Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Different graduation celebrations

Today was the celebration for the P7 students at the Good Shepherd's Fold primary school. At the end of this year these students will take an exam that will determine if they will be able to continue their education, and if so which schools they are able to get into. In that way it is similar to the SAT which American students take about 5 years later. These students are celebrating the end of their studies, but they also still have a big exam looming. Please pray for our students as they begin their exams soon. 

Today the cultural differences really struck me. The students and teachers all presented many dances. At one point two teachers did some serious hip shaking dances to a song in a local language about being happy because of salvation in Jesus Christ. As the teachers danced members of the audience walked up and handed them money or put it in their pockets. They did the same for students when they danced. I tried picturing this happening at one of our Christian school graduation ceremonies in America and had to keep myself from laughing out loud at how different our cultures are. Here is a photo of the teachers up being introduced before the dancing. 

Another interesting cultural note, was when our administrator spoke. She encouraged parents not to just send their daughters for marriage if they don't yet have money for school fees at the next level. My understanding of the words in Luganda were literally, "don't give them away to give birth to children." Since young men are expected to give quite a bit of money and many gifts to the family of his wife to be, girls might finish school after P7, the American equivalent of 7th grade, in order to marry and begin having children. I am thankful that our administrator encouraged the families to pray and work to find a way to pay for their daughters' education rather than trying to just marry them off. 

This morning David was given a paper with the schedule for this event that listed him as a speaker on behalf of the missionaries. Another missionary had mentioned that he might be asked to pray, but no one ever asked him. He was scheduled to speak following our administrator. I suggested that he also begin with a dance. If you know David, you know that is not going to happen. He did a great job speaking to the students and parents about an exam more important than the exam at the end of this school year. He talked about the day of judgement, and the only way we can pass that exam is by faith in Jesus and receiving his righteousness. He talked about the results of that exam lasting for all eternity. I am thankful for another opportunity to share the gospel with people in our community surrounding GSF. 

As you pray for us here at GSF, please pray that the students who attend the primary school would be ready for their exams, but also that they would be ready for the exam on the last day, trusting in Jesus alone for their salvation. Jesus can bring together people from different cultures as we all look to him. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Celebrating Ugandan Independence

October 9th is Independence Day here in Uganda. Since our school for missionary kids uses mostly American curriculum, we always take a day around Ugandan Independence to study the history, geography, language and culture in Uganda. Of course we try to incorporate these things throughout the year, but this one day is specifically devoted to focus on these opportunities.

We began our morning by dividing into teams and putting the words of John 3:16 and John 14:6 in order in Luganda. We have been working on memorizing these verses in both English and Luganda. I love hearing my 4 year old recite Scripture in the local language! Here is a photo of one team working on these verses. 
After our Bible verse activities we took some fun school photos. Everyone wore Ugandan colors: black, yellow and red to add to the festivity! Our school feels small right now while the Gwartney family is away, but it still certainly keeps us busy. 
The next activity for the day was a photo scavenger hunt. Each team had a list of various cultural activities to do and take photos. There are so many photos from this portion of the day, but here are just a few highlights.
in a sugar cane field

photo with campaign posters
digging the cassava
When the time was up from our scavenger hunt, we went to the garden and worked together to dig cassava roots.
Then the two teams had a cooking competition.
washing and peeling
yes, that is a marker mustache
The students washed, peeled, sliced and fried the cassava, roasted g-nuts, and made passion fruit juice. Then we all enjoyed the food we cooked for our lunch! After lunch, we had a chapati eating contest. Chapati is a local flatbread that is thicker and greasier than tortillas. It is very tasty, but it can also be very filling. We gave the kids a time limit in order to prevent everyone making themselves sick.

In the afternoon we had some more academic activities including labeling maps of Africa, a quiz game with Ugandan history, drawing the national crest, labeling a map of Uganda, singing the national anthem, etc.
It was a great day! We are thankful to be teaching this great group of kids and learning more about the beautiful country of Uganda!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A full Sunday

This Sunday was busier than usual. It began with some of the usual events, teaching Sunday School and picking up kids to take to church. Since this was a communion Sunday, we also needed to bring the bread, juice and cups, and prepare them at church. 

