"Hear the Word, roaring as thunder
With a new future to tell
For the dry season is over
There is a cloud beginning to swell..."
These Elevation Worship lyrics rocked my soul as I drove home from work on Monday. Perhaps because I'm entering into a new season, with a fresh overflowing of joy as I leave what felt like a dry patch. I'm excited about the new things the Lord is about to do!
Itʼs been 10 months since I last wrote here on my blog. The past 10 months have been incredibly busy and sometimes agonizingly tough, but now I'm stepping into a new rhythm. :)
When I returned to the USA from Oxford, England last autumn, I started a job at which I worked until this past August. It was a great learning experience, but it wasnʼt a good fit and caused me a lot of stress.
Just last week, I started a brand new position which is an answer to prayer, and I'm EXTREMELY excited about it! I'll be advising for a portfolio of study abroad programs in a few regions around the world - and my most popular program is in Granada, Spain!! (where I studied abroad myself, where Liasor and I met, where we honeymooned, and where I've had life-changing experiences). I get to talk with students about the Universidad de Granada and the CLM (Centro de Lenguas Modernas), which I know all too well. Talk about full circle! I'm also looking forward to working with our university partners abroad!! Last year, when Liasor and I went back to Granada for our honeymoon, I had this gnawing feeling deep down that I wanted to find a job or a project that would connect me to Spain again and utilize my Spanish-speaking skills again. Who knew that a year - and a bumpy, winding road - later, here Iʼd be.
My commute to work is much longer now, but itʼs incredibly scenic. The ride allows me to get in the right mindset before and after work, and I LOVE listening to the Bible, audiobooks, and podcasts during the drive. Itʼs like a breath of fresh air.
Continued Work with Dr. Wendy James:
Apart from our full time jobs, we've also been able to tap back into the work we did last summer in Oxford, England with Dr. Wendy James. She visited us in Rochester last week and we did some more work on her recorded songs from Bonga Refugee Camp in the 1990s and 2000s, and earlier songs from the 60s from the Uduk people. It was great making more headway on that project!
Uduk Hope Incorporated (UHI):
The past few months have been tough ones for Uduk Hope. Liasor and I have found it increasingly hard to balance working full time jobs to support ourselves while also managing all of the operational tasks of Uduk Hope on our own. Once Liasor returned from Ethiopia last winter, we set out to find more active board members, which proved difficult since Uduk Hope doesnʼt have any paid positions at this time. All of the work we do is volunteer. We were able to bring on an amazing new member, Tabitha Inna, to the team and sheʼs been a tremendous help. We spent a lot of time trying to reshape UHI in ways that would be more sustainable for us to manage, and we've finally arrived at a new strategic plan!
We're focusing on developing small businesses (local stores) in each of the four refugee camps, which will generate money to help support education scholarships, school feedings, faith-based observances, and community needs. In this way, we wonʼt have to depend on donors here in the USA to keep programs going in Ethiopia and South Sudan - although we still appreciate and accept any and all donations!
This model was already in practice on a smaller-scale in Doro Refugee Camp. Back in 2016, when we went to South Sudan, we started a local shop run by our UHI team in Doro with only $500. The shop sells salt, sugar, and tea which are in high demand in Doro. The proceeds go towards needs in the community. The local UHI team has the ability to decide based on their needs how they will use the money as it relates to UHIʼs three pillars of education, faith, and community development. Our Board provides guidance to the team on the best ways to use the proceeds.
Our plan is to start the same type of stores in the other three camps in Ethiopia that will generate revenue for community needs under UHIʼs pillars. We are optimistic that this model will allow the refugee communities to be self-sufficient and have a sustainable source of support, not solely dependent on our busy schedules and the unpredictable nature of donations.
We're expanding the store-model to the USA as well, and I'm so excited about this next initiative which was one of my dreams from over a year ago! Here in Rochester, we will hold "pop-up thrift shop" events to sell gently-used clothing and household items to our local community. Half of the proceeds will go toward Uduk Hope (pouring back into the refugee-camp stores and initiatives). The other half will go toward supporting our churchʼs Bible Quizzing team! Liasor and I are leading the Bible Quizzing team at Heart & Soul Community Church. Liasor participated in bible quizzing when he was younger, but it is a new program to me. Basically itʼs just as it sounds: Itʼs for youth in middle and high school who want to memorize passages of Scripture in a fun, and competitive way. Itʼs been such a thrill coaching our team of 7 students together. Right now we're focused on memorizing passages from Jonah and Luke. Our first competition is tomorrow!
