Thursday, April 20, 2017

Food Distribution

Here are some pictures from one of the six food distributions.  We went to Akisim.  It was great to see how much the church has grown since the outreach in January.  Church was packed!  (And they did not know we were coming with food.)  We gave out 40 bags of 50kg corn flour in Akisim (one per family of the members of the church) and 250 total for all six churches.  We are thankful for your help, support, and prayers for the people here and the food distribution.

Drought for the past 10 months

Our thank you gifts

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Can you even imagine true hunger?  Eating once a day?  Not having anything to give to your hungry children?  On top of hunger there is sickness like Malaria and no money for treatment or treatment that doesn’t work.  Not having money to provide for your family’s basic needs.  Your animals die because of drought and sickness.  No money for food let alone school fees. 

Honestly, most of us cannot imagine.

People deny it when I say it, but the truth is we (from the Western world) are rich.  Most of us will never know what it is like to depend on the land for food and then experience drought resulting in no food and no money.  We don’t know true hunger.  We have never had to deny our children meals, sent them to bed hungry, or look into their hungry faces and not be able to provide.  Most of our children have not been sent home because there is no money for school, or had to watch our sick kid suffer because there is no money for treatment.

No, if we are honest we are use to over eating, going out to eat, over stocking our homes with food, and going to a store anytime to buy just about whatever we want to.  We don’t think about not eating unless we want to loss weight.  We don’t worry about where we will get our next meal or how to feed the kids.  We throw away food – because we have so much!  Our entertainment is often built around food.  We take for grated all we have because we have always had it.  Our stores, the ones who grow food for us, rain, restaurants, money…  We now see it as our right to have it all.

I know most of you are thinking, “Ok Mandy, what do you want us to do?  Send our food (leftovers) to Africa?”  I know because people have said this to me.  They say it teasing but I think they are trying to dismiss their uncomfortable conviction.  Maybe we can’t send our leftovers to Africa, but do we care?  Do we think, feel, pray about, or do anything with our wealth and the poverty in the world?  Does it effect how we use our money and how much we eat or waste?  Do we take all we have for granted or are we truly thankful?

Poverty and hunger are a part of daily life here.  I am well aware that I am wealthy and well fed.  I don’t have to worry or think about how to get food to eat, but my neighbors and friends do.  Every day (three times a day!) our family sits around the table to eat.  We pray for our neighbors and I think about them as we eat so well.  It is hard.  I know not feeding my kids or us going into their hunger is not the answer, but sometimes I literally feel ill thinking about their hunger compared to my fullness.  There is a tension. 

We do help people here and feed those who are most in need.  But we are a family in the midst of about 4000 people in our village.  We are so thankful for caring, generous people in Michigan and other places in the States who have given toward food distributions.  We had one food distribution in Obulle where every family received 100kg sacks of maize flour, another food distribution in December where five churches received flour for each family in the churches. Now we are planning for another distribution this Sunday.  I am so grateful for this food that has blessed so many families.  I believe as we share the Good News and share food people are receiving the love of God.  He provides.

            We are thankful for those who gave, but we still wrestle with the tension.  The food is soon gone again.  Rain comes, giving hope, then stops and the gardens dry up and die.  Hunger and no money continue.  It has now been almost a year of not enough (sometimes no) rain.  I am well aware that it is most of Uganda and goes beyond to many countries that are suffering.  It can be overwhelming.

The amazing thing is that I don’t hear the people here complain – or shall I say I don’t hear my neighbors or friends in Obulle complain.  It challenges me.  I still see smiles, we fellowship as normal, they are thankful, we worship God with thankfulness, we help those who are in greatest need…  It seems everyone is in the same suffering so why complain.  Wow.  Our church leaders talk about praising God even when we are hungry – because He is God.  Or having joy in their suffering.  They trust in God.  I am so challenged by their faith and joy in the midst of sufferings.  I am convicted on my own complaining (“I have a right to food!”) ways.  Is God enough?! 

