Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New uniforms!

While we were in Florida on furlough, we had the opportunity to speak at my brother's church. The congregation there was very friendly and supportive. Many members of that church thought of different ways of supporting our work here in Uganda. One woman had access to many team sets of unused uniform jerseys. She offered to send them back with us. Today many of those uniforms were able to be used! 

The primary school here at Good Shepherd's Fold goes up through P7, similar to the 7th grade in the U.S. This term of their school year includes team sports. Uniforms are something every team would love to have, but not many can afford. Today the GSF primary school was able to provide jerseys for the visiting team, sending them home with a team set! Here is a photo I took as they were preparing to play. The GSF team is in the red on the left. 

The girls' netball team was also able to use another set of jerseys. Netball is a common sport here, similar to basketball, but played on a grass field with no dribbling. The girls were all asking for their photo to be taken in their new uniforms. 
Yes, teenage girls everywhere like to have their picture taken. I enjoyed being able to see how excited the players were to have these new uniforms. We are very grateful for the thoughtfulness of this one woman to give what she had. 

It makes me wonder what a blessing it would be if each of us were to take the time to consider what gifts, talents, or material possessions we might have that could be used in the lives of others for God's glory. These uniforms were not being used by anyone else, just sitting in a warehouse. Instead of being wasted, they were set apart to bless many children in rural villages of Uganda, Africa in the name of Jesus. What gifts or material possessions do I have that God might be calling me to use somewhere, somehow to help others know more about him? What about you? 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Welcome back!

The past week or so has been full of some great reunions with friends here. When we arrived at GSF on Friday evening the children, missionaries and staff on duty came to greet us at the gate. It was so good to see everyone! I probably gave over 100 hugs. When we reached our house, our neighbors were calling to greet us. I went to see the nearest family and all the other neighbor women and children came to greet me. They all spoke in excited voices, jumping and hugging me rather than the more formal welcome. I was very happy to see them again and to know that they were happy that we were back. I was also thankful that I remembered enough of my Luganda to converse with them. Please continue to pray that we will be a little taste of the love of Jesus in their lives.

On Saturday we worked on settling in. Then our friends, the Lawsons, came out to visit us. It was good for the kids to run around and play together, for the dads to work on a project together, and for the moms to make pizza together. It was a great afternoon and evening. Our children said that knowing we had the Lawsons here made it a lot easier to come back. 

On Sunday, we went to worship with our church in the village. Many of our Ugandan friends there welcomed us. I had almost forgotten how much I love worshipping there. Many of our neighbors' children also joined us. Although I am a foreigner here, I felt like I was coming home. It was such a grace!

One of the ways that cultural differences came up was the conversation welcoming us back. Almost everyone we met thanked us for returning or praised God for bringing us back. Americans might say "it is good to see you" or "I missed you", but I can't imagine Americans thanking people for returning. That seems so personal and vulnerable, like we really need other people. We Americans generally like our independence and personal space too much for that. 

Another cultural difference came up as many people greeted me and told me how fat I looked. They meant it as a complement saying that I had been well fed while I was away. It is true that I gained a few pounds, but my American friends assured me that it didn't look like it. Haha This cultural difference reminds me that we live in a place where many people do go hungry at times, and food takes much more time to prepare. I am thankful that I have always had access to food when I was hungry. Please pray for all of us at GSF who have been given so much. Pray that we will know how to love those around us well and point them to Jesus. 

An exciting surprise that we found when we returned was all the work that Jonathan, our friend and pastor, had done in our absence. When we left we had just begun landscaping around our house. The plants were all small, and the house was mostly surrounded with dirt and a few sprigs of grass. David left Jonathan with instructions and money to work on the landscape while we were away. When we returned, it felt like a completely different place. It is so beautiful and we are extremely grateful for all of Jonathan's work, along with the others he supervised during that time.
We are also thankful to God for the rainy season that made everything grow so well during our time away. Our vegetable garden is full of pumpkins which we were able to share. Yesterday as I was in the backyard, a few African Gray Parrots came and landed in our tree near the garden and sang beautifully. For those of you who came to our home in Georgia, you know how we love landscaping and creating a beautiful space around us with plants and flowers. Although it is a smaller space here, we are very thankful to be able to have a beautiful place to call home! 

There are so many blessing God has provided to make this transition feel like "coming home," yet there are still many struggles. I had a particularly frustrating day when our new blender started smoking and then stopped working even though I was using the converter/adapter. Apparently it drew more electricity than the adapter was able to handle. I also got a message that day that the young woman, who I was hoping would come to help us at school and with our kids at home, is not coming. I was particularly discouraged that day. It has taken me several days to get to the point where I could write a blogpost again without just grumbling and complaining. 

In the midst of these struggles, God has shown me several small graces. The women here on my team have been encouraging and helpful. In a week it will be just us and one other missionary on campus, but I am thankful that during my most frustrating time of transition, God provided encouragement through each of the women on our team. I also received a few emails from friends in the states that have been a real blessing and encouragement. Here is a small excerpt of an email from one of my dear friends.

