Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And As You Do To The Least Of These...

Well first of all, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that you go on to have a Happy (and need I say SAFE) New Year! I am missing everyone a lot around this time, so know that you are in my thoughts and my prayers.

Second of all, so that everyone knows, the CDC has finally come out with an official notification on the sickness that had been plaguing Northern Uganda about a month ago. They are telling people now it is Yellow Fever (I have been vaccinated so I shouldn’t be in any danger) and advising people to get the shot for immunization if they haven’t had one in the last 10 years. So that mystery hopefully is solved and prayerfully no more people will die now that they know what it is.

Ok, now that those two things are covered, I will continue on with the reason for this post.

James 1:27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Last week when we went out to the village to drop off a few of the staff with their families, we also stopped in to visit a child we had heard was doing poorly. That is one of the understatements of the year. Although his father and “Jaja” (grandmother) tell us he is almost two years old, he weighs about 10 kilos (if that), he can’t walk or even stand and is extremely malnourished. His mother died of cancer about a year ago, and since then his health has slowly gotten worse. Although his father is still alive, his second wife will not allow the children from the dead wife to live with them, so the Jaja has taken them in to her home since the death of their mother. Although the two older children seem to be doing alright, the youngest is suffering. The grandmother is unable to care for the child during the day because she has to go out and dig in the fields so she has to lock him into the house by himself until she gets home. As you can imagine, not a good situation. The boys name is “bad chance” but we are now calling him Emma (a common name here which is short for Emmanuel). After praying about it, the McCourtney’s have decided to take him into their home for awhile to help him regain his strength and hopefully after 6 months to a year, be able to return to his family.  The people here call it “rehabilitating” children. We will go and get him on Monday from the village when we pick up the staff again. So be in prayer that the Lord will use us to help him and his family!

Also, when Summer and Zane went up to church on Sunday night in a different village, a baby was brought to their attention. She is almost a year old but weighs about 5 kilos and is on deaths door step. Summer told the sister who was carrying her that she had maybe two weeks to live unless they could get her some help. Apparently, according to some people in the village, the mother has many children and every year is having another one so she is unable to care for the baby. We are calling the child Esther and on Friday I will go up to the village to speak with her family about prayerfully bringing her back here to Kitgum and “rehabilitating” her as well. For the children to survive in the village, they need to be about 2 years old so if her family consents, she will be brought into the McCourtney’s home for a time as well, probably between 6 months to a year (depending on how long it takes for her to recover). All of this, however is dependant on the consent of the parents for us to take her in, so be in prayer for that!

The Lord knows what will happen to these children and we are praying His will in every decision that is made. After living over here for only a month and seeing the need some of these children have, it is no wonder to me that the McCourtney’s have 12 children. My prayer is that the Lord will use me to assist them in the care of these and the children that they already have. As always, scripture seems to point to the importance of caring for these small ones.

Matthew 25:40
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

So that is what is going on! We will be (Lord willing) getting those two small ones, one on Friday and the other on Monday. God has a perfect plan and it will be exciting to see what that plan is! The Lord knows :) I can’t wait to see what it is...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Christmas Program

Eryn informed me the other day that she wanted to do a play. With 12 children in one family, you have a ready ensemble to join your acting crew! So, considering what theatrical act should be brought forth, we decided “tis the season” so of course, the Christmas story was what we decided we must put forth. We quickly got a piece of paper and a pencil and decided who would play what role. No part was too small, from the donkey that Mary would ride to the Angel that brought the good news to the shepherds in the field.

After we decided who would play each part, of course costumes were to follow. Living in the “backwoods” of Uganda, we don’t have a Dollar Tree or a Wal-mart down the road to purchase the supplies for costumes so we did what every self respecting missionary will do. We made our costumes with what we had and over the course of 3 days everything started coming together. The manger was a water box, colored with yellow marker and filled with blankets. The staffs for the shepherd and Joseph were Papaya branches. The donkey ears were brown construction paper and head bands. Each thing was selected, put together and each child was thrilled with their “props” for the play.

