I’m still kind of in awe that I am sitting in Africa as I write this blog. Ten days apparently hasn’t been long enough to even process which country I’m in, so let me just start off by saying sorry if this blog is jumbled with thoughts. But here’s a clear thought for you: GOD IS SO JOYFUL and I am so thankful.
Here in Uganda, we have been working at Lulwanda Children’s Home which houses about 100 orphans and is a school for those 100, plus children from the surrounding community (if they find themselves wealthy enough to afford the $150 school fees). This orphanage is so beautiful, mainly because of the people here. When these children grin and I see their beautiful white teeth against coffee brown skin, I see the smile of God. We have been doing various things around the orphanage, like painting the school, hanging mosquito nets, filing and of course hanging out with some awesome African children.
Just like in India, I have seen how a characteristic of God has fought for its place. What I mean is that sometimes it’s easy in America, in the comfort of our $400,000 house, with our families surrounding us and a huge personal meal that could probably feed an entire family for a full day, to say that God is loving or God is JOYFUL. But God is so much bigger than our thinking. Because in the middle of a dirt road, with some chickens and cows a few feet from me, surrounded by children who have been orphaned by aids or war, God showed me how He is resiliently JOYFUL. He shows His joy despite circumstances. You really see what joy is when you are in a circumstance where nothing tells you to be joyful. Nothing shows me the joy that Jesus gives quite like seeing those beautiful brown eyes squint when they smile, remembering the unbelievable tragedies each of those eyes have seen.
Jesus is resiliently joyful, let me tell you about it.
“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for my soul.”
- For the first half of the week, it was just my team working with the missionaries and the children’s home here, but we were expecting another team of 19 to come in for the second half. I was extremely happy about this second team. One of my dearest friends is on this team. And the morning her team came in, I just couldn’t sleep. Kenzie and I have been friends for a few years now, and I know and love her heart for missions and for Africa especially. I couldn’t wait to see her, because I missed her, but also because I longed to see her in her element – the place God has called her to be. When I saw her on Monday morning, we just ran and hugged for a good minute, both crying, and laughing because of the JOY that we felt. I know it may sound corny, but there is no joy like knowing you are where the Lord has called you to be. And for at least this summer, the Lord has specifically called Kenzie to Uganda for a month, and me for ten days. And I am so thankful for the joy God has given me in these few days that we have overlapped here. He knows just what we need, when we need it and He withholds no good thing.
- The team that Kenzie traveled with is led by a couple named Mike & Mary. They have been coming to Uganda every year for many, many years. They support this school so much, bringing in books and desks and chairs every year, really blessing these kids. This year, Mike became very ill about 5 weeks before they were scheduled to leave for Uganda. Neither him nor Mary ever faltered in believing that God would heal Mike and he would be able to travel to Uganda. Well, you guessed it… the man that couldn’t even hold a fork a month ago, is now in Uganda, loving and serving a healing Lord. If that’s not enough to make you joyful, wait until you hear what the children did for him. The first day that Mike was coming to the orphanage, the kids put on a “Hallelujah Day” because God answered their prayer to heal Uncle Mike and bring him to Uganda. We walked up to mass JOY. The children were lining the road and as we all walked between them, they sang their hearts out and threw flower petals, lavishing us with love and smiles. I was in tears. Like, ugly tears. Like, face-contorting, can’t-handle-yourself tears. Here are these hundreds of children, who have had everything the world says is important taken away from them, praising without restraint the God who healed their friend and brought him to Uganda. This kind of joy is contagious. This kind of joy is supernatural. This kind of joy is resilient.
- My all-time favorite moment of Uganda was during the Bible study put on by Mike & Mary (and Kenzie)’s team. Their team brought Bibles to give to the community children at the school (the children that live at the home already have Bibles). I had the opportunity to pass out the Bibles to these children.
THEY ACTED LIKE WE WERE HANDING THEM GOLD.
I wish everyone could experience the joy that overwhelmed the room. The second that the Bibles entered the classroom, everyone was instantly silent, watching and fidgeting in their seats, knowing that a Bible would soon be theirs. As we handed them out, one by one, I watched these children’s faces explode with joy. They instantly opened it and started reading out loud. All of them. Different passages. Any passage, really. They flipped the pages, held the Bible close to their face, showed their friends and literally treated it like it was the most important thing in the world.
BECAUSE IT IS.
Beautiful conviction like no other, swept over me in that moment. I just wanted to hold my own Bible. Hug it. Feel it against my face. Act like it is the most important thing in the world. But what you and I usually do, is buy 4-5 Bibles of different translations, allow them to collect dust in our houses, occasionally reading our favorite and maybe even applying it to our lives, but we don’t cherish it. We don’t. We’re not even close. We’ve missed the mark. But as we choose to aim for the mark again, and shoot as straight as we can, God promises so much joy when we hit the target. When we find that he is the ultimate treasure of our lives, and nothing else – like a house or a family or even a meal – matters, we find where the fountain of true joy lies. And it’s with Jesus Christ.
This joy that comes with knowing Jesus is overwhelming. It’s real. And it is resilient. It will blast through all circumstances and transcend all time. It will be our companion on earth, and follow us into eternity. This joy is a characteristic of God himself, and if you find it, it will do nothing but stir your affections for Him.
For His Name,