Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pictures from Michigan

Just a few pictures from the lockdown in Michigan.  I can't share many because we cannot yet post pictures of our precious baby Makai.  (Soon, I hope!)  When we aren't doing homeschool or playing family games, we try to get out and enjoy the beauty of Michigan.  It hasn't always been warm enough but we take advantage of the sunny days.  Keeps us sane in the midst of hard times.

Thanks to friends at church getting us bikes, we have enjoyed a few family bike rides. 

It is tulip time in Holland, MI. Since the festival is cancelled this year we can enjoy the attractions and beauty for free.





Wild flowers on a walk with cousins.

Using lots of imagination playing at home.  Luka and Emalai went hunting.
We've been to Lake Michigan a couple times to look for rocks and take a walk.



Day in the wood.

A couple snowy days back in April - Beautiful but Brrr!
Luka and his dad got a turkey in April!

The kids make a craft/art/play/sometimes school room downstairs.
Luka made the fort and the fish aquarium on the wall.
More tulips!

Cousins!






Our kids helped Grandpa spread mulch the other day.  It was their first time ever mulching and they thought it was great.  Lydia said, "Mom, take a picture of us African kids doing something so American!"  (Oops, I didn't even take that picture! :) )

Thursday, April 30, 2020

How are we doing?

I am not sure how to begin this blog, but I have been asked if we are ok seeing I haven't written in a while.  I have been writing a blog in my head for the last few weeks.  I want to start by saying I am not trying to complain but need to be real and I desire to share.  And over all things, I do trust God and put my faith in Him.  He is in control. He is trustworthy and true. I desire His will above all for His glory.  I know this, I just have feelings to navigate too.  This is when faith needs to be an action. 

With that said, the last six weeks have been really hard.  We came to Michigan the end of January to get help and healing for our family.  Just over a month later the corona virus took away all the help we needed.  The loss we are experiencing is on top of months of hardship.  We are sad - grieving.  I want to scream, "It's not fair!"  We need school, family, friends, church, activities...for our healing.  Seems the enemy's arrows keep coming our way.  So thankful we are victorious children of God!  I feel the heaviness of months of hardship and it leaves me quite empty.

Being missionaries adds another level of loss.  Living in a village, we are used to being alone and having a quiet life, but we look forward to a change and special things when we are in Michigan.  It was all taken away.  There is no next year for our kids for school, Gems/Cadets, sports, friends, family, Spring Break and Easter here.  We are thankful to be in a very nice house for lockdown, but it is not our home, our things.  For some people this lockdown has slowed down their lives, I feel like ours got busier with homeschooling four children and taking care of a newborn.  I don't really do anything or go anywhere but school, baby, games, a walk outdoors IF the weather is nice and meals seem to fill each day.

We are also concerned for our friends, church, ministry partners...our "family" in Uganda.  They have hard lives everyday and now with the lockdown, threats of the virus and locust plague they could seriously suffer.  We miss them and our home.  Just this week my friend and neighbor gave birth to twins - one dead and one alive.  I want to be there for them, with them.  It makes me feel very far away.  We are stuck in Michigan on many levels.  We are still healing, all boarders are closed with the pandemic, and courts are closed so the adoption finalization is on hold.  There are so many unknowns.

I realize that we are safe, healthy and even in a comfortable place and I am thankful for these blessings.  I acknowledge that our trials are not as big as the suffering some people are experiencing with the corona virus.  However, I have learned that though our suffering is smaller it is still real and it still hurts.

As I watch all that is happening with the virus and lockdown, I am hit with different thoughts.  I am thankful people have to slow down, be with their families, and depend on God.  But that is our lives every day on the mission field.  I don't say that in a prideful way.    I guess maybe people here can understand a little bit more how we feel as missionaries through this lockdown.  On the mission field you are isolated, don't have all the conveniences, there isn't really entertainment or extras, no, you can't be with your extended family, you miss out on things, lonely, homeschooling, uncertainties, learn to really depend on God when everything else is taken away, learn to trust God in new ways...  I also see how America sees safety and comfort as a right.  Having lived overseas and having traveled for almost 20 years now, I can tell you a lot of the world is not like that.  Much of the world is more familiar with suffering, hardships and survival.  Here in America we are want safety and to be comfortable at all costs.  Ok, we all do and it is human nature, but so many don't have that privilege.  I know there is wisdom in how our leaders and all of us reacted to the virus, but much was also motivated by fear.  

Let me end by answering some of your questions about Uganda.  There are 53 cases of covid 19 in Uganda (as of mid April).  The number of confirmed cases is so low because there is no way most of the population can be tested.  Most will just be sick, be misdiagnosed, or die from it and other sicknesses without knowing. The government put everyone on lockdown.  All borders are shut down so no one can come or go.  No movement of vehicles private or public.  They have now lifted the lockdown slightly.  A motorcycle can be on the road until 2:00 p.m.  No passengers allowed.  Ministry has also come to a halt for the most part.  Seems to be affecting everyone.  Unfortunately, many people view this as a disease foreigners have brought to Uganda so there has been incidents with mobs forming outside the homes of expats.  Things sound pretty tense there right now.

