Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why I "Dislike" Halloween....

And it's not about religion folks.....

A) My kid has diabetes. I realize that not ALL kids have diabetes, and he IS allowed to eat SOME candy, but what ends up happening is he goes into this "candy frenzy" (as do most other children) and gets all OCD about it--- and it becomes literally a matter of life or death.

B) The instance of child-hood diabetes is on the rise. (Source)
C) The instance of child-hood obesity is on the rise. (Source)

D) Americans in general are
fat and we gorge ourselves on candy (do you KNOW how many bags of candy corn I've eaten?? A lot!) and then we get all depressed about our jeans being tight; but we continually still feed into the lie that we need more candy (money, alcohol, etc.) to make us feel good. In fact, anything that makes us feel good (including food) becomes an idol to us (and reinforces this to our children).

E) Eating too much candy makes kids crazy. (Source - my own house). It makes moms fat.... yet we are compelled to sneak it out of our kid's treat bags in large quantities year after year.

F) Americans need to get a grip and stop being naive about marketing tactics from those companies who are trying to make us eat more and spend more on things we don't need (like candy- which is bad for our health and our teeth) And when eaten in excess, as we generally do (okay, I know that moderation is fine and some people are great at it, but the majority are not), we are suckered into the gravity-pull of American consumerism and gluttony.

G) Halloween/Harvest parties - Let's just go to a halloween, harvest, or whatever party (even at our churches) and stuff our faces with all kinds of goodies and treats and send our kids (even teens) home with buckets of candy - so then our teenage daughter needs therapy because she has weight issues and hates herself because her jeans don't fit. Do we get this people? Why are we surprised when children struggle with self-image and eating disorders such as Bulemia? Okay, so don't flame me, I'm no expert, but
my opinion is that society tells us to look one way and eat another way - that totally contradict one another.... and then we wonder why we have these problems.

H) For the $35 I will spend on buying candy for trick or treaters in my neighborhood (I live in a middle-class subdivision that sees a fair share of Halloween traffic) I could
sponsor a child to receive food, clothing, healthcare, and education for a whole month! (And I'm not even talking about costumes, just the price of candy).

So, in short and in my honest opinion, Halloween reinforces gluttony in our children, gets them to buy in to the lie that "stuff" (like candy) can make you happy, and is some sort of "right" or "material reward". This only adds to the deception and problems within American society and culture where we feel that we are "owed" something or "deserve" something (which isn't necessary) in order to draw our self-worth.

Will we participate in Halloween this year? Hmm.... probably. Why? Because everyone else is doing it?

But it makes me think. And it makes me ask myself if allowing my children to participate in this event is only perpetuating a life of self-gratification, rather than living a life of serving others, as the Gospel of Jesus calls us to do.

On second thought, maybe we won't participate after all......

Friday, October 22, 2010

More than Blessed - a Kidney donation update!

It was a week yesterday since the kidney donation ---- wow! John spent four days in the hospital; so he was discharged on Monday - which was a day longer than we expected since his intestines weren't cooperating, but I am happy to report that they are working now! He is still uncomfortable but getting up to walk around, play X-box, and check his email, then back to the couch :-) He has not had any narcotic meds. since Tuesday morning because they were making him feel yucky. His incisions are healing nicely. So, he's been walking through with extra-strength tylenol. He still is on a soft diet and he's getting a little tired of soup, but he's feeling better every day! He goes back to the surgeon on Nov. 1st. He's hoping that the doc will say that he can go back to driving. I think he'll be quite bored by then! If all goes well, he will be cleared to go back to work in mid-November.

Robbie is also doing well! He went to the doc's today and they said he was doing better than the usual patient. God is so good! His surgery was actually less invasive (as far as moving organs around) than John's, so as far as physical pain goes, he is better off than John. When they did the surgery to give him his new kidney, they just popped it right in front, slightly under his pelvic bone, connected it, then sewed it back up. Amazing. Robbie's biggest hurdles are staying healthy and weaning down on all the meds they've been giving him. They had to suppress his immune system during surgery and for the first 24 hours after, to keep it from fighting the new kidney. They also had him on prednisone and anti-rejection meds at high doses. So, he has to get his blood drawn a few times a week for the next month as they slowly taper off the steroids and his immune system starts building back up. Robbie said yesterday that he drank a glass of milk for the first time since March! Apparently milk is high in phosphorous and you can't drink it if your kidney is not working, even if you're on dialysis. The little things we take for granted......... On a funny note, my hubby John's family is Jewish, so we've enjoyed teasing Robbie about craving kosher dills and matzoh ball soup. :-)

Even through the (my) worries and stress, God has been so faithful to us and really shown Himself in mighty ways and used so many of us to bring glory to Himself. Many people that we've come into contact with on this journey have been blown away and very touched by the outpouring of love and prayers from our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. A church in Canby, Oregon sent us 91 hand-written prayer cards.... offering their love and prayers for both of our families .... and most had never even met us! We kept them with us at the hospital as a visual reminder and through them lives were touched by the Body of Christ and their love for us and unity in Christ's name. It was also great to be visited and prayed for by long-time Godly friends who sat with Susan and I during the surgeries. What a great privilege we've been given..... to give Glory, and Honor and Praise to the Great Physician!

