Sunday, August 30, 2015

The newest member of our GSF family

Recently a beautiful little girl needed to be cared for here at GSF. She is probably a little over a year old. Please pray for this little girl and the house moms who are caring for her as she adjusts to life here.
Each time a new child comes, it is a combination of sadness and joy. Sadness about the reasons they had to come here, but joy that they are being cared for here and trusting that God is working for their good in the midst of all this brokenness.

"The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) "He upholds the widow and the fatherless....He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds." (Ps.146:9, 147:3) 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our MK school

Since our primary role here is as teachers for the missionary kids, I wanted to tell you a little more about our school. In some ways our school follows the traditional American curriculum and calendar. In many other ways our school is very different from the structure of an American classroom.

Here is a brief description of my daily school schedule:
8:30-9:00 Morning devotions meeting all together
9:00-9:15- Calendar time with K, 2nd and 4th graders reviewing date, time and number patterns
9:15-9:30- Phonics with K, math facts review 2nd and 4th grades
9:30-10:00- Phonics/Language Arts with K, Spelling with 2nd, Vocabulary and Grammar with 4th 
10:00-10:30- Math lesson with 2nd and 4th while K has recess
10:30-11:00- Morning break (walk up to the house with my kids, get everyone a snack and a water bottle, then walk back down)
11:00-11:30 Math practice problems with 2nd and 4th, Math lesson with K.
11:30-12:00 Language Arts with 2nd and 4th, math activities/puzzles with K
12:00-1:00 High school Geometry
1:00-2:00 Lunch break (walk home and have lunch with my family)
2:00-3:00 Reading at home with Ezra and/or Zeke, grading, studying Luganda
3:00-4:00 Math with 6th and 8th grades, and for a few weeks, some tutoring with another 4th grade student
4:00-4:30ish Study Hall/Prep for the next day and grading
4:30-5:00ish Visiting with the GSF toddlers and reading to them.

I am extremely thankful that God has provided a young woman who grew up here at GSF to help me with teaching in the mornings and to be with our younger children at home when I go back to teach my afternoon classes. I can't imagine juggling all of this schedule without her help. Here is a photo of her helping our Kindergarten students.

While it has been very busy keeping up with everything in my school day, it has also been a lot of fun. There are so many interesting opportunities we have living here in Uganda. Since each grade level has at most 3 students, we have a great deal of flexibility. Last week that flexibility was necessary.

One of our students who had just recovered from Typhoid, was feeling really sick again. Her symptoms sounded like malaria, so I asked my 9 year old, Esther, to teach the 2nd graders while I took the sick student to the clinic to test for malaria. When her test was positive, we got the treatment for her, got her some food and drinks to take with the medicine, and took her up to my house to rest. As I returned to school the students were all working. Esther was feeling a bit behind, so I changed her schedule to have a study hall during the time she usually does sewing. She has been going to the tailoring shop in the afternoon 3-4pm and is learning to sew. She loves it and is currently working on making skirts for all the toddler girls. I will definitely need to take a photo when this project is finished.

Last week we had a fun time learning about the letter "M" with our Kindergarten students. As we looked out the back door of our classroom we saw a mouse one day and monkeys in the matooke trees (a type of banana) another day. This week we are studying the letter "B" and found a bat outside our school, and not the baseball type. Here are some of the "b" items the boys brought, bag, baseball, bird feather, Boda-Boda, and bark. Then I gave them brownies and buttered bread. No, it wasn't a health class, but they enjoyed it! 

It has been fun to be able to reinforce the initial sound of words with such interesting things right outside our school, but it makes me a little nervous about what the rest of the year might hold. I am hoping we get to see a pangolin next week when we study the letter "P." If not the parrots will have to suffice. 

Since David and I do not have any experience teaching art, we have arranged for another missionary who is an art teacher to come from Jinja and do some art projects with our students.
Yesterday they learned about post-Impressionism and VanGogh's "Starry Night" painting. They all had the opportunity to create their own version of Starty Night. Our students thoroughly enjoyed their art class. We have some talented artists in our school! 

We are very thankful to have this amazing opportunity to invest in the lives of these missionary kids. We are excited to see what God has in store for each of them. Please pray for our students to really know God's love for them through Jesus and to be well equipped to take his love to the world. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our first week of school, a conference, a rat, and a night at the hospital...

I knew beforehand that this Friday would be a full day. It was the end of our first full week of school, which is always busy. In addition to that David and I had been asked to speak at a conference for all of the kids in the GSF scholarship program. This program is primarily for kids who grew up at GSF, but are now in secondary school or university. Since GSF does not have a secondary school, these kids attend at various other school, but we still want opportunities to speak into their lives, assist them in their transition into adulthood and equip them in their faith. Those were the items on my radar going into the day.

