Sunday, March 30, 2014

An eventful Sunday

Today was a day full of much celebration and a bit of sadness. We celebrated visitors and improvements at our church, and we both celebrated and grieved over our last Sunday with two of our short-term missionaries. In the afternoon and evening we celebrated Ezra's birthday with friends and two families in the process of adoption. 

This morning our church worshiped together for the first time under our new roof! Praise The Lord! The building used to have papyrus mats and a tarp as a covering, but the tarp had torn in many places and been broken down by the sun and wind. The rainy season was approaching and we did not have a way to stay dry during worship. So the church leadership asked the congregation to contribute toward the cost of iron sheets for a roof. Through the financial support we received from many of you, we were able to contribute toward the cost of iron sheets and provide a bit of labor by our family cleaning up the pieces of the old roof that were lying around after demolition. Here are some photos from the afternoon that we walked over to help. 

It was wonderful to be able to be a part of this project in a small way. As the church gathered this Sunday under our new roof, several of the Jajas (grandmothers) stood to praise God for His provision. One woman, through a translator, praised God for the new roof, and praised God for giving her the strength to work in her garden until 3pm without even getting hungry. She had been sick and lacking food. But the rains are here and God gave her the strength to work to grow food. Her joy in The Lord is always apparent as she worships and greets the other members of her church family. I realized that I have much to learn from these women. 

During the worship service we also had a time to pray for our two dear friends who have been serving alongside us for many months, but are now going back to the US. Stephen has been serving at GSF since before we arrived, working with the secondary students and university students. He has been a great friend to our whole family, a good friend to David particularly while I was away, willing to play sports and card games and wrestle with the kids, and a fabulous dinner guest who always does the dishes while we are getting the kids ready for bed. Gracie has been here for 4 months, and has become a dear friend in that short time. She and I often go for a run together, she regularly encourages me with Scripture and she is also great with our kids. These two dear friends will be greatly missed, but we are excited to see God's work continue in and through their lives as they go back to America and continue their education. Please pray for them as they readjust to American life after a long time away, and for us as we say goodbye. I told Stephen that I sometimes grow weary of saying goodbye to friends. He reminded me that goodbyes are a part of this finite life, but I am thankful that in eternity we will not need to say goodbye anymore. Here is a photo from the time at our church praying for these dear friends.  Some members of Gracie's church are here on a short trip and they joined in this time of prayer; that is why there are so many mzungus in the photo. 

After worship and a relatively quick lunch,  we headed out to Kingfisher, the pool where we like to go to celebrate birthdays. It was a fun time celebrating Ezra's 6th birthday, just a few days early. My friend Jennifer made him an awesome Ninja Turtle birthday cake!! 

We all had a great time at the pool, and it was fun to have some new friends also come along with their children since they are here in Uganda for several weeks waiting on the rest of their adoption paperwork to go through. 

Overall it was a very full day! By the time we got home at 7:30pm, I was thoroughly exhausted. I knew we were preparing to go on our "Spring Break" trip the next morning, so we all went to be early. Little did I know that I would be up much of the night with vomiting children who had ingested too much pool water. Thankful they were feeling better in the morning and ready to go on our adventure, although I was completely spent. Not always the best way to begin a camping adventure in Africa, but that is how our "Spring Break" adventure began.... (To be continued)

Our new clothes

As you read this title in your mind, you are probably pronouncing the word "clothes" in the typical American fashion, but here it is pronounced "clothe-ez." 

As you can see Esther and I have new clothes. The staff at GSF all made contributions around Christmas time to give gifts to the missionaries here. I was given this material and told that the tailor would make a skirt and shirt for me and Esther with the material. After I returned from the US, we took measurements and discussed the plans. There are not patterns or anything here, but we just talked about common designs here. Now that they are finished, Esther and I are wearing them to church today! I thought you might enjoy seeing this photo of our Ugandan clothes. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Our first snake encounter

Today we had our first snake encounter. It was a small snake, but it raised up to strike in the way that snakes in the cobra family do. I did not see it while it was alive, but it was found in our pantry. Praise God that no one was hurt (other than the snake). Here is a photo after its demise. 

Please don't misunderstand. Back in America I did not have a problem with snakes. Most snakes there are not venemous and are actually helpful in controlling the rodent population. In America you can easily identify the venomous ones, and the anti venom is readily available. I even had pet corn snakes twice in my life. 

