Monday, December 30, 2013

Reentry culture shock

Over these past 3 days I have been struck by some of the differences between our two earthly homes, Uganda and America. I thought I would just mention a few of the things that have crossed my mind or that Ezra has mentioned. 
  • On the plane, Ezra found the milk in his airplane meal that is usually used for coffee or tea. He asked if he could drink it and I said yes. Then he asked what kind of milk is it. Is it from powder? From a cow? Has it been boiled? Can I just drink it?
  • As we stood in line for immigration in Atlanta, I found myself wanting to talk with anyone who looked African. I also realized that I have not seen anyone in short shorts in 6 months. It is a bit shocking to see someone's thigh. 
  • Tonight Ezra was really tired and he started to fall asleep on the couch. I thought, "He can't sleep there; he needs to be under a mosquito net. Oh, we don't need mosquito nets here." 
  • Every time I set some kind of food on the counter I think, "I need to put that in something or the ants will get to it." But there are not a gazillion ants in the kitchen here in Georgia. 
  • Ezra wanted to watch TV and his first question was, "Is the power on?"
  • To go anywhere here in Georgia, we get into the car. Now that we are living on campus at GSF, we walk to work, walk to friends houses, and walk to church. We only drive when we go into town (Jinja).
  • Every time I am driving and I have to turn, I think, "Now which side of the road should I drive on?" I also reach to the wrong side of the steering wheel for the turn signal. So if you see a red minivan in the Athens, GA area, you may want to steer clear.
  • Every time we are preparing to go anywhere, I always use the bathroom first. It has become a habit since most places in Uganda only have a hole in the ground for a latrine. In the US, I don't even have to carry my own toilet paper!
  • As I laid in bed awake at 3am due to jet lag, I thought, "This one bedroom is actually larger than many of my Ugandan friends' whole homes."
  • Tomorrow, or today their time, David and Elijah are helping build the latrine for the church. Tomorrow I am going to a friend's house to sit on a comfortable couch and visit while Ezra plays with his friend. 
  • On Saturday morning in Uganda, Elijah was climbing trees and picking 60 avocados for the house moms at GSF. On Sunday morning here in Georgia, Ezra and I drove to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. The Ugandan option is healthier, but Dunkin Donuts sure is delicious!
  • Today I uploaded photos to Shutterfly in a matter of minutes. It would have taken days to upload all these photos in Uganda.
  • In church on Sunday here in Georgia, I was the only one to say, "Amen," aloud. There was no dancing or clapping or translators and the service was over in one hour. We also sang songs I know well. 
  • Right now my family in Uganda does not have electricity, but I am in a room with three lamps, all turned on.
  • For dinner tonight we just decided what we wanted to get, and 30 minutes later we were sitting at the restaurant eating. David planned what he and the kids would eat for dinner in the morning, had the pizza dough made from scratch, and then he made pizzas for dinner.
Although these are all differences between the cultures, I have found some similarities. One similarity is that kids in Uganda, in London, England and in Georgia all like to play Legos. Here is Ezra making friends by sharing his Legos during our layover.

It is amazing how different these two worlds are. God is teaching us to depend on him more through all of these differences. I am thankful that no matter where we are He is faithful and watching over his children. These cultural differences help me remember that God loves us, not because we have it all figured out, but because of Jesus!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mixed emotions

I have been here in the US for almost 2 days now. Things are going smoothly, and it is wonderful to see everyone. I loved being at church and seeing so many friends and the night before catching up with many people at Carrie Kimmel's wedding! We were even able to go to Dickey's with some friends for kid's eat free Sunday at Ezra's request. He couldn't put the ice cream down for a photo; it was too good!

All of this feels in some ways like coming home, but I am also really missing my family, friends, students, and the children of GSF. I just saw a video about GSF posted on Facebook and it made me feel homesick for my Uganda home. The adorable toddlers in the video are my next door neighbors. Here is a link to the video.
Post by Good Shepherd's Fold Orphanage. It is only 3 minutes and definitely worth watching! 

I am also missing the weather! It has been cold, rainy and gray here in Georgia, while it is warm and everything is green in Uganda. But as they say, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or ocean in this case.)" I guess wherever you are it is easy to always wish you were somewhere else. It is easy to see the things that I wish were different. But I am not going to list those today. Instead I am going to remember to be thankful. 