The morning at school went very smoothly. It feels like we finally have gotten used to our new routine. It was a very exciting day because Zeke's began sounding out words and read his first small booklet with a few 3-letter words! Kindergarten is off to a good start. The other classes went very well also. Our weekly school schedule includes ending early on Fridays in order to make it possible for families to go to town if needed. 

Our school day finished at 1pm and David did not even get a lunch break before going straight to working on a problem with the water system. We had some leaks that of course require parts that can only be purchased in Kampala. David asked Jonathan to get a plumber and me to take care of the money because it was time for him to speak at the conference. We both had hoped to hear him teach, but things needed to be done. 

After arranging things for the plumber, I went to the conference. It was a good opportunity to have some small group discussions and teaching sessions on important topics for young adults. I was asked to teach the final session on "Expressing the love of God to others." I wanted to make sure that the students understood that Jesus' sacrificial love in redeeming us is what frees us to love others. Most of my teaching came from I John. Here is an excerpt of what I taught about:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth. - I John 3:16-18
I am learning that when David or I teach about something, we are often given the opportunity to put those things into practice very soon...

After the teaching, one of the young men asked David for some work during his school break. We obviously cannot provide jobs for everyone who asks, but David often tries to find some work for the young men connected with GSF who are wanting to work during a school break. After the conversation was over, David, Jonathan and I went to the van to drive up to our house. We had driven the van rather than walked because of some of the water issues. As we opened the van doors a rat came running from the back of the van and jumped into the front, disappearing somewhere near where my feet usually go. I decided to let Jonathan ride in front with David and the rat.

We returned to the house and tried to find our new hidden passenger for some time, without success. Eventually we just decided to set a trap and move on. Soon after setting the trap, a Ugandan friend stopped by who was traveling back from Kampala on his way to Jinja. We hadn't seen him much, so it was good to catch up a bit. Around dinnertime, our friends left and I thought, "It will be fun to have a quiet night at home, just our family." We had planned to eat some fish sandwiches and then watch a family movie and make popcorn. We enjoyed our family dinner together and began our movie before the phone rang. Jonathan was calling because a woman in our church was having some complications with her delivery. I had visited her on Tuesday and she was having strong labor pains. This was now Friday night. Obviously something was wrong. She had gone to a nurse in a neighboring village but she did not know why the baby was not coming. The mother was in a great deal of pain. As a single man, Jonathan was not wanting to go on his own. David and I talked and decided that I should go with Jonathan to help in this situation. I had a relationship with the family already, and as a woman I could help in ways that he could not. We went and found the woman and her family. She was obviously in great pain, and I helped some family members carry her to the van. She asked me to sit with her and pray. Jonathan drove the "ambulance," aka church van, aka Fish family van, aka rat house, to the hospital quickly on the dirt roads. I prayed as much as I could in Luganda and then in English as we drove. When we arrived at the hospital, I ran in, found a wheelchair and brought her to the maternity ward. I explained her situation as best as I understood and then found a family member to come and explain what they knew. At this hospital there is a doctor and nurses on staff even at night. They examined her and explained what they thought the problem might be and a solution. I won't go into details, but the were going to try to delivery naturally and avoid an emergency C-section. They had monitored the baby's heart rate and it seemed fine. The would periodically check that and give a bit of time to see if the mother could deliver without the C-section. After some time, a family member brought something and asked me to take it into the delivery room with to the mother. I walked in and immediately thought about how different my experience of having babies in America was from this current situation. In the delivery room there were three beds with a sheet separating the mothers in labor. Since my friend had been taken to the 3rd bed, I had to walk past the other women who were delivering. After giving my friend the item I was sent with, I asked her if she wanted me to stay, to wait outside, or to go. She wanted me to stay in the delivery room with her to pray with her and hold her hand. I asked again a few more times in other ways, but she kept asking me to stay and to come closer. I heard the delivery of two other babies as I prayed with her, sang worship songs for her and tried to encourage her as much as I was able in Luganda. She does not speak English. Finally around 1am, the baby was delivered. I was so thankful to God when this child cried and showed that she had survived. It was a beautiful baby girl! During the delivery there was one nurse/midwife in the delivery room. She delivered the baby, wrapped it up in whatever the mom brought with her for the baby, used the razor blades that the mother brought to cut the umbilical cord, then set the baby on a table and took care of the mother. After about 10 minutes she came back to the baby, weighed it, cleaned it a bit, and wrapped it up in blankets to take with the mother to the recovery room. This is one room with maybe 8 beds for the mothers to share with their newborns. The families were also there in the room. The family of my friend was so relieved to see the mother and baby both alive and healthy after such a long difficult labor. Isn't she beautiful?

