Sunday, May 29, 2011

People take time

May 29
It seems days, weeks, and months go by so quickly. I am busy teaching my children, corresponding with family and supporters, making meals for friends and visitors here, taking care of my family, ministering to people, helping, praying… I really love my role but this last month I have realized that people take time. Literally we have people over about three times a week lately for meals. I am not complaining! So many people have thanked us for being a rock out here, someone they can come to for support and help. I am thankful people know they are welcomed and that I can bless them with the gift of a good meal. It is something I can do. I know Josh and I have come along way from those first years on the mission field (almost 10 years ago!) and now we are at a place to help those who are struggling. It is a spiritual, emotional, and physical journey. Sometimes, to be honest, I get weary and wonder who is going to fill me up. I have learned God is my refreshment, renewal, and strength to keep on loving. He is my peace and joy when I feel spent. So after a week of helping, blessing, and giving to my family and friends I am thankful I know it is worth the investment cause people take time.

As many of you know our teammate Jennifer has been sick all week. At first we thought her back had gotten worse from falling off the motorcycle (read about it on previous blog post) but then she got a fever and was sick. So Beckie took her to Kampala to be checked at the clinic there. There found out she had malaria and treated her. The next day she had an x-ray which showed her back bones were all ok. However, Jennifer has been sick off and on all week. They stayed in Jinja with friends and went back to the clinic several times for more labs and IV. Thankfully, finally today she is feeling better, the labs are all clear, and she is able to eat again. Thank you for praying everyone! It is so stressful and worrisome when someone is sick here. But once again God is the great healer.

Josh has been doing a lot of teaching lately. They had another graduation. I am so thankful for how God is using these teachings to reach church leaders. Lives are being changed by putting God’s Word into practice! One lady in Obule after the marriage and family course went home and did what she learned. She didn’t tell her husband a thing because he is not a Christian. But a few weeks after applying what God tells wives to do her husband came up to her and said who are you? He couldn’t believe the change in her. She told him where she learned this and now her unbelieving husband and telling others how good God is. God is at work through people who are willing to obey His ways!

Again we are learning that Christianity is so new here. We now know two men who were the first Christians to two areas around Soroti. They brought Christianity to those areas and they are only in their 60’s. It is no wonder we have to start with what we think are the basics. That is why there are many Christians but it is still so shallow. How we pray this generation now models and passes on Christ to the next generation.

We talked to Tabitha last week and asked if she and Irene had any plan for when the baby came. They don’t. So we talked. Tabitha thought that they could get someone to watch the baby so Irene could go to school. Problem is they have no money to pay someone to help and the baby needs it’s mother – for sure to eat! We told her that Irene will have to take two years off of school. Tabitha was not happy about that. We talked about how Irene has responsibilities now. Tabitha said Irene is looking to her. We talked more about adoption too. By the end of the conversation Tabitha was crying and I am sure stressed, but they have to think and plan because this baby is coming. We prayed with her and told her to talk to Irene and pray together.

So this week Irene came to drop something off and I asked if her and Tabitha had talked. She said no so I sat her down to talk. I basically said the same things I said to Tabitha. I asked if she knew what adoption was and that I just wanted her to pray about it so we know what God wants for her and the baby. Irene again told me she does not want the baby and wants to go to school.

Then yesterday I asked Tabitha why she hadn’t talked to Irene and told her I did. I told her what Irene said and asked if adoption was an option for them. She said no that is only if the mother dies. I really think it would be shameful culturally or Tabitha wants the baby. Anyways, pray with us for God to show them His will for them and for the baby.

On the home front we have twelve more days of school! Another highlight was when Luka prayed this week he said, “Jesus, I love you” all on his own. How beautiful. Tomorrow we are going to Kampala. We will be picking up our new teammates, Jim and Margaret Guzzaldo and their son Elliot. Pray for them as they move to Uganda. We are also looking forward to some time away as a family. Pray for our trip.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Update on Prayer

Thanks for praying everyone. Jennifer was in Kampala Tuesday and Wednesday (Beckie took her). On Tuesday she was treated for malaria and dehydration. By evening she was feeling better. They thought the increased back pain was because of the fever and muscle inflamation. I Wednesday we insisted they get a c-scan or x-ray while in Kampala to make sure it wasnt anything more serious. They managed to get an x-ray and everything was ok. The doctor was sure that nothing else was needed.

