Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wedding, transformation, and His Word

April 7, 2013

I am pleased to say we are doing quite well. Thank you for each prayer you prayed for us. Don’t stop! God is so faithful and good. I know ups and downs will continue but the hope I find in the Lord gives me peace and great joy.

We just returned home from our teammates wedding. What an adventure. Let me help you get the “American wedding” out of your head. We left Friday morning to go to Mbale which takes over two hours to drive to because of the bad roads. They are working on the roads but there are so many pot holes in areas that at one point Grace and Luka shouted from the back seat, “Dad, get off this bumpy road!” at the top of their lungs. Lydia can’t even sit in the back because she gets so car sick. Anyways, it makes us all very happy when we get there. (By the way I saw the pot hole on Baldwin St. in MI after the winter, take that, make some of them a few feet deeper and then drive on it for an hour or so weaving in and out and you may get the idea of our Mbale Road.)

We stayed at a hotel in Mbale with a couple other teammates. After swimming with us Josh drove another hour up the mountain to where the wedding was. He preached at the wedding and went for rehearsal. The wedding was at Sisyi Falls, a beautiful waterfall and place where our team has often camped, we chose not to stay the night there because there were so many others staying there, it is really muddy this time of year and I didn’t want to tent with a baby. The rehearsal never happened – long story – so Josh came back and joined us for supper. The kids and I enjoyed our afternoon by the pool. We were even blessed with a huge, beautiful double rainbow over the mountain. Only God!!! I love seeing Him!

Saturday we got ready and drove to the wedding. It is so fun to get dressed up and have somewhere to go (at least I enjoy it). Luka even wore his tie and vest. What a little man. The girls both wore skirts made with Ugandan material because they did a dance in the wedding with the rest of the girls on the team. Knowing our teammate Beckie was marrying a Ugandan and having a somewhat Ugandan wedding, we knew things wouldn’t be on time and may be even some what looks like chaos. We arrived at 10am so the girls could practice their dance. People were told the wedding would start at 11am hoping it would start at noon. It ended up starting at 1:30pm I believe. We just sat back and enjoyed the day and tried to be as helpful as we could. After all of a half an hour, Luka found his cousin Moses and they started playing boats in the stream with seed pods. So off went the shirt and tie until the wedding began. It was hard for anyone to stay clean with all the mud around. Angie, my sister, was the maid of honor so I sat with her as she got her hair done and prayed with Beckie before she got ready. What a big, exciting day. I love weddings! It was fun to be with our whole team and be apart of this together.

Once the bus came from Soroti with many of their friends and family the wedding party finished getting ready and the wedding began. The church was full and hot. Emalai of course filled her pants and I had to change her on my lap (my nice dress!) while sitting on a bench surrounded by about 250 people. I was a little unhappy with the day at this point. Then she wanted to eat but was too hot and mad to be under the blanket to nurse. So she cried. I tried walking but there was NO room in the church and it was hot and sunny outside. Finally she gave in and fell asleep for the rest of the wedding. What a good girl. When I sat back down Luka was lying on the bench sleeping too. He missed the whole wedding.

Beckie came in the first time in sac clothes as Josh preached from Ezekiel about being before the Lord in filthy rags and Christ giving us clean clothes. Then Ruudy, Beckies groom, gave her her wedding dress and she went out and changed. Josh continued to preach and gave a salvation message knowing there were people of other religions present. It was a hard one to preach because the whole wedding was so loud and had many distractions. But people heard the gospel and I know God did what He desired. The girls did a wonderful job dancing. I loved seeing my girls up there with big smiles. I was proud of them. Beckie looked beautiful! I have never seen her all done up. Her dress was made here with a pretty off white Ugandan material. And Ruddy had what I consider a Nigerian outfit. They looked great. There was lots of “Ugandan shouting” for the couple. It was fun. The not so fun part was the paparazzi. So many people stood up and went in front by Beckie and Ruudy or even behind the pastor to get photos. Our teammate was the photographer for the wedding and about had it trying to get good pictures with everyone mobbing the scene. I felt bad for the bridesmaids being crowded out up there too.

