Monday, August 7, 2017

Youth Day!

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We love the youth here and all God is doing in and through them!  We wanted to spend some extra time with them before we go on home service so we decided to have a youth day.  We worshiped, shared God's Word, and played games.
We had about 65 youth come to our youth day.  We were happy to see many new faces.

Lunch!  It is a big job to cook for 65 youth over a fire.  How thankful we are for Whinny's help.



After lunch we divided into four teams to play games.  We wanted to teach working together, encouraging each other knowing you win as a team or loose as a team - and we wanted to have fun!
We started with an obstical course talking about the traps out there to mess us make.  There are dangers that we need to avoid.




There were many little spectators too.
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The sac race was a huge hit and everyone laughed like crazy.


Working together as a team with the hola hoop relay.

Tug-a-war was super fun until the rope snapped!  Thankfully it was the last war and no one got hurt.
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Water relay.

After games we went back in for our last teaching.  I love sharing God's Word with them.  I like being with them just letting them know they belong and encouraging them.  We have opened our porch every night to any youth who need a place with light to study.  It is another way to open our home to the youth.  Josh gave a Bible challenge to all of them.  If anyone memorized Ephesians 1 they could have a Bible.  One week later one of the girls said the chapter and received her Bible!  I look forward to seeing all the ways God wants to use these youth for His kingdom.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Faith

Maybe you remember Faith our friends child with Edwards Syndrome.  Last week Friday Faith died.  Faith had many disabilities and difficulties.  We helped them with her clubbed feet and she had gone to the heart doctor in Kampala several times hoping to repair the hole in her heart once she was strong enough for surgery.  I thank God that two weeks ago Grace really wanted to visit and see Faith.  We walked to their house and they were very positive about the improvements Faith has made.  She was happier, she could hold her head up, and was eating.  I am so glad we got to see Faith one last time.  Faith had a lot of breathing problems (cold like symptoms) and several times her parents were not sure she would live.  Last Thursday Faith went to bed well but by morning they were rushing her to the doctor because of her breathing.  She died on the way.  Faith was 18 months old.

We went on Friday when we heard she died.  I sat with the mother next to Faith and cried.  Emakulate (the mother) kept having to gently keep Faith's eyes closed.  It is hard here with no funeral homes and such.  It made me cry even more.  I know her death really means healing and life for her.  God saved her from so much.  But we are sad.  I can't imagine how empty her mothers arms must feel after carrying her every day for 18 months. 

I do not like funerals here.  Death is never easy but here there are hundreds of people, wailing and sometimes collapsing from grief (seem like a lot of show to an outsider), all day service with many introductions and even political speeches.  But we went because we loved Faith and we love her family.  I prayed God would use us to show His love.  Josh did a great job sharing and quietly I hoped I would get to say something.  Later they did ask both of us to come up again and I was able to share.  Well I cried and tried to share.  I thanked Martin and Emakulate for caring for and loving Faith.  Faith had many difficulties and many people here would just leave her, but you loved her.  I rejoiced that now her heart is healed with Jesus.  But we weep because we loved her.  That's what I can remember.  The answer to prayer came after the funeral when I was walking with my friend and she said I heard people talking and they were touched by what you said.  They know they do not love children like this.  And they saw that you mourn and you love us.  You are together with us.  Some say whites don't cry when someone dies but we now know.  Praise God He used my tears to show His love.

After the service the pastors, including Josh, were called to carry the little coffin to the grave.  This is always the hard part for me.  The final look, the letting go.  I can't imagine how a mother must feel.  It is so hard.  I couldn't even talk when I hugged Emakulate and when I saw Martin.  I just cried.

I am thankful for the true faith I saw in Martin and Emakulate.  They really do trust God.  They trust that it was His will that this happened.  It is in the hard times that our faith can shine.

We visited the family again a week after Faith's death.  They were tired but thankful for people visiting them each day.  It is hard to know what to say - especially crossing cultures and language.  Lydia prayed a beautiful prayer over them saying Faith was God's artwork and thanking God for using Faith's life in all of our lives.  Pray for our friends as they continue to mourn their loss.  


Monday, July 31, 2017

Rain!

Just wanted you to know God has been faithful and sent rain!  He has answered our prayers and seems like we are getting a wet season.  We got 3inches of rain last week Wednesday and it created river on our road and on the paths - and ponds in our yard.  The kids loved it!  Pray with us that the rains continue and that the Lord gives His people a plentiful harvest this season.

Oh, and we had to break out the long sleeves and hot chocolate lately!  I can't believe the change.  We have had more clouds and coolness than all year.  Then I look at the thermometer and it says 68 degrees.  Yes, that is our cold and it does feel cold.  I feel bad for the people here.  I have ways to keep warm but some of them don't.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fun at School!

We started our new year of home schooling last week!  We want to get in at least a good month in before we go to the States where we travel for a month before they start school there.  Lydia began her first year of High School with excitement, Grace is in 7th grade, Luka 3rd and Emalai is our preschooler.  Grace made our first week back creative and fun by planning a spirit week.  Each day we dressed up to a theme.  Our first day was school t-shirt day.  We had AACA (Africa Adventure Chr. Academy) shirts printed in Soroti a few months ago with our logo "Walking in the Son" and verse 3 John 1:4, "I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth."