But it is very different here in Uganda. Most of these snakes are venemous, and those in the cobra family definitely are. There is finally anti venom for cobra bites now available in Jinja (just in recent months). Jinja is about 45 minutes away from our campus. In the past the anti venom was only available in Kampala, which is a few hours away. We are grateful for these advances, but it is my hope that we will never need that resource. 

My change in heart toward snakes reminds me of this passage in Genesis 3. 

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14, 15 NIV) 

Today this particular serpent's head was crushed, but more importantly, Jesus came, lived a sinless life, took the punishment of my sin upon himself, and rose again from the dead in order to give eternal life to his adopted children. In this way, Jesus crushed the head of the Serpent, Satan. 

I can rejoice and rest in God's loving care for my family both in the way the serpent we met today was crushed and in the way he has redeemed us through the work of Jesus. Our lives are in God's hands and we will trust in his care for us. Here are some of my favorite verses from Romans 8. 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31, 32 NIV)

So whether we encounter snakes or sickness or sadness, we can rest and trust in our Savior. I am learning to do that more each day as I struggle and grow through daily life experiences here. As a dear friend said, my life here, while full of many joys, is also a "sanctification pressure cooker." 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fish kids

I often write about how things are going with the children at Good Shepherd's Fold, but I also wanted to write a brief update about our four children. They are all doing well here and enjoying life in Africa. 

Elijah, our first born, has started taking guitar lesson from our Ugandan friend, Jonathan. They have a 45 minute or so lesson 3 days a week since Jonathan lives very close. (Jonathan is the young man who is the intern at our church, so we are also enjoying the opportunity to have him stay for dinner and discuss the sermon series or theology or Ugandan culture.) Elijah is really enjoying learning and often says he wishes he had a lesson on the off days. Elijah is also continuing to play drums at church and in the Hosanna Choir. He is becoming our musician. He also loves playing basketball and soccer with the kids here at GSF and has made many friends. 

Esther is just as creative as always and enjoys making up games and stories with her younger brothers. Esther has also started really enjoying reading. She is often found with a flashlight in bed staying up late reading the Boxcar Children books. She also loves teaching, and helps Amelia with her math each day. Maybe she will grow up to be a math teacher like her mama. 

Ezra continues to enjoy animals and anything to do with science. He likes to make experiments and study the critters he catches. Today we have a pair of millipedes and and a toad. He is trying to create natural habitats for them and study what they will eat, how they behave, etc. 

Zeke has become a hilarious, creative little boy who enjoys making everyone laugh. Recently he has begun talking about an imaginary "Grandma Joseph" who basically tells him whatever he wants to hear. This "Grandma Joseph" tells him not to take naps and that he will have 10 birthday parties and other such things. He also likes to look in the mirror and make faces at himself. It is always entertaining to hear him talk to himself as he plays. We are so thankful for this funny little boy. 

We have areas where we are praying for God's work in each of our children's hearts, but we are glad to see the ways they are growing and maturing here. Please pray for our children, the other missionary kids and all the children here at GSF, for God's work in each of their lives. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Weakness and grace

This week I have felt like my heart might break each time I met one of the newest members of our GSF family. Two siblings were recently taken in who are so malnourished and sad looking. Their limbs are the size of a few of my fingers, no baby fat, no healthy chubby checks, just a withdrawn hungry look and bony limbs. I first met the older sibling and just went home praying. I was glad to see this precious little one eating, a carrot in each hand. The younger brother is also very thin. 

Just a couple days later, I heard that a 3 year old was coming. I saw him being carried to the babies' home. A 3 year old should be walking to the toddler house, so I knew he was in bad shape. He weighs about 15 pounds as a 3 year old and is so terribly skinny, but he is a sweet and cheerful little boy. I went to the babies' house to hold him, and he felt like a bunch of bones. It just breaks my heart. I hugged him and held him and prayed for him. Here is a photo of this precious boy taken by Corinne Iya, our sponsorship coordinator. 

While I was at the baby house I saw Timothy, a boy who came to GSF very malnurished back in December. He is not yet fat, but he is looking much healthier, walking around, playing, smiling, and eating. Later in the day I saw Alex. When he came to GSF I thought he might not live. Now I see him running around, laughing, playing, and acting like a normal healthy toddler. 

God has brought healing to so many children through the the ministry of Good Shepherd's Fold, both physically and spiritually. When I see these children come here, I grieve about the months and sometimes even years that they have gone hungry, but I also want to rejoice. God has brought them here to bring them out of these sad situations. They will now have food to eat. They will be held, loved, prayed over, and taught. There is hope. Please pray for these 3 precious children whose bodies are so weak right now. And celebrate with me, the many happy stories of what God has done and continues to do here at GSF. 

