“Do Small Things With Great Love”

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My all-time favorite quote by Mother Teresa is, “Do small things with great love.” I painted these words on a wooden board (in the shape of a heart) and hung it above my bathroom sink in my Greenville apartment the past two years. It was a daily reminder to me, that, God is not glorified only in the great things, but that He is most glorified in the small, unnoticed things that are done with His great love. Whether I was teaching my preschoolers in downtown Spartanburg, across the world serving orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa, or simply loving on a friend or neighbor nearby, I was reminded that God wants us to do small things with great love…and that every little small act of love and kindness brings glory to Him and joy to the people He has placed in our lives. He sees the heart and smiles down on us when our actions come from a place of genuine love for Him and His people – both big and small – in whatever season of life we may be in.

It says in the Bible,

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

God makes it very clear that, at the end of it all, love is the answer. Love is all that truly matters. Every day, every hour, and every moment, we have a chance to say yes! Yes to God, and yes to the daily tasks He has placed right in front of us – wherever we may be. He calls us to love Him and to love one another. And if anything as been made abundantly clear to me during my time here in Uganda, it is this. The Christian faith boils down to loving God and loving others. That is it.

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While I have been here, God has slowly been whispering and growing some dreams in my own heart upon my return to America in a few short months. Dreams to serve His “little lambs” – and bring light to His children – both near and far. But, as God (and my supportive fiancé who listens to me, sharpens, and encourages me to chase after my dreams every day) is teaching me to dream big, I am learning the incredible importance of staying faithful in the small. The minuscule, everyday things that no one sees, and no one notices.  The things that no one knows but our Heavenly Father.

Bathing little bodies before naptime. Spending extra time outside of class to reteach a concept to a child who needs help understanding. Reading aloud the same story over and over again, because the students love it so much. Sweeping up rice and beans off the floor, constantly. Laying down and cleaning up naptime mats. And, in everyday life at home, doing the laundry. Cleaning the kitchen. Putting food on the table for those we love. Loving the people in the place right before our eyes.

Christine Caine says it so beautifully – “You and I are chosen for a purpose, we are healed for a purpose, we are called for a purpose, and that purpose always involves other people.”

It’s okay to dream big (in fact, I believe God wants us to dream big), but we must stay faithful in the small. The unnoticed things. Praying behind closed doors, on our hands and knees. The little things that make the biggest difference. Loving others in the midst of our own brokenness of not having it all together. Remaining faithful in the small.

As I have finished reading Katie Major’s book, Daring to Hope, this week, I wanted to share another excerpt that talks about just this:

“As it turns out, faithfulness was in the ordinary, in the everyday things that do not feel glorious but, in fact, lead us to his feet.

Friend, faithfulness is what we repeatedly do, whether or not we see the results. Faithfulness is when we pour into hard people over and over, when we continue to serve in difficult situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our troubles as well as our joys. Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn’t easy but we don’t turn away.

And ultimately, faithfulness is truly and fully found in the One who pursues us though we thrash against Him, who sits with us as we wait in the silence, who fulfills all His promises with a yes and amen in life everlasting.

This past week, I have seen, time and time again, examples of God’s people here showing His love. Small, tangible examples of His love make a bigger difference than we can even comprehend. And all it takes is being faithful in the small moments and saying yes to God and loving others.

Just the other day, sweet Alice surprised me at work with bananas she had picked from her very own banana tree at home in Walukuba. It was the sweetest day brightener and brought me so much joy!

On our Ugandan holiday (day off work) last week, I went with a group of people to the most beautiful place overlooking the Nile River, and was so sweetly reminded of God’s faithfulness through the generations. From little Moses to now. And, in this place, was able to process a lot of the dreams He has recently been placing on and speaking into my own heart. While, at the same time, gently reminding me to stay faithful in the small as I continue to dream big!

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I witnessed two of our precious staff members at HEAL working diligently to raise money to give to another staff member who had recently lost her mother. I was humbled to my core and saw such a beautiful example of the body of Christ wrapping around one another, sharing one another’s burdens, in this moment.

On Friday, the entire preschool staff and interns worked together to create “scripture cards” from our little preschoolers (with their names and hand prints) for Jaja Tina (the founder of HEAL Ministries) to send to her as encouragement as she is battling cancer and going through surgery back in the States.

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Later that day, I saw women and children come together to sing their hearts out to the Lord, as we praised and worshiped with everything we had, and prayed over various members of our staff – crying out to our Heavenly Father for the healing and deliverance that only He can bring.

This morning after church, Grace invited and welcomed me into her beautiful home in Masese (one of the largest slums in Jinja) for lunch and sweet fellowship with her family.

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Grace finished preparing our meal over her small mud stove, we broke bread, we laughed, and just spent time reflecting on the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives and in the community.

She wanted to see pictures of my mom and my family, and she and her sweet children smiled so big and asked so many questions about what they were like and how we spent time with one another. It was such a joy to be able to share my own life with her, even though my people are halfway around the world. But she cared, and truly wanted to learn more about the people I love and who love me dearly. And that meant the world to me.

Moments later, she left the little area where we were sitting to eat, and came back in with a beautiful light blue necklace in her hand – that she had hand-made, just for me. She had asked me what my favorite color was earlier in the week, but I had no idea why.

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This beautiful, light blue necklace was such a tangible representation of her love for me, and almost brought me to tears, as she put it around my neck and whispered to me, “God brought you to me. I have never had a friend like you at HEAL, Emily. You are my very best friend.” In that moment, not only did I feel Grace’s love for me and our friendship, but I felt the love of God wrapping around me, telling me that he loved me and had given me Grace as a dear best friend here, during my time in Uganda. What an answer to prayer.

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I had surprised Grace’s family and brought a large pineapple that I found at the Jinja Central Market, and boy oh boy…I have never seen such happy smiles! As Grace was cutting up the pineapple and handing it out to her children, she just stopped, looked at me, and smiled. Then she said, “Sweet Emily. This is happiness. Such such happiness. Look at them. You provided this.”