In Sunday school this morning, we were reading and discussing this passage of Scripture:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these thingsthe wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,“Awake, O sleeper,    and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.”15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
One of the points we discussed is the importance of thanksgiving. At the end of the class we spent a bit of time actually giving thanks. Thanking God helps me focus on his grace and love for me, rather than what I think I lack. I have much for which to be thankful! Here is a quick list of 10 things off the top of my head that I am thankful for today.
  1. Eternal life and forgiveness through Jesus Christ!
  2. An opportunity to see family and friends whom I have missed for 6 months.
  3. People all over the world praying for me and my family this month.
  4. A super supportive sending church here, where dozens of people have asked how they can help. 
  5. Ezra's cheerful spirit.
  6. A loving husband who is caring for my other 3 children in Uganda. 
  7. Good friends in Uganda who are helping David care for my kids. 
  8. The opportunity to be a part of the work at Good Shepherd's Fold.
  9. Friends who have shared warm clothes with me for this month.
  10. Dunkin Donuts.
I would like to encourage you to make your own list. It always helps my perspective when I take the time to thank God for things. What are you thanking God for today?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Safely here

The last leg of our journey went smoothly, but felt long. The flight from London to Atlanta took about 10 hours. Toward the end of the trip, at about 5pm Eastern time,  which is about 1am Uganda time, I fell asleep and started leaning on the gentleman sitting next to me. He gently woke me and I apologized, but I laugh every time I think of it. He was understanding, thankfully. 

We arrived safely in Atlanta, and David's parents met us at the airport to bring us back to their house. We are safe and sound and I am going to sleep! Good night!


    There have been many things making me think about the topic of light recently. The most tangible is that we have not had electricity on campus at GSF other than when running the generator. So we have literally noticed the difference between darkness and light. Of course, this time of year we also are talking about the coming of Jesus, the Light of the World. We also have been having more involvement with our church in Uganda, the Light of the World Church. We have also been discussing using solar power for electricity in the house we will be building. Many passages of Scripture also talk about light. So I thought I would just write a bit about light and darkness. 
   In the evenings at GSF when the generator turns off, it quickly becomes very dark. I have sometimes woken in the night and stumbled around feeling the walls trying to find the bathroom. It can be frustrating and unsettling to use the toilet without any light since I have heard stories of animals in homes in Africa. I think Melissa can tell a story of a cobra in the toilet in Central African Republic, and Claudiaq told me of killing a snake in her house in the night. Many of us have had bats in our houses. And I have found some of those small, harmless blind snakes, which are still disturbing. With all that in mind, stumbling around in the darkness is not a great feeling. Living life without Jesus is walking in the darkness. Why not ask for his light in your life this Christmas season?

Isaiah 9 verses 2 and 6 says:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined. 
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upond his shoulder,
and his name shall be callede
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

     Not only does Jesus shine light into our lives, he also makes us into light. He tells us that we as his people, have the privilege of sharing his light with those around us. Many of us learned a song when we were children:

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine let it shine.  
Hide it under a bushel, NO! I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, NO! I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, NO! I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  
Shine it all over my neighborhood, I'm gonna let it shine.
Shine it all over my neighborhood, I'm gonna let it shine.
Shine it all over my neighborhood, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
   I have also written a blogpost about how Light of the World Church is living up to it's name and sharing the light of Christ with those around.  But it is my hope that in my time of travelling and my time in America, God will help me to shine the Light of Jesus there. Each day, there are many opportunities to share the light of Jesus with those around us, and I don't want to hide it under a bushel. No! 

     We are also wanting to use the natural light that God has created to help provide light (and heat) for our family. As we are working on plans for building a house, we have discovered that the demand for electricity on campus exceeds the size of the supply lines. So we will need to build an energy independent home. Near the Equator where sunlight is plentiful it makes sense to use that natural source of energy to supply our home with electricity. We have just begun the process of looking into this, but it will obviously increase our initial expenses for building the home. We do not have a final estimate as we are still working on the house plans. The good news is that it will provide Good Shepherds Fold and our family with housing without the additional cost of electricity. It will also be nice on those weeks when no electricity is flowing through the power lines. GSF also hopes to install more solar hot water heaters. It will probably cost less than $1,000 for our current house (house 1B) to change over to solar power for hot water. That means that we might be able to take warm showers even when the power is out, and it might stay warm longer than 5 minutes! :)

     If you are interested in helping us with the cost of solar electricity for our home you can either mail a check to Global Outreach or click here and then select the donate button which will enable you to contribute via paypal. There are many good opportunities to give at the end of the year, so please do not feel any pressure to help with this solar project. God has provided the funds to build a home for our family, to help care for many others around us, for me to return to the states for medical care, and for all of our family's basic needs. We trust that he will also provide a way to get electricity for our home.

