Saturday, August 23, 2008

3D Ultra Sound

August 22

I am sitting in Kampala right now. We brought Stacey to the airport and are working on renewing our work visas. Finding a GOOD place to stay here is not easy. We will be here for at least five days and will stay in at least three different places. Working with immigrations has been a hassle again. Poor Josh has had to deal with a lot stress. They are always changing the rules and what they want. He began the process on Tuesday and thankfully today he finally got someone helpful and our special pass paper work could be done this afternoon – until we have to come back in three months for our official visas. Actually, the lady Josh met today is an Ateso and Josh began talking to her in her language. Instantly, she liked him and was very helpful. (Isn’t it fun how God answers prayers.)

Thankfully we have had a good stay here. The girls have been really good and play happily. We all have enjoyed good food and even pizza delivered to us. We have seen our share of doctors too. Josh and I had our teeth cleaned at the dentist. I know what your thinking – a dentist in Uganda how scary – but it was really nice, quick, and with little discomfort. I saw my OBGYN for a check up and went to an ear, noses, and throat doctor about my sinus problems. The best part is we had a 3D ultra sound of our baby!

The ultra sound was so amazing. We saw our baby! We could see it moving. The baby played with the embilical cord and kept putting its hand by its mouth until it finally found its thumb. We watch our baby suck its thumb in the womb! How precious. I so wish Grandma and Grandpa could have seen, but we do have pictures to send. I am so thankful to know and see that our baby is healthy. What a blessing. (The cost of a 3D ultra sound including a disc with pictures = $60. At that price insurance should let me do another one J.)

Josh just returned and we got our special passes and our work visas should be ready mid-September. Thank you God! It is an answer to prayer to have that done and to have met the right person to help us. Thanks for praying everyone.

Josh's Journal Aug. 21

August 21, 2008
As I write this we are stuck in Kampala waiting for the immigration work to take place, trying to maintain legal status here in Uganda. I find this process so frustrating, but was reminded a couple months ago that this too is part of responding to God’s call to missions. Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to the immigration window 6 times. Each time they managed to notice one more thing that was incorrect or missing. Wednesday they finally accepted my pile of papers, but noticed that Lydia is 5 years old, which means she needs a pupil’s pass instead of a dependent’s pass like Mandy and Grace get. I can apply for the dependents’ passes the same time I apply for my own, but can’t apply for a pupil’s pass until my own work visa has been approved. They said they would make their decision on my own application by Monday. If they approve me I can go to the bank and pay (Uganda does not trust its own government employees with money) then jump through the next hoop. As you can tell I am very frustrated. I have not shared half the details of frustration and helplessness I feel when I deal with the man behind the bars (I think I know why he sits behind a window with bars). However, today I read from Psalm 3 and 4 – I was comforted that God is in control. He is with me. He also sees everything that is being done. Those passages gave me strength to persevere doing things God’s way (it would be cheaper to slide money through that barred window than to keep paying to stay here in Kampala.)

I do think I should also give praise to God for one specific way He provided during my struggles in the immigration office. I needed a copy of the renewed certificate of our NGO here in Uganda. Last year we (Tim and I) went to the NGO office to try to check to see if the NGO papers were complete. The NGO office said we needed letters from our chairman to receive any answers from the office. So this year when the immigration office said I needed this certificate from the NGO office my heart sank. Our NGO chairman is in Soroti – a looong way from Kampala. I decided to try going to the NGO office since it was 200 yards from the immigration office. I prayed before entering. The receptionist sent me back outside and said to try 2 doors further down. That door was locked. At this point I felt like I was being given the run around. However, I could here a woman inside talking so I decided to wait. After about 20 minutes the door opened and I was invited inside. I explained my situation to the woman inside who then became annoyed with the receptionist for not getting me the certificate herself. She told the receptionist to bring our NGO folder. When the woman in charge opened our folder, a photocopy of my passport was the very top sheet of paper. From that point on she was calling me by my first name and within 2 minutes I had the paper I needed. Now I needed photocopy. The immigration office has added a photocopy booth (I guess that is a second way God provided.) Anyway, I don’t feel I adequately communicate the way God worked for you to fully understand, but let me tell you – it was obvious to me.

