Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mandy's Journal

September 23

I just journaled about how our kids are all well again, I spoke too soon. Sunday Josh was sick and Lydia. Monday Luka started with another cold and cough. What is it with us? I am so thankful for each person who prays for us. Now, everyone is well again except for Luka and the never ending cold.

Saturday we had our bar-b-q with our Chinese friends. It was suppose to be with our Indian friends too but for some reason they were a no show. A storm came in about 5pm so we had a candlelit dinner. Thankfully we still were able to sit around a campfire afterwards. We had a lot of great food and our friends seemed to enjoy themselves. I hope we are a blessing to them.

About 10pm that night we went to see our Indian friends dance. (That is crazy for us – out that late with our kids we are usually in bed!) I love watching dance especially of another culture. The women all had their traditional dress on and the young men really got into the dancing after awhile. They have fast feet. Unfortunately, the dancing was a celebration for one of their gods. So we didn’t join in. It is always sad to see. Guess the good thing is that it causes me to pray more.

It was after this that four of us on the team fell sick. We wondered if it was spiritual. Thankfully our God is all powerful. He answered our prayers once more and healed everyone. I learned again not to take for grated the spiritual realm. I don’t know if that is why everyone got sick but I don’t want to dismiss it either. We need to be more careful and intentional about praying before we go to these things.

Monday Josh went to teach and no one showed up. Tuesday he went to teach at the Bible College and one of two students were there. Seems like a bit a discouraging time. But there is nothing more we can do but try and be faithful to what God asks us to do.

Grace says some funny things. The other night Josh was telling the girls a story and said something like they entered the house and what smelled something. Grace chimed in and said, “It’s me. I tooted.” Josh and I just looked at each other and laughed. When she talks about the rash she had a few weeks ago she calls it “ashes”. She also calls her suitcase a “zootcase”. Lydia right now wants to know what every word means. She is a sponge. You can pray for her. She is in that stage of a lot of fear. I can remember going through the same thing. She is scared of the dark for the first time. The other day someone died and she asked all kinds of questions. When she was sick she wanted to get better because if you get sicker you can die. So we had to talk about that fear. We saw a house on fire on Sunday so she asked a million questions. I could just tell her mind was worrying. We have been praying for God’s peace to be with her each night. And Luka, he is all over the place and into everything! All that moving has taken off a lot of baby fat. He is also almost trying to pull himself up on things. He’ll be standing soon.

Monday night Josh and I had a date (with Luka). Tabitha watched our girls while we went to Soroti Hotel for dinner and football. Yes, I know many ladies do not agree with me on this but I really do enjoy watching football with my husband. You have to understand football is almost a comfort here because it is something from home and normal. Anyways, they replay Sunday night football on Monday evenings here. There was a storm so the power went out and we missed the second quarter but thankfully it at least came back on. While the game was on the announcers talked about a player in the locker room getting x-rays. I looked at Josh and said, “You mean each football locker room has it’s own x-ray machines and some people in Africa don’t have access to any?!” Isn’t that just like our world? America thinks it needs every convenience possible while others don’t even have the basic needs met. There is so much we need to learn. So much work to be done.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Amuria, Bible Study, and Life

September 19
Josh taught in Amuria all week. Luka and I went with him on Thursday. (The girls stayed home with Karen and had school.) I wasn't sure I wanted to go because it is always work with Luka but I was glad I went. There were about 80 church leaders that came to the teaching this week. They cheered when I arrived. I was very impressed with the people there. There are quite a few older, wiser men in the group that really impressed me. They all seemed very into Josh’s teaching and had great interaction. Josh did a great job teaching. He is so natural. It is a true gift. I know he really enjoys it too. I am very proud of him and excited to see how God will use this teaching and these leaders. It is my prayer that God will work in their lives so that it changes their families, then their churches, and even affects the communities they live in.

One man in Amuria shared his story with us. William is an evangelist and felt called to go witness to the witch doctor in a near by village. When he entered the compound the witch doctor tried to kill him with a spear but God slammed him to the ground. The witch doctor ran so William witnessed to the sick people the witch doctor kept in huts. When William went home his head began to hurt and his eyes got red. He was blind for two years. William went to three hospitals seeking help. All the doctors said he had an injury in his eyes and couldn’t help. Finally William realized that this was spiritual and when he went to the witch doctor’s he never prayed for protection over his body. He prayed and prayed. One day there was a healing service at church so he went. The evangelist prayed for him and the pain and blindness on half of his head was healed. A few months later as he was praying he had a vision of a man in white telling him his problem was that he doubted. William prayed and things like bones and stones “came out” of his eye and he could see again. What a testimony. I am so thankful our God is stronger than any force of evil.