God is also providing for us financially and "random" donations keep coming in "Oh Kirsten, of little faith!!"
Thank you all for being part of this story and HIStory. We are so grateful for each and every one of you. Please continue to pray that John's incisions heal nicely and without infection and that his pain is less and less every day. Pray that Robbie's strength increases every day and that he is able to come off of all of his meds. Continue to believe with us that God will provide financially for both of our families.

If you can help our households run smoothly while the guys are out of work, please visit this SITE.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Getting Out of the Boat - the Kidney story

As you may, or may not, know, my wonderful husband John is donating a kidney next week to his friend Robbie. We met Robbie and his family in 2002 when we all went to church together at Spartanburg Community Church (now Milestones). John and Robbie are both the tech-geeky kind (and I mean that in the nicest way, bless their hearts) and both served together in that and other capacities at the church. In 2005, God moved us away to NC, but through technology and a short three hour distance, we have remained friends and kept in touch. So here is the story from my (honest) perspective:

A year ago: We hear that Robbie is going to need a kidney soon. His current one is not going to hold out much longer. We add Robbie to our prayer list.

December: Robbie's kidney is failing. The need to find a donor is now imperative. Robbie and his family let everyone know and ask that they pray about donating. We pray.

December - March: Some people are tested, but things are not working out as far as finding a match. We're still praying a match will be found.

March: Robbie is in complete kidney failure and goes on dialysis. John says to me "Maybe I should get tested to donate a kidney." I marinate on that for a little while. My fearful reply "I don't know... I mean, we have a kid with diabetes - he might need a kidney. We have another kid with kidney problems who might really need a kidney. I just think we need to save our kidneys, just in case." John sees my point and mulls it over.

And then, in the shower one day, God spoke to my heart: Jesus said, "Whoever (keeps) his life will lose it, and whoever loses (or lays down) his life for my sake will find it." ~Matt. 10:39 Ouch. And then, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." ~John 15:13

So I'm in shower weeping and asking God.. "Really? You're asking me (to agree with my husband) to do this? But what about my kids?!" And then came the answer: Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." ~James 4:13-15. To be driven home by: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Matt. 6:19-21.

Okay so bear with me while I interpret: In a nutshell Jesus was saying 'If you love Me, and you trust Me, and you want to be like Me, then be willing to lay down your (husband's) life as I laid My life down for yours. Kirsten, do you trust Me? Why worry about whether your sons will need a kidney or not? They may NEVER need a kidney and will you be selfish and store your treasure (kidney) on the earth or will you store it in heaven? And I know all about tomorrow! If your sons need kidneys, don't you think I will provide for them as I provide for all of my children, including you? Kirsten, do you trust Me? Will you get out of the boat?

My sobbing, dripping wet, mess of a self replied, "Yes, Lord. I trust you. I'll take the step over the edge and focus my gaze on You." So, I called John right away at work and told him everything. You know, that man is awesome because he knew those things all along and was just waiting for the Lord to speak to me.

So within a week or so, John had his first blood test (in March). And I began to pray "Lord if this is really Your will please open the doors, but if it is not Your will, please shut them tight (Please oh please shut them tight!)" Well, the transplant center called and said that although John's blood type matched, there was some kind of insurance snafu that wouldn't allow John to be a donor. Door Closed. (Picture my fist pump "yes")

We continued to pray that a donor for Robbie would be found. He was unable to work a lot and his body felt like it was being dragged behind a car because of the effects of the dialysis. His kids cried when he left to go. It was heart wrenching to read his tweets about how much his life was sucking because of this.

People continue to be tested. One guy found out that he himself was in kidney failure...uugh! But a match had still not been found. Then one early summer day, the transplant center called and said that they had worked out the insurance snafu and was John still interested in donating? He replied with a resounding "Yes!". I replied with a resounding "Gulp". But I remembered God's words to me; they were engraved on my heart.

John passed test after test. He found out that his cholesterol was slightly high and that the doctor thought he had a big butt (haha... I had to!) but other than that, he was a perfect match.
He still needs to go for his pre-op stuff this week but the surgery is scheduled for the 14th in Charlotte -- that's next week!

Am I nervous? Yes.
Am I anxious about leaving the children with my mother? Yes. (anxious for my mother, who has to deal with the kids and their schedules, not the kids)
Do I worry that my husband might die? Yes.
Am I scared about being in Charlotte by myself? Yes.
Am I worried about the financial repercussions? Yes.
Do I feel like I'm going to throw up? Yes.

