Monday, July 20, 2015

Welcome back!

The past week or so has been full of some great reunions with friends here. When we arrived at GSF on Friday evening the children, missionaries and staff on duty came to greet us at the gate. It was so good to see everyone! I probably gave over 100 hugs. When we reached our house, our neighbors were calling to greet us. I went to see the nearest family and all the other neighbor women and children came to greet me. They all spoke in excited voices, jumping and hugging me rather than the more formal welcome. I was very happy to see them again and to know that they were happy that we were back. I was also thankful that I remembered enough of my Luganda to converse with them. Please continue to pray that we will be a little taste of the love of Jesus in their lives.

On Saturday we worked on settling in. Then our friends, the Lawsons, came out to visit us. It was good for the kids to run around and play together, for the dads to work on a project together, and for the moms to make pizza together. It was a great afternoon and evening. Our children said that knowing we had the Lawsons here made it a lot easier to come back. 

On Sunday, we went to worship with our church in the village. Many of our Ugandan friends there welcomed us. I had almost forgotten how much I love worshipping there. Many of our neighbors' children also joined us. Although I am a foreigner here, I felt like I was coming home. It was such a grace!

One of the ways that cultural differences came up was the conversation welcoming us back. Almost everyone we met thanked us for returning or praised God for bringing us back. Americans might say "it is good to see you" or "I missed you", but I can't imagine Americans thanking people for returning. That seems so personal and vulnerable, like we really need other people. We Americans generally like our independence and personal space too much for that. 

Another cultural difference came up as many people greeted me and told me how fat I looked. They meant it as a complement saying that I had been well fed while I was away. It is true that I gained a few pounds, but my American friends assured me that it didn't look like it. Haha This cultural difference reminds me that we live in a place where many people do go hungry at times, and food takes much more time to prepare. I am thankful that I have always had access to food when I was hungry. Please pray for all of us at GSF who have been given so much. Pray that we will know how to love those around us well and point them to Jesus. 

An exciting surprise that we found when we returned was all the work that Jonathan, our friend and pastor, had done in our absence. When we left we had just begun landscaping around our house. The plants were all small, and the house was mostly surrounded with dirt and a few sprigs of grass. David left Jonathan with instructions and money to work on the landscape while we were away. When we returned, it felt like a completely different place. It is so beautiful and we are extremely grateful for all of Jonathan's work, along with the others he supervised during that time.
We are also thankful to God for the rainy season that made everything grow so well during our time away. Our vegetable garden is full of pumpkins which we were able to share. Yesterday as I was in the backyard, a few African Gray Parrots came and landed in our tree near the garden and sang beautifully. For those of you who came to our home in Georgia, you know how we love landscaping and creating a beautiful space around us with plants and flowers. Although it is a smaller space here, we are very thankful to be able to have a beautiful place to call home! 

There are so many blessing God has provided to make this transition feel like "coming home," yet there are still many struggles. I had a particularly frustrating day when our new blender started smoking and then stopped working even though I was using the converter/adapter. Apparently it drew more electricity than the adapter was able to handle. I also got a message that day that the young woman, who I was hoping would come to help us at school and with our kids at home, is not coming. I was particularly discouraged that day. It has taken me several days to get to the point where I could write a blogpost again without just grumbling and complaining. 

In the midst of these struggles, God has shown me several small graces. The women here on my team have been encouraging and helpful. In a week it will be just us and one other missionary on campus, but I am thankful that during my most frustrating time of transition, God provided encouragement through each of the women on our team. I also received a few emails from friends in the states that have been a real blessing and encouragement. Here is a small excerpt of an email from one of my dear friends.

 "I read a verse in Deuteronomy earlier this week that said something to the effect of 'when we are weary He carries us on His shoulders.'  I thought of our kids and how, when we go hiking, inevitably at least one of them will get tired and ask their dad for a ride on his shoulders. How sweet that our lord loves us like a father and is there to carry us when we are weary."

God has been gracious in reminding me that I need Him to carry me through the difficult days. He has been gracious in providing us with good friends to welcome us back and to write to us from across the ocean. He has provided us with a beautiful home and many opportunities to be a part of the work He is doing in this part of the world. 

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 118:1

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