Have you ever read Mark 11:23 and actually believed it?
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Yeah, me neither. It is hard to be a bible believing Christian and admit sometimes I don’t believe the bible. Doubt is hard to overcome, especially when facing mountains.
Hope and me at her home town of Kisoro, Uganda. Behind us are the extinct volcanic mountains of Muhabura and Gahinga, part of the Virunga Mountain range streaching from Uganda, into Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and home of endangered Mountain Gorillas. They look small, but they aren’t – Muhabura is a 13,540 ft tall cone.
In the shadow of Muhabura, Hope giving out soccer jerseys from Wisconsin friends to relatives and friends in her home village at the approximate location of the hut she lived in after her mom died of AIDS. Two of her aunts who died of AIDS are buried in this garden. Half of Hope’s village died of AIDS when she was a child because the local witch doctor was HIV+ and demanded favors for payment from the women.
Things have been hard lately, rock hard, mountain hard. I get overwhelmed with our problems. I have a list, it’s ridiculously long. Here is just some highlights of worrisome things swirling in my head at any given moment lately:
- Hope was diagnosed with a cyst behind her ear that at first was not going to require surgery, but the second opinion from an American doc was that it should be removed. There is a facial nerve that may be in the middle of the mass. This is not a surgery I want Hope to undergo in Uganda. Hope has been fatigued more than usual and needs better medical care, but Immigration is stalled out for lack of $300 plus we need another $6,000 for airfare.
- Nalongo has an eye infection, a hernia from a bad c-section, and needs to get better medication for her HIV treatment.
- I have five girls who need school fee sponsors of $1,500+ and $125 of that cost is covered so far. Prostitution is epidemic here for uneducated and unemployed women.
- I miss my kids in the US, and not having an apartment when I am there is harming my relationship with them. My former wife wants (and deserves) more child support for me being in Uganda so much. I don’t know how to be a dad in two places at the same time.
- Debts run up in the start up of our work are eating funds we could use for better purposes than paying interest, making me feel like we never have breathing room.
- Fear-bola in the US is infecting donors – we had a three month volunteer I was depending on to come have to drop out because supporters were afraid of her bringing back Ebola! (Uganda does not have any Ebola cases.)
- Faithful monthly donors signing up then dropping out just because their credit card expired/was stolen and they are too busy to sign up again. I feel stupid asking them again and again to recommit. I hate bugging good friends for money, it’s the worst!
- I need $4,000 in dental work when I get back and I owe the dentist over $1,000 already.
One step forward, two back, it feels like a mountain on my chest – until I (with Hope’s wonderful loving patient help) focus on the fact WE all have a shovel and a very capable God.
Mountains seem impossible to move, especially Mt. Terrorism, Mt. Ebola, Mt. HIV, Mt. Malnutrition, and the twin peaks of Mt. Ignorance and Mt. Poverty, plus you always have to keep an eye on the volatile and explosive Mt. Crazy African Dictator. Mt. Constant War, Mt. Disunity, Mt. Conflict, and the biggest, Mt. ME just become part of the landscape, to the point we even consider them an ideal place to live and build our house on, because the view is so nice.
But think about a mountain, it’s just dirt and rock. If each of us take a shovel load to the sea, wouldn’t it just be a matter of time for The Body of Christ to move that mountain? Maybe we can make a nice spiral design with the rubble? Why not make something beautiful from OUR shared faith here and now! Let’s change what the World thinks is unchanging – Violence to Peace, Hunger to Satisfaction, Sickness to Health, Enslaved to Free! This is the Story of The Church and OUR God doing what no one else can – no magician in Vegas can match that disappearing act!
Spiral Jetty. Built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah entirely of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks and water, Spiral Jetty forms a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide coil jutting from the shore of the lake – beauty from rubble!
OUR story is about you! You, our friends, come together from all over the world to accomplish things I never thought possible, you all have answered prayers I had only enough faith to pray, not actually believe. We move mountains with YOU!
For example this kind of thing happens daily; my daughter, Judith, modeled bags for me at my friend’s house in Palos Verdes. I met her at a festival two summers ago. Her family has generously opened a room to me to facilitate my move to LA to look for a new home church in preparation to go back to school, find extra work to pay off debts, and community to grow with. An old elementary school friend living on the East Coast spotted the bag on Facebook. She donates for a bag, sewn by an HIV+ single mom 10,000 miles away in Rwanda. Money given by friends in California, North Carolina, and Texas, bought the fabric. It was sewn on a machine donated by the wife of another childhood friend in Michigan. The bag was then transported to the US by California friends serving a month with the Roths in DR Congo (we connected them two years ago), and shipped off by another California friend who is an unemployed breast cancer survivor who joyfully manages to out give everyone with jobs, good hair, and health. All so we get another $20 in funding to help the woman who sewed the bag! Who could organize that!? How does all that come together if not for God coordinating his Body to move in Love-fueled Unity!?
My daughter, Judith, modeling a HOPEbag.
More rarely, in 2011 Hope and I were totally broke at the beginning of the month – not the end, that’s normal, but at the BEGINNING of the month! Our support check arrived and didn’t even cover half of our expenses We paid some of our bills and had no money for food, child support, or rent. We prayed, then took any action we could think of.
I called a good friend in California, the connection was good and I got him on the first ring, told him what was up, and he put $500 directly in my bank account the next day. That was a miracle, being able to eat is good. Still not out of the woods we prayed all day. The next day, we had five donations come in, one after the other over a course of 8 hours, from people who never gave before or since. Their gifts were over $2,000! We were floored, literally, on our faces before God crying and deeply humbled.
Remembering days like that gives me faith! Together, with God’s help, we bumbling, blind, complaining, argumentative, Facebook cat video addicted, selfie-centered, opinionated misfits, can do the impossible when we work together!
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6);
“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
How utterly UN-American is that! But that is living a life of God-worship!
Let’s not get distracted by what does not matter. Let’s fearlessly grab our shovels, forget about worries, and head to the mountains to make a way for our God! We have work to do!
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.”
From Isaiah 40
Can you dig it!?
Your Co-shoveler in Christ,
P.S. If you want to help us shovel our side of the mountain, we would greatly appreciate you signing up to give monthly so we can stabilize our cash flow and work with a predictable budget. This month we are $2,000 behind! Any help would be greatly appreciated. And please tell us about what you are facing so we can pray with you and help you dig out from under your mountain.
This little Fire Finch hung out on the roof of our outdoor kitchen at our first HOPE+ Africa house and quickly ate any rice grains that fell to the ground. I often wondered if he had any appreciation for the donors who gave us money to buy that rice. He certainly had no worries about his meals showing up every day!