     But more important than finding a way to provide physical light and warm water, I am thankful that God has sent his Son, Jesus, the Light of the World, for us! May you be comforted and encouraged by the Light of his Presence in your lives this Christmas season. He is the Light of the World, our Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!

Traveling Day(s)

     According to my travel itinerary Ezra and I leave Uganda on Friday, Dec. 27 and land in Atlanta, GA on Friday, Dec. 27, but that can be a bit deceiving. Our flight was scheduled to leave Entebbe airport at 12:45am and we should land in Atlanta at 6:55pm (EDT) which should feel like 3am to us. So while the ticket says it is a one day trip, it will certainly seem like a very long day to us. We left GSF around 6pm on Thursday, to make sure we would be at the airport 2 hours before our scheduled departure. We actually arrived 3 hours before, but it is hard to know what to expect with traffic when traveling through Kampala. Ezra slept much of the car ride.

     As we were checking our bags, the man at the counter asked where was home. I was a bit stumped. Georgia has been home for many years, but we have now been living in Uganda for six months. Additionally, my husband and children other than Ezra remained in Uganda, so that makes it feel even more like that is my home. So the man and I agreed that I now have two homes. A Georgia home and a Uganda home. Ezra heard the discussion and corrected us both. He piped up, "Mom, don't forget about our heavenly home!" It was good to have my boy remind me of my true eternal home. And the man at the counter said that heaven is his home too. I hope he was encouraged by my boy who helped us all keep an eternal perspective.

    Later, when we walked through the security checkpoint, the woman asked us what our final destination was. After our previous conversation, I felt like I needed to explain that heaven was my final destination, but that for this short trip I was heading to Atlanta, GA. The woman seemed a bit puzzled by my response, but eventually allowed us to pass on through security to the plane.

    Thankfully the plane was not full and we had a free seat beside us which gave me room to lie down and sleep while Ezra slept. The flight went very smoothly and I was able to even help a mom traveling with a crying baby. The mother had not slept all night and was exhausted. I remember our flight to Entebbe from London with Zeke crying most of the way. It is absolutely exhausting! If you are ever on a plane with a crying child, maybe consider helping the parents or offering a kind word. We all need that grace! I have been the recipient of much grace! I have received grace from God through Jesus Christ, but many people have also been gracious to me as I traveled with four children. Since I had only one with me who slept well, I was happy to be able to extend some of that grace to others.
    We arrived here in London and Ezra did great pulling his carry-on and not getting lost, at least not yet. As you may recall, our first time passing through London we lost track of him for a few minutes. He did not want to use the women's toilets, but I required him to come with me, remembering the panic feeling of loosing track of him last time. He hid behind my back with his eyes closed since he thinks he is too old to go into the women's restroom with his mom.

    Soon after arriving I found a Starbucks and a sign for a children's play area. We have a six hour layover, so I was very thankful for these diversions. I bought a day of internet use and have been thankful for this time. Ezra has made some new friends and so have I as we have been sitting here. David also thought to pack a bag of Legos for Ezra. Thank you David! When Ezra tired of the play area, he got out his bag of Legos and has been enjoying them ever since.

   We still have several hours until our flight to Atlanta, so I will take advantage of this time with decent internet connectivity (which is often lacking in Uganda). Hopefully Ezra will continue to enjoy his time playing with Legos and on the playground. To those of you reading this from Georgia, I look forward to seeing many of you soon. And those of you reading this from Uganda, please hug my other children for me.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Celebrating Christmas in Uganda

We have been so thankful to be here at GSF this Christmas! It is a blessing to be able to share the love of Jesus with the children here. It has been a very full couple of days! 

On Christmas Eve, our pastor who has been following up with the care of Stella and her premie baby came over. He was planning to go to the hospital to visit them. The baby had been admitted for sepsis. In the hospitals here, nothing is provided, so he wanted to make sure her basic needs were taken care of. I had offered to help before so he was taking me up on the offer. I found another woman who is here on a short term trip to also go with us. 