About half way through the wedding it began to rain – wait not rain, pour! We were all stuck in the church. Even the Bride and Groom walked down the aisle and turned around and walked back up front because there was no where to go. For awhile we just kept singing and celebrating. It was still raining so they took the wedding pictures up front. Finally, the rain let up and we all walked up the hill to the reception. I just had to laugh because my first step out of the church into the grass my foot, including my nice shoes for the wedding, sunk into mud. There was no hope. My feet were muddy and my legs were speckled with mud. There was no way out of it. Water and mud were everywhere. At least we all looked muddy – not true you couldn’t see the mud on the Ugandan like you could on my white legs. Luka and a few others then got bite my ants coming out of the ground because of the rain. Are we having fun? There were three tents up for people to sit under for the reception and it was a good thing because the rain wasn’t finished. Just as people walked from their tent to get in the food line, it poured again but this time it didn’t stop. It was cold, everyone and everything was getting wet, and Malai wanted to be fed while I tried to eat. I didn’t know weather to laugh or cry at the situation. I felt really bad for Beckie and Ruudy. Really there was no reception because of the rain. But the good thing is they are married.

Josh packed up our van with their wedding presents in the rain, while Lydia helped escort people to get food with an umbrella, and Luka danced in the rain with his friends. I had to smile. What a day. We were going to drive back to Soroti but because of all the rain we went back to Mbale for the night. The roads were slippery and the pot holes full of water so you didn’t know how deep they were. I was thankful for a warm, dry place to stay. Lydia talked the whole ride back about the wedding and how much she likes weddings. She said it makes her think about her wedding someday. She is just like her mom. Actually, during the wedding I said to Josh do you think Beckie’s Mom ever thought her daughter would have a wedding like this? Then I said maybe we would have a Mongolian wedding someday. Weddings make me all emotional. (I know not a surprise.) I was surprised how much this wedding made me feel. I was so happy for them, excited to be apart of it, sad for how the rain messed things up, laughed at the memories it made, thankful for my husband and our marriage, blessed by our team, touched by God’s gift of marriage… Congratulations Ruudy and Beckie! Thanks for letting us be apart of your special day!

We have been rejoicing in the transformation we have been seeing in the people in Obulle. They may seem small and we could easily overlook them, but if you know the culture here these transformations are a change of the heart that only God can do. And so they are worth praising God for! One Sunday our pastor introduced his wife and told our visitors they have 8 children. He noted that one child is not born yet but they know it is a child. He said in their culture they don’t talk about an unborn child – at all, no recognition for fear of something happening to the baby. And they don’t necessarily see it as life either. For our pastor to see this pregnancy as a baby and number it with his children is a great thing. He learned from God’s Word that He created every life and loves each child, so he changed his thinking. Then recently we asked our church leaders to pray with us about an orphan boy who does not want to live on the streets and needs a home. All five of the leaders came back willing to take the boy and not just as a servant which most Ugandans do but as a son. Wow. That is transformation of the heart and mind. Praise God for the work He is doing! One of our church leaders recently had conflict with his wife. After repenting before the Lord and forgiving, he gathered his children and wife and apologized for not being a good husband and father lately. Now that is transformation we all need. He is practicing what the Word of God tells us to do. I am so thankful God is allowing us to see Him at work in the lives of our friends in Obulle.

It was also Josh’s 35th birthday this weekend! Lydia baked him chocolate chip cookies and we all made him cards. We sure do love him!!!

I forgot to tell you a couple “we live in Africa” moments since we returned. Four days after we arrived in country I went to wash my hands in our bathroom at our team retreat and a frog jumps out of the facet at me! I of course screamed. Our kids wouldn’t use our bathroom until we found and removed the frog. (Can you tell we have girls?) Then the first week back in Soroti our watchman killed three snakes by our fence one morning. Three! I was comforted that they were all a harmless gardener snake, but it is still a yucky snake. Luka and Grace were totally intrigued and checked out each dead snake. Lydia was freaked out and worried. Keeps us praying!

