an end + a beginning

•April 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

All good things must come to an end… to make way for something BETTER!

What this means is that this blog is now officially closed. I will keep it up as a reminder and a testimony to all that God has done in my life from April 2008 to April 2011. I have so much to be thankful to God for and I never want to forget the blessings, provision, and growth of these beautiful years.

My new season is being married to my wonderful husband, Kevin, and living in Sydney, Australia. There is so much ‘new’ and I’m doing my best to embrace it and jump right in. It’s been a transition, for sure, but I’m looking forward to the years ahead, filled with purpose and vision. My prayer for you is that you don’t miss out on the joys and lessons of the season you are currently in. I know that it can be tiring and frustrating at moments, but God is ALWAYS in control. Momentary troubles are nothing in light of eternity with our heavenly Father.

That leads me to ask you a question… are you spending eternity with God in heaven? If you have any question about that, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’m never too busy to talk this through with you. It’s way too important. It’s the ONE thing in life that really matters — a relationship with Jesus Christ — the only way to the Father and the HOPE of eternity in heaven. Truly, if you aren’t certain of this in your heart, everything else should take a backseat until you know this without question. Please don’t put it off until tomorrow. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, but eternity is real and I want you in heaven with me and Jesus. 🙂

To keep up with the life and times of the Lingberries, subscribe to our new blog: http://www.thelingberries.com. Love you all. The journey continues!

wedding trailer

•February 2, 2011 • 4 Comments

Here’s a sneak peek at our wedding video — I can hardly believe now I’m Mrs. Ling!

You can watch a larger version HERE.

 

i’m moving to sydney!

•December 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Yes, it’s true… Sydney is moving to Sydney 🙂 If you’ll be in the Austin area on Wednesday, December 29th, please come by and say hello! And goodbye! I’ll be with my soon-to-be hubby Kevin who is amazing [okay, maybe I’m a little biased… but everyone else seems to think so, too!] Hehe.

I will be posting more updates after our wedding on January 8th and when we get settled in Sydney. Wedding planning, holidays, and moving has kept me pretty busy! I pray you are all having a lovely Christmas season and that 2011 holds new and beautiful things for each of you!

Much love ~ Sydney

watoto restore tour: an unforgettable experience

•October 12, 2010 • 4 Comments

Last night at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, TX, I experienced the Watoto ‘Restore Tour: Child Soldier No More’ production for the very first time. My anticipation had been building for months. The wait was finally over.

Gary Skinner, Watoto Co-Founder, opened the evening with a prayer and asked that everyone open their hearts, eyes, and ears in preparation for the story they were about to hear. While the story is one of unimaginable loss and tragedy, it is also one of unrelenting hope, forgiveness, and restoration.

The production began with a powerful media presentation that led into vibrant drumming, bright colors, joyous sounds, and families going about their daily activities – an image I knew very well from my time living in Uganda.

I tried to maintain my composure as I watched the young men and women on stage, many of whom had been abducted into Joseph Kony’s rebel army as a child soldier or sex slave, depict a scene of a northern Ugandan village being attacked by the LRA. Murder. Rape. Destruction. Despair. My heart felt as though it was being ripped from my chest.

I stepped into their past, even if just for a brief moment. I shared in their pain of losing an uncle, a cousin, a sibling… Or worse, the overwhelming guilt of killing their own parents. How does one overcome such a history, plagued with untold acts and despair beyond comparison? One word:

The tears came on strong as I thought about my own life. I took a moment to meditate on the gift of grace as these beautiful young people shared their own stories – stories of forgiveness: both of their captors and of themselves.

God did not leave these children in the bush to be forgotten and, consequently, their stories to be forgotten with them. No. They were here – this night – thousands of miles from home in Dallas, Texas, pouring their hearts and voices out in worship of the God that brought them out of captivity into a marvelous light. The joy and freedom they now experience emanated from the stage. Like a wave, the audience rose in worship and joined the children in a chorus proclaiming the truth of God’s word:

“Our God is greater, Our God is stronger;
God, You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in power;
Our God, Our God.”

