Thursday, January 10, 2019

Oh Holy New Years Eve

Somethings you just can't put something into words.  When God's Spirit falls on a place is one of those times.  He is indescribable!  Let me try to tell you about our Holy New Years Eve when God showed up...

We love the youth here!  It is great to have two girls who are apart of this group and to see all of them grow close as they grow in Christ.  We are excited to see the youth seek God, change by His truth and show leadership in the church and community.  Every Saturday we meet for games and Bible study.  So when we were wondering what to do for New Years Eve we decided we wanted to spend it with the youth and give them a fun, safe place to celebrate.  In this culture they don't really do anything for New Years Eve and if there is something it is usually something in the center they shouldn't be apart of.  We invited the youth to our house in the evening to play games, have a little food and soda (a treat here), and welcome the New Year together.

The porch and yard were full of youth on New Years Eve.  Over 50 youth came.  We were excited to have some new youth and some youth who are new believers.  Everyone was having fun playing games and eating.  Josh decided to have a time of testimonies from 2018 and praise God for all He has done.  We began with worship and it was full of joy and energy.  They didn't want to stop and person after person started a song.  We sang, danced, jumped, waved our was awesome.  Eventually we all sat down to give testimonies.  One testified of healing, another of help with school, another God providing school fees, another keeping him safe this year...  One girl testified of going away from Christ and this year coming back to Him - praise God!  (That is a God story in it self.  An answer to prayer we got to see.)  One of the boys said he use to hate his parents so much that he wanted to join the army so he could kill them.  He said he use to tell people he was a Christian but inside he knew he wasn't.  God changed him and he now has peace.  Our neighbor and pastor, Charles, stood up and testified of God restoring him this year.  It was the truth that allowed him to persevere through doubt.  He told the youth two things; 1) Remain in Christ and know His truth, 2) Stay away from sin - it is like fire and it will burn you.

I love testimonies and hearing how God has been at work!  I was to lead a prayer of thanksgiving for all God did in 2018, but I felt we should not miss the opportunity to invite the youth to receive Christ or return to Him.  I spoke to those who tell people they are a Christian but inside you know you are not.  You are living a lie.  You are holding onto the world and still want Jesus.  As we sang a one by one about ten people came forward.  There were tears, kneeling down, praying...and worship happening.  Some of the leaders prayed with the youth who came forward as everyone else worshiped.  It was holy.  God was here and doing something powerful.  Then Charles invited youth who are casing after and love worldly music and parties to come and repent and give themselves to Jesus.  Suddenly, a whole bunch of youth came forward and confessed their sins to God.  Now there was weeping, bowing and laying on the ground, repenting and rejecting...all while the rest of us worshiped in the presence of God.  There was power.  There was a holiness.  It was awesome.  I stood there praising God for what He was doing in the lives of these youth.

It reminded me of another power time with youth when God's Spirit fell on us and we were never the same again.  Probably nineteen years ago in New Orleans in a remote fishing village with the youth from Roosevelt Park Church we experienced the presence of God.  You don't forget.

We all prayed over the youth who were before the Lord in repentance and those coming back to God in truth.  It is hard to know how to end a time so amazing.  Do you end?  We allowed those who needed more time to take their time, others wanted to talk to someone, and others began playing games again.  One boy shared with us with tears how he wants to walk with Christ even though it is hard.  Another boy said he had been deceiving God and was having a hard time receiving forgiveness.  Josh assured him he wasn't deceiving God but himself and that God not only forgave him but he cleansed him too.  One of the girls was praying for her family to be in Christ.  Another girl is struggling with unbelieving parents who can lead her to wrong things.  God was working in them.

Then the New Year came and we all shouted, beat on the drums and jeri cans, and shouted some was great!  They have so much excitement.  I loved it.  Then they began to worship again with even more joy than ever!  An hour of praise!  There was enthusiastic singing, dancing, cheering and jumping.  The youth here amaze me sometimes.  They choose to worship instead of play a game or whatever.  I stood in awe of God.  There we were under the canopy of a billion stars from horizon to horizon praising the creator of them all.  He was with us and I will never forget the beauty of that moment.

I am sure the youth could have and maybe wanted to go all night long, but Pastor Charles gave us a last worship song and told the youth to go home and rest for church tomorrow.  It was hard to depart from each other after a night like that.  He made sure all the girls walked home with their brothers and told them all to go straight home.

It was hard for me to fall asleep with my heart so full.  My body ached but my heart was thanksful.  It was the best New Years Eve I have ever had!  There is no comparison.  Worldly, meaningless, empty pleasures cannot come close to the joy of the Lord!  To His power and holiness.  When God works in someones life there is no greater joy.  To be in His presence with fellow believers and worship Him is the best.  I thank God for allowing us see Him at work and for spending New Years Eve with us!

I just want to add a little about New Years Day.  People here don't communicate much or share.  Partly a language barrier but mostly cultural.  Anyways, it can frustrate me a communicator and lover of sharing what God has done (it's Biblical).  So not hearing the youth share on New Years or parents talking to their kids about what happened was a bit hard for me.  However, it didn't stop me from giving God glory and from talking to the youth about what God did.  We did have a praised filled worship at church and a time of prayer for thanks for 2018 and praying for 2019.  What a great way to start the new year.  After church we ate (at least those who had given toward food) and then played volleyball again.  It was fun as ever to see leaders and parents play against the youth and kids!  We had one interruption of a big snake that everyone ran to kill.  Yuck!  So thankful for brave people who know what to do.

