Sunday, January 31, 2016

Eating with my neighbors

On Saturday evenings I usually study the Bible with my neighbors. They have all been very interested to learn more about who Jesus is. I usually check with them on Saturday mornings to confirm if they are still planning to meet that evening. 

This Saturday morning when I was checking in, I asked about something they were preparing to cook that was unfamiliar to me. Of course learning the Luganda word doesn't always help me understand what to associate it with in my brain and how they eat it. After asking many questions, they told me that they were preparing some that day and would have it ready when I returned for Bible study. I told them that I would try just a small amount. I really emphasized that point because I know how they love to be generous toward visitors. I love the very hospitable culture here! Ugandans also seem to eat larger portions fewer times a day. 

When I returned for Bible study, I found my sweet friend preparing a feast! As soon as I sat down they served me all of this food. They told me is was a "Christmas meal" for me. 
They even gave me a spoon although they all just pick up their food with their fingers. On the left is a cup of juice they made for me although they all drank water. The plate on the right has a yellow sweet potato, two pieces of boiled cassava, and the brown stuff is what I had been asking about. They somehow learned the English word to tell me. It is sorghum seeds mixed with dried cassava which is then ground into a flour and cooked with water to make a sticky, gummy mixture. The plate in the middle of the photo has a sauce made mostly of boiled tomatoes. Generally you take a piece of one of the starchy foods and dip them in the sauce to eat. I knew that I wouldn't be able to finish the whole plate, but thankfully there were many children willing to help me after they had eaten their portion. 

After we finished eating, we had our Bible study. We have been reading in the book of John recently. This week we read about the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. It is interesting to see how some of my friends respond with such grief hearing about the death of Jesus. The injustice of it doesn't disturb me as much as it does them. Maybe I have become a bit calloused having known the story for so long. 

I did have the opportunity to turn to Romans, Ephesians and Hebrews and read to them passages about why Jesus had to die. We read that we are all sinners and that sin separates us from God and deserves death. We read that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. We read that Jesus died to take the punishment that we deserve. I also told them that next week we will read how Jesus is raised from the dead. Please pray for these women and teenage girls to put their faith in Jesus and want to live for him.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fun with math!!!

I know that not everyone enjoys mathematics, but I love it! I love figuring out puzzles, solving problems and, above all, I love solving for X! Many people think I'm a bit crazy, which may or may not be true, but I really do enjoy math. 

Since the GSF kids have a LONG school break, not resuming classes until after elections in late-February, I thought the kids might benefit from a few extra days of math fun. It also seems to be an area where the GSF Ugandan school generally scores low. I didn't realize how excited these kids would be to be quizzed on addition facts, to learn some concepts and to have math worksheets. In school they have to copy everything from the board, so getting a printed paper of their own is seen as a privilege. I think they also enjoyed the attention as I worked with them individually. In the photo above, several of the girls came to our house to do math and kept asking, "Auntie Lisa, can I have another math paper?" 

On another day I worked with some kids on place-value and more addition and subtraction concepts down at the youth room. We invited the boys to join us this time. It was fun helping the kids visualize some number concepts. It is an interesting challenge to keep kids engaged who are in 1st-5th grade with one instructional activity, but I enjoyed the challenge. 

I love teaching the missionary kids math on a daily basis, but it has also been a blessing to be able to work with some of the GSF kids. I was thankful for another opportunity to strengthen these relationships and help show these kids a little bit of God's love for them. I was also excited to help them understand that math is just another way of seeing God's amazing order in creation and worship Him. Please pray for all of my students, to do exactly that, to worship God with all of their lives! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Big David

Many of you have heard some of the story of Big David. He contracted polio when he was 3 years old, losing the use of his legs. He was only able to crawl on the ground until he came to GSF as a 21 year old, but claiming to be 16. Since they did not have a social worker to do investigations back then, he was taken in and then taken for a surgery to fit his legs with braces. During that time, he came to know Jesus as his Saviour. 

After his recovery and learning to walk he continued to live at GSF, but needed to work as an employee rather than live there as a "child." The mom at that time, Bonnie Sue Walker, taught him to sew. For many years now, he has served as a tailor at GSF. He has also been teaching Esther to sew. He was discipled at GSF as a young adult, and now he serves as an assistant pastor at our local chuch and spiritual advisor for GSF. He leads staff devotions and days of prayer. 

