Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today was our first Thanksgiving here in Uganda, and we had a great day! It was a day or cooking, playing, eating, resting, and having fun with friends!

We spent most of the day with our dear friends, the Lawsons. Jennifer cooked the turkey (It was store bought in Kampala; sorry I don't have a great story about that), and we made most of the sides together. Fruit salad with the fresh fruit here is delicious! We also made many of the traditional Thanksgiving items. (We did use a bit of food coloring to make our yellow sweet potatoes look orange.) Special thanks to Mom and Dad Fish who sent a care package so that we could enjoy some of our holiday favorite foods! Yes, that is stuffing and sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top in the photo! 

On Wednesday we each made a pie in advance. Jennifer made pecan pie using the pecans Mom and Dad Fish sent; I made pumpkin pie. I started with a pumpkin, flour, shortening, eggs, milk powder and some spices and ended up with a delicious pie! In the past I had either purchased a pie at Publix or bought a can of pumpkin and a pre-made crust. I am learning much about cooking here. By the way, did you know that spaghetti sauce comes from boiled tomatoes, not just from a jar? Haha 

As we ate dinner we talked about the things we are thankful for, and about what we miss as we all were experiencing our first holiday in Uganda. We have so much for which to be thankful. I never would have imagined that God would bless us with friends who moved to Jinja the same month, with kids similar ages who have become such dear friends so quickly. It was a such blessing to be together on this Thanksgiving day. As we discussed what we miss, we said that we miss family and friends most, but by the end of the day I was thinking about how we also miss dishwashers. ;) I still vote family and friends are first, but a dishwasher might be a close second. 

As we reflect on so many people and things for which we are thankful, I have been thinking about how thankful I am that we are here. God has brought us to a place where our gifts and experience are useful to support a ministry that we are passionate about. We are so thankful for Good Shepherd's Fold and the privilege of being a part of this team here. 

As we returned to GSF campus, we heard laughter coming from next door. Many of the missionary families had gathered for another game of Dutch Blitz. We joined in the fun for a good end to a great day! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Zeke is learning in Uganda

Since Zeke turned 3 today, I thought it might be fun to reflect on the things he has been learning in his first 5 months here in Uganda. (The spiderman bike was his present and he loves it!) It is interesting to see how Zeke has adjusted here, what Ugandan sayings, habits, etc. he is picking up. This boy keeps me laughing. Here is a list:

1- Sharing- Zeke is learning to share his mom's lap. Whenever we go to play at the toddler house, I somehow end up with about 5 children in my lap. Zeke always checks in to make sure I still have room for him, but then he is usually content to run and play on the slide or swings. 

2- Potty training- Thankfully Zeke has been one of my easiest children to potty train and rarely has accidents. But apparently he has been observing that not everyone uses a toilet. A couple days ago Zeke said, "I have to go potty!" Then he proceeded to run outside, pull down his pants and pee on the grass. He is also one of the few American 2 year olds who knows how to use a "squatty potty." And when he missed the squatty potty and got his clothes wet, he learned that in Uganda it is ok for two year olds to run around without pants. Actually, that is the norm.  (No photo for this one.) 

3- Language- Zeke has begun learning some Luganda, the primary local language. The morning greeting is, "Wasusotia," and the reply is, "Bulungi." Zeke enjoys greeting people in their language, but he likes to reply, "Balloon!" He actually knows how to say it properly, but he enjoys making a joke. Of course everyone loves hearing a little mzungu speak Luganda!

4- Relationships- Zeke spends most of his mornings with Bobby, Claudia's son who is 3. These two have a lot of fun together! Bobby has been living as the only boy in Claudia's home since he was a baby. (Alex is now there too.) Zeke talks about his mommy and daddy, so Bobby has now declared that, "David is my daddy too." So Bobby and Zeke have declared themselves brothers. They are so cute together. The other day Bobby was looking for Zeke and he spotted him across campus and said, "See, there is Zeke's little white head." 

