Saturday, August 31, 2013

A birthday party!

Tonight we were invited to celebrate the birthday of our 3 year old friend, Abraham. His mother cooked a fabulous dinner and was such a gracious host. She made matoke, fried rice, white rice with vegetables, beef, potatoes, cabbage, and cake! It was a feast! Her husband, Walter, also works at GSF so we have enjoyed getting to know their whole family. We were grateful for the opportunity to share a meal together and celebrate their son's birthday! Abraham loves balloons so we brought balloons to celebrate. They were a hit! Here is a photo.
The next morning we went to church and saw Abraham wearing his birthday present. He stayed up late celebrating, so he was a bit tired, but he still looks very cute in his Uganda Cranes jersey. Below you can see him standing between Zeke and Esther at church. 
We felt honored to be invited to celebrate with Abraham and his family and friends! 

Friday, August 30, 2013


Today we had our first on-campus visitors from the states. My parents' church has several people who are involved with short-term missions in Uganda. Earlier in the month we got to briefly visit with Bob Hayes, a pastor from Panama City, FL, who comes to Uganda at least a handful of times each year. He was in Jinja for the day and made time to see our family. It was great to see him, and he brought some gifts and Honey Nut Cheerios from my parents. We were all very excited! But the Cheerios were gone in a matter of days. 

Today another group came from Panama City. We now have been resupplied with Honey Nut Cheerios along with a few other items. It was so much fun to take our visitors around campus and tell them all about the ministry at Good Shepherd's Fold. I think one of the highlights might be going to the Babies' house. I love holding those babies! My children really enjoy going there too. I did not take any photos during our visit today, but below is Elijah at the babies' house on a previous day. 
All my kids really enjoy going to visit with the babies. Zeke goes back and forth between wanting to take their toys and wanting to pick the babies up and hold them. Obviously I have to keep a close eye on him. Here I am holding a boy named Moses. He is such a sweet boy! I don't know his whole story, but I do know that he is about 4 years old but not yet walking. Many of these babies arrive in pretty bad condition, and it is beautiful to see them recover and grow. 
So I am hoping that hearing of the fun time our visitors had today and seeing these cute babies will make some of you want to come visit! And you can bring some Honey Nut Cheerios too. ;) 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


As we were driving home in the dark after a long day of teaching and then team devotions, we were listening to some music. One of my favorite songs came on, "Blessings," by Laura Story. 

What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near? What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise? 

As I write this post six hours later, it is another one of those sleepless nights. I don't think I can handle a thousand, but I am definitely learning to depend on the nearness of my Lord on these nights. 

I love how this song flips our expectations on their head. When I think of "blessings" I most often think of things that bring me comfort. But wouldn't it be amazing if I desired the comfort of being close to my Lord more than I desired a comfortable life? I wish I could say that this is how I feel, but honestly I spend much of my prayer time asking God to make me more comfortable circumstantially. I am not suggesting that we should not ask God for things that seem good to us, like a good night's sleep. But the question is, when God says no, will I see that as his loving response because He has something better in mind (like drawing me into greater dependence upon him)? 

The song continues on and reminds us that, "this is not our home." What a good reminder! The trials of this life are temporary! For all of God's children, those who trust in Jesus' righteousness, one day we will be home and will have true rest and will not experience these trials. But while I am here, I pray that God will help me to view the trials of this life as his "mercies in disguise."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Trusting my Good Shepherd

In our nearly two months here, I have grown in my dependance upon God's Word. When I wake in the night with anxiety, I have found that meditating on Scripture is the thing that brings me the most peace. The passage that has brought me great comfort recently is Psalm 23. It is a psalm that I memorized as a child, but in these past few years has begun to mean much more to me. Here are some of my thoughts from last night when I woke very anxious. (My anxiety is mostly related to fears about health related issues for my family and me.) I am writing the truths that I am meditating on because I struggle so much to believe. So if this post seems a little preachy, it is because I am needing to preach to myself often these days. 

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
My sovereign Lord is taking care of me. He is guiding and leading me. I do not lack anything that He thinks is best for me. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. 
I can rest peacefully because God is caring for all my needs. I do not need to worry because my Shepherd will take me where I need to go. Here is a picture this morning of the quiet waters of the Nile River that I can see from our house. He has led me beside still waters. 

He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
God is graciously teaching me to trust Him more as I struggle with these anxieties. And he has already given me the righteousness of his Son. By his grace He will help me grow in faith. 

Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
I do not need to live in fear of cancer, malaria, TB, rabies, amoebas, parasites, or anything else, because God is with me. He is able to protect me and my family from all harm. And when he chooses not to do so in this life, through Jesus he has already provided for eternal life in heaven where there is no sickness and nothing to fear! He will be with me either way and through it all.  

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. 
God has so graciously blessed us and provided for us. I can thank him for a his gracious blessings. Last night I was specifically thanking him for his financial provision.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Outside the classroom door

One of the things that has been fun about teaching here in Uganda is the location of our schoolhouse. We are on campus at Good Shepherd's Fold children's home and school, so we have many interesting things right outside our door. Today I saw about a dozen very cute toddlers walking with a couple house moms all holding hands. It was so precious. 

Our classroom is located between the GSF school for nearly 400 children and the kitchen where they all are served posho and beans for lunch each day. Between the children's home and the school kids we get to see many children each day. 

Our school also backs up to part of the GSF farm. Yesterday I saw a farmer chasing a runaway calf. that calf often grazes right outside our door. There are also many banana trees there. And today the farm workers began planting orange trees and Jack-fruit trees there too. The oranges here are green though; they actually never turn orange. I have not yet tried the Jack-fruit, but have heard that it is an acquired taste. 

All of the fruit trees are probably the reason we have also seen so much wildlife. One day we saw 5 monkeys fairly close. They were looking around in the banana trees, I'm guessing for something to eat. We have also seen many birds: egrets, ibises, crows, eagles, herons, kites, hornbills, and wagtails. I'm not not making these names up; these are the real names of some of the birds here and good descriptions. One day we saw a heron eat a rat about 50 yards from our classroom door. I thought herons only ate fish, but apparently not. 

Recently there has been some landscape work around our classroom. Those of you who know David are probably not surprised. He has already begun his work to beautify the campus here. As the students finish their work they will sometimes go outside and help dig the drainage ditch/dry stream bed. But today, since the grass was getting long, when they finished their work they went outside to do some slashing. Slashing is the most common way to cut grass around here. You swing this metal blade back and forth in order to cut the grass. So as I looked out the classroom door today, I saw my sons, Elijah and Ezra, slashing. The blades are not particularly sharp, but I still suggested that they only slash when no one else is standing around. Our boys thoroughly enjoy this "chore," and it is a good way to get out some energy after sitting to do schoolwork. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Van adventures

Yesterday a missionary friend offered to watch our children so that David and I could have some time just the two of us. It was so thoughtful and kind of her! So soon after she arrived we left. We were giving a friend a ride home before going on our date. Soon after dropping off that friend, the van started making some terrible noises! We slowed down and eventually pulled off the road, in an unfamiliar part of town, not knowing what to do. We called another missionary who was heading north to Gulu to ask what to do. It happened to be a day where two families were heading up to Gulu and another was going to Kenya, so we didn't have any mechanically inclined teammates in town. Our teammate called a Ugandan friend who grew up at GSF and asked him to come help us. 

One of the reasons we were excited about our date was to have time to talk. It is hard to find time to have private, uninterrupted conversations with four young children. So as we were waiting for our friend to come help, we had about 30-45minutes to just sit and talk. It was a real blessing! 

When our friend arrived, he showed us how we can see the engine. In these vans, the engine is actually under the front seats. So the passenger seat can be lifted up to work on the vehicle. I had no idea! As he lifted the seat David saw that a belt had broken and was flapping around making all of that racket! We were so glad! David had feared that there was something wrong with the engine itself, but a belt is an easy fix. Another grace. So the guys removed the broken belt. Here is a photo of where the engine is in our van. 

We discovered that the van could still run without that particular belt, at least for a little while. So our friend took us to a trusted mechanic. He was busy, but he made time to fix it right away. It was going to take a little while so our friend took me to Central Market on the back of his motorcycle. That way I could do the shopping while David waited with the van. I was able to get the fruits and vegetables I needed at the market, and then walk to a supermarket to get a few items I needed from there. This little side trip really served two purposes. I was able to get this errand done, but maybe more significantly, I was able to go to the market by myself and gained quite a bit of confidence in navigating my way around town. 

Around the time I was finishing up at the supermarket David called and the van was done! The mechanic told David that the cost for the repair was 30,000shillings which is only about $12! I don't think there is any repair in the states that could be done that inexpensively. 

