News + A Theme Park Analogy

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my dad put me on my first roller coaster.

The whole family was wandering around Libertyland, an amusement park in Memphis that doubled as Dad’s way to pay off college tuition back in the day: He played the fiddle in a band. I’d been plenty of times before.

But this time I was eyeing a wooden track as cars zoomed past at lightning speed over and over again, so mesmerized that I eventually stopped walking. My neck started cramping from staring that high up for so long. Finally, Dad said, “Alright, let’s go. We’re doing it.” And 8-or-9-year-old-me said, “Wait, HOLD UP.”

Buuuuut it was too late. Suddenly I was walking again.

He waited with me in line, held my hand in line, patted my back before I stepped into the car, and climbed in the seat next to mine. No doubt my eyeballs were wider than coffee table coasters. Then he leaned over and said, “It’ll be scary at first. But I know you’ll love it, Ash. Just trust me. You ready?”

“Ummmm, no. Yes?? I don’t know!?!?” Then we were off.

A lot happened in the 3.5 minutes that followed, but make no mistake: I LOVED IT. My little legs were jello when I got off and clumsily ran back to Mom and baby sisters, and my eyes were still as wide as they were before I pulled the bar over my head. Except the fear was gone, and it was fully replaced with joy. As a matter of fact, I trace my current love of jaw-clenching, stomach-dropping, smile-inducing roller coasters back to this day. To this decision to trust my Dad.

I found myself dancing with this deafening fear because I learned to first rest in the knowledge that everything would be alright. Because Dad said so, and because he was right next to me the whole time.

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As 2016 kicks off and winter is threatening to rear its ugly head (very much a self-proclaimed Winter Weather Weenie), I’m reflecting on how my Heavenly Father often chooses to teach me things about Himself through the split-second decisions of my earthly father.

Primarily: trust.

That He knows me better than anyone else. That He knows my heart, so therefore it’d be okay and even wise to trust Him. Even though Especially because 2016 is shaping up to be quite the transition year.

Here’s where I announce that I’m actively working towards returning to Bundibugyo, Uganda this coming fall.

If you’re new to this part of my story (and maybe wondering if a cat just walked across my keyboard?), rest assured: Bundibugyo is, in fact, a very real place. A place that’s broken and beautiful and struggling even more than you are right now as you try to pronounce its name. A place that has proven to love well yet is quick to point fingers. A place where the sun beats down to reveal stunning rainbows yet is often overwhelmed by darkness. A paradoxical reality far too complex to explain here, but I do not hesitate say this confidently: for every ounce of hardship present, Jesus is working and moving with twice the power. He has NOT forgotten Bundibugyo, Uganda. Not a chance.

I had the privilege of witnessing all of this firsthand two years ago, and I’m humbled to accept the offer to return. I’m humbled to know that the Lord isn’t finished guiding me through the stumbling blocks of multicultural ministry. That He isn’t finished using Bundibugyo to shape me, break me, mold me, encourage me.

And I’m excited to follow Him back.

For 18 months, I’ll be partnering with Serge and joining their team as they do life in Bundi, a small village nestled in the western-most Ugandan region of the Rwenzori Mountains. I’ll specifically be working with the local secondary boarding school, Christ School Bundibugyo, which is where I spent most of my time two summers ago. No doubt I’ll end up wearing multiple hats there… but more information to come on that later.

Bundibugyo_Map

Austa

For now, I just wanted to send a little update. And humbly ask for prayer as I dive into the support raising process, because it reintroduces a (biblical, but still uncomfortable) level of vulnerability rarely found in any other circumstance… and if you’ve been here, you get it. Because who actually likes depending on other people, am I right?? Should be a grand ole sanctifyin’ time.

Many of you supported me either financially, prayerfully, or both the last time I went. This post doubles as an extension of grace and thanks for YOU. I would never have begun to imagine the reality of Bundibugyo without your faithful partnership. Because of you, the Lord worked immeasurably within my own heart. Looks like that was just the beginning.

More posts and more details to come, and I’m genuinely pumped to share them with you.

Roller coasters, man… Here we go again.

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“Thou hast given me a fixed deposition to go forth and spend my life for thee; If it by thy will let me proceed in it; if not, then revoke my intentions. All I want in life is such circumstances as may best enable me to serve thee in the world; to this end I leave all my concerns in thy hand, but let me not be discouraged, for this hinders my spiritual fervency; Enable me to undertake some task for thee, for this refreshes and animates my soul, so that I could endure all hardships and labours, and willingly suffer for thy name.

But, O what a death it is to strive and labour, to be always in a hurry and yet do nothing! Alas, time flies and I am of little use. O that I could be a flame of fire in thy service, always burning out in one continual blaze. Fit me for singular usefulness in this world. Fit me to exult in distresses of every kind if they but promote the advancement of thy kingdom. Fit me to quit all hopes of the world’s friendship, and give me a deeper sense of my sinfulness. Fit me to accept as just desert from thee any trial that may befall me. Fit me to be totally resigned to the denial of pleasures I desire, and to be content to spend my time with thee. Fit me to pray with a sense of the joy of divine communion, to find all times happy seasons to my soul, to see my own nothingness, and wonder that I am allowed to serve thee. Fit me to enter the blessed world where no unclean thing is, and to know thee with me always.”

– Valley of Vision