When you cry out, the Lord helps you.

20 May

“When we cry out, The Lord helps you.”

On August 6th, 2012 I cried out, I cried tears of uncertainty, tears of pain…I was in Uganda at a home (an orphanage) that housed hundreds of children. I was on day 10 of my trip and feeling like God wanted me to hear, feel and to discover the reason I was in Africa. On that specific day I cried out because I felt so much pain and uncertainty; so much sorrow. In such pain I didn’t know what to expect but God was faithful. He comforted me and gently revealed what his plan was. From that day of crying like I have never cried before to this current moment, I have never felt so much confidence and determination about why I was sent to Africa. It was not an inward journey but a revelation that my heart and soul was meant to heal and to lend hope to the hopeless. Even more so, it was to provide stability; to be a constant, a solid foundation of unconditional love to two boys specifically. Yes, Trevor and David. I am often asked “Why Trevor and David”? That question is not easy to answer because I don’t know! I just know that I cried out, and my prayers were answered in a wonderful way!

“When you cry out, the Lord helps you.”

Uganda, March 2013

30 Mar

Memories are gifts that keep us from forgetting all of the moments in our life that have made a significant impact. They mold us, shape who we are, and can have tremendous influence on how we live our lives.

I am once again grateful for the opportunity to travel to Uganda, Africa; to learn, to inspire, to create life-long relationships, and to lift the spirits of children creating a little light in their lives.

Each time I visit Africa I am inspired by what I learn and what I observe in the the culture. The way of life is so different and it really makes you appreciate how easy life has become. From washing clothes, making deliveries, walking to school, gathering water, building structures, working in the fields, growing their food; it all is hard work that takes up hours of their day. Nothing about these things is like home in the US.

What is like home is the need for positive human connection and interaction. Children are playful and want to know you, they hold your hand, and are truly excited to see you. They go school, play soccer (football), sing songs, scream and get frustrated with their peers. They are children.

I think about the impact I alone have made and what my 16 other team members made. I am inspired by the potential that can continue to be made if we stand together with our eyes open and our hearts ready to help.

Whether called to help individuals in the United Sates, Africa, Mexico, the Philippines, China….one thing I have found to be true is there must be a high value on life to create change. If we can help instill this value in others and empower them with confidence, hope and respect for each other positive changes occur. Changes in all aspects of life don’t happen by simply standing on the sideline and hoping things will change. It takes a willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zones and be part of the change. Together, our team has truly done that on our trip to Africa. We have each given up something for the benefit of helping others. We came together as a team for the purpose of lifting light from some very dark places and to build relationships. We did so because we each felt called in some way to make a journey to Africa.

In many African villages the concept of community is essential; it is how they live. Living in community doesn’t bring monetary richness but it does bring connection and survival. While great to see at many levels, this way of life doesn’t lend itself to much change or improvement.

On this trip our team was blessed to provide new insights, opportunities for growth and new ways of thinking, in addition to hope, love and laughter.

We stepped into a village and worked side by side with locals to mud a school, we worked in community with another village to repair a bore hole that had not been working for almost two years, we talked to a village mothers group giving them new insights and knowledge, we fed lunches to the children at a local school, we played sports and games and loved on children of many ages, and we delivered our individual expertise in business, marketing, computers, jewelry making, counseling, finance, parenting, mechanics, ministry, and restaurant management.

Most importantly, we built relationships! We laughed, shared life stories, developed new friendships and opened our hearts to individuals living halfway around the world. We felt not only compassion but connection and purpose.

We also learned a little bit more about ourselves. We grew in spirituality and we discovered new strengths. We gained new perspectives and appreciation for life; what we have. We learned that giving of ourselves really isn’t that difficult and being adaptable and flexible lends itself to wonderful opportunities.

While it is sad to be leaving beautiful Uganda, I will keep in prayer the new friends I have met and will continue to build on these relationships.

My visual memories are filled with seeing children wave to you as you pass by smiling and excitedly shouting Mazungu. Riding basic bicycles everywhere. Downpours of rain accompanied by the loudest booming thunder I have ever heard. The termite hills exploding after the rain and swarms of winged termites flying everywhere (eek)! Bicycles used by locals to transport everything (three wooden children’s beds balanced perfectly was tops!). The most delicious pineapple I have ever eaten! The hardest working women, tending to fields while carrying babies in a pack on their back. Driving through the beautiful countryside on the way to Jinja to see my sweet Trevor and David and spending three days loving on and being loved by them. I will write more on this developing relationship later and the boys I am so in love with. And on our final day, going on an unexpected Safari seeing so many wonderful sites and animals.

