Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oct. Mandy's Journal

October 15

I haven’t written lately because I was busy catching up from last months journaling, and everything else I got behind on with my parents here and our internet being out. Don’t worry not much has been happening so I don’t have too much to catch you up on.

Lydia loves the mints Grandma left her. Each time she has one she tells herself what Grandma told her to remember, “The mints are sweet like Grandma’s kisses.” She has also shared them with friends and she tells them the same thing. It is really cute. Lydia is counting down the days until we go to Michigan. She has her own way of counting though. She will say, “We go to MI in two days, right Mom?” She also prays everyday for her “friends in MI.” I think she misses everyone.

The flooding has been the biggest issue around here. The other day I was thinking about the people effected and God seem to speak to me and challenge me. I truly cannot imagine being the flood victims. What would I do and how would I react living in a school or camp with hundreds of other people, NO home, NO food, none of my earthy possessions left… How would I care for or feed my children? Who would we go to? Who would help us? What would our future hold? The questions go on and on. Talk about feeling desperate. Maybe even hopeless. It is so good for me to put myself in their place and try to understand how they must feel and what they need. To be honest with ourselves, we can’t imagine ANY disaster. We can’t think beyond our nice homes and our many, many things. We complain and think it is a disaster if our yards are somehow ruined or our roofs leak into our homes. We talk about being “blessed” but we really have no idea how good we have it. We will be held accountable for all God has given us. What did we do with it to further His kingdom? We tend to just look around us and compare ourselves with the people next door. We think about ourselves with pity because we don’t have what they have or because we “don’t have money.” Most people around us are rich. They aren’t like most of the world. We are among the top 2% of the wealthiest people who ever lived! Did you hear that?! You are (and I am) wealthy! How easy it is not to think about how the rest of the world lives, how others are suffering. Or maybe we will hear about it but it is easy to forget about it and go on with life. It is too hard to think about it, to know about it, and to help. God, forgive us! You have given us good gifts so that we would bless others in Your name. We have sinned by not wanting to face the truth or do the hard work of helping. The world needs Jesus and we are called to be Your representative. Lord, use us! Give us Your heart of love to make a difference, to reach out, to comfort, to feed, to bring peace…for Your kingdom and glory alone.

Grace celebrated her 2nd birthday on the 11th. We already had a party when my parents were here so on her actually birthday we just partied as a family. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, gave her a couple presents, and put her number two candle in homemade ice cream with chocolate sauce.

I started a Bible study with the high school girls that live in the hostel next door to us. The owners of the hostel asked if we would consider a ministry with the girls. The thought never left my mind so I though I better commit the thought to the Lord. After a few weeks of prayer I felt the Lord wanted me to lead a Bible study with the girls. I love God’s Word and all He has been teaching me and now I had a way to share it with others. I was nervous and wanted to back out several times but Josh kept encouraging me. I had seven weeks before our vacation home so it would be a good trial run. I decided to go through the book of Mark. Ten girls plus Kristine and Tabitha (our house help) were invited to come. The first night we crowded on our screened in porch. I was afraid they would have trouble understanding me and they wouldn’t answer any questions but overall it went really well. The girls seem really sweet and excited to be there. They are very good with English and even answered questions (something that is hard to get Africans to do). I really enjoyed it! I was very excited how it went and that I could share my love for God and His Word with these girls. I am so blessed by doing ministry. It isn’t too much but enough that I can handle it and be a good wife and mother. I know God will do great things in their lives as they seek Him. Pray for us.

Oct. 20

Yesterday about 4pm Kristine came with Claudia. I was on the phone with my mom so she sat and waited until I was done. She had just stopped by yesterday and told me something was wrong with Claudia’s eyes but they looked okay to me so I told her to give it until Monday to see how they were then. I wasn’t sure why she was here again. When I got off the phone I greeted her and right away I saw that Claudia’s breathing was not right. I walked over to Angie and she came over and listened to her breathing. She was breathing SO fast! I told Kristine she is a good mother and did the right thing we needed to bring Claudia to the clinic.

