Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Lorali,

I wish that I could meet you in person. Your mommy and I went to high school together and we made lots of wonderful memories. I read a little note that your mommy shared on facebook. After reading the note,  I wanted to tell you that you are my favorite missionary.

That's right, you are a missionary!

A few months ago you had missionaries in your church that told you stories of their lives around the world. They shared with you the awesome job that they have of telling others about Jesus. I wish that I could have been there. I am a missionary too. I live in Africa and get to spend my days sharing God's love and teaching little boys and girls, just like you, about the stories in the Bible. It is truly the greatest job ever!

In the story that your mommy shared you had a question about the special gift  that your family was giving to help missionaries all over the world. Your mom shared with you that it was a special donation your family was making above your tithe. Well, I wanted you to know that our family was the recipient of one of those special gifts. A few months ago your family gave a love gift to our ministry. It was sent so that I did not have to teach my boys and girls outside. Because of your family we were able to build a Sunday school room. The best part about your gift was that it was so generous that we not only were able to build a small room to keep us out of the rain and hot sun but we were able to build a WHOLE SCHOOL! See, God took your gift and multiplied it and now not only will children be blessed on Sunday but every day of the week. That is what happens when families like yours make a big sacrifice and give big to God.

I hope that you will continue to share God's Love with everyone you meet. God has placed you as His missionary at your school. You have a special gift that some boys and girls do not have, the love of Jesus in your heart. I will pray that you will be bold and make His name famous. Your mommy and daddy are great examples of what happens when you have so much love for Jesus that it spills over to the rest of the world. You and your family are very precious to us and the children here in Musoma, Tanzania. May you continue to shine your light because we are seeing it 8,000 miles away.

Our prayer is that more people will be like Lorali and her family. What may seem like a small gift to you  goes a long way here. We are still praying for money to finish the building. We need a floor and chairs and then we can start meeting inside. The preschool is scheduled to open in January so we are praying that this need is met soon. Would you consider helping us finish this building? You can reach us at Please join us in praying for the completion of this incredible blessing.

Here is a picture of the new Sunday school and preschool classroom. We are so excited to move into our new building soon!

Until Everyone Has Heard,

Monday, November 18, 2013

It Must Be You

The past few weeks I have realized that there is nothing good in me. It is easy to forget that I am not here because of anything that I have done. It is easy to forget that even when you ask me to leave everything and minister to your people that does not make me special. Actually, I have learned that in a third world culture, so much of my flesh is exposed. It is not pretty.

                                          When I am confronted with costs of discipleship,

                                                                    I still sin.

I  get angry.
I  feel weak and unsuited.
I  argue with God and shake my fists at His ways.
I  try to find a way to  lead and have a horrible time at waiting.
I stop and ask, "Why did you use me? I told you that I was not the best choice."

                                                   So, I stopped and opened Your Word.

 I was reading about my fellow sinner, Moses. He was the servant but the master was, You. You took the worthless murderer that stuttered in speech and made him apart of redemption. He was just a broken, clay pot and You filled in the holes and used him anyway. You were the courage in front of Pharaoh. You were the voice that set Your people free. You were the steady hand that lifted the staff and parted the seas. Moses, like me, was just a man; weak and helpless. He listened to the fire and positioned himself under Your cleft. He waited. He followed. He was never perfect. That is the Glory. Perfection arises out of the imperfect.  Nothing deserved but everything gained.

I want to be like Moses: ready, available, and fully aware that the only reason that my journey continues is, It Must Be You.

Monday, October 14, 2013

When You Realize Where Home Is

Sitting in my seat buckled up and ready to land something horrifying washed over me; What do I do now? How do I process these two worlds that tug at my heart? I mean aren't I supposed to long for the country of my birth, the country that is the picture of freedom and peace to the whole world. Why do I feel so uneasy walking streets that were once commonplace to me? Why does convenience overwhelm me with feelings of guilt? What has happened to me? All of these thoughts and more wash over me as my new home comes into view. Dirty streets, unmerciful traffic and heat, malarial mosquitos, these are the things that provide me comfort. They allow me to exhale and stretch my legs and feel at home. How is that possible?

How did my two weeks in my home country not win me over? I was romanced with fine dining, a beautiful and clean home, endless visits with friends that showered me with love and prayers. How could I feel so out of place?  Now, I feel comfortable where I am alone. I struggle with this being o.k. Just two weeks ago I was longing for a break from all of this. I gladly packed my bags. I gladly dreamed of dust-free streets and air conditioning. Stores filled with all things necessary and accessible that would welcome me and fill my eyes and tummy with every desire. What person does not want this?