We are all part if this wonderful world no matter how many miles separate us! My prayer is that more people open their eyes to the world, looking outside of what is familiar and comfortable digging deep to find compassion and love for those places that darkness has set in. Your light is meant to shine for the world to see. Resist the temptation to hide in your own darkness and instead let your light shine bright.

I can’t wait to return again! Maybe you will come with me. Thank you to all of you who supported me on this trip, for you have also made a difference.

Much love,

Tina

Listen to the call and press on!

18 Jan

Have you heard a call to go on a mission trip, to travel to a third world country to help the poor, diseased or orphaned, to build homes or schools for those in need of them, to teach English or other subjects to those where school is not available?  What has been your call and why haven’t you listened to it?  Often times, it is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of not having enough money, fear of stepping outside your comfort zone, fear of what other’s might say….  It was for me!  That and also simply not listening to the call.

Fear is one of the most common things that keep us from achieving our dreams.  When we let go of fear and put our faith in God and His mighty plans, our lives become just a little more meaningful.

My church asked me to put together “my story” and while much of it is within the pages of this blog, I never really delved into the fears I struggled with and had to overcome.  It was not easy for me to go on my first mission trip and certainly painful to come home after having experienced and witnessed with my own eyes such poverty, despair and so many lonely children.  Despite the fears, I went and hope that my story helps to free you from fears so that you may have the courage to press on.  Remove those roadblocks and begin your journey.  It will undoubtably change you forever.

As I am now planning for my next trip to Africa (March of 2013), I am less burdened with fear.  My children tell me “you have done this before and you can do it again.”  What strength and courage these little ones have.  My best advice for those feeling a longing and desire to go on a mission trip (or do something that is not within your comfort zone) is to simply listen to the message (the call)!  You are hearing it for a reason and have likely been hearing it for some time!  Once you embrace the message, the fears and obstacles slowly find ways of working themselves out and they aren’t as big as they once seemed.   Your fears are in your head!  Let God illuminate your path and guide you.

 Find comfort in knowing HE will guide your way.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Let your light shine!

Much love,

Tina

Tina’s Story (Click here to read)

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Africa 2013: Here I come!

21 Nov

 Facts about Uganda’s Population

0-14 years: 49.1% (male 8,229,045/ female 8,280,499)      
15-64 years: 48.8% (male 8,158,822/ female 8,252,120)
65 years and over: 2.1% (male 320,237/ female 400,110) (2012 est.)

2.43 million of the 17.1 million children in Uganda are orphans. Some 32,130 children between the ages of 10-17 years are heading households. Nearly half of the country’s orphans have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic.

Number of orphans in Uganda: 2,500,000 = 20% of the child population and 2% of the entire population

Number of children in foster care in the entire United States: 500,000 = .0067 % of the child population and .0016% of the entire population.

In March, 2013 I will board a plane and after 24 hours arrive in a place that suffers deeply.  Poverty, homelessness, disease, illness, abandonment, corruption, hunger, millions of mothers and their babies dying during childbirth… Of all the places one could visit, why Uganda, Africa?  For one really big reason, I was called to and I am listening to that calling. Crazy? Maybe but the message has been so clear that I cannot ignore what is being asked. Sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone to really open our eyes to what reality is.  This reality is not a TV show, but real lives suffering; sometimes living in physical pain, sometimes emotional pain and sometimes both.  In March I will open my heart to this pain so others can feel love, valued, respected and be seen. I will bring hope and encouragement, and inspire a life that is full of possibilities.  March couldn’t come soon enough.

When I left Uganda in August, I was broken-hearted. There was so much that could not be changed. In some ways that was discouraging, but also inspiring. What could I do, what was I to learn from this present trip?  What I learned was while I could not change everything, nor was that my purpose, I could help to change something. And that something, is why I am going back.  I am so excited for this new adventure and would love your support.

To learn more about the trip I will be taking with my church in March, and the work I hope to do please click on the link below.

Click Here>>>Africa, March 2013

Much Love,  Tina

Dare to Dream Big: Dare to Dream Bold!

“You are not here on earth by accident. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.”

Thank You!

11 Oct

It is with heart-felt gratitude that I thank you for supporting my mission trip this summer to Kenya and Uganda.  It was possible only through your prayers, encouragement, physical help with fundraisers and financial support, that we were able to touch so many lives. In addition to providing love, spiritual guidance and connection, we also blessed orphans with fruit, maize, medicine, toys, clothes, shoes, school supplies and baby formula. My heart will never leave Africa. I hold the memories close and am committed to help ease the pain of so many children who are suffering, who are broken-hearted, who are lonely, who feel forgotten and abandoned; who are struggling on the inside but show joy on the outside.

