Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trip to Kampala

October 29
What a day Monday was. While writing I will use words like “I” and “she”, but I first want to say that God was the one who made the day a success. It usually takes at least three days to process something through the immigration office. To complete the whole thing in one day simply is an act of God and an answer to many of your prayers. All praise and glory to Him!
I woke up at 3:00 a.m. By 3:30 the bus company was at our gate to pick me up so I could catch one of the early buses to Kampala. I thought to myself, “My parents are still in church on Sunday night I am already beginning my Monday.” Strange to consider those things. I found a seat on the bus and settled in. I have not traveled in the dark since last December so it was a little strange, but the bus ride went well. We stopped in many towns along the way to add passengers. By 9:15 I was in Kampala.
After exchanging money I headed to the immigration office. I checked the approval book and found my file number. The officer gave me my file and told me to take it to the cashier. The cashier there does not receive any cash; he just writes the bill for people to take to the bank. The bank is about two miles from the immigration offices, but I was sick of riding so I decided to walk. With the traffic in that part of town I probably only lost 10-15 minutes. I paid my bill at one window and was told to wait at a different window for the receipt. I asked how long it would be. “One hour” was the answer.
I exited the bank and headed back down the street 300 yards to Dominoe’s Pizza. It is different from the American Dominoe’s Pizza, but it still had very good Bacon & pineapple pizza. After eating I went back to the bank to stand in “line” to get my receipt. The line consist of 25-30 people crowding around a little window. I would have sat in a chair, but then would not be able to have heard my name being called. So I stood in that mass of humanity for an hour until they called my name. I stopped a taxi (taxis in Uganda are vans full of people, they are NOT cars you privately hire) and headed back to immigration.
I got there about 20 minutes before the lunch break. The officer was kind but said it would be Wednesday before I could get my passports back. (This was the answer I had expected.) I explained that I wanted to return to Soroti, but he still said he could not have them done before Wednesday. It takes time to get all the files back from the cashier because several offices use the same cashier.
I then went and thanked Kevin for her help. (She was the lady from Soroti who now works in an adjacent office. She was the one who kept checking for me to see if my file had been approved.) She asked if I had finished the process. I explained what the man said. She told me she would talk to him at lunch and see if he could get them done the same day. I should come back at 2:00. At 2:00 she went herself to the cashier’s office to get my file and brought it to the immigration office. She told me to check with the officer at 3:00. At 3:00 it was not done yet. I checked again at 3:30 - not done. I checked again at 4:00 - not done. However, they were working on it so I decided to stay and wait. About 4:15 the officer handed me my passports and said they were finished.
By this time it was getting late so I knew I needed to hustle if I was going to sleep at home. I got a taxi which said he was headed to Mbale (the last major city before Soroti) so I boarded. Riding a taxi is slow-going because they continuously stop for more passengers. After about 90 minutes the van stopped behind another taxi. The driver said I needed to board the next taxi because he wasn’t actually going to Mbale. The second taxi was quite a trip. At one point we had 20 people in a van equipped for 14 (it keeps the fares lower when you overload them.) In our 3-person bench we had 4 people sitting and a 5th person standing bent over at the waste. I would have complained, but it would not have done any good so I bit my tongue and prayed for safety. We continued to make slow progress until we reach the city of Iganga and entered the taxi park. He told me to enter a different taxi, because he wasn’t actually going to Mbale either. By now it was dark and the taxi park was barely controlled chaos. People were yelling at each other and pulling at me. “White man, you come, we go, I take you where you want.” A few of us were trying to get to Mbale so we enter taxi number three. Ten minutes passed before the driver admitted he was going to Mbale, but not right away. Out we went to find taxi number four. By this point I would have paid considerable money to hire a car privately (which is done throughout Africa) but I did not know where to find one and did not dare to walk aimlessly alone considering the environment which I was in. About 5 minutes later we finally pulled out of the taxi park. The rest of the ride to Mbale went quite well. We pulled into town about 2 minutes before the last bus left for Soroti. The price for all that excitement over the 140 miles from Kampala to Mbale: $8.
Buses are not really on a schedule, so it really felt like they were waiting for me. (God at work.) I was their last customer of the day. I climbed on and within 2 minutes we were on the road. When we got to Soroti I hired a motorcycle taxi to take me home. I walked in the house at 11:30, just 20 hours after I’d left. I was tired, hungry (I knew I did not have time for supper if I wanted to reach home), and thirsty. I had a glass of water and washed up. There was no electricity so I just went to bed without supper because I did not want to wake up the kids. I was worn out, but knew it was God who had made my trip a success.
Yesterday (10-28) was Happy Dewali for the Indians (their New Year’s Eve I guess because today they all say Happy New Year to each other.) Some of our friends from OM supermarket invited us to the celebration. We arrived at their store about 7:30 in he evening and immediately went with them to the compound where the Hindu temple is. All the Indians in Soroti had gathered in the courtyard outside the temple to set off fireworks. The police had given them permission to set off fireworks for one hour. They had everything from sparklers to the bonafide fireworks that make everyone go “ahhh, ohm” (Ugandans who gathered on the street to watch reacted the same way Americans do on July 4.)
About ten minutes into the show one of the loud ones tipped over and shot over into the crowd about six feet from where we were sitting. It traumatized our children. Lydia was crying, Grace showed absolutely no emotion. From that point on we sat in the van to watch. It got a little hot, but our girls really enjoyed the show without having to listen to the loud noise.
After the fireworks, they brought out the food. I do not know what it was called, but it was all really good. There were about 10 different things. We got home about 10:00. It was a lot of fun. We felt a little out of place, especially when the conversations were taking place in Hindi, but we still felt privileged that they invited us to come. We pray for our friends. Many of them have received copies of God’s Word. We pray that they will read their new Bibles and believe in Him who is the Light of the world.

