Friday, July 9, 2010

Long Overdue!

This blog is long overdue and I apologize for not keeping everyone up to date like I should be.  These past 2 months have been pretty incredible yet extremely hectic.  We started an orphanage!  With the help of many people along the way we successfully have taken in 17 children and are providing them with everything they need to make it in everyday life.  It has been an incredible journey and living with 17 kids has not been easy.  Every morning they get up at 5:30, take a bath, do their chores, eat breakfast, and go to school.  Luckily we have hired 3 wonderful people to help and essentially raise these children.  I moved out of the apartment roughly 2 months ago to move into the house with the kids and make sure the transition for them and our new staff ran as smoothly as possible.  So far so good.  The ultimate long-term goal is to move out, hopefully in about a month, and see how everything runs without Allen and I being here.  We want this to be fully sustainable without us having to be here and want the kids to be raised in their own culture by their own people so they can grow up and be leaders in their own community.

These past two weeks Allen and I have been with our church from back home serving in Kenya and showing them everything that has happened in Uganda.  Oh how great it was to see some of our best friends.  Kenya was a great break for both of us.  I have been over here for 4 months now and just now went on my first safari.  It was everything I thought it would be and I am thankful to have been able to share it with the people I did.  When we got back to Uganda I had a pretty big surprise waiting for me in the form of my little sister!!  I had no clue she was coming and when I heard her voice I was stunned.  It was a real blessing to have been able to share everything that has happened in my life over here with both of my sisters.  Today was a hard day for me because I had to say goodbye to everyone.  It felt like they had just gotten here and I already had to say goodbye.  I thought that it would be easier the second time around but it wasn’t at all.  I’m blessed to have been able to share these past two weeks with such wonderful people but at the same time I am reminded of what great friends I left back home.  Even with this mindset it does not take me away from my mission here in Uganda.  I am reminded of that every morning at 5:30 and not a morning goes by where I am not in awe of everything God has done through Allen and I and for these kids.  No matter what kind of mood I may be in I cannot go a day without lifting up a prayer of thanksgiving for all that God has done in these kids lives.  To be able to witness it first hand on a day-to-day basis is the most powerful display of God’s intervening hand I have ever encountered.

At the end of every mission trip that Asbury goes on they give out a washer with a word and a verse on it to wear on a necklace.  The circular shape of the washer is to symbolize the unity that we shared while serving together.  There were four washers that we got to choose from and each had its own word and verse: Truth, Faith, Hope, and Love.  I received two washers, one for Kenya and one for Uganda.  In Kenya I chose the washer with the word Faith.  The verse for Faith is 2 Corinthians 5:7 “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”  I got this one to remind myself that without faith I wouldn’t be here in the first place.  If I had walked by sight I would have listened to everyone around me telling me not to go and the lives of these 17 children would have ceased to exist or worse, remained the same.  In Uganda I got the word Hope.  The verse for Hope is Psalm 71:5 “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.”  This one I got to remind myself of the hope that now lives inside of each of these children and myself.  Both of these words go together for me.  Without Faith, Hope would not have existed for these kids.

Please continue to pray for our mission here in Uganda and especially for the children of Sozo.  The transformation that has taken place in each of these kids lives would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the faith those back home have displayed in their giving.  To that I say thank you and ask for you to keep it up!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Great Adventure

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
-Into the Wild

Every time I read this quote it reminds me of my best friend Reid.  He’s living his own story right now and enjoying his own adventure in Spain.  He has been there since September of 2009 so our conversations now are limited to the internet.  Before I left for Uganda he sent me this quote in an email as an encouragement for the “Journey” I was about to partake in.  To some I may tend to do things that are considered “out of the norm”, but compared to Reid my risk factor is considered mild.  While I don’t consider myself risk-avert I definitely don’t consider myself an “extreme” risk taker either.  Reid is definitely an “extreme” risk taker.  He is one who will do a double back flip off a 70 foot cliff, and whenever we go skiing, even though we usually only go once a year if that, he always wants the first run we do to be a double black!  Somehow I always end up caving in and joining him on these seemingly irresponsible adventures.  I have always envied his complete disregard for personal safety.  I know that sounds like an audacious accusation, but in a sense it has allowed him to live a life of freedom that most of us are only able to read about in books. I believe I tend to do things that would have most saying “what was he thinking?” but by having a best friend like Reid I have been able to find a happy medium in the “risk-factor” area of my life.  I still may come across to some as reckless and irresponsible, but my biggest fear as of recently would be to quench the spirit that is at work within me, and this often requires one to step out on a limb that’s foundation might not be as strong as one would hope.  I don’t know why the Lord wired me the way he did, but I am thankful that I would not be satisfied with a life spent in a cubicle endlessly crunching numbers in a spreadsheet.  Not to take away from those who do this for a living its just not who God wired me to be, but more power to you for having the patience and ability to perform these necessary and tedious tasks.

