Living on Mission

Finding Hope in Uganda

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I once read that our roads may not always be straight, but God is always guiding them. He’s connecting dots that I thought were once scattered all over and filling my life with some amazing people.

For the past few years my husband, Cameron, and I have had the desire to our gifts of photography as something more than just earning an income, we wanted to use it to make a difference, to spread Jesus’ love, to give hope and bring change. At the beginning of April, Cameron and I had the opportunity to travel to Jinja, Uganda with The Archibald Project. They use various media, including photography, to share stories related specifically to orphan care. Adoption and foster care where both huge on my heart at the time, so it was very clear this was where God wanted us. In under two months we applied for and were accepted for the trip, raised our funds, arranged childcare for our kids and were on our way. I thought I would leave Uganda wishing I could bring home every kid I encountered. That, as it would turn out, wasn’t exactly the case. apex anthologies

We spent our first day in a babies’ home. There were about 20 kids, most who have been there for years. We learned that about 17 of them actually had families. They still had parents. They still had siblings. They had a home waiting for them. This was our first encounter with the true orphan crisis in Uganda, and would lead to a deeper understanding of the issue.We spent one day in Uganda with HEAL Ministries, and oh man, this organization is where my heart is at. They come alongside women who have been abandoned, kicked out of their villages and have nowhere else to go. They find them housing, teach them a trade and how to run a sustainable business, they are there for them emotionally and most importantly they fill them spiritually. Once the women have completed their program and are working during the day, they provide childcare for their children. HEAL is doing what’s needed, keeping the kids in their families, and helping preserve that family. There’s so much good happening there. God is truly at work.

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 We spent the rest of the week with Sole Hope. They deal with diseases, mainly jiggers that enter through the feet. Jiggers are often thought of as a curse or an untreatable disease. That results in people, especially disabled, elderly and children being neglected, abandoned, left to care for themselves. Every week Sole Hope treats a handful of people at their outreach house in Jinja. Through this treatment, education and outreach clinics in the villages they are making a huge impact in Uganda. The patients we saw that week weren’t little kids. We saw adults, the youngest being 2 teenage boys. At first we wondered how this fit into orphan care. But soon I started to see orphan care and prevention differently. Sole Hope is not only providing healing physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. They are showing love and acceptance, giving hope and a way to preserve the family. On that last day we took home patients from the previous week. I saw families being reunited. I saw understanding, acceptance, hope and love. I started to see that orphanages and adoption weren’t the only answer to the orphan crisis. Reuniting families and encouraging a culture where family is elevated is critical, and this takes many forms.

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It’s been six months since our feet have left the red African soil. My heart has shifted a thousand times but it keeps coming back to one constant desire. A desire to come alongside more organizations and to help share their stories and the impact they are having on their community, and it is stronger than it ever was before. I once read that our roads may not always be straight, but God is always guiding them. He’s connecting dots that I thought were once scattered all over and filling my life with some amazing people.

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Since returning from Uganda, God’s been teaching me to be patient, to be still and to let him work. He’s slowly revealing His path for my family. God is teaching me that if I have the desire to share people’s stories I need to have more of a desire to know Him better. I need to know Him so I can understand and love better. So I can share through his eyes and with his words. My prayer is that we can stay focused on Him and be still, to let Him unfold his plan as He wishes and to have the faith to say yes when the time comes. I’m excited for where God is leading my family. Hopefully I’ll be feeling the red dirt between my toes again sooner than later, but I trust that God is in control and leading me where He wants me to go either way.

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Author: Mindy Braun

Photographer: Mindy Braun

 

Culture Shock

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"Our work with international students is not our ministry per se, it’s our heart...What a shame it would be if they came to the States and were never invited into a Christian home!  What an opportunity missed.”

What does it mean “to be God’s person at God’s time in the life of another?"  For Doug and Jackie Perseghetti it means that whether at home or traveling abroad, every encounter with another person is an opportunity to put God’s mission for them into practice.  Over the years they have reached out to students from foreign countries enrolled in our local universities.  Doug and Jackie enjoy sponsorship as an occasion to be God’s person and walk beside the students during a season of their life.  They have hosted students from China, Taiwan, Korea, Turkey, different parts of Africa, Central and South America, Australia, Austria, Saudi Arabia, and India.  At times they have had 20 to 30 students over at one time, but mostly they keep it to a one on one experience.

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International friendship groups or sponsorship programs are designed by churches and universities to match students from foreign countries with fellow students, faculty, or members of our community.  The idea is to help the students and their families, if present, to feel welcome and encourage them to experience and learn about our American way of life.

“Our work with international students is not our ministry per se, it’s our heart.  The folks we work with are here to go to school.  It’s temporary.  They have places to stay, food to eat, and clothes to wear.  The needs we meet are not physical needs; they are the needs of the heart.  They are curious about us, how we live, and our culture.  Students can be lonely and in need of friendship, and we have found them very curious and open.  Unfortunately many of these people come and go from here having never set foot in an American home.  What a shame it would be if they came to the States and were never invited into a Christian home!  What an opportunity missed.”

“Hosting one or more students is a chance to speak into the heart, emotions, and soul of someone else.  To show them they are accepted.  Encourage them to try new things.  We had two girls over from Korea once to make Christmas cookies with me,” Jackie said.  “It was their first time to use electric beaters and unaware that lifting them from the batter while spinning was not such a good idea.”  It was shocking and hilarious for everyone and Jackie remembered the girls mailed the baked cookies home to Korea to share the experience with their families.  “No doubt in crumbs, but having them over to laugh together and share is what it’s all about.”

