Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ordinary but Blessed Days

January 28
Sorry I haven’t written much lately. Life has slowed down here. I have been a bit down which I expected with all the excitement of the holidays done. I am just one who looks forward to special things. But I am trying to enjoy the day God has given me. I have nothing to complain about. We are so very blessed.

It is SO hot here (ok I maybe complaining now). All I hear from MI is about the cold and I just wish I could mix our two worlds. It is 90degrees in our house each day and a lot hotter out in the sun. It is dry and windy too – really windy like a hair drier. Our grass is now brown and dusty. Hopefully just another month before the rain comes again.

We took care of Nico, our team mates Bobby and Rachel’s new adopted son, for a few days this week. They had to go to Kenya so they could renew their visas and because Nico doesn’t have a passport yet he stayed back with us. Nico is one year old and Luka really enjoyed being the big brother. He played great with him. Nico got a lot of attention between the girls and Luka. The girls were so helpful. Nico would play and laugh with the kids but only look shyly with no expression at Josh and I. Every day he got more comfortable though. It was busy. Thankfully Josh helped a lot because I taught all four days this week. We were glad we could help our team mates (who took care of our girls when we had to go to Kenya when Luka was sick) and get to know Nico more.

I was so blessed yesterday by Tabitha. She has now been in our lives for almost four years. She always talks about how well behaved our kids are and likes how we raise them. Yesterday she said again how people here will just beat their children but how I talk to them. She said that her kids (nieces and nephew she took in) now see her as their mother and it is only because of my example that she knows how to be a good mom. Wow, that is the best compliment someone could give me. I am making a difference. Someone is watching and learning. I pray everyday that God will use me to be a witness but struggle with the fact that I am usually home. But Tabitha is here with me seeing me interact with my kids in a godly manner. Praise God! If one life here is touched so they now live according to God’s ways, it is a job well done.

Josh has also been seeing God at work through his ministries. A couple months ago he was able to lead a blind man to Christ. He when to visit him again the other day and was blessed to hear how Jesus has changed not only his life but his families too. His neighbors said he is now clean, comes to church each week, stopped drinking, and now has money for feed and school his family. Isn’t that exciting?! Not just a heart change but a life change. That is why we have come. Jesus makes all the difference.

Josh has also been teaching on marriage in one of the villages. We have found that godly marriages are VERY hard to find here and sexual immorality is the norm. After Josh’s teaching we are confirmed again that we have found an area of great need. The men and women have been, I think, blown away, touched, and very challenged by the Biblical teaching on marriage. Women are very oppressed, misused, and even abused here. They said that if the men put into practice this teaching marriage would change. The men said that families are a mess here and want Josh to come and teach to the whole community. The men had the assignment of telling their wives why they loved them. For most (all?) of them it was the first time to say I love you to their wives. Now, we have to see what the Holy Spirit does. Will they take what God says and do it? I am excited to see marriages transformed by the Lord. This is what we need. It really is foundational for the church to grow here. I pray these church leaders become example of godly marriages for the church and community to learn from.

Hey, some other exciting news. We are proud new aunt and uncle! Josh’s sister and husband, Ryan and Rebeka, had their first baby on Thursday. Reka is nine pounds eight ounces with lots of black hair and big cheeks. Adorable! We just wish we could hold her. It is hard to be away at times like this. To miss out on celebrating with the family. Ah, this is when missions is a sacrifice. Grace too said it makes her want to be in MI. Our girls are super excited about their new cousin. We are very happy for Ryan and Rebeka (and G & G who now have a grandchild in MI) and pray God blesses every new day with their baby girl.

Last week the girls had a sleepover at Avalien’s house which they thought was the best. It is pretty special to have their cousin here. Our team also had a day away together at the pool in Mbale. The kids had so much fun swimming together (so did the Dads). We all enjoyed our Indian supper too. It is a blessing to have a mission family to fellowship with.

