"And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18

Monday, July 30, 2012

Progress through God's design...

The end of another beautiful day serving in Africa.  One of the best feelings of peace & satisfaction is doing exactly what God ask you to do where He ask you to do it, no matter how uncomfortable you are or how far you are outside your comfort zone.  It was extremely hot today and even more so when inside a small room filled with faces, but seeing those faces absorb your story about Jesus is “cool”!  Songs were sang, stories from the Bible where told, loads of foam stickers (related to the stories) were used, snack time, play time, and more stories…what a Blessing.  It’s amazing how the smallest act of kindness and love shown here in Africa is so appreciated and not taken for granted.  How amazing it is to see how far the children at Sanctuary of Grace (SOG) have come since 2008 (when I joined the team).  Over the past 4 years the children have received a Biblically based education and at the end of the day the children put on a program for us “visitors” (as we are called).  They sang a very popular (at home) Christian song (“Light of the World”) in English with a heavy African accent…music to our ears. 
 – Rhonda

Today I had a most wonderful blessing! I was able to visit with a very special friend – Regina. She is a widow in her 70’s (we are approximating since age/birthday are not important here) who in 2006, when I first met her, was critically ill with congestive heart failure. Had she been in the US she would have been admitted to a cardiac ICU…but she was not…she was lying in the dirt outside her hut, where she had managed to crawl to since was too weak and sick to stand or even sit up. By the grace of God with the minimal treatment options here I prayerfully treated her. When I left in 2006 she was thankful for the help I had attempted to provide her & thanked God for the progress she had made. I will always remember that the goodbye in 2006 when she told me that when I came back if she was not here – she would be waiting for me in heaven.
In the years since 2006 she had regained her strength to the point of dancing in church as she praised the Lord for her healing – there was certainly no medical research to support her healing based on the minimal treatment she received. I have been able to visit her almost every time I come to Gulu & each time the meeting is even sweeter. I have no doubt that today will be the highlight of this trip, as I cannot imagine anything that can top it. We made our way through the bush on the “road” (a foot path filled with craters, ravines, tall grass, trees & a stream) arriving at her hut. As we got out the Land Rover her excitement was over whelming, as was mine. We embraced – praised God – visited – held hands – embraced some more. What a reunion! I so thankful the Lord saw fit to bring us together in a way that only He could have orchestrated. 


hApPy BiRtHdAy JEFF from Cindy, the team, the Coggins & everyone at Sanctuary of Grace in Uganda!!!! Again this year I find myself in Uganda on my husband's birthday. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with a husband who, although sometimes thinks I have lost my mind, is very supportive! If it wasn't for the love and support of him, my children, and my family traveling as I do would not be possible. I love & miss you all! Cindy

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 3: We’re Only Getting Started

We have now been in Uganda for 3 days and have already seen and felt God’s amazing presence. As first-time participants on an overseas mission trip, we didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived and wanted to allow God’s plan for us to unfold in His timing. Little did we know the impact that participating with the villagers and their children would have on us.

We were blessed to be able to attend a church service while we are here in Gulu. It never fails to amaze us how jubilant the villagers’ worship is! There was a moment in worship this morning when we just had to pause and consider the difference between their circumstances and our own. These people have very few possessions and don’t lead easy lives yet we could only marvel at the singing, clapping, and dancing in praise and thankfulness to the Lord. We only wished we knew the language so we could sing with them.

This afternoon we conducted two ministries, Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and Bible Club. CHE is an educational program led by Cindy that focused on teaching proper hygiene habits and balanced family nutrition based on the resources available in the area. Those present participated in a water cleanliness test with “good” water and “bad” water (salt water). It was priceless to see the look on their faces after tasting the “bad” water but it really drove the point home that even though the water might look clean that isn’t always the case. At the end of the program Mike, Lawrence (the village pastor), and Martin (our interpreter) evangelized to the group about the path to salvation and as a result there were at least 6 salvations…Praise be to God!

Bible Club was a time for the children of the village to come together (some attend Sanctuary of Grace, some do not) and be taught a Bible story. The children watched in awe as Deborah, Cole, and Amos put on a show with the flannel board, visualizing the story Susan was teaching them. Then they put together sticker sheets of the story so that they could bring the message home with them. We ended it with a very vigorous game where they had to throw foam balls into baskets we held above our heads. While it was a rush being bombarded with smiley-face foam balls, it was the smiles on their faces that made the biggest impression on us.

At the end of the day we sat around tired but thankful for the opportunities we’ve been given to minister to these people. We’ve put the finishing touches on our plan for Vacation Bible School and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds…

Justin & Jen

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RDU to LHR to EBB in how many hours?

