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, March 30, 2009


WE have reached Gulu very well. We left early Sunday morning and after 7 hours of traveling we reached. This city is much bigger than I thought, even bigger that Mbale. And if one didn’t know the war had been here, there would be no obvious signs in town.

IT was good that we reached a bit early because the original plan for the hotel turned out to be us sharing a very small bed. So we searched around and found something else. There are SO many kids that have come to town for competition!! We see the walking the streets and in vans all over. Last night, we went for dinner and a group came in right after us. Apparently the hotel was not ready to feed so many visitors, so after ordering food an hour before, some food finally came out. To our surprise it was NOTHING like what we ordered but with each plate she brought, the waitress kept saying, “Please, just eat what you see.” What??? So, we had no choice but to eat what we saw because it was already late. Then I feel like there should have been some compensation, but instead they charged us for an extra plate of food. There is nothing like “the customer is always right” here. But we tried to have grateful attitudes for having food and a place to stay.

This morning Ivan, Abel, and Teacher Francis left very early t meet up with the others from the Mbale team. After all the weigh ins and height checks, it turns out that Ivan passed through with no problem, but the corrupt people were not able to have competitors because they were too big. HA! That is what they get (is that wrong to say?).

Meanwhile, me, Glenn, Moses and Naster were able to meet with one of the Gulu church members and he took us to an IDP camp. Wow. There were SO many houses there. After asking many questions, I learned that the land was given by the government and people would have a 48 hour warning to leave because the rebels were coming. They would come to the camp and build houses where ever they found space. Things were really tight.. Houses basically on top of each other. Our guide said there were about 2500 people living in that little space. BUT the good news is that many of the houses were empty or torn down because a lot of people have moved back to the villages. This is a testimony to the Lord for bringing peace to the land!! I took many photos and have more to say but my time is limited.

Competitions begin tomorrow, so we are SO ready to see Ivan running. He actually will run an extra event since many competitors were disqualified for size. Thanks for the prayers and keep them coming!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Exciting News!!

Oh Man!! I am so excited. As you saw on my previous post, some of our kids participated in the Sub-County sports competitions. Well, the continuation of the story is that 4 of them qualified for the District competition but upon reaching there, there was some corruption and they refused our kids to compete. Of course this was disappointing, BUT when all was said and done, one of our kids, Ivan, was still the fastest in time for the 200 and 400 meter. SO, the beginning of this week we were a bit confused as the Mbale District began calling and sending for Ivan to come and train. The administrator went there to verify and after a week of training, Ivan has been selected to go to the National competition to compete!!! And I (with some other few people) get to escort him to Gulu- in the north. I am so excited for this opportunity for 2 main reasons:
1. To be Ivan’s biggest fan and see how God will use this opportunity to boast in His work at LCH.
2. I have always wanted to go to Gulu to see the IDP (internally displaced) camps. Some of you have seen the documentary “Invisible Children” and much of it was filmed in Gulu. But do remember that that was a few years ago now and there are peace movements and MUCH improvement since then. Don’t worry.

So, I am sure that I will have great stories and photos from this next week of travels to Northern Uganda. Please be praying for journey mercies, safety overall, swift feet, and no injuries. I am so excited to make some memories with Ivan, Naster, and Abel (the kids going with us). And who knows, maybe I will be reporting next about a national champion!! Oh I hope so!

On a different note, check out the site www.changersuganda.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sports, Races, IChooseYou, and Namesakes

March 16, 2009

Sports, Races, IChooseYou, and Namesakes

It seems like this weekend was surrounded by a lot of fun and memory making.


The day had finally arrived. The kids had been laboring in the hot equatorial sun, practicing for the past 2.5 weeks and it was time for them to shine! Friday was the day of sports competitions against other schools. We had run the uneven fields and jumped the high jump, marked by twigs in banana stalks—all with bear feet. Now we were meeting up with 15 other schools in the local area to see who would take the lead to go to the district competitions. This was the first major outing where our kids were interacting with other children their age (besides the Good Neighbor Program). We had about 12 children participate, while the others stood ready if called upon or were on the sidelines to cheer. It was such a fun and exciting day. To our surprise, some of the girls did really well in shot-put. But, in my opinion, the star of the day was Ivan Kuloba, who came in second in both and 100 meter and 200 meter and 4th in the high jump. We were all so proud. At the end of the day, four of our LCH kids will be going to district competitions this Friday at a school in Mbale town: Emma O, Ivan K, Sylvia L, and Fiona. Although I wasn’t there when the children arrived back home, I heard there was much celebrating and dancing. Truly, it is awesome to see some of the kids shine outside of the classroom and on the playing field.


