We take much for granted. We assume that there will be food on the table, that there will be clothes to wear, that there will be air to breath. We are very blessed, and we often assume that we will continue to be blessed. As we grow more and more accustomed to these everyday blessings, we begin to think that we deserve them. Serving people who did not have these blessings promised them made me realize that we are not promised tomorrow, but neither are we promised today. Every breath we take is more than we deserve. It is when we truly believe this, and only then, that we can be truly thankful.During the outreach, we washed clothes, fetched water from the river, and helped to construct a mud hut. In the midst of this, the family was very grateful and thankful. They helped us with the various chores we were assigned and couldn’t seem to stop thanking us.
Serving this family made me realize that we all have reasons to be thankful. We can be thankful for as much or as little as we want.
At the end of our first quarter of the school year, we met with the parents of our students for a parent-teacher conference. Since I haven't had the time to write as frequently in recent months, I thought I would also provide a brief overview of some of the highlights of our first quarter of the 2017-2018 school year here.
We began our school year with a field trip to raft a section of the Nile River! It was a great trip and a fun relationship building time. To add to the adventure, the buses got stuck in the mud taking us to the drop off point, and we walked in the mud down to the river. It was a fun adventure and a good way to begin our school year together! We are blessed to live in such an amazing part of the world!
This year we have enough students and teachers to be able to offer some electives! Our middle and high school students are now able to choose between Drama class and Physical Education and also between Art and Music classes. It has been fun to see some performances, and watch as our students develop their different areas of giftedness.
In October we celebrated 55 years of Ugandan independence. I always enjoy learning more about this fascinating country in which we live! We use the opportunity of Independence Day to focus on Ugandan history, culture, geography, cooking, etc. It was a fun and educationally enriching day!
We are praying for an additional teacher. While we do have one more teacher than we had last school year, we are still praying that God would provide another person to serve with us. We have met with a young woman who might be assisting at our school part-time as a resource teacher/tutor as soon as January! In our eyes it looks like a great fit! Please pray for the Lord to direct all of us as she takes time to consider. If you or someone you know might be interested in joining us as we teach some amazing missionary kids in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, please contact us!
We thank God for giving us a wonderful first quarter of our fifth school year teaching here in Uganda. Thank you all for your prayers and support for our work here! To God be the glory!
Most Saturdays are pretty full for our family. Since we teach on weekdays, Saturdays are the day we make the 45 minute drive into town and do shopping for the week, go to the bank, take our children to play sports, visit with friends in town, and do any other necessary errands. It is also the afternoon/evening when I meet with the women in the Buwundo Beads group to have a Bible study and then buy some of the necklaces and crafts they have made that week. A normal Saturday is busy, but some are more so than others.
Last Saturday we were on our way to town in a borrowed vehicle because our van was getting repaired. The borrowed van was brought to us on Friday night. In order for us to reach Jinja by 8am when rugby practice begins, we need to leave our house by 7:15 at the latest, so we packed our things for the day, including swimsuits for a missionary fellowship at a pool, costumes for a fall fair in town, along with the bottles, diapers, burp cloths and clothes needed for a baby, and got in the van. Little did we know that the van was brought to us without enough fuel to reach the nearest petrol (gasoline) station. As we got a few miles down the dirt road and started heading up a hill, the van sputtered and then stopped. It ran out of fuel. We found a friend who was willing to go get 5 liters of fuel and bring it to us on a boda. Since there was not a funnel, they decided to use a banana leaf. Ugandans are so resourceful with local materials!
The fuel was enough to start the vehicle once. But then it stopped again. Apparently because we were on a hill, the fuel was in the back of the tank and not enough to keep the vehicle going. After trying to start it multiple times, the battery also stopped working. We coasted backward down the hill to more level ground, but since the battery had also stopped working, we were unable to get the van started. Eventually, our mechanic was able to come with more fuel, a replacement battery and get us back on the road by about 10:00am. It was too late for our children to make it to their sports practices, but we did get some patience practice. 😉 We also were able to make it to Jinja soon enough to spend some time with friends, go swimming and participate in the fall fair.
Yesterday, we still had the borrowed van, but we made sure it had enough fuel. On the way into town there was a stalled vehicle on the bridge which caused about a half hour delay and provided some more patience practice, but we still arrived in time for most of the sports practices. Elijah chose to see the bright side and said that they might miss some of the fitness training and drills, but they would be there in time for scrimmaging. In town, we didn't have much trouble accomplishing our errands other than briefly getting stuck in the mud, but some friends helped us out and it only took a few minutes. We stayed in town for lunch, then went to pick Esther up from a friend's house on the way back home. We had planned enough time for me to have a few minutes at home after unloading and putting things away before going to my Bible study. But little did we know that another adventure awaited.
