Friday, December 9, 2011

Power and the Christmas Season

As I sit here enjoying our Christmas tree lights (although it is a small fake one - no Oregon mountains to go get a fresh tree here), I am struck by the beauty of such simplicity and the joy it brings to my heart. I am grateful for the power that has been 'on' more this week than it has been 'off.' (Something that has 'not' been the norm since we returned here last month.)
My mind quickly shifts to the local Ugandans who live here. For many, living without power is an everyday occurrence. They rely upon others to recharge their cell phones and local businesses for all of their power needs. They make their supper largely in the dark using small charcoal cookers. As soon as the sun is up, their new day begins again. It is no wonder that they rarely eat breakfast here before beginning their day when the labor of it all would take so much time. Rather, it is more pressing to get started on the work set out before them. Besides, there is most likely not enough money to prepare three meals each day anyhow. Instead, they often rely upon the trees along the road for a quick snack to bide off their hunger and eat a rather large meal at the end of the day, filling their plates in heaps of food but possibly not with much nutritional value.
Yes, as I think upon the local life and how grateful I am for mine (not just the Christmas tree lights), it is no wonder that giving up the regular comforts of home surrounded by friends and family in America seems so not like much of a sacrifice to us. (although it doesn't mean I don't miss it and my heart even aches at times) Somehow we enjoy the simple pleasures and comforts that we can enjoy here perhaps more than we ever did before. God's gifts come to us in so many packages and for me, at least for the moment, it is the safe home and a couch to sit on, watching Christmas tree lights (enjoying the gift of power) and praying for the Ugandans surrounding me that God would give them some simple beauty to also enjoy this day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rainy Season Storms

Wow!!! What a huge storm last night ... the eye of the storm must have passed over us three different and very separate times. How anyone could sleep through all that noise is beyond me (but Josh managed to do so). Evidence was all around this morning with limbs down here and there all around town. Power went out at the onset of the storm as well.
Rainy season is obviously quite upon us right now. I have certainly enjoyed the cooler temperatures this past week -- in the 70s most of the time and even in the upper 60s when we rise in the mornings. Very pleasant overall.
But I can't help but think of all those folks out there in mud-walled and grass-thatch roofed homes. For them, storms can mean the difference between losing everything and actually surviving the night. The torrential rains bring instant flooding through the villages. If the downpour doesn't affect their homes, the flooding may just finish them off.
As I lay there listening to the storm in my safe and warm, cozy bed, I find myself praying for those that I know who live in such houses. Most of those I know here personally live in the islands of Lake Victoria. They literally know what it means to survive from day to day.
Lightning strikes are not uncommon here either, not just of objects but also people. So I also think about their personal physical safety during such times.
Realizing the struggle just to make it through the storms that come and go so frequently here during the rainy season, it is no wonder that the Ugandan people tend to live day to day without a whole lot of emphasis on the future ahead. There is so much to be done just to make it through the day.
So if you think about it the next time you are in a storm, whether in your warm and safe house or car, please pray for the Ugandan people. Just plain everyday living can be such a struggle during such times. With rising inflation at 30%+ this past month, it is no wonder that even just feeding their families is difficult.
But we know the God who provides all that is truly needed and we give Him glory even when He sends the storms. And we thank Him for such awesome protection in the midst of these storms!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Phew!!! How Jesus must have felt ...

Today was our second Sunday back in Uganda, but somehow it felt like we'd been here all along and had never left. I had been scheduled to teach children's church months ago, and it was my turn. Janae started back with the preschool class, and Bob, well, he was asked to preach again.
The church we attend is a very unique church. It is similar to a campus ministry with lots of transient attendees. The missionaries from America that started the church had a heart for missionaries who were not being fed well on the weekends. They were giving, giving, giving and getting spent in the process. His desire was to have a place where missionaries could come and get truly fed. This means there are a lot of white missionaries there. It also means that some of those missionaries cannot just get fed. Some of us must work in order for things to get done.
Nowadays, we meet on the side lawn of his home on plastic lawn chairs with a sound system. The worship team is primarily Ugandan, leading American type contemporary worship songs. In the back courtyard of his home, the children's program runs between 70-80 children on any given Sunday, most Ugandan and many without much English knowledge. The preschoolers get to stay inside his office for their Bible story and activity time.
When you look out at the congregation, you will see a real mix of colors. There are missionaries from around the world, including many short term visitors and workers. There are some white business people as well. And yes, there are also a lot of Ugandans in this mix. We must be running over 150 now as there seems to be less and less open chairs available, but I'm not really sure. The church is finally looking at purchasing property to build an open concept type structure that fits our needs.
As I said, today was my turn to do children's church. Because of the nature of the church itself, there are only 5 or 6 of us that take turns in the children's ministry. And only 1 of us on any given Sunday is required to 'hang out' with those 70 average school age children. That alone sounds overwhelming.
But I am truly amazed each time I have my turn. The children know the routine and for the most part, sit still and listen. We have little visual stimulus and rarely have music to sing with. Yet, somehow, we hope that God's Word is being poured into these little hearts.
Today I was sharing about the Sermon on the Mount. I couldn't help but be in awe of Jesus as His audience was much more broad than mine in so many ways. His captivating way held their attention and fed their souls. I was only with the children for 40-45 minutes and I was exhausted. I cannot imagine preaching on a hillside with thousands and actually keeping their attention without a microphone. But I can imagine how "Jesus" did ... well, sort of. Phew!!! I am definitely in awe of Him. I only pray that some good seed has fallen on good soil for Him.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Welcome Back!!!

