The Long Awaited Visa Interview

Nairobi, Kenya

Yesterday Paul and I made our way to the Embassy of the United States of America in Nairobi, Kenya. It was very early in the morning when we left the guest house we have rooms at and boarded a matatu [public transportation] for the city. I think we both had some pretty massive butterflies in our stomach as we sat in the taxi and went over our file again and again. This file, or should I say book of every detail of our life together over the past 2 years, has basically consumed our thoughts and time for about 2 months now, and so much work and effort has gone into preparing it and making sure that it was perfect so that we can convince the Embassy workers that we are indeed in love. 

The longer we sat on the matatu the more we realized that we were not going to make it to the Embassy for our 7:15am appointment. Nairobi is a really large city and has about as much congestion as Los Angeles or New York city at rush hour. The confused traffic signals and disregard of any rules of the road doesn’t help at all either. So, we asked the conductor if he could just let us off early and we found a boda boda [motorbike used for public transportation] and asked if he could take us the rest of the way to the Embassy. 

Now, if we were in Uganda, we would have taken a boda boda probably from the beginning because they outnumber all other forms of transportation 8:1, but in Nairobi they are harder to find, and as we soon found out, not at all faster. In Uganda you can take a boda in rush hour and it will whiz around traffic and you will make it through hours before everyone else sitting in their car, but in Nairobi, the guy was actually sitting in the lines of traffic. Paul had to tell the guy that he needed to hurry and start weaving, I think the guy had never been so scared…he was not our kind of boda guy that’s for sure. 

We arrived at the Embassy at 7:22am and ran to the first security check where we split off and Paul was being inspected by the male guard and I proceeded to the female. I was busy spreading my arms and legs when I heard the male guard scolding Paul. I looked over to see that Paul was trying to wipe a moist towelette that we had in our bag on the guards hand to show him what the function of the wipe was. I couldn’t help but laugh. Who cares that the guard thought Paul was trying to attack him with a baby wipe. 

After barely making it through the security check, we made our way to the check-in gate Paul’s name was marked as present, and we were told that he had to leave me at this point. We said goodbye, I wished him good luck, and away he went. This was my cue to take out my sewing so that my mind wouldn’t be racing and I would bite off all my nails before our wedding. About an hour and a half after he went in he was able to come out and bring me some coffee and a donut. I was so happy to see him and he said that he had submitted his paperwork and was just waiting to be called for his interview. I could see the nerves on his face. He only stayed out with me for about 3 minutes then rushed back in so that he wouldn’t miss his number being called. 

While I waited I decided to become friends with the guard just in case anything weird happened with Paul’s interview and I needed to sweet talk my way in. He was a nice guy, very interested in my sewing. He told me I needed to sell them, I told him that was a good idea. If I had a Thistle & Thread business card I would have handed it over; so much for always being prepared. I think I could have sold about a dozen hoops while I was sitting there if I had them ready to go. Almost every person that passed me was deeply interested and asked me if I had my own business. I need to work on my Kenya business plan….

After another hour and a half, I looked up and sweet Paul was making his way out again. I knew this was it. I tried to read his face as he made it way to me, and it was the easiest face to read. There was no way that he was going to hide this emotion. He quickly got out his green piece of paper and gave me the biggest hug, it was over. He had his visa. These last 10 months of waiting, the year apart, the work put into our file, the praying, playing scenarios over in our heads again and again, it was all over. 

Paul with his visa Approval | Nairobi, Kenya | US Embassy

Look at that smile! This smile is the product of months and months of waiting and hard work. Praise God for that smile!

Before we went for the interview, Paul and I had been praying that God would give us peace no matter the circumstance because we know that he works everything out for his glory, which is ultimately for our good if we trust him and want his glory more than our own. Those prayers were hard. It was hard to pray that we would have contentment no matter the outcome when our hearts so badly wanted this to work and to travel to America on October 22nd and get married on October 31st. But God, in his kindness towards us, gave Paul favor before the Embassy officials, and allowed him to be granted this visa. 

So many times through this process, especially when it was taking long or back in the summer when Paul was denied the visa to expedite the process, we would become so frustrated that our relationship was being dictated by the government. But we now realize how naive we were to think that. At no point did the American government hold the future of our relationship in their hands. They were being used by the Lord, and everything was done in his timing. 