It is crazy how sharing a pineapple (a treat and rare commodity in their household) could bring so much joy. But it did. And this moment of being a part of God’s love, while experiencing it from her family, was truly unforgettable. It really is the small acts of kindness, done in great love, that mean the most.

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We just had the best morning/afternoon together, and I would never trade moments like these for anything in the world. To see, taste, experience, and be a part of sharing God’s love with one another….in the midst of our messy lives and broken, exhausted selves!

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And then, hours later, I attended a “farewell party” for our sweet Betty – who has been a long-time staff member with HEAL Ministries. She has served the women and children here so faithfully and they just lavished her with love and appreciation by throwing the most beautiful party tonight – with dancing, music, decorations, and delicious food! They didn’t have to do this, but they wanted to. To show their love for Betty and to rejoice and celebrate the time that God had given Betty to them. It was definitely a night full of joy and laughter – an extension of God’s love to us all, as we celebrated sweet Betty!


 

My fiancé has been sending me a lot of sermons recently by a pastor in inner-city Chicago named Charlie Dates. And, in one of the most recent sermons I listened to while over here, He talks about the greatest life lesson he learned from his grandmother – years and years ago, as a young boy. He said that, whenever he would go visit her home, she would have him water the plants and garden with her. One day, though, he told her he didn’t want to help her water the plants anymore. When she asked him why, he responded with, “Whenever I try to water the plants with you, my bucket never makes it to the end of the yard because, by the time I get there, most of my water has already leaked out. I can’t make it to the end of the garden like you can, grandma.” His grandma chuckled to herself, and replied with, “Oh little one. If only you could understand…I gave you the broken and cracked bucket on purpose so that, through those tiny cracks and holes, the water would leak out to water all of the little seeds I knew were sitting in the soil along the path you would walk – can’t you see how they’ve now grown into beautiful flowers and plants after all this time of you carrying that leaking bucket?”

Essentially, Pastor Charlie Dates was saying that, through His grandmother’s broken bucket analogy, He learned the most important wisdom of all – that God uses broken vessels and the very things that we think make us failures to make us useful for his kingdom work. That when we are weak, He is strong. That in our weakness, His glory and light can shine even more brightly!

So good, right?!

Just like Mother Teresa says in my favorite quote, we are to “do small things with great love.” God doesn’t want us wasting our time worrying about our failures and where we fall short, but he wants us to love. Love Him and love others. To use our greatest weaknesses and failures to humble us and remind us that, he loves to use broken people for His glory, to show His love and compassion through us to other people, both near and far. Right along our life path, that God has planned long before we even came into existence.

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I have been hearing so much recently, in both Christian and secular news, the recent fad and importance of “keeping boundaries” and spending time for yourself. While, yes, I do agree with the importance in making sure you are treating your body as a temple of the Lord and not over committing and stretching yourself too thin, I don’t think this is where Jesus wants us to stay. He calls us to literally POUR our lives out for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of others. Not to sit and stay comfortable in our own little bubbles.

Everyone’s “yeses” and callings look vastly different, but I think that every single one of us, deep down, know what these “yeses” are for us personally. And when we choose to refuse and not love the way we know Jesus is calling us to, someone is missing out on Jesus’ love.

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 Every big dream and every world-changing movement or idea starts with a simple yes. A yes to love the person and people right before our eyes. To care when no one else seems to care. To notice that someone isn’t okay, even if they keep trying to convince you (and everyone else) that they are “fine.”

God wants us to say yes, to the right now. Say yes, to the tasks placed right in front of us. Say yes, to loving and serving others unconditionally. Say yes, to dying to ourselves and living for Christ. Say yes, to believing that His plans are way better than our own. Say yes, to what scares us. Say yes, to putting ourselves out there even if we may get rejected. Say yes, to the unknown.

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It takes unbelievable courage to say yes. But at the end of every yes is an “amen”- because God keeps His promises. When we say yes to Him and what He is calling us to do (big or small), He will always sustain us and keep His word.

As we say yes to Him and let Him carry us through, we can be confident that we are exactly where He wants us to be. To grow and to be stretched in ways that only He can plan. He knows what we need and will do whatever it takes to make us more like Him and to learn to rely on Him and Him alone.

“‘I indeed’ was this in the past, ‘but He’ came and something miraculous happened. Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

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…So That Your Joy May Be Made Complete

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Earlier this week, I received news that 2 long-awaited packages had arrived for me at the Jinja Post Office. To say I was excited would be an extreme understatement. My precious fiancé, Wesley Mabry, had been asking me for weeks to keep checking, but due to being two continents apart, we really had no idea whether they were going to make it!

These packages contained beautiful, handmade dolls that his parents and members of their home church (First Baptist Church Boiling Springs SC) had made and sent all the way here to Uganda – to bless and provide joy to all the beautiful preschoolers at the James Place. It really is crazy to see how one little act of kindness and generosity can spread joy like wildfire and bring so much light – all the way from South Carolina to Uganda!

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And let me tell you…passing out these dolls to all of our preschoolers was one of the most joy-filled moments of my entire life. One that I will truly never forget. In my opinion, it was a little taste of heaven on earth.

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The smiles on their faces demonstrated the pure joy inside of their little hearts. I am so thankful for the generosity my fiancé, his parents, and their home church had in making and sending us these dolls – and words can never fully express our gratitude! So here are some more pictures (that tell more than a thousand words):

The children repeated over and over again, “Thank you, God bless you!” And, in that moment, I truly believe God was looking down on us and smiling at the generosity His people (halfway across the world) had provided to my little preschoolers – just by the kindness and thoughtfulness of sending us dolls. Nothing crazy. But man, did it make a difference in the lives of these children and show us all what pure joy looks like – the kind of joy that makes God happy and screams of His presence here on Earth like nothing else.

