We made it back to Washington after many hours traveling. Trying to adjust and be back in America. We'll post a bigger update soon, but we are home with family for a few days then back on the plane for Alaska soon.
thank you all
05 November 2011
It was a full day on the “Rosa Deluxe”. All of the students packed into this 25-seater van that has seen more of the bumpy Ugandan roads than any other vehicle here at New Hope. We call her the “Rosa” and I noticed the “e” in “Deluxe” was missing and that made me smile all the more. The men had to push it fast so the engine would start. I was hoping the driver would think twice before parking it uphill somewhere in Kampala. He knew what he was doing and I didn’t have to worry.
I had been warned already about the music situation since our classmates had made the 9 hour one way trip up north to Kumi last weekend to visit the Kobwin Children’s Center which is an extension of New Hope. Troy will fill you in on that one. Back to the music…they listened to a tape that had only 5 songs on it the entire way to Kumi…and back! So I knew I had 5 songs ahead of me to learn by heart before we returned from our long one-day adventure. The purpose of our trip was to visit other children centers in Uganda to see how they are run. Typically this trip is made over 2 days, but the third center wasn’t able to have us so we crammed it all into one very full day.
We went straight to Watoto Church in Kampala (which I’m told is like the “Hillsong” of Uganda) and from there met up with our tour guide who would take us to the Watoto Children Center about 1 ½ hours away. When we arrived, I was in awe as we drove up the hillside and the lawn was all so neatly manicured and there was just one home after another, all looking the same. I haven’t seen anything so American since coming to Uganda. Each home has a number, and they would need to as there were at least 79 and they were cookie cutter homes, white brick and all the same layout. We just kept driving up and up and we could soon look out over beautiful valleys. It was very impressive. I kept thinking about how much fun my boys would have rolling all over that green grass! Watoto has over 1500 between students and staff. We parked the Rosa and went straight to the baby house. It looked to be fairly new and I felt as if I was standing before someone’s gorgeous mansion.
We were quickly brought inside and divided into two teams and sent in two different directions. We washed our hands and dove right into a room full of at least 10 babies all near 1 year old. Many were in tears. It was lunchtime and the ladies were working as quickly as they could to get their lunch of mashed pumpkin in bowls and ready for each little one. I was surprised how quickly the little ones swarmed to us. I sat down on the floor and had 4 in my lap just like that. They were so quick to come into our laps and one little one just wrapped his little arms around me and claimed me for my short 30-minute visit. They were so quick to copy with little clicking of their tongues or smooching of their lips, quick to be comforted and quick to giggle. I could tell the ladies were taking good care of these little ones. They were not lacking affection or attention. It really was a blessing to come in and pour out love on these babies. So there were two rooms with just as many little ones and I’m wondering if there were more. I don’t know.
We moved on to see the school at Watoto and the trade training. There was a room where clothes (“clothe-ez” as my Uganda friends say it) and another room where a beauty school was going on. I got some great photos of my Uganda brothers with hair extensions draping over their purposefully bald heads! I’m not sure if I had more fun taking the pictures or if they had more fun seeing their pictures…it was great! We all got a good laugh. The school was at the very top of the hillside with many signs that had positive messages all throughout the landscaped yard. The view was absolutely breathtaking and many more nice buildings for classes and dorms for the older kids were on the top of the hill. There was also many more building in process. I learned later that the majority of the money coming in to Watoto is from the choir that tours in the US. They have something going on like the African Children’s Choir and they tour the US performing. They also have a nice wood and metal shop. It was a very impressive place and good to see another center and how it works
After this stop, we all boarded the Rosa and headed back into the city in the rain (the Rosa leaks water too ;)) and on to the shores of Lake Victoria for a boat ride to Bethany House. We boarded the big wood boat with a tarp on the top, all 30 of us, and went out on the rough water for the 30-minute boat ride to where the Bethany House is located. When we arrived they fed us a feast, and we were hungry too! They kept bringing out one pot after another of Ugandan food I have grown to really enjoy. We feasted on matoke (steamed food banana like a sticky mashed potato), rice, boiled potato and cassava (it’s more firm and has more fibers than a potato) and a couple vegetable dishes with cabbage and eggplant and a bean sauce and a meat sauce (which typically has bones like crazy and few pieces of meat). It really was a great lunch and we enjoyed it all the more since we were 3 hours overdue!