 I guess this one.

He allowed me to see that in trying to trade or substitute His will for me  I would only be lost. Nothing replaces Christ, nothing. I have surrendered my past. I have surrendered my desires. I have made Him Lord over every area of my life. He owns me. I am bought and paid for and forever will live because of Him. When my eyes and heart begin to stray and long for the things of my world He helps me remember. I remember that apart from Him all things lose their taste and appeal. Without Him I feel homeless and unsatisfied. 

He is irreplaceable. His home is my home and His home is the World.

 Right now, Christ and I are working hand in hand and side by side here in Musoma. Dirty feet, unbearable heat, and a language that is not my own makes me feel at home. I guess that I finally realized that nothing will ever satisfy me like Christ. I am thankful for the many years that God had me in America. The friends, family, and church were provided by Him to grow me and send me away. He knew that they would provide a strong root system that would mature me and sustain me for my next assignment. I am grateful and thankful for them and very content that living in and with Christ has become my great joy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Were It Not For Grace

Psalm 17:7 Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who Are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you. (the message)

Today 50 children met outside under the mango trees, in the shadow of the steeple,  to partake in fresh bread.  The only bread that can give life. (John 6:35)

For three hours the words of God were spouted out of these tiny mouths by memory. Their teacher pushed them and corrected them at every turn making sure that each morsel was recited perfectly. It was the first time for me that the bread had a different taste. Instead of being swallowed down with an overflow of Grace it was passing through to my soul dry and stale. The unleavened bread was now filled with leaven and the burden of my sins. I watched these children recite and recite only to be met with discipline for every missed word and incorrect hand gesture. So, as I sat there I began thinking, "Where is Grace?  Does it really matter that they say it without flaw or should we beat God's words into our minds with nothing less than perfection?" Then God, who is always faithful, showed me His answer in the face of Rael.

Rael is one of our older girls. To say that she is precious would only undermine the character stamped inside of her by God alone. She is my right-hand assistant each Sunday morning. She helps to lead the hymns and always takes up the offering. I have learned to lean on her when I stumble over my words and I know that I can always look over to her big, brown, eyes and find only compassion. Today her eyes were not filled with hope and compassion but instead shame. For, when she stood to recite her scripture, she found herself stumbling over her words and hand movements. She would stand mumbling her verse over and over waiting on her turn and then once she was in the spotlight she would freeze. Just like a proud mama, I sat on the back pew with a huge smile on my face and I, too, was mumbling the words just in case she would look my way to find a much needed place of Grace. Sadly, the teacher for the day, did not offer the same condolences for her missed and jumbled words. After multiple tries, the teacher did what I prayed would not happen, she pulled Rael from the line of children. Rael was scolded for her forgetfulness and sent back to her seat. Now, just two kids down from me sat a defeated and totally humiliated child.

God whispered to me, "You know that feeling don't you? Get up and go demonstrate my love to Rael. My Grace is sufficient for her and she needs to know that I am not seeking perfection. If I was seeking perfection, I surely would not have used you." So, when Rael was alone, I quietly got up from my seat and went to her side. I placed my arms around her and pulled her in real tight, whispering in her ear, "You did an excellent job reciting your verse today and God is very pleased with you." Rael begin weeping and for a few minutes Patrick and I loved on her and demonstrated for her what God demonstrated for us 2,000 years ago. Pure, Unmerited, Grace.

I know what my life would look like if it were not for Grace. I would be that beaten and broken young woman living a defeated life void of joy. Everyday I feel the weight of sin as I live among a people who are trying to achieve, through their good works, the promise fulfilled for me on the Cross. I am wrapped up in redemption and not cloaked in the unattainable. I know the one, true, God and for that I will sing of His love, forever. Grace will be painted on our house and offered to all who enter. Pray that our home will be filled with many who will receive this Grace for the first time.

Living and Loving Alongside Christ,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All I Want For My Birthday is a Mosquito Net!

I have been given 38 years. I do not know why God has been so gracious to me but I do not take one year for granted. I am surrounded by men, women, and children who will never see 38. So, I will count each strand of white hair with gratitude, accept every stretch mark as evidence of my abundance, and count each tooth in my mouth and thank God for the superior health care that I have received my whole life.