5- Rude sayings- While Zeke and Bobby where playing, Zeke said, "I'm gonna whip your butt." Claudia told Zeke that his mom would not want him to talk that way. Zeke replied, "My mama teached me to say that." (To clarify, I have never said that phrase, other than on the basketball court many years before my children were born, and I certainly did not teach it to my 2 year old. But our missionary team here is enjoying teasing me about it. I don't know where Zeke heard that phrase, but we obviously have some instruction to do.) 

6- Electricity- Since blackouts are fairly common here, anytime Zeke is in a room with the lights out he thinks it is a blackout. We are working on the distinction between when the lights are turned off and when they cannot be turned on.

7- His birthday- For those of you reading this from America, you will probably be experiencing some colder weather and the leaves are probably all brown or off the trees. Here in Uganda, the temp is in the 80s and it is sunny and green. So we are celebrating a birthday in the end of November with a pool party! One day Zeke will learn that he can't have pool parties on his birthday in America, but for today, we are going to enjoy splashing in the pool! We have invited two other three year old boys who have become Zeke's closest buddies here, Bobby and Abraham. The Lawsons also came and brought a blue cake, at Zeke's request. All three of these families joining us made our celebration so much fun! Here is a cute picture of the three year olds playing together. 

All in all, Zeke is doing very well adjusting to life here in Uganda. He is a sweet, cute, three year old. He does require some instruction and training in self-control, but I still do too. Please pray with us for God's ongoing work in Zeke's heart, that he would grow to be a man after God's heart, living with joy and love, for God's kingdom and glory! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Our first few days on campus

Saturday was our first official full day living on campus. On Friday we cleared our stuff out of our Jinja house and brought it all here. We really enjoyed our first Saturday at Good Shepherd's Fold. Most of the day was spent settling in here, cleaning, putting away, and organizing. 

In the afternoon we took a little break from our work inside and did some gardening at the schoolhouse. It was fun to work on that project to beautify the area around where we work and live. Our older kids also had the opportunity to go to a class with the children who live here at GSF about making crafts with Banana Fibers. Jonah, who grew up here at GSF and now makes and sells these type of crafts, has been coming back on Saturdays to teach the children here. It is neat to see how he is investing in the next generation of GSF kids. 
In this picture you can also see our home in the background. It is a duplex and we live in the left half. You can also see David working on his gardening project, while teaching Ezra and Chad, a young man who has been growing up here. 

Later that evening we invited the other missionary families over for a game night. We spent much of the time playing Dutch Blitz. I found out that I am not the only one who is competitive while playing games. ;) There was even some hand slapping when someone else played a card first. We laughed a lot and it was good to be here with the team. Our game night continued late, so our kids had a later bedtime, so they crashed quickly and slept well. 

On Sunday our kids attended Sunday school at GSF, then we walked to church in Buundo. We do not know many of the songs yet, but we can clap and dance until we learn the words. There are not any hymnals or even bulletins with praise songs printed here. You just have to learn the songs. Esther went to children's choir practice in the afternoon so she could begin learning. 

We had the privilege of spending Sunday afternoon with my friend Judith and her children. They joined us for lunch and the kids played together most of the afternoon. Judith took me around to the nearest market and to visit some people in the village of Buundo. Overall, Sunday was a good day. 

Today was David's birthday! After school, the kids and I came back to our home to make frosting for the cake. We had a team potluck dinner, so it was fun to celebrate with our team. After dinner we were walking back to our house and out of nowhere, people come running at us. Here in Uganda it is a tradition to "water" (throw water on) someone on their birthday. Our students and the older kids who live here at GSF, had all gotten large basins full of water. Henry held David while they drenched him! There was not a dry stitch of clothing on his body. Then they all sang "Happy Birthday" in their upbeat Ugandan way. David just started dancing soaking wet in the street. It was a fun memory. 