So, Bethany House is another children center for orphaned or vulnerable children but had an entirely different feel from Watoto. It was a much smaller scale and is run off donations from people in the US. We visited one family mother who has 19 kids living in her home, the “Grace” home. She was very gracious to have us in and answer our many question about her struggles with so many children and discipline and a father figure and all that. There is only one Ugandan man there who serves as a father figure for all the children in all the homes. He said they were actively looking for men to be involved, but for now he was it. It’s a huge job to be in charge of so many kids and they all come from different backgrounds and they all carry different pain. Overall, the feel at Bethany was so peaceful and serene. I felt like I was really in the middle of the jungle with Lake Victoria at one end and thick trees and bush on the other. We walked on trails through thick bush to gardens and pig and chicken houses. I saw the biggest spider of my life in a tree overhead. His web was massive and so strong. Bethany really had the feel of a little Ugandan village in the middle of the jungle. I really liked it there.
I am so thankful there are people out there who are willing to do this hard work. Now that I have written that, I am reminded that we are all called to do this hard work…to care for the orphaned, the lonely and the strangers around us. What am I going to do with what I have learned? There is no denying that it is my God given responsibility, it’s clear as day when you read scripture.
After getting our tour of Bethany, we all boarded the boat again and had a nice ride back into the city. The water was calm and there were about 10 fewer people on board, but we had a few additional chickens. That is so typical Uganda! There were about 5 chickens with their feet tied together at the front of the big wood boat. We enjoyed the sunset on the water too. I took a picture of one man fishing on our way by and he was ticked at me for sure. He shook his finger at me and said something in Lugandan, probably not something I wanted to hear anyway! Strangers don’t like having their pictures taken without permission…totally understandable. I gave him my best smile and my Ugandan brothers would have defended me if I’d needed it! ;)
We made it back to Kampala and made the long trek home in the dark and in the crazy traffic that a city filled with millions brings. We listened to the same tape with the same 5 songs and laughed and finally slept. I’m really going to miss this time.
I look at the calendar every now and then and panic when I see we only have 2 weeks of class left. Only 2 weeks to laugh with my friends here…Only 2 weeks to enjoy the ladies who work so hard serving us and providing us lunch and dinner and tea and snacks…Only 2 more weeks to thank them for serving me…Only 2 more weeks to give the kids at the Jonathan Family hugs…Only 2 more nights to join them for their game night on Wednesday and laugh with them as we play “The Prince of Uganda” and other silly games…Only 1 more Sunday to worship at Kasana Community Church, where most of the people are local Ugandans and the songs in their language are so beautifully simple and the people dance before their Father and lift their hands and sing from their hearts with so much joy. I am so thankful for our time here. I have seen life with so few things, but the people are rich. They are warm and they seem to know what life is really about. It’s a simple life and I have loved it and especially the people who live it. Thank you so much for making this possible for our family. I am so blessed because of you!
23 October 2011
The weeks have absolutely flown by. We are down to just 4 weeks of class and a final week before we fly back to the states. It amazes me how different life is here…but people are really the same all over the world. Tonight we had the single “Uncles”, our fellow classmates, over for dinner. Can you believe they had never had a hamburger? I couldn’t believe it either, but thought it was so cool that I could share that first with them. They are a great group of guys, eager to be married and have hearts for the Lord. They are great company and so thankful for everything. They wanted to close the evening with a word of prayer for us and were just so thankful we wanted to share a meal with them and that we love them. We didn’t do much for them and I feel like I’m the one who went away with the blessing after they prayed for my family. They really love us and they love God and that makes the friendship even that much more meaningful. I’m gonna miss those guys when we leave! They believe God is starting a work through us in Africa and that we have a love for Africa. It is true that we love Africa and the people, but I don’t know yet that God has work for us here.
