Friday, October 31, 2014

Learning dependence

Our school for missionary kids here in Uganda, is anything but "traditional" in terms of American education. We have students in Pre-K through 12th grade. Older students often have opportunities to help teach younger students. Since there are at most three students in any grade level, there are many opportunities to work in small groups both with those in their own grade and in other grades.

While all of our students have different personalities and gifts, it has been good to see how they have grown and been stretched by opportunities to work together. Some students have a tendency to just want to get their work done on their own as quickly as possible. I have been praying that God will use this unique educational situation to provide opportunities for us all to learn about working together and how we can help one another grow, both in school and in life.
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)
I have seen some practical examples of this verse in our little school. Last school year one of our students broke his arm. He was unable to write for several weeks. During that time, he worked together with another student in his grade level on all of their daily math assignments. As they were forced to work together and discuss how to solve the problems, I found that they both began scoring higher on tests (which they took separately). While they were working on their daily assignments together they were able to help catch each others mistakes without much conflict too. :) Praise God!

In recent weeks Elijah and Hayden have been working really well together on their math assignments. I often find that they don't need much supervision or instruction from me because they are able to help each other. (They are also both pretty quick to understand new math concepts.) As I was reviewing my student's progress I realized that these two boys are making great progress in math, and I attribute much of their success to the way they are working together.

I was talking with the 4 high school girls about this issue during our hour long class together which we have recently renamed "Algebra-Discipleship." During this hour I get to do some of my favorite things, talk about Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, and talk about living life to glorify and enjoy God with teenage girls. It is easy for many of us to want to be self-sufficient and independent. But God reminds us that it is "not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2:8) It is often hard for us to admit that we need the help of others and even of God. When I find myself trying to solve problems on my own rather than praying or asking for prayer or help from others, I realize that I am falling back into the trap of the pride of self-sufficiency. It is a grace when I find myself to weak to accomplish something on my own. The joy of the Christian life is not that I am able to do it all and accomplish it all. It is that my Saviour has accomplished it for me. I can rest in Him and learn to run to him each moment I find myself weak and insufficient.
 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In my relationships with my friends in the village, I have realized that they do not need to see me as the person who has it all together and can help. Instead I want them to realize that I am a weak broken sinner who has much to learn. It has been great to have them help me learn Luganda. These new friends find great pleasure in my weak attempts at learning their language. They are helping me and teaching me. They are also teaching me about Ugandan culture. I have often received gift from these neighbors, but yesterday their gifts were large. Elijah was with me and they gave us several large sugar canes. I was not sure how I would carry it all home. They amazed me as they used banana fibers to tie the canes together and banana leaves to make a circle to cushion the weight of the canes and help balance them on my head. They also lent me a scarf and wrapped it on my head. I was told that I am now a real "muganda." I enjoyed learning from them and trying to balance the canes on my head. I still need to use a hand for balance, at least for now. It seemed like the whole village was watching and laughing as I was trying to learn how to do something that all of their 5 year old girls can do.
I am learning that it is good to reveal my weakness, to ask for prayer, to confess my sins, and to ask for help. It is good to laugh at myself when I make mistakes and fail to balance sugar canes. It is good that I begin most days feeling like I am not up to the tasks of the day and desperately feeling my need to pray and read God's Word. I still struggle with many of these things, but I can see that God is graciously reminding me that I need Him and the body of Christ. Please continue to pray for me and my family that we all would learn to depend on Jesus more each day.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Yesterday was a graduation celebration for the P7 students at Good Shepherd's Fold primary school. The educational system here is very different from that in America, so I will briefly explain what this means. The school year begins in February and ends in November. The primary school system begins at P1 and continues to P7. When students complete P7 they take a placement test which determines much of their future. If they do very well on this exam, they can get into one of the better secondary schools and possibly make it to university one day. If their score is good but not great, they might get into a lower level secondary school which decreases their chances of scoring well enough in secondary school to continue on to university. If their score is a bit lower they may only be able to attend a few years of secondary school. And if they have a bad test day, they are finished with school altogether. These kids are most the age of students in middle school in America. Can you imagine if your educational future was determined by a test you took when you were in middle school? (The photo to the right is of me with my volleyball players who made it to the national level of competition. They were also recognized at the graduation celebration.)