When we arrived at the hospital, we found the two of them and her 4 year old son, Ezra. (Good name.) We were able to talk with a nurse about the medical needs of the baby and request that he be weighed. They had not yet done that. He is nursing well, and is now up to 2.6kg. with a little onesie on. It was good to hear that he is now nursing well and beginning to gain. We also found that there were many things they lacked, washing soap for cleaning cloth diapers, soap for bathing the baby, something to fetch hot water to use for washing the baby, and food for Stella and Ezra. So we went with the pastor down the street to get a few items. When we returned we had the opportunity to prayer with her before we needed to go. 

I was so thankful that the pastor asked us to join him. I can think of no better way to spend Christmas Eve than caring for a mother and baby in need. Jesus said, "Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done it for me." It felt as if we were privileged to be able to care for Jesus this Christmas. Please continue to pray for this family and for the church to have wisdom about how best to care for them both physically and spiritually. 

I drove back to GSF and we arrived just in time for Christmas caroling. I had been looking forward to this for a while. The missionaries and some guests who are here visiting walked to the children's homes singing Christmas carols. Then we gathered the children and all walked to a place where the story of Jesus' birth was retold and the children were given stockings and ice cream! One of the cutest moments was when all the toddlers came to the door of their house in their pajamas, but I didn't have a camera ready. Here is a photo of Zeke and Bobby at the party. These boys have so much fun together. 

It is interesting to hear the story of Jesus' birth in a place where there is a donkey (named Daisy) and some of these children may have been born in similar situations, maybe in a mud hut in the village rather than a stable. The children answered questions, and Claudia shared the reason Jesus came: to save his people from their sins. It was a beautiful time! 

In the morning, we woke and waited for the generator to come on so that we could see our Christmas gifts. ;) We also ate cinnamon rolls! Amy organized the baking of 200 cinnamon rolls from scratch so that there were enough for all the children, house moms and missionaries. Amazing! Our children picked out gifts for one another and our two boys both have slingshots. This should be interesting.

Here in Uganda, the tradition is that people go to church on Christmas Day rather than on Christmas Eve, like the American tradition. So we walked to the village to worship. It was a very encouraging time! I got a little nervous when the pastor said that he was going to preach on the story of redemption and began in Genesis. Church here can sometimes go very long, particularly when you add in time for translation, and I thought we might be in for a very long sermon. But the pastor preached about creation, the effect of the fall, and that Jesus came to restore and redeem that which was broken. It was good to be reminded of the work God is doing and has done through Jesus. Here is a picture of a precious little girl from the village at church. 

After leaving the worship service, we went to the Gwartneys house for a brunch and gift exchange with our team. It was a very fun time celebrating together. Elijah was given a drum by one of the older boys who has been helping him learn. He was thrilled and practiced much of the day. ;) After the gift exchange Alex fell asleep under the Christmas tree. It was too cute!

Then at 2pm we went to the pavilion to have the Christmas meal with the children and house moms and several of the big brothers and sisters from GSF who were back visiting. It was a Ugandan feast with matoke, rice, beef from our bull, pork from our pig, chicken, chipatis and pineapple. The meal was a bit different than our family is used to, but it was good to celebrate together. Here are my older students enjoying the party.
Claudia organized a program on the spot asking several people to share a Word or a song impromptu. There was much laughing and rejoicing. Then the children all received a gift. As you can see, Moses loves his new truck!

We walked back to our house after a full day, and I began packing. On Thursday evening Ezra and I will go to the airport to leave for the US for a month. I am writing this in the middle of the night because I cannot sleep, and I decided that just thinking about how much I will miss the rest of my family isn't so helpful. Please keep us all your prayers as we are apart this next month. 

We finished our Christmas Day celebration by watching the movie "Elf" and eating popcorn. I required the three children I will be away from this next month to come cuddle with me during the movie. They were fine with it as long as I didn't eat all the popcorn. ;) 

I hope you and your family had a merry Christmas. Jesus has come! He is working to restore and redeem! There is much to celebrate! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Light of the World

After returning late Saturday night from our trip, there was much to do. We had a lot of dirty laundry, things purchased in Kampala to put away and a van that needed much cleaning. We were also pretty exhausted from our trip and from our colds. I briefly considered staying home from church to rest and recover, but I am so glad that I did not.

