Saturday, July 26, 2014


As a graduate of Covenant College, I was taught to think of everything in terms of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. Living in this broken world, much of our work here has to do with fighting against the effects of the fall, working for redemption. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation was impacted. Gardening became harder with thorns. Death became a reality. An orphanage exists because in this broken world parents die and others abandon their children. We work in a ministry that is working for redemption in the midst of much brokenness.

Over this past week we have also been fighting the physical effects of the fall, namely sickness. It started last Tuesday with Zeke, our youngest. He had a fever of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. By Saturday it seemed like he was getting better, at least his fever was gone. We went to Jinja to do some shopping and got lunch at a restaurant. While we were waiting for our food, Zeke fell sound asleep. 

Zeke hasn't had a fever for a few days, but he is still not back to himself. Around the time Zeke began improving, Esther also began feeling poorly. Her fever got equally as high, but did not last as long. She still feels very weak and sick, although her fever is gone. David has had various cold symptoms and has felt feverish at times. And tonight Elijah is up with a fever. I am writing this post at 2am after being up in the night with sick family members every night for a week. If something doesn't add up, please understand. 

As I have cared for my sick ones, I often think about how wonderful it will be that in heaven there will be no more sickness or pain. And my tongue won't hurt anymore! But for now, God has put us here. We will fight the effects of the fall as we try to fight sickness, as we battle against sin in our own hearts, and as we seek to point others to the redemption Jesus has provided. 

Please pray for our family as we fight this virus, and as we seek to be a part of the redemptive work God is doing here in Buundo village, Uganda. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A REAL missionary day

As a missionary whose primary role is support for other missionaries, I sometimes don't feel like a "real" missionary. I teach missionary kids, but I also enjoy having more "front line" missionary duties at times. I love going for walks in the village making new friends who speak only Luganda, and praying with and for them. I know that making disciples in the classroom is just as important as making disciples among the orphans at GSF and the people in the village. But I am thankful that since we live at Good Shepherd's Fold in Buundo village, I am able to be a part of what God is doing in all three of these areas. 

Last Saturday was more of a "front lines" missionary day for me. There is a family in Buundo that we have been getting to know over time. The grandmother, Jaja Alice, has had some health problems and has been away receiving health care. I have been trying to talk with the family in my limited Luganda and their limited English to see if I could go visit her. After several conversations I arranged to take one of her granddaughters, Rebecca, and go to visit her on Saturday. At least, so I thought. I planned to drive, pick up Rebecca, drop David and my children off to go swimming with some friends, and then continue on to the "hospital" to see Alice.  As I wrote in a previous post, we need to hold our plans with open hands. 

When I arrived on Saturday morning, Rebecca needed to bathe and get herself ready, so we sat and talked with the family. I was learning about how they are related, I think. Here the words for son and boy are the same, as are the words for daughter and girl and other such relationship words. So it is not always clear what someone is meaning. Once Rebecca was finished washing, she began washing her two children and getting them dressed. I figured that meant they were coming along too. So when they were ready, I said, "Tugenda." (We are going/ Let's go.) At that point Rebbeca, her 2 children, 2 of her brothers, her sister and her nephew all climbed into our 8 passenger van, along with my family of 6. 

After dropping off David and my kids to visit with friends, I continued on with the family to find Jaja Alice. After stopping and having several conversations in Luganda, a woman got into the vehicle with us, and directed us toward a place where she was staying. I had expected to find her in a hospital of some sort, but she was just staying at a place that just looked like some rooms in this village. I did not see any medical equipment or personnel. I was very confused about why she was here. This place is almost an hour's drive from our village of Buundo, and there are several hospitals between here and there. I was asking about the doctor, so they called her to come speak with me. 

I had brought a Luganda Bible with me in case Jaja Alice could read, but she cannot. No one else in the family said that they could read, so I decided to read the Bible in Luganda to the family. I chose a few passages that I thought might be encouraging to Jaja Alice and would clearly present the gospel to the family and friends around. I didn't understand many of the words that I read, but I was able to sound them out. Sometimes various members of the family would repeat certain phrases. 

Then they told me about a man who was very sick who was staying in a room there. We went to visit him along with the family. At first I thought he was a relative, but I found out later that he was just another patient. He seemed to be not far from the end of his life and in much pain. I prayed with him in a combination of English and a few Lugandan words, and read John 3:16 and a few Psalms to him in Luganda. I don't know if this man knows Jesus, but I believe that God can use His Word to either draw people to Himself or to encourage His children in difficult times. 

I realize that with my limited Luganda and my limited cultural understanding, I don't know what to do in many of these situations. But I am trusting that God can work even through my weakness. And I am thankful that His Word will not return void. Please pray that God will work in the hearts of the members of this family, and that He would give us wisdom and love to know how to best point them to Jesus. 

