Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Just a little Update


One Sunday afternoon we were visiting our neighbors and the kids took banana leaves and made traditional "skirts" for dancing.

Luka and Grace have been helping Charles milk his cow -- by hand!

We bought a new pump for our well and it is again working well :)

Luka enjoys playing in the drainage water at the end of the well.  His friends caught mud fish to put in the "pond".

Just cute


It is harvest time for maize and that means roasted corn (it is not soft or sweet - more like popcorn if anything)

Lydia and Grace with the Dwire girls (boy do they all look alike!)

So we have about 5 weeks in Obulle before we go on home service September 1.  That means mixed emotions.  We are so very excited to be in Michigan – family, comforts, fall time, snow (yes, we are excited for it!), refreshment, renewal, sharing in supporting churches, being apart of our home church, the kids are looking forward to going to school…  A couple months ago we were ready to get on the plane and go!  But as God continues to bring healing to our lives and show us His plan we are once again looking forward to ministry here.  No matter how excited we are to go to Michigan, it is always hard to leave our home.  This is our routine, work, people we love…  Our hearts will always be torn with two places and two loves.

We have begun our next school year in home schooling.  Lydia is in 7th grade (!), Grace is in 5th, Luka is in 1st, and I am their teacher this year!  I am thankful for how well it has gone so far.  It is a new routine for me and busy.  There are days I just have to remember I can always get it done tomorrow (everything I can’t fit in now because I am teaching).  Teaching is a full time job and so is being mom, so with two full time positions.  Sometimes meals aren’t as timely, writing has to take a back burner, and I don’t do it all perfectly but somehow we get it all in.  Lydia’s Math is way beyond me so she goes to the “principle” (aka Dad) often for tutoring.  I love the Bible curriculum!  We are doing “Possessing the he Promise Land” a survey of the Old Testament by Positive Action.  It is so full of truth from God’s Word.  I get so excited about it and that if our girls can learn and apply these amazing truths now, the rest of their lives they will be blessed by them.  Today we talked about how victory comes when we obey and trust God’s promises.  Defeat comes from sin.  God’s Word is so right!  Luka is doing great and it is exciting to see him learning to read and spell.  Most of all I am thankful to hear my kids say I am a good teacher.

Malai is growing.  She is so fun.  She talks all the time, loves to sing and dance, plays with babies, village friends, and pretend to cook and talk on the phone.  She is learning to go pee on the potty!  She is full of expression and a character.  She calls Luka “Luta”.  Yesterday I told her not to do something and she said back to me, “or I get a spanken like this” and she went on to spank my bottom.  She sure makes us laugh!  She loves the village and the people love that she does and says things like they do.  Her favorite song is in Ateso.

Luka learned the books of the Bible a couple months ago and earned a Bible from Sunday school.  He was so committed and very excited. 

Unfortunately, we continue to not feel well around here.  Half of our family deals with on going sinus or allergy issues.  There is always someone blowing their noses, stuffy, or with a headache.  I am beginning to fear it is something we are going to have to live with here.  I don’t know if it is the dust, heat, dryness…  It seems people here are always sick too.  It is really sad.  Maybe we are just catching everything.  We are with our neighbors and friends each day but I thought being outside would help.  Last week Josh had strep throat and Grace just started with a fever, throwing up, and diarrhea.  The monthly sicknesses are discouraging.  We look forward to good check ups but I am not sure doctors in the States will be able to help with the health issues we have here.  Thank you for praying for us!

Yesterday we went to visit Achia (see blogs on Achia) and her family.  They moved two miles away a couple weeks ago because the family Opio (the father) was herding for was not paying him.  Another family hired him to herd.  We were thankful they came to tell us they were moving.  We were concerned because they are such new Christians and now they will be too far to come to our church and they would be too far to bring them milk every day for Achia.

My heart broke when I saw Achia lying on the ground, her face literally covered in dirt and cow dung (the ground is smeared with cow dung), and looking thin and weak again.  I don’t know what to do.  I really believe the parents have love for Achia but they are busy with the other two little ones, finding work to survive, and Achia is difficult and it is easier to just let her lay there.  Achia will only eat certain food and when they don’t have it she doesn’t eat and when they have no food and no money none of them eat.  It is all so sad and complicated.  I simply cannot visit them every day and I don’t know how to make sure they have food.  And is this the answer?  What happens when we are not here?  I keep crying out to God.  I know He knows, sees and cares.  He is Achia’s Father.  He promises to provide, protect and loves her.  I am praying for the church and other believers to reach out and love this family too.  I cannot do it alone and feel a great weigh of responsibility.  I have to hand it over to God and trust Him.  I will do what He calls me to but He is the Savior.  We have arranged for Achia to get milk each day and I send food so they have something.