Now, with those lists of gratitude expressed, I will have to say that I did not usher in my 38th year with cake, presents, and a nice dinner out. For one thing, those things don't matter to me anymore, and secondly they don't exist here. Well, to be fair, you can make your own cake but who wants to do that on their on birthday, right?!

This birthday I awoke to bouts of vomiting ,extreme diarrhea, and a fever.  So, this has been the first time that I have been sick since we have been in Africa. Yes, I did thank the Lord for a whole year of great health before I began begging Him to let this not be anything serious. You see when you get the above symptoms here your mind begins to play tricks on you. You immediately think that you have some tropical disease.  So, to ease my thoughts, I asked Patrick to pull out my "African illness manual" that they gave us in our initial training when we arrived in Tanzania. As I tried to follow the flow charts with my varying symptoms I discovered that it could be anything from Malaria to Giardia. So, I began the waiting game marking my fever cycles which would help me with my diagnosis. I got sick of taking my temperature so I pulled out my Malaria self-test kit. After pricking my finger and putting my blood on the test strip, I waited the required 15 minutes for the results. To God's Glory, the test results were negative. These tests are not always conclusive so when I did not get relief from the fever Patrick and I were a little skeptical. I took more ibuprofen before I went to bed and To God's Glory, my fever broke in the night. I can not tell you how relieved I was. So, other than some exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration, I was on the road to recovery. Patrick made sure that I got plenty of rest, food, and fluids and I have made a full recovery.

I am so blessed, not because I am better, but because I have been given. I have been given a cabinet full of medicine to help with my fever. I have been given a mosquito net.  I have been given test-kits, and medical plans laid out for me.  I have been given a loving husband to stop and attend to my needs. I have been given, at one click, a whole team of prayer warriors who usher me before the Lord and petition for my healing. In a country where hundreds of thousands of people will die with malaria this year. I am blessed. Why am I blessed? To give it all away. In Luke 12:48 we are told "Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!" (msg)  So, how do I repay God for His gracious gifts?  I, in turn, give graciously to those around me.

You know that a mosquito net cost $8,000tsh here. That is the same as $4.93.  I know that it is shocking that people can not afford that, right? We blow $4.93 on stupid stuff like: candy, fast food, and junk at the dollar tree. Who would have thought that so little could help prevent hundreds of people from dying each year. It is not a full-proof cure to Malaria but it gives them a fighting chance. In a country where the average daily wage is $2,000tsh, what do you think they are going to spend their money on? If you had to choose between food and mosquito repellent, what would you choose?

So, this year my birthday ended up not being about me at all. I am totally fine with that. God showed me that, once again, I have access. Even 8,000 miles away from the land of the "fast and plenty" I am still very rich, very rich indeed. So from this year on my birthday will be about adding "life" to my fellow brothers and sisters in Tanzania. Would you like to join me? Would you like to buy a mosquito net? We have 120 little boys and girls in our Sunday school class that would love a mosquito net and more importantly they would love to know that it came from someone as awesome as you!

If you would like more information on how you can help to buy a mosquito net(s) for the children in our Sunday school class please send a message to my email address:

God Bless You as you help us Bless others!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When You Realize that You are the Student.

                                                       Today was the fourth month.
The fourth month of little brown faces covered with perfect white smiles.
The fourth month of, foolish me, stumbling over my words and seeing blank stares.

The fourth month that I realized that I am insufficient and that I need to bathe in God's Grace each and every week before I stand to teach.

The fourth month that I wanted to pull the covers over my head and just skip Sunday and head right on in to Monday.

The fourth month that I was met with huge hugs that squeeze a little more doubt out of my insignificant self and remind me that they just want me as I am.

The fourth month that I wanted to cry because the children were hungry and tore the chai from my hands as we passed it out, only to tuck it away in their clothes to take home and share with their family.

The fourth month that I saw my own children love unconditionally, playing hard and filling other children with the overflow of their hearts.

I don't really call myself a missionary but an emissary. I have been sent on a secret mission to spy on God while He is working. I get the privilege to hear Him in the prayers of Banesta, in the smile of Sam, and the cuddly hug of Christof. I see Him in the faith of Mama Damari as she fights Malaria. I have been sent to persuade others to Love Christ with all their heart and soul.
God wanted me to come so that I would be persuaded to love Him with all of my life. Away from my comfort and privilege my faith has been put to the test. Will I love Him even when life is hard? Will I serve others even when I can't communicate? Will I be willing to feed hunger? Will I lay down my desires and hopes and replace them with His?
This class on Sunday mornings has not turned out how I planned. I have not given them anything but they have given me everything, in them I have encountered God.  To this I say, "See you next Sunday!"


