For The Love of The Broken

(Insert deep breath here). How do I even begin? We have been planning to blog about our work in Uganda for some time now, and today is the day I felt the Lord gently prompting me to start. It's hard to put into words what He is doing on the ground. It's even harder to adequately tell the stories about those we have grown to love and adore. I'm honestly scared I won't do this story telling justice. But, today I ask the Lord to use me in where I feel least equipped and to let the stories of this work be written through HIS mighty eyes and his words. Lord I give this to you.

I want to convey to you how awesome this journey has been. 10 years ago I had no idea that my life would be so drastically altered and that my heart would be forever torn as I straddle two continents, both carrying a large piece of my heart. Sometimes I feel like my entire heart has been chewed up and is in the process of be swallowed as it beats in the mouth of the beast called poverty and sickness. Not only in Uganda, but also at home in more ways that I care to even admit.

I hate to even waste time telling you about myself, because as I have grown in my relationship with the Lord, I have come to recognize that this life is not mine, it is HIS to use as He sees fit. But I feel him prompting me to tell you my story so that you can get a full grasp on how amazing our God is and how he uses the broken to minister to the broken. None of us are too far gone to be used in powerful ways, as long as we submit our lives to Him.

I grew up in a military family, moving every 1-4 years throughout my entire childhood. This was heartbreaking most of the time, as I never felt like I had a place to call home besides my grandparents homes in Chicago. But, the Lord used this to help me not to become comfortable with the idea of "home", and if I am completely honest with you the only home I long for at this point in my life is Heaven. I often feel like a gypsy roaming this earth, and I struggle with even making my house a home because of that. But, if I had not had this as a part of my life, I don't know that I could have fully embraced the life of being in ministry the way that I have. To move freely between life in the US and life in Uganda, without hesitation or fear.

At the tender age of 15, my life took a turn and a battle within me was waged. I was infected with Lyme disease, and had the tell tale bulls-eye rash, but at that time Lyme was not well known and I was never treated. Within a few weeks, the fevers, full body pain, chills, and headaches ravaged my body. I was incredibly sick, and bound to bed. A month or two later with my symptoms not getting any better, I went in for testing. It was discovered that I also had Epstein Barre (Mononucleosis) in it's active form. I was bound to bed for rest, my days were often a blur and I sometimes did not even know if it was morning or night. That fall, I came down with chicken pox, and my body was in further torment. I managed to go to school enough to pass, but it was a challenge to function and I would sleep for hours after school every day.

I also made a terrible decision during my junior year that would affect me for years to come. I started to date a guy from a neighboring town, and within a few months discovered that he was my worst nightmare come to life. I was beaten and raped by him over and over. He threatened to kill my dog and my family if I ever told, and killed his pet rat violently to prove it. I fearfully kept the secret and tried to escape his rage for years. I was finally able to break free of his abuse after two years with the help of the courts and law enforcement, all while battling lyme and mono.

My illness became so severe my first year of college that I nearly dropped out, but had some professors who helped me complete my studies outside of class and I managed to complete my AA. After escaping the abusive relationship, I developed severe anxiety, depression and panic disorder because he started stalking me. So now, along with disabling fatigue, massive migraines, and constant joint and body pain, I also became a recluse in my dorm room only venturing out to go to class and to work a small work study position.

I called on the Lord constantly and begged him to release me from these afflictions, but the release was not to be. I spent two years living in fear at Bemidji State University, waiting for the abuser to make good on his promise to find me and kill me. Sleeping as much as possible but finding myself unable to sleep at night due to the panic, pain and fear that had taken control of my mind and body.

It was during my junior year at the University that I found myself alone on Thanksgiving. The dorms had closed, and a former boyfriend had pity on me and told me I could use his one room apartment while he was away for the holiday. So I made the 2 hour drive and found myself sick, scared, hungry, and broke with just enough gas in my tank to make it back to Bemidji after the holiday break. I remember having a total of $8 to my name to last me a week, but determined not to let being alone and feeling horrible spoil my Thanksgiving, I went out and bought a $2 turkey leg and some boxed stuffing. Sadly, he only had a toaster oven, the turkey never cooked on the inside and was hard and dry and nearly burned on the outside. I remember standing there, alone, crying over this stupid turkey leg and how ridiculous my life was. I remember thinking about how sick I felt, and that I was not getting any better. I felt hopeless. I decided to commit suicide, and made a plan.

I hyperventilating in complete despair as I grabbed my keys, then I heard the Lord tell me to turn on the television set. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it. The channel was playing the 700 club and they were talking directly to me (so it seemed). It was then that I gave my life to Christ and put down the keys. I felt this hope well up inside of me and a feeling as if the Lord himself had his arms around me as I sobbed. The feeling of hope has never left since that moment in 1993, I believe that is the holy spirit. I knew that God had a purpose for my life and that He loves and sees me. It would be another 17 years before I would truly understand the depth of His calling on my life. Perhaps I don't even really know that depth today.

So now I am sitting here wondering what was the point in telling you my story? I don't know, but I know that God does. And I can tell you that I am more than grateful that He saved me not only from death, but from eternal death and separation that night.

My health battle continues to rage. I have been sick for just about 30 years now. I was finally officially diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 and along with that came a further diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I fortunately have some really amazing days and even some great weeks. Most people who don't know me well would not even realize what is happening inside my body. For that I am so grateful. I take comfort in the fact that the Apostle Paul also dealt with some unknown affliction he called a thorn in his side (we don't know if it was sickness or something else), and that the Lord did not entirely remove that from his so that anything Paul did, God could get the glory. I pray that when you see me, you see how amazing He truly is. I pray that you see he can take even the most physically and emotionally broken people and use them to bring hope to the hopeless.

So, fast forward to now. Nearly 8 years into working in Uganda as the hands and feet of Christ. I am now the co-founder and Executive Director of Hands of Action International. Over 800 children have been rescued from hunger and lack of an education. And so much more that I cannot wait to share with you. But that is not for this moment...

I believe that this blog is going to be raw, real, and encouraging. I am more than excited to introduce you to other amazing staff and guest bloggers along the journey. I am asking for you to partner with us on prayer as we move forward and continue working in a land that is moving from being one of the most hopeless places on earth to a place people are drawn to because of what God is doing.

Love, Jenn

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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