Indian Celebration

Oct. 29
Josh traveled to Kampala and back on Monday. What a trip! Josh got up just after 3am to take the 4am bus to Kampala. It was the first time any of us took the bus so we did a lot of praying. He got to Kampala around 10am and headed right to immigrations. Then to the bank to pay for our three year work permit or visa. By the time he was done at the bank it was after 12pm. The immigration office told him it would be three days before the passports would be signed. Josh tried to get them to just do it a minute but they went on lunch break instead. Josh talked to the lady in the other office he now knows and she talked to the people over lunch and got them to agree to stamp the passports that day. By 4:30pm Josh was finally heading back to Soroti with stamped passports. Praise God! The only nice part of the day for Josh was he got to have pizza and a milk shake. He didn’t get home until 11:30pm. It took more than four CROWDED taxis, a bus, a motorcycle, and many stops but he was home safe and sound. What an answer to prayer.

Last night we celebrated the New Year with our friends from India. Last year we missed it so this year they had us put it on our calendar a month in advance. We didn’t know what we were getting into or what to expect. We did know there would be fireworks. I even wore my outfit from India they gave me (I fit right in – almost). We went with our friends from the supermarket and as soon as we arrived the party started. The women led me and the girls into their Hindu temple. They rang a bell and prayed to their gods. The girls and I just stood there. They are very proud of their gods. I asked them why everyone rings the bell when they come in to pray. They told me it is so their gods know they have come. Interesting. I am thankful my God knows where I am at all times.

From the temple we went outside where the fireworks were going off. I think everyone brought a big bag full. There was everything from sparklers to big forth of July high in the air fireworks going off. It was loud. Grace had her ears covered from the first bang. The girls were nervous but we tried to sit further back and talk about how pretty it was. THEN, a couple fireworks must have fallen over and came toward everyone! Talk about terror. We ran for it. I don’t know if Lydia was hit but I know one hit my cheek (there was soot to prove it). I thought, “This must be what it feels like to be in the middle of a war.” It sounded like one! Our girls were panicked!!! Ok, Lydia was. Grace just buried her head as deep into Josh as she could while covering her ears. I really though we had damaged our kids. The few other women and kids that ran with us and then went back to their seats as the fireworks continued. But not us. Lydia wanted nothing to do with any of it and wanted to go home. Actually, she was crying for Grandma. Guess she didn’t trust us at this point anymore. We finally got them calmed down by sitting in the safety of the van. I really can’t blame them it was scary. I was so thankful they even ended up enjoying the fireworks from the van.

