"Come, everyone who thirsts..."


Afoyo! (Hello in Luo) We are back in town from our first week in the village! Gosh, it was so so good. We rode up last weekend to a big group of our old friends singing and dancing around our hut waiting for us to arrive. What a sweet reunion it was :) We spent the first few days visiting with friends, sharing meals and catching up on life. Adjusting to village life has been somewhat blissful. You can almost feel time slow down as you walk along the dirt road and sit under the stars. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

On Sunday we went back to a church in the village that is pastored by our friend Bosco. It’s so incredible to watch praise rise up on the other side of the world – in a unique way and a language that I can’t understand, knowing that it is heard and received by the same Father that I worship every day in America. The guys (Cyrus and Josh) got to share some encouragement from the Word and we got to kneel with and pray for some precious souls. Crying out for a touch from God, for healing and for the victory of Jesus to reign down in power - my trust in our good God and His good plans deepened. My heart was confident and at rest in the truth that HE IS LORD and that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for all redemption and restoration. While we were praying healing and freedom over a man named Moses, the Lord put a simple song on my heart – “All we need is Your touch, God; Come and touch us now”. That’s kind of been the anthem of my heart lately.

Our main “project” that we’re doing while we’re here is handing out Bibles in the local language, Luo. Until now, the villagers have had very little access to the Word. There are a few Bibles scattered throughout, most of which are in English, but you would be hard-pressed to find fifty at most. We have ordered five hundred from the capital city and will be giving them to any family in the village that wants one. We spent Thursday fasting and praying over each one individually and will begin the distribution this week. We are planning on going house to house, sitting down and talking to people, sharing the Gospel, answering questions, and praying over families and homes as they receive the Word for the first time.
I’m really excited and very expectant for what God is going to do in this place as it is filled with His Word. Pray with us for a hunger and longing to sweep over this place. Pray for divine understanding and for chains to be broken by truth. Pray that the truth of Jesus would penetrate hearts and the Gospel would take deep root. And pray for me, too. As I have been dwelling in prayer over these Bibles, much conviction and urgency has fallen on my own heart to understand the value of God’s Word and to have a deep hunger for it. I know He wants to teach me the very things that I am praying over the people here. More of Jesus is what I want, really.

Yesterday in Gulu we got to go spend the day with some sweet, sweet kids at Father’s House Orphanage. It is a truly wonderful place, full of the love and presence of God. It is run by Ugandans from around here – just committed Christ followers who live by James 1:27 “Religion that God the Father looks at as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” They have given their lives to this and have provided a beautiful home and family for these precious kids. We got to talk with the leadership about the best way we can support and encourage them in their obedience and are excited about the potential opportunities! God allowed me to get a glimpse of His heart as I sat with those kids and we taught each other “Jesus loves me” in our respective languages and as I watched them dance and play with joy and got to hold a sweet girl as tears streamed down her face thinking about her parents. The goodness of God’s promise “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18) washed over me afresh. It is so GOOD to be His child!!!!! Thank You, Jesus.

There’s much more I could write. I’ve been working on this update for far too long, trying to condense my thoughts as I attempt to “sum it up” in a few short paragraphs. Basically, God is good and on the move, and I’m thankful to be here. It is a joy and honor to be in this beautiful place serving and learning from these beautiful people. I hope all is well in America! I LOVE you all so very very much. 

His,
Nicole 

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David..." Isaiah 55:1-3

Let Me Be



              While I have known about Switchboard almost since day one, it has only been in the last few weeks I have joined the Switchboard team on an official capacity.  I wrestled with the idea that God’s desire for me is to only exercise one or two of my passions at a time, mainly because I seem to be drawn to opposing forces.  Close community and travel for long periods of time.  Those deeply rooted in religion, and those deeply hurt by religion.  There cannot be a way I could be connected to a local community and at the same time satisfy my hearts desire for people, language, and culture and the global church.  There was something missing in my understanding of who God is.  When it comes to our spiritual life, our understanding of who God is might just be the most important thing we could believe.
                Do you ever wonder why God places huge visions for His world deep within our hearts, but only gives us one little piece at a time to build this God-sized dream?  Then there are the moments it seems as though we walk into seasons where God doesn’t tell us or show us anything at all.  It is like giving us a crystal clear picture of this indescribable treasure, yet he hands us the treasure map and all it says is, “Let me be,” with an arrow pointing to where there certainly is an “X” marking the spot.
                In Exodus 3 God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, something so outside of his understanding of what should be that it drew Moses closer and closer. It was here God reveals his name and his character, “I am who I am.”  I Am, the most referenced name for God in scripture.  It is the name that includes all names, it is the source and validation for His existence, and for ours.  Beautiful right?
                When God spoke to Moses in the desert and said, “I am who I am.”  He was saying I Am.  I am The Lord, the Righteous Judge, Faithful Friend, Prince of Peace.  I am the God who heals, the God who provides, the God who sees, I am the Lord God Almighty.  I am the Creator, Savior, the Living One, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, I am the Lamb of God who was slain for you.  I Am.
                Last Wednesday we hosted an evening of prayer and worship to pray for Uganda and the community God has placed us in.  We didn’t quite know what to expect as only half of our team has roots here in Nashville, but when your heart is to know and love God it is safe to expect great things.  A couple dozen friends, young working professionals, college students, kids and their mothers, and friends of friends showed up to encourage us in prayer and worship with us as we wait to see just how God will move in Africa.  Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for my fellow team members, but I don’t believe any of us anticipated the number of participants or the heartfelt contribution as we interceded for the people of Uganda and as we prayed protection and provision over our trip.
Again I was asking myself, “Why?”  But I wasn’t asking God, “Who?”  I know I am not alone in saying this, but it is so easy for me to lose sight of who He is.  I find myself looking for guidance and direction and I pull out the treasure map I referenced early only to read, “Let me be.”   Instead of doing anything better, sometimes I need to first let Him be.  I need to let God be God.  How boring would this life be if all of our plans were never foiled, or if they were only as good as we imagined and no grander.  God desires to seize that empty space in our lives so he can blow our minds.  And when we ask, “why?” he simply wants to remind us who he is.  He wants those words, “I am that I am” to ring so loudly in our ears we think of peace, protection, provision, and comfort and we remove all doubt and remember he is with us.  He never intended us to do it without him. 