It has been difficult for me to find precious time with the Lord since Malai was born and we have moved. I love my time with God and know without Him I can quickly become a mess. I need Him! I have been clinging to Him all day long; talking with Him throughout the day, say prayers as I go about my day, and praising Him for His many good gifts. But when I have been able to sit with His Word I have been so filled. I just finished reading through the Bible again and wondered if I should start over at Genesis right away or do a Bible study or what. I decided to begin again in Genesis. It is amazing how something you know and have read so many times can still speak to you. God’s Word is truly alive. He is the beginning. He is the Creator of all. His creativity is amazing! He spoke and it was. All creation obeyed. He set all things in its place – every star! Everything has its place, purpose and reason because God said so. He made all things good. No matter what the world says. God said we are very good. Made in His very image! We are like the King or Kings, God of all, Holy, Loving, merciful, just, relational…wow! Then our Father lovingly gave us marriage. And gave us every plants and animals to care for, eat, and even enjoy. His blessing for every living thing was to multiply. It is a blessing from the Lord. After all that, God Almighty rested. That makes the Sabbath holy and blessed. A gift from God to us. (Genesis 1-2)

Then reading Genesis 3 I realized God is the creator of even satan. Then His beloved creation became His greatest enemy. How sad. That is when God pointed out that we too are His creation, His beloved children, and we too became His enemy. Our sin causes our Father great pain and sadness. And yet, while we were His enemy He died to save us. What love! Temptation is satan’s invitation to sin. May we stop believing the lie that sin looks good, is pleasing, and will make us wiser/better.

You can be praying for my parents, great aunt, and a friend who arrive this Saturday. We are excited to have them! My Dad hasn’t been in Uganda since our first year (2007) and my Mom hasn’t since she came to get the girls when Luka was sick. I am looking forward to showing them our home and ministry in Obulle. So much has changed since our beginning. Pray for safe travels and good health for everyone.

(I will add more pics soon)

Monday, April 1, 2013

How we are doing

April 1, 2013

Having a baby and home schooling has changed my typing days but I still long to sit and share with all of you.  (Just to warn you this may be a big journal!)

To be honest we have been through more ups and downs than we care to.  I wish I could share everything but it is hard to explain and some things I can’t.  I can share that all the downs have taken their toll on us emotionally.  I think some days we are on empty.  I know Josh is done with stuff here when I hear him talk about going back to America and being a pastor there.  He is LONGING to be in Obulle more.  He loves teaching and doing ministry out there.  He feels called and filled building God’s kingdom.  He feels a bit trapped in Soroti because his family and his team need him a lot right now.  His battery is drained right now in Soroti and energized in Obulle, so he needs a balance to remain healthy.  I feel tired.  I can’t do it all.  I just want everything to work out and work well.  I get emotionally attached and my heart hurts.  Because of everything we have been too busy too.  So I have no choice but to go to God with all of this – which is where I always need to be.  The burden is too heavy for us.  I pour it all out before the Lord and allow Him to do His thing.  He is God.  He is in control.  We are seeking His will and abiding in Him -- His rest is good.  We will make it through all this because God is our sustainer.      

Our kids seem to be doing really well.  I am so proud of them.  The other night Grace came out and thanked Josh for taking such good care of her.  Then she buried her head in his shoulder and cried.  Josh asked her why she was crying and she said she felt bad for all the kids here who don’t have dads or parents to take care of them.  What 7 year old thanks their parents for taking care of them?  Usually that happens after we move out of the house and we realize how much our parents did for us.  I am so thankful our children appreciate all they are blessed with.  And that their hearts cry like God’s for those who don’t have what they should have.  Their faith continues to grow and it is a beautiful thing!  Lydia was crying the other night for her uncle Steven again.  Her heart is so tender for her unsaved uncle.  She told us she prays for him at the end of ever church service.  Wow.  I admire her for praying with urgency for someone who is living apart from God.  She longs for him to know the Lord.  So Steven if you are listening, we are praying for you. 

