Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jan. - Stress from Sin

Jan. 21

Did I tell you Grace knows her colors. She is always impressing people with how she can talk and all she can say. Gracie also saw someone with a tattoo the other day and said, “She colored on her arm. That is naughty.” Kids say things so simply and true. I caught Lydia the other day in the living room singing and dancing to the song that we danced to at both wedding that says, “one hop now do the cha cha.” She doesn’t forget anything and loves to dance.

Jan. 29

I think I have been avoiding writing. I am tired, upset, and feel like I want to shut down, give up and go away. Sin seems to reign and it’s consequences are messy. Before I get into some of it I need to say that I know that God is victorious. I know God is in control. I know God has defeated satan. I know my hope and peace remain in Christ. I trust God. I know He will always get the glory.

That being said, I am so saddened by sin. I hate sin! Especially when it is in the church. A very long story short, our neighbor and friend Sam came to us last week wanting to run away. He was being accursed of raping a girl and the family was trying to kill him. I wasn’t there to hear the story (I was putting the girls to be) but in the end he was going north until this ordeal passed. A few days it came out that Sam did sleep with the girl (not rape) and she is pregnant. We were very sad and even angry. We love Sam. Now there are huge problems on top of the sin that was already done. Sam is very remorse and is trying to do what is right. That is where the culture comes in. It is so messed up! The family wants Sam to pay the fine for ruining the girl and then a bride price if they get married. The fine and bride price are so high no one can pay it. The girls family wont take her back so she is at Sam’s. The culture and church see no problem with Sam and the girl living together and calling them husband and wife. They aren’t married! There have been LONG talks because of the whole ordeal. There was one heated one that Josh and Tim when to. They were so upset because at least three of the relatives involved are pastors but not acting like it. They were very much putting culture before God. They can’t see that their relationship with God needs to affect every part of their lives. And these are pastors! So the story continues. Sam could go to jail for what he did if he doesn’t pay the fine. I just keep praying God will work through this situation. I hope to see Sam and Esther married, the baby loved, and everyone have a close relationship with the Lord – one that changes every bit of their lives.

Beyond that Kristine continues to have troubles with Jimmy (her “husband” they say even though they are not married just share a child). He wants her out or to he will keep her if Claudia is gone (his own daughter!). Kristine comes and tells us with tears. I really don’t know what to tell her. She needs him because he pays the rent and she has no where to go, but he is a drunk and has other women. See why I get so upset? Sin is SO ugly. Kristine did sin and now is in a mess. I know God has grace. I keep encouraging her to be close to God. And that we need to pray for Jimmy. Only God can work in his heart and change this situation. It is really hard when I don’t know what to do or how to help.

Then there is Tabitha and the four kids. I get so upset. The mother is right near by but instead of caring for HER kids she is drinking. If she wont love her children she had better at least provide for them. Again, sin ruins lives and innocent children are hurt. We struggle every week with Tabitha about how to help them. There are no quick fixes. It comes down to these kids need love and their basic needs met. Tabitha does her best but she is tired too.

Then there is a lady at church with a boy who has CP. He is over a year and can’t sit, hold his head, and probably never will. The mother is despair for help. She wants her son cured (fixed). She is now five months pregnant. Can you imagine having a baby and a disabled child living in a third world country? What do you do? I am sure she is scared and tired. There is no help. What will happen to this young disabled boy? Will they continue to care for him? You don’t see many older disabled people here. Do they just let them die? Sometimes I feel a bit of their hopelessness. I do want to help them but how? What can I do? I don’t know anything medical. All I can do is love them and pray.

I could go on... the soap opera mess with the blind at SACAB, Ben’s cancer in his hip now, our neighbors needs, trials at home… yup it sometimes just all piles on you. I can’t handle it all. I have my husband and children to love and care for. I am busy enough with my own life. I hate when I begin to take out the stress on my family. Not to mention the stress my husband under and probably my kids are feeling too. I have to continually stop and give it all to God. He can take it all. He knows what is best. I can trust Him. And I continue to offer myself to Him. To be filled and used. I need His wisdom, strength, and help. He keeps me relying on Him because I can’t do anything without Him. God is faithful. He is my peace in times of trouble. What would I do without my hope in Him?! I am so thankful. I know the God of the universe! He loves me and all my friends here. He will take care of us and be glorified while He does.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jan. 28 - Josh's Journal