Giving dolls to the preschoolers, I couldn’t help but think – this is pure joy. Joy at its most beautiful and simplest form. Sometimes, I believe, it takes the delight in the eyes of God’s littlest children to remind us of what this looks like. Children, many of whom, do not come from stable homes or even have a steady source of meals at night. Children, many of whom, before coming to the James Place, had never owned a pair of their own shoes. Children, many of whom, are daily battling the lingering effects of trauma, neglect, and other issues at home. But despite all the battles they face in this life, they possess such JOY – such pure, innocent, untouchable, and unshakable joy. Yes, they were joyful because they were receiving beautiful handmade dolls. But I think they also know something that a lot of us often forget – that, regardless of our circumstances, we can always have true joy in believing that Jesus is who He says He is and confidently trusting in His promises to us, even when it is hard…even when we may not necessarily get the answers we want or wish for here on Earth. But we can have a true joy and hope in our eternal security in heaven – in the arms of our beautiful Savior – Jesus Christ. No matter what obstacles or trials the world may try to throw at us, the one thing that can’t be taken away is our faith in Jesus and who He is to us. That He will always come through for us and deliver us in the end, if we trust in Him!

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One of our preschool songs (that is a class favorite) is titled “Jesus is Mine.” The children get so fired up when they sing this song, and it brings so much joy to my heart every time I hear them shout the words from the bottom of their hearts – JESUS IS MINE!

The lyrics go like this:

“Jesus, you’re mine. Jesus, you’re mine.

 I wrote your name on the paper, but the maid swept it away.

 I wrote your name on the leaf, but the wind blew it away.

 I wrote your name on the wall, but WHO painted it?!

And lastly, I’ve decided, to write your name across my heart,

Because inside there, no one can take it away from me!

Jesus, you’re mine!

Jesus, you’re mine!

He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine,

Jesus is mine!

He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine, He’s mine,

Jesus is mine!”

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In being so far away from home, I have really been learning to rely fully on the Lord – which has been the sweetest gift I could ask for…and a season I would truly never wish away. But, in both the super happy and super hard moments of being so far away in Africa and, at times, very lonely in being away from the worldly comforts I know and a fiancé that I love and miss dearly, I have been learning so much more about who Jesus is to me – that he is not only my Savior, but He is my rock, my firm foundation, and my unshakable joy. That I can trust Him not only with my salvation, but with my whole life too. That following Him is worth it, even when it is scary and even when it is hard and demands sacrifice, and He asks me to be braver than I ever thought I could be. That he is always working to make me more like Him, to make my joy complete in Him and Him alone.

Annie F. Downs writes in her devotional book, 100 Days to Brave

“If the yeses feel scary, take comfort in knowing that if you are seeking God, if you are asking Him to lead you, He hears you and is doing just that! If you are living in obedience to Him, and He brings opportunities into your life, you can trust that He will take care of you when you say yes… Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be.”

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In the Bible, Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

            This has been a verse that has been popping into my mind the entire time I have been in Uganda, but I really hadn’t taken the time to process it fully until the last few days. Yes, I have learned so much about pure joy from my little ones, but I have also been learning a lot more about what true and complete joy in the Lord really means. During my quiet times and daily runs this week, I have found myself reading and pondering Psalm after Psalm, and I feel like the Lord has been teaching me, again and again, that no matter what is going on around us or what trials we may face, He wants us to come to him rejoicing – full of a type of joy that is complete – a joy that is unshakable and not affected by our feelings. A joy that is supernatural…entirely different than simply “feeling happy.”

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Psalm 100 – “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his! We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all the generations.”

In my Study Bible, it reflects on this Psalm with the following notes –

“Unlike much of contemporary society, the Bible does not confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is an emotional state typically dependent on external circumstances; the Biblical concept of joy is a deeper reality. Joy is a condition of a genuine well-being marked by CONFIDENCE, hope and trust that extends far beyond our finite perceptions. Happiness is often temporary; joy is more of a process, often developed most profoundly during periods of chaos and suffering. The deep, sustaining joy of the Lord comes from an assurance that he is with us and will deliver us – from present difficulties as well as from the evil, sin and suffering of this world. Such joy is able to express its hope even in the middle of legitimate sadness. With David we can say, ‘Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5).”

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Just like the women and children live out day in a day out, we are unshakable and unstoppable with Christ, because when we have Him inside of us, we can have fullness of joy and know that, though this world is passing away, we have hope in greater things to come. A hope that, like my preschoolers sing in their little song, can never be taken away. Seeing my little ones embrace their little dolls with such pure joy, despite all of the obstacles they may be facing at home, was, I believe, just a small glimpse of the JOY we will see and experience when we enter heaven – embraced and welcomed with pure JOY by our Heavenly Father, beckoning us home, and holding us tight, saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). We can have joy knowing that, one day, Jesus will make all things right again and restore this world to be the way He intended it to be – beautiful and perfect, no  more tears and no more pain. For the lives of all of my little ones and dear friends here in Uganda, and for all of those I love and care for back at home in the Carolinas. All the enemy wants to do is rob us of our joy – through whatever means he possibly can. But, we have to remember who we are in Christ and have the inner confidence that, he who is in me is greater than he who is in the world!

John 10:10 – “The thief comes to only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The thief literally comes to steal, kill, and destroy. All he wants is to rob us of this pure, unhindered joy that Jesus offers us (and our littlest children show us) – daily. Satan hates this kind of joy…because he knows he can’t take it away. That’s probably why I love this preschoolers’ song so much – because it’s basically laughing in the enemy’s face and reminding him that, no matter what he and this world may try to do to shake us and the people I love here in Uganda (be it poverty, hunger, sickness, lack of resources, health concerns, and other hurt around us), it will only draw us closer to Christ – to call us to lean on Him more. That’s the fight we are called to fight as followers of Jesus Christ. The good fight. The eternal battle for our souls as well as for the souls of others. Putting our hope in the Lord, so that our joy will be made pure and complete in Him.

