Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pictures of Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Dec. 28

Merry Christmas! I hope all of you were as blessed this Christmas as we were. The week started out with making tea rings (cinnamon rolls in the shape of a wreath) to give to all our missionary friends. Every year Josh’s Mom makes them too so it made it feel like Christmas smelling them all week and bringing them to our friends. Josh was really happy when it was finally his turn to eat one. We also brought chickens to our Ugandan friends and workers for Christmas. They were thrilled.

Wednesday our team had a goodbye party for Josh Feenstra, our six month volunteer. We all played football, had snacks, and prayed for him. We will miss Josh he was great with our kids and fun to have around. Josh’s family is also here for three weeks to see and serve with our team. We have enjoyed having them here and admire a whole family coming to serve. Mrs. Feenstra came over twice to be with me and the girls. She taught Grace, did crafts with the girls, and helped me bake. It was so nice. Anyways, back to football it was fun once again until Josh (my Josh) pulled a muscle in his leg and now can’t run at all. He just loves sports and gives his all all the time. Thankfully it is something that will heal after a couple weeks of rest.

Thursday night was our little family party. It was such a blessing! We started with a candle lit supper. The kids thought it was pretty special drinking their Christmas punch out of wine glasses. Lydia sat at the table saying how thankful she was to be here and how good life is. She is so much like me. Just taking in all of life and thankful for everything. Then they opened their presents from us. I was quite creative and found most things around here that I knew they would like. They had so much fun opening the gifts and loved them. Lydia was thrilled over her bath robe, roller blades, princes coloring book, and new back pack. She gets so excited over every present. It is so much fun to see her joy. Grace got a new dress up princess dress, coloring book, doll clothes, purse and water bottle. Luka was adorable. He kept saying open present. He would sit with his little feet crossed and slowly open his package. Rip a little, peek inside, rip a little, peek inside… Then he would say, “mank you” (thank you). He got a lot of new cars and he sat happily all night (and all the next day) playing with his cars. He was precious to watch. The kids were very proud of the gifts they got for each other and for Josh and I too. Then we had ice cream for dessert – great way to end a great night. I loved our little Christmas! The whole night was beautiful. The house looked Christmasy, the kids were enjoying everything, and I just took it all in with joy in my heart.

The next day was Christmas Eve. I was busy all morning baking but I didn’t mind. I had the Christmas music on, the lights on, and it smelled good. It is part of all the fun and anticipation. In the afternoon we went to our friends the Dwires. We put Luka down for a nap while the adults played games. The girls did a first on Christmas Eve – they went swimming! That is something you don’t do in Michigan. I guess if we can’t go sledding we mine as well go swimming. Tim and Angie and family came too. We all enjoyed appetizers then a wonderful supper – talk about good eating! Dan and Amie do such a wonderful job of making everything look so nice and always give you their best. The kids played and watched movies while the adults played another game. Then, even though we were all full, we had chocolate and caramel fondu. That was fun. It was a great night! Always goes too fast. But it really felt like Christmas Eve. Again I was so thankful. We are blessed with great friends and family.

Now, Christmas Day! We went to church but our little church only had seven adults and seven kids there. Oh well, he preached a good Christmas sermon and we were home in time to get ready for everyone to come over. We set things up outside again and our team came over for the day. I just love having everyone over to celebrate. It looked so nice and everyone brought amazing food. We had another feast – we even made ham. After eating we had our team gift exchange and we did white elephant gifts. I thing everyone really enjoyed it. The Feenstra family also brought gifts for everyone – so thoughtful. The rest of the afternoon we played games – Christmas Bingo, Christmas Scattigories, and Christmas Charades. It was fun. And what I call the Christmas miracle happened -- it was cloudy and the temperature went down to 72degrees! When it has been 100 around here 72 feels like winter weather to us. We were all so excited. The ladies all put on their long sleeves and drank coffee and wassail (that Jennifer made and tasted and smelled so good). It felt like Christmas! Once it got dark outside the party moved inside. We had snacks and played another game. Everyone was just enjoying Christmas together. It wasn’t until about 9:30pm that our house was quiet again. Too quiet. Christmas was done. But what a lot we have to be thankful for and what great memories we have forever. God is still the same loving God He was that night in Bethlehem when He gave us His Son. He continues to celebrate with us the joy of our salvation. Merry Christmas!