We all stayed until dark playing and being together.  At the end of the day they met to thank everyone and account for the money given and food bought.  They decided to give the left over money to a family in need.  In discussing it was great to hear how much people loved these times together (Christmas and New Years) and the love and unity it brought.  They really seemed to appreciate that we stayed with them the whole time - one of them.  And someone requested we play volleyball every week not just a couple times a year.  So thankful we all enjoying being together!

Monday, January 7, 2019

December Celebrations!

Dec. 15 - my 40th birthday- started out normal.  My family was making me feel loved but I had a mixture of emotions - I did not want a crazy 40th anything but I also wanted to celebrate and not forget it.  We had youth group in the afternoon and it was a visiting day.  So I went with my group to visit Tata Louis.  I didn't realize anything...until I got home.

My group was the first one back from visiting and as we approached the house I could see that Josh had planned a birthday party for me!  I was so excited.  It was perfect.  All our neighbors and friends from the village here to celebrate my 40th with me!

My neighbors and cooks for the party.  I did wonder why I smelled garlic and such from Winnie's house.  My family just said they didn't know.  They were too happy I was surprised. 

My favorite Obule cooks.

Birthday meal - the youth served for us.

Josh told everyone that Proverbs asks a wife of noble character who can find?  He said he believes he has found her.

I told everyone I was so happy that I could celebrate my birthday with all of them.  They love that I have turned 40 and have been blessed with so many years.  I love that they celebrate growing older and the blessing it is!

I don't think I have ever been surprised by anything - I didn't think I even liked surprise.  I like to plan and anticipate.  Josh has never surprised me like this.  I was impressed that he planned and did it all in a week.  It was pretty good that everyone kept it from me.

 In case you are wondering I ate pasted meat and atop for my birthday (meat in a peanut butter sauce and well atop - can't explain).

So thankful for my family that loves me.

Happy 40th Birthday to me!
I felt very loved and appreciated by everyone.  I praise God people feel loved by me and can see it is God's love in me.

We then had our annual conference for UCFM (Uganda Christian Fellowship Mission) - the church we are a part of.
For three days we came together to worship, teaching, and fellowship.  The theme was "Come and see - what the Lord has done." from the shepherds in Luke 2.

What made the conference so great was that we could all be there as a family and all enjoy it.
We did some school in the morning then spent the rest of the day at church (like seven to nine hours).
The youth were very active in the conference.  They did their dance, taught the children and helped with worship and cooking.  I was very proud of them.

It was a very strange conference weather wise.  Usually it is very hot and dry, but this year we had three days of rain!  I mean all day and heavy rain which hardly ever happens.  We were all cold and there was mud everywhere.  I enjoyed it - not the mud but pretending it was a snow day and not sweating.  Luka was sure he could see his breath one night.  It was 68 degrees but it really is cold when you start about 30 degrees higher.

Children's teaching
Children saying their verse and singing

Cleaning lunch dishes

So thankful for a church we are apart of and grow in Christ with.

I love the season of Christmas.  Everyday should be filled with Christmas - the sights, sounds and smells!  Christmas in the village is one day, so I like filling my house with Christmas.  We enjoyed making cookies and other treats, Christmas crafts, having people over, and watching Christmas movies.  It is the season I love not just the day.
We went Christmas shopping in Soroti.  Luka went with Josh and counted down for two weeks.  He was so excited to buy his gifts for his family with his own money.  The girls and I went together one afternoon and had fun being creative fining   gifts in Soroti.  It is about being together.  We even found a Santa at the grocery store!
I went to our local market a couple times.  I found it to be like my Christmas market.  The one time there was a bass band playing for another event but I enjoyed it while shopping.  The market is busy with people buying Christmas clothes and food so it fits for Christmas.  But the heat I could do without.
I had my annual Christmas Tea with the ladies. 

And we had a night of worship with Christmas carols.

Christmas Eve we went for breakfast in town with Grandpa &Grandma who came to spend Christmas with us.

Christmas Eve appetizers before presents - Luka could hardly stand the wait!

G&G's first Ugandan Christmas

Christmas family photo - can we do presents now!?!

I love seeing the joy of kids at Christmas!  Our kids are thankful for the simplest presents.

Achia loved her new shaker!

Grace was so excited to give her present to Grandpa.
"Getting older just means getting better unless you are a banana."

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day!
A big day celebrating at church.  Grace's cakes for her group.

Luka loved having Grandpa for Christmas.  He got a matching hat with Grandpas for Christmas.

Christmas time!

Emalai doing bubbles with her friends before church.

The service was full of joy and the meaning of Christmas.
The youth did their dance to "And He Shall Reign".

We did our dance to "Noel"

There were three groups assigned to do a part of the Christmas story.
A Christmas feast - rice, beef, turkey, pork and cabbage.

After eating we got out the volleyball net.  We stared out youth against the adults.  It was great to so see the pastors, dads, and moms having so much fun with their kids.  Everyone loved it.

Josh went and got everyone sodas after volleyball.  We all stayed til dark enjoying the day.  I believe we were at church ten hours.  Everyone liked being together so much they had a meeting at the end of the day and decided to do it all again on New Years.  So thankful we love being with our church family - who are our family especially at the holidays.

We celebrated Musa's birthday the day after Christmas at their house.  We brought and cake and decided to celebrate Musa's and Malai's together.
Dec. 27th Emalai turned 6!
We went swimming in the afternoon to celebrate.

Whoops!  Malai's cake slid off the plate when we were taking a picture!

She was so excited about her birthday and everything we said to her in her cards.

Happy Birthday Emalai!
We are blessed to have you in our family.  You bring joy, imagination, laughter, love, dance, singing and simplicity into our home.  This year you accepted Jesus in your heart and we rejoice with all of Heaven.  We love you and God does too!