I was really worried about little Claudia. She didn’t have much life in her and it sounded like it took so much effort to breathe. I felt bad for Kristine. I am sure she was terribly worried about her child. The doctor saw us right away and confirmed that it was a bad case of pneumonia. She would need a series of injections over the next 24 hours. He wondered about keeping her overnight but decided it would be okay to go home and come back for the shots. He also wanted her to be tested for malaria. After the blood work we went back to the doctor. Claudia was positive with a sever case of malaria too. The doctor decided to keep her in the ward overnight.

They needed to put Claudia on IV but they couldn’t find a vein. I felt terrible for Claudia they tired to get the needle in seven times! She just cried and there was nothing I could do. I was a wreck. The even shaved half of her head and tried to find a vein there. The doctor couldn’t get it either. They decided to just wait and try again later. Then they gave her two injections. Poor Claudia was exhausted.

Kristine wasn’t thrilled about staying there for the night but I assured her it was better if they could care for her all night. I talked to her about how hard it must be to have a very sick child after just loosing a child. Eugene died only three months ago. I also prayed with her through tears. I know God is using all of this to draw Kristine close to Him. After we prayed a neighbor was in our room she said she heard someone praying and came to see. She assured us God will heal Claudia.

Just being at the clinic was hard and a lot to deal with. The doctor is really nice and knows what he is doing and so do the nurses but there is just so much sickness and only so much they can do. There was a two month old baby there with malaria and they gave the baby Quinnine. I was very disturbed because that medicine is quite harsh and I think it can very harm you. Sometimes they give it because it is cheaper so I asked the doctor thinking I would pay for better medicine for the baby if that was the reason. The doctor said all the other medicine you can build a resistance to so they give that one. I asked if it could be harmful and he said yes but so is malaria. What do you do? Then I found out Claudia was also put on it. I really don’t understand medicine or the medical world but I do know I hate suffering and sickness.

I left to have supper with my family but I didn’t feel very hungry. I was very concerned about Claudia and I was tired. I felt like I ran a marathon and it isn’t even my child. Emotions take a lot out of you. I feel very close to Kristine and I love them. After supper we brought Kristine some snacks, magazines, and a Bible. There is nothing to do there and they are all alone other than the one nurse. Josh took Kristine home to get some clothes and buy some food while I sat with Claudia. The night nurse, a very sweet girl, got the IV in Claudia’s foot. She was sound asleep under her bug net. Her breathing was so quick and heavy. I just sat there praying for her. She is so beautiful. Before we left Kristine called Jimmy, the father, to tell him. He said he would come tomorrow. Good. I was pretty mad at him earlier in the day. If he loved his child he would be there. Real love is being there. I left Kristine and Claudia with a heavy heart. Should I stay with them all night or do I stay with my family? I went home and called people to tell them to pray for our friends. I woke up several times during the night thinking about them and praying for them.

This morning I went to see them and bring some food. I was thrilled to see Claudia sitting up, playing with an orange, and even smiling. Praise God! Her IV was still going and her breathing was still quick but she was Claudia again and there was life in her. God is so good. I visited a couple times throughout the day to see how they were doing and to bring them food. Claudia was discharged in the evening. The total cost for the medicine and stay, $20.

Oct. 22

We have now been without internet for over two weeks. It’s hard knowing all our work and emails are piling up. Lighting hit again and we were waiting for a new modem but now we have a new modem but it still doesn’t work. How frustrating! To top it off our water is off again and the power has been out all day. Patience.