January 28, 2008
Hi everyone. I am sorry it has been so long since I last wrote. Things have been terribly busy. I do not know where the time has gone, but it has flown - I have not even started taking Ateso language lessons again yet, but need to start that one of these days. Life has been filled with ups and downs since I last wrote. I know I was discouraged last time; truth be told I am quite discouraged today as well. So I am sorry if this comes off as a downer, please know that we have had some nice days and nice times since I last wrote.
Two weeks ago on a Saturday we went to Mbale. We were eating at an Indian restaurant when a circus came on TV. The food is great there even though the atmosphere is not the classiest. Lydai, Grace and I enjoyed the circus while we waited for our food (Mandy was next door grocery shopping). I also ordered my motorcycle that day. They said it would be ready by the first of Feb.
I also tried to go teach Timothy Institute in Otuboi. I made the trip only to discover that a couple of funerals had really messed up a lot of the pastors’ plans. Needles to say I spent an hour driving then an hour waiting only to spend the next hour driving back home. We rescheduled for yesterday. Yesterday we tried again. It did go much better, but the numbers were quite low. Only 9 pastors returned from the previous time, plus three new people. At lunch time we learned that a few pastors had come, but went to the wrong church (our venue had been changed for reasons beyond my control); we also learned that a few pastors had not been informed about it until 48 hours prior to the starting time so they had made prior commitments. I was disappointed that some pastors wanted to come but were unable to come; however our day went really well. Every pastor except for one paid the money for his photo copies. One old pastor named Fasfik had lost all his belongings in a house fire - and he still paid for the photocopies - even the ones burned in the fire. I did replace the lost copies free of charge and bought his lunch as well. All the other pastors also bought their own lunch. At the end of the day they started discussing money again, in Ateso. I could tell they were discussing payment, but could not quite follow exactly what they were saying. They finally said in English that they realized they should also be giving me gas money but are not able to do that at this time; I should be patient and not grow tired of coming because they really appreciate the teaching. I also made them give reports about their action plans which they had made the previous time. (The theme and action plan for last time was visiting people who did not follow Jesus.) For the total of the nine pastors who were present; they had visited and shared the gospel with 15 families / individuals who had never followed Jesus and 7 people who had fallen away from the church. Although no one gave their lives to Christ, relationships were built with those lost people and responses were positive. 4 of the 7 people who had left the church have become involved in the church again since the visit. Other than the fact that I was gone from 8 am to after 6 pm, it was a very good day.
The Bible college continues to try my patience. The students have been late coming back from their holiday. Some were in class for the first time today - three weeks late. One still has not returned. Francis had said he would not allow this so I hope he puts his foot down and sends them away. They have already missed enough to fail the course I was teaching so its not like they would graduate anyway. The others who were present were late for class every day last week. I felt something had to be done so I told them on Friday that we were going to have class on Saturday - time had been lost and it needed to be regained. I felt like I was punishing myself, but it really got their attention. Three of the four had hope to go home for the weekend. I went to class Saturday morning prepared to teach the one student who had no intentions of going home, but found all four present. They were not very talkative, but they were there. I learned today that they had gone privately to Francis on Friday afternoon to tell him the situation and ask for permission to go home anyway. I was impressed with Francis. He told them if they skipped my class to go home they might as well take all of their things home from the college because they would not be allowed back.
This morning Kristine came. We visited her last night and she warned us she would be coming. She was in tears because of the way her “husband” treats her. He does treat her poorly. Neglect would be an understatement. Half the problem is that they moved in and started a family without a wedding. Elaborate weddings and high bride prices make it nearly impossible for many people to get married, so shacking up is a huge problem here. When the fun wears off, there is no commitment, so people leave. The children suffer the most. It is part of the culture here - part that needs to change. Changing a culture is hard. We have not really changed it at all yet, but a few people have appreciated our observation that these practices nearly force people to sin. We also have a good friend who got his girlfriend pregnant in December. Her dad is a pastor so you would think he would be open to God’s Word -- NOT. Today there was a long meeting to discuss the fine our friend will have to pay. My heart broke to hear the way that pastor spoke and acted; God was not glorified in any way. A mockery was made of the gospel. His bishop was there. When I confronted the bishop on the behavior of this pastor, he told me it is a matter of culture and clan, not a matter of the Bible. I told him that we are not to set the Bible aside in any situation only to pick it up on Sunday. This issue is a church issue. As leaders of God’s people we should set an example for others to follow, even when that means doing things different than the culture. I am not going into detail here, but I am really upset by the way that pastor acted (and even by how passive the bishop was). I privately talked with the pastor, but his heart was as hard as stone; he wanted nothing to do with God’s word. Even here our friend has accepted church discipline and wants to marry the girl so he can raise the child. The girl wants to marry our friend. However, no money for fine, bride price, wedding = just live together without getting married, which is a perfect solution according to the pastor (father of the girl). Tonight it feels like Satan won for today. We have to cling to the hope that the true Victory has already been decided. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see. I certainly can’t see it today. Isaiah 50:4 says “The Lord has given me words of wisdom so I know what to say to all the weary ones.” I am closing now so I can go spend some time with Him who has words of wisdom, because I am the weary one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jan. 18 - Mandy's journal

