To Know the Love of Christ

The other day my dear friend Hollie and I had a conversation that has stuck with me and has had me thinking and studying further. Here’s a small excerpt of our conversation, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.- Psalm 32:8

‘Eyes up here.’ – God 
I love this verse. I feel like every time I read it, God is like- Hollie, what are you looking around for? Why are you looking so intently at yourself, trying to fix it? Why are you looking for direction in this environment, in this situation? Why are you looking to your fellow humans- they don’t know!…how can He instruct me with His eye, unless I’m looking RIGHT AT HIM…do you know how IMPOSSIBLY DIFFICULT it is to look Love Himself in the face?”

 That last line of looking Love Himself in the face is what I have been chewing on this last week. What does it mean to look Love (Jesus) in the face?
A few days after that conversation we had our sibling devotion time in Ephesians 3:14-21. I was particularly struck with verse 17-19…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Do you see what I saw? God’s love is incomprehensible to the human mind and we need His strength to know it!! Ok, so how does this tie in with looking Love in the face? It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. If we are looking at Jesus and seeing Him in truth, we will be able to see His love for us. Knowing God is knowing love because God is love. 1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
God calls us to have our eyes up and focused on Him, on Love (Heb 12:1-2, Psalm 121:1, etc), but we can’t do it. We can’t keep our eyes looking up on our own. Hollie gave me a great statistic that supports this fact, “The average time a human is comfortable holding eye contact in Western culture is 3.2 seconds.” Yup, that pretty much sums up my human ability to keep my eyes on Jesus…3.2 seconds and then my sin condemns me, or the world distracts me, or my circumstances discourage me. It’s so so hard to keep our eyes up and focused on Love. In fact, it is impossible for us as humans to comprehend the love of Christ, to lift our heads and our eyes to Him. So, how can we do it? God…it is He who gives us the grace and the strength to know Him and His love! That is why Paul prays for the Ephesians to have strength to know the love of Christ. It is why the psalmist says “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3. 
So now the questions is how does asking God to lift our eyes to look at Him and know Love help us? Well for one thing, knowing the love of Christ fills us “with all the fullness of God” according to Ephesians 3:19. It causes us to trust God and know the way we should walk according to Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. It reminds us of our frailty and His power in Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Have you ever had an experience of reasoning with a young child (yours or someone else’s) about why you want them to do something? You try to explain why it’s good for them and why you are asking them to do it, but they just keep arguing like they know what’s best. It’s frustrating, right? You just want to tell them, “If you understood just how much I love you and want your good, you would just trust me and do what I’m telling you to do!” Now, God has way more patience than we do, but He tells us the very same thing! Over and over these last few months God has been gently scolding me, “Heather, if you could just understand and believe how much I love you then obedience wouldn’t be hard, sacrifice wouldn’t be hard, trusting me to lead you wouldn’t be hard, loving others unconditionally wouldn’t be hard!” Sigh, but it is hard! I’m not grasping His love as quickly as I want and sometimes that leaves me discouraged. But again Jesus reminds me “Look up! Don’t look at what you can’t do or what you haven’t grasped, look at ME!” I must remember and cling to Ephesians 3:20 “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,” His power in me is teaching me to look at Him longer and to know His love deeper and fuller. As I continue to trust in His ability to work in me, I will grow and I will know Him and His love more and more! So my dear brothers and sisters, look up and behold the One who’s love for you is steadfast and never failing, and then let His love consume you!
Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Also, please be in prayer for a sad baby that was delivered in our hospital in Soroti today. She has severe hydrocephalus, bilateral cleft lip and palate, and some other defects. She is stable currently. The plan is to let the mother recover for a few days and then send them to a hospital in Mbale where they do shunts and cleft lip and palate repairs. It’s hard to know what the prognosis will be. Please pray for the baby and the family. The mom has been trying for a baby for a long time, so this is hard and sad for them. 💔 Also pray for the nurses as they care for this baby for the next few days!

-Heather

From Soroti to Jinja to Kampala to Midigo: An Update on Life in the Pearl of Africa

Hi everyone,Just wanted to give you all an update on what is going on with us in Uganda! All our NICU babies are home now. Baby Alice Benesther our 34 weeker is doing well has caught on to breastfeeding and is getting bigger. Our 32 week twins, Apio and Acen (pronounced “a-chin”), went home a week ago. They came back on Monday for a check up and had gained some weight but also had just pulled out their NG tubes. The Dr decided to send them home with out them and to see how they would do. They came back on Friday for their check up and had lost weight. Please keep praying that they start eating better and gaining weight again. We wish we could keep these babies at the hospital until they can eat on their own like we do in the US but parents can’t afford the hospital bill. 

