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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tis' the Season

It has been a wonderful December with the children home from school for holidays. In the spirit of Christmas, we have done many fun activities. It has been great!

Everything is new to the kids, so I can bring even the most basic ideas and they love it.  
We have:
made an advent calendar on the notes board
read Advent readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible
made trees out of construction paper and glitter
made over 200 dough ornaments
painted said ornaments
made 160 sugar cookies for the Lulwanda Christmas party
iced said cookies

 And we just celebrated our Lulwanda Family Christmas Party, 
complete with a tree decorating competition…

… and even Father Christmas came to join the fun.

And of course, in Africa, no party is really a party unless there is some dancing :)

But as I have reminded the children each day, we don't celebrate Christmas because of the things we get to do, the new clothes we receive, or the special food we eat, but rather we celebrate the gift God gave us of a Savior.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

So, with great joy in our hearts, 
we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Nothing Sweeter

There is nothing sweeter than receiving these.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

End of 2013 Newsletter

The Lord has done great things. My prayer is that He is glorify in my life and the lives of these children. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. But even mores, thank you so much for taking the time to pray for me and the children. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving in Uganda means receiving a live turkey the day before. All was set for our gardener to bring a turkey he had scoped out (from his village) on Wednesday morning.  As I saw him walk in the gate, turkey-less, I went out to see what was going on. Well, apparently the man he had planned to buy a turkey from had sold ALL of his turkeys the morning before to some butchers in town. Oh Uganda!

So, Wednesday morning, turkey-less, with no plan, I created a plan B:  Call Melanie because she works in a village and surely there are some turkeys there. 

After a few hours, one of her helpful staff members had found some turkeys, but the own was still in the garden so we were not yet able to negotiate a deal.  Feeling the time crunch, I cancelled plan B and created plan C: I asked Peter, my gardener, to go on a "turkey adventure." About 30 minutes later he arrived with this nice one.

Mature turkeys have beards… coming out their necks… you learn something new everyday.  
(kinda weird and gross)

So, for those who have not had this experience before, after slaughtering the turkey,
you pour boiling water on it to help make plucking easier.

And then you begin.

And eventually you get to this.

After the turkey was prepped (I spared you the photos of that process), I started on the pies.
Two pecan pies, two pumpkin pies. All from scratch because that is the only option here.

And 4 pies, some stuffing, and 1 bathing turkey later, I called it a day.

Thanksgiving morning was busy finishing the stuffing and cooking the turkey. I am so grateful for the missionary community here. We had a HUGE celebration, including non Americans, with TONS of food. So yummy!

This is such a sweet photo of my friend Carol and another friend, Kayla's, baby.

And here we are. Stuffed and happy.

I did almost have a disastrous (but would have been epic) moment when I sat on my chair, that was on a slight hill, lost my balance and felt the chair starting to tip backwards. Flaring my one arm around (because the other was holding a plateful of pies), in my head I had a brief second slow-motion moment of seeing myself tip completely backwards and pour my whole plate of pies on my face. Luckily, I was able to catch myself before I fell, but that would have been a great story.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My favorite sign in Uganda

Some things you see here are cause for a double-take. This is my favorite sign I have seen yet in Uganda, right in the heart of Kampala.

Advertising a company that sells chicken.

An African Day

 My daytime gatekeeper/gardener had his traditional "Introduction Ceremony" last month. I was glad to be among his family and friends that escorted him to his lady's home village to be official "introduced" to her family.

In the midst of the 3 rounds of fake brides that march out, you always know when the real "bride" is in the lineup when you spot someone with diamonds in her hair.
Peter's beautiful fiancé, Barbra (in pink with the diamonds in her hair)

Sometimes my friends have asked ourselves (and each other), "What were they thinking when they decided the traditional dress should be one with very pointy shoulders, a big belt, 5 extra yards of fabric that you tie to your side, and a blanket you wear underneath the whole thing to make your bum look bigger?! And did they not realize that the men are really wearing a white man-dress?" Ha.
As with any dressing up, it is fun to do every now and then.
And people in the village LOVE seeing a mzungu, much less one in a gomesi (the traditional dress).

