The Humble Prayer of a Ugandan Girl

Letter From our Sponsor Child in Uganda

Letter From our Sponsor Child in Uganda

I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving again. I haven’t had a chance to post here nearly as much as I would like over the last few weeks, but that’s been the story of my days lately. Every time I get so busy running from meeting to meeting something bumps into me with a little perspective, like this letter above from our girl in Uganda.

I love reading these letters from Joanita, our sponsor child in Uganda. They mean a lot to both of us, even more so since I have had a chance to meet her a few times and know where she lives and where she goes to school. Every time we get a letter from her she makes sure to let me know that she is praying for us, and that blows my mind. I can’t really think too deeply about this because after a while I’m just dumbfounded about what we complain about, and even more what things take up our time here in this land of plenty.

When I read her letters it makes me stop and think about who is praying for me, and who am I praying for? Is it a trivial passing glance or have I made time today for things that are eternally important, not just the mundane task driven daily routine that is so hard to break out of at times. Even though she will probably never know how much I appreciate her prayers just knowing that a little girl 10,000 miles away who sleeps on a dirt floor is praying for me humbles my day.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

Scott Fillmer on Facebook

I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.

Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like Instagr.am, Pinterest, Foursquare, FlickrSpotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.

[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]

So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

  1. Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
  2. We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
  3. If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
  4. By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
  5. Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
  6. How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
  7. Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
  8. The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
  9. The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
  10. Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection

So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.

A Look at the Visioning and Planning Process of the Church Body

Monthly All Staff Meeting at Cornerstone

It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.

One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.

I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.

Written on the Walls Behind Bars, Part 2

In Front of the Bars at a Children's Prison in Africa

A continuation shot of Part 1, this shot is Part 2 of 3 and was taken just on the other side of the window bars and shows the extent of the mural on the wall. The wall depicts a family, possibly their witch-doctor, and the love they have for their missing child.

Not One is Missing Among 10 Billion Trillion of Them :: Isaiah 40:26

The Milky Way Galaxy and Jacob

I have been walking, and sometimes running, through the book of Isaiah over the last week or two. There are so many incredible passages in Isaiah, but this morning I came across something that made me stop, it was just one phrase, just four words, “not one is missing” (Isaiah 40.26.d). This passage, in context is Isaiah 40:25-26, is talking about the pagan worship practices, many of Isaiah’s contemporaries had failed to resist, which now surrounded the Israelites. They often worshipped astrological phenomena, but Isaiah here is saying that Israel’s God is the only thing worthy of worship, and he created the stars themselves.

Apparently astronomers say there were about 5,000 stars visible in ancient Israel, so saying that God created these stars would have been an awe-inspiring thing (and it reminded me of the star images above from last summer).[1] What is always so awe-inspiring to me, in a time and culture where not many people worship the actual stars, astronomers now estimate there are more than 400 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe, making the total number of stars 1×1022, or about 10 billion trillions. If this isn’t mind boggling enough to contemplate, Isaiah says God knows all these stars by name! In His own strength He created, controls, and sustains millions upon millions of stars, each one of which He, amazingly, has named (cf. Ps. 147:4).[2]

I’m not even sure I can fully understand what 10 billion trillion is in a numerical order. The only thing I could think to compare a number like that to is something huge, like our national debt which is around 15.6 trillion. Even something we are told is as huge as the national debt looks absolutely minuscule when compared to how many stars God has created. The point being of course, if God knows the name of every single star, such a God will surely never forget even one of his own people. After all, there are only about 7 billion of us for God to remember!


[1] See EXIF Data of Star shot above on Flickr

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Is 40:25–26.

cf. confer, compare

Some Things Are Actually Worth Paying For

Some things in this world are just worth paying for, regardless if you personally think the value exchange is equal or not, and especially if it goes to help another person, or enables someone else to help another person. Being frugal is one thing, being cheap is another, not recognizing the difference between the two is akin to not acknowledging the difference between saving grace and cheap grace.