Thank you so much to everyone that has remembered us in your prayers and walked with us through this process. In some ways it feels that we have reached the end of a long long journey, but the reality is that our journey is only continuing. We are on the road to becoming one, becoming the Kavumas. This step is over, and we are more ready than ever to trust the Lord with the steps that he brings our way from here on out. I am always reminded of this quote from John Piper, “Be strong and know that God will be as faithful in the future as you know he has been in the past.” So, we will continue to be strong and trust the God who has shown so much kindness towards us as we make our way to the States in a few days and get ready for our wedding!

5 Things I Have Learned from Waiting


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Ssese Islands, Uganda
1. Waiting doesn’t mean sitting still. 

When you wait it usually means that you are in one of two situations. Either you are not sure what is next and you are just holding off to see what will happen, or you do know what is next and it is forcing you to remain in a certain place until it takes place. Regardless, you don’t have to be stagnant. Sure, it’s hard to plan things when the unknown future is looming and it seems so close and you are afraid to get into anything serious because you don’t know how long you can commit, but you aren’t chained to uncertainty. Sometimes the best thing to do when you are waiting on what is to come is to start something new or improve on something that you already know. These things remind you that life is not revolving around one thing and that you are a person that is made up of many different levels and experiences. 

While I have been waiting this year until Paul’s visa can be processed, I have started an Etsy shop and it has really given me a lot of sanity and a sense of accomplishment. I have a bit of control over my shop and what happens with it. It’s something that I can stay busy with and also work towards a future in. When I started the shop last November I didn’t know how long I was going to be in the States, but I still loved creating and using different talents that I have to start this small business. It has been a really great outlet while I wait. 

2. Waiting does mean finding joy. 

I know that many times during this period of waiting I have allowed myself to get into a funk and become really frustrated with my situation. It usually leads to not wanting to really spend time with anyone or just doing what is required when it comes to social interaction. I was annoyed with others who were moving on with their lives, I was frustrated with Paul for no reason, I didn’t really have any joy. Any time that is spent waiting is difficult, but it does not have to steal your joy. It can be hard to find joy, but it isn’t impossible. 

When I realized that I was allowing myself to get to this place I made a serious effort to take some time away from work, to take some time away from my Etsy shop, and to focus on things that were daily gift and blessings in my life. Paul and I started reading Scripture together, and we started praying together. I spent more time with friends even when it didn’t seem “productive”, I started some projects that were just for fun, Paul and I began planning for things for when we were together again, fun things, not visa things. It really lifted my spirits. There are still times when I feel a bit beat down, but then I go back to focusing on finding joy in the situation and remembering all the ways that I have grown during this time. 

3. Waiting doesn’t mean you have been forgotten. 

This one is hard. I will never forget the day that Paul went for an interview to have our visa expedited and was denied. We had really put a lot of hope in that interview because we saw that the visa we were waiting on wasn’t going to be finished in time for him to come before the wedding we were planning. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was hard because it just tacked on another unknown period of waiting. When Paul called and told me the news I just remember telling him that I felt like we had been forgotten. Like God didn’t care about us and he was just letting go out on our own and suffer. 

After the words came out of my mouth I was really embarrassed. I felt ashamed for thinking that about my God. I felt like I had just jumped back 7 years in my Christian life and forgotten everything that I had learned over the years of Bible college, a counseling degree, discipleship groups….but it was real. I really felt that way and I think it was the first time in all the years of me being a Christian that I had ever really voiced any true feelings of hurt when it came to not understanding God. 

After Paul and I talked about it and processed and I was reminded of how God does love us, and that love doesn’t have to look like we think it should, I was able to process this feeling a little more. Waiting doesn’t mean that you are forgotten. We weren’t forgotten. I have not been forgotten. This hasn’t been my idea of a good time, but this is the first time in all my life that I have had absolutely no control in a situation, and let me tell you, it has been a season of growth. As much as I have tried to fight it, and warred with God for control, He has continued to remind me that I am not the one who is sovereign and I am not the one who is going to make anything happen. I am not forgotten, I am just being taught who is really in control. 

4. Waiting doesn’t necessarily make you stronger, but it doesn’t kill you either.  

I don’t know if I would say that this time has made me a stronger person. I think if anything it has helped me become a more sensitive person. I have been forced to identify with my emotions on a totally different level and I have learned that it is not a bad thing to feel. I have cried more than ever before, I have become angry more than ever before, I have experienced worry more than ever before, disappointment, comfort, companionship, dependency, I have really tapped into some sides of myself that I thought simply weren’t there. I don’t think that I would say I’m a stronger person, but I am not a defeated person. I like that I have been able to become more comfortable with emotions and embrace how complex and diverse people are. 