Jackie spoke freely about some of her personal challenges with people from different religions.

“In my heart I had to give over suspicions that I had against certain religious beliefs of some of the people we have befriended.  We can be very suspicious and judgmental.  To allow God to put me into a place of vulnerability, to love in spite of the fear, to love in spite of what our culture says, to single out that person and see beyond all that.  We met this particular family once a week.  One time at their house they opened up the conversation by asking us a question about the Bible.  Our jaws dropped open and we had the opportunity to engage them.  The wife and I connected like kindred spirits and opened up a flow of open conversation about religion.”

Sponsoring International students is a great place for families to get involved, especially families with little kids.  “Families with little children should not be intimidated to open their home to an international family.  In our years of experience, International students love little children.  They can open up with them.  They don’t feel they have to perform or worry about language, simply play with them, hold them on their lap, and enjoy that simple connection.”

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Doug and Jackie agree that holidays are a perfect time to have people over.  “What else are they going to do?  It’s an easy in to invite a family over to experience a holiday meal.  Time to share food, compare traditional cooking recipes, and a chance to expose them to Christianity.”

I asked Doug and Jackie if they had any thoughts to pass along to families who might be interested in having International students over to their home for a meal or family excursion.

“I think the biggest thing is not to be the missionary to them.  You lose sight of more that God is trying to do.  If you are trying to be the missionary, they become your project.  You become the great American answer all, you know that “super person.”  That does nothing to breathe life in another person.  But if you come into it as ‘this is a great adventure, I get to learn about your country and I don’t even have to go there’ type attitude, then you encourage open engagement.”

“Openness can never be black and white, this is right this is wrong, because if you do that you are communicating a sense of failure on their part, judgment.  No question should be considered silly, only a safe place to talk openly and be real from each side.  Be open to their stories, just listen and wait, and God always comes through.  With a little word of encouragement or just a little opening, plant a seed.  Sometimes you get to do more than plant a seed.  You get to bring people to Christ.  We believe it’s most important to be available, not necessarily able, just available and open.  Let God do the rest.”

Are you ready to get involved?  Are you ready to be God’s person at God’s time in the life of another?  Singles, newlyweds, families with small children, and people of any age, would you consider opening your home to share a meal or something as small as a trip to the local grocery store with someone who is in America for the first time?  If you read this and have questions or are interested in getting connected with international students please email the Apex Going Team at going@apexcommunity.org.  New students have arrived with the beginning of school and the holidays are approaching quickly on the heels of summer.  

 

 

Author: Carrie Kempisty

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

Going Deeper

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Going deeper began to be about living within the understanding that this was something quite bigger than meeting a need and being done; it was a call to treat and love each person as a family member.

Glen Shelley and his house church are making moves in the city of Dayton. They are living missional lives right here, right now.

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What began as packing and delivering backpacks to the homeless downtown before Christmas has turned into a regular, heart-invested, intentional pursuit of the people of Dayton.

“After our first time doing the backpacks we met a man named Darrel and a few others and we decided to ask them to visit our house church,” explains Glen.

Taking time to get to know these people led to having meals with them and ultimately culminated in a separate house church on Monday evenings simply to love them well.

Glen sat with Devin and Eric, two of Glen’s house church brothers, around a table at Panera Bread, sharing their story with me, and the passion became contagious.

“It has been a catalyst for going deeper in relationships with them,” says Glen. “We met a gentleman named Darrel; he needed food, but it was clear that he needed companionship just as much.”

They came to find out that Darrel was sleeping under a bridge. It was in the collection of these pieces of their lives that Glen and his house church knew they needed to, and desired to, be much more than simply people who dipped in and out of their lives.

“They are not projects. Each person we meet and take time to know has expectations – they can be hurt, they can be disappointed; they are real humans and they need real human love,” says Glen.

Their house church was faced with a serious question head on – what does it mean to go deeper?

Going deeper began to be about living within the understanding that this was something quite bigger than meeting a need and being done; it was a call to treat and love each person as a family member.  

Since this outreach began and this house church has been formed, they have found themselves being asked to think outside of themselves.

“I got a call at 9 PM from someone that needed a ride home, but he was in Indianapolis. It had to stop being about my comfort level being disrupted and more about showing someone I cared,” says Glen.

So they piled into the car and drove to Indianapolis and brought him home. If there is one thing they’ve learned through this act of obedience, it’s that the viewpoint should never be “us versus them,” but always all of US.

Glen and his house church have seen more than anything that everyone has a story; “these people didn’t wake up one day and choose to be homeless. They are not ‘less’ by any means – there are circumstances and fragments of a storyline being written that lead people to their current situation.”

“We don’t want to pound anything into them; we just want to love and care for them. We just tell them, ‘we just wanna love you,’” says Devin.

It started with backpacks. It became fellowship and shared meals; relationships are being built and poured into and now, they are able to see integration to larger fellowship. Members of the house church are starting to come to Apex and pursue baptism, as well.

“When we are not with them on Mondays, there is constant communication,” explains Glen. “They need to be picked up, they might need money for bus tokens, sometimes they simply need someone to talk to, to listen, to hear them.”

As a final thought all three men have come to, and rest, at this powerful point – they’re real people and they have real needs.

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? –Isaiah 58:7

 

 

Author: Steph Duff

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

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