Maybe that’s why my map is empty.  It only reads, “Let me be,” because if there was a long list of things needed to be done I would try doing them without him.  My efforts may turn out good, but would they ever blow my mind?  While I find myself muttering frustrations at times, I have come to be so grateful as God holds me in a position of suspense and dependence.  I feel I would miss out on opportunities to work with the people I do now and witness all that God is up to, I’d continue to believe my hearts desires are for separate seasons rather than in God’s timing.  I’d continue to have a very small understanding of God and his love, and I’d continue forgetting to simply let him be.
We can’t thank those of you enough who joined us in prayer last Wednesday, your love for Jesus and your time in prayer has encouraged us more than you know.  We simply ask you to continue covering us in prayer.  Pray for the people of Uganda and for our leaders there.  Pray for their families and for them to grow deeper in their knowledge of Him.  Pray the people of Parwech long for the love Jesus offers, and pray their hearts would be ready to receive Him as truth, hope, and love.  Pray also for us, pray that we would let God be God in all we do and hearts would be drawn to him.  Pray our understanding of Him would grow daily, and that we would not limit him in anything we do. 
Thank you again for your prayers and your support of Switchboard Missions and may the whole world know of His great love for us.

In grace and love…

The newest addition to the Switchboard Team,

Cyrus Eaton

Sorry for the delay...Update #3!


Afoyo!  Itye mabe?  (that means "Hello!" and "How are you?" in Acholi)  Greetings from beautiful Uganda!  First and foremost, we want to sincerely apologize for our lack of updates these past few weeks.  There is no electricity in the village, and the power and internet we do get our few days in Gulu is often unreliable.  But in our case, no news has most definitely been good news!  I am not sure if the past month could have gone any better, as God has been so good to us and has continually allowed us to be a part of revealing Himself to the Acholi people day in and day out.   

Village life is simply incredible.  We've all been amazed at how much we have thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is something about the peacefulness that comes from living such a simple life that is hard to come by in America.  We've come to truly realize what Paul was talking about when he wrote Philippians 4:11-12: "...For I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything,  I have learned the secret of living in every situation whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."  Our God is the same loving Father in a remote village in Africa as He is in suburban America.  Genuine faith is never based on circumstances, but rather firmly rooted in the unshakeable foundation that God is supreme and worthy of all of our praise.  By stepping out of the noise and busyness of American life, we've been able to really rest in the presence of the Lord and engage with Him with undistracted hearts. This must be what He meant when He said "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) We know.   

Since we last updated you, through the grace of God, we have preached the gospel; made dozens of new friends; seen a witch doctor fully commit her life to Christ; met with government officials at various levels; worked intensively with our field staff on the ground in both the village and Gulu town; worked in numerous sub-villages with the village chiefs; passed out over a thousand mosquito nets given by Ethos Church in Nashville to breast-feeding mothers and pregnant women; assessed needs throughout the community; been asked questions all over the spectrum about God and the Bible; started planning for future water projects; visited schools and planned education programs; prayed over war-torn "haunted" areas and demon-possessed villagers; loved a ton of precious little kiddos; and worked with churches by "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying 'through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God'"(Acts 14:22). All of the glory goes to God for the doors that He has opened and the things that He has allowed us to do and be a part of. More than anything, however, we have seen God around every corner.  We've seen Him in the smiles of the people, in the sunrises and sunsets, in the answered prayers we've witnessed, in His guidance and direction for our next 30 years here, in the incredible stories of courage birthed from a 25-year war, in the beautiful picture of children lifting their hearts and hands in uninhibited worship, in His power displayed through a raging thunderstorm outside of our hut, and in his unconditional, unfailing, and unfathomable love for every single one of His children. More than any project or work we have done, the most important report back to you we can possibly give is that our God is very much alive and active in every crevice of the world.  He is moving in the hearts of people in some of the most broken places on earth, and meets each of us exactly where we are. He has showed that to us over and over throughout these past two months. 

Our time here is quickly dwindling, as we have under 3 weeks left in Africa now. We really can't believe how quickly it has flown by. Please join us in praising the Lord for all that He has done and keep us in your prayers as we attempt to finish strong.  

"I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness; let us exalt His name together." Psalm 34:1-3

Prayers:
-That the Word of God would be implanted in this community
-For guidance and direction for the next steps, projects, etc of The Tuli Initiative
-For churches and church leadership within Lalogi
-For courage and opportunities for intentional conversations about Jesus with the people we have built relationships with before we leave
-For God's work here to be uninterrupted by our leaving
-Continue to pray for the men here

