain. I have stood in the beating intense sun of this beautiful place grieving where I used to be planted and wondering what God could grow in this new one.

 

In Ethiopia, I planted these giant sunflowers that grew and towered above me. Glorious and strong, they sang to my heart of His goodness and Life and promises in our lives. My husband worked hard in that small town in Southern Ethiopia, but even more, once a month he would climb aboard a helicopter, back pack strapped on tight. He would turn to wave and I was overcome with this reality… “He goes to the Nations…He draws them to Himself…He loves to the uttermost…” He had called us to the unreached and Dave would faithfully board this bird and fly south. His partners also were faithful and precious men called to these people and villages. The helicopter (a mission called helimission) would land in Soddo’s soccer field, attracting a crowd of patients in their gowns, people in wheelchairs and children from the nearby streets in town…they would perch on the cement walls around our compound, and find strong branches in trees. The blast from the helicopter would blow orange dust into eyes and we were all blinded for a moment. Then all would join in a wild cheer. Yes, we were cheering Him on. We all felt the thrill, even if not everyone knew what this powerful tool was doing for the Kingdom.

 

So here and now, I see what has had to die. I see what we had to lay down. I see some of what needed to be pruned or uprooted in our lives…the ground has laid barren and my heart has cried out for the lost, but also for our loss. But there in the garden, the first bright green shoots are rising up out of this new, black soil, and I smile. I know He is here. I know He is planting us. I know there are people who need to hear of His love here. We have left Ethiopia. The helicopter no longer flies over those beautiful people. But they received the Gospel. They heard and believed. There was a harvest, and it will spread and grow and bring LIFE. Because that is how his love works.   The work of the Holy Spirit blew through the T’ara tribe like a strong and life-changing wind. We were called to that season for that harvest…and now He has called us forward.

 

We fix our eyes…we dig deep and plant again. We are washed in His love and goodness. He truly makes all things new. I feel the dirt between my toes and know it is well with my soul.

 

Breaking the Silence

“Every valley made me lift my eyes up
Every burden only made me stronger
Every sorrow only made Your joy go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Every mountain is making me a climber
Every giant is calling out a fighter
Every heartache only makes Your love go
Deeper and deeper, deeper, and deeper

Thrown down but not defeated
I’m worn out but not giving up”

This. This is the song of my heart today…

I sit with a cool Ugandan breeze ministering to me. Reminding me of Your constant-ness and faithfulness, even when my eyes couldn’t see and my faith was so weak.

This past year was marked with many dark valleys, many steep mountains, and more joy than I’ve ever known.

There were times when I thought the joy had been sucked right out of me, or stolen, or lost as I climbed, but I begged, and You showed me again, your grace and your goodness, your mercy and kindness.

Again, Father, you’ve brought us this far. To a place of abundance, but where we’re different than before. For that I am so thankful. I don’t want to turn back, or regret, or come under fear. I want to live FULLY and obediently poured out to you. I want my soul to find REST in you among the waves, on the side of that steep mountain, and in the dark of those valleys. I want to learn to SEE you in it all.

This past year, was a quiet year again. A still year in my heart. When I can only pray and try to comprehend on my own and not put my thoughts even into words. When groans are what I can offer.

I feel we stand at the base of the next mountain. You our Guide. Always. I look up. Fix my eyes, and beg you to show up as you always have. Your faithfulness my Rod…your Mercy, my Staff…Your love, my anchor…Your salvation, my only Hope.

I take these first steps, anchored and trusting. I don’t want to slip back into fear. Keep my heart from failing, Jesus. I hear you calling upwards.

 

This little boy has captured our hearts. You have spoken that he is our joy-bringer. His life was purposed to enter our family by your grace and sovereignty.

My daughter, stands taller than me now—entered high school. Laughs and works diligently. She is marked by your healing grace.

My husband, forging the waters of Lake Victoria, passionate and vision-filled for the souls inhabiting these somewhat forgotten islands. I stand beside quiet and in awe.

Lord, let us climb and battle, and believe FOR YOU in all our lives.  We step into this next month with expectation.  You are GOOD.  Thank you for drawing us deeper.

Let this life…these nine lives BE FOR YOU.

See God’s heart for the islands…Let it be.

https://www.islandsofhopeuganda.org

Erin L - We love you! A beautiful picture of His work in the past year.

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