Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tongue update

As we visit with family and friends, I am often asked about how my tongue is doing. For those of you who might not know or remember, a few months before moving to Uganda, my dental hygienist found an abnormal spot on my tongue. It turned out to be pre-cancerous. We decided to watch it and see how it healed from the biopsy. Not long after moving to Uganda, we realized that the abnormal area was spreading. I came back to the US and had surgery to remove all abnormal cells and find clean margins which led to removing about 10% of my tongue along the right side.

It took quite some time after that surgery to recover. It took time for my speech to return to normal. It took time for the pain to decrease. And it took time to adjust to the fact that my tongue needs a break in the afternoon when I have been teaching all morning. God has taught me many things through these times, most importantly to trust Him with the future. I also have learned to see each year I get older as a gift. 

I had to modify the recommended follow up care and check-ups after my surgery. Obviously it was not going to be possible for me to fly back to the US every 3 months just to have someone look at my tongue. We found a good, American-trained dentist who was willing to look at my tongue and communicate with my doctor in the states. Since the surgery my follow up care has been a combination of check ups with my dentist in Uganda and with an otolaryngologist when I am back in the states. 

Early during our time in Georgia, I went in for a check up. The doctor said that everything looks great and he sees no sign of a recurrence of the abnormal cells! I was so relieved when I heard that news. (My blood pressure was a bit high at the beginning of the appointment.) I also asked about the ongoing burning sensation I have on the side of my tongue which gets more painful with use throughout the day. My doctor explained that in some cases the nerves do not heal properly after surgery and the burning feeling is a possible result of this. While it is disappointing that this pain probably won't go away, it is relieving to know that this pain is not an indication that something is wrong.

Thank you all for your prayers and concern for me and my health. I am blessed and encouraged by so many who care for me and my family! As we face each new day with unknown adventures around the bend, it is good for me to remember that God is with me through it all, and He has brought me into his family where so many have walked with me through trials and joys. We are thankful for your ongoing prayers for our family! I know that the days ahead still hold many joys as well as many challenges and it is a blessing to walk this road together with brothers and sisters in Christ!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Feeling Loved

Since my last post, I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have "checked in" from both sides of the ocean. While it is hard to live in two different worlds, we are also blessed to have people who love and care for us both in Uganda and the United States. I have been encouraged and blessed by the many people who have read about our "furlough funk" and have been praying for us and have been gracious to us in many ways.

This week I posted on Facebook that we would like to borrow a car for a couple weeks. It wasn't a need, but would help simplify things as we all have appointments while we are here in Georgia. In one day we were offered three vehicles! Elijah suggested we hold out until someone offered a Lamborghini, but I thought we would gratefully accept the first offer. Yes, he is almost a teenage boy!

Another family wrote that same day and offered to bring us dinner one night. They insisted that they not stay to eat with us so that we could just have a quiet, relaxing evening. I felt so loved and understood! 

I received a message from a woman who has just joined our missionary team telling me that she is praying for me. She is the one who has just moved her family overseas and she is writing to encourage me!

We got a babysitter and stayed out late with some old friends, sitting on the tailgate of their pickup hours after the restaurant's closing time. It was a joy to have several hours of conversation with people we have known and loved for many years! 

The next night we were able to have dinner with other friends whose whole family is a blessing to our whole family. As you can see our boys love spending time with them!

Even though there are many hard things about our time here, God has shown me how blessed we are to be loved by the body of Christ! I am thankful for those of you who support us in prayer and who partner with us financially! I appreciate those who offer cars and meals and friendship! Thank you for loving us well and being God's hands and feet to minister to us as we live in two worlds! We thank God for you!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Furlough Funk

While it is wonderful to be with so many people we haven't seen in years and reconnect, David and I both have been in a bit of a funk. Living in two worlds brings many blessings, but also several challenges. Coming back to the US does not really feel like coming home.  Don't misunderstand. We love visiting with family and friends! We love driving on smooth roads. We love that we can run to the grocery store or go out to a restaurant so easily. But being in the US is not easy for us. If we tell you the same story multiple times or if we seem a bit confused it is probably because we are a bit out of sorts here.

