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, February 18, 2013

So proud!

So in Uganda, education is highly valued. And there is a high emphasis and training leading up to 3 key national examinations. This past November our second class of students sat for the P7 (end of primary school) leaving examination. It was our first time for Lulwanda Primary School to have its own "sitting center"number, which allows the school to receive credit (or discredit) on how well it is doing as a training institute.

All glory to God and appreciation to all of our staff and teachers because Lulwanda Primary School did AWESOME!

We ranked #9 out of 148 schools in the Mbale district (urban and rural schools) AND
we ranked #2 out of the 101 rural schools.

I can't tell you how proud we all are of our students and what the Lord is doing here. May God receive all the glory!

I hope you enjoy this video about education, that was played at our friends of Lulwanda dinner.

(Click this link)

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Visit Home

"Home" has such a bigger meaning to me now.  Where most people think of the house where their family lives, for me, I have multiple families who mean so much to me. So, I could go with the definition- "home is where the heart is." The only problem is that my heart is in many places. So, I guess I will remain one that always has to use the context clues of what is being talked about and who is talking to me to determine which "home" they are referring to.

But all that to say, I had a wonderful visit to my (first) home in Texas (well actually America because I was literally from one coast to another in a matter of a week).

I feel like this trip was such a blessing, having been able to see so many of my dearly loved friends and family. From lazy days in the house with Dad and Janece to an awesome cruise to the Bahamas with a BFF, I treasure all the memories made and quality time spent.

So, here is a photo re-cap of my time in the USA... (in no particular order)

Cruise to the Bahamas:

My BFF, Jac, used to live in Greece with her husband, so two years ago when I was in Texas I did not get to see here. But the Lord moved them to Florida a year ago and we were able to reunite. And how fun to get to go on my first cruise with her!

Having started off on a stormy day, I didn't know if my motion sickness prone body was going to make it for another 2 days. Literally, the waves caused us to stagger down the halls the first evening. But we woke up the next morning to the beautiful scene behind us.

I was amazed at how big the ship was. I kept thinking to myself, "This is way bigger than Noah's boat was."

Nothing beats the cruise line owning a private island. This was a dream day and location.

Yep, a sting ray. This was one of the 4 I saw. And I even saw a 2.5 ft shark along the shallow water. Kinda freaky but really cool. (That was not the location I decide to go swimming though :)


So blessed to see how the Lord worked this trip out at the last minute to visit one of my dearest friends. Gennean and I had tossed around the idea of me coming there or her coming to Texas, but tickets were just too expensive. We were starting to wonder if we would be able to see each other during my visit home and said, "Let's see what the Lord will do." I had pretty much given up on finding a ticket within our budget but decided to look one last time. Sure enough, the one weekend I had free I was able to find a ticket for $100 less than what we said our max was. And it left in 4 days!! 
This trip was even more special because Gennean had just gotten engaged the weekend before and I was able to be there for her and Bill's engagement party! How sweet the Lord is to let me share this event with them.

For my 30th birthday she drove me to Monterey Bay for a wonderful day at the aquariam.

Trying to feed a sting ray.

I was at the tank that had above two fish when a little girl came running up shouting,
"Look Mom! It's where Nimo lives!"

Family Time:

One of the most difficult parts of living in Uganda is that the rest of my family live in Texas. Therefore, I don't often get to see them. But what a great season to come home.  I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and all of the bdays of my immediate family.

Thanksgiving was at Dad and Janece's house with Janece's side of the family.
Mmm such a great meal to welcome me back to Texas.

Me, Janece, Dad, Monica

This is my grandpa, Bob. What a wonderful man. I cherish this visit I had with him about a month before he passed away. He was SO sweet, talked really slow with his great texas accent, and always listened to my stories. It was on this visit that he told me, "Well, I don't know why the Good Lord still has me around, but I guess he has me here for somethin'" Then he proceeded to tell me how much he loved my Granny and what she meant to him. So sweet. I love that memory of him.

The lake house:

When I arrived in Texas, my parents had just started the process of building their retirement home at the lake. We had many evenings looking at the house plans and debating how things should be arranged.

Dad has been super busy (and hard working) as the general contractor of this project. Part of the process is tearing out the current cabin that was there so that it can be turned into a garage. I had a chance to go up one weekend and help them out.

But in the mean time, since there is no long a place to stay, they bought a 1980 travel trailer that the call "the Palace". I also had the opportunity to stay in the palace and once was enough for me. 
The set up is quite African style- they sleep in the travel trailer, use the toilet and shower in the gutted cabin (the bathroom walls are the only interior walls remaining), cook in the shed that dad made into a make-shift kitchen, and wash dishes around the corner at the fish cleaning station.

Dad hunting down a pesky squirrel.

There is a wonderful little church at the lake called East Lake Fellowship. They have become great friends and a huge blessing to my ministry at Lulwanda. I was happy to be able to share with them what the Lord has been doing the past 2 years, since I had last visited.


The second hardest thing about living in Uganda is being so far away from my friends in America. But I am so grateful that the Lord allowed me to visit so many places and see so many people when I was there.