Yesterday we had a Christmas party for our Indian friends. God has been so good to me. With all the parties we have had, some of them being ministry opportunities I believe God called us to do, I never felt stressed or worried. I committed everything to Him and He was faithful in making everything work out. I made chicken, spaghetti, fruit, chapatis (tortillas), and we had lots of goodies left over from Christmas. Our friends closed their stores early to come. Some of them arrived at 8:30pm and others at 9pm. (Time for bed anyone?) Eight of our Indian friends came and eight people from our team. Our Indian friends were quiet but I think they had a nice time. Language is always a bit of a barrier. I found out that only two of the men eat chicken (left over chicken anyone?) and no one eat much but that is ok I know it is different than they are use to. Our main reason we wanted them over was to share the story of Christmas and why Jesus came. Josh shared with them and then offered Hindi Bibles to them. Three of them took one. We also told them that God gave us the greatest gift on Christmas and that is why we give gifts now at Christmas. We told them that God loves us and that is why we love others and why we love them. We gave them each a small Christmas present and told them we were thankful for their friendship. Our party ended about 10:30pm. I don’t know what they thought or felt about it. Josh said they talked all the way back to the store (home) in their language. We prayed over this party and for our Indian friends a lot. I believe God allowed us to plant a seed last night. Now it is God who will continue the growth of that seed. I pray they felt love, heard truth, and saw Jesus in us. It is our sincere prayer that our friends come to know Jesus, the greatest gift of all, as their Lord and Savior. May God’s Word and Spirit show them the Way.

Can’t wait to share more with you in the New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating Jesus

December 19

Wow, what a week! As you know I got sick. I haven’t had the flu in a long time but it wiped me out. Never a good time for moms to be sick. I still went to my meeting, our Indian friends had us over for lunch and everything was all ready so I just had to go, and then it was my birthday and I just couldn’t miss out on my birthday. So I made it though everything and just laid down in between things to recoup. I admit at times I was miserable but I hate just laying there and missing out. Thankfully everyday I felt better and now I am back to be healthy. Thank you God!

So I celebrated my 32nd birthday on December 15. Although I was sick, I was truly blessed by everyone’s love and appreciation. Josh had 32 notes around the house to tell me why he loved me. The girls went shopping with Josh and got me coffee and chocolate. My family called from MI and some wrote. I got cards from all my teammates that told me how much they appreciated me. I also got cookies (that spelled out happy birthday Mandy) and pumpkin bread. Tim and Angie had us for supper – so nice not to have to cook on your birthday especially when you are sick and can’t eat much. Josh and the girls bought birthday brownies and ice cream too. I even got my first ostrich egg (only my brother-in-law could give me a gift like that). As I reflected in prayer on my life I was so thankful. Thankful to be so blessed. Before I was thought of God had a plan for me. He put me together just like He wanted me to be. I was born into a loving, Christian home. I now have my own beautiful family and husband. God is faithful to me every day. He loves me. Each year is not just another year to grow older (yikes, I can remember my parents at this age!) is another year to grow closer to God and to bring Him glory. Happy Birthday to me!

Friday I hosted a ladies Christmas tea. I just wanted to get all of us together to fellowship and enjoy the holidays. I hope it was a blessing to them – it was to me. We started by making Christmas candle holders from different shaped and sized glass jars. Everyone likes to be crafty, be creative, and talk right? Ok, I guess that could just be me but they were good sports about it anyways did it. And the jars do look beautiful with candles lit in them. Next we had a small Christmas gift exchange. And then we had tea (okay mostly punch because it is almost 100degrees) and Christmas goodies. Each person brought something to share – we had chocolate cherry fudge, orange cinnamon rolls, chocolate candies, Christmas cookies… just reading it makes you gain weight! I even made my first ever banket (the Dutch thing we always have at Christmas that has almond paste inside). Well the almond paste I made turned out too runny and run all over my oven thankfully some stayed in and it tasted like the real thing. Half of the crowd however (those not from GR) did not know what it was and I think thought it was TOO sweet. Oh well, it is all about tradition and memories. So we had a very nice Christmas party as ladies. I just love this time of year! (My lights may just become a permanent decoration around here.)