Do I believe that God is who He says He is? Yes.
Do I believe that God will do what He says He will do? Yes
Do I believe that God, my Abba Father, loves me and is holding our family firmly in the palm of His hand? Most definitely!
Will I step out of the boat? "I'm coming Jesus! Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You!"

"Kirsten, do you trust Me?" - Yes, Lord, I trust you.

***If you would like to be a part of this story, please visit this link! Thank you all for your love, your prayers, and your support!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Birthday Wish!

My birthday is 3 days away..... September 13th! I have a very special wish this year and I hope and pray that you will make it come true!

But first, let me tell you about my great friend Stephanie. I met her when we moved to NC in 2005. Steph's mom introduced us because we were both somewhere in the process of adopting children. We bonded immediately and have become forever friends.

Stephanie has stuck with me through thick and thin, good and bad, and giggles and sobs. She prayed fervently and gave generously when we went to China to adopt Sam. I cried with her that she was still waiting for her daughter from Guatemala. I got to be there when the call finally came that she could travel to get her daughter. We screamed together and jumped up and down praising the Lord (we were at the zoo) while the people around us stared incredulously.

As medical issues have come up with my children, Stephanie was eager to learn and the first to offer to catheterize my one son, and stick needles (diabetes) in the other. Stephanie has always loved and nurtured my children as her own. She puts up with our quirkiness and loves us despite of it. She gives of her time, money, and energy, freely and generously to others. She's always there to listen and offer Godly wisdom. She puts up with my ranting and raving and gets me to laugh at life's circumstances. But most of all, Stephanie believes in me and has generously supported me as I follow God's call on my life.

My Birthday Wish is to do the same for her.

Stephanie is leading a mission team for Caroline's Promise to Guyana, South America to a place called "The Plastic City". This team will partner with the Vreedenhoop Church to minister to children in the Plastic City community. They will read books, tutor them, and bring smiles to their faces. The team will also host a workshop for church volunteers, offering creative ways to teach children basic educational skills. In addition, they will spend time with the staff and children at Ruimveldt Children’s Home & Care Centre.

My birthday wish is to raise $820 towards Stephanie's trip!
Click on this link, then on Steph's name, you then can make your tax-deductible contribution online quickly and easily!! We have three days to make this happen!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to make my birthday wish come true by giving back to a person who always gives so much of herself
for the sake of others!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Only $444 Needed!!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!! I am so grateful for your support of my upcoming Uganda trip with Africa Renewal Ministries!! Many of you have given generously and sacrificially and for that I am deeply moved and appreciative. God will bless you exponentially!

I am only $444 away from the $3,000 I have to raise for my trip! Praise God that my plane ticket has been purchased and my other expenditures have almost been met! I am getting so excited because God is working everything out, therefore I know He has BIG things in store for our team!

My plane takes off in two short weeks! Will you please help me raise the rest of what I need?? We can do this!!!

How do you help? ASAP - Call Sonia at the African Renewal office in Austin, TX and make your tax-deductible contribution over the phone! 210.979.7441 Please make sure you tell her to put it toward my trip (Kirsten Vogel).

If you'd prefer to send a check, you can send your tax-deductible contribution to:
Africa Renewal Ministries, PO Box 13733, San Antonio, TX 78213

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. ~Proverbs 22:9

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fundraising Update!

Here is the update I got yesterday: You helped me raise $200! Woo hoo! Thanks so much friends! I still need to raise another $1,000 by Monday! (See post below)

If you'd prefer to send a check, you can send your tax-deductible contribution to:

Africa Renewal Ministries, PO Box 13733, San Antonio, TX 78213

Just put my name in the memo line. Thanks friends!!!

Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
~James 1:27 (The Message)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ain't Too Proud To Beg!

This week we successfully sent all four of our children off to school! To say we've had a tumultuous start is an understatement but I'm praising God that it's Friday and I've seen the end of the tunnel of school supplies, papers to sign, IEP's, diabetes care plans, talks with guidance counselors, etc. Whew! We're ready to be in the swing of things!

That brings me to the next chapter that's unfolding in my life. As you know I was invited to be the US Information Chairperson for Africa Renewal Ministries . You cannot imagine how excited I am to be on this adventure!!

I leave for Kampala, Uganda on September 14 and will return September 28. This training and orientation is not just another mission trip – I have been called by God and the ARM ministry to advocate, communicate, and share the Gospel through the personal stories and testimonies of the Ugandan people. Almost two years ago the Lord spoke to me through the words of Isaiah the prophet and I was called to “Go, swift messenger” (Isa. 18:2). Partnering with this ministry is a step of obedience toward fulfilling God’s calling on my life.

Quite often in ministry, you depend upon the financial support of friends, family, etc. to succeed in following God's calling. That's where I am today folks! I NEED YOUR HELP!!! So far I have raised $1,770 toward my travel expenses (plane ticket and on the ground accommodations, food, ministry, etc.) to Uganda (woo hoo!). The deadline for having $3,000+ turned in is August 30th! That's just three days away *gasp*!