I think many Westerners could read what I just wrote and think there is easy answers – the money is there, provide food for them, get what they need…  But poverty is never that simple.  As we have wrestled with these issues for nine years, I continue to seek the Lord.  Many Christians talk about caring for the widows and orphans from James 1:27, but the key words in that verse to me is “look after”.  It is not about just handing over money and providing.  It is about being with, relationship, time, investing into…giving of yourself.  You can’t look after those in need by just giving your money.  I was reading Matt. 25 the other night with the girls and it struck me that when Jesus comes to judge those on the right were welcomed into the Kingdom because of what they did.  They fed, invited strangers in, they clothed, looked after the sick, visited those in prison.  It is giving of yourself, investing into peoples lives, giving your time, home, money, and love.  It is relational.  Yes, sometimes it is giving your money, but it is not writing a check and of no personal cost to you.  It is caring for someone physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  God wants us to look after, you can’t do that unless you are present.  We are to invite people into our lives and visit – go to where they are.  Jesus was apart of people’s lives.  Honestly, He never gave a dime as far as we know.  He gave of Himself.  

We have been enjoying extra time with our missionary friends, the Dwires.  We did a Bible study together on marriage by Chip Ingram.  It was so good!  Straight truth from God’s Word.  I pray God allows us to share it and use it with others especially while we are in MI.  We are now doing a Bible study on Abraham.  I love seeking and searching God’s Word.  The kids have greatly appreciated the extra time with their friends.  Our kids are all the same ages (except Malai) and they get along so well.  It is such a blessing to have such good friends! 

Josh continues to teach Freedom in Christ in Pingere and preaches about every other Sunday.  He is a talented teacher.  We have been visiting the other sister churches to our church in Obulle.  Hope to do baptisms at one of them in a couple weeks. 

Other than all that, it is mostly normal village life around here.  I enjoy the quiet beauty of the village.  It is so green right now.  I love watching my kids just be part of the village.  They help their friends haul water, get the animals, gather the drying crops…and just playing.  Pray for us as we prepare for our home service.  Pray this last month is a real blessing ministry wise.  Pray for peace as we leave our home and friends for five months

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sickness Again

I am trying hard not to think about you all today and the summer fun you may be enjoying.  The beauty of the beach, fun of camping, joy of summer cook outs, cooling off in the lake...being together.  No offence but it sounds like the easy, nice life at this moment.  I am trying not to be jealous.  I know you all have your problems too.  I just wish we had family and friends and comforts right now.

So, once again sickness plagues our family.  Josh has been sick since Tuesday night with what appears to be strep throat.  He is really miserable.  His throat looks awful - swollen, red, and white clumps.  He hurts with every swallow and word.  He has fevers of 102 and shakes when he gets them.  Today is the first day he hasn't gotten a fever and hasn't taken Tylenol to control them.  We put him on Amox right away on Wednesday but it didn't seem to do anything so finally yesterday we started another antibiotic.  It is so hard to know what to do.  We have been in contact with a couple doctors, there are no tests for strep or mono within 6 hours of here, and we are pretty sure it is strep anyways.  Josh is sick of being sick.  It can sure get you down and lead to boredom when you aren't well enough to do anything but not down enough to do nothing.

On top of that Grace got sick Thursday.  Fever and vomiting -- no sore throat (she doesn't have tonsils anymore).  She stared to feel better yesterday but hasn't really eaten in a couple days (thankfully, she does drink).  Now today she has stomach pain, which brings nausea.  She just cries cause she doesn't want to be sick.  She has some diarrhea so it seems the pain is from that.   I just don't ever know what to do?!

The rest of us are well in comparison.  It seems three or four of us are constantly dealing with sinus/allergy issues.  Nothing major just bothersome.

We are praying.  God is with us and will again heal us.  It is a life of relying on Him and knowing Him as our faithful Father and powerful healer.  We are also praying the rest of us stay healthy.

I am amazed at the positive attitudes of our children.  We were suppose to go to Jinja today to meet with friends, go fishing, and just have fun away for a weekend.  But of course we had to cancel all that.  Monday we are support to be in Mbale with friends so we are hoping that can still happen.  

Thanks for letting me share with you.  I know it is a bit of a downer, but I have to be real.  I always feel better knowing we are being prayed for.  Like I said, I know God will heal our family once more!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

By Faith...

Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
By faith we believe God created the world by His command.
By faith Able gave his best to God.
By faith Enoch pleased God and it is impossible to please God without faith in the One you believe in.
By faith Noah obeyed and built an ark.
By faith Abraham obeyed and went.
By faith became a father because he knew the One who promised was faithful.
They lived by faith until they died.  Many never received the things promised to them, but they saw and welcomed them.  They longed for a better home – a heavenly one.  God was not ashamed to be called their God.
By faith Abraham offered Isaac.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him and did not fear the king.
By faith Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated with his people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  He was looking ahead to his heavenly reward.  By faith he left Egypt not fearing.  He persevered because he saw God.
What more shall we say?  Through faith kingdoms were conquered, weaknesses turned to strength, became powerful in battles, others were tortured to gain a better resurrection, chained, stoned, sawed in two, persecuted and mistreated…the world wasn’t worthy of them.  They were all commended for their faith, yet none received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for them and us.    

I don’t know about you but I am truly inspired by this list in Hebrews 11.  I mean I am pumped up and hope someday God writes a verse 40, “By faith Mandy…”   

Faith is confidence in what you believe is true.  It is putting your trust in something.  It is hoping in what you believe.  It leads to action. 

Look back at the words in bold.  Faith caused belief, people to give, obedience, to go, offer, not to fear… The key to faith is knowing the one you put your faith in is trustworthy and true.  You cannot trust what you do not know.  Heb. 11:11 Abraham had faith and believed God because he knew the one who made the promised is faithful.  Abraham knew God and could trust Him.

And when you know the One you have faith in, you obey.  Faith brings obedience. 

A few years ago as we were preparing to come back to Uganda, I understood these truths more than ever.  We had really enjoyed our time in Michigan, we were close to our families, connected with friends, involved in church, and now were days away from leaving it all again.  We were uprooting our children again and taking our new born baby away from grandparents.  My emotions were everywhere.  Fear could have easily set in.  I desired to stay where it was comfortable.  I was sad.  It was then I realized I had a choice.  Would I obey God and go back to where He called us or not?  Did I trust the One who called us enough to obey?  Everything I said I believed would now need action.  If I know God is my protector, my provider, wants what is best for me, hold the plan for my life, is my Lord, in control…then I can trust Him and obey.  By faith in God, who is trustworthy, I could obey and go.

Faith is knowing you can trust God and causes us to obey (action).  The opposite of faith is not believing God and disobedience.

Hebrews goes on to say in chapter 12, since we have all these great examples in chapter 11 of faith, get rid of everything that keeps you from faith, the sins that entangle you and follow the plan God has for you.  Persevere.  Put your focus on Jesus!  Put your faith in Him who is trustworthy.  He is the author of your faith and the One who makes your faith perfect.  With joy Jesus endured the cross, shame and sat down at God’s right hand (the work was finished!).  Remember what Christ endured so that you will not grow weary and loose heart.  Put your faith in God.      

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Great Pain & Great Grace

I have begun reading through the Bible again and I am amazed at how it speaks so powerfully each time.  I have had the privilege of hearing the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, and Abraham since I was a child, but I love how the Holy Spirit speaks new truths through it again and again.  They are not just nice stories we tell our children.  In fact the more I read them the more I feel we have watered down these great truths into cute kid stories.  God’s Word is powerful truth!  Each story gives us a beautiful glimpse into God’s heart, His love, plan for us, grace, holiness…and His plan for salvation, Jesus.

Read the story about Noah for example.  It begins with God in great pain.  Did you know God, the Creator of all, King of King, hurts so deeply?!  You know why?  His great pain comes from sin.  When His children sin, it hurts.  God made all people in His likeness and they turned from Him and made Him their enemy.  The Bible says that every thought of their heart was evil all the time.  And God grieved.  Their wickedness was so great God regretted making man.  This caused Him so much pain.

We need to stop and hear the terrible side of the story – the great sin, great pain…so we can see the greatness of God’s grace at the end of the story.  If we miss the pain, the ugliness, the emotion, we will miss God’s mercy and love.

Now God is Holy.  He cannot be anything else and so He can not tolerate sin.  He is just.  Justice is right and good.  And so, God knew He had to destroy His very own creation.  And He grieved.  It didn’t make Him happy, He grieved.

But, there was one man, one Father, one family who chose to follow the Lord in such wickedness – Noah.  Noah was righteous and blameless among the people because he walked with God.  How about us?  How about you?  Our world is still wicked and full of sin do you stand out to God?  Are you walking with Him and living in righteousness?  Or have you fallen into the ways of the world, accepting it instead of standing for truth, and looking no different than the world does?

