Monday, October 28, 2013

Missionary reality

Since I have recently shared many of the joys of missionary life, praying with and caring for children, teaching a really great group of kids, and getting to share the gospel, I thought I would also tell you about some of the less glamorous aspects of missionary life. 

Today I am staying in Jinja to work on paperwork. Since we are here through Global Outreach and they are responsible to provide documentation to the IRS to retain non-profit status, we need to provide them with that paperwork. This month we had to turn in our budget for ministry expenses for 2014, and we have to keep tract of and organize receipts for all ministry expenses. So today I will organize those receipts by category and date, scan them and send an email to Global Outreach with all of that info. We also need to turn in a quarterly ministry report to the home office and I need to work on our next email update. In addition to all that desk work, I will try to go to the market and get food for the week. Not exactly what many think missionary life is like, huh?

Honestly, I really enjoy these days of paperwork and errands. It is unusual for me to have extended periods of time to work on anything without interruptions. I have four children and when I am teaching I am always juggling at least two different grade levels, usually 3 or 4. So my life is a constant multitasking mess, other than this one day every other week when I do the paperwork. Speaking of multitasking, pray for David today as he juggles his teaching load and supervising my classes too. I am thankful that he is willing to have a more stressful day so that I can accomplish these necessary tasks. 

I have also become more aware of my need for quiet time with God to process everything. Usually to have quiet time, I have to get up at what many would think an ungodly hour. I have begun to enjoy those early morning hours, but it is very nice to have a day when I can have that time alone in prayer and reading God's Word later in the day too. One thing missionary life has taught me is that I need time alone with God to sustain me each day. 

While I am an extrovert who loves being with people, I have also learned to enjoy a day alone. It is new for me, but I think that it is a blessing. For the sake of full disclosure, I do often try to sneak in a quick smoothie or lunch with my friend Jennifer! Today we will go to the market together. God has definitely blessed me with her friendship! Here we are at the post office together.

Today, I am seeking to glorify God in the mundane details of life. We all have these tasks in our life. So whatever we do whether we eat or drink or do paperwork or go to the market, let us do it all for the glory of God. (Paraphrase of I Corinthians 10:31)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

10 out of every 10

Recently a team of Americans was here in Uganda and doing evangelism. I had the opportunity to go with them to the women's prison here in Jinja as they shared the gospel through pictures and hand motions along with an interpreter. they not only shared how to trust in Jesus for salvation, but also gave a pictorial history of redemption. It was good to be there. Here in Uganda women who have children under the age of 2 also care for their babies in prison. Children are generally weaned around age 2, but before then other family would probably not be able to feed the baby since formula is so expensive. While the women sat and participated in this presentation, I cared for their crying babies, at least the ones who would come to me. One little boy was terrified of me, probably because of my skin color. I loved just holding those little ones, praying for them and their mothers while carrying them around outside. (Cameras are not permitted; sorry I don't have any photos.)

This team also was allowed to share the gospel at several schools. They shared the true statement that 10 out of every 10 people die. After their school presentations the team leader noted that Americans respond to that statement with a bit of surprise, but Ugandans know that all too well. Death is a familiar thing in a country with so much poverty, not to mention AIDS and malaria. 

I am not certain whether moving to Africa, or being diagnosed with a pre-cancerous lesion on my tongue, or becoming middle-aged has brought about this change, but I have become much more aware of the reality of my own mortality. This earthly body will one day perish. 

For Job, he realized the "life is but a breath," as he experienced many trials. (Job 7:7) My trials pale in comparison to Job's, but even just being diagnosed with pre-cancer made me realize that I will not live forever. 

To be honest, at first these thoughts about my mortality brought about great fear. I was not afraid of what would happen to me when I die. I am certain that I will have eternal life with God. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his One and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life." I trust in Jesus as my Savior and know that i will have eternal life with Him. Instead my fears had been more about what would happen to my family if I was gone. Who could ever love my husband and children as much as I do? But then I realized how foolish I was. God, the One who brought them into his family through the sacrifice of His Son, loves my family more and better than I could ever love them. He is working for their good! Whatever plan He has for their lives I can trust Him with it. 