After picking up Esther, we were heading back toward the main road when a bump in the muddy dirt road caused the two- wheel drive van we were using to slide over into a ditch. Since the wheels were spinning in the mud, our 3 boys, a young man from GSF who was with us for the day, and I all got out to push while David drove and Esther held the baby.
We were able to get the van to move forward, but never got enough traction to get it out of the ditch. We also got covered with quite a bit of mud that the tires sent flying.
Many men who were nearby working came to help, but even with many strong men pushing, the vehicle was stuck. I walked with our younger boys to the house of another missionary who I knew had a 4-wheel drive vehicle and was likely to have a chain or tow rope. This family also has a camel named Chewy, so we got a few photos.
They were not home. While we were standing in front of their gate, Ezra was coming up with all kinds of ideas about how to solve this problem. He said, "I really like this type of situation because of all the possibilities for how to solve the problem." He is a creative problem-solver and I love that about him! I also love that he was able to enjoy using his gifts rather than complaining about the delays. As we were waiting for the family to either come to the gate or get home, a truck drove by. I waved for them to stop and asked them to drive down the road and assist my husband. They found a rope and tried pulling the van out with that until the rope broke. Then they found a cable of some sort and were able to use that to pull the van backward and then forward to get out of the ditch!
We arrived home much later than planned and covered with mud, but thankful that we were home! I quickly showered and changed in order to go to our Bible study celebration. This Bible study group completed listening to the entire New Testament in Luganda! We have been meeting weekly to listen to a section of the New Testament, discuss it, worship and pray together. It has taken over a year, but we have been able to start in the book of Matthew and continue all the way through the end of Revelation! Since we knew we would be finishing on Saturday, we planned a big celebration. The women had been cooking most of the day in order to have a big meal together celebrating the completion of listening to the New Testament. The students joined us and everyone had enough to eat!
It was a wonderful time! I am so thankful that these women and students have heard so much of God's Word and desire to continue.
While there have definitely been challenges, I also see that there is much to celebrate and be thankful for. I am thankful that in the midst of these challenges, God has enabled us to consider it pure joy (at least mostly), and see these times as opportunities rather than just frustrations. God has provided people to help us in our times of need. These struggles with a borrowed vehicle also help us to see what a blessing our van has been! We look forward to getting it back before our next trip to town, Lord willing. I am also thankful to be able to be a part of this group meeting together to hear God's Word! It is beautiful to see the way several of these women and students have come to know and love Jesus as they have learned more about him. I pray that God will help me to see the challenges of each day from his perspective and rejoice at the many ways He is at work!
Recently I have been remembering bits and pieces of my middle school years. As two of my children are now walking through this stage of life, I am remembering several of the challenges I faced during these years. I am also realizing how some of the struggles that are common in these years are issues I still struggle with at times. I find myself reliving some of the pain from those years as I try to equip my children and students to process the These are such important transition years as children grow into teenagers and young adults. Here are a few of the things I began learning at this age and still need to remember as an adult.
1- God is my only perfect friend. He is always there for me and I learned to pour my heart out to him through prayer and journaling during these years. Psalm 118 says "His steadfast love endures forever." It is so good to know that even though all friends will disappoint us at times, God never will. He will always love us! He is the best friend I could ever have! As I learn that I am secure in God's love for me, I can think about being a friend to others rather than needing a friend. I still need to remind myself of this as an adult.
2- God has given each of us gifts to be used for his kingdom. During my middle school years, I began thinking about what God might be calling me to do. My youth group leaders and teachers encouraged and equipped me for ministry. I started a Bible study with a few friends in my neighborhood and really enjoyed that opportunity to serve. It is interesting that so many years later I am still starting and leading Bible studies in my neighborhood, although my neighborhood now looks very different. I realized that when I was thinking about how I could love and serve others, I was much less worried about what others thought about me.
3- Words have a great deal of power. In middle school I was feeling jealous of another girl and said something hurtful about her to one of my friends. A year later she told me that someone told her what I had said. She expressed how much those words hurt her and explained that she avoided me for a year because of the pain those words caused her. I am thankful that she had the courage to confront me and that made a significant impression on me. Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." I still struggle at times with my words, but I pray that my tongue will bring healing to those around me.
These middle school years can be challenging times, but it is also a wonderful time for equipping and growing in many ways. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak into the lives of our children and students in these significant transitional years.
Bringing a foster child into your home in order to eventually adopt is a very different experience than giving birth. Another adoptive mom on our team suggested that the "birth pains" are stretched out over a long period of time as you go through the whole process. One major difference is a bit of confusion about when to celebrate. If I had given birth to a child, I know that my family and friends would come to the hospital and probably have a shower to celebrate the child. But I didn't know how or when to celebrate Evie joining our family.
Our missionary team sometimes has game nights where we get together just to have fun. Since many of us had recently returned from the states, I was excited to hear that someone was planning a team game night for last Friday. When we arrived, I found out that it was a surprise baby shower welcoming Evie to our family and to our missionary family! I cannot explain how much I felt loved and understood and so happy that I even began crying! I had longed for this type of celebration for my daughter, but didn't even realize how much I desired it until our missionary family surprised us with this party!