Side note: I like to include photos in my posts, but I didn't feel like it would be appropriate to take photos that day. Even as I wrote, I was careful about which details to share. I want the focus of my writing to be what God is doing and teaching me, not the brokenness or what I am doing. I hope that you will be encouraged that God is at work, even in the midst of my weakness.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Coaching in Uganda

A few months ago David and I met with Mark, our team leader, to discuss how our family was adjusting. One of the questions he asked was if there were any areas of life or ministry that were lacking in our lives here. One of the things I mentioned is how much I miss coaching. Mark told me that the GSF primary school would be putting together a team soon. 

The Ugandan school system is very different than in the USA. In Uganda, there is a free public school available through the equivalent of 7th grade, but the students are required to provide money for materials, transport and uniforms. For this reason, many children do not begin school at an early age. Some also help their families by working in the garden or caring for other children rather than attending school. In addition to that, you only progress to the next level if you pass the exams, even beginning in Pre-K. In the US most children begin Kindergarten around age 5 and graduate high school around age 18, but here in Uganda, ages vary much more. 

The primary school here at Good Shepherd's Fold has about 450 students from local villages up through P7, which is about our 7th grade. Students in P7 can range in age from 11 up through 16 or older. Because of this variety of ages in each grade level, sports competitions are based on age rather than grade level.  For the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to work with the 14s and under and the 16s and under volleyball players at the GSF primary school.  

This is a very different coaching experience that my previous ones. First, we play outside in a field with lines faintly spray painted on the grass and rocks used as corner markers. (I chose to remove those for my practices.) I really enjoy being outside. The weather is usually great here, but we did get some afternoon rain showers to keep it interesting. Here is a photo of me and my teams in front of our volleyball net. 

Secondly, I had around 20 players, and we had only one volleyball for practices. After the first week, I found a second ball to use which greatly improved the flow of practice. I have been to coaching clinics in the US where they recommend having at least one ball for every player. Drills function very differently when there is only one ball, so I have had to adapt my practice plan quite a bit.

Thirdly, I don't even know the names of many of the players, and we have different primary languages. As they went around telling me their names on the first day, I realized that I had not ever heard many of these names before. If a word is completely new to me, it is much harder to remember and to associate with a particular individual. Of my 20+ players, I know the names of less than half of them. I finally do know the names of all the 86 kids who are currently living here at GSF, and now I am beginning to learn the names of these students. One great benefit of coaching in a foreign country is the opportunity to learn more of the local language. I have been keeping score in Luganda which has helped me to learn my numbers at least. 

While there are many differences between coaching here and in the USA, there is one important similarity. Coaching is another opportunity to glorify God and make disciples. Really that could be said about so many things, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to pray with and for these kids and talk to them about the love of God through Jesus. 

(Jesus said) Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations...

I am thankful for another opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of the students here, using the gifts and experiences he has given me. Where might he be calling you to make disciples? 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Future plans

This morning our children were asking about where our family will be at different times. They talked about how there are benefits to being in both Uganda and in the United States of America. We all like to know the plan and what to expect. Growing up we are taught to plan ahead, save for the future, set and accomplish goals. Those can all be good things, but God has been teaching me to not cling to our plans. Instead simply follow where God is leading.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not the kind of person who naturally is always seeking the next adventure, or doesn't want to put down roots. I love putting down roots, both relationally and botanically. At our house in Georgia we planted trees for anniversaries and other significant celebrations. I imagined we would live there for a very long time, but God had something else in mind. 

This morning I was reading in Exodus 40 about the instructions to the Israelites to stay where they were when the cloud was in the tabernacle and to move when the cloud raised up. This required daily, moment by moment, following the Lord. I tried to imagine what it would be like waking up every morning, looking to the Presence of God to see if we were going to pack up and move that day. While that sounds overwhelming, I remembered what a friend told me about the cloud and the fire. They were not just symbols of God's presence, they were tangible signs of His loving care for His people. The cloud provides shade and protection from the sun during the day, and the fire provides light and heat in the night. While it is sometimes hard to follow the leading of God, we also have the comfort of His Presence. Not only will God be with his people wherever they are, but He is caring for our needs wherever He takes us. 

I am learning to be ok with realizing that I don't need to know what God has for me tomorrow, much less next year. We will pray seeking God's leading and make our plans, but will do so trying to always remember that it is The Lord who determines our steps. Isn't it funny that I often take more comfort when I think I have it figured out, than I do knowing that God does have it figured out? 

So what did I say to my children? I talked with them about the Israelites. I also told that that we hope to be on furlough in America May-July 2015, and that we believe God wants us to come back to Uganda after that to continue our work here. I told them that is what we believe God has for us, but we will follow God wherever He leads. 

One of my dear Ugandan friends has a great song by Jim Reeves as her ringtone. Here are some of the words:
This world is not my home.
I'm just a passin' through. 
My treasures are laid up,
Somewhere beyond the blue. 

While we are building a house here and feel at home both in Georgia and in Uganda, I am thankful for this reminder that my true home is with God. I can trust Him with our future. He will provide for us wherever He leads. Praise God! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Agricultural Expo Adventures

After our first two days of school we had Friday off. There were a few of our students who had appointments in Kampala today, and the siblings often go along too. Rather than having over half of our students absent, we decided to just adjust our school schedule. 