Everyday in Africa there is an endlessly changing horizon.  There is no such thing as a “secure future” and to alleviate risk, as we Americans are so keen in to doing, is a seemingly impossible task.  Each and everyday brings a new and different sun, and my thirst for adventure has never been as satisfied as it is here.  This week I was able to partake in my greatest adventure as of yet, and it was a challenging one nonetheless.

Each time we visit Mercy Home we usually walk down to the nearest shop (which is about a half mile) to buy tomatoes and onions to add some flavor to the food.  On our walk there this past Saturday Mercy wanted to tag along, so of course I couldn’t deny her this request. We made it all the way to the shop without one complaint, and to reward her for her good behavior I bought her a juice box and a piece of cake, which she devoured in no time.  After experiencing a full belly the walk home was a little more difficult for her so she wanted me to carry her back.  As I started the trek back to Mercy Home with Mercy in my arms I noticed small white bumps on her face that were starting to make their way down her neck and back.  She had also developed a pretty intense sounding cough and her stomach was enlarged even more so  than usual.  At first I thought it was probably just a bad case of worms, but after finally gathering information regarding her family history I started to get worried with what this may be.  Her mom died when she was very young and after this her father, who is 17 now, started losing his mind and was unable to take care of her.  She also has an older brother who has a twin, but the twin died two summers ago for unknown reasons.  After learning all this I got a little skeptical and decided to take Mercy to the doctor to get some tests run.  I wanted to be sure it was only worms and got her checked for HIV and malaria.  I got an up-close and personal glance into the world of fatherhood, and after experiencing a doctor visit with a 2 and a half year old little girl I now understand the importance of mothers.

Mercy was as calm as she could be the entire drive to the doctor office and even got to enjoy another juice box and piece of cake.  We finally reached the doctors office and she was still as relaxed as she could be. Even though she held my hand as if she were clinging to her own life, the odd man in the white suit probing her belly still didn’t seem to faze her.  She was handling herself like a champion, until... out comes the needle!  If you ever want to experience the sound of a two year old thinking the world is coming to an end just show them a 2 inch needle that’s about to break the surface of their skin.  I don’t know who was more traumatized, her or me having to hold her down as she kicked and screamed waiting for the procedure to get underway.  As much as the nurses and myself tried and tried to explain to her that everything was going to be ok and it was all for her benefit she still would not calm down.  The screaming actually intensified to an uncomfortable volume.  It was probably the toughest thing I have ever had to do in my life and in an instant I found myself thinking “Please let me take the needle for her! Let me take the pain I can handle it, just stop hurting her!”  Knowing that this would not be of any benefit to Mercy I sat and watched helplessly as the needle pierced her skin.  Watching her go through this obvious traumatic experience reminded me of how God must feel when he sees us going through hard times.  All I wanted was for Mercy to understand that even though it may hurt in this moment the pain she had to experience was ultimately going to help her in the long run.  I think in a way this is how God feels when we go through tough times.  It hurts Him to watch the pain we are going through, but he lets us go through it anyways to grow us into the people we are called to be.  He just wants us to understand that its necessary for us to go through these difficult times so that we can draw closer to Him and rely on Him for strength through it all.  After everything was done it took some time to calm little Mercy down.  All she wanted to do was curl up in my lap and go to sleep.  I was worried at first that she would start associating me with the man who let her go through something so painful, but after some time passed and I got her a juice box she got over her turmoil.  The doctor visit must have really taken a toll on her because she feel asleep holding onto my arm the entire car ride home.  It was the perfect end to the greatest adventure I have experienced to date.

