Sunday, April 26, 2009

Josh's Journal

April 22, 2009
Greetings. I hope this letter finds all of you doing well. I heard a turkey gobbling here this morning and it made me wish I was in the woods. Oh well, maybe in a couple of years.
I finally feel like we are doing more than just settling in here. I began leading the Timothy Leadership Trainings (TLT) again on Monday. Monday’s session was in Otuboi. Their topic for the next year will be “Teaching the Christian Faith.” It was fun to be teaching again. I was greatly encouraged that the overseer of Faith Mission (he had attended the last two units of training there) had gone to all the pastors which he supervises to encourage them to come for this training. There were 7 new Faith Mission pastors there; altogether there were 17 pastors and church leaders who attended.
Our lesson focused on what makes someone a good teacher. We came to three conclusions. First, they have knowledge to offer the students. Second, their life exudes the character and truth which their words proclaim. Finally, they teach what is important in such a way that it challenges the learner to follow. We ended by discussing where we get our authority (from the Bible) and what we can do with that authority. Based on 2 Tim. 3:16, we have authority to teach truth, rebuke evil, correct wrong ideas and living, and to train people to live out truth. Things were going well; we were about ten minutes from finishing when a big storm blew in. The roof is metal so it was too loud to hear each other talking. Rain was blowing in the windows (the windows are just openings in the walls where metal window frames can be installed later) so we had to rearrange the benches. The worst part was that the dust from the smeared cow dung floor was blowing all around inside the church. It was visible on everything in the church - my shirt, Bible, benches, etc. It was kind of gross. After about 20 minutes we were able to resume our lesson. Unfortunately we kind of lost our momentum and by then I had to be going so we were not able to work on each person’s action plan. I had stressed early in the day how important action plans were so…I will find out who did one next month.
I was also excited that I was asked to begin leading TLT trainings in another village called Obule. My language helper is trying to arrange a meeting with the church leaders there to discuss details about that training. I am also meeting with a couple pastors to discuss leading the TLT in a week-long seminar either in Amuria or Katakwi. Last year I did the first unit in each of those places. I hope now to go back and train them in the second unit.
Ateso language study is going well, maybe deceptively well right now. Honestly, I forgot a lot of words while we were in Michigan; therefore, during my language lessons I am learning new words and words I used to know (which is easier than learning new words) so I feel like I have made great progress in the last two weeks. I have also learned a lot of transition words (so, that is why, like this, so that) so I am able to construct more complex sentences. On the negative side, it gives me a false confidence to get involved in a conversation then suddenly I hit the end of my ability and the conversation ends awkwardly. (This might actually be a good thing, because I think it helps me learn more.)
Around the home front…Grace knows how to spell her name now. Lydia is suddenly spelling and reading many more words - she has really benefited from the one to one atmosphere of home schooling. Luka is growing and has been very good the last few days, but is not going to bed well at night. It is hard to let him cry it out when his bed is 3 feet from our bed. Thankfully he sleeps 8-9 hours once he falls asleep. Lastly, I finished building the grill. It is nice - looks like an Old Testament altar in our front yard, but it did a fine job cooking hotdogs Sunday night.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter -- What a reason to Celebrate!

April 13
Happy Easter everyone! I am so excited and thankful my Savior has risen!!! What a lot we have to celebrate. What good news we have to share with everyone. I was praising God in prayer the other night and realized how bad I have been at celebrating what my Lord did. I have reason to rejoice everyday and especially as we remember at Easter time that we are forgiven. Christ has given us victory! I have hope because He has given me eternal life – He has given me life. How that makes me want to praise Him and say thank you God. We need to live as saved Christians. We need to live as excited Christians. Jesus has done the work for us now we need to live it and share it. We need to shout it to the world. Jesus loves you!

It has only rained two Sundays mornings in the two years we have lived in Uganda, and this Easter was one of them. When it rains here no one goes out they just wait for the rain to stop, so not many people make it to church. And when you are at church and it rains on the steel roof no one can hear. I decided while sitting in our church Easter morning, getting dripped on through the wholes in the roof and not being able to hear myself sing let alone anyone else, that satan was trying to stop our Easter celebration. But I wasn’t going to let that happen. No way, we already have the victory. Jesus has risen and I will rejoice!

