August 4, 2015

Putting it Into Words

I am not new at this.  I have returned home from a mission trip many times.  I prepare my teams to come up with short responses for well meaning people who ask, "How was your trip?"  But this time, I was not prepared myself.
Each trip is unique.  Each trip has its own highs and lows.  This trip was FABULOUS and it was DEVASTATING.  How?  I struggle putting it into words.  I will try.
The best part of my trip was watching the relationships grow with children from the Sole Hope outreach house.  Sole Hope is an organization that serves those with jiggers, a sand flea that burrows under the skin and produces its larvae that stay there until removed.  Their outreach house takes on the worst cases.  I saw familiar face.  Little Abraham was at the outreach house when I was there this last December.  He was brought back.  This was his second time at the outreach house.  So not only did I see a familiar face, so did he.  We loved on him for the week he was there and then we drove him back to his families home to reunite him, jigger free, with his family.  Whew...great experience and tough experience in one.  It was nice to take him back home to his family, but what we took him back to brought me to tears.  His family of seven lived in a homelike structure the about the size of a queen size bed.  There was one bed and no door.  No wonder this boy had jiggers so bad in twice in just 6 months.  

My team, a few who had returned from previous trips, also were building relationships with children and ministry partners.  In my opinion, that is the key to a successful short term mission trip.  We served the long term missionaries who are the real heros.  They work day and night, year round and we just come along side them for a short time.  Our team loved on them big time!

Some of the harder things were not being able to meet all the needs.  It's difficult when a child with a severe disability is brought to an organization seeking help and help is hard to give.  It's difficult when hands are being held out for money and saying no.  It's hard seeing young men being beaten, just yards away, by a village for stealing.  Or being handed a malnourished child who looks like two years old, but has adult teeth and must be around 6 or 7.  

So when you ask, "how was your trip?"  Be ready for a brief, "it was good."  Because it was.  But honestly, it was much much more than good.  It was profound!  It was life changing!  But I will say "it was good," because it's easier for you to understand.  It's easier than going into long stories of how me and my teams lives were wrecked.  

Do you really want to know more?  Then let's have coffee!  Or better yet, come to my house!  I'll talk your head off and you can watch the 20 hours of video footage and view the over 4,000 images!  Y'all...I live for this stuff!

May 5, 2015

The Real Me

I live many lives, and have many hats.  I am a military wife.  A mom and an adoptive mom.  A short term missionary and advocate.  I volunteer in my military community to fundraise, and I mentor other military spouses.  I lead small groups within my church.  But I also love a good girls night out.  I enjoy a good margarita.  I listen to secular music.  I joke and play pranks on my friends.  If I really like you, you'll get a slap on the butt!  I'm an open book.   It's who I am.

I love my Jesus, that's no secret.  I blare my worship music everywhere!  But I'm also a very real person.  I'm loud and outspoken.  I'm a bit crazy and sometimes rash and sarcastic.  I am far from perfect, but I am real.  As Steve Harvey put it, "Don't trip, He ain't thru with me yet!"

Recently, someone questioned my authenticity.  Their words seemed as if they were putting me up on a pedestal to meet the expectations that they had of a spiritual leader.  I do agree that spiritual leaders should be held to a higher standard.  People are watching you.  But I am not God.  I don't sing Kumbaya 10 hours a day, nor do I pray for 5 hours at a time.  I am not perfect. I am flawed.  But I am real.  And I feel that being real with people and genuinely being the same person you are on Saturday as on Sunday is key.  Love Jesus everyday.  Strive for a stronger testimony everyday.  I have had non Christians be more receptive to my faith because they feel less threatened by me.  They see me.  They see I'm flawed.  They see me and my crazy self everyday, but they also know I love the Lord.

If I was to take it down a notch, and not joke around.  I would be a hypocrite.  I would be putting on a facade to appease others.  God has made me ME!  He made me spontaneous, he made me loud, he made me crazy and full of passion about a lot of things.  And I believe He made me that way so that others can see that Christians don't all have it together, but our God does!  I strive to grow in my faith and it's a journey I am on everyday.

But for those who question my authenticity, I ask…How many people are you winning over with your methods?  How many people want to hear about Christ's love for them through you?

March 24, 2015


What does it mean to have compassion?

