Saturday, May 31, 2014

Last Day of School

Yesterday we completed our first school year of teaching missionary kids here at Good Shepherd's Fold. It has been a great year! We have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to teach and learn together with these kids. 

We began our last school day with our usual morning devotion time and a time for the students to pray for one another in small groups. 

We did many of the usual last day activities, cleaning out desks, turning in books, and talking about summer reading. In addition we found 5 bats while cleaning! (There are some things that are a bit unusual about our school.)

After a morning break, the parents and some other missionaries came for our end of the year program. The kids recited Scripture and other memory work, read aloud, and we talked about many of the things they had learned and done this school year. It was a good time celebrating their work this year. 

We ended our time with snacks and an opportunity for the parents to see some of the student's projects on display. Megan Gwartney, one of our 8th graders, even made peanut butter balls covered with chocolate for the occasion. What a treat! Hope and Maggie also made a cake with the number 8 since they have finished their 8th grade year and are all three high schoolers now. 

Claudia, who is always full of fun ideas, wanted us to take a photo of the students and teachers outside jumping up to celebrate the end of the school year. As you can imagine there were many laughs, and it took quite some time to get everyone in the air together. Here's the best photo from my camera. 
Side note: In the photo above we are standing outside our school on a strip of amazing grass. David found someone in Jinja who sold this great turf grass which is very similar to a hybrid Bermuda grass. He leveled an area and put in plugs of this grass while I was in the US in January. It has now filled in to make an awesome patch of turf. Once our house is built, I'm sure we'll end up with this type of grass in our yard too. Some things don't change. :) 

After the celebration was over we went to the classroom to clean up and found our students cleaning, organizing and selecting books for summer reading. We have such a great group of kids here! It is such a blessing to teach these kids! We are very grateful that so many of you make it possible for us to be here to teach these missionary kids! Robb Warfield reiterated that without us here to teach their kids, they could not continue their work here. And without your prayers and support, we could not be here. So thank you all for your role in the ministry of Good Shepherd's Fold! 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A new sister!

In the mornings, I often sit on our front porch, drink my coffee and take some time to pray and read the Bible before the busyness of the day begins. Since we currently live in a house right between the children's houses and the school, many people walk past. 

There is one particular teenage girl named Esther who lives here at GSF. Recently I had been praying for her. Many mornings I greet her, but on this particular morning last week, I felt like I should tell her that I am praying for her and ask if there was anything particular she wanted me to be praying about. She told me she would talk with me that night. I was a bit intrigued, and glad she wanted to talk later. 

That afternoon Esther came to my house and asked my kids if she could talk with me. She snd I sat down on the front porch and I asked her again how I could be praying for her. Esther told me that she wanted to become a child of God!

I talked with her about what it means to be a child of God. We talked about the fact that our sin separates us from God, but that Jesus came to make us right with God. He lived a perfect life, took the punishment for our sin when he died on the cross, and rose again to give us new life in Him. She has heard all of this many times before since she has lived at GSF for many years. But God had been working in her heart recently. 

After talking for a while, we prayed together. I explained that since we are both children of God, she is my sister. She was so happy and wanted to go tell Auntie Amy. She and Amy had been talking earlier in the week. I told Esther I would try to find a Bible for her. She wants to start reading the Bible and meeting to talk about it. GSF has Bibles that have been donated for the kids here, so I was able to give her one. I also asked if it was ok to share her story on my blog. She was excited to have her story online. 

Please be praying for Esther as she grows in her relationship with God. I am so thankful that God gave me the privilege of praying with her and the opportunity to encourage her as she grows in her faith. Praise God! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


There have been many answers to prayers in recent days around here. Some are related to adoptions, babies of friends being born, a teammate recovering from Bells Palsy, children transitioning, work permits being granted after many months. Our family has had a prayer request for our family for several months that was answered yesterday. Our prayer request has been regarding a dispute over the land where we are planning to build our house. We had hoped to begin building early this year, but everything was put on hold while we looked into a claim that this plot of land that was sold to GSF a little over a year ago actually belonged to someone else. Recently we obtained a copy of the document on which the claim was based. A lawyer reviewed the documents and determined that we have the legal right to utilize the land. We can begin building! When I heard this news I did a happy dance. Our team leader will be meeting with the neighbor who has been making this claim later this week, so please pray for that meeting. A few days before this good news from the lawyer, we also received the building permit approval. As far as we know, everything is in place to begin building! 

Since we have been asking God to resolve this issue for months, we thought it would be good to go up to that land and pray as a family, thanking God for providing a beautiful place on which to build our home. A friend came by and took the photo above. We are standing where we hope the house will be located. We stood there talking for a while. As we looked west, the direction our front porch will face, we saw a beautiful sunset!

I have so much for which to be thankful! We have also been praying for over a year asking God to heal my tongue. He has not yet done that, but I do have some taste and sensation returning to part of the right side of my tongue. Please thank God with us for his answer regarding the land, and also continue to pray with us asking for complete healing for my tongue. Praise God! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Esther's birthday celebration

Yesterday we celebrated Esther's birthday with the other girls here at GSF who are close to her age. When we first came, it took a while for Esther to make new friends. The girls here have mostly grown up together, and it is sometimes intimidating to reach out. 