We did have a nice service. Our family sang “God’s not dead, no He is alive” for our special number. And they had a baby showering for Luka. A few people brought him gifts as they sung, “This is the Luka that the Lord has made” (to the song “This is the day”). He got eggs, oranges, laundry soap, peanuts, and money. It was very nice of everyone. Oh, just a side note, the rains brought out flying ants so during church a couple kids were gathering them and eating them -- alive. Yummy. We must live in Africa.

In the afternoon we had an Easter dinner with our team, some of our friends. We wanted to take this opportunity to share Jesus with our friends. I prayed all week about it. I didn’t know how to go about doing this dinner. Who to have, when to have it, and what to have (I can’t feed an army, they can’t leave their work at just any time, and they don’t eat certain things). I didn’t want my worries to stop us from sharing the good news with out friends, so I prayed against satan’s interferences and asked Jesus to lead the way. And of course we prayed for God to prepare the way for the gospel to be shared.

I was excited. Everyone came Sunday and we had a nice time fellowshipping. We did an Easter egg hunt with the kids, ate supper, and shared with them why we celebrate Easter. Josh told the story with the resurrection eggs. Each egg has an object in that tells part of the story. Everyone seemed to listen closely. Then we sang a couple songs. I can’t imagine what they must think. All I know is it has to be the Holy Spirit’s work to understand that story for the first time. Really, if someone told you they were celebrating a man that rose from the dead what would you think? I don’t know what God did in their lives Sunday but I know a seed was planted. We have given Bibles (in their language) to them a few months ago so I pray this makes them want to read more. I am so thankful that this Easter we were able to tell our friends about Jesus! That is what it is all about.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Josh's Update

April 15, 2009
I hope all is well with you. I have not written for a couple of weeks. In some ways a lot has happened during that time; in other ways it seems like I am still waiting for things to happen here.
I turned 31 since I last wrote. It was not too big of a deal. I buzzed my hair so I could ignore the grey. The team came over for grilled pork which was nice. A few days later Tim and Angie took our family to a new swimming pool in Mbale. We were there on a nice sunny day so we could enjoy the pool even though the water was refreshing!
We had a nice Easter last week. I had been asked to preach in church. The sky was very grey when we arrived at church. During opening prayers it began to rain. This was only the second time since we came to Soroti that it rained on a Sunday morning. Since we have a steel roof, we sang a number of extra songs - the rain was so loud that we could not hear each other speaking, so we just kept singing. Eventually Pastor Francis decided I should begin preaching, hoping that people would be able to hear some of what I said…that rain stopped soon after I began so people could hear what was said.
In the afternoon we had our friends over for supper. We did an Easter egg hunt for the kids, then we ate. After supper we sat down and opened the 12 Resurrection eggs; they enabled us to share the story of Jesus’ arrest, death on the cross, and resurrection. I was greatly impressed how attentively everyone listened. Each one clearly heard the gospel message. Now we continue praying that the seeds planted will begin to grow in their hearts.
Last night we went and played Basketball with the Chinese; it was good to spend time with them again.
On Monday I met with some of the blind to discuss plans for the year. It was good to hang out with them again. We really want to try to reach each orchard beneficiary one more time to check on the trees again and to share God’s word with them again. The last round of follow-up was not very successful; hopefully this time we will have better success getting the people while they are home. (There is no way to notify them we will be coming.) The blind trainers also said they would like to get involved training other blind people again this year. They have not done that for a number of years. This would entail gather blind people in a given location to a sub-county office (the sub-county provides accommodation for the trainers and a classroom). The training would be at least 4 weeks (ideally it would be 4 months) so the blind from that area could be trained in discipleship, mobility, living (washing clothes, fetching water, cooking - which is challenging over a fire when you are blind). If more time allows they would also be trained in knitting, farming, and other vocational things.
Teaching…yeah, I am trying to be patient while things fall into place; however, things at the Bible College are not falling in line very quickly. I am about ready to start investigating new options. I will be leading the Timothy institute Monday in Otuboi. I am considering beginning this training other places as well.
Finally, things on the home front are settling in. Our new house is beginning to feel like home. We are almost finished unpacking, some of the plumbing and electrical kinks have been resolved, and we have met a few neighbors. I have been working on a sandbox and am nearly finished building a grill. We also hired a daytime guard / gardener to be here while I am away. Mandy said she would feel more secure about things if someone were here. Honestly, I think John will have the yard looking much nicer than I ever would. He has worked for three other people who rented this house so he knows how to do things, plus I do not likely investing a large amount of time in the yard.
I hope all is well. I will try to write again in a week or two - hopefully by then I will be busy teaching. Until then, let us live up to what we have already attained