5. Waiting isn’t forever. 

It can’t be forever. There is an end to the waiting. We can’t be sure when that is, but there will be an end. Find hope in that. Find joy in that. Embrace the right now, and build excitement for what is to come. Don’t look back on this time of waiting regret your actions or your lack of actions. I think that we shouldn’t let any time go wasted. Carpe Diem, people! 

Should I Feel Guilt Over My Latte?

Should I Feel Guilt Over My Latte
 
I have experienced a lot of emotions since returning from Uganda. I have experienced excitement about being back with the familiar, longing for those who are far away, regret for things I didn’t do while I was there, introspection about what I should be focused on doing next, confusion about what I should be doing next, frustration about what I should be doing next…you get the picture. But above and beyond I have felt guilt. 
 
I haven’t communicated this emotion very often. I haven’t communicated it because I have been jaded and scarred by others who have communicated this emotion. Those who, out of good intention and self-awareness, have sworn off chain retail stores, working vehicles, day trips with friends, basic pleasures in life, because there are those on the other side of the world who can’t afford those luxuries. I get it. I really get it. 
 
But the danger in that attitude is that you are alienating those who don’t feel the guilt, those who, in my opinion, shouldn’t feel the guilt.
 
I have been the one swearing things off, and I have been the one sheepishly sipping mylatte while listening to someone talk about how many wells that latte could build in Ghana. So in an effort to not be “that person”, I have kept my feelings of guilt to myself, and tried to forget or move on, or at times when I’m feeling a little brave, I will explore them and try to reconcile them. 
 
I’m planning a wedding. It’s going to be a small wedding, a modest wedding, but even with the small budget, I still feel bad for spending what could build a decent house in Uganda on one day of celebration. Now, these feelings do not spring from pressure coming from Paul, his family, my family, or anyone else.They come from my heart of confusion and my inability to reconcile these feelings. These feelings that have built from leaving my heart in two different places. 
 
As all these thoughts are circling around in my heart, I couldn’t have asked for a better message today at church. I am going to Sojourn Community Church for the time being until Paul gets here and we can visit other churches together and settle down, and they are going through a series on money right now. The topic today focused on what to do when you are a rich Christian. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul assumes that there are rich Christians, and he gives some principles on how to act in a godly way considering this. So, we can already relax a bit because we know that you don’t have to be poor to be a Christian and you don’t have to feel guilty if you have money. 
 
I’m just going to run down the 5 principles that were brought out of the text: 
 
1) Don’t feel guilty for having money
2) Don’t be arrogant about having money
3) Don’t misplace your hope in your money
4) Be rich in good deeds with your money
5) Know the “why”. Why is all this possible
 
All things that we have come from the Lord and we can be thankful for that. We don’t have to feel bad when we have the opportunity to enjoy a nice dinner, or we receive a really awesome handbag for Christmas, or go shopping for some new clothes because the old ones don’t fit anymore. [Because you lost so much weight of course….]
 
You can be a godly and wealthy; which if you are reading this post on your computer, phone, tablet, whatever, then go ahead and consider yourself wealthy. You can also be godly and poor. God can teach us things in both categories. And many of us might fall in and out of each category through the span of our life. What is important is what we do with it. 
 
If you are wealthy, be generous, be involved, be conscious of where your blessing come from and know that the reason you have them is that you can “lay up treasures for yourself as a firm foundation for the coming age, that you may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) All of this is just a mist compared to the life to come. 
 
If you are not wealthy, rejoice that our treasures are not in this world and trust that God will provide for you. Still be generous. Still be involved. Still know the reason that God has you where he has you.
 
No matter your financial status, you life is hidden in Christ and you are not reduced to your income.
 
Care deeply for others and live a rich and abundant life focused on things that matter and don’t perish. Don’t put your hope in wealth which is uncertain, but put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. God has given us things to enjoy them. If we are giving all glory to him and giving our first fruits to him, then showing generosity and care towards others, then guilt should not be apart of our emotional spectrum. Don’t enslave yourself to guilt, and don’t enslave others to guilt when you are free to enjoy all gifts from the Lord. 
 