We all get sick sometimes, but the first thing to cross you mind here in Uganda is malaria. Tobyn came down with a fever a few days ago and was complaining of a headache. Of course our first thought was malaria. After two tests we decided it was most likely just the flu. His fever is mostly gone and he still has a little cough, but he shared with me (Sarah). At least we weren’t so scared about malaria since he was negative. My test was negative also. It’s hard to keep levelheaded when you’re somewhere new and sicknesses are a little different, but still the same in some ways. Here at New Hope, it’s the hub for all kids of sickness with teams coming from all around the world. I guess your medicine cabinet can never be too diverse when you live in bush Africa! Good to keep in mind! Even with the sickness in our family, we feel so cared for here. People have been praying and asking and very sympathetic and concerned. It is true life in community and I’m learning to like it more and more.
I got news today that one of my older cousins in Oregon passed away from cancer. My heart has been heavy this week and I thought about them and knew she was close to death. She had a relationship with God and I know she is in heaven now, made whole and not suffering anymore. It’s hard to be so far away, though I’m still far away when I’m in Alaska. It really feels far away to be in Africa. I’m sad for my family and their loss and have also been so encouraged to hear from them and see their love for each other and their faith so strong. I trust God was there in the middle of their suffering and will continue to be in the days ahead. I love you Jenny and I’m so glad you’re with Jesus right now.
This next week, many from our class will be heading up north to Kumi to do a class project. I’ll stay home with the boys because the housing would not work too well for us with all our kids. I’m a little bummed that I won’t be able to see another part of Uganda and the branch of New Hope that works with the child soldiers. Maybe another time…another trip! I appreciate your prayers for our family this next week with Troy being gone for a few days and being a little under the weather. Thanks friends and family! I look forward to seeing many of you soon!
08 October 2011
22 September 2011
It really is hard to try to sum up on a blog the things I am learning and the way God is touching me deep inside. We’ve travelled through the topics of God’s glory, Our need for Him (which is desperate), the Biblical roles of men and woman, what marriage and singleness should look like, what an orphaned heart is, how to study the Bible and understand what’s written, how to parent your children by getting to the heart and not just the behavior (which takes a lot more work!) and, finally, how to counsel people.
This week we have been more focused on counseling people and I must say, it’s a daunting task. It’s daunting because our definition of counsel is to lead people one step closer to Jesus. Whether we want to admit it or not, we counsel people every day. By our words and actions we are leading people closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus. If we want to lead people closer to Jesus, we need to be walking closer to Jesus ourselves. In order to pass on wisdom we need to know God’s Word and also be listening to the Holy Spirit. It’s too easy to pass on advice that makes sense, but it leads someone away from Jesus. It’s too easy to have set answers and use what worked for one person to work for another. God works in whatever way He chooses and many times it does not make sense to us. That is why it is so important to be listening to the Holy Spirit and to have a humble heart so God can use us to lead others just that one step closer to Himself.
A man named Yun writes: “We are absolutely nothing. We have nothing to be proud about. We have no abilities and nothing to offer God. The fact that He chooses us is only due to His grace. It has nothing to do with us. If God should choose to raise up others for his purpose and never use us again we would have nothing to complain about.” This concept rocked my boat, and still does if I’m honest. I have nothing to offer God? It’s only His grace that I am used and nothing of myself? Nothing? If I can come to grips with this, a truly humble heart, I can be in a position to lead people one step closer to Jesus. It keeps coming back to living a life of true repentance and dependence on God. Out of that God is able to be the true Healer for anybody regarding anything.
God can heal
ANYBODY regarding ANYTHING. (Including me!)
That is HUGE!!!
Are you willing to walk people one step closer to Jesus?
16 September 2011
The last few weeks have flown by, so it seems. It gets tough thinking of stuff to write about and keep it real. Africa has so much to offer yet it’s hard to remember what it is on demand. We have been informed the power is being cut by a quarter, so when we subtract it from the 40% it’s been on…well, we are not to hopeful. They (Uganda government) are saying the bills are not getting paid so they will take the power and sell it to Kenya. Back home they just shut the power off from the place not paying. Needless to say we will be burning more candles.
