Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lake City Teens

We are excited to have three teenagers from Lake City CRC come and serve with us the next six weeks. Jimmy, Autumn, and Zipporah (known as Zephie) (the two girls are sisters) love the Lord and desire to serve Him in missions. All three of them come from non Christian homes and were saved through the love of Lake City CRC’s youth group. Their testimonies are powerful examples of God’s grace. We have already seen maturity in their faith as they share with others what Jesus did for them. Lake City CRC, especially their youth leader Nathan, has encouraged and supported Jimmy, Autumn and Zephie as they prepared to come. Everyone is excited for them! Jimmy will mostly be with Josh, seeing what it is like to be a missionary. He will go with him when he teaches, does discipleship, farms, and everything in between. The girls will mainly be helping with home schooling Lydia and Grace. Of course they will also be involved in our church and with our team.

Pray for Jimmy, Autumn, Zephie, and our family as we live and do ministry together the next six weeks
Pray for their travel. None of them have never flown before so going to Uganda for their first flight is a big trip. They leave May 29 and arrive May 30.
Pray for good health while they are here.
One of the things we feel God will use while the teens are here is just being a part of our family. It will be the first time any of them have lived in a Christian home and seen a Christian marriage and family. We pray God uses us as an example of all He desires for His children.
Pray for Autumn and Zephie as they teach Lydia and Grace.
Pray for Jimmy and Josh as they work together.
Thank God for Lake City CRC and their love and discipleship to these teens.
We pray God will continue to grow in each one of these teens and uses them in His kingdom work around the world.

On a side note, our work and residence permits are supposed to be ready this week. Josh plans to pick them up Friday morning when he gets the three young people. Please pray that they are ready as promised. What an answer to prayer!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Grandparents visit (and amazing safari experience!)

May 16, 2013

I began this journal before Grace died and other things came into our lives we had to deal with, so now a week later I am able to sit down and write again.  Enjoy reading about my parents visit, our super safari experience, and seeing pictures of the memories we made!

May 6, 2013

Wow, what a full few weeks we have had.  I feel like I put most things on hold and am now playing catch up.  My Dad, Mom, great Aunt Sue, and her friend Kathy came to visit us.  My Dad has not been here since our first year – over five years ago.  So much has changed since then.  My Dad was SO excited to come and we were excited to show him our home, life, and ministries here.   My Mom was here a couple times without Dad the last time being when she picked up Lydia and Grace for us when Josh and I were in Kenya when Luka was sick.  They were here for almost three weeks so they got a good taste of life here.

I am unable to fill you in on all we experienced together but I will try to summarize it the best I can.  I have to admit I had mixed emotions having visitors.  We were just getting settled into life and ministry back here after five months away.  I did not want to travel again and upset Emalai again.  I did not want to have to put school on hold.  I was still tired and didn’t think I had it in me to entertain guests.  But I was also looking forward to showing Dad and Mom our home and friends in Obulle, having the grandparents be with their grandkids, and having Sue and Kathy teach the girls to sew.  I just kept reminding myself to enjoy it all because it doesn’t happen often.  And I did enjoy it…almost all of it. 

We traveled to Jinja where Josh went on to the airport to pick up our guests and while Sliedrechts, the kids, and I stayed in Jinja.  The road to Jinja was so bad we had four kids sick in the first hour.  No fun.  Emalai also screamed that night to let us know she doesn’t like traveling and Luka and her both ended up sick.  Besides all that, we did have a fun weekend on beautiful Lake Victoria/Nile River.  And when the grandparents and guests arrived we were so thankful to be together.  It is so special to have them here.  

After our weekend in Jinja we headed to Soroti where we stayed put for two weeks.  The first week Aunt Sue and Kathy stayed in our home while Grandpa and Grandma stayed with Sliedrechts then the second week we switched (gotta share when everyone wants time with G&G).  I was thankful we had guests while G & G were at Sliedrechts because the kids were still happy to have visitors instead of sad not having their grandparents stay with them.  Aunt Sue won the girls with telling them stories about Great-Great Grandma and Luka soon became her best friend when she played Legos and ball with him.  She is a wonderful grandma!  Our days were full.  We showed them around town – actually I was in town more than I have been in a long time.  There were lots of grocery runs, market experiences, second hand clothing market to see, even craft shopping.  We canned salsa, spaghetti sauce, and passion jam.   The ladies taught the girls how to sew three afternoons a week.  They learned to make a bag and skirt – pretty good for never have used a sewing machine before.  It got my creative juices flowing!  Sue and Kathy also did GEMS (Christian girls club) with the girls on our team who were able.  They really enjoyed their special time and us moms appreciated it too.  They enjoyed going to Amecet and seeing where some of their grandkids come from.  They held the babies and played with the kids which tugged at their heart strings.   

