My Trip to Western Uganda

Hello Friends!

My trip to western Uganda was amazing! Our team taught two workshops in the towns of Kansenene and Kabujogera on discipleship and evangelism. This was a special trip for us all, especially Tim. He’s been a friend and mentor to the pastors in this area for over twenty years. It was a lot of fun to serve Tim and the Sent Network.

I was blown away at the level of hospitality our team was shown. This is something I am still meditating upon…I want to be radically generous with anyone who stays in my home (when I get a home!) There’s something about opening up your home and table to others that truly forges eternal bonds.

In the west, I had my first tastes of matoke (a savory banana), sugar cane, and kalo (a millet bread. There’s a possibility that I’m forgetting something, but we had so much delicious food it was hard to keep up! We drank cups and cups of tea with the freshest milk possible. The west is a farming area, and is known for its dairy cows as well.

My new friend Bryden (he’s about 4 years old) took a picture of me at dinner time

Around the table, the team and I shared in so much rich conversation. We talked about the differences in US and Ugandan culture. The topics spanned from ministry to marriage to family to politics. Once again, breaking bread is where bonds are formed and we had so much fun!

There was so much hunger and excitement in the air as we taught. It was both convicting and encouraging. The gospel is meant to be the most exciting news in the world. Not just something common. The gospel is powerful and transformative. It’s compelling and leads us to new life and new depths in Christ. (I taught on “What is the Gospel?” And this is what I shared with the classes.) So what are we waiting for? We are the heralds of this great news!

One of the participants sharing the Three Circles with the group. Everyone did such a great job in sharing the gospel plan!

So our team taught on the power of the gospel and how to share it with others. We also taught about the importance of biblical discipleship and how studying the Bible together in a simple manner is how disciples are made and churches are formed. These churches do not require buildings, a worship leader, a choir, and a full-time pastor. Churches are formed as disciples make disciples who make disciples. Multiplication is most possible when things are kept simple: a community centered around the gospel, studying scripture, and obeying what it says.

I will be sharing more about these facets of discipleship over time.

Our time in the west was the first time Tim’s taught this discipleship program in that area. Many leaders and church members signed up to go through the program, and Tim is returning to the West in May or June with a new team to continue the training.

Part of what we taught involved us going out in teams for evangelism. This is where the students shared the Three Circles method of sharing the gospel (once again, I will share more about it in the coming weeks). In the two teams that I went out with last week, 8 people made confessions of faith!

One man came to faith who is a known alcoholic, but what I saw in that man was a great leader and influencer of many. In fact, he gathered about twenty people in his yard for us to share the gospel with them! I am praying fiercely for my new brother, and for his growth as the local leaders disciple him.

Our team—Tim, Michayla, Emily, and myself—along with our hosts: Pastor Robert, Mama Bob (his wife), Pastor Israel, Mama Irene (Pastor Israel’s wife), along with their children and grandchildren

Also, our team was asked to baptize new believers in Kabujogera. This was my first time to baptize anyone! And it’s probably the best baptism service I’ve ever been a part of. They were planning fun music and everyone was singing and dancing, cheering on the new believers as they made public professions of faith. When we drove back to town, our caravan was its own parade—we played music and honked our horns, all the while shouting praise to Jesus—and we drove around the center of town rejoicing.

Seriously, all churches need to make baptisms fun. My heart was so full of joy! All of the baptism candidates radiated the love and joy of Jesus. They had the biggest smiles on their faces. Yes, following Jesus requires commitment, but it’s also a joy to follow Him. Any sacrifice we make is so little compared the the great cost of His love for us. These were the thoughts swirling through my mind that evening.

Baptizing new believers with Pastor Robert and Tim

I can’t imagine a better way to kick off my time in Uganda. I’m forever grateful to Tim for bringing us to the west with him. And thank you so much to everyone who’s supporting my trip! Wow. I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for each and every one of you.

Much Love,
Audra

To the graduating class of 2017

Pastor Hagin often says, “Ministry is spelled W-O-R-K!”

And he’s right. Our upside down kingdom requires work—most unseen and unknown to others—from its citizens.

Public teaching and preaching is the fun part of ministry. However, there’s a lot that happens from week to week. Walking alongside others through the mountains and valleys of life is an endless, and often thankless, task. My dad is a pastor and it’s often hard for him to describe his work to others.