Who knew that I would ever have the opportunity to run in a 10K in Uganda. But they are there. So, this Sunday I gatherer with about 500 other people to compete in what they called the “MTN Marathon.” MTN is a local telecommunication company but the title “Marathon” was a bit off (probably by at least 30 km). But it was a 10K=6.2 miles. It was fun to see many familiar faces of people that I know or have met or see on a daily basis at different businesses. The route was fairly challenging as there were 2 major hill and one extremely long-steady-sloped hill. We ran most of the race on a marum (dirt) road and went through a village called Moni. I loved getting to run past all the local little shops and seeing all the people on the streets dressed up and walking to church. I started the race keeping pace with only Glenn (and this was his first fun-run so he got to see why I enjoy them so much) but towards the end of the race it was the two of us and about 5 other guys that we were with for the whole second half of the race. As always, I was not in it to win but rather to finish and that I did! Our time was 1 hour 7 minutes, so I feel like that was a fairly good pace. It at least allowed us to finish, make it back home to shower, and then get to church on time. So, I will definitely do it again!!


Also this weekend I was reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness in caring for His children. You might have heard me talk about a ministry that has newly formed called IChooseYou. The kids in this sponsorship program go to my church and I have somewhat become a photographer for the ministry (seeing as I am here). So, we (mostly Mama and a Karamojong man) had a great meeting with the children that are in the program and their parental unit. We urged them to recognize this opportunity as God’s blessing and to make sure they help their children in getting the best education that they can. I love what God is doing among this underprivileged group of people and am excited to see what He has in store next!


My final story and arguably the most exciting one to me is a continuation of the story I posted about my friend Mike- who works at LCH and had his first trip to Kampala when he picked me up from the airport a month ago (see the blog post if you don’t know this story). Well, since we arrived back in Mbale, over a month ago, there are still times that I catch him telling stories about Kampala. Ha, so funny. Seeing as this trip to the capital city of Uganda was a momentous opportunity for him, he told a group of us last week, “My wife is soon producing. I think it will be on Sunday. And if it is a baby boy I will name it Glenn and if it is a baby girl I will name it Natalie. That way I will always remember my trip to Kampala.” In all honesty, I wasn’t so sure if he was serious or not. But this morning when I went up to the Home during break, Dyanna (the new nurse) asked me, “So I hear you are the new proud aunt of Baby Natalie?!” YES it is true!! I have a namesake, and one that is truly named after me- not just conveniently the same name as me! So fun and what an honor. Of course I couldn’t wait to see this baby, so Mike took me to his home, which was about a 10 minute walk from LCH. Seeing as black babies are born very pale and then their skin darkens as they get older, when I arrived at Mike’s home, his kids ran to tell their mom, “Another Mzungu is here.” They think their parents produced a Mzungu because she is so fair. Ha. I got to hold baby Natalie (pronounce Na—talie) for a few minutes until she got fussy for some food. So, I prayed blessings over her life and am eager for when she is a bit older and I hear the kids at LCH shouting her name to come to them! I really feel so honored to have my first ever namesake (and probably my only).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Festival of Colors

March 10, 2009

Festival of Colors

It is not everyday that there is a festival in Mbale, and it is definitely not everyday that I get to attend a festival at the Hindu Temple. I know most of you are thinking, “What was she doing there?” Glenn and I have made some Indian friends at the gym and yesterday one of them invited us to come to the Festival of Colors. So after asking about the dress code and if I was allowed to bring my camera, we made plans (yesterday) to meet up today.

But, if you know me at all, you know that I can’t just go and do things without asking questions and know what exactly I will be doing. So, of course I wanted to know what exactly is this Festival celebrating. In all honesty, I didn’t want to show up and have some awkward situation where they were worshiping one of their gods. So, thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that the Festival of Colors is also known as Dol Purnima and is mainly a day of joy and friendship. “It is believed that the combination of different colors played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life even more colorful.” There were also pictures of large groups of people covered, head to toe, in paints. Literally as if someone ran through the crowd and showed them with all different colors. Honestly, I felt a little nervous about this. Who really wants paint ALL over them? Not me.

