Saturday, September 8, 2018

Setting your Marriage Free

I really want to get this blog out to you because I have so many things to share with you!  God is at work and I am full of joy to be a part of it.  He is the one who produces fruit, brings truth, and changes lives.  We delight watching Him do His best work.  So after the marriage conference blog I will get out the youth blog including their conference and then a FIC blog.  Can't wait to share!


Several months ago Josh and I began to pray about doing another marriage conference.  We could see people were not together and marriages were suffering.  Josh began to go through the Setting Your Marriage Free book and revised it for people here.  We decided to invite all the leaders who have been through the FIC discipleship course and for the first time we decided to take them out of the village to have a real retreat.  We gave the plan to the Lord and bathed it in prayer for months.  We know God designed and loves marriage.  We knew it is His will to work in and bless these marriages.
Josh did an amazing job using his gift of teaching and making God's truth to be very easy to understand.
He applies every truth he teaches.
26 couples came from four different districts and 10 different churches.  They packed - really packed - 18 people in each van to come to Mbale.  For some of them it is four hour journey from their village.  For many of them it was their first time to Mbale and for many of them it was their first time to stay in a hotel.  I am not sure some of you can comprehend what this meant to people who seldom get a break and never have a vacation.  We had to explain how everything worked in the room.  It is different than a latrine.  One man said he thought he wasn't important, just a village man, but staying in a hotel on the upper floor he felt like he was now an important person.  A women who stayed on the third floor had never been upstairs in a building and she thought that people looked like cartoons below.  Another women was she felt like the boss not having to cook.  For many it was the first hot shower in their life.  We were so thankful they felt blessed and special!



The teaching included a lot of time for couples to talk, listen to God, repent, submit and pray together.
Most married couples here don't communicate and share.  They came together through this retreat because they shared with one another, listened and prayed.  I loved seeing affection that is not usually normal in this culture.  To see couples holding hands, putting their arm around each other, walking together...was beautiful!
A big part of the teaching was confessing, repentance and forgiveness.  Couples submitted to God.


Worship together

We played a game and laughed a lot.

This is the hotel we stayed at - Shine On.  All of $12 a couple per night including breakfast.  Basic but nice and clean.
Our kids came with us.  They did a great job doing their school work and playing with one another so I could be part of the conference.

The kids also helped with one of the babies - their friend Aaron.

One of the afternoons every couple had to have a date together in town.  Josh and I had our date with the kids.  Lydia and Grace thought this bay window in the smoothie shop was awesome.

Part of purpose of the date in town was to learn to move together.  To learn to walk together, be seen together, and share with one another.  And many have not been in such a big city so it was exciting for them to see it.  They loved their time.

Meal time.  Everyone of us enjoyed the fellowship and time together.  I love these people!
It does again make me LONG to know Ateso.  I hate that I am limited to share openly with those who know English.

The last day was the highlight.  Josh opened it up for anyone who wanted to renew or for the fist time say their marriage vows to one another.  They all wanted to!  It was a celebration!  A celebration of marriage, commitment, and love.  God was honored, strongholds were broken, and marriages made new.

Signing the vows certificate.

Some of these married couples have never committed themselves to each other or said they love one another.

It was beautiful to see them celebrate, hug, cheer...I even saw a kiss on the cheek which is unheard of here (not even talked about).  It was funny with one of the older couples, the wife told the husband "no, not here" when he tried to kiss her.


All ages vowed to one another.





These are our neighbors and friends, Johnathan and Winnie, they are one of the many couples who were only married traditionally (paid dowry).  Many couple hope to wed (which here means have a church wedding) someday down the road when they have money.  Usually that means when they have already had ten kids.  When Johnathan and Winnie did their marriage vows it was very emotional for Winnie - and then Johnathan.  She was laughing then crying with joy.  It was so meaningful and beautiful.  Later when we asked about it she said she was just so happy.  They had never said these things to one another.  Their vows were worth it all for me. 



After 26 marriage vows, Josh asked the people to be patient a few more minutes so he could renew his vows to me too.  Yeah!
We renewed our vows for our 15th anniversary (four years ago), but it is always an honor to recommit to one another.  I will tell him anytime that I give myself to him alone, forever, in good and bad, with all my love and God's help.  Of course it was said with tears.

