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, January 30, 2008

Introduction ceremony…

I really feel like I have been initiated into society now because I have now been to the pre-wedding introduction ceremony. This was such a unique experience that I feel like my words and photos will fail me to fully portray what all happens and what all it means.
First off, the introduction ceremony is where the bride’s family hosts the grooms family (and friends) for the official meeting of the 2 sides. It is following the tradition of the old village ways. In the past, before the institution of church marriage was established, it was after this introduction ceremony that the couple was declared married and she would leave her family that night to go stay in his home. Well today, it is a little different, seeing as the official church marriage ceremony is important for believers here. But the main purpose of the introduction ceremony now is to bring together the family and friends of both sides, to pay the bride price (yes this is still something practiced here, whether in the village or the town), and to offer gifts to the brides family.
I will pause a little because you might be thinking… the bride’s family? Counter to American tradition, it is the groom who plans and pays for the bride and the wedding. The culture here say that since the parents have spent much time, effort, and money in raising and training the woman up to keep her own house one day, and since the groom is taking a hard worker from the father’s home, then he must pay. Like a re-compensation. So, the usually bride price is about 2-5 cows and some goats. And like I said gifts are also given to the bride’s family in appreciation. Things such as baskets of fresh produce, a lantern, crates of soda, a hoe, sack of rice, salt to last for a long while… the list goes on.
So, back to the ceremony… I went on the side of the groom because he is one of the pastors here. There were about 70 of us that went. For the ceremony, each side has an MC that represents the bride or groom, or their family. First off, all things are in good fun at this ceremony, but things can seem a little bazaar if you don’t know that. The groom’s side gathered together to receive “instructions” before we boarded the taxis to drive to the village, Peteti. Here were a few of the rules:
- the MC is the only one to talk for the family
- When we first arrive, we need to walk in humbly
- Those not wearing “gomas” (the traditional dress with big shoulders) must stand in the back because we are going to cause him much trouble for not being in proper attire (and that would be me and one other girl)
- Do not sit down when you first get to you seat, only when they officially invite us to sit
Again, all of this is in good fun, but these rules are established to avoid “fines” that the brides family might give. But you go in knowing that it is like a game and you bring money to pay the “fines”
So, like anything in Africa that has to do with time, the grooms side arrived late. We stood outside the fence while our MC was negotiating our late arrival and the “fine” it would cost us. There were many people sitting under big party tents from the brides side. Everything was decorated nicely with blue and white ribbons and everyone was dressed in the traditional wear. I like that a lot.
The best way to describe the ceremony is as if they were acting and putting on a sort of play. Once we were officially invited to sit down, the bride’s MC told us that they were in the middle of a clan meeting to discuss a new school but we have come late for the meeting so really there was no reason for us to remain. Our MC talked and explained that there was another reason we had come. Then through some more friendly banter our MC told the other MC that we had come for a bride.
From there things got even more interesting. The bride MC went to get the girls in the house that we might have come for. The first group to come out, so that we can choose which girl we had come for (mind you that the real bride and groom have been in a courtship relationship for a while so this is NOT a pre-arranged marriage- only part of the fun of the ceremony). So the first group of girls came and were very young, around 6
years. Our MC said that none were the one, so we had to pay a “transport fee” to go to the next village to get some other girls that the bride might be among. This proceeded about 5 times… the young girls, then teenagers, then girls my age, then grandmothers, then there were some ladies that left for another country (for pretend) so we brought them and they were the aunties. Then the final group of girls, our last resort, were brought from a neighboring country and the bride was among them. The aunties said that they recognized us and that she knew us. So we were officially welcome to the “clan meeting” and were then served sodas. (I really hope you are following this at least a little bit.)
Since the aunties recognized us and knew the groom, to prove, they had to find the groom, who was “hiding” in the back of our group. When they found him they brought him out from our tent and put him in the seat of honor (a couch) in the front. Then the groom’s aunties had to go among the last group of girls and point out the bride.
Among other things, there was also a time for the grooms side to present the gifts we brought and for each member of the family to be introduced to the brides side of the family. All in all it was very entertaining. It also seemed like every child living in the village gathered around to on look. At the end of all the talking, presenting, and introducing, the bride a groom cut a cake and then we were served “lunch” (at 6:30pm).
I attached a few photos of the young “fake brides”, me carrying a gift to present, and a sample of the traditional wear. It was a very fun experience and I hope to be invited to another.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Yesterday we had a very much anticipated event happening. All day long you could see the kids with big eyes any time they would hear a vehicle coming towards the home. What could they be so eagerly waiting for??? They were waiting to meet their 20 new brothers and sisters. That is right. THE NEW KIDS ARE HERE. So now there are 90 children, who now have hope, care, love, and will know the joy of Jesus Christ. Wow. How awesome to be a part of what God is doing and to tangibly see restoration.