I am pleased to report that both the malaria and the HIV test came back negative!  She does however have a lung infection and a pretty bad case of worms.  Because the kids sometimes don’t even get one meal a day they often get so hungry that they start eating dirt and anything else they can get their hands on.  Needless to say every one of them has worms and no way to pay for the treatment to get de-wormed.  They are supposed to get de-wormed every 2 months but because of lack of funds they haven’t been since September of 2009.  It costs about $10 a child for the pills and there are 102 now who still haven’t been de-wormed.  We are now trying to feed the kid’s everyday and working to de-worm as many as we can.  Because of this funds are starting to dwindle.  We estimated the price to feed the kids everyday for a month is around $1300.  Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t ask this, but if anyone reading this desires to give any contribution to helping the children of Mercy Home please donate.  I have quickly realized I cannot do this without help and I thank all of you who have already contributed.  Checks can be made out to Asbury United Methodist Church and given to Suzanne Owens.  She is the one who makes sure the money gets over here and is used in the manner in which you want it to be used.  If anyone desires any more information regarding this please feel free to email me at and I will be sure to get you in touch with the right people.
And a special Happy Birthday to Patrick.  Allen and I had never made a cake before but we tried our best for Patrick's birthday.  I think it turned out pretty good if I must say so myself!

Monday, April 5, 2010


It's hard to believe I have been gone for almost a month now.  The time has been passing extremely fast, and we haven't even had our first team come in yet.  Allen made it safely, and it is good to have a familiar face around.  He also brought along with him some baseball gloves, so it has been really nice to be able to enjoy America's favorite past time in the evenings now.  We moved into our apartment today and spent the majority of the day cleaning it up.  It looks a hundred times better than it did before we moved in, but it did require an abnormal amount of elbow grease.  At one point we were still trying to get the smell out of the kitchen only to come to the realization the smell was coming from us!!  I am relieved to finally be in our permanent place of residence, but am going to miss the fellowship I have been able to share with Alfred and Jon in the past weeks.  Those are times I will cherish forever and an open invitation was offered to both to come and hang out with us at anytime.

This Easter was a different one for me as you can imagine.  I was in a foreign country without my family and was with only one of my closest friends.  You think something would be wrong with this picture, but it was the first time in my life I was able to fully appreciate the power of the resurrection and what Easter means to the Christian faith.  I started to really think about my own faith and what this day means for me and my own salvation.  I find it kind of funny how the "Christmas story" is only mentioned in two of the gospels while the resurrection is mentioned in all four and yet it seems we still celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle holiday for the Christian faith.  This theology seems a little backwards to me, not that Jesus' birth and being born of a virgin aren't worthy to give God praise and all of our worship,  but it was the resurrection that was the birth of my own salvation. That is what I am most thankful for and why this Easter meant more to me than any other I have celebrated.  This Easter was the first time I celebrated for the right reason, and with a heart full of thankfulness for the cross and awe for the power my God has to bring the dead to life!  He is risen!

The past few visits to the Mercy Home have been heartbreaking and humbling once again.  Two Saturdays ago I started to get a little frustrated that Mercy would not call me by my name.  I got David to come translate for me as I talked to her to get this situation figured out.  He asked me what was wrong and I told him I just wanted her to call me by my name and not just "muzungu."  He said it was typical for all children here to never call someone who is older than them by their first name because that would come across as disrespectful.  I told David that since she wouldn't call me by my first name to find out what she wanted to call me.  I heard the word come out of her mouth but had to double check with David to see if I had heard correctly.  She had asked if she could call me Dad!  If there was ever a moment in my life where I was left speechless, this was it.  I had not the slightest clue what to say to this request.  I am very thankful for the time I get to spend with Mercy.  Each day at the Mercy Home is a new adventure and a new story is brought to life.  As much as I have grown to truly love Mercy I couldn't let her call me dad.  So for now I am Ancle (Uncle) Jay.  It gave me great joy this past Saturday listening to Mercy call out Ancle Jay over and over again as she held my hand and guided me around the complex.  I also have decided to become Mercy's official sponsor.  I want to make sure she makes it all the way through school and has every opportunity to make something of her life.  I've never had the appreciation for child sponsorship programs like I do now, and have even become very thankful for all of you who already do sponsor a child somewhere in the world.  I believe it is a necessity and I am fortunate enough to be able to see the impact these sponsorships have on children.  I thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to give to help save a life!