I have been feeling much better since I stopped taking Mephlaquin (malaria meds). I feel happier, calm, able to handle things, I like who I am and feel like myself. I am so thankful! I am sad that for almost five years I suffered with not being myself and even left Mahula. But I can’t live with the guilt and regret. There were other reasons we left Mahula and I know God wants us in Soroti. I am just glad we figured it out now and not years down the road. I now firmly believe that anyone who is put on this medicine need to be warned of all the possible side effects and watched. I never knew all the effects it can have people only talked about the dream you can have. I think our mission agency needs to be more careful I just trusted what they told me to take.

Lydia is so funny. She has been talking about being Jewish when she plays lately. I am sure it comes from her Bible stories. We were reading about the Jewish leaders wanting to kill Jesus and she said, “I don’t like Jewish leaders.” Grace is attached to her glow worm that Uncle Chris got her for Christmas. She pushes it and pushes it when she goes to sleep. Grace is also speaking in full sentences now.

I forgot to tell you we finally met Jimmy the father of Claudia. Kristine was very upset and at her end with him so she asked us to come and talk with him. Josh and I sat and listened to them and tried to help, but he just acted like Mr. nice guy. I don’t know how to help them besides their need for Jesus. I don’t see anything changing until they know their Savior and are able to forgive. Yesterday Kristine came again totally distressed. Jimmy wants her out and wont help her and Claudia with money. She doesn’t know what to do anymore. She doesn’t have any family or anywhere to go. I really an at a loss how to help her. I am really praying about this and for them.

Tim and Anne Marsden are here from the UK. They have come to Soroti for the last ten years and work a lot with the same people we know. They are staying in our apartment next door. They are very nice and have been an encouragement to have around. They want to talk with each of us to help us in anyway, they met with our team, and have enjoyed suppers and games with us. Most of the time they are busy holding meeting around Soroti.

Josh and I continue to enjoy our date nights. Monday we went for supper and hoped to watch the replay of Sunday night football. We had a nice supper but the World Series was on instead. Nothing like watching sport while sipping African tea.

Oct. 24

Today Lydia showed Josh and I her Polly Pocket doll and said, “She is Jewish. She is a mommy. See she has breasts Daddy.” J

Bible study continues to go really well. Late night we did Mark 3. There are four or five girls who answer and read a lot. I am impressed with their knowledge. The other girls don’t say much but seem to be writing a lot and I asked them a question at the end and they answered wonderfully. One of the girls, Juliet, shared that she is the only believer in her family and she came to know Jesus when she came to Soroti at Light Secondary School. (We were talking about how Jesus family didn’t understand who He was or what He was doing.) I was also impressed with their prayer requests last night. They asked for prayer for themselves because many of them are leaders and need to know right from wrong, how they can reach out to the lost, and wisdom to do what is right. They are really starting to open up after just three weeks.

This morning Tim said he talked to Joseph and Sarah, the couple who run the hostel, and they said most of the girls are not Christians. They said they were unsure of the Bible study the first couple times and why we were talking so much about Jesus but they now really like it and other girls want to come. They were really excited about last night because they got name tags, sweets, and they said it was just like America. How funny. What a sticky note with their name on and a tootsie roll wont do. I was shocked to hear that most of the girls are not Christians. They don’t admit it and I was under the assumption they were so the Bible study was geared toward that. What a witness though! I have been excited all day because of it. I have been thinking about what we have been talking about and how it would affect a non Christian. Last night we talked about how Jesus family thought He was crazy and the Pharisees thought He was possessed but the most important thing is who do you say Jesus is? We have been talking a lot about how Jesus loves and reaches out to sinners and how we can do that too. I can’t imagine how God is working in these girls heart – and I can’t wait to see all He does!

Grace favorite song is “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” She wants to sing it after every meal. She even knows the motions now. She also sings “Away in a Manger” with motions. I love hearing her low little voice sing. She knows “Joy to the World”, “Jesus Loves Me”, or “I’ve got the Joy, joy, joy”. Grace was coloring (“coly” as she says) yesterday and said it was for Grandpa and Grandma. She draw a circle and told me it was the “Buble”. Then she asked, “Where Grandma? Come a my house?”