After an hour of fireworks (that is a lot of money), the show was over. Then everyone gathered to eat, women on one side and men on the other. We were the only non-Indian people there. There were about 90 people there (that is how many Indians live in Soroti). All of the ones we know were so excited we came. The women looked so beautiful in their India clothes. They know so little English so I mostly sat and watched. They are very kind to me. The food was really good but gets to be SO spicy. (Are my lips on fire?!) Josh loved the food and went up several times with the men. Lydia and Grace made friends with the other kids. I am always so proud of them when they join in when we are in foreign settings. The whole night was a cultural experience. I really enjoyed it. I feel like we got to know our friends better and made new friends. Now they really want us to come to India with them next year. Oh boy, that would be a cultural experience I may not be ready for. I am very thankful we could celebrate with them. We left for home at 10pm saying a prayer for all our Indian friends. As they celebrate their New Year with light may they come to know the true Light. Amen!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Josh's Journal - Oct. 24

October 24
I survived my week of teaching in Katakwi. Katakwi is located east of Soroti, right on the border with Karamoja. It is a fairly remote place which has suffered greatly because of insurgency and raids. As a result, few people go to that area to strengthen the church or to train leaders. Everyone in Soroti that I talk to agrees that Katakwi is the most unreached area in Teso region. Therefore, I offered several months ago to train church leaders there. Things finally got organized. We met at the PAG in Katakwi town. About 80 church leaders attended the training. I was using the “Pastoral Care” materials written by the Timothy Leadership Training Institute of Calvin Seminary.

The road to Katakwi is TERRIBLE. Katakwi is about 30 miles from Soroti, but it still took an hour each morning and evening, even on the motorcycle. On Monday it rained while I was traveling there in the morning, so I arrived wet, muddy, and cold (yes I did say cold.) By Tuesday the road had turned to dust so the white handkerchief I tie around my face (to keep the dust out) had turned brown. People there were surprised I would drive back and forth each day, but I felt that my children should see me at night. I also know that I wouldn’t feel rested if I stayed with that big group each night. So each day I left home before 7 and returned about 6 at night. Let me give you one more glimpse as to how bad the road is. I have four plastic side panels on my motorcycle. Two of the plastic panels cracked this week, my battery leaked acid all over - even though it says it is sealed, and I lost my license plate even though it was held on with two screws and two pop rivets.

The teaching went well. I taught about 7-8 hours each day. The church leaders seemed eager to learn and had many questions. I think the highlight was probably the discussion we had about the place of our families compared to the ministry. I asked Basil (who helps me organize these events) how this week compared with the week we spent in Amuria. (I felt like Amuria had gone better.) He said Amuria was a little more organized, but the church leaders in Katakwi were much more eager to go back home and begin practicing the things they had learned. He felt like the lessons would be applied more in Katakwi.

On a side note, one of the pastors wore a blaze orange hunting coat to the workshop every morning. Yes, it really was a hunting coat. It had the black quilted lining and the heavy duty zipper. It made me wish I was in the woods. Soon enough, three weeks from now we will be driving up 131 on our way to McBain. I can’t wait.

For now, I am just tired. My body is tired and so is my voice. I am looking forward to a weekend of rest.

The blind have begun making follow-up visits to the people who received the orange tree orchards. They have been impressed with how well people are taking care of their trees. They have also been sharing the Bible studies we recorded. I am excited that this is finally happening. Our biggest hurdle at this point is the money we need for their transportation. Our account for the work with the blind is nearly empty. At that point I guess we will need to rest from that work and wait on God.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mandy's Journal - Oct. 20 & 22

Oct. 20
I finished up my girls Bible study until I come back. We did a study on purity. I was so excited to talk about this with them and share that God’s Word says about purity, love, and marriage. I was a bit sad that only a few from the group came but I just trust that is who God wanted to come. The two leaders of the group came faithfully and I really enjoy teaching them. They told me that these Bible studies have changed their lives. Praise God! One of them stayed after and shared with me her struggle with purity. It confirmed to me again that it is so easy to cover up sin and how bad it is here in Soroti. I will continue to disciple the ones God has given me and pray for His work among the many others. How God desires for us to know and obey Him. When I see the effect of sin all around me I can’t believe we would forsake the joy God has for us for sinful desires.