Uganda Update #2 - Welcome to the Village


Afoyo (“Hello” in Acholi),
Our first 10 days as residents of Lalogi have been nothing short of amazing. The people are so warm and inviting, and their hospitality is unlike any we have ever seen. We’ve had village leaders, elders, pastors, traditional dance groups and so many others stop by to introduce themselves, offer us some helpful tips for village life or drop off a meal. We’ve been given a chicken (alive and clucking - we were thankful for our translators, Douglas and Clare, who did the dirty work, if you know what I mean...), greens, local nuts, sweet potatoes and little treats in between. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. We’ve met so many wonderful people, and already, in just our second full week, our days are full of meetings with a number of different people who want to discuss everything from the Bible to struggles within their churches to just getting to know us. It’s such a blessing to have all of these people around as we get settled into village life.
Nicole put it well this week, “Everything about village life is so simple, but nothing is easy.” We walk about a mile round-trip to get water each day, cook over a little charcoal stove that’s no more than 10 inches in diameter, walk miles to visit some of our neighbors and live by a small lantern every night once the sun goes down. However, there’s a certain beauty in the difficulties. It’s life -- raw and genuine. There’s no time for superficiality. The usual frustrations of life -- traffic jams, time constraints, slow internet connections, and busy, stressful schedules -- don’t exist here. Everything just moves a little more slowly. And the stars are completely indescribable. Overall, we’re making it quite well. Of course, most of our success can be attributed to Douglas and Clare. Undoubtedly, they are the reason that we make it through most days with more than just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat. They’ve been so patient to enlighten us in everything from cooking to knot-tying to speaking Acholi. We couldn’t do it without them.
Our projects are in full swing. We’ve been distributing mosquito nets all over Lalogi. We actually have a couple of large-scale net distributions coming up in the next week. By next Monday, we will have given out over 300 mosquito nets to pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and the caretakers of orphans. We still have a long way to go, but these distributions will be a great opportunity to develop a real presence in the community and meet more of our fellow villagers. We could not be more thankful for Ethos Church of Nashville for partnering with us in this and getting the ball rolling on all of our physical projects here. Also, a shout-out goes to the kids of First Baptist Church Olive Branch, MS who cracked open their piggy banks at a recent Vacation Bible School to provide 100 more nets for kids just like themselves here in Uganda. Thanks to you all!
Also, there’s a final, cool story that we wanted to mention here because it is the embodiment of the Tuli Initiative. We hope that Tuli will empower the local people to fight for a better future for their community. Every resource that is poured into Tuli is meant to bring about both physical provision and heart transformation. We want the people here to be the ones to truly bring about change in their homeland, and one of our volunteers here, Douglas (not the translator), is doing just that. He spent a lot of time helping us this past week, distributing nets, showing us around, getting us to meetings on time and managing our local office. During our time with him, he really shared his heart with us, so we wanted to share with you. Douglas has been working with Tuli for over a year now. The people here know and love him. He’s one of their own, and he has a heart for his people and above all his God. “I know the situation here. I’ve grown up here. This is my home,” he said. “I want to serve my people and, most of all, my God. I want to see change.” This is the attitude we pray God would instill in everyone we work with here -- locals working together for the good of each other and the glory of God.
Your turn... Prayer requests...
We’ve met so many pastors in just the past few days, and many have invited us to come visit them and their churches. Some have even invited us to preach. There is such a need here for men of God like them who are willing to lead and instruct people in the gospel, but, as always, it doesn’t come without challenges. Bad teaching, a lack of discipleship and little funding all plague these small churches. Pray for their pastors who work tirelessly each week. Pray for the people of their churches and that they would follow the lead of their pastors. Pray they would not lose heart when things get tough but would press on and understand that suffering produces endurance (James 1). Pray that God would use these men to capture other hearts like He has theirs and to bring revival to this community and this country.
We’ve also come into contact with so many people who just need to know Jesus Christ instead of the rules they’ve been told to follow. Many people, like a man we met the other night named Anthony, have just been confused by the complexity of out-of-context Scripture and just need to see the truth and simplicity of the Gospel. Pray that God would speak this message  through us clearly and simply and that the Holy Spirit, as He did in Anthony, would open their eyes to the freedom found in Jesus Christ.
Pray also for the men - that they would rise up to serve and lead their families and point them to Jesus. The women here carry most of the burden of their homes and families, while many of the men struggle with an addiction to alcohol. Pray that God would break these chains and that He would bring redemption to what has become part of culture here. 
Lastly, one of the greatest needs here is for Bibles. We’ve found a local distributor who produces Bibles in both English and the local language, Acholi, and they are $8 a piece.  If you would like to be a part of what God is doing here through providing Bibles for the people of Lalogi, visit our giving website, 
https://tuliinitiative.webconnex.com/Switchboard and put Bible in the notes section of your donation. 
This ministry is so much bigger than us. Your prayers and gifts are an absolutely essential piece of God’s plan for this wonderful place. Thanks for being part of this team.
Peace out muzungus,
The Switchboard Team
P.S. Muzungus is what they call the white people around here.
P.P.S. Now, you know some Lugandan.