Jan. 18

I don’t know if this belongs in my journal but I am just going to write it here and see what happens. First I want to apologize. I regret and am so sorry for not taking each day and moment with people to talk about what really matters – eternity. When I was home in Michigan I enjoyed normal life and let time fly by. I don’t want to live that way! Normal life just isn’t worth it to me. Often I feel like people just want me to be normal, to fit in, have fun, and be quiet about God stuff. While I can’t. I don’t care if I am weird. There is only one thing that matters most to me and it is God’s love for me and for you. I say all this because. What I see when I go home (here too) is a lot of fake people. Most people are trying to have a comfortable, good life. They want to look and act happy. The truth is most people are hurting, angry, or lost. We aren’t telling or living the truth. You act happy and I will too and we would have to deal with all the garbage. Everyone is fine and I am too. Just keep living and don’t talk about the pain. We are addicted to materialism, lust, alcohol, sports, TV… or whatever to cover up and forget about the troubles. The sad thing is I am talking about Christians, the church, our friends, our families. We all do it. Why aren’t we being real with each other? Why are we doing small talk, getting together, entertaining…doing everything but helping each other? Okay maybe I am over the edge on some things. I am not saying that we can’t have fun and that we have to only talk about spiritual issues. My point is when I was home I know there were things that people were struggling with and I chose to ignore it and just enjoy life. I didn’t pray with them or anything. I saw that they were “acting” fine and decided to believe it and leave it at that. We are all doing this. As Christian, brothers and sisters, we have to be asking each other the hard questions. We need to be encouraging each other to keep going, do better, spend time with God, love your wife, be pure, serve, give… We need to pray with each other, for each other. Don’t take fine as an answer. Don’t believe the act. People are dying inside and no one outside knows. Give them love for their pain, help for their struggles, peace for their anger… Let’s not waste time and talk about what really matters, our spiritual well being. Our relationships with Christ are what matters most. Life here will end. Eternity is coming. Do you care more about acting like you have a good life here or do you care more about a great life there? I only have so much time on earth and I want to be real. I want to make a difference for eternity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jan. 14 -- Our Neighbors

January 14, 2008

Tonight we walked around greeting our neighbors and bring them a small gift (clothes and toothpaste). First we went to Joseph and Martha’s. Martha was home with the kids. She was really down. She said they didn’t have a good Christmas because they have no money and had no food. She just cried. Their landlord wants them to move back to their village so he can build where they are living. Joseph and Martha are IDP’s (internally displaced people) from the war in their village. Martha said they are orphans and have no where to go back to. She fears for her girls. She said before they lived in the one room hut (now has a tin roof) they are in now they use to just sleep outside wherever people would let them. She said she very gave birth there. She does not know what to do. There is no money for a new place let alone food. Now what do you say to a person after all that? They look at us, our home, van, food and think we have all the money in the world. We are rich – we really are. Josh and I held her hand and prayed with her prayed that God would make a way that He would be with them and care for them. I pray we shared some love and hope with her. I just can’t imagine being that in need and that alone.