It is imperative to my mission that I be on this trip to visit the ARM sites around Uganda and establish relationships with each site leader and the people whom they serve so I can adequately communicate and relay to you all the ways that God is working in and around Uganda. I will being "interviewing" staff members, orphans, widows, etc., and not only extending the love of Christ, but listening to their personal testimonies and bringing them back to you.

Bottom Line: I need to raise $1,200 in three days! Will you partner with me in ministering to the people not only in Uganda, but here in the U.S. as well?

If only 48 of you would donate $25 I will be packing my bags! If 24 of you could give $50, I'll sing "Leavin' on a Jet Plane", or if just 12 of you could give $100, I might even do those things on youtube. Either way, I'll jump up and down screaming and praising the Lord for His provision. And friends, I know things are tight everywhere... so even every $10 will add up!

How do you help? ASAP - Call Sonia at the African Renewal office in Austin, TX and make your tax-deductible contribution over the phone! 210.979.7441 Please make sure you tell her to put it toward my trip (Kirsten Vogel). If you get her voice mail for some reason, leave a message and she will get back to you!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I thank you in advance for being part of something far bigger than any of us could ask for or imagine!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Chapter

As you may know, it's coming up on two years ago that God told me to "Go, swift messenger" (Isa. 18:2) to Africa. In this time the Lord has wowed me with all of the ways He has shown Himself and spurred me on with the ministry of ekissa and to love the poor, the widows, and the orphans in Uganda. He has never stopped calling me to fulfill this purpose that He has planned for my life.

Given that, it is time for me to resign from my board position with ekissa and step out in faith and along that path that He has laid out for me. I have been extended the opportunity to work strategically with Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM) http://www.africarenewal.org to help them with communication and social media within the US. John and I have prayed fervently about this and God is telling us that this is what He meant when He called me as a "swift messenger", as I will get the opportunity to witness and communicate on a regular basis how God is working in Uganda (and Africa) through the various projects that ARM has going on.

I thank you in advance for supporting me as a different chapter unfolds in my life! It is so exciting to know that God has ALREADY put all of these things into place and He has already intertwined hearts and lives and will have me continue to work toward furthering His Kingdom!

Until He Comes,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Confessions of an Adoptive Mom: A Gotcha Day blog

Confession: Being an adoptive parent is hard!! For example, my adopted son leaves his laundry on the floor for me to pick up. He's left toys on the stairs for me to trip on and has had temper tantrums when I've made him sit in time out. He doesn't like to eat vegetables and thinks candy is a food group! Annoying his big brother is something he likes to do frequently and he thinks the bathroom is a "splash zone" at bath time!

Sound familiar??? Yes, my adopted son is just like my biological children (and yours) and he fits into our family perfectly!! And just like any other child of mine, I don't love him any more or any less than anyone else. If you are a parent of multiple children you know that you love each of your children equally and differently.... it doesn't matter what they look like or how much water they are able to get onto the bathroom floor when they're in the tub.... you love them all with all of your heart!!

Three years ago today I got to hold my son for the first time. He was four years old. My husband and I cried when we saw him and will never forget that moment that changed our lives and our family forever. And three years later my heart still skips a beat when my boy cuddles up with me; my stomach still gets butterflies when he says "I love you Mommy"; and my heart swells with love and awe that God would entrust me with this precious gift.

Since coming home from China our son has said things like "Mommy, what took you so long to get me? I was in China for FOUR HOURS (it was actually four years)?!", "Mommy when I was in China I was trying to call you on your cell phone but you couldn't answer", and "I'm glad Jesus told you where I was".

Many people comment that they don't consider adoption because they think they could not love another child as much as their biological ones. I say that's not true! Our son was meant for us from the very beginning of time and I love him more than words could express. We just have faith that God's timing is perfect and He gave us our son at the perfect time.

Something I hear frequently is "He is so lucky that you've changed his life" to which I say "No, I am lucky because he has changed mine."

Is God stirring your heart to adopt a child? Is someone trying to call you on your cell phone? Will you answer?

Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone
But nonetheless, my very own
Never forget for a single minute
That you weren't born under my heart, but in it.
~Fleur Conkling Heylinger

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Village

I leave for Uganda in less than two weeks. And before I finish my last blog and tell you what God told me to do, I'm going to give you a little background info. on the village where we will be.

The village is outside of a larger village, that is outside of a larger city. There is a mosque near the entrance to the village, but no Christian church. There is a witch doctor, but no medical clinic. People sit in doorways and children run in the streets. Like the children, skinny dogs wander around looking for something remotely edible to fill their bellies. No clean water is found in the village.

322 people per day in Uganda die of malaria. 45 die of HIV/Aids. In Africa as a whole a child dies every three seconds from AIDS and extreme poverty, often before their fifth birthday.

More than one billion people do not have access to clean water.

Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.

More than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea.
More than 800 million people go to bed hungry every day, 300 million are children.