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Just like my preschoolers sing in their little song and live out daily, we can have this kind of pure joy, despite our circumstances, because Jesus is our rock, our stability, our firm foundation, our best friend, and our identity that no one or nothing can EVER take away! Our job, now, is to bring heaven to the earth. To show and be love to those who don’t know Him who is in us, He who is greater than he who is in the world! To rejoice in each day that the Lord has made!

When our lives our founded on Him and Him alone, we cannot be shaken. Just like my fiancé and I have been learning in our house-hunting search (…more like Wesley and my parents are looking back in America, and I am over here getting to FaceTime in and just get excited along the way 😊 ) that our future “house” needs to be founded on a firm foundation, our lives need to be founded on the rock that never changes – Jesus Christ. So, when the storms of life come, our joy will not be shaken, but will stand firm and courageous in the promises Jesus has made to us – that he will never leave us or forsake us. That He is for us, not against us. Now that is true joy – a deep, unshakable confidence in the Lord!

Luke 6:48-49 – “He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

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            I have been learning here in Uganda, from both the beautiful people and Jesus Himself, that true joy is not just a feeling, but a way of life. It is finding your joy in Him alone, the cup that never runs dry…so that our cups will always “runneth over” to others. The kind of Christ-like confidence and joy I see daily in my dear friends Alice, and Grace (and little baby Malachi). In my fellow Ugandan teachers. In my students. An unshakable joy and peace that surpasses all understanding, doesn’t waver based on circumstances, and at times, is quite mind-blowing.

In my Jesus Calling Devotional the other day, it said,

“As you increasingly find fulfillment in Me, other pleasures become less important. Knowing me intimately is like having a private wellspring of Joy within you. This spring flows freely from My throne of grace, so your Joy is independent of circumstances.”

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Joy is having the confident hope in what is yet to come. In the hope that Jesus promises us. Having courage in the midst of fear. Saying yes to God and loving His people, even when we feel like we have nothing left to give, because His love (that we have inside of us) never runs out. Joy is trusting that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He is with us in the midst of whatever season we are facing.

Psalm 46: 5 – “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

Katie Davis Majors writes in her book Daring to Hope,

“Then I think that maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Maybe courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard and knowing that it will be hard, but more, God will be near. He is the God Who Will Provide. He will provide His presence, His strength, or whatever He decides we most need. Maybe bravery is just looking fear in the face and telling it that it does not win because we have known the Lord here. We have known the Lord in the long dark night.”

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Even when we are chasing after and following Jesus, He never promises us an easy life. Especially when we are stepping out in faith to serve Him and His people, we will encounter difficulties and setbacks…and it will cost us something. In fact, he tells us, when we follow Him and do His will, we will face opposition and that we will have to rely on him to deliver us – not on other worldly things – but in HIM alone will we find our true peace and joy. But, the beautiful thing is, the things the world tries to use to defeat and destroy us, God uses to build us up and make us stronger, for our good and for His glory! To make us more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us. To make us more like Him. And isn’t that the goal of the Christian life?

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

Psalm 94:16-19 – “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

He is written on our hearts. So, no matter what this world throws at us or what others may say or do, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, have all that we need to fight the good fight and learn to trust Him more “…so that our joy would be made complete” (John 15:11).

Psalm 95:1-7 – “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us should aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he has made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”

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Give Me Your Eyes, Jesus, and a Heart Like You

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My prayer over the past week, and really all the time, goes a little like this – “Give me your eyes, Jesus, and a heart like you.” To see this world and your people the way you see them. To love like you do, unconditionally, without reservation. Never expecting anything in return.

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As I have been praying for the Lord to give me His eyes and His heart, He has been showing me how to see the beautiful people all around me the way He sees them. Each one a unique and beautiful creation. Each one with a capacity to love and a need to be loved. God will gladly give us His eyes and His heart, when we ask, so that we can be His hands and feet, His arms open wide to the hurting world and people around us.

Romans 12: 4-13 – “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speaking out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is to serve others, serve them well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift of showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” 

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In my Jesus Calling devotional the other morning, it really struck me when the author wrote,

“Most of mankind’s misery stems from feeling unloved. In the midst of adverse circumstances, people tend to feel that love has been withdrawn and they have been forsaken. This feeling of abandonment is often worse than the adversity itself. Be assured that I never abandon any of My children, not even temporarily. I will never leave you or forsake you! My Presence watches over you continually. I have engraved you in the palms of My hands.

Jeremiah 31:3 – “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Everyone needs love. Every single one of us. Every single one of my precious students. And every single person who crosses our paths – whether they seem receptive to it or not. It is a basic human need. And, just like God loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, we are called to do the same to others. Loving the people God places right in front of us, or halfway around the world (for a season), is being obedient, and following the greatest commandment of all – to love one another as Christ has loved us. Even when it is hard. Even when it costs you something. And even when it may not be reciprocated or even acknowledged.

            In a devotional that my fiancé, Wesley, and I are reading together as we prepare for marriage, called Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler writes:

“Getting our hearts into this way of thinking is the hardest thing in marriage by far because all of us tend to love in order to get something in return. (You can tell when it’s not really love you’re giving because you begin to withhold it because you don’t think the response is good enough). Jesus calls us to a more selfless way, the way of the cross. His way calls us to love purely because it’s the right thing to do, because it honors Him and glorifies His Father. Jesus emptied himself in order to love imperfect responders. That’s real love.”

            Yes, this devotional is intending to talk about love in terms of marriage. But, I believe, this is the same type of “real love” we should show to everyone – regardless of who they are or where they come from, and regardless of whether we really have anything in common with them.