These are some contributing factors...
  •  We have slept in 7 different places since leaving our home in Uganda. (More if you count overnight flights, but we don't usually get much sleep on those.)
  • We have the same 2-5 minute conversation with a dozens of people and neither David nor I love "small talk." I do love getting together with a small group or an individual for an hour or more where we can really connect and learn more about each other's lives, but we don't have the time or ability to do that with everyone.  
  • Those who ask our children if they are happy to be "home" get very confused looks. Zeke was 2 years old when we moved to Uganda and has lived there for 4 years. This country does not feel like home to him even though that is what his passport says. 
  • We need to increase our monthly support as some donations drop off over time and we are having increased expenses, but talking about money is often awkward and uncomfortable.
  • We have paperwork that we need to get done while we are here, but computer challenges and other technical difficulties contribute to frustration. 
  • We have had too many long days in the car. Young boys, in particular, don't love being strapped into one position without exercise for hours on end. Neither do I. While our kids have done exceptionally well, it has still been challenging.
  • We use furlough as a time for counseling and addressing issues that might get ignored in the busyness of life and ministry in Uganda. Even though it is very beneficial, talking through our struggles can be emotionally exhausting. (Overall, I am so thankful for this opportunity, but some days it does contribute to our furlough funk.)
  • We don't have a regular routine. I find myself not making sufficient time for prayer, journaling, Bible reading and personal worship. 
While all of these challenges often lead to being in a bit of a funk, I know that God has good purposes for our time here in the states. I want to practice the habit of thankfulness, not only when I feel like everything is going smoothly for my family. I want to have patience and grace with my family as we all feel this funk at different times. Please pray for us. Pray that we will love each other well and be gracious to each other. Pray that we will know how to prioritize as our schedules fill quickly. Pray that I will not overschedule our family as we are not used to running around so much. 

Even as I share these challenges, I also want to say that we do want to spend time with you! I tend to try to squeeze two years of relationship into one month. (No wonder my introverted husband is so exhausted.) I still want to meet with friends and share with small groups about our ministry. I just might have to sometimes say that I can't get together because my family needs rest. 

We are very thankful that we are now staying in a missionary guesthouse where our family can relax a bit. It is a place we have stayed before, and we are able to stay for a month! Other than a quick trip to the Chattanooga area, we can be more settled than we have been for the past month and a half. 

I have so much for which to be thankful! God has provided for us in amazing ways... places to stay, delicious food to eat, a great vehicle to drive, relationships with friends who welcome us back, time with people who have visited us in Uganda, ministry supporters who have partnered with us in prayer and finances for years. God has provided faithfully and I trust that He will continue to do so. I want to draw near to Him in times when I am struggling. I want to remember that He loves us and is working for our good in the midst of all this transition. And I want to thank Him for his many gracious and abundant blessings! 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Driving Day

Today began with David picking up our two oldest children at our church sometime after midnight as they returned from a Braves game with the youth group. A few hours later Esther woke sick to her stomach probably from something she ate at the ballpark. Eventually she fell asleep on the couch and I slept in a recliner beside her. We got a few more hours of sleep before it was time to get up and pack for a day of driving. As expected, some of us were a bit cranky. (Yes, I have already apologized to my husband and my eldest who experienced the majority of my grumpiness.) 

As we were preparing to pull out, our good friend prayed for us to remember the joy we have as children of God. Honestly, I had been dreading today a bit. Another long day in the car with kids who want to move and run around. After the initial conflicts, we had several hours of good interactions, some naps, some movies, etc. As we began to near our destination, it all fell apart. Exhausted kids past bedtime, everyone tired of sitting in one place, and ready to be there. Thankfully, everyone could regain composure enough to greet their grandparents who they haven't seen in two years. We are now all snug in comfy beds in a hotel that my kids think is amazing! 

At the end of a challenging day and particularly after ending our drive with several conflicts, I know that it helps me to count my blessings and keep the perspective of the whole day. My children, some of whom began the day with not nearly enough sleep, got along in close quarters for many hours! Praise God! We even had some good conversation and enjoyed riddles and jokes together! (We also had DVD players and naps sprinkled in there.) There is much for which to be thankful, but right now I'm thankful that we all are falling asleep in comfortable beds! Good night! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wanting to make my Father smile

As we were preparing to stay at my parents' house for a week, I was a little anxious about how things would go. I knew that my parents are used to living in a house with just two adults and one dog, not 8 people, 4 of the whom are children, 6 of whom are dealing with jet lag and the culture shock of re-entry. My dad and I emailed in advance about ways to prevent unnecessary conflicts, and he got bicycles for my children to have something familiar to go do and get out some of their energy. The kids loved going out and riding around the block. Unfortunately it rained most days so there were some times that we were stuck inside. 