Then we walked over to see widow Betty. We walked into her grass roof hut only to see the sun. There were holes everywhere in the roof. All she has in the hut was a small metal framed bed, blanket, and some dishes. And she has six kids! I was in awe again. We gave her our very small gift and she asked for help with the roof again. How do we handle this? There is so much need. Everyone needs help. We have a big house with a roof over our heads and our neighbors don’t.

After that I saw a new baby by another hut I haven’t been to so we walked over. It ends up we do know her husband but we had not met her. I was so thankful for Josh’s Ateso since she didn’t speak English. Lydia and Grace really liked the baby. An really old man came out of his room then and greeted us and tried to tell us something about his stomach problems. Several other people came out to greet us too. I was saddened that I was meeting so many people, my neighbors, for the first time. Is there ever enough time? Or do I just spend too much time on myself?

All night I struggled with what I saw and heard from my visits with our neighbors. What do we do to help? How can we be generous and faithful with all God has given us, yet not have the town at our door? Why do they have so little and I have so much? Why was I born into blessing and them into suffering? Do these questions ever get answered? I am thankful I wrestle with all of this, ever though it is really hard, because it means I care. I don’t want to use any cop out answers or worries (like fearing the town at my door). I want to do what God wants me to do. I am really seeking Him for help and wisdom. Just tell me what to do and I will Lord! Sometimes I wonder or feel like I am missing the point if we continue to just full their physical needs. I want to help them spiritually. I pray that by helping them we are sharing Christ. As I praying about all of this I asked God to love our neighbors. I felt Him assure me He was because we were there and He wanted to use us to be His love. Isn’t that beautiful? We are God’s love to those who need it around us.

On another note Lydia and Grace are doing great. I asked Lydia what she liked best about MI and she told me everything. I asked her what she liked best about Uganda and she said everything. She is a very happy little girl. Grace counted to 20 tonight with Josh (she made it to six by herself and then did every other number with Josh). It actually rained here and has been cloudy (and “cool”). How nice! We are getting Tabitha’s four kids that live with her (because the mom is a drunk and dad is gone) ready for school. We had a couple of the Amecet girls over for lunch Sunday. Joanne from Australia is here with us for two months doing a vision trip. I plan to have everyone over Thursday for tea to meet her. I will fill you in more later…

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Jan. 6, 2008 -- Home from vacation

January 6, 2008

After a busy yet wonderful “vacation” home, we are back in Uganda. Before I tell you about our adjustment back let me recap our time in Michigan. We arrived home in a snow storm and left in one. Flying went really well considering we were traveling for a total of 34 hours! I heard Angie say more than once is it really worth all of this. No one can totally understand until they have traveled that far and that long with small children. It is a lot of work preparing to leave, getting the house secured, having people set to do things while you are gone, packing for a month, making plans, hotel reservations, taxi pick ups, money set, lists made… But it is all worth it once you arrive and are with family again. When we arrived Lydia cheered and when she saw Grandpa and Grandma she just cried. Grace was shy. It made me realize how much Lydia remembers and misses family, friends, and life in Michigan. She really did grieve what she left and it meant a lot to be back again. Grace on the other hand is too young to remember and didn’t know anyone and was scared of most things she didn’t know. She only knew her world and life as Uganda. But it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with family and enjoy Michigan.

Our first week home we had my sister Dorothy’s wedding. Lydia was a beautiful flower girl (princess as she likes to think of it) in the wedding. We had a great time and everyone looked beautiful. I really enjoyed getting so dressed up and having somewhere to go – something I don’t get to do on the mission field. Wedding are fun but stressful and I am glad that everyone could relax after the first week. The next week was full of doctor appointments, shopping, and visits. What a blur! We also went up to McBain about once a week. We spoke every Sunday at one or two of our supporting churches. Although it made us busy, we loved seeing our supporting and sharing with them. We were more than blessed and encouraged by their support, generosity, and prayers.