These students feel a great deal of pressure, and for good reason. The celebration yesterday was celebrating the end of their regular school year. These students still have the exams to take and a class safari trip. (There are some great benefits to growing up in Africa!) At this celebration there was much talk about these upcoming exams. When Mark Gwartney, our team leader, spoke to the students, he also talked about this exam. He talked about how this test is important and may feel like a lot of pressure, but there is a more important test, the testing your heart to determine whether Jesus is your Lord and Saviour. All you have to do for this test is to acknowledge your inability to be right with God on your own and to receive the righteousness of Jesus through faith. While the results of their academic test will have many implications for their lives, the results of this Spiritual test have implications for both this life and the life to come. I was so thankful that Mark had this opportunity to share the gospel with these students and their families one more time before they leave school at GSF. Most of these students come from the nearby villages and are from a variety of religious backgrounds. The students from the school have historically scored well on these tests, so many families send their kids to the GSF school even though they are not Christians.

As you think of the ministry here at GSF, please pray for these students as they prepare for this important test. (To the left is a photo of our nurse, Kim, and the GSF kids who are finishing their P7 year of school.) Also pray that the families who have heard the good news of righteousness and salvation in Jesus Christ will come to faith in Jesus. Please pray for us to know how to encourage, comfort and point to Jesus as we talk wit the kids who live at GSF who are also preparing for this exam. It is so good for all of us to remember that our lives are in the hands of our Saviour who loved us so much that he sacrificed his own life, that we might be children of God. When I get anxious and worry about the future this is my greatest comfort.
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Recently, many members of our team have had things stolen. As you may recall, David had his phone stolen in Jinja. Other team members have had laptops, phones, kindles, ipads, and money stolen in Jinja and Kamapala. With David's phone we found that it was highly unlikely that the police would be able to recover anything. Mostly, they just asked for money to help look for it. Thankfully in all of the recent theft, no one has been personally in danger.

It can be very frustrating and discouraging to have things taken. When it is a device that you have grown accustomed to using for work and communication, missing that device creates many challenges. Even though many years ago, we did not have such conveniences, these "things" have become very important to us.

While I personally have not had anything taken yet, I have been learning from my teammates and husband as they have dealt with these situations. When David's phone was taken, he decided to just wait and to not be in a hurry to replace it. For a little over a month he did not have a phone until our nephew generously donated his phone for David to use. Out here in the village there are no land lines, so David just had to use other people's phones when he needed to communicate. He was also not able to check email very often because opening a full website on a computer takes much more bandwidth than getting an email on a mobile device. I have also heard other team members talk about not being in a hurry to replace a stolen item, rather just being willing to go without for a time.

At times I can get caught in the mindset that I need these "things," but living in a rural village in Uganda is teaching much about what I really need. Many of my neighbors live in mud huts and eat what they can grow. As we are building a house here I often struggle with wondering if I am living with much more than I really need. Our house will be very modest from an American perspective, but it seems so big compared to the one or two room huts of our neighbors. This is an ongoing struggle for me as we make decisions regarding the house.

As all of this has been mulling around in my mind, I am often reminded of this passage of Scripture.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)
Even though people do not have as many things here as in America, it is still so easy for our hearts to seek after things that do not ultimately satisfy. It is interesting that the prosperity gospel is just as popular here in the midst of poverty as it is in a wealthy country like America. Whatever we have, it is so easy to always want more. It is so easy for us to be discontent with whatever we have. I am praying that God will teach me to be more like the Apostle Paul who "has learned in whatever situation I am to be content." (Philippians 4:11) This contentment does not come from comparing myself to others but through looking to Jesus Christ who has given me eternal life and has made me a beloved child of God. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, October 11, 2014


With all the people who have recently come to faith in Jesus, our church leadership decided that we needed to have an opportunity for new believers to be baptized. It was an exciting day celebrating the work God is doing!

Above is the group of those who were baptized. (We were at GSF in order to have water readily available since there is no running water in Buundo village.) Eleven of the people who were baptized were from Light of the World church, and the other eleven were kids who live at Good Shepherd's Fold. I have been so encouraged seeing how God has been bringing people into his family! And while my friend was being baptized, I got to hold her precious grand baby. 

I am so thankful to be a part of the work God is doing in this part of the world! Please pray for these new members of the Church as they learn to live out their faith. Also pray for those of us who have the opportunity to encourage them as they grow. 

