Monday, March 31, 2008

Josh's March Journal

March 11, 2008
Last weekend we took a long weekend to Kampala. We had to bring a speaker here who is leading a marriage conference for local pastors for two weeks, so we decided to enjoy the trip and spend a few relaxed days as a family. Thursday we spend the day at the pool at Jinja Nile Resort. It was a beautiful hotel complex on the banks of the Nile river (steep banks - hotel is probably 200 feet higher than the water) with lots of gardens and flowers. There by the pool side was a group of about 15 people having some sort of business meeting. It was then that I verbalized how overrated meeting and teaching outside is. Sure, it has a romantic relaxed feel, but from a practical perspective - worthless. Mandy was surprised I would say such a thing so she asked why. I have taught outside a lot more than I have taught inside. Wind makes it hard to hear each other, blows notebooks off desks, even blew the blackboard off the stand the other day. Chickens crowing and scratching in the “classroom” are fairly well ignored, but a nanny-goat-in-heat followed closely by a billy-goat running between me and the students is both loud and distracting (not to mention a target for a swift kick).
While we were in Kampala we had a nice time relaxing a couple days as a family. I had had a cheese burger and a milkshake the first night in town and two milkshakes the last night in town. We also took the kids to Didi’s World - the disney world of Uganda. It is really nice because it only costs $3 per person, then when you are sick of it (which you are after a few hours) you are free to leave and don’t feel like you have to stay several hours to try to get your money’s worth. We went on Saturday night from about 5-8. It had rained so it was cloudy and cool. I went on the bumper cars and the elevated train - that was it, unless you count the merry-go-round, which I stood on, but was not allowed to sit on the horses. Our girls really like that place though.
March 16
This week a couple people from Set Free Ministries in Grand Rapids are here leading a marriage conference. It has made for a very busy week. I was not planning to be involved, but Tim’s van was not running the early part of the week, so I ended up doing a lot more than I expected. About 50 local church leaders are attending the conference. I spent five hours Friday and again Saturday leading freedom appointments with some of the students from the Bible College who are also attending the conference. One of the set free ministries pastors from Kampala is also here. He knows about a half dozen languages. After church this morning he said he felt Ateso is the hardest language in all of Uganda. He travels a lot in Uganda and is exposed to a lot of languages. He felt Ateso is the hardest of them all - based on word length, way of speech, and exclusive vocabulary. It made me feel good about how far I have come in Ateso, but also makes me feel bad about how far I have to go. It is too bad people here don’t use Ki-Swahili, a much simpler language used throughout much of East Africa.
I did train the blind to measure out orange tree orchards this week. They were very excited and left Friday to start three orchards in Amuria district. I find it to be a step of faith to entrust this project to blind people. I made them lay out an orchard from start to finish before I would let them begin the project. Although their orchard was not perfectly square, it was close and was certainly good enough to grow trees. The thing they struggled with the most was picking up the ropes (we use ropes with knots in to mark the fence posts and tree locations - one knot for a fence posts, two knots for a tree location.) Weather people are predicting drought this year for Amuria and Katakwi (where half our orchards are supposed to go) so we are praying the meteorologists are wrong.
In my free time then I am still working on courses for Bethel Bible college. I am currently working on an Old Testament Survey course. I am up to king David (about 1/3 of the way through the course). The biggest struggle continues to be deciding what to include and what to exclude.
March 19
There is still no internet, so this letter just keeps getting longer. Today we got a major rain storm, complete with wind, hail, thunder and lightning. It lasted about an hour, almost as long as it took us to clean up after it went through. Houses here vents above the windows; however, they have no way to be closed. Every window on the North or East side of the house let water in - and not just a little bit. It accumulated enough in the girls room that it flowed out into the hall way. Tabitha and I spent an hour mopping up water once the wind died down. What a mess!!!
March 30
I had a nice talk with Basil, one of the Bible school students, this week. We had been talking about the students’ outreach to Karamoja. I explained that we had three reasons for sending them on the outreach: 1. To show the Teso people that the Karamojong are real people. 2. Hopes that some of the students might be led by God to bring the gospel to places where it has never been heard. 3. So all pastors who graduate have a knowledge of the responsibility that all members of the body of Christ have to spread the Good News. The literal meaning of “missions” is not going as so many people think. “missions” actually means “to send”. Missions is the work of the church, not of the missionary. Churches here in Teso are not exempt from that responsibility, but so far they have missed out on the privilege of being involved. I think young people would be willing to go if churches were willing to send.
Basil said before coming to BBC he had a dream that he was supposed to attend a Bible college along the Lira road. He was expecting a nice school with good housing and electricity. He was very disappointed in BBC so he looked for another school but could not find one. He felt strongly that the dream was from God, so he thought he better stay at BBC, even though he has often been frustrated with things there. Basil also said he once worked with a pastor who visited Soroti. While they were praying, the pastor had a vision of a bright light going out from Teso to other areas of East Africa. They understood the light to be the Light, the gospel of Jesus, but Basil couldn’t understand how the Gospel would ever be sent from Teso to other areas. After talking with me about the outreach and why we are here in Soroti, Basil said he felt our coming there was the beginning of the fulfillment of the vision that the gospel would go out from Teso land.
The last month here has been a real struggle. We have felt as though Satan is really opposing us. It seems as though so many little things are going wrong. I was so encouraged to hear Basil’s comment and celebrate the fact that at least one student out of this group has caught the vision for raising up missionaries from here in Teso and sending them to place like Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Middle East. Praise God!!! May He open the hearts of others - both church leaders and youth - that missionaries can be trained at BBC and sent to all parts of the world.
On a much less important note, we planted the garden yesterday. Lydia and Grace helped me. Mandy supervised - an important role any time Grace is nearby. We don’t have a rotatiller so I had to work it all up by hand. By the time I got done I took my boots off and poured the sweat out - Mandy was totally grossed out. We had a nice rain last night and again tonight, so hopefully things are beginning to germinate.
I also started teaching Children’s church this morning. Our church had no children’s program and many of the kids were distracting during the sermon (including our own); others simply went outside to play. I have been trying to get it started for a few weeks, but was not successful. Today we had about 15 children on three benches on the porch of the house next-door to the church. I taught them Gen. 1:1 - we memorized it in Ateso: Ko toma ageunet, obu Edeke, kosub akuj ka akwap. I then told them the creation story, asked them some questions, sang one song (I was afraid singing would distract the congregation 15 feet away from our group since there are just openings for windows.) I was happy how it went for a first time. The kids listened well.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March 1 -- Women of our church