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Part of A Team

               So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ- Romans 10:17

Have you ever tried to mow your lawn without a lawnmower? I bet we have all driven a car without a steering wheel, right?   Have you ever opened your Bible and the pages were blank? This is my new reality.

As an adult raised in the first World it seems silly to make such analogies. I was raised in privilege and protection, surrounded by rights and opportunities. I occupied a church pew for years. I was drenched in classes stocked with literature and supplies, and enjoyed fellowship and functions. I gave no thought to what was happening outside of my own little world, clueless to the struggles of my fellow brothers and sisters across the globe.

 Our family walks several miles to a tiny, concrete block church each Sunday. No cushy pews stocked with hymnals, Bibles, paper and pencils. There are no fancy choir robes, sound system, or even glass in the windows. There are no classes for children, youth, and adults.  The funny thing is there is no griping or complaining. Every Sunday that church is packed with men, women, and children that have a faith that I have never seen. They have nothing but give everything. They do all of this with dancing and singing just like David did before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14). "How is that possible?" I think to myself. I want to shout, " Don't you understand that you are oppressed? Don't you get it that your lives are unbearably hard and filled with never ending work?" Week after week these thoughts are rolling around in my head as I daily am living out their lives, my new reality. The only thing that sustains me is the sheer buffet I receive every morning as I fill my plate with God's Word. Shoveling every bite into my heart and mind as fast as I can so that I can truly "consider everything pure joy," (James 1:2).

 We began the first children's Sunday school class at our church. We teach 100 children each week that are so hungry to be taught God's Word that they cram 10-12 kids per bench. The floors of our classroom are filled with trash and filth and it smells like an animal stall. We do not have enough books for every student but no one gives any notice. They come wearing their Sunday best and sit for an hour singing, praising God and excited to hear a story from Him. Half of the children in our class do not even speak Swahili. Most of them speak Jita. This is one of the languages that is being translated here in the Mara Region. Only four of the children in our class have their own Bible and it is sad to say that most of their Bibles are in English.  I don't understand it at all. How can we have access to so much and their are millions that have access to  nothing. It makes me sad and angry at the same time. How could I have been so naive to think that I deserved to have 11 Bibles in every version and translation and here sit a hundred children that have no idea of the wonderful stories in the Bible. There have been few times that I wished that I was rich but when I saw how many children needed and wanted a Bible, I wanted to have a shopping spree!  The sad part is that half of the class would really not get much out of the Swahili Bible that I could purchase. They need a Bible in Jita.
I know that the idea of tribal languages is hard for most people to understand. It was for me at first, but now that I have lived it for 6months, I get it. For me to prepare my Sunday school lesson I have to first translate the story from Swahili to English. You are probably thinking, "Ok, so what is the big deal?" The big deal is that the story makes no sense once I translate it to English. So, I then have to get out my English Bible and go back through the story and change it around so it makes sense to me. The problem with that is when I go to communicate to the kids the important message of the story it gets lost in my Swahili-English, English-Swahili translation. Are you frustrated yet? I feel this way every week. How can I possibly get these kids to open their hearts to a life changing acceptance and following of Jesus Christ, if the message of the scripture gets lost in translation? This is what makes Bible translation so important. If the kids in my class that speak Swahili as their heart language could read the Bible in Swahili and the kids that speak Jita could read the scripture in Jita and I could following along in English then we would all understand and be able to unlock the Truth for ourselves.

How can you help?

Wycliffe needs people like you to make a commitment to help end Bible poverty. Do you want to be apart of a team?  You could become a member of "Team Cogdill" and help us support Bible translation. No child should have to wonder if God's love is for them. We see in the Bible many times where the scripture was translated so that everyone could hear and understand. It is time for the church to rise up and together show the World that Christ came for them and speaks their language!

