Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this : to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Monday, December 31, 2007

More stories about the holidays…

I didn’t mention anything in the last update about the awesome family trip that we took to Kenya. A week before Christmas 10 of us traveled across the Malaba border into new territory for me, Kenya. After stopping at the border to get a one time visa we were off. I was surprised that Mbale is only about an hour and fifteen minute drive from the border. The first main difference I noticed in Kenya was that they required everyone to wear a seatbelt. The second main difference I noticed is that they have police checks what seemed like every 50 miles. Sometimes they would flag you down, glance inside, and send you off, but other times they would ask all sorts of seemingly ridiculous questions (for example: even though we have Ugandan license plates we were often asked, “Where are you from?”) Maybe it was for protection but maybe the questioning was a slight power trip. All in all we had no trouble and were freed to pass the road blocks.

In Kenya we were headed to Nakuru, but in order to get there we had to pass through the East African Rift Valley. At the beginning of the drive it was really beautiful. The land was lush and green and we were driving though the mountains so there were beautiful areas of overlooking into the valley. But then we got into the actual rift of the valley. I don’t know exactly what the definition of “rift” is, but maybe it means dry, dead, and deserted. Actually there were people living in this area but I have never seen a place so dry. The only source of food I saw were goats and honey, in which it seemed at every road hump along the way there was a woman waiting at a stand hoping you would by from her. Realizing that people cannot survive on honey and goats alone, curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask what these people eat. Mama said that they sell the honey and sometimes their goats and travel to the nearest town to buy other types of food. I will tell you that the life of survival that he people in the Rift Valley do is rough and seemed to be simply survival.

As we got closer to Nakuru the sight of green trees became more frequent again. We arrived in the evening and to my surprise it was cold. Very cold. Maybe very cold is a slight exaggeration because it was realistically about 50 degrees, but remember that it has only been getting hotter here, so I have not tasted winter weather this Dec. We stayed at Pastor’s brother’s house. This couple is very very nice. We all really enjoyed there place. We also got to visit the hospital in which both of the work at. He is a doctor and she is the head nurse there.

The next morning we headed to Nakuru National Park. As you drive into the park you are moving towards as sea of pink. FLAMINGOS! Wow. There were thousands of them and I learned that not all flamingos are pink. We also were able to see monkeys, baboons, zebra, rhinos, huge storks, wildebeest, and gemsbok. Midway through our day we stopped at a scenic overlook in which you are allowed to get out and move around or have a picnic. Well, the baboons have learned that people come with food to this spot, so as we were taking pictures in a gazebo that overlooks the park, a huge baboon sneaks up from the side of the cliff and jumps over the wall into the gazebo. As you can imagine there were screams and we were all running. Well, little did we know that this guy would come for food. As we were running he kept following us until Mama shouted, “Give him the peanuts’. So we threw them and he stopped his chase. It was quite thrilling to be chased by this guy and I have never jumped into a van a shut the door so quickly.

The next day we took a drive back into the Rift Valley to Lake Bogoria National Park. Here we also saw flamingos and zebra, but the main attraction was the hot springs. Some areas had water shooting out of the rocks like geysers and some areas were just bubbling water. There were even spots that the ground was beginning to deteriorate and so water was seeping up and creating boiling mud holes. I was curious, along with everyone else, so I did attempt to touch the water, despite the warning signs, and it was boiling. No one fell in and so we headed back out to do some shopping in town for crafts and supermarket things because they have much bigger supermarkets than in Mbale.

We left Nakuru very early and spent half the day traveling back. Minor mishap of a leaking tire, but Praise the Lord for the driver’s awareness and for God’s traveling mercies to get us to and from Kenya. Maybe I will get to go to the beach in Kenya next time?

The youth group at church went to a sister church to visit last week. It was such a blessing to my heart and to the people at that church. The church is up the mountain, about 20 min outside Mbale town. Well, there was no church sign on the windy mountain road, so we passed it and proceeded up the mountain, only to realize we had gone way too far. But I had never been up the mountain so I was absorbing everything I could see. Having grown up in Austin, I can’t imagine life in which everything you need to sustain yourself you grow, care for, or fetch. For example, the people on the mountain eat from their gardens and have assembled as sort of tube system to collect the small water streams from the mountain and use the tube to run the water into a small pool. Or they can place their jerrycan under the tube and the water drains right in. Maybe this is too much detail, but I was really fascinated at how clever this was. It saves time, assures water is there, and gives clean water (more so than the boreholes).

Back to the church visit. Once we found our way by stopping 4 times to ask the locals, we reached the church and were very warmly welcomed by the pastor and some of the youth. The church was decorated so beautifully for our visit, with strings hung in every direction and balloons and flowers hanging from the stings. During the service they had each of us stand and introduce ourselves and ALL of the elders and deacons of the church gave us a public greeting and welcome. The value of the church body, as a whole of believers, was very evident here. The Lord does not desire for us to work alone, but to fellowship and be encouraged, taught, corrected, and loved by one another. And in return, as with most spiritual things, you too are also blessed. Every member of the body of Christ needs each other. We cannot do it alone and were not meant to; that is why God gave different gifts to different people. So just as our visit encouraged this church, I too was (and am) reminded of how encouraged I am by you. Yes, you, if you are reading this, especially my brothers and sisters who are standing beside me in prayer and financial support. Thank you because I cannot be here without you. There are many daily details of life that happen that I see the Lord’s hand in teaching or protecting and I know that it is by His grace and that there are people back home who are lifting me and particular situations up in prayer. How sweet it is to partner together and all walk obediently in whatever God has called us to. I pray that we would all walk in excellence, and not just routine.