As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love music. And hardly go anywhere without playing it, as it always uplifts my spirits and brings me so much joy. My all-time favorite worship song is “Heart Like You,” by Love and the Outcome, and the lyrics remind me of this so beautifully:

“Burn bright

In my life

Burn away the things

I hold tight

Give me

Eyes to see

Your Kingdom

The way You want it

To be

What can be worth more than You

What do I have I wouldn’t lose

If it means You and I

Look more alike

That’s what I choose

(Chorus)

I’d give up the world to find my soul

Pour out my life, give You control

I just want to be what You want me to be

I just want a heart that’s true

A heart like You

I just want a heart like You”

Yes, we are so very loved by our Father God. But out of the great love He has given us, we are called to share that love to those He puts along our path. Our cups should runneth over. God fills us up so that we can pour our lives out to others. Even when we may not always feel loved or accepted here on Earth, we can always remember that we are fully loved and accepted by Jesus Christ – who payed the greatest cost to show us His love for us, by dying on that cross.

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Personally, there are days here in Uganda when I feel so loved and welcomed by the people around me, that my heart could literally explode. But, on other days (and in my mosquito netted top-bunk alone at night), it is easy to question why I am here and let the enemy convince me that I am all alone and forgotten over here – away from everyone I love and know back at home (which I know could not be farther from the truth). But Satan is the Father of lies, and can be really sneaky sometimes..especially when I am exhausted (mentally and physically) from pouring out all that I have, day in and day out. But, in the midst of this, I have to constantly remind myself of the most important truth: that I am not only loved and accepted by my Heavenly Father, but I am His daughter. His precious child. His beloved. And that He never leaves me or forsakes me. He can fill me back up…again and again. So that I can keep loving, keep pursuing others, and keep being His hands and feet here in Uganda. 

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So even on days when I want to give up, and I am too tired to tie another shoelace or comfort one of my students when they are sad or get a “wound” (which they call any small cut or scrape here), I press on. When I am exhausted from the noise in our classroom and my patience is running thin, I ask Jesus to help me be kind and gentle. When it is time for bathing and naps, and the kids are wild and crazily running around the room, I ask Jesus to help me be tender and soft. I rely on the love of my Heavenly Father in order to have His love to pour out to His little ones in my classroom and to the women I interact with daily at the James Place, who really just need a hug and a smile. Little ones who are longing for love, longing for acceptance, and longing to be noticed. Women who are longing to have a purpose, to be seen, to be noticed, and to be appreciated. Just like the rest of us.

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Throughout our days in the classroom, Teacher Rebecca and I are constantly striving to make sure each of our students feels loved. That each one of them feels cared for. That each one of them feels noticed. Every single morning (and throughout the day), I am constantly bombarded with hugs by my students, sometimes so much so, that it is impossible to walk. Yes, I know they are showing me how much they love me, but at the same time, I think they are seeking affirmation and love that we all seek. To be seen. To be loved. To be cared for. To be known.

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This week, we sang a new song in our class that goes like this:

“If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs a friend). If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs another friend). If you want to show you care, God’s love is good to share. If you want to care for someone, give a hug! (Everyone hugs one another).”

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And on a HEAL Ministries social media post the other day, the caption of the precious picture said,

“Holding hands gives a moment of safety to a child…to a friend…to a woman in need. It gives hope and a moment that says everything is going to be okay. We are often asked what we do. It’s a much bigger answer than teaching and empowering women to learn a business or trade that keeps their families together. It’s about relationships. It’s about holding hands and encouraging others. We love all the tiny moments that evolve into big transformation.”

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I am learning, both inside and outside of the classroom, that love comes out in all different forms. Sometimes, love means a hug. Sometimes, love means listening. Sometimes, love means speaking truth. Sometimes, love means making silly poses (see the picture above – when we were demonstrating how the Lord is our strength). Sometimes, love means breaking out in a dance party to lift everyone’s spirits (which we often do in the classroom). All the time, though, love means being a friend – to whoever and whomever God places right in front of you. Love acts – it is not just enough to say you love someone – you must show it.  

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In the book I am currently reading, Daring to Hope, by Katie Davis Majors, she writes, “The more I asked my Father God to give me His eyes for the people He brought into our life and home, the more He confirmed that He did not view anyone as the next ministry project or person to be evangelized but as someone just like me who needed to be lavished with His undeserved, unmerited blessing, love, and favor. He was changing my vision, again giving me eyes to see that we most deeply experience His beauty when we walk with others in the darkness.”

As you can see in the picture below, the verse of the week in our classroom was written on our little whiteboard as a reminder to always show kindness and hospitality to others, even strangers, because in doing so, we may be showing hospitality to angels.

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But most importantly, when we see others through God’s eyes and with His heart and choose to be the hands and feet of Christ to them (the way God calls us to), we are really serving Him.

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Matthew 25:40 – “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

            I am learning how important it is to be right where you are – because you will never get that moment or opportunity back. God places us with a specific person in a certain moment for a particular reason. But we have a choice – will we love? …or will we turn away? We will never be perfect or able to save the world, but we can love. We can be present. We can meet the needs of others, to the best of our abilities. And that is being obedient to God.

Isn’t that how God treats us, though? He is always there, despite our feelings, and meets us right where we are. He wants us to do the same with others.

When I asked for Him to give me His eyes and a heart like Him, I realized that all I was really asking for was to better learn how to be present. To see people for who they are and what God specifically created them to do. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. To encourage and spur others on. We are all a beautiful creation of God, created to do great things. When we remember these truths, it helps us to love others the way we are called to do, and to meet people exactly where they are. Just like God does for each of us.

C.S. Lewis so beautifully wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

God will give us His eyes and His heart when we ask. But once He does, we must choose to be love. We must choose to love unconditionally. We must choose to put others before ourselves. Love is a choice. A daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, moment-by-moment choice. And something that matters so very greatly to our Heavenly Father! And, in doing so, you never know whose life or journey you are going to impact in taking those small steps of obedience, to do the Father’s will, and to be His hands and His feet. No matter where you are and no matter what you are doing, every little act of kindness and love matters and makes a difference.

God will give us His eyes and His heart so that we can be His hands and His feet.

