Saturday, May 28, 2016

A day of rest

Our wise Heavenly Father set apart one day a week as a day of rest. We celebrate that day on Sunday, the Lord's Day. But for those who live, work and worship in a cross cultural setting, this rest can be challenging to find. Today is Sunday and before 8am, I have already had someone come to my house asking for assistance to buy a uniform that she needs for going to school tomorrow. Yesterday I had 3 requests from neighbors about helping them in various ways today. Last Sunday David preached. Some weeks I teach children's church with 40-70 children of 3 different language groups in one room. Our worship service is a cross cultural experience that requires a lot of emotional and physical energy to engage. These are all wonderful opportunities to serve, but they can also be exhausting. 

In order to find some time to rest on Sundays, we do close our doors for a few hours in the afternoon and do not receive visitors. We have stopped inviting people over for Sunday lunch because we have realized that our family needs the time to rest. Even with setting these boundaries, it has become evident to me that I need to set apart other times for rest and extended times of prayer and worship in order to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. 

On Thursday of this past week I took a day away for worship and rest. It was very refreshing and the day flew by. I went to a place nearby called the Rainforest Lodge. True to its name, it is located in the midst of the rainforest. It is a quiet peaceful place with a trail for a walk, benches to sit and rest and a restaurant with delicious food. It is one of my favorite places to go for some peaceful time away. Here is a photo of me on my walk through the forest. I didn't catch any of the monkeys in the photo, but the trees are beautiful!

I am thankful that I was able to take the time away to pray about several things that had been swirling around in my head recently. I also was able to spend a great deal of time thanking God for his many blessings. While sitting on a bench in the rainforest and singing songs of worship, I was overwhelmed by God's loving care for me.
As I looked up at the beautifully diverse canopy of leaves, I saw God's love through creating and sustaining this amazing world. As I read the Bible I was reminded of God's love through his faithful care for his people. And as I wrote in my journal, I remembered the many ways God has shown his loving care to me throughout my life. It was a wonderful day of resting in God's loving care for me! I hope that you are also able to set apart some time to rest in Him! 

"Come to me all who labor and are heavy ladened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29

Friday, May 13, 2016

What a couple of weeks!

It is hard to believe everything that has happened in the past couple of weeks. I can't share everything, but it is amazing to see what God has accomplished and brought us through in these past few weeks. If I were to go into detail this post would be way too long so I will just hit the highlights.

A team of friends from our home church in Georgia came to visit us. This team was comprised of 4 adults and 3 children. They brought many very useful supplies and experienced life with us here in Buwundo, Uganda. One experience was helping David to catch and kill the rat that was driving me crazy! 

In addition to rat catching and general encouragement, they came to do computer training, medical training and an optometry clinic. They saw nearly 400 patients, providing over 100 pairs of glasses for those who needed them. Several people commented that they could now read the Bible since their vision has improved! We are so grateful for this amazing blessing and service they were able to provide. Here is a photo of students waiting for their vision screening to determine if they need to be seen by the optometrist.

After assisting with 3 days of clinics, we taught children's church, took our friends to the source of the Nile, and to see reptiles. Then one of my children started having fevers and was achy which turned out to be strep throat. He was up in the night feeling very ill. He was diagnosed the day before we needed to take our team to the airport and say goodbye.

That night our neighbor boy who is 8 years old and has a seizure disorder wandered off and did not return. His family called me at 11pm after they had already been searching for hours. I prayed with them and supplied some back up lanterns and flashlights since their batteries were running low. It rained extremely hard that night and all I could do was pray most of the night. The next morning one of his aunts found him in a field. He was extremely cold! Here is a photo of another aunt warming him with tea. Praise God he seems to have returned to his normal! 

