Friday, June 27, 2014

Confessions from safari

This week we have had the privilege of going on safari with my parents. It is an awesome opportunity that many people never get, but since we live in Uganda it is possible. Many Americans have summer beach trips or go to the lake or other summer vacations, but our family has taken a summer safari trip! I never imagined that I would have the privilege of seeing lions, zebras, gazelles, hippos, crocodiles, Cape buffalo, African fish eagles, monitor lizards, antelopes and about 50 elephants in their natural habitat while riding on the roof rack of our van, not to mention walking through a forest seeing 4 different types of monkeys! Wow!

While we have had this amazing opportunity for a family vacation with grandparents, I have found myself lacking in thankfulness at times. I have really enjoyed much of our trip, but I also have been discontent and anxious at times. It is so easy for me to forget all these amazing blessings and focus on the frustrations of rough roads, children being too loud, not enough sleep, not seeing all the animals on a particular game drive, not great food, feeling too hot or too cold, ongoing tongue pain, bad traffic, etc. I am sad that my heart is so quick to become discontent. I have often written posts about thankfulness, primarily because I struggle with contentment. 

I have often prayed about and contemplated the root and the cure for my anxious and easily discontented heart. Being reminded that I am supposed to trust God and be thankful usually just makes me feel guilty that I am not able to think and feel how I should. As I took some time to reflect on this struggle, I was reminded that the gospel is not only how I am granted forgiveness, a relationship with God and eternal life, but it is also the source for my daily life. Obviously, I have not mastered this since I so frequently struggle, but I will share with you some of my thoughts, for what it's worth. 

I believe much of my fear and anxiety are rooted in my lack of faith that God loves me and is working for my good. But when I remember that God loves me so much that he was willing for his own Son to die in order to redeem me, I realize that he loves me ridiculously. I remember and try to meditate on Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" And Romans 8:15 says, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

Recently I have seen some beautiful pictures of the love of adoptive fathers. Two fathers have been here at Good Shepherd's Fold waiting on the time when they can take their children home to be with the rest of their families. Our friend Ryan is still here in Uganda, and it is so encouraging to see the way he loves his daughter. Until he came and spent so much time holding her and talking to her, she was a very timid girl. But when she is with her daddy she lights up and has the courage to try so many new things. The security of her loving adoptive father has changed everything. What if I was so secure in and comforted by the love of my Heavenly Father who has adopted me that I no longer lived in fear and anxiety? I am praying that when fears and anxieties arise, I will quickly remember my Father and rest in His loving care for me. 

I believe my struggle with discontentment is also addressed in similar ways by the gospel. I am often looking to things in this life to make me happy. But nothing temporary satisfies, and nothing in this fallen world is perfect. Vacations have challenges. Relationships have struggles. We all are selfish and broken. It should be of no surprise that when I am focusing on circumstances in this life, I am discontent. My focus is on the wrong thing. Instead I want to focus on what God has done for me and what he is doing in and through me. He is using each of these struggles as an opportunity to teach me to cling to him alone. As I encounter frustrations in this life, I am comforted by my Savior who reminds me "that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18) The gracious love of God for his people gives us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) And since I have been justified by faith, I have peace with God through Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1) "Not only that, be we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:3-6)

All of these truths are wonderful and can bring great joy! I think my struggles with discontentment and anxiety arise as I fail to remember and be comforted by these truths. It is my prayer that as God continues to work endurance, character and hope in me, I will learn more to rest and rejoice in Him. I also hope that these verses encourage you to be comforted by the love of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good times with my parents!

On Sunday, which was also Father's Day, my parents landed at Entebbe airport here in Uganda! It was so great to be able to be with my dad (and mom) on Father's Day!

We have had some adventures together already and look forward to more. But I think my favorite part of our time together thus far has been watching my parents with the toddlers who live next door. The children at GSF call all the adults "auntie" or "uncle." The toddlers quickly fell in love with "Uncle Davie." They were chanting his name, trying to climb all over him and asking him to play ball. 

My mom sat down with the children and played "This little piggy" and talked with them and hugged them. Here is "Auntie Susan" with Ivan. 

We have also had good times in Jinja showing them around town and going on a fishing trip. We enjoyed going out in the boat fishing on Lake Victoria and the Nile River, but no fish were biting. We did get to see a huge cobra that was down in the water while we were in the boat. I was not able to get a photo. We were more concerned with keeping a safe distance. But here is a cute photo of David and Zeke sitting in the bow. 
Tomorrow we plan to worship at our church in the village, then begin our travels to Western Uganda to take my parents on a safari. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel. I hope to have some great photos to share from our summer adventure! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Today the work on our house officially began! This morning we met at the site and had a brief time of prayer. Daniel Iya, an engineer overseeing this project shared some thoughts. He mentioned that our primary goal is to make disciples in the process of building this house. He will lead times of prayer and reading God's Word with all the workers. I am excited that building our house will provide the opportunity for many Ugandans to have work to provide for their families and opportunities to hear the gospel! Please pray for Daniel and Joseph, the foreman on the job, as they oversee the work, but also seek to make disciples. Here is a photo of these two men. Joseph is on the left and Daniel is on the right. They are standing where we are beginning to work today! 