I spotted this cutie in the next tent and had to get a photo. 

And here they are... the fiancés. This is after Peter had to be "found" from among the crowd by his fiance's aunties. This is a sign that both sides have accepted the marriage proposition.

And an African day is not complete unless you have carried something on your head. 
Bringing the gifts Peter is giving to Barbra's family as a token of appreciation.
 I think I was carrying a basket of onions :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And Epic Thanksgiving Story Retold

I moved to Uganda in October 2007. Looking back, this was interesting timing, seeing as it was right before all the major holidays of the year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and all 4 of our family members’ birthdays).

My first Thanksgiving in Uganda, I was living at the Ogenga’s house, and had come to the conclusion within myself that since this is Uganda and there is no Thanksgiving Day and I would just go throughout the day as if it was any other day.

But God works in mysterious ways. The previous week, Pastor had received 2 big (live) turkeys as a gift. So for a week these turkeys have gobbled near my window in the courtyard, waking me up every morning. Thanksgiving morning rolled around, which happened to be a public holiday. Around 11am, Mama passed me and asked, “Isn’t Thanksgiving coming sometime soon?” Mentioning that it was today, she quickly responded, “Well, lets have a Thanksgiving meal.”

Truthfully, excitement and panic flooded me. Mmm…. turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie. I was salivating just thinking of it. BUT how in the world can we pull this off? I had never made Thanksgiving. That was Dad’s joy. And he and Janece always have a menu planned a month in advance, shopping finished 2 weeks in advance, and begin the prep work at least 3 days before the actual day. Now I am here, the day of, 11 am, with only a live turkey. What the heck do I even do with that?!?!

But with some encouragement and willing hands to help, I decided to give it a go. As I made a menu and the list for the market, some of the boys around the compound took charge of the turkey. Yep, you imagine correctly. Catch the turkey, chop its head, put it in a basin, pour boiling water over it, pluck the feathers, and luckily for me, remove the innards.

After going to the market, remember EVERYTHING here is done from scratch, I came home with a load full of goodies. Thankfully Betty [Crocker] gave me step by step instructions on how to make stuffing and how to stuff a turkey.

Now this process was something all of its own. It is amazing what you take for granted as you eat it. The direction said, “Make sure the turkey is thoroughly washed inside and out.” Then take 1/3 of the stuffing and…. “WHAT!!??!! You want me to shove it where? Do you realize that in doing this my whole arm is inside this turkey that gobbled me awake this morning?!” But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to have this American feast. (At this point, I was so grateful for all that my dad did behind the scenes, since if we are honest, all I really did growing up was eat and wash dishes.)

After placing the turkey in the oven and instructing some of my helpers on what to do for carrots, pumpkin, mashed potatoes, and green beans, I remember thinking to myself, “This just might work.” We were busy and still had a lot to do, but things were moving along for an early dinner feast.

That is until the power went out. Ugh. This is annoying any time it happens. But especially inconveniencing when the oven that is cooking your turkey is electric rather then gas.

“Great. Now what the heck are we going to do?!” The turkey had only been cooking for and hour and a half and according to Betty Crocker, had at least 2.5 hours to go. That is 2.5 hours in an oven that consistently on and at a consistent 350 degrees. Hmmm. What to do now? There is no telling when the power will come back on.

So after much debate over what our options were, Jaja (my Ugandan grandmother) and I decided to put the turkey in a sauce pan, wrap it up with banana leaves, and put it on the charcoal stove, in hopes of steaming the turkey. About an hour into the turkey steam bath, the power come back on.

… A dilemma again. Leave it, or put it back in? Leave it, or put it back in? After a bit of eeny-meeny-miny-mo, we went with the oven route, testing our luck once again. Bad choice. Another hour later the power went out again. Ugh!!! Turkey is the key ingredient to Thanksgiving!