Graduation is less than two weeks away, which is why my thoughts are drifting more and more towards this idea of life and ministry.

Many think of the two areas as separate—this is my life and this is my ministry—but there really cannot be a line of demarcation.

My friends who are leaving Rhema for the great wide world are faced with this reality. I understand their conundrum because I’m staring down the barrel of the same gun—I just have a little more time to think about it since I don’t graduate until next May.

Thankfully, our instructors have been pointing us in this direction all along. Our launch date into the great race of life, the passing of the baton, is never far from their minds.

These are men and women are Rhema alumni. They’ve been on the mission field, served/are serving in the local church, and brought their families along for the ride. I am thankful for their willingness to teach us not only biblical truths but also practical life applications of the truth.

I have no doubt that my friends are leaving Rhema prepared.

Their hard work started the moment they moved to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, flipping their entire lives upside down to follow God. Most of my friends have worked odd hours at two to three jobs for the opportunity to study God’s Word in order to become fully equipped ministers of the gospel.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2017!

Go into the world and teach people about faith and what it means to follow Jesus. Know that those went before you and those who are coming behind you are cheering you on!

Thanksgiving Blessings

rbtc-sealThanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

It’s a great time to reflect on the blessings of being in Christ—He’s given us everything!—and to recall all the ways His hand is moving in our lives.

Did I mention that turkey and dressing is one of my most favorite meals?

There’s nothing like a good pan of dressing (or stuffing as it is known by my friends above the Mason-Dixon Line) to make the heart happy.

And while I am thrilled that my family is invading Broken Arrow to visit me, I was reminded that many of my fellow Rhema classmates will not be sitting around the dinner table with their natural family.

The good news, though, is that no one will be alone because the Rhema family is huge—and worldwide!

Many graduates add extra dinner plates to their tables.

Many current students bring a passel of people home with them for the week.

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark 10:29-30:

Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

I am so thankful for the friendships that are burgeoning this school year!

My more extroverted personality makes me a social butterfly, so leaving the place where my roots run deepest was a challenge for me.

Jesus’ promise, however, remains a source of constant comfort and encouragement.

I have sat around numerous tables with new friends, both students and alumni, since moving to Oklahoma. Every single person has told me the same thing:

If you ever need anything—and I mean anything—do not hesitate to call.

This one statement illustrates the Rhema family at its best. And it’s one of the many reasons I give thanks for Rhema Bible Training College.

Because we’re family

The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom from beginning to end.

And I struggle as a young person to wrap my head around these upside down commands because nothing about our world is about putting others first.

The worlds says, “Me first!” and the Kingdom says, “Me last!” 

Check out Romans 12:10 in these 3 translations:

NLT: Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

ERV: Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself.

MSG: Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

We are to love everyone like they are our brothers and sisters. This makes sense when you think about it because there are only two types of people in the world: Those who are already our family in Christ and those we want to see become our family in Christ.

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:16. 

 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

Evangelism is not about us versus them. Outreach is not about being a bully and forcing Jesus down someone’s throat.

I can’t get away from these thoughts…

I am not sharing the gospel to get ahead.

I am not seeking a platform to build “my ministry.”

 Evangelism has absolutely NOTHING to do with my advancement and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with showing someone else the path to redemption. 

The path of humility is all about taking jealousy and the need to get ahead off the table.

We’re on this journey together.

We’re growing together.

We’re serving together.

You’re not more important than me and I’m not more important than you because we’re family. 

 

 

 

26

My birthday was awesome!

I received so many sweet Facebook posts, messages, texts, and phone calls. 

I talked with my family and even got to FaceTime with one of my best friends. 

The weekend as a whole was a whirlwind of fun from start to finish. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Thrift store shopping
  • Barnes and Noble 
  • Barbecue
  • Finding Dory
  • 2 get togethers
  • Fireworks
  • Reading
  • Coffee
  • In PJs till lunchtime 

I basically partied like a rockstar all weekend. 

And while I’m thankful for good work, getting back into my routine will be hard tomorrow. 

Now, it’s time for this 26 year old to go to bed! 

Remember: the new blog schedule is Monday and Friday. 

Let me know if you have any topics you’d like me to discuss more in-depth. 

Lessons from Finding Dory

Finding Dory was awesome!

This is one of the few times when I think the sequel is better than the original. 