So, thank you again for reading and keeping me updated on your life. I want to wish you a very Happy New Year. I will have begun 2008 nine hours before most of you, so I don’t think I will be watching and counting down with those in Time Square, but I do have plans to see fireworks at a nearby hotel and I hear there is going to be dancing (and I really like to dance!), so it should be fun.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I know that Christmas was 2 days ago, but here it seems that the holiday season extends the whole week between Christmas and New Years. Things in town are a bit slower and families are still away in the villages visiting relatives. Even on the radio right now is “Oh little town of Bethlehem”.

Christmas seemed to have snuck up on me. Really it has been a great lesson as to how much I personally have infiltrated the true meaning of Christmas with outside things, such as consumerism, tradition, and external stimuli (ex. Cold weather, music, decorations, parties). So, I knew before coming to Uganda that this Christmas would be different and draw me back to the real meaning of Christmas, rather than the traditions that I place on Christmas. And that it did. Yes, we had a Christmas tree, but it was not big or the focal point of the living room. And there were never any presents under the tree. Here they give big “family gifts” throughout the weeks before Christmas. So, 2 weeks before Christmas Mama gave all of us girls a new top and some pajamas. It was nice that the big thing that is looked forward to on Christmas morning was going to church, rather than opening presents. We woke up Christmas morning and got dressed up, looking “smart,” for church. It seems that dressing up in new clothes for Christmas service is the big deal around here. All the women in church were wearing the traditional “gomas” and had their hair styled in the salon the day before. Little kids were wearing little suits, so cute.

I was really blessed by the service. The first hour of church they gave opportunity for people to stand up and share a testimony of what the Lord has done in their lives in the past year. Many stood with stories of financial struggle and God’s provision, or of health, or one story of God being a God of justice because the person who was stealing a goat every Sunday morning when this woman went to church was caught for another crime. But there were also stories that were nothing less than a miracle of God. One woman stood with her son and told how the son has lost his respiratory ability through his nose and mouth. The local hospital was not able to manage this case, so sent the boy and the mother to another town. While on the bus on route, the boy collapsed but was revived. At the hospital, the doctors counted this boy as dead, but were able to put a tube in his throat, which is what he now breaths through. The changing of the tube is a very delicate situation that could easily end in death if something goes wrong. I know this is a sad story, and not finished yet because the boy still needs operation and the husband is also sick, BUT I tell you this to proclaim the goodness and peace of the Lord. I wish you could have seen the joy, despite circumstances, that was in this woman’s face. Truly her faith and hope lies in the LIVING God and she stood up, unmovable in her belief that the Lord is healing her son and her husband. God truly does grant the faithful peace that passes ALL understanding.

Time is short now. So I will finish later. But the rest of Christmas day was filled with food (yes I had turkey, but more in the form of a soup to put over the bananas) and the night we went to a concert of local Luganda artists. Everyone seemed to really have enjoyed this and there were tons of people at the concert.

Friday, December 14, 2007

holidays are here

Holidays are here.

Hello there. Well, as you are embracing the colder weather and enjoying the festive season with dreams of snow, drinking hot chocolate, and seeing all sorts of Christmas lights and decorations, Uganda is getting hotter by the day. It is really different because it does not feel like Christmas at all, but rather summer. I have started listening to Christmas music so maybe by the time the 25th reaches, it will seem. But overall, my heart was prepared knowing that this Christmas would be different. It was placed on my heart that this season will really be rooted in the true meaning, rather than the traditions that we keep (that I so greatly love). But I think we will be setting up a tree on Sat.

Friday was the last day of school for the kids until the beginning of Feb. The last week I got to meet Mr. Rob, the president of GICF, for the first time and really enjoyed getting to chat with him and see him interact with the kids and the staff. It was also exciting to hear more details and vision casting of what is in store for LCH, God willing. Hopefully in Jan we will be adding 20 new kids. Wow. That will mean that there will be 90 kids who now have a hope that was not there before in the previous lifestyle.

Each day my little “apartment” is feeling more and more like home. Although things take a while to get done with “African time” but all the little things I was hoping for (such as a screen door to keep out mosquitoes) are coming about. Also, I now have a string running across one wall in my room that I am able to hang photos and paintings with clothes pins. Yes it is kind of like an elementary classroom, but much better than a bare wall that felt like a hospital room.

Speaking of hospitals, 2 weeks ago I went to the main hospital of Mbale to visit one of the house mothers who was having a small procedure done. Wow, what an eye opener. First off, hospitals in the states are very closed in a sterile, whereas here the only areas enclosed are the actual wards that are holding people. So, as you pass on the sidewalks you see tons of people sitting, laying on mats, cooking food on a charcoal stove, bathing their babies in basins. It was as if they had temporarily moved into the hospital grounds. I didn’t exactly understand why there were so many people “living life” on the sidewalks until I reached the room in which Auntie Nusula was staying. Instead of nurses who attend to the needs of the patients, every patient has about 2 attendees. These attendees get food, get water, help move the patient to the bathroom, keep the patients belongings while they might be in the “operation theatre”, and sleep there with the patient in case there are any needs in the night. The room she was staying in was a special room, in which extra money was paid, but was shared by 2 other patients and their attendee. Down the hallway and as I looked in the windows of the other wards it was truly like you would see in an old-time war movie or a much more rustic hospital. People were in beds in the hallway, or in beds lined up one after another. There was no such thing as a private room here. You also saw people walking down the hallways with their heads bandaged and only their attendee helping them. At one point, we were sitting with Auntie, her IV way past due to be changed or switched off, and the nurse walked in. She informed us that she was the only nurse attending to the whole ward of patience. Since we did not have the proper syringe (because I think the patient was responsible for acquiring most supplies on their own) then she would instruct us as to how to change and begin running a new IV. I think she might have seen my eyes get really big in surprise and she proceeded to say, “When you are here, everyone is a nurse.” Yikes is all I thought in my head. So, temporarily I thought that my next endeavor might be to become a nurse, but that thought will have to wait for now and be prayed over a lot more.