Of these 300 million children, only eight percent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 percent are suffering long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency. (From Cozay)

All of this is immensely disturbing in and of itself, but what struck me the most was the blackness, evil, and oppression that these children live under. Young children are sold by their parents who can't afford to feed them. Sometimes they are sold out of their parents' ignorance, with promises by a sex trafficker that their child will go to school, receive a job, or have a better life.

Sometimes parents sell their kids because they need money to feed their other kids. Often, children are not sold at all, they are stolen right off the streets where they live as they run, play, or look for food. They are either lured or just thrown into trucks by passersby. These children are sold as slaves, into the sex-trafficking industry, or as human sacrifices. Human sacrifices. You read that correctly. It is real and it happens every day.

Perhaps one of the most impactful things on my last trip was a newspaper article. On the front page of the local paper was a picture of a headless toddler. The story went that the child's father wanted a boda-boda (a motorbike). I mean, he REALLY wanted one. The farmer he worked for told him that for the head of a child, he would give him a boda-boda. This young father severed the head of his only child, his son, and traded it to the farmer for his motorbike.

The child's head was found in a pot on the farmer's stove. When asked about the "pot", the farmer explained that he was making a "potion" to sprinkle around the perimeter of his farm to increase his land borders and make his farm more fruitful.

This is horrible, sickening, and enough to make an italian girl like me have a heck of a temper tantrum. While on this trip I also ready this quote by journalist Andrew Rice: " Some people (Ugandans) worshipped the God of Christianity, some the god of Islam, but they all retained a measure of the age-old belief in the power of nature spirits and in the rainmakers who communed with them." I think this is abundantly clear.

The newspaper article is dated September 30, 2009. This JUST HAPPENED people. How can we turn a blind eye to this? The thing is, maybe you think there are lots of Christians in Africa. Maybe you think that you can't make a difference. But for us who call ourselves the Church, we must take action! This should not be happening on our watch! How will you respond?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Ugandan Prespective

The following post is written by Malinda Hayes, an amazing 18 yr. old woman I had the privilege of traveling to Uganda with last fall. Malinda followed God's call to go live in the village that we'll be working in for a few months. I encourage you to read ahead. Malinda is an inspiration and adds tremendous insight to life there.

Malinda writes: As an eighteen year old I have had things thrust onto my lap that I simply felt I could not handle. I came to Uganda to love children, not to be an administrator. For a short time I began to fall into Satan’s trap of guilt and depression, carrying the weight of all this need on my shoulder. Through a period of prayer, I came to recognize that God has not called me to carry the guilt of not being able to feed the thousands and millions of people of this country. God knows of all these things, and I am not a humanitarian. I am an apostle, so all I can do is share about Jesus and his love, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading on how to help. Also, I realized that I was spiritually starving! There are “churches” in this area, but I do not count them as bodies of Christ, as many of them use unbiblical principles in their services. I have been able to listen to some sermons online from my own church which has been extremely “nourishing.”

After living in my dear missionary friend’s apartment for three weeks, I had this overwhelming since that I was supposed to move back to the school. Now her apartment is absolutely beautiful, with a guard, gate, refrigerator, stove, oven, and even a HOT SHOWER. Yes those things are nice, and there is nothing at all wrong with having them. But I have seen so many missionaries who come to Uganda and shut themselves up in lavish places, and do not live with the people and learn their ways. How are we supposed to minister as missionaries if we come to their country and not build bridges with them? Why even bother? Also, most of what I would consider biblical churches is in the city in Kampala. Where are the missionaries who are willing to start churches out in the bush and villages? Those are the people that desperately need the Word! But many refuse to do this and so these native people suffer. After becoming Christians, they stay spiritual babies, and often mix their witchcraft with Christianity, as they do not have anyone to guide them through the Bible. It breaks my heart. As a white person, why do I have a right to not only spiritual food, but also proper medical care, sturdy houses, electricity, etc., yet these people as my brothers and sisters in Christ seem to have been forgotten and neglected by the Church? My question continues to stay the same… “WHERE IS EVERYBODY?!”

After feeling that God wanted me to move back to the school, I decided to do this. Although I lack privacy, I don’t have Western toilet, and many times my new family laughs at me when I attempt to speak in Lugandan, I know that God is using my awkwardness and discomfort to show these people that I care about them in the name of Jesus. Most of the children are on holiday this month, as school has let out, so it is only a few of us remaining here. Through this intimate time of being together, I am able to love and discipline the children, play with them, and read stories to them before they go to sleep. With the two older girls remaining, I get to stay up late talking with them about anything and everything, let them show me how to cook posho and beans over a charcoal fire, and laugh with them as we wash our clothes by hand together outside. I have been so blessed by this, and it continues to humble me on a daily basis. Although this simple way of living seems difficult, remember what the Bible says-We can do all things in Christ who strengthens us! I hope that somehow this newsletter speaks to someone out there, to give up “self” for Christ and receive a blessing much bigger than human comfort!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I wanted to punch God in the face.....

