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What I learned from a trip to Uganda

Uganda 5  By Carrie Blackaby Camp

I had always dreamed of travelling to Africa. For years I heard amazing stories from people who had visited the continent. And, quite frankly, who didn’t love The Lion King? So I was immediately on board when an opportunity arose for my husband, Sam, and me to travel with a small team of others to work alongside Helping Hands Foreign Missions in Uganda for a week. Within an hour of finding out about the trip, our round trip flights were booked to Entebbe.Uganda 1

It’s probably a good thing we booked our tickets so quickly, because it didn’t give me any time to talk myself out of going (which was definitely a possibility once I learned our plumbing would be
a hole in the ground and we would be tenting for a portion of the trip. Let’s just say, growing up my family’s idea of “camping” was staying in my Uncle’s RV in the driveway…)

But I am so glad I didn’t change my mind as the trip was an unforgettable experience. Below are just a few of the things God showed me while I was in the beautiful nation of Uganda–Uganda 4

  1. You don’t need lots of stuff to have joy. We spent most of our time in rural areas and we witnessed extreme poverty. Most of the families we saw lived in small mud huts. The children ran around barefoot, many of them in tattered clothing. But despite their hardships, those children had joy. They smiled and laughed readily. And they were quick to show love, even to a girl from America they didn’t know.
  2. God can use bad experiences for good. On our first day in Uganda we met a teenage boy named Isaac. His father left when he was young and his mother struggled to provide for him. When he was three he was severely burned by boiling water and no one (except his mother) expected him to survive. But God healed him. He now lives and studies at the Helping Hands school. Rather than harboring bitterness about the hardships he endured, he says he is grateful because God carried him through every trial. Now he desires to become a missionary and share the Gospel with others enduring trials who have no hope.Africa
  3. One person (or family) can make a huge difference in someone’s life. We had the opportunity to visit a young boy’s hut to inform him and his hard-working mother that he had been sponsored by a family in America through the Helping Hands sponsorship program. Because of a family living 8,000 miles away, that child will now receive the food, education, school supplies, and clothing he needs to become a healthy and productive adult.
  4. Even small actions make a difference. In the rural areas we visited, pedestrians, bicycles, and the occasional motorcycle make up most of the traffic on the red dirt roads. So our fifteen-passenger van full of Americans and our gear was quite a spectacle. Everywhere we went, a mob of village children would run alongside our van, calling out greetings, waving and smiling. So we waved and smiled back. This was met with even bigger grins and lots of giggling. I was amazed by how something as small as looking someone in the eye and waving or giving a high five could bring so much joy.
  5. There is still so much need in this world. We witnessed the incredible work Helping Hands missionaries and others are doing in Uganda. Thousands of children are being fed, receiving an education and medical care, and hearing the Gospel because of them. But I was also amazed by how great the needs still are. Many children still cannot afford to eat. Countless children don’t go to school because their parents can’t afford tuition. Many of them suffer from preventable illness because of malnutrition and lack of access to medical care.

As the Christmas season approaches, perhaps God is calling you to help meet those needs, whether through prayer, sponsoring a child, or taking a mission trip.

For more information about Helping Hands and their sponsorship program, visit their website: www.helpinghandsmissions.org

5 Things to Remember When Using Social Media

164262_599645136724539_970989253_n by Carrie Blackaby

Social media has dramatically changed the social landscape. Friends near and far can easily stay updated on your daily life. You can post a picture of the pumpkin spice latte you just ordered and almost instantly receive comments from your mother-in-law, former soccer coach, pastor, and Great Aunt Sue.

While there are many benefits of living in a hyper-connected world, it also presents unique challenges. Everyone now has a platform, and in the immortal words of Uncle Ben (or the smart guy he plagiarized), “With great power comes great responsibility.”


social_media

Below are 5 things we should keep in mind as we embrace the wonderful world of social media:

  1. Don’t let a Facebook like replace action. While social media can be a great way to bring awareness to a cause or need, sharing an article or posting a status should not be an end in itself. Rather it should be a springboard to action—such as volunteering, donating, sponsoring, and especially praying.
  1. What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. Just like it’s prudent to think before we speak, we should think before we post! A good rule of thumb is to avoid social media when our judgment is impaired (whether by anger, exhaustion, distraction, etc.) to avoid posting anything we will later regret.
  1. Spread Joy. Take inventory of the balance of positive/negative posts, comments, or articles you share. While life certainly isn’t sunshine and daisies all the time, our online presence says a lot about us. The way we present ourselves should be a reflection of Christlike love, not of a critical and pessimistic spirit.
  1. The “Golden Rule” applies (even in the comments sections). Online interaction can often feel removed from real life, and that can make people less inhibited to write what they would never say to someone’s face. Scroll through the comments of any YouTube video (at your own risk) and you will often find ugly exchanges. Even under funny cat videos! But we should keep Matthew 7:12 in mind, “Sowhatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” We should show respect to others online, even when we disagree.
  1. Find Balance. As with any other good thing, social media is best when used in moderation. With the social media world so easily accessible, it can become tempting to check our phones, laptops, or ipads all the time. But then we tend to miss what is happening around us. As the saying goes, be with the people you’re with.

