Hey Friends!

I’m hoping this update finds your year off to a great start. I know this update is a little sooner than I usually send, but God has been at work in sweet ways and I wanted to let you share in delighting in seeing His Spirit at work. Others have been emailing asking questions wondering how things are!
This Christmas season these two passages stood out to me:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy… For you have broken the burden and the staff of his shoulder...” “For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud… He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped His Servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy.” (Excerpts from Isaiah 9:26 & Luke 1:49-54)
We have seen God at work breaking the darkness bringing light and freedom!
Those of you who follow me on Facebook, know that in early December, I put up a prayer request for one of the young boys I’ve been mentoring. I had seen his heart become more and more tender to the things of Jesus. He memorized verses by the dozen, would sit on my back porch asking question after question, and he was reading the bible enthusiastically. However, one day he came to me with a heart full of fear and grief as he had been chosen and marked in a witch doctor ceremony by his clan to die (in an attempt to appease the spirits to give the clan to get more material wealth). He was terrified, my heart was grieved. I talked and prayed with him, printed Psalm 27 for him (he immediately began to memorize it). I shared with him the testimony of some of the others I knew who had faced similar challenges, and encouraged him to talk with them as well.
One December evening, one of these friends had the opportunity to counsel and encourage this young man. (See photo directly below!) That evening He prayed and confessed Jesus and became a child of God. It was a sweet-sweet thing! The fear was removed from his heart as he was now a child of God. I see this same young man fervently growing in his faith, his countenance has totally changed. He is facing intense persecution and abandonment by his uncle who has acted as this orphans guardian. He is beaten if he is found out to have attended fellowship or reading his Bible. His uncle withholds food from him, yet He has continued to grow and pursue knowing Jesus. We have tried to figure out ways for him to be less “irritating” to his Muslim uncle, yet still faithful to Jesus. Someone had given me a Bible stick (USB sized MP3 device with the New Testament on it) He has now been listening to that for hours each day. The week he was saved he shared that he had visited the village where other relatives stay and had given the gospel to them, recited memory verses, and read to them from his Lubwisi Bible: "Laura, they liked it so much!"  I think he might just be a future evangelist :) We are praising Jesus for His work! 

Yesterday I held back the tears as we sat after eating lunch together on my back-porch swings and he read Psalm 119 out loud to me. (Read it yourself from the perspective of a young boy who is learning the sweetness of God’s Word, yet crying out to God for deliverance from those who are persecuting him.) Thank you all for your prayers for this young man—please keep praying for his continued growth and protection. We are happy to report that God has provided a way (with his Uncles approval!) and a few weeks ago he began attending a Christian Boarding School some distance away which will provide relief for him and also allow him to receive the care and education he needs! 

Before Christmas, a young man joined our church’s worship choir. Unknown to the church, he was actually a witch doctor of sorts and had delivered souls to the devil. Evil voices had told him to join the church because he would gain access to people there whom they thought he could influence. After Christmas during a day retreat, he came under conviction and confessed His need for Christ as well as confessing who he really was. However, the leaders, including a young believing friend of mine, determined that he first needed to burn his materials and charms and it was soon evidenced that he was possessed. On New Year’s Eve through prayer and intercession before God, this young man was delivered from the Kingdom of Satan and entered the kingdom of light! I’m so thankful to begin seeing the generation of young people who have come to know Christ through the work here being used to further Christ’s kingdom!
The Christmas concert by the library children went well, although differently than expected. On the day of the concert as the children were making final preparations, the Ugandan army, approximately 12 miles away from us, entered a firefight with rebels on the Congo side of the border. The sound of this significant exchange of fire was quite a contrast in comparison to the cheerful voices of hope and our children singing “joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
I told my Mom that somehow, although we sing Silent Night each Christmas, I have a feeling that Bethlehem wasn’t really all that peaceful either! Thank you to those who have expressed concern and have prayed for us with the increased action on this side of the world. (I also know some of you panicked around Christmas when you read the news and couldn’t get me to respond due to the cell service being disrupted.) Continue to pray for peace. We are told that we are safe here, and we truly are safe in God’s will. I’m getting used to seeing military vehicles & tanks, and I'm trying to feel comfortable with hundreds of soldiers passing through town with RPG’s slung over their shoulders (but, that's still not "normal" to me yet!) 

When the action was intense I reached out to a dear Ugandan friend and very well-connected government official to see if she could give us good advice. She confirmed that we are safe where we are at this time. I loved what she said: “Laura, who knows maybe those children you are leading to Jesus will be the people to bring peace in the area since they are absorbing the peace of God that passes all understanding.” Amen LOVE this!

I was personally blessed by two different friends who around Christmas affirmed God’s hand and leading on my life, which was a sweet encouragement. One Ugandan friend said they had received a vision showing that I was leaving homes here in Bundibugyo very beautiful and safe—“Laura, it is as if you had installed small security alarm boxes” (which I interpreted to be the Word of God and His Spirit keeping these young ones safe in Jesus?!) I also had a dear friend and fellow missionary who has walked through some of the grey days of this last year with me, tell me that she was seeing God’s Spirit on me making me more beautiful as I have responded to trials and tests. These things have been special blessings from God encouraging me. I’m thankful for all He has sent my way this last year.  
Continue to pray with me regarding God’s leading for the future as I finish my current term this year. Pray that my heart, mind, and arms would be wide open and that He would make plain the paths of my feet. I don’t anticipate making any final decisions until I’m home on furlough at the end of this year, but pray that God would continue to work out His will and lead our hearts.
Thank you, dear friends for your continued prayers, support, and encouragement—know that God is at work. He is alive and well, He is faithful, and I’m excited to see what He will do this next year!
With much love,