At first it was hard for me to understand why i didn't see any of the caretakers crying as they left there child at LCH, because i know that i would be sobbing. But I realized that there were no tears because this is hope. Truly, for these caretakers to leave their kid with us is the most loving thing they could do for their child. Because now the kid is assured of food, shelter, love, guidance, schooling, and so many other basic physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that they might not get in the village. So, if you are a sponsor of one of the kids at LCH... please know that you are making a huge difference!! You might not think so or think it is small, but I get to see the impact of your support everyday and it is truly new life!! Thank you for loving these kids I love so much!!!!

So please join with us in praying as these new kids are adjusting to a new life and as the old kids adjust to new siblings. Please pray a hedge of protection and health, as it is common for the whole bunch to fall sick when new kids come in. Pray for wisdom for the teachers as the assess the new kids to see what level they should begin school at in Feb. Pray for watchful eyes as there are sometimes new kids that attempt to leave to go back to their new home. The 2 that have tried have been caught so far, but pray for awareness to the new kids and their needs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

So do I call myself a social worker now?

I had the awesome experience of getting to go into the villages to visit some potential new kids for LCH. Maybe a little background would help. Just as in the states, the kids we have here go through a government process to get here. Usually a relative will report an orphan in need to the local government. The probation officer then gets these reports and compiles information through the reporter and through personal interviews and site visitations. I went on the site visitations. The purpose of this is to confirm that the reported children are really in need, having no adequate place to sleep or no adequate food to eat. The first day out we went about an hour drive into a very flat area of Mbale district. The first house we visited a widow, having 6 kids remaining. She lived on a very small plot of land, with basically only a small, round, mud hut and no space (or fertile land) for farming. We arrived with the probation officer and the first thing he noted were the small twins laying in the dirt near the house. The mother had gone to collect firewood and the other children were around playing. Their clothes were very much beyond worn out, basically only being a waistband with some cloth hanging from it because the seems in the front and back were completely unthreaded. There were other houses that we visited in the mountains, were the land was much more fertile (and it was beautiful up there). The people in the mountain, although maybe in need, seemed to be suffering less from those we visited the day before.

Over and over again I met mothers who have been widowed because their husband died of AIDS and now they too have the disease. As we talked to the women, we were careful to not call it what it is but rather “the disease” because there is still a stigmatism in the villages of those who have AIDS. For most of the mothers their sole purpose is to secure a home for their children. Whether relatives or children’s homes, they are eager for anyone to take the kids. At first this seems a little odd that a mother would want to give up her kid so easily, but reality is that this is a very loving act. They know that their child is suffering and/or they know that soon they might be dying. So basically I heard quite a few living wills while I was in the village.

It was a humbling and sobering experience, yes. And in all honesty I pray that my heart does not become unaffected by the things I see. But reality is that there is much suffering and need that I see everyday. It is easy to be a little depressed after experiencing such a thing, BUT I praise the Lord that throughout my time in the villages, He continued remind me of the sweet children that I get to love on everyday. I pictured their faces and tried to imagine that at one point, these needy, dirty, big bellied, half-dressed kids that I was seeing in the village were the kids that I get to be with everyday. Wow. I hope I am making sense. It is such an awesome realization to see that God is restoring and bringing hope to His children. Truly, who knows were the kids at LCH would be or under what condition without this place. It is humbling to see the visible difference between the hope, joy, and health of the kids in the village and the kids at the Home. Praise God that through Him all things are possible. I imagine that the guardians of each of these children were daily stressed and worried about how the kids would be properly cared for, seeming that there was not way. But, as the song goes, “God will make a way, when there seems to be no way.” I am understanding that more and more.

So, hopefully within the next 2 weeks (but remember this is Africa time) we will be getting 20 new children, quite possible some of those are some that I was able to visit in the village. I can’t wait to experience the transformation first hand and see how these timid, hopeless kids have their eyes open to a different world full of hope, love, provision, friendship, and Jesus. God is good.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Birthdays are different in Uganda…

Well, I will admit that I didn’t think anything much would be happening for my birthday, so I chose to begin and end the day without mentioning it was my birthday to anyone. I knew that that night we would have cake, which I had prepared the day before.

So I spent the day playing with the kids at the children’s home which is always so fun because they are eager to play any game that you can come up with. After getting home, the power checked in the evening and so I was in my room, playing solitaire by lantern. At some point I went to the main house because I heard laughing and wanted to join, but I was chased away (in a nice way) with the request, “Would you please remain in your room until someone calls you.” So, there I was, remaining in my room, knowing now that something was up but still feeling a bit lonely seeing as I was all by myself in the dark. Around 9pm the phone calls started coming in from America (yeah!!) so I got to chat until Winnie came to get me. She said I was to come with her but that I must be blindfolded. Something rung in my head remembering that Kenyans have a tradition of something about water and birthdays, so I asked if I should give her my phone and camera to carry. She said yes and hesitantly led me to the main house, staying far behind. At this point I knew I was about to get another bath, but this time fully clothed. As I got nearer, I could hear little whispers, “Get ready, she is coming.” Still blindfolded and everything being VERY dark (remember the power is out), I walked into the kitchen and SPLASH- lots of water was poured all over me and the birthday song started. Everyone from the compound was there and the candles were lit, in the shape of an N, on the cake I had made. So, I blew them out.

