Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rwandan wedding!

Well this is a bummer. Since returning from my trip to Eastern Uganda 3 weeks ago, my stomach has been fighting something (each day, practically). After multiple tests this week, the doctor isn’t 100% sure but she thinks it’s a parasite. All I know is, SOMETHING is attacking my stomach and it’s no fun. I’m able to eat a little but not as much as usual, so I’m rather weak/lethargic. Plus I’m incredibly dehydrated—in the past two days, I drank 9 liters (more than TWO GALLONS) of water. And I’m still thirsty…bizarre.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying. I’m hoping I can go back to work on Monday feeling like a new person. And also, I appreciate Marsali who took me to the clinic…and also my other friends/co-workers who have popped over to my flat to pay me a visit: Lauren yesterday, Katy today, a surprise visit from Solomon/Richard/Dennis/Eddy this evening, and Maria tomorrow!

Now, for something more cheery: I recently attended a Rwandan wedding here in Kampala. My dear friend, Laticia, told me her cousin was getting married and asked if I’d like to come along. It was a lovely and very classy event. When the bridal party entered the reception hall, they were lead by a display of fireworks as well as traditional Rwandan dancers (incredible!) Not too shabby!

After about two hours of wedding speeches (which were in the Rwandan language which I don’t understand a word of!), Laticia and I slipped out and sat in the cool evening air. We talked a lot about our growing-up years, our families, etc. I appreciate friends like her who challenge me and aren’t afraid to ask blunt questions such as, “Ashley, what has made you sad in your life….” Definitely opens doors to some honest, deep conversations.

I brought my small point-and-shoot camera and my flip-cam, so here are a few photos from before and during the wedding.

Pre-wedding: Laticia and I (she's one of my closest friends here in Kampala, and I'm so thankful for her! She lives right outside my gate which is awesome :)


Two of my lovely friends, Laticia (different shirt this time) and her older sister Natasha.


The next 3 photos were taken by Laticia on my point-and-shoot camera which does not take impressive indoor photos. sigh.


My other friend (the third sister) was a bridesmaid and she looked stunning! Sylvia's in the purple dress (I have no idea who the others are!)


Phenomenal traditional Rwandan dancers. My favorite part of the reception.


um I tried to give her the memo to make a silly face. Instead, she looks scared of my goofyness :)


My friend, Natasha, and I in front of the lovely wedding cakes. [Don't you love her traditional Rwandan dress?]


Oh and by the way, if you're the only white girl in a crowd of several hundred Africans, you can expect something unusual to happen---such as the two men (one was quite intoxicated w/ alcohol) who spent ten minutes trying to convince me that they needed a photo with me. They literally refused to take no for an answer, so when they called the wedding photographer over, I just forced a grin while he snapped a photo. The one man said he was a teacher in the village and couldn't wait to show them my photo....I definitely felt like an animal in the zoo. A good lesson for me to remember to have photo etiquette when I walk around with MY camera! It's important to be sensitive so that others don't feel that way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inward battle [during worship]

This has a different feel from my usual blog post. It's not just about's relevant across continents. So, read on...

By being completely honest and vulnerable with my next statement, I hope some of you who also struggle with it can breathe a sigh of relief and know you’re not alone! Lately, I have found myself VERY DISTRACTED in the very place where I should be completely consumed with the Lord: worship during church services.

People are perhaps one of the main things I'm distracted by! I’m very people-oriented, and I love people-watching. Always have, always will! So combine my personality with the fact that (in my church here in Uganda), many people arrive quite late—even when we’re 45 minutes into the worship. So if I’m not careful, I find myself looking around at all the interesting people….thinking “Have I met her before? She looks familiar….” or “aw, that child is all alone. I wonder if he’s a street boy.” or “oh no she didn’t—does she know she’s in CHURCH wearing THAT?” [I don’t want a petty, judgmental attitude anywhere—especially church. Yet, sometimes the thoughts sneak in :( ]

So then, as the scenario usually goes, I realize my thoughts are wandering when I should be WORSHIPPING. Feeling guilty, I silently scold myself, and I close my eyes to block out distractions.

