Thursday, November 22, 2018

REMEMBERING TO LIVE LIFE FORWARD

Being thankful through and for all things rarely comes easy for me.  Recently, I was sent a group of pictures, pictures that captured the last 6 years.  Memories flooded my mind, heart, and soul.  Some good, and some not so good…

I was reminded the other day as I listened to Rick Rubin over a podcast produced by Malcolm Gladwell, to live life forward.  Rick was asked an interesting question, “Do you ever go back and listen to past albums you produced?”  Rick’s response was a bit surprising to me.  “No, I rarely do.”  He went on to explain once a project is finished, the amount of time he’s invested in the record is extraordinary, usually lasting for months.  

And so it made me think…how often do I go back and “listen to the albums” I’ve helped create?  Rick Rubin is no God, at least not to me, but as the late Brennan Manning once said, “There’s always a small crumb which we can catch from the mouth of others.”  

Today is Thanksgiving. This morning in our staff devotions, I wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving.  Though it was received well, here in the UG, unless you’re an American, it’s just another Thursday on the calendar.  As a child, Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, and for good reason of course. As an American adult, my feelings have changed.  Now, I believe my favorite American holiday is Thanksgiving.  Why?  It reminds me of how blessed I really am…even through the most challenging of situations. Today I miss my family.  Today I do feel 8000 miles from loved ones.  Today I’m thankful for families in my homeland who are gathering, and for the homeless and the down and outers whom are receiving love.  Today, I’m thankful for the healthy reminder from Rick Rubin to live life forward. There’s not a measuring stick long enough to account of how blessed my life is.  The future looks bright...     

FNC's New Parent Committee

African Grandfather and Daughter

Farming God's Way Crop 

Author, Friend, and Ocala Team
Annie's 8th grade graduation

Friday Children's Church
Kissing Well Board Members and Friends!

Quincy and the surrounding communities Team!

Special Friends

Team Chase!

Land Deal Done!


Staff on the way to the new FNC campus

Daddy Daughter moment

Freshly picked coffee drying in the Ugandan sun

Friends!!!

Food for FNC

Friends and Family!

Jordan and Todd ready for Teacher Daddy's Wedding

Just another day in paradise



Sunday, September 16, 2018

IF LOOKS COULD LOVE

This past Tuesday, Wendy and I were reading through a passage of scripture found in the book of Mark, Mark 10 to be exact.  There are several stories mentioned.  One of them caught my attention.  Actually, it was just one line in one of the events, which I had probably read a 100 times before, but failed to see.  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”   This rich young ruler was about to hear some of the worst news, if not the worst news in his life.  But before Jesus uttered a word, Jesus first loved.  

I’ve ever heard the expression, “If looks could kill?”  Never have I once read or heard, “If looks could love?”  And just like that, Jesus teaches us a simple look can actually love. Mark saw it, otherwise he wouldn’t have written it down, and if Mark caught it, what about the rich young ruler? Yes, he did walk away, perplexed and discouraged...but what ever happened to the young man?  Scripture doesn’t say.  Nevertheless, Jesus does give his disciples a strong word about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.  The point, for me, even though Jesus knew how this man would react, He first wanted him to know He was loved.  Oh, I’m sure other Biblical scholars could say much more about this, and some might say I’ve just looked into this line a bit too much.  It’s entirely possible.  No matter your opinion or understanding of this particular verse, it is worth noticing Jesus could love with out saying or uttering a word.  

What about me?  Do my looks kill or do they love?   Am I intentional even with how I look at someone? I believe most of us could answer with a simple, sometimes.  And this is probably the truth.  I’m sure at times, motives play a role, and other times we are simply unaware, or don’t care.  Whatever the case, this simple lesson for me taught me one thing…the way I look at someone counts.  