Lately, I have noticed that I am thinking more of life in terms of wanting to make the most of the time God has given me. When I think of making the most of my time on this earth, two main things come to mind. First, I want to love well. God has brought people into my life and given me the privilege of living out His love in their lives. I want to do that as best as He enables me and in a way that points them to His perfect love. In particular, I hope that my children will better know the love of the Heavenly Father because of my love for them. (Romans 8: 35-39) Secondly, I want to do the work God has prepared for me to do for His kingdom. (Ephesians 2:8-10) I don't know how to describe well this feeling that I have here at GSF other than to say that this is what God made me to do. I have a peace and joy here that is unexpected. I am not saying that I am always smiling and skipping around and life is just perfect here. Much to the contrary, but I am thankful to be confident that this is the work God has for us to do right now. 

It is so easy for our comfortable lives to lull us into thinking that this life is about me being happy or comfortable or people liking me. But none of those things will last. I am thankful that God has brought uncomfortable circumstances into my life to help me have a better perspective. I know that I often lose focus, either falling into the temptation to live for my own pleasure and comfort or living in fear that I will not have those things, but I am thankful that the God who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:6) I want to be able to say along with the apostle Paul, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21) 
I think a photo of a sunset is the best picture for this post. The sunrises and sunsets here are so beautiful. My photo does not do it justice. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Campus life

In one month we will be living on campus at GSF, at least for the next 6 months or so. We will miss a few things about living in town, like being near some friends in Jinja and the convenience of going to the market. But there are many reasons we are looking forward to living on campus. The first is to be connected with our team. We often miss out on evening or weekend gatherings of the missionary team or the whole GSF family because driving in the dark is difficult here. 

Another reason we are looking forward to being on campus is to have more time to spend with the kids who live here. Wednesday afternoons are the time we often do that since we stay late for team devotions. Here is a photo of me today with the toddlers who were "fixing" my hair.
I think I lost quite a bit of hair, but it was a small price to pay for that special time with these kids. The little girl who is standing next to Zeke, Efrance, spent an entire hour "braiding" my hair. Danny, sitting on my lap in the photo, alternated between sitting with me and playing chase with Ezra. 

The last reason we are looking forward to moving is because we will be so happy to not have the daily commute. We will free up about an hour and a half daily, and we will save quite a bit of money in fuel. 

 I'm sure there will be challenges in addition to the many blessings of moving onto campus. For now though, we are excited about our upcoming move. Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare for this next transition 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I wanted to write a brief post about one of my students, Caralina Gwartney. She has been living here in Uganda at Good Shepherd's Fold for 5 years with her family. She is still in high school, but she is as much a part of the missionary team as any of the rest of us. Whenever the toddlers here see her they start chanting, "Auntie Caralina" or "Teacher Caralina." (She often volunteers in the preschool classrooms.) 

In our missionary kid school she has been a teacher's aide for me, working with Ezra and Amelia on Kindergarten reading and writing. She is great with them, and they are both making good progress! It has been so helpful to me because during that one hour in the morning I am teaching language arts to K, 2nd and 4th grades together. Her assistance is invaluable! 

Over the next couple of weeks I will be juggling these classes on my own as Caralina travels to America. She will be goling back to the states for some medical care. Her dad is also in the US meeting with churches and individuals about the work God is doing at Good Shepherd's Fold. So he will meet up with her in Florida, but she will be traveling overseas on her own. Caralina is an amazing girl who loves and cares for children well and is comfortable navigating life in Uganda, but she is also just a teenage girl flying from Uganda to America and back on her own. So I want to ask you to please pray for her. Pray that she would remember that she is not alone, that her Good Shepherd is watching over her and is always with her. Pray that God would use this trip in her life as he continues to mature her into the godly woman he wants her to be. And pray for all of us here as we will miss her dearly! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sports Day!

Yesterday was a very fun day at Good Shepherd's Fold. In order to promote a sense of unity, to praise God for the health he has granted, and to just have a day to celebrate GSF declared today, "Sports Day." All the staff, teachers, farm workers, maintenance staff, house moms, cooks, security guards, and missionaries were invited to participate in a day of competition. All together there are over 100 of us and we were all divided into four teams. Here is a picture of Zeke helping to set up tents in preparation for the day. 