As we got our things together and reflected on the day it was obvious that God so graciously ordered our day. Here are some of the things for which we thanked God:
- this occurred on a Saturday, so it did not affect our school schedule, but the shop was still open.
- our van broke down while we were in town very close to the mechanic rather than in some village far outside of town, which is where most of our daily commute is. 
- the belt broke at the beginning of our "date" which meant we were able to get everything fixed during dailight hours and still get back to the babysitter on time. 
- our children were with a babysitter so they did not have to sit around waiting for hours and we did not have to juggle caring for their needs while trying to figure out what to do about the van. 
- now we know a good mechanic; we have his number in our phone, and have even been to his shop. 
- our van was fixed in a very timely manner and it is now back to running fine.

We have thought many times how blessed we are to have such a great vehicle! But yesterday we were struck by God's loving care for us as our van broke down. We were reminded as we said that this was not how we would have planned the day, that God has a bigger better plan. And if that was his plan for our Saturday, we can trust that is what is best. So I am thanking God for ordering the details of our lives to care for us in the midst of a broken down vehicle. Here are some of our kids on the back of our van after church. 

Calm My Anxious Heart

I have been reading this book again lately and it has been very good for me! I often struggle with a lack of contentment. One of the passages that Linda Dillow suggests memorizing is Phil. 4:8

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, let your mind dwell on these things." (Combination of NIV and NASB translations)

In recent weeks I find myself waking in the night anxious about all the "what if"s. I have been trying to refocus on the truth of God's Word by reciting Scripture to myself in the night. Often it is Psalm 23 that comes to mind. But I think that it would be beneficial for me to cultivate a habit of thankfulness during the daylight hours also. So I am going to write a few things for which I am thankful today. 

1- a loving Heavenly Father who is working for my good. I sometimes just brush aside how amazing it is that the God who made this world and sustains it, cares for me and is working for my good in the midst of everything! 
2- a loving husband who wants to serve others. David has such a servant's heart and it has been beautiful to see that in action here.
3- the ability to go for a run. There are so many people here in Uganda who cannot even walk for one reason or another. This week I met a girl who walks on her knees due to sores she has had on her feet for years. There are also many people who cannot walk due to polio or other diseases. Knowing their stories puts things into perspective. 
4- a house to live in. There are many people here in Uganda and all over the world who don't have a house.
5- good food to eat. Yesterday I had porridge for breakfast, but I did cheat and add sugar. I almost finished it, but it made me realized how spoiled I am to have so many options for breakfast. This morning we made French toast. 
6- a team that prays together. Yesterday as we met for morning prayer, I was so grateful to be a part of a team who starts the day praying together. Listening to the prayers of those around me was such a wonderful blessing and encouragement! 
7- the opportunity to teach. I am loving the chance to do math every day! And it is fun competing with David about who can have the most engaging lesson plan. Here is a photo of the day David's history lesson included the kids drawing the Roman Empire in sidewalk chalk. He won that day.
8- beautiful weather. Uganda's temperature usually ranges from the 60s to the 80s. It is so nice and I am enjoying the beautiful breeze we have here by the Nile River! 
9- a beautiful countryside! Uganda is such a lush and beautiful place. None of my photos do it justice. I am still working on getting some good photos to share. 
10- you! It is so encouraging to know that many of you are praying for us, sending us words of encouragement, and even making sacrifices in order to help support the work we are doing. We are so grateful! 

I hope you also are able to take some time today to remember how God has blessed you. "Let your mind dwell on these things."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Esther and the Bat

Our little schoolhouse has a bathroom. It has a door from the outside and a window and a vent to allow for air flow. It apparently also allows in bats. 
We had spent several hours cleaning up the bathroom to prepare for the start of school. In order to maintain it, we purchased a broom and several other cleaning supplies. 

On one of our first few days of school, Esther went in to use the bathroom in the morning and found a bat on the broom handle right about eye-level. She came back into the schoolroom saying, "Dad, there's a bat in the bathroom." David went and got the bat for a teaching moment. Here it is.
It is apparently one of the micro-bats that help keep the insect population down. In our neighborhood here in Jinja there are fruit bats that rest in the trees. Around dusk they all start flying around. These fruit bats are at least a foot across. So after seeing those huge bats flying around, this little micro-bat seems insignificant. Since we want the bats to live and eat all the mosquitoes, we released our new little bat friend. 

Today we were cleaning the schoolroom and bathroom as we wrapped up our first full week of school. Each student had different chores and Esther was cleaning the bathroom sink. She picked up a hand towel that was in the bathroom and started wiping the sink with it. Then the bat squeaked and fell out of the hand towel into the sink. I am so thankful for my brave little girl who just laughed about it and went to tell her dad that now there is a bat in the sink! Her fascination with creatures that most girls squeal about is one more way that God equipped our family for life in Africa. Here is my brave little bat-girl. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our first Ugandan birthday!