So now we are in Kampala…waiting. We went with Mandy to get a 3D ultrasound yesterday. We have some amazing photographs of the baby. I was amazed. Is it a boy or a girl? You all will have to wait and see because we didn’t find out. Today we went to the dentist. It was a bit different than in the USA. The cleaning was not quite as thorough (they did not floss our teeth), but it was only $55. After that we went and bought a wireless modem that will work in Soroti. We are so excited. We now have internet access right at home. I know, it doesn’t make sense: we had to come to Kampala to buy a wireless modem through a cell phone company to use in Soroti – but they do not sell them anywhere else.

Last weekend we had a wonderful Safari at Murchison Falls in Western Uganda. The roads getting to the park were TERRIBLE!!! It took us three hours to go the first 65 miles, and not because of heavy traffic. Once we entered the forest preserve at the edge of the park the road was very good; however, our van started having trouble. We were back firing, something was missing, at times it almost felt like we were out of gas, there was no power. We stopped in the little town where the gate was to enter the park. I asked if there was a mechanic; the men pointed to a gravel parking lot with 4 broken tractors sitting in it. Someone ran to find him. About 5 minutes later he came; through an interpreter (don’t forget that) I explained what had happened. He came out of his storage shed with two wrenches and a rope. He was ready to remove my driver’s seat (in my van the engine is under the seats) but then I showed him how to move the passenger seat without taking all the bolts out – oh no, I was not feeling too confident at this point. When I did that he put his two wrenches down and was left with only the rope. About that time a second man decided to help, he appeared to know a thing or two so I did not object. Using only the rope they removed our fuel filter. They then took the fuel filter apart and washed it out. Then they put it back in. A test drive later and I was convinced they had solved the problem. When it was time to negotiate the price, the mechanic could do his own talking – no need for an interpreter. However, the interpreter also wanted me to pay him. It was quite a trip.

Inside the park was simply amazing! Hundreds of animals. Hartebeast, Ugandan kob, oribis, (those are all in the deer family). We saw warthogs. We saw groups of water buffaloes. I did not get too much time to enjoy them because they look like a small tank with a bad attitude and Mandy was quite nervous. They were only about 10 from the road and took the “charge” position as soon as I slowed down. We saw many giraffes (thank God for digital cameras – we have nearly a hundred giraffe pictures.) At one point we were right in the midst of a herd with babies – it is strange calling an animal that is 6 feet tall a baby. Our girls loved it. We also saw a leopard in a tree. Later we saw two lions. We saw 40-50 elephants, but none closer than 400 yards away. The second afternoon we took a boat tour on the Nile river. Hundreds of hippos! I was simply amazed at the number of animals. I asked the guides if they open the park to hunting to limit the number of animals (since it is not good to exceed the carrying capacity). He said they are still trying to increase the number of animals. What made the safari so fun was the cost. It was quite affordable. Our room was only $30 / night (granted we had to share two single beds for our family of 4). Food averaged about $5 per person per meal. We got into the park for $20 per person. Other than that it was only gas and paying for the boat rides. If you ever want to join us, the guide said that the best months for seeing animals are April and May or early June. The invitation is there.