As I was looking for a verse about God's care for the weak I was reminded of several things. God tells his people over and over again to care for the weak, the fatherless, the widow, the stranger in their land. God often does this in the context of reminding us, his people, that we are weak. We were strangers. We were without hope. But God has shown us mercy and compassion by sending Jesus, his own Son, to rescue us. He is a gracious and compassionate God! He cares for the weak and broken, me and you and these children. Jesus came for those who know they are sick, not those who think they have it all together. We are just like these desperate, starving, sick children, and God has had compassion on us. 

On Sunday as we were worshiping in our village church, I saw what a broken people we are in physical ways as a picture of our spiritual brokenness and need. As we were singing, my tongue was bothering me. I am physically broken. A precious young lady with special needs was behind me singing as best she could. The congregation was full of orphans and widows. We are often led by a man with such severe effects from polio that he could not walk for 17 years. The tarp over our thatched roof is full of holes and the rainy season is now here. We all are in desperate need. We are weak and dependent upon The Lord. 

Although our church in a small village in Uganda looks very different than many of your congregations, we are all needy. Your brokenness may be more spiritual in a struggle with a particular sin. It may be in a particular relationship or an emotional struggle. But just because your church has a roof and a clean floor and everyone looks and smells good, do not be fooled. You and the people around you all need compassion. And we have a gracious and compassionate God! He gives us the privilege of showing that compassion to the people around us. Look to see where he might be calling you to be his hands and feet. 

Lately I have been very aware of my weaknesses in many ways. Physically, my tongue still causes me pain and sometimes trouble speaking clearly. I am awake writing this post at 3am because I cannot sleep due to the neck and back pain I have been having. Spiritually I have seen my weakness in my selfishness and impatience with my family. I have been struggling emotionally with discouragement about all of the above. But thankfully, a few people have recently reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9&10. Paul was asking the Lord to remove the "thorn in his flesh."

"But (the Lord) said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I am thankful that God has compassion toward the weak, toward people like me, you, and these children. Please pray for these three newest children, Bahati, Arthur and John. Bahati is the one who is the most sick right now. The name Bahati means "blessing." What a blessing it is to see God's power and grace in the midst of weakness! His grace is sufficient.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day

Today is March 14th (3.14) in the third month of the year 2014 (3.14). As I hope many of you know, that is approximately equal the the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. Since my primary role here is as a math teacher for the missionary kids, I was excited about taking this opportunity to talk with my students about circles and Pi. 

One of my 8th graders, Megan, and I have read a book entitled, The Number Devil, in which they talk about going to number heaven where they only eat pie. So we decided that on this day, we would make pie for everyone to eat and do some activities related to circles. Here we are at the kitchen table preparing to eat pie. As you can see, Ezra is not wanting to wait. 

I really enjoyed the day, helping the students test many different circles, measuring the diameter with a piece of string and then measuring to see how many times that would go around the circle. A little over 3 every time, for every circle.

Then I had the students begin counting the circles they found in everyday objects. In my living room and kitchen they were at 432 when it was break time. Some students also made really neat designs using circles. They also helped make a pie. We had a fun day and I even read to them an excerpt from The Number Devil. Days like today remind me how much I love teaching math, and particularly in our flexible school with children of many ages working together. We even got to work by candlelight for a bit while the power was out. 

I hope you all have a happy Pi day and enjoy marveling at the God who created this world, circles and all. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Missionaries need grace too!

A friend recently sent me a link to a blogpost about the stress of the first year of missionary life. I had mixed feelings when I read it. It felt confirming that all the stress I sometimes feel is normal, but it also made me feel a bit excused to have some self-pity, which is not beneficial. Here is a link if you are interested in reading it for yourself. I have been struggling with some of this stress recently. A few things have come of this. First, David and I have decided to take turns having 5-6pm to go for a walk or a run in order to get exercise and have some time away. Sometimes we go with a friend, sometimes on our own. We also realize that we need to make time for the two of us. We don't have a particular plan in place, but we have teammates and older MKs who are willing to stay with our kids so that we can get some time away. I have also started doing some stretching and yoga videos in the evenings and mornings in order to relieve some of the neck and back pain that comes from being stressed out and from sleeping on a futon. (We are hoping that our bed will be ready soon.) I have also found that getting up early to have time to pray and read God's Word is essential for just functioning on a daily basis. It is actually good to be at this place of desperately needing God, although it is sometimes uncomfortable.