We are so glad to be here on campus! Many of these fun times were not possible when we were living in Jinja, needing to drive back each night. We are so grateful for these first few days on campus and look forward to many more! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Being in a place where I daily realize that I am not in control, has led me to be more dependent upon prayer. There are so many things beyond my control! This weekend I have seen so very many needs that I have been a bit overwhelmed. But it has also been a good reminder that I need to talk to the One who is in control. 

The church we have been attending here in Jinja has a practice of asking for any praises or prayer requests from the congregation during the worship service. Ezra has twice raised his hand to ask the whole church to pray for other children he knows who are sick. I love the faith and compassion God has given that boy. This is our last week of regular attendance here since we will be shifting (aka moving) to campus and attending the local village church. Since it was our last week here, I asked for prayer for my family as I go back to America for my tongue. The pastors prayed for all of the requests shared, but after that they came over and laid hands on me and prayed specifically for me. The tears were pouring down as I was so thankful for the prayers of the church. 

I know that many of you have also been praying for our family. I wanted to share some of my specific requests so that you could pray with and for us. There are many things on my mind as I think about the month of January, but my main request is that as we are apart as a family, all of us will draw nearer to the Lord for comfort and encouragement. When my children are sad, they often go to their mama for comfort. That is good and I am happy to comfort them, but I am not the best Comforter. I want them to know the comfort of their God's loving care for them even when I am an ocean away. Please pray specifically for Elijah and Esther to grow in their walk with The Lord during this time. Also pray for David and Esther to be able to comfort Zeke while he is apart from his "Big Mama." Esther is called his "Medium Mom," and she will give him more than enough hugs, I am sure. ;) 

I also know that caring for three children would be challenging for any single parent. It is my prayer that God will give David the patience, gentleness, tenderness and endurance to love and care for our children well while I am away. Not that I do that all perfectly, but it is certainly easier to share the load between two parents. I am praying that the Spirit will grant him extra "fruit" through this time. 

Of course it is also my hope and prayer that my tongue will be healed and any abnormal tissue will be removed and not return. I would love for this trial to be over, but more importantly, I want God to be glorified in the midst of it. I want us all to grow in our faith and love for our Good Shepherd whether we walk through the valley or I experience miraculous and complete healing. Please pray that as we prepare for our time apart, the glory of God would be our biggest concern. 

As I write this, it occurs to me that I am writing asking you to pray about something that is over a month away. I guess that indicates that I am anxious about it already. Esther has already had a few nights of crying about us being apart, and I have too. So maybe I should add a prayer that we would not live in fear or anxiety as we anticipate the month of January. There is so much to enjoy before then, David's birthday, Thanksgiving, Zeke's birthday, our family Christmas present (a safari trip), Christmas caroling to the children's homes at the orphanage, and celebrating the birth of Jesus! 

I hope you also will enjoy these next weeks and months as you celebrate with your families. Thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Backyard party

Those of you who spent much time with our family in Georgia know how we love to have backyard parties to celebrate with friends. That is something we have really missed here. But today we hosted our first backyard party. 

We have been staying at a house here in Jinja since we arrived in early July. This house belongs to an American family and they were looking for someone to stay here while they were in the states. They also wanted their security guards and the woman who helps cook and clean to stay employed at the house. When we arrived we had people to help us right away as we learned how to cook here, had questions about culture or language, or needed to know where to buy things, what to pay, etc. These "employees" have become dear friends. When we think about leaving this house, what we will miss most is our friends here. 

We wanted to do something special to let them all know how much we appreciate them, so we decided to invite their families to a party to say thank you. They have fairly large families so it was a big party with about 40 people. Today they all came and we all had a wonderful time. We cooked 10 kilos of beef and 10 kilos of rice and 3 bunches of matoke and 5 heads of cabbage and some dodo(greens). We also bought chipatis and cokes and a cake. There was plenty of food for everyone and we were able to send them all home with some leftovers. 

