Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas at GSF

This year I was asked to be "in charge of Christmas" since another missionary who usually coordinates it all is away on furlough. Wow! It is a huge undertaking to organize and coordinate gifts and celebrations for everyone here! I have a greater appreciation for all Amy Gwartney does as the childcare coordinator and wife of the team leader! 

Since we celebrate with the staff, the children, the missionaries and our own families, it can be a busy time of year. So here are a few highlights. 
An evening of cookies and Christmas carols with the missionaries and GSF kids who were able to come.

The missionary presentation of the birth of Jesus at the staff Christmas party. 

Our Christmas Eve reading of the birth of Jesus and singing Silent Night by candlelight with the kids. 

Giving out stockings! 

My kids excitement over Legos and books and a sewing machine! 

Giving out gifts to the children!

We also had a missionary family that is new to the area over for a Christmas Eve lunch, a Christmas Day brunch with the missionaries and some special times visiting with our neighbors in Buwundo and giving some small gifts. I didn't take photos of everything, but I am thankful for all of these opportunities to celebrate the birth of Jesus!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Incarnation

On Saturday, I was reading the Bible with some of my neighbors in Buwundo village. We began talking about Christmas in Luganda. I explained that Christmas is the celebration of when Jesus Christ came to earth. One of the women looked puzzled and asked, "when Jesus came or when Jesus was born." These women had only heard of Jesus as a prophet before they began reading the Bible. We turned to John chapter 1 and began to read, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." We read on to see that this "Word" was Jesus. 

As I was trying to answer the woman's questions by having her read what the Bible said, I was struck by how amazing the Incarnation is, and how difficult it is to understand. I remember as a child laying in my bed at night trying to wrap my mind around the idea that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three persons, but One God. I also remember trying to think about the idea of God being eternal, having no beginning and no end. My mathematical mind really struggled with these concepts. One of my professors at Covenant College said it best, "You cannot fit the infinite God into your little pea brains." 

Today as I was trying to help my friends discover who Jesus is through the Bible, I found myself struck anew with wonder. The God who created this world, the God who is eternal, this amazing God humbled himself and came to earth in the form of a baby. He became a dependent, vulnerable child being cared for by a teenage mom. Below is a photo of me and baby Maria at our Christmas Eve celebration here at GSF.

I also became overwhelmed with my inability to explain these truths, particularly in a language in which I am not yet fluent. I ended this week's Bible study by telling them that I wish my Luganda was better, and I am really trying to keep learning so that we can talk about these things. But I also pointed out that, since each of their families has a Bible and at least one person in each family is able to read it, they can find out more about Jesus by reading on their own. I have told them about the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, where they can read more about Jesus. I am praying that they will! I also pray that this Christmas we will all be encouraged and amazed by God's love for us as we remember Jesus. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday guests

Here at GSF, we try to give as many children as possible the opportunity to visit with extended family for the holidays. Sometimes these are grandparents or aunts and uncles. But for some of our kids at GSF, there are not any family members that our social workers have found to be capable of caring for the kids over the holiday. In these situations the various missionaries try to spend some special time with these kids. 

We were blessed to be able to have 2 girls who are close to Esther's age over for some family time. It was a very special time together! We began our time by giving the girls a pedicure.
Esther and I worked together to wash, massage, tickle, and lotion their feet. Then we cleaned, clipped and painted their toenails. I even had some fancy stickers to add on! My favorite part was their excitement over being able to soak their feet in warm water. 

We also made homemade pizza and watched a family movie. It was interesting how closely these two girls watched all of our family interactions. They couldn't help but stare when I sat with my husband and when Zeke climbed into my lap. These simple, everyday interactions are not the life experience of kids who live in an orphanage. As we watched the movie Inside Out together, I couldn't help but think about what some of their "core memories" are like. I prayed that their brief time with our family might also be a "core memory" for them. I gave them extra hugs and tucked them in along with my children.
As I told them that I loved them, I saw their faces light up. How I wish that all these children could be in loving families! In this Advent season, the brokenness of this world reminds me to look forward to Jesus' second coming when he will make all things new! I am thankful to have the opportunity to show His love to these kids in the time until then. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Working with GSF big brothers and sisters

On Thursday we took our MK students for a service learning opportunity to a babies' home which is run by a young woman who grew up at GSF. When we arrived, we found that there is also a children's home for older kids down the road and another ministry for street girls right across the road. All three of these ministries work together and are run by young adults who grew up at GSF. It is beautiful to see how God has multiplied the ministry! It reminds me of 2 Timothy 2:2 which says "the things that you have learned from me, teach to reliable men that they may teach others." These kids received the the compassionate love of God when they were orphans and now they are living out that love to other children in need. It is beautiful!

I knew that on Thursday we might have a large number of kids since schools are on holiday. I was thinking it might be as many as 40, but it was probably closer to 100 children! I had planned 9 different activities for 15-20 minutes each with the kids divided into 3 groups. Here are some photos of our activities.
Parachute games
Story times
Playing ball
We had some fun times of just holding the babies and helping bathe them. We also took photos of the children so that they could all have a photo of themselves. I had planned to make a craft with the photos, but sometimes things don't work out as planned. I didn't have enough supplies or time to do the craft with everyone. We had the opportunity to share the story of Jesus' birth with the kids. It was a bit of a busy, exhausting day, but we were thankful for the opportunity!  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Welcoming a new baby!

Today GSF welcomed a tiny baby into our family. In this season of Advent it is amazing to remember that Jesus humbled himself and came to earth as a baby. (Phillipians 2:5-7)
As I held this precious, fragile one month old who weighs only 6 pounds, I was so thankful for the opportunity to help care for her. I think of Jesus saying, "whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done it for me." (Matthew 28:40) I pray that as we wonder at the love of God for us in sending Jesus, God will also bring to our minds the "least of these" to whom we can show His amazing, humble love. There are so many ways to do that. 
You can sponsor this precious baby girl at You can consider being foster or adoptive parents. You can support foster families in the Athens, GA area by contacting my friend Kelly at You can help send one of our neighbors to school by contributing at You can participate in local prison ministries. You can care for widows in your community. 

But when I fail to focus on the amazing love I have received in Jesus, all of these opportunities begin to feel like weights and obligations. I need to first take time to just rest in the amazing love of my Heavenly Father for me, sending Jesus to bring me into His eternal family. Praise God!