Emalai is now three months old.  She loves to be held but not by others for very long.  She is becoming a mommy’s girl.  She seems to like her home – can a baby know that comfort at such a young age?  Everyone loves her dimples.  She has two big, cute ones when she smiles.  She continues to be one strong little girl.  She can roll over and tries to sit up but only gets her head up so far.  She sleeps all night!  Last night was her longest 10pm to 6am!  Then she goes back to sleep for a few hours.  (Likes to sleep in like her mom and sisters already!)  She doesn’t take long naps though.  I could use grandma some days.  Over all I think Malai is adjusting.  I try to enjoy time with her each day.  When life gets busy I try to focus on what is really important.  Boxes can wait, emails will always be there, things will work out…but Malai won’t always be this young and I want to stop and enjoy time with her. 

I started home schooling two weeks ago.  Yes, it was only our second week in Soroti but the girls seemed to need some structure.  The first day I was so overwhelmed.  It is difficult figuring out how to home school, have a baby, keep an eye on Luka, and keep the family fed.  I could have cried.  It did get better from there.  The girls are doing really well over all and Malai should be the smartest preschooler ever seeing she goes to school with us at 12 weeks old.  Our teammate, Karen, agreed to teach every Wednesday – Yeah!  I am thankful for the break in the middle of the week to catch up on everything I can’t do while teaching.

As some of you know we had to let go of our house helper while we were in Michigan because she was caught stealing.  She was a dear friend and we were proud of her for taking in and raising her three nieces and a nephew.  Last Saturday her nieces and nephew came to see us.  They were crying.  Josh explained to them why we had to let their aunt go.  The kids haven’t been going to school now because our friends in Michigan and us were paying their school fees.  It was so hard to see them crying.  Josh prayed with them and I hugged each one and told them that God would take care of them.  Josh was so upset.  We love those kids.  Why do they have to suffer for the sins of others?!  It is the most famous question here.  It happens over and over again.  The innocent always suffer.  That’s why I hate sin.  Should we pay for their school fees knowing the family wont?  Do we let them feel the results of sin?  Is there any good answer?  I walked away with no answers, but I felt God speak.  “Do you believe I am the Father of the fatherless?  You say you do so watch me be their Father.”  That’s it.  God told us in His Word that He is the Father to the fatherless.  For me to think we needed to provide or no one would is saying that I am the savior.  I don’t have to, God does.  Do you get what I am saying?!  God may tell me to do something, but when we think I have to do this or no one else will is taking the place of God.  When I think that way I don’t believe God is all He says He is or will do all He says He will do.  The people here don’t need me, my money, my help…they need the Father.  He provides, heals, protects, loves…  We are Christ’s hands and feet but we are not the Savior.        

Then there is our night guard.  When we came back she told us that she became very weak while we were gone and found out she is HIV positive.  Her husband died two years ago while she was pregnant for their fifth child.  She now knows that he died of AIDS.  She said she was so sick she was down to 90lbs.  She said she couldn’t work nights anymore and wanted to work day.  She asked if we know anyone who wanted any children.  She is now on the medicine to help but she basically has full blown AIDS and is depressed.  Again what do we do with that?  It isn’t just a statistic it someone we know and care about.  Again God reminded me He is the Father.  I trust in You Lord.  Later that week we came home really late from watching basketball finals and our guard didn’t hear us at all – as in we drove up, beeped, called her, opened the gate, drive in, and went in the house without her knowing.  What is the point of a guard!!!  Needless to say she really can’t do the job and she resigned.  Thankfully she was relieved.  We paid her and she is using the money to pay for her last semester in tailoring school.  We are glad she will have a trade that will provide for her family and allow her to be home with them.  We prayed for her as she left knowing God is with her.  (And we hired a new guard through a company so we are not the employers. J)

