Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More company

July 28

I am finally feeling better! What a great feeling. I still have a few minor things like tiredness and yucky taste in my mouth, but I can live with that stuff. I am now 15 or 16 weeks along. We went to Kampala last week and saw the doctor for the first time. He is Ugandan. His office isn’t anything special but he is very nice and is known as the best OBGYN in Kampala. He did an ultrasound and the first thing that came up on the screen was two tiny feet. How cute. We had a good look of the baby’s face too. I love seeing our baby and knowing all is well. According to the measurements taken by the ultrasound the baby is due January 7 (we thought January 15 so I guess we are due sometime that week). My next visit to the doctor we get to have a 3D ultrasound. Just incase your curious, our doctor bill (including visit, ultrasound, lad work, and medicine) cost $60.

So we were in Kampala last week and stayed at the Baptist Guesthouse. It was really nice two bedroom, two bathrooms, sitting room, shared kitchen, and a nice bonus DSTV which means we got to watch some sports. We enjoyed a relaxed time away. I love eating at good restaurants and not cooking. We had real pizza and we were very happy to find our favorite restaurant lowered it’s price back to what they were. It made our day. (Milk shakes for $2!) We were very happy our van was fixed while we were in Kampala. We have air conditioning again!!! Lydia needed her passport renewed so we had to go to the Embassy. We also picked up our friend Stacey from the airport. She is staying with us for a month mainly to teach Lydia and to see and experience Uganda and mission life. Stacey was a youth leader with us at RPC.

Needless to say, Lydia is thrilled to have school. She was so proud the first day when she got all stars for her good work. Stacey is a good teacher and brought a lot of creative stuff to use. I have been really impressed with all Lydia can do. She is even doing the beginning of reading. She will be all ready for Kindergarten.

Josh continues to teach children’s church on Sundays. Yesterday they wrote down all of the kid’s names, who they live with, and where they live. Out of the 30 kids Josh did only 3 of the kids lived in a home with their father present and that was the Pastors kids. That means almost every child here lives with no father present in their lives. It is so sad. There is a huge problem here and a big need for ministry among men, these kids, and the mothers struggling alone.

I haven’t talked about Amecet in a long time but we still go occasionally. Every time I go I am touched, all the children. Sickness, mothers who dye, need for love… When they sing on Sunday night I am reminded of how much God loves them all. It always moves me to think about how special they are to God. And we are to be God’s love to them. What a mission!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Josh's Journal July 26

July 26
Lydia reminds us every day that it is nearly her birthday. She turns five on the 31st of this month. Our friend Stacey arrived on Wednesday night. She will be spending a few weeks with us and will be home-schooling Lydia. Even though Lydia kept saying she did not want to do school, as soon as Stacey got off the plane Lydia could not stop asking when they could start. They did their first day yesterday. I don’t know if she learned anything, but she certainly enjoyed it. They made two charts to keep track of their progress, both of which now hang on the refrigerator. Stacey has been fun to have around. WE have not seen her for 5 years, which is hard to believe. Lydia and Grace are talking her ear off - between their attention and the many hours of travel, Stacey is about worn out. Needless to say, she has been sleeping good at night.
We are wrapping up the term at BBC this week. I am ready for a break. If we go until Friday (I do not know which day the students will be dismissed) I will even get all the way through my course outline. They take their final test on Monday, then I planned to teach on the doctrine of the Church to wrap up the week. I hope I get to because I have never taught that section of the notes.
Ben is still struggling with pain from his cancer. He seems to be doing so well, but as soon as he misses a dosage of pain medicine he goes down hill quickly. I think they were surprised he made it last week because relatives from far and wide came to visit him. I was surprised to see how bad things must be inside his body, and how effective his medicine is. He gets it every month from Hospice in Kampala, but the trip is far and expensive so it is quite inconvenient. However, we learned last week to get him to Kampala before the medicine runs out.
The blind are continuing to knit. Barb has been very pleased with the progress this summer (and how much some of them improved since last summer). They only have a couple of mornings left to learn. John and Barb leave Soroti on Thursday. On Monday we sighted people are going to play goal ball against the blind people from SACAB. They are all over 50 yrs. Most of us are under 50. However, the blind are confident they will defeat us. We have to play blindfolded so they just might be right.
We finally got a little rain this week (and I found a sprinkler in Kampala) so I hope to plant the garden this weekend. I would be out there right now, but the sun is baking the moisture out of the ground - HOT and HUMID out there right now.
I have started handing out the Hindi language Bibles to my Indian friends in town. The first one was very excited when he saw that it was in his own language. The second person seemed a little uncomfortable taking it, but took it anyway and said thank you. The third friend seemed grateful to receive his copy (since he had seem the copy I had given his cousin). We pray that they will read, understand, and believe.