I was exhausted from standing for hours while coaching and encouraging my friend through her labor, but I was also relieved, thankful, and joyful for God's care for this woman and her child after days of labor. Several times earlier in the evening when I was tired, I was thinking about how I could go home and get some rest. Then God brought to mind all of the verses that I had taught earlier in the day. This was an opportunity that God had provided to put into practice the things that I taught. Be careful what you teach... Once everyone had seen the mother and baby, we drove some of the family home. At about 2am, I reached home and took a very good shower. Sometime after 3am I finally fell asleep.

The next morning our children were up early, therefore so was I. Around 8am we received a message that the mother and baby were ready to be discharged. I finished my breakfast of homemade pancakes made by Esther and prepared to go pick them up. We arrived sometime after 9am for various reasons and found that while the mother and baby were ready, the cashier was not yet there in order for them to pay their bill. After about an hour, the weekend manager agreed to take the payment and write the receipt. Then we were supposed to go to the pharmacy at the hospital to get the medications the mother needed. But of course the pharmacist was not there. She was "on her way, coming" for about 2 hours before she finally arrived. At noon we finally brought everyone home and praised God together. He graciously carried me through a very long day and gave me his strength and love for those he brought into my path. Now I am praying that God also gives me that strength, patience and gracious love as I interact with my family after not getting nearly enough sleep. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to school!

We have just begun our third year teaching missionary kids here in Uganda. There are some days that living and working here in Uganda feels like we are "living the dream." The weather is perfect, the people are friendly, and the landscape is beautiful! Other days, like our first day of school, feel a bit overwhelming. We are trying to juggle six different grade levels K-11, using some new curriculum and learning a new schedule. In addition to that, the water pump that supplies water to our house and our neighbors in the village, was not working. David was trying to trouble shoot that issue and teach his classes. In the afternoon Zeke and Ezra both came down with a high fever and felt very bad. Two of our other students were also fighting sickness. By the end of the school day, I was exhausted. 

Then I remembered that I hadn't yet made a birthday cake for Elijah. Did I mention that his birthday was also our first day of school? We told him that for his birthday we were giving him the gift of education. He was more excited about the basketball, although he does enjoy learning. He sees many kids here in the village who don't have money for school fees. He does see education as a gift, although he can't act too excited about starting school because he is in middle school now. Zeke, on the other hand, has been asking when he can start Kindergarten for weeks. He is thrilled to be in school! 

Our first day sure was a crazy busy day! But since then we have had two other school days that have been less hectic. In the midst of this transition into our new school routine, I am praying that God will be glorified. I want to teach in such a way that reflects His love. I want my students to understand His truth as they learn about His World. I want Geometry to point my high schoolers to their Creator and Saviour. Please pray that the missionary kids in our school would grow more in love with Jesus through our school year. Pray also that we would live out the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of the chaos. 

These missionary kids have an amazing opportunity to see the world in ways that many American kids do not. It is my prayer that God will be using our school to equip these students for the various ways that He is calling them to be a part of His kingdom work around the world. Thank you for your prayers for us and our students as we begin the adventure ahead! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To Kumuli and Beyond, My Busoga Adventures

One of my first friends in Buundo village was Jajja Alice. When I first met her, I did not realize that she was related to such a large number of people who live here in Buundo. About a week ago she told me that she was planning to shift to live near her son, in Busoga. We live in the Buganda kingdom here in Uganda. If you head east, once you cross the Nile River, you enter the Busoga kingdom. Since it is a bit far and some family members also wanted to go, she asked if I might be able to help her move in our van. 

Our school year had not yet begun, so my schedule was more flexible. After talking with David and praying about it, I went and told her when I would be able available to take her. As we spoke in Luganda and then with some translation, I thought she told me that we would branch at the roundabout to Kumuli and the home was near there. That roundabout is only a few minutes beyond Jinja, so I thought the trip might take an hour or so each way. 

On the morning of "moving day" I arrived near her house and found many people there. Many of her relatives had come to see her off, and several others were planning to travel along with us. I didn't realize that much of the family would be going along, but I have a big van so we just loaded in, 1 trunk, several plastic bags full of clothes and personal items, 7 adults, 3 children, 2 ducks and a chicken. Before we left we took some time to pray for our travels and for the family to know God's love through Jesus. Some members of the family are believers, others are not. Then we took a photo of Jajja Alice with the family that lives on this side. 