The day began with a time of worship and then someone from each team teaching from the Bible on team names, faith, grace, love and hope. I had faith; David had hope. After the worship time together, we began the competitions. Here is a photo from the bottle filling event.
The events included Bible Quiz, bottle filling (from water in your mouth), 100m, 200m, short relay, and sack races, long distance race for those over age 40, and a game of football(soccer). And of course, as with any event here in Uganda, there is music and lots of dancing! David participated in the Bible Quiz and football, and I ran in the 100m race and played goalkeeper for my football team. I am feeling it this morning! It is a good thing that I brought a big bottle of ibuprofen.

Most days at GSF caring for and discipling the children is the main focus, but today was planned to be a special day for those who serve the children either directly or indirectly every day. It definitely provided opportunity to build relationships with the staff here. At the end of the day I felt much more connected with all the people I work beside each day. And by the way, my team won! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

GSF young adults

     The transition from being a child to becoming an adult can be challenging no matter who or where you are. But kids who grow up at an orphanage have the additional challenge of not having a home or family support system once they age out of the children's home. At age 18 they can no longer stay. 

     The missionaries at GSF along with some others in Jinja have been working to help these kids with that transition, preparing them to become independent and find a means to provide for themselves. The students who have done well in school can earn scholarships to go on to University. Recently the GSF team also connected with a ministry called Investment Year in which students are given four different internships throughout the year along with intentional discipleship. The missionaries here are hopeful that this investment year will help ease the transition for some of these kids. If you are interested in providing financial support for a scholarship for one of these kids to help continue their education, go to for more information.

     We have met several of these former GSF kids in Jinja. Some of them also come back to campus to work on their school breaks. These students often take jobs working on the farm or for the maintenance department in order to earn money for their school fees or books.  

     Here is a little information about some of the young adults we have recently gotten to know. Paul grew up at GSF, and now he leads worship at the church we attend. It is so great to hear him worship the Lord and help many others to do the same. Many of you have also seen the blog post with the video interview with Solomon who is now at the University. (If not you can go back and find it in April or May of 2012.) Diana is a young woman who is now working at GSF as a house mom caring for the toddlers here. Jonah, works at a leather shop, but also makes cards and other artwork. Here is a photo of a card he made for us. Hopefully some of you have received one of these. 
He makes these cards out of banana leaf fibers and barkcloth, all local materials. It is amazing how he can make such intricate designs. He is a gifted artist and I'm sure we will continue to use his handiwork and support his business. Fred is a student in secondary school who has been working very hard. When he heard David was a science teacher, he asked if he could come over to be tutored in Chemistry. He sends David a message every Saturday asking if he is available to work on Chemistry. Here is a picture of them studying together. They also had some G-nuts (like peanuts) and a coke. (Behind them you can see the beautiful living room in the house we are living in for one more month.)
Not many students think of working on Chemistry as a great way to spend their Saturdays, but Fred is diligent and is working hard to do well in school. While we are here primarily to help by teaching the missionary kids, we are very thankful that David has been able to work with Fred and help him with his Chemistry. 

     It is encouraging to see the way that God is continuing to provide for these young adults as they transition toward independence from the care of GSF. But we are all always dependent upon The Lord. What do we have that we have not been given? (I Cor. 4:10) Our greatest prayer for these kids is not just that they would find successful jobs, but that they also would walk with the Lord, knowing the joy of living as His children and be a part of building His kingdom here in Uganda. Please take a moment and pray for these young adults. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I have had many thoughts about thanksgiving lately which have changed the way I write in my prayer journal. I have been starting out my morning prayers with writing out things for which I want to thank God. I'm not sure if that practice has made me more thankful, or if that is a result of being more thankful, but in either case  it is a good way for me to start my day. One of the things I regularly am thanking God for is healing for Alex. It is amazing to see him look healthier almost every day and begin to catch up in the ways he was so delayed due to malnutrition and neglect. He is now walking when you hold his hands and smiling so much more! It melts my heart when I walk into Claudia's house and he smiles at me or reaches for me. Since many of you have been praying for him, I thought you would like this picture. 
See his beautiful smile? And his fuller checks and abdomen? He is doing so well! 