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back in Soroti

March 26, 2009

Today I asked Lydia if she is happy to be back in Uganda. She said yes. She said she likes Uganda because she doesn’t get shots here. Way back in November Lydia got her 5 year old shots at the doctor in MI. I guess that is something she wont forget. I cut Grace’s hair now too (Lydia’s was cut Sunday because she was too sweaty). Grace thinks she looks like a boy even though it is cut just above her shoulders. They have been really good. I am so proud of them. And Luka too. He slept 9 hours the other night and almost 8 hours last night. What a good boy!

Oh, Lydia was talking today about a diary but she was calling it a “diarrhea”.

April 5, 2009

Wow, we have been in Soroti for two and a half weeks and I am finding it very hard to find time to sit down and write. I love writing and sharing with everyone but the reality is I have a new baby and two other kids. So, I think this year writing will be to a minimum. But who knows, I still need my sanity right?

I am very pleased to say things are going very well and I am happy and thankful. The rains finally started which has made life much more pleasant with cooler temperatures. We have been very busy mostly because we moved into our new home. There are lots of boxes to unpack, sorting, and putting away. I hate undone projects so everyday I have to remind myself to only do so much. Having a baby keeps me in check. Luka always reminds me when to take a break and feed him. And I have to have time to cook for the family. I have been reminded how much time it takes to prepare a meal. There are also a lot of little details and fix ups that are needed around the new house. All in good time but right now I think it is frustrating Josh. He would much rather be doing ministry. It was very stressful this week when our generator and hot water heater did not work and both were worked on before we left in November and were suppose to be ready. Of course we had no power 3 or 4 evenings this week which meant too many candle lit nights.

Other than all of that, I love our new home! It is fun making it into our home (I think it is a women thing). I like all the extra space we now have. I love all the trees, flowers, and shade. I look out our windows so thankful for the beauty. Each day the birds are singing in the trees so pretty. It is different being in a new house and down the road from Tim and Angie. Not bad just different. Josh and I prayed through our home the first night we slept here. It is something we have never done together but know it is great to do. It sure brings a lot of peace knowing you have invited Jesus into every room in your home.

The kids are doing GREAT. I am so thankful prayer and answered prayers. Luka has been sleeping through the night for two weeks now. What a good boy! He is happy and bring a lot of joy to our family. Grace is even doing well (even with all the change). She has a cute new hair cut. She has been carrying around four pictures of her grandpa and grandma Shaarda and aunts and uncles that they sent her. That reminds me that she misses them. She also talks about the time when she ate at grandma Beutes and had chicken soup with crackers in it. It is funny what they remember and meant something to them. Grace sleeps with a bed full every night. She puts her pictures, two little Bibles, a ball, phone, and her blanket under her pillow. I guess that comforts her. Lydia continues to be easy going and joyful. She was sick last week when we moved in the house but thankfully that stomach bug seemed to pass quickly. We were praying with the girls one night and they both had several “boo-boos” to pray for and Lydia said, “God has a lot of work to do.” We were walking down the road the other day and talking about Jesus being in our hearts. Lydia said I want Jesus in my heart! So there on the Lira Road she said her little prayer all by herself and asked Jesus to live in her heart. Praise God! Here is something funny, Grace loves to tease Lydia at times and the other day Lydia was mad at her and she told Grace how mean she was and stormed off. Grace looked at Avalien and said, “That was funny.” What else about the kids? Luka has real tears now (just incase you wanted to know Mom S). The girls sleep well most nights but other nights seem to have a lot of trouble I think with dreams. I wish I knew if it was the malaria meds or not. We will keep an eye on it anyways.

Today is Josh’s 31st birthday! We had a party yesterday. Complete with grilled port steaks, potato salad, fruit salad, and cake. Our team came and celebrated with us. The girls and I made Josh a giant chocolate chip cookie. Angie gave him cinnamon rolls. I guess we all know what Josh enjoys. He is now sitting on the porch with Luka sipping a Mt. Dew (they have them in glass bottles here). So he should be happy.