Jennifer and Beckie went to Jinja for the night on Wednesday and during the night Jennifer got sick again. Today they saw another doctor and now is being treated for bacterial stomach stuff.

So keep praying that she gets well and can come back to Soroti.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


May 24

Hi, just a quick note to ask for prayer.

Our teammate Jennifer, who fell off the motorcycle with Josh a week ago, went to Kampala today because her back was getting worse last night. The latest is, she spent the day at the clinic and was treated for malaria and dehydration by IV (she got a fever and throw up during the night). By evening she was feeling much better. The doctor thinks that the malaria caused the increase in back pain but we still want her to get a c-scan or at least an x-ray before returning to Soroti. Pray for Jennifer.

I am down and discouraged – just feel like being done with it all and everyone. I know it is a bad attitude and I will get over it. I spent some much needed time confessing my attitude to God and being renewed by Him. Continue to pray for all of us as we face spiritual battle here.

(I put this one in parentheses because it is really nothing in the scheme of things but I need to let it out and pray about it knowing God has a plan either way. Anyways, our mission was given the use of an amazing cabin in the mountains of CO for seven missionaries to each get one week to use it free of charge. Josh and I try to get away together each time we go to MI and we were ones chosen to have the cabin for a week. We were excited because we have at least enough frequent flyer miles for one ticket plus, but this week we found out everything is booked and expensive. Now we have to decide if we want to pay for tickets there or scrap the whole thing. Like I said I know it is not a big deal but on top of everything else this week it feels like a big bummer. BUT I know God will make away there or give us another destination. He loves our marriage more than I even do.)

Saturday, May 21, 2011


May 20

Josh taught all week in Amuria. He taught on Marriage & Family. It was very obvious that God wanted to use the teaching because Josh was being discouraged and attacked left and right.

Monday Jennifer went with Josh and on the way home the motorcycle “fell apart” and they went crashing to the ground. I guess the bolt that holds the seat and engine on severed causing the tires to cease. Thankfully they were going slow because it wasn’t running well. Josh went down on his hands and leg. He was a bit scrapped up but had a jacket and gloves on. His leg was really sore all week from taking the fall. Jennifer on the other hand took the fall on her back and has been hurting all week. Josh felt terrible. A car saw it happen and helped them get a truck to take them and the bike to town.

So now Josh is looking for a new (used) motorcycle. He no longer feels safe with this off brand bike. You can pray for continued healing for Jennifer. She is a difficult patient seeing she is a nurse herself. I have stayed on her though with my motherly instincts. She assures me she is slowly getting better and does not need to be checked.

The rest of the week Josh would be sick in the morning. Thankfully he was able to teach and was fine the rest of the day. He was quite discouraged throughout the week and tired, but it didn’t stop him. Thursday I went with Josh and of course the van wouldn’t start (loose connection). We had to borrow another vehicle to get to Amuria. However, the van started up right away the next day when we tried it. Sounds like spiritual warfare to me.

But we won! Josh was able to complete the Marriage & Family teaching and I am sure God is using it for His glory. I am reminded how important and powerful prayers is. I know it is because of prayer that God protected Josh and Jennifer, kept Josh from sickness, and used the teaching to change lives. At the end of the teaching they prayed for Josh and I. The old man – who rides his bike 16 miles to get to the training – blessed us. I don’t know what he said (it was in Ateso) but I was touched by his shaking hands upon me. God is using us to bring His Word – His plan – to the people here. Lives are being changed by the Holy Spirit’s work. It is worth the discouragement knowing God is with us. He will accomplish is will – build His kingdom.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Updates & Mango Leather

May 15, 2011

After the death of Robert I thought we were all fine and life was moving on, but I did not realize how worn out we all were. Some of us began not feeling well and we were also down. I am sure there was some spiritual attack going on too. It was more than Robert’s death it was other people sick, other deaths (one of Josh’s TLT student’s wife died suddenly too), frustrated with cultural sins, security issues in Uganda… So we decided to take a break. Thus is why I haven’t written. I needed to rest. We also decided to get away. Our team was supposed to go a week ago but because of unrest in Kampala and other places we thought it was best to stay put. Last week all was peaceful and we were all going stir crazy and needed to get out so we decided to go to Jinja.