As I read many Facebook posts about fall weather, I have also been thinking about Thanksgiving Day. I know it is more than a month away, but things take a long time to pull together around here. I'm not sure about where we will celebrate, but we will try to have a thanksgiving type meal. Several items can be found here in Uganda that we would eat in a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. There are turkeys around. Frozen ones are available in Kampala and live ones are sold many places. Not sure which we will do. I'll let you know if we chop the head off a live one. That would be a Thanksgiving to remember. Pumpkins are grown on campus at GSF and we can make pumpkin pie from one of those or one from the market. We can get potatoes for making mashed potatoes. There are some Ugandan sweet potatoes that grow here for making sweet potato casserole. I have not seen any Stove Top stuffing, which is my favorite, but I think some is on its way from America! We recently received some jello packets in the mail which will be a nice addition, maybe with pineapple pieces or something. Green beans are also sold in the market, and I may even have seen French fried onions in a supermarket once for green bean casserole. Can you tell I have been thinking about Thanksgiving Dinner? I think it will be a little taste of America if we can pull it all together. The only thing that would make it better is if family and friends from America could also be here to celebrate with us. 

Since food takes much more preparation and planning here in Uganda than it does in America, I find that I am thinking about it a lot. I am very thankful for all the good foods we have found here. We have learned to make more items from scratch, and have eaten many delicious meals. This morning I made pancakes and syrup from scratch along with cooking bacon. (I didn't slaughter and butcher the pig though.) David and I thought that maybe we would lose a little weight moving to Africa if we were always eating beans and rice and fresh fruits or vegetables, but that has not been the case. We have that meal sometimes, but there are so many other good meals we have eaten here. We are thankful for all the good food, but I guess now we will need self-discipline if we are going to lose weight. Bummer. But we do miss some food from America like Brett's quesadillas in Athens and Zaxby's chicken fingers. I try not to think of those things too much since that just leads to coveting rather than thankfulness. 

I am also thankful that we are working here at Good Shepherd's Fold. Each day as I walk across campus, I think how thankful I am to be a part of this ministry. I love sitting on the playground and having toddlers climb on my lap. I love that Danny, who is way to big to be held, still comes to me and I can pick him up and remind him that Jesus loves him. I love holding the precious babies! I love feeling how Alex is heavier each day! I love talking with the older children as the climb the trees for the mangos. I love giving hugs to the girls here with special needs. And I love teaching the missionary kids here! I have so much for which to be thankful. Some days I may forget, but I will keep writing it down to help me remember.  

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1 NIV)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Longing for home

Back in April of 2011, we had a conversation with the missionary team here. They invited us to come join the team but noted that they do not have a place for us to live on campus with the rest of the missionary team. As we prayed and began processing this news, it was very hard for me. But we believed that this was the place God was calling our family to serve. So we decided to come and to raise the support necessary to build a home here. 

Honestly, each step was a very hard emotional and spiritual struggle. We were confident in the fact that this is what God was calling our family to do, but it was very hard for me to leave our "home." Our home in Georgia is where we had lived for 11 years. We loved having family and friends over for meals, backyard cookouts and play dates. Our home was not large by American standards, but it was perfect for our family! 

As we were preparing to move to Uganda we knew we would need a place to live until our house could be built on campus. We had some people looking for a place for us, and nothing seemed to be available that would work for our family. Then we heard of a house that would be available here in Jinja during another missionary family's furlough. The best thing about this situation was that it was furnished and ready for us to move in. We were glad to know that we would have a house for our family for our first 4 months here. Then we found out that a missionary family at GSF would be going on furlough and that we could use their home for the next 6 months. It was originally our hope that our home might be built soon after that. 

This week we realized that it will probably be at least another year after that until our home is built. There are several reason for the delay, and we don't know for sure that it will take that long, but I have been struggling a bit thinking of all the transitions in the years ahead. After living in the same home for nearly 12 years, we have moved to a missionary guest house in Georgia for a few weeks, then 3 days on campus in one house at GSF here in Uganda, then 4 months in Jinja. Next we will be moving for 2 weeks to another house on campus at GSF, then 6 months in our third house on campus at GSF, then God only knows where to next. Honestly I have been a bit discouraged and feeling sorry for myself about this feeling of being "homeless." But as soon as that word came to mind, I realized that I needed a change in perspective/attitude. 

The first thing I realized is that even though we have not been able to stay in one home, God has always provided us with a place to live, which is much more than we need. Here is a picture of the amazing house we have had the privilege of living in for the last 3 months. 
I have never lived in such a big, fancy house. It has been a blessing to have this nice house to use for several months. And there are definitely some benefits to living in town. We have learned a lot about Jinja since we are here every day. And we have made good friends with other missionaries here.