While we were at church, I was very excited to see 2 of the women who have been reading the Bible with me. They have now come to worship 2 weeks in a row. I am thankful to see that they are not only wanting to read God's Word, but they are also wanting to be a part of the local church. 

After church I had many things on my to do list. First I needed to get some materials to 2 of my students who are planning to take the PSAT. On Sunday morning early I finally had enough bandwidth to download some materials to help them know what to expect. I wanted them to have the materials for a couple days at least so that they could ask me any questions they might have. 

Next I wanted to check on one of the teenage girls who lives right behind us in the village and has had a fever for 5 days. She took the treatment for malaria, but the fever has continued. I consulted with our new nurses here at GSF, and one asked if she could come with me to check on her. She also asked about bringing her Bible to possibly share with the family. I am so thankful to have Ugandan nurses here who want to minister to the needs around them, both physically and spiritually! The nurse tested for malaria and found that thankfully, the girl does not still have malaria. She stayed for a bit to talk with the family and pray with them. 

I needed to get going because we were already an hour late to a first birthday party. In general, being an hour late around here is not too bad. Many guests arrived later than we did. The party was to celebrate the first birthday of the son of one of the staff members from GSF. The first birthday is celebrated more than the birth of a child. I am guessing that this is probably because of high infant mortality.

The celebration was quite an event, tents set up, so much food being cooked, preaching, speeches from many people who are close to the family....

As they were serving food, they were finishing one pot of matooke (a cooked banana) and had only a "small" serving. I told that that was fine for me. So here is my plate with my smaller portions. 
The purplish sauce is a peanut sauce on top of the matooke. That is one of my favorite parts of the local meals. We were also served 2 types of rice, a few pieces of beef, a chicken neck, a fried potato, and cooked cabbage. Elijah and Esther helped me finish. 

After being there for about 2 hours, the program was still going strong, but we needed to get going to teach family church for the GSF kids. Once a month we have an evening worship service for all the GSF house moms, kids and missionaries. It is also a time when we introduce and pray as a family for any new children who have joined us. This month we welcomed Mercy, Precious, Jesse and Jackie.
They all seem to be adjusting well here. Precious has started smiling, greeting me with hugs and eating well. When she arrived none of those things were true. I am so thankful to see the way God is working in her life through the staff here. Please continue to pray for healing for these kids and for them to know God's love for them! 

David and I were teaching family church from Psalm 40: 17, 41:1-3, and Matthew 25:31-40. We talked about how God has been gracious and merciful to us in the midst of our needs, spiritually and physically. Because we have received compassion, we can be people showing compassion to those in need. We encouraged the kids to consider where God might be calling them to demonstrate God's compassion to those around them. 

After family church we headed home exhausted. It was a good day of ministry and relationship, but I still fell asleep before some of my children while preparing for the next day of school. I'll write again soon about our school day on Monday celebrating Ugandan Independence. It was a great day! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Sports Day to Remember

Once a year GSF has a sports day for the staff and missionaries. It is a fun day intended to bring together people from different departments and build unity among the staff. The super competitive side of me really works to keep that goal in mind. Here are a few brief highlights from our Sports day last Thursday:
David participating in the men's Bible Quiz.
My teammates and me after winning the Bible Quiz
Esther enjoying time with some of the toddlers
Corinne and Daniel after they both did an awesome job running!
My first time playing netball. It is a very fun game! I only tweaked my hamstring a little while playing. Still praying for it to completely heal. David also played soccer, but I didn't get a good photo. The game was interrupted when a guy who was playing barefoot challenged a guy wearing cleats for the ball. It ended with a trip to the local hospital, but thankfully he did not have any broken bones, just lots of pain and swelling. 