 Everyday it is becoming more and more home again.  I am thankful for our house.  It is home.  I haven’t quite figured out cooking here again.  It takes so much time which I don’t have right now.  Anyways, being thankful for our home has made the decision to move or not to move to Obulle really hard.  Some days I can hardly handle adjusting here in Soroti where there is electricity, running water, and other conveniences.  So how can I do the village?  Or are we not at peace because we should be there?  Every time we are in Obulle we feel apart of the people and love them.  We really don’t know what to do.  Will it be easier living there where we feel called and Josh wont have to go there for hours at a time and me and the kids can be apart of the ministry and lives of our friends?  Or will it be too hard just living out there?  Is it about living easier or harder?  Is God calling?  Cause if we are and we believe He will not give us more than we can handle and will be with us then we need to go. 

There is one permanent structure in Obulle that we have been thinking about renting.   We finally got a hold of the couple who owes it and looked at the house.  I tried to prepare myself but it was still a shocker.  No ceiling, no bathroom, no kitchen but lots of grain, feed, and turkeys.  They do keep the yard very nice and our kids were already enjoying climbing on the rock formations behind the house.  I know we can change the house but the real problem is the people have relatives living in the three huts on the property and they also plan to build another small house on the land to live in.  That is a lot of people near by.  We really need some privacy.  So that is where we are at.  We have made no decision and don’t really know how to make this one. 

It has been raining.  Today was one of those precious days with clouds and on and off rain all day.  I am in a sweatshirt and slippers!

I find church holidays to sometimes be difficult here.  If we don’t make it something special it isn’t.  I am pretty sure Easter could pass by without notice if we didn’t call attention to it.  So we try.  Maunday Thursday Josh got up from our table and came back with a basin and towel.  He proceeded to wash each of the kids and my feet explaining what Jesus did and how He told us to do likewise.  Good Friday we had church from 10am till 3pm but people didn’t show up till after noon.  We got there about 1pm.  There were only about ten of us but Josh taught a good message on Jesus’ seven says on the cross.  We reflected on Jesus saying, “Father forgive them” and took time to forgive those who wronged us.  We sat silently before God asking what He had for us to do as we thought about Jesus finishing the work God had for Him to do.  And we rejoiced knowing Jesus said it was finished.  Death was defeated, sins were forgiven, and satan was defeated!        

Easter morning I woke up sick.  Part of me was bummed and part of me was thankful for a reason to rest.  Our church was canceled because of a funeral of a church member (a new convert we didn’t know yet).  Josh went to our old church with Luka while the girls took care of Malai so I could sleep.  We did make it to Easter lunch, games, and worship with our team. 

I better stop there.  I have written a lot and you are probably worried about us by now.  Don’t be.  I met with God this morning.  Josh told me he read Eph. 4 and Phil. 1 this weekend and it helped him a lot so I read it this morning.  God’s Word is life and truth!  Eph. 4 challenged me to be completely humble, gentle, patient, bearing with others in love.  Making every effort to keep the unity through peace.  God is overall, through all, and in all.  Wow, what comfort and hope that brings!  I was reminded I need my attitude renewed and to again put on my new self which is being like Jesus.  Not remaining in our anger and letting satan have a foothold.  Speaking only what builds others up and benefits the listener.  Being kind, compassionate, and forgiving because Jesus forgave me.  I want to imitate Christ living a life of love.  He loved me first and gave up His life for me. 

Then Phil. 1 reminded me to be thankful for those we partner with to advance the gospel.  God promises to complete the good work He began.   I prayed Paul’s prayer that love would abound more and more so that we can discern what is best and that we maybe blameless until Jesus comes.  I was amazed to read that even though some preach Christ out of selfish ambition, envy, and stir up trouble Paul said it doesn’t matter as long as Christ is preached.  That is the important thing.  Whatever happens I need to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Thanks for your prayers everyone!