As you may or may not know, I have spent about 11 weeks in Uganda over the course of two different summers (2010 & 2011). I’ve been away too long.
Well, God is directing me to go back to Uganda [June 2013 – July 2014]…
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Well, it seems God is giving me a new command, along with the same promise he gave Joshua: that He will be with me wherever I go.
Let me back up a little bit so that I can help you understand how I’ve been led to this conclusion…
Several years ago, some friends of mine, Matt & Crystal Kehn, moved to Uganda to work with Juna Amagara Ministries (JAM). (Juna Amagara means saving lives in the local language.) As I watched them go, prayed for their growing family, and stayed updated through their blog, a desire to see what God was doing there grew within me. I had the Kehn family prayer card in my classroom my first year of teaching, and told my students that someday I would visit them in Uganda. About five years later I finally decided to pursue it. My plan was to spend a month experiencing life with them. God had different plans. I ended up co-leading a team of 10 people for two weeks, then staying another three weeks with one of my teammates.
[SIDE NOTE: In 2008, Matt Kehn began a new branch of JAM by piloting the ABIDE (Amagara Bible Institute of Discipleship & Evangelism) program. Young men are given the opportunity after graduating from high school to pursue an intensive 6-month program with the purpose of equipping them in studying and applying God’s Word, mentoring them in life decisions, and sending them to serve christ in the Church and in their community. Over the years over 50 men have graduated from the program.]
I will never forget the day I sat in on the ABIDE program. It stirred in my heart a desire that is just now becoming a reality.
The steps in the journey…
So, that day I sat in on the ABIDE classes became a pivotal day for me. As I sat in the corner of the classroom, hearing these young men hungry to learn more and more about God’s Word and the direction it offers for their lives, I had one thought running through my mind: They need this for girls.
Immediately I began wondering if such a program was something I might be able to be involved in. I didn’t think too seriously about it at first. But the possibility did come up in conversation more than once before I returned home from 5 weeks in Uganda.
When I came back to my family, friends, home, and work in Illinois, my heart didn’t completely return with me. Despite various experiences on short-term mission trips in the past, I was not prepared for what God was doing in my heart and mind in regards to this African country that I had just encountered. Almost everyone around me could see I was not the same. I would constantly find myself subconsciously planning my return to Uganda. But it wasn’t just planning for another short-term trip…While I was brushing my teeth or loading the dishwasher I would catch myself thinking things like, If I was to move to Uganda, could I handle sporadic electricity? When I live in Uganda I will need to learn how to cook basic Ugandan foods like chapattis and g-nut sauce. Additionally, any time I considered buying anything new, I would immediately find myself evaluating the decision based on whether or not I would take it to Uganda with me. Where were these thoughts coming from? What was I to do with them?
Well, I wasn’t sure exactly, so I got back into my American routine as best as I could. Of course, I began planning another short-term trip the following summer for 6 weeks. During those 6 weeks I had several conversations with different Ugandans, including ABIDE alumni, about hopes for a girls’ program.
This past fall I received an update on the plans for the Girls’ ABIDE…
By this time I was more than aware that Matt was hoping to begin the girls’ program in 2013. However, I figured it would run the same time as the boys’ program: January-July. As much as I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t see quitting my job as a high school teacher in the middle of the year as a possibility. But the newsletter shared that they had decided to run the pilot program from July-December. That got my attention.
I immediately began sending emails with questions, praying for God’s direction, and talking with good friends and pastors about the possibility of joining the staff. As I began inquiring, I became uncertain about being the right fit for the job…God has given me gifts and experiences that align with ABIDE, but I know it will stretch me in many ways. Yet, I decided it was probably best that I didn’t feel 100% qualified, keeping my pride in check. JAM has enthusiastically encouraged me to pursue being on the ABIDE team for 2013.
(Here is a copy of my first newsletter: Uganda Newsletter January 2013.)