A Lesson in Bravery

photo credit: Rachel Pieh Jones | www.djiboutijones.com

The story, A Child of Two Worlds, was published a couple of years go in the New York Times, but I just came across it today. It really resonated with me. I don’t know if it’s because I sometimes think that if I’m to live in Uganda for the rest of my life I might be too scared to give birth, or if it’s because of the description Rachel Pieh Jones gives of her daughter at the end:
“Except for when I woke her to nurse, Lucy slept through the first night, her face serene and flawless. I kissed her rosebud lips and smoothed her hair and sang lullabies. This was my Djiboutian American daughter, a perfect combination of my two worlds. Born to American parents, in a Muslim country, on a day of infamy, she epitomized the people and places I had come to love.”

She has a video on the Desiring God website. I don’t have kids and I have never done anything as dramatic as give birth in such conditions, but before I moved out here people, even those who didn’t really know me, kept telling me how brave I was. It’s a weird feeling because so many times you feel anything but brave. I think that her video sums it up perfectly. We are not brave because being brave indicates that we have summoned up some kind of courage from within. But rather, we are desperate, breathless, and fully dependent of God. It would be a huge mistake to think otherwise.

The Trouble With Love Is…

Uganda, East Africa
 I have been thinking about love as an emotion a lot lately. How much this emotion can control you and how it can make you do things you would have never dreamed of doing before. There is the love you feel for another person, the love another person feels for you, the love that you see other people show to each other and even the love that you wish you were receiving from someone. I come in contact with so many people in a day and I show love to them, or fail to show love to them in many different ways. Some of those people are easy to love and I can’t get enough of them and other people take a little more effort to care for.

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Burning Down My Kingdom

Uganda, East Africa | Luweero to Soroti

Our second Pastor’s Conference of the year has just come to an end. It was a time of worship and growth for the pastors that were able to attend and also those of us from Sufficiency of Scripture Ministries. The Lord was faithful and gave us great opportunities to love and challenge the pastors to love their churches with the deep love of Christ.

The focus of the conferences this year is on the Invaluable Church: Seeing the Church from God’s Perspective. A challenge here in Uganda, as well as many other parts of the world, is the issue of ministers being consumed with title and respect and not humbly serving their church without any recognition or benefits. This is not just a temptation for leaders in the church; it’s a temptation in the life of every Christian. So many times we are focusing on serving our own kingdom and not humbly and sacrificially serving the Kingdom of God. It was so encouraging and challenging to see the pastors respond to the teaching, and also have my heart and motivations for ministry challenged and strengthened.

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It Was Always for My Sake

Baptism | Uganda, East Africa
Easter is approaching. In the business of life I have really been caught off guard with how quickly it has arrived this year. We have been spending time in our Bible studies preparing our hearts for the weekend, but it still seems as if I have been completely unaware of the holiday’s arrival.
Today though we sat in a Bible study and listened to a detailed account of the crucifixion of Christ. It isn’t the first time that I have done something like that, but this time I did it while thinking on 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For oursake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
For our sake. For my sake. 

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Learning to Live a Needy, Loving Life

Uganda, East Africa
 
Most of my time here in Uganda is spent with kids. It’s practically unavoidable. Back home I had my fair share of time around those of the younger age bracket, but it wasn’t at all like it is now. I could go to class, a coffee shop, work, friends’ houses, and run to the store without coming into contact with children. The life here is a different story. There are very few stolen moments throughout the day that I am not being sat on, hugged, having my hand held, jumped on, climbed on, being asked a question, pulled to go play a game, asked for a sweetie or water, tied up as the damsel in distress, or being shown something gross that someone has just killed, stepped in, or found laying in the bush. I live a very kid friendly life.
 
 
In an effort of complete transparency, I find sincere joy in being around kids, but there are the moments that I just “need a break”. I don’t know how many times I have said that since I have been here. Before I came I couldn’t imagine every growing tired or exhausted by those sweet little faces that smile at you and shout “Jerdani! Jerdani!” (their version of Jordan). They have such innocence, spunk, sheer abandonment. Personal space or social boundaries do not apply to them. There’s no need to knock before they enter into my house because why wouldn’t I want to see them and give them a hug and play for the rest of the day until it’s too dark to see on the walk home? Struggle is a reality in their little lives, but they still find the energy and excitement to run and play and shout and forget everything that is going on around them for those precious moments. My heart breaks every time that I give a kid that I have never met before a hug and immediately they are clinging to me for as long as I will allow and all of their trust has become wrapped up in this stranger who just showed them the first act of affection they have felt in days. Their world is small, but their love is large. They crave love. They need love. But don’t we all?
 