1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I am a work in progress, and I'm the first to admit that.  I have come along way, but God is still working in me.  He has given me compassion and He commands me to give it as freely as He has given it to me.  

What does the bible say about having compassion?

Ephesians 4:32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James 1:27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.

James 2:14-26  - What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Matthew 25: 35-36 - For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

So what does that mean for us as Christians?  We are COMMANDED to have compassion!  We can not just say, "I will pray for you and your needs."  We need to help each other out!  You see someone hungry, feed them!  You see someone without clothes, clothe them!  I think a lot of times, we want to believe that the said person in need somehow deserves the hunger or nakedness or homelessness.  The bible is saying the faith without deeds is dead!  Love one another people.  Have compassion on one another!  See a need, meet it!

March 3, 2015

My Double Life

I live two very different lives.  I wish they weren't so black and white, and that they could both exist together at the same time.  Slowly my two worlds are beginning to collide.  

I spend the majority of my life being a military wife and a mom.  Dropping my kids off at school, attending teacher conferences and scouting events fill my days.  I do homework with my kids and read them bed time stories.  I grocery shop and cook.  I clean. I work a part time job and am involved in various military functions, including my favorite…military balls!

My other life is in Uganda.  I'm also a mom in Uganda.  Culturally, you begin to take on the name "Mom or Mum" when you have earned a level of respect in someones life, or you are old…lol.  I was called mom on my second trip to Uganda by a few girls that I began to sponsor.  Slowly the older kids started calling me Mom.  And within the last two years, even my drivers call me Mom.  Or Mama Elisa.  These relationships that I have been building for the last four years are no longer just casual relationships with people I see twice a year.  They are ongoing relationships.  I see them more than I do my own extended family!  They are real life people that I love dearly.

When I get off the plane in Uganda, I feel at home.  I know the airport and where to go to report lost baggage.  I know the exits.  I know the parking lot.  I know the familiar faces of the loved ones picking me up.  I know the places to stop for food and a good bathroom.  I am familiar with the guesthouse that I stay at and how the plumbing and electricity work.  I know the guards that protect it.  I know the cooks and their specialty dishes. I know which boda driver knows his way around Jinja Town and won't screw me over.  I have his number!  I have my favorite super markets and street vendors.  I'm learning more and more of the language.

When people ask me where I'm from, I'm stumped.  I'm a Navy wife and a Navy brat.  I'm from the Navy!  When people ask me where is home, I've got two answers, "Home is where his boots are," and "Uganda!"  I can have two homes right?

Every year, I spend more and more time in my Uganda.  Last summer, the kids were able to join me for almost two months.  It was an experience.  I was so excited to share my Uganda with them.  They loved it!  But there is still a very big divide in my life here, as a wife and a mom, and my life there.  It's as if I'm Superman leading this double life.  I'm home playing mom and then a trip comes up and I put on my cape and fly to Africa.

I desperately want my two lives to fully collide. They are slowly.  I used to spend about 3-4 weeks a month in Uganda and this year, it's looking more like two months!  In the meantime, I will continue to be obedient to the calling on my life and live both my Super Elisa lives!

March 2, 2015

How a Military Wife's Mind Works Regarding PCS Season

Anyone involved in military life is VERY familiar with the term PCS.  Our lives bank on it.  We set our calendars around it.  Our children dread it, or learn to embrace it.  What does PCS mean?  It means Permanent Change of Station, in other words…moving time.

My entire life, with exception of the 7 years in-between my dad retiring from the Navy and marrying a Sailor, I have PCS'd.  A lot!  I actually can't imagine a life not PCS'ing.  It's how I'm wired.  In the Navy, we typically PCS ever three years.  So after two years, I start to get the itch.  I start stalking potential duty stations.  I purge the house and prepare for a move.  I start disconnecting a bit in my circles to emotionally prepare for the separations of friendships that I have built.

So I've created a list of what runs through a military wive's mind during PCS season!

1.  When is that freaking list coming out?!
I call Boo probably at least once a day to see if he's heard anything about the list of potential duty stations.  Even though I know what day the list will be released.  What if he just happened to get it early?  Or what if he had some inside knowledge of potential duty stations?

2.  When can we leave?
I love every place that we have lived!  Seriously!  I am in no rush to leave, I just want to know when we are leaving!  I know he has a timeframe, but what about exceptions?  The kids need to start school, so can we leave a month early?  What about our family time?  I want to visit our Texas family before we head to our new home, we haven't been back in three years!  Will we be able to do that?