With the addition of Allen to the team I am pleased to announce that we are now able to feed the kids every Wednesday and Saturday.  This still may not seem like much, but when we told them the news the expression of joy on their faces was enough to know that YOU are making a difference.  It's in places like this where the Gospel is being brought to life.  There's no talk of the hot theological debates that have Christians everywhere ranting and raging, only the promise of a Savior who came and died for all so we could live a life of freedom to serve one another in love.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March is usually a slow month for Bridge and that has proven to be the case this March.  Our first team is not expected to arrive until mid-April, so apart from feeding the children of Mercy Home, I've spent my time learning the culture and building relationships.  It did not take me long to realize the emphasis they put on relationships here.  I guess it's because in the grand scheme of things our relationships with other people are all we have and are the driving force of our Christian backbone aside from Christ himself.  After all, why else would Jesus say "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39).  In Proverbs 27:17 it says "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." I have learned to realize that my life has been blessed with great friends.  Some have been lost along the way but I have been lucky for the Lord to put Christ centered people all around me.  And that's not limited to just my American friends, the Lord has put some pretty incredible people in my life over here too.

Meet Jon.  He is the 26 year old 130 lb security guard that keeps watch over the place I have been staying.  This is just his second job.  Every night he gets here around 7:00 and stays until 6:00 AM.  He then goes home, sleeps till 10:00, then works his primary job during the day.  Each evening I spend an hour working out or as they call it "filling it up" with a resistance band and the perfect pushup which I brought from home.  I must say I have become a huge advocate for the perfect pushup machine.  I am usually mid workout by the time Jon gets here so I have gotten to spend a good bit of time talking to him.  One day he asked if I would wait on him to "fill it up" so he could join me and I said PLEASE!  It not only would make me feel more comfortable with a security guard with a little muscle to him but would also enable me to build another friendship.  Our first "fill it up" session together lasted all of about 10 minutes.  He did a solid set of 10 pushups followed by a set curls before he decided that was enough and called it quits.  When I asked him why he quit so early he said "its OK, tomorrow I'll do 11!"  This is some of the humor that I get to experience on a daily basis.  I will have to say though, each night Jon adds one more rep to his previous days accomplishment before he calls it quits.

Now meet Alfred.  He is the 29 year old caretaker for the house I have been staying in.  Aside from Patrick, he is who I have spent most my time with.  He is one of the most Christ centered men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Right now he is learning Arabic because he has been called to the mission field in Afghanistan!  I know people were worried about me coming to Uganda, but can you imagine being a Christian missionary in Afghanistan?!  He is one of those people that is so kind and giving that you cannot help but become a better person just by spending time with him.  He has taught me pretty much everything I have learned so far and spends much of the night giving me lessons on how to speak Luganda.  Because this month has been so slow, today Alfred and I decided we wanted to do something fun.  He asked me if I wanted to go on a long bike ride with him.  I thought this "long bike ride" was going to be similar to the workout sessions I have had with Jon and lets just say I wasn't prepared for the Alps stage of the Tour de Uganda we rode!  I'm thankful for friendships like Jon's and Alfred's and know that that is how God intended it to be.  Even in Africa I have friends that are able to hold me accountable and lift me up whenever needed.  However, it is not these friendships that I wanted to write about.

When I first decided to come to Uganda I thought I was going to be coming by myself.  The thought of being alone in a third world country was the thing I was looking forward to most and also the thing I was scared of most.  I was most looking forward to the shear reliance upon the Lord and the alone time I would be able to spend in His word letting Him mold me into the man I am called to be.  On the flip side of that I was scared of the loneliness that would be sure to creep in somehow.  Luckily for me two summers ago I was able to spend two months working in London.  Even though I wasn't a follower then, I now look back on that time and see how God used it for what I am doing right now.  I remember the loneliness I felt in London and how I wanted nothing more than to leave.  Even though I met a great group of friends there, who are still very dear to me, there was still a hole that was left empty and left me wanting nothing more than to catch the next jet to cross the pond.  That hole was from a lack of Jesus.  Since having committed my life to Christ that empty place is now filled in abundance!  "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:25-26).