As we passed Jinja and turned toward Kumuli at the roundabout, I thought we did not have much farther to go. Then I  realized that I had misunderstood. The family actually lived beyond Kumuli (more than an hour's drive from Jinja). Then at the roundabout in Kumuli, we would turn and it would be a "little" beyond. In the end it was over 3 hours drive, although I'm sure the local taxis would be faster. The last stretch of the journey was on a road that seems to only be used regularly by bodas and bicycles.  When we finally arrived, I found a nice compound where she would be living. Alice's son owns a mill where many people in the village come to make flour from their maize. It was quite an operation. 

After showing us around, we went to sit in her son's house. While we were sitting I asked some questions about the family. I drew a version of a family tree and found that Alice has 38 grandchildren and 52 great-grandchildren so far. Some of those grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still young and were having a dance party, so I joined them. It was good for quite a few laughs. He has solar power to the house so they were able to play music. 

I thought it was probably time to head back, but they said that we cannot leave; they are preparing something for us. One of the teenage boys told me he had been preparing something for me as he was washing his hands. I knew that probably meant that they had killed some animal and were preparing to cook it. At that point I knew I would be there for several more hours and decided that I ought to call my husband so he knew not to expect me anytime soon. He graciously told me to enjoy the experience and he would hold down the fort at home. 

Since it would take awhile to clean and cook the dinner, I decided to walk around and see what others were doing. The daughter-in-law was out back cooking.
Most people cook over firewood or charcoal, but this family had built a more efficient type of stove to keep the heat in and to cook three things at once. The son was out chopping firewood.

And I found the animals that we brought in their new home. 

So the dinner must be from some of the son's animals...  It was good to talk with the family there. During the conversation they told me that they do not have a church nearby. I had brought a luganda Bible to read to the family while we were there. In that region they speak Lusoga, but the family also knows Luganda. The languages are similar since the tribes are both originally from the Bantu people group. Since Jajja Alice was asking me what to do, I gave her the Bible and asked her son if he would read it to her. (I don't know if she is able to read and her eyesight is not great.) I encouraged him to read it to the whole family. I told them that they could still pray and read God's Word together even though they did not have a church nearby. I suggested some passages for them to begin reading as a family. He seemed excited to have a Bible to read to his family.  Sometimes I forget how blessed we are to have grown up with churches all around and Bibles in our homes. We often take those things for granted and fail to actually make use of them.

Before too long, the meal was prepared. It was quite the feast, chicken with some sauce, rice, sweet potatoes. They even brought me some silverware. Here in Uganda meals are usually eaten with the hands.

After the meal and washing up, we went over to the house where Alice will be staying. She wanted me to pray for her before we left. We gathered together inside the house and had a time of prayer. I took a family photo of them all in front of the house before loading up the van for the return trip. 

Our return trip was a bit eventful as we drove through a hail storm and several thunderstorms with heavy rain. I prayed a lot as I drove. Around 6:30pm we reached Buundo village and dropped off the rest of the family. We praised God for bringing us back safely, and I went home to be with my family. My children came running out to the van; I was so thankful to be home! I praise God for the opportunities that my day in Busoga provided. Many times I have an idea of what the day might hold, but it is good to remember that God may have other plans for us. 

In his heart a man plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Anniversary weekend

As we were looking at the calendar considering all the comings and goings of various people, we realized that we were going to be the only missionaries on campus during our anniversary weekend.  With that in mind we decided to postpone our celebration until at least one other missionary was on campus with us. Little did we know how full this weekend would be. 

Saturday morning began with checking on the toddlers. Many of them have colds which are called "cough and flu" here. Some of them were not eating well and seemed very weak on Friday, so I wanted to check in on Saturday morning to see how those little ones who I love so much were fairing. There seemed to be less coughing in the night which is a good sign that they are improving. Here is a photo of some of these precious kiddos out on their walk. 

On Saturday afternoon we had our scheduled chord group meetings. Due to many people being away and some miscommunication among the local staff, the first hour of these meetings was a bit crazy. While we were waiting for other staff to arrive, David organized some soccer scrimmages among the boys. He used some of the jerseys that were sent back with us to organize teams, and the boys had a great time playing. 