There are no easy answers.  No quick fixes.  I am not God; nor are Americans and their money, though He wants to use all of us.  God is always the answer.  He is God - in control, right, faithful, healer, provider, sustainer, Father…  He has a plan and it is always good and loving for those who trust in Him.  I see God answer and provide for His people everyday.  Sometimes He uses us, sometimes the believers here meet a need, sometimes Americans give, sometimes the rain comes, or God heals…  I do believe God has a greater plan in all of this.  Although I may not understand the inequality, the drought, the poverty, I do know I can trust in God.  He knows and He is holding all things together for His glory.  His ultimate desire is for all to know Him.  So maybe He is reaching the lost through this suffering and His provision.  I also know He is righteous and that suffering is the result of sin.  There is a lot of evil here – there is also a lot of evil in America – I am not saying all disaster and suffering is from sin.  But God will use it to call those in sin back to Him.  Like I said, I am not God and cannot understand, but I put my faith in Him – a loving, Holy God. 

My conclusion, pray.  Seek the Lord.  Trust Him.  Choose joy in Him during the hard times.  Do 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”   Amen!  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

South Africa

Fifteen years ago (our first year on the mission field) Josh and I went to South Africa.  We were thrilled to have another opportunity this year to go to South Africa with our kids.  Our reasons were three fold: our friends the Dwires were going on vacation and invited us to join them for a few days, Josh felt led to teach the Freedom in Christ discipleship course with our long time friends the Ribbens, and we wanted to visit my sister-in-laws parents while in South Africa.  Needless to say we had a great time and were very blessed by our trip.  We loved being with friends, having a true vacation for 4 days, reconnecting with missionary friends from Nigeria, doing ministry together, enjoying really good food and comforts and beauty along the way, spending time with Johan and Thea (sister-in-law's parents), and seeing God in a different country and people.  I will let the pictures speak the rest. 
Traveling can be so exciting - but the reality is it is LONG, my kids get sick (Holding barf bags by their mouths for hours and carry multiple barf bags in my purse when ever we fly or ride in a vehicle - not fun!), we were delayed, it costs, you wait...and so now we are happy to be home and not move for a couple months.  We flew three days total, rode in about seven different vehicles or taxi's, slept in six different places...not to mention the seven hour drive from and to our house in Obulle.  It is all apart of traveling anywhere in Africa.  It is good to be home!  (I am so thankful I can say that now days!!!)

Ok, I have to admit I have several of pictures at great food places (even American places - my favorite coffee, Starbucks).  We were excited to eat so many treats!  Valentines morning we had Krispy Kreme.

Our first few days was spent with Dwires in Joburg.  We had date nights and watch each others kids, we shopped, we had a double date together, swam and more...  What special memories we now share!

One of the great things about South Africa is the exchange rate.  One day everything was half off at the Fun Zone so that meant each activity was about a dollar!  It is all special when we never get to do any of these things.

glow in the dark mini golf

You may not understand this, but it feels so good to have such a nice place to stay, hot showers, conveniences, look nice, places to go, things to do, easy and feel normal.  I love our home and life in the village, but a break and such niceness is a blessing.  South Africa is more like America than the Africa I know.   (Wow, don't we look alike?!) 
One of our favorite days was going to Gold Reef amusement park.
It was super nice, fun, and empty so we could ride a ride and stay on and go again because no one was in line!
I haven't been to an amusement park since before the mission field  and it brought back lots of happy memories from my childhood.  My kids have never been to a real amusement park.  They were a little nervous at first but really enjoyed it once they tried rides.

The log ride was one of the favorites 

Luka's first roller coaster ride with mom!