While some of my anxiety was just wanting this visit with my parents to go well since we don't get to be together very often, I realized that a large part of it is my very strong desire for my father to be happy with me. Even when the issue isn't about me, I feel like I need to fix the situation so that my dad is happy.

I am very blessed to have a father who loves me, tells me that he is proud of me, and hugs me. I know that many other people do not have that blessing. My earthly father has loved me well. He has often been a picture of grace to me and comforted me in difficult times. One of my favorite memories is when I was in high school and extremely anxious about taking the SAT. My dad told me that no matter how I did on that test, nothing could make him love me more, and nothing could make him love me less. I remember feeling such a tangible sense of relief from my anxiety during that conversation. 

So why is it that I feel so anxious and such a great desire to make my dad happy even though I know he loves me? As I have taken some time to reflect on this, I realized that my anxiety is rooted in looking to my earthly father for the security, love and acceptance that only my Heavenly Father can ultimately provide. This is what my Heavenly Father has said to his children:
I have loved you with an everlasting love - Jeremiah 31:3
I rejoice over you with singing - Zephaniah 3:17
Nothing will separate you from my love for you in Jesus Christ - Romans 8: 38-39
There is no condemnation for you because you are in Christ Jesus - Romans 8:1

These words do not come from a Father who doesn't see my faults. This comes from a Father who knows me completely, knows that even my righteous acts are like filthy rags, but still chose to love me and bring me into his family. I don't deserve this gracious, sacrificial love. But he has chosen to clothe me with the righteousness of Jesus! 

While you celebrate Fathers' Day, I want to remind you that no matter what your relationship with your earthly father is like, you can have this type of loving, joyous, fulfilling relationship with your Heavenly Father. Your father may be gone, he may be a lousy father, or he may be a very good, loving father like mine. But our Heavenly Father is the only One who will ever love us perfectly and forever. He is the Father described in Luke 15 who rejoices when the younger son returns home and goes out to the elder brother to invite him in to the party. He lavishes his love on his children! He smiles at you and me! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our summer schedule

We have reached the states and are currently in South Florida staying with my parents. If you received our email, you might already have our schedule, but here it is again. 
Until June 9- South Florida
June 9-16 - Central Florida
June 17-24 -  Athens, GA
June 24 - July 1 - North Carolina coast with David's family
July 1-31 - Athens, GA area
Aug 1-8  - South Florida
August 10 land in Uganda! 

If you want to catch up and/or hear updates about our ministry, we would love to meet with you! We also have a few goals while we are here in the states and would love your prayer and partnership in accomplishing these goals! 
  • Reconnect with ministry partners and provide updates
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Help more people know about what God is doing in Buwundo, Uganda
  • Add financial partners to our monthly ministry support team
  • Find partners to help distribute Buwundo Beads and Crafts in the states.
If you are interested in partnering with us in our ministry, please go to:

If you are interested in getting together to just catch up or to hear more about our ministry, please contact us so we can set up a time to get together! We are so thankful for your prayers and support! 
πŸ™ˆAnd don't worry, we won't wear our Ugandan dress clothes to meet you at a coffee shop stateside. πŸ˜‰

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A mother's love

I am richly blessed to have grown up in a home with a mom who loved me well and helped me know God's love for me. She continues to be an amazing blessing in my life. But I know that not everyone is celebrating today. My grandmother passed away last December and this is my mom's first Mother's Day without her mom around. My mom also had the gift of many years with her loving mother, but some children never have experienced that blessing. We live and work at a children's home in a country with millions of orphaned and vulnerable children. There are so many children who do not have the blessing that I have had for 40 years now. 

I cannot imagine how my life would have been different without the love of my mom. She has always been an amazing support and encouragement to me. I never had to wonder if there was anyone who loved me. If I was sad, I had a mom who would comfort me. When I went through a particularly challenging time in my teenage years my mom sat by my bedside and rubbed my back and spoke words of truth to me for hours. She prayed with me and for me. She still does. I strive to be this kind of loving mother to my children. But as I look around, I cannot help but think about the many children right outside my home who do not have a mother's love.