I knew we bathed this conference in prayer, but sometimes I would sit there wondering if people understood, if they were receiving, if God was at work.  Then the testimonies started to flow as we talked with people and I marveled at all God had done.  Here are some of the testimonies that give God all the glory.

-Satan tried to keep us from coming.  I said it was pointless for our marriage.  I wondered if this was how God wanted our marriage to end up.  It wasn't godly, there was no peace.  I put myself in the center and tried to fix it.  But because of this conference our marriage has been renewed/cleaned.  There is a deep healing.
-The best thing that has ever happened to us since coming to Christ!
-The Holy Spirit is at work through this teaching.
-We had a heavy burden.  We opened to each other, forgave and things are new.  I love her!
-We looked into our hearts.  We have now restarted our marriage.
-I have had a great change.  I have been at the lowest level but this has brought improvement.
-Simple things multiply and become big.  Walking together has brought a change.  We can share.  We are together now, not distant.
-The Doctor is still treating me, let me continue to receive.
-This teaching made us go to Jesus.  When struggle is there we didn't deal with it and it can destroy.  I have learned how my wife wants to be loved, so now I can love her well.  Our marriage will be new.
-This teaching is very good.  Usually I don't put things right but I learned when things happen I need to address it.  I feel joy.  I am not in control.  I am to serve Christ.
-I use to be disappointed in my husband.  I was troubled.  I wan't open.  Now I will do it the right way.
-Vote of thanks to those who organized the marriage conference. I can't speak small because of the time we spent learning was big.  The old way of doing things gave little impact.  But now I have seen the work grow until everyone knows what he is believing.  I was boasting I might know all because I was a pastor, I was old, and I was educated, but now I am truly equipped to help people.  Theological study puffs up.  But now we have truth, we believe truth, we speak truth, and we share truth.  If I had a small body, I could jump up high with the joy I have.
-I thank God for this marriage conference.  When a teaching touches my heart I feel pain for the person who is not here.  I want to challenge everyone here to choose 1 family to share this with.  I spent 20 years in marriage but I have a struggle.  We had gaps.  This helps close those gaps.

Since the conference we continue to hear people testify of God's work in their marriage.

-I use to be in pain physically.  Since I forgave, my pain is gone.
-My husband wasn't ready to go to the conference but I kept quiet and began to make charcoal to get money to go.  He saw and I told him that I wanted to go and hear the Word of God.  I trusted God.  When we went I received good news in the teachings and it made my heart relax.  I see a difference in our marriage.
-I thought our marriage was an accident.  I believed I could get out and leave, but Josh taught us marriage is a covenant.  I thank God for our time in Mbale.  I thought they were teaching only to me.  I became joyful.  I used to want to die because of marriage but I thank God for this teaching.
-We are now together.

We were so delighted when two leaders at the youth conference talked about a burden on their hearts for youth to be wed and not sneak around God's plan.  They challenged the youth to be wed and one even promised a goat to each couple who would do marriage God's way.  (That is a big gift and shows he is passionate about this.)  The one leader said there has been no church wedding since 2002 and it is a painful thing.  We were so excited to see these leaders changed by God's plan for marriage and now having a burden for the youth - their children - to do it right.  The conference was on Heb. 11"By Faith", so we challenged the youth who wanted to "by faith" trust God to wed.  Many raised their hands with cheering.  We prayed for them and can't wait to see God honoring marriages here!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Prayer for Emuli

UPDATE:

Thank you everyone for praying with us and for Emuli.  After staying at the youth conference for two nights, Emuli followed our pastor (and neighbor) home.  That evening we took time to go to the families home to share with the grandparents.  Emuli came with.  It was really hard knowing what to say and do.  His grandfather is older than us and nice to us.  How do we share?  Confront?  Poor Josh was the one to share.  He shared about the clinic and Emuli's eye.  By now a big storm was coming and blowing.  I prayed it wouldn't rain and the storm would stop so we could finish this conversation.  It did not rain and the wind stopped.  Josh then shared the Gospel with them and invited them to put their faith in Jesus.  They said they have already done that.  Ok.  Now what?  We asked the kids if they would like to trust in Jesus as their Savior and four of them did!  James, Naomi, and Egwalu and Emuli all gave their lives to Christ.  That was exciting and we praise God for that.  We encouraged the kids to fellowship with other believer at church, youth group and to read the Bible and pray to God.  Then we prayed for them.