 "I read a verse in Deuteronomy earlier this week that said something to the effect of 'when we are weary He carries us on His shoulders.'  I thought of our kids and how, when we go hiking, inevitably at least one of them will get tired and ask their dad for a ride on his shoulders. How sweet that our lord loves us like a father and is there to carry us when we are weary."

God has been gracious in reminding me that I need Him to carry me through the difficult days. He has been gracious in providing us with good friends to welcome us back and to write to us from across the ocean. He has provided us with a beautiful home and many opportunities to be a part of the work He is doing in this part of the world. 

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 118:1

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thankful to be here!

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda around 1:00am so thankful for many of God's provisions along the way. This trip was one of our most pleasant traveling experiences to/from Uganda. At 2:30am local time as we were settling the children into their beds at the Airport Guesthouse, we took a brief time to thank God for his many graces to us throughout our trip. Then we fell into our beds. Here is a list of some of our thanks.

Me: Everyone traveled well and got a bit of rest. We didn't have much trouble checking our bags.
Esther: All of our bags arrived.
Zeke: I get to see Bobby tomorrow.
Ezra: We did not miss any off our flights.
David: We traveled with very little conflict among our family.
Elijah: I only threw up a little bit and felt better soon after.

I have recently been reading a devotional by Ann Voskamp based on her book, One Thousand Gifts: Reflections on finding everyday graces. I have been trying to be more intentional to thank God for his graces in the midst of situations that may even be a bit frustrating. Elijah was a great example of that last night, even though there may have been a hint of sarcasm in his voice. We joked that he bookended our furlough with vomit. Some of you may have heard the story of vomiting on a public bus during a layover in Italy after our first 24 hours of travel leaving Uganda. I will post that story at some point. On our return trip, the last leg of the journey from Ethiopia to Uganda was the one that put Elijah over the edge this time. During that last stretch of our journey, I read this verse.
"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom and gently lead those that are with young." Isaiah 40:11 

I definitely have seen many ways in which God gently led us in the midst of our trip. Here is a brief recap of our travels. On Wednesday around noon we left Watkinsville, GA and drove toward the Atlanta airport. On our drive we talked as a family about some of our good memories on furlough and some of the things we are looking forward to back in Uganda. It was a pleasant drive with no bickering! What a blessing! We stopped for one last meal at Zaxby's and all thoroughly enjoyed it!

As we arrived at the international terminal, we found several blessings. The first was that a man who was there to assist with baggage helped us check in all of our luggage quickly and without any complications even though some items were slightly overweight. We had 3 extra "bags" but we were only charged for one of them.  And then we found that some friends from church were on the same flight traveling in the row ahead of us to Frankfurt, Germany! So many little graces.

On that first leg of our journey there was more turbulence than usual, but no one got sick. Zeke did jump a bit at the first big bump. He was sitting next to Esther, his "medium mom" who comforted him well.
The night was short, only a few hours of darkness since we were traveling east overnight, but everyone got at least a little rest. We landed in Frankfurt, and had Euros leftover from our layover on our way to the United States. Our Euros bought us a delicious breakfast and some much needed coffee before finding our way to our connecting flight. As we boarded the plane we realized that our flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia actually stopped in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia. The extra stop provided some time to rest without seat belts fastened. The next leg to Ethiopia was not nearly as full as the stretch to Saudia Arabia, so our family was able to spread out a bit in order to lie down to sleep. As we changed planes in Ethiopia, getting on to our plane going to Entebbe, Uganda, things began to feel more like we were coming home. Our flight was mostly filled with Africans, which somehow feels more normal to me these days. Also, Ugandans are some of the most friendly, hospitable people on this planet, I am sure. There were many more smiling faces and nice conversations on this last stretch even though this flight was 11pm-1am. When Elijah got sick, many people expressed their sympathy. I was happy to remember how much I love the Ugandan people.

As we arrived, we passed through immigration and customs without much delay, and found all of our baggage straight away. Our driver met us immediately as we walked out and our short drive to the guesthouse was uneventful. As we arrived at the guesthouse we had showers, and all the children went to sleep quickly. I woke this morning around 8am and found the rest of the family sleeping soundly. The guesthouse has a beautiful garden, a delicious breakfast, and friendly staff. I enjoyed some time to pray, read the Bible, walk around the garden and write until we woke the children around 11am.
I am so thankful they were all able to get some good rest. Around 9am, we got word that there was some confusion with our driver who was supposed to take us to GSF this morning, but the delay has provided more rest for the children, and a peaceful morning. Even during breakfast we have seen some of God's little graces to us. Ezra's toast flipped off his plate after being spread with jam, but it landed jam side up on his lap, preventing any big mess.
Now David is reading to the children while we wait. I am so thankful for God's gracious care for us in the midst of so much travel. Whether things go smoothly or with more difficultly God is graciously caring for us, his children. Thank you for your many prayers for us. It is my prayer that you will be able to see some of God's graces to you in the midst of your everyday life too.
"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for His steadfast love endures forever."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Longing for Home

Home. The word carries so much meaning. Home should be a place of feeling loved, secure, safe. One of my children recently said, "I just want to feel like I belong someplace." Don't we all? Our family has stayed in a dozen different "homes" over the past 3 months. Many people have asked various family members if they are ready to go back to Uganda. Each one has expressed in their own way that we are all ready to be settled in one place, to be back home. But when we have to say goodbye to family and friends and re-enter another culture, the home doesn't feel quite complete.