You may wonder what is causing all this stress that requires me to be so intentional about addressing this in my life. Reading the above article may help you understand a bit. Here is one example, yesterday we heard that the land issue will likely not be resolved for at least 6 weeks, so we cannot begin building our house as we had hoped. Please pray with us that it will be resolved quickly. There are several circumstantial factors that contribute to stress, but there are additional heart factors in my life. 

Yesterday, while I was out running with Gracie, a young woman who has been here for several months, we were talking about the stress that I feel and I came to some realizations. Much of my stress comes from a long standing sin pattern in my life of needing everyone's approval. Many years ago I realized that I wanted everyone to think I am great. There are a few problems with that. First, I am a fallen, broken, finite sinner, who will not always be able to make others happy. Second, I am wanting people to think I am great, not look past me and see how great God is that he would forgive and use a sinner like me. In other words, I am trying to steal God's glory. Ouch.

This struggle has been causing stress since I was in middle school or even before, so it is not shocking that this struggle has resurfaced in my life. But as I was talking with Gracie, I realized how challenging that idol can be to please while living in another culture. I don't want to mess up or offend anyone, and I don't want my family to either. No wonder I get so angry when they don't behave in church. I want everyone to think we are all perfect. That is absolutely ridiculous! Of course I am going to mess up and David will too. Of course my children will both sin and make cultural faux-pas. I have been living with such a huge amount of stress because I subconsciously want everyone to think we are perfect. And we live in the middle of campus, so we are always on display!

When I broke down in tears at church, Amy, my teammate and friend, encouraged me to "give myself grace," to remember that I am not perfect and that I am forgiven. I told her that I often don't know how to do that. We have discussed this again since that day and she encouraged me to take time away with David, to remember that I'm forgiven, to remember that the first year is hard, and to make sure I am having time alone with God to remember his grace and truth.

I am writing these thoughts to confess that I am a sinner in desperate need of grace. I am also writing this to remind myself that I am forgiven and God's grace is sufficient to cover all my failures. I can be free to be who God made me to be and try to serve him as he enables me, rather than expecting myself and my family to be perfect.  Here are some of the truths that I need to remind myself. I am writing a personal paraphrase for myself, but I encourage you to read these verses on your own, too. 

Galatians 4:4-7 - God sent Jesus in order to redeem and adopt me into his family. I can call him Daddy and he loves me, not because I have earned his love, but because Jesus gave me his righteousness by faith.

Ephesians 1:3ff - Because I have received mercy, I do not need to live in fear and worry. 

Romans 5:1ff - I have been made right by faith and have peace with God. He is even working for my good through suffering. 

Zephaniah 4:17 - God rejoices over me and quiets me with his love. 

Matthew 7:11 - God is my Father who wants to give good gifts to his children. I may need to readjust what I see as good. 

Mark 2:17- Jesus came for the sick, not those who think they are righteous on their own. 

Psalm 51:17 - What God desires is a broken and contrite heart. He knows I am not perfect and just wants me to live in that humility. 

Matthew 11:28-30 - God wants me to come to him when I am weary and rest in him. 

When I am feeling stress, I need to remember these truths. But there is something else too. I need to open my eyes to all the ways that God has already blessed me and live with a thankful heart. David was talking about how in the midst of discouragement over the land issue he was forgetting how blessed we are to be right here now. I don't want to live always focussing on the things that are stressful and overlooking all of God's blessings right now. 

I have written many posts about thankfulness, mostly because it is more of a discipline than a natural way of thinking for me. I am learning slowly by slowly (as they say here in Uganda) how to rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil.4:4) So this morning I am thanking God for the rain. The rainy season is here! I am thankful that we work just 30 steps from our front door. I am thankful that Jesus has given me his perfect record, because on my own i am not. I am thankful for my teammates here who are encouraging me as I struggle to adjust. I am thankful that here at GSF all these children are being fed, and cared for, and shown the love of Jesus. And I am thankful to have some small role in this work. 

Here is a picture of our school room from my front porch this cool rainy morning.

Monday, March 10, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things...

First of all, I am so glad and thankful to say that David has been fever free and not vomited for over 24 hours! Praise God! The sickness hit him very quickly, but his recovery has been quick also. He is still weak, but feels much better. Thank you all for your prayers! 

