Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Need to be Honest

I just counted 5 posts about Africa that I have been working on since we returned from Uganda and Kenya 3 weeks ago.

Honestly, I have been writing the New Year's Day post for more than a week now.  God did so much in my life that day!  I NEVER want to forget.  So, I'm including lots of details.

Honestly, I readjusted to East Coast time last week and stopped getting up at 3 a.m. to blog - which I miss so much!

Honestly, I started working again last week (while my kids are in school.)  What a huge blessing!!!  But, my time to blog has been drastically reduced.

Honestly, I'm afraid once I finish blogging about Africa, our time there will become just a collection of pictures and sweet memories.  Even though, it was much, much more than that.

So please bare with me as I continue to (slowly) blog and savor every single thing God did in Africa and in our hearts.  It's about the process (journey), not the end result, right??!!!

Loving HIM with all my heart & soul,

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's Eve in Uganda - Part 3 - What Were We Thinking

Yes, I am STILL blogging about New Year's Eve in Uganda!  This is the last post for that day, I promise.  But let me forewarn you, New Year's Day was the biggest "God day" for me in Uganda.  He just revealed so much and did so much.  I was absolutely exhausted - in a good way.  So stay tuned. 

Now, back to New Year's Eve.....

After leaving the Kingfisher, we headed back to Canaan Children's Home.  The younger kids had to go to bed, but the older ones were allowed to stay up if they wanted to.  So, we brought out party favors and played games to try to stay awake.

Sarah and Helen and another set of eyes

Just hanging out and having fun with their party hats.
Being silly
These children live in the village, not at Canaan.  But they came over to get party hats and play with us.  One of the things that I love about Canaan is even though it is gated, other children are still welcomed in.  This speaks volumes to me so I know it does to the  children too. 

 A little futbol in the dark

A little Duck, Duck, Goose with Rachel & Carla

A little dancing with Ashley and Sarah & the kids

Allyson joined in too

We must have worn the kids out (and most of our team) because none of them were still awake at midnight.

And only 9 out of 26 of us were together outside eating oatmeal cream pies (thank you Stefan!) when the new year began.  Here's Sarah, Stefan, & Hayden.  Sorry, I missed getting a picture of Shawn, Tymm, Austin, Tiffanie, Nate and me :(

Here is Sarah's midnight kiss! 
Somehow, I don't think we were able to replace her husband Jason though :)

One of the local New Year's traditions we heard about was the burning of tires in the street by the young people.  Curious, we all walked over to the gate by the church to see if we could witness any of the excitement.  People came up to the gate & there was a lot of "HAPPY NEW YEAR" exchanges, but that was it.

Tired of talking through the bars, we decided to see if the gate beside the medical clinic was still open - it had been earlier.  Sure enough, it was.

All caught up in the excitement, we decided to venture out into the streets.  I mean who would notice us right??!!!  Nine Mzungus in the street in the dark in Uganda on New Year's.
It was festive and loud.  Lots of people of all ages gathered along the side of the street.  
In the street were several guys on motorcycles.  They were riding very fast up and down the same stretch of road in front of us, often doing tricks.  But soon, it started to feel like they were closing in on us.  About that time, we were joined by 5 more of our female teammates (followed closely by the security guards from Canaan who were probably thinking "What are these crazy Mzungus doing?!!")

Then, the lead motorcycle turned around & aimed his motorcycle directly at us & revved his engine.





Thankfully, God protected us! 

But it just reminded me of how often we choose to go our own way, outside of God's will, outside of His provision & protection.  We allow the pursuit of our own emotions, desires, and plans to lead us right out of the gate of God's will and into dangerous situations.


Thankfully God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Deut. 31:8; Hebrews 13:5) - even when we do crazy things.  Although our choices have consequences (Galatians 6:7), we do know that God can work all things together for good and for His glory (Romans 8:28.)  But to avoid that difficult path, Galatians 5:16 tells us to " by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" which is the best solution of all.  When we rely on the Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit, we won't go outside His gate in the first place.  

