Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feb. 2011 (68 photos), by Mandy Shaarda

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February 27

The week was off to a ruff start when my purse was stolen Monday. I couldn’t believe it. I had just finished at the supermarket, got in my van, put my purse on the seat next to me, put down the windows and drove to the Coke depot. At the corner I had to stop and pull over a bit for a truck that was parking. I remember looking at the people by the hardware shops and watching the truck and bikes to know when I could go again. I was there at the most one minute. When I got to the depot my purse was gone.

I panicked a bit and began to pray for God’s help. I know I had my purse and now it was no where. How could this have happened? I didn’t see or hear anyone. It had to be when I stopped for the truck and someone reached in the window. Rrrr! I went back to the supermarket hoping I left it there but I didn’t. They helped me call Josh who was suppose to be gone teaching all day but it was canceled so he was home. He called the phone that was in the purse but of course no one answered.

Our Indian friend from the supermarket went with me to where the purse was stolen. I let him get out and talk with the people standing around there. As I sat there I could remember the very people there when it happened. There is no way no one saw. Someone had to have noticed him take a purse out of my van and run with it. A man came to my window with bloodshot eyes and asked how he could help me. I told him he couldn’t. My Indian friend came back and said they would help for 100,000ush (about $50). I was out raged! That isn’t help. I decided I wanted to get out and talk with these people. They took me to the man that came to my window who said he knows the man who did it. I said to him you mean you saw this man take my purse and did nothing?! He said no I just know of him. I said and now you want my money to help instead of doing it out of the kindness of your heart! He looked at me and said I am not saved like you. All I said was then I will pray for you and went back to my van.

I was so upset. They were just as bad as the thief – maybe he was the thief? I looked around at all the men and just felt like they were all bad and all laughing at me. No one seemed to care that wrong was done. I didn’t trust any of them. Who can we trust? Why am I here serving and helping them when they treat me like this? It is all so wrong! My thoughts and feelings went on and on. When I got home I just cried. (Thankfully Josh was there to hold me. Pretty sure I worried our guard though.) Why was I so upset by this? I had so much to be thankful for. All that was in my purse was some money, a cheap phone (not even my good one because it was not working right), my Ugandan drivers license, and restaurant and store cards for Kampala. But it was my purse, my things. I wanted my card with a free meal in Kampala on it, my grocery store points I earned, my wallet from Nigeria. Silly I know but that is how I felt. I was thankful that all the women I talked to knew exactly how I felt – violated.

That afternoon I felt like God was telling me to put into practice what He has been teaching me. In our ladies Bible study we have been going through the book of 1 John – love one another. And all God taught me about injustice last week. I was treated unjustly (in a very small way) now how would I react? I taught the girls in the afternoon and the Bible lesson was on forgiveness. Was God testing me? I didn’t want to fail. I need to forgive this wrong and the person who did it. I needed to pray for the man I talked to who isn’t saved and for the man who took my purse. They need Jesus. I wanted to honor God by how I dealt with this. I put it before in prayer and let it go. The next day God showed me a verse from Lamentations 3:59, “You have seen, O Lord, the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause!”

Thankfully the week only got better.

Josh and I were talking about our plans to go home (to MI) this summer and Gracie piped in, “But we are home Mom.” She is right. We are home here. What a blessing. Our kids see this as home (and I think MI as vacation!) and I can now too. What an answer to prayer.

Luka said his first little prayer this week. Precious. He is so polite too. We asked him if he was ready for bed one night and he politely said, “No mank you.” Luka sings now too. He loves The Joy, Joy, Joy and we sing it after every meal. In school this week the girls were learning about China and I told them that they don’t know Jesus there and those who do aren’t allowed to have Bibles or go to church. The girls were so concerned. Lydia said Mom let’s pray for them right now, so we did. Sometimes they are the ones who remind me how to live out our faith.

(The picture is of Luka holding an ostrich egg!)