Then, the MC of the night began the party. In Uganda there is one person to announce, guide, and tell stories of the Birthday person. SO, after a little introduction of how I am the “baby girl, born today” and how they are thankful to my parents for giving birth to me, it was time to cut the cake. But, this is a big deal and something that you have someone join you in helping you to cut and they sing for you again. I had baby Alma help me, although this was a little awkward because I was all wet and I didn’t want her to start crying by being wet too. In Uganda the birthday person serves cake to all of the guests and then soda. I will admit that I was a little nervous because it was the first time I had made a cake from scratch and I was serving it to my guests without trying it first to make sure that it tasted fine. Then it was time for people to say something about the “baby” and to pray over me. After all this was done, some people presented gifts and the night was over.

All in all, I really enjoyed. It was different from any other birthday or party I have had, but I guess that will be a common statement that I make for the next year or two as I live life in Uganda. So, I have MADE 25 years now and I recognize and give my Savior all the credit for keeping me up to this day. What a blessing life is!!

Monday, January 7, 2008


I love the emails and blog comments that I have gotten from you. Even more, it is always SO SO exciting to get snail mail. If you have time to write and send a letter through the post then also know that I LOVE getting photos. I put them up on my wall. So, just an FYI that photos are fun because I probably would not have thought of sending them if roles were reversed.

Happy New Year

Wow... 2008. I can't believe it.

I brought in the new year with much fun and a late night. After a great turkey dinner with soda, the family all got dressed up, "looking smart" and we went to a hotel in town. Well first we drove around looking for petro, since the crisis in Kenya left Uganda dry of any incoming resources like petro and food (they closed the borders to prevent traveling on dangerous roads- due to the rioters). So, after 5 petro stations and paying double the price, we made it to the hotel. It was packed. They had a stage set up where local Uganda performers would sing. Really I think they were lip singing to their recorded songs, but none the less the Ugandans loved it. There were also a few groups who had dances to songs you hear on the radio. Although in Africa, American music videos are still watched here and I realized how much influence the power of music and music videos has all over the world. It is somewhat a shame that inappropriate dance moves and songs have such a powerful spreading.

At midnight there were fireworks, something I never expected to see here. Everyone cheered and did the "African call- ey ye ye ye ye ye " after ever explosion. It was a real treat.

Otherwise, things are going fine here. I am ready for holidays to be over and school to resume, but still have until Feb. 4. Then they will begin a new school year in which the kids will start a new grade level. I bought a bike last week so I have enjoyed having some freedom to ride to town or to a hotel that has a pool. Yes, i went swimming in Jan. It is very hot here and the sun blazes since we are on the equator. The comments I get when people see "muzungu" riding a bike are very funny. I usually pretend not to hear them but sometimes i just have to laugh.

Please pray for the things in Kenya. They are still very intense. Uganda has no danger, so don't worry about that. I have realized the widespread effect of international conflict. For example, the petro shortage in Uganda due to fear of traveling on roads. Also, there are thousands of Kenyan refugees here in Uganda who are lacking food and have had to leave everythign they own. THey also are in rough conditions, seeing as they are being accomodated in schools, etc and there can be a lack of space or even things like inadequte bathroom facilities to accomodate such numbers. So, only the Lord can bring peace and restore Kenya.

Some might be thinking, "Nat, today is your birthday. What will you do to celebrate?" Well, I don't really know. I made a cake last night to have after dinner tonight, but I think it will just be another day. Here in Uganda, when asked how old you are they say, "I am making 25". Well, i have realized a great lesson from this. Truly people here are grateful that they have made it up to the age that they are. They realize that life is precious and tomorrow is not promised. They don't take each day for granted like I have the tendency to do. SO, on this day I joyfully and thankfully say that today I have made 25 years of life and that is nothing apart from the grace God has shown me. Praise Him that he is the giver of life in reguard to living and breathing, but even moreso Praise Him that LIFE is found in Christ. Life beyond just breathing and surviving, but one of hope and joy and salvation.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Pictures from family trip to Kenya

Family Christmas trip...

the baboon that chased us from the gazebo, wanting our peanuts. But we didn’t know this at first and so we ran, with this large fanged animal chasing us close behind until we realized that he was not out to eat us, only trick us into giving him food out of fear.

Mama Aida and Pastor Morris. They are in the States now until Feb, so keep a look out for them on the streets of America.

These are half of my brothers and sisters I stay with at home. Left to right: me, Nuruh, Winnie, Phoebe, Glenn

The hot springs at Lake Bogoria National Park

Testing the waters… this water IS really boiling. In fact, some people bring eggs to boil in the lake water.

I have now crossed the equator in both Uganda and Kenya.