After eating we had a time of sharing how we are thankful to God for them and how they have helped our family as we transitioned here. Then they also spoke and encouraged us greatly. After the speeches it was time for races among the children, music and dancing. It cannot be a Ugandan event without music and dancing! Zeke and Ezra particularly enjoy the dancing. 

Our time together ended with  several songs in praise to God and a time of all holding hands and praying. I am so thankful that I have such wonderful Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ! Over these past several months God has shown his loving care for us through his family both here in Uganda and those of you in the US. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I like Uganda- by Elijah

My students have been writing paragraphs on various topics for Language Arts. Today the students wrote about what they like about Uganda. I thought you would enjoy reading Elijah's paragraph. For the sake of full disclosure, I did require a minimum of 5 adjectives and 5 adverbs. :) 
     "There are many things I like about beautiful Uganda. The amazing landscape completely blows me away. There are so many unique customs that are extremely different, yet good in their own way. The fascinating wildlife is so unusually close, too. These are the many reasons I completely love Uganda, the Pearl of Africa."

Our commute

Over the past 4 months we have commuted from Jinja to Good Shepherd's Fold, about 45 minutes each direction, every school day. While this has been tiring and we are excited to be moving onto campus full-time this week, there has been much to enjoy about our time in the vehicle. 

Our family has had many opportunities to work through conflict during our van time. Being all together during this time can often be challenging, and we are given many opportunities to overlook offenses, confess, and extend forgiveness and grace to one another. This conflict has also taught us to pray in the morning when we get in the van, not just for safety, but for God to give us his love and patience toward one another. 

On the days when everyone is getting along well, we are sometimes able to also listen to a sermon or worship music. We have often been encouraged by pastors from Faith Presbyterian Church in Georgia, The Village Church in Texas, and Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Florida. We are so grateful for Internet access so that we can be encouraged in this way.

One of our favorite things about our commute is all the animals we have been able to see. Since we cross the Nile River twice each day we have seen some fascinating sights. Most days we see a great variety of waterfowl including pelicans, cormorants, egrets, herons, kingfishers, and storks. We would sometimes also see otters and Nile monitor lizards. On a few days we even had the privilege of seeing a hippo! We also thought we saw the snout of a crocodile one day, which Zeke called a "crocodile snot." Most days after that the children all claimed to see a "crocodile snot." Below is not a great photo, but it was all I could get of the hippo. 

While these travels have been good memories, mostly, we will be happy to trade in our long drive for a short walk. But we do want to thank God for keeping us safe as we drove these roads daily. Only once did we get our mirror knocked and some paint from a taxi left on the side of the vehicle. Considering the way people drive around here, our safety over these months is truly a blessing from God! 

As we look back, we are thankful for the ways God has blessed us in our time living in Jinja, but we also look forward to seeing how he will bless our time living on campus. It feels like God is teaching me the secret of being content in each new circumstance. This passage from Phillipians has often been on my mind, so I thought I would share it. I hope it is encouraging to you also today. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:4-13 ESV)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Feeling more settled

Ironically, as we are preparing to move again, I am already feeling more settled about our housing situation. As we have been discussing all of our upcoming moves with our team, they sensed our need to feel more "at home" someplace here in Uganda. Moving every few months makes it hard to feel settled. So the team at GSF asked  if we might want to just move into house 1b and stay longer term, hopefully until our house is built on campus. I was very excited about the idea of being able to settle in a bit more. 