Uganda Update #1 - Move-In Day


Today’s the day...
After just over a week in Uganda, we are ready to make the move from big city life to the village of Lalogi, from the comfort and ease of hotels and restaurants to a handmade bed in a concrete, thatched-roof hut and cooking over a small charcoal stove... To say that it will be a much-needed reality check could be the understatement of the century.
We’re ready... we think. We’ve had time to sleep off jet-lag, gather supplies and get a lay of the land. All this is thanks to none other than our Uganda Field Director Walter Ogwang. If we didn’t already know it, this week has gone a long way to prove that this entire operation would not exist without him. His work here on the ground in Uganda keeps the Tuli Initiative moving forward. To say the least, it has been impressive to see him in action. He is truly a hard-working, respectable man of God. We are so thankful to have him on our team. He is such a blessing from God and a picture of what the Tuli Initiative is all about, Ugandans working together for the good of their people to see God restore, renew and replenish their homeland.
We’ve also been able to spend some amazing time with Walter’s family while here in Gulu.  His wife, Jennifer, works for another Nashville based organization called Sweet Sleep.  She has been such a huge help in making us feel at home here and preparing us for the next few months.  The other day, she was explaining to us how organizations who intend to work with the people in any capacity must register with the local government as a Community-Based Organization (CBO). This registration gives an organization governmental permission to work in a specific community. In our case, that’s Lalogi. Uganda’s bureaucratic system, as is the case in many developing countries, is filled with corruption, and this registration process can be painstaking, absorbing precious time and money as you climb the political ladder to reach those from whom you need approval. However, God was gracious to us. What has taken many larger organizations years and hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to complete took us a grand total of one month and zero dollars. Jennifer was floored at how quickly Tuli has been able to progress, and couldn’t help but marvel at how God has paved the way for that through contacts on the ground and our persistent field director. She also informed us today that we will be the first missionaries to actually come LIVE in the village of Lalogi.  God could pick any Christian in the entire world, or even just do it Himself, yet He has graciously allowed us the chance to join Him and be the first to live among these Ugandans and share His love with them day in and day out.  Is that grace or what??
It will be exhausting and extremely challenging, especially for three clueless Americans, but we couldn’t be more confident that this is the life God has called us to live here this summer. We want to see and understand in some small way how the people we feel called to serve live every day. We want to build real, lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships. We want to see true gospel-centered community take root. We want to see God’s healing and restoration NOW on this broken Earth, not just in eternity to come. And we want Him to use it all to radically change our own lives. 
This is where you come in...
We need you to pray for the 18,000+ citizens of Lalogi. Pray for their leaders. Pray for their pastors. Pray God would supply their daily needs and they would, in turn, recognize His provision. Most of all, pray God would open their hearts and minds to Him. Pray they would be receptive of His message of grace, hope and life. Pray that Jesus would make disciples in Uganda.
We need you to pray for us. Pray for a willingness to drop our comforts and embrace the simple life. Pray for a boldness to proclaim Jesus Christ to these people. Pray for our Uganda Field Director Walter Ogwang as he continues to work tirelessly to see Tuli through. Pray for our Ugandan friends Claire and Douglas, who will be living with us in the village all summer long, helping us survive and bridging the cultural and language barrier. Pray we would allow God to change us at the very core of who we are through this experience. Pray for our families as they have surrendered us to go to a place so far away and so unknown.
We’ll try to keep you as up to date as possible throughout the journey... Our hope is that everything we do and say will point directly to Him. We are merely His hands and feet.
We love you all!
To God be the glory,
The Switchboard Team

So, Africa today?


“People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t concerned with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.”
                                                                            Francis Chan, Crazy Love

That’s a pretty terrifying thought when you really sit back and ponder its implications for your life. A willingness to walk head long into the darkness, checking your comforts and safety at the door, isn’t usually what you think of when you give your life to Christ. It seems to almost directly oppose our instinct for self-preservation.

God calls, and we’re like, ”Wait… for real?!”

You can’t say the idea isn’t biblical. The most common commandment in all of Scripture is, “Do not fear.” The New Testament was written almost completely by martyrs. And we worship a guy who got murdered. Clearly, God knew some things might not go so great, at least by our standards.

God knew those who truly followed Him would be on the front lines, running with reckless abandon into the Enemy’s line of fire. However, He also knew there would NEVER be a bullet we couldn’t take. “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” as the apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:21. Above all, He wanted for God to take him to be with his Savior, but until that day, he would fight with every ounce of strength in his weary body to make known the goodness of his King. For him, death had indeed lost its sting, and how can it not when you truly understand the glory that awaits us in Heaven and the joy that comes from devoting our lives to being an agent of Christ?

On May 29, we (Nicole, Jana and Josh) leave to spend two and a half months living in Northern Uganda, and this has been our prayer through every step of preparation, to run headlong into the darkness to see God’s kingdom come down.

God has been so gracious to give us a peace about it all, and we are more than blessed to even get to be a part of what God wants to do in this beautiful country. There’s many a day where I wake up and just don’t get why He wants to use me. Other days, I wake up and wish He would just use someone else, so I could lead a “normal” life. But His amazing grace keeps beckoning me back…

God calls His church to be His hands and feet in this world, to bring healing to the broken and to bring His kingdom down for all people to experience now. He invites us into an uncontrollable, uninhibited love for Himself and for others, knowing that this is the only thing that will truly set us free. And when we really start to understand the gravity and mystery of that truth, it almost becomes insane that we would ever trade in that kind of invitation for the sake of normality.  

This is what we want to see happen in Uganda and all over the world… freedom in Christ Jesus. We can only hope that God will move us out of the way and reach these people in a mighty and radical way. We obviously know that He doesn’t need us to do this, but we are so thankful that He chooses to use us for it. That He would allow sinners as unworthy as us to be a part of the most beautiful love story ever told is, indeed, a miracle.

Keep checking back for updates and feel free to email us thoughts and prayers…

Until then, Switchboard out…

Because there is no Plan B...


As all of this Switchboard stuff has unfolded, our attitudes have changed.

It’s hard to explain the transition, really, and there are a lot of times when we’re still not sure if we truly understand it, much less if we can explain it. However, the more I grow and the more I learn about who Jesus is, the better I’m beginning to piece it all together.

I used to think that Jesus would call us all to a specific task… that we would know for sure what we were supposed to be doing… that there would come a point in all of our lives where He would show us the exact path that He has for us. After all, that’s what I was always taught. Seek God’s will for your life, and then, one day, He’ll reveal it to you and you’ll know what He wants for you. Until then, I guess that you’re just supposed to pray and have faith that He’ll show it to you.

I’m not so sure anymore….

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Bible is very clear in numerous places, namely Jeremiah 29, that God has plans for us, and I really do believe that He’s prepared each of us for specific tasks (Ephesians 2:10) towards which He’ll will and woo us. So, maybe I’m arguing semantics, but I’m not so sure that that’s our “calling.”

How often do you hear other Christians or even yourself (I know that I for one am as guilty of it as anyone) say something along the lines of, “I’m just waiting for God’s call” or “I just don’t know what God wants for my life?”