I just have to tell you – again – how hot it is here. I didn’t think it could happen but it is getting worse. If we were in Michigan there would be warning all over the news. Stay inside in your air conditioning or go to the lake. What do we do here? I know what I do, I get crabby and complain. Sorry God I am trying not to. I literally feel like I am in an oven because the air is so hot and you can’t escape. Luka left his bread out for an hour and it literally toasted. Hopefully the increase in tempts and winds mean rainy season is coming but no one knows. Everyone has their options though. Just like in Michigan everyone is talking about how hot it is. Every year here is different so all we know is the rain will come again. We had a huge rainy season last year so I guess we are due for a long dry season. All of us are suffering from headaches do to the heat and lots of wind. Lydia’s allergy’s are really bothering her. Needless to say the girls are very excited to go to Kampala this week and go swimming. Now that is something to look forward too!
(Someone asked how hot is it so I put the thermometer outside in the sun and it reached its max at 120degrees! That is in the sun but it also may have gone higher if it could have. In my kitchen where the thermometer usually sets it is around 92degrees - without the oven on. We live in an oven remember.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Amazing Grace

This week we watched the movie Amazing Grace it was so powerful I just have to write about it. First of all you should see it. There are a select few movies I would recommend to people but this is one of them. The movie is about William Wilberforce and his efforts to stop slave trade. I was so touched by the movie I just cried every time I thought about it the next day. Not that it was sad, although some of it was, I was just so challenged to make a difference in this world – to stand up and fight for justice for the suffering. Here are some of my thoughts:

It is humbling how God uses people. God first of all drew William Wilberforce to him. He then called him through my people in his life to a great task. William committed his life to this cause. He was gifted with all that was needed – smart, talented, great speaker, wealthy, a politician with a voice. He never went to Africa but saved their lives by fighting for what was right.
Then there was his wife. Just when William was so discouraged and sick he was going to give up the fight God put his wife to be in his life. She listened, encouraged, challenged, and gave him strength to keep fighting. Without her they would have lost the battle. Wow, history would have changed forever.

And all the other people who encouraged and fought with John. Everyone played a part. They stood with William against this evil. It was one of these men who finally found away to stop most of the slave trade though another way.

These people stood up against the evil in their culture and changed the world. They stood on God’s truths and saved innocent lives. For years they fought for justice. How thankful we are for them. I was encouraged to remember that God always has His people. We will not be defeated. Victory is ours.

Another interesting thing was that every time William fought against this evil he became sick with great pain and even tormented. He was fighting against the devil’s stronghold and was attacked physically and spiritually for it. Satan was not about to give up his control in slavery – he loves to kill and destroy.

It was so sick to see those who opposed William (stated out as 1 against 300 in parliament) wanted to keep the slave trade for no other reason than money and power. The rich wanted to get richer at the cost of peoples lives. They cared only about themselves. How easily we can turn our minds off to what is happening to others far away when we are content. The same evils are happening today.

By contrast William was also very wealthy but used it for good. He didn’t give up his wealth even though those he was fighting for had nothing. His wealth and position allowed him to have a voice for the voiceless. He used his blessings for God’s purposes and glory. He lived it out too by feeding the hungry out of his home and wealth. No one condemned him for his wealth but thanked him for fighting for them, giving, and helping them.

My heart was also very broken to be reminded of the way the slaves -- God’s children – were treated like animals. It was plain evil. I could do nothing other than to go to God and repent. No I didn’t do it, but I was so full of sorrow that I just had to say I was sorry. I mourned for the sin and for the innocent lives taken. Living in Africa I think about my village friends being taken. How scared they must have been. Not knowing the language, never having seen a boat, being tortured, forced to work, never seeing family again… What if it happened to me, my husband, or my children? No person should ever be treated so wickedly. With all this on my mind I needed to be reassured of God’s forgiveness. His grace in an evil world. The stronghold from slavery is still in our world today. We are not over this. But Jesus is stronger than any stronghold satan wants to have on us. Jesus is breaks down those strongholds through our repentance and His forgiveness.

John Newton also played a part in the movie. He was the captain of a slave ship but God got a hold of him. He became a pastor and grieved his whole life the evil he was apart of. He said two things he knows. One, I am a great sinner. Two, God has great mercy.

