Isaiah 55

Sometimes you just can't find the words....




"How was Africa?"

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that question in the last few weeks I’d still be broke.  Not because I haven’t been asked this question dozens of times a day, but because nickels aren’t really worth all that much anymore.  But if you gave me a dollar, now we are talking. Even though conversations have been frequent, I feel I have a different answer for nearly every person asking about our time in Uganda. It seems like such a simple question, yet there has not been one simple answer.  The truth is, time in Africa seemed to cover the whole spectrum of experiences and emotions.  It was just as exhausting as it was restful, challenging as it was encouraging…  humbling yet affirming, chaotic yet peaceful.  There is no single word, statement, or rambling thought that would adequately describe the last few months of our lives.  Still I constantly find myself saying, “Africa was good, so good.”  It appears in my effort to say everything, I end up saying nothing at all.  I know I can’t speak for my entire team, but trying to sum up the six weeks we spent in Africa doesn’t seem possible.  And even though it’s a bit overwhelming in terms of the overall experience and everything learned, there have been a few stories that have been constant in conversation which truly remind me how good our time in Africa was and that these are memories I’ll continue to learn from for the rest of my life.


A lot of these memories came while distributing Bibles to various communities, visitors, families, and churches.  I saw a hunger for the written Word of God that I long for in my own life.  More often than not Bibles were received with a joy I had never seen and have yet to experience.  For decades many of the men and women in this community have heard much about Jesus and have listened to His words read aloud from scripture, but never were they able to read and study these words for themselves.  I was reminded how even without scripture God is actively pursuing the hearts of men and women worldwide because of the promises of His love.  Yet in my own life, when I have access to seven or eight different translations, there are times when my hunger to know him and to study his word simply isn’t there.  I’ve never been deprived of access to God’s Word.  I have never once sang and danced when one of the dozens of bibles in my possession was given to me, nor have I been brought to my knees in thankfulness for having the freedom to explore his endless mysteries in my own time.  
 
Every Tuesday people would come from all over Parwech to help dig in the community
garden, on this particular day we were able to deliver Bibles to them and witness some of
their joy and thankfulness in receiving their gift.  Truly amazing.

Though my experiences with the Word of God have been quite different in America, this was and will always be one of the most valuable gifts of perspective in my own life.  I have had many reasons to sing and dance before the Lord, and to kneel before the Lord with overwhelming thankfulness in my heart.  Yet it reminded me how God is actively pursuing us, all of us, everywhere.  Beginning with the distribution of Bibles, but clearly present in all of our projects, the words of Isaiah 55 came to life.   It was almost as though they stepped directly out of the pages as we continued to read and pray these words over our community.  Not only does God long to satisfy our hunger and our thirst for purpose and satisfaction, He longs to give us the best He has.  He longs to be fully known and fully trusted.  He longs to establish us and to use us to bring all people into a true understanding of his love, forgiveness, and His fullness of life, and He never wants us to feel as though it is ours to do alone.  God never sends us out to complete a task outside of His presence; He is always inviting us into deeper levels of trust as we participate with Him in the fulfillment of His promises.



In reality, God doesn’t need me for anything.  I learned that well.  In fact I am sure God could do the work I did much better if He did it without me, but for some reason He waits patiently for my participation.  Then He waits patiently again and again as I learn the simple, beautiful, and the sometimes-painful truth that His ways and His thoughts are infinitely better than mine and there is nothing I can do to keep Him from doing that which He wills.  Though our plans were loose to begin with, God slowly pulled our grip from even the littlest of things only to give us bigger and better ones.  We could not have planned for the home visits made by strangers who came to our homestead almost daily and we had no idea there were dozens of young men gathering to play soccer nearly every evening just five minutes away.  Though certain things seemed to come with their fair share of speed bumps, there were others moving with a great deal of momentum and excitement.  The community garden is being forced to face a lot of changes in the near future, hopefully all for the best.   Yet outside of our previous knowledge there are pastors leading their own community gardens and planting their own churches not far from where we work, and all they truly need are a few resources and people to encourage them.
 