Elijah recently celebrated his 9th birthday. Everyone was awake by 5:30am wanting to give him his gifts before school. We game him an Ugandan soccer jersey, which he has been wanting since arriving here. Here he is wearing it on his birthday.
The other kids bought him a bow and arrows and some spears (wooden and  not very sharp). So he has enjoyed learning to shoot at banana trees when he is not busy reading, or building with Legos. 
  Back in the states we would always have a backyard cookout with friends and family over to celebrate birthdays. Since we don't have a very big backyard now, we decided to invite our team and another missionary family to meet at Kingfisher. It is a place about 20 minutes from GSF, and just outside of the town of Jinja. It has a restaurant, guesthouses and a pool. So we had a pool party! Here is Ezra swimming in the kids' pool. 
Kingfisher Resort actually has some lakefront property on Lake Victoria. Below is a photo of Zeke and Ezra with Lake Victoria in the background.
What a beautiful place! I think this may be the beginning of a new birthday tradition for our family! We are very thankful to God for our new friends here and all of our friends and family back in the states. God has richly blessed us! Maybe one day you could join us for a birthday celebration at Kingfisher

Friday, August 9, 2013

Very cool science class today

Yesterday we found that the dogs had killed a small monitor lizard in our backyard. So my science teacher husband decided to do what any good science teacher would do...put in the refrigerator and save it to take to school the next day. He did use double ziplock bags. (Here in Africa we wash and reuse everything, but I will not reuse those.) Toward the end of school, we rearranged our schedule so that we would all have science together today. Then David took out the Nile monitor lizard. He is such a great teacher! He had the students feel the scaly skin as he asked them all kinds of questions to get the kids thinking about reptiles in general and then some discussion about Nile monitor lizards in particular. Then he did a dissection. It was so cool to learn about the anatomy and even open up the stomach to see what a small monitor lizard eats. Our students were mostly fascinated; a few were grossed out. I'm guessing not many American kids even get to see a monitor lizard, but our students got to see, touch and dissect one on their second day of school here in Uganda. How cool! Here is a photo from our science class today. Of course Ezra was right up front! He loved every minute of it! 

First day of school!

Here we are with the kids in our missionary kid school! Yesterday was our first day and we really enjoyed it! Although we are juggling 6 grade levels and all subjects, we had a lot of fun. David is excited about the opportunity and challenge of teaching middle and high school history, bible and literature in addition to teaching science. I am enjoying working with the elementary school kids on language arts in addition to teaching math. I almost forgot how much I love teaching math! I know that makes me a bit weird, but I'm fine with that. I have tutored some in recent years, but today was my first day back in the classroom full-time and it was a joy. 

While I am teaching, Zeke is playing with Bobby, a three year old son of Claudia. I am so glad he has a playmate, and since we are all on the same campus, I see him for a break at 10:30-11, for lunch 1-2 and when he wakes from his nap around 4. Here is the only picture I could get of these two boys where they were still enough to not be blurry. 

Ezra had his first day of school doing Kindergarten, and he loved it. Claudia's daughter, Amelia is also doing kindergarten so Ezra has a classmate. ;) Here they are sitting at their desks together. 
Wednesday evening we had an open house for the parents to come to see our classroom and talk about the school year. It was so encouraging to have these parents thank us for coming to teach their kids and lighten their load as they minister to the children at Good Shepherd's Fold. Here is a photo of the parents at the Open House. 
We love these families and are so grateful for their service to the Lord! Claudia is on the left; she oversees the accounting office, the adoptions, and is mother to six children. In all her spare time she keeps us all entertained with her great sense of humor! The couple in the middle is Amy and Mark Gwartney. Mark is our team leader and Amy works with all the house moms overseeing the care for all the children here. During our first team meeting I was awed by all the things they juggle and the love, compassion, humility and wisdom with which they lead this team. The couple on the right are Robb and Sheila Warfield. We met them back in the states and immediately knew that we would enjoy working together. Robb is responsible for overseeing the educational needs of all the children here, both in the children's home and the 300 more who come from local villages. He also works with kids who grew up at GSF who are now going to University. He is also working with Amazima ministries to start a new secondary school to provide better options for the kids here when they finish primary school. Sheila is a kind, gentle, calming presence here on campus. Here is a picture of her at the babies home loving on the children there. At one point I think I saw six kids all sitting on her "lap." Ok, really they were just all over her, but it was precious!  
It is such a privilege to serve alongside these families here. Thank you all who have sent us, prayed for us and encouraged us along the way! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Going to the doctor