On this Mother's Day, I want to remember to show the love of God to all the children I know. I pray that on this Mother's Day, I will not waste time thinking of how I want to be appreciated by my husband and children. Instead, I want to show God's love to the many children in my life. On my own, my love will run out, but I have a Heavenly Father whose well never runs dry. As my heart breaks at the many in need of love, I want to remember that God has given me the gift of serving as His hands and feet in the lives of those around me today. I pray that God will give me His grace to love others well as I come into contact with so many in need of love today. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Life without a phone

Last week my phone fell out of my pocket into the toilet. Until then I didn't realize how dependent upon that technology I had become. Even here in Uganda, where much of life is outdoors and interacting with people, I still check my phone many times every day. (Although, those who have tried to get in touch with me might say that I don't check it enough.) It is interesting that I feel out of sorts and disconnected when it means that I have a 2 minute walk to talk with someone rather than a quick phone call or text. I also have realized that my first tendency when something is on my mind is to communicate with a person rather than pray. I have been processing a lot recently and find myself wishing I could communicate with family and friends more easily. We already have the challenge of the time difference and the international phone call costs, but now I don't have a phone with me to easily make a call. (If you are trying to get in touch with me, you can call David or send me an email which I will check daily.)

I remember another time in my life when I couldn't talk to anyone else and realized how much I needed to pray. I had driven to Macon, Georgia from Athens to visit my grandmother, aunt and uncle. I had an almost one year old Elijah in the car with me and I was pregnant. We were very excited to be expecting our second child. While I was in Macon, I began cramping and bleeding. On the drive home I knew that I was having a miscarriage, but because of the lack of cellular service, I could not call David. I couldn't call my doctor. I couldn't call my mom or my close friends. That was when it occurred to me that I had my closest friend with me. No, not my baby in the car seat, but the God of the universe who loves me, gave up his life for me and works all things for my good. (Romans 8) He was with me in that time of grief when I felt all alone. I spent that two hour drive pouring out my heart to God, "casting all my anxieties on Him because He cares for me." (I Peter 5:7) That day was 12 years ago.

Since that day, I have had several other extended times of choosing to be alone to talk with God about struggles and joys. I know that I need that! But it is usually by choice. Recently, I have had a lot on my mind, and I am reminded that while it is good and healthy to talk with family and friends, I need to make sure that I am talking with God first. He is the One who cares the most about my concerns. He knows what I need and He is working for my good, even when my phone falls in the toilet!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday Reflections on a Day of Outreach

Our school's student government worked together with Good Shepherd's Fold's outreach social worker, Penelope, to organize a day of service to assist an elderly woman who has cancer and is currently caring for 4 of her grandchildren ages 9, 7, and 5 year old twins. This woman is a part of the GSF outreach program and is receiving some assistance and medical care through that program, but she has been too weak to dig in her garden or do much around the home. Penelope suggested some things that were needed and some work our students could do to help. Here we are at the home of the jjaja (grandmother) with some gifts. 

It was great to see our students take initiative and think of ways to earn money to assist this woman in need. They organized a Saturday morning bake sale and car wash and raised almost 700,000 shillings! 

This money was used to buy many things needed in her home and to build a cooking hut. During the rainy season, you cannot cook outdoors, but if you cook with firewood or charcoal inside your small hut there are many other problems that arise. For this reason many people have two separate structures, one for cooking and one for sleeping. 

During this day of service our students were able to assist with many different needs around her home. Some cleaned out her house. 

Others washed the clothes for the family.

Others washed dishes. 

Some began digging to prepare mud walls.

It quickly became apparent that fetching water for making the mud, and all the washing was going to be a BIG part of the day...

This first crew brought back a good amount of water that
was used in a matter of minutes. I went with the second crew, and was a bit overly ambitious. In my foolish pride, I decided that I could carry two 20 liter jugs (approximately 90 pounds). Of course I had no idea how far away the water was! It took about 5-10 minutes to walk there with empty jerry cans. It took 25-30 minutes to walk back uphill to reach the house. I would make myself walk 50 steps and then take a break. There were a few times that I was about to lose my grip so I only made it 40 steps. I am regretting my hardheadedness now as my whole body aches. I didn't sleep much last night because of the muscle pain every time I turned over. Apparently I still have some issues to work through...

Mixing the mud was the favorite part of the work day for several of our younger students!

The puppies that we found there were another highlight for the young ones.

We also took a lunch break to eat some chicken on a stick, chapati (the local flatbread), and gonja (roasted bananas).

By the end of the day, the hut was mostly built and the mud was on the walls. The local men, who we had hired with the money the students raised, were going to finish the building making sure it was strong, and then they were going to put on the roof.