As I was walking to church I met a woman carrying a tiny baby. She was looking for Claudia to ask for help. The baby was born at 32 weeks and 2.1 kg (about 4.5 pounds). The baby is now 2 weeks old and not doing very well. The mother is not originally from this area, so she does not have family to help her and her husband has gone to Sudan to look for work. She came with us to church. (Her name is Stella, please pray for her.) 

We arrived a bit late since we had been talking with Stella. Elijah was playing the drums up front with some other boys. Since we arrived late it was soon time for prayer. The pastor noticed that there was a visitor and asked her to introduce herself. He also asked how they could pray for her. After she shared, we gathered around her and prayed for her and her little baby. 

A little later David shared that I would be going back to America this week. He asked for prayer for me and Ezra while we travel, for my tongue and for all of us while we are apart. They asked us to come up front, gathered around us, laid hands on us and all prayed in quiet voices in English, Luganda, Luo and another language that I can't remember the name of. Then one person prayed aloud for us all. It was very encouraging to see the way the church cared for our family even though we have only been a part of this congregation for about 2 months. 

The sermon was on Matthew 8:1-4. The preacher said he intended to preach a Christmas sermon, but the Spirit was leading him to this passage. This is a brief account of Jesus healing a man with leprosy. The two pastors spoke of our need for spiritual healing and cleansing and God's ability to also provide physical healing if it is in His will. It seems like God gave him this passage to encourage me and Stella. 

After the worship service, the elders met to discuss what they could do for Stella. They decided to go to where she is staying in a nearby village to investigate the situation more and see how they could help. So these two men spent their Sunday afternoon caring for a complete stranger. Stella has food for now and a place to stay, but they are going to follow up to help her connect with family who can help care for her and the baby. She is also going to receive a referral from GSF to take the baby to a local hospital to see what he needs. 

There are so many ways in which this congregation acted as the true body of Christ this Sunday. This small congregation in a rural village in Uganda is really shining their light. We are so thankful and blessed to be a part of this group of brothers and sisters in Christ! 

This photo is from the week that the Hosanna choir helped lead worship at Light of the World church. 

"Again Jesus spoke to them saying, 'I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" John 8:12

"You (plural) are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and in gives light to the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

As you hold your candles in your Christmas Eve services, remember that the light of Jesus Christ is shining through the lives of his children all over the world. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The dark side of our safari trip

Yesterday I wrote a blogpost about our safari, but I didn't include everything. Every story can be written from a few different perspectives. The last part of the trip reminded me about that in particular, so I am going to tell you the story of the "dark side." I have been able to laugh about it and I hope you find it a bit humorous too. 

After our first 2-3 hours driving, we stopped at a place in Kampala that we really like called Cafe' Javas. It has decent restrooms and good food and coffee drinks. Ezra went to use the men's bathroom on his own, and was taking a while so I went to check on him. I stood outside and called to him to see if he needed anything. He told me he locked himself in the stall and could not get out. There was a high window which he climbed up into to talk to me, of course. I tried to stand on my tip toes in order to see what to do about the lock and I rolled my ankle. So I am lying on the ground in pain and Ezra is trapped in the bathroom. I called David on my phone and eventually he got Ezra out and I was able to walk. (My ankle is still swollen and painful at times, but it wasn't a major sprain.)

Then we got into the vans to drive what should have been about 5 more hours, which turned into 8-9. There was road construction, so only one lane was supposed to go at a time, but no one obeys any traffic rules here. It is mayhem. And when they are working on one side, they have to throw huge rocks on it to keep people from driving on it and ruining it. 

We finally arrived, got everyone fed, settled in bed and then I heard a bat flying in our room. After a while, I finally was able to go to sleep. Four hours later Elijah woke ready to go on safari; an hour after that everyone was ready to get up for the day at 4:30am.

Since we were always in a hurry to get to the ferry crossing or to make it to the boat safari on time and Zeke was fussy and tired, I was often needing to carry him and walk quickly along uneven gravel paths with a bad ankle. For the most part we arrived on time, but Zeke and I were almost always hurrying to bring up the rear of the group.

The walking paths were rough on the ankles, but the driving paths were rougher on the neck and back. We all are pretty stiff from bouncing around on the dirt roads. The van took quite a beating too. As we were preparing to leave the rhino sanctuary we found that we had a flat tire. 