It was just what we all needed. We celebrated Mother’s Day, worshiped together, went on a boat ride, sat in the beautiful gardens, eat good food… One of the reasons Josh and I wanted to get away was to be with our kid and just have fun with them. I was so thankful for the time with had with them playing baseball, swimming for hours, and just watching them have fun. We all came back refreshed and thankful. (And our van, with a new/used engine in it, worked great!)

Some of you remember praying for Lydia a while back as she struggled with homesickness and feeling sick. Since then she has been doing so much better. But last week while I was in town she broke down. Josh said she just lost it and cried and cried. She told him she just doesn’t belong here. She said she is so sad inside but doesn’t know why. Josh prayed with her and held her for awhile. Later I talked to her and asked if her sadness inside was because Robert died. She said maybe but she wasn’t sure and that God would tell her because they prayed about it. One of my friends here thought maybe Lydia is worried about loved ones in MI getting sick or dying. That could be it. Lydia loves people and they are very important to her. Thankfully Lydia is a very happy, normal little girl most days but pray for her as she deals with living on the mission field while some of her loved ones are far away. (She also has a bladder infection.)

Grace and Luka are doing well. Luka talks up a storm. Josh thought he would get once introvert but guess not. Grace is now reading small books so that is exciting to see. We are all looking forward to our school year ending but we have to plug away until Math is done – only 22 more lessons! Just in time to go to MI!!!

Did I tell you we have great teammates? In the mists of our difficult time Jennifer asked if we wanted to come for supper and had Lydia and Grace come and help her prepare. When Josh and I arrived they had a whole restaurant ready for our date! How sweet. Oh course Lydia and Grace were thrilled. It is their dream to be waitresses at a restaurant. Josh and I were served a three course meal in the gazebo. Betty and Abela helped too. The service was great and the food even better. Thank you Jennifer for being so thoughtful, for being a great aunt to our kids, and for loving all of us!

Josh visited Robert’s wife and daughter Grace the week after the funeral. They were very upset because so many things were stolen at Robert’s burial. Can you believe it?! How could anyone let alone a lot of people steal at someone’s funeral? They took food they were storing and drying, dishes, meat, and other things. That seemed like the last straw to me – I was plain upset with this culture. It is wrong. People came acting like they were mourning over Robert’s death and love the family only to be there to see what they can get. Didn’t they hear the sermon on character and living for Jesus? To top it off Robert’s sons, who inherit all the land their father had, had no intention in giving their sister or mother any. These are believers we are talking about! Thankfully, Robert got a loan from us a year ago to buy land and Josh had him put it in his daughters name knowing someday this would happen. It did. The brothers backed off from taking this land once the owner showed them it was in Grace’s name. We did see Grace again this week and she was doing well – other than the roof of her house being partly blown off in a storm!

Just a quick update on Tabitha and Irene (actually long stories I will make short). Some days are good, some hard. They (including Josh) went to meet with the boy, the father of the baby, and his father. The boy didn’t show – surprise, surprise – and the father would not help. He claimed they had no money and no way to help with the baby. It isn’t true and even if it was neither do Irene and Tabitha. Everyone has to help. The sad thing is the father is a pastor. He was caught in lies, he didn’t hold his boy responsible, and his own family is a mess. Tabitha was left with no choice but to bring it to police where they would put the boy in jail for impregnating a minor and make him pay the fine. (Actually we found out it is the law to do this in the first place.) Of course the boy got wind of it and ran to the village so everyone waits until he returns for school when the police can find him again.

I also decided to see if adoption is even a thought for a Uganda. So I asked Tabitha if she thought about giving the baby to a Ugandan or a white family. Adoption defiantly is not on their radar! For one thing it really is not an option here so why would they think about it and secondly culturally you do not give your baby away (although it is done in wrong ways all the time here). I just explained that we know that Irene does not want the baby or to be a mother, that she wants to go back to school, and that they don’t have enough money to support themselves let alone another child so maybe God would provide a family that wants a baby but cannot have one who would adopt Irene’s baby. Tabitha said Irene does want the baby and will be fine when the baby comes. I told her to pray about it and ask God what He wants for this baby. Tabitha asked if this is what we wanted. I told her that is not what I was saying. I just wanted her heart to be open to what God’s plan is for this child. So we will see what God says…

Today I went with Jennifer to Obule (one of the villages Josh teaches at and our family has gone to). When mangos are in season there is an abundance and they go to waste because people can’t eat them all, so Jennifer learned to made fruit leather or fruit roll-ups with them. This is great because it is dried and can last a long time. So we went to teach the ladies in Obule how to make it.