Although he is now able to walk, he cannot walk as much as life in Uganda usually requires. Several years back, he was given an ATV for getting around. That vehicle has made it possible for him to serve at Light of the World church and get around for daily needs. 

Recently the vehicle was in need of some expensive repairs that were beyond what his monthly income would be able to cover. Since many of you sent financial gifts at the end of the year, we were able to help him have those repairs done. We are extremely grateful for your support which made it possible for Big David to continue to commute and serve at our church! 
He also gives free rides around campus to children for fun! Please pray for Big David as he continues to work building God's kingdom here in Uganda. We are so grateful for his faithful service and love for Jesus! 

Poolside surgery

Today we had our usual weekend plan to go into Jinja, run errands and visit with friends in town. The kids and I usually hang out with friends while David runs errands. This weekend we were able to go swimming with two families that have become good friends of ours. One of these families recently moved here from Ethiopia and the dad is a pediatrician. In the other family the mom has served both as a pediatric nurse and a surgical nurse. 

Today we all went to a pool together and found that the tiles covering the pool floor and sides were coming off and breaking. The kids were swimming when one of the boys cut his hand pretty badly. After cleaning it and looking at how deep the wound was, it was determined that stitches were necessary. So our day at the pool became a day of poolside surgery. My kids and I were trying to distract the boy with stories, pictures and various other antics while the medical professionals did their work. His sweet mama just prayed. 

We are so thankful for these two families, not just because they can do poolside surgery and keep a sense of humor, but because God has truly blessed our whole family through their friendship!  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dirty Feet

Today I taught the children at our church about Jesus washing the disciple's feet. In America today the need for foot washing is not as obvious as it was in Jesus' time. Many children's Bible storybooks feel the need to explain the need for foot washing. Here in rural Uganda, the need is obvious. The combination of dirt roads and foot paths, along with most people wearing sandals and some not having shoes at all, makes for some very dirty feet! Sometimes when I help Ezra really scrub and soak one of his feet after a day of play, it appears as if his two feet are from two different people.

As I was thinking about the lesson, I decided that the best way to teach this lesson is to do just what Jesus says in John 13:14 and 15, "If I then, your Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." So I decided that we would wash one another's feet in Children's Church today. 

Sometimes the logistics of making an idea like this happen are a bit complicated. First of all, we don't have water at the church. We needed to bring several containers filled with water in addition to washing basins, soap, scrub brushes, soap and towels. We also needed to plan activities for the rest of the kids to do while we were washing the feet of the others. Since repeating and memorizing is a common activity in schools I decided I would have the helpers work with the children on memorizing a verse about Jesus. They practiced reciting Matthew 20:28 in English and in Luganda. The verse is when Jesus says, "even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." I also wanted the children to be able to trace their feet on a piece of paper to help remember the lesson, so we needed to bring paper and make sure we had crayons at the church.

As I was setting up the children's church classroom, some children were walking by to fetch water for their families. I invited them to come back after taking the water home and told them that I would wash their feet. I am pretty sure I used the right words in Luganda, but the girl replied saying that she would go home, wash her feet and then come to church. I explained that I did not want her to go home and clean herself first. I just wanted her to come and I would wash her feet. She said that she would come after fetching some more water. When she came back, I saw that she had washed her feet and legs. I realize that there are language and cultural barriers that would prevent this girl from understanding what I was saying. Being clean is very highly valued here. Also in a hierarchical culture like this one, it is unlikely that an adult, particularly one in clean clothes, would want to wash your dirty feet. In Uganda, schools actually send kids home if they are not "smartly dressed" and having good hygiene. We have some kids who live here at GSF who were sent home from secondary schools because their nails were not clipped and another time because their heads were not shaved. 

As I was washing the little girl's feet after she had already washed them at home, I thought about how we all want to clean ourselves up before coming to the church or even to God. We feel like we need to get our act together, then we can come to Jesus. But Jesus never said anything like that. Instead he took off his outer garment, wrapped himself in a towel, and knelt down and washed the disciples dirty, stinky feet. I'm sure that a lot of that mud ended up on him. (I definitely went home and quickly took a shower afterward today!) Then the next day Jesus went and was crucified for all of the dirty, sinful, broken people like me. Jesus doesn't want me to try to atone for my own sin. He has done that for me. He just wants me to let Him wash me. I also don't need to come to God's people pretending that I have it all together, pretending my feet are clean. I don't need to make sure I am looking just so. Instead I need to just be willing to come with my dirty feet, trusting that only He makes me clean.