You helped create this opportunity for me to see Africa beyond the traditional “National Geographic” mask…to really feel some of the pain this country suffers from and for that I am so thankful.  I am thankful to know their pain, their suffering first hand so I will never again take for granted all that I have.  But more important, through this experience I am filled with deep compassion and a desire to make their suffering part of my life; to help where I am called to, to build relationships and lift these children from their emotional struggles.

So again…thank you!

This one event has affected me more than anything in my life

11 Sep

Quickly browsing through all of the FB Posts honoring those who served and died in the terrible 911 tragedy I came across and inspiring story.  I have included the link to that story below.  The story reminds me (us) that compassion and kindness go a long way.  We never know how paying attention to small details, being kind to one person, helping someone, teaching someone, extending a hand; a listening ear…will help another.  I am taking this day of remembrance to remind everyone that you can make a difference.  You do not have to be rich or famous to make a difference.  YOU is all their needs to be.

For me my trip to Africa has opened my eyes to so much.  Though I was only there for two weeks (it seemed like a month), this one event has affected me more than anything in my life. I will write more on that later but I encourage you to open yourself to acting, doing what your heart is calling you to do.  Don’t think too hard about it. If it is put in front of you, there is a reason.  It may be that one event that affects you more than anything in your life!

May your light shine on someone’s darkness.

http://christianity.about.com/od/lossanddying/a/davidtestimony.htm

Tina

I am listening…and ready to hear the plan!

2 Sep

Today I was reminded that God has a plan for each of us. I was reminded that it doesn’t do any good to rush this plan but rather trust that the timing will be perfect and the promise will be fulfilled. Having said that and knowing this to be true, it is still so hard to return from a country where your heart was broken completely and sit back and wait. I can’t explain the fire inside me. I have seen so much and want to get my hands dirty and do more!  I want to help…I want to ease the pain of so many children who are suffering, who are broken-hearted, who are lonely, who feel forgotten and abandoned; who are struggling on the inside but show joy on the outside. I am ready God and wait for the perfect time, for the Blessed Plan to unfold.

You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.   (The Pursuit of Happiness)

I love this quote.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Nakupenda (I Love You)

19 Aug

A team member put this video together recapping our trip to Africa! Thank you Brittany Brown for capturing some of this trips memories.

Click here for Video: Nakupenda (I Love You)

 

I Love You Mamma Tina!
This is my sweet Trevor from Uganda!

Filling my heart with so much love

14 Aug

Even though the work was hard on my heart, there was no doubt that I absolutely loved it.  Perhaps I couldn’t change their circumstances, but I felt I had an abundance of love to give these fatherless and motherless children.  Everything cannot be changed at once.  Staying in the moment and making a child’s day a little brighter for a few hours, a day, a few days was why I had come to Africa. I don’t look back and regret not giving all the love and attention I could to these children.  I poured my heart out and more!  Thank you God for giving me the strength, health and ability to love on the children of Kenya and Uganda fully.

I remember one day the children were desperately trying to win over who would hold my hands. They would speak in their own language to each other.  While I didn’t understand what they were saying, the facial expressions they gave to each other was clearly saying “she’s mine”.  I quickly let the children know that Tina’s heart is BIG enough for all of them!  I encouraged them to hold my hand, my arm, get on my back….  At one point I had three children on each side of me and one on my back!  Little did they know, they were filling my heart with so much love and joy!

I haven’t fully figured out what is next, what I am to do with all that I have learned from these children, from each orphanage, from observation… but I do know that there are great things in store and I will pray and wait patiently!

Jeremiah 33:3, Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Tina

Reflection on Africa

11 Aug

As I am sitting on the plane trying to figure out just how I am going to summarize the trip I have been on, I read the following in a book titled “Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage”

(Adapted a little to reflect my experiences)

Children abandoned, left in ditches or other horrible places, some raped and abused, some begging for food, some living on the streets at very young ages forced to find a life for themselves, some placed in orphanages because their parents have died from HIV Aids…”most of us will live our entire lives without witnessing such blatant cases of emotional or physical child neglect. Instead, we live in relative comfort, far removed from such conditions and horrors and doing our part to help suffering children by sending an annual tax-deductible check to a charitable organization. While this is certainly a worthy undertaking, there is much more that needs to be brought to the world’s attention. I used to be one of those people, sympathizing at a distance with the plight of less fortunate humans the world over while tending to my own personal dramas in my middle class neighborhood of Kirkland, Washington. I was perfectly content for my family to continue its slow crawl toward the American Dream – or so I thought.”

Less than 6 months ago I realized God had other plans for me. Scared, uncertain of what I was getting into, what was expected of me I began preparing for this unknown journey to Africa .