I was very thankful for our hard-working students and their cheerful service. As we took this day to serve, I remember what Jesus did the night before he was crucified. He washed the feet of his disciples. He said that the Son of Man came to serve, not to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many. When I feel this muscle soreness from just one day of service, I want to remember my Lord and Savior, Jesus, who came to earth and served others his whole life. On this Maundy Thursday, I remember that he gave us the command to love one another as He has loved us. We can only love as because He took our sin and selfishness and died for it. Then He rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday so that we can have new life in Him! I am still flawed in my service, wanting to impress others with how much water I can carry (and paying for it later), but I am thankful that this week is not about me. It is about Jesus! He has loved you and me, broken people desperately in need, and shown us immeasurable grace, lavishing us with His love, and giving us new life in Him!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Celebrating Palm Sunday in Uganda

I love celebrating this special Sunday here in Uganda. We have palm branches that we can cut and bring to church and there is even a donkey on our campus! At church this morning, everyone got a few palm leaves to wave as we celebrated and worshiped together.
The children from our children's church class learned the song, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." They sang part in English and part in Luganda and did a great job!did a great job!
When the children were dismissed for children's church I counted 101 children in our small classroom. 
Of course anything can be made into a weapon...
These helpful young men stayed children's church to help sweep the area with some of the branches that were left behind. 
It was good to remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people worshiped Him. We still worship Him today!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Celebrating the Mathematical Nature of God

For math nerds like me, March 14 (3.14) was an exciting day! in our school we celebrated the number pi and had fun doing all kinds of activities related to circles.
My students got to measure the circumference and diameter of many circles using some standard and some non-standard units of measurement. 
And since the elementary students were studying Ancient Greece and the olympics in history, they used Pi Day to draw Olympic Rings.
Of course we had to end the school day eating the tasty pies our students made at 3:14pm. Esther made a delicious lemon meringue pie that reminded me of my Granny's key lime pie. She would have been proud! 

Later in the week, I had the privilege of discussing an essay on the history and philosophy of mathematics with some of our high school students. It was a joy to celebrate the order and beauty of God's creation as we learned more about his mathematical nature last week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Teachers wanted!

Since our classroom building project has begun, we are daily thinking about next school year. We are excited about our new classroom space, but we are still praying for the need for teachers. Our four full-time teachers are currently juggling 12 different grade levels. We are thankful that we have a part-time assistant and have added a part-time PE teacher. While this has been very helpful, we still need more help. If you are interested in teaching with us, please contact us through the "click to write them a message" link on this page. Here is a brief description of our school and need for teachers.
Our 2016-2017 students and teachers

Good Shepherd's Fold International School was established in order to provide a quality Christian education for the children of missionaries who serve at Good Shepherd's Fold in Buwundo Village, Uganda. We have also opened our doors to students whose parents serve with other local ministries. Our school hopes to prepare missionary kids to help them transition smoothly to American schools and universities. This school year we serve six different families educating 27 students pre-K through 12th grade. We currently have 4 teachers. We would love for one or two more teachers to join our teaching team. Since we are all currently a bit stretched, we could shift schedules and use teachers for any grade or subject from pre-school to Pre-Calculus. This is a support based position.
Our current teachers

Please pray with us for this need and contact us with any questions. Many thanks!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Time for school fees

(I wrote this post back in February, but wasn't able to publish it at that time. It is dated, but I thought some of you might find it interesting.)

The Ugandan schools have all just begun, and many families are struggling. The local schools run on the calendar year, which makes sense, but this year there are some specific challenges. Christmas is a time when people usually spend more money to travel to be with family and to buy a special meal. For many this is the time of year they eat meat. But this year, Christmas came at the end of a very dry year. The rainy season never came, and therefore people's gardens are mostly empty. Most people in the villages grow much of their own food, so many people are hungry. Not like the hungry where your kid comes home from school, hasn't eaten in a couple of hours and says, "I'm starving!" No, I mean go to bed at night hungry without having any food available for dinner. The translation for the word hungry in the local language is literally "there is biting or pain in my stomach." During the school year breakfast and lunch are included at most schools, but on holidays the family needs to provide these meals. The lack of rain has also made water scarce. In some places people are having to pay a lot to get water for bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and drinking.

And now the perfect storm has arrived. (No, not a rainstorm. We all wish!) It is time for students to go back to school, but many families cannot afford the fees. The first term is when many students need to buy uniforms and books and other supplies, too. So at the end of a rainy season with no rain and a holiday the money is gone. Many people in Uganda are trying to figure out how to afford to send their children to school. A grandmother showed up at my house with two of her grandchildren this week explaining that their fathers are gone and they don't have a way to send these kids to school. She is not from our village. She walked for at least 30 minutes from her village to come ask for help. Since I did not know her at all, I referred her to the social worker for GSF to see if there were any scholarships remaining. I don't think that there are.

