Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Call to the Islands

Asked if I could spare a day to teach at a youth seminar out on one of the outer islands, I agreed. So Thursday I packed up my backpack, along with some equipment they wanted me to bring, and I caught a boda (a motorcycle taxi). There is nothing like riding on the back of a motorcycle weaving through traffic with your arms full of equipment. I waited at the landing for the public boat to come for a couple of hours in the hot sun along with a crowd of people, a goat, chickens and other things not so pleasant. Among a sea of faces, mine was the only white one.
Finally, a man carried me out to the boat. (Everything gets carried out to the boat. The idea of using boat docks doesn’t seem to have caught on here except for the very large seacraft.) Catching a public boat is an experience. They pack as many things and people as they can into a 40 foot wooden boat. I stretched out (crammed between the side of the boat and a woman with a baby) on my comfortable seat (a three inch wide board) and got set for the four to five hour trip. Numerous times I was asked, “Mzungu (white person), where are you going?” They thought surely I must be lost. Very few white people take the public boats and especially not to the outer islands on their own. (Although with fifty other people crammed in the boat I wasn’t technically alone.) I just smiled and told them (those whom I actually understood what they were saying) the name of the island. They would look at me like they thought I was crazy.
When we got to the island I managed to jump to the shore without having to be carried. I was met by one of the SHIM team members. As I was lead to where I would stay for the night, I was told what the plan would be for the next day. Not only would I be teaching in the seminar, but they planned on holding a crusade (an outdoor evangelistic service in the village) in the evening and they wanted me to preach. That’s okay, I thought, I could handle that, but they went on. After the crusade they also planned on holding an all-night teaching and worship service on Friday night and they wanted me to teach at that as well. I can’t say my first reaction was joy. Not only would this mean some fast preparation work on the preaching and teaching I had not planned on, but it had been many years since the idea of staying up all night sounded appealing. I just tried to smile and said a silent prayer for help. It was, after all, a privilege for me to share. At least this night I would be able to sleep, or so I thought. One of the fellows gave up his bed for me which I was grateful for. I had brought my own mosquito netting which worked okay but kept falling down on my face and getting tangled within my feet. The night was anything but restful.
The day started a 6 am with morning worship. After breakfast tea, we took a boat to a different island where the seminar and crusade would be held. The seminar was in a mud walled church where there were about 70 people packed in on wooden benches. After the seminar we moved the equipment to an open area in the center of the village. There the crusade began with music and dancing. My mzungu feet couldn’t keep up with the dancing and I did not understand the words to the songs, but I clapped along and sang my own words. After I preached there was more singing and dancing. The dancing got a little wild. There were around 70 children there besides the adults, and the children began running and slamming into each other, pushing each other to the ground, knocking many of the smaller children flying. I was very disturbed by this but the Ugandans just smiled and said, ”They are playing. “
When the crusade was over, we moved the equipment back to the church and prepared for the all-nighter. We had to hurry for a sudden thunderstorm came up and we had to get inside before we were drenched. The people fed us well with plates heaping with food, only my stomache was not in agreement with the food before me. To be polite, I did my best to eat as much as I could. The all-nighter consisted of teaching, mine as well as others, prayer and worship. As the night wore on, some of the people began to nod off. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open but then the night grew cold. The people put on coats, but I, who thought was in a tropical country, had only the shirt I had on. I shivered through the last few hours, but at least it helped keep me awake.
The all-nighter lasted until 6 am at which time we got our boat back to the mission base on a nearby island. The rest of the SHIM team found beds to sleep on, but I needed to catch the public boat for the five hour ride back to Jinja. This time I shared the ride with another mother and baby as well as a bunch of chickens that refused to be polite and stay in their own area. Finally, I made it back to shore and caught another boda back home. While the trip did not have much rest, I still felt blessed to be a part of what God is doing in the islands.

A "Cool" 72 Degrees

This afternoon, I am not feeling so well for some reason. Some kind of flu bug, likely. But it is certainly not because I am experiencing too hot of temperatures. Indoors, our thermometer is reading 72 degrees at 5 pm. It has been raining here off and on for several days now. While it makes it difficult to get the wet laundry dry, I must admit that I am enjoying it.

