Our White Picket Fence

I normally have a rule that I don’t write until a day or two after our bush trips as I’m usually too raw and unprocessed if I hit the keys to quickly.

But this time I’ll just put up a caution sign as I wrote this as a means TO process the everyday while on the ground and in the dirt…

I can feel a few drops of rain. First on the top of my head, then my face. They start falling faster but I don’t flinch. None of us do. I’m with my Pastor in the bush and we’re speaking to a man who’s son we rescued from the army. The father’s eyes are sad. So sad. And hopeless. I tell him how much we love his boy and a few stories to try and make him smile but nothing works.

“All of our boys in the village are joining the army. Maybe mine was rescued but our village has lost it’s sons.”

The rain continues to fall but the weight of the mans words stops us on the street. Immediately my mind gets thinking… How do we rescue them? All of them. Or at least give them an alternative.

Many of the boys in the village join the army out of “lack of vision” or “restlessness”. In our area many boys, aged 10-18, are not in school. They have long days and sleepless nights due to running from conflict and rebel attacks. Soldiers often come into the village by day and the young boys are forced to be porters for them, carrying water or artillery etc. With nothing better to do, they watch a power struggle of gun=authority.

With no real vision for their own life and a confused version of “life to the top” they often willingly join the army. It’s not long after they often confess their regret but it’s to late, enrolment is hard to break free from.

We have a primary school but we haven’t yet finished our 3rd school block that will move us into secondary schooling and a vision for the idle young men…

We’d just arrived in the village maybe 15 minutes before the stories had started saturating our hearts.

And so the week began and it was on to making dinner in the smoke filled kitchen, when two men interrupted our program to greet us.

The one had been abducted with his wife and children the Saturday before and had escaped. With hands tied behind their backs, they couldn’t risk the unknowing fate of death or rape so the man and his family ran and ran and finally hid all night in the river. The flowing, gushing, powerful river. They now live thankful to have made it through that raid but the man confessed utter hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Maybe it’s a tad heavy. But sadly, this isn’t the half of it.

The entire village has story after story and we catch a small window into their lives Monday- Friday.

How can we let them live like this?

I was asked the last time I was in the bush, “Where are all the missionaries? Does your country not send them out anymore?” Uhhhh. Heart drop.

You are not forgotten! You are not alone!

That night I zipped up my sleeping bag and pulled the cover up to my eyes. More often than not the rats crawl on you at night and I don’t mind them getting my feet but my face— bleh, that’s when it becomes a bit much! (Did I mention we’re calling all those missionaries? ;) )

Every night, though believing for peace, we semi plan for a raid. You carefully pack up your stuff and memorize where the importants are: flashlight, skirt, bra, protein bars.

Nights are the biggie here. I’ve fallen asleep many times to the sound of gunfire, but I’ve never been in a night-time raid. I couldn’t imagine anything more inconvenient.

All week, once again, we slept soundly and are always happy to wake up in our beds and not under a tree. Most of the village fled to the bush, but this week like last… our team stayed put. However, this time, so did our Congo family. “We feel safe with you here.”

Keeping a constant ear out for safety reports, they’ve said there were outbreaks of conflict yesterday and this morning just outside the village, everyone’s on deck, as were we. Our version is slightly different though… Conference time! It’s such a humbling and beautiful time calling the village for “War Prevention/ de-traumatization” classes. Haha. Aka: “Bringing heaven- 101” or “Developing Authority to Stop Wars” We’re just as much students as we are teachers.

In these classes though, reality hits. It was a good idea in America but it’s life and death here. They NEED Jesus to come. They’re sick, starving, severely traumatized and in NEED a savior. So glad we have the perfect one. You could feel the hunger in the room.

We got rocked, they got rocked. Everyone got fed. It was great.

By the end of the week I’ve more than come up with a strategy for the boys. Through prayer, conversations, more conversations and interviews, we’ve put together a new prevention program for the young men of the village.

The “Leadership League” we call it.

What better way to give boys a hope and a vision then to empower them with the opportunity to do what they love most. And what do they love most? Futball (AKA: Soccer)

That’s right, we’ve started a soccer league.

Every boy enrolled will get a jersey, shoes and a super water bottle. Along with a guaranteed dream team, they will be required to learn basic reading and writing (as we keep putting together plans for secondary school) and attendance to discipleship courses.