After our friend was found, we needed to leave to take our team to the airport. Since I was checking on my friends, I needed to quickly pack up and prepare to go. We planned to take them to the zoo and out to eat before dropping them off at the airport. We had a great time and they got to see several Ugandan animals up close and personal. Since their flight was leaving very late at night, we had planned to spend the night at the zoo and then return home to GSF the next day. We made all of those plans before realizing that it would be the day before the presidential inauguration and there would be difficulty driving back. In Entebbe we were diverted to a side road. Since it was raining heavily and the side roads were dirt roads, we moved slowly. We finally reached a point where we were supposed to rejoin a paved road, but there was a big truck stuck in the mud ahead of us. Instead we ended up traveling on back roads all the way around to the west of Kampala in order to take a bypass to the north in order to eventually head east to go home. A normally 4-5 hour trip took about twice that time. At least we did not pass through the part of Kampala where there was tear gas that day. During the bus ride, 2 of our other children began feeling sick. By the time we reached home, I realized that one or both of them also had strep. Cue another 2 nights of kids not sleeping, fevers, etc. David had to drive to Jinja the next day in order to get antibiotics for my other kids. In the meantime we were on a social media block by the Ugandan government. The social media block and road blocks were attempts to prevent riots or terrorist activities during the inauguration. 

While all of this made for a few crazy weeks, the icing on the cake was when I walked out my back door and found my dog playing with something that looked a bit unusual. At first I thought that she had a dead rodent or something. It obviously had fur and she was tossing it into the air. I called David and we walked closer to see what she had. It was goat testicles. Yes, my dog was chewing on and playing with goat testicles. You can't make this stuff up. Our neighbor had slaughtered a goat and our brought us some meat. Then our dog had found the testicles to use as a chew toy.

At the end of these crazy couple of weeks David and I were scheduled to speak at a conference for high school and college students who grew up at GSF. They are in between the first and second terms of school and it is a way for them to connect with each other and those of us here at GSF. We were glad to be a part of the conference, but we also had a full day scheduled. 

We needed to go to Jinja to run a few errands and to celebrate Esther's birthday with some  friends in town. One of Esther's closest friends here in Uganda has a birthday one week before Esther's, so we met at a pool to celebrate together. Actually in the last month 4 of the girls in this family celebrated birthdays. Here is a photo of the birthday girls.

Since the mom is also a friend of mine and she celebrated her birthday while our team was here, her husband offered to keep all 10 of the kids from our 2 families while David ran errands and I took my friend out for a birthday dinner. He may win a dad of the year award for this.
 It was a great end to a very busy couple of weeks! We are praying that today will truly be a day of rest! We only have church and an evening Bible study with neighbors on our schedule. Praying that is similar to what God has planned for us today! 

Now I can see!

In our almost three years here in Uganda, we have been asking for visitors. Our parents have come, but other than that, the people who are here now are our first visitors. We have been so excited to have friends come experience life here with us. It is so nice to feel more understood by some of our close friends. While I knew that it would be a blessing to have them here, I had no idea what a huge blessing they would be to our community. Here is a photo of the adults on the team with us.
One of our goodriends is an optometrist who was able to take 2 weeks off of his work in the US, to do vision clinics here at GSF and in the village. He evaluated babies, children with special needs, students at the GSF primary school, the staff here, and many elderly people from the local villages. It was amazing to see what a blessing these clinics have been to our friends here. Many people immediately commented, "Now I can read the Bible!" Some had been coming to Bible studies, but could only listen and could not see the words for themselves. 

Others who never were able to see things in the distance can now see clearly. One of our GSF girls who has special needs now can see your face without having to put her face very close to yours. She is very proud of her new glasses! 

We also have several elderly people who have been referred for cataract surgery. We are working on plans to provide that for as many as possible. 

These clinics have reminded me that one of the miracles Jesus performed was giving sight to the blind. It was a physical picture of a spiritual reality. Without knowing Jesus, we are blind. We cannot see the way to eternal life. We cannot fully make sense of the world around us. But when the Spirit of God comes and opens our eyes, we can have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We can begin to see the people and things around us in a new light. God's Word, the Bible, helps us interpret these things, but sometimes I forget to put on my "glasses." I forget to read the Bible and interpret my life through the lens of God's Word. It is so beautiful that the first response of many of my brothers and sisters here to receiving glasses is that they can now read God's Word! They want their glasses to enable them to put in the lens of Scripture. I need to remember to put on my "glasses" every day to help me see clearly. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

An exciting Sunday

This past Sunday was a very exciting and full day. There were moments of celebrating, laughing, crying and much praying! I'm thankful for the ways God has been working, but it was also pretty exhausting!