Come Join The Cornerstone Church Food Drop 2012

This year at our church to celebrate Christmas, instead of doing fancy decorations and traditional garland we have been planning for quite a while now to do a “food drop” for the Auburn area. So if you were to walk around the church right now you will see boxes everywhere. A Christmas tree made out of boxes, presents made out of gigantic boxes, and the filled and returned boxes we started to give out this past Sunday. The way we have tried to communicate this on our own website is that we are never more like Jesus then when we serve others. And throughout the month of December, Cornerstone members and attenders (or anyone who wants to be a part giving back to our community) will be given the opportunity to serve others using a simple box.  We are asking everyone to:

  • Pick up a box and packing list from the Cornerstone lobby.
  • Pack the box full of food for families in Lee County.
  • Return the filled box to the church by January 1, 2012.
  • Saturday, January 7, gather at Cornerstone and pack the SUV’s, minivans and pickup trucks with these boxes and head out to specific communities to pass out these boxes to families in our area. (We will work with the Food Bank of East Alabama to target the communities in the greatest need.)

This is an opportunity to make a tangible difference in someone’s life by offering basic necessities that many of us take for granted. We can make the New Year great for our community with our simple gift of a box of food, and we are trying to have over 1,000 boxes filled by January 1st. For more information you can also visit the Cornerstone Food Drop 2012 info page, or visit Lee’s blog post as well.

If you are reading this and saying to yourself, I don’t go to Cornerstone so that’s nice and all but who cares… well, you don’t have to, but you can still participate. If you are in the Auburn-Opelika area, just come by the church lobby and pick up a packing list and a box and return it before January 1st.

Either way, whether you participate or not, I hope you can make it a priority this Christmas to go beyond the normal gift giving and remember others who are not as fortunate. I love that about Cornerstone, and I love seeing the church be the church. We need to think, learn, study, and understand God’s word, but we also need to go… and do. How can we say we believe what the scriptures say unless we actually do what it says. I hate the commercialization that always goes along with this time of year, but I love this. Hope you will help make it a success as well.

An Incredible Day 1 on the Ground in Uganda

Our first full day on the ground in Buloba is just now coming to a close. Everyone is in bed, probably fast asleep at this point (it’s about 10pm here), and hopefully gaining enough energy to last the full day tomorrow down in Buloba. So, I know this post is going to take forever to load on some slow connection but I just couldn’t eliminate any more images than I posted here. In total I think I took about 5,000 images, and for my repeat readers here I tried to make them as unique as possible so I didn’t just show the exact same thing as last time. Keep in mind as I write this post I am barely able to keep my eyes open, so I know it’s going to packed full of typos, but it will just have to be so this time.

A small note about the timing of everything over here. I always get questions about when I will be posting, because the timing seems so odd. I post in the airport and all that and then… nothing, for what feels like days over at home. We arrived last night into the guest house from Entebbe airport at about 1L30am and we were all asleep about 2am. No way I could post last night, and then today, we got up at 6am (yes that was about 3-4 hours after we went to sleep) and headed out for the day. We got back tonight in time for dinner, then I did a quick edit of the images and here we are at about 10pm. From this point forward, I will hopefully get to post around this same time for the next few days. Today’s photos ended up being Amy Frye day just because of the specific interaction I was able to capture, but each had their turn in the camera spotlight.

Today was great in so many different ways, and as we met after dinner to discuss the days events we discovered how tired we all actually are. Today was to be our orientation day to understand, yes, we are in Uganda, and it ended up being a day crammed packed full of God’s love. The day started off with a walk over to Gaba church where we were given a detailed tour of the Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM) buildings facilities and classrooms. The guest house is located on Lake Victoria, in Gaba, basically right next to Gaba Church and ARM. The shot of Amy below with arms wide open is shot on the balcony of their office.

Next up was a trip into Kampala for some administrative duties, and lunch, and then we headed out to Buloba. I’m grateful that since this is my second trip the ride and culture shock going into Kampala was basically minimal for me but those who hadn’t been were trying to comprehend what they were seeing, hearing, and smelling. When we arrived in Buloba we had the customary (i.e. extended) greeting and prayer at Buloba church and then we proceeded to visit the well and haul water up from the old well. For those who hadn’t been yet, doing this routine of going to the old well was and will continue to be a very important part of our welcome to Buloba. There just isn’t anything other than the experience of carrying 50 pounds of water 2-ish miles, which can explain why the other well was so important. It was pretty impressive to see Amy carry 50 pounds of water up these hills, but if she can do it I’m not sure who couldn’t.