Out of the three months' time that we have lived here now, there have only been a handful of nights where I required a blanket or even a sheet for that matter. My resting body temperature just has not needed it. So I have been ever so grateful for the past few days of 'coolness.' We may even have to retrieve the one blanket that we did have in our bedroom from the spare bedroom downstairs (which has been reserved for Andy and Karina Smith actually). Bob tells me he was cold last night. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the one layer I had on.

Somehow today, this has gotten me thinking about God's provision for us. While we don't have an abundance of blankets (because we 'thought' we didn't need them ...), we have just exactly what we truly need. He has continued to show us this each month here in Uganda. We are not living in abundance by any means (especially by American standards), but we continue to be taken care of with just enough. Just enough eggs and just enough flour, etc.

It strikes me how grateful we should be for this, especially when we drive through the streets of Jinja, Uganda, or visit Lingira Island. We have so much more than so many here. I pray that we will not be greedy or selfish, but will listen to His Holy Spirit's leading so that we will know when and what to give freely in His Name and for His sake.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Ugandan Home

It is hard to believe that we have been here in Jinja, Uganda, for over a week now. While we have been staying in a fellow missionary's home during this time, we are in the process of preparing our new home. (You can see us in the picture standing in front of our new home, holding our new puppy Lulu Zuri.)

The house is simply amazing to us! It is evident that this place was once really something in all its glory. The owner is having it painted and doing some miscellaneous work on it, so we have not been able to move into it. It really does need quite a bit of tender, loving care.

Today we finally 'started' on the process of moving things around. We were not able to find the hardware for the beds but we did find some things for the house. The boys were each happy to find their toy boxes of course.

We finally have a plan for each of the rooms. Downstairs there is one bedroom (which will house guests whenever Andy and Karina Smith do not need to use it; however, they will store their things as needed.) There is also a large room where one end is available for the dining room. There is also a separate dining room, but we will most likely turn this into a bunk room later on for guests.

We were able to make it to Kampala, the capital city, a couple days ago where we picked up a fridge and washing machine. The men are not done painting in the kitchen or the wash room though, so we were able to get them hooked up.

Upstairs there are three bedrooms, one master bedroom, and two smaller rooms plus a balcony. We were pleased to find our lawn chairs today and set them out on the balcony. One of the smaller rooms will become Josh's room, his first time of having his own space. The other three bedrooms will house the rest of us, while the master bedroom will become our school room/family room. The other small room is directly accessed from the balcony and will be set aside for an office with perhaps a futon frame for an extra bed.

The boys' quarters is in far too poor disrepair to consider anyone living there. It would take A LOT of work to get that into shape. For now, this will have to wait. We quickly abandoned the idea of it becoming Andy and Karina's guest house.

When we contemplate the wonder of our Lord's loving providential care, we are in awe of Him. This house is so much more than we could have ever asked for or even imagined. It is a European style home with lots of windows and space. I can see that we shall be quite comfortable there and the transition to a new culture will be made easier because of it.

May we use it fully in ways that please Him and honor Him. May it be a place of not only hospitality for many but also a place where those who enter find rest and a sense of His loving care.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trigger for Tears

A thermometer? Where are the thermometers?! I can't find a thermometer!!! Emotion wells up inside of me. Holding back the tears, I finish up my shopping quickly and head to the van. "Why am I crying over a thermometer?!!" I think to myself. I wanted to get a thermometer with fahrenheit to take with us on our move to Uganda.

It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't "really" crying over the thermometer. It simply represents for me, in a way, living in America. For the most part, I can run to the store and get just about anything we ever want or need easily and quickly. If I can't find it at one store, then I can simply head on over across town and most likely find it at another. Even if I encounter the worst case scenario and I am unable to find it, I can go on the internet and order it to arrive at my home within a reasonable amount of time.