As I have been struggling with being easily angered with my children, this verse came to mind. "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." Philippians 4:8

I am sure that there is always something worthy of praise. I am also sure that as a mother I spend much more time thinking about what needs correction than I do thinking about the things God has done in the lives of my children and giving him praise for his work. I am going to write some things that I am thankful to God for about my children. Please don't misunderstand. These are not the boastings of proud mother. This is an attempt to refocus my thoughts on the good God is doing in the lives of my children, rather than being easily irritated by their shortcomings. 

This morning as my children woke, they went right into the little room where we have some toys. They began working together on Lego projects. At first Esther was finding the pieces while Elijah was putting them together. When Ezra woke, they began work on the second set. It was so good to see them playing well together! 

Then Elijah decided to make breakfast for everyone. He has learned to scramble eggs, cook bacon, make toast, and make pancakes from scratch. He has been so helpful to us in the mornings. This morning he made eggs and toast a poured juice and lit the candles on the table. Esther is also learning to cook, but she still needs a bit more assistance lighting the burners, etc.  Here is a picture of Elijah cooking for us. 

Last evening the younger 3 kids watched a video about the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). It was just a short episode. When it was over, they turned off the TV without asking for another episode and immediately took out paper and began creating their own Aurora Borealis. While Zeke was coloring he kept saying, "Aurora Borealis. This is my Aurora Borealis." I am thankful for my children's creativity and their good minds. Here is their masterpiece. 

I am also thankful for my children's generous hearts. When David and Zeke went to visit someone at the hospital, they went through the children's ward and Zeke gave away toys to the children there. It is clearly the work of God when a 3 year old wants to give away toys rather than take them. After seeing how happy it made those children, Zeke along with our other children were excited to put together little bags of toys that they can give away when they meet children in need. 

I am so thankful that God is working in the hearts of my children in these ways. I am trying to focus more on these things that are worthy or praise. I hope that today God helps you to see the good things in those around you too. "If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In the midst of sickness- a sacrifice of praise

Yesterday was Sunday, the Lord's day, but I was really struggling with wanting to praise and worship. In the morning David woke feeling very ill. I had already been up with the children for a few hours trying to let the younger 3 all help make biscuits, while Elijah cooked eggs and bacon. 

I was really struggling with being impatient and easily angered with messes, arguments and mistakes. It was my hope that David would get up, take over with the children and the kitchen, so that I could step out to the front porch and have time to myself to pray and read God's Word. Instead I found out that I would be handling the morning, the preparation for lunch and taking the children to church on my own. I tried to just press on.

As we got to church I participated in worship because I knew I should, but I was also fighting my irritation with some of my children's behavior. Lately I have struggled with being easily angered. For me, this sin shows itself with my harsh tone over little things like spilled baking powder. I really don't want to be critical and angry as a mother. I want to be full of joy and peace. I have been asking God for the work of His Spirit bringing that fruit in my life. I ask you also to pray for me in that way. Our sermon was about having joy in the presence of The Lord. I ended the service in tears. I really want to live with that joy and not be anxious and easily angered. 

As we returned, I realized that David was getting worse. He has had a fever and several other symptoms that often accompany malaria. I called our Nurse who is on call and she came and tested for malaria. The test was negative, which doesn't necessarily mean that he does not have malaria. The nurse suggested that we send some bloodwork to Jinja to see if perhaps it is a bacterial infection. The results indicated a slight bacterial infection, but he has been much more than slightly sick. 

He has been up much of the night vomiting and feeling achy and feverish. I woke again at 4 something this morning and he is now on the "couch" ( a 2" foam cushion on top of plywood) and he is asleep. If he wasn't feeling achy before, he will be now. Please pray for quick healing for David and for me to have wisdom in how to best care for him.

In the midst of this there were several moments when I realized how blessed we are. In the morning at church, a young woman named Gracie, who has been here at GSF for several months, came to sit with me and helped me with the kids. When I was crying, she was praying with and for me. Another one of the women on the team also came over to encourage and pray for me. We have the Iyas over for Sunday lunch since they live off campus, but are here for Sunday School and church. They cleaned up after lunch so that I could put Zeke down for his nap and tend to David. When we decided to send bloodwork to Jinja, another team member made a special trip into town for us, while someone else came to play with the kids while I worked on dinner prep. A few other team members stopped by to check on David and offer help. Jonathan, our preacher and friend, stopped by and prayed with me and with David. One friend even stayed to help get my kids showered and in bed, reading their bedtime story for me! 