The faithfulness the Lord has shown me throughout this whole process is nothing short of incredible.  Somehow He was able to convince one of my best friends Allen into quitting his job, and joining me on this crazy adventure.  Allen was the first person I told of my calling and God spoke to him through the book of Luke.  Specifically Luke chapter 10 when Jesus sent out the 72 in pairs.  I remember when Allen told me that wherever I was going, no matter where it was, that he was coming too.  At first I struggled a bit with the thought of someone else joining me, but after being over here I have really been able to accept the fact that God knows me better than I know me.  He knew exactly how I would be feeling in this very moment and that a friend and brother like Allen is just what I would need.  He is someone I look up to in my own walk, and I am honored and blessed to be able to serve with a friend like him.  I am pleased to say that Allen catches his flight today, and I couldn't be more excited to see him and share in this experience with him.  It's easy for the enemy to attack us when we are by ourselves and I have seen this first hand, but Jesus said "For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20).  I know God is going to be able to use both of us, maybe in different ways, to glorify His name and be the hands and feet of Christ.  Allen gets here at 7:45 AM Friday morning so everyone please pray for safe, stress free travels for him!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A funeral, a chicken, and negotiations

Today was my birthday, and let me just say how blessed I was to be able to have shared it with my friends in Uganda!  Our mornings usually start off the same way with devotions around 8:45. However, this is Africa which means we are on African time, so devotions don't actually start until 9:45.  I hadn't mentioned my birthday to anyone because I am trying hard enough to try and get them to stop treating me like a privileged guest, and a birthday would have thrown a wrench into the progress I had already made.  We made it all the way through devotion without one word of it and then voila! they surprise me with a cake and sing the traditional happy birthday song.  It was a very nice and well accepted gesture, but still is a bit discouraging when I came here to serve them and in return they seem to always be serving me!  In Uganda when it is your birthday instead of receiving gifts you usually give them out.  My gift to them was lunch!  It is a rare commodity to have meat here so I went all out and got beef!  It felt good to have the sensation of being full again, a feeling I have only been able to accomplish a few times since I have been here.  It was a great relaxing day and I appreciate all of you who called and messaged me throughout the day.

This week has been full of nothing but surprises!  I woke up on Monday to Patrick asking me to go to a funeral with him.  A close family friend of theirs 23 year old son was killed in a car wreck early Sunday morning.  Funerals here take place the day after the passing and usually last all day.  I had never met the boy who died, but reluctantly told Patrick I would attend.  His reasoning for asking me to go was so I could see what a blessing it was for his 6 month old daughter to have passed away in the US and not here in Uganda.  As tragic as that sounds he couldn't have been more right.  The mourning process here would make anyone go back to square one.  For the first time since I have been here I actually felt uncomfortable.  I was the only muzungu (white person) in a crowd of about 1000 Ugandans and knew no one besides Patrick and his wife Sarah.  Needless to say stares were coming in from all directions.

On a lighter note there was some humor to be added to the day.  One thing they do during the funeral process is have a feast.  This feast usually consist of all the traditional African favorites, rice, beans, matoke (smashed up bananas), and beef soup.  The only catch is there is no silverware! It was about the equivalent of eating gumbo with your hands! Everything I was taught growing up was completely thrown out the window.  Everyone kept pointing at the muzungo laughing for how long it was taking me to eat my food!  I was extremely embarrassed, but thankful some joy could be found on such a somber day.

Tuesday rolled around and my chick fil a craving was starting to get the best of me.  The cheapest way to eat chicken here is to do everything yourself and when I say do everything yourself I mean it.  For roughly $7 I had a pet chicken for all of 10 minutes.  After successfully removing the chickens head and another few hours worth of cleaning and cooking the meat my craving was satisfied!  Luckily for me they don't like to eat the white meat here.  They prefer to chew on the bones and other parts of chicken that if I listed would make this blog rated R.  It was the most satisfying and freshest chicken I have ever eaten!

Wednesday was the best day of the week, I got to see Mercy.  I had an extra mosquito net and decided to get David and Eddie to drive me out to the Mercy Home to make sure Mercy had one on her bed.  As we were walking to her dormitory little Mercy came around the corner and immediately climbed onto my back.  We got to where her bed was and I was happy to see she had a mosquito net but the mattress was no where to be seen!  I asked her what happened to it and she quietly replied I susud (went to the bathroom).  Apparently this doesn't just happen to American children and I was pleased to learn her mattress was just outside being air dried.