Knowing Uganda stands in stark contrast to such conveniences, the thermometer reminded me of the HUGE transitions ahead for our family and myself. Suddenly, I was overcome with emotions and thoughts rushing to my mind. "Can I do this, Lord?" He gently spoke to my heart with reassurances. He is so very gracious to me in so many ways. After sharing some of my tears, I felt better.

Then this morning, God knew I needed even more reassurance. He took me to Jeremiah 1 in my quiet time with Him. There we find the 'Call of Jeremiah' and words like "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

"Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." (from verses 5-6) Boy, can I relate! 'I am only a child.' That is exactly how I have been feeling lately.

In these passages though, God gently encourages my heart that He has prepared me for this next life assignment from before I was born. He knew that He would be sending our family to Uganda long before it ever entered my mind. And He promises to be with me through every step of the way. He will be my words, so to speak. He will provide my every need.

Lately, I have been struck by the sheer enormity of His graciousness. Most missionaries go to their new assignment and have to start from scratch. No house. They must wait for their belongings to arrive. No place to call home for awhile and they must live in complete transition in the interim.

When we arrive, we will not only have most of our earthly possessions waiting for us, but we have a home (and not just any home)and even a puppy to welcome us! God placed Andrew and Karina Smith there in Uganda before us who have been working feverishly in between all of their other many tasks, to help smooth our way. We are SO BLESSED!!! GOD IS GOOD!!!

In the words of Jeremiah 1:17-19, "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified ... for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Doing Things Backwards?

I was just pondering how God has been working in our lives, especially recently. God has often worked on our behalves in unexpected ways. Usually, missionaries raise funds and get their plane tickets before any of their household goods arrive in country and also before finding a place to live in said country. Doesn't this sound 'normal?' It does to me ...

Well, God has definitely not been moving in a 'normal' routine for us as we embark on His new call to send us to Uganda. First, we began fundraising about a year ago. Then, our household goods were loaded into a container bound for Uganda without our having any knowledge of when 'we' would arrive there. That was in December 2009. Needed to send it then because we were sharing the container with fellow missionaries who needed to send it then. Next, we rented a house to live in for ministry (actually just in time for the container to be unloaded directly into it) in Uganda this March.

Now? We are still in the states. Our belongings are in our newly rented house in Jinja, Uganda. So it might 'look' like this is backwards. But! We know our God and He is in control of all things. We are ecstatic to know that airline tickets are in the works for us to leave this coming May 19th, bound for Uganda. And ... we are bouncing with joy and praise for our heavenly Father because we understand that He knows best. And we continue to trust Him and His ways, providing us with each step ahead. His creativity sometimes tests our patience when He answers in ways we do not expect. But I must admit, He sure keeps the journey interesting! Praise Him for His ways, the best way!!!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not Just a Suitcase

Yesterday, we walked into a luggage store in Newport, Oregon, to find everything that we needed in regards to our luggage needs anyways. Now this may not seem remarkable really except that everything in this store is $20 or less "and" I have been looking for cheap suitcases for literally months now (and not just a few - actually, twelve).

I have searched all the likely places: clearance aisles at department stores, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and every used goods store I could find. I even made a few purchases but just couldn't seem to "finish" my list of one pilot case and one extra large suitcase for each family member.

Also, you might think that this is not only just a suitcase but also just a 'to do' list. Well, yes, perhaps you are right. But the only thing for me is that this was a statement straight to the heart from God.

Only God knew how this need being met in such an awesome way (all at once) at this time could warm my heart and encourage my soul. For to me, His provision in the rest of the suit-cases showed in perhaps a simple way was just another glimpse of His plan in progress. You see, God is just like that. He knows how simple-minded I can be and how finite I am. I need to have even little reminders of His faithfulness even though He has never failed me. He has called us to Uganda and to Uganda He will take us. Whatever the need to get us there, He will indeed provide it in "His" most perfect timing. Yes, Father, once again I renew my full trust in You and will wait for You! Thank You!!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Container in Kenya!