Our “guests” were of course Zane and Summer, Joyce (the mother of Patience who made an appearance as one of the “wise” men) and Paul a man who is helping Zane in the minister here in Northern Uganda. I was awarded the much coveted position of Stage Manager :) A sheet was placed over the doorway so that our audience couldn’t see backstage. The “sheep” Enoch and Eston had their faces painted, the wise men were given their crowns, the shepherd his head wrapping, Joseph and Mary their outfits, the donkey’s their ears and the angel her wings. It was all coming together.

Eryn sat in her seat as the Narrator of the story, opened her script to the book of Luke and began to read of Mary, a simple Jewish virgin who was selected for her devotion to the Lord and her desire to serve Him, to bring into the world the Son of God who would save us from our sinfulness by the sinLESSness of His life.

The stage was set, the animals waiting in the stable (drawn courtesy of Summer). The curtain parted and out walks Joseph on His was to Bethlehem leading a donkey with Mary riding on his back. The walk imaginary door to imaginary door “knock knock is there any room?”. At each they are turned away. Finally they are told there is no room anywhere in Bethlehem, except in a stable.

So there in a stable, baby Jesus is born. Then in a nearby corner :) an Angel appears to our shepherd and his two sheep to declare “I bring you GOOD NEWS! A Savior is born in Bethlehem!”. “LETS GO!!!” declares our shepherd to his sheep and they take the long journey across the room to the small stable to see the Son of God.

Then, tired from their long journey, the wise men (and woman) appear with their faithful donkey (Elyssa didn’t want to be a camel :) and they fall on their faces before the babe and offer up their gifts.
All then rise, turn and Eryn wraps up the story with the simple statement “Jesus grew up in Bethlehem, growing strong and wise in God’s love.” Then they all sang “Away in a Manger” for us and took their bow...

The reason for the season, contrary to the popular belief of it being presents, is to remember that stable and the fact that Jesus came to this earth as a babe to save us all from our sinfulness.

*pictures to follow

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have no fear, I am still alive and kicking in Uganda!

Sorry if there was any concern about it, I just haven’t been able to get online and update all of you on what is going on in the busy life of Kitgum, Uganda! So be re-assured that all is going well and I am as healthy as ever!

So here is what I have been up to the last week and a half...

I find that in life, God always seems to bless me with amazing timing! Although the McCourtney’s haven’t been able to take a vacation as a family for several years, they were blessed with some money for Christmas and decided to take several days and go as a family to Jinja for a little R&R. So after living here a full 2 ½ weeks, I got to pack my bags and go to the city of Jinja which is the source of the Nile river... Can you say beautiful? I will upload some pictures here soon so you can all see how amazing it is! I told Summer that no one would ever believe I was living in Africa. It is gorgeous. We even had pizza!!! Man, let me tell you what, I was feeling pretty amazing. The kids spent a good portion of the days swimming in the pool, although they all had some sunburn difficulties :) I am pretty sure they couldn’t figure out why their noses were pealing! Most of the kids had never had a sunburn so it was one more new experience!

Also, I had a new experience. In Uganda, if you want to get around, you just hire a boda-boda (motorcycle) and you hop on the back and the driver takes you wherever you want to go. So picture this. We walk up to a driver, tell him where to go and then hop on side saddle (have I mentioned I am almost always in a skirt) and away we race to dodge other vehicles, busses and large trucks also traversing the roads! Helmets... what helmets... We don’t need those silly things, totally unnecessary. What is going out shopping without taking your life into your hands every once and awhile :) All I could think as I was flying through the streets of Jinja was that my mom would kill me if I got hurt on one of those things!

After all of this fun stuff, it was back to the town of Kitgum, also known as home sweet home or as Ezekiel (one of the 5 year olds) put it when we were pulling in WELCOME TO PARADISE! I guess I will take some pictures of the city soon so that you can see what the town looks like. Then the humor of that statement will hit you :D Kitgum is an experience in itself...

Anyway, we had church on Sunday morning and then I was able to go out to the village with Zane and some of the men from the church to do a service with the people there as well as Sunday School with the kids. Zane asked me to do a Sunday School lesson for the children. I was thinking 10 or 15 children between the ages of 5-10... Boy was I in for a surprise! After traveling for an hour on pretty good roads (a blessing because apparently it used to take 2 ½ to 3 hours) we pulled in to the village where we were greeted by 15 or so adults and around 40 children.