August 22
Today things improved in terms of the immigration process. I went to the office this morning and our special passes (which give us three months to process our work permits) were ready for me to go to the bank to pay. However, instead of going directly to pay for them, I decided to take the approved form to the students pass line to try to start Lydia’s process. I was hoping to get it started so that by some miracle it could be finished by Monday. The lady behind the barred window saw we were from Soroti and asked which part we came from. Turns out she also came from Soroti and is Iteso by tribe. I greeted her in Ateso, she greeted me back in Ateso. Then she asked me a few questions in Ateso to which I actually new the answers (thank God). By now the whole office was laughing. She said to the work permit officer, “he is white, but he is one of my people.” Then I asked her if she could make it possible for me to get a bank bill so I could pay for Lydia’s student pass the same time I paid for the rest of the family. She said it was not possible until the application had been processed; however, I should just wait outside. Five minutes later she came outside and the application had been processed. I was able to pay and return them to the office immediately after lunch I brought them back. The officer said to come back by 5:00 to pick them up. I went about 4:00 and got them. The kind woman from Soroti also agreed to check up on my work permit application for me. I have to call her in three weeks to seek if it is finished. That woman was truly an answer from prayer and a gift from God.


August 19

We just returned from our first Ugandan safari and it was awesome! We left at 6am Saturday morning. It is quite a journey – nothing easy here. It took over five hours to get to the entrance of the park. Some of the roads were awful! Some of the roads were really nice. But all was going well until our van started acting up. The power was gone and it kept like back firing. I was so scared. We were about to go into the game park and I was not about to be stranded among wild animals! I prayed SO hard. We went through two VERY small towns before we had to turn to enter the park and the second one had a mechanic. I was really nervous. What if he had no clue what he was doing and made it worse. All I saw was broken tractors around. And of course we gathered a crowd. I was in such a bad mood. It was hot, a drunk man kept trying to talk to us, and I was trying to keep sane for the girls sake. We prayed over this trip for weeks so I just kept praying. We were out in no where and if we couldn’t get our van fixed we would be there a LONG time and would not be able to do our safari. Whenever my attitude gets bad I feel like I am being tested. I fail almost all the time. Why can’t I joyful in all circumstances? I am always impressed with my girls. They just go with the flow, are happy, don’t complain or worry. I can really learn from them. Anyways, the mechanic DID fix the van! It was, as we thought, dirt in the fuel filter. I praised God for answered prayer!!! He is always with us.

So we were on our way and entered Murchinson Falls. We had so much fun seeing animals on our ride in. We saw giraffes, all kinds of different antelope, hardebeasts, bush and water buck, wort hogs, water buffalo… I was so glad that Lydia loved it instead of being scared (she has a fear of animals). We prepared them for a couple weeks telling them we were going to a zoo where the animals were not in cages and we drive in our van to see them. It is so exciting seeing animals in the wild. I love the giraffes. They are amazing – taller than the trees! It took about two hours and it was SO hot driving in but we had fun.

We then had to cross the Nile River on a ferry to get to Red Chili Rest Camp where we stayed. The first thing I saw at the Red Chili was wart hogs wondering around the camp. There were signs reminding guests that we are in the national park and not to keep any food in tents because of animals. The thing that scared me most was the notice about hippos that sometimes come to camp at night. Do you know how big and mean hippos can be?! With all that said, we loved our stay at the Red Chili. We had a banda (one room cabin) with two twin beds and a fan. Stacey stayed in a safari tent with two twin beds. Lots of people bring their own tents so there were tents and people everywhere. The bathrooms were fine too – like a state park. The food was good, the lounge area really nice, and the view beautiful. The best part is the price – only $25 a night for our room. The first night we just relaxed and cooled off after a long, hot day of driving.

