Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mandy's Journal

May 24

Hi! I have been thinking of all of you as summer begins and you celebrate Memorial weekend together. I told Josh I would be going to garage sales if I was home. It seems like a long time ago we were home in the summer time. As much as I miss home, I have been very content here and thankful. Our kids are doing well. They have been eaten up by mosquitoes at times. Lydia and Grace swell up huge. Itching is miserable. We are trying to keep our house mosquito free so it has been better lately. Luka is super cute! He smiles when anyone talks to him. Everyone comments on our happy baby. He is able to do so much more now. He reaches for everything – including your dinner plate and the girl’s hair -- he grabs his toys now and put everything in his mouth. Lydia is now reading! She read me a book the other day. Wow, it is amazing to see. She had a phonics test and got 46 out of 47 right. She was excited. Grace is doing well too. She still has her things under her pillow, likes to do school with me, and plays with Luka often. Luka is totally loved by his sisters! They entertain him a lot for me. He is spoiled by the women already.

Josh taught for a week in Amuria. I was so thankful how well the week went for him and for me. I just feel like I handle things so much better now. I was so blessed to hear that the people in Amuria were so thankful for Josh’s wife. One man came and told Josh to thank me for letting him teach for a week and another time the whole group told Josh that behind every good man is a good wife and they all clapped for me. I really appreciate them thinking of me.

The kids and I walked to Amecet the other day. I was reminded again how hard it is to see suffering – especially as a mother. There was a one year old girl there who weighed 15lbs. She was the exact picture of malnutrition – big eyes, no hair, only skin and bones. She just laid there whimpering as they tube fed her. How can any parent let their child starve to death? I just don’t understand. She was in the hospital for two month now they have handed her over to Amecet thinking she will die. I am thankful to report she is still alive (over a week later) and off all IVs. But she is only one of so many who suffer. So many tiny babies born into this world as their mothers die in labor. My girls do not like that so many babies are crying in their beds when we go to Amecet. Who will fill their needs? Who will touch them and love them? Who will protect them? It is so hard. The worst yet is the story I just heard. A baby was buried half way by it’s mother and left to die. Thankfully the grandmother saved the child. It is evil. I am thankful I know I serve a merciful, loving God. We go and sing there almost every Sunday night. Mary one of the older girls always comes running to hold Luka. I am thankful for Amecet and that we are able to share some of Christ's love with these precious children.

We spent last week in Kampala. We had a really nice time actually. It is nice to get away and have fun as a family for a little while. We stayed at our friend Kate’s. Our girls loved swimming in the pool there. Lydia actually learned to swim – all she really needed was the confidence. She swims under water too and loves it! We were also successful in getting Luka’s four month immunizations, our van fixed, and immigration work for Luka.
May 26
We had a Memorial Day campfire and potluck with our "muzungu" (white people) friends in Soroti. It was fun to get togather and is nice when we are all away from home thinking of our families getting togather. We had a hot dog roast with all the fixings. Even apple pie and smores for dessert. I love reasons to celebrate togather!

I think that is all for now. We appreciate your continued prayers for our lives and ministry here. It is so important to us!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I met the President!

May 1, 2009

So I need to start with the most exciting thing that has happened lately. I talked with the President of Uganda! Can you believe it? Today is International Labor Day and to celebrate President Museveni was coming to Soroti. We decided to go see the big event because there was a marching band and our girl wanted to see it. I was surprised when we got there to see all the people, police everywhere, and everyone had to enter through security. At first we couldn’t even get close. Usually at these events we are ushered to the front so I wasn’t use to being in the back. I guess they take things pretty serious when the President is involved. It did give me a new understanding to be a Ugandan. We just kept walking hoping to see something and to keep our girls entertained. We got to a roped area and for some reason they started letting people through to the seats under the tent (I think they wanted people to fill the open spots). Being white they allowed us through with others then ushered us to the tent with all the high ranking police officers. We watched some traditional dancers, listened to the band, and waited for the Presidents arrival. When he came I realized he was going to walk right next to us. He came in a truck standing outside the sunroof waving at everyone. Then he walked past us shaking the hands of the vice-president and other high up people. They went behind us to plant a tree and start a building. Then he walked past us again but this time he waved to us and stopped and asked me where we were from. I was so shocked! I told him we were from Michigan but now lived in Soroti. Then he walked on. Josh even got a picture. Josh and I were so excited and surprised. We just looked at each other and laughed. Josh said it gave a new meaning to how Zacchaeus must have felt when Jesus stopped to talk to him. Your so surprised someone important is speaking to you that you don’t realize what just happened. Our kids weren’t too impressed and just wanted to go home for lunch. But I feel pretty special anyways. It was fun. Not everyone gets to say they talked to the President.

Two other thoughts from today, I can see how easy it would be for a Ugandan to want to be an important person. Everything they have and do is so nice. The president flies in on a helicopter, rides in the best vehicles, and gets the royal treatment everywhere he goes. Even the other “big” people have it pretty good. Even I was impressed by it all and wished I could ride in a nice truck like theirs. My other thought is, important people are just people. It was exciting seeing the President but really he seemed like just a normal guy. Really they all are just humans, people like us. I guess it made me much more excited to meet my King someday. The Lord of all Lords, Creator of all, Messiah…wow! Now that will be meeting someone important.