I was talking to Lydia about our Heavenly Father and she turns to me and says, “Who’s our mother?” What a smarty. Today we were in town and she saw a man in a wheel chair and she asked, “Does that man know Jesus?” Mom sent a picture of Anna and Abby from the paper when Lydia saw it she said, “Mom, did they grow?! Did they get bigger? Did they have a birthday?” She knew right away that her friends were older than when she left them. Grandma Beute they also got the mints in the mail and now call them “Grandma’s kisses”.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oct. -- Josh's Journal

October 10, 2007
Hello Everyone,

Grace turns two tomorrow. We do not have much of a party planned since we had a party when Mandy’s parents were here. She is getting to be a big girl and communicates with lots of expression. Her new favorite song is “The wise man built his house upon the rock.” She wants to sing it as often as possible after every meal. We are getting pretty good at singing it with a very quick beat. She loves it, but she is consistently one line behind when doing the motions. She sings about the last word of each line with us, but is smiling the whole time.
Lydia is doing well too. She has gotten over her infatuation with the pet monkey. She still goes over to see it every day, but does not spend the whole day with it like she did the first few days. She is getting pretty good at recognizing letters and the sounds she makes – she will be ready for school too soon.
Mandy is starting her Bible Study tonight with ten girls from the hostel across the street. If she tells you that I am making her do it, she is lying to you; although, she was tempted to back out. She is nervous about it, but it was her idea. Every Wednesday night (about the time you eat lunch) she will be leading Bible study so you can pray for her.
Yesterday, Tim and I went with Pastor Francis and a man named Jorem to do an evangelism outing near our church. We visited with a family that Jorem had been witnessing to. Tim and I each gave them a presentation from the Bible, then we invited them to follow Jesus. Five adults and eight children prayed to renounce sin and follow Jesus. Being a part of something like that is a privilege. We invited them to church this Sunday, so we will see if they are ready when I get there to pick them up. They live close enough to walk, but I thought it would encourage them a little bit if I offered to pick them up this time.
I know you are still wondering about my white-water rafting experience: fun!!! I like water a lot so I really enjoyed it, but if you only a mild fan of water (and being under water or being thrown around by water) you would probably not like it. We went rafting with Nile River Explorers down what is possibly some of the best rafting in the world. We covered 20 miles of river and passed through 8 class 5 rapids, plus a number of smaller rapids as well. Our raft flipped over 4 times. The first time I panicked a little because I did not know what to expect or how long it would take me to get my lips above water again. The second time we flipped I ended up under Tim, under the boat. At that point I decided to abandon my paddle and the idea of staying with the boat and just swim for oxygen. By the third time I felt like a pro at flipping over: forget about everything else and just hang on to the rope that is connected to the side of the raft. The river is deep enough that with all this I never hit a rock. However, Mandy’s promise that “kayakers will be there to help you” was a farse. The only kayaker I came in contact with did not see me so as he came over a wave to help someone else he his kayak landed right square on top of me. The next time I was dunked one just told me, “keep swimming.” The last one said, “Don’t grab my kayak, go that way” (where nothing but water awaited…the food raft finally picked me up).
While in Kampala we visited Didi’s World, the amusement park. We each had to pay $3 to get in. Most of the rides were working. The girls loved the Merry-go-rounds and other little rides. There were even two water slides. They were a blast, but unregulated. People were going down in big groups. Some figured out how to slow to a stop and walk down. My last time down I passed two people. The first one was going real slow so he leaned to the inside and I passed him on the outside – thankfully we were on a curve. The second one I passed was walking down the slide (you have to walk with your legs apart so your feet are on the dry part), I went right between his legs and heard a loud “thump” then “HEY” but by then I was long gone. We will certainly have to go back there some day.
Now back here in Soroti, I am working hard on lesson plans and on language learning. We are not teaching right now because the students have gone home for Christmas. A little early, yes, but the schedule got messed up. The floods have closed the roads out of town, so there is not much else to do. The internet got hit by lightning again yesterday. That is the forth time since we came (twice at the main office, twice it was our own modem) so I am not sure when you will get to read this.
The girls are awake now, so I have to go. See you all in less than 2 months.

