Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sixty Feet and Me. The Story.

Many people have asked how I got involved with Sixty Feet.

For those of you who have followed along on these journeys of ours...or perhaps just this one...you'll be interested to know that I had no plans to live abroad, and I did not want to come on my first trip to Uganda.

But how this year in Uganda with Sixty Feet came to be is a beautiful, unplanned story.  For you see, I was happy right where I was. Three years ago, my pastor's family was in the process of adopting from Africa.  Jenna, my friend and pastor's wife, asked if anyone wanted to join her on a Visiting Orphans trip to Uganda.  I did not.  But weeks went by and slowly, there was a nudge in my heart that I could not say "no" to.  I had little girls (Sophie was just a toddler), I had a household to run, things to get done, and I hated - let me say that again - hated the thought of flying that far and something happening to their momma.  I've traveled a lot in my life thanks to my family...Thailand, Jamaica, Italy...but for some reason, flying alone to Uganda scared me.  But again - my heart.  So I said "yes" in an email that said something like, "Jenna, I'm (gulp) in."

The Nine Of Us Who Went on that First VO Trip
Needless to say, I came back from Uganda with my heart and mind devastated.  In two weeks, we visited about 5 different organizations that were meeting so many needs.  True needs. Starving children. Street kids. Feeding programs. Sixty Feet was one of those.  To even think of a prison that held children was impossible back then. But when I saw it for myself and talked to them and heard their stories, it grabbed hold of me.  Sixty Feet was just getting its feet on the ground then, serving in the remand homes with medical support and counseling.  But the incredible need I saw Shattered. My. Heart.   I came back home and fell into a deep, dark place for nearly six weeks or so.  I just couldn't shake it.

Seeing First Hand Kids Who Have So Much Joy!!

So I started regular life again. I taught that next year and still had no idea what to do with what I saw.  All I knew was I needed to contribute financially. My husband saw my heart and was all in, too.  So I began to refinish furniture and give some of the profits to Sixty Feet.  It wasn't much, but it was a start.  Around January of that year, I had a prompting from none other than God, and during my conference period at school, I decided to email the wife of the Sixty Feet President.  I had her email address because she had emailed me personally to say "thanks" for donating.  All I asked was if Sixty Feet had any needs for a family (two teachers) to come over during summer to volunteer.  LITERALLY 5 MINUTES LATER, I received an email from her. She, at the exact same time, was searching for my email address to invite me to a premiere of the new Sixty Feet movie.  It was, as she said,  "a God thing" and about one month later, we were planning to go as a family to Uganda for two months.

Summer of 2012  - Uganda with my Family

Making Sweet Friends at the Remand Homes

That summer was amazing. Sixty Feet was being blessed and growing.  Their area of work was spider-webbing out in different directions and their small team on the ground was amazing! We met the heart of the organization in the form of a pastor and his wife with their street child ministry that was "their life".   We lived with a family we did not know who became some of our sweetest friends (still!).  It was truly a wonderful time. We learned so much, loved on so many kids, saw miracles happening through the hands of servants on the ground, my kids experienced life in another culture, and my husband saw that his God-given skills lined up with so many of the organizational needs here, whether it was changing tires, cultivating relationships, or being a rock during stressful times.  We loved our time that summer, but were equally excited to be home.

SO once we were back we had no plans.  We went back to work. We taught at school. We planned on taking a vacation to Wyoming that summer - But God.  (Doesn't every good story begin with "But God"? ) I will tell you this - my husband and I were sensing something. God was working on our hearts to be prepared for change. We could not figure it out...though we tried and fussed (with each other mainly).  We wrestled within ourselves -  was it a career change? was it opening a running store? was it ___?  Nothing seemed to fit.  So we started getting up early together and listening to devotionals, praying together, and otherwise trying to get closer to God TOGETHER.  And then one morning, while we were up early together, we got the email asking for us to consider moving to Uganda to work with Sixty Feet.  Boog's leadership skills were needed and would we consider.  Needless to say, we knew at that moment - against my "wants" (believe me, I was not convinced) - that we were going.
So we did.

The remand homes now look quite a bit different than they did when I first met them three years ago.  Years of regular medical care and counseling by our incredible Ugandan staff has proven to be a life source.  Kids look healthier. Major sicknesses and hospital visits have decreased.  The remand homes are beginning to be places of opportunity for children, not a dead end. Resettlement and diversion (helping street children avoid being sent to remand homes to begin with) are a huge part of Sixty Feet's ministry. There's a large staff of Ugandan counselors, nurses, teachers, office administrators, and other important parts of the chain that help this machine run...and run well.  Us? We have been ENTIRELY blessed to be part of and a witness to this ministry.  We advocate for these children because of Him. Helping children who otherwise would not have resources to help themselves.  

This experience has been a literal threshing floor in my life. In our life.  We laid out the little we had to give - our time, our heart - and over time saw how God used people and experiences to strip away the parts of ourselves that we tended to overlook and keep the fruitful seed.  God used Uganda to bring fullness to my life....to give me a chance to see His work and be humbled and awed. I love looking back to see that this story, this perfectly woven story for our family, would not be this story if it weren't for obedience to a call...even when we were scared to say "yes". 

I will say this. If you've been affected at all by these blogs or pictures or if you've gone to the Sixty Feet webpage  to see what in the world they do (www.sixtyfeet.org), please consider contributing to this organization.  100% of your donation goes directly to the services I mentioned above. 

 It is not hard to start small....and just like us....you have no idea where that small donation will take you.


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