Thursday, August 27, 2015

Almost on our way...

Thank you everyone for praying for us!  It has been a crazy few days, yet God has given us peace and helped us get everything in.  Here is what has and will happen:

-Our missionary friends helped us GREATLY and got us tickets to go to MI three days early and to my grandpa's funeral.
-We finished packing up, closing up the house and were able to spend time at our neighbors' homes saying goodbye - and eating.  Good closure is so important.  
-We fly Friday night and arrive in Chicago Saturday afternoon.
-Grandpa's visitation is Sunday and funeral Monday.
-Grace has a bladder infection but on meds and doing well.
-Our children said it was easy leaving Uganda when we lived in Soroti, but now living in the village it is hard to leave.  They love their friends and home.
-We are spending our last night with our friends in Soroti - so thankful for them!
-Thank you Moms, Katie and Rebeka for ALL you help getting ready for our arrival!

See you soon,


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Grandpa Van Manen

I got the call from my mom today that Grandpa died.  (See blog below for more details.)  I didn’t know it would be so hard.  I just cried.  I want to be there.  I am thankful family was able to say goodbye and my mom and aunt were there as he died.  I am thankful he went to Jesus peacefully.  I will miss Grandpa.  I love him.  Our girls were all tears too and Luka didn’t know how to handle his emotions and told me his eyes were watering.  Our house help, Lucy, saw me crying and knew my grandfather died.  She cried with me and told our neighbor and they came and all prayed with us.  I am so thankful for friends to love us. 
We arrive to Michigan Tuesday evening.  The funeral may be Saturday or Monday so if there is anyway we can get home earlier and have closure with the family we will try to do it. 

Thanks for your prayers.

Before we Go - All God is Doing & Prayers for Grandpa

We are down to our last week in Obulle.  Next Monday we will be flying to Michigan.  We have been praying for weeks that God would fill our last weeks here and bless them.  He has been answering that prayer.
Last week Josh was able to go to a conference (Theological Education in Africa) in Kampala.  He went with a few leaders from the churches we serve with in Obulle and Teso area.  Our Freedom in Christ Africa director, Howard, also came and helped Josh at a Freedom in Christ table.  They were able to share with over 50 people who were interested in this discipleship material.  People from 10 countries were at the conference.  An unexpected blessing was a missionary friend from our first years in Nigeria was also at the conference.  Josh and him were able to catch up and encourage one another.  Josh was very filled by the whole thing.  He was excited, confirmed, and challenged by the teachings.  It was so refreshing for Josh and all who went.  Josh was especially encouraged by the message on reaching the unreached.  The speaker directly said if the great commission is not a churches goal then they are sinning. 
I am so glad Josh could go and be filled.  It was the first time he left the kids and I overnight in Africa – and this was four nights.  However, our kids are older and we feel safe in living in the village.  All went well.  I felt like I had three full time jobs with being mom, teaching and filling in for dad.  I was tired but the kids were so good and helpful.  We also got to go to our friend’s house in Soroti and have a sleepover.  We missed Josh terribly but knowing God used the conference in his life and used him to share Freedom in Christ made it all worth it.  I am once again confirmed that life is better together!!! 
Today at church Josh preached on how true worship always starts with what God has done.  Worship is a response to what God has done.  Every time the Bible says to praise God it tells us why.  The Psalms are full of them.  Psalm 100 shout to the Lord…because He is God and made us.  Psalm 103 because He forgives and heals us.  Psalm 106 because He is good and His love endures forever.  We do not worship to get from God or hope it brings good things, we worship in response to what God has already done.  It is always God first.  Romans 12:1 because of God’s mercy we are offer ourselves holy to the Lord.  Our lives, not just worship at church, is to be praise to God.

