Monday, June 29, 2009

Mandy's Journal

June 29

I have been stopping in at Amecet a couple days a week. Rukiya is doing well. She is growing slowly and even looks better. She is so sweet and dear to my heart. She was in her crib yesterday just studying her hands – a new found interest. She is defiantly more alert. I am so thankful! I visited her great grandmother, Mary, at market last week. She too has visited Rukiya. Mary was so thankful and happy Rukiya was doing well. She said that Rukiya would have died. She also bought me a bunch of bananas to thank me.

Grace started pre-school last week. She loves it! She is so proud that she has school and wakes up every morning and asks if she has school. Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 11 Stephanie, a Calvin College student here for about 6 week, teaches Avalien and Grace. They are learning about trees. Grace has already learned to write a “G” for her name. And I love having a couple hours all to myself…okay just Luka and me.

We have been without rain here for too long. Everything has dried up and everyone was worried. With all the crops dying people had nothing to eat and were concerned they would loose their whole harvest. It is really sad. Here we are with plenty to eat and water to keep our beautiful green gardens going. How do we help – so many people. Thankfully we serve a faithful God. He has heard our prayers. We got at least a little rain this week, other areas got even more, and there are clouds in the sky which is a good sign. Pray that the rains continue so that people have the food they need to survive.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Josh's Journal

June 28, 2009
We just got home from church and have an hour before dinner will be ready so I thought I would take a few minutes and write. The kids are playing with our friend Julia. She is working here in Soroti (came from Indiana) and went to church with us this morning. Julia will only be here another month or so, but she gets along well with our family. She has babysat for us a few times so Mandy and I could go out for supper. She also goes to women’s Bible study with Mandy.
Today we had 37 kids in children’s church. That is such a nice manageable number. We are doing a series on the armor of God. Today’s lesson was standing firm in truth. We looked back at the story of Adam and Eve and how the whole problem with sin starts when we abandon truth and choose the confusion of lies. I also gave each child his or her own box of 8 crayons. The thought the crayons - which they could keep - were incredibly valuable. The crayons were left by the group that came out from Calvin Christian High School (see below.)
The last few weeks have been extremely busy. We hosted a group of 11 from Calvin Christian. Larry and Linda Klein took 9 seniors as part of a Global studies class. They were not here as a serve project; it was more of a tour, seeing what Africa is like and what is going on here. They were here in Soroti for just three days to see missions, culture and history. We took them to church with us where four of them helped out with children’s church. Later that day we had them here testimonies from teenagers who were abducted and traumatized during the LRA insurgency a few years ago. On that Monday we showed them our involvement with the blind. We visited SACAB to see the different things we have been doing with blind people here in town. Then we went to visit the first orchard we had planted two years ago. Nicholas (who owns that orchard) is always so excited to “see” us. He gave us a chicken and eggs. Even more exciting - some of his trees have oranges on them. I challenged him to give them back to God as a first fruits offering. On Tuesday we visited the Bible College and the resource room which Tim is starting up. Then on Tuesday afternoon we visited the Hindu temple in town. It was an eye-opening experience for all of them to see first hand “gods” which were made by human hands. Their visit was a huge blessing to us. They stayed at a Guest house just one block from here. We ate with them each evening. It was a great time of fellowship for us.
The day after they left I began teaching the Timothy Leadership training in a new village called Obule. We had agreed it would be a two-day workshop. About 20 local church leaders from three denominations meant. We had a good two days discussing the importance of visitation ministry. They closed each session by making an action plan for increasing their own visitation ministries in their churches. The following Monday I was off to Otuboi to continue the Timothy training up there. The numbers there are getting a little low - only 7. We are currently learning about how to teach the Christian faith - how to teach with the learner in mind, how to make a good lesson plan, how to teach differently to different age groups.
After all that excitement Mandy and I decided to take a weekend away with the family. It was also our 10th anniversary that week and Father’s day on that Sunday. We went to a hotel in Mbale which has a swimming pool and the only put-put golf course in all of Uganda. Julia went with us. We began the day by visiting Sisiyi falls, a water fall about 20 miles from Mbale. It was a nice view and an easy ten minute hike to the water fall from where we left the van. That evening Julia ate supper at the hotel with Lydia and Grace while I took Mandy (and Luka) out for an anniversary date. We went to our favorite (the food is great but the atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired) Indian restaurant. When we got there the waiter asked if we wanted to eat on the roof. Sure. We followed him (since we had never been up there before) through a dark stairway to the top of the three story building. There were just three tables on the roof. It was one of the simplest, most romantic, and memorable anniversary meals we have had. We had such a nice night.
This weekend a few of our team mates had birthdays so we all decided to climb a local mountain and roast hot dogs at the top. Unfortunately, Lydia had the flu so I stayed home with her and Luka. Mandy and Grace went with the group, but the mountain was overgrown (grass more than 6 feet tall) so they were not able to get to the top. They went back to Tim and Angie’s house (I joined them) for a campfire instead, then it began to rain. We all moved into the house, then the electricity went out. On nights like this I have learned to just go to bed and be thankful for your bed, bug net, and the clean water to drink. Be thankful for the stability here in Uganda, the healthy family I have, and screens on our windows. Be thankful that most nights we do have a fan and electricity, that we have others here to fellowship with. Be thankful that…we have soooo much to be thankful for. Yeah, go to sleep on that thought.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Groups, 10 years, and more!