We are very concerned and praying for everyone we love in Uganda.  The medical care in Uganda is very poor so if this virus spreads, then there is no help or hope, except hope in God.  People there are already vulnerable and malnourished so it could mean death to many.  People live day to day there so if they are not allowed to work and get money they don't eat.  Things could get very serious and very desperate.  Prices have gone up and people aren't allowed to do daily market as usual.  People there live outside and in community everyday so the virus could spread rapidly.  The good thing is it is hot there, the population is mostly under 16, and Covid 19 doesn't seem to be affecting malaria areas as badly as it does other regions.    

It is difficult to understand how hard it would be to be in lockdown in Uganda.  Most of our friends live in a house the size of one of our rooms, made of mud bricks, dirt floors, and thatch or metal roof, and is shared by many people.  There are no extras, pleasures, or entertainment.  There are no refrigerators.  There is no stocking up.  You have to go to the bore hole to get water each day.  In some ways our friends are used to suffering each day, in other ways their suffering has just increased.  We know it is hard here with all that is happening, but life is always hard there and they have very few resources.   

The good news is that the FIC teachers were given permission to get and deliver soap to the prisons where they teach.  The government official in Soroti was so pleased he sent a letter telling the government what a good job FIC is doing.  The FIC radio teachers were also able to change from Saturday evening teaching to Sunday mornings so they can continue to teach.  

Please pray with us for our village, friends who are like family to us, for the church, Freedom in Christ teachers, the students of FIC, prisoners we work with, and missionaries there.  

Thank you for listening, caring and praying for our family at this time.

P.S.  Makai is doing great!  He is 10 weeks old now.  He is a very good baby!  We are sad we can't share him in pictures - because courts are closed and we haven't gotten the termination papers yet - or in person because of covid-19.  We have gotten a lot of wonderful bonding time with him.  He is showered with love daily by our family.  We are so thankful for our sweet baby boy!  More on Makai to come soon Lord willing...

Saturday, February 22, 2020

It's a Boy!!!





Wow, is right!  Tuesday Feb. 18 we received word that our 5th child was born.  We named him Makai Samuel Lee.  (Makai the Ateso form of the prophet who spoke truth in 1 King 22, Samuel because it means we asked God for him, and Lee after my dad.)

We got the call Tuesday afternoon as Josh, Lydia and I were driving home.  A baby boy was born in Detroit and he was ready to take home. Wow!  There were tears and we were shocked.  How quick it can happen!

This is no lie, that morning I read Luke 11:8-11 where Jesus tells us to be bold in our prayers and that we should ask, seek and knock and He will answer, be found, and open the door.  So I prayed that the adoption would happen TODAY.  And God did it.  Wow!

So Makai was born three weeks early by c-section.  He is 6lbs 7oz and 19in. long - perfect!  And he is healthy.

The hard part is that his mother couldn't care for him and did a very selfless and loving act of carrying him to full term and handing him safely over to the hospital to find a family to love him.  Pray for this woman wherever she is.  May God's love surround her.

The rest of the day was a flurry of activity, excitement, sharing - all still in shock.  Josh and Lydia got "Welcome Baby Boy!" balloons so when the kids got home from school we could tell them the big news.  How fun to see them see the balloons and ask.  Grace was the best.  She burst into tears letting out all the emotions of months of let down and waiting.  We called the grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and shocked them too.  Everyone just kept saying, "Wow."  Just like I did.  We stopped by my sisters' houses to get some baby things and to our storage to get the clothes we had ready there.  It all just seemed unreal at this point.

We received the call about our baby Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday morning we were driving to Detroit to meet him and bring him home.  What a rush!  Josh and I met with Adoption Associates to do some paper work then headed to the hospital.  We were so excited!  I am not sure you can describe the feelings of meeting your adoptive child for the first time, but I can say I had complete peace.  We met the social worker who told us how cute Makai is.  We walked into the nursery and saw him. Cute as a button, black hair, tiny bundle, precious and so perfect.  I cried, as I am writing this.  There is just so much emotion.  So much love.  I just marvel at this perfect, beautiful baby boy who God saved and who God entrusted to us.  I just love him so much and think he is incredibly special.  He is a miracle.

Josh and I spent the next couple hours just holding Makai, loving on him, getting to know him, and just looking at our new baby boy.  It was just one of those surreal times in life.  Some of my first reactions were what a beautiful baby, round face, tiny, very calm and just so sweet.  The nurses were super nice to us and so happy for us.  The nurse said he is a very good baby.  We were very encouraged by everyone. 

Before we left the hospital we changed Makai.  He woke up and showed us his beautiful dark eyes.  He looked at us as if to say "who are you."  Josh talked to Makai and he just studied Josh.  It was a super sweet moment.

