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The Kissling Story

In 2009, my husband, Jamesdon, and I said, “yes!” to God’s call on our lives to live missionally. We were moving to Uganda for a year in order to share about Jesus (mind you, neither of us had ever stepped foot on African soil). Had we known what that would entail, we may not have been so willing. Luckily we serve a God that doesn’t promise us a roadmap, but only that He will be there to walk beside us and that our journey will end to glorify Him.

As we began planning, we were introduced to Don and Elaine. Unfortunately, we were already committed to serve with a different organization, but they still did a lot to help us prepare. In the process, they introduced us to Alex and Millie. Although we weren’t going to work with Align or Bombo Pentacostal Church (BPC) for the entirety of our time in Uganda, we had the pleasure to begin our journey a few weeks early and joined a team working with Alex, Millie, Don and Elaine for a short period of time. We were incredibly encouraged to see how God was using all of them to further His Kingdom.

When we arrived in Kampala to set up what would be “home” for the next year, God quickly threw us a huge curveball…a little guy named Daniel! Now before I say more, let me tell you that we had no intention of adopting, not internationally at least. We were actually dead set against it, but of course, God had a different plan! On March 10, 2010, we received a foster care order for Daniel and in a matter of weeks, we became parents.

Along with becoming parents, we decided that Uganda was where we were supposed to be, and for longer than a year. We began seeking the place and organization we would be serving with next. An opportunity quickly presented itself in Northern Uganda for Jamesdon to work with a project that was just getting started. We definitely considered working alongside Millie and Alex in the school they had started with Align, Donela, as we had been able to maintain a very close relationship with them during our first year in Uganda, but the timing just didn’t seem right. The school only had primary grades (elementary) and I had experience as a high school chemistry teacher. I just didn’t see how I would effectively help.

In that next year, we had a lot of life changes. We got pregnant and had a baby, Nehemiah, our 13 year old niece came to live with us, and we obtained legal guardianship of Daniel. We also ran into a lot of political issues with work permits and I had to return home in the summer of 2011 after being unable to renew mine. This was very difficult for us! Jamesdon had to remain in Uganda while we fought to get a medical visa for Daniel, and I returned home with Nehemiah, at the age of 2 months, in order to start work. This was the hardest 2 months for our family, having to be separated, so we vowed not to do that again!

God really blessed us the next two years with insurance to cover all of Daniel’s medical procedures and time to invest in our new church community (RockHarbor HB). We also had time to evaluate where to go next. Jamesdon spent a year taking part in a worship academy and was quickly asked to come on as volunteer staff at our campus. Jamesdon finally embraced the gift of worship that God had given him and we were finally content with being back and with the work we were doing…and then another curveball came. We were refused a green card for Daniel due to the wording in our legal guardianship order and quickly realized we would have to go back to Uganda to finalize our adoption.

So, after throwing a little bit of a temper tantrum, we began planning what that would look like, but we’re confident that God could make it happen quickly. The first thing that we were reminded of was our vow to stick together as a family and knew that we were going to do this together. In the end of August 2013, Jamesdon boarded a plane with our two boys and I stayed behind just for a few weeks to start work (I was getting my tenure back so I needed to start the school year). Because we weren’t going to stay long, we didn’t plan on working with any ministry and let our focus be solely on getting the adoption finalized, which really just ended up creating a lot of idle time. During this time we were occasionally reminded that God may very well want us to remain in Uganda, but we were pretty set on getting back home to our friends, family, and church community.

In December, we finally had our court date and a week later, received our ruling. Our adoption was final! We were going to be coming home, just a quick trip to the embassy and we would be on a plane back to the US. Our church community even threw an awesome fundraiser to help us financially as we transitioned back home. As you can guess, we didn’t get to come home. With laws changing, literally from the time we landed in Uganda to the day our adoption was finalized, we were told the processing of Daniel’s immigration paperwork was going to take 10 months. Yes, 10 months!

