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, June 30, 2008

Thoughts from Janece

Well, the long awaited time has come and my first family member to ever visit Africa has arrived. What a joy it is to have Janece here and see how the Lord is opening her eyes and her heart to life and the people of Uganda. Here are her first thoughts. (the pictures will hopefully come soon, but my designated secretary who usually posts pictures bc internet is too slow here is on vacation in greece, so you might have to wait a bit for the photos. sorry)

We arrived Wednesday night, but the days have been so jammed with activities that we did not get to the children’s home where Natalie works until today (Saturday). What an awesome experience. The children are delightful. But words can’t fully explain the way their eyes light up a room. Once you see it, you fully understand how they have captured Natalie’s heart.

After the children’s home, we went to a beautiful area called Sissye Falls. Natalie took some wonderful pictures. We are also posting pictures of villages along the side of the road that we took to get to the falls. This is pretty representative of many of the areas I am seeing. People in the villages have nothing, yet they are so open to meeting us and thanking us for visiting their country. As an American from the land of plenty, it is hard to understand their joyful attitudes when you see how hard their lives are and the effort it takes to just survive. We visited a village yesterday to dedicate a church that had just been constructed, and I was surprised to see the children ask for our empty water bottles that their families will make use of in various ways. We could learn something from these people, whose situations are such a stark contrast to the materialism of the U.S.

In the morning, we will attend a newly planted church in one of the villages. Sunday is the first service and people will walk from miles around to attend. Stay tuned because we will post those pictures later in the week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Songs of Sunday morning

June 22, 2008

Imagine this picture from yesterday’s church experience:
The morning started out as a usually one for these days of missions. I woke up and went into the main house to find about 15 drivers (for the Mzungu team) and about 7 of the Bible college students having tea and bread in the sitting room. A little overwhelmed I quickly went to iron my dress (since my clothes dry on the line, therefore getting wrinkly, EVERYTHING must be ironed in order to look “smart”). After getting ready, we headed to the van, only to be greeted by about 25 little kids from a neighborhood behind us called Namatala, hoping for their lucky day to ride in a motorcar. One thing that continues to bless my heart every Sunday are the kids of Namatala. Usually there are about 7, and sometimes we give them a lift to church, but I guess those 7 told all the kids on their street. We told them to walk to church because already we could see a bad habit was forming.
Namatala is a neighborhood that is a poorer area of town, having many exiled Karamojo families that truly depend upon the Lord for their daily bread. I have gotten to visit this area a few times. What amazes me is that although the parents do not come, there is a huge group of kids that somehow know it is Sunday morning and discipline themselves to get dressed (probably in the only outfit that they have) and walk to church. There is a group of sweet little girls, who received cute little dresses made form pillowcases from the team from Wimberley. They come, so proud, to church wearing their new dresses and find Haley and I to come sit by us (Haley was on the team that gave the dresses out and is helping to start something to provide school fees for these kids in Namatala). All in all to say, I praise the Lord that these kids are hearing the gospel and experiencing the love of Christ at an early age, whether their motivation is a joy for coming to church, a ride in a motorcar, or a free meal for lunch.

So now we have arrived at church. Imagine this with me:
Kids under the mango tree reciting memory verses and singing. Adults in the main church eagerly in the Word and answering the questions of the Sunday school teacher. The morning is still a bit cool but as the sun heats up, it is time for all Sunday school classes and all ages to join back together.
Mbale PCU is a good church. The hub of all 50+ church plants and filled with many devoted, faithful, and passionate followers of Christ. The members here are great servants, always ready to testify or sing, ready to set up or tear down equipment, eager to give up their holiday to do the behind-the-scenes work for the crusades to fully work successfully.
As the Sunday school classes end, most of the adults have already staggered in and the kids are ousted taking porage (a drink made from corn meal and milk- similar to “malt-o-meal”). Despite the extra benches that have been added, there is still not enough space for everyone to fit. Kids are sitting 2 little bottoms in the space of 1. Adults are like sardines in a can, the heat is rising in the tin roofed building and I praise the Lord for the breeze and 3 ceiling fans. But, the Spirit of the Lord is heavy on this place. You can feel the joy in the passion of the songs and prayers. I love the singing. It takes half the song for the keyboard player to get the right tempo, but the songs continue on. And there is always dancing, which is my favorite. Often a woman, usually a jaja (grandma), will stand up, aver her arms around and gives out a traditional African cry for joy- “Aye, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh—a”. Sweet worship to the Lord.
I pray the Lord would expand the walls of this church, literally and metaphorically. I have seen an increase in the number of attendants and I know the plans are in work and the sketches have been made for a new church building, but as in every church that wants to expand, the funds are lacking. But God is an awesome provider and I know He will meet the needs of this church, in Mbale, as it is the mother-church of all the others.
I will admit that at the beginning of today’s service my mind was a bit distracted. We were singing a song that says, “Father, we are here. Spirit, we are here. Jesus, we are here. We are here, waiting for you.” I stopped in the middle of singing and just admitted to the Lord that I was physically there but my mind was very far off. Praise God that He quickly drew me into himself and released my mind of the different things I was pondering. It turned out to be such a refreshing Sunday. Wow. The worship was awesome. Usually, since I don’t always understand the language that the songs are in, my time of singing is very different from that of America. God has truly blessed it by giving me my own words, to the beat of the songs, which praise and worship the King. It is truly a sweet time for me, but there is something so refreshing about a corporate, spirit-filled praise and worship time. I rejoice in today! We even sang my favorite song from here that goes like this (with much dancing and shouting and joy and victory) - “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and the devil knows I am a winner. I am a winner. And the devil knows I am a winner.” For I truly am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus!!