Our team gave us this basin full of essentials like diapers, wipes, baby wash, formula, etc. and made these beautiful cupcakes to celebrate our baby girl.
They even had beautiful decorations!
They were all trying to hold an adopted or foster Ugandan "baby" as we walked in to celebrate with us. We are not alone in this process! Our team actually has more adopted missionary kids than biological ones, but many of the children area bit big to carry. 😉
While I am sad that Evie has not yet been able to meet any of her new grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins since they all live across the ocean, I am so thankful that she has such a loving missionary family who took time to plan a beautiful celebration welcoming her into our family! In Psalms 68:6 the Bible says that "God places the lonely into families." I am thankful that God placed Evie with us, but I am also so thankful that He placed our family in a missionary team that has beome a second family to us!
As I get to know my precious new daughter, I have such a mixture of emotions. I love her deeply and am beginning to see a special bond form between the two of us.
Yesterday, she wanted to be held close and in the afternoon and evening she kept reaching for my face and bringing her nose to touch mine. It was so precious and I thank God for the connection that is beginning to form. I want her to know that I want to be her mama forever. I want her to know that she is special to me. She enjoys our whole family and they all love her dearly. Here is a photo from the first time our children met her when she was just a few months old.
These boys particularly love giving baby Evie cuddles and are thrilled to help care for her, except when she has dirty diapers. 😉 My older two are amazing helpers and I love how they care for her! Evie shares a room with Esther so each morning Esther gets her out of her crib, brings her to me for cuddles and then goes to prepare Evie's bottle and my coffee without me even asking. Esther is such an amazing help to me and will be a wonderful mother one day. One night after I put Evie to bed, she started fussing again. When I went in to check on her Elijah was holding baby Evie and singing Jesus Loves Me for her. My heart was so full! She is enjoying getting to know David and particularly curious about his beard. (She only had women caring for her at the babies' home.) I love watching her connect with each family member in a different way.
Yesterday was a hard day. It was the first day she was just fussy and I couldn't figure out why. The first week and a half that she was with our family she was generally a happy, easy baby. Then yesterday afternoon she did not want to nap, cried a lot and I was not able to settle her down. I couldn't figure out what was wrong or how to help. I asked Elijah to take over and went to my room and cried. I have had those moments with all of my children, when I couldn't figure out what they needed, but this time I had an added thought. "We have only had you as apart of our family for a little over a week, but you have had 6 months of life that you did not know me. My other children knew my voice when they were born from their months growing inside my womb. You didn't know that I would be your mom when I was visiting you at the babies' home and you are just now learning what it means to have a mother who loves and cares for you." As I processed this grief that we both experience whether consciously or not, I remembered that adoption always comes out of brokenness. As I look at her beautiful face, I see scars that I will never know exactly how they came about. It breaks my heart. But God has given us the privilege and responsibility of loving and caring for her from now on. As we grieve over what was lost, we will also rejoice in the way God has brought her into our family! He is the God who brings the lonely into families and creates beauty out of ashes. And I thank Him that we get to be a little part of that in the life of our dear Evangeline Kisakye. Her names mean, "the one who brings good news" and "His grace." I pray that her life will be a picture of God's grace to all who know her and many will come to know the good news of God's love through her life!
This week has been very exciting for our family! We have brought a new baby into our family! She is currently our foster daughter and after a year of foster care (which is now required in Uganda), we plan to apply for adoption.
We are calling this precious little girl Evie, which is short for Evangeline and her second name is Kisakye which is Luganda for Grace.
We began the process of applying to foster to adopt early this year and in God's perfect timing it all came together this Tuesday, the day before our first day of school. A bit crazy, but wonderful too! So here is our first day of school photo of the Fish five! (Ezra 4th grade, Elijah 8th grade, Evie 6 months, Zeke 1st/2nd grade, and Esther 6th grade.) They are all thrilled to have a baby sister!
Even though we were a little less prepared due to spending all Tuesday working on bring home our baby, the first day of school was great! Here is a photo of our students and teachers on the first day.Everyone seemed happy to be back except Bobby who was in pain from breaking his arm a few days previous. We also have a new teacher who joined us this year! She is in the front left and is already a huge blessing to our school! In the above picture we are standing on the back verranda of our new classroom building. We are thankful for God's provision in so many ways this week. We moved into our new school building, with a new teacher, brought home a new family member, and started a new school year! What an exciting week! We are also thankful that our precious little girl sleeps through the night and is generally cheerful! I'm not sure how I would have made it otherwise. Please keep our family in your prayers! As you can see I'm quite literally trying to juggle caring for Evie and my school work.
We are very thankful to be able to care for this precious baby girl!