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. 




Thursday, February 22, 2018

A BIT LONGER

I was recently introduced to a band who's been around since 2001...and it wasn't even a song or person which peaked my interest...it was a documentary called "May It Last".  A little late to the party would be an understatement.  The Avett Brothers, or Scott and Seth Avett began with humble beginnings, always wondering when they might have a number one song.  In 2008, they were invited to play in front of a Nashville executive from a major recording label.  After playing, they were asked an interesting question. "How many of your songs do you think you want to record?"  The Brothers answer was simple and on point, "All of them!"  Then they were asked one more question, "Would you all consider recording other people's songs?"  In which they quickly replied, "No."  Suffice to say, the deal never happened.  It took a bit longer then they wished, but patience usually pays.  In 2016, The Avett Brothers recorded their first number one hit, "Ain't No Man." And to this day, continue to tour and fill arenas all over the world.

Recently, a team from the states paid FNC a visit.  It was much more than a visit to say the least.  Together, the team served tirelessly on medical check ups, workshops (financial training, how to deal with trauma, and the 5 love languages).  Many other services were provided, gifts given, and lots of love shared.  Then there was the construction of a new classroom, one we desperately needed.  Man power was plenty, tools were sufficient (eventually), but one can safely say we underestimated the amount of time the project was going to take.  Obstacles and unforeseen challenges often delay our goals, but when we are persistent, having an attitude of not giving up, most of our life goals will come to fruition.  A man once said, "If your dreams don't scare you, your not dreaming big enough."
I've often seen, what separates success from failure, is sticking it out a bit longer.  

To close, I thought it would be most appropriate to share just a few of the pics that were gathered while the team was with us...

Our Amazing Team!

Pat Benson Teaching Financial 201

Holly loving on Ayiko

Loading up for the Ugandan Home Depot

Workshop Time

David, Charles and Gordon...Construction at it's best!

Goodbyes

More Goodbyes

And More...
Goodbyes are always difficult for us here...but have been notorious for being challenging for our teams who come to visit as well.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you did, and continue to do for FNC...and for sticking it out a bit longer.

Finishing Touches on the New Classroom

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

LESSON LEARNED

Today the FNC staff turned to Romans 5 for its' daily dose of the Word...many verses were mentioned and hashed through more than once, but one seemed to come back to us time and again, verse 3.  "...because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Just seconds ago we lost power (I'm using a laptop).  Wendy was down making copies, because the power had been out for nearly 3 days in the upper compound, and you guessed it, power went out down here...a little annoying to say the least.  But, we all can agree here in Uganda, we'd much rather be without power than without water.  No question!  When those in more developed worlds hear the phrase, "Water is Life" it's meaning is a bit watered down (sorry, couldn't resist) from those of us who live in less developed parts.  Don't feel sorry for us, I'm just stating a fact. Wendy and I were just in the states for nearly 10 weeks and not one time was I concerned about water, much less power.  And if I were being completely honest, I've gotten to kind of enjoy the moments when power is out...there's a solitude and silence which follows...you can choose to be annoyed, or choose to appreciate.  I'm slowly learning the latter.

Losing power has little to nothing to do with persevering.  But let me tell you a short story about a little girl whose arm was completely broken for one day shy of a week, and barely complained about it.  Her name is Faith Ayio, and if you are reading this and you are her sponsor, well then, get ready to be impressed...not by anything FNC did, but by this little girl!  Faith is 6 years of age, and is in 2nd grade...(in fact I just had to double check with Diana, our head administrator to make sure she was actually in second grade...the girl is bright!  It must run in the family because her older sisters whom also attend FNC are just as smart...if only God was so good to me in that department!)  It wasn't till Friday of last week did we discover from an X-ray that her arm was actually broken, IN TWO PLACES!  Faith had fallen on wet stairs at her home the past Saturday, and to her mothers defence, Faith's arm really didn't look broken.  Of course Faith complained some about the discomfort but never shed so much as a tear about it, at least not at school.  Tough would be an understatement.  Suffering and persevering, for sure!  Faith is now in a much needed cast applied by one of our local hospitals here in Kampala.  You should have seen little Faith's face after she received her treatment...in fact, here's a picture...I believe it tells the rest of the story.