Friday, July 18, 2008

July 16 - Mandy's Journal

July 16

We had a really busy week this week. Buteyns, Matt, a team from the UK were here, and a family that works with IT Canada visited. For me it meant a lot of meals and entertaining. Josh was busy with his usual ministries plus VBS every afternoon and teaching the Timothy Institute. It is nice having people around especially the Buteyns who are friends. The family that came had a four year old girl so Lydia really enjoyed a new playmate for a few days. By the end of the week we were all tired and Angie and I were done making meals.

Thursday we went to see the progress on a couple of the orange tree orchards. The girls and I went along with Josh, the blind, Buteyns, and Matt. The first orchard we brought the seedlings and planted them. The field was all ready and in no time the trees were planted. Lydia even planed one with Josh. She also helped put the straw down and carried the trees. Grace napped in the van. I was there to take pictures. I am always impressed by the blind – all they can do. The blind person who received this orchard and her family were so nice and grateful. I was glad I was there to see some of the process and meet the people. The second orchard was the one they planted a year ago. Josh was happy with the growth. Although the trees are still only 2-3 feet high, they have grown a lot since they were planted, they were caring for them, and the plants weren’t dead. The owner, Nicholas, is one of the most expressive and happy people I have ever met. He is so thankful. We left there with peanuts and corn to thank us – AGAIN.

I was glad I went along and was able to be out and involved again. I always come back touched and thankful. By the time we got home though I was in desperate need to lay down. After all the bush roads I was nauseas. Thankfully a quick shower and rest helped me feel a lot better.

Sunday afternoon we all packed up to climb the mountain. We had a picnic and all. The road construction has been blowing up our mountain for rock and gravel so we haven’t been able to climb for months. The mountain was really over grown with long grass so it was quick a trip up there. The top of the mountain is so beautiful and peaceful. We started the firer for our hot dog roast just in time to see rain coming. We continued along watching to see if the storm was coming our way. By the time the kids hot dogs got on the sticks the drops began to fall. I have never seen people work together so fast to pack up and head down a mountain. The storm came so fast and we did not want to be on the top of a mountain when lighting came. Josh put Grace on his back and scooped up Lydia. I grabbed the food with the ladies and followed Josh. Everyone was shouting to Tim who was checking out a bat cave and didn’t realize a storm came up or that we were leaving. When we saw lighting we almost ran down the mountain. Thankfully the real rain waited until we were safe and sound. What a trip! You never know what is going to happen. I was glad with were with people to help us and laugh with. We tried. It was a beautiful, fun few minutes on the mountain.

Lydia and Grace are doing well. Both have colds right now. Grace is pretty much fully potty trained (except nights). How exciting! What a big girl.

Tuesday we went to Mbale for the day. It takes effort to get there (an hour and a half drive) but once we are there we are thankful for a relaxing day. We spent the day at the pool. The girls love swimming. We had a sunny day too. We enjoyed lunch by the pool and just playing together.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 7 -- Josh's Journal

July 7, 2008
Wow, a lot has happened since the last time I wrote. Today was Timothy Institute training in Otuboi. We finally completed the course work for the first topic: Pastoral Care. We have met 8 times to get through the 11 lessons. Today we did lessons 10 and 11 since they were both quite short. Before lunch we discussed “the Church and HIV/AIDS” (lesson 10). I was struck by a few things. Every pastor had members in their church who have HIV. Every pastor knows of AIDS related orphans. Every pastor knew good Bible passages to use when leading an AIDS related funeral. However, the pastors felt highly unqualified to teach about HIV prevention and AIDS care in their churches. They said that all the training available to them has always been the “safe sex” principles which do not work and are contrary to God’s will (a correlation perhaps). I was made aware how badly Christian AIDS/HIV teaching is needed.
After lunch we made a 6-month action plan (lesson 11) in which each church leader made specific plans about how they would apply the things of this course to their own churches. Many of them made plans regarding visiting the sick. A few wanted to focus on reconciliation ministries. One woman will focus on encouraging married couples within the church. The last pastor wanted to focus on reaching youth by getting them involved in the choir. I gave each member a notebook and told them that they need to write about every visit they make for the next six months to see how this action plan affects their ministry in the church. I was really pleased with how specific their action plans were. I was afraid they would all write vague, pious sounding plans; however, they were quite specific- even predicting what results they hoped to see.
Yesterday, I went to visit a Karamajong village in Moroto district. It is a long bumpy ride from Soroti, but I loved our time in the village. It reminded me a lot of Mahula, which also made me a little homesick. We started out by worshipping under a big tree. The church has begun only recently. Judging from the group gathered when we arrived, I would estimate them to have about 8-10 members. However, after a van full of mzungus (white people) arrived, every child and half the adults in the village soon appeared. We preached a very basic message about the need to turn from sin and turn to God through Jesus Christ. The people felt they had all turned to Christ before; the problem is that they still have not turned away from sin. We could see women wearing crosses and charm bags on the same necklace. Although it is a natural step for new Christians to combine the old with the new, they do need to be continually and clearly challenged to turn away from sin and traditional religion. It was exciting to have an opportunity to share with people who only recently heard the gospel for the first time.
After church we walked through the village for a couple of hours. We tried our best to interact with the people. A few spoke English, but not many. Ateso and Karamojong languages overlap about 50% (my estimation from listening to them) so they could all understand the Ateso that I spoke. I was struck by how badly the people need Jesus and by how open they seem to be. They were at least willing to listen. Oh, and the children -- many, many children. If only there was a good children’s ministry. God, please raise up workers to go into the harvest fields of Karamoja.
Friday night - July 4 - we had foreigners over from 5 different countries to celebrate our American holiday with us. We grilled a variety of meats (every one brought meat to grill and a dish to share). After supper we had a camp fire and roasted marshmallows. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, our party came to an abrupt end when a good thunder storm rolled in about 9:00.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Forth