One month ago I was really scared as violence in Kenya had made the news. After a few days of praying and a couple emails from locals in Kenya, I felt a sense of comfort.

Some, I suppose thought I may have lost my mind going to a place so far away, filled with corruption, violence and despair. But I was at peace. I knew there was work to be done and I was blindly following that call. I always knew God had a plan for me and was embracing the opportunity to do something wonderful and fulfilling with my life.

Arriving in Kenya was a relief (the flights had all gone well) but I was immediately taken aback by the poverty that was everywhere. How could this be? There were so…many people, so many children. This was true in both in Kenya and Uganda. Uganda seemed a bit worse.

The often uncomfortable and trying times and experiences of visiting 10 very different orphanages left the team emotionally drained at the end of the day. Yet, a new day came and by the grace of God we gathered our strength and gave each new group of children our full love and attention. Some of these children embraced the love willingly, some were not use to the love and took time to warm up, others observed from a distance.

Having an “I can fix this” belief of most things in life, I often felt a bit defeated and depressed. A challenge had been set before me. I wanted so desperately to change the lives of those who were motherless and fatherless. I prayed and cried so many tears and then realized that while I can’t fix everything, I can do something. I began to breath a sigh of relief. “Yes, I can do something”, I kept repeating to myself. I AM doing something by just being here and sharing the most authentic love for these children of God. Showing them how it felt to be loved and to be nurtured. I was filled with a genuine sense of purpose. Little did I know there was more to be asked of me.

In Uganda, on August 4th I met the most precious boy, Trevor. His smile touched my heart immediately. We connected hearts from day one and from that moment forward I knew God had something planned. A little shy at first, he quickly let down his guard and we had so much fun together. He taught me games, we played cards, we sang together and we danced to American music and I cleaned and put a bandaid on a cut when he fell running. The children gathered around as I did this as if they have never been taken care of like this. Perhaps they haven’t. The children prepared a program and when Trevor’s group got up, I felt like a proud parent watching him perform. Crazy? Perhaps from an outside perspective but not according to my heart. He looked for me in the audience and would smile proudly as if it was the first time someone had really noticed and paid attention to him. One evening when listening to music, he cuddled into my arms and just pressed his head against my heart. I sat there thinking and wondering what this child had gone through in just 10 years. That night, I went to bed in tears. I woke up very early that next morning, went just outside our sleeping area and sobbed. It hurt to know that something traumatic had happened in his life. I asked God why Trevor was on my heart. I prayed that he would tell me how to help. After about 30 minutes, I went inside to get ready for the day.

An hour later, my good friend Beth found me and said that she sponsored a child (Stella) and that the counselor thought Trevor was also sponsored. However, one of the older gilrls who had taken a liking to Beth said Trevor was not sponsored (Claire seemed to know a little bit of everything about the happenings at Canaan). Interested, I explored this a little further and found out that Trevor had been sponsored but no payment had been received since January (over six months). Somehow he had fallen through the cracks. So I immediately requested to sponsor him. I was thrilled and filled with joy to no end. I was able to tell him that I would be his sponsor and he was so happy. Later, I received an email from Annet, the social worker to the sponsor coordinator which said the following: “Its my prayer that we consider Tina’s sponsorship. Tina and Trevor bonded so well. I have never seen Trevor that happy. Trevor has always been in the background.. this is the first time i saw him stand out and shine as he did the last few days.”. As you can imagine, my heart jumped for joy reading this! I made a difference in his life short-term. And will also long term. I cannot wait to get home, to write and send him his first package. I never want him to think I have forgotten about him. I am committed to be his rock. Someone he can count on to be there for him.

I also met an older boy David. He is also very sweet, a very good student and both he and Trevor have their heart set on becoming doctors. As I always say, “if there is a will, there is a way”. David is 15. I will write and correspond with him as often as possible.

And it doesn’t stop there. A seed has been planted to create and teach a program to the children at Canaan and to the caregivers (maybe other locations as well). I am so excited about this. And will expand on that another time.

While this is MY story in brief, you can begin to get a glimpse of the two weeks I was in Africa. No words can explain completely as seeing is believing. I have seen, I have experienced and I am committed to inspire others to see, to bring awareness and personally do more.

As I am about an hour away from landing in Seattle, I am very excited to see my own family. I love them so much and have missed them tremendously. I will miss the team that I have grown so fond of and learned so much from and will miss the children of Africa.

I am prepared to do more and to “let my light shine” further in Uganda and wherever else I am called.

May God Bless all the children in the World. They are our future; they are deserving of love and of life!

Nakupenda Sanaa!

Tina

Sent by Tina from my iPhone