House 1b is half of a duplex located directly across from our school room and next door to the toddlers' house. Yay! Our commute will change from a 45 minute drive to a 45 second walk! Although it is quite a bit smaller than where we are currently staying, our children were very excited about the idea of staying in 1b. I love how they adapt so well! When we went there to start cleaning, they were immediately making plans for sleeping arrangements and building forts. It has a nice open floor plan which we really like. 
Here is a photo looking to the left from the front door. Off of the living area, there are three bedrooms a shower and two toilets and sinks. The half bath looks a bit more like a closet and it is through the small bedroom on the right. The bathroom with the shower is through that middle doorway next to our bedroom. The hot water only lasts a few minutes so we will all learn to take quick showers. :) 

As you look ahead and a bit to the right you can see our kitchen/dining area. And the walls our green like our kitchen in Georgia! We are thankful for all of the light from the windows since the power goes out pretty often and it helps to get a breeze through. 

Even though this house is smaller than other places we have lived with four children, we think it will be great! Most of our time will be spent outside anyway. And as we look around us at the homes of many Ugandans, we are reminded that we have so much more than we really need. Four or five Ugandan families would be happy to share this square footage and would be glad for any indoor plumbing. That helps to keep things in perspective. 

I am very excited to have a place that feels like our home. I even bought a painting to hang. I'm sure moving here will bring some challenges, but I am very excited that we will be living on campus and will have a place to call home. And Lord willing, in another year or two we will be living in a home that will be built for us on campus. We have plans to meet with someone from eMi (engineering ministries international) on Tuesday about the schedule for beginning building. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel to Kampala for that meeting.

For now, we are still in our Jinja house for two more weeks, just eating lunch and spending Wednesday nights at our GSF house so that we don't have to drive in the dark after team devotions, and are beginning plans for our house yet to be built. But as we think about our many houses here on earth, we want to remember to keep our focus on our eternal home, living for God's kingdom and His glory! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Solar eclipse

On Sunday we were able to view a nearly total solar eclipse here in Uganda. The team at GSF received an email from an astronomy organization offering to give us free eclipse viewing glasses. We got 400 pair of these glasses, and Claudia planned an event inviting children from the local villages to join the children here at GSF for the eclipse. Everyone met in the chapel for a time of worship, a lesson about the history of solar eclipses, a science lesson about what happens during an eclipse and a gospel presentation. David helped with some of the teaching and the visual aids. Then everyone walked out to the "football pitch" (aka soccer field), to receive their viewing glasses and watch the eclipse. It was great fun! Here are a few of the 300-400 kids who came wearing their glasses. 
Since an eclipse like this is such a unique event and will not occur again for another 18 years or so, we wanted to make the most of this opportunity. Today in school, we read Psalm 19. Then we asked our students to write or draw about this eclipse. I thought you might enjoy some of their work. 

Ezra, in Kindergarten, explained his picture below. "This is what I saw through those very powerful sunglasses when the eclipse was almost done. I drew this because God is high in the sky. God made outer space, and that is another reason I drew this picture."

Elijah, grade 4, wrote this:
"Whom shall I fear? For if the LORD my God wishes anything to happen to me, it will happen. The moon and stars are at his command, and everything beautiful is his."

Emma, grade 6, wrote:
"God made each and every plant;
     With words he spoke them to come.
He made the stars so bright,
     The galaxies,
     The universe.
He made with four words,
     Let there be light.
     And there was.
He made the magnificent eclipse
     That we can't make,
     Even if we try."

Titus, grade 6, wrote:
"God shows his glory everywhere,
Here and there,
You can find it anywhere. 
From the depths of the sea to the top of the sky,
It sure is amazing.
You can't deny.
From the forest that's wet, to the desert that's dry,
This splendor makes you sigh.
From dry to rain
You can find it on the grassy plain.
From day to night,
God's glory sure is bright."

Avalyn, grade 6, wrote:
"God made the heavens and the earth. He made every living thing.
He made the sun that shines.
He made the stars that light the night sky.
He made the moon that reflects over the water.
God made a solar eclipse when the sun and moon line up."

And Hope, grade 8, wrote:
"Praise God who created the sun, 
Who made the stars and the moon,
Who made the grass green on the lawn,
And the water in the pool.

You who made the eclipse,
You who created the moon's orbit,
And made it all happen by just a word from your lips,
You made the moon to move between us and sit.