As we all stood there Daniel shared this verse. "Unless The Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." Psalm 127:1a So we began this project asking God to not only provide for our physical house, but that he would use this project to build his kingdom. 

Please pray with us! We are so grateful for the many of you who are partnering with us to make this house possible. I will keep you posted as the work progresses. It is our hope and prayer to be able to move in early in 2015. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A glimpse of Esther's life in Uganda

In some ways Esther's life is like any other American girl. Last night she danced around our living room singing into a marker along with the soundtrack from "Frozen." From what I have read on Facebook, that is fairly common these days. 

In other ways Esther's life is very unusual. Last week she learned to fetch water when we did't have running water. I baked my first cake from scratch at age 37 when we moved to Uganda. This week Esther made up her own recipe for a cake from scratch at age 8. It is delicious! She calls it "healthy cake," not because it is healthy, but because she thought I would be more likely to let her make and eat it if it was called healthy. But I know the ingredients, so I know better. Here is a photo of Esther after her shower holding her cake. Doesn't it look healthy?

Yesterday Esther and I were invited to go have lunch in a nearby village by a friend who works at GSF. She has 2 daughters who are ages 5 and 3. Many American girls probably go to friends' houses for lunch, but this experience was very different. We were going to walk with Sylivia and her daughters to their house, so we met them at the GSF gate. We were meeting at 12noon. Since this is Uganda, we arrived at about 12:20 thinking we might see her around then. At about 12:30 I asked the guards when to expect her and they told us after 1pm. We went home for about 30 minutes, and then came back.  Sylivia was running late because she had been helping her grandmother by fetching water and firewood. At about 1:15 we began walking uphill to her village. Many children followed as it is unusual to see a mzungu (white person) walking in the village, and particularly unusual to see a mzungu child. Esther walked hand in hand with Mariam, Sylivia's 5 year old. We had to move off the road often as many Bodas (motorcycles) passed. After some good exercise, we arrived at their room. 

As we walked Sylivia pointed out that she had recently shifted (moved) from a previous place that had a mud floor since their mattress was getting wet a night during the rainy season. Her new place had a concrete floor and a sheet hanging to separate the sleeping area from the living area. Sylivia and her 2 girls live in this 8'x 8' room. Many of the children from the village gathered around as we entered their place. The children sat around outside, some with clothes, some without, some with distended bellies from malnutrition. 

Sylivia was a very gracious host, she walked to a nearby store to buy rice and biscuits and sodas to serve us. She cooked up her remaining onions and tomatoes with the rice she bought to feed us lunch. At about 3pm she served us a lunch which was a huge plate full of rice and vegetables. She poured water that she had carried on her head for us to wash our hands and to drink. She also gave some of the rice and vegetables to the children of the village. I know that she was being so generous to us, so we ate and were thankful, but I struggled with knowing that I could go without this meal and those children outside were hungry. It would have been considered rude and ungrateful for me to take this food that she had prepared for us and give it to others, but that is what my heart was wanting to do. 

While Sylivia was outside cooking over her charcoal pot and running to the store, I was inside with Esther and Sylivivia's girls. They speak very little English and we speak very little Luganda, but the girls managed to become friends anyway. They played quite a bit. 

They also really enjoyed seeing themselves in pictures! They played that they were Esther's babies and she rocked them and carried them around. It was a fun time. 

After we had eaten all the rice we could hold, we gave them pieces of the "healthy cake" which we had brought to share. Sylivia and her girls had never had chocolate cake before. They seemed to enjoy it. After sitting and talking for a bit, we were getting ready to go home. She sent us with all of the fruit in her house as a parting gift and paid for us to have a Boda ride back to GSF. She runs or walks that every day, but was so generous to pay for us to have a ride. I have been amazed and overwhelmed at the generosity and hospitality of the Ugandan people. So Esther had her first Boda ride. Since we wear skirts we both had to sit sideways behind the driver. There isn't a lot of room, but Esther clung to me and I clung to the Boda, and we made it home safely. 

While Esther has some fun adventures here, she is also learning about life in developing countries. When we got home she began thinking about what of her things she could give to the girls and their neighbors. I am thankful that God has given Esther a heart of generosity and a love for those around her. I am hoping that she will continue to grow in love as she relates to her brothers. Thank you for your prayers for our whole family. God is teaching us all many things through our time here in Uganda. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mango fly adventures

A few days ago, Elijah had some bites appear on his arm and back. We put some anti-itch ointment and thought that would help. But the bite on his back got worse and very painful. Today we went over to visit our friends, the Lawsons. Jennifer, who is a nurse, thought that it looked like there may be a mango fly larva in his skin. Apparently mango flies like to lay their eggs in skin, then the eggs hatch and the worm-like larvae burrow. 