But back to the pop-up shop: Itʼs called a "pop-up" because we will open our store periodically in different locations and communities around Rochester, and maybe in other cities in the future. Our first pop-up shop is next month at Heart & Soul Community Church! Check out the flyer below. If you are in town, please consider stopping by! You can also help by donating clothes and spreading the word! A great portion of items in the shop come from our own wardrobes as we've decided to be the first to donate to this cause. :)
I've always dreamed of running a boutique, and this feels like the best way to do that for the best reasons - at a schedule we can control. And it doubles as a way for me to clear out my closet and be a blessing to others!
New Initiative: beyondBeanie Ambassador
I'm also excited to announce a new initiative that I was chosen for. I'm now an ambassador for an organization called beyondBeanie. Itʼs a social fashion brand that combines fashion with solidarity. Each purchase supports the work of 23 talented artisans from El Alto, La Paz, and Cochabamba, Bolivia. The proceeds go toward providing essentials such as school meals, school supplies, school uniforms, and dental care to children who need it.
Check out their awesome handmade beanies, bags, bracelets, and ponchos at my personal ambassador link:
Use the code CHRISTINE25 to get 25% off any purchases!
•1 beanie = 5 meals •1 bracelet = 1 dental care
Another big update: Thereʼs a church in Salt Lake City with many Uduk members that has completed the translation of the Jesus Film into ʼTwam Pa, the Uduk language. The Jesus Film is the story of the Gospel told through film. Itʼs been an ongoing interest to have the film translated into ʼTwam Pa and that project has finally been completed.
Leaders from the church reached out to Liasor to request that he take copies of the film along with projectors and sound equipment to the refugee camps in Ethiopia, on a fully-funded mission. They knew that he had traveled to Ethiopia around this time last year and they know he has access to the refugee camps. So he heads there in December.
We're excited that he was chosen for this opportunity and we're hoping that I can come for a portion of the trip to visit him, if I can work out the vacation time at work. While in Ethiopia, he'll also have the chance to get the Uduk Hope local stores started in Sherkole, Tsore, and Tongo Refugee Camps.
On his way back to Rochester, Liasor will have a short stop (about a week) in Oxford, England to do more work with Dr. Wendy James on the translation project. It will be a rich time indeed. This all works out well with Liasorʼs teaching schedule here in Rochester, so that is a true blessing!
The difficulty will be spending a period of time apart again.
Please pray that everything works out for me to visit Liasor for a portion of his time in Ethiopia.
Life in General:
Life in general has been good. Liasor has been busy teaching, coaching soccer, and leading Bible Quizzing with me. We decorated the house with pumpkins, flowers, and scented pine cones this week and it officially feels like my favorite season. Oh, how I love fall!
I had a month away from work before transitioning to my new job. That month was a sweet period of spending time with people I love, learning new recipes, making our home nice and cozy, and going on small adventures around Rochester. I got to go on a retreat with the women at my church, which was refreshing. That resting period has prepared me to re-enter the office-life with renewed energy and excitement. My month break was also a huge leap of faith, because my contract ended at my former job while I was still waiting to hear back from this current role. I'm counting every blessing because I was not chosen for the position I applied for at first here in my office, but my current position was created so that I could also join the team. I'm immensely honored and content. My position is temporary with an end date in the summer, but I trust God that He already has plans for what the next season holds - whether that means a renewed contract or another leap of faith! But today - yes today - His grace is sufficient and I need not worry about the future - what I will eat, what I will wear, where I will work. Instead of worrying, I offer gratitude for this exciting work experience here in the present.
No matter what happens, I'm in awe of just how this new season is saturated with blessings. These blessings come with their fair share of difficulties, growing pains, and lessons learned. But after the dry season of so much searching, figuring things out, and uncertain late night prayers - this rain sure feels good.
Indeed, there is a cloud beginning to swell.