What else happened…I got to go with my mom, sisters, and aunt shopping over night just to be together. The Beute family went to Great Wolf Lodge for a night. What fun! Josh and I ever got a way for a night to a bed and breakfast and Grandma Shaarda got some quality time with her grandgirls. And of course Christmas parties. I loved seeing everyone but it always seems so short. I really do cherish my time with everyone because I don’t get a lot of time and I never know when I may see someone again. I was thankful to spend time with all of our grandparents. I was blessed at our Beute family party when we went Christmas caroling at my dad’s work, the Christian rest home, and to family friends who are struggling with cancer. What a joy it is to brighten some ones day with God’s love. I will never forget Lydia’s face while she sung to those people. That is what Christmas is about, giving to others.

Our last week was filled with another wedding Josh’s sister Rebeka married a classmate of my Ryan. Josh and I were honored to stand up in their wedding. What a fun time! After that I think I was a bit down. It was all over and now I had the dreaded job of packing 8 boxes 50lbs each. But I have very special memories to take with me too. I could cry just writing about it. Walking in the snow with the kids looking at Christmas lights, a walk in the woods, watching my kids build a snowman with their dad and aunt, really good food, playing games with the family, beautiful weddings, sitting home together in a warm and comfortable home while it snowed outside… I am very blessed! God answered so many prayers with this vacation. It is mixed emotions going back. I will always hate saying goodbye and leaving family but I can only eat so much, live out of a suitcase so long, and be in the same bedroom as my girls for so many nights. I didn’t dread going back to Uganda which is a nice feeling. We spent our last night near Chicago. I thoroughly enjoyed our hotel, the food, and the time with Dad and Mom. I think I know what a different world I would soon be back to.

And now we are back in Uganda. Everything went well flying except they didn’t have personal TVs and they showed really, really bad rated R movie. I was really upset. It is not fun keeping Lydia’s eyes off the movies. They finally stopped the movie only to show another bad one. How sad.

We arrived in Uganda to find out that there was a gas shortage because of the fighting in Kenya (borders were closed). People talked about it going up to 10,000sh a liter (that is about $22 a gallon!!!) Our van however did not start when we got back. Thankfully it ended up just being a dead battery. We did have a nice night at our friend’s apartment and had supper at our new favorite restaurant. We traveled back to Soroti with no problems and even got gas for almost the normal price. Again I felt God had taken care of us and had answered so many prayers.

We entered our home only to inhale a months worth of dust. Literally layers and layers of dust was everywhere. You couldn’t set anything down and we left footprints everywhere we went. So we got to work. I got such a headache from all the dust. Everything needed to be cleaned. If I could only explain to you what it was like. I was not a happy camper. It took us almost 4 hours to do the first round of cleaning. But by night we could sleep comfortably in our own beds.

It was harder coming back than I thought. It has been about 85-90degrees inside the house each day, it is super dry, and I am tired. To top it off we were told we got fat while we were gone (I think that means we were treated well while we were gone but I don’t like the sounds of it anyhow). I kept reminding myself about what Josh and I always use to say in Nigeria, “the first day is always the worst.” It would get better.

What two different worlds we live in! In Michigan I was always full and didn’t desire food because it was all around me. I got stressed over shopping because of all the decisions I had to make. I actually got sick of eating out and shopping. In Uganda I crave every food I can’t have or get. I go to the store and they are out of so much I don’t have any decisions to make. Having everything verses living with little. I truly enjoyed the comforts and beauty in America but I also wrestled with it. How do I reconcile my two worlds? It can’t help but bother me when we go out to eat in Michigan and spend a lot of money when I have friends in Uganda who go hungry and sleep on the floor. Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with it. How can we live so well when others live with so little? The hard part for me is the “others” aren’t just others to me they are real people my neighbors and friends.

Today I felt like God gentle broke through my heart. I have been complaining since we have been back and longing for the good life back in Michigan, but tonight as we walked home from Amecet I looked at the houses and all the people. They have no light, their clothes are ripped, they need food…and they want the good life too. I am right where God needs me. It isn’t easy living far away, giving up a comfortable life in Michigan, living with heat, dust, and other inconveniences. God loves the poor and needy! I want to love the orphaned and sick children at Amecet. I want to encourage the local church and fellow servants of God. I want to show Christ to Tabitha, Kristine, and other friends. I want to bless Sam, Dennis, and others in need. It isn’t easy and I don’t always do things right but I do love my Lord and He wants me to love His people. That is my calling in life. That is why I live. Eternity is waiting and I want to bring as many people with me as I can.