 Thankfully, here we are safe and sound! 
(Bottom left to right:  Shawn, Carla, Stefan, Hayden, Rachel;
Top: Austin, Tiffanie, Tymm, Nate, Sarah, Kim, Ashley, Nicole)

Same people but this time, Rachel made me get in the pic while she was the photographer.
Hey, I was just happy to be alive lol!!!  

Loving HIM with all my heart & soul,

New Year's Eve in Uganda - Part 2 - Team Time

Often when we go on mission trips, we think our sole purpose for going is to minister to the native people God will put in our path.  Sure, that is one of the main reasons God sends us, but it is definitely not the only one.  And if we aren't careful, we can miss some of the most amazing opportunities He has for us.  Opportunities that involve others, like our teammates. 

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor (teammate) as yourself."  Matthew 22:37-39

After spending the morning at Amazima loving on children, we spent some quality time together as a team that afternoon.  We took a boat ride from Lake Victoria to the Nile River. 

It was at the Kingfisher hotel where lots of visitors stay.  Beautiful grounds.  Beautiful people.

Here we are on our little boat heading out.  (Rachel is on the left & Sarah is behind her.  Kim is on the right & I'm behind her.)

Alyssa is showing Amy some love.  Amy is not so sure about our little boat - definitely can't blame her for that :)  When I think about the Nile River, I prefer a BIG boat!

We had to take 2 boats and this is the other half of our team on their boat.

My friend Sarah.  I love her!  When we met in the Dulles Airport in D.C., she needed a mom to make sure she had her passport & yellow vaccination form, and I needed someone to mother!  But by the time we reached Africa, we were FRIENDS!  She makes me laugh so hard! I miss her so much!  She was definitely one of the reasons I had to be on this trip with this team.  No doubt about it!

Anyway, back to the picture here.  The water behind Sarah is where the Nile River begins.  This area is called the Source of the Nile.  The huts are souvenior shops.

Photo opp just for tourists like us :)

After our boat ride, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant.  We actually placed our order before our boat ride so our food would be ready when we returned.  Cooking for 27 people (our team and our fabulous bus driver Abus) can take awhile.

When we were placing our order, Tymm, one of our leaders, couldn't decide what to get.  He finally chose a fish dish.  He watched the waiter write down W. Fish.  When Tymm asked him if the W. meant white fish, the waiter promptly told him "No. It means WHOLE fish!"  I laughed so hard!!!  Unfortunately for Tymm, he wasn't feeling very food adventureous on New Year's Eve!!!  Check it out!!!

And by whole, the waiter meant w.h.o.l.e. - complete with eyes, teeth, bones, fins, & tail!!!

My husband on the other hand ordered the same thing and cleaned his plate!  He said it was delicious.  Keep in mind, he did grow up on a farm in the country in Sharon SC - I'm just saying....

There's something about food that just brings people closer together.  We Baptists know all about this :)   But seriously, sitting at the table (and not having to hurry off to the next place) allowed me to get to know some folks better, including Tymm as he played with his whole fish! 

Interestingly, one of the things Tymm shared with Shawn & I was about a book he read called "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning.  Yesterday at church, our guest pastor Foster Christy also mentioned this book.  Obviously, I need to read it.  Thankfully, our local library has it, and I plan to get it tomorrow. 

I was also able to actually talk with some folks I hadn't really talked to before like Lindsey.

I found out that Lindsey just started a new job at her church in November.  This was a major career change for her.  She had been working in the finance world.  God is really working in her life, and she's striving to listen to Him and obey Him.  It's hard when not everyone around her understands.  

Over the course of our trip, I absolutley loved watching Lindsey love!  She does it wholeheartedly and with such selfless abandon.  She is not afraid to be the heart beat of Jesus - which is so much more intimate than just His hands & feet.  Despite the hurt/grief that comes when she has to say goodbye to a "new friend," this young woman LOVES!!!  It was so beautiful to watch.  And while some of us honestly guarded our hearts a little more as our trip progressed, Lindsey's love only intensified!!!  What a privilege it was to serve with her and learn from her.  