October 21, 2007

We still do not have our internet up and running, so I thought I might as well add on to the last letter. I have been enjoying the break from teaching. I have spent many hours preparing lesson plans. I finished the course on Titus and should finish 2 Timothy this week without any problem. We still have not received any of our books (don’t ever send things via Mbag) so I only have my electronic library. As a result, I can’t do quite as much research as I might like, but that is only because I get a headache reading from a computer screen. There are actually more resources on my electronic library than the physical books I own. After I finish 2 Timothy I think I will be planning a course on Christian Doctrine, unless one of the other teachers has done that since I last talked to Francis.
I have also increased the intensity of my Ateso language study. I have actually held a few short conversations with people this week. At the neighbors’ house the other day I talked with an older lady who did not know English. Yesterday I went to the village of Obalanga, I spoke a little Ateso in front of the church and talked a little with people outside as well. Conversations are short, but it is further than I was two weeks ago. I am also encouraged people can understand what I am saying. I am not sure if it is just because people in Mahula spoke no English, but it certainly seems to me that Ateso is much more difficult that Tsuva’di was (or I just forgot how hard Tsuva’di was at first). The sounds of Tsuva’di were more difficult, but Ateso has a very complicated verb system, a remarkably irregular system for making nouns plural, and a sentence structure that puts the verb before the subject. For example, instead of saying, “I went to the market” they say, “went I to market.” With a three word sentence it is not so difficult, but with a more complicated sentence (and with words in a foreign language) it is a lot to think about.

October 26, 2007
Hello everyone,

Even though it has not been that long since I last wrote, I have a few minutes before bed so I thought I’d write. Grace has been much less defiant this last month; actually, she is a joy to have around. She plays well with Moses; she has a tender heart as well. She is getting very sweet.

I started preparing my “Systematic Theology” course for BBC. “Christian Doctrine” would probably be a more accurate name, but I will stick with the name pastor Francis gave it. I have completed the introduction and am currently studying the doctrine of the Bible – it’s authority as God’s word, inerrancy, sufficiency, clarity, and necessity. I find doing this type of course much more challenging than courses on specific books of the Bible. Thankfully I have three doctrine books to help me with this process.

I have also been studying Ateso five days a week. Some days I feel good about it; today I was in a complete fog by the time the lesson got done – so much so that I ended it early. However, I am making progress. Mandy wrote Maryamu a letter which she needed me to translate (she lives in Nigeria). I found that while translating I kept wanting to think in Ateso. Ateso has certainly replaced any Hausa in the forefront of my mind; it is even crowding out the Tsuva’di. Part of me is sad about that, but I suppose it is also progress in the current situation.

I went to see Awoja swamp today because we hoped to go to Mbale for the day tomorrow. Police have barricaded the road – I guess the bridge needs repair so it will be a long time before we are able to pass that route.

We have been without water for 10 days, without internet for 3 weeks, and were without electricity for 48 hours. I was so tempted to complain. However, I am reading Secret Believers, a book about Muslim Background Believers in the Middle East; I have nothing to complain about. They pay such a price for their faith. Compared to them, we have it so easy here. I encourage all of you to read it, not just because it keeps you on the edge of your seat, but because every Christian should read it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sept/Oct catching up -- Mandy's

The day after my parents arrived we traveled out to Soroti. I think they were amazed by Africa again. I often forget how normal it has become to me living here. Although Uganda is a very nice country it is still Africa and that blows Americans away. The traffic (with no rules), people everywhere, crowded streets and markets, dirt, little shops of furniture, bananas, veggies, coffins, bikes, restaurants line the main roads. We took LOTS of pictures. I was happy to show them the beauty of the country. Green rolling hills of tea, sugar cane, tropical flowers, the Nile river and Lake Victoria, mountains. Our trip went well until we got to our bridge into Soroti. The road was covered in water. In less than one weeks time the water rose enough to reach the lights on our van. I couldn’t believe it. What would happen in two weeks?! We crossed safely but the paved road underneath us was no more than gravel now. We were thankful we made it home.