Our van bounced down a bumpy dirt road into a small Ugandan village. We pulled up in front of a shoddy building where several small children were wandering in the street. The children ran to us and hugged as we stepped out of our vehicle.

The embankment to the building was steep and muddy, so we walked carefully amongst the throng of children who were now encircling us. There faces were bright and their smiles were captivating. I hadn’t imagined such a warm welcome from these little ones because I had heard the rumors: rumors of starvation and sickness and corruption. But nothing prepared me for what I was about to encounter.

It was soon realized that a 12 yr. old girl had been brutally beaten and gang raped, to the point that she needed immediate medical attention. It was revealed that girls as young as 11 and 12 years old were raped and abused on a regular basis by men and boys (including those who ran the orphanage). The children with smiling faces who were clinging to us and so happy to see us had not eaten in 8 days.

You read that correctly; they had not eaten in 8 days, unless you count bugs, grass, and poop as food.

Let me be clear here: Any money that was received by the orphanage for food and to care for the children was pocketed by the “directors” (who were not necessarily even on site) and used for their own personal gain; the same directors who were raping and pillaging the children. These are the same people, that when a child died of illness or starvation, would throw the little bodies into the fire pit and let them burn away as if they never existed.

While we were there several children were sick and in bed, awaiting a death sentence. Also, a five-year-old boy collapsed into the arms of a teammate. The orphanage staff told us that he did not need medical attention. Tell that to a bunch of mama bears. We took him to a medical clinic and were told that he was dying of starvation, malaria, anemia, and worms. He might not make it through the night.

I was filled with so many emotions, as you can imagine. But one thing was for sure. I wanted to punch God right in the face. When I was alone I cried out to Him, shaking my fists in the air “Hello?!? What the heck?!?! Do you see what’s happening here?!?! How can you let this go on?!?!? Where is Justice?!?!?”

As I dropped to my knees in a sobbing heap on the floor, God lead me to some passages in scripture. One was this:

Habakkuk 2:9-11 (New Living Translation)

9 “What sorrow awaits you who build big houses with money gained dishonestly! 
 You believe your wealth will buy security, 
 putting your family’s nest beyond the reach of danger. 
 10 But by the murders you committed, 
 you have shamed your name and forfeited your lives. 
 11 The very stones in the walls cry out against you, 
 and the beams in the ceilings echo the complaint.

And verse 16 (NIV) says: “ Now it is your turn! Drink and be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory.”

God let me know that He saw what was going on and those deeds would not go unpunished by Him, the Righteous Judge. He was in control. He was working on it. And I know these things because I cried out to Him, and He answered me. Jeremiah 33:3 says this: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

God is big enough to take our anger. He’s big enough to take our hurts. I don’t think He minds when we shake our fists at Him and cry out “Why?!” There are many stories in the Bible of people who were hurt, broken, and disappointed and when they cried out to God, He answered them.

So tell Him. Tell Him that you just want to punch Him in the face. Bear your soul. He will listen and love you through it. And then be ready for His answer.

Stayed tuned to hear what He told me to do next.

Friday, April 09, 2010

For Real?

Authenticity has always been important to me. I like to see people for who they really are, when their guard is down and their masks are off. I think in this American culture we live in we can find many facades to hide behind. It’s just too easy to be someone you’re not. Our culture says that our career defines us. Our house defines us. The kind of car we drive defines us. They way our children behave defines us *snort*. I could go on and on but basically the American picture of “success” defines us.

But is this who we really are? When we’ve had a long day and are worn out and tired; when our house is a mess and the breakfast dishes are still in the sink; when our kids are fighting and whining; when our spouse is on our last nerve, when our job sucks and we think that God could care less about our situation; who are we really at the end of the day?

We are exactly the person that God loves and wants to know. When we are raw and weak and feel like punching God in the face, we are the person that God wants to talk to and use.

Shiny, happy people dressed in their Sunday best with (assumedly) perfect lives aren’t doing us any favors. People who hide behind the reality of their hurts and struggles and fears actually do a major disservice to the God who created them, who wants to use their brokenness to reach a fallen world. The Apostle Paul said, “If I have to brag, I will brag about how weak I am. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.” Galatians 6:3 says, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

Be real. Be honest. Be yourself. If we are real and authentic and talk about our struggles and weaknesses, it gives others hope that God can use them too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

After being sidetracked.....

It’s been a while since I’ve spurted off about anything. The truth is, I’ve been a little gun-shy about blogging these days. Some of my previous posts were met with some harsh criticism. Of course I don’t mind criticism, when it’s meant constructively and in love. What really threw me (and continues to throw me) for a loop is the anger, resentment, and need to slander, that some people are feeling justified in doing.