The journey of Dory, Nemo, Marlin, and the gang was quite epic. 

I knew it would have a happy ending, but Finding Dory really stuck the ending–I didn’t see it happening that way!

Plus, it tied in really nicely with Finding Nemo. I loved how Pixar weaved the two stories together. 

Here’s some of the lessons I learned from Finding Dory:

  • Family is #1
  • Life lessons are truly unforgettable and will always guide you to make the right decisions
  • Always be yourself 
  • Don’t say things you don’t mean
  • Just keep swimming (couldn’t resist!)

Go watch the movie. It’s super cute. 

Momentary Challenges

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to talk with my family and friends a bit more than I was during the school year. 

Technology makes it easy to stay in touch. Thanks to Facebook, email, text, and FaceTime living so far away is much more bearable. 

Honestly, I have struggled with a touch of homesickness the last week. 

I know that Rhema is where I’m supposed to be, but these feelings can creep up faster than you realize. 

Reminding myself what this season is all about–following the Holy Spirit–is why I chose to move away. 

This is something I needed and wanted to do. 

And while I do miss my family and friends, I know that they are supportive of my desire to follow God. 

I’ve come face to face with homesickness ( and I’m sure this won’t be the last time).

I’m also living in such a sweet season of blessing. 

The amount of stuff I’m learning at school and in ministry service is more than I ever imagined.

It makes these momentary challenges worth it. 

Happy Father’s Day

If your dad is still around, be sure to visit or call. 

It’s weird to think about my parents and grandparents passing away…

As a young adult, I have a hard time picturing life without my family around, but I know one day it will happen. 

Several of my friends have already lost their fathers. They don’t talk about the difficult times and their differences. 

What they talk about is how much one more day would mean. 

Nothing else matters. 

This Father’s Day I’m reminded again about the power of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

Hard times come–disagreements happen–but do what you can to make amends. 

Decide to forgive instead of holding a grudge. None of us knows if today is our last. 

When the end comes–for you or your loved ones–wouldn’t you rather know that you’ve done everything you can? 

Regret is a bully. 

You don’t want that hanging over you head. 

 

A Moment of Silence

Since when did complete agreement become the goal? 

I’ve listened to the news quite a bit since the Orlando massacre and the amount of political talk and civil rights talk and gun rights talk is nauseating.

What about just being sad for 5 minutes before we launch into “These are the issues we need to address”?  

Which, by the way, is what everyone says EVERY SINGLE TIME after a tragedy of this magnitude.

Here’s what I want to say: Everyone, shut your mouth. 

This is not the time to start a conversation about gun control.

This is not the time to start a conversation about conservatives vs. liberals.

This is not the time for Christians and the LGBTQ community to stand off nose to nose.

This is not the time to pick a part Islam.

I just want everyone to please be quiet. 

There are 49 families who are mourning. Their son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, lover was killed.

If you can’t think of a kind, compassionate thing to say, please shut up. 

We can riot in the streets later.

We can debate for hours later.

I am sad about this senseless loss of life. None of those victims set out thinking, This is it, my last day on earth.” They were just out having fun (albeit at a later hour than I like to be out) on a Saturday night. 

Please pray for the families. There are some hard days ahead.

Pray for ways you can show kindness and compassion to those around you–no matter how different they are. 

Pray for strength and wisdom on how we should all properly respond to this tragedy.

But for now, I think we all need to take a breath and just sit in this space for a minute. Let’s take a few moments to grieve before responding rashly. 

 

A standard of grace

The line between business and customer, ministry and church member, can get blurry pretty fast. 

You can NEVER forget that numbers, statistics–the bottom line–represents a person.

Whenever I get frustrated, this is what comes back to me. 

You’re talking about a person, Audra, take a chill pill! 

Whatever problem I face (real or perceived) can be traced back to a real life person. A person with their own personality, flaws, interests, hurts, hopes, and dreams. 

He or she also has a list of problems….

A little grace can go a long, long way. And here’s another thing to consider: 

Most of the problems I face can be traced right back to me. Did I mention that I am not good at giving grace to myself?

About that….

Don’t forget about extending a little grace towards yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens. 

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a bottom line, a set standard to aim for.

Just be sure that the standard you set doesn’t become more important than the people you serve and live/work with. 

I’m finding that having grace as my standard is the best way to go. It keeps everything in perspective.