Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Day Off!!!

While many people had a busy Black Friday looking for deals in America, our family decided that we needed a day of rest. Teaching Monday through Friday in a village setting means that on Saturdays we need to go to town to run all our errands. On Saturday evenings I meet with my village Bible study group and buy jewelry from the Buwundo Beads group.  So far this school year everyday that we have taken off has been for a GSF ministry function. Since David's birthday was on Friday, we decided that it would be good for our family to take the day off to celebrate and rest a bit. We found a great place to stay at a good price. It is called Hotel Paradise in Jinja. There is a pool, air conditioned rooms and a delicious breakfast! Here are the early birds at breakfast on Saturday. 

It was so good to take some time away for rest and refreshment! On Friday we went to some of David's favorite restaurants in town for lunch and dinner. Then we had coffee and a birthday dessert with some friends at an amazing, fairly new place in Jinja, called Java House. It tastes as good as it looks! 

I am so thankful that we were able to have a brief family getaway. Since we also ran our errands in town this morning we are heading home now to start some Christmas decorating as a family. This weekend was exactly what we needed! We thank God for providing this needed time of refreshment for our family! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks in Uganda!

This week many of us spend some time counting our blessings, thanking God for many of his good gifts in our lives. For almost a year now, I have been recording things for which I am thankful. The book, One Thousand Gifts by ann Voskamp, has helped me grow in the practice of thanking God, listing the gifts even in the midst of struggles. On Monday morning I encouraged my students to begin their own lists. We had about 20 minutes to write things for which we are thankful. I was encouraged that many of my students were able to list over 100 gifts from God in their lives during that short time. Reading their lists brought a great deal of joy to my heart! Some of them even listed math!

As we were preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought that it would be a good time to incorporate a service project. Another one of our neighbors has a mud house that is falling. He had begun gathering poles and reeds to build the basic structure for another hut. Our children have always enjoyed helping to mix and add the mud, so we offered to help. We also found out that several of our other neighbors had some projects that they could also use some help to complete. We decided that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving would be a great time for our students to help us serve our neighbors. We also decided that it would be a great opportunity to share a meal with them. Below you can see the photo of most of our students before starting to work. (A few of our high school students had an anatomy test to complete before joining the rest of us.) You can also see the big pot of matooke (a cooked, mashed banana) that we were preparing for lunch.

As we began we divided our students into four main work crews. One group was digging a pit for a latrine at an elderly couple's home.
Another group worked mudding their cooking hut.
 Several other students worked slashing and digging a field for another elderly neighbor so that she can plant it.

Some other students worked mixing and carrying mud and packing the walls for the new hut. 

We had a few other jobs here and there like fetching water...
planting flowers...
and just visiting and praying with the neighbors.

I was so thankful for the way our students worked and really blessed our neighbors! We have some amazing kids who know how to work hard. At the end of a hard day of labor, the field that our students were digging was almost done, but the rain had begun. Instead of heading home, they decided to stay and finish the job, even in the rain! 
By the end of the day, the group of 3 students dug the latrine pit over 5 feet deep! And the students who were helping with the mud huts, really made some great progress! We are letting the bottom half of the wall dry for about a week before adding the top part. 

I mostly supervised, but in my short times of digging I joined many of our students with blisters that tore. 
I thought our sore hands might be a good reminder for us all about how much we have to be thankful for. 

While Wednesday's work helped us to be thankful, the time together with the other Global Outreach missionaries in Uganda also reminded me of the people I am thankful for here who have become family. Here are some of my team and family here in Uganda who all ended up wearing similar colors for the day.
We had a great time getting to host about 60 people including our GO missionary families, a family in Uganda to adopt and several military personnel.
And the kids' tables were outside under the solar panels. 
 It was a bit crazy, but also a lot of fun! We also were thankful for lots of delicious food (and paper plates we brought from America!)
After the meal we had some good time just hanging out and visiting!
We even had a game of American football! 
It was another full day with more gifts than I could list here. After a bit of clean-up, my family had time for a family game. Well, most of us, Zeke was sacked out on the couch. 
We ended the day teaching our kids to play Spades. It is fun that they are now old enough to enjoy games like this together!
I pray that we will continue to thank God for His many gifts even beyond this week of Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prayer and Planning Leadership Retreat

On the first Thursday and Friday of November our leadership team at Good Shepherd's Fold went to a place called "Prayer Mountain" for a time of prayer and strategic planning. The leadership team is comprised of missionaries and Ugandan managers who serve together here at GSF. The two days together were good and we had time to discuss and pray over many of our core values and how we are doing at implementing these. We also had some time for prayer and thinking about goals for our particular area of ministry.

As David and I were discussing our thoughts and goals regarding our life and ministry here we found that we both were feeling like adding anything more to our to do lists would be overwhelming right now. We are both a bit maxed out. Between both of us working full time as teachers having 5 or 6 seperate class preps each, both of us leading a cord group of 7 or 8 pre-teen to teenage kids here at GSF, David serving as an elder and sometimes preaching, me overseeing children's church on Sundays, David employing and supervising students for landscaping jobs on their school holidays, my work with the village Bible study and Buwundo Beads business, assisting with preparing for visiting teams, caring for the needs of our four children, trying to love our missionary team well, trying to make time for nurturing our marriage, and just dealing with the general stress of life overseas, we both are fairly certain that God is not calling us to add more to our to do list. Don't misunderstand; we are thankful for each of these opportunities to serve! We love the people we work with and are blessed to spend time with them! But we also see that we have not left much margin in our lives. As Richard Swenson describes in his book, Margin, our lives are a bit like a page with words covering the whole thing, edge to edge. Just looking at the page is overwhelming!