We may not be able to stop them from being abducted but we can give them a reason to hold off being enrolled.

We already found our captain who couldn’t have been more excited. “You want to hire me to play futball?!?! This is the best idea you could think of” –haha. Of course it is.

So now! If you’re interested, we need two things: One, obvious sponsors for jersey’s (We’ll buy the immediate ones in Congo) BUUUUUT, if anyone wants to sponsor a team!! When I’m back in the west I would LOVE to get our boys awesome looking jersey’s and soccer bags!! Including shin guards, socks—the works.

“Without vision, the people perish” Literally.

Help our boys get balls, not guns!

Well, still working on a tag line ; )

This young boy holds his gun and a photo of a chimpanzee he wants me to buy from him. The bizarre moments in life…

This young boy holds his gun and a photo of a chimpanzee he wants me to buy from him. The bizarre moments in life…


(Along with that, though not quite as sorted is a girls Volleyball League we’ve started developing on paper. It will have a similar goal, though rather than gun prevention we aim to decrease rape and abduction/recruitment of girls to be young wives or sex slaves.)

Love in a time of... Warzones.

We learn a lot about perspective when we open our eyes.

Our complaints of not having running water, a toilet in our house or the nagging cravings that pull at our stomachs during mealtimes, are easily silenced by a woman’s rape story. Every woman’s rape story. Our beautiful Pastor explains: “It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ she’s been raped, in the villages it’s ‘how many times’?”

He provides the best kind of perspective.

This November war broke out in the provincial capitol where we’re based, worse than it had in years. In the chaos and confusion of gunfire and explosions in the sky, our Pastor opened up his home to 18 orphan children and half a dozen adults. His 2 roomed house, the living area smaller than most American kitchens, was turned into a displaced persons lodge: “We took all the furniture and put it outside. It was body on top of body, piled on another body.” Our measly bit of war relief sent during this time fed them all for the month they were there.


Perspective. It’s hard to communicate life here sometimes. The horror and the absolute beauty. The fungus that crawls up my arm in little circles, itching more and more everyday and sweet child that I embrace, again, though they were probably the one that gave it to me.


Every Saturday is “Sleepover Saturday” with Justice Rising projects. In the brothels, we have slumber parties with rescued child prostitutes. In the war zones, it’s a party with rescued child soldiers. The biggest difference, I vote, is the smell. Ha. Oh yes, even with the smelly soaps and lotions I give to our boys, somehow our girls always smell MUCH better at the end of the day…

This last weekend during some “art therapy” with our beautiful boys, we asked them to draw our little family in a garden, with an elephant. (Yes, I somehow sneak elephants into all of our art projects.)

A normal plan, so we thought, until perspective shows up. Machetes and guns in blue and red crayon. Perhaps an easy thing to draw? We ask our boys to explain. Their faces are sweet and I can rarely describe them in a sentence without slipping in the words “perfection” and “adore”, but deep in their eyes, still hidden in their memories, it makes sense.

Though our family is full of love, the picture shows a gun pointed at a stick figure with a blonde ponytail. Dang it. Everyone in the picture is either killing or running from conflict. Our heart aches for our sweet muffins and the things they’ve seen. The lives they lived.


Last week while in the bush we met quietly with other young boys we hope to rescue and began the process of helping them get out of the bush and into the city. (Our program is not one of 24-7 care but more foster sponsorship and extensive discipleship. With this we can see more boys restored with less money and still be able to love on the armies and not have them want to “get rid of us”… haha)  While sitting with one of the kids, perspective was made clear when he stated “I have no life outside of the army.” It was either he joins our family, or he stays fighting in his current one.

Little boys with big guns. Everywhere. On the street we ask their names and they get fidgety. You try to gaze into their eyes with all the love you can show while still glancing at their finger to see it stays far from the AK’s trigger.

Perspective is a funny thing. Especially in a war zone. And you have a choice. Sometimes it hurts more to see. Ok let’s be honest, it almost always hurts more to see. That’s why not everyone does it, and war and famine persist. But in the end, opening your eyes and getting some perspective on someone else’s reality is so so worth it.

For in that moment of choosing to do life with them, the vulnerability expressed is what opens yourself up to truly experience love.

