Restored Identity

My time spent in Namayemba, Uganda this summer was everything more than I could expect or hope for. The Ugandan people are a force to be reckoned with. Every human in the world should spend an afternoon in the home of a Ugandan family. The honor and welcome that you will receive will give your heart a glimpse at what it must of felt like to be stranger who comes upon and experiences Jesus for the first time. I left Namayemba forever wrecked to our American priorities of busyness over people, stress over relationships, distraction over clarity.

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As I experienced this loving people--a people whose life in many ways looked vastly different than my own, but whose heart and soul and desires were the same--the Lord impressed upon me countless time the word “identity”. Identity in the American context is often used to describe the things we like or dislike, the things we believe, or stand for. I believe those are just the surface level descriptors of our identity. Our identity is rooted in our belonging to the family of God. Our identity comes with how God loves us and how He sees us and feels about us. Our identity is also linked to the person He has created each of us to be. He speaks this to us through scripture, through other people, and directly to our souls. But, because of sin in the world, our identity, or parts of our identity is broken, and God yearns for the restoration of each of our broken identity, regardless of where and how we grew up and choose to live.

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Speaking and praying with so many precious men, women, and children while in Namayemba, the cry I heard over and over again was to be seen and loved by Jesus. Broken identity means that our relationship with our Savior has been broken, misconstrued, or forgotten in some way. It is only through knowing and being in relationship with God, learning about His character, and reading the Word to understand the words he speaks about us, that our identity can be restored. It is in this process of restoration that we begin to learn and know the truth of our identity, for our identity to be made known to us. We can then begin to live in the fullness of who God has created us to be and to live with hope that the Lord is making us into a new creation. This hope is what transforms ourselves, our families, and our communities. So, when facing the issue of poverty--be it poverty of finances, emotions, health, or spirit--we must face it from a standpoint that only through relationship can identity be restored and hope born. This can go for anyone in the world, at any time, and in any place, whether in Namayemba, Uganda, or back in the States.

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I also was struck by how important it is for each of us to know and understand who God says we are and the giftings He has given us so that we can use these with the power of the Spirit to help uncover and restore identity in others. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus would call people to Him for the sheer reason that He loved them and counted them as important, regardless of the stature or position or past or current sins. May we choose to live out a life that is saturated in the knowledge that God is enough for us, He is enough to redeem and restore, and He desires to do so. May God bless you and keep you.  

 

Come to the Well

This past June I journeyed to Uganda, serving with AsOne Ministries. For the third year in a row, my friend Andrew had invited me to come to Uganda, each time before this I told him, "no." But this year, after a busy season of teaching, attending seminary and serving in various ministries I felt drained; physically, emotionally and mentally. I was thirsty for rest.  And this time when Andrew asked me to come to Namayemba, I felt God whisper, “go, abide with Me and drink from My Well.”

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I’m often asked what did you “DO” in Uganda? They look at me oddly when I tell them, “I didn't DO anything, I abided and drank from His well.” Though we are called to action as Christians, I think sometimes we get busy with the “Do” and we forget to “Be”. Be in relationship with God, Be in relationship with others.

While I did “do”, it wasn’t the focus. I taught a lesson at Tendo Primary School, spent time in the homes of school children, water colored with people with special needs, learned about local farming, visited community leaders and pastor’s families, prayed with a whole lot with people, listened to women bravely leaving prostitution behind, and preached on demand one afternoon. It was not so much about what I did, but more about spending time with other thirsty sojourners on a kingdom bound journey.   

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One afternoon we spent time visiting with widows and I found myself carrying jars to a well to fetch fresh water. As we did this, I could not help but recall the story about the Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at the well in John 4. Like the woman at the well, we are all thirsty for something. We are all in need of The Living Water. It doesn't matter if you are from America or Uganda.  The woman at the well found herself in circumstances beyond her control, in a society of injustice where women have no say in marriage. Scripture tells us she had been married 5 times and was currently living with a man. She most likely felt discarded, rejected, broken, emptied and worthless. We all find ourselves at some point feeling the same way, whether due to our own poor choices or circumstances beyond our control.

Jesus offered the woman at the well, life-giving water, he offered... himself. In offering himself, he quenched her thirst, he gave her identity and value as a child of God. What we do flows from who we are. Both matter. There's someone God made you to be. Something God made you to do, but first you must drink deeply from The Living Well.

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My time with AsOne reinforced; once you introduce The Living Water to people, you don’t stop there. You walk beside each other offering each other sips of love and encouragement, you celebrate identity in Christ, step into identifying who we are each called to be, and from that, equip each for what they are called to do. In doing so, we will thirst no more.