As we prayed through and discussed these things, we considered where we might step back a bit. One of the things that has regularly come to our minds is that we could really use another teacher! We did add one teacher to our school this year, but we also added 14 new students, and some of our older students were needing us to add classes that we had not been teaching. All of this led to me going back to being at school full time and both of us needing to devote more time to class preparation. We are praying that God will provide another teacher to lighten our load either by taking some of our classes for us or assisting in some way. Over the years we have been here, and even in the year leading up to our move here, we have pursued several leads about possible teachers to join the work we are doing here. I cannot tell you how many times I have been hopeful that someone would join us, but in the end it has not worked out. We trust that God has had his reasons in each of these situations, but please pray with us that God will provide someone to lighten our load soon!

As we discussed these things, I realized that our goals are things that only God can bring about. Here are three of our goals that we have been praying about which completely depend on God's provision, although there are of course things we need to do as we ask Him to provide.
1- We are asking God to provide another teacher.
2- We are asking God to provide the finances we need to build additional classrooms since the space we are currently using is needed for housing for the toddlers at GSF.
3- We are asking God to provide a way for us to take a day off periodically. We would love to have some substitute teachers who we can ask to cover our classes every once in a while so that we can take a day away for prayer, rest, or even just to get to offices in Kampala that are only open on weekdays.

We trust that if these goals are in line with the direction God has for us, that He will provide. We ask that you also pray with us toward these goals. If God is leading you to be a part of the answer to any of these prayers, please contact me! If the Lord is leading you to contribute to our classroom building here is a link. Just select "Donate to the GSF International School."

God has already begun answering these prayers! This past week a team of women came to visit GSF and encourage the missionaries serving here. One of the women who is a teacher offered to cover my classes on Friday morning for me to have a day off. It was beautiful to see this answer to prayer just one week after we had prayed for this! Of course this thoughtful visitor has gone back home, so we are still praying for an ongoing solution. We also received notification from Global Outreach that we have already received two donations toward the new school building! We are so thankful that God is beginning to provide for this need! And lastly, I have the name of a teacher who might be interested in serving with us. While these prayers and goals have not been completely answered, we are thankful that God seems to be at work in each of these areas that we are asking for His provision. Thank you for praying with us as we seek to follow where God leads us, trusting Him to provide everything we need! 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Buwundo Beads and Crafts

Back in June, I wrote about the jewelry business that I began in order to help provide income for the women in our village. For a long time it wasn't really a business, since I hadn't actually sold anything. I knew that I wouldn't be able to continue buying these items if I couldn't recoup at least some of the expense. In order to be able to sell the items, we came up with a name, "Buwundo Beads and Crafts" and a friend developed a label for us.

During my brief week and a half in Florida, I was very encouraged about how many people were interested in the necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and purses that we brought with us. I displayed the items at a church and a school that I attended over 25 years ago. (Wow, I'm getting old!) In both of these places I listed a suggested donation, and I was so encouraged by how many people wanted to support this ministry and also get some of the beautiful handmade items created by my friends and neighbors in Buwundo village. 

Here is a photo of some of our amazing artisans who work to create beautiful handmade crafts. I am thankful for the blessing of being able to continue our Bible studies together and to work together in this business venture. Several weeks ago I heard the women all celebrating and I found out that one of the women had saved enough to buy a mattress for her family in addition to sending her children to school. Another woman bought me into her hut to show me a blanket that she was able to buy with some of her savings. Another woman was able to buy a goat for her family to raise. I mention these things to let you know how much your support matters in the lives of theses women. When you choose to purchase an item from Buwundo Beads and Crafts, your support helps send children to school and provide for the basic needs of the families in our village. I pray that our Bible studies together are also caring for their spiritual needs.
As I returned from the US, I wanted to encourage the women with what God was doing and how people really loved their work. I wanted them to experience a little taste of the encouragement I received while selling these items on their behalf. David and I decided that we would have a small celebration for our Buwundo Beads team and give some small gifts to each member. The students received notebooks and pens, pencils, soap and sweeties. The women received a basin (which is used for washing everything) with some basic supplies and sweeties. The women were so excited!

After receiving these gifts, we were able to walk together to visit an elderly woman in our village who has been very ill recently. We all prayed together for her and sang songs of praise and worship together with her. It was a beautiful time of worship so I didn't take out my camera. Instead I just took mental pictures of all these women surrounding our sister in Christ, encouraging her by worshiping together. A friend took this one photo and I ask you to pray with us for this amazing woman who loves Jesus, but is physically struggling right now. Also pray with us that our Bible study group and our church would be the hands and feet of Jesus to this woman in her time of need.
Thank you for your prayers and the ways you support our ministry here! If you are looking for Christmas gifts that are inexpensive, but have a big impact around the world, let me know. I have family and friends in Florida and Georgia who have many necklaces and bracelets available. I have not yet set up a way to purchase items online. Please let me know if you are interested in being a stateside distributor for this ministry. These women are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work in order to provide for the educational and physical needs of their families through this business venture. Please pray with me for God to continue to provide a market for their faithful work. And in this season leading up to Thanksgiving, I want to remember to thank God for all that He has provided! He is continuously doing abundantly more than we could ask or imagine! To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus! (Ephesians 3:20-21)