Observing these kids as they eat, play, learn, interact, and live as children in a very simple world without electronics and media, has taught me so much about the basic needs of humanity; the bare essentials that we are sometimes too proud to admit that we need. I have realized that over time, I have become a very independent person who avoids admitting my need for others at the fear of looking needy or helpless. In my mind, as soon as you need the help or attention or care of others you are at the mercy of that person; which is unacceptable. I have been missing out on the joys that come from community and mutual care and concern. Sure, I have my few trusted friends that I would share my burdens with, but outside of that I would be hesitant to let on to any struggles taking place in my life. This is ironic seeing that I have a counseling degree and I’m always encouraging people to bring their issues into the light because that is the only place that they will find freedom.
 
 
The people here in Uganda, in this village, depend on each other. They depend on each other for their physical and emotional needs. When someone is struggling or parents pass away, the kids are taken to an Auntie’s house or a Jaja’s (grandparent’s) house and looked after. There really isn’t any debate about it and the idea of Family Services is so foreign that they laugh at the idea. Of course you will take in your brother’s kids if there is any kind of need. Of course you will work another job to send money to your sister so that she can pay her school fees and finish high school. Self sacrifice for the community is assumed. There is no shame in asking and there is no pride in giving. I have to schedule time in each week to go and visit different people in the community because as soon as I begin to slack off I hear about it and they are wondering what is wrong because they haven’t had me drop by to chat. For all the years that I lived in the States, I can’t really remember just “stopping by” to chat with my neighbors, and I’m sure that they weren’t offended by that. Community is strong here; it’s an expression of concern and unity. It’s an expression of love. People want to be thought of and they want to be shown that you are making an effort to love them. It takes an effort to visit. It takes time, it takes energy to walk to their place, it takes stepping out of your comfort zone as you fumble through language barriers and cultural differences, it takes love for that person to put all that aside and put their needs before your own.
 
 
In the first weeks that I was here I didn’t want to go visit people unless they had invited me because I thought that it would be rude to just show up. Maybe they were busy, maybe they didn’t want visitors, or maybe they would be with someone else and didn’t want to be interrupted. But I quickly discovered that if they were busy, I became busy with whatever they were doing, if they were relaxing, I would relax with them and chat and drink chai and eat some mango, and if they were with someone else I would jump into the conversation and potentially make a new friend to add to the visitation list.
 Life here is about community, literally you do life together, all of it. It’s beautiful and exhausting all at the same time. You are forced to bear the burdens of those around you. When someone is struggling, you feel their struggle, when someone is rejoicing you feel their joy, when someone is in need, you fight to meet that need. I have never felt so much a part of a community before. I have never been stripped of my pride and self-sufficiency in such a raw way.
 
 
God has been teaching me so much about being transparent to those around me, pouring myself out to the ones I am surrounded by, and laying bare all of my boundaries and walls of pride and independence. Not only with those who I am doing life with, but also with Him. Many of my prayers have become declarations of my inability to help myself, admissions of my need for God’s mighty hand because I have no answers, no conclusions, and no solutions. God has been dealing with me in a faithful and gentle way. He is such a kind and wise God who pushes us to painfully tear off the pieces of ourselves that do not bring him glory and that hinder us from clinging only to him. I have been meditating on Psalm 30 lately and verse one has meant a lot to me when it says,
 
 
“I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.”
 
 
When the kids come running and shouting “Jerdani!” with their arms out and eyes shining trusting that I am going to catch them, or try my best, when they jump towards me, I can’t help but think about God as our Father drawing us into his arms. When I hold these little ones I just want to wrap my arms around them and give them enough love to last weeks and weeks until they can feel that kind of love again, I think about how the only place that we can find pure, true love that will never run out is in the arms of God. When I read this verse I think that sometimes we can be the biggest foes in our own life. We limit ourselves to love others and be loved by others, and we limit ourselves to know the true love of our Father.
 
 
We were created to need love. We were created to love. We were created out of love.

Life As A Foolish, Weak, Lowly Vessel of God

Giraffes | Uganda, East Africa

We made a mail run today. By we I am not including myself. It would be more accurate to say that we sent for the mail. You see, there is no mailbox here in the village. The mail comes to the post office in Luwero, the nearest town about 35 minutes from Kubamitwe, and it sits in our PO Box until we send for it and a boda man brings the whole lot of letters and packages, sans junk mail because paper isn’t wasted here in Uganda on super saver coupons.

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