River Gospel

June 22, 2008

Answered prayers…

A wise friend of mine (g) challenged me about a year and a half ago to pray the armor of God over myself everyday. Sometimes I have been faithful in this, sometimes not. But as of recently, I have been. And as I am praying these verses from Ephesians 6, besides just declaring them over myself, I try to think of something specifically applicable that relates to that piece of armor. Well, as you probably know one of the pieces is to “shod my feet with the readiness of the gospel”. This one has challenged me for the past few months because although I am a “missionary”, my purpose for being here is the share the love of Christ through teaching Phonics. Plus I am really blessed to be working in a place that is founded on Christ. So, I do not always find myself with the opportunity to directly share the gospel (though I am constantly trying to be faithful to the quote- “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words”- and am sometimes successful and sometimes fail completely). So, of recent, I have been praying for more opportunities to share the Gospel, whether with a street kid, a boda boda man (the motorbike-taxi’s here), or a Muslim friend.
On Saturday, Haley and I walked down to a little river that is very near our house, hoping to find some kids swimming or just have a little time to sit peacefully by a river and read. As we approached you could hear the little cries of a kid shouting, “Mzungu, Mzungu” and all eyes went up. Well there were only a few eyes because no one was swimming but some teenagers were washing clothes and collecting water. Being friendly I greeted them, hoping for a fluent English response. Success! “Hello. Hello. How are you? Fine. Well done.” Then I asked where all the swimmers were and proceeded to converse about how there was a fence being build that would block my trail to the river. After some more taking the students invited us to come help them wash, which started another conversation about how to get to the other side of the river bed (since we were on two opposite sides), which eventually led to a few of them wading waste deep through the river to meet us. They didn’t seem to care that they were wet. We were just making small talk when a girl, still on the opposite side of the river bank said, “Excuse me, madam, are you a saved? I want to be saved but want to know more about Jesus.” What? Things seem just too easy over here. Would that ever happen in America? I think even if someone wanted they would be to prideful or embarrassed to admit that they were not yet sure that they really were a believer or not. So, I invited her to come to our side so that I could tell her more about Jesus.
What an awesome answered prayer and so unexpected. Be ready in season and out of season and that I was by His grace. So, Haley and I sat down with about 7 students and shared that the Bible has bad news and good news and that it is by faith ALONE in Jesus ALONE that you are saved. We answered some questions. There was even a boy there who was Muslim but sat to listen. (While across the bank there was a Muslim girl who began making loud noise as we sat down. When I asked why, they said she was a mad/crazy girl, but then told me that it was really because she was Muslim and knew I was telling about Jesus). It seemed that the girl who first asked the question had already trusted Jesus as her savior but had some confusion as to whether you could lose your salvation (answer being NO). We then had a little fun taking pictures together and dancing and singing. Such a sweet and memorable moment for the Kingdom. I pray that God would continue to water and grow the seeds that were planted.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Wow… I praise the Lord for each day that I am here. He is good. And I feel like I am in a really nice season of refreshment and blessing with the different teams coming in. How sweet to have familiar (and unfamiliar) faces and to always be able to understand the little comments and conversations that are going on around.

Well, it was a really nice time with the team of Mr. Rob (the GICF pres) here. They were at LCH having activities for the kids and doing hygiene clinics at some of the schools. On Sat (2 weeks ago) the Good Neighbor kids came to LCH. The Good Neighbor is a program where all of our 90 kids are paired with a kid from the Bulolelo village (where the Home is). They come once a month for a teaching, playing, lunch, a bible story, and sometimes it is time to pass out school supplies to help them out. Well last week all the kids came for a carnival type day. And their moms were invited too, to attend the hygiene clinic. It was really awesome. They were taught about how diseases spread from not washing your hands properly or from flies and about how to help keep the compounds safe and clean and other practical items. I was really impressed by the material and the response of the women. It seemed to be a great success. The team also had a really beautiful and special appreciation lunch for the teachers and staff. Everyone really enjoyed.