While we cannot provide school fees for everyone, I am thankful that many women and students in our village have been able to save money through our Buwundo Beads and Crafts group in order to be ready for this time of year. Many of you have made this possible through purchasing the beautiful things they have made. Thank you! If you want to hear more about how you can support these students by purchasing or selling these items, please contact me.

Here are photos of some of our students during our Bible study time. Each week we meet to listen to the Bible discuss what it means and how to apply it in our lives, and then I purchase the jewelry and crafts they made that week. I only purchase from the students during their holidays, so that they can focus on school the rest of the year. Most of the year our group is 18 women who are mothers and grandmothers. Please pray for our students as they go back to school and begin a new year. It is my prayer that they will remember many of the things they have heard from God's Word as they listened to the entire book of Matthew and much of the book of Mark during their holiday. I praise God that several of them are continuing to come for Bible study on the weekends. I am also praying that they will study well and progress academically this term. Please join me in praying for these students as they begin this school year!

(Students are now at the end of their second term and preparing for their third term in the school year. I look forward to getting back to Uganda to see how they are all doing!) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lifting My Eyes

Have you ever had a time in life when your questions about the future make it hard to function in the here and now? Lately that has been my struggle. We have been talking and praying about some future plans, and my immediate response has been to try to figure everything out and worry about how it will work out in the process. (These plans do not include any major changes in our work here, just questions about how it will all turn out, and how to juggle the needs of our family and ministry.) I often get so focused on all the possibilities and details that I fail to trust God with my tomorrows. After waking with a stress headache for a few days, I decided that I needed a day for a prayer retreat. I usually do this a few times a year, although it is my goal to make time for a prayer retreat at least quarterly. Here is my agenda for these days. I want to talk with God about all of my concerns. I want to saturate my mind with His Word so that I can focus on Him and not just all of my fears and struggles. And I want to be refreshed by resting in His loving care for me. Since writing often helps me process all my thoughts, I wanted to write about what God is teaching me today.

This morning, I had some specific verses that came to my mind as thought about my desire for this time. Psalm 121:1&2 "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth." Thankfully, I couldn't remember from which chapter in Psalms these verses came. I decided that I would try to structure my time using the acronym ACTS, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication to focus my prayer time. It seemed like reading through the Psalms would be a good way to begin a time of Adoration. As I scanned the first 120 chapters looking for this passage, I was so blessed to focus my eyes on my Lord and adore Him. It is amazing how reading these truths about God can change my perspective! This morning I read that God is my Rock, my Shield, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Strength, my Protector, my Stronghold, my Shepherd, my Salvation, my Support, my Light, my Creator, my Keeper and my King. I also read about his steadfast love, his righteousness, his goodness, his mercy, his faithfulness, his justice, his protection and his care for the brokenhearted.

Finally as I reached the passage about "lifting my eyes to the hills" it reminded me that everything looks so different when I fix my eyes on Jesus. When I remember what an amazing, loving, gracious God I serve, I don't feel like I need to worry about or control tomorrow. I know that I can trust Him with every tomorrow! While I still have many questions about what the future will bring, I know that my Lord has it all in His hands and I can trust Him to work it out for good! He has been faithful to his people since the creation of this world, keeping His promises and providing for our greatest need through His own sacrifice. I can also look back in my own life and see how He has worked for my good in ways that I often did not understand. I remember when my husband first talked about the possibility of moving overseas; I was so full of anxiety and fear that I vomited. Now, I absolutely love our life here and am so thankful for this amazing opportunity that we have. I can also see ways that God has grown all of us through the process.

I believe that as I spend more time focusing on my Lord, remembering the faithfulness of God in His Word and also in my life, I will learn to rest more and more in the peace of God rather than live my life in fear and worry. Instead of dwelling on the "what ifs" and spending too much emotional energy on trying to figure everything out, I want to "fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith." (Heb.12:2) Today I want to repent of my pride in thinking that I can figure it all out and instead, cling to my loving Heavenly Father who knows all things and has promised that He is working for my good. (Rom.8:28)

Breaking Ground

On Friday morning we had an official ground breaking ceremony beginning the construction our new classroom building. It was exciting to gather and pray for both the construction process and the future use of this building as we plan to use this space to equip and disciple the children of missionaries.
Daniel Iya, an engineer who serves here at Good Shepherd's Fold overseeing building projects, uses each building project as an opportunity to equip men from our local villages. These men learn marketable skills, but Daniel also uses this opportunity to disciple these young men. We pray that God will use both the process and the final product to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations. If you would like to contribute toward the cost of this building project, click on this link and select "GSF International School." We are also praying that God will bring another teacher to serve with us as our ministry here grows. I will write more about this need later, but if you or someone you know is open to serving missionary families by helping to educate and disciple their children in one of the most beautiful places in the world, please let us know! Thank you for praying with us and supporting our growing school!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Celebrating 100 Days of school!