But during the next song, my mind is flooded with other things….

*My future.

*What I’m going to eat for lunch after service.

*ugh, not this song again....I wish we sang more hymns!


*That new book I want to read.

*Oh, I have to remember to tell my friend [insert name] about such and such.

*I wonder which pastor is preaching today.

None of those are BAD things to think about, in and of themselves! But I am truly annoyed with how easy it is for me to be distracted during worship.

I want to enter His presence and be consumed with His love, forgetting what and who is around me. Why does that seem nearly impossible when I’m standing in a room full of people?

I don’t know. But as I sit here, typing….I know I’m guilty of putting too much emphasis on myself and also on the music itself. Maybe I need to make time to meditate on scripture (and pray) before I get to church….If you have any thoughts, please share them here. Maybe ways that you try to block out distractions during worship?

I just read an INCREDIBLE article from Christianity Today that has changed my thinking regarding the act of worship. Take a few minutes to read it….the first half is a bit slow-moving, so I’m giving you permission to skip ahead to the “Reversing Field” section. click here to read it. <------

The article makes a great point that many Christians think that worship ORIGINATES with US. That worship moves from earth to heaven. But really, it’s the opposite:

The trajectory of heavenly worship begins with God and descends to earth.”

When we are standing in church singing to the Lord, we are part of a MUCH bigger picture….a much bigger chorus! We are so small. It’s not about us. We are joining with those in heaven as we worship our Creator. What a privilege!

The author of the article says it beautifully (after I read this, I called my roommate over and read it to her. All we could say was “WOW! I’ve never really thought about that before!)

"A day will come when our conflict and mutual discomfort over the church's worship will end. Until then we must muddle through the best we can by reminding ourselves that we are part of a much larger congregation—one populated by patriarchs and prophets, saints and angels, where we are invited to join a chorus that began on the first day of creation. The first notes were sounded by those who surround the throne in heaven. Their theme echoes through the rest of God's domain. All that remains is for us to add our voices to their song."



Can’t have a post without a picture! Worshipping with people from other nations is a small glimpse of heaven! It was a blessing to watch our Children of the World choir kids praise their Savior while singing their little hearts out. (I can’t remember who took these photos...this was 2 years ago!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

[No longer] a statistic...

Did you know there are reportedly over 145 MILLION orphans in the world?

That's mind-blowing.

It's easy to read statistics like that and not be affected...

but then, one day, you find yourself in Africa...a half-naked little boy runs to you with his arms stretched high. You bend down and pick him up. He wraps his tiny, boney arms around your neck and stares into your eyes--communicating a silent, desperate plea. A plea for love.

Suddenly, everything changes.

This little boy is no longer a statistic.

His earthly father abandoned him. Even when the father WAS around, he spent all his money on alcohol and even gave the child alcohol. But there's Someone who's the Father to the fatherless. He hears their cry and will one day bring justice...

But You, Oh God, do see trouble and grief...
You listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed....
[Psalm 10]

"Orphans are easier to ignore until you see their faces...hear their voices...
until you hold them in your arms. Once you're vulnerable enough to do that,
then everything changes." -David Platt
Last week, I visited an organization (SMILE Africa) in Eastern Uganda. My heart is still aching from what I saw there. Each day, they provide a safe place for over 200 at-risk children who come for food/bathing/etc. But at this point in time, the organization is only able to provide full-time care for a small number of those kids. The majority return to their homes each night; in many cases, their guardians abuse them whether sexually or physically. Not to mention their basic needs are not being met at home (lack of food, water, love, clothing, etc.) I was humbled and privileged to love on the "least of these" this week.