Praise the Lord!! I went for attempt number 2 to turn in the first stages of my work permit (I was rejected the first time because I was missing 2 documents (although I really feel like I had every important document I have ever acquired in my life)). But I went this past week, back to Kampala (a 4 hour drive) and after dealing with rude lady who was upset because I had interrupted her lunch, and then visiting the NGO office and then the immigrations office, THEY ACCEPTED MY PAPERS. Well, at least for the first step. In total it will be about a 3 month process, but I am so relieved to have the first step done. I don’t know why they make it so difficult to acquire a permit. Even getting the list of documents that I would need was nearly impossible to find. Praise Him for the Mzungu friends I made here who did the ground work for me and passed the steps on so I could follow their footsteps of getting a permit.

The rest of the week went by so fast. I was at LCH and then there was a Youth conference at church on Friday and Saturday put on my Mzungus from Colorado. Yesterday I attended another wedding reception. It is always amusing to me that it is not uncommon to see people coming with a wedding gift of a chicken, turkey, or goat. Of course. The picture attached is of the bride serving cake to her visitors, after she has knelt down, washed her husband’s hands and fed him cake. Then the bride, groom, and bridesmaids go to all the visitors and serve cake- while kneeling to show respect.

So, this week I am the teacher on duty so I must be sharp and tough, showing the kids who is boss. Ha. Although I will have a stick in my hands, they all know that I don’t cain the kids (which is the common disciplinary action in Africa for unruly children). But I will be tough on them and make them do wall squats or stay after from lunch if they delay to get to class. All in all they are good though. I am excited to maybe teach a new some during assembly. I really love these kids. They are all so special to me in their own unique way and I feel like a proud mama when the teams come through because they love the kids but don’t get to know the kids like I do. It is such a sweet blessing to be able to know the personalities of each of them. Oh, praise the Lord for his saving grace!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Update 1

(Well technically it is not summer here because they only have rainy season and dry season... but I still operate with american seasons)

Hello Friends.

Things are very busy around here. School started for Term 2 last week and this week we have a team at LCH blessing the kids and blessing us. It is fun having people who have been here before come because they are always so appreciative of what God has done in this place and in the life of the kids since the last time they were here. I think I am going with the team tomorrow to a school that is down the hill from LCH to do a hygiene clinic. I went to the school about 2 weeks ago to scout out the route with Edward, but the “road”- really a foot path now because the locals have let the grass grow up on it so that thieves can’t come, was somehow a little muddy and what should have been a 20 minute trip took 2.5 hours because we got stuck twice. Yeah for adventure though (although I did make a few little kids cry because they were not used to seeing white skin. There is nothing like making babies cry to brighten you day L sad).

Haley is very fun and we have had some great conversations. It is like having a little sister here (since she is the same age as Monica- love you and miss you Mon!). I get to show her the ropes and the ins and outs of Mbale and I really love doing touristy kinds of things so it is perfect.

My zucchini’s are still the biggest in the whole world. Haley pointed out how great it is that God grew them extra big to be enough to feed His children at LCH. So true! Way to go God!

I think I am going to Kampala either tomorrow or Friday because Glenn is graduating from University. Here you can choose to do a few extra papers to add to your degree before you graduate and so he did that. Funny thing is that he wasn’t expecting graduation until July, but on Tuesday Mama called him and said his name was in the paper. Sure enough, to his surprise, he would be walking the stage in 3 days time. When Mama got home she found him right away and gave him a huge hug because she was such a proud Mama.

Also- as I go to Kampala for this or to escort some of the teams I am trying to get a work permit. It seems to be a step-by-step process that will take 4 visits and about 2 months to process, but pray for God’s favor upon me as I try to accomplish this.

In closing, I feel completely blessed this summer time. The fun has just begun with the teams but I have so so many treasured people that are coming to Uganda this summer… Janece (my step-mom- and the first in my family to ever come to Africa and I am so excited beyond words that she will be here in less than a month), friends from MBC (my sending church), Sarah Rinn’s team, maybe Steph Beeler, and then… (I got the email this morning!!) Jacquline. Wow. Things will be busy and blessed. God is so so good.

So, that is it for now. Remember to send me email updates of your life. Even if I don’t respond I REALLY love hearing about you.