Over the past couple of months, Esther has really tried to start getting to know these girls better. She joined the choir with a few of them and has begun spending some time with these girls in the afternoons. For Esther's birthday party, she wanted to invite all the GSF girls age 5-10 over, which is a dozen girls. As we prepared for the girls to come over, it occurred to me, that Esther's friendship with these girls provides our family the opportunity to help show God's love to these girls and disciple them. 

We all had a wonderful afternoon together! As the girls arrived we began making bracelets and rings. As they finished making their jewelry, we sang Happy Birthday to Esther and we all had cupcakes. They starting jumping rope and then watered Esther. "Watering" is a birthday tradition here at GSF. Esther was a great sport. 

After Esther got changed, we brought all the girls in our house for a movie and popcorn. They all enjoyed it. Before the movie I took a brief moment to tell the girls of God's love for them and our love for them, and to pray for Esther and all of them. I was thankful for that brief moment and hope to have many more. Once the movie was over we all went outside for some more playtime. The girls played hide-and seek, jump rope, long jump, high jump, and a few other games where they run around outside. Here is a photo of Rosie doing the high jump. 

We are so thankful that God has blessed us with our daughter Esther. We are also thankful for these many other girls who are a part of our larger GSF family. Please pray for all these girls, that they would know and live out the love of God in Jesus, and that we would encourage them as they grow in Him. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' Day with the big brothers and sisters of GSF

Good Shepherd's Fold is a children's home for children who don't have parents to care for them. It was a blessing to be with these children and young adults who do not have mothers in the traditional sense of the word, but have many who have loved and cared for them over the years. Damalie, a big sister from GSF, encouraged her brothers and sisters today to love and care for others the way they have been loved over the years. Her comments are backed up by her life, which is spent caring for babies in need. She began her own ministry to babies after she finished her schooling. 

It has also been a blessing to get to know Claudia who has raised many children in her own home over the years. She has never been married, but has been a loving mother to so many children who didn't have mothers. The Ugandan house moms here at GSF also serve as mothers to so many children. 

Being here has helped me to think of Mothers' Day in a new way. I used to think of how Mothers' Day was a day for moms to be appreciated and given extra hugs. But today as I was sitting next to a little girl who doesn't have a mother, it made me think of how important it is to show motherly love to those in need around you. I have the opportunity to show that love to many children in need of it. I have started with giving my four children extra hugs today. 

I also live next door to so many who need to be hugged and told they are loved. While we were listening to a testimony, I decided to take Damalie's advice and put my arm around the girl beside me. 

There is another young girl who is 4 years old who I hug daily since she lives next door to us. One day I walked over to the playground and she asked me for a hug. Of course I have her a big hug! Then she said that was only 1 hug, and she needed 5. After 5 hugs, she said "That is only one 5, I need many 5s." I decided to hug her as high as she could count. (I helped her counting a bit too. I am a math teacher, and I like to give hugs. It was a win-win.) Soon after all the hugs she ran off to play with other children. I was thankful that God put me there to offer affection to this precious child. 

As I celebrate Mothers' Day, I want to remember that God gives us many opportunities each day to love those he brings into our lives. We have received his perfect love through Jesus. I pray that he will use me to show His love to those around me. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Good Shepherd's Fold 20th Anniversary

Yesterday was quite an event here at GSF! We had hundreds of visitors as we celebrated God's work through the ministry over the past 20 years here. It was a very encouraging time in many ways. 

As our current director spoke, he shared about the work that is now going on all over Uganda through kids who grew up at GSF, and are now adults serving The Lord. There are ministries to street children, ministries to young women in the streets, schools, churches, other children's homes, music ministries and more, all begun by children who were orphaned or abandoned, who now are living out the grace they have received. I was overwhelmed to hear of the multiplication of this ministry through the children who grew up here. Praise God for his work through this ministry! 

The program included speeches, musical performances and testimonies throughout the day. There were several Ugandan officials who came and spoke in addition to former directors, someone from Global Outreach, and many others. Our oldest two kids also performed several songs with the GSF kids in the Hosanna Children's Choir. We have been praying for Esther who had been struggling a bit with singing in Luganda and dancing at the same time, but she did great! I was so happy for her. Elijah has also been doing a wonderful job and was even given a brief solo which he sang well in two languages. They have been practicing quite a bit, and I was grateful that it all went so well. 

The guest of honor for this event was Wayne Walker, pictured above. He and his wife Bonnie Sue founded GSF 20 years ago. They flew to Uganda with their, at the time, 6 adopted children all under the age of 4. (They have now adopted and mostly raised 13 children from all over the world!) Bonnie Sue passed away a few months ago, and many were sad that she was not able to be here, but Wayne pointed out she is celebrating God's kingdom in heaven! Wayne shared some stories from the early days of GSF when there were many children and how God provided this land that we are now on through Samaritan's Purse. He also told the story of how God brought him through losing his legs in Vietnam as a 19 year old. He shared how he has used his disability payments to start the ministry at GSF and adopt so many children. What a beautiful picture of God using all things for good! If anyone in the audience was struggling to believe that God could use them in their weakness, this testimony would have been an amazing encouragement! He said his one regret is that his faith was not stronger to take in more children. Wow!