But more importantly than just seeing the blessings of our temporal home, we have an eternal Home! Since I have been struggling with this, I decided that it would be good for me to read about my heavenly Home. It was a very encouraging time for me, so I thought I would share some of these verses. In John 14 Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:1-6 NIV)

Since I think of home as a place of rest and comfort, I also read this passage. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28, 29 NIV) The comfort of our eternal home is not just that it will be comfortable, but that our God will dwell with us! Here is a description of my true home and I will fix my eyes upon this. 

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life." (Revelation 21:3-6 NIV)

It is my desire that each time I long for home, whether thinking of our home in Georgia or a home to be settled in here in Uganda, that instead I would fix my eyes on Jesus and my eternal home, that I "will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1&2) Whether we are in America or Uganda or somewhere else, we are "foreigners and strangers" on this earth. Because our true Home is with our Father in Heaven! And that Home is forever! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Uganda's Independence Day

Yesterday Ugandans celebrated 51 years of Independence from Great Brittian. Our family wore our t-shirts given to us by good friends in Georgia. Here are some photos. 

The Ugandan school had today off, but we decided to have school and spend the day learning about Ugandan geography, history, agriculture, animals and culture. We played Ugandan trivia, learned the national anthem, and learned to play drums and dance the traditional Buganda dance. Esther and I even wore grass skirts; sorry no photos of that. But here are my boys all drumming. 

Because this was a very special day, they slaughtered a pig and all the kids who live at GSF had a special meal together. Here are some of the missionaries serving the rice, pork, cabbage and chipatis. They also got soda for all the kids for a special treat! 
It was fun to be there and celebrate together. The one down side to the day is that Esther has been sick. She has some protozoans in her digestive system. She is taking medicine, but that seems to be bothering her stomach too. Please pray for her quick recovery. Thank you! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The King is coming!

Uganda is governed by a democratically elected president, but there are still tribal kingdoms within Uganda. The area from around Kampala east to the Nile River is a part of the Baganda kingdom where they speak the Luganda language. Good Shepherd's Fold is located within the Baganda kingdom.  Where we are living right now in Jinja is a part of the Busoga kingdom where they speak the Lusoga language. These tribal distinctions have been around for a LONG time, much longer than Uganda has been a country. And these kingdoms still have a king. 

On Saturday we drove to Kampala and all along the way banners were being raised and towers were being erected to celebrate that the king is coming. He will just be traveling from his palace in Kampala driving around his kingdom. Some Ugandan managers at GSF told the missionaries that technically everything in the Baganda kingdom belongs to the king, the land and even the people. 

As we drove past one of these welcome stations a man was collecting money for the king. So the children asked me, is he our king? I said that I didn't think so since  we are not Ugandan. Elijah responded, "But we do have a King." 

I started thinking of the parallels. Everything in God's Kingdom belongs to Him. Psalm 19 says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it." We are also told to be ready for when our King comes. We are not told to build towers and banners and collect money for our King. But we are told to be ready. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13 NIV) In that chapter Jesus tells some parables about how we ought to be ready. The only way to be ready for the return of the King of Kings is to trust in Jesus and be clothed with His righteousness. Do not wait! We do not know the day or the hour. Put your faith in Him today. And live for building His Kingdom, for His Glory, caring for the needs of those around you. The King is coming!

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 NIV)

The King is coming! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Alex update

Since Zeke plays with Bobby at Claudia's house every school day, I get to see Alex several times a day, in the morning, at lunch time and often in the afternoon if he is not still napping. It is amazing to see the transformation that God has brought about in his life through prayer, loving care and nutritious food. Today while I was holding him and kissing his head he smiled at me. I had seen him smile at others, but this was the first time he smiled at me. His smile brought me so much joy! This little boy who was barely surviving just weeks ago is now getting chubbier cheeks, and is even smiling! He has started crawling, pulling to stand, and even walking when someone is holding him up by the  hands. We all celebrated and praised God when he had his first solid bowel movement in at least a month. Thank you for your prayers for Alex and for Claudia and her family as they care for him. Here is a cute photo of Ezra with Alex. Bobby and Zeke are playing in the background. I don't think I could have gotten all four of those boys together in a photo if I was trying. See Alex's full belly and healthier looking face? Today I also realized that I could not feel all of his ribs while holding him. Praise God!