Our 10 days in Soroti with Mom and Dad were spent showing them around, meeting our friends, and spending time with their grandkids. After the initial shock of being here, I think they liked it and enjoyed it. They experienced really life here with no water and our electric out for a couple days. Oh the joys of bucket baths. What can you do? Everyone here was so happy to meet my parents. They were excited about their gifts too. When we took them to see Bethel Bible College for the first time Dad thought it was an abandoned building. Nope, just a building waiting to be finished. I think they fell in love with the kids at Amecet too. Dad put Hellena to sleep and Mom got to know little Simon. Dad and Mom even enjoyed the local food they had – beans and rice, greens (dodo), posho, and abo (peanut soup). They went to the orchard that Josh helped plant for the blind, visited Moses’ family in the village, went to market several times, met the people at SACAB (the blind), got to know Kristine, Sam, Dennis, our neighbors, Pastor Francis and Maggie, and Pastor Patrick and Florence. We went to Mbale on Saturday but I wont go into detail about that because it was a bomb. The bridge was out so it took over two hours to get there, the pool was closed, and it took almost three hours to get our food at the restaurant. Enough said about that long day in the car. They worshiped at our church with us on Sunday. What else did we do? We had a nice supper at the Manes, our missionary friends. Played horseshoes and other games, and spent a lot of precious time with the grandkids!

I am not sure the girls got over that Grandpa and Grandma were really here the whole time. They just ate up their time with them. Lydia loved here afternoon time with them when the little ones were napping. She played dolls with Grandpa, watched Veggie Tales, played games and did crafts with Grandma, and talked a lot. Grandma liked her naps with Gracie too. Grandpa and Grandma read many books with both girls. Grandma had to sit by Lydia when we ate, road in the car, and was on her lap otherwise. I don’t think Dad or Mom will ever forget Gracie’s, “Uhu” answer for almost everything. They also fell in love with her new grandson, Moses. He was Grandpa’s little buddy. I know I was thankful to have grandparents around for awhile. They were so much help with the girls. But most of all I treasure the precious memories of them with their grandkids.

We had an early birthday party for Grace while Dad and Mom were here. We had our friends Sam, Dennis, and Tabitha join us. I made her number 2 birthday cake, we put on our party hats, blow up balloons, had presents, and sang. Happy second birthday Grace! We love you!!!

Did I mention all they brought for us? Thank you everyone! What a overwhelming blessing to have so many treats and gifts. I think we are stocked on some things for a while. The best part is to know we are remembered and loved by all of you.

Dad and Mom were also given many gifts. At the orange orchard they gave Mom a homemade broom, eggs, and a live chicken. Wow! Lydia told Grandma, “My mom is not going to be happy. She is going to be so mad. She does not like chickens.” And she was seriously concerned about me not being happy. What silly little girl – how funny. They gave them corn and peanuts at Moses village. And Francis and Maggie gave them a card and a beautiful necklace. How nice of everyone to give them so much.

Dad and Mom did bring me to tears talking about their concern for me. They could see a change in me and that I wasn’t the normal happy Mandy again (like in Nigeria). I felt it too. I know I have been struggling. They thought I should try going off of my anti-malarial medicine. It is the one thing that I take and changes when I am on the mission field and it can have these side effects. I will try anything. I felt really bad for how I had been – crabby. I hope it is the medicine and I can feel better again. (If it is, I will feel bad I wasted so many years on something that made me into someone I didn’t want to be but I will also be glad I finally found out and changed.)