We had a great team spiritual retreat in Jinja this week too. We had so much fun. We stayed at the King Fisher Resort on Lake Victoria where the Nile River starts. It is so beautiful and peaceful. I just soaked in God’s goodness. Our kids loved swimming, okay we all did. The pool there is really fun with a small slide and three different levels of pool. Lydia and Grace were literally in the pool for five hours one day. We had wonderful worship times. I love singing praises to God. I was struck by the beauty of the words and how great our God is. He is so worthy of our praise. Karen, Sarah, and Josiah all are talented in this area so it is a real blessing. Josh and Josiah led us in three lessons on the Holy Spirit – emptying ourselves, filling up on the Spirit, and following and doing His will. It felt so good to be all together and grow in worship and in God’s Word. We also had a boat ride and ate really well. The only down part was we waited up to three hours for our food at restaurants – can you imagine? I think the kid’s attitudes were better than mine at that point. I am still working on being filled with the Holy Spirit J. I also got sick the last day. I was so bummed. I felt awful and hate traveling sick. But I am still very thankful for a wonderful team retreat.

Our kids are doing well. Lydia is doing great in school and seems to really like it. She is doing first grade and got 100% on her first test. Karen, her teacher, is a blessing to us. Lydia told me the other day that she loves our new home. I think we all do. It is a blessing to feel at home. Grace surprised us and spelled her name the other day. She also learned how to do computer games. She knows her colors, shapes, and numbers. Now we need to work on letters and their sounds. Luka had a rough couple weeks sleeping. It was hard because he had been sleeping all night. We think he was hurting because we now have more medicine (Zantac for reflux) and he slept all night again. Yeah! He takes his pacifier quite a bit now. If he doesn’t have that he loves to chew on his hands. He can now reach for toys and put them in his mouth. He even sits in his walker now with blankets to support him. He is so strong. I weighed him the other day and at he is 15lbs (75% same since birth) and is about 25inches long. People here think he is big but I know he is perfect. He sure smiles a lot and we even get a few laughs now and then.

Pastor Patrick preached at our church Sunday. He talked about when the rebels came to his house when he was a teenager. He said they took their dad and mom and made them lie down and beat them. He thought they were dead. His brother ran out of the hut and they beat him too. To this day his front teeth are missing. Patrick though he was the only one alive. But everyone lived and they praised God after the rebels left. Praised God? Wow. I was struck by their faith. Would my first response be to praise God after my family was hurt so badly? We may not understand all their ways here in Soroti and we may get frustrated by what we think is uncommitted Christians, but when I hear and realize what some of them have been through and they are still praising God I am humbled. I am a committed Christian but I have never been through hardships like these people. I am thankful God challenged me and made me think through Patrick’s testimony. We can all learn from each other and encourage one another in our walk with Jesus.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Josh's Journal

May 4, 2009
Greetings everyone. We are supposed to get our internet hooked up today so maybe you will be able to read this by tomorrow. This is not the first time (or even the 2nd, or 3rd) they were supposed to come, but I am actually optimistic they will come today - because I did not cancel my other plans like I did the first few times they were supposed to come. Our old internet was to slow to attach anything, so it was not able to do all we need to do with International Teams. Hopefully we will be up and running again soon.
Last Friday was International Laborers Day and the national celebration was here in Soroti, which meant the president would be here. We thought it would be fun to try to see President Yoweri Museveni so we decided to attend the celebration in the sports grounds in the middle of town. Police were everywhere - hundreds of them. It is not an exaggeration to say they were every 15 feet. We all had to enter through a metal detector. There were a few hundred chairs set up under tents for people who had invitations (not us) and the rest of us had to stand out in the field some distance from the stage. We could not see much so we decided to keep walking around the outside since the president had not yet arrived. As we approached the rope on one end of the field the police decided it was time to fill the chairs which were not filled so they let about 20 people in, including us. We sat right on the outside edge of the tent. There were some traditional dances which was interesting. About 30 minutes later the president came, parked near us, walked right past us and planted a commemorative tree behind the tent. As he was walking back up front, he stopped right by us and greeted Mandy briefly. It took us totally off guard. It was so cool to think the President Museveni greeted Mandy.
Last week we had our team retreat in Jinja. We spent two nights at Kingfisher Safari Resort (an impressive name for a place that has nothing to do with animal safaris). It is a series of little cabins on the shore of Lake Victoria. They have beautiful flower gardens. The best part is their swimming pool. It is the most kid friendly pool I have been at - our girls loved it and spent many hours in it. The retreat was a good experience as a team to get away from the business here, worship God together, and enjoy one another’s company. It was a true blessing.
I have also resumed teaching children’s church. Last Sunday we had about 25 kids; yesterday we had 52 kids. It makes me wonder how many will be there next Sunday. It is overwhelming, but I have seen that many kids come to church simply for that. I know God loves children and I trust He is working in the hearts of many of them. I try hard to make myself available to Him. Last year I went through stories of the Bible from the OT then the NT. This year I started with the resurrection since I started teaching the week after Easter. I plan to go through Acts and then teach on what it means to follow Jesus.
I keep plugging away at learning Ateso. Some days I feel like I can run and not get tired; some days God simply keeps me from fainting. However, last week I went to visit a blind man out in a village. I shared the gospel with him using Ateso. I still feel lost most of the time, but it was exciting to see I had learned some. It also struck me how closely people listen to God’s word when I speak Ateso. Men, women, and children stopped what they were doing to listen as I presented the gospel. Granted, some were probably listening for the entertainment value, but they still listen.
Today I have a meeting to discuss beginning the Timothy Leadership Training in the village of Obule. I am going out there to meet with a couple of pastors. Perhaps God is opening a new door for that. Next week I will be in Amuria teaching it there all week. Please pray for my voice and my family as it is always difficult when I do week-long workshops. Actually, please pray for my motorcycle as well. The road to Amuria challenged the motorcycle last year.