All of us at one time have fallen, maybe not in the physical sense (though I'm sure we all have in that way as well), but in the spiritual sense.  All of us at one time have been broken, whether it be emotional or physical, and sometimes both.  As children of God, sometimes we fail to get the proper treatment we need, when we need it.  Usually it has to do with our pride, not asking for help.   Sometimes, we're just afraid.  I've been there, in all of it.  Then other times the help we ask for comes from the wrong source, be it a wrong person or substance.  Thus, we compound our fall till we have no other choice than to fall again, this time on our knees, and ask the True Source for the help we so desperately need.  I thank God He's ever waiting on me to fall forward, humble myself, and ask him for my healing.

Faith was different.  Faith tried to let her family know, she even tried to tell us, "Something is wrong with me." Why did it take almost a week for someone to act, take the time, to do the right thing?  Because we weren't listening.  Oh, I'm not suggesting anyone ignored the situation...but a week???  How many opportunities have I missed because I failed to listen, whether it be to a friend, family member, complete stranger, work mate, God, a little girl with a broken arm?  A lesson learned? I hope so.  For all of us here.  Maybe the power needs to go out more often.          

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Digging our Ditches

If I could sum up FNC Academy's 2017 year into one simple phrase it would be this..."We have dug our ditches".  2nd Kings, chapter 3 tells a story of three kings who decide to unite forces, and go to battle against the Moabites for tax reasons.  King Joram, convinces his fellow kings to take a route through the desert of Edom.  For seven days King Joram, King Jehoshaphat, and the King of Edom march their respective armies until one day, things become a bit tight.  By this time, the men and all involved were tired and weary, with little to no water remaining.

I can imagine the complaining, the bickering, and thought of giving up...until one of the King's has a brilliant idea to call out to a man of God within the camp, Elisha.  For me, this is where the story gets interesting.  King Joram and Elisha weren't exactly best friends.  In fact, Scripture states that both sides couldn't stand the site of each other, but each respecting one another's positions.  Elisha is called upon, and graciously meets with the Kings.  Elisha isn't at all surprised to hear the predicament and sarcasm seems to come to the table, demanding if he's to hear from the Lord, they will need to accommodate him with a musician.  So they do.  Elisha then hears what God's plan for the armies to not only survive, but thrive.

Verse 16 begins with God's exact instructions..."This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches..."  Now I don't know about you, but that's the last thing I want to tell men or Kings who are tired, weary and wondering if they were going to live to see the next day.  If one continues to read the story, you'll find not only did God fill the ditches over night with water, saving the lives of thousands, but He also provided the means to defeat the Moabites...which was something the Kings didn't even ask for!

When the staff of FNC read through this story earlier in the year, the phrase, "digging our ditches" became a thread throughout our daily walk.  For about a year now, we have come to the realization, the compound space at FNC was and continues to be tight.  We've shifted classrooms around, leased additional compounds, built onto what we had, looked for other opportunities to expand, and after all this, we continue to be challenged with enough space.  For me, I really thought 2017 was going to be the year we purchased land, and began the planning and fundraising needed to expand what God has and continues to do at FNC.

Instead, God turned our attention to a greater need; making FNC's foundation secure...and that meant, "digging our ditches," being ready for the blessings we believe await us in 2018.  So how did God help us to dig our ditches this past year... For starters, we are now officially a recognized international school in Uganda.  With the help of Vestar, our beloved attorney and now a teacher at FNC, God continues to use him for His glory.  Secondly, our staff as a whole, the FNC board of directors, alongside the covering of our stateside team, are hand in hand and solid in ways we've never been before.  I couldn't be more proud of the entire team!  Thirdly, God has helped us see some of the immediate needs of some of our students, particularly with some of our girls.  And with that, the FNC's girls home was founded this year...for those of you who helped us with this, the dividends are endless.  Finally, a green space for our kids to play is now being used...they had their first play time on it just two weeks back!

I really don't have the time to give you all the highlights, but just be sure, there are so many more...

With that said, all of us at FNC want to thank you for continuing to love on us as you do.  Your prayers and support allow us to continue to pour into the lives of our little school and community the wholistic Hope of Jesus Christ.  As the digging continues, our prayer and hope is to see God fill these ditches with His blessings.  And with that, we believe He will.              