2 Corinthians 1:4 – “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

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“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

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This Sunday morning was one I will truly never forget. I was invited this past week to attend church by my dear friend, Alice, who works in the kitchen at The James Place. Her husband is the head pastor at the church, called “Apostles Church” in Bugembe – a village in the Jinja area – and, all week, she couldn’t wait for me to come visit and spend time with her family.

Honestly, I don’t think this post can even begin to encompass all that I experienced this  special Sunday morning, but I hope that my words will be able to give you a small glimpse of the beauty and spirit this day possessed.

I was picked up by a trusted driver at 8:30 AM from our living quarters, and from there, rode about 30 minutes down bumpy red dirt roads to a small town called Bugembe – where I was so graciously greeted by Alice’s husband and young friend (that he is currently training to be a pastor). They preceded to walk me through parts of the village, while picking up a few friends, elders, and deacons (and their little ones) of the church along the way – literally going doorstep to doorstep, hugging and adding more people to their group, one by one. It felt like I was experiencing a small version of what it must have been like back in Jesus’ day, when He would travel from place to place, picking up each of His twelve disciples along the way, from the unlikeliest of places. To serve a God who loves us all, a God who shows no preference or favoritism (as the Pastor reminded us repeatedly later during His sermon).

Romans 10:13 – for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

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Upon arriving at the small, roof-less building that they were so proud to call their church, I was simply in awe. In awe of the beautiful simplicity of the church. In awe of the humble living conditions of the church attendees. And as I was soaking it all in, I felt arms sweetly grab me from behind, and embrace me in the warmest, most welcoming hug. Of course, it was Alice, and other members of her family, who had walked miles and miles to get there. Though Alice was originally the only connection I had to “Apostles Church,” I immediately felt right at home. Completely and totally at peace. Like one of them. And, in addition to being hugged and greeted by everyone in the room, I was told more times than I could even count, “You are welcome here.” I think that’s how Jesus intended it, though. As He says in His word,

Matthew 18:20 – “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

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In this small, roofless structure, I not only met beautiful people and worshiped alongside my brothers in sisters in Christ –  I met the Holy Spirit. I felt the presence of Jesus like I never have before. He met each of us there, in that small space of cracked mud floors and disintegrating brick walls. And I can say that with complete and absolute confidence.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

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We greeted one another, we prayed, we worshiped, we listened to the word of God, we heard and celebrated powerful testimonies of God’s faithfulness, and then we prayed some more. But when I say, “we prayed,” I don’t mean we read a lifeless list of words, I mean we prayed. Pastor Kurubba David (Alice’s husband) led prayer and laid hands on every person in the room, individually, and, though Alice had to translate a lot for me (whenever Pastor Kurubba wasn’t speaking in English), I could feel the Holy Spirit moving. The sermon today consisted of how we are to follow Christ’s example, and though God gave us ten commandments to follow, there are two that are most dear and important to His heart – to love God and to love our neighbor.

Matthew 22:36-40 – Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Throughout the rest of his sermon, he talked about how, in Christ, we are a new creation, and, like any good teacher would, Christ has left us an example to follow. HE is the example.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

1 Peter 2:21 – “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

The pastor went on to explain that the reason we are still here today (even when many of our loved ones may not be, as they informed me was the case for many of them) is to follow and take the footsteps of Christ. To do good things, so that people will follow you as you are doing good things. To walk, as He walked. To preach the gospel of hope, like He did. To love, like He did. To follow His example. That is why we are still here. And as for the people I was blessed enough to be in the presence of today, they are doing just that. God wants us to love Him and love our neighbors. It is that simple.

At one point during the preaching, he even pointed at me and said, “Look at our friend Emily here. She is a new creation. A new woman. Not the old Emily. She is a transformed person. She is here to spread the good news. To be merciful. To help the poor. To be like Christ. That is why God has her here.” As he was saying this out loud to the congregation, I was completely shocked and humbled to my core. But as I processed what he had just said, I realized he was right. I wouldn’t be here today, serving in Uganda and teaching my precious little ones, if it wasn’t for how Jesus had changed my life all those years ago, when I fully committed my life to Him and stopped living for myself. When he broke me down so that He could build me back up…putting my identity in Him alone. Thanks be to God – all glory to HIM!

Throughout the rest of our time there, I heard stories and saw products of Jesus’ healing and power – from saving women in dangerous childbirth labor (who were now standing and healthy, worshiping Jesus with babies in their arms and small children by their side), healing of a woman with an extreme mental illness (who was now a vital, active part of the church), protection of a woman who was thugged by multiple robbers the night before (but, through the grace of God, was able to testify today and tell us how Jesus had provided a kind man on a boda boda to rescue her and retrieve the stolen money), and many many more. The list of the testimonies I heard today could go on and on and on.

The entire three and a half hours of the service, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the faith and courage these people had to start a church from the ground-up, with no musical instruments, no roof, and really no resources at all (other than a few cracked, falling apart wooden benches). At one point in the sermon, as more and more community members were filing in, Pastor Kurubba laughed with his congregation about how, “We need to pray for God to provide more chairs. Praise Him!” In fact, most church attendees did not even own their own Bible, and if they did, they were usually worn and torn, definitely well-used and shared among the community.

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Back at home, I attend an incredible church – with incredible pastors, incredible elders, incredible worship, incredible members, and incredible resources (everything from sound equipment, to computers and screens to project lyrics, and black out curtains that lift and fall over the stunning stained-glass windows during different parts of the service, to provide different aspects of beautiful natural lighting). I adore this church. I met my wonderful fiancé, John Wesley, at this church. And we are actually getting married there in a few months, too! 😊 But, as I was worshiping alongside my friends at “Apostles Church” today, in a little village in Africa called Bugembe, I couldn’t help but think… do we really need all that we have in our churches at home? Do these great “things” and “resources” actually distract us from the power of the Holy Spirit, that I experienced fuller than ever before in this place, with nothing but God’s people and mud floors? I am the first to agree that all churches reach different audiences through different means, so there must be a difference in how we approach preaching the gospel and worshiping the Lord. But at the end of it all, all that really matters is that we are gathering in HIS name, not in the name of a certain church or a certain label. Not in the name of a certain pastor or denomination or theology. But in the name of JESUS. That is it. That is all that matters to God, whose opinion is the only one that really matters.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Something Wesley (my fiancé) and I always talk about is how strongly we believe, as Christians, that we should be the MOST full of joy, because in Christ, no matter what our circumstances may be, we can have everlasting joy.