Our last night came too quickly. We had a nice meal at Soroti Hotel. By this time we were very worried about traveling. The bridge on the other road out now had water over it. Would we get out? Would we get back in? I am thankful there is an airport in Soroti.

We made it over the bridge and arrived in Jinja safely an answer to prayer. We stayed at the Kingfisher Resort. It felt like a resort too. The beautiful trees and flowers, Lake Victoria, the pool…I couldn’t ask for more. What fun! It was a beautiful sunny day and all enjoyed swimming all afternoon. The girls love swimming and the slide there. I even enjoyed swimming for the first time in a while. I love not being cold in the water. We also took a boat ride on Lake Victoria to the source of the Nile.

The next day the guys rafted the Nile! I will let Josh fill you in on all of that but they did have fun and would go again. They also agreed it was extreme and even Tim did not enjoy being under the boat breathing in water. On the way to rafting they saw crocodiles in the river – not a comforting feeling! The rafting company assured them there aren’t many and they leave humans alone – at least during the day. I prayed for them all day! We had another wonderful sunny day. The girls and I swam from 9:30am to 3:30 in the afternoon. (Ok, Grace took a nap in there and we had lunch.) I had a very fun and relaxing day with my girls. I felt like I was on a real vacation. We picked up the guys in the late afternoon and had a nice supper overlooking the Nile. We even saw monkeys.

The next day we were off to Kampala, our last leg of Dad and Mom’s trip. Kampala seemed busier than ever and we got stuck in way too many traffic jams. We did manage to get to the craft market and shop for a while. We had supper at Garden Cities (the mall) food court. Yummy! The next we went to church at the Heritage International School. I loved the worship once again and the sermon was great. Lydia woke up asking if we could go to the church with a nursery (children’s church). It is so nice to worship in a normal setting for us – without kids! After church we decided to check out Didi’s World – the Disney World of Uganda. We had SO much fun! They didn’t have a ton of rides but what they did have the kids loved. It just felt normal and it brought me back to my childhood. Grace loved riding the horse (merry-go-round) and the trucks. Lydia rode her first little roller coaster with Avalien. I wish you could have seen their faces. They loved it and had big smiles to show it. Lydia and I had fun on the bumper cars but Josh and Grace had to stay put because Grace did not like it. Josh got to go on the water slides. He was like a little boy. He loves water slides. Can you believe water slides in Uganda? Let’s just say there aren’t lifeguards on duty like in America. Dad, Mom, Angie, and I went on the swinging pirate ship. I never laughed so hard. They are so funny. What a FUN day with the family! I can’t wait to go back.

The girls then took a nap as we headed to Entebbe to the zoo and airport. The girls enjoyed showing Grandpa and Grandma the zoo. The even got to touch the rhino’s horn. We had a nice supper together by the pool at a hotel. Then the dreaded time came, time to say goodbye. I didn’t think it would be bad because we get to see them in eight weeks again, but as always the tears came. I guess it will always happen when you love people. The saddest part was the girls. I looked back at them to see pouty little lips and sad faces. Grace kept saying, “Go with Grandma. They come back?” We hugged, sent them through the gate, and waved goodbye. I am so thankful it is never as hard as it was that first time in Nigeria. I have my family with me now. Lydia and Grace held each others hands for comfort on the way back. Lydia held on to her mints Grandma gave here like a treasured prize. We are so thankful Dad and Mom came. What a blessed time together and what special memories we have.

The last thing we needed on the way back to Kampala was a traffic jam, but that is exactly what we got. A three hour one! Talk about frustrating. We were trapped and all we could do was sit and wait. (By the way you can get really mad when the two lane road becomes five lane mess!)