After the message Josh had an “altar call” and two people came forward to receive Jesus as their Lord.  As they came forward we had a beautiful time of singing “He is Lord” with everyone down on their knees.  Then we celebrated with all of Heaven after the people prayed. 
One of the people who came forward was the oldest daughter of Lucy, the lady who helps us.  Lucy told our pastor after the service that she prayed that God would work in her children’s lives starting with the oldest one.  I didn’t know the guy who came forward but after the service our pastor told me he is from Obulle and just got out of prison Wednesday.  He had been in prison for seven months for stealing.  His wife comes to church sometimes.  Today he was at church early with his Bible.  His name is Edward and he needs our prayers as he now grows in the Lord.  Pray to for Grace who also received Christ and for our church that they will disciple these new believers.
After church they had lunch for us knowing we would be leaving next Sunday.  It was a special time when they shared with us.  Charles summed it up with, “you are a blessing to us.”  He shared how Josh has taught him in words and by watching him and what he does.  He shared how years before we came he had a dream of someone in a home opening a door and many people coming out of the house to Obulle.  He said they had prayed for a long time for people to join with them in ministry.  He said how we came and brought others.  Emma shared that we brought peace to Obulle.  Dan and Robert shared how the teaching has changed their lives.  Robert also shared how he now knows how to preach truth because of the teaching.  Lucy shared how she use to be upset with people and move around but when Josh brought the teaching on forgiveness her life changed.  There were many encouraging words that blessed us.  Josh and I shared (with tears) how our hearts are divided leaving.  We thanked everyone for helping us through a difficult year.  How their friendship, prayers, and love encouraged us.  And that they were our joy in the hard times.  Today was a reminder of all God is doing, that we are appreciated. and that God brought us and is using us.  We have a home, friends, and a family here.  All glory to God!
The ladies at our church often visit ladies from our church who have been sick or who have had a baby.  A few weeks ago we had another Ugandan “baby shower” as Josh calls it.  We all go to the compound of the lady who had the baby and bring firer wood, water, soap, sugar or something to help the new mother.  The last one was at our neighbors – baby Joshua.  I really enjoyed sitting with the women even thought I couldn’t understand anything I was thankful to be a part of them.  I looked around with joy knowing they were my friends.  I also saw how beautiful each one was.  Some are young first time mothers, some have eight children, and some are great grandmothers.  But they all have wonderful smiles, beautiful skin, and a joy that comes from within.  My girls played happily with the other children there as we ate g-nuts (peanuts) and sipped hot millet porridge.  No it isn’t like women’s gathering from where I come from, but I am so glad I can be a part of something so different yet so important. 
We have also been blessed by our missionary friends here.  Our friendship has grown deeper and richer over this year – even the last few months.  I appreciate our Bible study together and the great conversations we have on God’s Word.  Our times together are meaningful and real.  We truly encourage one another.  Recently they have expressed how their faith has grown watching our faith through difficult times.  I was touched.  If others can see our faith in times of testing then to God be the glory!
Our kids finish up about six weeks of home schooling Wednesday.  Then they will have a month off before starting at Hudsonville Christian.  (We will be traveling most of September.)  Malai seen to be having more tears lately as she senses something is going on but she isn’t sure what.  She sees bags being packed and the kids talk about Michigan and seeing Grandparents.  She talks about going on an airplane but has no idea what that all means.  She is so cute though.  We play cards a lot with the kids and so she also knows the lingo and her own version of how to play.  See loves to bid and ask what trump is and of course win.  Grace says every day that she is so excited for Michigan but doesn’t want to leave her home.  Josh even expressed, after meeting with the pastors and spending time with friends, that he is sad to leave today.  We are all glad we know we will be coming back.  That allows us to go in peace and fully enjoy our time in Michigan.      
My mom called a few weeks ago and said my Grandpa Van Manen was being put in hospice.  He was having a lot of stomach pain but his dementia was also going so quickly the family decided not to put them through too much testing and confuse him more.  I was in shock along with everyone else.  Grandpa had been so healthy and now hospice.  Then last week my mom let me know that Grandpa was not doing well and it was going quickly.  The nurse felt it would be days not weeks now.  I cried with my mom as she told me of Grandpa’s pain, holding his hand, singing and reading to him, and telling him how much we all love him…  It is so very hard to be away at times like this!  I want to be there to tell my Grandpa one last time that I love him, to pray with him, and I long to be there to comfort my mom.  We are so very thankful we have to peace and even great joy knowing Grandpa knows the Lord and will be Home soon, but watching a loved one dies is never easy.  Letting a loved one go is painful.   
We are so close to being in Michigan.  We looked into changing our tickets and coming home a few days earlier, but it would cost a lot.  I prayed about it and feel peace knowing God knows the right timing.  The right time to take Grandpa home and the right time for us to be in Michigan.  I am so thankful for my Grandpa Van!  He was always so happy and fun to be with.  I felt loved and valued by him.  I will always cherish the memories of staying overnight at their house and Grandpa always wanting to take us for ice cream after supper.  I will always think of the parades I was in with Grandpa.  Visiting them in Florida and Grandpa making breakfast -- oatmeal with raisins and fresh squeezed orange juice.  I loved that he was a farmer at heart.  My kids and I will always remember his tractor rides and being pulled behind the tractor in a sled.  The way he loved little kids and his nick names for them.  He made time for us.  He came to all of our special occasions.  And Grandpa read the Bible and prayed at ever meal.  I will forever to grateful for his faith shared with my mom who shared it with me. 