The boys are having fun still. They are thrilled with the new critters they find and now are creating weapons out of whatever they can find. The games of a boy’s heart are the same all around the world. They found a blind worm snake the other day, and carried it around.
We went to Jinja as a family with some friends last weekend to celebrate our halfway point. The drive there we got to see the tea and sugarcane fields. We were blessed to stay at a resort with a great pool right on Lake Victoria. The equatorial sun is not to be messed with unless you have 30 SPF or greater. We took a boat ride down the start of the Nile River. It was good to see the Nile and be there knowing so many in history searched hard to find the source. We saw monkeys, Nile monitor lizards, otters, and the great African Fish Eagle. We had a good time in Jinja.
The rains are still hitting hard and it was 67 degrees this morning. It wasn’t so bad. With the rains it seems the bananas are getting ripe fast. It’s the coolest thing to have them growing in your yard, as well as coffee. We bring some (bananas) up to the baby house and share with the babies, who eat them up quickly.
Our family group has been faced with some tough situations lately. One of the kids ran off a couple weeks ago. They have found him living with a distant relative, but it’s not a healthy situation. Pray with us he returns. The rest of the family group is doing well, and thankful the harvest and replanting weeks are over. They work hard in the gardens farming, but they also love eating the results, as do we.
I have been able to work a little at the clinic. Mostly dressing small wounds and laughing with the kid’s cause I pretend I have no clue what they are saying. A person does not have a hurt foot or an injury, they are “paining”. My foot is paining, then they add “somehow”. I love it. “Uncle, my foot is paining somehow”. It’s fun. I think some of the kids just come for some attention, so we have plenty of vitamin C for placebos. I also test for malaria. It’s a simple finger poke and blood smear on a slide, but identifying the malaria cells in the blood is a challenge. They have quick tests as well but they are expensive. Power has been out for 5 days now and I am running out of battery power, we'll add more later.
02 September 2011
I am still working on video's to upload. the problem is the connection here is to slow to upload. I should be able next weekend to get something uploaded as we are headed to Jinja where I think the internet is a little faster.
20 August 2011
Sunday was absolutely amazing. We celebrated Thanksgiving in Africa, African style. People have been preparing all week, bringing food to share to the church, building booths out of sticks and banana leaves to represent God’s provision for us. The whole yard at the church was one booth after another and each one was filled with things those people were thankful for. Someone was at each booth to share how God has blessed them and met their needs in the past year. So, part of our church service was going from booth to booth and seeing how God has been faithful to meet needs. The very beginning of the morning began with a parade of sorts. We joined our family, the Jonathan Family and marched with them. It was one family after another, marching around the circular path that goes around the church. There was festive African music playing and we all danced and waved branches, just celebrating God’s goodness. There was so much joy it just couldn’t be contained! Troy had the honor of catching all the action on video, taking pictures and ringing the bell to start the party! So we all marched and danced and then met in the church to start the real celebration. There were 12 native African languages represented that morning and we were led in songs for each of those languages. These people know how to have a good time! The boys and I got up with our fellow Institute classmates to “help lead” a song in Tesso. I basically danced and laughed with the boys. The church was so packed we could hardly even make it to the front, so we were all just singing, laughing and dancing together. It was amazing! People were raising their hands, waving branches, jumping, dancing…it was a serious party for God, to celebrate HIM! I think this day will always be a highlight for me when I look back at this time we spent in Uganda. I said it already, but I have never experienced anything like this where there is truly so much joy it can’t be contained. God is so good!
A family was visiting from up north at the Kobwin Children’s Center. This is an extension of New Hope that works with the child soldiers. We heard from a young man named Moses, who was abducted as a child soldier. He shared with us the horrible things he experienced at the hands of the rebels and he shared of Gods’ protection during that period of time too. He was spared, though emotionally he had been through horrible things. He was able to stand before us, a life filled with so much hope only because of Jesus. It was such a powerful testimony to me. God is the Redeemer and Restorer of our lives. He is the source of our joy. So many things satisfy us, but it’s only for a short time and then we are left more unsatisfied than ever before. Only God can satisfy. So, Moses’ life was celebrated that morning too. Even more than that, it was God that was celebrated.
