Monday, January 22, 2018

Goodbyes Here and There

About five months again we said goodbye in Obule.  It was a very difficult goodbye with many tears.  But what a blessing!  It was not fun crying and feeling torn from our home, life and friends but it hurt because we love.  We have given ourselves and so separating is difficult.  Going deep, being real, going through life's joys and hardships together cause authentic relationships.  We were excited about seeing our family in Michigan and a break but it still meant separation.  As we cried, I would often remind the girls our tears are worth it.  It is better to cry because we love, than never cry because we never loved.

Our last couple weeks in Obule were full of blessings and sadness.  Many of our friends had us to their homes for a meal and shared with us how thankful they were for our friendship and help.  We were also able to express our love and appreciation for them.  Our girls were busy writing and sharing notes with each friend telling them how they see God working in them and how much God loves them.  In return many notes started to circle around and our girls were affirmed that their friendship and love for the Lord was mutual.  So many of our friends brought us gifts of peanuts, meals, oranges and more.  It was their way of saying we love you and thank you.  I felt loved and was humbled by their gifts that cost them.

Our last Sunday in church we said our goodbyes.  It was one of the most meaningful, memorable and holy moments I have had in Obule.  I began to share from Philippians 1 where Paul says it is his joy to partner with the local believers in the gospel.  As I spoke I could see Lydia crying on her bench and her friends began to circle her crying, I then began to cry, and then my interrupter, pastor and good friend was also crying.  The next thing you know there was a ripple effect of tears all around the church.  Young, old, women, men, my friends, neighbors, teen seemed everyone was touched and crying.  It was so hard but so beautiful!  I never felt so love.  Without a doubt our love for the people of Obule is mutual.  God did and is doing something special and something few people ever have the joy of experiencing.  God's Spirit was there.  He was there in the tears, the love, and each day that year as people were coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and transforming lives as His truth was being shared.  I stood there crying with my church family that Sunday trying to take in that holy moment.  All I could hear was sniffles all around.  Looking at faces of friends that God has touched.  Friends I have learned so much from.  I belong.  In Christ we are family and we love.

I stood there and reminded them that this goodbye is not forever and that we are so thankful we will be coming back home (to Obule).  I encouraged them that they don't need us, God remians in them and it is my prayer that they grow in Christ as we are away.  After church there were no hand shakes everyone was hugging.  Not a pat on the back hug but long, hard, meaningful hugs.  I just cried as youth hugged me, teen boys, David who came to Christ this year, Patrica who grew so much in Christ, leaders who are our team, women who are my best friends, old ladies who are dear to me...  We had lunch all together as as a church but it still felt like a funeral as people continued to cry and give me deep hugs.  The youth in particular looked so sad.  But I was so happy - loving and being loved is a beautiful thing.

Sunday night we continued to get gifts of food from our friends and the youth just didn't want to leave.  We said many, many goodbyes but no one wanted to separate.  It was hard to see my kids crying and sad.  Finally we told the youth they needed to go home, so they said first we need to pray together.  We gathered in our porch as the boys led us in prayer.  It was so touching to see the youth God was growing in and working in praying for us as we left.  There were tears all around the porch.  I knew the youth loved Lydia and Grace and they love just being together but now I realized how much our our family and home has also meant to them.  It is a place of peace, truth, acceptance, and love in a culture that isn't always loving and in a culture where you can be forgotten in a family and individuates don't always matter.  Jesus was using our home and family to love.

The day of our departure finally came.  You can only say goodbye so long.  Once we were on our way we were ok and excited.  We have prayed for our friends in Obule everyday we have been away.  Praying they are growing in Christ as we are away.

Here we are now preparing to say goodbyes in Michigan.  Five months here was allowed us to reconnect with family, invest into friendships, adjust to live here, be apart of school and church.  We have loved family, friends, Michigan, seasons, supporters, church, comforts, beauty...and now it is difficult to separate.  To say goodbye comes with tears.  We love and so it hurts. To not hurt or cry is not to invest, give of yourself, feel, experience, and be present.  We have no regrets.  It will always be hard to leave but it is always worth it.   