Noah found favor in God’s eyes, He blessed Noah.  God chose to start over with mankind through Noah’s family.  God told Noah His plan.  And Noah obeyed.  Noah didn’t question, didn’t doubt, didn’t say no…Noah did everything just as God commanded him.  You see when God speaks the only answer is, “yes, Lord.”  Everything else is disobedience which really is rebellion and lack of faith.  However, Noah was human and when he was building the ark in a desert, mocked and laughed at he most likely went to God in his times of questioning, waiting, doubt.  The key is bringing it to God and continue to obey.

After the whole ordeal was over, Noah’s first response was a thanksgiving offering to God and it was pleasing to God.  And God said in His heart, after watching His whole creation die because of their sins, NEVER again!  Even though He knew mankind would become just as wicked again (every bit of our hearts from childhood!) He chose never to destroy everything again.  When God makes a promise it is for sure!!!  Then God made a sign to remind Him of his covenant – a rainbow.  God knew He would need a reminder because the world would make Him grieve again.  What grace, what mercy, what love God has shown us!  He didn’t have to, but He wanted to.  Why?  Because He loves you!  He loves His children and gives us grace so we can know Him.  That is the beauty of the rainbow.  Not just pretty colors or things the world has distorted it to, but God’s handmade sign of everlasting grace and love.           

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rondo Retreat

We had the joy of meeting our Freedom in Christ Africa director and his wife, Howard and Aileen, for a five day retreat in the rain forest in Kenya.  We stayed at Rondo Retreat Center and were blessed by the service and beauty.  We enjoyed walks in the rain forest, relaxing and teatimes, encouragement and fellowship with Howard and Aileen, and fun with our children.  

The rain forest was different than I expected but amazing.  It was even a taste of MI being in the woods and cooler temperatures.  The trees were huge and so tall to get to the light I suppose.  There was tons of moss going on everything, it was damp, very green, and thick.

It was so much fun to find interesting thing with our kids and simple thank God for His creative handy work.  Kids are great at slow us down so we stop and enjoy the smallest wonders.

Rondo had beautiful gardens that just made us "stop and smell the roses."  We truly rested.

Josh loved this TALL tree

Our "home" at Rondo.  We loved it!  It was old, yet beautifully kept.  I felt like I was in the South with our big porch and the hospitality we received.  There was even a fireplace to sit by each night (and yet it was even cool enough)!  

We were spoiled!  Three meals a day and supper was 3 course candle light meal.

I know this picture is blurry but I wanted you so see what the inside of one of the homes looked like.  We played lots of games together too.

Everyday at 4pm we enjoyed tea and cake on our porch.  We also had wonderful talks with Howard and Aileen.  They are a great source of wisdom and support to us!

We enjoyed seeing monkeys in the rain forest.  This is a Colobus monkey.

Just cool :)

We are thankful God has used our time in Rondo as a part of His healing and restoring us.  While I was there I read 1 Peter 5:10-11, "God Himself will resore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  What a wonderful, personal promise from our Father!  I see how He has provided and is with us.  I am thankful we get to be apart of Freedom in Christ and serve under Howard and Aileen.  I was able to pray with them while we were at Rondo using the 7 steps to freedom.  I love that God has and is working in me.  His way is right and good!  Praise God for His rest and the joy He gives us through His creation and His people.

Ok, I need to add a side note.  You have to know that almost everything about vacationing in Africa is difficult.  Thankfully we kinda know how things work and can make the most out of most things but it is never easy or relaxing.  Travel is an adventure here, not the good kind.  Roads are not always good, there aren't signs or good markers, and it takes ALONG time to get anywhere.  Going to Kenya we were actually thankful we live in Uganda and could see better the blessings we do have in Uganda and that it has become home, familial.  The border was just plain yuck!  Uganda had a new building and it was peaceful and easy.  We were so thankful.  Then we did the Kenya side and their new building was still in the making.  There was chaos everywhere.  People everywhere (not checking in or out either), trucks crammed in every inch available (they literally wait for a day or two in line to cross), and nothing about it was nice.  The only way we knew what to do and where to go and who to trust was by hiring a guy who walks you through the process -- for a price which is worth it!  To top off the chaos there was a man there who looked normal, but we learned was "mad", who did not like us, called us fake Africans, and told us he put a bomb under our van.  Ok, I am pretty sure they should not have that guy hanging around the border.  We needless to say kept the kids right by our sides or locked in the van with me while Josh did paperwork.  If we were new or tourist we would have not been ok with all that happened.

So, thankfully Rondo was truly rest and great because the trip is not.  On our way home Malai threw up three times and I was sick with a sinus infection or something.  I am so glad our kids don't complain though and make the most out of all situations.  We were all grateful to be home after our week away.