She covered the sores with neosporin and a bandaid in order to sufficate the larvae. After about 20 minutes she sterilized a needle and opened the sore on his back. She pressed a bit and squeezed out a little worm-like mango fly larva about 1cm long. It was no longer living since it had been suffocated. 

One of the sores on his arm was already open and doesn't seem to have a larva, but the other one on his arm had another very small, newly hatched fly larva. Since that one was so small it was a bit more difficult to remove, but the area around it was not as irritated.

Elijah was very brave through it all and only felt a little sick after he saw the worm-like fly larva was in his back. I now know what the mango fly looks like and will be ready to swat any that I see. In our 11 months here, this is thankfully our family's first experience with this pesky fly. I am also thankful that God provided us with a friend to help with the extraction before it caused Elijah too much pain. Life here is always an adventure! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A birthday suprise!

This morning I woke to many voices outside way before 6am. At first I was just grumpy. The power has been out since last night. Why are all these kids making so much noise while it is still dark? I wanted to sleep in a bit today, maybe even until 7 o'clock. It's my birthday. All my children had been awoken and were also making quite a bit of noise, so at 5:45 I decided to just get up. I went to the bathroom and quickly realized that there was no water. That was why there had been so much commotion. The kids had been fetching water since as early as about 4:30am. That is when the kitchen workers arrive and begin making porridge for breakfast for all the 86 kids here, the 400 students who come to school on weekdays, and the almost 100 Ugandan employees. While I was selfishly wanting to stay in bed, these kids were out working to be helpful. I remembered this verse, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

As I got up, I was thankful that we had some water in a jug at our house. Since electricity is expensive and inconsistent, we have a gas stove so I was still able to heat water and make my coffee. I use a filter in a little cup and pour in the boiling water.  

Once I made my coffee, I went outside to sit, drink my coffee and have my morning devotions. I found that my thoughtful neighbor had left me a birthday sign and a sweet note wishing me a happy birthday on the chair where I sit each morning.  

To be honest, every year on my birthday I struggle with selfishness. I think the day should be all about my happiness. As I awoke to a rainy day with no power or water, I realized that today was an opportunity to change my attitude. To think of serving rather than being served. Even though our family had enough water for the morning, I knew the toddlers probably did not. Elijah cheerfully went to ask if they needed any water. He spent much of this morning fetching water for the babies and toddlers. I am so thankful for his cheerful service!

While I am no longer grumpy about this morning right now, I can easily fall into a sense of entitlement on my birthday and any other day. Please pray that I would remember how Jesus has sacrificed for me and that truth would help me desire to serve those around me, both today and every day he gives me on this earth.

P.S. The generator is now running and the pumps for the water tanks have been turned on, so the circumstances are improving. :)  But I hope and pray that God will work in me a thankful heart of service even when the difficulties persist. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Perspective from the shower

One of the ways in which we have had to adapt to life in Uganda is the difference in taking a shower. Showering here is something that I know needs to be done, but it is not really a way to relax. 

One evening while I was taking a shower, I was longing for a shower where I could stand under warm running water and just relax. Our shower here is a small square on the floor with a slow drain and a hand held shower head, and a small water heater. If you want to take a shower, this is the procedure. First, turn on the hot water heater and wait for 10 minutes. (We do not leave it on all the time because electricity is so expensive.) Once the water has heated, you go stand in the shower pan, pick up the shower head, adjust the temperature, rinse off, get your hair and the washcloth wet, and then turn off the water.  Of course, then you feel a bit cold, so you quickly shampoo your hair and soap up your body. Then you pick up the shower head again, adjust the temperature again, rinse off again and turn the water off again. If you want to use conditioner for your hair or shave, that needs to be done at this time. Then you pick up the shower head again, adjust the temperature again, rinse off again and turn the water off again. I have also been in the middle of a shower several times when the power went out. That is an adventure!

As I was standing in the shower, a bit frustrated about all the work required for showering here, I was reminded of how people bathe in the village. First they carry a 20 liter jug to fetch water, which may or may not be clean. If they want the water to be warm, they light a charcoal fire and put the water in a pot to heat. The water is poured into a basin which is then used for washing and splashing onto their bodies. We have often seen children in front of their houses bathing in this way. 

As I stood there in my shower, my heart changed from coveting a relaxing American shower, to thankfulness for running, warm water, even if it only lasts 5 minutes. I am learning that with most things, I can choose to focus on things that I wish I could have, or I can choose to be thankful and count my many blessings. 

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For The Lord is good and his steadfast love edures forever." Psalm 100:4&5