 Josh asked our pastor if we could be more direct and he said yes.  So Josh shared that we do not want any of the children beaten.  That as fathers we are to protect, love and teach our children.  That they have a responsibility and represent God in the family.  The grandfather said he does not beat the children.  Our pastor added that even our words can be as bad as beating.  So, we really didn't know what to do or add.  You can't say much when they aren't open or say they are fine.  

We prayed for the family and said our goodbyes and began to leave.  The men were already down the path when Emuli began to cry knowing he was being left at home.  I tried to ask him why are you crying?  I told him if there was a problem he could just come.  But he just cried.  His grandfather tried to get him to sit and to stop crying but he wouldn't.  I couldn't leave.  It broke my heart.  Our pastor, Charles, must have heard and came back and said lets take Emuli with us.  We all walked home and Charles took Emuli and his brother James to his house to talk.  Later that night Josh and I went back to see how things were going.  Emuli's mother, Kate, was there!  Charles wife Margaret had called her to come from Kampala where she works.  She wanted Kate to come to take Emuli to the eye hospital in Tororo.  Kate was very nice and looked young, but she said she is not young.  We all made a plan that they would go to Tororo in the morning.  We shared with Kate that Emuli needs her and needs love.  She said he is a very quiet boy even with her.  He is nine years old and was named George William (but here he is known as Emuli).

Margaret went with Kate and Emuli to the eye hospital almost three hours away.  They found out that it is not an eye problem so much, but that he has a bone deformity and the bone is pushing on nerves which is causing all the problems.  He was referred to Kampala to a hospital that can help with plastic surgery.  So, now we hope to help Kate and Emuli go to the hospital in October when we go to Kampala.  Margaret said that Kate was very kind to Emuli.

Emuli did sleep at home when his mother was here.  We again told Kate that he needs her.  We don't really know what has happened with that or at the home.  Kate left today to go back to work in Kampala.  I don't know yet if Emuli is sleeping at home or not.  

I have been told many things as people see us trying to help Emuli and this family.  Boy do people talk.  If they know so much, why don't they do anything?  I read Psalm 95 this week and it applied to this week.  The verse that stuck out was verse 16 where it asks, "Who will rise up for me against the wicked?  Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?"  God wants to do something and He wants to use us to do it.

People said these families (all the relatives in that area) fight, even carrying around pangas (machetes).  They argue and are divided.  Many have moved away because of it.  But James and Kate are the only sober ones (adults) and are good.  I encouraged the believers to pray for the family and to visit them as the four children have become Christians.

We can quickly grow discouraged and feel helpless, but then we look at all God is doing.  Four kids came to Christ, we are getting to know new families, lots of people are praying, the wisdom, giving and love of Charles and family, God stopped a storm so we could share with the family, Emuli's mother came from Kampala when called and spent a lot of money for the trip, Egwalu - who received Christ - came to children's Bible school at church this week, and people are seeing the love we have for Emuli and others.  God is doing something!  He hears our prayers and answers.  Even Charles said that he isn't sure if things will change, but through this situation God has done many things. 

Besides that the girl who fainted was treated for Malaria and is now fine.

Malai came down with an ear infection this week and shared with two friends who had or are having babies before marriage.  God gave us the grace, love and truth for these people.  We are all feeling very tired emotionally and physically after this week.

Thank you again for praying.  Please don't stop.  We need your prayers and so do Emuli, his mother, his newly saved siblings, and the whole family.  

First Message:
I am writing to ask for prayer for a boy nicknamed Emuli.  Emuli, I was told, is 11 years old but looks more like 8.  We really didn't know him until last month when I began seeing him.  He always looks sad and has an eye problem where his eyes are swollen in the morning and weep all day.  I started to inquire about him and found out he lives with his grandparents because his mother had him but never married.  His mother later "married" leaving Emuli unwanted.  It is known that he is not loved.  He has never gone to school and herds cows I am told.  Anyways, we began to show him love by asking his name, giving him a pair of shorts (his had too many holes in all the wrong places), and giving him something to eat now and then.  He began coming around more and slowly started playing with the kids.  My kids loved seeing him smile and laugh when he played with them.  He even began showing up at church after we invited him.