I was in that boat for a long time, frustrated and confused as to why God had not shown me His grand plan. I didn’t know where to turn because, aside from a few big-time pastors, missionaries and writers, everyone else seemed to be right with me, coasting along, waiting. Something seemed to be so wrong with this picture. If He would just tell me what to do, then I could get started, and all would be well again!

In essence, it was God’s fault… Being the “good Christian” that I was, I wanted to be open to whatever He wanted me to do, but He just wouldn’t show it to me. Therefore, I resigned myself to the idea that it was I who was being gracious with God, enduring with much patience His seeming inability to make me a “To-Do List.” Of course, I would have never vocalized it this way, but, in essence, that was my thought process as I waited for Him to send down my list of “Things to do for the Kingdom.”

Don’t we all do this in one way or another? We all expect a master list, a record of that which we need to accomplish, a log of what God needs for us to finish up before we come on home. We want so desperately to be told what to do. It would be so much more concrete. We often think that we would have no problem doing whatever God needed us to do if He would only just tell us what it is that we should be doing, the career path that we’re supposed to follow, the place that we’re supposed to live, who we’re supposed to date, what church we should go to, which mission trip to go on, which ministry to serve in…

We make the assumption that we would obey if we only knew, but, ironically enough, in our quest to figure out what to do, we actually end up doing nothing. We hide behind this shield of ignorance, blind to what God truly has in store. Somewhere, somehow, we missed it… or we have just ignored it.

God has already shown us his will for our lives. God has already called us. Just like the rich young ruler in Luke 18, Jesus has called us to give up everything and follow Him. Couple that with the Great Commission (Matthew 28), and we now see not only how to live but also what to DO.

What more do you need?

Live each day to follow Jesus and let your actions show others how to do the same… That’s a calling if I’ve ever heard one.

We’ve really begun to feel like this Earth is our home, and we’ve lost that eternal mindset. We begin to see things in the here and now, consumed by clothes, cars or even church programs instead of the thousands that are dying everyday without a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s sobering…

Some would say it’s too radical. Others would hide behind the excuse that we’re not all called to be missionaries, but while we can’t all go to the heart of Africa, we are all called to be missionaries, to recklessly and unashamedly live our lives to make the glory of God known to ALL people.

Some will go deep into the lush, green jungles of Southeast Asia, fighting malaria and snakes the size of small trees, others will go to the hectic, urban jungles of New York City, dodging angry cabbies and pigeon poop, and still others will go next door to the not so “jungle-ish” backyard barbecue, combating undercooked hamburgers and yellow mustard stains.

It’s not where you are; it’s whom you represent. God has chosen his church, and only his church, to be the ones to spread His message of love and mercy to the world.

THERE IS NO PLAN B. WE ARE THE ONLY HOPE…

We worship a guy who was murdered, so naturally, there may be some sacrifices, but if we really believe this stuff, if we really believe that Jesus can and will save, then…

ISN’T THE RISK WORTH IT?

"There's no place like home..."

“There’s no place like home…”

Judy Garland’s timeless 1939 line in The Wizard of Oz will forever stand as a reminder to all of the comforts and familiarity of home.

There’s a certain sense of safety when you cross over that threshold.

The smells, the sounds, that scuff on the wall from when you’re dad was attempting to move that (insert appropriate piece of home furniture) all by himself...

We like being home. We like knowing what lies behind each door. We like the comfort.

And now, we’re home again…

We’re back from daily, intentional ministry in Nicaragua. We’re back from knowing that each and every day is going to be full of telling those around us of the love and life that is in Jesus Christ. We’re back from 80-degree weather. And, most notably, we’re back from rice and beans at every meal.

God worked, and we felt so blessed to get to be a part of what He’s doing all over the world. How He can use crappy, messed up people like us is such a testament to how wonderful and amazing He truly is. How He orchestrated everything from the team that we were blessed with to the opportunities that we were given to the friends that we made... It was all from Him.

However, if there’s one thing that many of us know from past experience, it’s that we quickly forget. We quickly forget the wonders of Gods love. We’re so prone to wander away from Jesus, chasing after every novel thing and idea. Spiritually, it’s safe to say that we all have ADD. We have so much trouble staying focused on the one thing in this universe that really matters.

It’s easy to fall back into the luxuries and ease of home. At home, we have to plan our own days and seek out our own opportunities to reach out to others. We have to be more bold and intentional here than almost anywhere else. If it isn’t a constant thought, a constant prayer, we get lured away by any and every little, insignificant thing.

I remember that the one of the most resounding prayers each evening in Nicaragua was that God would continue to break our hearts for what breaks His and that we would continually seek His will. We want so badly to see Him work in mighty ways in our life.

We prayed that we would come back home different… that we would come back UNCOMFORTABLE!!

It’s weird to really pray that and mean it… or at least think that you mean it… But God has truly begun to transform our hearts here at Switchboard Missions. As we learn to cease being rebellious, He’s begun to transform our hearts. Slowly but surely, we’re learning to submit to Him, to follow where He leads, to humble ourselves before both Him and others.

Needless to say, we are without a doubt testing God’s patience, but we’re trying.

We, as humans, don’t like change. We’ve got a plan, and we’re trying to stick to it.

But, what happens when the rug gets pulled out from under us?  What’s going to happen now that God is truly answering those prayers? What’s going to happen when we decide to stop running? When God really does finally get a hold of us? When He really does change our hearts? What does it look like for our hearts to really break for what breaks His?

It’s heavy, weighty stuff. It feels so beyond us, and that’s probably because it is…

We don’t get it… Second Corinthians 2 is clear about that… But that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in…

God gives us his Spirit so that we may have the faith to believe, the faith to follow, the faith to let Him change our hearts.

