Each year, my son and I travel to the other side of the country to spend time with his honorary grandparents, Gwen and Jim Johnson. It’s not possible for me to express the significance of these visits and all that my son and I learn from this remarkable couple, each of whom are in their mid-nineties.
For many years, I held on to the dream of one day adopting a five year old boy from Russia. “Why such a specific desire?” a former colleague once asked me. “Because,” I explained, “Close friends adopted a five year old orphan from Russia and he’s amazing!” Samuel, the young boy from Russia, continues to be an (unofficial) ambassador for his native country.
For the past decade, I’ve served in East Africa and have gained far more understanding of my heart, motives, and attitudes than I would have had I not taken the step of faith to live and work in a foreign land. Among the more humbling insights has been my occasional tendency to assume that my knowledge and resources are superior to those in the developing nation where I’m serving.
While dying of cancer, a seven-year-old Ugandan child named Okello Dikens became a leader. Though he wasn’t at the helm of a company, he exercised a profound influence through his example of faith, kindness, and service.
As I waded through a sea of vendors and their handmade crafts at an outdoor market in East Africa, I came across a woman so poor her inventory consisted of only a few cheaply made bracelets. To help her make ends meet, for that day at least, I purchased a few of her items. One of the bracelets I selected had the name “Jesus” woven into it. After paying her, I put it on my wrist and—referring to the name Jesus—said to her, “Sometimes I need a reminder.”
Andy Searles, a pastor and sports chaplain, recently gave a group of friends and me some wise food for thought. He said, “In our interactions we are always promoting or reflecting something—perhaps our values, our past, our hopes, or even ourselves. One of the primary purposes for those who claim to follow Jesus is to ‘promote’ and ‘reflect’ that which is ‘wholesome’ (Titus 2:1). We promote the love of God found in Jesus Christ and we reflect by letting this love shine through us into a dark world.”
“Though mentoring is not a biblical word, it is a way of life,” wrote author Andi Ashworth. “In essence, mentoring is showing and telling, a lifestyle of receiving God’s gifts, learning to know, love, and live what is good, and passing on that knowledge to others.”
My son and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the impressive Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in Washington, DC, before its official opening. A guide led us through the 430,000-square-foot, eight-floor edifice and gave us a glimpse of the extraordinary structure that will house research labs and libraries, exhibitions, classrooms, lecture halls, gathering rooms, and biblical gardens.
When a boyfriend and I ended our dating relationship, I lamented, “I’ll never meet another man who enjoys grilling food like he did.” As shallow (and embarrassing) as that sounds, I thought I’d forfeited my opportunity to be with a gourmet chef. A few weeks later though, while in a store that sold a variety of grills, it dawned on me that my former boyfriend wasn’t the only gifted griller out there!
After a traumatic situation forced my son and me to flee the neighborhood in Uganda where we’d had a home for more than six years, we found ourselves suddenly thrust into a difficult season of wandering and searching.
When people were engaged in a political spat on my friend’s Facebook page, my friend decided to turn the debate into something uplifting by suggesting that everyone who commented make a donation to the Uganda-based ministry I direct. What began as a contentious debate transformed into a collective act of generosity. In the process, hearts softened and—though political differences remained—those involved began speaking more kindly to one another.
When I was sixteen, I had the privilege of interning with a local TV sports affiliate. My days were spent in the newsroom, in dugouts interviewing Major League Baseball (MLB) players, on the sidelines during National Football League (NFL) games, and flying to high-profile events. It was an exciting chapter of my life, one that helped prepare me for more than a decade of work and ministry in sports.
On several occasions, Facebook has allowed me to find someone to shuttle supplies from the United States to Uganda for the ministry I direct. Instagram has served as a launching pad for dozens of us to serve children in need, and Twitter has provided a glimpse into the uplifting work friends are doing around the world.