March 1, 2008

Ok it is now March so I better finish up this February journal and send it off. Lydia has been collecting dead bugs as pets. Flies, butterflies, or whatever I guess as long as it is dead. That way she is not scared of them. She is so funny! Lydia played with Lydia our neighbor girl yesterday. They seemed to have a lot of fun for not being able to understand each other. The other night Lydia didn’t want to go to bed so we were talking about being thankful for our beds. I told her that kids here don’t have beds. She was quite concerned that her friends here sleep on the ground. She decided we should save money and buy beds for them. I was really proud of her for caring.

We have been getting to know Tabitha’s four nieces and nephew (the ones who stay with her). They come for water every evening and play with Lydia and Grace. They are very nice kids. Otim (O Team), the youngest, comes wears his snow pants! Really, overall snow pants. It is the funniest thing. Can you imagine in Africa?
This morning I went with Maggie to visit the women from the church. I really didn’t want to go but knew it would be good for me. I did end up enjoying our visits and it didn’t even take that long. It is good for me to see how they live and know some of their stories. However the more I know the more upset I get. Men here are a problem. They get a woman pregnant then leave. They have one woman here and another where they work in the city. The husband stays in town and works and the wife and kids live in the village. I am not kidding. Of the eight women we visited today half of them have been basically abandoned by their “husbands”. I really get angry. Yes, the women here are not perfect either and some of them are doing just as bad but for the most part it is the men. The women here really suffer. They are caring for several kids, trying to make ends meat, and the father is no where to be seen. And those who are married and live a part (like SO many here), that is not marriage! God makes you one and you can’t be one in two different places. This is why the Bible has such a clear and high calling on men. They are to love their families and lead the Church as Christ. I really think that is one of the reasons the people are suffering so much here and the church is not what it is suppose to be. We need men of God! Sin reigns here and it’s effects are seen in people suffering. I was thankful to come home and see our neighbor Joseph bathing his little girl. I was reminded that there are still good husbands and fathers trying. Really a lot of our neighbors are godly men. I just keep praying. God will not fail.

We also visited Faith again. Have I told you about her? She goes to our church and a few months ago (in Nov.) she was really sick with Malaria. She didn’t get better and they found out she is HIV positive. She got it from her husband. Faith was a beautiful young women now, just three months later, she looks old, her skin is grey, her long hair is gone, she doesn’t eat (is SO thin), her lips are cracking… I was shocked the first time I saw her after we returned. I have never seen anything like it. How fast a young woman can become old and sick. Really I wish I could explain or show you. She looks depressed. I am sure she has given up since she doesn’t eat. Today she was in the hospital for a blood transfusion. Her husband wants nothing to do with her. He hasn’t visited, care for her, or even help with any costs. They have two small children (6 and 3years). They don’t have a father and now their mother is dying. The kids are supposed to be tested for HIV too. I feel so bad for them. Again the women and children suffer. The sister is caring for the kids and Faith’s mother is caring for her. All I can do is pray for them and show our love. The whole thing is just sad.

Just a side note while we were at the hospital there was another woman there and she was literally skin and bone. You know those pictures of malnutrition kids? Well this was a grown woman like that or worse. I tell you things here can be really hard to see. You don’t forget what you see and you wrestle with what you can do to make a difference.

I guess that is it for now. I had a real difficult day yesterday. It is so hard sometimes thinking about not being home for almost a year at a time. I want you to know our girls. I want you to see them grow and hear them sing. I want to spend holidays together and do ordinary things together. I want them to be with you too. Sometimes I feel like they are missing out on so much (at least so many of my childhood memories). They are growing so fast and they are only young once. My heart just ached! Even now tears just well up in my eyes. I know we are called here and I love knowing we are serving God and spreading the gospel. But that doesn’t make it easy. We are missing out on a lot. I just don’t want time to slip away. Lydia is always asking how many days till we go to Michigan. I just prayed last night that God would give our girls the best. That He would comfort my soul. And that He would make a way for us to have time at home again. He will help us live in these two worlds that we live in and love. I am so thankful for all of your love and support. I am thankful for the time God gives us to be together.