Isaiah 35:10 – “Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”

If we want others to see the power of our Lord Jesus Christ in and through us, we should live in a way that stirs others’ hearts, young and old, to want to know Him. To see and experience His love and joy. Yes, this world can be hard and our circumstances can be tough. Trust me, I am not downplaying the brokenness of this world. Especially being in Africa, living and working amidst some of the most oppressed, vulnerable, sick and poor people in the world. I know and have seen that this world we live in is broken. But Jesus didn’t call us to walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders, because HE wants to carry our loads. HE wants to set us free. HE wants to lighten our load. And the people I worshiped alongside in “Apostles Church” this morning know this. They wholeheartedly believe it. They live it out. And I pray that I will learn from their example and take these lessons back home with me to America after my time here in Uganda is through.

Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I can honestly say, I have never seen such a joyful group of people. I was completely humbled by the joy and brightness of smiles of the men, women, and children I was standing beside, as they raised their hands, crying out to and praising their Lord. Their Savior. Their Father. Their friend. Jesus Christ.

Though we will never be perfect or have it right, we serve a God who IS perfect. Who always gets it right. Who is always on time. A God who can enter any situation, and provide comfort that no one or nothing else in the world ever truly can.

After the service, everyone stuck around for a good while to say their farewells and share life with one another. I was cared for and genuinely loved by a complete group of strangers who, in a span of 3 and a half hours, felt like they had just become my family. I was given handshakes and hugs. I was given babies to hold. I was prayed over by a wise woman named “Mother Edith” – who was ecstatic to hear that I was engaged to a man studying in seminary to become a pastor, and promised to pray for our marriage and for us to do God’s will together for the rest of our lives. I was well loved. I saw a little glimpse of Jesus in the eyes of every person in that room, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

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After saying our goodbyes, Alice and her family led me down red dirt roads as we walked a little over an hour to her family’s home in Walukuba, a village just past the Masese Slums (where her family was just recently able to move out of, due to the Lord’s provision).

Her family no longer lives in a red mud hut, but in a house with concrete floors and a tin roof over their heads. They have pigs, goats, and cows to tend to. A field of sweet potatoes to call their own. And beautiful banana trees surrounding their home. Praise be to God!

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They had prepared a meal of matoke (similar to a banana), cassava (a starch-like vegetable), sweet potato, and beans for us to eat for lunch. I left their home this afternoon with a full belly and an even fuller heart. Not only does Alice love everyone she meets, but she loves her family the way Christ calls her to. She has ten children of her own (some grown and out on their own, and some still living under her roof), and just recently adopted a little boy in a nearby village, who needed a home. Alice is the definition of a Godly woman, and I learn so much more about Jesus by simply being in her presence, soaking in her words of wisdom and actions that prove her strong faith.

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As I was headed out on my way back to my living quarters in town, Alice’s husband asked if he could pray. We all held hands in a circle and prayed, thanking the Lord for the beautiful day He had made, and praying for His protection and grace for the rest of the day to come. What a beautiful picture of a community loving God and loving one another – two things very near and dear to God’s heart.

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I hope that these words and pictures were able to give you a small glimpse into the mighty presence of the Lord I experienced today through people that left me very well loved.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Simplicity

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Simplicity.

The past week, I have been slowly learning and processing more about what this word entails, and wanted to share some special moments that will, hopefully, be able to speak as much to you as they did to me.


 

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The other day, in the middle of our daily chores, my dear friend Alice (who works in the Kitchen at HEAL) and I started talking, catching up about life and how one another was doing. She delivers our breakfast, snack, and lunch to our classroom every day, so we have been able to spend a good portion of our days together this past month. Since knowing her during my time here last summer, she and her family, through the Lord’s provision (that she always makes sure to remind me of, giving ALL glory to Him), have been able to move out of Masese (one of the largest slums in Jinja) and expand the church that her husband pastors (that used to be held in a little mud hut) into a nicer part of town. She has invited me to come visit the new church this Sunday and eat lunch with her family afterwards – and to say I am ecstatic about it would be an extreme understatement! 

But in the middle of our seemingly casual conversation and her incredibly kind invitation to visit, she just stopped and looked up at the trees and the sky, and said “Emily. This world is nothing. Nothing. But with God, we have everything. HE is our hope.” 

Though at first I was taken aback by this statement that seemed to come completely out of the blue, I couldn’t seem to get what she said out of my mind. Did I really believe that? That my hope is in Christ alone, and not what this world can give me? Is it really that simple? 


 

And here is where my little “teachers” come in…daily.

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Man, they teach me so much about how simple the gospel really is. Right now, we are really working hard on learning how to share and speak words of life to one another (aren’t we all?). As little Hanani always likes to stand up in front of the class and tell her friends (sometimes I even let her stand up on her chair and yell it out…I know, I’m that teacher 🙂 ) – “We must always be kind and love one another. Because Jesus loves us all.” 

Sweet little Hanani is the one that came up with this simple, but so beautifully true statement. And it has been spreading like wildfire among the little mouths of my students, as they are gradually growing in their English skills and learning new phrases each day (that they often like to repeat again and again). But this is a phrase that I hope sticks around for weeks and years to come…and I can’t help but admit, it makes me feel like such a proud teacher whenever I hear them say those simple words of truth to one another (and to any visitor that happens to pop into our classroom, which always leaves them smiling so big as they walk out the door). Especially the final words – “Jesus loves us all.” 