Thank you for your prayers as we leave.  It is the transition periods that are so hard and we would live to skip over.  We have to choose not to be stressed at these stressful times.  Each time we leave again it reminds me this is when my faith takes action.  I need to put into action all I say I believe. 
We fly out of Detroit Monday January 29 and will arrive in Uganda on February 1.  We will stay with some friends before we drive 6 hours to our home in Obule.  We will most likely gain 100 degrees from Michigan to Uganda!  Pray for our adjustment.

We want to thank everyone for receiving us, helping us, and loving us!  It means a lot to us to be welcomed back to Michigan.  Thank you to our family and friends for letting us in and out of your lives with grace.  Thank you to Georgetown CRC for providing a home away from home for us.  Thank you to Hudsonville Christian and Unity for allowing our kids and receiving them to be a part of your schools.  We are grateful for positive experiences.  We are grateful for all our supporting churches and supporters for giving us time to share and sharing our excitement for all God is doing in Obule.

It is our prayer that you continue to grow in Christ until we meet again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One-of-a-kind Dress

Lydia got this dress in Kampala, Uganda in July (for her birthday) and finally got to wear it last week to the winter banquet for school.  She was excited and looked so beautiful.  As hard as it is to see her grow up and now do things you remember doing, it is a joy to see her do so as a godly, beautiful young women.  Her dress was a one-of-a-kind Ugandan dress.  It was a special piece of her and her home.

With her friends

More friends

Her cousin Alex and second cousin Ginny were at the dance too

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Our MI Christmas, New Years, and snow...

Here is a look at our Christmas, New Years and Michigan snow!  
Fun with Grandpa's 4-wheeler

Decorating Christmas cookies with cousins

Malai sleeping in her coat to keep warm
Our family Christmas party

 My parents joined us and we both got world necklaces.
Malai's gifts to G&G she was so proud of.

Luka got a real set of little drums

Emalai wanted a violin, diamond and penny for Christmas.
We found a little violin (musical family this Christmas - Josh got a harmonica too) and she got a penny but the was a beautiful fake little girls ring. 

Here we are at the Beute Christmas party on Christmas Eve

Emalai and her cousins she loves to play with.

Beute family Christmas sweaters!

Having fun!

Dad and Mom and their grandkids

Shaarda family Christmas party Christmas Day

The grandkids

Christmas Day was snowy and cold!  We had so much fun outside behind the 4-wheeler!

Lydia's homemade present for G&G

Grandma's cookbooks she made for the girls

Ice skating on Christmas break

We got lots of snow on Christmas break and it was cold.
Here is my snow angel! 
So beautiful sledding

Gotta have all the fun we can in the snow and cold while we can!

Malai turned 5 on Dec. 27!
Happy Birthday Emalai!  You are a joy in our home with smiles, giggles, imagination, dancing, and sweetness.

The quilt Grandma Shaarda made for Malai's birthday.

More Michigan snow to enjoy!

Freezing cold sledding

We went sledding at Uncle Marks which is super fun because he makes a trail to go down and takes us up in the tractor scoop!

And then the kids convinced him to put the scoop up!!!

So pretty

New Years Eve fondu

 More freezing temps and more fun!
Sledding again with my sister Jenna and her kids

Ice skating on the lake my parents live on.
Lydia is a great skater like her dad.

A walk in the woods...

New Years prayer

Thank you Father for a New Year!  I am so thankful for Your faithfulness, control and plan over each new year.  I put my trust in You.  You are before, in and over all.  You hold the plans, control and power perfectly.  Lord, you are so good, worthy and true.  I need You and look to You and rest in You.