The next morning people were up by 5am getting ready for their game rides. It was a bit loud but I didn’t mind because we were all excited to go and see the animals. Lydia woke up cheering saying, “Good morning everyone!” We decided to have breakfast before we headed out at 7:45. Then we crossed the river, picked up our park guide who rode with us, and began our 3 hour safari. Josh asked the guide why he took a gun with him. He said it was incase he needed it with the elephants. He said it was just to shoot in the air if he needed to scare them off but he has never had to. I just had to laugh. We didn’t have a guide with a gun in Nigeria but we sure needed one! It ended up we only saw elephants from a distance so that is good. They are huge. I still like the giraffes the most. We got so close to them. They are quiet, so tall, and fascinating. We turned off the van and just sat with them all around us. I got great pictures. There were even twins with their mama. The guide spotted a leopard in a tree way off in the distance (amazing). Josh saw it in his binoculars but the girls and I didn’t really see much. But we did see two lionesses. They just happened to be up on an ant hill when we drove by. Then they sat back down in the long grass and you could only see them if you were up on top of the van. It is always exciting to see lions. The park so diverse and big one road you are in savanna, then bushes, then wet land. I was so thankful I felt completely safe and we all really enjoyed it.

After lunch and a rest we were off again this time for our boat ride on the Nile up to Muchinson Falls. I was really nervous about this one. There are hippos and crocodiles in the river and the boat isn’t all that big (but very nice). We saw hundreds of hippos! They are huge. I was a bit nervous when we were close to them and they would disappear under water – where would they come up? But the diver/guide never stayed by them too long. We saw elephants in the distance down by the water and water buffalo. Near the end we saw quite a few crocs but they seemed to be really scared and would go into the water when we came by. Muchinson Falls was beautiful but we couldn’t get too close. The girls loved the boat ride because they made friends with a couple from California that were in Uganda for a two week mission project.

And that was our safari. By the time we got to Kampala we were very tired of driving and being in the van. Most of the roads were good thankfully but there is no where to stop and have a break. We had one kinda scary thing happen, a man was flagging us down for a ride (like they do for taxis) but when he saw we were not going to stop he throw his bag at us and it smashed into our side window. Thankfully there wasn’t anything hard inside to break the window. I think he was crazy or drunk. It is times like that that I know God is with us and answers our prayers for safety in all our travels.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prayer Request

August 14

We have a couple prayer requests we would love to have all of you praying over:
Josh’s Grandma Stahl is not doing well and may go home to be with Jesus anytime now. Grandma was moved into a nursing home Monday but she doesn’t even know where she is. She hasn’t eaten more than a few bites in days; she sees people (in Heaven); she doesn’t know who people are; and she is very fidgety. It is very hard for everyone to see Grandma like this but there is also a lot of peace knowing she has no pain. We are so thankful Grandma loves the Lord and will go home if she dies. Please pray for Josh’s family at this time. Pray for God’s peace upon all of them, for strength, and especially for Grandpa Stahl as he may be saying goodbye to his wife of over 60 years. Pray for us as we are far from all of them. We know God will give us peace too.
We will be in Kampala all next week working on renewing our residence permit. We have no idea what we need to do and what will happen but we do know it was quite a hassle when we worked with the immigration office the first time. Pray that all goes amazingly well and we are giving a long, new residence permit. We know God can do all things especially when His people are praying for it.
Thanks for the prayers! We always know we can count on you. God bless you,