After being away less than four months from Uganda, we have been back for almost a week now. We were greeted by so many with "Welcome Back" and "You were lost!" It has been fun renewing relationships, one at a time. Even the supermarket owners seem to be 'glad' to see me back ... hmmm ... wonder if they have an ulterior motive though?
It was a bit difficult having so few hours of electricity during our first four or five days, but now that we have it a bit more than not, it has become easier adjusting back to our life here. Candles and flashlights are quite good friends to us now.
We are looking forward to how God might use us here, even now. Bob will be going to the island soon to help with some kind of building project, while I will have the privilege of getting to help out with a few of the secretarial type duties for SHIM. Bob will be going to the SHIM staff retreat, while I will be helping a fellow missionary with their children while the parents are away. Bob has already resumed his studies and preparations for SHIM seminars, while I have been busy putting things away and getting things back out in the house (well, and just trying to keep up on the regular household duties). Bob will be preaching this Sunday for church, while Janae and I are trying to get the preschool program back up and running there. And this is just a drop in the bucket as life resumes here.
Janae and Josh are happy to rejoin the youth group. All of the kids are enjoying meeting the new missionary kids that have come since we have been gone. But the most imminent task ahead is to have all the children back on a regular school schedule. Janae was the first to start back and then Josh this week. Now for Jon and Josiah's turn tomorrow.
As you can see, a new routine is forming in our lives, something that has been missing since before we left here in July. Of course, there will be intermittent ministry in the islands and ongoing tasks on the mainland. But we are excited to see what God has ahead for us! We are grateful for His leading and His care as we look beyond ourselves to see His desires!!! Looks like we are back home in Uganda!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Career Missionaries

Today marked the end of our probationary period with Global Outreach and we are now officially 'career missionaries.' We are so grateful for the home office staff and their way of including everyone as part of their missions family. We were prayed over and challenged to make sure we are not only "with" Christ and "for" Christ but truly "in" Christ at all times. (John 15)

You might think things have changed for us now. But in all honesty, I cannot think of anything that has. We are still committed to follow God's lead albeit to Uganda or to the United States. We are still Global Outreach missionaries but somehow we are now "officially" part of the family. We are grateful for their covering and all the immense support the staff provides. We truly could not do our work on the field without them.

Thank You, Lord, for Your provision in the home office of Global Outreach International. We appreciate their hearts and desire to serve You by serving us! May we honor You fully in our lives and in our return to Uganda next week.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Colors

Driving from Nashville, Tennessee, to Wytheville, Virginia, in October can be absolutely breath-taking. Even though we missed the peak colors by a week or two, it was still beautiful as we drove through the hills and deciduous trees recently.

It set me to thinking about the seasons and how things can be so different from one season to the next. The season of our lives lately has certainly shown much change. From the 'safe' living environment of Dufur that our children had only known all their lives to suddenly not knowing any certain place as home and of course, then Uganda becoming our home.

Most recently, every day has brought changes, never knowing what to expect from one day to the next. Our lives have kind of been in a holding pattern as we visit loved ones here in the states. But that holding pattern has been somewhat like traveling the hills, up and down through all the beauty life has to behold with its changing colors as we go.

Beneath all the beautiful color, our souls lie somewhat dormant as we wonder what will happen next. We must surrender our personal desires all over again. We msut remind ourselves that what we give up in the states pales in color to what we know God has for us in the next season of returning to Uganda before long -- not so much in Uganda but in Him. We are reminded once again that the Creator of the universe can create beautiful color in our souls wherever He chooses. And, for now, we are content in knowing that He has placed us in Uganda. May His colors show brightly through us as we return in obedience to His call and may we surrender to Him fully in order to do so.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not Just Toys

I don't know about you, but part of going to Grandma's house meant a visit to the toy basket or the toy drawer. It was always there, waiting for us to explore and enjoy. There were special toys that we only played with on our visits there. For me, it was that special doll at Grandma Kilday's house in Keizer. It was the bottom drawer of the green desk at Grandma Thompson's where there was an assundry of things like marbles and puzzles and games.
If those toys had suddenly disappeared or not been there, something would have been missing. It was just part of the experience. Like cookies in the cookie jar. Somehow it made the visit special.
It never occurred to me that there were other children that visited that same toy basket and drawer. It never occurred that those toys were special to my cousins or my grandparents other grandchildren or visitors. Somehow, they were part of me.
I know. They're just toys. But when you associate certain 'things' with people who mean so much to you, somehow they are no longer just toys.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just a House?