We arrived a little after 8am and no one was there. We decided to get to work as the pastor gathered the women and the materials. We collected the mangos on the ground that the wind blew down and began cutting them up. Pastor Martin thought we were crazy to use those mangos from the ground and even told us we couldn’t, but Jennifer and I really wanted to show them that it is ok and not to waste all of them. By the time we had the first pot ready the ladies were coming. About ten women came. A couple made the fire, some began cutting, a couple came with basins of mangos, and some began learning how to cook the mangos. It was fun working with all the women and watching them learn something new. They were excited.

So once the mango is cooked we put a little oil on black traps on a table in the sun and pour the mango on top. We spread it very thin and let the hot African sun bake it all day. It is amazing what heat it produced. Within a few hours we could already see it was drying out. All together we made three big pots of ripe mangos and one with green mangos. The ladies tried some of the fruit leather Jennifer brought that was made a month ago and they loved it. Some of them put some in their pockets to take home for their husbands to taste. They could not believe it was just mangos. They also really liked the cooked mango and cooked green mango. Such a simple thing – just mangos boiled in a little water – yet so new to them.

After our mango project was in the sun, they told us we had to stay because they were preparing lunch for us. Jennifer had mentioned that she had her medical bag along so I told her I thought she mine as well put it to good use since lunch wasn’t even started yet. So the rest of the afternoon Jennifer played clinic. I enjoyed watching her help the ladies and their children. There were some weird problems and some funny ones too. One mom was concerned because her child’s cheeks were too big – that is called healthy and they are just not use to seeing it. The whole scene was the perfect missionary picture; Jennifer in the middle of a group of Africans, in the village, helping them medically.

About 3pm we were served lunch. It was a long day away from my husband and children but surprisingly a really good, relaxing day. I wanted to spend my Saturday sleeping in and just being home but I am so glad I didn’t. I enjoyed getting to know the ladies better. Again I learned it makes all the difference to know someone instead of know of them. It was fun being apart of something new that they were excited about. Before we left we took another look at the mango leather and it was almost done. We all tried the dry parts and it was good. It turned out! Good work Jennifer! Thank you Lord for the women and church in Obule and for the successful dried mango we could do together.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement lately! You can also pray that we get electricity back. We had a storm this week that blew done a pole and some lines and we have been without power since. I am so thankful for our generator!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April 2011 (587 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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Monday, May 2, 2011

Pictures from Robert's visitation & funeral

The Funeral

April 29

I don’t know how to feel right now. (Probably a bad time to write.) My emotions are everywhere yet I am totally drained. We just got home a couple hours ago from Robert’s funeral. In some ways I am thankful it is over, in other ways I don’t want to forget. I need closer yet I don’t want it to be done – Robert to be gone. One minute I am fine and can talk about it and life moves on and the next I just want to cry again. Our kids just went for a sleepover at our teammates. I should be celebrating a night with just my husband (and Luka) but I kinda found it hard to let them go. On the other hand I want time alone. Josh and I have been busy the last couple day – especially Josh -- and we are both processing but very differently. Makes us kind of distant from each other right now. Time will heal I know. Anyhow, here is how the last couple days went.

Thursday when Josh brought the family and body to their home in the village they asked if he would be coming back in the afternoon. It seemed they wanted us to so we did. When we arrived there were already a couple hundred people gathered under trees and tents. There was weeping and wailing going on with every new person who came. I just stood back for a few minutes. I know this is all cultural and some of it very sincere but I don’t really like it. Their wailing seems so fake. The bigger drama the more people watch and it is turned on and off so quickly. They like to scold the person who died for leaving them. It all made me very thankful for the precious, quiet, intimate moments we had that morning with just a few family members. There I saw true emotions, real grief and also felt feel to mourn.