Greetings from Gulu! What a journey it has been thus far and we've yet to even jump into our work here. We left Fayetteville bound for Raleigh bright eyed and bushy tailed on Wednesday afternoon. Between all the bus rides, flights and time zones, I can't even calculate how many hours later we arrived at Sanctuary of Grace in Gulu, but I remember looking at my watch and saying "It's Friday?"

This being my trip with the team and my first mission trip, I'll never know what to expect, but though our journey had it's speed bumps and hiccups, the journey here went smoother than I expected. Military life has taught me to expect the worst and hope for the best and more often than not you're pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed! I also find comfort knowing that our journey, our health, our safety and our work here is in God's hand.

You couldn't help but notice the team everywhere we went, with our yellow shirts and 35 trunks in tow. One thing I found particularly amusing was when cleared customs in London to go to another terminal to shower, we emerged into the baggage claim area (where friends and family also wait) and were greeted by a huge crowd of onlookers with cameras and signs, all waving and snapping photos. One man yelled "Let's here it for Uganda!" and applause erupted. Still half asleep and groggy from the flight, we smiled and waved and continued on. We later realized that when you arrive in London the day before the opening ceremony of the olympics with a large group all wearing the same shirt, which just happened to have UGANDA in big letters across the front, people probably assume you are an olympic team or somehow related. Regardless, I still loved the rock star welcome.

Finally arriving in Africa and making the 8 hour bus ride to our first destination was pretty darn exciting for me and I've yet to shake the "I can't believe I'm here!" feeling. I find myself wondering how those on the trip who have been here 5, 10 or 30 times feel and how it changes for them each trip. We've only  spent just over one full day here and I already feel I've been shown my reason for being called here. I know with every fiber in me that this trip will not be the beginning and the end for me, but the beginning of something that will have no end. I laid on my bunk an hour ago to prepare this post with no idea what I was going to write. The lights have since gone off for the evening and as I type by the glow of my headlight I find myself crying, I am so overwhelmed at this moment and believe I can say the same goes for the entire team.

 It's hard for me to keep this short, I could write for 24 hours and still not share everything I want to (and it's only been a couple days!), but since I'm probably keeping everyone up with my headlamp and keyboard clacking, I'll wrap this up for tonight.

Though we haven't done much yet, we work together like we've been lifelong friends, knowing we are all exactly where we need to be at this moment. And that's just one of many things I'll be thanking God for tonight.

 Headlamps out in Uganda ~

Friday, July 27, 2012

WE ARE HERE!!! We arrived at Entebbe airport this morning to be met by our dear friend and faithful driver Andrew. After loading the 35 trunks, plus carry on luggage, onto & into the bus we started our drive to Gulu. We made a few stops in Kampala to get some supplies. It was an amazing site for the new team members to see just how many cars, trunks, mopeds, people, bikes....on the very crowded roads of Kampala. Then off to Gulu we went. We were greeted at Sanctuary of Grace with a wonderful spaghetti dinner by Elisha (Keith & Lisa Coggin's son...he is a wonderful chef & has a phenomenal menu planned for us)! Now it is time to get settled in. Showers have been started, everyone is shifting about in their luggage, and preparing for our first night of rest in Uganda! More to come tomorrow with pictures :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Greetings from London! We arrived at 7am (London) time this morning. We decided to not venture into London for our typical "running" tour of London because of all the Olypmic activities & crowds. Since arriving we have managed to find the showers & food :) Everyone is doing great - just a little tired and ready to begin the next leg of our travels :) Love to all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice & be glad in it! Months of preparation and prayer are becoming a reality as we depart to day for Uganda: 13 Team Members with 35 Trunks of supplies! Saturday was packing day - this is always a leap of faith as we pack, weigh, unpack, weigh again, shift a few items around, weigh again, and finally close & tape up the trunks with a prayer that the weight will shrink a little before we get to the airport for check in :). The flexing has already begun, as we got word yesterday the bus that was to take us to the airport was having some mechanical problems....Then, it was fixed yesterday afternoon, yeah!....Then, this morning another mechanical issue arose, awe!....Now, we have an alternate plan of transportation, yeah!....The adventure begins. Please be in prayer as we travel!

Friday, July 20, 2012

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 In 5 days we will be sent by the Lord to serve the people of Uganda once again through children's ministry and health/medical care. We have spent months in preparation and prayer - and are ready to GO! Tomorrow we will be packing out our trunks...about 30 of them at 50 lbs each. Sunday the team will be commissioned by Village Baptist Church. Wednesday we fly out of RDU :) Please be in prayer as the final preparations come together, for safe travel, good health, and preparation of the hearts of those we will come in contact with on the way to/from Uganda and in Uganda