I realize that my ideas about church and Christianity may be a little different than status quo. I’m a passionate person and what I believe in, I believe in strongly. But I strive to be always learning, always growing, and always searching. Never have I claimed to have “all the answers” or claimed to be “sinless”; quite the opposite.

But through this painful trial I have again realized that God made me who I am for a reason. He gave me a passionate heart and a big voice. God continues to prod me to write the things that are on my heart (with an extra measure of discretion from Him) and to speak out about the things He’s called me to speak out about.

And although I will proceed with caution, I will be obedient to God’s call to tell the world what He wants me to tell. I am a messenger, after all. (Isaiah 18:2)

**Oh and please visit Anne Jackson's blog by clicking on her name or the box on the upper right. She is in Moldova and Russia digging into the heart of the sex-trafficking industry. Please read and keep her and the team in your prayers. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Be Afraid

This is a blog post that I copied. The author is Russel D. Moore. I thought it was worth sharing!

Don’t Be Afraid

— MONDAY, MARCH 22ND, 2010 —

“Now these three abide: anger, outrage, and fear—and the greatest of these is fear.”

That’s not in the Bible.

But sometimes I wonder if I think it is.

The United States House of Representatives just passed a health care reform bill that I and lots of other Christians opposed. Such legislation should concern us. There are some bad consequences for the weakest and most vulnerable among us, principally unborn children. But should it also concern us that so many of us are talking today about how afraid we are?

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.

The words “do not fear” and “don’t be afraid” are among the most common phrases on the lips of our Lord—in both Old and New Testaments—and on the lips of his angelic messengers. I wonder why?

Isn’t it because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18)? Isn’t it because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15)? Isn’t it because the Spirit prompts us not to “fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6)?

In fact, the Holy Spirit through King David, in a context far more frightening than that of our own, calls us to “fret not yourself because of evildoers” who will soon pass but “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:1-3).

Here’s why this matters.

Most of us don’t preach “hellfire and brimstone” sermons anymore, on hell and God’s judgment. But hellfire is exactly what Jesus said we should fear. “And do not fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” our Lord tells his disciples. “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

Jesus not only teaches this; he lives it. Jesus doesn’t fear the crowds attempting to stone him. He doesn’t cower before Pilate. He isn’t afraid of the Sanhedrin. He’s confident and tranquil, even when he’s being arrested. But when he faces drinking from the cup of judgment of his Father, he sweats drops of blood.

If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result? If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?

So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear. Work for justice. Oppose evil. But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.

“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Fear God and, beyond that, don’t be afraid.

Monday, March 22, 2010

James 1:27 TMB

Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Code Red!!

We're in a season of life where the threat of attacks by the enemy is severe. It's been a very rough two weeks around here. There has been lots of change, lots of tears, lots of hurt, lots of angriness, but we're still straining ahead to defeat the enemy, and keeping our eyes on the Prize. "In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" ~ Jesus.

We have some wonderful friends who are encouraging us through these tumultuous times. Thank you God for all of them. I don't know where we would be without those who have lifted our arms when we've felt like dropping them or giving up. God made us to be in relationships. Relationships with others and relationships with Him, the Giver of Life. Thank you God for making us this way; for giving us people to love and to be loved by, and for loving us despite our screwed-up-ness.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers over these next few weeks, as we know the "terror level" will probably remain high. We will be looking for a new church, which is always hard, especially on the children. We will be in God's word and praying that we can be the "hands and feet of Jesus" wherever He leads us. Meanwhile, I continue to prepare for my trip to Uganda in May. I know the enemy would love nothing better to discourage our family, make us angry and bitter, and distract us from the work the Lord has called us to do. Please pray against disunity within our family and pray that the enemy would be rebuked. For we know that "in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have ben called according to His purpose".

Thanks friends!


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Is the Church part of the American Dream?

The Church and Debt: Okay, so the poll is closed and the results are in: Only 25 people voted, but 77% thought churches should NOT go into debt, 9 % said yes, it was okay for the church to go into debt, and 13% were not sure. I know this is not a 'scientific' study, per se, but it affirms that this is something that churches in America need to be talking about and praying about and being open with their congregations about so they're not wooed by the enemy into becoming part of the American Dream. My favorite (biased) comment on the subject is here, in case you missed it.

I read a quote by Ed Stetzer yesterday that really spoke to my heart: "The American dream is one of the biggest distractions Satan uses us to distract us from God's global mission."

I've thought about this quote since I read it and throughout the night. I also finished reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan yesterday. Man, God is really messing with my brain and my heart. I know that He is calling me out, calling me to be different, and calling me to be "radical". I'm trying to seek God to find out what this will look like in my life. I've always been a little "radical" or "different" or "someone who marches to the beat of her own drum", but I know that God is asking me to "kick it up a notch".

I've lived the past thirty something years yearning for the American Dream: A nice big house (decorated like a Pottery Barn catalog), nice cars, healthy children, no wrinkles, a fashionable wardrobe, 401K, college funds, etc. You get the picture.