Initially we panicked and started to think of how we could fix it, one of the options being to separate our family so I could go home and work, while Jamesdon stayed in Uganda with Daniel and Nehemiah. While we considered that option, we were quickly reminded of our initial vow, not to separate our family. We had no idea how we would manage, but knew that it was the right thing to do. After a lot of prayer and fasting, and an email from Don and Elaine, reminding us about the newly added secondary school (high school) at Donela, we quickly recognized that God’s plan for introducing us 5 years ago had a MUCH bigger purpose; it was time for us to work together. So, I put my leave of absence in for the remainder of the year, and we committed to stay in Uganda and work with Align and BPC until August.

As soon as this decision was made, more blessings began coming, from a car to use for the remainder of our time here, to a FREE place to stay through August! We also received financial blessings from our family and friends at home. In February of 2014 we moved to our new house and got to work! I am teaching at Donela Orange and helping out with Life with Hope. Jamesdon is acting as project supervisor for Align and is working alongside Pastor Alex on current and future projects. Daniel and Nehemiah are both attending school at Donela, and they love it! It has been so amazing how God has been working in the lives of us and our children. We would never have pictured ourselves in this position a year ago, even two months ago, but we thank God every day for not giving us a roadmap. We are learning each day what it is to rely on God and are thankful that we get to do this alongside people who we love!

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Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

This is Gloria. I met Gloria when I was doing home visits in a small village right outside of Luweero. Having lived in Uganda for a little over 2 1/2 years, I sometimes feel like I am immune to the poverty that is so rampart here. Most of the time I feel bad that I do not want to give money to the street kids who come and beg at my window, when I am in Kampala, or that I can see kids dressed in rags and barefoot and think “that is just how things are here”. My prayer lately has been for God begins to give me eyes to see what breaks His heart. That is what happened this weekend when I met Gloria.

As I sat with Gloria and her two siblings, and listened to their story, I had to fight back tears. Gloria’s mother is the second wife to a village drunk and her mother spends the entire day in the fields trying to dig to earn money to feed them each night, but many nights they go without. They rummage through the village to find fruit that has fallen off the trees and has not began to rot, but many times it is already rotten. They do not have a place to live, but find places to sleep based on who will pity them and allow them a place to sleep. Gloria has never gone to school. Gloria could not tell you her age. When we asked her how old she was she said 3, but looking at her photo, it is easy to tell that she is not 3. She wanders the village each day with her older brother and younger sister and that is her life.

Gloria’s story is a tough one, but by no means the worst I have heard or the only one like it, but God used her to remind me that I am not immune. As I was recording her story, she sat there barefoot in her rags, covered in dirt, with absolutely no hope or joy. Even when I took her photo and then turned around the screen for her to see her face…nothing. Knowing that the only thing I could do, besides the irrational thought that ran through my head of kidnapping her and taking her home with me, was to pray! While, I am so sad for Gloria, I have hope that God will transform her life.

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How many meals do you receive each day?

I have been so blessed, this past week, to visit a few of the centers here in Uganda. One thing I have come to realize during all of my time in Uganda is that, compared to a western standard of living, the majority of this country is in need of help. When I ask the question” how many meals do you receive each day?” and know before they answer that it will most likely be 1, but some days it is none, I can’t help but feel guilty. Even living in Uganda, amongst the poverty, I realize that I don’t always receive food with a grateful heart because quite honestly I kind of get tired of eating beans and rice. Not to mention the plenty of other things that, although I hate to admit it, feel like I am entitled to such as electricity, running water, and a convenient form of transportation.

Of all of the families that we visited, an overwhelming majority of them consisted of children that have been abandoned by their parents. Many times they are left behind with a grandparent that has very little, if any, ability to care for them. What amazes me is that these children still have joy. Although they are still able to experience joy, the reality is that, the joy will slowly begin to fade if their living conditions persist. I am so thankful that I have the pleasure of working with a team of pastors that truly understand this and are reaching out to the families in these impoverished villages in order to provide hope, especially for the children. While two meals a day and having the ability to go to school may seem like it is not a lot to ask for, I now realize that those two simple things can change the life of a child.

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