As you may know, right now we have a team visiting from our church in America. This team includes some of our closest friends who we have known for many years. Since this team is a combination of adults and children, we thought it would be nice to plan some times to be with our adult friends while the children are occupied. Sunday school was supposed to be that time. While the children all went to various Sunday school classes I had planned a big breakfast for my friends with egg casserole, biscuits and fruit salad. Recently David and I have not needed to teach a Sunday school class, but we received a phone call on Saturday evening asking if one of us could cover for another missionary who was sick. David volunteered to teach and I hosted the breakfast. It was a nice time, but too short as the children began to return from Sunday school and we needed to prepare to go to church. 

Since there were many of us, David drove the GSF kids we normally take, and I walked with our visitors showing them some things about our village along the way. As we left our house we realized that one of our neighbors, who has never before come to church, wanted to ride along. She needed to ride along because she was also bringing her grandson with special needs. Although she is a grandmother, she is very young in her faith in Jesus. I was so excited to have them come worship with us! 

After church and having the team join us for lunch, we went to look in on the houses that are being built for our elderly neighbors. I did a little sweeping to clean up. It is exciting that they will be moving in soon! 

After talking with our neighbors for a bit, we got to help the visiting team distribute the gifts they brought for our missionary team. It was so exciting to see the amazing generosity of our church in America sending all of these gifts! There are even more gifts intended for the various ministries! My children are so excited to have some of their favorite things to eat like Honey Nut Cheerios and cheese to make macaroni and cheese! Thank you to everyone who helped send these gifts! 

After the gift delivery, we all went to GSF family church. It was a great time of worship, and we welcomed a new little girl into our GSF family and prayed together for her. Please pray for Mary Grace as she adapts to life here. Here is a photo of Nurse Grace holding her.

After family church we were all tired so we decided that the team would eat at the guesthouse and we would eat at home and have early bedtimes. Well, that was our plan... As we reached our house a little after 7pm we heard that the tap for our neighbors in Buwundo village had broken. David walked up to see what he needed to do. One of the security guards had shut off the water to stop it from spraying everywhere, but that also shut off the water to our house. David had a plan of how to switch things around so that we could have water at our house and still keep the tap from spraying all night. This plan would mean that our neighbors would have to walk about 10 minutes to fetch not so clean water again, so we decided to help them fill their containers to have water on hand until we could get the part in Jinja to fix the tap. Since the water was spraying everywhere while we were helping them fill up, I got soaked. It was fun though, laughing with all the children while we collected water and got wet. 

As I walked back to my house in my wet clothes, we met a young girl who could not talk and was walking around GSF near our house. She appeared to be 8-10 years old. I asked around and no one knew where she was from. When I asked her she just pointed up. She was motioning that she wanted to bathe, eat and sleep. By this time it was about 8pm and dark. I had no idea what to do, so we called other missionaries. She had also gone to another missionary house and that friend came up to check on her. My children ate some snacks for dinner and helped bring things for this little girl, a basin and soap to wash her feet, bandages and neosporon for her wounds, some tea and bread since she indicated she was thirsty and hungry. Esther also gave her a jacket that she recently had outgrown since the girl indicated that she was cold. Eventually the other missionaries and security guards were able to get in touch with our social worker and the LC (local counsel) to figure out what to do. They found the village that she had wandered from and were able to take her home. Our social worker will follow up with the family to see if there are ways that we can work together to help this family care for the children and particularly this little girl. We found out later that her name is Lydia. Please pray for Lydia to know God's love through Jesus and that the social worker at GSF will know how best to work with that family as His hands and feet. 

I am thankful for the opportunities God brings into our lives each day to show his love to those around us. I am reminded how Jesus took his disciples away on the boat because they were all hungry and tired, but when he reached the other side, he found that the people had gathered there. While sometimes my response is that I just want to escape into my home in moments like this, I pray that more often my response will be like Jesus, having compassion on them. I am thankful that he has had compassion on me! Now, I'm going to try to get some rest...