Although this experience at the hospital might seem like merely a dose of reality, it was also very challenging in regard to loving and taking care of each other. Family and friendship take priority over your schedule or plans. The attendees slept in the same twin bed as the patient, or on the ground below the bed. Hello!! Many of us have a difficult time even making it to the hospital to visit a patient for 30 min, much less sleep there! I appreciate that there is family and extended family that comes as priority here. They take care of one another and live very communally, whether blood family, church family, or village family. I am challenged to realize how much of my time is selfishly spent rather than realizing the real importance of life in relationships. God created family for a reason. I pray that I will always remain mindful of this lesson I learned at the hospital.

Through a random chain of events in my first attempt to open a bank account (unsuccessfully), I was able to meet a group of Americans who are living in Mbale. I went to get photos for the bank, in which I was instructed NOT to smile, ha. I got to talking with the owner of the photo shop and she told me about the American community that lives here. We exchanged numbers and I told her I might be too shy to call, so I would appreciate her to call me when something is going on. Sure enough, I met about 12 Americans, ranging from families to people my age doing a 2 year internship. We dipped cookies and nuts into chocolate, listened to Christmas carols, and chatted. I praise the Lord for His divine appointments. Nothing is a coincidence in this life. To meet this group is an answer to prayers. They all knew each other because all but 2 of them work together with the same ministry, so I was a little shy and there was quite a bit of small talk, but I will continue to seek boldness in the Lord to get out of my comfort zone and build relationships with them. The only disappointing part is that the 3 girls who seemed my age left this week to go back to the states until May. But God knows all the desires of my heart and has been SO SO faithful thus far.

I was really blessed last week. One of the staff members at LCH had invited some staff to visit him at his home for lunch. Seeing as the children’s home is 30 min outside of town, his home was definitely in the village. I felt so honored when he asked me to come and meet his family. In all honesty, I feel that some people avoid inviting me to do some things because I am Muzungu and not used to the Ugandan way. I have had people ask Mama, “What do we do for the Muzungu? What does she eat? How do we serve her food?” when I have gone to visit. So, to be invited to Mike’s home was an honor. We walked about 20 min from the children’s home, down a dirt path. As we passed by houses he told us that this was were his clan’s property begins. We passed by relatives, greeting them. Then we reached his home. It was a square shaped building, all made from mud, with 2 rooms inside. The sitting area was very nice and clean (especially considering that the walls and floor were made from dried mud). There was a couch and chairs just like the ones in my room here and there were photos pinned up on the walls. And then came the feast. I was so surprised, as were the others who came with me. We had turkey, chicken, pork, matoke (the staple food of Uganda that is like plantains), millet bread, rice, soup (of course) and soda. It was when the food arrived that I realized what an honor it was to be sitting in that house among these people. This was a big deal and a way for him to honor his friends. We got to meet Mike’s wife, kids, mother, and father. I truly will not forget that day.

So, now that Holidays are here, I get to go to LCH and play with the kids. I do hope to meet with 4 of the P4 students for about 30 min each time I am there in order to help catch them up with how to read so they can be at the same level with the rest of their class. I am also eager because I think next week the family (with me) is taking a trip to Nakuru, a national park in Kenya. This will be a very wonderful blessing if it gets to happen and a good time to spend with Pastor and Mama before they leave the day after Christmas to fly to the States for their 2 ½ month visit for church plant planning.

Thanks for your continued prayers. I love hearing from you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Queen has come and Turkey was eaten.

(another very long update, sorry. Sometimes I am busy, sometimes I am processing, most the time power is not there or internet is acting funny- thanks for bearing with me and thanks for being a part of my life although I am half a world away)

That is right. The Queen of England has come and gone for the 2007 CHOGM meeting here in Uganda. It was the much awaited event for the past 2 years. Kampala (the capital) has been receiving improvements in the masses to be the host for all the 54 Common Wealth Heads of State from all over the world. Although not directly affected by this event, seeing as I did not get to meet the queen or benefit from the repairs and improvements because Mbale s 4 hours from Kampala… it was fun to get to watch the Queen’s arrival on TV and see all the traditional dancing and singing that was presented by various groups representing various areas of the country. And we did have a 2 day- National holiday. So that made for a long weekend. It was also funny to walk around town because people would greet, “Hello, CHOGM!” or “CHOGM, we go?” from the bicycle men.

Also, CHOGM allowed for Thanksgiving day to be a holiday for me. As I woke up Thursday morning I had no intentions to try to make a Thanksgiving meal. I had already counted the mouth-watering feast as loss (Dad, I miss your cooking). But I mentioned to Mama that today was thanksgiving and she said, “Good. We shall have the meal.” Conveniently, we had two live turkeys in our courtyard that had been given as gifts to Pastor and Mama. So, Thanksgiving began with the slaughtering and plucking of a turkey (I did not do it myself but I did watch with a slightly disgusted face). I planned the menu, went shopping at the market, and began to prepare the Ogenga family’s first Thanksgiving meal. I was a little worried because :
1. Dad always plans the menu about 3 months in advance, does the shopping 2 weeks in advance, and starts the turkey and stuffing at least 2 days before. So I wasn’t sure that I could pull everything together in 6 hours.
2. Power is never reliable. Although you might have power for a week, it always seems that just when you really need it, it will check. And seeing as I had a turkey to cook in the oven, I needed power to remain.

