Relationship Is Better Than Meat

More than any other place on earth, Africa and her people have witnessed to me about the beauty of relationship. It’s no wonder she birthed this proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Some of the wisest words about relationship were spoken to me by my Ugandan friend, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu. I learned from him that “relationship is better than meat.” His mom taught him the power of relationship as a small boy.

“Work with all types and learn to relate well to people—even your enemies,” she told Elijah. “Your relationships with people will win them from evil to good. Always remember: relationship is better than meat.”

day 3 (7)Elijah’s empty belly and young mind were challenged by this saying. After all, he grew up in an impoverished corner of the world where the scarcity of meat drives people to eat rats. But by investing in relationships, he and others joined forces to provide life giving education and care to 1,850 of Uganda’s most vulnerable children. The ripple of effects of his pebble are mind-blowing thanks to God and the power of relationship.pic 75
I was reminded of meaty relationships recently when my family watched this IMAX film celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the national park system:

We ooohed and ahhhed at the parks’ majestic beauty while learning about America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, John Muir, and his powerful connection with Theodore Roosevelt.

After Muir published “Our National Parks,” he connected with Roosevelt in 1903 when the pair camped together in the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite Park. “There, together, beneath the trees, they laid the foundation of Teddy Roosevelt’s innovative and notable conservation programs.” john muir and rooseveltGod used that campout to light a fire within Roosevelt who later established 148 million acres of National Forest, five National Parks and 23 National Monuments during his term.

john-muirGod hard wired John Muir with a heart that beat for nature. His “pebble” was protecting nature and inviting others to enjoy her beauty. Roosevelt’s vast sphere of influence allowed Muir’s pebble to ripple much further than Muir ever dreamed. Thanks to this very influential friendship, thousands upon thousands of visitors have benefitted year after year from the stunning glory of our National Parks.

What lights your fire? Or makes your ears perk up? Which headlines cut you the deepest? Human trafficking? The refugee crisis? Foster children? The homeless gentleman you passed on your way home today?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Yes, but what am I supposed to do about it?”

Stop and consider those in your sphere of influence who might help your pebble ripple further than you’d ever dreamed. What’s stopping you from tossing your pebble in their direction? Take a step of faith today and pray with me now:

Father, whenever I hear about _________ or read or watch a story about _______ my heart hurts. I want to toss a pebble that matters. Show me who I know or send someone influential across my path so this tiny pebble can make a world of difference. Help me “to bring You glory here on earth by completing the work You gave me to do” ( John 17:4). Help me to invest in relationships that bear fruit for your kingdom.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

How to Raise a Miracle: Three Words To Transform Your Parenting

She was unlike any other mother I’d ever met. Her mile-wide smile made her molasses eyes sparkle. The labor and delivery of her son (her fourth child of eleven) took place in a mosquito-infested swamp. She was married to one man along with 11 other wives.

Her name is Eseza and she’s one of the most amazing moms I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.

day 3 (27)My husband and I boarded three planes, a subway, a van, and two cars to interview our Ugandan friend, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu, and visit his mother’s remote East African village. Before entering her cinder block home we walked past her “kitchen,” a fire and some pots set up under a crude palm-roofed hut.

Eseza welcomed us with hugs and bottles of water as if we were royalty. I turned on my digital recorder to begin the interview for the book I’m writing about Elijah, who sat close by translating her Luganda words into English.

day 3 (16)My heart ached as she spoke of the utter horrors of raising a child in the bush country of Uganda. Starvation. Disease. No medical care. Tribal massacres that forced her and her tiny children to flee their huts and sleep in a jungle creeping with machete-wielding soldiers, venomous snakes, and hungry tigers.

Listening to Eseza describe Elijah’s childhood was surreal, especially after getting to know him. I glanced over at the tall, polished, articulate, intelligent man beside her. A man who:

  • pastors one of Uganda’s fastest growing churches (270 church plants)
  • presented at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS and The Church at the invitation of best-selling author, Dr. Rick Warren.
  • hosts a weekly radio talk show that reaches approximately 30 million Ugandans
  • serves as Founder and President of Hands of Love Foundation, an international organization that supports, empowers, and educates 1,800 of tomorrow’s finest Christian leaders
  • serves as Founder and Leader of a youth empowerment conference in Uganda that drew a whopping 7,150 delegates last year

The crazy contrast between this world changer sitting across from me and the terrible awful that permeated his childhood was perplexing. It made me wonder, and perhaps you’re wondering too as mother’s day approaches. And so I asked.

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“What’s the secret? How did you raise this internationally known man of God who is raising up pebble throwers and saving lives every day? How does a mother raise such a miracle?”

The next 20 minutes of our interview ranks among the top ten most impactful conversations of my life. This mom, who had endured tribal violence, starvation,  depression, torture from her husband’s wives, witchcraft, losing children to malaria, you name it … This ferociously strong, exceedingly exceptional woman proceeded to share other-worldly mothering wisdom unlike anything I’d ever heard. To this day, it is some of the most sacred parenting advice I’ve been given. And you’ll have to buy my book to hear all of it 🙂

My brain and recorder had collected dozens of golden nuggets for my book and I was full. Almost satisfied. But I had one final question before placing a period at the end of our interview.

“What’s the thing that mattered most in raising Elijah?”

She sat and stared in silence and we waited.