Because of the work that Jesus did for us on the cross, we have hope. We have hope that we can be different, not different because of what we do, but different because of what He’s already done.

So, while there truly is “no place like home,” we must also remember that, “Home is where the heart is.”

When our hearts seek Jesus, we’re home… regardless of our surroundings…

The comfort of a home is not in bricks and mortar but in knowing that we’re already accepted before we even walk through the door… in knowing that inside, we’re safe from whatever the world may throw our way… in knowing that HE, the creator of the universe, loves us all intimately in our own unique ways.

We have a heavenly home, and there are many rooms in His house. He’s waiting… waiting for us all to come home…

God, the Perfect Father, is in the business of bringing people home. He wants to free us from the bondage of this world so that we can see what’s waiting for us in eternity.

We’ve been rescued from ourselves. We’ve tasted and seen His goodness, His grace and the fulfillment that only He can bring, and now, He’s commissioned us as Christians to let other people know. He’s given us a handful of invitations and asked us to pass them along to whomever we may meet. He wants them all to come.

The invite… His…

The message… His…

The generosity… His…

The house… His…

The party… His…

It’s all His. We just know how awesome it feels to have our own invitations, and He’s allowed us the honor of handing out a few envelopes to others.

Sometimes, it’s awkward… Sometimes, it’s hard... And sometimes, we’re just convinced that we’ve got better things to do than to walk around handing out these goofy invitations.

If we would only realize how badly people need to be invited, or, better yet, if we would only remember how badly we needed to be invited, then maybe we could put aside all of the stupid things that get in the way.

After all, He invited us so that we would invite others, so that we would take His message of love and grace into a broken world. (John 17:15-18)

So, really, I guess the question is, “Whose envelope has God handed you?”

Who has He called you to invite… TODAY?!

Nicaragua Update: Friday Edition

Sadly, today was our last day in Nicaragua. The last day of the trip is always set side to spend the day enjoying the Nicaraguan sites and attractions. We had a great time at Monkey Island, the volcano, and zip lining. Tomorrow, we will head home. This is always such a bitter sweet time because, as much as we are excited to see all of you, we are devastated to leave the people of this country. We are praying for the Lord to help us process everything we've seen, heard, and learned this week. For those of us that it is our first time in a third world country, our eyes and our hearts have been opened to things we've never been exposed to before. For those of us returning, the eye-opening process only continues.

Nicaragua Update: Thursday Edition

Wednesday -- We went to Emmanual in the morning to do VBS with the kids. We also continued building the house for Carlos and hope to finish the house by the end of the week. The remainder of the team spent time evangelizing throughout the barrio, and one woman accepted Christ. Praise the Lord! That afternoon we continued helping Chosen Children Ministries with a building on-site to use for their ministry. It's such a blessing to serve a ministry who is continually serving others, including our team. A few of us headed to Marvin in the afternoon to work with the people there and see some old friends. Nicole managed to fall in love with a monkey, but don't worry, she will not be taking it back with us! Every night we have a devotion, but last night's was the best yet. The Lord was so obviously present.

Thursday -- Today we went to the dump. A few hundred people live off of the dump, searching from sun up to sun down for things they can recycle like plastic bags and plastic bottles. These people have absolutely nothing. No house. No job. And, without Jesus Christ, no hope. We met their physical needs with food as well as their spiritual needs with the story of Christ

One of the reasons I love Chosen children Ministries is because they continue to minister to the Nicaraguan people long after our group is gone. The people of the barrio are connected to a church with a pastor, who Chosen Children mentors and teaches. Short-term mission trips are often criticized for leaving the native people high and dry after telling them about Jesus. In each barrio that we work with, Chosen Children Ministries has a constant presence, which allows the people there to grow a deeper relationship with Christ. So, while we may only be there for a short time, the Lord's name is continually proclaimed. Can I get an Amen?

Nicaragua Update: Wednesday Edition

Wednesday -- We went to Xiloa, which is the same community we worked in last year. It was beyond wonderful to see familiar faces! It's hard to explain the feeling that comes over you after seeing a child running toward you, barefoot, down the streets of a small Nicaraguan barrio. The same child that you've been praying over for an entire year. It's even harder to explain the type of connection that you can make in just a week. We did VBS with the kids of Xiloa and were able to walk through the barrio telling people about our Savior, Jesus Christ. We also stopped in at a new community called SMP and met with Edgar, the community leader. We encouraged and shared with them the advantages of getting involved with Chosen Children Ministries, since this was the first contact Chosen Children Ministries made with the community. We assessed needs, and the entire community was really excited about CCM's involvement. The people of the community are desperate for a church. 

Thursday - We are heading to Emmanuel to build Carlos a home. We will also be doing VBS as well as evangelism.

Nicaragua Update: Monday Edition

Here is the latest update:

Sunday -- Things at Sombrano went really well! We did Vacation Bible School with the kids and spent time simply loving on them. Hugs have a way of breaking down the language barrier. 

Monday -- Today, we went to the orphanage in Juigalpa, which is home to 30 kids. Of course, the term "kids" is used lightly. There are 2 girls, ages 12 and 14, who were raped by their father. Both of these "kids" are now moms. Both moms are on the honor roll, and one of the moms recently earned an academic award. Praise the Lord! We were able to take the kids on a field trip to the zoo. It was so exciting to see all their faces light up! They absolutely loved it, and we loved that they loved it! We fell in love with the kids, and goodbyes came way too quickly. 

Tomorrow -- We will be in Xiloa and The Flags, which are the same two barrios we were in last year. Several team members from last year's trip are anxiously awaiting reuniting with some of the relationships formed last year. 

Every night our team gathers in prayer and cries out for God to show up, use us, and lead us. Our team is praying that God would take this trip and make it His. We are also praying that we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His lead as to where we need to go, who we need to talk to, and how to direct the conversations.