Well, sure enough power did check. So after brainstorming with Mama we decided to wrap the turkey in banana leaves and cook it on a charcoal stove the traditional way. Things are looking good. Until we were cleaning out the charcoal stove and found a mouse in it. Ha. I have never seen Mama screech and run so fast. So, I hear from a little hole in the door, “Pour the paraffin and get the matches.” Sure enough, that little mouse did not make it. So just as we are about to put the turkey, all wrapped up in banana leaves, onto the stove, the power returns. So, with some counsel we unwrap the leaves and put the turkey in the oven. The banana bread was already placed in the dutch oven (a first time experiment, since they had just arrived at the house that day), but unfortunately it burned on the bottom. So, the turkey had some time in the oven, but with an hour remaining to cook, power checked again. Boo! At this point I wasn’t sure what to do because my fears is people getting sick from undercooked meat… so what of my thanksgiving turkey now? And it is not as if we could go without the turkey, especially seeing as most meals in Uganda are served with rice, matoke, and a soup of some sort to pour over and my Thanksgiving meal included NONE of the above. The option of putting the turkey in the pressure cooker remained, but as Mama started cutting the bird, she kept saying, “well, let me taste just one more piece to make sure, sure that it is cooked.” Therefore meaning that it was fine.

It seemed as though the family enjoyed, but from my opinion, having never prepared a Thanksgiving meal myself, it was pretty good. And I was thankful that it all came together and that the meat was cooked.

Here is another random story… Friday night we were playing a game in my room and I hear Mama come to my door and say, “Uh oh, I am in big trouble.” Well, I wasn’t really sure what to think because of all people I am probably the least experienced in any sort of trouble or solution to trouble that could be happening to a Ugandan woman. She continued to explain that she had come from a birthday party for the son of a certain Indian family-friend. The father had personally come to the house to invite Pastor and Mama. But as they arrived to the party, the host asked where the rest of the family was? Apparently this Indian man specifically wanted Pastor, Mama, Glenn, and me to be a guest at the party and requested that Mama come pick up me and Glenn before they would start the party. I think the man saw me in my room the day that he came to personally invite Pastor. So, quickly we got ready and went to the party. Dinner began around 9:30pm and since my tongue has been de-sensitized to spicy foods, the food they served definitely made my lips tingle. The children danced and then played 5 rounds of musical chairs. All in all, I have never been a requested guest at a party, especially to a total stranger.

Daily I have WOW moments (Worthy of Worship), but one moment that was so sweet to my heart was last Friday. In teaching phonics I am basically a tutor for the slower learners in each of the grade levels. So, I was working with 2 boys in P4 who, being realistic cannot read or write at all, due to their backgrounds. We were working of the first 5 most common letters in the alphabet, learning their name, sound, how to write them, and then beginning to hear each of the letter’s sound in a word like “bat”. These boys are bright and were picking things up quickly. At the end of the lesson I gave them a word to spell, thinking that they probably would not be able to decode the word yet. But, to my great surprise, the slowest of the 2 learners was using the exact methods I had taught him to hear each sound in the word. You could see him using his fingers, hearing the sound, and then thinking through what letter makes that sound. I cannot tell you what great joy it brought to my heart. I know that in serving the Lord you don’t always get to see the fruit of your labor but it was such a sweet blessing to instantaneously see the results of what God is using me for. I praise Him for that.

Holidays are here for the girls at home and closely approaching for the children at LCH. God has impressed on my heart the desire to disciple some of the teenage girls in my house and at the church. Please pray for this. Pray for wisdom as to what to teach. Pray for clarity in purpose, vision, understanding for me and the girls. Pray that they would be excited and committed to grow in the Lord as we live life together and study the Word. Pray that cultural barriers would be broken down and pray that they would be open to possibly “new” ways of me doing things or “new” questions that bring out heart issues. Praise God for the refreshment that comes in the Word. This morning I was reading in 2 Peter 1:1-21 and it is very focused as to what I want from this discipleship. Peter is writing to believers, who are already following Christ, but only encouraging them more that we have been given everything we need for life and godliness (1:3) and that there are things to grow in… faith producing moral excellence, producing a better knowledge of God, producing self control, producing patient endurance, producing godliness, producing brotherly love, producing genuine love for everyone (1:6-7). And “the more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8). And that is my heart… that the knowledge we have would not remain simply knowledge but that we would individually and together be productive and useful in your knowledge of Jesus.

Also pray for the children as they are in holidays and school is not occupying them. Pray for their safety around the compound as 70 children are playing.

These kids are my delight and my joy everyday. It is so incredible to have seen the new kids 24 hours after they arrived at LCH and to see them now. God is moving, healing, building, bringing hope, spreading love, and restoring joy. Wow. These kids are so sweet and full of life. They are eager to learn and eager to love. It is my greatest honor that the Lord would place me here and use me to impact the life of these kids. And it is an honor to be impacted and taught by them in return.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Contact info:

Calling from America to Uganda

(Please remember that Uganda is 8 hours ahead of TX, so the best time to call is about 12-2pm TX time)

Natalie Rolfe
c/o Lulwanda Children's Home
P.O. Box 1650
Mbale, Uganda

(postage is about $0.90 or one forever/liberty bell stamp)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Long update on life

Warning: This is very long, I know. And also is somewhat of an update but more journal type entry. So if you don’t mind hearing a more personal side of my thoughts on life then please read ahead…

So, I am glad for batteries and lanterns because it seems that power is on one week, off the next. Which is not really a problem because usually there is enough sunlight to do what you need. But when it comes to the evening things settle down and bed-time comes very early. As I write this though, I realize that I have not felt the full effect of the power outages because I have been going to the gym each day after work. This has been a great relief to feel healthy, think about life, and relieve stress. And at the hotel where the gym is they have a generator, incase the power goes out. So they gym occupies most of my early evenings, I have lights, and a hot shower.

But today I have decided to rest and stay home from after working. I miss the girls. They are really fun and since they are in the middle of final exams, after dinner there is not much time to chat because they are either sleeping or reading for class. So, I think a day of rest in the middle of the week might be something I am more intentional about. Hopefully when the girls begin holidays we will be able to have fun and chat more.

