Behind the Scenes Worship: Our Own Home

She was timid but had a smile that spoke the depths of her heart.

I had been with the African Children’s Choir six months when a new Auntie joined our ranks. Holly’s sweet spirit and kind heart endeared her quickly to the members of our team. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. She loved teaching the kids, and as a dancer, she taught some different moves to our rhythmically gifted children. She always had a servant’s heart, and was always looking out for ways to help others. She truly lived out Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Holly and I bonded quickly. She shared of growing up in Wyoming, and how she had seen the African Children’s Choir at a young age. After the concert, she told her mother she was going to move to Africa one day. I don’t know if her mom realized how prophetic those words would become, but that was the dream that fueled much of Holly’s life after that.

Holly and I bonded even further when we were asked to go to another choir to help them start their tour. It was a tough decision to leave our kids, but Holly and I felt certain that God was leading us. One sad morning, she and I climbed into a stranger’s van on our way to the airport and a new adventure. I was a mess, sobbing and using up half a box of Kleenex. Holly was deeply saddened, but a lot stronger than me.
We entered into our new adventure excitedly, and found a new group of kids to love on. I figured we’d both stay with this choir for many months to come, but within six months, Holly was asked to join another choir. She once again felt God leading her. I was sad to watch my friend go, but so impressed at her faith.
We kept in touch through e-mail. Her long time vision of going to Africa was soon fulfilled. Her new choir was wrapping up their tour and heading home to Uganda. Holly went with them.
She’s been there ever since.
After landing in Uganda and helping her last choir get adjusted to life back home, Holly found some volunteer work in a nearby town called Jinja. There was an orphanage there, Amani Baby Cottage, and she jumped right in, gladly loving on these abandoned babies and children.
Meanwhile, I wrapped up my time on tour and went home. A few months later, I had the chance to go back to Uganda. While there, I saw Holly. I traveled with another choir chaperone. When Holly saw us, she enveloped us with big bear hugs. She proudly showed us around the beautiful town of Jinja, and my jaw dropped as I watched her ride a boda boda side saddle. (A boda boda is a small motorcycle used for public transportation. Local women ride side saddle, something I never could work up the nerve to do.) She even expertly haggled the price with the drivers, refusing to be taken advantage of. That timid girl I had met years ago had grown up into a confident young woman. I was so impressed.
She introduced us to her new children at the orphanage, and I was amazed at the work the volunteers did. It took lots of patience and love. I don’t know if I could have done it.
God was still working in Holly’s heart. She felt a burden for AIDS orphans. So she did something about it. She bought a house and began to turn it into her dream; a place for AIDS orphans to call home: Our Own Home.
While we were there, Holly took us to the house, which was still being remodeled and made ready for the children. The workers there greeted Holly with hugs and big smiles. I could tell how much they loved and respected her. The place was beautiful. Even though there were no children under that roof yet, I knew it was going to be amazing.
That was six years ago. Holly and I kept in touch through e-mail and Facebook. She continued to build up Our Own Home. She met and married a local Ugandan. They have two children of their own, along with the fifty or so other children they care for. Two of my fellow chaperones from tour visited and told me of how well she and Our Own Home were doing.
Unfortunately, life happened, and we fell out of touch for a bit. I still thought of Holly often. When I decided to start this Behind the Scenes Worship series, she was one of the first people I thought of. I looked on Facebook, but because of not great internet there and her busy schedule, she hadn’t had a chance to update much. So I googled “Our Own Home.” I found the website, and was amazed at what I saw.
This place is incredible. Holly took this small house and turned it into a beautiful home for these children that otherwise would have no place to go. I sent Holly an e-mail through the website. She replied, telling me how well they are doing. They’re in the process of building up a new property, because they’ve outgrown the one they have. If you’d like information on how to donate to this building project, click here.
I am so proud of Holly. A vision planted in her young heart has grown into an amazing ministry. I know Holly’s heart. She does all of this out of worship and her love for God. In her last e-mail, she stated:
It is hard to think of myself as someone who is worshiping in an unconventional way, because the path that brought OOH <Our Own Home> into existence was so much God’s making and not my own!  I was so scared to do this when He first started putting it on my heart.  To be honest, I didn’t think I wanted to do it!  The thought of being responsible for children’s lives, the fear of exposure to HIV (I didn’t know much about it then), and the reluctance to dedicate my life to staying in Uganda (culture shock had given me a hard time and I didn’t like the country much at first), all of those were factors that concerned me.  But, it was HIM, so how could I say no?  Then God started opening the doors in remarkable ways and, where else do any of us want to be except right where He is working?  He has been so good and I feel so blessed to be a witness to His work in these kids’ lives.  Maybe it will encourage someone reading your blog to know that God does not exclusively use individuals who are so bold and courageous on their own, but His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
I hope that you find encouragement from Holly’s story, and I hope you will visit her website to see all the things that Our Own Home is doing in Uganda.
Do you know someone who is worshiping behind the scenes? Leave a comment or send me a message via the contact page.

Behind the Scenes Worship: Auntie Ruth

For this month’s Behind the Scenes Worship series, I am rerunning a blog I wrote last year about one of my absolute favorite people in the world. 


Auntie Ruth is the type of person who makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world. I first met her in 2004, when I traveled to Uganda to begin my journey with the African Children’s Choir. She is one of those truly selfless people that you’re so thankful are still in this world.

Auntie Ruth gave up her bedroom so three clueless Americans could have a comfortable, private place to sleep. Her bed was a simple mattress covered in mosquito netting. She called it her princess bed.

When I walked into that house on my first day in Africa, exhausted, overwhelmed, and wide-eyed, Auntie Ruth welcomed me with open arms. I instantly felt at home and at peace.