Received news yesterday that indeed the container which contains most of our earthly possessions did arrive in Mombasa, Kenya, this week and is pending customs clearance.
Having gotten the house, this means that our things (and SHIM's) can be off-loaded into the house directly where it can be stored. SOOOOOO exciting!!!
It won't be long now before the container arrives in Jinja, Uganda. We are so grateful to Andy Smith and the SHIM staff who are taking care of all the details for us.
Yes, we definitely 'feel' as if we should be there soon now, but God has not provided all the funds quite yet. We are running at about 70-71% funded in monthly support and still need one time funds to cover airfare, immunizations, work visas and household set up/repairs.
Knowing that God has this much in the works makes it ever so exciting though that the time may be drawing near for Him to send us! Praise Him Who works miracles on our behalf and for His purposes. Please pray with us that we will see His perfect timing as He provides for all our needs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A House for a Home

When Andy Smith emailed us over a week ago, we were excited. He had found a house that might possibly work for us!
The next email we received, Andy had done a walk through of the home. Not only was this possibly something to consider, it had EVERYTHING we wanted, needed and MORE! Yes, it has fallen into disrepair in spots and is in need of paint in a bad way ... BUT ... to us, this place seems like a mansion on earth for us!!!
Not only does this home have six bedrooms, there is a Boys' Quarters outback with two rooms, a spacious yard with fruit trees and an existing garden. The place is fenced in with vegetation covering just about all of the fencing. There is also a small house or chicken coop type structure with chicken wire. It is simply amazing to us to consider! All of this and it also overlooks Lake Victoria and the mouth of the Nile River!!!
We started praying over this immediately. The price was definitely right (just under what we had projected in our budget), but we had understood that a lot of landlords require not only a lease agreement of six to twelve months at a time, they also expect the full amount up front. After checking our financial statement from the Global Outreach Int'l Home Office, we were a long ways from having that kind of cash available. We prayed that God would either do a miracle to show us this was for sure His will or He would close all doors immediately and show us that He had something even better waiting for us in Jinja.
We had already decided in our hearts that this place would fill every possible ministry need we could imagine at this time. Our hopes had been not only to have plenty of rooms for our family as well as homeschooling, but to have a place for Andy and Karina Smith to stay whenever they needed it on the mainland; also, to have plenty of room to help with groups and teams that come through to work with SHIM and have a large yard to do a garden with space for the kids. My personal dream is to have a "Hospitality House," a place where people are encouraged and feel closer to God in some way because of their being there. (Because I do not believe I have the gift of hospitality, this would also be a miracle as God would definitely be responsible for such a thing!) Not only does this place have all of this and more, it is also located very near Ripon Port where SHIM lands their boat. Plus ... the timing of obtaining the house this month enables a place for all of our things as well as SHIM's things to be stored as soon as the container arrives. We just couldn't ask for more! (at least I can't imagine it ...)
Today, Andy called on the telephone, stating that he needed to know for sure within the hour if we wanted this place. There was another family wanting the house but Andy had asked about it first so we had first dibbs. Oh, my goodness! I shared with Andy that we definitely wanted the place but that we didn't have all of the rent money upfront yet. Ah ha! No problem! This landlord apparently only requires rent each month and we can certainly swing that!!! Ahhhhhh! Andy! YESSSSS!!!!!!!
Simple excitement quickly turned into overwhelming enthusiasm! Once again, God has shown His Word true in Ephesians 3:20-21 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!" (NIV) We had asked for at least 3 bedrooms. He gave us 6 rooms. We hoped for at least a workable kitchen. He gave us this plus even a small mudroom/laundry area. We hoped to be near enough to SHIM in some way to serve their needs. He gave us a home just up the road from the port SHIM uses regularly. We hoped for an extra room/guest area for Andy and Karina Smith to stay whenever needed. He gave us a separate Boys' Quarters with two rooms and a small kitchen. We hoped to be in the country or at least a fair yard for the children where we could have a garden. He gave us a garden, fruit trees, space for some small animals (like chickens), a fenced in space for the children and more. The list goes on as we are grateful for this house being provided for us, in advance. Not just a house, but soon to be our home! We are ever so grateful!!!