Then Saturday evening we invited our team and other missionary friends to come over for candle light Christmas carols. What fun! The kids (there were 13 of them) dressed up to be apart of the nativity. They were so cute. We had Mary (Avalien), Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds (Grace was one of them), angels (Lydia was one of them), and wise men (Moses was one of them). It was beautiful to see them all stand up front and sing along. Precious. We read the Christmas story in sections and sang carols in between. Everyone was holding candles and our teammate played the guitar. I just looked around took in the sight and sound. This is Christmas -- celebrating the joy of Jesus birth. We read from Is. 9:2-7 and John 3:16-21 and I was touched again by Jesus birth. The Light has come! We don’t have to live in darkness anymore. Rejoice, He has given us joy and broken the yoke that burdened us. For to US Jesus is born. He will rule forever with justice and righteousness. God has accomplished this. Because He loves the world. We can be saved and live forever. He came to save the world! But the Light has come and so many have loved the darkness instead. Those who walk in truth have received the Light. Isn’t that the Gospel message in a nutshell? We have good news to share! That is what Christmas is about. Jesus, God with us, has come to save you because He loves you. Awesome. I love it! This is the message the world is dying to hear. Let’s share the hope we have.

That is just what we did on Sunday. Though the support from a church in MI and the help of our team we put on a Christmas party for the kids that live on the streets and for Elim house (a home for kids who did live on the streets). I really felt God put this on my heart a few months ago so we planned and prayed. Our goal was to share Jesus and His love with these kids and to give a Christmas to kids who would have no Christmas. All month I gathered the gifts and Saturday we had a big gift wrapping party. Today we met at the guesthouse (where the party was) early to bathe the party in prayer. How we wanted Christ to be there and glorified in what took place. Thirty four kids, eight adults who work with the kids, and our team came to celebrate. We colored, eat, watched a Christmas DVD, and gave out presents. I loved serving the food to the kids. We gave them all name tags so I could talk to them using their names and bless them with as much food as they wanted. The presents too we called them up each by name and I could tell each of them that God loves them. Each kid got a shirt, pair of sandals, notebook, pen, and soap. The only upset of the day was that some of the shoes did not fit but we will get that corrected soon. (Some of the kids on the street sniff all day long we were just thankful all went well otherwise.) Most of the kids had their new shirts on and looked very happy. The most important part of the day was the message we were able to share with them. Bobby, our teammate who works with a lot of theses kids, shared the Christmas story and why Jesus came. The good news. And I told them there was two things we wanted them to know today; that we love them and more importantly that God loves them. I hope they never forget it. It is almost unthinkable as you look out at those 34 faces that they are all alone and unloved. Some of them are six years old. Some of them have no parents but some of them do but have been completely rejected. How can this be? A child left to protect and provide for themselves. A child. That is why Christmas is so important. Jesus has come. Without Him there would be no hope in this world. But we do have hope. The Light has come. God is with us. We have the good news to share. God loves these kids. He loves them so much He gave His Son to save them. I pray this Christmas these kids will know that they are not alone and unloved but that Jesus loves them and is with them. May that fact change their lives forever.

After a week like that one has to wonder what will next week with hold…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just and Update

Dec. 12
Just another update on happenings around here. The girls and I are enjoying school with a Christmas tree and lights in our classroom. We are doing a countdown to Christmas with nativity ornaments. Each day we have a new ornament with something on it that has to do with Jesus and His birth. We talk about it, color it, and hang it on our tree. They are also learning Luke 2 and can say it up to verse 9 so far. They amaze me with their memories.

We have had some clouds and a little cooler temperature this week! On Wednesday it rained (I pretended it was snow). I decided to take the girls to do their Christmas shopping. We don’t have much to choose from in Soroti but at least our small supermarket had all it’s Christmas lights on and the girls found something little for their Dad, Luka, and each other. I love how the girls can make even the simple things special.