I was amused today to see the processes of the afternoon. Laying on a mat in my sitting room I was able to see a small view of the courtyard. Every minute or so I would see one of the kids run by. There are 5 kids in the compound, about ages 1-6. So, there is always much noise either from the kids having fun or the house maids yelling at them to stop whatever trouble they have gotten into. So, this afternoon was the battle to keep the babies out of the laundry water, dealing with a bathroom “accident” in the middle of the courtyard, kids being disciplined for messing with the shovel and hoe, and Emma squealing and running from Rosie because he knew he was in trouble. It was very amusing to sit on the outskirt and watch.

At the same time, being here reminds me a bit of Tim Team, whereas there are moments you truly have to die to yourself and your desires for silence or alone time. Things are very communal here, much more so than America. The concept of extended family reaches to your neighbors and church members. For example, I was shown a picture this morning of Mama Flower and 3 younger people. I asked who the man was in the picture and she said, my son. Later to explain that it was her youngest brother’s son. I really think that any nieces or nephews are viewed, treated as, and cared for as “own” children. That is good.

But the responsibility held towards extended family can also cause a problem. Those kids who might be living with Aunties are likely there because they have been orphaned. When the family is already too big to adequately feed, adding another kid only brings about more depravity. So, my question is, what is the solution? Kids cannot be left on their own, but going to an already overpopulated family is not a proper solution either. Yes it brings a roof over their head but not adequate food, clothing, attention, an likely not enough money to pay for school fees. Oh Lord, you are the Father to the fatherless and you know the needs of all your children. I trust that you are in control and that you have the future of the orphans in your hands. Lord, I pray that you would provide and that you would impress on more people’s hearts how they can help, no matter their location.

Death is very real here, everyday, well at least it seemed like that last week. Literally every day last week either someone in the Bululelo community, a near relative of one of the staff members, or a personal witness of a death occurred. In the midst of talking with Teacher Favor, she share with me that it seems that the end of the year holds a spirit of death over Uganda. That deaths are many. Wow. What a reality check of the spiritual battle at hand. I am remembering now that I have been given full spiritual armor but have lacked in being intentional to put ALL of it on. Pray with me that I would daily be reminded to fully equip myself.

As I have heard many times, where God is working, the enemy is not happy and tries to divide. After a recent staff meeting I felt overwhelmed to be DAILY mindful to pray for unity. That everyone at LCH would remain one-minded and whole heartedly devoted to the task at hand. As I know all to well, it is very easy to get distracted by the daily tasks and patterns of life, forgetting that there is a greater calling and purpose to the physical work your are doing. My prayer is that all of the staff members would set their minds on things above, not on earthly things and that none of us would conform to the patterns of this world. Specifically, I pray that we would not conform to the patterns of meritocracy in doing things that seem routine. As believers we have been called to strive for Excellency not just accomplishing. Oh Lord, would you stir in the hearts of everyone working at LCH. I pray that we would seek to serve and that the spirit of unity, encouragement, love, and family would be overwhelming to the kids and those who visit.

What an awesome privilege to get to be love to kids who have been chosen by you.
Praise God for the good things that He is doing. There are days that I sit in wonder of how far the new kids have come already. I was able to meet the 25 new kids only 24 hours after they first arrived. To prove my point, there was one girl, Fatuma, who was so so stubborn. It is a common warning/insult to say that someone is acting as a villager, but truly you could tell that Fatuma was from the village. She would not listen to what you say, she would try to take things from your hands or out of your pockets. At one point I was playing games with most of the girls and when I went to break them into groups, the group that got her started grumbling. Of course I stopped them quickly and counseled them that they needed to teach her instead of reject her. But now, she is a great source of joy or my mornings. Every day she comes and greets me and Betty, using proper English, looking smart in her uniform, showing respect by kneeling down, and with a big smile on her snaggle-toothed face. And everyday the conversation between Betty and Fatuma goes like this.
Betty: “Sit down.”
Fatuma: “I am sitting”
Betty: “Stand up”
Fatuma: I am standing.
Betty: Dance
Fatuma: (with a cute little song) “I am dancing, ah, I am dancing, ah”
Oh it is so great. And the kids always say funny things to me, use funny words, or ask me funny questions. I had a kid tell me the other day, “Your shoes are funny”. Another was looking at the freckles on my arm and said, “Auntie Natalie, since you have been in Uganda you have gotten these. Your skin will be like ours soon.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sorry for the delay

SO, I wrote a long entry of sorts last night but did not save it to my memory stick to put it online today. But I wanted to post something so that you know that more information is coming. So, until then (hopefully tomorrow if power permits) then here are a few things not mentioned last night.

I am grateful that God has given me an unexpected kindred spirit in the faith. It is one of the teachers at the school and we don’t have much in common except our love for the Lord and passion to seek and serve Him. I sense that God is starting something big through us and I am excited to partner with her in prayer, daily, over the children at LCH.

I had a really great time with the girls at home last night. They were visit in my room began with studying and ended with playing a question game. It was fun to get to hear each of their perspectives and to laugh with them. Nuruh is taking her final examinations, which seems to be equivalent to the SATs to get into university. So, I have been able to give her encouragement and cheer her on as she spends the next 2 weeks taking cumulative exams over everything she has learned in all of her schooling.

Holidays are going to start soon. I think in 3 weeks. This means that the household will go from 13 to 17. Wow. That is a lot of people. But it also means that there will be many stories told from those away at boarding school and always something going on.

A funny theory that I heard was that the mosquitoes that come to “sing” to you at night are only coming to tell a lullaby. It is the silent ones that carry malaria. I don’t know the truth in that but I try to stay away from them all, none the less.