I also got to talk with Nate.  Such a humble guy.  He had been in Africa (Rwanda & Ethiopia) since the beginning of December.  He flew from Ethiopia to Uganda to meet up with us. 
During dinner, he shared an absolutely amazing God story that I must share with you. 

Nate and his friend were walking through town in Ethiopia when his friend noticed a teenage boy covered in dirt on the street.  His friend asked Nate if they should help him.  Nate agreed, and they approached the boy who was actually eating the dirt. 

The boy only spoke his native language but God provided a translator.  Here's what they found out.

His name was Geregna, and he was from a village a few hours away.  He had been living on the streets for a couple of years now due to some very horrific circumstances.  Some men had come into his home and killed his family in front of him.  Then they put him in a car and dropped him off in a town a few hours away.  He did not know anyone.  He did not speak the language.  He was all alone.  And people on the streets had not been kind to him either.  Until God sent Nate and his friend to find Geregna!!!

They cleaned him up, fed him, and gave him a safe bed to sleep in - for the first time in years!  Look what a difference love makes!!! 

Talk about a transformation!!!

And guess what?  Nate's friend and his wife feel led to care for Geregna and be his family!!!  ONLY GOD!  ONLY GOD! 

Such a beautiful picture of God's love for us, isn't it?  We were covered in filthy sin.  Just trying to survive.  When God, in all of His grace and mercy, sent His Son Jesus to find us, cleanse us (through His atoning blood on the cross), and adopt us into His family forever!


So be sure to spend time with the people God brings into your life.  You never know how He will bless you through them. 

I am so thankful for my Uganda/Kenya teammates!  I love yall so much!!!  My life has been deeply enriched because of you.

Loving HIM with all my heart & soul,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year's Eve in Uganda - Part 1 - Ministry

New Year's Eve was a very exciting day.  I've been praying about the best way to share it with you and I've decided to use pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  

It's been a long time since I've posted about Africa, so I want to refresh your memory (& mine) and share with you again where we were staying, etc.

We were at Canaan Children's Home in the village of Buziika near Jinja Uganda.  Pastor Isaac and his wife Rebecca opened this home about 15 years ago after God spared Pastor Isaac's life.  I would encourage you to click on the link and read the incredible God story for yourself.

We spent 3 nights at Canann.  The first night we arrived, an all night prayer meeting was taking place at the church on the grounds.  Several of us felt drawn to go so we slipped in the back door around midnight.  Lots of praying, praising, and worshipping - in a language foreign to our ears but translated by the love of Christ in our hearts.  AMAZING!

When Shawn and I left, here is what we saw outside in the dark beside the church...

our friend Sarah cuddling with 2 of the children!  How sweet is that!  Casting her fear of snakes aside, Sarah chose to put love into action!  A little later, one of the children said to Sarah, "Wake up.  You have to go inside so you do not get malaria!"

Here's Shawn in our room.  Pretty nice.  Praise:  The rooster did not crow until AFTER it was light outside!  (Unfortunately though, the cows who lived right outside our window did not get the "no mooing until after sunrise" memo!)

Every morning, we would wake up to lots of children eagerly waiting for us to come outside and play.  I absolutely love staying with the people (nstead of separated from them in a hotel etc.)  There is no better way to experience their culture and their daily lives than to live among them.

Because we were at Canaan during the holidays, a lot of the children had gone to visit friends, sponsors, and relatives.  We only got to meet some of them.

Okay back to New Year's Eve.  On the agenda for today: Amazima Ministries.  Amazima means "Truth" in Lugandan (the language spoken in Uganda.)  This ministry was laid on the heart of young Katie Davis by God when she was serving at Canaan as a teacher.  She is from TN, loves the Lord, and loves children.  I've been reading her book Kisses From Katie to my children and strongly recommend it.  In addition to ministering to 100s of children each week, Katie has also adopted 13 girls of her own.  This is an example of what God can do with a life that is completely surrendered to Him. WOW!

Amazima is less than a mile from Canaan so we were able to walk through the village.

Lots of red dirt, lush green plants & gardens (their rainy season just ended), and mud houses in this village.  (It was hot & humid in Uganda too - it reminded me of home. )

Check out this young boy's car! 