Here in Uganda, children grow up learning not to look an adult in the eye, for if you dare, you are signaling a real sign of disrespect.  Just yesterday I sat down with one of our students and had to ask him a few difficult questions.  The student was sure I wasn’t going to allow him to look straight at me, but to his surprise, I asked him to look at me as I was talking.  It was like he was being tortured!  Look at someone with authority in the eye? Not a chance.  As he struggled to maintain eye contact with me, I repeated myself, “Please Jordan, look at me when I am talking to you.” For the rest of the conversation, or lecture, Jordan never once looked down or away.  I wanted him to know I loved him, with out saying it, and all the while rebuking some of his actions, which had previously taken place.  I can’t be certain, but I would venture to say it was one of the first times in his young life, he was being disciplined, and all at the same time, loved.  But let me be transparent…most of the time I fail at this, especially when I’m around my colleagues.  God help me to be more like you.  

I can’t make this up, the same little boy Jordan literally just entered my office.  He asked me if I was fine and that he had heard me coughing a bit.  I told him I had a touch of the flu, but that I’d be OK.  Little Jordan looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “Good, I just wanted to check on you.” 

Friday, July 27, 2018

IN MEMORY OF ATWIINE SHILAH

A few minutes ago I had the privilege of holding a newborn baby girl in my arms.  Swabura was born this past Sunday, 22ndof July. Her mom, who goes by momma Swab’s, has been a cook here at FNC for several years. Moments like these continue to be sweet, full of life, and joy.  

This past Monday, at exactly 6:35 a.m., sitting in the exact same chair, which held me as I held baby Swabura, another moment occurred.  This moment wasn’t the sweet, full of life and joyous type.  In fact it was quite the contrary.  Teacher Diana informed me we had some extremely sad news.  FNC lost a student, friend, and family member. Her name was Atwiine Shilah. Shilah was a young 3 year old when she first entered the gate of FNC.  She was just 5 years when she fell into arms of Jesus. Shilah, an only child, was full of life and displayed her love daily by showing others they were loved. She always shared what she had. Like bringing a small piece of cake each day to her teacher, teacher Aggie.  And when she was lacking, she always shared with us her smile.  This we will always remember.  

Uganda has taught me many lessons.  There is one I will never forget.  Life is precious, the time we have is limited, and one never knows when his or her time is up.  After hearing from the doctors who treated Shilah, the results were clear.  She passed away from Typhoid, a bacterial infection. Which eventually traveled to her abdominal area taking her little life away from us.    

The phrase “He gives and takes away” has been extremely overused and as a result diluted over time. But in the case of little Shilah and baby Swabura, the phrase seems rather appropriate. Shilah left this world on the same day and time as baby Swabura entered into it.  Does one ever grasp the depth of God, His understanding, and the reason He does the things He does?  Scripture seems to think we will never, this side of heaven.  It’s in times like these, I couldn’t agree more.   

It is now a little past 5 in the evening here at FNC.  A few of us are just back from visiting Shilah’s mother.  Good enough, we also found others from FNC who were also there. I was reminded how much love flows through FNC; I was reminded we are family, thus the reason for this memorial blog. Whether pain, sorrow, joy, or laughter, we are in this together.  Before you lay your head down tonight, would you say a prayer for Shilah’s family, and say a prayer for yourself.  Tell God how blessed you are to have breath, and for the day He created for you.  He loves you.  Though Shilah will be missed, we are confident she’s where we all want to be one day, in the arms of our loving Father.      

Friday, July 6, 2018

NOT THE SAME

There is a picture, which sits in the middle of my office desk here at FNC.  It is a picture of my family.  No color, just black and white and was taken in the summer of 2012. Along the bottom reads, “The Gilliland’s…Life is adventure together.”  The girls look so small, and I guess at that time, they really were. Wendy and I both look a bit younger, and maybe some days a lot younger.  Six years shouldn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of it all. I can’t say it’s the case for us. The past six years have turned our world upside down and inside out.  With out a doubt, we have all changed in one way or the other.  Truth be told, some good and some not so good. 