Aug. 14 Josh's Journal

August 14
I don’t think I have written for a couple of weeks so I wanted to write and give you a little update. The week of teaching the Timothy Leadership Training - Pastoral Care unit went very well in Amuria; however, I was very surprised how much it took out of me. About 65 pastors and church leaders gathered for the week. I was a little worried about how serious they would take it since I was the one providing all the food and notes. However, I was very happy with their response. It took me about an hour to get there each morning. I left home at 7:00 each day. As soon as I walked into the church they rang the bell and within 60 seconds everyone was inside and ready to begin. On Tuesday my motorcycle broke down on the way there so I was over an hour late. (First I had tried to get it running, then I had to push it back to a primary school because I did not simply want to leave it setting along the road. Then I hitch-hiked to the next town. There I waited until a market truck came bouncing down the road - they had room in the back yet so I climbed on and finally made it to Amuria.) However, they had not waited for me to begin. They had begun without me by discussing what I had taught the day before.
Some of the church leaders had been serving God for 20-30 years, others for only 1 year. However, few of them had finished any sort of Bible training. They were all grateful for the chance to receive training. They also wanted to know when I could teach the same course in Katakwi. I would love to, but I am still trying to get over my cold - which started the second day I taught in Amurai. The course lasted a week.
I enjoyed the weekend with our family and Stacey. Then on Monday I headed to Otuboi to teach for the day. We began the 2nd section of the Timothy Leadership Training - Christian Stewardship. I think it will be a good course because those church leaders identified many resources that local Christians have, and many ways the churches need to improve their giving and offering system.
These last few days have been a little less busy. I have been working on my Old Testament Survey course for Bethel Bible college again. I am on Zechariah which means I am nearly finished. Yeah!!
This weekend we are going to Murchison Falls, a game park in Northwestern Uganda. The nice lodges were quite expensive so we decided to stay at the cheap one, called Red Chilis. We will be staying in one of their tents. As the time gets closer we are starting to question the sanity of staying in tents in a game park with all of Africa’s big game animals, but people do it every night. Anyway, it should be fun. Then next week we head on to Kampala to renew our work visas. In many ways that feels more intimidating than staying in a tent in the land of lions and elephants. Hopefully it goes well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 11 Mandy's Journal

August 11

Things have been quiet around here but good. Last week Josh taught over an hour away in Amuria everyday. He began the Timothy Institute with them. Sixty-five pastors attended. We missed Josh and he was really tired by the end of the week, but it was worth it because course was a blessing to so many. They weren’t so sure about Josh at first seeing he is “just a boy” (I think Josh likes being called a boy at 30 years old) but after the first day they were very impressed and had confidence in his teaching. One lady who attended used to be crazy and walk the streets naked, but through some pastors care and prayers is now in her right mind and serving the Lord. She became crazy after joining a cult so I think it was demon possession. Isn’t it amazing what the love and prayers of God’s people can do?! Another pastor there was 75 years old. Him and his wife have been married for 51 years and have never been able to have kids. It is amazing in this culture to find a couple that has stayed together that long without having children. Most men would get another wife. He told Josh coming to the course took a lot of effort but once he was there it was like when Jesus took his disciples on the mountain top. There were also two pastors from Karamoja that attended the course. I am very proud of Josh and all he is doing to help build God’s kingdom. Now the neighboring district is asking for Josh to come and do the course. These areas are so needy. They were hit hard with fighting from the Karamojan and the LRA. They really want people to come and help them. They are so grateful for the course and already people down here have heard about Josh’s teaching. I pray God continues to work in these areas and in these people.

I started to feel the baby move last week! It is soft and could be mistaken but after a few days I knew it was our baby. The baby usually kicks after I eat or am resting. It is special feeling your baby move. No one else knows or notices. It is a bond between baby and me. I am excited for Josh and the girls to be able to feel it. It shouldn’t be long because already the kicks have gotten stronger. I am so thankful with every movement that our baby is healthy.

Lydia and Stacey continue with school. Lydia sometimes gets sick of it and is very squirmy and distracted. But she is learning. She has done a lot of adding and subtracting this week and continues with printing, reading, telling time…

Stacey seems to be enjoying her time here. Sometimes it is very boring around here but she is getting a good taste of mission life. She went with Josh one day to Amuria, we have gone to market, town, Amecet, church, and to our friends. She is easy and helpful to have around. The girls love her! She plays and reads a lot to them. I am so thankful that the girls have this special time with her. We enjoy the fellowship too. We often play games at night or sit and talk.

Monday I got to go to a garage sale! (I know I am a little weird but I love them.) Our Baptist missionary friends had a sale before they leave for America for 10 months. I got a lot of good food, baby stuff, and odd and ends. I really enjoyed the afternoon of fellowship and my girls love playing with the kids. We then had dinner with them on Friday night. Good food and games! On Saturday we went to a birthday for our missionary friends from the Philippines. They had a traditional celebration with a whole roasted pig and all! It was fun and good. I am so thankful for the friendships we have here in Soroti.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lydia is 5!