(Chorus of ‘Our God’ by Chris Tomlin on ‘Passion: Awakening’. Used by permission.)

Freedom rang loudly throughout the auditorium. Stories like these confuse our world. How can such joy come after such unbearable pain? The children and young adults that were on stage have literally been through hell and back again. Watoto has picked them up and provided them a new beginning. Their hope is not found in what this world can offer. They know that riches or fame will never bring them satisfaction in this life. Their hope is in Jesus Christ alone, and that is the message they are traveling the world to share – a message our hurt and broken world desperately needs to hear.

Words do little justice to describe the impact this experience has had on my own life. I was reminded again of why I have committed my life to sharing the Watoto story with the world. But, beyond that, of why I have committed my life to follow Christ for the rest of my days, living with a hope not in what has passed, but in what is to come.

I have some VERY EXCITING NEWS for those of you who haven’t yet experienced this once-in-a-lifetime event: The tour isn’t over yet!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 13th at 7pm, the team will be performing at Shoreline Church in north Austin. You don’t want to miss this epic night of storytelling by the former child soldiers and abductees themselves. I pray you will join me and bring everyone you know! Please note that the production contains graphic content and parents are strongly advised not to bring children 12 and under.

If you don’t live in Austin, the US leg of the tour will be going for 2 more weeks through Springfield, Tulsa, El Paso, Chandler, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle. Check out www.restoretour.com for tour information and to learn more about Watoto’s life-changing work to bring restoration and healing to the people of northern Uganda. For the full Watoto story, visit www.watoto.com.

Thank you all for reading and I hope this story won’t stop here, but that you will step into the story as I have. It has changed my life and I know that it will forever change yours as well.

All photos in this post were taken by myself, Sydney Berry, and are © 2010 Watoto.

watoto camp 2010

•September 22, 2010 • 1 Comment

August was an incredibly full month in the life of Sydney Berry [soon to be Sydney Berry Ling – woo!] Here are some highlights and stories I’d like to share with you all from my volunteer trip with Pine Cove to Uganda. We went to help prepare for Watoto Camp 2010. It was my first time back since leaving in June 2009 and it felt as though I had never left. Here’s what we got up to on the trip!

First off, I have to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who gave towards my trip. The trip was absolutely amazing. Words really don’t do it justice, so I’ll be including quite a few photos in this post. You can also read a more detailed account of the trip by visiting the Pine Cove Missions Blog HERE.

I joined with 2 families [the Bice family and the Anderson family] as well as a former Pine Cove staff member, Kyndell. All members of the team had some experience with Christian camping, whether at Pine Cove or Kanakuk Camps. We had a great mix and I loved getting to know everyone on the team.

After arriving and getting settled in at the guesthouse, we had an orientation meeting to meet the Watoto Camp leadership and a few other Watoto team leaders. It was an excellent time of learning and hearing about the preparation and purpose of Watoto Camp. Watoto Camp happens once a year, typically in August, for one week and allows Watoto children [former orphans] between the ages of 8-14 to get outside of their normal environment for a time of fun and spiritual nourishment. The week involves times of praise and worship, object lessons, indoor and outdoor games, crafts, and other fun activities for the kids.

We didn’t have much time to do everything we had set out to do, but everyone had a great attitude and we worked together as a team. For me, I learned so much about myself and how to let go of how I want things to be and realize that everyone has great things to offer to the group. I was so impressed with everyone on the team, particularly the kids! They worked as hard, if not harder, than the adults!

Samantha & Alex — They did a great job with the bracelets!

Me & Manuela — Manuela was the art director for camp and she was incredible! She worked so hard… I was definitely challenged and encouraged by her throughout the week.