After that we watched Emile do her water experiments with the local ladies. Through a simple process of making water into a chlorine based water with a solar panel and some salt, she showed the ladies how they could use this water to disinfect various pots and pans, bathrooms (per-sa), and do so in a very simple and inexpensive way. We did spend some time visiting with the children and meeting some of the sponsor kids before heading back to Kampala for dinner, and then here we are.

A quick explanation of some of the photos below. The first shot was for Bart, who seems to have a facination with the roosters here between wanted to eat them and keep them as a pet. That photo is standing at the gate of our guest house looking out to the main road in Gaba. Amy is not actually calling rain to fall in the next shot, she is directing the boys singing hymns about 50 feet below here. The shot of John Dow with the Water Buffalo, steer, cow, thing (it was big and had horns and looked like you could probably eat it) was John saying as we are watching the explanation of the bore well, check this cow out, and the shot of the shot of Emile is her performing the experiment for the ladies.

All in all a fantastic day, and an overwhelmingly exhausting one to boot. If all goes well I will post again this time tomorrow, but power is very limited here it seems, and I may or may not have a battery, time, or the energy, so if not tomorrow, the next day. Thanks for all your prayers. It is greatly appreciated by all the team members.

A Photographic Look at the Faces of Uganda :: Part 2

This is part two of a post I did last week (part 1) on the faces of Uganda. This set of images was a quick project related to the kids at African Renewal Ministries (ARM), which is the ministry group in charge of the sponsor child program we work with at Cornerstone Church. This is a pretty amazing program for the kids in Uganda and ARM coordinates the sponsorship of over 7,000 children in Uganda right now, along with being a bridge for churches and other non-profit organizations among other things. They are an amazing group, but you can really see the difference they make when you actually go over to Uganda and meet the children in the program in person and see that it really does make a difference to them.

To me, they are in the business of producing fruit… something we all should have on our to-do list as Christians, if I can say that and not make it sound like a checklist. They, and the people who work with them are producing the fruit, described in John 15, for future generations in Uganda. Something not just talked about in John but all over scripture, and to me that’s exciting. Our October mission team leaves in about a week and I can’t wait to get back to see those kids again. Just saying that feels a little weird since I’m not really one for searching out kid-friendly whatever but there is just something about the joy those kids have about life that is contagious, except perhaps when they get caught in the rain, but who likes that.

A Photographic Look at the Faces of Uganda :: Part 1

Today I finally had a chance to process some more photos from the shoot in Uganda. These were specifically pulled out for the kids, and there were way too many to put into one single post so I broke this up into two pieces. I’m not sure what preconceived stereotypes you have in your head when you think about the phrase “Uganda kid photos”, but what I had in mind was the late night 2am TV commercials guilting you into sending money. That just wasn’t what I saw when I was there, and below is a very small sampling of what I encountered while I was there in August. There is no sugar coating their hardships, and they do exist, but as you are surrounded by people who have basically nothing, according to our western standards, you find they are happy, smiling, laughing, and overall excited to see you.

It was quite inspiring to be around people who seemed to genuinely happy in spite of the adversity they face. There are so many things we (I include me in this) complain about every day that I think some days we just flat out lose our joy for life. Perspective helps, but that too fades with time. Ultimately I pray God will at least change my heart for the things He cares about, like the people in these photos. Only about 10 more days before I head back to Uganda with a completely different group of people, a completely different mission and schedule, but I’m pretty sure all of us have a soft spot in our heart for these smiling faces. In some respects this upcoming trip will be emotionally harder as we are scheduled to be in two different children’s prisons in the middle of the week. I know God will be moving with us and the kids while we are there, but I know the entire team would appreciate your prayers as we get closer to leaving.

Keep an eye out for part two of this post with the remaining five or so photos from this particular batch. Have a great weekend.