Listen to the video of this family that joined a Bible translation project and the impact that it made on their lives.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

If I Had Two Hands Doing The Same Thing

Now that I have been in Tanzania for 8 months I have discovered something about myself.  I am constantly pulling God toward me with one hand and pushing Him away with the other. I wish that I had two hands doing the same thing. I have one hand that draws the Lord close to me and allows Him to challenge me to step out in faith. At the same time I have another hand that wants to push away from these challenges.  Do I really want to avoid being challenged and stretched by God? The answer to that question is a resounding, "No!" Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:3

Endurance is a necessity in our life in Africa. It is such a comfort to have God's Word to go to and find that the challenges that we are facing have purpose. They bring forth endurance which needs to increase in our life so that we can have longevity in our work. The funny thing about this journey that we are on is that it is just as much for us as it is for the Bibleless. God doesn't need Patrick and I to accomplish His work but He allows us to join Him for our that we will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10

                            Because a child of God is known by their fruit (Matthew 7:20)

So, I welcome the challenges. Knowing that each one is growing my relationship with the Lord and bringing new buds of fruit onto my tree. Join me in praying for ours and the many families on the field who are learning to use both hands in their service. Pray that our hands will be outstretched to the Heavens and our trees dripping with fruit.

Soli Deo Gloria!

video by Jars of Clay taken in East Africa

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shillings, Mangoes and Peanuts

 Fridays are the day that we walk the kids down to the "MK" school so they can participate in group activities like Art, Music, Bible and P.E. So, Patrick and I began the morning with the usual breakfast routine. On this particular morning, after some incurred disappointments, I was just not feelin' it. I had no desire to be a participant in my life here in Africa. I longed for air-conditioning and something pre-packaged that I could throw on the table for the kids to scarf down before heading to school.  I had to come into my room and ask the Lord to send me some divine revelation that would encourage me to endure/persevere. Patrick offered to walk the older children to school and when he returned we decided to put the twins into one of our wagons and head into town. We were preparing to have a Tanzanian family over to eat, and as usual, we were taking our daily walk into town for supplies. Little did I know how good this trip into town would be.

I thought it would be good to take the twins to meet some of the merchants in town that have offered us so much kindness. I had two places in mind ,so off we went! The first stop was  a lady where I buy my rice, beans, and sugar. On my first meeting with her, after a long conversation, we found that we both had six children. So, we became instant friends. She now not only sells me the above items but she will go out of her way to help me get everything on my list. So, we rolled our little, red wagon into the market for the twins to meet her. My friend and I greeted each other and I told her that I had brought my husband and the twins with me today. She came running out from behind the cement wall where she sells her goods to greet my family. Immediately she bowed down before Patrick and shook his hand and then walked over to greet the twins. What happened next just blew my mind. My friend then runs back to her station and comes back with shillings for both of the twins. This is huge in my book. This woman who has little to nothing is giving our family money. She then placed her hands on both of their heads and thanked God for them and our family. 

God quietly whispered: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

So right then and there I had seen and experienced the presence of God. The circumstances of that morning that were supposed to steal my joy God had just transformed into worship. Right there surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the market, I stopped. I tuned out everything that was going on around me and encountered God.  I truly believe that faith is alive and at this moment God confirmed my belief.

We were headed home and I stopped to visit with the family that sells us our mangoes and cucumbers. Usually, it is a mother and her two daughters. On this day it was just the girls. The youngest one has just captured my heart and after hearing that her mother was sick, I decided to buy some fruit and veggies. After my purchase, as we were walking away, the youngest daughter grabbed some fruit and ran and gave it two the twins. Well, at this point, I was crying in the street. This young girl had given us thousands of shillings of free fruit. This is huge when you make so very little every day.

God whispered: "For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." Mark 12:44

What an incredible display from God that he had heard my prayers that morning. He intended to meet my needs that morning but not in the way that I expected. He did not send what we needed in one lump sum ,but He intentionally placed people all along my way that opened their hands and their hearts to our family.

Deuteronomy 15:8-"But you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks."

I was sufficiently loved on at this point but isn't it just like God to say, " I am not quite done yet, my child."

I was out delivering something to the children's school teacher later that afternoon. On my return home three young ladies carrying peanuts on their heads were walking my way. They started shouting at me, in a good way, so I stopped. They all three started hugging me at one time and then began taking peanuts out of their baskets and filling my hands. I told them that I did not have any money to pay but they started saying, " God told us to give you these peanuts, no charge." Well it was a good thing that I was the only person on the street at this time because I began to have a little church, if you know what I mean!

Wow! What a day! God turned my pity party into dancing and redirected my worries into worship. So, I began to shout His love right then and there on the street. God had just healed my doubts and confirmed His love, yet again. I am sure that there will be many more days that I feel discouraged and insufficient. I pray that on these days that I remember moments just like this and am encouraged to persevere.