July 7, 2008

The Buteyn’s arrived Thursday. (Buteyn’s go to our supporting church Evergreen Ministries in Hudsonville and were here last summer too.) It is such a blessing to have them here. It is just like welcoming old friends back. They bring so much encouragement to us. The girls are very happy to have them here. They love the girls and are so good to them. We look forward to our month with them. Matt, from Kansas City, also arrived. He is here for two week doing a vision trip with IT. He is here to see and experience. He seems really nice. He will be praying about weather God leads him back to join our team.

We had a really fun 4th of July! We had about 18 people come (4 or 5 different nationalities) our Amecet friends, CRWRC friends, missionary friends, and all of us. Everyone brought meat to grill and a dish to pass. We had a wonderful, big pot-luck picnic. Yummy! It was a beautiful evening and everyone enjoyed the fellowship. We even had decorations, sparklers (candles from Kampala), and glow in the dark bracelets for the kids. We had a campfire with smores and all! I love the smell of campfires – what memories. Everyone sat around the fire talking until the rain came. Thankfully it did come until 9pm. It was a fun night. I love making holidays special. We couldn’t be in MI with our families, but I felt truly blessed to have friends to celebrate here with.

To top off my pregnancy sickness I have now been struggling with a sinus cold for the last couple weeks. It started in the head and moved down to laryngitis or bronchitis. Now it is back in the head with a cough. It really wiped me out. I didn’t know if or what I could take so I decided to let it runs its course. I think I am finally getting better.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mandy's Journal -- July 2

Some of you may know I have been going through a really hard time. I think it is mostly from being sick and hormones from pregnancy, but never the less it has been a difficult time. Thankfully there is some hope but I would still like your prayers. I have been so down. I’ve been so sick that I have to lie on the couch or in bed so I don’t throw up. Laying there I get so bored. Nothing to watch, too sick to read, no where to go… I think about home and long to be there. I want to see everyone and do all the summer things with my girls. I want to go to the beach, to the cottage, go for ice cream, eat summer fruits and veggies, have a picnic in Shaarda’s yard, go to garage sales…and then there is fall time. I miss home! I feel sad that the family is missing out on the girls young years. I want to share their songs, new abilities, and giggles with them. Are my girls missing out? I guess it all comes down to the sacrifices we have had to make. I just try to survive each day. I just don’t like it here right now. Are we doing anything worth staying? Why am I here suffering when everyone else is at home? (That’s how my mind begins to think.) Then I worry that I may “fail” again. What if I can’t make it here or anywhere as a missionary? What would we do and where would we go? Will I be content anywhere? Everything has been affected by my sickness. We all get down. I can’t function enough to do everyday tasks. I just try to keep up with the girls. Josh is worn out from helping extra at home and struggling with the issues at the Bible College. It tears him apart to hear me say and feel those things about living here. He likes it here and love teaching. Like I said, thankfully there is hope now. I am starting to feel better and when I feel better everything seems better. I can do things! We also have visitors in July and August so that helps. And we can’t wait to go home in November. I really start to think all this is hormonal when I have sudden good days when I am thankful God is using us here and can’t imagine living in MI. I think I am a yoyo. I have poured my heart out to God again and again during this trying time. I believe with all my heart that what we are doing is the most important thing in life. Sharing and serving God is what life is all about. I know He has called us here and we must remain until He calls us to serve Him somewhere else. I believe this is a time where I just need to persevere. It is a test of faith. All I can do is hold on – tight – to God and know He is faithful. Thanks for your prayers!