We have all been sick around here. Josh started with the cold and since then we have all had our turn. I have it right now and it is a bad one. Sore throat, laryngitis, sinus pain, sneezing, runny nose… We hopeful that this will be all over by the time we fly home.

Lydia and I are plugging away with school. Last week we had fun learning about the five senses. I blind folded Lydia and she touched, heard, and tasted different things to figure out what they were. Fun! Now she is learning about maps. She gets sick of the basic stuff we have to do but she does enjoy learning new things.

I noticed the other day when I laid down with Grace for her nap that she still plays with her hair when she falls asleep. She did that since she was a baby. Lydia is now trying not to suck her thumb so she can pick out a new DVD of her choice when we get to MI. She has done well so far. We are praying for her.

Oct. 22
Lydia asked us last night how God makes a baby inside of me. I am as stumped as she is. It truly is a miracle. Life is from God and is amazing! I am so glad she asks such great questions.

Josh is teaching this week in Katakwi. It takes him over an hour on the motorcycle one way. He comes home pretty muddy seeing how it has been rainy. I am thankful all has gone well. Today is his last day. There is a lot of need in Katakwi. No one seems to go there and help and they have been hurt by the LRA and Karamojan. Josh is training 80 church leaders. Josh asked how many of them have a degree from a Bible college and only 6 of them raised their hands. About 10 others had started some kind of training but didn’t complete it. Most of them don’t even have High School degrees. Can you imagine? All those church leaders leading with almost no training. It is shocking. They had a really good discussion on putting family before your ministry, the importance of listening to people before you minister to them, and so many other things to at least get them thinking about what God’s word says. I am amazed at Josh and his gift to teach God’s Word. I am very proud of him. He will be tired by the end of it all and we will be ready to have him home again. But it is all worth it knowing God’s kingdom is advancing.

I have really been enjoying the weather this week – cloudy and cool. People in MI can’t understand how we love cloudy weather here. The difference here is that it protects us from the sun and 100degree temperatures. It rained softly here and there too. It must be our fall time here.

We are getting pretty anxious around here. The other night Lydia woke up and I was tucking her back in. Grace woke up and asked sleepily if we were going to the airport. It is fun to start to pack. I have begun packing things up too. No need for everything here to be left out in the dust. Two weeks from today we will travel to Kampala!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mandy's Journal Oct. 13

Oct. 12 2008

I probably will not write much this month seeing as though it is our last month here before we go on home service – things are busy! (Although, this is me do I ever say anything short?)

We had a wonderful time in Kampala last week. We stayed with our new friends the Munshaws and really enjoyed it. Lydia and Josiah played and played. I am so thankful for good friends. We ate a lot of good food together too. I saw the doctor and all is well praise the Lord. I have now gained over 10 pounds which at least the doctor was glad to see. We also got our air conditioner fixed in our van. Oh, how I love air – especially in Africa! Josh took us to the Speke Resort for a night. It was my mother’s day present I finally redeemed. I love that place. It is so much fun and so nice. The girls swam and swam. They also loved riding the horses once again. I love eating there. The atmosphere is wonderful and the food is fun. So we were all happy and thankful for our stay. What a treat! The only negative part of our trip to Kampala was that we did not get our work visas. They were supposed to be ready two weeks ago. These people really irritate me. I think they are hoping for something to hurry the posses because there is no reason why they shouldn’t be done. There is nothing we can do. Unfortunately, that means when ever they are ready Josh or all of us will have to make a trip back to Kampala to get them.

Oh, I forgot. We signed on the new house! We met the landlord in Kampala and finalized things with him. So when we return in March we will move in. I pray it all comes together because it has been a lot of work and stress. This week I have been getting the carpenter started, did a first cleaning with Tabitha, and talked to the plumber. I am glad we are only in charge of a few things. The landlord and the guy he has in charge here in Soroti are to get most of the work done. I picked out paint colors, which is quite a job for me. What if I made a mistake? I have to live with these decisions. And of course, you can’t get just the color you want here. The landlord isn’t sending the painter till November so I am a bit nervous because we will already be gone. Josh is stressed looking at the money situation. All the repairs are paid for by rent money but that means we had to give a bunch of rent money up front. Thankfully, we really do like the house. I am sure it will all be worth it.