When I returned to Uganda three years later, I wasn’t sure if she would remember me. Lots of westerners grace the door of that house. I was prepared to reintroduce myself. Before I could set my bag down, she flew across the room and enveloped me in a huge hug.

Oh, my auntie has returned!”

Auntie Ruth lives and works at the training facility in Makindye, Uganda, on the outskirts of Kampala. The two-story house comfortably sleeps about 30 people. When children are chosen to tour with the African Children’s Choir, they come to that house for several months to prepare. The children are housed, fed, and taught there. The main room serves as a schoolroom, rehearsal space, and dining hall. The space is well used.

Auntie Ruth prepares food for everyone in the training facility. She makes the best Chapati in Uganda. Chapati is a grilled flatbread that is common in several African countries. It soon became my favorite Ugandan delicacy, and I waited in anticipation when I smelled her cooking it.

She cooks outdoors, over open flames in big iron pots. Each meal takes several hours to prepare. No one in that house ever goes hungry, and those kids eat A LOT. She insists that each visitor take a heaping portion, even if you insist that you’re not that hungry. She even saves the good meat for you. Auntie Ruth makes sure you are well cared for while you are in her home.

I wondered why she would go to bed by 8:00 p.m. most nights, if not earlier. She told me that she awoke at 3:00 a.m. each morning. She had to start on breakfast by at least 5:00. I asked her what she did with those two hours before breakfast preparation.

Auntie Ruth gave me one of her sweet smiles and said, “I pray.”

Two hours in prayer. I cannot fathom spending this kind of time praying. I get antsy after just a few minutes of prayer time, and this humble, beautiful African woman spent two whole hours each day with her Lord and Savior. It explains why she is ever joyful, always smiling, and so able to put other’s needs above her own.

This is the kind of faith I long for. Her simple trust in Jesus continues to inspire and haunt me.

Is there an “Auntie Ruth” if your life?

Behind the Scenes Worship: Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself

James Barnett is one of those people of which I am proud to say, “I know him!”

And yet, as much as I love this guy, I hate reading his tweets. I hate them because they convict me. James is the kind of Christian that is really living this Christian life; not just talking about it.

I ran into James one day a few years back as my husband and I took a walk at a local park. He was sitting on a picnic bench, staring into space with a journal on his lap. We chatted briefly, and I couldn’t help but notice that he seemed troubled. Later I found out why.

James grew up in a Christian home, went to church and followed all the rules. He went to college and landed a job with an almost six-figure salary. Although a faithful Christian with some great things happening in his life, something was missing.

During a mission trip to Nicaragua, his life was forever changed. There, in the middle of a dump, he met a prophetess named Mrs. Ruby. She lived among the people at the dump, praying over them.

Kneeling before her, she poured oil on his head and spoke in tongues. Then she spoke these words:

Child, the Lord wants you to know you haven’t been obedient.

He was a bit upset at this, as he’d been a good Christian all his life. How had he not been obedient?

She responded:

My child, your obedience isn’t defined by what you don’t do, but by what you do for the world your God so loved.

These words stuck with James, and he made a radical decision that still amazes me. He quit his job, sold all his possessions and began to live on the street with the homeless. Living out of a van, he did his best to serve the displaced and downtrodden that crossed his path every day.

He gave out clothing, but soon ran out. As a graphic design major, he designed a t-shirt that simply said: Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself. He began to sell them, giving all the profits back to the homeless. That simple t-shirt design has grown into an official non-profit and the word is spreading. I even saw one in Nashville, walking into a Cracker Barrel!

After his time on the streets, James worked as a youth pastor. But he has once again been called to live on the streets. This week, he will move to Atlanta and minister to the homeless while he continues to run Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself. He tells of his decision to return to the streets here.

James’s willingness to step out on faith inspires me greatly. I am amazed at his bravery, his love and his heart. He is the sort of Christian that I aspire to be. I just don’t know if I have the guts to live out my faith the way he does.

Check out the t-shirts and apparel at Clothe Your Neighbor as Yourself. Also be sure to read James’s blog, or follow him on Twitter. I also recommend booking James to speak at your church or organization. He will definitely convict and challenge you.

Do you know someone who is worshiping behind the scenes? Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail via the contact page. I’d love to share their story.

Behind the Scenes Worship

It’s time to take the focus off of me.

I’ve spent the last year processing why worship music isn’t so worshipful for me anymore. And while that has been therapeutic, I’m tired of dwelling on it. There will still be some processing posts, but I’m really excited about a new idea.

I’ve led worship on stage in front of crowds of people. I’ve also worshiped with sudsy water up to my elbows, washing potatoes for crowds of people. I gotta say… those “behind the scenes” worship times are my favorite.

Musical worship is great. But it’s not the only avenue to worship.

I am inspired by stories of people who worship behind the scenes, off the stage or even out of the sanctuary. People who aren’t doing it for the glory or attention or warm fuzzies. People who are doing it for the sheer love of their Savior.

I want to share some of those stories. Not to bring glory to the people, but to remind us of the many ways there are to worship. To remind me that it’s ridiculous to get caught up in the drama of “I don’t like this song.”

I’m hoping to share one story a month. I’m looking for people who are serving and worshiping God in unconventional ways. If you know of someone, let me know. Leave a comment, or use the contact tab (A small disclaimer… I was horrified to realize that some of those e-mails sent via the contact tab have been sent to my spam folder. I’ve rectified that, but my sincere apologies if I ignored a question from someone.)

Worship is so much bigger and wider than I think it is. I try to assign boundaries to it and fit it into a neat little box.

I want to blow those boundaries up.

Will you join me?