When we first returned to the United States, many people asked if it was good to be home. At that moment I realized that I don't really think on Georgia as home. The culture felt a bit foreign. We didn't have a consistent place to live. And I missed people from across the globe. I am finding that my desire for home is never fully satisfied. When I am here in America, I miss my Ugandan friends, my missionary team, the children of Good Shepherd's Fold. When I am there I miss my family and friends from this side of the ocean.

I think every missionary has probably spent quite a bit of time reflecting on Hebrews 11. We remember in very tangible ways that we are "foreigners and strangers" in this world. But I find great comfort in remembering that we have an eternal home to look forward to. It is easy for me to get wrapped up in making this life our home, wanting stability, comfort, a sense of belonging. And those are good things. I hope all of your homes are characterized by those qualities. I am thankful that our home in Uganda has begun to be a little of that for us. But when we experience the comfort of home in this life, we can remember that it is just a small taste of the amazing, eternal home that awaits those who put their hope in Jesus. In that home there will be no more goodbyes. I won't have to keep moving around and forgetting where I left things. We won't be living out of suitcases anymore.

I look forward to the home described in Revelation 21. God will make his home with his people, and wipe away all our tears. In these last days of furlough when I am shedding quite a few tears, it is good for me to look forward to that day, to remember that my home is with my God. My Abba, Daddy is reminding me that He is where I can find comfort, safety, peace, belonging, and rest. I am at home with Him.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Free lunch/ministry update

It has been a real blessing to see many of you over the past few months. The time has flown. It is hard to believe that we will be on our way back to Uganda on Wednesday. I wish that we had time to catch up with everyone and give you each a personal update on our ministry. Since that is not possible, I wanted to invite you to come to Faith Presbyterian Church in Watkinsville, GA at noon tomorrow (Sunday). We will be giving a ministry update and providing lunch for anyone who is interested. Childcare will be provided.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


A few days ago we celebrated Independence Day here in the United States for the first time in 3 years. We left for Uganda on July 1, 2013 and arrived there just in time to celebrate with our new team. Here is a photo from July 4, 2013.

This year we spent the 4th of July back in the United States on our first furlough. Our youngest two children did not remember seeing fireworks, and they were completely amazed at the display here in Oconee County, Georgia. It was so much fun to see their excitement and hear their comments. We also enjoyed being able to celebrate with family and friends here. Below, waiting for the fireworks to begin.

It is interesting that both countries in which we live celebrate a day of political independence from Great Britain, although the United States of America gained their independence almost 200 years before Uganda did. Recently I have been reflecting a bit about the concept of personal independence.

I have generally been a fairly independent person from early on in life. Well, maybe stubborn or rebellious might be more accurate adjectives according to my mom. My parents have a professional photo from when I was about 3 years old in which I was wearing a big scowl. Apparently after the photo shoot, my mom asked me why I did not smile and I said, "I didn't like that man, and he told me to smile, so I didn't smile." My mom also tells the story of the entire day I spent in the pack-n-play refusing to apologize to my brother. Around that time, I reached the stage of insisting on "doing it myself." For those who have had toddlers, you are probably familiar this stage. The problem is I may have never grown out of that stage...

I was the teenager who didn't call my dad when my car ran out of gas because I wanted to solve the problem myself. I am the woman who wants to carry the heavy objects on my own, thank you. When my car battery is dead, I want to prove to the world that I know how to use jumper cables without the assistance of a man. Stubborn, independent, persevering, strong-willed, proud, call it what you will. I have known for years that this tendency of my heart can be both a blessing and an area of sin in my life.

As we moved to work in another country some of that stubborn perseverance served me well. I did not want to give up and go home. Well, maybe I wanted to, but I wasn't going to do it. But God also has been graciously showing me that it is okay to need Him. Living in Uganda has taught me to pray and depend on God for many things that I used to think I could handle on my own. I am learning that I am not really independent. Instead I am learning to depend on God for so much more of everyday life. I still might not call a man for help when I am stuck on the side of the road, but I definitely will call on my Heavenly Father. I know that I need Him for all things. This is the song in my head much more often these days:
I need Thee every hour, most Gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I Need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. My one defense, my righteousness, O God how I need Thee.