I am almost finished reading through my Bible again – that is something to celebrate! Yet I realized how much more I need. I have so much to learn and so many ways I need to grow. I love how each time I read though God’s Word new things stand out and teach me – it is alive and active. I pray that as I read it dwells in me. I want to be a doer of the Word. I long to remember all God has spoken to me. From the many people I have talked to in the past couple years I am very saddened by how many Christian have never read through the Word of God. How can this be? We say we are Christ followers but don’t know what we are following or how to follow. Wake up Christians! Who is your first love? Long for Jesus! His Word is for you – the story of your salvation, instructions, promises… So many Christians wonder why their lives are the way they are. The answers are all there for us – how to live, truth, results of sin, healing and peace, and God’s blesses. Open your Bibles dear children of God! (Sorry, I just can’t help it. I am passionate about what I know is true and good.)

I’d like to end with some verses from Jonah that God used to speak to me this week.
- Jonah 1:3 = Jonah thought he could run away from God – he really believed he could. I think he thought God was only in Israel. Back then (and maybe now) it was thought that gods where territorial. This place had this god and another place was the place of this god… Just an interesting insight.
- 1:16 = God used Jonah’s sin of disobedience and running from God to save the sailors. Jonah’s confession of sin and seeing God’s powerful acts brought the men to fear God. God can even use bad for His glory.
- Chapter 2 has some powerful words from the darkness of the whale. Jonah remembered God in his distress and cried out to Him. God answered and saved him. How many people are in the pit right now? God is waiting for their cry for help. Remember God and call to Him. His grace is there for all of us.
2:2 “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the dept of the grave I called for help. And you listened to my cry.”
2:6 “But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.”
2:7 “I remembered You, Lord.”
- 2: 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” How many of us desire something other than God and forfeit His grace?

Last but not least a couple verses from Amos 3 & 4, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say His is. Hate evil, love good, maintain justice in the courts.” Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Luka!

January 16

We celebrated Luka’s 2nd birthday this week. What a special birthday to celebrate. We are so thankful he is here with us. Ten months ago we were in the hospital not knowing if Luka would live. Once again we give glory to God for his healing! Luka is a gift from God. His smile and happy voice fills our home and lives. How glad I am we can hold him in our arms today. I love watching him play contently with his cars or try to sing and dance. He always makes people feel loved. He gets excited whenever he sees someone he loves. We pray God continues to be with Luka and that Luka grow to know Jesus as his Savior. May he grow to be a man after God’s heart.

Luka just looked at me funny all day as I told him happy birthday. He knows how to sing happy birthday but is use to it being everyone elses birthdays and just didn’t get that it was his. We had a pizza party to celebrate Luka’s birthday with our family. Luka liked the presents (cars and a ball of course) so much he didn’t even eat his cake. But he did enjoy blowing out the candles. Yesterday we had our team over for a birthday picnic. Luka just smiled as everyone sang to him. The kids had a lot of fun playing together. Now, my baby is two. Ah, time is so precious. Happy Birthday Luka!

Tonight as we walked to our team prayer time Lydia and I were holding hands talking. She said she will come visit us in Uganda someday. I asked her what she meant. She said, “Well someday I may live in Michigan if God calls me to tell the lost people there about Jesus or Canada or Mexico or somewhere. Then I would have to come and visit you here.” I just smiled as I heard my seven year old daughter talk about being a missionary and going where God sends her. Isn’t faith beautiful?! It is simple. God speaks and you obey. I am so thankful Lydia’s heart is already heading in the right direction. We were also doing her spelling test this week and she looked at me with an excited toothless grin and said, “I love spelling tests. I like the challenge!” I just have to stop sometimes and enjoy the moment. Grace too. Every time you take her on the bike or in the car to town she sings the whole way. Sometimes they are made up songs I wish I could record. She is my traveling evangelist. Kids really do say the cutest things and we can easily mess the joy of it in our business. I don’t want to be to busy not to hear my kids. I want to treasure the moment.

I have just finished reading in Daniel and Hosea. I love when God teaches me through His Word. It makes me excited. Mind if I share?

Daniel 9 really spoke to me. Daniel knew God’s Word and so after 70 years in captivity he knew the time was coming to an end. So he prayed – a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of confession and asking God for mercy and help. He came to God on behalf of his people in humility and repented (even though he was not the sinner who caused them to be brought into captivity). He knew they deserved the punishment but also knew God is merciful. Verse 18 says, “We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.”

Verse 20 Daniel also confessed his own sin. I think that is a key statement. You want God to hear and answer our prayers we had better first repent.