Monday, August 28, 2017

GREEN SPACES & GIRLS GRACES

For four years now, FNC has had it's eye on a particular empty plot just next to our current campus.  Not to build on, because it's to small of an area, but for a play ground and a green space for our students to run freely and safely!  Well, after four years, God heard His children. We were introduced to the owner of the plot, and just a few days later reached an agreement to lease the space from him.  The picture below shows the ground being levelled.  Our plan is to plant fresh grass and put up a proper fence around the area, thus having a secure place for our children to play!


Cleaning and leveling the future FNCA play ground


On another note, God has been speaking to our hearts about the hurts and challenges some of our students face at home.  And for that, we have tried to do our best to listen, learn, and act accordingly.  One of the many challenges comes from the homes of which some of our FNC girls stay.  I want to be sensitive about discussing this topic so allow me to just say, some of our girls are at serious risk.  In short, we as leaders and staff of FNC have felt a strong conviction to begin a girls home for our most serious cases.  Now, there's so much that goes into taking on this kind of burden, such as a proper place to house the girls, training up some of our staff to listen to and council, how to handle with care those who have dealt with direct or indirect trauma, and of course providing around the clock care.  At this moment we have 3 girls whose home lives have been compromised in some way, and a fourth who is homeless.  In the caption below, though it looks small, the home has 4 bedrooms, a sitting room, dinning room, and two bathrooms...and the best part, it's just a few hundred yards from FNCA!

Humble beginnings of FNC's Girl's Home

We are sharing this exciting news for a couple of reasons.  First, we wanted to share in the joy and evidence of God's ever moving hand here.  Second, for your prayers and support in the two efforts, especially our new girls home.  In our best calculations, it's going to take around $4000 to do the necessary work on both projects (this includes rent for the year for both properties).  FNC's upfront costs are a bit much, but so worth the investment.  Garage sales and or thrift stores are a bit scarce in the third world.  So with the help of some of our parents skills, such as carpentry, sewing etc, and of course some careful shopping, we feel confident to meet the challenge as the home is to be opened Friday, September 1st!  Prayers are needed and welcomed as God continues to expand FNC's territory.  Would you also consider a one time donation to help us love on these girls and provide the much needed play space for our students here?  If you feel inclined to join us, please place the word, "Girl's Home or Play Space" in the memo of you check.  FNC continues to receive online giving as well for you convenience.  Just go to our DONATE page here on this site.  Lastly, thank you for continuing to love on us here at FNC!  

FNC's Girl's Home first four girls with House Mom Phionah


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

FNC's JULY BLESSINGS


Over the past month, FNC has been blessed with receiving two groups, both which loved and served us.  Each group contained a "first" for FNC as well:

1.  Group #1 brought Martha Blakely, Wendy's sister to come see and experience FNC!
2.  Group #2 began what we hope to be many more student trips!  

Here are a few of the pics from each trip....

Group #1: Martha Blakely, Mark & Ashley Gregory, Lisa & Gene Jinkens, and Ethan & Christie Sefton.

FNCA students receiving water bottles!
FNC United Cheerleaders

FNC United team huddle
Students loving life!

Home Visits
Gene & Lisa with their sponsored student Miracle

Martha having some fun with our little ones

Painting the BBall court
Ashley teaching our young ladies about LIFE

Martha helping Shamilla with her brand new arm and leg braces!

Old friends re-unite

Emma getting to help lead worship on Sunday morning
Preparation for the best guacamole in town! 

Jordan directing traffic in the construction of our new stairs!
The Source!


Love these ladies!
Saying Goodbyes


So much accomplished with this group!  Love you all!
Pastor Ethan, giving us a last word of encouragement




Group #2: Students... Jayden, Evan, Abbie, Sophie, Makayla, Delayshia, Kendra, and Grant
Leaders...Chaka Batley & Josh Baily

Nile Time!
Dance pic #1
Because we're cool like that...
Makayla loving on our children
Some extra work while posing
Dr. Chaka!
Why not???
Musical Chairs...

And the chair survived!
Group wedding photo

Students absolutely killed it when it came to the food here!  Well done!

Guys Table...
Wedding Dance off!
Don't even have words...

Large Group Pic

Well done Chaka!

Cookies for all!!!

Smiles all around

Receiving cookies!
Love these guys

Goodbye hugs

Last words of encouragement...


Beautiful!

Our newest Bride and Groom...Mr. and Mrs. Solomon Nebeta

A bit blurry but such a great shot!

Roof Top @ Terrace

Crazy Taxi ride...we love and miss you all so much!