We walked out as proud parents with our new son!  It was so hard to ride almost three hours home having to only look at him and not be able to hold him.  We picked up our kids from my sister's house and they got their first look at their new brother.  It is all so unbelievable.  It took time for them to grasp it all too.

We are all now settling into the reality of this and life with a new born.  Makai has lots of people who want to hold him.  I don't put him down much - I have 9 months to make up for!  Bonding is pretty special.  We get time together each night when everyone else is sleeping.  Makai is a very sweet, good, quiet, and alert baby so far.  He eats well and loves his pacifier!  I love when he is awake and just looks at us - gets to know us.  I just look at him and smile.  Take lots of pictures.  He is so cute.  Such a gift.  What bliss.

Our kids are so very happy to have a little brother!  And they are all a lot of help.

God has answered so many prayers!  I prayed that the adoption would happen by February, that we had to be here right now, that we have time to complete the adoption process...And God gave me the desires of my heart just because He can and He loves us - a boy, a different or mixed race, a good baby.  God's hand is all over this adoption and this timing.  He has given us Makai.  It is an amazing thing to be chosen to be someone's parents.  To be entrusted with such a precious life.  What a privilege.

We praise the Lord who is faithful, trustworthy and good!  He prepared us, prepared the way, orchestrated all things,  knit together Makai and saw his unformed body in his mother's womb, He knew the days of his life before one came to be...Oh God, You are too wonderful for me to understand!  I worship you.  Thank you for Makai Samuel Lee Shaarda.  We asked You for him.  He is a gift from You.   



(We cannot post pictures of Makai yet at this point in the legal process, so more to come soon!)



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Snow Fun!

Hello from Michigan wintertime



Ice staking on my parents lake.




Ice sculptures in Grand Rapids, MI
We didn't last long it was TOO cold!

Back ice staking!

Uganda cousins ice skating


Luka wanted to try ice fishing so here is Grandpa and Josh fishing after Luka got bored.

Sledding behind the 4 wheeler!

Just so you know, yes it can be very cold!


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Prayers for Emalai's Recovery

Emalai had her tonsils out Feb. 6.  She was so brave and had a lot of peace overall.  I was proud of her.  She is now recovering at home.  She is quiet but seems to be doing well so far.  Please pray for a good recovery and full healing for Emalai.

Monday, January 27, 2020

11, Flying, MI and More

Luka turned 11 Jan. 14!
So thankful for him!  He is growing up and EVERYONE tells him how much he looks like his dad.  I told him that was good because dad is handsome. :)  Luka is a tenderhearted, fun loving, active, silly boy.  He always makes us laugh, is a kind big brother to the neighbor boys, and most of the time you can find him playing sports.  He loves the Lord and we love seeing him grow in Christ.  May the Lord bless you and keep you Luka!  We love you and God does too!




Luka's favorite job flying co-pilot on MAF from Soroti to Entebbe airport in Uganda.

Flying over Obule and our house!
Flying from Dubai to Chicago - 14 hours!
Our beautiful home away from home at Jamestown's Shalom House!
Thank you Jamestown CRC!!!

First day of school for Emalai!
Josh was giving advice to the kids as they went into school and serious as can be Emalai told them, "and don't burp in class."  Funny girl!

Luka's first day in 5th grade at HCS
First day at Unity for Grace!
So we are back in Michigan.  Thank you for all your prayers!  It is an adjustment but overall is God's peace.

I also wanted to add a praise for our New Years Eve with the youth in Obule.  There are no pictures because it was dark but maybe pictures can't capture it.  I stood there under a canopy of stars at mid night with about 65 youth singing and dancing praise to God and thought, "This is exactly where I want to be!  There is no better place or greater joy."  I praise God for the youth in Obule that we get to live life and see grow in Christ.  We are blessed each time someone in the community asked what has happened to the youth in Obule or thanks us for the work we have done.  To God be the glory in the youth and in 2020!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Wedding Day

Lydia, Grace and a few of their friends were in a wedding Jan. 4.  Emma and his wife Priscilla come from our church but now live in Soroti where they were wed.  It was a month of weekly meetings but it was worth it in the end.  It was a fun day and a beautiful wedding!
Rehearsal the night before the wedding (very American to do that!). 
It was a very organized and timely wedding for Uganda.

The girls and I did several trial hair dos the week of the wedding trying to find the right ones.


Beautiful Bridesmaids or maids as they say here.
They rented these dresses for less than $3!





Lydia and Grace with their friends Rhoda and Priscilla 


Our Obule children :)
Samson, Kokus and Tom


Lydia and Grace walked into the wedding together dancing down the aisle.
Josh preached at the wedding




Luka and Emalai looking good too!

For weddings here they change their dresses for the reception.
These are their adorable changing dresses they get to keep.

Dancing all the way back in!