By this time it was almost 7pm, the rest of the fixing were ready and on the table, and the feasters were starting to get hungry.

With a headlamp, Mama and I carefully cut into the turkey to examine its edibility. Although still a bit tough, we determined it was cooked enough.

The final outcome was delicious. Though I didn’t get around to turning the pumpkin into pie, it was nice to eat something that reminded me of home in Texas. And the whole ordeal has given me a great story to tell throughout the years as Thanksgiving approaches.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ten Little Chicks

This story has two parts, so let me start at it’s genesis, though little did I know when it was happening that it would be the genesis of anything.

In Uganda, people have great joy.

This is a general state of content joy, without conditions. (I think this is because when they have their NEEDS met, that is enough. There is not a confusion of needs verses wants here. There is not the bombardment of keeping up with the newest, latest, most awesome whatever because what they have works). BUT when a gift is given, such as a new backpack filled with scholastic material, an even greater joy and appreciation overflows.

Often this excitement and appreciation is expressed through this signature African call, “Ayeyeyeyeyeeee!”, hands waving around the air. With little tangible possessions, it is often not store-bought “things” that Ugandans give back as an expression of their appreciation, but rather crops or animals from their farms.

Back to the genesis:
During the season of summer teams, the children and staff of LCH were divided into 12 groups and sent out into the community to be a blessing to our neighbors, delivering Backpacks of Promise to 100 school going village children. (see post “It is better to give than to receive”)

My group went to one of the farther areas. Climbing up the side of the hill to find huts and mud houses settled among the tropical terrain is surprising. But at every home we were welcomed warmly, with chairs being rushed out for us to sit on and handshakes all around from everyone who was in the vicinity.

At one of the homes, after giving the backpack to the school aged child, the mother did not want us to leave empty handed. Instructing us to wait, she disappeared behind the house. We then heard her shouting for her daughter to go around the other side of the house. Everything happening in the local language, I was unaware of what was going on until one of our teachers instructs the LCH children I was with to help the mother chase down a chicken. And off they went. Running through the shrubs and coffee plants.

To catch a chicken you must be fast. And in true chicken hunting fashion, you must be willing to make the dive when the perfect timing and cornering has been accomplished. So, with laughter and cheers, I see Charles dart away behind the house. Then he appears again still following a white chicken. The next events happened quickly: a dive, a grab, a chicken screech, and Charles stands up victorious, chicken in hand. In ceremonious way, he handed the chicken to the village child who had received the backpack so that that child could hand the chicken to the LCH child who had given her the backpack, while kneeling to show appreciation and respect.

My team returned with 3 chickens that afternoon. And that was the last I thought about those chickens until about 2 months later….

In comes part 2 of the story:
I was moving around the LCH compound chatting with some of the girls when I looked over towards a small wooden structure near the administrator’s house and saw one of our boys, Charles intently looking inside. I knew that the structure was the “dog pen” for awhile but the puppies had now outgrow it. So I went over to see what he was looking at.

To my surprise, there were two hens and ten little chicks inside the pen.

I asked Charles whose chicks those were. He replied, “Mine. They are the ones we got in the village when we gave the backpacks. ”  A bit confused I inquired more. He began explaining to me that when we returned to LCH he had been looking after the hens. Then one laid an egg so he put it in the pen. Then another egg and so on.

Now let me say that Charles rarely speaks, at least to me. And as he was explaining, he completely lit up. He continued to explain that there are three boxes in the pen because all three hens we received are now laying eggs. So he keeps them in their boxes while he is at school and lets them out in the morning and evening so they can graze.

I pointed out an exceptionally white chick and told him that was my favorite. He said that the white hen it was with was not its mom. Curious, I asked how that could be. He said that the mom of my favorite chick had cracked its egg. Charles found it cracked, put it in a tin can, and somehow covered the can so that the ant would not get to the egg. Through his love and care this chick survived!

So now Charles has 3 hens and 10 chicks and I am so proud of him.