June 19

What a week! Last week nine people from Plymouth Heights CRC in Grand Rapids arrived. They are one of Tim and Angie’s supporting churches. It is always a blessing to have people from home visit. We had them over one night for supper to share with them who we are and what we do. We also saw them on and off throughout the week – taking them to meet the blind, playing goal ball with the blind, teaching with Josh… Ernie, one of the guys on the team spent a day at our home helping us with some home improvement projects. He is nice and super helpful. One girl, Stephanie, is staying longer and will be teaching Avalien and Grace for a few weeks. Unfortunately, someone on the group got sick so that was a bummer for her. Right now they are all on safari in Muchenson Falls before they fly home.

We are thankful we were able to be somewhat involved with the Plymouth group, but most of our time we were busy with another group. Calvin Christian High School came for four days. Larry Klien is a teacher at Calvin Christian and for the last five years has taken students to Kenya. This year when we were home we talked to Larry and Linda Klien (they go to Ivanrest one of our supporting churches) about adding Uganda into the trip. We are so thankful it all worked out and they came. We had a great time! They were so easy to work with and fun to be with. They invited us to eat a lot of meals with them which was great because it allowed me to be involved and we were able to really get to know them.

We had nine going-to-be seniors, Larry and Linda, Carole from CRWRC, and our family. Sunday they went to church with us. They gave greetings, testimonies, and some of them helped Josh with children’s church. In the afternoon Sam came and spoke to them about when he was captured by the LRA. It was pretty eye opening and touching seeing as he was a teenager just like them. That evening they hung out at our house playing games and we had a grill out. Josh and I were able to share our testimonies and what we do here. Monday Josh took them to meet the blind and visit an orange orchard. In the afternoon we went to the blind school. The team brought bug nets for them and school supplies. The blind sang for us and showed us their school. Then we played goal ball together. What a riot! It was so professional at the school. Their team came in second in nationals last year, so let’s just say we got beat. But we sure had fun! Everyone was cheering and laughing. It was great. That night Saul, a guy here who makes paper bead necklaces, came and everyone learned how to make magazine beads and made their own necklaces. It was a full but great day.

Tuesday morning they climbed Soroti rock for a beautiful sunrise. Then they visited the Bible College and met our team out here. In the afternoon we toured the Hindu temple with our friends from OM supermarket. It was our first time too. It was interesting and brought great conversations with the kids about idol worship. And we went to Amecet to see the babies and play soccer with the older kids.

It was a whirlwind few days, but it couldn’t have gone better. I so enjoyed it. They were a great group and it was fun to get to know them. We appreciated their generosity and flexibility. They loved our kids too. I am always thankful for that. Lydia loves people and needs their love. They were great with our kids. It was so encouraging and a blessing for us to be with them. We can’t wait till next year when they hopefully come again.

Now we are getting back into our routine. It is quiet and I was a bit sad but it is still good. I am thankful. Amos, the Calvin Seminary student with us for two month, also stayed with us in the mist of groups. We enjoyed having him live with us. We had a nice new day bed with a trundle bed underneath made for the guest room. Amos is great with kids and our girls loved when he read books to them every night. I like that he appreciates food. It makes it fun to serve a good meal.

June 22

Josh and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary! Wow. It has been a pure blessing. I give all the thanks to God. What a joy marriage centered in the Lord is. I am so thankful for my husband, our marriage, and God’s faithfulness. Josh has been the best gift God has ever given me. He is a man of God. He has loved me everyday of our marriage. I made Josh a book with pictures that journey through our ten years together. It is so fun looking back and seeing all we have done and been through. So glad we can celebrate it all. We didn’t go anywhere or do anything for our anniversary this year seeing how we have a baby I can’t get too far away from, but we look forward to a nice get away when we are in Michigan in November/December. Mine as well celebrate as long as we can!

We did however go away this weekend as a family. For Mother’s Day Josh gave me a night away in Mbale so we did that. We left Friday morning and went to Sisyi Falls. We had never been there and it wasn’t too far out of the way. It was beautiful! The gardens around the falls were so nice. I could have stayed there along time just relaxing in the peacefulness. The falls were impressive too. We walked as far as we could then you had to climb a few rocks to get right by the base of the falls. Josh and I both did in shifts because the kids couldn’t do it. Nothing like being sprayed by a 100meter waterfall. There isn’t a ton of water coming over but it is still captivating. God’s creation is SO awesome! His beauty is all around us. Thank you God!