I always love this day of getting to know the staff better, not to mention that I love competing and participating in sports. I'm blessed to work with such a fantastic group of people who also know how to have fun! Our theme verse for the day was Romans 15:5-6 "May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

We are grateful for the many Ugandan staff members God has brought to GSF who we have the privilege of serving beside. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sole Hope

Yesterday we took our students on a field trip of sorts. It was actually more of an outreach opportunity. There is an organization based in Jinja called Sole Hope, which works to help remove jiggers and provide shoes to prevent future infestations. They go to various local villages and schools and do "jigger clinics." 

Some of you may be wondering what in the world is a jigger? It is a type of sand flea that burrows into the skin and then lays an egg sack. They cause serious wounds in the feet and sometimes hands. I am thankful that in our years here in Uganda, no one in our family has had to have a jigger removed yet. Mango flies, now that's another story...

Yesterday morning we loaded up the students in our van and headed to the Sole Hope Outreach house. We met the staff there and a few other missionaries who sometimes serve with that ministry. The have a beautiful house with guest rooms.

After a brief meeting we loaded up into the Sole Hope vehicles and began driving to the village where we would be doing the outreach. The younger children rode with the other missionary family since they have children of similar ages. Here we are with our middle school and high school students. 

When we arrived at the school, one of the Sole Hope staff organized some games and songs with the children. Here is a photo of some of the children we came to minister to. 

After that, we help set up the clinic in a few "classrooms." These are buildings made of some wodden planks with metal roofs and dirt floors. It was great that they had a location for us that was not in the sun. But it still gets very hot in those rooms. While the rooms were being prepared the workers were putting on aprons. Removing jiggers and washing feet the walk on dirt roads and floors can be messy work. The aprons are also helpful for storing sweeties and stickers to give out. 
Esther, Amelia and Avie Joy preparing for service.
Ezra and Nehemiah have become buddies and enjoyed working together.

After checking in, the first room the children would enter was the foot washing station. I was excited to have the privilege to serve these kids in the exact way Jesus served his disciples described in John 13. Here is a photo of the foot washing room as we were preparing for the children.

While the older students washed feet, the younger students handed out sweeties and stickers to the children. It was great to see our students serving in these ways.
Later in the day our younger students also took a turn washing feet. David and I were glad we were able to serve alongside our students.
Once the feet were clean, the carriers lifted the children and carried them to the jigger removal station. Since the floors are all dirt, it doesn't do any good to wash their feet if they are going to walk to the next station. Carrying can be a difficult job as some of these children are teenagers. At the jigger removal station the nurses worked to remove jiggers while volunteers took notes on the location of the jiggers and previous wounds. 
While I was glad to be able to help, it made me very sad to see so many children with many jiggers in their feet. They must be in quite a bit of pain to be walking with all of those wounds. After the jiggers are removed and the wounds are cleaned, the children are given a new clean pair of shoes. Here is the shoe fitting station.

It is great to see the children leave with clean shoes and a big smile! We were thankful to be able to be a part of this beautiful ministry. The day was going very well, up until one of our students passed out and remain unresponsive for over an hour. One of the other missionaries there had her mom visiting who by the grace of God, is a nurse and paramedic. She was able to monitor the vital signs and give us some peace of mind until we reached the hospital. Thankfully, this new hospital in Jinja is well equipped and was able to quickly run bloodwork and even a CT. Everything was normal and after starting fluids with glucose and her sister calling to her, she woke. I cannot tell you how relieved I was. That hour seemed like a whole day for me and her mother as all we could do was wait and pray. We are so thankful that she is ok and we ask for your prayers as we all recover from an exhausting day. In the midst of this crazy day I saw God's gracious provision in so many ways. A paramedic on hand, other missionaries willing to drop everything to help us get to the hospital, a very supportive team from Sole Hope, a new hospital equipped with everything we needed to monitor her health while she was unconscious, and a church offering to cover the cost of the CT. God provides in many amazing ways each day. But mostly I am thankful that He has provided Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, who is my Sole Hope in life and death.