So today my neighbor and I took Emuli to the health center to see an eye doctor who came to the clinic to see people with eye issues.  I met the very young grandma and the grandfather for a moment.   At the clinic he was given drops and recommended to an eye hospital in Tororo.  When we got home Emuli didn't go home but followed me to church where we are having a youth conference.  Later when we went home, Emuli came.  I gave him his eye medicine and told him goodnight.  He didn't leave.  Josh told him in Ateso he should go home now.  Emuli said no.  We tried to get him to tell us why but he just made himself at home in our house.  We asked our watchman Sam to come and talk to Emuli.  Emuli told Sam that he didn't want to go home because his grandfather beats him.  My fear was confirmed.  Now what?  How sad.  How awful.  We decided to take him to our pastor at the conference and ask if Emuli could stay with the youth for the night and deal with things tomorrow.  Our pastor said that was a good plan and he would keep Emuli with him.  Emuli agreed.

Please pray with us for Emuli and this situation.  We are praying that his grandfather comes to Christ and changes his ways.  We are praying for wisdom.  We are praying for safety for Emuli and other children like him who suffer.  I hate it!  We pray for God to work mightily.  We are thankful for godly leaders to help us at times like this.  We have all had two very busy weeks with the marriage conference, youth conference and kids' teaching still to come.  Pray for time to do what we need to do.  So thankful God is in control! 

As I am writing, Josh was called by our other pastor to help take their neighbor child to the clinic because she fainted and is still unconscious.  I am seeing a spiritual battle. As God is doing great things through the marriage and youth conference, the enemy is trying to attack, distract and discourage.  Strongholds are being broken through forgiveness and truth so the devil is not happy.  Pray for protection for everyone.  We know the enemy is powerless and His children are victorious!

Mandy

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Recommended Resouces

Sometimes people ask me what we use homeschooling, with our kids or with ministry here.  I thought I would share some resources I have found and love using.

-Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This one is a favorite because every story points to Jesus.  It is beautifully written and often makes me cry with the power of God's plan in the whole Bible to save us.  His love for us is clearly seen in His desire to rescue and redeem us.  What an awesome true story!

-Buck Denver's What's in the Bible
This is great series by Phil Visser (the guy of did Veggie Tales).  The videos are crazy and silly, BUT they are full of Biblical truth!  My kids (and I) have learned so much.  It is an OT and NT survey.  In church and in Bible study our family can now quickly answer what is redemption, sin, holiness, what is justification...  Phil is very entertaining for kids while sharing God's truth in a very meaningful way.
 
-YWAM Christian Heros Then and Now
This series written by Janet & Geoff Benge are incredibly inspiring!  These are stories of missionaries are evidence of God's power to use ordinary people willing to follow the Lord.  Most stories start in their childhood showing what God can do in and through an unbeliever, the poor, shy, privileged, what He can do with our talents...  Then we get to read stories of incredible faith, forgiveness, change, hope, power...  I cannot tell you how much these easy to read books have touched my life to want to do more for Christ with His power.

-The Princess and the Kiss  A story of God's gift of Purity by Jennie Bishop
A wonderful kids book sharing the beauty and precious gift of purity.  Truth for young kids.

-Passport 2 Purity by Family Life Today
This is a must for every parent to do with they preteen/teen child.  They clearly teach Biblical truth on purity and God's desire to bless marriage.  It opens the way for parents and kids to talk.  It uses great examples that help get the message to stick.  Seeing we did it in a village in Africa without going somewhere special or over night, I know it can be a very special time with your child.  We will never forget it.  Each child was different but meaningful.  We had Josh join us the last lesson, with a special supper, reading cards to our daughter and signing of the purity commitment.  I want to remind you that this isn't a once and done - it needs to become a way of life and common talk in the home if it will have lasting effect.  I really believe this will be the difference for our kids.  We know, talk about, and live by God's truth.  We talk about how we dress, saving dating till you are ready to get married and saving intimacy for the blessing of marriage.

-The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn
This small book is a good continuation to P2P as kids get older.  Powerful truth!

-Positive Action for Christ
This is the Bible curriculum we use for homeschooling (it is for personal and church ministries too).  I love the solid Biblical truth they teach.  We learn so much and grow in our faith.  I recommend the OT & NT surveys and Wise Up.