Yes, my students need this reminder. But so do we. So do I.

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As I was having my quiet time this morning, I found myself listening over and over again to the same song, Simplicity by Rend Collective. The beautiful lyrics just kept running through my mind, as they seemed to be exactly what the Lord was trying to teach me, through my precious students and sweet Ugandan friends here like Alice: 

I come in simplicity

Longing for purity

To worship You

In spirit and truth

Only You

Lord strip it all away

‘Til only You remain

I’m coming back

To my first love

Only You

You’re the reason I sing

The reason I sing

Yes my heart will sing

How I love You

And forever I’ll sing

Forever I’ll sing

Yes my heart will sing

How I love You

I come with my broken song

To You the Perfect One

To worship You

In spirit and truth

Only You

Only You

Give me a childlike heart

Lead me to where You are

Cause I’m coming back

To my first love

Only You

You’re the reason I sing

The reason I sing

Yes my heart will sing

How I love You…”

In the middle of playing this song while getting ready for work this morning, all of the power in the house suddenly went out. It went dark. This happens very regularly in Jinja, so I didn’t think much of it. 

But as I arrived to work at the James Place, I was told just how massive of a storm had hit Jinja – with power lines completely down throughout the city and many homes and roads heavily damaged. All of us decided to pray for fast recovery and the power to come back as soon as possible, but as always, my little students were full of JOY and loved to continually yell and sing, “Where there is darkness, JESUS brings the LIGHT!” At one point, we even began to laugh and sing one of our favorite songs “This Little Light of Mine,” while waving our little pretend candles and just having the best time in our dark little classroom. 

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Oh, how they know Him and how much they are constantly teaching me. Wayyy more than I could ever teach them.

Sometimes, it takes being stripped of everything else to make us remember this truth. In simplicity, we can see Jesus for who He really is: Our true light. Our only hope. 

Through being away from everyone I love and everything I know here, I have been daily asking myself the question – is Jesus really enough? And I can honestly tell you, though it is hard sometimes to believe this in the midst of my hardest moments, He is. And always will be. Whether we feel like it or not. 

If we place our hope in anything or anyone else, we will always be let down and come up short, always thirsting for more, trying to fill our souls with things of this world. But, as Alice so sweetly reminded me the other day, “This world is nothing. Nothing. But with God, we have everything. HE is our hope.”


 

Today, during independent reading time, precious little Mutesi picked up the Bible from the teacher’s desk, and came and wrapped her arms around me, looking up at me with her beautiful eyes, “Teacha Emily, please come and read for me?” I almost burst out in tears of joy right then and there. I mean, what child at the age of 4 voluntarily picks up a Bible and begs to read it?

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Mutesi daily sees Teacher Rebecca and I looking through our Bibles, writing verses on our walls, and reminding one another of God’s truths, but for her to ask to read this book that she can’t even read the words in, with no pictures or anything to entertain her? She knows the life this book brings, and her little heart is seeking. She knows Jesus loves her at her very core. And she knows the power of His word – even if she can’t read or understand what it says without the help of her teacher. 

Humbling. So so humbling. And so so beautiful. Even this little student of mine knows the power of Jesus. That He is the way and the truth and the light. And she has already seen so much brokenness in her short four years of life (that no child should ever have to experience), that she knows she needs Jesus’ love – a love that will never fail her, even when the world around her very well may. 

Aren’t we all like this, though? Searching for the power and love that only Jesus can bring? We might not know how or even where to start, but deep down, we all know that we are missing something. That we all need something more, someone or something greater to depend on. That we need Jesus. 

On my daily runs around our living compound, I am constantly watching where my feet land, dodging potholes left and right. No matter what the people try to “fill” these darn potholes with, they just seem to be an inevitable part of life over here. These Potholes in the ground are such a daily reminder to me – on my runs and to and from work each day in our Matatu (the name for a tiny van here) – that, yes, I am in Uganda.

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This is a silly analogy, but it kind of fits, if you think about it. A hole that just can’t seem to be filled? 

I can’t help but think of the verses in the Bible when Jesus meets and shows compassion to the woman at the well. A woman who has been outcast by her community because of her circumstances, leaving her to search for belonging in all the wrong places – thus, the analogy of going again and again to the well to draw water that just never seems to be enough. In the midst of this, Jesus meets her in her brokenness, shows her compassion, and reminds her of His simple truth:

John 4: 13-14 – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But aren’t we all the woman at the well? Trying to fill the “holes” in our lives with everything and anything else? When all along, Jesus is the only one who ever can or will satisfy. He is the living water. He is the well that never runs dry.

Oh, how I pray I will bring this lesson back home after my time here in Uganda. And never forget this sweet sweet season of learning what it means to fully rely on Jesus from this place and these people – in the midst of brokenness, hurt, and pain so hard to even wrap your mind around, but yet, the most joyful and spirit-filled environment you can possibly imagine. 

In the simplicity, we can see Jesus for who He really is. The light that will guide us to our true home…in heaven. The love that will never disappoint. And the only source of hope that can NEVER be taken away, no matter what the world or our circumstances may try to tell us. 

Simplicity is where Jesus is found. It is in the quiet, still times that we can hear Him. In the moments when only He can fill us up. That the soft whispers of His love can be noticed. 

Does loving Jesus and living out the gospel have to be as hard as we make it? No. Let’s take the advice of my little students and remember these simple truths – “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” 

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He is our true light. He is our way home. He brings fullness to our lives. 

John 7:37 – “…Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 

John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

(On the left, two of my precious students are leading our daily prayers and worship…and you can see here just a glimpse of how deeply they pray. On the right, I am cuddling sweet baby Malachi after he woke up from his nap, and his sweet mother Grace needed me to hold him while she took care of a few chores…as you can tell, I didn’t mind one bit! 🙂 )