After the waterfall we went into Mbale. The kids enjoyed swimming all afternoon (okay we all did). We also played mini golf – just like a real summer vacation, right? Our friend Julia, from Indian in Soroti for a few months working with an NGO, came with us too. Julia has fit very well into our family. The girls love her and she is great with them. So at night Julia watched the girls while Luka went on a date with Josh and I. We went to our favorite Indian restaurant but for the first time they asked if we wanted to sit on the roof. It was wonderful. We had our own romantic roof top meal over looking the city and Mount Elgon. The sun even set while we were there and all the lights added to the romance. It could not have been better. I were so thankful to find somewhere in Uganda to have a romantic ten year anniversary dinner with my husband.

The next day we took a ride up Mount Elgon. There were beautiful waterfalls and a great view. It was like we were in the mountains of Central America or something. The rest of the day we played by the pool. It is so nice to be away and have fun with our kids. To be away from the to-do list and enjoy. I love my children’s smiles, laughter, their imaginations, and care free joy.

I met another Indian man the other day at a new pharmacy and he was so friendly that I have gone to visit him a few times now. I brought him a Hindu Bible one of the times I visited. So the other day when I stopped to say hi he went right to his desk to grab his Bible and show me he has already read half of it. I was thrilled! I pray God touches his heart and changes his life as he reads God’s Word. He has lived in Uganda for 18 years. His wife died and he has one son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild. He has a home in Kampala too. He is very proud of the fact that he is from Calcutta where Mother Teresa was. We hope to get together with him this week.

Our kids are doing well. They loved having all the visitors. Well Grace is shy at first but then fine. It does throw their schedules off quite a bit though. And when everyone leaves it seems there are more tears around our house, but only for a couple days. Adjusting to all the hellos and goodbyes can be a lot for little ones. Everyone talked about what a happy baby Luka is. They wondered if he ever cried (he does). He is very good and especially with all the commotion. He just smiled and kicked his legs through it all. He is rolling now and eating baby cereal. He learned to do “raspberries” (you know when your lips come together and you make noise or spit a little). He thinks it is pretty cool cause he does it a lot now. He found his toes a couple weeks ago and has fun getting them to his mouth to suck on. We helped Josh celebrate Father’s Day. The girls made cards with their pictures on and helped me make cherry cheese cake. He is worth celebrating! What a great Dad!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fear, our kids, and Amecet

June 10, 2009

Before I start this paragraph let me emphasize that we are safe and fine. (Did you hear that Mothers? Please don’t worry. I am a mother too and would give my life to keep your grand babies safe. J) So, the other night the kids were sleeping and Josh and I were watching a movie and all of the sudden we started hearing noises. A gate was banging and a lady was yelling or something. We really couldn’t tell what was going on but it alarmed us. We turned off our movie and the lights and went to our room to pray. We prayed hard! We called on Jesus name. We prayed against any evil that was going on outside and for protection over us and our home. There was spiritual warfare going on in our bedroom that night. After we prayed (the noise was well over), Josh sat and read his Bible and I went to bed surprisingly with quite a bit of peace and saying Jesus name until I fell asleep.

We have no idea what was going on outside that night. I was afraid it was a robbery and they would come our way next. Josh was afraid it was abuse or worse human sacrifice. Actually, I think it may have been a crazy lady causing trouble down the road because I have seen here there before (maybe even a family member of theirs). Anyways, I do not like that we have to worry about those things here. I mean I don’t usually but when there are noises then I do because it is reality here. That night I wanted to go home and “feel” safe. I decided that fear is an awful thing! Fear can grip you and paralyze you.

So today I did a study in the Bible on the word “fear”. What does God have to say about “fear”. First thing I learned is that we are to fear one thing, God. That is a good fear. Then I learned that fear is not from God. So many verses say, “do not fear” or “don’t be afraid”. God does not want us to be afraid. And of course we have nothing to fear because we are God’s. He is our salvation, our refuge, our strength. We are secure in Him. Another verse says that when God calls us to do something we have nothing to fear. We can trust God always and all the time!

Isn’t God’s Word so good?! No matter where we are it is God we need. And He is always with us. We are safe. Thank you God!

Moving on to the kids update…we have been reading from the Children’s prayer guide where you read about and pray for a certain country or people group every few days. Lydia has really taken to it and talks about the people we read about and reminds us to pray for them. It is such a good thing. I love to hear our children talk about wanting others to know Jesus too. Grace surprised us at supper the other night and began to add. She knew 2 plus 2 and 2 plus 3. Pretty good for a 3 year old. (ow if we could just get her to learn from her punishments J.) Luka had his first cereal last night. We were surprised he didn’t seem to like it too much. The girl enjoyed feeding him though. We tried again tonight with the same results. I think he likes Zantac (yucky tasting medicine he takes for reflux) more than rice cereal. I guess we will wait and try again in a couple weeks.