Independence Day

On Thursday, we celebrated Uganda's Independence Day. We came to Jinja for the morning, where there is better internet, so I thought I would post some photos from our fun times celebrating. This first photo is of our students on our special school day on Thursday. We used the day to study African Geography and Ugandan history, language and culture.  As you can see, we all wore our Ugandan colors to celebrate 52 years of independence!

 Our school day included several differnt activities including labeling maps, making a Ugandan flag, making a timeline of Ugandan history, playing Ugandan trivia about history, languague, geography, and culture, and a photo scavenger hunt about various aspects of life in Uganda. I will show you some of the photos that we all enjoyed with brief captions.
Elijah holding a bucket of posho
(This is what is served for lunch along with beans each day.)

Avalyn carrying matooke on her head
(Matooke is a banana that is cooked and then eaten.)

Zeke pumping water

Playing netball - yes, Zeke is the ball for this photo.
I don't think he ever was actually thrown through the hoop.

Megan, Zeke and Emma walking toward the cattle

Esther after being caught in a rainstorm

Ezra cooking over a charcoal stove
(Most cooking is done this way.)

Some GSF boys playing football, Uganda's favorite pass-time.
Overall, it was a great day with lots of learning and lots of laughs. I hope seeing our photos gives you a little picture of our life in Uganda.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Living for what lasts

The reality of death seems to be everywhere I turn. Some close friends in Georgia who are my age have recently lost their parents. It seems like each week when I go for a walk in the village, I hear about another family member who has died. And last weekend, one of my former volleyball players unexpectedly lost her mom. Her mom was an amazing woman who also worked with us at Westminster. 

Death is heartbreaking. It makes me so sad to see many people grieving. It is also a reminder that this life is so temporary. No one knows how long We have on earth. My scare with pre-cancer has helped me realize that. God's Word tells us that death comes because of sin, but we can have eternal life through faith in Jesus. 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Roman 6:23

This hope makes all the difference. I don't just have the days here on earth to live for myself. I know that I have eternity with God in heaven to look forward to. I also know that so many people around me live without that hope. So the question that comes to my mind is, "How am I going to use the days I have on this earth?" I want to spend my time here in ways that build God's kingdom. 

Sometimes I think that may be easier for me to keep that perspective as a "missionary." I live in Uganda, not because this is where I am most comfortable, but because God has work for us to do here. "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Sometimes it is easier to remember that when you live in a foreign country. It is usually pretty easy for me here to remember that this world is not my home, and that we are on this earth because God still has work for us to do. In Phillipians 1:21, the Apostle Paul says that  "to live is Christ and to die is gain(heaven)."  The next verse talks about the "fruitful labor" that God has for us while we are on this earth. 

I praise God that He is showing me that the labor he has for us here is fruitful. A few days agoI had the privilege of praying with a girl from GSF who wanted to be a part of God's family. She prayed that Jesus would be her Savior. Many missionaries and house moms have planted seeds and watered them in her life over the years. God graciously gave me the privilege of being there at the time He was bringing about the harvest in the life of this girl! Praise God!

I am praying that even on days when I am feeling comfortable and at home in this life, that I will remember that God has a purpose for us in life beyond just being comfortable and happy. It is so easy to get lulled into thinking that life is primarily about my happiness. 

Elijah recently read the book, Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief. In the book, the main character, Percy Jackson, is sent on a mission, but when he gets to a place where he is having a lot of fun, he loses track of time and starts forgetting about his mission. I think that is often a temptation for me, particularly in America. It is so easy to be entertained and distracted, forgetting our mission in this life. 

One of my goals in blogging is that my writing will help both me and those who read my blog to remember that God has a mission for all of us in this life. Some of us are called to be a part of what God is doing here in Uganda, and some are called to be a part of what God is doing in Watkinsville, Georgia. God is calling people to be a part of His kingdom work in all different places around the world. It is my prayer that wherever we find ourselves, we will remember that God has loved us, redeemed us, and adopted us. He has brought people into our lives and given us the privilege of showing His love to them and sharing His grace with them. It is my prayer that I will keep my eyes on Jesus, what He has done, and what He calls me to do, rather than getting distracted by focusing on the joys or sorrows of this life.