Church is held outside under a huge mango tree! I was joking with them that the church is bigger in the village because the tree is larger than the tree we meet under in Kitgum for church :) Also, a blessing (as a side note) is that it is cooler out in the village, so having church in the evening was nice. The people were very sweet and welcoming and then we started church. Everything is a capella (although sometimes drums accompany the singing) and a man named Charles goes with Zane and does the worship. I wish I could upload videos of the worship cause it is awesome! So much fun and Summer was telling me they call it “aerobic worship” cause you are singing, clapping and jumping up and down! Too much fun for sure I love it!

Anyway, then came Sunday School. Although I have taught before I was super nervous! Julius was my interpreter (most of the children don’t speak english or only know a few words) and we took the children in to the actual village area and sat them down under a tree. Our story was the ten commandments and then that lead into the golden calf :) It was pretty exciting! Julius is really good with the kids so I would talk and then he would translate! It was a lot of fun. He made them repeat a lot of things after him to help them remember! He told me later he thinks they will talk among themselves and in a week or so if we keep reminding them some will be able to tell them to us!

I did feel a little bad when we got to “do no steal” because all of the children got it right away and started pointing at one boy in the back. Julius told me that they understood and apparently there was “someone” who had a reputation of stealing! We told them to quite pointing but I was glad they understood. When we were done with the story we still had a little bit of time so we sang a few songs with the children (ok ok, I don’t know Acholi songs yet, so Julius sang songs and I laughed and acted them out with them) and then Julius informed me that Zane was probably almost done teaching and the children were content to just stare at me until he was done... Great :)

Anyway, we finished with church, said our good-bye’s and headed home! All in all it was pretty great!

*Sorry for the lack of pictures of the village! I didn’t want to miss out on my first village experience because I was behind a camera. I will try and take some next time I go out!
** Pictures of vacation soon to follow! If you are friends with me on facebook you can always go there for an update!

Love you all and I will try to be better about writing!

Soon to come, pictures of our “Christmas Program” at the McCourtney house :D

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say What?

So I won’t lie... Some of the funniest things that I have ever experienced have been in the last week and a half. Just thought I would share some of them with you!

We live pretty simply here in Kitgum and the options of what you are going to eat can be... lets say semi limited :) That being said, if you want something, you just have to make it. Having lived in Mexico I picked up how to make Tortilla Chips, so I thought “why not, I can do this!”. So I grabbed my corn flour and various other things and went to frying. Joyce, one of the Acholi women that works for the McCourtney’s hadn’t left for the evening so I offered her one. Let me tell you what, I am thinking she was worried about putting it in her mouth. But she was brave and gave me a chance. She took a bite, thought about it for a minute and informed me, “This is very nice! I did not know a white person could make a chip that tastes like this”. It pretty much made my life, although I did hold my laughter until she left... Us white people can cook too!

Summer and I went to the market the other day. Have I mentioned that there are only 5 other white people in Kitgum (that I know of) outside of the McCourtney’s and myself. Being that as it is, I am the new “white girl”. As we were finishing up with the shopping the three women we were buying from started talking in Acholi and Summer informed me that they were talking about me, but that she didn’t know if it was good or bad... After listening for another minute she told me that it was good and they were saying I looked good. Have I mentioned that the heavier your weight here, the more attractive they think you are. I looked at her and said “its just because I am fat!”. Right after I said that, they stopped talking, looked at me and one of the ladies gave me a huge “thumbs up”. What can I say... :) Score for the chubby lady!

And my personal favorite!
The weather has been warm, although one of the men informed me “it will get hotter and hotter and hotter and.........”. Thanks... for that encouragement. Anyway, the children were wanting to go out and play in the mid afternoon but I informed them that we couldn’t because it was too hot. When they continued to ask I told them “we can’t go out... I’ll melt!”. The looks of shock made it worth saying. Then with concern, Ephriam put his hand on my arm and asked... “is it because you’re white?”.

Have I mentioned...
I love my life :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why Uganda?