July 29

Yesterday we played goal ball with our blind friends from SACAB. It was the sighted against the blind but the sighted were blind folded. They made a field with rope and there were three people on each side on their knees defending their goal. The goal was to roll the ball to the other side hoping to get it past the opponents and into the goal. The ball is a special ball for the blind with a bell in it to hear it coming. We had a lot of laughs watching Josh, John, Barb, and Tim play ball “blind”. What fun! I even ended up playing. It is not easy being blind and it gave me a good taste on how it feels. I am pretty much helpless without my eyes. I was thankful to take off the blind fold and see the light again, but for our friends there is no light. How glorious heaven will be for them when Jesus opens their eyes and they see His light! We had a great afternoon laughing and playing with our friends.

August 1

Lydia is now 5 years old! Always hard to believe when your little one is growing up. We celebrated Wednesday before everyone left. Lydia was quite confused that we were partying the day before so we just let her think that was her birthday. When she found out we would be celebrating the next day too because it was July 31, her birthday, she asked if she was turning 6 now. We decorated the house for her birthday – balloons, paper chains, streamers, signs… Her cake was made into a number five and was chocolate with pink m&m’s on it. We had a grill out for her birthday but it was indoors because of the rain. We had hot dogs, baked beans, chips, cole slaw, jello and of course cake and homemade ice cream. Then of course presents. Lydia got ballerinas, DVDs, colors, and a game. Needless to say, Lydia was very excited. It is so much fun to celebrate. I hope Lydia always knows how much she is loved. She is so special to us. She fills our home with singing, dancing, dressing up, imagination, smiles, and love. She is growing and learning all the time. Most importantly she is learning about God through His Word, singing, and memorizing. What a blessing! Happy 5th Birthday Lydia!!!

John and Barb and Tim, Angie, Avalien, and Moses left on Thursday. Tim and Angie will be on home service or furlough for the next three months. Oh goodbyes. I was surprised that there was even some tears. They mean a lot to us. We haven’t been apart much in a year and a half. It is really hard to believe that we will be apart seven months because when they return we go home for four months. Lydia was so cute telling Avalien she loved her, not to forget her, and she would give her kisses over the phone. Grace didn’t want to have anything to do with all the goodbyes and cried when they left. She wanted to go see grandma too. It is a good thing Stacey is here with us for a few weeks so that we aren’t left completely alone. We pray all goes well as they all journey to the US.

We are so thankful that John and Barb came again this year. It is nice because they just fit right in when they come. Their ministry here is so good and helpful. It is good for people other than us to come and serve. The people here respect them and their wisdom. The blind people at SACAB love Barb and we are all impressed with the knitting. Most of all we are thankful for their friendship, wisdom, help, and encouragement they bring us. We enjoy the fellowship and our girls adore them. Barb read many a books to our girls. We look forward to the next time Buteyns come.

Lydia continues to do school for a couple hours each day. Stacey does such a good job. She is creative and natural teacher. I love listening to them. I am so impressed with all Lydia can do and is learning. She is working on vowels, reading, time, adding, counting by 2, 5, and 10, printing… I just can’t imagine teaching 25 squirmy little five year olds at the same time. Gracie tries to go to school sometimes too. She lasts about ten minutes.

What else? It has been raining here so that is really nice. I love clouds (cooler temps), especially since I have to wear support hoses everyday. If I don’t wear them my legs just ache. I had this problem with my last pregnancy too. I pray I have enough patience to endure six more months of wearing these. Have you ever tried getting those babies on?! It is like putting on size 0 spandex pants but worse. J Josh is on break now from teaching but he goes to teach every day next week an hour away. We are excited as things are coming into place with our home service. Hopefully in a couple weeks we will know where we will be living, have a vehicle, and sign Lydia up for school. That is about it for now. Thanks for all your love and prayers!