I know I have written about Amecet quite a bit lately, but God has really put it on my heart and in my life so I just have to share. I went to market this week and stopped by the basket lady. I noticed a very small baby laying by her so I asked about the baby. She said it was three months old and 2.5kg (5.4lbs). The mother died and was HIV positive. The basket lady, Mary, is the great grandmother to this baby. The baby is a little girl named, Rukiya (Roo key a). She looked very sickly and malnourished. I asked Mary if she would like to go to Amecet with me and see if they could help. So the next day I brought them to Amecet. Els talked with her and looked at the baby. At birth the baby weighed 1.5kg. I was shocked when Els unwrapped the baby she was SO small. Nothing but skin and bones really. How does a child survive like that? Rukiya’s color is really bad too. Kind of a gray/green compared to the other babies. Els offered to take the baby in and help it get strong for a few months or they would help her with milk each week. Mary went home to talk about it with Rukiya’s other grandmother.

Today I went to see them. They decided to have the baby stay at Amecet so I took them there. I watched her have a bath – she is dreadfully small. Stephanie, the nurse at Amecet didn’t think it looked good. Then Rukiya drank a bottle. She drank it really well. I just love her. I am so thankful they decided to take her to Amecet. I am so thankful for Amecet. I assured the grandmother that they will love and care for Rukiya and that we are all praying for her.

I just want to cry. So much suffering. Babies hanging on to life with so little strength. It shouldn’t be! They are starving, neglected, hurting… I look at my own baby and see what all these tiny babies should look like. They should be loved, protected, cared for. I want to save and love them all. God, please hear our prayers for the children. All the new born babies who’s mothers have died. The babies who are sick, malnourished, and suffering. You are their Father. You knit them together and love them. Hold them. Comfort them. Touch them with your healing power. Use me, use your church, to be your arms of love to these children. Show us how to be Christ to them. It hurts so bad to see them suffer. To hold them and have to leave them. It would be easier to just stay away and not know about them. But You have called us to know their names, touch their faces, and care for them. Help us God to do our part. To love them while we can and bring glory to Your name.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mandy's Journal

May 31
We went to Amecet again tonight. Each time I go I am touched. There is a two year old girl there who weighs less than my four month old baby. She was totally neglected. There is a baby who’s mother is crazy, babies with HIV, and all of them just want to be loved. Their smiles just grab you. Tim and Angie’s heart for children just shines there. They scoop up each baby and just love them. I love watching them interact with the kids there. They inspire me. Tim and Angie took Denis to Amecet with them tonight. (Denis is our old neighbor and friend. He is in his 20’s and moved here when the rebels where in his village in the North.) We love Denis he has a great heart and loves our kids. We often see him on our way to Amecet and he has always known about Amecet but this was his first time inside. He was moved. Angie said he just stood by the picture wall (pictures of all the kids who have come through Amecet – those who died marked with stars) with tears. He prayed over each baby in the baby room. He told me he didn’t know the suffering was so bad. This is coming from a kid who lived through the LRA fighting and who’s father was taken. I guess everyone hurts when they see an innocent child suffer. It is hard to take in. It was good for me to see the soft heart of a Ugandan friend. We need to take more of our friends there. It is good for all of us to have our heart strings tugged once and a while.

Luka rolled over this week. A fun first. He is so loved by his sisters. Lydia tells me often now that she wants to be a Mom when she grows up but she only wants two or three kids because she will be tired. Grace sleep with her three babies every night. Yup, Luka is well cared for with so many mommies around.

We Skyped with the Shaarda family on Memorial Day which was really cool. How nice to see each other again. Lydia was all into it. She talked and talked with excitement. The Skype connection couldn’t even keep up with her. Grace was quiet. Later we asked how she liked it and she told us it made her sad and that she misses her Grandmas. I hope we can do it again soon so the kids see family often.

We have started with our summer visitors out here. Amos, a Calvin Seminary student, arrived this past week. We have really enjoyed getting to know him. He is great with the kids and of course the girls love him. Sarah’s sister is also here visiting. We had a fun day as a team last week. We played games (because it was rainy) and had a lot of fun laughing together. It is nice having other people out here with us. I am surprised at how much busier we are than we use to be. I now have Bible study with the ladies on Wednesdays, Josh plays basketball at the Chinese with the others once a week, we have team meeting each week, we have people for dinner at least once a week, family time and responsibilities, ministry… it all adds up for a quick week. We are thankful for it all!