As Christians, I strongly believe it's our duty to love the unloved and extend a hand to the orphans. Do you realize that you were once a (spiritual) orphan? But your Father reached down His hand and rescued you from sin/death. Now it's your turn to offer these children hope in Christ and the cross.
[My lovely, new friend who helps look after these malnourished, abused babies.
Please pray for her and my other friends there--it is physically and emotionally draining.]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Unsure where I'm sailing [next]...

Let's sail away, past the noise of the bay
Let's sail away past the birth and death of the day

Let's sail away,
Take only what you need and leave the rest behind
Don't be afraid of where we'll go,
I promise you will be fine

Let's sail away floating weightless through the night
Let's sail away like a photograph, fading to all white
-"Tereza and Thomas"

[Mombasa, Kenya]

Friday, March 4, 2011

[to love and be loved]

"We must know that we have been created for greater things,

not just to be a number in the world...

we have been created in order to love and to be loved."

-Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa lived love OUT LOUD! But it wasn’t her original idea when she says we are to love others. My Savior commands it in His word, so that’s what I strive to do. I don’t want to waste my life being grumpy and holding grudges (although trust me, there are definitely people I struggle to love and be patient towards!)

Loving with God’s love is POWERFUL. It can transform someone. I have literally witnessed the “before” and “after” stages w/ some of these kids. I’ve watched hurting, introverted children recognize that the staff at Dwelling Places (and God!) love them. They now are joyful and engage with the other children. Never underestimate the difference that love can make…always be willing to wrap that child in your arms and give them a hug. Always be willing to encourage and point out peoples’ strengths.

At DP, we are currently rescuing children off of the city streets. They’re now living at our transitional rehabilitation home (down the street from the office.) Since I spend my days working in the office, I don’t get to engage with our kids as much as I’d like. So I’ve been trying to stop by the home and visit with the kids several nights a week when I get off work.

On Tuesday, I brought along some nail polish for pedicures (thanks to my dear friend, Amy, who sent them from the U.S!) The girls went CRAZY with excitement. Their toes never looked better : ) Before I left, they wanted to return the favor….what’s the result when you have FOUR young kids simultaneously painting the nails on each limb of your body? Let’s just say I looked like a (very pink) nail salon threw up on me! And I loved every minute of it. (No photos were taken, unfortunately ;)

My beautiful, talented friend (Maria) and I stopped by to visit the kids this afternoon. We had a blast playing Duck-Duck-Goose (which many of them have NEVER played before!) and just lovin’ on the kiddos. I snapped some photos that I want to share with you.

Don’t their smiles melt your heart?? It’s hard to believe that even just a few weeks ago, they were facing hardships such as: abuse, struggling to find food, not having a place to sleep, and the list goes on.

[Juma, age 4. I'm smitten, I'll admit it...]

[Holding sweet Patricia and also Shadiya....and half of Daniel!]

[I believe this cutie just came last week, and I haven't yet learned the names of all the brand-new ones :/ ]

[Juma again....he was toting around baby Silas who's about 9 months old! Too cute.]

[I caught Silas in an adorable, candid moment...]

[Could their smiles get any bigger? These two (like MANY of our DP kids) actually attend a nearby boarding school; this was a few weeks ago during their break.]

[Playing Duck-Duck-Goose today! Well, certain individuals were distracted by the camera. My dear friend, Maria, is in the striped shirt on the right; she has recently started volunteering with us. She's so talented and great with the kids.]
[Patricia again--this little girl melts my heart. Note the dust on my toes--I will NOT miss that aspect of Uganda ;) ]

Please keep these precious children in your prayers this week, as they are still adjusting to life at DP. Pray that it soon begins to feel like “home”; pray that all 20+ of them get along and love each other like family (Since MOST of them are fresh-off-the-streets, they’re hitting and punching each other if they don’t get their way.) And consider sponsoring a child; let me know if you’re interested!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

do you agree?

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.”
[Photo: Old town Mombasa, Kenya]