All of this leaves me with – what can I do? If we are really honest our world is still full of injustices and slavery. I want to change the world, save those suffering and hurting. Not our of pride but great love for God. I want all to know Him, I want to do great things for His kingdom. I struggle with how I live every day in my home really doing my thing. I serve my husband, kids, and fellow missionaries…but what about those enslaved yet today? Those abandoned, abused, sold, rejected, hurting, alone, hungry, forces… God what do I do? How do I use my talents and recourses to help? So often I am wrong and think but I am just one. So what if I stop shopping at a store that uses child laborers in other countries? But it starts with one and others join. God rise up an army to stand for truth and saves lives. If we all think I can’t make a difference then we fail but if we all do our part we have victory. We need to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others. Lord, I am open to You. Show me. Lead me. Help me. Use me. It is for You – for Your children who suffer – it is for Your glory. Bring Your justice, Your mercy. Thank you for William Wilberforce and all those who changed this world. You are still the same God. You continue to use Your people make a difference. You are faithful and victorious. What a story of amazing grace!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentines & Elections

February 20

Happy Valentines Day! Although Valentines isn’t a big deal it is, it is a day to tell people you love them. I do want all of you to know that I love and appreciate you! We celebrated here by having a mother and daughter Valentines tea. I started out by telling the girls that their mothers love them very much and that God loves them too. Lydia quickly chimed in and said, “And the daughters want the mothers to know we love them too.” Melt my heart. What a thoughtful girl. Lydia and her friend Abby also made up a couple songs and sang them with their guitar. They have talent!

We also said goodbye to the Sliedrechts this week as they left for a four month home service. Lydia and Grace are bummed their cousins had to go. Grace wonders what she will do without her best friend Avalien and Moses on the way to the airport wanted to go home because he knows Luka will miss him. Isn’t it great how much they love each other? I too was sad to let my sister go but am so glad we are able to live and serve here together. So we will all survive. The bummer is that we leave as soon as they return so really we will be apart for about 7 months. Thankfully we have a great team here now. We will never be alone. God be with you Sliedrechts until you return!

Uganda had their elections Friday. Thankfully it has all been peaceful. It was the quietest I ever saw town and all of the Indian own stores were closed for two days (they didn’t even do that for Christmas). Voting stations where all over – in the park, under a tree, by a school – and people were lined up about 50 deep to vote. The results are suppose to be announced on Sunday and Monday so we continue to pray for peace during that time. Many Ugandan were surprised we stayed and thanked us for being with them. We have just been lying low at home just in case something happens. It has been a bit of an uncomfortable feeling the last couple months. We prepared and went over our evacuation plans as a team just in case, we stocked up on some food, water, and fuel just in case, stopped traveling, and prayed a lot. We didn’t think any violence would take place but the truth is you never know in Africa – or in the world today. It is in God we truly trust. He is our protection and He is in control. When it comes down to it, I know we would have the resources and help we would need to get out of here but it is the Ugandan people who would again suffer. Innocent people at the hands of anger and evil. So let’s continue to pray for peace in Uganda and for godly leaders here.

I have been really enjoying our ladies Bible study lately (which somehow I became the leader of). We are going through 1 John – Love God and love others. And over and over again it reminds us to do just that. It has been really neat how God has allowed me to apply this to my life. I am learning to be more selfless and loving. This week I was able to bless some new missionary friends with an anniversary dinner at our home. We were going to be away and our friends had no where to celebrate 39 years of marriage, so I prepared a candle lit meal, got the house ready and they enjoyed a long afternoon alone together. It was so fun to do for someone. I realized that I love when I get to use my gift of creativity. Josh thought I was a bit crazy but the couple loved it and I think Josh ended up being jealous of their nice date. I also was able to bring a basket full of comfort things to a team member a bit homesick. And I babysat for another couple in need of a date. You know what I found out? It is a joy to love others! Aren’t God’s ways the best?!

God also blessed me this week with some amazing encouragement from my husband, team mates, and supporters. It is the greatest compliment when others see Christ in you. What an answer to prayer! It encourages me to continue. Thanks everyone.