We went to our church today. I was very happy to be there. Their singing is simple but nice and Francis’ preaching is good. I am thankful for the truth he shares from God’s Word each Sunday. They are having a shower for Luka next week.

April 7, 2009

Lydia started school this week! Karen, a friend from college, is on our team for the next ten months and so was willing to teach Lydia every morning for a couple hours. Lydia seems to love it. I think she really likes the one on one. It sounds like they are having fun too. I am a bit jealous but usually when I am I am sitting in the rocking chair feeding Luka and realize there is no way I could handle home school right now. Karen and I are very happy with our chose of curriculum so far. I can thank Rebeka for that.

Side note, Luka got over 13 mosquito bites on his arm the other night. We think it is because he rolled up against the bug net. Poor guy. Don’t worry grandma we put him in a different bed so he can’t rollup against the net anymore. We are taking good care of him.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Deep Thinking

April 2009

Monday Tabitha was sick and I realized how much I love her and need her. I don’t think I can explain to an American mother why I need house help unless you have lived on the mission field. (I am not just a lazy or spoiled mom. Although, I am grateful!) If I miss one day with sweeping, laundry (especially diapers), or doing dishes I have a mess on my hands. Yes, I could do some of it (not laundry by hand!) but somehow I can’t get it all done with a baby, kids, meals, market, ministry, team, communicating…rest. Anyways, I am thankful for Tabitha and she is thankful for a job.

Okay to get to the point now, so I had Angie’s house help Grace come for a couple hours to help me. She came to our new home and said how nice and big our house is. All day long that struck me. Here is a woman who lives in one room with four children and I have a “mansion”. I prayed about it and for the first time admitted I am wealthy. I am wealthy! Would Americans say I am? Probably not. I have always compared myself to them and evaluated myself on those standards. But the fact is compared to most of the people in the world I am very wealthy. Think about it, as Americans we need closets, cupboards, garages, attics, basements, storage units… Why? Because we have so much! So much stuff and yet we think we need more. We are wealthy. Too wealthy. Most of my neighbors here have one trunk to keep all of their things in. People here have had to flee their home with only what they could carry. Most people don’t have anything to store because they have no money for their next meal. Yet, how often I complain and get crabby when I don’t have what I think should be “essentials”. Like when; the power is out here, or we don’t have water, our van doesn’t work, or I don’t have good food. Are my neighbors complaining? This is how they live everyday. They aren’t essentials unless to so many in the world.

Wow, what do you do with all that? It is reality and I live amongst it everyday. I am a wealthy American living amongst the poor in Africa. I wrestle with this so much. It is nothing new for me. In my prayer time I came to the conclusion that I can’t live like them and I am have been very blessed (and don’t even deserve it). I prayed that God would give me a generous and selfless heart and that He would help me be responsible with all He has given me. That is my prayer. I want to glorify God with all I have. God help us as we live in an unfair, sinful world. May we, especially the wealthy, use our resources to bring honor to your name.

Okay another deep thought. The other day I was looking at my kids and thinking about all that some people in Africa and other countries have had to go through. I had to force myself to really think about it because it is so hard. But the fact is that many people have had to see their precious children be killed, kidnapped and made soldiers, tortured…even babies. I can’t even begin to fathom that thought of my kids suffering like that. Or for that fact them watching their parents killed either. So often we don’t want to think about this or know about it because it is so awful. But maybe we should have to sometimes. It is too easy for us to not want to know. But it is really happening right now in our world! In Africa, the Middle East, and so many other places… People are dying and hurting. And we are sitting comfortably not knowing about it. I decided I needed to repent. For myself and for all of us who don’t want to think about it. (Not that we don’t want to do something but feel helpless.) We need to be praying. Calling out to God on their behalf. Remembering them. I don’t always understand my neighbors or people here, but I also don’t understand all they have gone through. What does it feel like to be desparate, to see a loved one taken or killed, or to in war? I needed this wake up call. I needed to repent of my not wanting to think about it and not praying about it. I realize this is heavy stuff and some of you may think I am crazy, but God taught me something when I looked at my kids that day. No one deserves the evil that is happening in this world. I will never understand it. I have to go to God. He is the only one who can take it all and give me hope.