Much more will come the next time I post. Thank you for staying in touch and praying for me and the kids here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

You can send me mail!!

I wanted everyone to know, despite my scepticism, mail from the US does arrive in Uganda in a timely manner (about 10 days). So, you can send me mail if you so desire. Probably only a letter though because packages are very expensive.

If you want to write me or send a photo of what you have been up to, send it to:

Natalie Rolfe
Lulwanda Children's Home
P.O. Box 1650
Mbale, Uganda

The postage costs about $0.90 or one "forever/liberty bell" stamp.

I will write more this weekend to upload about how life if, but overall, I am still loving it here.

Please pray for unity and oneness to be continued at the children's home and among the staff.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Yes it is true. You can not find ice often in uganda but today it ws in abundance for about 30 min.
The welcoming cake.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Into the groove

Ah, this week I am feeling good. Well i guess since yesterday I am really feeling good about teaching. The last week and the begining of this week I have been trying to organize the small groups for phonics. This has been a bit crazy. Because even in the small groups kids are at a different level and the newer kids are needing to understand my accent. But God is very good and there was a wonderful flow yesterday and I am getting a feel for the different levels of the groups and the individuals in the groups, so I feel very happy about that. The kids are also getting used to the new timetable, since we meet for phonics after lunch, when most of the kids dont return back to school after lunch. So, things are going along well and it was so fun to get to see them excited about learning and having a new or more full understanding of what the sounds and letters are in the alphabet. It is also cool to be teaching phonics because I remember when i was in Namibia, my first time to Africa and i saw a huge problem of 6th and 7th graders who continue to be advanced in grade level but can't read. I remember thinking, "how do you teach an older kid like this how to read?" And now.... da da da da... i am teaching these kids who are slower at picking up reading. Wow.

I am also learining more and more about different cultural things. For example, my current question I am pondering is what makes 2 people officially married? is it a wedding? is it a legal document? or is it and agreement of the family once the man introduces himself to the family of his soon to be wife and they agree. Here in Uganda, it seems that it is the introduction ceremony (and yes they have an actual ceremony with many interesting traditions- I have yet to be to one but I have heard of it). After the introduction ceremony and the family agreeing then there is a waiting time until the man comes and picks up the wife from her fathers home and they are married. But I think things are becoming more common in the town where at least the church has to have an official blessing over the marriage before the couple can move in together. It is just interesting to think of. In America, how many traditions do we follow that have been created for the sake of tradition? But they are fun. Like wedding receptions with a dance party.., those are my favorite :). But that is my random thought.

Some have asked about a phone number and I do NOT have one yet but I will get that out once I do have one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

is it cold enough for hail here?

Well, it has been a while because power has "checked" for a week since the hail storm. Hail? yes that is right. and it was big hail, about nickle size and a lot of it. the ground was covered.

So, after my welcome cake I went to teach P4 and as i was teaching the rain started. This is common. But then i started hearing little, "ding, ding" on the tin roof and so i look out the window and sure enough there was hail coming from the sky. Since this is Uganda and we are right on the equator I figured that the kids had never seen hail before, so as a good teacher, I ceased the opportunity for learning (not playing) and let them go outside and gather some. Ha ha it was really so so funny. They would run up to me with a handful of hail in their mouth and shaking their hands to keep from frost bite and tell me, "Auntie, i have never in my life seen this ice from the sky." It was awesome. they were so excited. So i called them back in right in time because then the storm picked up and it was coming down in powerful sheets of ice and rain. Wow. In all honesty it was the most hail i have seen in one storm.

So after the main of it, we went outside again and gathered more. Then we were called to the main building where they were doing clean up of all the hail on the sidewalks. The kids had such fun getting to experience this. There was very little damage (surprisingly) at the home but the little school behind us was destroyed. it was not a structure, but more like logs stood up and covered with grass for a roof. so there were no walls, but the village kids are out a school building now. sad.

Other than that, things are still going well. I will post pictures once i have moved into my new room and can find the cord for my camera. My room is shaping up very very nicely. it is really a great place and i think i will be moving in this week. Also, i cooked chicken vegitable soup for the family on Sat. We spent half of the day walking to the market, finding what we need, and walking back. I was nervious as to whether they would like it, since it is not anythign they had had before. Mind you, it is soup, but most of them put the soup on the plate and struggled to not have the juices spill. What can i say? I had bowls sitting out there. Maybe next time i will be more specific with instructions on how to eat. But they did seem to like it.

That is it for now. I have started teaching and am organizing small groups of kids to be more specific in meeting their needs for learning how to read. Hopefully they will get used to the new system soon and it will flow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A sweet welcome... literally

Aw, so fun. Today at break time Edward called me over and on the table was a cake that said, "Natalie welcome to LCH". All the kids were very excited to see that they were going to get some cake today. Then, for the first slice of the cake I had about 20 little hands on top of mine to help me slice the cake with the knife.

I first have to let you know about the cake. It is definitely not like the cakes in America. It is a much more dry and not as sweet. It is made from scratch and they love to put ribbon borders around the edge. Sometimes it has fruit and always a little cinnamon taste.