Our goal was to prepare the decorations for Watoto Camp [with the help of volunteers and camp facilitators] as well as prepare and teach the facilitators the crafts they would do with the kids for the week. There were many logistics to be sorted. While shopping for supplies and the actual implementation was a bit crazy, everything worked out great in the end.

I had the tremendous blessing of getting to visit with the young lady at Watoto that I sponsor, Saphina. We didn’t get much time to spend together, but I was able to give her a hug, encourage her, and give her a small gift with a letter. I am always so thankful to be part of her life and that she is part of mine. We are forever linked and I know that God has great plans for her future.

I also got to visit my little buddy, Moses, at the new babies’ home in Suubi village. He always has a big smile on his face and he is talking up a storm now! He is precious. 🙂

Here is Stephanie with Maria and another Watoto Camp volunteer with one of the paper maché ants that we made. Black with pink polka dots… We definitely were getting creative. Check out the one in the back in her blue polka dot dress talking on her cell phone! The theme for Watoto Camp this year was ‘Watoto Ant Kingdom’ with the main message being on service.

I stayed a week longer than the rest of the team and had the chance to see all of the decorations implemented at camp. Here are a few shots of Watoto Camp in action!

There are some other highlights from my time in Uganda, but I will save that for another post. Until then… God bless! Remember that today is a gift and you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Make the most of today.

With love,

Sydney

engaged!

•July 14, 2010 • 8 Comments

It’s true… I’m freshly engaged! And to the most amazing man I know. His name is Kevin Hezekiah Ling and he is absolutely the love of my life. I couldn’t be happier 🙂

Photo by Dustin Ling

Just a quick version of the engagement story: On Sunday, July 11, 2010, I arrived in Sydney, Australia — Kevin’s hometown and current city of residence. It was almost exactly one year ago to the day that we met. A few days passed which involved meeting Kev’s family [who are awesome!], meeting Kev’s friends [again. awesome!] and just catching up on some much needed Syd/Kev time.

On Wednesday, we spent the morning at Kevin’s house with his sister and adorable little niece Allegra. It was a nice, lazy morning just enjoying each other’s company and laughing at Allegra’s hilarious expressions and jibberish outbursts.

As we arrived back to the house for lunch, Kev asked me to sit in his room for a bit and said he’d be right back. I wasn’t exactly sure what was up, but I waited patiently, listening to a little music and resting my eyes. When he got back, he had a towel and a bucket of warm water. He kneeled in front of me at the edge of the bed, rolled up my jeans a bit and took each foot to the water with a washcloth. Here is what he said as he washed my feet [paraphrased of course]:

“Jesus, though the very Son of God, came as a servant. He humbled himself and washed the feet of His disciples. They knew they weren’t worthy to have Jesus wash their feet, but they gracefully accepted His gesture of humility, servant leadership and unconditional love. Sydney, will you let me serve you the rest of our lives together by being my wife?”

Well… what would you say? 🙂

i’m still alive!

•June 8, 2010 • 3 Comments

This past Sunday, June 6th, I participated in my very first triathlon. It was an amazing experience! Check out my last post to read more about the Danskin Sprint Triathlon and my decision to take part. It’s not too late to give to my upcoming volunteer trip to Uganda! Details on how to give online or by mail are in the last post.

Now, here’s how the day went:

In the wee early hours of the morning, my wonderful friend Rachel picked me up from my apartment and we headed towards Decker Lake in far east Austin. Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the parking area where I boarded the bus bound for the transition area.

I was in the mixed age group and had the honor of donning a lovely red swim cap. I ended up being in the very last wave [group] to start, so we didn’t get going until about 8am. There was a great vibe with encouraging emcees, cheering and lots of “girl power”. Yep, the Danskin is women only… for which I am grateful.

Before the race started, everyone was writing their bib number on their arms and thighs. We also put our ages on the back of one of our legs. I was mightily impressed with some of the women in the race! There were women well into their 50s and 60s. I hope I’m in that great of shape when I’m their age.