“I always prayed to God and laid hands on Elijah asking God to give him wisdom, patience, love, kindness, generosity. I always laid hands on him and spoke into his life, ‘you are going to be a national leader, touch many lives, be a giver, be generous.’ I always advised him and prayed for him. But if you want a person to receive what you are speaking to him you need to love that person. And I loved him most.”

A huge lump formed in my throat as I heard her say those three words.

“Love them most.”

day 3 (13)The glue that bonded all her pebble-throwing efforts to shape Elijah into a powerful man of Godly character was love. Love trumps all.

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

“Love them most.” It’s my mother’s day gift to you as you endeavor to raise children who put love into action. As for me, if I pray eloquent, powerful prayers for my children and speak all kinds of truth I learned at Bible Study, but nag and guilt them, and stare at my iPhone more than I look into their eyes, then my words are fingernails on the chalk board of their hearts. None of us gains anything. We are all bankrupt. It’s all held together with love. Not love the thought, but love the verb.

Need a mother’s day gift? Please consider honoring your mom and Eseza with a donation to help open Hands of Love’s infant orphanage which was built and named in her honor. These fabulous young pebble throwers are making it easy for you. Just watch the video and consider throwing this very significant pebble to save little lives in Uganda.Screenshot 2016-05-03 16.39.15

Click here to see some amazing pebble throwers in action!

The Aroma of Christ

We brought Uganda home on our feet. We’ve rinsed and scrubbed, yet our shoes still wear the orange-red soil that daily crept in between our toes as we served as missionaries. There are shadows of terracotta hands on our white t-shirts. The smell of burning trash and charcoal clings to our hair.

DSC_0385A few days ago, dozens of joy-ridden children sat on our laps, curiously fingered our long wavy hair, squeezed our hands, and searched our eyes for a look—one you-are-loved look. To be honest, as they snuggled in close, their scent was often pungent. But the overwhelming aroma that lingered after our time together was that of Jesus Christ. The smell that brings life in a place where death runs rampant.

DSC_0339There are two Hands of Love schools in Uganda that care for more than 1,600 abandoned and orphaned children. After spending several days at the more developed school near the big city of Kampala, it was time to trek to the second location. The Namadhi orphanage, located in the remote Kayunge district of Uganda, is way out there. It took our team nearly five hours to reach it.

As the Hands of Love van rattled and heaved along the bumpy, unpaved roads carved by the heavy downpours of the rainy season, we took in the unusual scenery. We noticed mud and wattle huts, half-clothed children playing with cardboard boxes, women carrying fire wood and bananas on their heads, and mosques.DSC_0411

Every four to ten kilometers or so, a concrete building with turrets appeared. The turrets were crowned with the unmistakable crescent moon and star of Islam. The building of these rural mosques is funded by Islamic supporters in the middle east whose investment includes a well. Thirsty villagers, who might otherwise walk miles each day to gather water, are offered a shortcut: convert to Islam and receive full access to the well. How ironic. The very source that brings them physical life is used to rob them of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

DSC_0450But at Hands of Love Namadhi, the smell of life pervades the air. Joy surprised our team at every turn. Children chanting “wel-o-come” greeted us with personalized signs and waved palm branches as if we were queens.DSC_0620

Though these Hands of Love children are dusty, they are loved. Though they are hungry, they are fed—both with sponsored meals and the Living Word of Jesus Christ. DSC_0414 (2)The fragrance of Christ saturated the atmosphere and we breathed it in deeply.

Our afternoon in the bush flew by. We blew bubbles, attended a school performance, taught classes, gave gifts, and loved the children.

DSC_0289We threw pebbles in every direction, touching as many young lives as we could. Later that night, our weary team returned to our Kampala hotel. We entered air-conditioned rooms and ran clean water in pristine showers until it steamed hot. The orange-red water disappeared into the drain, rinsing off the day’s dust. But the fragrance of Christ forever lingers in our hearts.

As you move through your day, what do you leave behind? Does the “scent” of Jesus’ love linger as a result of your interactions? How can you be more intentional about the way you love others to point them to Jesus? Please share a comment below!

Counting Pennies

frown Somewhere, there is a child. One child, in a sea of dusty children, whose face is empty. She wants to smile but has no reason.

Half-way across the globe, in the corner of a small boy’s closet, a mason jar sits behind a stuffed elephant. Two first-place soccer trophies stand guard on either side of the jar. The jar is chock full of spare change.

The empty-faced child has waited for her smile about as long as that jar has been collecting change. In between the child and the jar there looms a lie. The never-make-a-difference-lie creates an enormous chasm.

For a brief moment, the jar’s owner chooses to ignore the lie. “What do you want me to do, God?” The young boy lifts the jar . . . counts the cost.

On the other side of the world, the empty-faced child looks up. Inside her, a tiny seed of hope cracks open. A green sprout emerges. Her face─no longer empty─registers a shred of almost imperceptible change. The corner of her bottom lip turns up. It’s not a smile but rather a hint of something.

The boy opens the jar and begins counting pennies. He takes 437 pennies to his mom, who will later deposit them in the bank and write a check for four dollars and thirty-seven cents. The check will travel in an envelope to an organization on the other side of the globe that reaches out to boys and girls with no reason to smile.

In the darkened corner of the boy’s closet, the lie lays broken into a million pieces.