In the middle of the earth and sun,
Shutting away your view with the moon,
Making the day look like its almost done,
Saying night is coming soon.

You who created the stars,
The planets and space,
All the things we can see from afar,
You alone are worthy to be praised."

Here is the beginning of Psalm 19. This passage along with watching the eclipse was the inspiration for these poems, pictures and prose.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

An exciting walk

This morning David went to visit the farm of a security guard who works at the house where we have been living. Since we move to GSF in just a few weeks he wanted to take the time to go visit with Samuel. 

Since David was gone for the morning, I decided to take the kids for a walk to our friends' house. I was thinking, "I will have to make sure everyone behaves and stays close since people drive a bit crazy around here." I also was concerned about getting too far off the road into the tall grass because of snakes. 

I did not anticipate the many adventures we would have. At first we as we began I was explaining to the children the importance of staying close to me. Little did I know how crucial that would be. As we began our walk everything was going pretty smoothly. Then Esther took her walking stick making a curvy line in the dirt and said, "Look mom, a snake trail!" Of course when I looked I realized she was just teasing me. We walked along peacefully for a bit just staying on the side of the road to avoid the vehicles. I sometimes get confused about which way to expect the vehicles to be traveling since we usually drive on the left side of the road here. But that does not necessarily mean that the approaching traffic will be on that side since there is much maneuvering in order to avoid potholes, Bodas, animals and pedestrians (in that order.) 

I was managing to keep my children safe from traffic when we looked ahead and a herd of cattle were stampeding toward us. I ran the children across the street and off the road as far as I could without falling into the ditch and stood with my arms out to make sure none of my loved ones would end up in front of the stampede. The cattle ran passed us and didn't get all that close, but Zeke was crying saying, "I'm afraid of the running cows." I guess I don't have to worry about him going to Spain to participate in the running of the bulls anytime soon. 

Since we had switched to the left side of the road, now traffic was coming up behind us quickly. There were several large dump trucks driving so fast they seemed out of control and stirring up a great deal of dust. We stayed as far off the road as possible covering our faces to avoid breathing in too much dust and diesel exhaust.

I was beginning to wonder why I thought I could take my children on this adventure when we looked in front of us and saw something surprising. It was a huge bat! No, not a baseball bat. A huge flying mammal! At fist I was not sure if it was dead. Then we tapped it with our sticks, and discovered that it was indeed dead. A man who was walking along told us that it had landed on the power lines, hanging upside down and touched the other lines, electrocuting itself. Apparently this is a fairly common occurrence here in Jinja. We decided to see if we could pick it up with our stick. Here is a photo of Ezra with a girl who was walking to her Islamic school holding the bat together. 

Since David was not with us and the bat was able to hang upside down on the stick, we decided to carry it along to show to our friends and to our science teacher dad. It is amazing what a conversation starter carrying a giant bat can be! We made many new friends as we walked.

The children did a wonderful job of walking together and staying out of traffic until we actually met Jennifer on the way to her house. She drove us the rest of the way and even let us bring the bat along. That is a good friend who will pick up you, your four children and a gigantic dead bat on the side of the road. :) 

Overall, I would say our walk was a success, but I am pretty exhausted. When David arrived to pick us up, we showed him the bat. Here is a picture of him demonstrating the wingspan of this animal. 
(Any children reading this, please note that you really should never touch a bat. They can carry many diseases. David washed his hands thoroughly immediately following this photo.) 

Another disclaimer: For those of you who are freaked out by this very large flying mammal with sharp teeth and claws, these bats are actually fruit eaters. This is not a vampire bat or anything scary like that. The smaller ones around here usually eat bugs. They help keep down the mosquito population. I don't want this photo of a large bat to be an excuse for someone to not visit us here in Africa. 

I am thankful for a morning full of adventure, but am ready for a quieter afternoon. But only God knows what today will hold.