As I was getting my numbers tattooed across my body, I found the perfect spot to share why I was running the race: 4WATOTO on my forearm. I was racing for the children and I had a few opportunities to tell people about the incredible work Watoto does changing lives in Uganda. The marker even stayed on for a couple of days and I got lots of questions about them. Part of me wanted to keep writing numbers on my arms so people would ask me about them. 🙂

The swim and bike went pretty smoothly. Once I got to the run, most of the women were walking. I couldn’t really blame them. The first two parts of the race were tiring! But I wanted to at least try to run the last part, so I picked up the pace after a little rest and started to make some good time. While I was on my merry way, I came across a young girl who was clearly frustrated. I had seen her walking her bike and knew that something wasn’t going as planned. I introduced myself and learned that she was a high school senior that was doing the race with her mom.

Her name was Janelle and she was from Zachary, Louisiana, not too far from where I grew up. She had issues with clipping her shoes to her bike, thus the frustration. As we talked, I learned that she had a heart condition and her doctors had encouraged her not to partake in much physical activity. She had already challenged them on that by being an avid soccer player, but finishing a tri would be her next step to overcoming the stigma of her condition. Her countenance changed soon after we began talking, joking around and laughing. I was thankful to find a friend to complete the race with. We both ran to the finish line and finished strong.

At the finish, I met Janelle’s mom and congratulated them both. Then, I found Rachel and got a victory picture from one of the pro photographers. It felt pretty good to accomplish something I’ve been wanting to do for years. Now, I just need to keep it up! Thanks for coming along with me on my triathlon journey and I hope that you are encouraged.

If you would still like to give towards my upcoming volunteer trip to Uganda

“For nothing is impossible with God.” ~ Luke 1:37

heading back to uganda + the danskin tri

•June 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

Hello Friends!

As many of you know, I returned last August to the US after spending a year working with Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. [That’s me and my mom in Watoto’s Bbira Village near Kampala, Uganda, with our awesome sponsored Watoto kids]. It was a life-changing year and my heart has grown leaps and bounds for the precious people of Uganda – particularly those whose future has been ripped away by a senseless civil war or preventable diseases. The situation there, though dire, is not void of hope. This was clearly shown to me through the life-giving work of Watoto. It has been an honor working for this incredible organization. I have continued my work with Watoto here in the US as the Marketing Coordinator. The last 9 months have certainly been busy, but I wouldn’t change one second of it.

This upcoming August, I will be returning to Uganda with a team from Pine Cove Christian Camps in Tyler, TX. It has been amazing to see Pine Cove, an organization that has had a deep impact on me from high school onward, come alongside Watoto in supporting its vision to rescue the most vulnerable children and raise them up as future leaders. This trip will be the first of what we hope will be many, building relationship between the two organizations and linking God’s heart for future leaders in His kingdom, both here in the US and in Africa. Our main goal during the 10-day trip will be to bless the leaders of Watoto Camp, encourage them in the work they are doing and help prepare for the coming week of camp. Over 800 Watoto children, former orphans, between the ages of 8-18 will attend the camp. The team will also be spending some time in the Watoto villages, with the children and mothers, and at the Baby Watoto home for abandoned babies. You can read more about Pine Cove Missions here and One:8 trips here.

The total cost of my upcoming trip to Uganda is $3,000 which will cover airfare, accommodation, meals, transportation, camp prep materials and support for other camp expenses. I would like to extend to you the opportunity to come alongside me in this endeavor by sponsoring me in the upcoming Danskin Sprint Triathlon in Austin. I will be swimming/biking/running the race on Sunday, June 6th. I understand that many of us are in a tight place regarding finances. Please only give as the Lord leads.

The race is a 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run — this equals a total mileage of 15.6 miles. If you pledge $1 per mile, that’s a $15.60 donation. $2 per mile, $31.20 donation and so on… Any amount you give is greatly appreciated and there is no minimum! $1 donations are accepted 🙂

HOW?

