This was the face.
This was the face among many other faces that stared up at me begging for me to hold her, to pick her up, to love her. The morning we got to Return Ministries was the first official day of our trip. We had spend 2 days traveling, unpacking, shuffling donations and it was time to “charge the kids” and to LOVE BIG.
I’ll never forget that first morning getting out of the van. Having about 300 kids all sitting down in their chairs – singing, clapping, waiting for our arrival. We didn’t know our team very well at this point, but after that day we were like family. I just remember looking around and seeing my team members come to life. Seeing big grown police officer Brady having 3 kids climbing all over him, sweet 16 year old Josh loving and holding onto a baby like it was his own, grown men’s faces just lit up with love and affection for these children.
The songs and dances they did for us were priceless. Almost everywhere we went in Uganda the children greeted us with a song. And about all of them had songs about welcoming the visitors. They were so thankful that we were there. in the flesh. not only loving them from half a world away but loving them right where they were. and we loved them!
I just looked back at my journal entry (those were pretty scarce on the trip) from this day and I said that I cried off & on all day because I realized that all the children want and need is LOVE. They long to be held, loved, looked at, smiled at, picked up, LOVED. We were challenged to LOVE big on this trip and this was our first opportunity.
What we did with the kids was nothing out of the ordinary. We sang & taught them a dance (well, Chloe and I tried), we did some crafts, painted their faces (which turned into them painting our bodies), made balloon animals, served them lunch, played with them, danced with them and simply loved them. For us, it was nothing out of the ordinary – but for them, it meant the world – that a group of people would come to visit them! to love them! to give them our full & devoted attention!
I have to say one thing: they sure know how to dance in Uganda! I’ll try to post a little video foryall to see the dancing. and don’t worry that everyone on our team got to try our hand at the traditional dance.:)
We all made many new friends this day. The names are written in my well worn journal: Angela, Jeremiah, Sophia, Olivia, Emmy, Asher, Ester, Shadrack. Their faces are etched on my heart. After spending all day with these beautiful children & Pastor Samuel and his family – it was time to leave. I can’t forget the feeling and the sight of going back around the bus to get in and seeing many of my team members (myself included) just crying our eyes out. How were we supposed to do this? How can we get so attached to these precious children and leave them? And how we were supposed to do this every day for the next 2 weeks?
I keep having to hold on to the hope that being there, actually being there, brought them hope and joy. A hope that only the love of Christ can bring. A hope that comes from fulfilling the scripture when it says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans…” If you want to experience this sort of love, and be able to give this sort of love to these children: check out the Visiting Orphans website. There are so many trips to Uganda that you can sign up for! I pray that you take seriously the command in the bible (James 1:27) and know that you can make a serious difference in the lives of these children and in the Kingdom of God.
If you are moved by the work that Return Ministries is doing, check out their website to see how you can help.
There are many opportunities to give a one time gift, to sponsor a child ($35/month) or donate to their new building fund. Pastor Samuel & his family are salt of the earth kind of people and we are so blessed to have been able to serve with them even for just one day in Uganda. Praying that their ministry continues to bless the children of Uganda!
(more of my images from Return can be found on my facebook:

We’ve been home for exactly one week. We’ve been “in hiding” for pretty much the whole week – at home, resting, processing, resting, processing. We are still a ways away from completely being able to say what God did in our hearts in Africa. But tonight we braved the world and headed out to church. After being gone for 3 weeks it was so refreshing to be back with our church body tonight worshiping and diving into Gods Word together.

I spent some time this afternoon praying just asking God to show me what it is I could say in 30 seconds when someone asks me about our trip. How do I sum up what happened in 2 weeks in a short answer to someone who wants to know how our trip was.
Well tonight during worship He revealed something to me. Something that has been in my heart since we left Africa – something I just didn’t realize. In Africa, you took the focus OFF of me and put it onto YOU. It seems so simple. Something I’ve prayed about over & over and a lesson that you have been trying to teach me & will continue to teach me all the days of my life on earth. This life is NOT about me. Our focus and our eyes should be on you all the time. But they aren’t. But while we were in Africa you did something in my heart, you shifted my focus and my mind. Tonight during worship instead of thinking about me and my life the whole time I was thinking about my friends I met at Korah and our friends in Uganda at Canaans. You shifted my focus, you changed my world.
My prayer is that my focus and my world will continue to be on YOU and not on me. Thank you Lord for that little glimpse tonight. I pray that you will continue to reveal what you did in my heart and life so I can tell of your good works.
**the pictures and stories are coming…..thank you for being patient!