While it is amazing to see what Wayne and Bonnie Sue have done, Wayne was quick to point out that all of this is not about what man can do. This is what God has chosen to do through his people. We are thankful that God has given us the privilege of helping continue the work God has begun here at Good Shepherd's Fold. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

No more pain

Early last week, I heard some very sad news. A friend from our church in Georgia passed away. She was a young wife and mother. We were not all that close, but I did attend a Bible study with her when I was in America in January. She and I had some time to talk and reconnect then. It has been hard to grieve from a distance. When you are across the ocean, you cannot attend a funeral, talk with others who are experiencing the same loss, or even comfort the family. I have also been struggling with issues of my own mortality, as she was not much older than I am. 

In the midst of this inner turmoil, the busyness of life continues. We are preparing for a week of testing at school and this coming weekend will be a huge celebration for GSF's 20th anniversary. I will write future posts about these two events. Even though I have been taking time alone with the Lord, praying for this family, and reading His Word looking for comfort, I have still really struggled this past week. I have had several nights of not sleeping well, and many tears throughout the days. I even considered staying home from worship today in order to get some needed rest. 

I am so thankful that, instead, I went to worship with God's people. It is hard to continue in sadness when you attend a worship service at Light of the World Church. There is much dancing and jumping and singing and clapping unto The Lord. We were encouraged in our worship by Pastor David, pictured below.

Today we were also blessed to have Wayne Walker, founder of GSF, pictured on the left, with us visiting. He shared encouragement to remember and rest in God's love for us. Hearing these two men speak of God's loving care for them, helped me realize that the pain in my tongue and my trouble talking is so minor. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but Wayne Walker is paraplegic, and Pastor David walks with crutches on both arms due to polio. Many people have been through so much more and have continued to cling tightly to the promises of God and have been used by him in mighty ways for the building of his kingdom. Even before the sermon, during our first hour of worship, I was very encouraged. 

For the past several Sundays, our pastor, Jonathan, has been preaching about the Presence of God. He said that today will be the last sermon in this series. He began the series talking about the unapproachable holiness of God. He continued by preaching about how this holy God, came down to us, in the person of Jesus reconciling us to the Father. Then, when Jesus rose again, he said that he was leaving in order for us to have something even better, the Presence of God within us, the Spirit, who is our Comforter. This week he reminded us that although having the Spirit is good, we still live in this broken world and are broken people. He encouraged us with the amazing truths of Revelation 21. This was exactly what I needed hear. These words brought joy to my heart! I will include these verses for you. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. (Revelation 21:1-6 ESV)

I cried my way through most of the sermon. It is so good to be reminded that my Heavenly Father will wipe away every tear from my eyes. I look forward to the day when there is no more pain! The pain in my tongue will be gone, and the emotional pain so many people are going through will be gone! This truth brings me joy and hope in the midst of my struggles. I had one night recently when I woke and my tongue did not hurt at all. Of course once I started talking to the child who woke me, the pain returned, but that brief, conscious moment of being pain free brought me hope. I am so glad to remember that even if the pain continues for the rest of this life, there will be a day when those who are God's children will have no more pain! And the best part... We will be his people, he will be our God, and he will dwell with us forever! We will be in the Presence of God forever! I hope that you will also take great comfort from this truth today. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Standardized Testing and the Gospel

This week we are doing some standardized testing with our students in our MK school. It is helpful for parents and teachers to have feedback about strengths and weaknesses for individual students and for our school as a whole. This information can help us plan curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of each student in our school. Last weekend Caralina, our oldest student, also took the SAT in order to apply to colleges. As we were preparing for these tests, I wanted to talk with the students about how the gospel informs our perspective on testing.

As I was talking with my students, I remembered a conversation with my parents from many years ago, on the night before I took my SATs. My dad told me that no matter how well I did, or how poorly I did, their love for me would not change one bit. They would not love me any more or less. They also reminded me of God's loving care and good plan for my life. They reminded me that no matter what score I earned on this test, God would still be working for my good and determining my steps. Those were the things I absolutely needed to hear as I was preparing for a test that, in my mind, would determine the course of the rest of my life. After this conversation with my parents, I remember feeling a great weight being lifted. Obviously those words had a significant impact on me, since I remember them more than 20 years later. 

I am so blessed to have parents who knew how to encourage me with the truth of the gospel applied to everyday life. I hope that God uses David and me to do the same for our children, the missionary kids we teach, and all the children here at GSF. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A sweet new baby at GSF

Today I met a precious little boy who has not yet been named. The nurses have guessed that he is probably about 3-4 months old. Zeke and I walked over to the babies' house to meet him this afternoon. Zeke just kept saying, "He is so cute!" Here is a picture of Zeke meeting this precious little boy. 

Please pray for this little one as he adjusts to life here at GSF. Please also pray for the house moms to know how to best care for him. Thanks for your prayers!