Now all of a sudden God has nailed home the reality that I am NOT promised tomorrow! What am I doing TODAY that will make a difference in light of eternity? James 4:13-14 says: Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that just appears for a little while and vanishes away.

I'm writing all this because really I just need a good therapist but can't afford one...haha. Lucky for you all right? I'm struggling here with this and I hope some of you are too...... Why am I saving money to redo my bedroom with new duvet covers, paint, curtains, etc. when people are hungry and lonely and hurting? Yeah so my duvet cover is a little ripped and I don't like the paint color, but will I live without a new one? Of course. (But God... I REALLY want to paint my bedroom!! *stomping my foot*).

Surely we all know people who died suddenly or tragically.... they never saw it coming. If I died next week, would I want people to say "Kirsten has a really nicely decorated bedroom" or "Kirsten thought of the needs of others before her own"?

But this is HARD! My friend Anne Marie said this yesterday: HA! The American Dream - how long will we believe that lie. I still fall back into that lie so easily. As if we have been promised anything for this life except persecution and trouble because of our love for Christ. Salvation is all about when we are united with Him for eternity - not heaven, not what we think heaven has for us but HIM! Just Jesus! Oh if I could only remember this ever time I waver.

I feel the same way!! And this is the radical life that God wants us to live: to forsake the American Dream for Jesus... not conform to it!

Again, I don't know exactly what this looks like for me, but I'm excited, scared, anxious, etc. to find out!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

God is so cool how He always does that!

I've been craving a really good Bible study lately.... like a Beth Moore with lots of homework. I know, I know.... a glutton for punishment! How can I do homework when I can't even keep up with my kids' homework?! I called my neighbor Amy and asked if she was interested and coincidentally (God is sovereign) she was starting up a Beth Moore study the very next week! Cool, huh?

The Bible Study title is Breaking Free. Now I did this study about ten years ago and boy did I have a lot of things to break free from! But now it is just as fresh and exciting and new because over the past ten years I've worked up a whole other set of things that need to be dealt with. Also, (again God is sovereign) I got to meet another neighbor who is part of the group whom I'd only met in passing before. Not only do we share the same house number (although on different streets), we share a lot of other similarities and struggles with our children. I feel like we are Divine Appointments in one another's lives.

Okay, so I'm starting week one of the homework and part of it is to memorize a verse for the week. When I read the verse I was so excited I just HAD to share it!!!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the the prisoners...
~Isaiah 61:1

WOW! This is NOT a coincidence and I'm again amazed by God and His perfect timing and His love for me. This is just another reassurance of the calling on my life... to be His ambassador to the ends of the earth! Did I mention that I CANNOT WAIT to go to Uganda with Ekissa in May so I can do the work that the Lord has called me to do?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ekissa in Uganda this week!

Sarah, Michelle, and Kathy as well as two guys (Scott and Les) from Upward sports are in Uganda this week! Check out the blog to read about their adventures!

I'm so excited for my May trip that I can't stand it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What that guy said......

Thanks to all who voted and responded to yesterday's post about the church and debt. Someone I don't know posted this response and I thought it worth sharing. Thanks Brian for taking the time to write it and give your scriptural references! Here ya go:

Churches across this country have become so saddled with debt to the point of where it seems to have become the norm for churches in our society. There are, however, so many issues with the church going into debt.

Every single mention of debt or borrowing in the Bible portrays it as something negative and not to be desired. This is a clear indication the debt should not be the norm for a church (or for an individual Christian).

There are two very big problems in terms of church debt from a Biblical perspective. The first is that debt presumes upon the future. James 4:13-14 says "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." When a church borrows money, they are presuming that they will have the money come in in tithes and offerings so that they can pay that debt back. They do not know what will happen to the economy, and if half of their congregation suddenly becomes unemployed, they will definitely see a drop in tithes and offerings. This could lead to an inability to repay their debt, and the Bible states that “the wicked borrow and do not repay” (Psalm 37:21). Some people say that this is "stepping out in faith", but doing something that God's word directly advises against doing (i.e. going into debt) is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of presumption.

Secondly, Proverbs 22:7 states that "the borrower is servant (or slave) to the lender". When a church goes into debt, they are putting themselves/their congregation in the position of a servant to a secular financial institution. The only master that a church should be serving is God. They certainly should not be serving a bank.

Furthermore, when a church rushes out and uses debt a solution to meeting a "need", they often deny God the opportunity to show Himself mighty in the way that He can provide. The majorly expensive Chrystal Cathedral in California was built without one cent of debt. Churches would often be better off by waiting on the Lord rather than looking at how they can finance an expense. Is God always going to provide? No, but in the cases where He does not provide it may mean that He was not wanting the church to do what they were planning to do in the first place.

I could probably go on and on about this subject, but instead I will close by saying that I do not think it is a good idea for churches to go into debt, and from what I read in His word, God doesn't seem to think so either.