  • Karen - I’m still not sure how to answer people when they ask “How was Africa,” especially when it’s asked as a prelude to a less important question like “when will that press release go out?” It’s just not something that can be answered quickly like “how was your weekend?” One thing I love to talk about is the JOY those children have. Their 8, 10, 12, 16 year old lives have contained more hardship and grief than many of us can imagine, but their joy and their open hearts and their receptiveness to love are some of my favorite things to talk about because it was so surprising to me, and such a lesson to me as I process things in my own life that leave me wanting to complain. I love your response- so true and such an important factor of the trip!ReplyCancel

it’s Monday morning, I mean afternoon. Time seems to stand still – I woke up at 7:30 this morning and have yet to leave my comfy spot on the couch (thank you Stephen for picking up chickfila & coffee this morning) with the dogs by my feet and my computer in my lap.

We got home last night around 7pm and were greeted in our driveway by 3 of our couple friends. It was a complete surprise! We were so happy to see familiar faces, get warm hugs, and a generous amount of food! Good friends are the best, especially ones that know we wouldn’t have time or the will to go to the grocery store today. We had yummy muffins this morning & will have homemade casserole tonight for dinner. Thank you “no kids club” community for your warm homecoming:)
I’m sort of hiding out today. After 30+ hours of travel yesterday and a 14 day period that rocked my world and changed my life, I don’t have very much motivation to get back into the “daily grind”. To be honest, nothing seems to be very important. I know I need to get back to work, clean my house, go through a pile of mail & email & voice mails – but none of it really seems to matter right now. I want to take some time to digest what God has done and pray about how He wants to use our story to reach more people.
So if you will, please pray for us the next week or so as we adjust to life back at home. Pray that while our hearts continue to be broken for the people & places we came in contact with we will be moved to action. That we would believe in the power of prayer & the power of the stories we have to share and that we would be bold & confident in sharing them.
I so look forward to sharing story after story with you guys on the blog over the next few weeks. I pray that you heart will be moved to action as well.
Until then, I’ll be lounging in my very comfortable home with the people that matter most: my family (and yes, that includes my dogs). Resting. Praying. Regrouping. Trying to make sense of the past 2 weeks. Thank you for being patient and thank you for your prayers.

  • Lauren - praying for you! this re-integration time is the hardest! Can’t wait to hear more when you’re ready to share. :)ReplyCancel

  • Tim&KatherineHird - Dude, where do we sign up to join the “no kids club” ?! :)ReplyCancel

it’s late and I’ve been trying to upload pics to facebook for the past 4 hours almost.
I hope you go look at them & I pray it gives you a glimpse into what we are doing in Africa.
I am almost done posting a glimpse into our time in Uganda and will soon show you what we are doing in Ethiopia.
I just had to write a quick note about this country.
Coming here, I was both nervous and excited. My heart, my passion, and my future family all live here, in Addis. What if I hated it? What if my heart really didn’t feel pulled to this beautiful country? These were the thoughts running through my mind and heart before we arrived in Ethiopia.
But our God is great. and big. and the moment we landed in this country, it felt like home. I was no longer nervous or anxious, I just felt a peace. A peace that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. It hasn’t gone away since we first landed. I seriously woke up feeling like I was at home in my own bed (doesn’t help that Ethiopian Guest House is in one word: amazing!).
Going into Korah today I didn’t really know what to expect. I don’t know if it’s ok to say I love a place that is full of orphans, widows, leapors, the outcast and hopeless – but I do because I love them. My heart breaks for them but in a way that I can’t explain. Instead of seeing orphans, widows, and people who live literally in a trash dump – in the middle of rainy season no less – I saw Jesus in them. I felt his love and presence there. The stench, the extreme poverty, well it didn’t make me like the place less, but love it more. I can’t explain it. I think God calls people to different places, to different people groups, and I think mine is right here in Ethiopia. in Korah.
Much more to say, but it’s late and we’ve got a busy day in Korah tomorrow. Continuing our Extreme Home Makeovers and leading VBS for 50-150 (what a range!) kids!
Please continue to pray for health, favor, for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to love BIG, and pray for our video team as they are seeking to tell the story of those we meet in Ethiopia & Uganda and how people (specifically men) can MAN UP for the orphan! We know God has big plans!