The children would turn almost anything (tires, sticks, plactic lids, rocks) into a toy or game. So simple. We could learn a lot from them.

Everywhere we went in Uganda, the people were so welcoming and friendly.  This village was no exception.  Everyone smiled and spoke to us.  There were ALWAYS fires burning (for cooking) which created a distinct smell.  Lots of people working hard. 

The men were often building their homes, businesses etc.  Sometimes they would use the red dirt in their yards to make bricks for their buildings.  Fascinating.  Lots of farming.  Lots of markets.  (Lots of industry in the city.)  But what I loved most was how creative & resourceful they are. 

After crossing over a railroad track, we finally arrived at Amazima.  Today was Family Day and the children had a special program planned. 

In this picture, you can see most of the young children.  Lots & lots of children.

In this picture, you can see lots and lots of adults who dressed up for this special occasion.

These 2 pictures are of more Amazima children who were sitting dancing in the church.

Truth written on the church wall!


This was one of the performances in the show.  They did such a great job!!!  It was obvious they had been practicing for a long time.  Some of the older children did skits.  Some were funny and some addressed serious issues.  One issue addressed was that guardians sometimes mistreat the children in their home who are not their biological children - even if they are family.  

Alcohol was another issue addressed. (I just did a little internet research and found out that Uganda leads the world in alcohol consumption per capita!  OH. MY.  We had been told about the devasting impact of alcohol, especially on the men.  Their "homemade brews" create all sorts of problems, including blindness & early death)  I love the fact that issues are being addressed (through the children) and not ignored.  No pretending or burying their heads in the red dirt here!!!  In their skits, the children acknowledged the problems and then provided solutions - God's solutions!  They are bringing awareness.  They are trying to break the generational strongholds with the Truth of God's Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.  WOW!!! 

This young child was responsible for taking care of her sister.  I was sitting on a ledge and they were sitting below me.  The baby started crying so I had big sis pass her to me, but she started crying even more.  When I gave her back, a friend whispered something in big sis's ear.  I watched as she then put her baby sister on her back & the baby instantly stopped crying!!!

So for hours this big sister carried her little sister on her back.  Both of them grew tired.  But if big sis tried to sit down or move little sister around, she would start fussing.  Finally, big sis got so tired that she came over to me and put her head in my lap! 

Here we are with Katie Davis. 
You really should read her book Kisses From Katie. 
It will bless your socks flip flops off!

These 2 sisters were the reason I was in Uganda on New Year's Eve!  Daphine is in red
and is very protective of her little sister.

We played together on this enormous playground built by "Uncle Brad" of Amazima.  God also had me write letters to the girls for them to read long after I was gone.  I felt such a connection with Daphine that I also gave her a picture of me & my family.

And just like the previous 2 days in Uganda, God had me provide simple "mother" medical care to Daphine's sister.  Neosporin + a bandaid = love.

I wish I had taken my dramamine!  It's tough getting old.  But the sound of laughing children make it all worth while!

These 2 little ones attached themselves to Shawn, and I got to witness a very sweet interaction between them.  The precious girl in the red had a gash on her arm and was picking at it.  Shawn examined it, put medicine & a bandaid on it and then kissed it and said "All better!"  It was sooooo sweet!!!  You should have seen the way she looked at him afterwards!  I have a sparkle (& tear) in my eye just thinking about it!

While we were playing with the children, other folks were working hard to prepare food for everyone. 

Here is Franco the pet monkey. He seems pretty tame, especially with all of these children around him. But don't think all monkeys are like that. I have a story to share with you from Kenya to prove my point!

After a tearful departure from Daphine, it was time to head back to Canaan. Once we crossed over the railroad tracks, these children ran up to me. I don't think they understood much English, but they definitely understood a hug :)

As we got closer to Canaan, these 2 boys came up to our teammate Stefan and grabbed his hands. What a beautiful picture of our Father and His amazing love! Notice who's carrying the heavy bag burden.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

And to think, it was only lunch time! We still had the entire afternoon ahead of us!

Loving HIM with all my heart & soul,