Tim and Angie had to do some immigration work so Josh and I decided to try out a new hotel outside of town and have a two day vacation with our girls. We stayed at the Colline Hotel. It was nice and we were able to swim and even watch Monday night football on ESPN. On Wednesday we traveled back to Soroti all together. We didn’t know if we would be able to cross the bridge but all we could do is try. We were able to cross but I was scared. There was about 8in. of water over the bridge and the road just before was even worse. I do not crossing over a bridge that you wouldn’t even know was there if the poles weren’t showing. The water was flowing too. Oh, thank you God for keeping us safe! (Who know what will happen come the end of November when we need to leave again.) In one weeks time there was so much more water again. Now not only were the trees and what should be dry land underwater but now we saw huts surrounded by water. I can’t imagine if that was my home. What would you do? How would you feel? Where would you go? I was more than ever thankful to arrive home. Home to my beautiful, safe house. Lord, you have blessed me so much.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

October -- Floods in Soroti

We shifted into 4-wheel drive as splashed through the water. The main highway connecting Soroti to the outside world had been underwater for two weeks already. As a result, we were forced to follow the old route - a gravel road that added an hour and a half to the last 40 minutes of our trip. We cautiously approached the bridge, whose side rails were now the only thing visible since water had swallowed the bridge’s main structure and surface by eight inches. Surprisingly, we were thankful to be in this situation. A week earlier we had been warned, “You will get out, but you will not get back in.” “Out” was Kampala, where we had to bring Mandy’s parents so they could return to Michigan. “In” was Soroti, our home, our work, our friends. Now, six days since we heard that warning, police directed traffic over the flooded, one-lane bridge.
As we drove on, we passed mile after mile of flood water. Fishing nets were spread where dry grass normally existed. Herds of cows grazed in water up to their bellies (certainly learning to eat new foods). Grouse raced along the road, driven away from their normal habitat. Houses looked like small islands, mud circles in the midst of water. In a few places, water flowed over the road. This is dry season?
During a time of year which is supposed to be dry, torrential rains have pounded much of Teso, the region where we live. The result has been widespread flooding. The area around Soroti is quite hilly therefore, the extra water gathers in low lying areas and swamps. Only few fields in lower areas have been destroyed. However, the eastern part of Teso is flat. In that large area, much like the description above, water is everywhere. As water continues to rise, people’s suffering increases.
As a family we discussed how this flooding might affect us. We won’t be able to leave Soroti for quite a while. We will have to pay higher prices for food, fuel, gas for the generator (for pretty much everything). A shortage of supplies may happen. We might have increased problems with power outages. Mandy said she does not like feeling “trapped,” not having a road out of the area. Josh probably won’t be able to begin the leadership training course in Otuboi until 2008. These certainly are inconveniences, but we can deal with them.
The people of Teso will be the ones who truly suffer. Already 23 people have died in the flood waters. Although accurate figures are difficult to find, it seems quite certain that more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes. The local newspaper reported that 124 schools failed to open after the summer holiday, either because they were under water or because displaced people were living in the classrooms. Pit latrines are common in Uganda; therefore, the flood has virtually eliminated any safe drinking water in that whole area. Cholera outbreaks begin about six weeks after flooding begins (that would be next week), which could greatly increase the death toll. Malaria, the number one killer in the world, has doubled in flooded regions. People’s fields have been underwater for over a month, wiping out the coming year’s food supply.
During a time like this, it is difficult to know how to pray. We certainly pray that God will spare people the predicted cholera outbreak. Although we need the water to recede, rain is still needed (in areas which are not under water) so crops can grow. Outside agencies are trying to help. The Red Cross, World Vision, UN’s World Food Program are all visible here in Soroti. Although the problems are vast, we also pray that local churches will do what they can to show the love of Christ during this time. We have been gently encouraging our local church to select one flooded village where we can help. Please join us in praying for the people affected by the floods here in Teso.
We don’t know what is going to happen, we never thought the floods would become this bad. We will try to keep you informed and you can read more about the flooding on BBC website. Thank you for remembering us and praying for the many people suffering in Northeast Uganda.