Last weekend Josh and I lead a marriage Bible study Josh put together. We have a great desire to see godly marriages here in Soroti so we invited four couple to come for two days for a Bible study. We wanted it to be a small group with the hopes of those people sharing the material with others when we were done. To be honest the whole thing turned out to be a frustrating experience. Friday morning I took the girls to some missionary friends for the day. I got back just before 9am when it was suppose to begin. Tabitha was there starting to cook lunch for everyone. Josh and I waited and waited…and waited…

Finally, at 10:30 the first couple arrived. Then we waited and waited…and waited again until 11:30 when two other couples came and we could start. By this time I was mad! How rude. Here I had gone to all the work of getting a place for my children to stay, paid for all the food so we could have a nice meal, Josh had worked hard at preparing the Bible study… only to have them waste my time. I prayed God would calm my spirit and change my attitude. Josh is such an example to me. He was full of patience and grace. The study went well thankfully. I was annoyed that they wanted to end early because they had other programs to get to. The couples discussed and said we needed to begin at 9am tomorrow because they had other things in the afternoon. I was hopeful.

While one couple showed up the next day on time. Then we waited…and waited. We were about to cancel when the second couple showed up at 10:30. The third couple never showed up. My attitude was, “Let’s just begin and get this over with.” Tabitha, who helps us, was so embarrassed that her people would do this to us after all we put into it. She felt so bad. After we completed the study I told them (a bit) how I felt. I told them that they need to tell the truth. If they can’t come or are too busy just tell us. When they come late they are wasting everyone’s time. I think they all knew but will it change anything? They all say the time keeping in this culture is not good – well then do something about it! All I can say about the Bible study is that it is in God’s hands. We were faithful in doing what we felt Him call us to, we prayed about it, and He will use it the way He wanted to. It is His work. Will we do it again? Yup, if God calls us to!

We took our workers – Tabitha, John, and Juventine – for lunch today to thank them for their work. They really are friends and we are thankful for them. Our kids love them and they love our kids. We just went for local food but it was good and they seemed to really like it. Tonight we have our Indian and Chinese friends for a bar-b-q and tomorrow we take our church leaders out for lunch. It will be busy but I feel like it is something I can do to encourage people and to be a witness.

The kids are doing well – everyone is healthy! Luka is able to do so much. He takes a toy in the bath tub and puts it through the handle (like basketball!) over and over again. He also plays with one of the girls letter toys. Every time you put a letter in he takes it out. He really is a good, content baby. I don’t even know when to feed him lately because he just plays or watches the girls happily. Did I tell you he eats cheerios? Our guard/gardener calls him St. Luke. The girls are getting very excited to go to MI. They are always asking how many days it is and ask to see grandma. One day when they were upset I found them both in our bed with a picture of grandma crying. Lydia is doing great in school. She reads a lot now, knows compound words, add double digits… Karen is great and they seem to have a lot of fun together. I don’t know if I wrote about it before, but a about a month ago Karen was gone so she gave Lydia homework for each day. I became teacher. We worked for about 2 or 3 hours a day Lydia on one side, Grace on the other, and Luka playing near by. I was reminded why I am not the teacher and made me so thankful for Karen. Lydia does great but she is such a wiggler and has trouble concentrating. I wasn’t able to get any of my stuff done. And by the end I was a crabby mom. Grace really enjoys going to school with Lydia and I can see she is actually learning too. Grace often hangs out with me though. She loves to keep me company.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life and Ministry

Happy Labor Day. We even got to celebrate here. Our other missionary friends had a bar-b-q potluck. Always good to smell the grill on a holiday. It comforts me. Just like summer at home. We are thankful for the fellowship – and great food.

Grace is all better. Thank you for praying for her. We are thankful no one else got it either. Well, we did talk to Sliedrecht’s house help and all five of her children seem to have it. But we have had no contact with them so I don’t think we are to blame. Unfortunately, now Luka has croup. He has a bad cold. We are wiping his nose all day long. Last night was a long night. He had that awful barking cough, seem to struggle to breathe well with a stuffy nose and mucus in the chest, and had a fever. He slept right next to me. Actually, we didn’t get the most restful night sleep but we did get to sleep in. Thankfully, today he is still smiling. (And still snotty too.)

Luka has this new high pitch squeal/scream he likes to do when he wants something or wants our attention. We are hoping he has out grown that by the time we fly. He is a mover so 18 hours in a airplane seat should be fun. I’ll put Luka by his toys in the sitting room walk into the kitchen only to see him army crawl in behind me. He is rocking on his hands and knees so I am sure he will be even faster soon. I almost had a heart attack the other day. Our carpenter was working here and Luka crawled over and found the razor blade he left on the ground! Luka had it in his hands when I saw him and was about to put it in his mouth. He just smiled at me as I examined him only to find one little cut on his finger. Do you know how bad that could have been?! I was so scared and so thankful God protected him. Again I was reminded that God is with us and hears all our prayers.

The girls have just learned Psalm 100! I am so proud of them. It is really cute too because they say it with motions and a lot of expressions. I really have no excuse not memorizing Bible verses if my three year old daughter can do it. I am excited to see God’s Word hide in their little hearts.