And of course we showed them our ministry here.  They went with Josh when he taught in Obulle, met some of our teammates and saw their ministries, and visited the orchards of two blind people.  Their two highlights were going to church with us and just visiting our friends in Obulle.  I loved that too.  I am excited about what God is doing in His people.  The beauty of knowing we are all praising the same Lord was powerful for our visitors.  To feel God’s presence and see Him on their faces touched them.  To see and know the people we work with and love meant a lot to them. 

Even the simple things stood out.  For Grandpa and Grandma to see their grandkids so at home here was special.  To realize they belong here and are comfortable.  To understand what it is life on a normal day here.  Even to better get all our struggles and our joys.  Being here to help us make each meal from scratch, see our kids play with their Ugandan friends, experience the driving here, see the beauty of the land and people, and also the great suffering, interact with their grandkids doing home school…  Just being apart of our lives was special.

What else did we do?  We celebrated Grandma’s 61st birthday since she would have her birthday just after leaving.  Grandpa, Sue, Kathy, Josh and the girls climbed Soroti Rock and enjoyed an awesome view together.  Unfortunately, quite a few of us also experienced sickness.  All apart of it I guess.  We had an Indian meal and saw the Hindu temple with our friends from India who own the grocery store.  They had their fill on Ugandan food too I am sure.  I was impressed with how well they did trying everything and even asking to go out for local food once.  We even got to go to a garage sale our missionary friends were having – made Dad and Mom feet right at home. J   

We had so much fun sharing our lives with them the time quickly came to an end.  Good thing we saved something fun for last.  We went on safari.  Dad and Mom haven’t gone on a real safari – I don’t count our Nigerian experience as a real safari.  So needless to say they were very impressed!  There are so many animals at Murchison Falls and it is just simple beautiful.  We saw a lot of elephants this time (probably over 40) and many tiny, tiny babies.  They were so cute running after wart hogs as big as them and following their mothers by holding their tails.  I always love giraffes.  They are awesome.  We saw a hippo up close on land for the first time.  They are HUGE!  Amazing!  We even found a new place to stay that was really nice.  We were having such a good time – animals, scenery, good food, nice place… until night when we were all overly tired, really hot, and Emalai decided to let us know she was not happy about being away from home.  Then our fun was done and I was too.  I told Josh I was not doing this again this year.  But the next morning came, even nice and cool, and we had an amazing safari experience…     

We woke up early and saw all the normal animals, but we wanted to see a lion today.  Dad and the girls stood up to look out of our sunroof while we drove.  After a couple hours we spotted two trucks by a large bush.  One was a vet response unit truck and one was full of park rangers.  I told Josh I wanted to wait and see what they were doing.  They were looking into the bush.  Josh tried to walk by them once but they told him not to but gestured to wait.  I was intrigued.  Something was in that bush and we were going to see what was happening.  Then one man began to throw large rocks into the bush.  We began to think we were going to see our lion after all.  Sure enough next thing we know the truck full of rangers go into the bush with their guns and hull out a male lion! 

They put the lion on a trap and the vet started working on him.  We didn’t know what they were doing or if he was dead or alive.  Later we saw someone go around the bush and come back with a tranquilizer dart so we know the lion was alive.  They had also covered the face of the lion.  We watched for about 20 minutes then the vet came over and talked to us.  He told us the lion had gotten into poacher’s traps and had a snare around its neck.  Two years ago this lion got its foot in a trap and they removed the leg.  He is now a three legged lion but he can hunt and everything.  Then he asked if we wanted to see the lion.  What?!  Seriously?!  If you had told me I would be getting out of my van to see a lion today I would have laughed in your face, but here we were going to see a lion.  Oh my word! 