So, Glenn and I arrived at the Hindu temple, which is conveniently near home, around 8:00 and met with our friend who had invited us. It was a bit awkward as we were walking, now that I was the only Mzungu and Glenn was one of 3 black Ugandans I saw. But really most of my days have at least a moment that I have to embrace an awkward situation and just get over it. So I did. They were very friendly and quickly offered to show us around to the different temples of their gods. Apparently, each Hindu people group (usually based on region of origin) has their own gods that they pray to. So, we saw many different statues and photos of different gods, but our host only prayed to two of the gods we visited.

So, the first temple we visited was one of our host’s gods and as we entered he rung a bell. He said it was to let the god know that he has come to visit. Oh, you must remove your shoes before you enter the temple, because it is disrespectful to enter a holy place with the shoes that you use to walk everywhere. There were four small temples on the outside and then a large temple that we entered last. We saw many different statues, with different names and different things offered to them… money, incense, popcorn, apples. Some of the god statues were of human resemblance and some were animals.

(Inside the main temple. There are shrines to gods on the wall and a main room with 4 gods at the back. The place smelled like insence.)

In all honesty, it was very interesting but very sad to me. How lost these people are. It is as if they just created gods to meet every need and pray to whichever one they fancy at the time. There is no supreme God that is all powerful and all loving. So, it really seemed like there was no Truth, seeing as they have thousands of gods and many are called Hindus that are worshiping completely different gods under the same religious title.

But on with the Festival. As we started getting near the food I could see the colors that had been smeared on people’s faces, children and adults alike. Some were totally covered and some had the streaks of fingers across their face. Our host took us into the kitchen to serve food, but as I reached the door, I quickly became aware that there were ONLY men in there, serving themselves food. Awkward, yet again. So, I slowly stepped back out of the kitchen and our host realized that I couldn’t be in there with them. So I waited outside for them to bring me food. The Indian food was a nice change from matoke and beef soup (that I normally eat every night). It was served on a divided silver tray- flat bread, sweet rice, potatoes and vegi mix, and a small saucer with “soup”. One thing I noticed is that Indian food has an interesting sweet taste with a kick of serious spice. And there was nothing to drink as you were eating. But I enjoyed the meal. Still, the main substance was starches. I was told that they never eat beef because one of their gods is a cow (which they “pet” or touch as they enter the temple. During dinner, I also noticed that not only do the women serve themselves at different times but they also eat in completely separate places. I stayed with Glenn and my host, so I hope no one was offended.

(Everything was served in different sections of the tray and we ate standing up while the women all gathered and ate in a different place.)

Of course you can’t go to the Festival of Colors without being colored. So, one of my other Indian friends saw me and smeared my face with purple color. They did Glenn too, but obviously the purple paint “aka food coloring” showed up more on my face. I was just praying I would not be stained for the next 2 days!

(Glenn being "colored" with food coloring)

(Me, Glenn, and our new little friend (the son of one of our Indian friends) after being "colored". Though you can't really see it on Glenn. Happy Holi!)

The last thing for me to report is that it is tradition at the Festival to have a large bonfire. You must walk 5 laps around the bonfire to appease the god. Stories and traditions go that you dig a small whole before you build the fire and place in their some sort of bean and or coconuts. Then the beans are covered and the fire begins, burning all night- while boiling what is below. In the morning, when only ashes remain, the beans are removed and divided among the people for good luck.

The Festival of Colors seemed more like an excuse to get together with the rest of the Hindu population and eat food. But as I think about it, isn’t that what all holidays are for (or have become) anyways? I was glad to go and experience something new.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Photos from when I first arrived back

More than the lilies of the field...

March 5, 2009

There are some things that happen here in Africa that are just so beyond my realm of normalcy that I have grown up with. But at the same time, often these moments I think to myself, “This is probably exactly what the Lord intended when He thought of man.”

