By Mommy Emily

I’m looking out my office window at fields of shorn canola, at gently waving leaves of gold, sapphire, and burnt orange lacing poplars, aspen, and maples. I feel the soft breeze of autumn slip through the window screen. In my pantry are stacks of mason jars filled with canned goods from the garden — spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, salsa, peaches, pickles, borscht, and jams. Dehydrated fruit rests in bags in my cupboard. 

And on my bed sits a red suitcase, waiting to be filled — even as I’ve been mentally packing for weeks for this long-awaited trip back to Africa. 

God’s been whispering it since July — telling my Lulu Tree sister, Erica Hale (our vice president) and I to prepare to return. Meanwhile, Uganda has just emerged from a 40-day lockdown, and Alberta, where I live, is experiencing a furious fourth COVID wave from the Delta variant. (Please note, I am double vaccinated, and taking every precaution possible so I don’t carry COVID with me.)

We lift our eyes up. “For this is what the LORD has spoken to me with a strong hand, instructing me not to walk in the way of this people: ‘…Do not fear what they fear; do not live in dread. The LORD of Hosts is the One you shall regard as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be dreaded.’”

(Isaiah 8:11-13)

Yet last night, I feared. I dreaded what I saw around me. I’d received texts from unbelieving relatives saying it’s very dangerous to travel right now, and did I know all the risks I was taking and was I aware of all the things that could go wrong? Meanwhile, we had also checked the weather for Uganda, South Sudan, and Kenya for October. It’s the heart of the rainy season there. My well-meaning husband asked, “Don’t you check those things before you book your trips?” And I shook my head and said, “No. When God says to go, I simply go.”

And he smiled and nodded, for even though we are pepper and salt, him with his rational brain and me with my wide-open heart, we mix well. 

But later, in the dark, Trent was snoring in bed, I knelt before the Lord and wept. And His still small voice said, “Ezekiel 12,” but it was so still, so small, I wondered if He’d said Exodus instead? So first, I turn to Ezekiel 12. 

Right away I read in verse three: “Therefore, son of man, pack your belongings for exile and in the daytime, as they watch, set out and go from where you are to another place.”

That was pretty clear. 

(Erica in Uganda, March of 2018)

Then I turned to Exodus 12. I flipped to the middle section, and my eyes fell on Pharaoh’s command to Moses: “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested.” (v. 31)

Then, a bit further on in the same chapter, “Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.” (v. 42)

The Lord kept vigil to bring them out. He would keep vigil to bring us out. And in turn, we were to keep vigil to honor Him for the generations to come, through our families and through The Lulu Tree.

Finally, I turned again to the Lord, and He led me to Psalm 46, a psalm I know well, one that tells me to Be still and Know He is God (v. 10), but also, this part struck me fresh: “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (v. 5)

Yes, it’s speaking of Zion, but my Abba Father also calls me Daughter of Zion, and I heard Him saying that night, “God is within you. You will not fall. God will help you at break of day.”

I slept in great peace, and when I rose, my devotional for that particular day said, “The one who says, ‘Yes Lord, but…’ is the one who is fiercely ready, but never goes. This man had one or two reservations. The exacting call of Jesus Christ has no margin of good-byes… When once the call of God comes, begin to go, and never stop going.” 

And so, Lord willing, following a negative COVID test, on October 9th, my family will be dropping me (and my three suitcases!) off at Edmonton International Airport, to fly directly to Amsterdam, and then after only a couple of hours in Holland, on to Uganda — the place where it all started, where God first planted the Lulu Tree seed, nearly eight years ago now.

(Me in South Sudan with Apostle Enock and Pastor Santos, 2019)

It’s been two years of being apart from our Lulu Africa brothers. I will spend a couple of days reconnecting with Enock, Shaban, Daniel, Baptist, and James (while getting another COVID test!) and then will take the bus to Kenya, to meet Pastor Samson Madibo, his wife Lucy, his house full of orphans, the pastors he oversees, their church plants and the maize farm they’ve started.

From there, I will return back to Kampala for a couple of nights and another COVID test, and then I will travel, again by bus, to Gulu, Uganda. There I’ll meet up with Pastor Santos, who oversees Lulu South Sudan and is Papa to many children from the child-headed homes in the South Sudan refugee camps on the Uganda border. I will also be connecting with Stephen Nzishura of FinMango, who is from Burundi yet lives in India and was the one God used to connect us with Pastor A of India. He happens to be in East Africa right now, and felt called to travel with us to South Sudan to see what God is doing there. The plan is for him to train up pastors and microloan leaders in a one-day biblical stewardship workshop.

After a couple of days of visiting the refugee camps, seeing the home God has built through Pastor Santos for the children and the school, as well, not to mention the 40 cows he’s been purchasing to help sustain the ministry, Santos will then travel with Stephen and I across the border to Nimule, South Sudan, where we will reconnect with Santos’ good friend Pastor Francis, visit the teenage mothers he’s schooling, see his cows, and travel with him to neighboring churches and communities.

Following that week, I will return to Kampala just in time to greet my sister in Christ, Erica Hale — who is flying in, Lord willing, to spend the final week with me and the team. We will then drive to Jinja to meet with the teenage mothers and pastors, and spend time in fellowship and prayer.

Late on Friday, October 29th, we will fly home, to return to our dear, faithful families on Saturday, October 30th. 

I cannot wait to share photos and videos with you all. Please do keep us in your prayers. We will be driving, in the rainy season, on roads much like this one (see video of Pastor Francis driving his new van in South Sudan): 

With all my love, and for the glory of our Great King and Saviour Jesus Christ, through whom all things are possible, who alone deserves to be feared and praised,  

Mommy Emily