 

Author By Night: Balancing a Milk Bottle With My Chin

by Daniel Blackaby


12122457_1005525059469876_6757033017347742402_nSeveral years ago I published my debut book, and thus embarked on the thrilling journey of fulfilling my dream as a novelist. As a carefree young adult armed with a trusty laptop and a far-too hyper imagination, I spent the next several years conjuring up adventure stories full of fantastical worlds and heroic quests. Little did I know that I standing on the doorstep of my own perilous journey; one that would make slaying dragons or vanquishing legions of ugly orcs seem like a merry-go-round ride. Nothing could prepare me for the news: I was going to be a father…of twin boys.

In January my family was doubled. To say my life changed is an understatement on the level of saying LeBron James is “not too bad” at basketball. The boys arrived into my life like two atom bombs, blowing away everything I thought I knew. I’d always looked forward to fatherhood, but I’m not what you might call a baby expert. I was quite alarmed to learn that babies aren’t potty-trained at six months. Neither did I know that for the first several months of their existence they’re basically smelly blobs of skin with no desire to play, watch movies, or debate the deeper issues of life. Above all, I was dismayed by their stunning lack of interest in the great Russian novelists or Victorian era masterworks. To them a good book was whichever one was most tasty between their gums. The audacity! The disrespect! In short, when it came to babies – I was clueless. 10945382_10204883557161949_5986430230448118732_n

Another troubling revelation was that, despite my well-reasoned lectures, the babies refused to respect their daddy’s sacred “writing time.” It didn’t matter if I was deep in the zone typing the next American classic, they wanted to play, eat, and poop (often all at the same time). To be honest, tired and in over my head, I began to wonder if my days as a writer had come to an abrupt termination. Think about it. In all the great stories about the great warrior poets of old, you never hear how their office reeked of stale milk from that elusive bottle hidden behind a bookshelf; or the typos as a result of writing while also giving a six-month old a horsey knee-ride. Likewise, what about the unpleasant smell on the fingers acting as a reminder of the especially abominable diaper experience earlier that night, against which even industrial strength soap is powerless. Indeed, after several months of groggy-eyed 3am feedings my stories began to read more like the material Lewis Carroll left on the cutting room floor for being too nonsensical and strange. My dream of being a writer was on life-support and, at least for the next 18-20 years, showed no sign of recovering.11745628_10206108359741248_2551327852532384389_n

Along the way, however, something marvelous happened. I was reminded of a priceless truth – the world is an extraordinary place, full of joy, mystery, and wonder. You see, too often as Christian writers we carry the weight of the fallen world on our hunched shoulders. We act as if our polished sentences and clever allegories are all that holds the devil and his minions at bay. But as I watched my little boys’ eyes light up in amazement at a cardboard box or blinking light, I was reminded of the innocent wonder that once existed in us all. Before we were jaded by our solemn mission, when a well-timed burp or a wooden block filled us with such uncontainable glee. Isn’t that how we all learned to love books in the first place? It wasn’t the timely social commentary or deep symbolic truth that allured me, it was hungry caterpillars and paper-bag princesses. Eight months into this crazy adventure of parenthood, I’m convinced that God’s timing is never arbitrary or by accident. He set the natural life cycle so that beautiful children arrive just in time to save us before we’ve lost all the awe and wonder of our own childhood. Looking back, having two little energizer bunnies around has not killed my writing career as I feared, it has breathed new life into it in ways only innocent children can.13187_10205339047788930_5248360931764282384_n

Sure, some deadlines will be missed, the coffee must be brewed stronger, and “uninterrupted writing time” has joined the dinosaurs as relics of an older era. What I have gained makes it all worth it and so much more. Mark Twain once wrote, “Don’t look at the world with your hands in your pockets. To write about it you have to reach out and touch it.” Writers are normal people with normal problems. If not, then we’d have nothing to write about. At least nothing worth reading. So if you catch a typo in my next book or stumble across a sentence that seems suspiciously like it was written after 4am, just know I was probably balancing a milk bottle with my chin and combating ungodly smells at the time. More importantly, I hope you feel the joy of a child between every line I write. After all, what an amazing world we are blessed to write about, with such fascinating wonders like cardboard boxes and blinking lights.

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