Alice Benesther at home


Heather and I with Apio, Acen, and Alice


Our newest premie came in on Thursday at 9 days old. He was born at 30 weeks and his name is Joseph. He was born at a different hospital weighing 1.1 kg (2lb 7 oz) he was sent home at about 7 days old with a NG tube for feeding and weighed 1.03kg (2lb 4oz). Parents were referred to our hospital after the baby pulled out his NG and appeared to have difficulty breathing. When he came in he was stable but very malnourished. He was not getting enough calories to grow. We put the tube back in and got him started breastfeeding. He went home the next day. We think he will do well as long as he gets enough milk. 

This week we will be getting 2 bags from the US filled with lots of goodies that you all donated for our hospital and our NICU specifically! Just thinking about it makes our nurse hearts rejoice. We are so blessed by and grateful for everyone’s generosity with the donations. We even got some donations from a few different NICU hospitals across the US. 3rd world nursing is an interesting, challenging, and rewarding thing. Flexibility is key because you have no where near the resources that you are used to and most of your supplies need to be washed and then reused for the next patient. Their is no room for waste. People die from things that are easily or at least successfully treated back home. I can definitely say when I go back to work at home I might have some culture shock from the over abundance of supplies and the amount of things we waste and take for granted. As much as the pharmacy in a hospital at home can drive me crazy (when I get my meds delivered late or have to keep calling to get what I want), I will be very grateful when I don’t have to mix my own D10 from D50 and D5. And when I can have a nice 1L bag of fluids instead of a plastic 500ml bottle that leaks all over the floor no matter how much you try to stop it. It will be a dream when I can run to the supply room to see a plethora of syringe sizes available and that they don’t break so easily! I could really keep going, but I think you get he idea. So that is what makes us so excited for everything that is coming! We really can’t thank everyone who has donated enough! Our goal is to get this NICU running and all the training done before we leave in January. 

Mixing D10 in plastic leaky bottles


Everything at my parent’s house waiting to get packed


We also want to say a big thank you to our home church, Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano, who did a fundraiser for us last weekend! Also a huge thank you to Bad to the Bone who donated all the food!! (If you haven’t been there you need to go! Our personal favorite is the Jalapeno burger, but everything is really yummy!) We are so blessed by everyone’s generosity! The money will help cover the cost of bringing the bags of NICU supplies and some other expenses that have come up since we did our original budget.

This weekend we are headed to Kampala with our brother Majok for our sister Lydia’s parent visitation/meeting at her school. Yesterday we took a local bus to Jinja. We were the only mzungus (white people) on the bus. It was a bit bumpy but a good experience. We had a fun touristy day. We went to the source of the Nile. This is where the White Nile River begins it eventually joins the Blue Nile in Sudan and makes its way to Egypt! This spot is particularly unique because about 30% of the water bubbles up from an underground spring. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been to this spot and Heather had never been there. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful place with a lot of birds, monitor lizards, and even some river otters . We enjoyed some yummy food at Java House. Not only is it a treat to get American style food, but what makes it even better is that the service is so fast! So we get our food in 20-30 minutes instead of an hour to two hours or more:) (it’s the little things that really get us excited some times) 



In other news, we are headed up to Northern Uganda later this week to work in a small rural town called Midigo. Heather and I have been there many times and we really love these people and are excited to get to see some of our old friends. In this area there has been a recent influx of South Sudanese refugees. In the last few months a small village, called Bidi Bidi, with mostly farming and cattle land have received about 160,000 people. Most of these are women and children. A lot of children have been orphaned.(Here is an article from the Washington post about what is going on https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/28/three-months-ago-it-was-a-tiny-ugandan-village-now-its-the-worlds-fourth-largest-refugee-camp/ ) South Sudan is near and dear to our hearts as our siblings are from there and we have done a lot of work there over the years. Please be in prayer for these people for health, food, comfort, and safety. The need is truly overwhelming but we know that God is a God of miracles. Be in prayer for us as we minister to them. We will be up there for about 2 weeks and will be serving with a team from Calvary Chapel West Grove including one of our friends from Nepal. It’s such a blessing to see the body of Christ come together to serve! Also, internet access is not very good up there so we might not be updating as frequently.

We appreciate all the love, support, and prayers. Please continue to pray for us as we follow where the Lord Leads.

-Courtney
Prayer Requests
Good health, wisdom, guidance , and endurance for us 

Sudanese Refugees-health, food, comfort, and safety

That our NICU babies would continue to grow and do well

That the staff at the hospital would continue to have a desire to learn and grow

Our sister Abong Lydia to do well in school.