You can give ONLINE with a credit card by clicking HERE.
– Under ‘Designated Ministries’ enter the amount you’d like to donate
– Select ‘Global Ministries’ from the dropdown
– Type ‘Sydney Berry – Uganda’ in the Donor notes
– Hit ‘Continue’ button
– Enter Credit Card details and YOU’RE DONE!

OR

Make a check out to ‘Watoto’ with ‘Sydney Berry Volunteer’ on the ‘for’ line postmarked for July 15th and mail to:

Watoto Child Care Ministries
Visit Africa – Volunteers
PO Box 1320
Lutz, FL 33548-1320

Click here for Watoto’s ‘Transmittal of Funds’ form. Please print, fill in the amount of your donation and mail along with your check. This will assure funds are properly allocated towards my trip. Please mail by July 15th.

I am so thankful for your time and support — prayers are always welcome! If you ever have any questions about Watoto or want to learn more about sponsoring a child or volunteering, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have truly been blessed being a part of this amazing work and I know you would be as well. I know many of you are already sponsoring a Watoto child and on behalf of the children, thank you! For more info about Watoto, visit the website – www.watoto.com.

With all my heart,

Sydney

hosting watoto

•February 27, 2010 • 1 Comment

Recently, Watoto Children’s Choir 38 passed through Austin, nearing the end of their 6-month tour of the States. Gateway Church joyfully lent their Children’s building as a meeting place for all of the hosts. Hosts arrived between 6-7pm on Thursday, February 18th, where they met the Choir and then headed off with their guests for the evening. I was humbled by each of the families and individuals that welcomed our sweet kids, aunties and uncles with open arms. HUGE thanks to all of the wonderful hosts!

I had the wonderful privilege of hosting a few of the girls and aunties at my house as well: Auntie Gladys, Ronus, Josephine and Auntie Paula. Once everyone was taken care of at the church, we headed down to Austin’s local [and cheap, hehe] Tex-Mex chain, Taco Cabana, aka Taco-C. Mexican food is one of the styles of cuisine closest to the local food in Uganda because of the rice, beans and chicken or beef. I can only imagine they are beginning to get a little homesick after 5 months on the road in the US. I couldn’t help myself from snapping a ‘touristy’ shot of the girls jumping in front of Taco-C’s neon sign.

The following weekend, the Choir made their way to Tomball to perform at Tomball Bible Church’s Missions Banquet. My good friend Zach is the Worship Pastor of the church. The last time I had seen him and his wife Amanda was in Uganda where we went rafting on the Nile together… almost 2 years ago! It felt like a perfect opportunity to visit friends and spend a little more time with the Choir. I found out soon after arriving at the church that a lady named Ida from Mbale, Uganda, whom I had stayed with in the same lodge room during the rafting trip, was there for the banquet, along with her husband Maurice. It was such a surprise and a blessing to see her again. She told me that she was feeling quite homesick and that having the Choir there was a gift from above. I caught a glimpse of Ida a few times during the concert and witnessed incredible joy on her face. I love how God does things like that.

I drove back to Austin on Sunday afternoon so full of love in my heart… for the precious children, for the faithful Choir adults, for my dear friends in Tomball and for my wonderful Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the reason for all of it and I know it brings a smile to His face to see His children living life to the very full and enjoying and serving one another. Be encouraged today to reach out to someone that may not be experiencing love. You will be blessed in return.

For more information about the Watoto Children’s Choir, including their tour schedule and booking, visit www.watoto.com/choir. For more photos and updates about Watoto happenings in the US, visit the Watoto US Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading! More updates coming soon.

verge 2010: days 2 & 3

•February 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

More photos from Verge — Visit the Verge 2010 Flickr set for more photos and verge2010.org for follow-ups.

Michael ‘Stew’ Stewart, Verge Conference Founder & Director

Dave 1 of 5 – Dave Ferguson

Dave 2 of 5 – Dave Gibbons

Dave 3 of 5 – David Watson [you get the picture…] 🙂