Wonder if God is listening to your prayers or answering? While Daniel was praying Gabriel came. “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given.” (vs. 23) Awesome. To add to that he tells Daniel it is because he is highly esteemed. Imagine that, being highly esteemed by God! (Remember Daniel wasn’t perfect he had just confessed his sins.)

Daniel was a great leader used by God because he was an example of a true follower of God. He always did right (even when it meant his life), stood on the truth (even when his life was at stake), he prayed (again with his life on the line), confessed, and loved God more than life. That is why so many kings were touched by his life. Daniel is a godly leader I want to follow.

Hosea 4 was another chapter that challenged me. God brings a charge against Israel: they are unfaithful, there is no love, no knowledge of God, only cursing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery, and bloodshed. The land and people are wasting away. Their suffering is a result of their sinful behavior. It is a cause and effect relationship. I know not all suffering is a judgment of sin but some is the result of sin. I see it all around me in Soroti. Sin causes suffering. Worst of all it seems sometimes the innocent suffer the most. Sin affects others. It isn’t only in Soroti. When we are going through difficult times, suffering we need to humbly ask is there sin in my life that is causing this pain? Too often we blame everything and everyone else including God for allowing our troubles to happen. Maybe we should stop and look at ourselves first. It may just be our sins that have caused the hardship. As Grace asked the other day, “How can God be punish sin and forgive us?” (Pretty good for a five year old!) We have an amazing God who is both just and merciful. Thank you God.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year!

January 9, 2011

Happy New Year everyone! God was so loving and faithful last year I can hardly wait what He has planned for this year. Isn’t it great to know He is always with us and already has the plans for this year. I realize now that every year is a chance to grow closer to Him and more like Him. All glory to Him.

We had a really fun New Years Eve just hanging out with our friends the Kolbs and Dwires. We played games, ate appetizers, and the kids favorite -- watching fireworks at mid-night. I was thankful for friends to celebrate with. On New Years Day the Pitmans came over for a picnic lunch and a few rounds of corn hole. At night we, unfortunately, watched Michigan State get creamed at the Pitmans.

Then we headed to Kampala. We spent two nights at the Speke Resort one of our family’s favorite places to go. We go about once a year for a treat. The girls have talked about it since last year so they were SUPER excited. On the way there I think Grace asked every 15 minutes if we were there yet (a five hour drive). So for three days we swam, enjoyed wonderful meals, and of course rode the horses. Lydia and Grace love riding the horses! And now we can add Luka to that – he loved the horses too! It is kinda funny cause our girls are very afraid of animals and even walking around to see the horses they are very nervous but on the horses they are fine. So I asked Lydia why that is. She said they don’t like the front end. I laughed right out loud. Luka was really cute too. He sat on the horse and took a few little rides with Josh next to him. Luka pet the horse and smiled. We had a really nice few days as a family. Oh course Lydia throw-up the last night all over and Grace did the last morning at breakfast. Thankfully it was our last day and by 2pm they were feeling well enough to swim a little and take one last horse ride. I am sure we will be hearing about this till next year when we go again.

Our van was worked on the whole time we were in Kampala – the engine was overhauled. Then when we did get it back the mechanic said we’d need a new engine in a year. Great. And then, like every other time, it didn’t drive just right on the way home and is now not running at all. Sometimes I just want to scream. Our van worked great for about three years now for about a year we get something worked on only to have it not work or make something worse. We have tried several mechanics and I don’t trust any of them anymore to get it right. I just want a good, trust worthy mechanic so our van can be fixed properly! This time the mechanic is coming from Kampala to make it right (at least we hope). I guess in it all I realize how spoiled and dependant we are on our vehicles. Most people in the world don’t owe one and we think we can’t live without one. There is always a lesson to learn and something to be thankful for.

We are home now and things are a bit quieter around here. The tree is put away so Christmas is officially over. Oh well, all good things have to come to an end. We are now getting back into the swing of things around here. Josh teaches the next couple days and the girls and I will begin school again. As I hear of snow and cold back in MI it is hot and really dry here. All our nice green grass is brown and dusty. The girls have been busy writing letters to send home. I think they miss everyone right now. Today Lydia heard me ask my mom about my great grandma who was in the hospital and she thought I said grandma was in the hospital. She started crying and was all worried grandma was going to die. You are all missed and loved around here. With that I will talk to you again hopefully next week. Blessings!

December 2010 (241 photos), by Mandy Shaarda

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