Living in a different culture long term takes a toll on a person, and the same toll is taken upon the family as well.  We’ve ever been asked, “When did you hear the call to go?”  The girls have their own version, which is pretty much spot on, “We didn’t really have a say.”  Wendy and I typically tell the story of a particular moment in the car where God spoke to us indirectly through one of Oswald Chamber’s devotionals sent to me by a long time friend.  That said, no one, or nothing called us to Uganda, not clearly and directly as far as we can recall.  



Over the years we’ve been awe struck by others stories who were “called” to go, and specifically to Uganda.  Every time I hear them, I seem to wonder if we really were called or not.  We’ve never heard a voice, never had a word (at least like others have had), yet here we are, in Uganda doing our best (most of the time) to serve and love the people God has placed along side this adventure. 

 As I continue to stare at the picture, I see five smiling faces, ready to go, fearless, yet wondering what’s to come.  Outwardly we have changed, but inwardly we have changed all the more.  Two of the three little ones have crossed the line into little women, with the third one being almost there.  For all of us, the things we used to worry about or be challenged with have drastically changed.  The concerns of life are different.  Our lenses have been forever changed.  Normal has broken to pieces and put back together with a new.  We’ve learned to live and not just survive.  We’ve learned God is here even when it looks like He’s not. Oh, we are not the same.       

But maybe, just maybe, that’s the point of it all…not what we are doing, but what God is doing in us.       
  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

HEAD FULL OF DREAMS

For more than two years, FNC has searched high and low for land.  Why? Because the current space we occupy wasn't going to be sufficient to bring up the children through 12th grade.  For the record, we are not abandoning where we are, just expanding into what we will become, Lord willing.  Simply put, FNC Academy will continue to run our day school here in Kampala, grades Pre-K through 3rd grade, then 4th-12th grade will expand into our new location.  This new campus will include boarding as well.  The new land God so graciously provided is located 17 miles north of Kampala in a small village area called Busika.  It is approximately 13.15 acres and has several structures already built on site.  A huge blessing as we intend to occupy them with our 7th and 8th graders beginning in January.

I'm sure many of you might have questions on how we are planning and when we intend to build the future school structures.  Those details are coming together and will be posted as they come to fruition.  One thing is for sure, God has been in this thing from the beginning.  Please pray as we look to Him for future planning and direction.

I want to end here and say a huge thank you for all of you who helped us purchase this place where miracles and dreams will come true for so many to come.  You know who you are... This is just the beginning of a long and fruitful journey, but one I hope you continue to join us on.  

Below are a few of the pictures from the land:



Main Entrance

Front Gardens

Main House

Main Entrance Roundabout


Pic #2 Main Gardens

Preliminary Boys Quarters

Future Site for FNC Academy Pic #1

More space for FNC Academy Pic #2

Food Growing Garden

One of Many Mango Trees

Too many Papaya trees to count...



COFFEE!!!

Oranges, Lemons, and Lime trees in abundance

Our little piece of Village life

Future Barn for Goats

Inside of Main House

Beautiful Wild Flowers

Preliminary Head Office

Many Kinds of Banana Trees (Jordan pruning)

Just love this Palm...






Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Ugandan Pizza

What is hope?  What does is look like, feel like, taste like, smell like?  For some, hope is having.  For others, hope is experiencing.  For me, hope is being.  In my 41 years, I’ve tasted much having and felt much experiencing.  Still today, these aspects of life continue. Everything’s a gift from God, even the most challenging moments, a lesson I have recently learned.  Reflection either brings regret or gratefulness.  I chose to be grateful.  But if I’m completely honest, regret sneaks in at times. 

When FNC was birthed, none of us ever dreamed it would evolve into a place of true hope.  Sure, we “hoped” it would become a haven where people were loved, especially children.  What we didn’t plan for and surely didn’t foresee, that it could be a gate into the hearts of so many more.  It has become hope for us, the parents, our community, and we are now realizing it brings hope to our teams who travel from abroad.  Just the other day, Solomon, one of our teachers and key leaders here, said it like this: “God is using this place to impact not just us, but those who come and love on us.”  I believe he is right.  

