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?