First of all, thank you to everyone that has been praying about the Ebola scare. After studying it, they have come to the conclusion that it is a new strain of amoebic dysentery which is much less serious and thankfully treatable. For now, until they can get it under control we are staying in the compound, but prayerfully by the middle of next week we will be free to go out among the people again. I am super excited for that because I will be able to go out to the villages as well as to several orphanages here in town... I am itching to play with all those children :)

Saying that, it leads me to the subject of this blog. The other day, my friend Beth asked me for an explanation of where I am, what I am going to be doing here and pretty much what the basics are of my stay here in Kitgum :) Things are a little crazy right now here in Uganda, with this the scare of what people thought at first was Ebola so I haven’t started some of what I am planning on doing but for now I can tell you the basics of what I believe I will be doing.

I guess that I should start from the beginning however, which was actually in another country far away :) 2 years ago, when I was getting ready to finish Bible College, I was praying about what the Lord would have for me to do next. He really started putting Africa on my heart, but not a specific country. Of course, I explained to him that I had always said I would go anywhere He wanted me, but that Africa wasn’t on my list of countries because “Hello, everyone goes to Africa”. Apparently, my excuses were not enough because the desire to go did not diminish and in fact seemed to continue to grow. I decided to give it to the Lord, put out some inquiry’s and see what happened. At that point, however I was pretty much sure that I would be going, just not sure when or where.

After getting home and talking to my family about it (which I am sure where wishing they had a daughter more inclined to staying home and coming home, earning money and running away again), my dad mentioned the McCourtney’s, whom our church has been supporting for several years. I got into contact with them, just to kind of learn about their ministry and to get a feel for whether they would even want someone to come and work with them. God was totally awesome, and worked it out so that Summer ended up being blessed with the money for a trip to the States, so I was actually able to meet with her several times to get an idea of what I would be doing here, where I would be living and to kind of give me a heads up about what life would be like day to day here in Kitgum. After lots of prayer, the Lord gave me a peace about packing up everything and taking off for the country of Uganda.

So here I am, currently living in Kitgum, Uganda. Don’t know where that is :) fine, stop right now, pull up another window and go to Google maps and look it up. I am right up there on the tippy top near the border of Sudan (which I am also hoping I might get to go into for a bit). I am living with a missionary couple here by the last name of McCourtney. Zane and Summer where called here to Uganda 7 years ago and since then have been ministering to the people. For more info on that, you can go to (Summer’s blog about her family) or to for information on their ministry here in Northern Uganda. They have two biological children and 10 adopted children from here in Africa. So as you can imagine, there is a lot to do taking care of all of the kids as well as schooling and just keeping everything clean! Part of what I am doing here is just trying to be as much of a help to Summer as I can, whether it is helping with schooling for some of the children that need a little more help, or doing the dishes on days when it is some of the workers day off.

Once I am able to go out into town, there are two orphanages that I would like to go to on a semi-regular basis and help at. One of them is small and run by a local man (about 20 to 25 children from what I understand) and the other is run by a lady from New Zealand and has about 100 children in it. As you can imagine, with children, help is appreciated. In January, there is another lady from Oregon coming to stay with us, so prayerfully she and I will be able to go out and work at the orphanages a little bit more. We will see what happens at the beginning of the year!

Another thing that I will be helping with is the church. Zane is the pastor of several churches and he goes around and teaches at them. Prayerfully, I will be able to go, hopefully doing some music, teaching the children and just ministering wherever the Lord opens the doors. My prayer is really just to be a blessing to all the people I encounter here and really to be an example of Jesus in my day to day life.

Hope that kind of answered anyone's questions! As always, I miss all of you and wish you could be here to experience all of this with me!!!
Blessings from Uganda to all of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Possible Ebola

Please be in prayer for those of us here in Northern Uganda. There has been an outbreak of an unknown disease that is mimicking Ebola in symptoms here in Northern Uganda. The US Embassy here is warning people to limit their travel to this area. The good news is that because of past epidemics they have had, they are really on top of this and they have already taken steps to study it and quarantine those who have come down with it.