Everyone who came went to the casket where they would uncover his head for people to see him. His wife, Grace and other close relatives sat by the casket. Each time a visitor came Robert’s wife would weep with them. When we arrived Tabitha and Grace ran to each other and wailed together along with some of Grace’s kids and nieces. I found each one of Grace’s children (Robert’s grandkids) and hugged them. So often the kids are forgotten in these things but they loved him too. I told them that their grandfather loved them very much and that it is ok for us to be sad. We know that He loved God too and is in heaven with Jesus right now. Little tears rolled down their cheeks as I spoke so I held them again.

Everyone was also busy making preparations. There was food to buy and people to feed. There was even a committee already formed and planning the details and money needed. We were also told that the grandkids Robert and his wife care for will be discussed with the clan and most likely each sibling will take one or two. And Robert’s land will be given to the brothers. We just pray the boys are merciful and give Grace (Robert’s daughter who’s husband left her and five kids) some land to farm on.

I have been very surprised and saddened to hear Ugandan Christians lack assurance of eternal life. Personally I had two of them say they just hope Robert is in heaven. I told them they can be assured because God tells us in His Word. There is a great need for discipleship here.

We left our kids with friends for the visitation and for the funeral. They are just too young to handle all the wailing that sounds a bit scary -- too much for a kid to understand. And they were thrilled to be playing with friends.

The funeral was Friday at 1pm. There may have been close to a thousand people there. When we arrived speeches were being made. We found out Robert was 63 years old and he and another man were the first Christians in the area so they brought Christianity here. Wow. Josh was asked to give one seeing Robert worked for us. I went up and stood with Josh. He did a great job speaking of Robert being a trust worthy man and challenging others to put their faith into practice as Robert did. Especially now as his wife and the grandchildren they care for will need help. After Josh spoke I went by Robert’s wife and Grace who were by the casket. The body was so bloated by now it didn’t look like the Robert I knew.

After speeches and a choir there was a sermon. The pastor was very dramatic, in a good way, and focused on salvation for those of us who are still here. I liked it. Robert knew the Lord and is in heaven. Use his death as an opportunity to bring others to salvation. He told everyone to get their houses in order and challenged people to look at their character. He also spoke openly to the children of Robert who were not following their father’s good teaching. One of them gets very angry and even swung a machete at him last year. Not surprisingly his sibling was no where to be seen all day. I asked Grace later how she felt about the pastor talking like that and she said it was good that brother needs to hear.

After all that the Pastor led us to the burial sight while singing we are soldiers in the army of the Lord. This is when my tears starting building up – the final goodbye. About half of the people walked over so we were about 10 rows deep from the grave. For some reason some lady pulled me forward (I think because she saw I was taking picture) and I ended up right behind Robert’s wife. There I was standing in a mob of people white as can be and crying my eyes out. I felt so out of place. But that is where God had me. He has me in the middle of a burial of our friend in a village in Uganda. Now isn’t that just God’s love -- weeping with those who weep because we love them – because God loves them.

It was a really hard moment for me. It was over. Our friend was gone. Everyone slowly walked away as the men began to throw cement in the grave. Grace’s daughter came up to see and I hugged her. And we wept together. It was a moment I wont forget. I was there to be God’s hug to a hurting little girl. As we walked away I reminded her that we know your grandfather isn’t in the ground but in paradise. Dan, the only son of Grace joined us and I told him that even though his father left them and now his grandfather died that he has a heavenly Father who will never leave him. Josh added now he is the man of the family and he should be a godly man like his grandfather.

Then food was served to all the guests and it suddenly no longer felt like a funeral. It was all done.

And now I am home again writing to you. Robert’s death has been hard for me. Everyday for two years we saw him. I cry the most when I think he will never walk through our gate again and greet us. Or when Luka hears the gate and says, “Robert”. We will miss him.

I think the thing God showed me through all this is that we as Christians need to learn to rejoice for those who get to go home to Heaven. I know as humans it hurts and we are sad – remember I am the one balling. But really we don’t get excited about heaven. Why would we want to hold someone here when it is there time to be with Jesus – BE WITH JESUS! Isn’t that our goal? We should all be longing for it so that when another saint gets to go we should be cheering for them. Who wouldn’t want to be in PARADISE?! I know death is hard and we miss our friends, all I am saying is praise God for our heavenly home. What hope, peace, and joy we really have as Christians. Although I am sad that Robert is no longer with us and his family is without him, I am so happy he is with Jesus!

Thank you everyone for praying for Robert’s family and for us! We have been blessed by so much love.