The next day was color day.
Then we had clash day!



Thursday was comfy day and Friday was career day.
Luka came as a KLM airport worker, Grace first came out at a clown then changed to a professional rapper (not that she wants to be either!), Lydia was our designer, I was a dancer, and Malai was a chapati maker.  Chapati's are like taco shells made here and yes she told us she does want to be a chapati maker when she grows up.  So cute!
My little chapati maker making play dough chapatis.

Friday, July 14, 2017

How I know I am Rich

I am rich.  Everyday I pick clothes from a full closet, I have more than enough shoes to pick from, I own a refrigerator, get food out of a full freezer, eat 3 meals a day, I sleep on a mattress at night, own a vehicle, have the means to travel, have the luxury of weekends and vacations, I am educated and can read, I can seek and pay for good medical care, I have a home with many rooms and an indoor toilet and bathing,  I can buy groceries even treats I don't need, I have Kleenexes to blow my noses in...  You maybe chuckling by now but I am serious.  I have so much!  I don't have to worry about where or when the next meal, shirt, or money will come.  Every day I look at my friends and neighbors and often feel sicked by my wealth.  Don't get me wrong, I am also VERY thankful!  I have been blessed and I know that that blessing comes with responsibility.  I am accountable for all I have been given and what I do with it.  Many of you would think we don't have much, live simply and spend wisely which is true.  However, when you own a vehicle, have extra clothes, can feed your family everyday, and can even go on vacation...it means we are wealthy.  In this world it makes us in the top 2%.  That makes us rich.

Sometimes when I visit a friend here I think about the fact that they live in a room smaller than my bedroom (smaller than many American's bathrooms or walk-in closets!) and sometimes it is a family living there.  My neighbors have about four huts for their homes - one for the parents and little ones, one for the older girls, one for the older boys and a kitchen hut.  Some sleep on mattresses (a twin size is usually shared by dad and mom or a few kids) and some sleep on mats on the floor.  They bath outside surrounded by palms, leaves, or some kind of grass for a shelter.  The latrine is a small hut with a hole in the ground (and lots of flies).  They live by survival.  Day by day.  Enough money and food to meet the needs of the day.  They have a small trunk (if they can afford it) with a few sets of clothes and shoes for school or church.  They don't have "weekends" as we have in Western culture where it is built around pleasure, self and relaxing.  Everyday you have to fetch water if you are going to drink, cook, wash clothes or bath.  Everyday you have to light the fire and cook over it (not to mention cut and gather the wood for it).  You have to farm if you are going to eat or find some other way to make money to buy food.  Before you can eat you have to harvest, dry, beat, thresh, and grind.  Nothing comes easily and most cannot afford to buy food.  So there is no grocery stores and not many treats or extras.  For most of us growing up in America vacations are a normal part of life and summer many expect a vacation.  There are no vacations for my friends.  The closest thing they have is their conferences.  I always wondered why our church loves conferences because to me they often look like work and frustration, but I realized it is a break for them.  Especially for women to be able to sit, not be responsible for cooking, and they can socialize - that is like a vacation to them.  Many of my friends have not gone beyond a hour or two of their village.  For some of them the only city they know is Soroti.

Some people will read this and say, "what do you want me to do Mandy?  Send my stuff/food to Africa?"  Some of you will feel the need to help, send their stuff or money, fix it...but I also want you to know my friends are some of the most content, happy, thankful people I know (the Christians at least).  I am constantly challenged by them and encouraged by how they react to hardships.  Sometimes when I go to America I find that there is a lot of complaining - it's too hot, it's too cold, I hate winter, there are too many potholes in the roads, we don't have enough money, our furniture is old...  Living here has made me a thankful person.  The other night our neighbors ate peanuts for supper because that is all they had.  Later that night we heard their family singing praise to God.  Wow.  There has been drought and little food for a year now and I have hardly heard people complain.  At Bible study when I ask the women about it they just say God is in control and knows -we can trust Him.  They truly see God as their provider and put their trust in Him for all they need.  If we are honest with ourselves in Western Christianity we trust in ourselves to provide.  Throughout this year I have been humbled by the joyous worship at our church.  With all they are going through they choose to praise the Lord.  It is not unrealistic to say that even in their hunger and weakness from it they find strength in the Lord and give Him a true sacrifice of praise.

I have learned they view suffering different than we do.  They do not question God.  They are generally all in the same situation so they don't complain (everyone is in need). Suffering is a part of life.  They relate to Jesus in His suffering.  They truly see death, as a Christian, as gain.  Yes, they are sad when someone dies, but what do they have to hold on to in this world.  Eternal life, Heaven and all it's promises and glory ARE GAIN.  Honestly, we in the West have so much to hold onto in this world we do not exactly see death as gain.