3.  Where are we freaking going?
I know we have to wait for the list to come out, select our top three choices and then wait for someone else to decide where we are living, but WHERE ARE WE GOING?  Every little job that pops up, even though it probably won't work, I research it to death!  Boo comes home and says, "hey, I heard they may release a billet (job) in Pensacola."  What do I do?  I join every Pensacola Face Book page I can!  I start making Pensacola friends!  I look up houses, neighborhoods and schools.  I research demographics and crime stats.  I look up airports and research rates to and from our home town.  Then…I find out Pensacola isn't an options after all.  So I start doing the same thing with my our dream list of duty stations.  It drives Boo insane, but a girl has to be prepared right?!

4.  What needs to go?
I start purging through our crap.  There's nothing like arriving to your new home and having to unpack all the crap that you never used during the last three years!  I remember growing up and watching the same boxes be moved everywhere we went.  Some, never even opened.  After my dad retired, I went in and opened a few boxes only to find some of their wedding presents from 18 years earlier!  It's gotta go!

5.  What do I need to stock up on?
Depending on where we live, I like to bring some kind of memento of our time at said location.  Currently, we are stationed in Germany.  I'd like to have a few pieces of European furniture, some Polish pottery and other German like decor to remind us of our time here.

6.  Where the heck are we going again?
I seriously can't emphasize the magnitude of this question!  We, as military spouses, just want to know. In most cases, I'll adapt where ever we end up going.  But I just want to know!

So, we have lived in Germany about 2 1/2 years.  That means it's time for us to know!  I love this life, and can't imagine not living it like we do. But bring out that list baby!

January 20, 2015

Uganda December 2014

How was your trip?  I hear these words so often.  The words I have to share are so few.  How can I put what I experienced into words?  I can not.  My words don't do it justice.  How was my trip?  It was life changing.  It was heartbreaking.  It was joyful and fulfilling.  It was all of these things and more.  My teams are rocked by their experiences!  I am so thankful that God has chosen me to lead them!  I can't think of anything I would rather do!
Mission trips are for anyone willing to go!  You don't have to be a bible scholar, or a Pastor's kid to go. Lord knows my qualifications would be lacking!  You just have to want to go!  I truly believe that passion is God's way of tugging on your heart.  He wants you to see what He sees.  He wants your life to be affected.  He wants you to go!
Join me this summer in Uganda!  I'll be leading a two week trip leaving on May 28th.  I will also be leading Visiting Orphan's first Ugandan Extended Trip!  If you have been to Uganda with Visiting Orphans and would like an opportunity to stay for a month, this trip is for you!  Visiting Orphans leads teams all over the world!  Check it out!

January 9, 2015

Processing Again

Processing is something I encourage my teams to do.   Process the things you saw and did and make sure you have a way to do that.  For some, it's easier than others.  Some of my team members process by writing, some process by sharing their stories with others.  Some have a difficult time putting into words what just happened.  That seems to be where I am.
I just came home from my sixth mission trip in four years.  And I'm still processing. It's difficult for me to get back to everyday life.  As I walked to my children's school this afternoon to pick them up, I realized that my children get to go to school.  My children have the security of knowing that someone will be there to pick them up.  They come out of school jumping and running.  There will be dinner on the stove tonight and they will sleep in a bed protecting them front the outside elements.  If they are sick, they have easy access to a doctor and a hospital.
My children are also in a culture of greed and materialism.  They have access to their choice of clothes and matching shoes. They get more excited about their video games and electronics than they do out of God's word. They are American children.
I often think I am becoming desensitized to the poverty, illness and cultural differences that I experience.  I have seen so much, it takes a lot to shock me.  This trip shook me up a bit.  But I think what shakes me up even more is that there are so many people that haven't seen what I see.  They hear the stories, but until they have seen…they don't get it.  I want people to see, I want others to experience something so outside of themselves that it rocks them to the core.  That is where transformation and change comes from!
While I am processing again, for the sixth time, ask me how my trip went.  I have a ton of stories to share!  If you want a one line answer, I'll give it to you.  But if you really want to know how my trip went, give me an hour and I'll show you how my heart is really breaking.  I will tell you things that will break your own.  And THEN, I'll get you to join me in May!