Today was an eventful day!  My tongue has been bothering me some so David and I went to see a British doctor who works in Entebbe, which requires driving through Kampala. We left the house at 7am to get to Entebbe by 10:30. In the waiting room we saw many children with various medical problems, and sitting in the waiting room was a bit of a heartbreaking experience. We saw the doctor fairly close to the arranged appointment time and after some discussion and an exam, we decided to come back in the afternoon for endoscopy. Here you pay in advance for any medical care, so we paid for the procedure before it was done. We found a nice place to have lunch and then returned for the endoscopy. Hospitals look very different here!  After changing into a hospital gown I went back to the "theater" aka operating room. After spraying some lidocaine on my tongue and throat, the doctor used the endoscope to examine the area more thoroughly. Everything looks normal. Praise God! He also had a few Ugandan doctors in training with him. I was happy that this was an opportunity to help train more medical professionals here in Uganda.

On our return trip we picked up several kids who grew up at GSF and were in Kampala trying to register to go to University. Some of them were successful and some stood in line all day and were not able to register. We asked why and their response was, "Welcome to Uganda." Life here either helps you to grow in patience and a sense of humor, or it will drive you crazy. We had some terrible traffic in Kampala and at one point went the wrong way on a busy one way street. A gracious taxi driver signaled for us to turn around and stopped for us. When we returned to the roundabout a police woman walked up to the van and said, "You went down the one-way." We responded yes, it was a mistake. She said, "Are you a vis'tor?" We said yes because we did not want to take the time to explain the whole situation. Her response was, "Don't do that again." "Yes, ma'am." David responded. I think we learned our lesson! The funny thing is that is the way the GPS map told us to go and the median was shaped as if that was an actual exit from the roundabout. But we will know better next time! 

We have so much for which to be thankful! A good report from the doctor, the opportunity to contribute toward medical training and medical care for Ugandans, a safe trip to Kampala and Entebbe, the opportunity to help some GSF kids with transportation, two older MKs who watched our children from 7am until 8pm today, a van that has been a huge blessing, a team of missionaries who have been praying with and for us about my tongue, family and friends back in the states who have been praying, and most importantly, a Saviour who loves us, who brought us into His family, who has given us the privilege of being a part of His work caring for those in need and who is working for our good even in difficult things. 

I don't have any photos from the day, but I like including a picture with each post so here is our best family photo here in Jinja. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

On the back of a Boda

One of the fun things about our daily commute is seeing all of the interesting things that are transported on the back of Bodas (motorcycle taxis.) A few days ago I went for run and saw a Nile perch (fish) that was about 5 feet long hanging over the back of a Boda. Since I was out for a run, I did not have my camera for that one, but I do have some photos of things I never would have guessed would fit onto one motorcycle. Here is a whole household, bed, mattress, water jugs and more. 

Sometimes I have not been quick enough with my camera so here is a list of some of my favorites:
- about 20 chickens hanging by their feet over the back. 
- another Boda, one man driving with another man on the back holding his Boda across the seat.
- a table and chairs
- a family of 6, 2 adults and 4 kids.
- a cage with several live chickens.
- metal roofing sheets that are about 10 ft. by 4 ft.
- glass windshields for cars

Here are some more Bodas I have been able to capture in a picture.
These large sacks are very common, at least tripling the width of the Boda. 
This is apparently a bread Boda. Lunch anyone?
And since women all wear skirts here, they ride side-saddle. This woman is holding her baby, while sitting sideways on the back of a Boda. This is a very common sight. But often the baby is completely wrapped in a blanket since there is so much dust and smoke on the dirt roads around here. 
Here some men are loading up a Boda with water jugs. Today I saw a Boda with about 20 of those water jugs, but missed the photo. I never would have imagined that many water jugs could be attached to one little motorcycle, but they were! 
I love this photo because this was taken on one of the beautiful stretches of sugarcane and tea fields along our daily commute. Uganda is a beautiful country! I will start collecting photos of the beauty of the countryside on our commute for a future post. 
Feel free to comment with your favorite "on the back of a Boda" photo or sighting. Or maybe you have seen something even more interesting. I heard that someone saw a cow on the back of a Boda, but I haven't seen that one yet.