Since we did not have school we thought it might be fun to go to Jinja to the annual Agricultural Expo. I was curious what it would be like, and we heard that the Entebbe Zoo had brought some animals. 

As we began walking toward the "fairgrounds", I realized that this would be a bit of a crazy experience. There were so many people everywhere trying to sell everything imaginable that is available here in Uganda, clothes, jewelry, pirated DVDs, chickens, braziers, pineapple, fried grasshoppers, photos, crafts, quail eggs, and more. And they all tried to get our children to take their items so that we would have to buy them.

As we walked around the Expo we saw many exhibits about ways to grow crops, and even 2 oxen yoked together pulling a plow! The reference about being unequally yoked makes a lot more sense when you actually see yoked oxen pulling the plow. I should have taken that photo, but I didn't. Sorry. It is interesting that much of the farming here is done the same way it was done in Israel 2000 years ago. 

When we arrived at the Zoo exhibit we entered with many school children. The animals were brought in cages, although where they live at the Wildlife Conservation Center, they do have larger enclosures. The first animal we saw was a leopard! Here it is pronounced "lay-o-pard." It was pacing in its cage, and was fascinating to watch. 
There was also a servile cat, a crested crane, a peacock, a leopard tortise, 2 gray parrots, an ostrich, an enormous rock python and a lion! It was exciting to see all these different animals. 

After we left the area with animals, we were walking along very crowded paths trying to keep tabs on all our children. In order to simplify this task, David carried Zeke on his shoulders. At one point when we stopped to look at some quail, David noticed that his phone was missing. He retraced his steps, but to no avail. 

We spoke with the police officers there who suggested we go to the central police station in order to make a report. There is a slight possibility that if they do not remove the SIM card, it could be tracked. It seems like the chances of that are pretty slim.

While we had a good time at the Agricultural Expo, having David's phone stolen put a bit of a damper on the time. When we returned to GSF we heard from other missionaries that many people have had things stolen at this annual expo. It is apparently a place where thieves congregate since there are such large crowds. 

Please pray for us. We of course would love to find David's phone, but also pray with us that in the midst of this frustration and inconvenience, we would still glorify God. As we look around and realize that many people lack food and shelter, it makes us realize that a smart phone is obviously not essential for life. At the same time, we have found that with the weak Internet signal at GSF we often cannot open a website on our laptop, but we can use apps and the mobile version of websites to access the Internet, email, blog, etc. While an iPhone is definitely not a necessity, it certainly facilitates our communication with you all. So if you happen to be upgrading your iphone and want to send your old one to David, I can send you the address of someone coming to visit. :) 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Back to school!

Back to school in July!?! It sounds a bit crazy to start our school year in early July, but that is what we are doing. Since we hope to be back in the US by the end of April 2015 in order to attend a Global Outreach board meeting, we decided to begin the school year early in order to get in 180 school days. 

While our summer was just a little over one month long, the kids all seemed excited to start back. Zeke and Bobby had their first day of school with us too. They join us for 2 hours of Pre-school activities. Since they both have several older siblings, they have been asking about when they could start going to school for months. I hope they keep that enthusiasm! Here is a photo of Zeke dancing his way to school, with Esther escorting him. 

We are now teaching 7 different grade levels. It is quite a bit to juggle, but the older kids are also helping some with the younger ones. It is fun for me to be teaching math from basic counting all the way up to Algebra 2. Honestly, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed thinking about keeping all the kids on track, but it was a great first day! After school I told David, "I forgot how much I love teaching!"  It was really a lot of fun! Here is our first day school photo.

David is now teaching four different science classes, early elementary science up through Chemistry, along with History, Bible and high school Literature. While it is a very full load, he is enjoying the subjects and excited about this school year. 

We are both grateful for the opportunity to teach this great group of missionary kids. And now we are able to teach all of our own children too! 

I am so grateful that God has brought us here to be a part of His work at GSF. It is such a blessing to feel like we are here doing exactly what God has for us to do. Thank you for your prayers and support which make it possible. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Celebrating the 4th!

On Friday our missionary team had a great celebration for the Fourth of July! As we explained to our Ugandan friends about our holiday, many asked how long the USA has had independence. Uganda has only been an independent country for 51 years. They were amazed when I told them it was 238 years! 

As I was visiting with some of the toddlers, I found that this sweet little boy, Moses happened to be wearing an American flag shirt. I had to take my photo with him. I love this precious boy! 

In the late afternoon, all the American members of our team got together for a cookout. We had a fun time together playing American trivia, eating hamburgers and hot dogs, and lighting sparkling candles. Megan, one of our clever students, lit a cracker to make her own "firecracker."
We had a great time celebrating together with our team! We missed Claudia and her girls who were away and Nurse Kim who was in Jinja, but the rest of us enjoyed the party. I hope you also enjoyed celebrating with family and friends.