But share our lives with you, too…

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“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives.”

1 Thessalonians 2:8

Throughout this past chapter of my life serving as a missionary overseas in Jinja, Uganda, one thing I know is this:

I came and learned way more from the people here than they could ever learn from me.

I think that’s what life in ministry with Jesus is all about, though…

Yes, I followed God’s call to come and serve the least of these (widows, orphans, and vulnerable women and children) during this season, but more importantly,

I shared life with them

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I learned their culture. I fell in love with not just my friends I worked with and alongside at the James Place, but with their whole families and communities, too.

We shared meals. Shared burdens. Shared joys.

Shared our lives.

We took turns bathing little ones, sweeping floors, tending to cuts and wounds, tucking little ones in for nap time, and holding babies while the other worked and did chores. 

I received life advice and wisdom from older and wiser African women. I got to hear their stories and how they ended up at the James Place, and where their dreams are taking them now – whether it be a new business venture, a move or change for their family, or a burning desire to share God’s love with their communities and friends.

How powerful…

As I not only had the opportunity to be used by God to spread the good news of Jesus in this place through the means of education and encouraging women’s empowerment, I shared life with my friends here.

I spent my weekends and days off with the people that made every second of being in Uganda worth it, who brought me more life and joy than I could have ever dreamed of. Memories and stories of God’s incredible faithfulness that will last for generations to come, that I will get to share with my family and loved ones for the rest of my days. And that, I have learned, is where true ministry begins. In friendship. In love.

In sharing life.

In weekend visits to their homes, in the middle of the workday life-chats, and in the shared joys and laughter of loving and serving those we care so deeply for…

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Going where God calls, loving others like He loves, and being loved by Him through the people He so divinely and purposefully places on our paths along the way…

To be molded into more and more of His image.

Through people who know Him and love Him, too.

1 John 4:16 –

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

I saw God in Teacher Rebecca. Her incredible wisdom and integrity. The way she so intentionally led our students in not only their letters and numbers, but in their walks with the Lord. We spent the first thirty minutes in the classroom each morning singing songs about God’s great love and lifting our hands in prayer, asking for God to bless us, bless our teachers, bless what we are going to eat, heal the sick, feed the poor…and the prayers our little ones have memorized by heart go on and on. It was truly the most beautiful thing to experience, and my favorite part of each day with them. 

And how amazing that, on one of my last days with her in the classroom, she had an important teacher observation (by her school supervisors) and not only did she teach an amazing lesson, but she got the highest score in all of the district! God is so so good. And so faithful to allow me to see Rebecca’s own personal growth as a teacher during my time here. All glory to God!

My precious students, and the children from the local slums and villages at our weekly Kids’ Club, were God’s little sheep. God’s little angels to me… to teach me more and more about His love and faithfulness.

And truly showed me that one little seed of faith planted in the heart of a young child can take root, grow, and extend to their families and generations to come.

I saw His gentle, kind, unconditionally loving spirit in each of their little hearts.

In each of their beautiful eyes.

In each of their joyful smiles that spread across their faces, always.

Their futures ahead are bright – with education and the love of Christ in their hearts – nothing can stop them!

I saw God in my friend, Alice. So Godly, beautiful and wise.

The most humble and servant hearted woman I have ever met. Who so selflessly loves her family, supports her husband (who pastors a small church in a local village), and shines Jesus’ love onto everyone she meets. I am so thankful for her motherly love and affection, and the way her family and church welcomed me in and treated me like one of their very own, from the day that I met them!

I saw God in my dear friend here, Grace, who I met my first day here because she was the loving mother of one of my precious students, Joshua.

Oh how thankful I am for her incredibly gentle heart and strong spirit. She is the definition of a Proverbs 31 woman, and I have truly never met someone more hardworking, diligent, and worthy of praise.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness…”

– Proverbs 31: 25-26

Grace is loved and adored not only by her beautiful children, but by all who are lucky enough to know her. Even the little ones nearby that she always welcomes into her home. You can always count on Grace to welcome you with the sweetest smile, most comforting hugs, and words of wisdom encompassing exactly what you needed to hear in that moment – words so fitting that they could only be coming from the Lord Himself, speaking through His beautiful, beloved daughter – Grace.

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And I definitely don’t think it was a coincidence that, on my last visit to see her family in Masese Slums, there were beautiful sunflowers blooming right outside of their home. If you know me at all, you know that sunflowers have always been my favorite flower and bring me so much inexpressible joy.

“And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers, he will certainly care for you…”

– Matthew 6:30 

God is all about the littlest details, and these sunflowers blooming on my last afternoon with Grace were such an example of that to me…

That He cares. For Grace. For her family. For her community. For me. For us all…

And of course, sweet baby Malachi. Oh the number of hours and days I have spent just loving on and cuddling this precious little bundle of joy. It literally hurts to think about not getting to carry him up and down the red dirt path at the James Place every afternoon, but this little angel of the Lord will always hold such a special place in my heart. And I will miss him every single day…I am sure of that.

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And in every beautiful little child and strong, hardworking woman that I was blessed to get to know and spend my days with during my time at the James Place.

Children with a joy so great that it can only be explained by one thing –

the love of Jesus Christ in their hearts.

Women with strength and confidence so unshakable, despite their circumstances, that can only be explained by an infinite, unstoppable, redeeming God.

A God who never, ever leaves their side…

My  heart is just filled to the brim with gratitude for each of these beautiful faces and hearts I have been able to know, love, and share life with during my time here, in the land of the living. I can’t help but think of this verse as each of them come to my mind,

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

– Philippians 1:3

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I am so grateful for this past season of being fully known and loved by God’s beautiful people – big and small –  in Uganda, but more importantly, of learning how to be fully known and loved by Him…

I love this quote by Oswald Chambers that says,

“The only way is by allowing nothing of the old life to remain, and by having only simple, perfect trust in God – such a trust that we no longer want God’s blessings, but only want God Himself.

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Saying goodbyes and heading into a new season as you close the door on the one behind you is never easy…but I don’t think it was meant to be. If it was easy to say goodbye, then you probably didn’t let your heart feel and fully love, the way God intended it to be. I poured my heart and soul into the people God placed in front of me here, both young and old, and a part of my heart will always be here in Uganda. Forever.

As hard as it was this past week to say goodbye to my students and to my loved ones on my last visits to their homes in the nearby slums and villages, I was so comforted in my morning devotional by the words of Jess Connolly,

“We can go wherever He’s calling us, and we can move forward expecting Him to be right where we are, ready for us wherever we’re headed next…”

And after a season of learning what it looks like to fully rely on Jesus for my every single need while serving day in and day out here in Uganda, I am excited to bring all of these lessons and sweet reminders of His faithfulness into this new season of my upcoming marriage to sweet John Wesley and serving God in whatever He has in store ahead of us. I even have pottery (made by my dear friend Grace, at the James Place) to place in our little fixer-upper home, and a “bridal necklace” that she made and gave me on my final visit to her home, as a way to show me just how excited she was for our upcoming marriage and life together. So so sweet.

As I shared and grew in the love of our Heavenly Father here with the beautiful people of Uganda, we shared our very own lives, too. The highs and the lows. The laughter and sorrow. The beauty of learning life alongside one another.

And it has been the greatest joy.

“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives.”

1 Thessalonians 2:8

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