Meanwhile, I was meeting with 2 groups of girls ages 6-12 or so. Due to a last minute emergency, I was meeting with all of these girls on my own. I had planned to do a bit of gymnastics with them before our time of discussion and prayer. I forgot that doing gymnastics with a dozen girls who don't have parents to watch would lead to  a ridiculous amount of "Auntie Lisa, watch me!" After an hour of trying to watch every handstand and cartwheel, in addition to providing encouragement, instruction and assistance, I was absolutely exhausted. Thankfully, we were able to have some quieter time of praying for each girl's concerns/requests one at a time. This time with the girls reminded me how much they desire to be seen, known and loved. Please pray for us all at GSF to know how to care for these children well.

When the chord groups were over the boys of GSF who are Elijah's age and older challenged the boys and young men in the village to a soccer match. The GSF team gave a great effort, but they were generally much younger than the young men from the village who controlled the match. In the evening we were in charge of the teenagers of GSF  watching a movie. The once a week selection process can take some time, but they eventually decided on one, we made and ate pizza as a family at home and crashed into bed fairly exhausted. 

The next morning when we woke, David and I did not even realize that it was our anniversary until I saw that someone had posted, "Happy Anniversary" on my Facebook page. We both laughed a bit and promised to celebrate another day. I guess we are officially an old married couple now. 18 years...praise God

Since the other missionaries were away, we had many responsibilities on Sunday. David taught the two oldest Sunday school classes from the book of Jonah.  After cleaning up from breakfast and doing some preparation for lunch, I went down to sit in the class. Sometimes I forget what a great teacher David is. It was great to be able to sit in as a student. I was thankful that these kids are getting such good biblical instruction. 

After Sunday school at GSF, we picked up the GSF kids who are not able to walk to church and drove together. Of course we often add several children while passing through the village. We sometimes call our vehicle the "church van." As we were going to church I realized that one of my neighbors was very ill. She did not have any medicine, but I knew I had medicine that would really help her at my house. My first inclination was to just keep going and get her the medicine after church. Then I thought, "Why would I leave her suffering for 3 hours just so that I can get to church 5 or 10 minutes sooner?" I got out of the church van and walked back home to get some medicine for her. David went on with the van fun of our 4 children, the 3 children from GSF with special needs, and 5 children of our neighbors who have begun attending church with us. One of the things that I love about my husband is his heart of service. He was happy for me to help our sick neighbor and take the 12 children on his own. After praying with my neighbor and giving the medicine to her, I walked on to church. 

At church we have both taken on some new responsibilities. David has been asked to serve as an elder at Light of the World church and to be the treasurer. I have been asked to coordinate Children's church. We have a rotation of a few different church members willing to teach, but this was my first week. Here in the village many children come to church without their parents. Children's church is an opportunity to teach the Bible in a way that these kids can understand. One of the challenges is that this group of about 30 children ranges from babies up to 9 year olds and they have 3 different primary languages. I enjoyed working with the children on singing "Jesus loves me" in all 3 languages. Please pray that these children will know the truth of the gospel and want to live their lives for God. 

After church, we waited while David worked with a few others counting the offering and then drove home. I stopped to check on our sick neighbor and found that she was already feeling a bit better; praise God. When I reached home, a woman from the village was there waiting because I had offered her a pair of my extra shoes. They were a bit small for her, but she was sure that she could make them work. David took the children back to their houses, and at about 1:30pm we got back to finishing lunch preparations. We had a Ugandan friend and her fiancĂ© coming over for lunch. It was great to get to know them a bit better. They also talked with us about some of the differences in various tribal customs. We are always learning more about Uganda. They also asked us about what has kept us married for 18 years. The answer is the grace and love we have received through Jesus. We have learned much about forgiving and being forgiven through these 18 years. 

When our lunch guests left, we thought we might have a few hours to rest before our next scheduled event. Instead we had a few young men come by the house to talk with David asking for work during their school holidays. He usually hires some guys to help with their school expenses and supervises them doing various landscaping projects. It provides another outreach/discipleship opportunity, but it also requires time. 

On the first Sunday of every month we have GSF family church for the children, house moms, and missionaries who live here. This Sunday evening David led our time of worship, testimonies, prayer and Bible study. By the end of our anniversary we fell into bed exhausted! It was a wonderful weekend full of opportunities for ministry, but it certainly wore us out. 

This weekend we have found someone to watch our kids so that we can get away for a lunch date and a trip to a roadside nursery. In America, we would often go to a garden center on dates. Gardening is a hobby we have enjoyed together throughout our marriage. The roadside nurseries here look very different from American garden centers, but the plants are still beautiful and much less expensive. Of course, it often requires haggling over prices, language challenges and other adventures, but we still love it! We are thankful that God has blessed us with 18 years of marriage, teaching us much about His grace throughout.