This week I got the crazy desire to try to fondu. Thankfully my husband isn’t sick of all my Christmas ideas yet. So I bought a small one burner kerosene stove and prepared for our nice dinner. We had Tim and Angie over and put all our kids to bed at our house. The table was set all in Christmas flare, Christmas music in the background, candles lit the room, and we had a feast. Thankfully it worked too! Angie found a recipe to do meatballs in the fondu so that was a first. And I highly recommend onion ring batter on onions and zucchini to fondu. And we ended perfectly with mom’s famous Christmas hot fudge. It was so good and such a nice night I just had to tell you about it.

And to end that beautiful night, Grace called us to tell us she had thrown up in her bed. Bummer. We are thankful she is already doing better. I have been fighting a cold this week and today it is in my sinus’. I just plain don’t feel good. I went to church this morning but went right to bed when I got home. I really hope we are all well for the holidays.

Josh taught in Obule this week. We were really excited about this lesson because it is on marriage. We are passionate for godly marriage and it is something that is lacking here. I told Josh it really is (after God) a foundation and if they have godly marriages then everything else will be better. How we desire to see their marriages centered in Christ so that their families, their leadership roles, their churches, and communities are all changed by the example.

The bummer of the week is that our camera died and so did our generator. I kinda need a camera for Christmas! And of course the generator breaks just when we have two full days without power. Oh well, always something to be thankful for too. The power came on each night, we bought another generator (and Josh lovingly worked for hours getting the new cord set up in the attic so it will work), and we have a camera to borrow until we can get a new one out to us. All in all it was just another lesson and reminder to us how much we have and how good we have it. The girls were complaining of being bored with no power and no way to watch a video so we talked about how their friends never have power. I need to remind myself of those things when I complain too.

Other than that, we got to watch football with our missionary friends last week and again this week. Just up my alley not only football but friends and good food too. Luka loves football and just stands there saying football or throwing a ball. More importantly I was buying ribbon this week (for a Christmas project of course) and asked the Indian man what he would be doing for Christmas. He didn’t know yet and asked what I would be doing so I told him I’d be with my family celebrating Jesus birth. We had a nice little conversation so I asked if he would like a Hindi Bible. He said yes. I was so glad because he has never been too friendly with me before but now seemed to open up a bit. I have been praying for opportunities this Christmas to share Jesus love and I am sure this is just one of those answers to prayer. (Hopefully this is a “to be continued” story!)

Keep praying for the street kids Christmas party that will take place one week from today. I have been buying their presents, arranging the food, and we should have a meeting this Tuesday to finalize the plans. Pray it all comes together with joy instead of stress. Most of all pray for salvation to come to these kids – that is why Jesus came and we have Christmas. I also lines up a Christmas party with our Indian friends. They are even closing their stores early (which they have never done) to celebrate with us. So December 27 they come. Pray as they hear the story of Christ that they will hear truth and believe.

Thanks everyone!

It is now Tuesday and we finally have our internet working so I could post this. Unfortunatly I also have the flu now too. Just plain yuck. I hope to be better tomorrow (for my birthday!) and that the sickness stops with me so we can all enjoy the holiday festivaties this weekend.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Happenings

December 5, 2010

Merry Christmas everyone! Isn’t it a joy to celebrate our Saviors birth?! I am into the celebration. Last Saturday we put our tree. I thought we would be putting up our 2 feet tree we brought from the States but instead we ended up putting up an 8 feet tree we bought here in Soroti. Like I said I love the holidays, so when I was at the grocery store and they told me they had big Christmas trees for sale I got excited. Josh went with me later to see it. The box said 4 foot better than 2 foot I guess but it sure looked bigger as we took it out of the box. Our friend at the store sold it to us for a great price -- $22. We got home and started putting it up with the kids. The tree was not 4 foot the box was. The tree was about 8 foot and touched our ceiling (actually we had to bend the top so it would fit). How fun! We had a great time decorating and singing Christmas songs with the kids. We even had to go to the store again and buy more lights and tinsel. (Thankfully Soroti had some!) Grace stood on Josh’s shoulders to put our small star on top. Now our house looks like Christmas!