While I am still concerned about David and didn't get a good night's sleep, I am so grateful that I have a supportive encouraging team here. I am also thankful for so many of you who pray for us regularly. Please pray for healing and a speedy recovery for David, and for the fruit of the Spirit for me. Right now, even though I don't feel particularly joyful, I want to offer to The Lord, a sacrifice of praise. He has blessed me with this caring team and is caring for us in the midst of these struggles. God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Visitors- human and pangolin

We had a really fun time here at Good Shepherd's Fold this afternoon! Right around lunch time, a team of women arrived from America. They have been corresponding with the missionaries on the team here and have been praying for us and asking what they could bring for us. They even brought some Scrabble cheezits for me to use while teaching reading! It was exciting to meet these women in person and we are all excited to have them here with us this week! 

They began to settle in and went for a tour of campus. We finished our school day and went outside to play with the toddlers. It was a fun time of pushing swings, giving hugs, playing chase, and visiting with the house moms. Elijah had gone on to play soccer with some of the older kids. After the game was over Elijah came back shouting, "A pangolin!" Some of the boys had discovered this unusual creature in a tree in our front yard! Many of you have probably never heard of a pangolin before, so I will tell you a bit about this animal. The closest thing I can compare it to in America is an armadillo. It has "scales" rather than the "armor" of the armadillo, but it is a mammal that eats ants and termites with its long sticky tongue, curls into a ball for protection, is mostly nocturnal, and has sharp claws for digging. It is a fascinating creature and is not commonly seen. Many Ugandans were not even familiar with it. Here is a photo before it climbed higher to get away from the children. 

After the pangolin excitement was dying down, the team of women began some fun activities for the older children at the pavilion across from our house. The kids were having a blast playing spoons, dancing, having snacks, and doing other fun activities. 

Some of the younger girls were watching, wishing that this activity was for them. (The team has special times planned for each different age group throughout the week.) I decided that this would be a good time to spend with them, so I took them back to the pangolin tree. Then I got out a field guide of African animals and took them through page by page looking at all the photos and telling them some interesting facts. They had seen some of the animals but had many questions. I really enjoyed getting to know these girls a bit more. 

Overall, it was just a fun afternoon here at GSF. Today the team has much more planned including a "tiny tykes and tunes" activity that Zeke and Bobby will get to participate in along with the toddlers and babies, and some Kindergarten activities where Ezra and Amelia can join the GSF kids. Tonight they have a game night planned for the missionary families. I think we will all have a fun week! 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Missing family and friends

I have now been back here in Uganda for 1 full month. There are many things I love about life here, the beautiful country where things grow so well, the children we live beside, the way my whole family can work together in school and in loving on the children at the orphanage, my team, our church in the village, our new friends here, the great produce (I just had the best mango ever), the things my children are learning, and the list goes on. But this past week, I have really been missing my family and friends in the US.

I know that I have so much to be thankful for, but after having a month of time reconnecting with my American family and friends, I am really missing them/you. Many people asked what I thought would be the most challenging part of missionary life. There are many cultural adjustments and in general life has many fewer conveniences than in America. The hardest part for me, though, has been moving away for my wonderful friends, our church family, and our parents. The month of January reminded me of how richly blessed we our with supportive family and friends. 

As I was reading yesterday morning in Mark chapter 10, I was encouraged by a promise Jesus gave his disciples. Here it is:

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV)

Leaving "home" has been hard for me, but I am clinging to this promise. Jesus told his disciples that he will bless them, both in this life and the life to come. 

I also listened to a sermon today by Ray Cortese from Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in which he talked about John the Baptist asking Jesus if he was really "the One." (Matthew 10) Basically, the sermon was a reminder that if Jesus truly is "the One" all of life should be about living for him. When we realize that he truly is our Saviour, that changes everything! I was reminded that we came here because we believe that this is what He wanted us to do. Our time here has been at times hard and lonely, but I am certain that this is the work my Saviour has for me. Knowing that he willingly gave up heaven to come to earth and gave up his life so that I could be his child reminds me why I left my comfortable life. 

I still struggle with that decision at times like when I am particularly missing my family and friends.  But I know that this is where God wants us to be for the sake of his kingdom. The work here at Good Shepherd's Fold is so needed. It is heartbreaking to see how children arrive so sick and malnourished. And when they come to GSF they are shown the love of Jesus and taught about his love for them in the gospel. As they grow, our goal is to make disciples who will then go out and impact Uganda and the world. For the missionaries here to continue this good work, they need us to teach their children and serve in other supporting roles. So while I am sad missing family and friends, I am also fully convinced that this is where I need and want to be! 

This is a photo of Elijah and Esther's Sunday School class. I had the privilege of filling in as the substitute for Corinne a couple weeks ago.