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.