We started the trip with Zeke sick, but now everyone is coughing, has running noses and is feeling bad. On our return trip, everyone was sleeping in the van and Zeke woke up and had diarrhea in his car seat. We returned to GSF at 9:45pm and the generator was running. The generator always turns off at 10pm. The hot water heater is always off unless it is being used for energy conservation, so there was no hot water. I turned it on as soon as we arrived, but I still had to wash Zeke's diarrhea off in an uncomfortably cold shower. I got him in bed, then the power was out. I took a cold shower by lantern light, and then went to bed listening to the critters in the attic. 

 heater is always off unless it is being used for energy conservation, so there was no hot water. I turned it on as soon as we arrived, but I still had to wash Zeke's diarrhea off in an uncomfortably cold shower. I got him in bed, then the power was out. I took a cold shower by lantern light, and then went to bed listening to the critters in the attic. 

Ok, this version of the story sounds pretty terrible, but it really was an awesome trip. I loved it and am so glad we went even though we had all of these trials. Most of these things feel a bit like "par for the course" for life in Uganda, honestly. I am learning to laugh at these situations and just go with it. I was grouchy and easily angered with David for a bit, but God helped me see that and I have repented of it. 

I thought that it would be interesting to put together all the challenges to show the two ways to look at life. That is what Linda Dillow does in her book Calm My Anxious Heart when talking about contentment with circumstances. In her book she also refers to Philippians 4 in which the Apostle Paul says that he has "learned the secret of being content in every situation." I cannot say that yet, but I am definitely growing in this way. Please reread my blogpost "Christmas safari" to get the better version. I am very thankful for our wonderful trip. That is the version I will remember!  Well, I'm going to go boil some water to make coffee. :) I hope you are able to see life with thankfulness and joy today! "This is the day The Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas safari

This year we decided that we would celebrate Christmas in a new way. We decided that our main gift to one another, and from our parents to us, would be a safari trip. We have all been looking forward to this trip since we began planning! Our friends, the Lawson family, also decided to join us in this adventure! 

Our Christmas trip is actually happening a bit before Christmas for several reasons. First, we want to be able to celebrate Christmas at Good Shepherd's Fold with the children and missionary families there. Secondly, I leave the day after Christmas for my trip to America for medical care for my tongue. And third, these were the dates we could find a place to stay at the park. 

On Wednesday, we began our travel to Murchison Falls park in North-western Uganda. I drove in Kampala traffic for the first time, which feels like quite an accomplishment. Along the way we had a brief stop for grasshoppers for a snack, and then later for chicken, goat, and beef on a stick sold on the side of the road. 
We spent all day Friday driving, but the last 2 hours were in the park around dusk and it was awesome! We saw many baboons, Colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, warthogs, fascinating birds, and a jackal! We arrived after dark, had a late dinner, then went to bed. 

The next morning Elijah woke at 3:30am asking if it was time to get up for our safari. We had an early safari drive which was amazing. We saw many types of antelopes, warthogs, baboons, various birds and giraffes up close. We also saw some elephants in the distance. We enjoyed riding on the roof of our van to get a good view of all the animals. 

That afternoon we swam in the pool, ate lunch, and headed out for an afternoon boat ride 2:30-5:30 to see animals on the way to see Murchison Falls. It was so awesome! Hippos and crocodiles and fascinating birds galore. And we saw many elephants up close who had come to the river for food and water.
I even saw a lion at a significant distance through the binoculars, although David doesn't believe it. ;) That night we had dinner and then enjoyed African music and dancing around a bonfire. We all joined in a bit. Then we all slept soundly!

On Friday morning we got up early again for another morning safari drive. Honestly I was tired, Zeke was crying and I was thinking we should just stay in bed. But I am so very glad that we did not.
Our guide spotted a lion at quite a distance. After a bit we were able to see him much closer. It was a male lion who was probably about 5 years old. We got within about 20 yards. It was awesome! We also saw more elephants, giraffes and other animals on this drive. 

After this safari drive we went back to the lodge for lunch, then headed on to the Rhino sanctuary. Thankfully it is about a 3 hour drive so everyone (except David since he was driving) got a nap. :) the Rhino sanctuary is the only place rhinoceros live in the wild in Uganda. There are currently 13 rhinos, some of which are pregnant. We went on a short walk through the grassland with our guide and walked very close to some white rhinos. It was so cool!

