Tents were set up and the people were assembled outside the church building because it was not big enough to hold the large crowd. The service began and I was asked to give the first reading from Isaiah 6:1-8. When I got to these words, my voice cracked and I choked back the tears. I could barely get them out.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”
If you had told me even just 16 months ago that I would be standing where the first missionaries arrived and brought the gospel to the Acholi people in 1903, reading this Scripture at my own ordination, I would have scoffed and laughed in your face. But…nothing is impossible for the Lord. His call is irrevocable. He only needs our willingness. He is faithful and able to bring to pass that which He has ordained.
After I had been examined and said my vows, the moment had finally come. The hot African sun was directly overhead. It was almost noon. Sweat rolled down my face and back as I stood there, waiting. The clergy collar felt tight around my neck…like wearing a turtle neck in 90 degree heat. My alb was supposed to be a cooler alternative to the cassock and surplus but I don’t think it made a difference. My damp hair stuck to my neck.
I glanced beyond the Bishop and saw the team from St. Johns Parish (Johns Island) looking on…big smiles on their faces. They were my surrogate family. I thanked God that they were there with me to share in this moment…if for nothing else to be a witness to the fact that it actually happened. Surely I must be dreaming. I found my thoughts drifting back to the long road that had led to this day and this very moment, wondering how I got here. Is this real? I am about to be ordained a transitional deacon in the Church of Uganda…this little girl who was born in the Mississippi delta and spent her childhood under the Friday night lights as the daughter of high school football coach…now living in Africa ministering to the Acholi people. This was not the plan I had for my life. For those who know me well…you know how I fought the call and when I finally yes, I found the road of obedience was a crooked path of disappointment, confusion and doubt…but also of tremendous personal growth and intimacy with the Lord as He has shown himself faithful. And now…after many years of voices of encouragement telling me not to give up on God’s call…I kneel before the Bishop and he lays his hands on my head and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit for the Office and work of a Deacon in the Church of God, now committed to you by the imposition of hands, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” My knees buckled under me and for a moment I thought I might collapse…not from the heat of the noonday sun, but from the power in the moment. I told my friend Rev. Canon Willy Akena, the Bishop’s chaplain, that he would have to help me up. I was grateful for the laughter which changed the environment from a solemn moment into a joyous one.
There were three deacons and five priests ordained that day. Afterwards, we formed a line and every single person at this service lined up and shook our hands! I think I shook about 500 hands. There was jubilation and dancing…done as only Ugandans can do!
There…it was done. I am joined to the Church forever in the service of God Almighty. And now it begins…
To my surprise, the Bishop has appointed me as curate to Christ Church, the largest church in the Diocese. There is only one priest at this church and now two new Deacons. I am head of the English service, which has about 400 people each Sunday in worship. I’m not quite sure yet exactly what being the “head” of the service entails but I will learn. Yes, I am in over my head. I’m out of my comfort zone. But what else is new? I’ve been out of my comfort zone for the last 15 months. As a newly ordained person, I admit I am a little intimidated by this appointment to lead one of the largest services in the Diocese. But…I can do all things through Christ who calls me and strengthens me. Please pray for me!!!
With this new duty, I now have a very full plate of responsibilities. It can be daunting if I dwell on it too much. I’m trying to adopt the Acholi way of living in the moment, just as Jesus taught us. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Some prayer requests:
- That I will learn fast and adjust to my new role.
- That the Lord would give me favor with the people at Christ Church
- That I quickly develop good relationships with the lay leaders of the church and especially the team of people I will work with in the English service.
- Dr. Katie fell and broke her arm last week. I am helping to care for her. Pray for fast healing of her bones.
- For peace and patience each day as I continue to adjust to this culture
- For continued good health
- Protection from the evil one
I give thanks for Bishop Johnson Gakumba and his discernment regarding this call and his willingness to ordain me and welcome me officially into this Diocese not just a missionary but now as one under the authority of the Church of Uganda. I am grateful for the Rev. Sandra Earixson whose friendship and wisdom have helped me tremendously over the past year and will go on doing so as I learn my role as a deacon. I am thankful for my home church, Saint James, James Island, and the Rev. Arthur Jenkins and the Rev. Louise Weld for their constant love, prayers and support. To all the friends and family who were constantly holding me up in prayer and sending encouragement my way, I love you.
The Lord is good all the time. All the time the Lord is good because that’s His nature. Wow!