Our van full and Sliedrechts van full all got out and stood with the rangers and vet looking at the lion.  My girls were nervous so they looked then headed back to the van.  Can’t blame them it was so weird looking at a lion in the wild lying there breathing.  My heart was pounding.  The lion’s face was still covered but we took pictures of his big paws and massive body.  Then just as Tim was taking a picture and touched him he lifted his head!!!  The ranger yelled for us to go the van and we booked it out of there!  What a funny scene.  Ok not at the moment.  I had Luka by the hand and I didn’t look back to help anyone.  Once we were in the van I did laugh to think about the lion lifting his head and all the white people running.  The rangers told us all to go but the vet was calm.  He came and talked with us again.  He knew the lion would not just spring up and attack.  We watched as the lion lifted his head again, laid down again, got up, fell over, got up, fell over, and then went into the bush again.  I could not believe what we just saw and experienced.  Who gets to do that?!  It was so National Geographic!  What a once in a life time thrill.  

It was a great safari and time with my parents, Aunt Sue and Kathy, but all good things come to an end.  We stuffed our van with 6 adults, 4 children and lots of luggage drove over 6 hours and waited over an hour for construction to get to Kampala.  (One last experience to remember Uganda by.)  Oh, on our way in we stopped for something to eat and there was a postcard with "Abraham the three legged lion at Murchison Falls".  We saw him!  In Kampala we did a little craft shopping, had supper and said goodbye.  And yes there were tears.  What a bummer to see them hold Emalai once last time as a baby, to see Luka have to let his buddy Grandpa go, and to hold Grace as she cried.  But we are thankful for the time we had.  God is so good.

And now here we are, settling back into life and routine at least as much as we can in the mist of mourning Grace’s death and other stuff happening.  We are back into the swing of school and ministry.  We are thankful to be home as a family.  Our next guests are right around the corner though.  You can be praying for Jimmy, Autumn, and Zipporah three teens from Lake City CRC.  They will be serving with us for six weeks starting the end of May.  We look forward to having them.  Thanks for all your prayers!   

(The lion video should be posted tomorrow - sorry couldn't get it on today)


Monday, May 13, 2013


May 12, 2013

Here I am again with a full heart.  I’m weary.  I am so thankful for all of your encouragement and many, many prayers!  There is just too much going on.  My strength and comfort are in the Lord alone.  He is my help and peace.

Grace’s funeral was Friday.  There were probably over 500 people there.  Her poor daughters just lost it every once and a while and wailed over their mother’s coffin calling out for her.  It is exactly how I would have reacted if I lost my mother at their age.  And for them there is no one else who loves them and cares for them.  That’s why the whole funeral made me mad.  We sat there hearing from each family member say’ “praise God, we loved Grace, we need to pray…” when I knew it was all bull.  It was all talk.  Most of the family has never been there and have abused each other more than anything.  I found out all seven children are Grace’s (not nieces too).  Grace’s first husband refused to let their kids know she was alive but when they did he threatened to kill them for going to see her.  And guess who showed up to the funeral with tears and words of sorrow?  Yes, the first husband.  I wanted to throw-up.  The poor kids.  I am sure they feared they would be given back to him.  Our former guard, Grace’s sister, also showed up.  She had run with the money we gave her and left her children.  At the funeral she announced she had a new husband (stays with a man).  Josh and I were so upset with her we told her that the Bible says if anyone does not take care of their family they are worse than an unbeliever (Timothy).  She said she cannot stay without a man, she needs a man (very cultural thinking here).  We told her it is wrong and she will be judged.  She told us the man is born again and we told her it wasn’t showing in his or her lives if they refused to care for the children.  She is willing to leave her children!!!  I was so mad.  Josh also went up and challenged the first husband with the same verse from Timothy and that he needed to pay for their education.  I did not think we were going to a funeral to confront and correct people but when they claim to be Christian and live in sin we have every right as believers to warn them. 

After 3 hours of introductions from people like this I told Angie they better not give me the microphone!  To top it off Tabitha was at the funeral.  Tabitha is our former house help (good friend) who was stealing.  We haven’t gotten to see her yet and this was not the place I wanted to.  I decided to hug her but was shocked when through tears she blamed me for not coming to see her and for doing this to her.  To her?!  I was so upset.  I did not want all these negative emotions at my friends funeral.  I was so done.