What a day was Thursday!  I am now the proud owner of a Peugot Cadet (my new bike)!  I have seen bikes everywhere here and thought it would be a good idea if I got one for transportation.  After discussing this with Patrick he agreed and off we were to get me a new set of wheels.  Since Uganda is a cash economy everything here is done through negotiations.  Except snakes, you see a snake you kill it, no negotiations, thats the motto.  Because of the color of my skin my negotiation skills get me no where here.  Everywhere I go they always try and charge me double the original price.  The perception is every muzungo has money and can pay double what any Ugandan can.  After picking out my new ride and leaving the negotiations to Eddie and David I was able to get a bike for around $80.  Unfortunately because almost all the bikes here are second hand you buy the bike, and then have to take it to the shop to get fixed.  I was able to ride mine for a day before the wheel started to come off, so I decided it was time to take it and get repaired.  My new ride will officially be ready tomorrow around lunchtime (which means dinner).

Overall it has been a fun week.  Tomorrow is my favorite day where we get to go and feed the kids at Mercy Home.  Every morning I wake up and have to pinch myself to realize I am actually in Africa serving the one who is the giver of life!  Not a day has gone by where I haven't thanked God for this opportunity and for people like you who are making this possible!

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Im finally getting accustomed to life here in Uganda. Between frequent blackouts, learning to wash clothes by hand, and the most rain I have ever seen in my life, not much has taken me by surprise this week. I have even made progress in learning to drive over here....I backed the car out of the driveway!! One thing that I have begun to notice is how important the little things are over here. Some of my favorite nights so far have been walking home from church with Alfred in the dead of night. The nights here are unlike any I have ever experienced. There are no streetlights and it is difficult to see your hand outstretched in front of your face. It's tough to get used too, especially the walking part, being as there are moon craters everywhere in the dirt roads. I have to carry my "torch" with me at night just to keep from falling into one of these craters. But, it's in these same nights that you look up and see the most incredible display of stars one could imagine. You can see the stars in there purest form twinkling from above in what seems to be a black ocean filled with flashlights. On the clearest nights I can't help but think about Louie Giglio's video Indescribable and how he hit the nail on the head. It really makes you stop and think about how majestic our God really is.
This past Saturday Patrick, David, and I went to feed the kids at Mercy home. I got the pleasure of going over there earlier in the week to introduce myself, and let them know we would be coming to cook for them. My first trip there I met a 3 year old girl named Mercy. She immediately stole my heart and had this innocent little smile I knew I would never forget. For the rest of the week I couldn't wait for Saturday when I would get to see her again. I was excited about seeing the others too but this one in particular had already stolen the show for me. On our way out there we stopped at the local market and purchased 20 kilos of rice, 20 kilos of beans, and 4 cases of fruit juice. When the kids saw our van pull up to their place they immediately started shouting with excitement as they ran out to greet us. As I got out of the van Mercy was standing at the fence waiting for me to say hello. From that point on she did not leave my side. What I thought was going to be a day filled with running and playing soccer with the older kids turned out to be a day of relaxation as Mercy fell asleep on my shoulder. I tried my best to pay much attention to the others as well but could tell Mercy would get upset when she wasn't next to me. At one point I started to drift off a little myself only to wake up to a tingling sensation all over my head and arm where the other kids had covered me in grasshoppers!! It made them laugh so it was all in good fun!

Because Mercy is still very young she doesn't know English yet, so communicating was very difficult. As hard as I have been trying to learn Luganda there are only a handful of phrases I can actually say and comprehend. Mercy was able to teach me a new one on Saturday. Throughout the day amongst the laughing at me trying to speak her language and playing with the hair on my arms she would whisper in my ear "Enjala ennuma."  Sometimes it was in a quiet innocent voice, but other times it sounded more agitated and annoyed. I finally decided to ask Patrick what it meant and was heartbroken when he told me. He said she was telling me "Enjala ennuma" which means "I am hungry." It had been almost 2 days since Mercy had been able to eat. Last week she went 3. I know it seems like I keep harping on this subject, but it's only because it has now become personal. Feeding the kids at Mercy home is something that we have decided to do every Saturday from now on. Everyone who has been praying and giving to this mission now has a hand in feeding over 100 kids every Saturday who do not get to eat everyday. Know that what you are doing back in Alabama or wherever else you may be that you are making a difference.