Josh continues to basketball with the Chinese about once a week. Our friends there are so sweet. They are always happy to see us and willing to serve us in anyway. The girls like going too. Sometimes one of the ladies gives them candy or the cook gives them bananas. The other night we even got to eat our first Chinese meal with them. It was a bit spicy so the girls didn’t eat much but they had fun trying with chop sticks. Josh and I enjoy trying new foods. They were very excited to share their food with us. We sat and talked to Tian and Fan for a while. It is interesting to learn about their culture. The other day I brought them a couple DVDs on Jesus birth and death. They were excited and thought I was very kind. We also invited them to a bar-b-q we hope to have the end of this month. I really enjoy our friendship with our Chinese friends. I know God is using it for His glory.

Lydia and Grace’s friends continue to come and play. The other day Lydia came in and told Josh that her friends wanted to talk about Jesus with him. I was preparing dinner so when Lydia came in she told me her friends were crying and prayed with Dad. I went out to find out what was happening. The girls had been at their church that day and a young girl was talking about how she talks with God. The girls wanted to know how to talk with God. Josh explained how we talk to God through prayer. He also gave them their own children’s Bible and read the first few stories with them. I decided to ask them more about their families. Spe (Spay) has a father and mother which is great but they both work all day leaving their three small children home alone. Spe is about 10 years old. Abela (Abaila) is 9 years old and also has a mother and father. Her mother goes to church and takes care of the family but her father has many wives all over. Sad to say this is all too common in Uganda. From what Abela said he has more than three wives. He is a driver for a church and has wives where he travels I guess. He also takes women home at night sometimes. I asked what her mother says about that. Abela said she just prays God will forgive him. Abela is the youngest of six children I think. She cried off and on as she told me her story. Betty is 11 years old. She hasn’t seen her mother since she was five years old. Her mother drinks, is with a lot of men, and from what they describe maybe a prostitute. Betty and her three younger siblings live with their grandmother. I guess the mother send home another child from time to time and Betty heard she is pregnant again. All the children have different fathers. Betty says she sees her father walking by from time to time but he denies that she is her daughter. So basically she is an orphan. She too cried as she shared. Her grandmother doesn’t have enough food for the kids and just begs people for handouts. She also drinks sometimes and when it is bad can abuse the kids. Betty said then she will say she is sorry the next day. Her grandmother does not go to church.

I sat there listening to these little girls stories with my heart wanting to explode. Two innocent young girls so hurt by the sins of their parents. Can you imagine your own 10 year old child going to church on their own or trying to get money just to go to school? What could I do to help them? As they told me about their families I kept asking them how it made them feel. I assured them that what their parents did was wrong and it was not their fault. That God is their perfect Father that always loves and cares for them. I am so angry with the parents – can they even be called that or deserve to?! The sad thing is the stories are all to common here. There are so many children in Soroti that suffer. I just don’t understand it. But I am beginning to see why Africa is in bondage. There is punishment for sin. The church will not grow until the people live out their faith. (I am not saying this about everyone. There are good Christians in Africa.) Then I think about HIV. How many of these girls are positive because of their parent’s sinful lifestyle? It is sin upon sin, suffering upon suffering. Innocent people hurt by others sin. There is consequence to sin. God have mercy! I began to wonder if we are doing anything here among the vast problems. Is it worth being here? There is so much more I should be doing. And what about the church here? Why are they allowing so much sin to happen in the lives of it’s members? Does being a Christian mean anything? So easily I can get discouraged and upset. Especially over sin – I hate sin and all it’s awful effects.

But I have to there is always hope. We are on the side of victory. God will not be defeated. This is my comfort and peace. We are here for a purpose and even if that purpose is to bless three little girls with the love of Jesus it is worth it. This brings glory to God. Each of us being His love to hurting people.

Then the girls left that day I hugged each of them. How long had it been since someone hugged them? Every child needs to be hugged. We also decided to take them Mbale with us for the day. I wanted the girls to enjoy being a kid and not have to think about all the other junk in their lives. Our family went over to meet their families and ask if we could take the girls for the day. We met Abela’s mom and Betty’s grandma (who I had met earlier). I was glad Lydia and Grace could see where their friends live. Mbale went well. The girls swam all day. They jumped right in the kiddy pool but were quite afraid in the big pool. They went in with rings and clung to the side. Josh said he heard one of them say I’m swimming like a fish as she beamed with a smile. Lydia told me she thought it was really nice that we took their friends and thanked me. I am glad it meant a lot to her too. We went out for supper before we came home. Boy did those girls eat! We got a huge plate of rice and meat for each of them and I thought we’d be taking left overs, but I was wrong. Even my own daughters ate it all. I think they were hungry for all their swimming.

We decided to give Betty, the girl with no parents, money for her school books. Sad to say it caused jealousy, lies, and anger. Josh and I were so disappointed. People here will get no where if this is how they react. God must get so sad when kindness is treated this way. It did all get worked out. They were all very concerned when they realized how upset we were. They did not want to ruin the friendship started.

That is it for now. I will fill you in more as our lives and ministry continue here. Josh and I are leading a marriage Bible study this weekend so you can be praying for that. Our kids all have cold and I am praying it doesn’t turn into more. I am sure the devil would like to see the Bible study canceled.