Finally after about 4 or so hours, Grace was laid to rest.  I think it is one of the hardest parts to see the coffin lowed into the ground and know our friend is really gone.  How we will miss Grace.  I feel for Tim and Angie and their children who will feel it every day.  For Grace’s children who know it will never be the same.  Please continue to pray for all of them.  We are thankful the grandmother has agreed to stay with Grace’s children but there is a long road ahead of them.  I think we should also pray for this family and clan that are entangled in sin.  I know God is speaking to my heart and removing the anger as I pray for my “enemies”.  They need to know the Lord.  This alone should cause me to pray to pray for them.

We are thankful for our friends in Obulle.  They brought us such encouragement in our sorrow.  Josh taught the day after Grace’s death and the people are just changed by Christ.  They genuinely felt for us, they stopped and prayed for her children, and later came to the funeral just because they love us.  They are why we are here.  Their transformation makes it all worth it.

One more thought, maybe this sounds weird to some of you but when Grace was sick and then died for the first time I wrestled with praying for a miracle of healing – I mean even asking God to raise her back to life.  I am not trying to scare any of you, but the Word of God is clear that He is all powerful, He healed and raised people from the dead, and we are in Christ and have His power and authority.  I have always been comfortable with the fact that I pray knowing God can but may choose not to.  And that night I did pray with faith that God can heal Grace.  But can I pray with authority, “Grace be healed?”  Or am I embarrassed because God may not heal her and then what.  I really don’t know I am just asking what went through my head.  Then when she died and I as on the way to the hospital I still felt God can still do His thing.  It is not impossible for God to give her life again.  And I did pray that prayer, but was I called to pray it over her with others present?  Was I too worried I would pray it and nothing would happen?  Sad to say I got home with regret.  I know nothing depends on me and God can do it without my prayer, but was I obedient?  Are we all suppose to be praying knowing God can?  It may not be His will to heal or give life again.  Or is that our excuse?   Are we called or told by God in the moment to speak those words?  Or could it be our lack of faith?  I really don’t know.  I just know I always pray for God’s healing, for His power and work to be done but that night I wondered for the first time if God was calling me to do more?     

Lastly, I want to thank you again for mourning with us, praying, and sending encouragement.  I know God is saying in the mists of it all, “Be still and know that I am God” and I can rest in that.  The verse continues, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth” that is a promise I will hold on to.  

At the grave

Thursday, May 9, 2013

With Sadness...

May 9, 2013

My heart is so heavy.  Last night our dear friend Grace died unexpectedly.  Grace was Tim and Angie’s house help for the last five years but she was so much more than that to all of us.  She was someone who lived out her faith everyday, wore a big smile, worked hard and faithfully, was trustworthy, helped us tremendously, loved her children and all of ours…she was beautiful!  And now we sit in somewhat of shock grieving our loss.

It all began Tuesday morning when Angie called and asked if Josh could take Grace to the clinic.  She was really sick.  She was throwing up blood, almost constant diarrhea, and very weak.  By the time Wednesday came Grace was basically unconscious.  There was still no diagnosis and all she had received over 20 bags of fluid.  By the time I talked to Angie in the evening she was afraid Grace was going to die.  I feel so much for the injustice in health care here.  It is totally wrong!  We were all angry and frustrated that we could not get good help for our friend.  She was dying and no one seemed to care or do anything.  Angie and Grace’s family transported her from clinic to clinic to hospital where they wheeled her unconscious from unit to unit looking for help.  (She was having diarrhea the whole time which the family has to clean up.)  The day nurses left and the night nurses hadn’t come yet.  There was no doctor, medicine, or equipment to help.  At this point we stopped everything and prayed.  We needed the Great Physician!  We needed a miracle from the Healer.  I was in tears crying out to God.  There was nothing else we could do and as always it was right where God wanted us to be – fully trusting in Him.  I prayed with faith and confidence that my God was able to remove all sickness and raise Grace to her feet again.  Peace came over me as I called out in Christ name and power.  He was with us.

Then Angie called.  Grace was dead. 

All we could do was cry.  We were in disbelief.  Grace was gone.  Our hearts ached for her children.  About four years ago her husband left and later we found out he was with another woman.  Grace was left with her six kids, one just born.  But Grace’s faith kept her and her children strong and full of joy.  Grace later took in two nieces who were going to be killed by their father.  She called them and treated them as her very own.  One of those girls now has a baby who calls Grace Mom.  Oh, the children!  They need their mother.  She loved them so.  What would happen to them?! 