As I get on facebook and see all the picture albums created over spring break I cannot help but think of the things I am missing out on. Saturday's in the fall will no longer be filled with tailgating with my friends and family in Tuscaloosa, but will be filled with the kids from the Mercy Home and in particular Mercy herself. It's sad to say but the hardest thing for me to give up by coming here was Alabama football. I guess in a way it was an idol to me that needed to be put on the back burner. As innocent as watching football really is, for many of us it dictates our entire weekends, even to the point of whether or not we go to church on Sunday.  In a way I purposely choose for me to be away this football season as to not have any outside distractions.  By giving this up God has given me the opportunity to be able to hang out with Mercy every Saturday and help feed all the kids at the Mercy Home.  The joy I felt hanging out with Mercy and the other kids far surpassed any football game I ever attended.  Its funny to see how things fall into place when we fully submit our lives to the Lord.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:1-2

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This week has been a real eye-opener. So many things have been brought to life. Monday, Patrick David and I went into the city to buy a refrigerator for the apartment. It started off as a great day. We were all cutting up in the car laughing at the chaos that is downtown Kampala. The driving here is insane!! I am nothing short of relieved that I have friends like Patrick and David who grew up here and know how to drive amidst the insanity! Oh, and they said their next project is to teach me how to drive here so I can use the car whenever I need to without asking one of them to drive me!

On our way back to the house we got caught up in traffic. While sitting in traffic in downtown Kampala people are constantly coming up to your car to try and sell you anything from plastic watches to cell phone minutes. I saw a group of kids maybe 5-6 years of age walking bye and politely waved at them to say hello. One of them caught my eye and came over to my window. He had a look of hopelessness like I had never seen before. He had no shoes, no shirt, and you could tell he hadn't eaten in days maybe longer because his stomach was so expanded. He came up and immediately started tapping on my window. I looked out at him and he kept putting his hand to his mouth for me to give him something to eat. Shocked at what was happening I asked Patrick what I should do. He said there's nothing we can do for him right now brother he just wants to eat, he just wants to eat. Neither of us had any food on us, but I couldn't leave this boy with nothing. Luckily I had some bottled waters I had just gotten for the trip downtown. With tears flowing down my face I rolled down the window and gave him a bottle. The rest of the car ride home was spent in silence. The sad news is there are thousands of kids like that all over Kampala alone who never know where their next meal will come from. I've always heard of stories like this and even been in a third world country before where this exact thing is going on but none has affected me like this one. When we finally got back home and found our composure we decided to talk about what had just happened. We all looked at each other and knew what had to be done. Our dream of one day opening an orphanage was soon to become a reality.

Back in January I shared with Patrick my calling to Uganda and the fact that one of the things I wanted to be able to do one day was to have a home to take in kids from the street, and be able to feed them, clothe them, and give them the things they need to survive each day. At 4:30 AM the morning before I was to leave to come to Uganda he sent me a text message saying he had had a dream and we were to start an orphanage. I smiled at the thought, but questioned what was to be my part in the whole thing. After many a conversation with Patrick trying to squeeze out every detail about it I can, I am still unsure of what my exact position with it would be. On Monday he asked me to be the one who ran it and would be in charge of it. This of course would be a huge undertaking and an even bigger sacrifice. While I know I am supposed to have an immediate role in all of this I do not however know right now if I really am the right person for that job. He wants for us to purchase some property and build a house with around 7-8 bedrooms. This would allow for around 15 kids to be able to come in and live an abundant life. We know we can't save all of them, but at least here we would be doing something rather than nothing. It would be run under the Bridge name so that they could have their hand in all of it, and be able to send teams out to help run it. I am praying fervently about this and ask that you who read this do as well. I know that the Lord will lead us in the direction that is best for Him. This is still a good way down the road, since it is still all subject to funding, so I know I still have plenty of time to soak it all in and really listen to the only voice that matters.