Secondly, when you have a celebration that calls for cake, there are different traditions here. In America, the guest of honor would be served the first piece and then get to enjoy. But here the guest of honor is the one to serve the cake to everyone. SO, i had a platter and had hundreds of eager hands reaching up to receive a piece and saying, "Auntie, me. Auntie, me." It really warmed my heart. THen I was able to serve cake to the staff. It was truely a special treat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Oct 23, 2007

Overwhelmingly I say that God is good. I am honestly surprised as to how much God had prepared my heart to be back here. In all honesty, I have been at peace since I left the states and the moment that I stepped out of the airplane in Entebbe I had the feeling, “Ah, I am back at home.” Uganda, as with many places now has become a place I feel comfortable in and able to my myself freely.
On the plane ride from Amsterdam to Entebbe there was a lady across the isle from me who I noticed had her Bible. During my ease dropping, I heard the Ugandan next to her say, “when we all reach heaven we will be remaining with our same people. Each tribe or group will stay together and not be with the others.” This opened the door for her to spend about an hour sharing the gospel and answering some questions. You might wonder why I am recalling this, but there were a few things that I learned from getting to just observe and overhear this conversation.
1) She had great gentleness and kept a casual tone. She was free in asking him questions about what he thought. I realized that if I were in her shoes I would have become too defensively toned. She spoke the truth in love by sticking to the truth but not acting as an enforcer or pusher.
2) There are questions that non-believers have that I never would have thought of. For example, one of the questions the Ugandan asked was, “If God is the Father in heaven, and the Father of everyone, then why are there so many different colors of people?” His reasoning was therefore that there must be a different God to serve each color (race).
3) It was interesting and encouraging to just have the role of praying for her as she shared truth with this man. She had no idea and my heart was blessed by it.

As we were leaving the plane, I said something to her about the conversation that she had. She is in Uganda because her and her church just started and orphanage in Jinja. It sounds much like LCH, so I gave her an open invitation to come and visit if she ever makes it to Mbale. It is very encouraging to know that God has not abandoned the thousands of orphans that live here, but it continually impressing on people’s heart how they can help.

Praise the Lord that all of my luggage arrived and I was greeted with warm hugs and greetings. We spent the next morning shopping in Kampala and then headed for Mbale. As I walked into the compound gate I found the little kids, Shakira, Jonathan, and Nicholas what ran up and hugged me shouting, “Na-talie, Na-talie!”

Today I spent resting, making sure that my body is recuperated from any jet lag and I hear that the kids are very eager to be reunited, as am I. My new room in the house is still in the finishing processes, but it is AWESOME. The way things worked out with extending a room to add a bathroom, the bathroom has turned out HUGE (it is probably bigger than the room I will sleep in and was definitely unexpected). Really, I feel quite spoiled. I have already had a great time getting to be with the girls in my house (Phoebe, Millicent, Nuruh). They have been busy catching me up on the last 3 months of life.

So things are very good here. I will be “shifting” (meaning moving) to my new room in the next couple days. The girls are very excited about this because they plan to visit and hang out there all the time. This is what I hope.

Thank you for your prayers for travel. And thanks for enduring this long note.

In Route

In route… Oct 20, 2007

Well I am sitting in the middle of the Detroit airport. This is definitely a unique place. Walking from my landed plane to the international terminal I came down into flashing lights and some “earthy” music I think it was a ploy to distract you from the ¼ mile walk you had. But it was nice. You enter into a tunnel of sorts and there are “light panels” on the side, next to the moving sidewalk. As the music plays the lights correspond. It was pretty neat but I will admit that I felt in the middle of a scene from the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.

So, I had this question all yesterday… how are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? And my answer yesterday was that I was feeling crazy in the sense that I could not define my emotions. It was a mix of everything and I was not sure if I was ready or in denial that I was leaving the next morning for another country, for a year.

Well, as I woke up this morning (the early 5:20am alarm- enough for the snooze to be hit twice before I actually had to get up) the thought crossed my mind… “Well Lord, this is the beginning of my life dream.” And then I was gently reminded that this is not the beginning. The beginning happened many years ago and this is merely a continuation of trusting and following an Awesome God with an Awesome plan who awesomely cares about ME.

I will admit that as I said goodbye one last time to my parents and Jac, I had the quiver lip walking down the hallway of the Austin airport. Tears filled my eyes, but overwhelmingly I felt at peace. And since then I have been excited and peaceful. I can’t wait to see those kids. I am eager to see how God will use me. I anticipate trials and times of feeling homesick, but I rest in the undeniable evidence that God has placed me here at this specific time for this specific purpose. Praise God that He is completely trustworthy.

So, I am about to venture again around the airport. Maybe I can find some ice cream for one last time. It’s ok, I am moving to Africa for a year (ha, this has been my excuse for ice cream almost every day this week. What can I say, I really like ice cream).

And Praise the Lord that all 5 of my checked pieces of luggage were under the weight!! I was really worried about them because they were very close to the limit. I have way too much stuff but hopefully it will all be used. You never know what you can’t get there.

So thank you for your prayers. When you read this I will be somewhat settled in and beginning my new season of life as a teacher. And- some have asked if it is too late to send in support money. The answer is NO. Please send it in (to Midland Bible Church) because I am still in need.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

(sigh)-- packing is a complicated issue

Well, I think I am about packed. I already packed last week but of course the job is never finished until it is time to run out the door. but I packed again today and it is a very tricky matter. You have to fit everything. And then you have to worry how much things are weighing. And so luckily i borrowed a scale. but then you weigh it and although i had a lot of space still, it weighed too much. so you have to shuffle things and do some more shuffling and then weigh it again. So, hopefully the airport scales take the lighter weight of things because i am right on the max for my suitcases. so i have cleverly thought what simple item i can take out and shove into my carryon if need be. denim weighs a lot so that is my choice.

And i feel i have nervious energy. Not that i have too much to do still, but i find myself feeling a little frantic about feeling like i should be doing something. And I can hear many friends voices telling me, "Just be still and relax." But since i am feeling a little frantic it is too hard to just sit still. For example, i tried to take a nap today but my mind kept racing through a million thoughts so i ended up getting up early from my "nap" that didn't involve any sleep. But really it is not that i feel nervious- exactly, but also excited and expectant and ancy. So, i guess I will just keep taking deep breaths and trusting God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Waa HOO!!