Lydia lost her seventh tooth in her friend’s pool this week. She is now missing three of her upper front teeth. We asked her how she eats and she said she just manages. Grace also has her first loose tooth which she is thrilled about. Lydia did Bible study this week with her Ugandan friends and a team mate. She came home and told us that her name means worshiper of God and her friend Abela means stick. I just thought that was a bit sad. I pray Abela knows she is really the daughter of the King.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week in Review

February 13

It continues to be hot and dry here, so we decided to make our rain water tank a swimming pool. The tank is on the ground so we took off the top and put the kids in (ok I was in once too). It is a bit like lake water because of the rust on the bars but the kids don’t mind. The girls have swam everyday so far. It looks kinda funny but it cools you off and everyone is happy.

Our kids have great imaginations. It is close to 100degrees and Grace puts on her bathrobe and says she is pretending it is winter time. That takes imagination!

Luka counted with Josh to 9 this week. Smarty pants. Luka is the politest little 2 year old I know. He is always saying please and thank you without any prompting.

We had a fun super bowl party on Monday. Yes, Monday at 9am we watched the super bowl replayed. None of us knew who won so it was like the real thing to us. Good game! Afterwards we had ribs, wings, and all kinds of dips and goodies for lunch. In the afternoon the kids played and swam in the pool (a real pool) while the adults played corn hole. We stayed till after 5pm so it was a fun, out of the ordinary day with friends.

The rest of the week was about the same as most. Teaching the girls (Grace fell asleep one day so I might be a bit boring), we had a really nice ladies Bible study, friends came over for a meal and games… I also went to visit one of my friends here from India. I hadn’t seen her in a long time so instead of just greeting her husband and father-in-law at the store I decided to find out where she lives and see her. It was such a nice visit! Her mother lives with her and her five year old daughter. Her mother was thrilled I came over. She told me I am like a daughter to her. I sat and talked to my friend for almost two hours. She told me about how she got married and showed me pictures of their home in India. She also shared with tears how much she loves her husband and how good he is to her. Wow, how great to hear. They want to cook for us sometime so I told them I would like to come and learn as they cook. I am so thankful for this friendship. I look forward to visiting again. I pray I can find away to share Jesus with my friends.

Tomorrow we are having a mother and daughter Valentines tea party. It will be simple but the girls are excited. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

I read Malachi this week and here is how God spoke to me through it. Malachi is another powerful book for today. God confronts the leaders (priests) of Israel who were sinning. Chapter 1:6 God says, “A son honors his father and a servant his master. If I am a father where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” The priests ask God how have we shown contempt for Your name – bold right (pride?). In verse 8 God says, “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering that to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” I love God’s examples! We wouldn’t give people with earthly fame or power our second best but will we to God? We honor and respect our fathers and bosses but do we honor our Heavenly Father and respect the Lord of our lives? How we honor, respect and what we give to God shows how we really feel about Him and what place He is in our lives.

The priests and people were giving second best, what about us? Verse 10 God says He will not accept these offerings.

Chapter 2:1-2 God tells the priests there will be punishment for their sins. 2:7-8 God says you were suppose to preserve my knowledge and give instruction – be my messengers. But you are a stumbling block instead.

Chapter 3:1-4 promises of Jesus and that the priests will be refined and cleansed. Again they will obey and serve the Lord.

We are all leasers in some way. Are we God’s messengers or a stumbling block stopping people from knowing the Lord?

Back to chapter 2:10-16 the people were crying before the Lord because the Lord wasn’t accepting their offerings. God answers and tells them it is because they have broken faith with their wives. Divorce. Sin. Verse 15-16 God says, “Has not the Lord made you one? In flesh and spirit they are His…I hate divorce.” Why is it our churches are silent on this issue? Pretty sure God speaks very clearly here. Casual divorce is wrong.

Chapter 3:6-12 God starts out by saying, “I the Lord do not change. So you, of descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God is so merciful. Israel kept turning away from God and He longed for them to return. They asked God how they could return and He told them to stop robbing from Him. God said you are cursed because you rob me in tithes and offerings. And then God promises to bless them if they will only give the full tithe. How foolish we are not to believe God on this! By holding back and not giving our all to God – because of payments, wants, greed, worry or whatever – we will only suffer. If we will give God will be faithful and bless us even more for it. I can testify to this. My husband loves to give and I have trusted him in this area – stretched me. We give a lot of our income to the Lord and we are so blessed because of it. Not just taken care of financially but the joy from giving, the peace we have, contentment… God is with us. When we don’t give we see money as ours. When we give we know it is all God’s anyways. Giving is a blessing that too many are missing out on the joy of.