-Mystery of History by Linda Lacour Hobar
This is our History curriculum.  Linda is a great writer.  I love how Christ is woven in and the center of History.  I also appreciate that all grades can to this curriculum together and she divides up the activities by age levels.  There are also CDs and MP3s to have the lessons read - how thankful I am for that with those big names!

-Woodlawn, The Nativity, Mulley, Courageous, War Room, Fireproof...
I hesitate to put movies on the list because we are very careful what we watch and I know not every movie is for every age.  Not all of our kids have watches these movies because they are very sensitive to people hurting (and they see enough of it here).  Anyways, these and other Biblical Christian movies are actually worth watching.  There is so much trash out there - being entertained by sin - that I am thankful for movies that leave you inspired.  Please consider what you allow into your home and children's lives through what you watch.  I pray we make wise choices to fill us with truth and life instead of lies, sin and death.

-Window around the world prayer book (for kids)
We have read from this prayer book once a week for years with our kids.  It allows us to learn about other countries, tribes, cultures, religions, persecution...and pray for them.  It has given our kids a heart for the world.

-Freedom in Christ
I have to add what has touched our lives and see changing peoples lives!  FIC is great discipleship that is pure Biblical truth.  It helps Christians to know who they are in Christ - our true identity.  It teaches us to reject all the lies we believe and live in the truth instead.  It shows us how to control our minds, guide our emotions, choose to live God's way, to forgive, to mature and produce fruit...and daily walk in freedom and victory in Christ!  It is all about resisting the evil one and submitting to God.  Too many Christians are stuck, bound and unproductive.  Jesus wants us to be free and that comes from His truth.  (Lots of great resources on their website or by contacting us.)

*The Bible
I cannot complete the list without putting the only resource needed - God's Word.  It gives us the Way, Truth and Life.  The Author is God and His Word is perfect and lasts forever.  There is no substitute, no better book, map, help, council, guide, wisdom, comfort, help, hope, peace...  It is God's will for us.  If you want to know Him you must read His Word.  It is so powerful it will change your life!  I pray everyone of His children loves His Word, reads it daily, and lives in obedience to it's truth.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ladies Tea

I had a ladies tea a couple weeks ago.  I felt God wanting me to bless the ladies while I had time on our school break.  The women here never get a break.  I wanted to give them a place to rest, enjoy, and fellowship together.  I encouraged them to bring a neighbor or friend too.  I was thankful 21 women came.
We started with a craft.  Women don't get to be very creative here and they love gifts.  We made salvation bracelets and bookmarks.  That way the friends they took could hear the Gospel and they could go home and share with their families and others too.


Lydia and Grace served the ladies tea - hot and cold (new for them) - and goodies.

Margret shared the Good News with the ladies.

I shared on Mary and Martha.  We have a lot of work as women but Jesus clearly said one thing is most important.  He wants us to seek Him first, be with Him and rest in Him.  We need Him!  He knows we have many distractions and worries and invites us to come to Him.
I think the ladies had a good time.  I know I enjoy being with them.  I pray the Lord encouraged them and that the Gospel was and will be shared with many through the bracelets they now wear.

We enjoyed extra time with our neighbors and friends on our school break.  We helped harvest, greeted people, and learned how to make sim sim treats.  This is my friend Carolyn.  She had us over to make a sweet treat from sim sim (sesamie seeds).  It was fun to learn something new and good too.


Carolyn's kids have never tasted because sugar is expensive and the treats don't fill stomachs.  Treats are just that a treat that they can't afford. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Family Visit

My older sister Jenna and three of her kids, Alex, Abby and Anna, came to visit in July!
This is my sister and Alex's third visit and the twins second.  They love Uganda.  I was very thankful to once again share our lives with them and for my sister to observe that our friends in Obule are our family.  She saw that I have sisters in Obule too.  It was hard for them to leave and in a small way can see why our hearts are so torn with people we love in two places. 

We visited Christ the Answer Primary School


Played jump rope with the kids


How cute it that!


We greeted friends.


This is Isaac


We visited Eastern College the high school in Obule

Toured Obule center and got cassava chips


Evening is play time...


We climbed Soroti Rock





Went to market

Had youth group on Saturday - played sheet volleyball.

Our guests were invited for meals at a couple of our neighbors. They were touched by their generosity.
Thanks for coming Hekmans!  I am thankful for meaningful time together, to listen and share, and love one another.  May the Lord use your love for His kingdom in Uganda.  Love you!