Nicaragua Update: Sunday Edition

Bienvenido a Nicaragua! All 24 team members arrived safely without any hiccups. Prasise the Lord! We hit the ground running, so here's a recap of what we've done so far:

Saturday -- After we landed and made it to the mission house, we helped construct a building on campus for Chosen Children Ministries. That night we spent time seeking the Lord through prayer and scripture. What a joy it is to worship the Lord here in Nicaragua! We wanted to be sure our hearts were focused on what we have been called to do here this week.

Sunday -- This morning we went to church in Managua with Guillermo, Chosen Children's International Director. Reagan Sinclaire shared her testimony, and Rachel, Kaelynn, and Courtney sang special music. This afternoon we are going to Sombrazo to do our first VBS and sports camps.

More updates to follow!

Para nuestro Dios

It’s that time…

The rubber is about to hit the road…

After months of hard work, we find ourselves just hours away from Switchboard’s very first mission trip.

It’s surreal… We’re truly blown away by God’s loving kindness through all of this. He has turned what was once just a passing thought into a full-fledged, functional organization. He has turned our “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8) into something amazing, something that He will undoubtedly use to bless individuals all across the globe. We are thrilled to get to be a part of what He is doing for the people of this world, exceedingly humbled by His grace and eager to see what He has in store for us in the future, namely the next few days.

Our destination… The beautiful, exotic nation of Nicaragua…

Our partners… Chosen Children Ministries… These wonderful people have committed their lives to serving the people of Nicaragua for the glory of Jesus Christ. Their website says it best…
        
“Chosen Children Ministries exists to share God's love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Nicaragua, serving their spiritual and physical needs in ways that bring God glory, by planting churches, equipping leaders, strengthening families and individuals, evangelizing and discipling children and adults, establishing child sponsorships and giving humanitarian aid.”

To learn more about CCM or about how to be involved in their ministry, visit their website at:

Our team… The Lord has assembled a team of 23 students from 6 different universities across the South, including Louisiana State University, Louisiana-Monroe University, Texas A&M University, Texas Christian University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee-Martin. Also, we are beyond excited that a member of our wonderful Board of Directors, Amy Woodby, has chosen to accompany us on our inaugural journey. And, not to be forgotten, we have been blessed with OVER 60 PRAYER PARTNERS from all over the United States. They’ve joined our team specifically to pray for each and every one of those travelling. It’s breathtaking to see our beautiful and gracious God work to bring us all together, and we have no doubt that He has orchestrated this ENTIRE team to achieve His purposes.

Our mission… As a team, we will be doing about three main things everyday.

For the children, we will do a Vacation Bible School of sorts and then run Sports Camps for them. The main focus, though, is on loving on them. We will come into contact with a multitude of children who just want to be loved. Whether we need to give piggyback rides, play tag or paint fingernails, we just want to show each and every child that they are indeed valued and loved just as Jesus does for us.

To reach the adults, we will do lots of one-on-one evangelism. These people are often times hurting, broken and lost in the chaos of their everyday lives. Our only aim is to, as the apostle Paul wrote, preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) because He is the only true Healer and the only One who can bring perfect peace.

How can you help?

PRAY!!!

We’ll tell you the same thing that we told our prayer partners…

“In these first days as we all get adjusted and settled in, we ask that you would pray for safety as we travel both into the country and as we travel between the "barrios" and the mission house.

Pray that each of the team members would drop their inhibitions and step out onto the ledge. It will be hard for us, even those that have come before, to let go of our assumptions and preconceived notions about this new world around us. Please pray that we would truly surrender to whatever God has for us in these next 7 days.

But most importantly, pray that we would be cognizant of the true reason that we have come, to spread the love and good news of Jesus Christ across the world. Pray that we would remember that while we will have fun and enjoy our time together in such an exotic place, we have come to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ because, in the end, nothing else can satisfy but Him.”

Please join in with us as we bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the world.

We’ll have more updates soon, so make sure that you at least log out of Facebook long enough to check back here in the next few days…

Until next time… Adios Amigos!

The Body of Christ

            A couple weeks ago I started having this tiny little backache.  It’s not a big deal whatsoever, but it’s just annoying.  Every time I take a wrong step, or bend over wrong, or twist awkwardly it inhibits my once effortless movement.  On a scale of 1-10 of pain and severity, this back ache is a 0.  It’s nothing- miniscule, but it consistently affects my daily life in the smallest of ways.  However, it stops me in my tracks to imagine a more serious pain.  What if I had a bullet embedded in my skin from 10 years ago?  What if my nose had been cut off to signify I was a child soldier, or my right arm blown off in an explosion?  Even worse, what if I didn’t have ANY access to medical care?  No ibuprofen bottle sitting around to numb the shooting pains, no antibiotics to stop an infection…nothing.  How in the world would I go about living daily life?  The physical pain would get to be at times so unbearable my mind would literally shut down and make it impossible to focus on anything other than the immeasurable hurt going on within my body.  There’s absolutely no way I could work a full day, or sit down and focus entirely on any sort of task.  Not to even mention having a fruitful quiet and prayer time without crying out to God begging for any sort of healing. 
Unfortunately this hypothetical situation, as far-fetched as it is for us here in America, is the norm in Uganda.  While in Africa a couple of months ago, we heard story after story of physical ailments that plagued the Ugandan people’s everyday lives.  They weren’t complaining or whining; they were stating facts.  Their people are in a world where pain casts a dark and haunting shadow over absolutely every part of their lives.  It’s not that they are lazy or unwilling to work to start picking up the broken pieces a 25-year war left behind, they are physically unable to.  We’ve often been asked why The Tuli Initiative includes the “body” part of our mind-body-spirit approach.  The Nameless Project’s main mission is psychological healing, and Switchboard Missions’ focus is on spiritual awakening- so where does physical healing come into play?  As deep as their scars run emotionally, we can’t expect healing in their minds or spirit until the body is mended.  And what better way to present hope than by introducing them to The Great Physician?  By establishing the fact that we care about their physical needs, whether it’s providing a roof and bed for orphans, or clean water to drink, or doctors to perform life-changing surgeries, we can help provide freedom from constant pain and thus open thousands of doors in their hearts to a healing far more eternal. 