Love is nothing like I thought. Or probably even now what I think. Love is ridiculously and incredibly beautifully, while utterly heartwrenchenly painful yet always 100% completely worth it. Love is what  stands with the broken, with the raped victim and the hungry and says “You’re not alone”. Love chooses to look deep into heart of the war lord and say: “I see you. I see you for not what you’ve done, but what God’s done for you” And love is what says to the little boy who’s been given a gun instead of an embrace: “I will stop for you. No matter what it costs me” Because love, in it’s purest form, always costs you something.

I feel like we’re forever learning here, continuously shocked at how little we know! But more now than ever, as I become increasingly obsessed with our sweet little princes, I get inspired to figure it out. Love in a war zone. In a brothel. It’s purity and power able to transform even the toughest area. It’s brilliant. Ridiculously and absolutely brilliant. And suuuuch a blast. We’re so excited as every minute here feels like the greatest honor ever. It’s just sometimes taking the perspective and the courage to really see it. The journey we’re foreeeeever learning. : )

I Should Have Shaved My Legs...

Sometimes it’s the red nail polish on the tips of your fingers and ends of your toes that remind you to smile. An element of girlish beauty that recalls simpler days. But other times, in the middle of it all, it’s the squeeze from a child who without education in our primary school would have a gun in his hand rather than a pencil.


We arrived in our beloved Congo on Monday afternoon and were greeted with the usual: No electricity or running water and pending threats of war. “I should have shaved my legs my last morning in Rwanda!” Is all I could think of. A warm shower and a hot breakfast?? I should have cherished that moment a little extra too as I now grab a handful of nuts from my suitcase!

It’s funny because for some people, those things aren’t a big deal. Well… I don’t think I’m “some people”. When I was younger many told me: “If you don’t like spiders or being dirty, you’re probably not called to be a missionary. It’s only for ‘some people’” Haha. Hm. Like I said, I think I missed the category of those “some people” though somehow it works. I hate being dirty, I adore washing machines, and if I could have a chai latte in my hand at all times, I would be a happy girl. But it’s more than that.

Chatting it up on the playground with one of our Freedom boys (rescued child soldier) I congratulate him on passing his exam and in the moment, could care less that the dark tan on my arms is really just dirt. I love this. I love that we get to stand in the middle of so many uncertainties and have a blast!! I love seeing transformation, even if it means that some nights my feet turn blue during the cold bucket bath. It’s so worth it!

Sometimes the transformation is instant. *Joseph for example. His smile is massive and sticks to his face like a fly to the wall. His scarred hands remind us of his past but his joy overwhelms the situation and I’m absolutely amazed by his hope.

Other transformations take a little longer… Micheal. My boy. Oh how my heart adores him. And he knows it. About 11 years old now, any time we’re in the same room, I don’t care what the rules are, he’s the exception. My shadow, and he has been for years. But still, “Micheal what’s wrong?” I asked the other day as I saw a long look that pulled him down. “When was the last time you ate?” Two days… Three days… “We are in famine.” So often this is the case and we’re constantly working to change the fact. Yet still so many days I hear him echo: “We are in famine.”

Bah. Congo’s the most interesting place to work. Because no matter the difficulties, the pain of sitting with them in their reality, the love pulls you back in. The kindness in the people, the passion in our papa’s eyes as he longs to be united with his favorite warlord or violated mama. Uhhh the mamas. How many times is too many times of hearing of a woman’s destroyed vagina due to rape? That’s where the similarities lie in our work in Kenya and Congo. Someone always seems to be getting raped. A brothel and a war zone. Where purity is a rarity and targets seem to be painted on most young women’s foreheads.

I know. For some people that may have been a lot: “Did she just say vagina!?” But it’s a reality to so so many here. And our response? What if we choose not to be “some people,” dictated by how it’s been done in the past. But what if we write the history we dream so much about changing? How can we create a new normal so someday this is only legend? Rape, war, starvation. Everyone with their own piece, no matter where you are. This is our constant conversation on the ground. Haha. I know… and a repeat topic in many of my blogs ;)


I look down at my painted nails again. Red. And I smile. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of a manicure and sometimes it’s the joy in changing the world. Either way there’s something in the smile. Loving what you do. And though life here may not always be perfect, our team is definitely LOVING LIFE in our beloved DRC. Off to the bush next week! So excited! (If you want to get involved in rescuing child soldiers or building a school as a “justice piece” to prevent war for future generations– be watching for more chances!!! Or give by clicking on the ‘donate’ page)