You know, a house can just be a house or a house can be your home. God has been so good to us here in Uganda. First off, we were able to send most of our worldly possessions from America in a container which arrived before we did. Second, a house was waiting for us to make into a home when we arrived.
It is interesting to me that the first house was merely a resting place in between the places. It was a great house in size, stately in its stature and clearly was quite a house in its day once, and had a great location. But that house had many maintenance issues regularly which was sometimes rather costly for us and the landlord decided to breach his own contract by raising the rent before two years' time of commitment. And somehow, while it was home for awhile, it was never really "comfortable" for the family. We loved the yard and the boys especially enjoyed it as their playground, to be sure. But somehow it seemed temporary for us.

God's provision for the time was really nice, but we are grateful for the new house that God has provided for us. Just down the street (literally), it is much smaller with just three bedrooms. But it is much closer to the size we are used to. The style of the house is more similar to what we are used to. The boys are used to rooming all together in one room. We are used to going to a separate part of the house for doing homeschool. So many things such as these facilitated the process of this new house becoming our home so very quickly.

And we are blessed. It may be smaller but we are closer. It may be lower in the location, so internet and phone coverage are spotty. But we are still connected. It may be more on the outskirts of where most of the Americans live, but we are next to a church and some of our dearest friends are just around the corner. Even the nurse we call for help with medical needs is near.

Most of all, this house has quickly become our home. Thank you, Father, for Your great wisdom in providing such a place that we can enjoy and share with others!!!

Friday, July 8, 2011


You know, I had this idea of what being a missionary was going to be like. I would be "out there." I would "learn the local language." I would respond with a "great compassion" for all those I come into contact with. I would be so busy with ministry that lives would be touched for Jesus every single day.
Now I must say ... reviewing these thoughts makes me feel like a real failure. Over this past school year, we have struggled to get as much school done as possible. Each time our family goes to the island, it involves a whole week off of school. We have tried taking school with us, but not much gets accomplished because I am not available to supervise and help them along. Once a week is SHIM's prayer day (which is obviously very important and we do enjoy participating), but again, this is another day which school seldom gets done or if so, very little, because of the time involved for this one meeting.
Now this situation puts me in particular in a big dilemma ... my heart is torn - on the one side for my children and on the other for ministry ... Whenever I participate in the SHIM ministry as fully as I can, we only accomplish two weeks of school in a month's time on average. You can imagine this puts us far behind where we should be. In fact, it is the second week of July and we are still in full swing with school, trying to get as much done before we head to America on furlough.
Bob is so good and tender with his wife when things like this happen. It was clear to him which choice must be made -- the children first and foremost during this time in their lives (and mine). I know he is right and yes, it is true.
So ... I refocus myself on my children and their education. And I redesign my ministry with SHIM for the time being. I know that God wants me to share our home freely with others as well as use the van He has provided to help also. So ... while I continue to believe I do not have the gift of hospitality, I am believing Him when He asks me to step out and offer it anyways in obedience to His call. It is a shift in mindset for me.
I guess I always just assumed that He wanted me to participate fully with SHIM's ministries, specifically the Family Ministry Team. It hadn't occurred to me that He didn't want me to.
This has brought me to my knees in seeking His desires anew for me like I should have sought what He wanted me specifically to do here before I just jumped in. He laid pastor's wives on my heart and has given me a desire to pray for those living in the islands. He laid the village children in Kyoya on my heart and gave me a desire to reach out to them. And yes, I believe He gave me my own children and laid on my heart years ago to homeschool them. And no, that has not changed. So I guess really there is no dilemma as it had seemed.
My ministry for SHIM will change. I will still offer my home for any meetings, especially the once-a-month staff meeting, as well as any other way I can. (I have even been enjoying recently some time with the single SHIM ladies who come to bake.) I hope to open my home to more meals with SHIM staff members as well as game nights and maybe even once-a-month movie nights. I am not sure entirely how He would have to me to do as yet. But this time, I will seek His desires before my ideas.
But going out to the SHIM base on Lingira Island and teaching in the Family Ministry seminars around the nearby islands with Bob will no longer occur on a regular basis for me. While this makes my heart sad, I know it is what God wants me to do. In that I find peace and comfort in knowing that He will call me to other things in due time. But for now, I am renewed in my heart and will obey His call to school my children to His glory once again.
Okay. No dilemma!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Wow! Think about it ... freedom! It is not something that came easily and yet we Americans take it so for granted. At least I know I do.
Living here in a foreign country, we often have reminders. Here in Uganda, people are guilty until proven innocent. This means they lose their freedom by being put in jail until someone can prove their innocence. Seeing military police around town can also dampen one's image of freedom (yet we do feel safe, by the way).
Yesterday was the Fourth of July, our nation's Independence Day; the day we celebrate both our independence and our freedom. It is our second year now to celebrate it outside of the states, outside its protection.
And yes, we are proud to be Americans. Yes, even with all its faults. Yes, we are grateful for all who fought for us and for all of those who attempted to begin a nation built upon God.
And we are grateful for fellow American friends to celebrate here with ... by wearing red, white and blue ... a barbecue with good food (even watermelon and hot dogs)... and even some fireworks.
To God be the glory for "in God we DO trust!"