There is no conclusion to this blog, but it will hopefully make us think, pray, be thankful, hold on to the world less, want less, give more, be responsible with all we have been given, live generously...and glorify God

Friday, July 7, 2017

Calvin Chr. High School Team

We were happy to welcome back the Calvin Christian High School group this year!  We had a quick, full weekend together the end of June.  We prayed for months for the Lord to prepare the group and to prepare the way.  We have seen God work in the lives of the students through this trip so we were excited to what God had planned this time.  We appreciate that the group comes to learn.  They don't come to do a project but to experience and interact.  They learn so much from the people and culture here and God teaches them through it.  The group is very generous and blesses each ministry they visit.  We are thankful for Larry and Linda Klien who invest in taking students each year to Africa and allow God to transform lives through it.  It is great to see youth for all different groups come together through a common experience.  We love having the opportunity to be with young people, open our home and lives to them, share God's heart for missions with them, and His truth.  We give God glory for all He did in this years group!  It is hard to put into words what we all experienced together.  It was a blessing to be a part of.  We were proud of the youth for interacting, learning about different and difficult things here, and being very thankful.  We know God spoke to all of us - and we pray we will never be the same again. 
Our first stop with the Calvin team was at the blind school.  The blind school is always a favorite for the team.  To see so many blind and disabled children doing so much with so much joy is a challenge and encouragement to all of us.  We visited classrooms, saw the dorms (that will make you realize all you have and to be thankful), and of course played goal ball together.  Calvin team was beat bad by the blind school team.  It was a good lesson in how it feels to be blind.  One girl said we get to take off our blindfolds but they never get to see.  How true.

Next we climbed Soroti rock together.
And we were thrilled to have our nephew Alex come on the team this year!  What a blessing to see him and experience this special time together.  Alex loves Uganda and the people here.  I know God will use him as he seeks and serves Him.

Saturday morning the boys went with Josh to the prison to see the teaching there.  The boys were impressed by the worship there and touched by Josh's message.  It was a great experience for them.
The girls went with me to Amecet - YWAM's children's shelter.  Els, the director, shared with us about the ministry.  Many stories and pictures were very difficult like malnourished children not wanted, HIV positive children dying, children saved from being sacrificed... It was difficult but so good to see and hold the children that Amecet loves and saves.
Next we went to visit the street boys ministry (TECDFO) run by Martin and Dennis.  This was very difficult to hear what has been happening to street boys in the last months.  Two boys were killed one by crushing his head between stones (only 8 years old!) and one was actually crucified!!!  It is horrifying.  This is not the terrible this people watch on movies, it is real life.  And there is no justice.  Martin and Dennis' lives were threatened when they sought justice.  The men who killed one of the boys has now gone "mad".  That is what happens when you do the Devils work - he controls your mind and destroys you.  Two boys who live on the streets shared their testimonies.  I just had to wonder what a privileged and loved teen from America thinks as they hear from an unloved teen sleeping on the streets.  I pray we are changed by learning these things and by meeting real people who are hurting and in need.  May it causes us to pray, be thankful, and help.  The group left 12 sleeping bags for the boys to sleep under the shelter in, shirts for all the boys, and a gift to help feed them.

After lunch we headed to our village with the group.  We were so excited to share our home and friends with them!  We had the youth from our church partner with the youth from Calvin.  All week the youth from Obule (including our girls) perpared for the visit.  They prepared songs and an amazing cultural dance.  I knew God was going to use this interaction in the village!
Obule youth practicing the week before the Calvin team came.


The first few hours four youth from the Calvin team went to the houses of several youth in our village.  We stressed to the Obule youth that the youth from America have never seen or done anything that you think is normal here.  We sent the group with questions to ask each other and things to do together.  The showed them their huts, where and how they cook, where they shower, how to garden, went and got water from the well...they did a great job interacting together.  They heard about the difficulties and the joys of living here.  They played games and laughed together.  And they made new friends.


I wonder if the group will think about getting water at the well each time they use water.  Water is a blessing.  Maybe the next time they take it for granted they will remember their friends who have to work hard for every drop of water they use.
After their village experience we all met back up at our home to share sodas and mundozis (local donuts). 

Josh shared with all the youth and encouraged them to work shoulder to shoulder together for the Lord.

Then the youth sang for everyone.  I kept hearing the team say things like, "they know how to praise here!"  The Obule youth worship God in singing, dance, cheering and with their whole heart.

The team ended up joining them in worship and it became a big Jesus praise party!
I was proud of the Calvin students for even dancing African style.  It was so fun!
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Then the Obule youth did their cultural praise singing and dancing.



And then the Calvin team joined in!
How great to see youth from very different places be together.




Sunday the group worshiped at our church in Obule.
Everyone was glad to see each other one last time.

It was hard to say goodbye even after only a weekend together.  God was with us, at work and was glorified.  Thank you Calvin team for coming!  You blessed us, you were generous, flexible, had great attitudes, and we pray God continues to use all He showed and taught you in your lives.  Don't forget and share with others.
Love you Alex!  Thanks for coming.


Obule youth, I love you all and am so proud of you!  I am so thankful to be with you and work with you.  You bring me joy.  May the Lord continue to grow in you, keep you together, and use you for His glory.