Chapter 3:14 the Israelites dare to say but what do we gain from obeying You God? We are so self focused aren’t we. It is not about us but God. What does He gain from me?

God ends the book with hope in Chapter 3:16-18. Those who fear Him are His. Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jan 2011 (134 photos), by Mandy Shaarda

I'd like to share my Snapfish photos with you. Once you have checked out my photos you can order prints and upload your own photos to share.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our Week

February 6
Not too much to report this week but I will at least let the grandparents know what their grandkids have been up to.

Grace has stated to sound out and “reading” small words. She is also now adding in math. She is doing great! But she has cried a couple times this week about the thought of going to school in Michigan (it is only six months away you knowJ). She is worried because she doesn’t know anyone. She is not my Lydia who loves making friends. Although she likes people she would rather just go to school with her cousin Avalien and be friends with her. I have just been praying with her about it for now. Lydia has started multiplication and loves it. She enjoys new things – the challenge I guess. She is doing great in her cursive too.

Lydia has been homesick and cried several times lately. I am sure it is because the Sliedrechts leave in two weeks. Even Josh told me it feels like a long time ago we were home. But the girls are counting down till July when we go!

Luka surprised us this week and counted to five. Third kids just hear things and pick it up quickly I guess. He loves to make us laugh. He really is a good boy and I enjoy him everyday.

Josh taught all week with our teammate Jennifer. She is a nurse so they did a course on HIV. The church here doesn’t know how to address it but is surrounded by it, so it was a needed teaching. Although Jennifer was discouraged with the lack of knowledge from these church leaders, we know that that is why we are here helping them to grow. It is exciting to see God work in the lives of these people.

This week we got another security warning from the US embassy. It basically said that if you are an American outside of the US you are at risk. Don’t go, basically, anywhere because your life could be threatened. Ok, don’t panic anyone. I am writing this to tell you what God taught me through it. We are safe and feel safe! God wants us here, is with us, and is our shield of safety. So, after I read the warning I was really upset. I was scared. I wanted to run home to Michigan my “false security”. I was so worried about my kids. We can’t go anywhere. Then I thought how can the Gospel go forth? The enemy has stopped us with fear. On and on my mind went…

Until the next morning when I read 1 John 2:18-27. John says that then one who denies Christ is a liar and the antichrist. But we are anointed by the Holy One and know the truth. No lie comes from the truth. We have the truth and don’t need to believe or fear the lie. Verses 24-27 tell us to remain in Him. Remain in His Word – promises and truths – that are from the beginning. I will remain in Him! He is my Rock, protector, faithful One, fortress… He is my truth. I will not believe a lie or fear a threat. God has won! His Word will go forth and accomplish His will. Thank you God for Your assurance, Your power over evil, and Your Word. You are my security.

I also want to share from Haggi 1. What a message for today. God’s people went back to Jerusalem after captivity and focused on their own homes – beautiful homes (and yards today) while God’s home was still destroyed. Because they failed to put God first they did not prosper. The consequence of their priorities made all their hard work amount to very little. Verse 5-6 says, “Give careful thought to your ways…you plant much but harvest little. You eat but never have enough…earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Doesn’t that sound like Americans? So busy but just spinning their wheels getting no where. Nothing satisfies.

Verse 9 says, “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” They neglected God and their relationship with Him and spent all their time, money, and effort on themselves and their homes – being comfortable. God was not first.

Same today. If we put God first, He will provide for our needs and we will be satisfied. If we put Him any other place, our efforts are futile and blessings are with held. Caring only for our physical needs while ignoring our relationship with God will lead to ruin.

In verse 12 the leaders and people heard and obeyed this message. In verses 13-15 God say, “I am with you.” And He sent His Spirit to help them do the work. May we too hear and obey. Then God will be with us and fill us with His Spirit.

One more thing. Pray for my parents and brother visiting my brother Chris serving in Guatemala. They managed to get to Chicago even after the big snow storm but realized my Dad's passport was expired. Whoops! Last I heard they hope to get the passport renewed in Chicago and pay for it to be done in a day. Hopefully they are in Guatemala now enjoying all God has instore for them.