While January in the United States is often a cold month, here in Uganda it is HOT and DRY! Since we have had hotter and drier weather than usual, we decided that we should celebrate our 100th day of school with an afternoon pool party!

In the morning the middle and high school students began the day thanking God for 100 things. The elementary students enjoyed counting to 100 in many ways, writing stories with 100 words, doing 100 piece puzzles, doing 100 jumping jacks and other fun things to do with the number 100. Some of the older students helped out too!  

After academic activities in the morning all the students came to our house to eat 100 hotdogs! David cooked them on  his new grill which he got for Christmas! 

The students also brought some snacks like 100 pieces of bruchetta, 100 cookies, and Esther made a special 100th day cake. 

It was fun celebrating learning together for 100 days this school year. We sang, "Happy 100th day to you,"  to the tune of "Happy Birthday." At the end when I added "and many more," the students corrected me and sang, "and 80 more."

We are blessed to work with this group of students and thank God for these 100 days to learn and grow together! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Listening and Learning

In recent weeks our village Bible study group has begun listening to an audio version of the New Testament in Luganda. It has been an interesting opportunity to listen to large portions of Scripture at a time. We listen for 30 minutes and then break into 4 smaller groups for 30 minutes of discussion. In the past we would often spend 30 minutes reading the Scripture out loud together, but now, those who are not able to read don't have to struggle trying to decode the words. In the past we would often read one chapter of the Bible or a portion of a chapter each week. Now, in the same amount of time, we can often listen to 5 chapters at once. Since many of these women have not had much experience reading or listening to the Bible, this is a great opportunity for them to hear the whole New Testament in about one year's time. It is also very encouraging to me. I am excited that we are getting to hear large portions of Scripture in context. We have already listened to the whole book of Matthew and yesterday we began listening to the gospel of Mark.

As I sat listening to the first 5 chapters of Mark, I was amazed at the power of Jesus. We heard about how God prepared the way for Jesus through John the Baptist and how God spoke from heaven declaring that Jesus is the Son of God. We heard how Jesus healed many sick people. A man with leprosy was made clean. A paralyzed man was forgiven of his sins and healed so that he could walk. Jesus showed his wisdom when challenged by the Pharisees. He showed his power by healing a man with a withered hand and a woman who was sick for 12 years, casting out demons, calming a storm, and raising a girl from the dead! Toward the end of listening to these 5 chapters, Jesus says to the man whose daughter has just died, "Do not fear, only believe." In the previous chapter when the disciples woke Jesus because they thought their boat would sink in the storm, he asked them why they were so afraid, and if they still did not have faith. These two brief comments from Jesus really struck me.

 Honestly, if my boat was sinking in a big storm or I just got word that one of my children had died, I would be full of fear. I have not been sleeping well because I struggle with so many fears and anxieties. Will we have to borrow much money to build the additional classrooms for our school? If so, how will we pay it all back? What students will be attending our school next year? When do we need to finalize that in order to get all of our curriculum here? On our furlough, will we have time to meet with all of our supporters and spend time with family during our brief summer break? How will we get around? What does God have for our family's future? I have so many questions. The more I focus on all of these questions and details, the more anxious I get. But then I hear the words of Jesus, "Do not fear, only believe." Jesus said these things after showing that He has control over all things. He has power over all kinds of sicknesses! He has power over the natural world! He has power over evil spirits! He has power over death! He is the Son of God! And He is my Savior, my Friend, my Brother, my Hope, my Lord. I do not need to fear! The same Jesus who accomplished all of these things while walking on this earth, has my life, our ministry, and our family in His hands.