We spent the night in a guesthouse at the rhino sanctuary and saw more rhinos on the way to breakfast. After breakfast we prepared for the long drive home. In Kampala we stopped at a mall for lunch and for some things we can't get in Jinja. We found a new mall that has an awesome play area for kids. 
 As you can see they had face painting and inflatables! They also had a small inflatable pool and cotton candy! 
While I took the younger three to this fun play place, David took Elijah to see "The Desolation of Smog." Tolkein is Elijah's favorite author. He loves the Hobbit and reading The Lord of the Rings with David. We will have a late drive back to GSF, but we have had a wonderful time!

We are so thankful for such a fun family few days together for our Christmas trip! It is good to make these special memories particularly the week before we have to be apart for a month. Please thank God with us for this blessing for our family and also keep us all in your prayers for the month of January!

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Ugandan Christmas song

Another missionary here made up a version of "Jingle Bells" related to transportation in a taxi here in Uganda. I love it and all my students sang it for me this morning. Here it is:

Dashing through the mud
In a four door taxi van
Fourteen passengers
And a conductor hanging on. 
No lights, no brakes, no horn
But still we carry on
We're going to our jja-ja's house
We'll get there just at dawn. 

Chicken here, chicken there, chicken in my ear,
Bok, bok, bok!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a taxi without gears.
Chicken here, chicken there, chicken in my ear,
Bok, bok, bok!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a taxi without gears!

Lyrics by Julie Probst

Monday, December 9, 2013

A rough week

Last week was a particularly challenging one for me. The week began with the poles bringing electricity onto campus being cut down (no one knows why) my phone freezing up, and saying goodbye to my friend and prayer partner who is moving up North with her 3 children to be with family since her husband has left her. I also got a 24 hour stomach virus or something.

I went to town and found that it would take several days to fix my phone, which turned out to be nearly the whole week. The back-up generator which usually runs 6-9 hours a day when power is out, was not working properly. A little girl here was diagnosed with an incurable disease. I was unable to find the medicine in Jinja to help with managing her symptoms. While I was in town looking for the medicine at several different pharmacies, I slammed my left index finger in the van door. My whole nail turned black and as they say here, "It has been paining me." Throbbing actually. So we decided to drain it to relieve a bit of the pressure. Sharon graciously offered to use a drill bit to put a hole in my nail to drain the blood. Draining it has decreased the pain, but I continue to hit it on things. 

It was in the midst of these frustrating circumstances that I began rereading the book of Philippians. I know that later in the book, the apostle Paul discusses contentment and rejoicing always, but chapter 1 really struck me that day. Paul was saying that his imprisonment has furthered the gospel. His concern was not that he was mistreated and had to suffer, but he had his focus on what God might accomplish for the sake of His Kingdom through these circumstances. He even goes on to say that this life is "labor," but he knows that God is working for a purpose in the midst of it. 

I wonder how I could view my circumstances with more of a kingdom perspective? I have no idea how God will use this little girl's sickness or my friend's difficult situation or a finger injury for his kingdom, but I am going to cling to the promise of Romans 8:28ff.  "God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." 

By the way, my finger is looking much better now that I have drained it. It isn't all black anymore, but it is still a bit gross. :) 

Hosanna African Children's Choir

These are not the faces you would expect to find in an African Children's choir, are they? But the children here at Good Shepherd's Fold have welcomed our oldest two children into their choir and are teaching our kids to drum, dance and sing in the Luganda language. 

This past weekend was a choir camp here at GSF. The kids practiced many songs, played games, and even watched the "Sound of Music." Elijah and Esther really enjoyed the opportunity to better get to know the kids who live here at GSF. One of the girls who grew up here leads the choir along with help from several of the teenagers. They sound really good, and it is fun to watch them dancing. 

One very kind boy, named Henry, has been helping Elijah learn how to play the drums. Henry has been here at GSF for many years and is a great drummer. It was so nice seeing him take his free times to help Elijah learn the rhythms. Elijah is really catching on. 

I am very thankful that Elijah and Esther are getting some music instruction and making new friends. This weekend of camp was great! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas cards are welcome!

As we have settled into our new home here at GSF, I began putting up pictures on our refrigerator. I realized that many of these pictures were from last year's Christmas cards. We would love to update your family photo on our refrigerator or add you to our collage. If you would like to mail a card to us, here is the address:

      The Fish family
      PO Box 1960
      Jinja, Uganda

If you don't want to spend the extra postage, please save a picture for us and I will get it from you in January when I am in the states. We love to see your smiling faces several times a day! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!