Becky was one of my University housemates. She is now a serving in China. Due to different furlough schedules, it is not likely that we would be in the same place at the same time. But I was overjoy that she was in Texas due to minor medical delays before going back (overjoyed for me, not the reasons she was still in there). I was able to meet her two little ones they recently adopted from Ethiopia and her natural born son. And it was a blessing beyond words to have someone who truly could relate to and understand my culture transition those first few weeks.

I spent an extended weekend in the Houston area and caught up with some beloved friends.

The Newmans. Living in Uganda has meant the I have missed my 2 BFF's weddings.  So, I was glad to get to spend time with Erin as a married lady and get to know her husband, Kevin, a bit better.

They live near the coast so we enjoyed the day at Kimma (sp?) and Galveston.
Sarah, another University housemate, was visiting her mom in Katy. I LOVED getting to catch up with her and meet her youngest 2 (of 3) boys that I had never met. 

Sarah and I met up with Tonya (another Uni housemate) to eat at my favorite restaurant (and what I miss most about Texas besides family and friends), Chuys. I also got to see Tonya at church my last Sunday in the States.
God is so good.


I am glad that the Lord has allowed me to spend every other Christmas in the States since I moved to Uganda. Though the meaning of Christmas stays the same (obviously), the whole feel of the season is different in each place. In Uganda the weather continues to get hotter and therefore dustier as Christmas approaches. Since most people have just enough money for a new outfit and chicken for their holiday meal, there is hardly any commercializm of the season. And call me shallow, but I really enjoy the "feeling" of Christmas in America, so it is alway fun when I am there for the holidays.
Janece and I going to see "White Christmas" at the theater
"Granny Christmas" is a treasured event where everyone on my mom's side of the family gets together once a year.
This is me and my sister with my Granny and Aunts.

Granny with her granddaughters

Christmas morning in Austin with the fam.

Then off to Temple to celebrate with Janece's side of the family
Playing fish bowl (a combination of catch phrase, pictionary, and charades)

Janece and I spent the night in Temple and decided to ride the Amtrak train back to Austin. Though not very practical, after the train delayed for 4 hours due to a snow storm up north and seeing that Temple is only about an hour from Austin, BUT it was a fun experience.

Midland visit:
As many of you know, Midland Bible Church has played a very special role in my journey to Uganda. Actually they are one of the key stepping stones. Though I only spent 9 months as an intern there (until I went to Uganda for my internship), the Lord blessed me with so many cherished friendships there.

I was able to give an update on what has been going on at LCH and in my life. It was also in Midland that I met up with the two LCH children (who were visiting the States for 6 weeks) for the first time.
What a beautiful addition to my stories and video about LCH. I am so glad that the Lord has planned for the kids to be in Midland the same weekend I was. They were able to share their stories of where they came from and how God has used LCH to change their lives. 
Julie and Cheryl. I can't express how much these two women have blessed my life through their love, encouragement, and just sharing their lives with me.

Lion King:
(I only wish we were allowed to take photo during the show).

Janece and I got all dolled up to go to the theater for the second time during my stay. This time we went to see the Broadway performance of The Lion King. Wow. It was so good. The best production I have ever seen. And we were on the second to the last seats up in the nose bleed section and it was still incredible. I hope I have another chance to see it again.

Dad did not go with us (obviously...we would not have let him come in that outfit). But I love this photo because it really shows how things are. Janece- nice, sophisticated, etc. And Dad with his half tuck and goofy hat (that he was so proud of because the ears can flip up or down based on the weather). Oh Dad. But to give him some credit, he had just come back from a few days of hard work at the lake house.

Friends of Lulwanda Dinner:
I headed back to Houston for a second time to be part of the Friends of Lulwanda dinner. This was a wonderful night. There were so many friends that I had hosted at Lulwanda that were there. It was a beautiful night to celebrate all that God has done at LCH.
These are the Mr. and Mrs. Beeler. They were like second parents to me in University, as I lived with two of their girls in college. I was so happy that they were able to come from Denton to Houston for this dinner. And just by God's planning, both Siraji and Fatuma are who the Beeler's sponsor, so they got to meet both of their children. :)

And our friend, Sarah H (who made the lip dub with the kids this past summer), was able to be at the dinner too.

On the trip back from Houston to Austin, Janece and I were able to stop in Flatonia and visit Granny. I was glad to see her one more time before I flew back to Uganda.

So, thanks for those who have read to the end. I uploaded all the photos the morning I left Texas (wanting to make good use of the fast internet there). But as I was uploading I realized that I should have broken them up into different blogs but it was too late for that. Only one more hour of fast internet. So, it is what it is and you got it in a big lump.

But there is one huge event missing that will be in a different blog post. My family and I were able to have Siraji and Fatuma come stay at my house in Austin for a couple nights. So fun. I can't say how much it blessed my heart to be able to host these two kids after they have hosted me for the past 5 years.

So be on the lookout for that next post of our adventures in Austin.