This weekend our family went to Mbale (a town an hour and a half away) for the night with the Kaiser family, our teammates. We needed to get new tires on our van and Luka was suppose to get lab work again to make sure everything was still ok. Unfortunately, the lab results did not make sense (number were off and others were good but they should have both said one thing or the other) so Luka’s doctor said we will have to try to do it again in January. Thankfully the rest of the weekend was successful and we had a fun time swimming, eating, and just being away. (I even got to relax in a hot tub – the only one I know of in Uganda.) It is such a blessing to be with my family.

I wish I could share my children with all of you. They change so quickly and are so much fun. Luka is talking a lot (some of it we’d have to interpret but most of it is understandable). He is so polite and says thank you for everything. It was so funny tonight when Grace was complaining in the car Luka said, “Grace, stop it.” He mimics everything and can say every ones names. He gets so excited to when he sees people he knows. It is a great age. The big news is Lydia stopped sucking her thumb! All glory to God. We put clear medical tape on for a few weeks and now she no longer needs that. I told her the first of November that it would be a great thanksgiving at Thanksgiving and with some hard work and pray she did it. We are so proud of her! And even bigger news, Grace prayed to have Jesus in her heart. Now that is a praise the Lord! We were reading the Bible before bed and it was the story of Jesus dying on the cross. So I talked to them about what it means and asked if they had or wanted to ask Jesus to forgive them and be the King of their lives. I knew Lydia had but I wasn’t sure what Grace would say seeing she was older now. She said she wanted to so Josh talked and prayed with her. I know all Heaven was rejoicing with us as another one of God’s children accepted Him.

You can be praying for my brother Chris who is now in Guatemala doing ministry for six months. Beginnings are always hard. Pray for God’s peace to be with him, for protection for him, and for God to use him greatly.

I have been wanting to write about how thankful I am for God’s Word but haven’t so I guess now is as good of time as any. I love it. It speaks so clearly and loudly to me. I am not saying I always go away from God’s Word spoken to but I do go away fulfilled and blessed, excited or challenged. I am saddened that as Christians I hear us speak about the Bible so little really. We are very good at talking about the latest news, TV shows, and complain about being busy with all our activities. Is it because we don’t know the Word of God and don’t spend time in it or is it because we embarrassed or shamed? There are many reasons why. All I know is that His Word is life to me. I cannot do without His wisdom and assurance, His correction and guidance. It is my peace and hope to know Him more and more. Anyways, I just want to share with the world each time He teaches me through His Word and so often I don’t. It usually just stays between me and Him. I wrestle with that. Is it just for me and my growth or am I called to share what He has taught me with others? I say all this because I want to share more what God is teaching me on my journal/blog. I guess it is a warning. However, as Mom time may not allow. Then I guess I will hold onto how God has spoken to me until the right time.

One last thing. You can be praying for the Christmas events we have in mind for around here. I really want to share the Light of the World with the world this Christmas. God is now using us as His light on earth, a reflection of Him. We have so much to celebrate at Christmas. It is where our salvation story begins. We are sitting in a world dying of hopelessness and we have the good news to bring them. So I pray that we have opportunities and make opportunities to share with the lost and hurting around us. I have a couple things in mind. As some of you know we will be, with the financial help of a church in MI, putting on a Christmas party for the Elim House (former street kids) and the street kids. I am nervous and excited. I don’t want the details to take away from the focus of sharing Jesus with them. I pray that knowing Jesus came to earth to save them they will be overwhelmed by His love. I would also like to share the Christmas story with our Indian friends. It is a bit tricky because they work at the supermarket and never close or have time to all come. I know God will give us a way to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with them. I pray that as the wise men came to worship Jesus, our Indian friends will hear the truth and also worship. Along with these hopes I can’t wait to make Christmas meaningful for our family and team. I have so many ideas in my mind…candlelight Christmas Carols, women’s Christmas tea, crafts… Should be fun. Pray for Christ to be honored in all our celebrations this season. Merry Christmas everyone!