Our brother Majok Abraham to find the job God would have for him

Our brother Anei Peter as he goes back for Med school in January 

Our brother Santino Aguer that he would have a desire to follow after Christ and be responsible 

I am not Amazing

Rom 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

I’ve been seeing and hearing people say things like, “You guys are amazing and doing amazing work.” Sometimes it feels like people set us apart into some special category that they will never reach. But I’m here to tell you the truth…I am not amazing! I struggle against sin everyday. I often make poor choices and I can be quite selfish. You see lots of beautiful moments in pictures, and those moments are beautiful…but you don’t see my tired moments where I am cranky with Courtney or when I really would just rather stay in bed a bit longer! I am no different than any other human, except one thing…there is one thing that has made a difference in my life. It’s the one thing that can force me out of bed and can change my bad attitudes and gives me the love that makes me willing to sacrifice everything. What is that one thing? It’s Jesus! He is the only good in me and His Spirit working through me brings forth beauty!

As human beings we long to find acceptance, belonging, and love. We seek to be beautiful and whole and to have purpose and meaning. Yet, most of the time all this world gives us is brokenness and rejection. No one is alone in this. Every human on this planet has experienced some level of brokenness or rejection. Though you may see a reflection of “perfection,” many are hurting and seeking to find their place just like you. This world has taught us that life is like a carnival house of mirrors. If you find just the right mirror and just the right angle, you can hide who you really are and reflect something the world calls “beautiful.” The problem with this is that it is a distorted beauty. The image we have projected is a lie. Even if we earn people’s affection and attention with it, we are still left feeling lonely and afraid of what could happen if someone wanders through the maze and finds the “real me.” Sometimes we have done such a good job of hiding who we really are that we even deceive ourselves into believing the lies. But what Jesus offers is freedom! He offers you to be set free from the burden of trying to reflect perfection and instead just reflect Him! You see, from the beginning humanity was created to be reflectors or mirrors of God’s image. This is our true identity!

Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden brought brokenness and death to this world. But the amazing part is the story doesn’t end there! God sent Jesus to live a perfect life and to take the punishment for our sin by dying the death we deserved. Now, all we have to do is accept the forgiveness that He offers! I can tell you from experience that Jesus is real and true and changes lives! I can tell you that knowing Him and knowing that I am completely and perfectly loved by Him is what drives me to do what I do. It’s all Him! It’s all His work! I am simply His vessel.

My prayer as I share pictures and stories is not that you will look at me with awe or praise the works of my hands, but that you will see my Savior and that it’s HIS amazing work! Most of all, I pray that if you don’t know the love Jesus has for you, that you will seek to know it! And if you need help, I would be happy to introduce you to Him!

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 

Much love,

-Heather

Joys and Sorrows

It’s been a busy few weeks for us with our little premies. The 34 week boy from a couple weeks ago was able to go home earlier this week. The very day we sent him home we delivered 32 week identical twin girls and a 34 week baby girl. The twins are learning to breastfeed, but they are not very good yet, so please continue praying. The 34 week girl is doing well and working on breastfeeding as well. She is catching on quicker than the twins, but she’s not quite there yet. Both mommies are doing great! We are so blessed and thankful for how well these babies are doing and thank you for all your prayers! Please keep them coming!

Another blessing was that, Pius, the sweet boy with sickle cell anemia was finally able to go home after surgery to remove his spleen. We are thankful that he recovered well and pray that God would have his hand on upon him as he grows. 

With all joys we have some sorrows too. Today was a sad day for us. A mother brought us her 5hr old 28 week baby on a boda (motorcycle) from a village several hours from here. The baby was gasping a little on arrival, but by the time I was called and arrived to see the baby, he was gone. We tried for several minutes to resuscitate him, but it was too late. My heart was breaking for this mother as she sat collapsed on the floor waiting and hoping we could save her baby boy. We found out as we talked to her later that this was her 5th baby to be born this early and die. My eyes welled with tears as I wrapped his tiny body (he was only 740g or 1lb 9oz) in the blanket and carried him over to the family. The mother couldn’t look at him, so the friend she came with took the baby. We prayed over her and our chaplain also came over to pray and talk to them. My heart was weeping as they got back on the boda for the long journey home to bury their little boy. Please be in prayer for this family. Especially the mother, Rose.

Also pray for Courtney as she has been in bed today with some kind of stomach bug. She started some medication this morning, so hopefully she will be feeling better soon!

-Heather