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

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.