Today was Grandpa's 84 birthday.  Please pray for my Grandpa, my mom and the family as we wait and love Grandpa into Jesus’ arms.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lydia is 12!

Lydia Ayashea turned 12 July 31!

Lydia was glad to have her friends to celebrate with.

Lydia made up a dance to the song Gold.  Her and Grace performed it for me.
We also had a really fun birthday water fight!!!

We are so thankful for Lydia.
She is beautiful inside and out.  She has a wonderful positive spirit, always thankful, and helpful.
She blesses us with her gifts of singing, dance, and writing.
She loves the Lord and we are thankful she knows and lives by His Word.
We love you Lydia!

Grace Mary is 9 but closer to 10.

Luka is 6.

Emalai Carolyn is 2 and a 1/2.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Blessings of Obedience

In school Lydia and Grace and I are going through the Old Testament (Testament means promise or covenant doesn’t that give it more meaning) using Positive Action curriculum, “Possessing the Promise Land”.  I get so excited each day by the truth we learn.  God’s word is awesome!  God’s will for us is so clear.  He desires to bless us.  All He asks of us is our obedience.  Obedience is the key to the blessings of God.  
Israel wanted their own way again and again and did not simply obey God.  (Sound like us?)  And because of it they missed out on all the blessings God wanted for them to have.  (Are we?)  Because of their disobedience, they were punished and not allowed to enter the promise land (blessings God had for them) and wander 40 years in the desert.   Deuteronomy 4:31 describes God as merciful and because of His mercy He did not abandon, destroy or forget His covenant with Israel.  God is patient while we learn but His desire is for us to hear, learn, and follow His Word (Deut. 5:1).

Deuteronomy 6 is a great chapter on God’s desire for each one of us;
-         Fear the Lord
-         Keep all of His commands
-         Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength
-         Impress God’s words on your children
-         Fill your home and lives with God
-         Don’t forget the Lord when things are good (when you are satified)
-         Do what is right

Obedience is for our good.  Obedience to rules and authority is for our own good.  If we would just receive that God always wants the very best for us, obeying would be a joy.  Obeying God will allow Him to give us all the blessings He offers to give us.  

In Deut. 8:2 God reminds the people why they had to wander in the desert – to humble them, test them, and know whether they intended to obey God or not.  Ever wonder why you are going through a hard time, a desert?  Sometimes it is God humbling, testing to see whether we are going to obey Him or not.  Do we trust God and believe Him?  There have been tests in my life this year, in my family in Michigan too.  God is seeing if we will obey Him.

God desired to bless Israel but they missed His blessing, why?  Deut. 9:24 says it was because of their rebellion.  Rebellion is the opposite of obedience.  Rebellion (sin) brings defeat.

God promises us many blessings and they are reasons to obey the Lord your God.
Deut. 20:4- The Lord will go with us and fight against our enemies to give us victory.
Deut. 28:8- The Lord will bless our barns and bless everything we put our hand to.
Deut. 31:6- The Lord will go with us, He will never leave us or forsake us.
Deut. 26:19- You will be a people holy to the Lord your God.

Before I get accused of prosperity gospel, let me remind you of my blog of suffering.  I do not love and obey God to get the blessings, but I love and obey Him out of thanksgiving, honor, and trust.  I know that living for Him doesn’t mean a perfect life.  We will suffer.  But God does promise me many things that I can hold onto as His child.

God’s Word is truth to live by!

(Most taken from Possessing the Land lesson 13)