Denis, Nicole, Jana, and Cesar in Lalogi while we waited to see our friends
participate in the local Music Festival for the nearby primary schools. 

Even among all the really good things, we still had our personal ups and downs.  Cultural differences were a constant challenge and reminded us of how little we can control.   We had our individual struggles with Jesus, with trust, with fear and despair, and in all things He constantly reminded us of His everlasting and steadfast love.  More than once I found myself incredibly grateful for the safety of the community He had given me so I could be lost and confused, and for giving me friends who would challenge me to be prayerful, humble, and confident in the words of Jesus.  In our confusion and sorrow, He was our help.  Though we had goals and projects, much of our time was open-ended and many of our plans changed.  It was almost daily we were reminded that our willingness to be interrupted was necessary for God to work in the midst of our organized chaos.  In our fear He was our saving grace. In our despair He restored our hope.  In our insufficiencies He was everything we couldn’t be.  In our impatience, He was perfectly patient.  Personally, and I would say collectively, Uganda presented many challenging and uncomfortable moments that at the time seemed unwanted.  Yet in looking back, the difficulties helped create much needed space in my life for God to teach me sweet truths about Himself and about how much He loves His people.  Though I’m never excited, or prayerful, for God to give me more difficult situations, I have come to appreciate just how much Jesus loves to walk with us in tough times revealing to us portions of His heart. 



Now that I’ve made a second effort to say “everything”, when it comes to the finer details it still remains as though I have again said nothing at all.  There are still so many stories to be shared and lessons learned.  The times in our huts late at night with our team and translators, traveling together and individually to different homesteads or visiting different communities, one on one time with the kids in the village, or getting mobbed by dozens of little smiling faces, playing soccer, passing out Bibles, surviving the Antpocolypse, digging in the garden, trading shoes, trapping Francis the rat, and walking the long dirt roads…  So much happened in such a short window of time. At times it was difficult, and other times it was easy, but Africa was good… it was so good.  Still, there will never be enough words to truly collect all of my thoughts, but for that I am grateful.  And for that, we are so grateful for your support and your prayers. You’ve not only encouraged us, but you have absolutely participated in very real and necessary ways as the Switchboard story continues to unfold. We have been so encouraged by you, and so have our friends in Uganda. Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your love, and thank you for your endless support. 


Josh, Cesar, and Bryan found got sidetracked in one of the classrooms, what started out as
one white guy and two little African boys turned in to "Three Mizungus", or three white guys.

Before I conclude, there is still so much to pray for and we ask that you continue to support us prayerfully as Switchboard continues to grow:

  • Please continue to meditate over and pray through Isaiah 55 as we wait to see what the Lord will do through the things he has already established, and for the Bibles that have been distributed throughout the community.  Pray for the people of Parwech, that God would raise up leaders and men of peace in their community who love him deeply and long to make much of him.
  • Pray for our Uganda Director, Walter, and his family.  A few weeks ago Walter and Jennifer suffered the loss of their newborn son.  Pray for peace and comfort as they mourn the loss of their baby boy.
  • Pray for us and our leaders, pray that God gives us clear direction as we continue to seek His guidance for our projects in Uganda, and for the development of discipleship opportunities here in Nashville.  Pray for eyes to see the world as He does, for ears to listen to His prompting, and for obedient hearts.  Pray that we grow in love for the Lord and for His kingdom.
  • Pray for continued trust in his provision, especially as projects grow and with that our needs.  He has been faithful to provide thus far, pray that we constantly remember all He has done, and that we cling confidently to His promises.



Oketi Jospeh was the homestead's LC1, kind of like a Mayor.  It has been a huge blessing to
be welcomed into such a loving community and he has been a big support and
help for the work we do.
Thank you again, thank you all so much.  Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly… 



Always,



Cyrus and the Switchboard Team
(Jana, Nicole, and Josh)



“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 55:12-13