A Word To Start 2019

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Our challenge in this life is constant yet simple: How can I love God with all my heart, soul, and strength? And how does that look as we live and love others in the real world?

 This is the core of what we do at Hope Smiles. This is the question we are continually asking ourselves each day with our 24 (!) team members in Uganda. This is the filter through which we interpret our circumstances. Today, what does it mean to use the time, talent, and gifts I’ve been given to love God and others?

 This is the question we would like to tackle alongside you!

 We have found the answer, like the question, is simple yet profound.

 The start of a new year always comes with time for reflection. This is especially true for us here in Uganda. We close the clinic for a week and our team members take the opportunity to visit their home villages to spend time with their families. Like all holiday time (we hope this is true for you!), it’s been restorative for us.

 As we’ve started 2019, one word has emerged after our holiday: ENGAGE.

 We want to deeply, whole-heartedly ENGAGE the lives God has given us.

 That is how we love God. That is how we love others.

 The answer is simple, but not easy.


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I’m writing this to you after welcoming our 4th baby boy – Jordan -- into our family on December 27th. We actually are in British Columbia visiting my wife Alicia’s family – first time in over 4 years! Alicia was a champion as usual, and Jordan’s older brothers have been incredible. AND WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF TO DO! Our family is integrating this new life into our troop, I’m doing everything I can to embrace the challenges and opportunities we have in front of us at Hope Smiles…while also balancing time with friends and family around the world.

 If I’m not careful, this can turn into a burden.

Life becomes about what I do, and not about God and others. A checklist I complete. I don’t know about you, but this can become a default setting for me if I’m not careful.

 But what this new life for our family (and the new year for our team at Hope Smiles) has brought is a gratitude for the gifts God has given us. The tears when I held Jordan for the first time, the tears as I saw Alicia hold him for the first time, the tears when I watched Jamil and Grace (his oldest brothers) hold him for the first time – life truly is miraculous.

Too often we turn our gifts in life into burdens. Work. Household chores. Family. Friends. Exercising…or whatever is on your list…I mean, we are BUSY busy! And I’m OK with that. I like it. I like when life has stakes. God has called us to lead incredible lives, glorifying Him, using the imagination and freedom we’ve given to wholeheartedly LOVE the world He has placed us in.

 I’ve found that’s going to make me each day full. Extremely full.

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 The challenge for all of us in 2019 and beyond is intentionally ENGAGING the roles God has for us. Am I authentically loving my wife? What am I doing today to make sure my boys know deep in their bones that they are loved unconditionally? Does each and every person coming into contact with Hope Smiles know we are heading somewhere special?

 Where in your life do you need to ENGAGE?

 How are my actions – most importantly my heart intentions behind those actions -- revealing what I believe about God?

 For me, it looks something like this: Learn more about God early each morning through His word. Allow it to shape my heart, mind, and soul. Recognize that God’s grace, love, mercy, and joy are new each day – just like Jordan’s life was on December 27. Each day can be like that. But also recognize suffering and sacrifice are how Jesus won those for me. Suffering and sacrifice will be part of engaging.

 Plan the day, making the most of the time God has given me.

 And finally, move out into the world and see what is possible.

 This will be a lifelong journey. We will fail. We will need to repent. We will triumph. God WILL refine our character through it all.

 So as we move through 2019, let’s fully engage the world around us. Let’s embrace all areas of our lives. Let’s awaken the sleeping parts within us. Don’t go on autopilot.


Ryan Shinska