I have been thinking and praying about this and have come to the realization that there are two attitudes I can take about this news. One of course is fear of something that I have no control over. The other is to rest in the One Who is over everything (including disease). Before my decision to come to Uganda, I spent several years praying on it, over it and about the things that I would be doing when I did come. Knowing it was in Africa, I realized that there was a chance I would be exposed to disease that we can’t really comprehend still exist in America. Even knowing this, after going before the Lord, I realized that the call I was feeling was not diminishing and instead seemed to be growing stronger. So I packed my bags up and off to Uganda I gallivanted knowing that He would care for me. This is my peace :)

Isaiah 26:2
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

After this brave speech, just know that we are not being foolish about this :) We are staying inside the compound as much as possible for now until they are able to discover where is causing the sickness and how it is spread. Prayerfully there will be a resolution soon and they will be able to stop it before it gets too serious!

I appreciate the prayers for those of us serving here.   

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Be It Ever So Humble There Is No Place Like Home

 My bed which I love!
 My sitting room

 I was so thankful when I found out I would have a real toilet and not a squatty!

The children made this banner for me and taped it over the door for when I arrived! They are so sweet :)
Also, please don't miss-understand me! When I say that my home is humble, in no way do I mean that as a bad thing! I honestly don't think I could be happier! I LOVE IT!!! God is so good to me :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Good Morning Kitgum

Just so you know, it sounds like there is a herd of howling roosters outside my door...

No, I am not dreaming or hallucinating, just sitting awake on my bed at 5 AM listening to the roosters (and there are many) of Kitgum announcing to town it is time to get up. You see... I broke a very basic cardinal rule of life. I told Summer yesterday that I didn’t think Jet Lag was going to get me this trip. Of course, having said it out loud, this morning at 330 AM Mr. Lag came to visit, wanting to prove me wrong. So here I sit and have sat for an hour and a half, pounding my head into the wall for being so foolish.

The good news here :) I am pretty sure that I am much smarter between the hours of 330 AM and 530 AM! I have already started lists of things I want to do today and craft ideas for the kids (not my forte as many of you know). We will see how those work out.

Another blessing I discovered, for all of you who asked me before I left. The official language here in Uganda is English! That makes it much easier because almost everyone you meet speaks English, although I will admit sometimes their accent is so thick I have to ask them to repeat what they were saying. So far everyone has been very patient with me though, so I am thankful for that. Hopefully I will get used to the accent soon, that will make things a lot easier.
The food is very good, but also very simple. It is amazing how much we eat in America and take for granted. Beans and rice are a staple, but they taste so good that I am pretty sure I won’t mind eating them often. I am going to ask the girls to teach me the secret of white rice. I still can’t make it after living in Mexico for so many years!

The simplicity of the food humbles me however, in a good way, and reminds me of how ungrateful I am when I am in America. So many times at home I would complain about there not being anything to eat, when the fridge was full of food. Do you remember when you were young and your mother would tell you that you needed to finish your food because there were children in Africa that would love to have it? Well that is Oh so true. It is much easier to be grateful for the simple food I have, knowing there are many people outside the gates that would LOVE to have my porridge. So just so everyone knows... Enjoy the McDonald’s cheeseburger will ya :) and eat an extra one for me!

The Beginning

As one new to the Blogging world, I will limp my way along and try not to be too boring! I can't promise I will update every day, but I will try to keep you all in "the know" about what is going on here in Uganda :) If I could bring every single one of you here with me to experience, know that I would. Since that isn't possible however, this will have to do :)
The trip to Uganda was long, however God is good and I made it all in one piece, not too worse for the ware without anything outrageous happening.  God is so good to me, even when I am worrying. I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Every time I started to worry, I would just repeat verses that would pop into my head and the Lord would calm me down :) He was so good to me too because I didn't have anyone sitting next to me the first flight (so I had extra room) and then the next two flights the people were so sweet and easy to talk to!
Once I got to Uganda, all my baggage was there (huge blessing!) and my ride was there to get me! Yeah :) We went to a hotel and I got my own sweet room! I wish I had thought to take pictures, the hotel was beautiful. I slept like a baby, and then the next morning we were off. The road was beautiful and I even got to see the Nile river. We made a few stops along the way and I met many people! I will try and post pictures soon! Toward the end of the way, the road got really bad though. I asked Zane (who was driving) if we had gotten to the moon somehow! There were even a few times where the road had washed way and we had to drive in the swamp to get past. Praise the Lord for 4 Wheel Drive and a Land Cruiser!

More to come :)
Blessings on you all and I miss you like crazy!