 And then there were the Sliedrecht kids who loved Grace.  Who were use to having her in their lives everyday.  What loss.  And even our children who knew and loved Grace too.  We all did.  This is really hard.

 After the news of Grace’s death I went to the hospital to be with everyone as Josh stayed back with our sleeping kids.  We have been here before, an unexpected death of a loved one.  I hate it.  It makes me want to scream. “I don’t want to do this!”  I want to hide and make it all go away.  Mourning is hard.  Then you have all the cultural stuff on top of it.  But each time you do it.  You realize suffering with people is what Christ calls us to.  It is love.

 All I could do was hold people and cry with them.  There aren’t any words.  Angie and I held each other weeping.  Why did this have to happen?  I sat and cried with Tim as he quietly mourned.  Our teammates the Tiesinga’s were also there.  I am so thankful we have each other to walk through the joys and sorrows.  I hugged Grace’s sisters, mother, and nieces through my tears I tried to comfort them, Grace is in the arms of her Father God.  I saw Grace and touched her still warm face.  She was gone.  I told her we loved her and knew she was dancing with her King.  Oh praise God.  What a comfort in our time of mourning.  Grace loved the Lord. 

We all stood around waiting, mourning not knowing what needed to happen next.  Finally the nurse told the family dead bodies couldn’t stay in the room and we had to move it.  (What compassion.)  I did feel bad for all the other patients in the hospital room who had to sit there wondering if they were next to die.  The hospital feels so dirty and wrong.  There are dogs wondering around outside and people on the ground and screens wide open for mosquitoes to come on in…simply makes me sick.  Without any help from the hospital the family, Tim, and Steve put Grace’s body on a stretcher and wheeled her to Sliedrecht’s van.  I just stood there thinking this shouldn’t be.  We should not have to carry the dead body of our friend.  These are times people in America just can’t understand.  It isn’t right but it is how it is here.  And we are here walking with our friends we know and love.

 I went home as the others went to tell Grace’s children their mother died.  It was traumatic to say the least.  The older kids wailed even throwing themselves on the ground while the little ones stood there shaking.  Oh, Father God, hold them!

Today I woke up feeling numb yet my whole body ached.  Did this all really happen?  How do you go on when you just hurt and so many are in pain?  So I began to write this to process and to know people will be praying for us and especially Sliedrechts and Grace’s kids. 

 They embalmed Grace’s body in Sliedrechts van this morning.  Angie said they even came in to ask for super glue.  This is so weird.  After A LOT of people greeting and did their wailing they all went to the village to prepare for burial tomorrow.  The Sliedrecht kids took the news hard but are doing well overall.  Their oldest is taking it the hardest but she has also experienced much loss in her life already.  We told our kids too.  Lydia cried right away but Grace wanted to just go on with life without dealing with it.  But a few hours later it came out first in anger then tears.  How does a child process all this?  It is hard for us adults.  Our whole team is affected.  How do we grieve well and help each other through this?  I know it is just the first day and time does heal but these are the real raw emotions right now.

Honestly, overall I am doing well.  I who God is and can fully trust Him.  I have no doubt He is who He says He is.  He is good and in control.  He is with us and will provide for Grace’s children.  I know God never wanted sickness and death in His world, it is a result of sin, and He sent His own son to defeat death.  Satan on the other hand wants to kill and destroy.  He is to blame!  Our fight is against him, BUT Christ has already defeated him and we are in Christ.  Praise God!!!  It seems our whole team is going through a lot.  There is defiantly a spiritual attack going on.  Please pray for all of us.  God is at work and the devil wants to destroy it.  At this point I am very angry with the overall culture and some people here.  There is so much sin, wrong, and injustice I could scream.  It is sick!  I think I had had it up to here when I heard our former guard, Grace’s sister, who resigned because she is sick with AIDS took the money we gave her and left her kids.  Grace and her mother have been taking care of the five children.  That is wrong!  I want to hit the next person who claims to know God but lies through their teeth and lives in sin.  How can people be so heartless?  And that is just one of many stories.

 Tomorrow is the burial.  I will fill you in as soon as I find time again.  Thank you for every prayer.  God is our comfort and our hope.  He gives the peace no one can understand.  And as my mom was reminded by the Lord, “we are here for such a time as this.”