Thank you for 2017.  I look back with joy and thanksgiving.  I am thankful I grew in Christ.  Your Word and Spirit have taught me, filled me, led me, helped, challenged and encouraged me.  You are my Way, Truth and Life.  Thank you for transformed lives.  For David, the youth, Patricia, the prisoners and others You continue to work in.  For those growing in Christ and sharing Your truth with others.  For the leaders we work with, learn from, and minister with.  For those in the villages and churches learning who they are in Christ and living free in Christ.  I praise You for the church choir that has grown and blessed us.  I am thankful for their togetherness, talents and worship.  For the youth growing, serving and participating.  For the work You are doing in the prison.  For each prisoner who has allowed Your Word to change them and for the officers who have welcomed and recognized the work of Your people.  Thank you for special friends you have giving us in Uganda.  Friends who understand us, encourage us, support, love, edify, and to have fun with.  For our home in Obule that we love and is a place of peace, rest, hospitality because it is the Lord's property and filled with His Spirit.  I praise you for our marriage and the oneness you have given us. For our children who are amazingly positive, thankful, flexible and challenge me each day.  Thank you that they know who they are in Christ and love the Lord.  Thank you that we can do kingdom with together with our children.  Thank you for home schooling and the blessing it is to be with our kid everyday, know what they are learning, learn with them and instill God's truth in them.  Praise you for the creativity we can use in home schooling, living in the village, and in our lives.  Thank you for the marriage conferences we could do this year and for sharing your design for marriage.  For providing in drought and sending rain!  For water, power, fans, food, and health.  For our supporters who bless us and pray for us.  For safety at home and over many miles.  For so many wonderful opportunities to travel and see your vast world.  Thank you for Freedom in Christ that we are a part of.  For our time in Michigan, speaking, enjoying and being with family.  God You are good and I praise you and thank you for all You have done!

Lord, put Your Spirit in 2018.  Fill it and us.  Lead, use, empower, be present, protect, provide and do great things for Your kingdom and Your glory!  Be our help and peace as we pack and transition.  Go with us.  Go before us.  Be our health and protection.  Continue to fill our marriage and our home.  Bless our home schooling.  Lead us as a family to see and do Your will.  Provide all we need spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Continue to open doors to do Your work.  Use us mightily in Jesus name.  By Your strength continue Your work in the prison.  Keep the door open and keep leading.  Show us Lord and do Your work.  Use our home, gifts and blessings.  Empower the leaders to continue to serve and teach.  Use Josh to write appropriate materials that can be used in Africa and around the world.  Continue to grow our friendships.  I pray for Achia and pray for Your will to be done in her life.  God be glorified through her and everyone involved in protecting and loving her.

I pray for the Your church to grow in Christ, know You, trust You, submit to You, live in Your truth, be willing to change, be different, go out, serve, share, forgive, to be Jesus in their marriages, in their homes, resit the devil and flee from sin, to let You truly lead and be the head of the church, to long for You, watch and wait for Your coming, to reject the lies and culture and choose Christ, to stand for Your truth, remove all footholds we allow in our lives and homes, to know who we are in Christ and live according to it, to be free and victorious daily in Christ!   

For the lost to come to Christ.  God may the enemies of Jesus, those who hate You and Your people, who do evil and deny the truth to experience You and be changed by Your love and grace.  We cry out to You to stop the persecution, evil, killing, pain, suffering, injustice...  God be seen, heard and felt there.  You are the power to change the world!  Change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.  As you changed Saul to Paul change closed countries to freedom, evil leaders to Christ followers, abusers to servants, false religions to truth...  This is our prayer and Your will.  Protect and provide for Your children who are hurting, suffering, scared, in need.  Defend and save Your babies being killed, Your daughters misused, Your children unloved.  Raise up Your church to each one do their part spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Give us Your heart that weeps and a righteous anger against sin and injustice.  Convict us for sitting and repent and stand with our hurting brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus.  May Your name be know, honored, and proclaimed!

Be near to each one of our friends and family who is in need of Your touch, power, healing, provision, comfort, leading, saving...may each one choose You and experience You.  You are able and it is in You we trust.

Lord may Your will be done in 2018 and Your kingdom come.