I really love going to Women’s Bible Study. It just seems like such a pure and real example of women who rely on the Father each and every day for their daily bread. I love that different women teach each week. None of us are great teachers, but the Word applies to all. I love hearing the examples they use and how they relate the scripture to their lives. I arrived a little late today, due to some work I was doing. But when I got there I found the teacher and another girl. Not many but the teacher kept saying, “They are coming.” Sure enough, we began (the three of us) and two ladies came to the door. Throughout the next 30 minutes our numbers grew to 11. But that is not the point o my story. These two ladies that came in at the beginning were greeted, and since they were visitors the teacher greeted them and asked them if they were saved. This would be a little forward in America, but it was a good question and surprisingly they said NO. Oh, my prayers started flowing--- salvation spring up! And, providentially, the lesson was from Matthew about not worrying because as much as the Father clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, how much more will He do for his children! Therefore, we are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto us. And the study continued in the reading about how if you hear the words of Jesus and do what He says, you are like a wise man building your house on a rock. So- the word was heard! The kingdom of God and salvation in Jesus Christ is what to seek first. These women were addressed directly. And I love that the women in the church would share their own experiences. One of the new ladies was brewing local alcohol for money to support her family. But the church women were able to encourage her that they were not asking her to give that up now, but to seriously consider Jesus because anything could happen, even that night. They encouraged the woman that our God is able – to do anything!! So, these women will continue to return to church and we faithfully left the seeds planted to the work of the Holy Spirit. What struck me was that these women, not saved, felt free to come to church. And the openness of the Gospel. There was no offense taken at the loving but realistic words that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way, truth, and life. And that our God is able!

Overall, I continue to be amazed at the faithfulness of the Lord. He is calling all men unto himself and ALL creation sing out and testify towards a Mighty Creator. He is full of love, if only we would have the eyes to see and an open heart. Be blessed today by the One who cares for you more than anything! Jesus loves you and me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A few moments...

Just a few moments…

Well, the long awaited day has arrived. Throughout my whole seasons of Uganda, there have been a handful of times that when President Musevinni (sp?) has come to Mbale. Usually I only see the preparation of Ugandan flags hung on every light post or the banana stems (the whole “tree” trunk and leaves) posted in various places for decoration. I have even had a few times that I have driven through the excited mob of people, wearing matching Tshirts, with all sorts of objects that can make noise. BUT never had I seen him or even been in town when he passed through (usually I have been at LCH).

Well, this all changed last week. I knew he was around. Betty (a worker at LCH) even joked that since he was stopping at a nearby school for the deaf, he might make his way up the hill to LCH. But, I didn’t know when he was passing by. So, one great day I was at Noah’s Arc- the family restaurant- and I hear sirens for a police car (which is rare to hear). So, I move to the street and see a man with a megaphone shouting, “Make way. The President, Musevenni, is coming. See here the honorable president of Uganda, Musevenni.” Then there was a police truck and then him. He was standing out of the sunroof of a four-runner waving to the crowd. There were 4 men running, I guess as guards, alongside the car. But surprisingly no-one was shouting or cheering when he passed by. But all in all, I was glad to have seen the President. I even got it on video. But apparently his people were not to happy because one saw me from the car and made a grumbling face. Whereas in my video you can hear my friend say, “Cut it. Put it down. Not happy.” And the camera scans to my feet. Ha.

The happening that made me laugh this weekend was when I was at a hotel restaurant with Glenn. We were reading and having a snack and a family, with two young girls, came and sat at the table right next to us. A little strange since the whole area was free, but it was ok. Until the older little girl started making lots of loud noises. Not complaining or crying, but just talking really loud and saying things to get her parent’s attention. At one point, the dad even asked her if she thought this was home for her to be so loud. But he didn’t make her stop.

Earlier I had tried to befriend her when she was just walking around, but I guess she was feeling shy. But as she kept making noise back at the table, I turned and made a funny face at her. Then I pointed at her and motioned to keep quiet with my finger over my mouth. This has worked in the past with some kids, maybe just because they fear me as a Mzungu. But this little girl was unfazed. The next thing I hear is, “Mommy! This one is disturbing me!” and she pointed right at me! Ha. Glenn looked at me and laughed that this little girl was reporting me to the mother! All I could do is laugh too and the Dad was not offended and said something to the effect that she should have greeted auntie (me) then. You never know with little kids!