One thing that has really been shown to me this week is the way God can bring us to humility in a second. Even though that boy on the street that day had no clothes and no way of knowing where his next meal was going to come from, my life is still no more significant than his. He is still one of God's beloved children and the same Jesus that died for me also died for him. Philippians 2:3-4 says "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in HUMILITY count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." It is for kids like this that I am here in Uganda serving the God who gave us humility so that we could count ourselves as less and Him as more. Though I constantly feel dirty even after I shower, and my stomach never seems to get full I would not change any of it for the world. I know I am right where I am supposed to be. I thank you all for praying and please know that I am praying for you as well. None of this would be possible without the support of each one of you and to that I say Thank You.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" Hebrews 12:1-2

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well I'm finally here! I must say the trip here went about as bad as it could. I ended up missing my connection flight in London and having a ten hour layover. Instead of coming straight to Entebbe they had to reroute me to Dubai. The airport in Dubai was so big it took us 50 minutes just to taxi, then we had to take a 15 minute bus ride back to the transfer terminal. Needless to say I would have missed my connection flight there if they had not delayed the plane. From there I flew to Ethiopia and then last but not least Entebbe. At this point in my trip I was very discouraged. I had now been in and out of airports and on planes for almost 3 days and I just wanted to get to Uganda. Every thought about missing home crossed my mind, missing people, missing showers, and missing solid food. Not to mention I had not been able to sleep on the plane at all nor did I sleep the night before I left.

I spent the plane ride from Ethiopia to Entebbe in prayer. I prayed for God to continue to give me encouragement and to rid these thoughts out of my mind. It was in this moment that I heard him say, "O my son, when did I ever say this would be easy??" I started to be reminded of scripture and in particular Matthew 16:24-25. Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." I had to come to the hard realization that this wasn't going to be easy. That when Jesus talked about taking up our cross he was not talking about a comfortable thing. He wanted us to die to self will and embrace God's will no matter what the cost. This was a tough concept to grasp, but on the other side of it I found God's grace. It was there in that moment that my weakness made Him stronger! It was in my despair that God was able to grow me right there on that plane and give me peace in knowing that what I came here to do was for His glory, and had nothing to do with me.

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Entebbe an overwhelming sense of peace swept over me. I know longer was thinking about what else could go wrong, but was thinking thank you Lord for allowing me to serve you in this place. I haven't experienced a peace like this since Papau New Guinea, which was the trip that saved my life. As I was walking from the plane to the airport I could see Patrick jumping in the window waving his Kentucky blue baseball cap (thanks Jon) with a huge smile on his face. It was there in that moment I knew I was home. I knew that God would provide as he always had and I just needed to trust in Him and continue to be obedient. I ended up with only one of my two bags, but at this point I didn't even care. I was too excited and relieved to finally be here doing what God called me to do.

My first few days in Uganda have been incredible. I have been able to experience the city of Kampala, an African worship service, and all the beans and rice a man could eat! I have already been able to establish friendships I know will last an eternity. One night Patrick and I were able to sneak off and catch the Chelsea soccer game at a local restaurant and find a little rest and relaxation. As much as I miss everyone back home, it has been simple things like that that let me know I have a new family and a new place to call home for some time to come. This week starts the first of my work here in Uganda. I am excited to get the ball rolling and ask that you continue to pray for the people of Uganda and myself. My prayer is that God would make me be obedient in whatever it is He wills for my life. I am excited about the opportunity He has given me to serve Him in Uganda and know He will never forsake me. If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us??

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1

Monday, March 8, 2010

It Begins!

The time has come for me to start the journey. Its been a long road and the anticipation has been brutal. I am ready for whatever comes my way and know that the Lord's hand is upon me. I leave for Kampala, Uganda this Wednesday and want to thank everyone for all of your support! The help that has been given to me along the way is just further proof that this could not be anything but God! I am just going to do my part and be obedient to the calling he has on my life. I will use this blog to try and keep everyone updated on everything that is going on while I am gone. I come back home on December 1 and will be spending much time in prayer on where it is God is leading me, but right now I am focused on serving the Lord in Uganda and will do whatever it is I am called there to do. I know he will never forsake me, and as long as I am obedient to Him I know he will be faithful to me. Please continue to pray for the people that I will come into contact with, and for the Lord to continue to prepare my heart as I partake on this new journey. Thanks again to everyone. I could not ask for a better support group and it gives me peace knowing there is a group of prayer warriors at home praying for the mission at hand.