Yesterday is Grace’s 3rd birthday! She knows she is three now but doesn’t seem to be too excited about it all. Lydia is more excited about the presents than her sister. We decorated the house and cake. Grace wanted tacos for supper. Tabitha’s kids came to eat cake with us. The grandparents and others called to wish Grace a happy birthday too. We are so thankful for Grace – a gift from God!

I was amazed to sit back and watch Tabitha’s kids here the other night. There are three girls ages 13, 11, and 10 and one boy about 4 years old. They were so excited over all the toys. The girls got all dressed up in Lydia and Grace’s jewelry and sunglasses, put on birthday hats, and read/looked at kids books. These kids have been abandoned by their mother and father, abused, and seen too much. They have a lot of hurt and anger. Last night I saw that they so badly just want to be kids. I realized how little I am doing to love them. Imagine a 13 year old girl playing like a little girl because she never got to be a little girl. Breaks my heart. I just found out the 11 year old girl was kidnapped at 6 years old and was going to be sacrificed. For some reason the man who took her didn’t do it but he did try to cut out her tongue and cut her by her throat. When they found her she was so traumatized she couldn’t speak for hours. The evil done to her and the hurt she has experienced shows now in her anger. She really needs our prayers. Pray with us for Tabitha’s nieces and nephew that she cares for.

At church today I realized how much I enjoy it now. I am thankful for the worship. When we sing about worshipping in front of God’s throne I can just imagine our church in front of God praising. There is a song they sing that says, “Only you Jesus, only you” and I think that just sums it all up for me. It is only for and because of Jesus that I live, that I am in Soroti serving, it is only Jesus who these people need, that I need, and He is the one who can do great things here and everywhere. I also thankful for Pastor Francis’ sermons. I am encouraged and challenged by them and get excited about the truth he is sharing with the church. Josh is doing a good work too with the children. Today he did the story of Jesus death and many kids received Christ. Praise God!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Josh's Journal Oct. 11

October 11, 2008
It is Grace’s Birthday today. We made pancakes to celebrate for breakfast. Mandy asked Grace what she wanted for her birthday. Grace simply said, “Cheese!” Therefore, we had cheese for lunch. Tabitha and the kids will be coming over for cake at 7 tonight. It would have been nice to have Tim and Angie here to celebrate, but that is how it all played out.
We mailed in our absentee ballots yesterday. I will not tell you who I voted for, but I will say I have prayed often for McCain/Palin to win. I have been saddened to hear how many Christians are considering to vote for Obama. I can’t imagine voting for someone who supports the slaughter of unborn children. Not to mention supporting an assault on something as fundamental and Biblical as marriage. I am not surprised to hear pagans would vote for him; why would I expect them to fear the LORD. Sadly, it seems like the fear of God has also left the church. While we were in Kampala we experienced a small earthquake - no damage, just enough to scare people, including me. I was reminded afresh about the great and dreadful day of the Lord in which He will unleash His wrath on all who opposed Him and His kingdom. Opposing His kingdom would also include opposing His rule and commands now. As a Church we need to positively influence our culture, not just reflect our culture.
Tomorrow I teach the children at church the most important story of all time: the death and resurrection of Jesus. I am going to teach it two weeks in a row, focusing on the death tomorrow and the resurrection next week. I pray that God will use these simple story times to radically transform the lives of some of the kids there.
This coming week I have to teach the Timothy Institute in Otuboi on Monday. Tuesday I might be going to Kampala again. We spent 5 days in Kampala trying to finish our immigration process last week, but made no progress. We finally gave up and came back to Soroti. I will call Monday, if we have been approved it will be on the road again. I hope it is approved because the following week I have to teach Timothy Institute in Katakwi district (a rural district bordering Karamoja) for five full days in a row. I have a cold and soar throat now, so hopefully I will be well by that time.
While we were in Kampala Mandy decided to redeem her Mother’s Day gift so we went to Speke resort for a night. It is a lot of fun because there are two pools and ponies for the girls to ride. The girls really enjoyed it, so did their parents.
While we were in Kampala we also got the stove fixed. Burners had not been working well. Flames were small. It turned out that the piping had been filled with an ants nest. It works now.