To top off the morning (which by now was well into the afternoon!!!) we ate together with our families. It was a fantastic day. I felt the joy of it well into the next morning. I am so thankful for all these experiences here. The longer I am here, the more my heart is asking God if there is a place here for us, for my family. I don’t have any answers, but I long to be a part of something bigger than myself and I love it here!!! I wonder what God is doing!
09 August 2011
What a full week this has been. In class, we talked about the orphaned heart. You can be orphaned physically, whether your dad was physically absent or emotionally absent. You can be orphaned spiritually, separated from a loving relationship with your heavenly Father. Or you can be both physically and spiritually orphaned, and that’s the category most in the world fall under. Everyone has father wounds of some kind and we all carry an orphaned heart. Father wounds can show themselves in our lives by feelings of abandonment or rejection, loneliness, hopelessness, shame and deep sadness. An orphaned heart protects itself by hiding, telling lies, mistrusting, being superficial, being overly sensitive, self pity, fearful, spirit of poverty, hoarding, manipulating, selective memory, fantasizing (avoiding truth), misinterpreting, independent spirit (rebellious heart) and striving. Our assignment this week was to take a close look into our hearts and identify where we have an orphaned heart in us. Going in to this week, I thought I would be learning about other people, the orphans, not so much myself. I was really surprised to find that I do have an orphaned heart as well. We all do. And we all need God’s healing in our lives.
We really dove into Scripture and what it says about the fatherless and what His heart is for the orphans. It is all over the Bible! God’s heart has always been for the widow, the fatherless, the poor, the stranger. From the very beginning of the call of His people, Israel, He has charged us with the care for the fatherless and all the needy. He reminded them over and over from generation to generation. Again when the church was formed, the charge to provide for and defend the fatherless and the widow…that is God’s heart. When we are doing a bad job, He defends them Himself! In the early church, when believers weren’t able to feed the poor, they would fast for a couple of days so they would have enough food for them. God doesn’t ask us to care for the fatherless if we have plenty. He asks us to do it when we are also in want. The job God has given us is clear. Our response to this call is horrible. Even now I wrestle with what God really wants for our family. Yes, it is crystal clear. Does that mean God wants for my family to take in the orphaned as well? I don’t know yet! But how can I not?
All week my heart has been so tender toward the orphaned. I think about my visit to the baby house and how easy it was to love those kids. They were so willing to give love too. All week, I’ve had one precious little face on my heart at a time and I can’t help but cry for them. Little Moses is a chubby 6 months olds and he has such a twinkle in his eye. His baby laugh was so precious and was such a gift to me. How do I walk away from Moses? On Sunday, we got to hold little Sam during church. He’s about 18 months old and my heart just breaks for him. He is mostly unresponsive emotionally and he just sits and observes. He has such a broken spirit inside of him; somehow he isn’t able to receive love. He had me in tears most of the morning. Oh, I want him to experience the love of the Father and for his young heart to be freed and healed of his rejection and abandonment. I don’t know his story, but I am told it is very heart breaking and this little Sam needs God’s healing in his life. Please pray with me for him. As I learn his story, I will share it with you…but please be praying with me now for God to heal this little boy’s spirit. I would love to see a miracle in his life. I would love to see his eyes twinkle and I would love to see this little boy’s face light up with joy. I would love to see him respond to a hug and a tickle. I would love to see little Sam come back to life.
So, now we are beginning a new week and I wonder what it holds. What heart searching will I have to do this week? What answers to my questions will I receive and what will it require of me? It’s all been good, but it has been more intense than I ever expected! This is a good journey my family is on, and I wonder what our future holds. I trust God will make it clear to us. Thanks for your prayers for my family. I am truly thankful for them!
I was invited to see a friends garden, about 5 acres, of coffee, beans, bananas and such. These are some of his children and some he looks after. They were so excited to see a visiter.
Taylor and the boys at soccer practice and Sarah and her friend Claire.