So is hope a place?  I don’t think so, at least not on this side of heaven.  Do we find glimmers of it, heaven that is, in this world?  I believe we can if we turn.  The only thing, which will remain eternal, is Christ’s Church, the only true hope for the world.  As many of us are fully aware, the global church consists of people from every tribe, tongue, and language.  When true hope is presented, the hope Christ spoke of and lived out, we, the Church are at it’s best.  

Yesterday evening Wendy and I broke bread with Brad and Pam, a couple who have dedicated the rest of their lives serving others.  From construction to evangelizing to the least of these, their actions speak hope. We ate Ugandan pizza together, shared our struggles, wins, and war stories of living life on the other side of the globe.  It was good. Brad and Pam have 2 sons and one daughter, all are grown and serving the Lord.  It was their last night in Kampala for sometime, so we felt privileged they would chose it to spend with us.  At times, Wendy and I struggle to know if we are continuing to be good parents, making good choices with the time we have left with our girls.  A seasoned veteran of missions once told me, “Never underestimate the sacrifice your children have made and continue to make.”  He said it as I asked him for a word of advice.  He then turned to our two oldest daughters, Emma and Annie, and said, “And never underestimate the sacrifice your parents have made.”  Last night, Brad and Pam said many things, but one stuck out the most.  We were making our way to the parking lot, and Brad turned to me, looked at me straight in the eyes and said this, “You need to know something, both you and Wendy are amazing parents.”  It was difficult not crying right then and there.  

My friends, this was not just a word of encouragement, it was a word of hope, true hope.  Thank you Brad and Pam for loving on us the way you did that evening.  When I stop and reflect on all the goodness God has placed in our lives, I'm most grateful of the hope He speaks to us through others.  It is in those moments, I believe God smiles.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

PRAISE THROUGH THE PAIN

Some of you know I have a love/hate relationship with running.  I love it because it is a release of so much.  I’ve often called it my “saving grace”.  The hate comes because of the pain it brings.  Running doesn’t come and has never come natural.  It was a discipline God brought into my life a year or so before we came to Uganda.  Then, I had no idea how valuable it would become. 

Over the years, running has challenged me, pushed me, and a few times almost killed me. Uganda’s terrain and climate isn’t exactly west central Illinois, this would be where the challenge and pushing play a role.  Crazy Kampala definitely lives up to its’ name in regards to the traffic element.  Let’s just say pedestrians don’t have the right away.  I’ve been knocked by more exterior mirrors than I care to remember; battle scars and souvenirs.  Every time I finish with a run, Wendy asks me “So how was it?”  My answers never vary…it is either a good run or a brutal one.  For me, there’s no in between.       

Lately, life in Uganda has felt like a run…it’s either good, or just plain brutal.  For those who have lived in a developing country, you know this far to well.   But let’s face it, life is full of challenges regardless of your residence. There are good days and not so good days.  Maybe I could add though, challenges are relative.  For some it’s not having a microwave, for others it’s sleeping on an empty stomach.  And then there are relational challenges. These can be the most painful, and also most damaging depending on the situation.  Only if our yes could be yes and our no, no…oh how the world would be different. 

People from both sides of the globe have been admiring the growth and success of FNC.  Let me acknowledge the true cause of FNC’s progress…God and God alone.  I honestly have no worldly explanation for what God continues to do here.  Not one of us is truly qualified for what we do.  Still God does His thing here amongst us and through us.  What most people don’t know, or just haven’t vocalized, is what challenges are we facing today?  What is the single most obstacle standing in the way of forward progress?  It’s a fair question and one, which deserves a clear answer. 


Ryan Johnson, a recent visitor, and now a serious ambassador for FNC and true friend, served selflessly and compiled a short video, which truly tells the story of how FNC became FNC.  The video also contains footage of our current facilities, some of our teachers testimony and the mountain that continues to stare us down.  But more than any of those things, it shows God’s continual hand and provision, which allows us to be us… Loving the least of these. Words are powerful.  Pictures are powerful.  Songs are also powerful.  My hope is all who witness this creation are moved.  For me it was a reminder…to praise through the pain.