I tried in my broken Luganda to explain how encouraging it is for me hearing about what Jesus has done. I told the women in my small group that when I wake up anxious in the night I want to remind myself about all of these truths about who Jesus is and what He has done. I want to entrust our future to the One who has proven Himself trustworthy. And then go back to sleep as I recount His power and His faithfulness. I don't know what fears you might be struggling with today, but I do know that our Lord Jesus, can handle those things. He says to us all, "Do not fear, only believe." (Mark 5:36)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

3 years post-op update

Three years ago, I had some pre-cancerous areas on my tongue removed. Going into the surgery we didn't know what we would find. I am thankful that it was not yet cancer, but the abnormal cells had spread more than we originally thought. Ever since then, part of my tongue has a slight burning feeling in the area of the surgery and some numbness, but my speech has recovered. After a long day of parenting and teaching, my tongue often is very tired and a little sluggish. I am learning to live with the constant minor pain which reminds me of my human frailty.

On Friday, I went for a dental appointment. Here in Uganda, my dentist has been assisting with my follow up care. He has watched the area and examined my tongue several times since the surgery. Every time I have an appointment, my blood pressure goes up a bit. On Friday he said that everything still looks the same. There is no area of concern! I thank God for the good news! 

While the anxiety leading up to these appointments is not my favorite, regular check-ups are important and a good reminder to me. When we got the results saying that the original biopsy of my tongue was abnormal and I needed to see a specialist in tongue cancer, that rocked my world. I was not sure what that meant for our future plans. We were preparing to move to Uganda in order to do the work that we were confident God was calling us to do here. It was hard moving to a developing country not knowing what would happen with my health. 

I have learned much about trusting God with our future during this struggle. When I say I have learned about trusting God, that does not mean that now I have it all down. I still struggle. Often.  But God is helping me to trust him more each day. It also does not mean that the process is easy. It has included many sleepless nights, many panic attacks and many times of needing to remind myself of the truths of God's Word. I just re-read the post I wrote the night before my surgery a little over 3 years ago. Those truths are still what I need to cling to every day. 

Many of us go through life just assuming that we will wake up tomorrow and do what we are planning to do. The burning in my tongue is a constant grace reminding me that God holds my tomorrows. (Proverbs 27:1, James 4:13-14) I want to make the most of each day God gives me on this earth to do the work that He has prepared for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Honestly, I can say that I can now view this trial as a grace. It is easier for me to remember my dependence on the Lord because of the pain I feel. It is hard to "consider it all joy when you face trials of many kinds" but I have seen how those trials are helping me to grow. I am thankful that I can look back and see how God has worked over these last 3 years, helping me to depend on him more each day. As I look forward to the year ahead, I have many hopes and plans about what I want to do and what I hope God will accomplish. But I want to always put my hope in Him!
"Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You." Psalm 33:20-22

Friday, January 6, 2017

A legacy of faith

On December 29, 2016, my grandmother, Jean Danner, left this world after 92 years of faithful service and went to be with Jesus, where she has no more pain. My Granny was such a blessing in my life. While I will miss her a lot, I am happy for her that she has entered the presence of her Lord and has heard the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." This morning while I am an ocean away from the others who are grieving, I wanted to write a few things I appreciated and remembered about my Granny. Here is a photo from several years ago with our four generations.

Many of my earliest memories were of times at Granny's house in Pompano. Sunday afternoon dinners at her house were delicious and funny. I remember all the joking about how she would try to encourage my grandfather to eat healthier. (He passed away from a heart attack when I was in middle school.) Granny would let me help her cook. She would watch my gymnastics shows in the living room. She would play card games with us. She and I loved playing a game called manipulation, where you can move around cards in order to put them in runs or sets. She loved doing crossword puzzles and had a great grasp of the English language. We couldn't get away with improper grammar around her. She would correct us in loving ways with joking and laughter. I think the laughter in her home is what I remember most about our times there. Both my grandparents enjoyed laughing. My Pop-pop had a loud gregarious laugh. My Granny had a quick, clever wit. Other fond memories I had at her home include swimming in their pool, hearing stories about my mom's childhood, grilling kebabs, listening to the Miami Dolphins on the radio, eating the key limes, little bananas, and grapefruit growing in her backyard, snacking on "nuts and bolts" and generally felling loved and happy and full.

After Pop-pop passed away, Granny lived many years on her own. She spent much of her time serving the church in various ways. Up until she was not able, she would serve operating the switchboard, coordinating the Sunday School office, and caring for others in need. Even late in life, when friends or members of her family were struggling, she would want to do whatever she could to help. She was also a woman of prayer. When she was no longer physically able to serve, she would continue to serve others by faithfully praying for them. Her ministry will definitely be missed, but she was a beautiful example to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of serving the body of Christ. I am so blessed to have known her and learned from her for 40 years. I pray that like my Granny's, my home will be a place of grace, laughter and love, and that I will serve in love as she did faithfully for so many years.