All you can eat pizza :)
Our next week was spent in a suburb of Joburg with the Ribben's family.
Mike and Megan started missions with us back in 2000 on a summer mission trip.  We then both served our first years in Nigeria together.  We grew very close in those difficult years.  Mike and Megan went back to the States for a few years, then served in Nigeria again, and 3 years ago moved to SA to serve.  We had not seen each other for almost ten years when Josh and Mike met up last year at a conference.  From there a plan was in motion to come and teach with them. 
Our first afternoon together we went ice skating at the mall - oh my, where are we?!
Our kids loved it!  (So nice to be cold!)
Emalai and Stella became friends quickly.
Emalai called her Priscilla the whole time and was like a little sister to her. 

Swimming at the Ribben's house

Josh and I took a walk up a small mountain by their house

The mountain was full of SA national tree - Protea

The kids had a great time together at iJump

Lydia and Grace went to school for a day with the Ribben kids.  School starts at 7am, lunch at 9:30, and out of school by 2pm.  I was proud of them for going and experiencing school in a different courntry.  
It rained almost all week!  One dryish morning Megan dropped us off at the botanical gardens.

We hiked to the top of the falls too

This was my favorite plant - God is creative!

South Africa had a tropical storm on the coast while we were there so we ended up with a full week of rain and about 60 degree temps - that is 40 degrees less than we came from in Obulle!  We enjoyed the change of pace.  I even got to have a fire a couple nights - and not sweat to enjoy it.

While the kids and I spent the week with Megan and the kids, Josh taught Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course at Tshwane Leadership Foundation (TLF).  Mike partners with TLF in ministry.  TLF works with the homeless, has a shelter for women and children, works for justice, and more.  To Josh and I the similarities brought us back to our time and ministry at Guiding Light mission in Grand Rapids.

On Friday our whole family went to the chapel at TLF.  

Josh was thankful to minister together with Mike to share God's truth with the people at TLF.  There were 24 people who took the course from all different countries, races, backgrounds...  It was rewarding to hear one women go home each night and go through the material with her daughter and husband, to hear people say they were released through forgiveness, and realizing that confession and repentance brings freedom.  We pray true freedom in Christ is the result for those who took the course and that they share it with others.  

Informal settlements between Joburg and Pretoria

Then it was time for old and new friends to say goodbye.
Our kids connected beautifully with the Ribben's kids.  We all had tears upon departure.

Thanks Ribbens family!  May God be with you, lead you and use you.
Our last stop was Pretoria to stay with my sister-in-laws parents, Johan and Thea.

They took us just down the road from them on a small safari.
It is always fun to see animals and some new ones for us.
God is creative indeed!

We had so much fun our family went again a second time!

This time we saw the rhinos!  (They cut off the horn because of poaching.)
We did miss the cheetah and her cub by about ten cars - bummer. 

An amazing solar eclipse

I loved our meals together in a beautiful semi open room.
(Emalai liked Opa's biltong - eating it in picture.  I personally liked the milk tart!)

We had such a wonderful weekend with Johan and Thea!  Johan has great questions and listen with interest, Thea is simply sweet and loved on all of us, she is beautifully passionate about her Lord, Johan made Luka's day by watching rugby with him and teaching him about cricket...  We had a meaningful worship service with them at their church.  I was touched worshiping with my South African brothers and sisters.  It was expressive and felt so refreshing.  The message was on allowing Jesus the author of our stories to change/redeem our stories so we can change the city/world.  We loved our time and were sad it was so short.  Luka even cried leaving Opa and Oma.
Thank you and God bless you Johan and Thea - can't wait till next time!
A couple pictures for Grandpa.  Grace and Luka had an archery lesson and practice.
They loved it and Grace was an inch from a bulls eye!

This is Luka in his new Blue Bulls hat because we saw the Blue Bulls (SA rugby team) in the air port.
Luka met Jonnie and had his picture with him.  Since then he is a fan.

And that is it from South Africa.
We learned a lot, were able to share Jesus and see Jesus there.
We are thankful and blessed by our time there.
(Mandela all out of beads!)