Wow. I can't tell you how excited I am. God is an AWESOME provider. I got an update on my current funds for fundraising and haven't stopped dancing around the house since. I still have a long way to go, but Wow. He provides and uses the whole body of Christ to do so because we can't do it alone. And, there seems to continue to be things in my proposed budget that are less expensive than planned for... for example insurance!! So, I will continue to praise Him as I see Him moving.

And there are less than 2 weeks until I arrive in Uganda. Crazy. I have been packing and gathering and trying to fully embrace that i am leaving so soon. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Trying things out

This is random.. I am just seeing what I can do so I can be ready to post great photos of the sweet kids at LCH. This is from the river run we did at Lake Buchanan in Aug.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

God is at work

WOW!! It is so awesome to be absorbed in the middle of the Lord at work. Truly I feel like this whole thing has been just been a silver platter handed to me and He keeps placing things on the platter. I hope that makes sense. So, if I will boast, let me boast in the LORD....

I have had about 2 months at home, and honestly, there have been moments when I have become completely stir-crazy. So, I have done a lot of searching on craigslist to find babysitting jobs, or this and that... something to benefit someone else and hopefully make a little bit of money. It has been awesome who God has brought into my path. I was the first ever babysitter for these 2 babys and that was a God thing for the parents because they needed someone quickly and didn't have time to interview me, so good thing I was not a crazy person.

I also met a great believing lady who had a garage sale in my benefit. It was awesome to spend time with her and we made some money for my trip. In the mean time, another lady came to the garage sale and we happened to ask if she was looking for anything specific, and we happened to say that this was a benefit garage sale. She asked if I was a believer and said that her and her husband would love to help support me. AND this is not the second random connection that God has brought into my path.

Another boast... God's timing is so so perfect. I was hoping to go to Midland before I left and had planned a weekend. But then I talked with Mary, the lady who brought the phonics program to LCH this summer and she was doing a training in Odessa and wanted me to come. Timing, flights, training, and friends all worked out for me to do both in the same week. Wow. How cool. It was such a blessing to get to talk with Mary about LCH and the school there and to see her heartbeat in increasing the education. How great that the whole body needs each other and God gives us all different gifts and passions. Also, I wasn't sure if I would get to see my dear brother Andrew and although he has never been to Midland, he was passing through to have lunch with a friend on his way home to Abilene and I got to see him. Plus the blessing of staying with the Barkers, my second home here and having people freely want to help me and my trip, like Julie taking me shopping for toiletries. God is good.

And then the timing of God in that Monica's car broke and I am out of town this week so she is not caught in a bind without a car for work and school. He takes care of us.

There are many other great things and my heart has been truly refreshed and renewed to return to Uganda. I am so excited to get to teach the kids phonics and live life with these beautiful friends of mine.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A one way ticket to Uganda

The date has been set and honestly it is kind-of unreal. October 20 I will be flying out. There were waves of emotions today from excited, to relieved, to nervious, to calm, and all in between. Praise God that He is the keeper of all emotions and that this is His plan and His timing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And the ball is rolling again...

Well, first off I think I am the only one who has visited my site, but hopefully that will change when I make people aware that it is here. I still want to document the work that God is doing so that all boasts can go to Him. I have been home for over a month now and have been feeling a little stir crazy and honestly fighting frustration daily. Since I got the invite from GICF I felt like all doors have been opened and all permissions have been granted, but nothing was happening. With the practical steps of getting me to Uganda, there was no movement. Well again, as always, God continues to teach me to trust and wait (sometimes it is forcefully). He is faithful and He works in His timing. Well, I talked with Mr. Bobo tonight and got some great answers to my MANY questions. Things are a go and hopefully I will have a flight booked by the end of the week. Wow. So, one month left.

As I think of leaving in Oct, the realization comes to me that Christmas with my family will be something I miss. But, it is kind of exciting because I know the Ogengas sometimes go to the beach in Kenya for Christmas (since it doesn't get cold there). That would be an adventure and change of pace.

ALSO- i have had an awesome time since I have been home getting to speak at various places. It started with sharing at MBC right when I got home, since they were highlighting the teams trip and church plant, I also got to tell about LCH. Then I got to speak at my Granny's Wed. Night fellowship dinner and prayer meeting. I can't tell you how sweet it was to see how proud my Granny was. She lives in a small town and put my name in the bulletin every week to be prayed for and then had me as a praise report when I returned. So there were so many people who came up to me. Praise God for the body of Christ and how we are each VITAL in this thing called overseas missions. And my most recent speaking engagement was at Christian Academy of San Antonio where some of my great camp friends work. I got to share with a 3rd grade class, two 5th grade classes, and a 6th grade class. They are so sweet and ask the greatest questions...
girl: "Um, Miss Natalie... do the kids have some sort of disease that makes them bald?"
Me: "No, it is sort of part of their uniform"
girl: "(Gasp) No way Miss. I would NOT cut my hair!"

It is kinda weird to think that I am a "missionary speaker". In all honesty, the whole idea of being titled a "missionary" is kinda weird because people hold such an unreal "super christian" standard to that name and that is not how I feel. I am just plain old me, who is often the only one laughing at my own jokes and commonly uses more sound effect than words to speak, and has a love for the kids at Lulwanda that only the Lord could give. Praise Him because He is SO SO good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And it is Official!

WOOO HOOOO! Less than 10 hours later the word has come in unanimously that I have been invited to return to LCH. Praise God. Now I will trust and wait as the details are worked out!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Still waiting...

It seems that the Lord continues to teach me to trust and wait on Him because He is the one who is really in control. After being home in the US for almost a month, I still have no official word about going back to Uganda, although I have heard unoffically and have no reason to doubt my return.

It has been an interesting transition back into society, still feeling connected in Uganda and not sure whether to fully integrate back into the fast-pace of American society. But my heart is truely filled with peace and contentment, knowing that whatever is next in my future is good.

So I still trust and wait.