The Tuli Initiative: An Intro

Walt Disney was once quoted saying, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  We wholeheartedly agree.  A standard mission trip with two nonprofit organizations in June quickly turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.  No, not the “opportunity of a lifetime” sleazy car salesmen kind of way, but rather the “opportunity of a lifetime” orchestrated entirely by God to change an entire country.  Rather than bearing witness to some of the greatest problems of the modern world and becoming overwhelmed, we quickly discovered God had clearly lit the way to a solution through a destined partnership between The Nameless Project and Switchboard Missions.  After meeting with over 40 government officials and the Governor of the Northern Uganda province and being offered full governmental support, there was really no option but to proceed.  The project is called The Tuli Initiative, and through it we plan to provide complete mind-body-spirit rehabilitation to war-torn villages.  This is no small endeavor, as we have committed to being a long-term presence in this country for years to come.  We have hired a Ugandan native named Walter Ogwang to serve as a full-time representative and presence for The Tuli Initiative. 

I can tell you stories from the people we met that would probably make you cry.  I could go into detail about the 25-year war that has rampaged their lives and ripped loved ones out of their arms.  I could recall the bullets still embedded in their skin or the desperation in their eyes when they pleaded for our assistance.  It would indeed make you stop and think, but we as Americans are pros at busying our minds to avoid harsh realities, so you would soon forget what you read.  To be honest, I’m weary of writing stories with orchestra-themed background music meant to tug at your heart strings.  We’ve come to realize that no matter how hard we work and how badly we want change, it is impossible to do alone.  Thank goodness we are all but alone.  Every single molecule of this project, from a chance meeting in a coffee shop to this very moment, has been entirely God-breathed and orchestrated.  He has already begun to assemble an All-Star team of the perfect combination of people born to make a difference.  It’s not our job to tug on your heart strings or pressure you to help, as I assure you God has been laying bigger things on your heart long before you read this blog.  Our job is the same as yours- to do what we were called to do.  You are out there right now reading this-born in America with every single resource possible at your disposal.  What are you doing with that?  You were born with a specific and unique set of talents and gifts to be fitted perfectly within your calling.  Over the next several weeks, we are going to further explain the vision behind The Tuli Initiative through a series of blogs.  We want to fully describe that which God has laid on our hearts to anyone who wants to listen.  God will make it abundantly clear to those who are supposed to join in this effort.  Not everyone is made for this, we know that, so to those whose passions are elsewhere we pray you keep searching until you find what you were made for.  Because changing the world…it’s not optional.  And believe me- it really is fun to do the impossible, because all things are possible with God.

Hello World!

      Word on the street is you aren’t really official until you have a blog, so with this post I hereby pronounce Switchboard Missions as a go!  Yep, that’s right- Switchboard Missions.  It’s ok if you haven’t heard of us yet- we’re pretty new.  Evidently God doesn’t care if you’re a 2 month or 20 year old organization- He moves as quickly as He likes.  He’s been doing some pretty amazing things lately that we just can’t possibly keep to ourselves any longer.  We’d love it if you would stop by every now and then to see what all is going on.  I can promise you this- God is still in the business of doing miracles, and He is making Himself known across the entire globe.  We’ve been so very blessed in getting to witness Him move in the heart of a tiny orphan all the way to rehabilitating entire countries torn from war.  Want to see it for yourself? Come with us on a short-term missions trip! Can’t go?  Then help send others by providing your time or resources.  God calls everyone to either be a “Goer” or a “Sender”- “Neither” is really not an option.  And praise God for that calling, because believe me- you’re going to want to be a part of this!

You may be asking what it is exactly that Switchboard Missions does.  Our official mission statement is “To be used by God to awaken the hearts of young adults to the life He has called us to live as followers of Christ through local and global missions and discipleship into a life that fulfills that calling.”  In other words, we serve as “operators” that connect the passions God has laid on the hearts of young adults to real missions needs in the world.  We do this through domestic and international short-term mission trips.  Once exposed to the work God is doing across the globe, the participants’ eyes will be opened to the reality of how God is forcefully advancing His gospel, and to the vitality of our obedience to his command to be a part of that advance.  We’ve found that one cannot witness such supernatural power and not be changed, so we hope to facilitate the flipping of the “Jesus Switch” in people’s hearts for missions so that once they see what God is doing they will be forever impacted.  Another one of our goals is to also mentor and disciple future missions leaders through the Roots College Program.  Plain and simple, the core of our organization is centered on providing opportunities for young adults to be a part of The Great Commission and the miraculous work God is doing across our world.  

God has opened some gigantic doors for us to walk through in the near future.  In addition to our normal short-term mission trip programming, we are also partnering with The Nameless Project on a new endeavor called The Tuli Initiative.  In the next six weeks, we’ll be publishing a Vision Series aimed at cluing you guys in on this new and upcoming work we will be doing in northern Uganda.  Check back here often to get information on this integrative rehabilitation program for traumatized individuals living in war-torn areas.  We plan to dissect our mind-body-spirit approach while laying out the next 15 to 20 years of work we have ahead of us!

Thanks for taking a few minutes to pause and read about our world at Switchboard Missions.  We certainly hope you’ll stick around and join us for what promises to be one incredible journey.