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Friday, July 31, 2009

Friends of God

Last evening Sarah, Julia, Zima and I went for a beautiful, hour long sunset walk. My house is near the edge of town, so we started from there and went out into the rural community just a half a kilometre out. We wound around dirt paths that had simple mud huts along side of them. About half way through our hike we spotted a group of young ladies pumping water at a well. They were singing "I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God, He calls me friend." When they spotted us they got really shy and sort of giggled. Well, I started clapping and sang back to them "I am a friend of God; He calls me friend" and everyone was excited. It was a neat opportunity to worship on the path.

We finished off the hike with a view of the land atop a huge rock and then escorted Zima to her simple home. Zima is a Kenyan friend who is doing a two month internship with Fida. We get along really well. Zima showed us her room, which was maybe 9 by 15 feet and it contained a mattress, mosquito net, some clothing and personal supplies and a lantern. No electricity and I didn't notice any place to cook. I had no idea she lived so close to my house, in behind a simple cement building. I am always shocked at where people stay. But Zima only has two more days and then she is going back to Kenya. I will miss her fellowship.

Then some more friends joined Julia, Sarah and I for dinner and a bonfire. The guys did not appreciate Sweet and Sour meatballs. They wanted simply fried and over-dried pork instead. O well, at least the girls relished my dish. (Mom and Dad, we finished off the night playing Nine Men Morris -- o the memories on the Mayflower)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vocational School

Yesturday I was able to spend the afternoon playing with some very precious neighbourhood children. Aaron and Joanne fought to find a place on my lap. Joanne is an orphan and it is really neat to some local church leaders taker her into their home.
Aaron and Joanne want to greet all those who are far away.

Francis, one of the CAAF (Children Affected by Armed Forces) members came over the other day to share his story with those who were staying in my home. When the meeting was over he invited me to come and visit him and his friends at the vocational school. I promised I would.
There were a few teachers at the school who also wanted some Bible so I thought that a trip was in order. I walked over to the Fida office this morning to greet my friends and to see if anyone was available to take me to the vocational school. Fida is the agency that is sponsoring 21 of these village boys... as they are learning carpentry, driving and mechanics, bricklaying, and more. Well, after fellowshipping and sharing a tiny amount of pork with my friends at the office it was decided that one of them would take me on the bike.
First we went to town to buy two bobbins for some CAAF girls who are also taking a sewing class at the vocational school. We made our purchases and headed to the school. There I had to go through the ropes of meeting with the principal, the head teacher, the secretary, and then to eat posho (corn meal) and beans in the teachers lounge. The Bibles were passed out and the bobbins delivered. Then Francis was called out of class to come and meet with me.
Ten minutes later all the CAAF members were seated under a tree, and my friend, and the head master all met with them. We asked how things were going with the boys and they said that they were really enjoying their studies. They were just concerned that they were not getting enough food because the famine has decreased the portions. Also, they were in need of soap and sugar, but otherwise they were doing great. Sam, the young man behind Francis in the above photo, is learning how to be a driver, but he doesn't know how to read and write, especially in English. We are going to see if something can be worked out for him.
Anyways, a quick visit turned in to a two hour affair and it was absolutely worth it. For some reason the Lord has particularly placed these boys on my heart and I really want to see these former child soldiers succeed - with true peace and joy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

33 and an Empty Nester

Lately I have felt like a mother hen. I have been busy cooking meals and running a household since May 29th when my first summer guests started to arrive from America. It has been a blessing looking after these precious children of God who have come to Uganda to see if that is where God is calling them, or to offer encouragement to the team that is here. I have loved being a hostess! This morning at 7 am the last group pulled out of the gate and now the compound is quiet.

Yesturday Tim came into the house carrying a nest with babies in it. The bird's nest did not contain birds though - but maybe 7 baby rats. Brand new, pale, hairless pink skin, and blind. Disgustingly cute. I don't know what he did with the rats, but I told him to take them to Lydia's 6th birthday tea party. :)

But just like that bird's nest, I pray that my home will not always be empty. As a matter of fact I have two friends coming to spend the night already. Girls night out while the rest of the team goes down country. I have a feeling that life will be much quieter for me though, but I do know that there will be some guests coming throughout the fall.

I have not taken any pictures recently because I have lent out my camera to my neighbours and good friends, Denis and Stella. They had a precious baby girl born earlier this week. Esther was 2.5 kg and she came home just hours after the delivery. I was there for her first bath and once again I am thankful for the medical system back home. Esther and Stella are doing great and at least once a day I go over to visit this precious newborn.

Well, I had better clean the house before my dinner, movie, and bonfire night tonight. I also have a lot of neighbours to visit, and a post office to bike to. Cheers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Hello friends... I would love it if you could check out the Shaarda News blog update - the one labelled "Tragedy to Beauty". I believe the link is and it describes in better detail our hiking trip last weekend. Cheers.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Peace talks

Two weeks ago I led worship around a bonfire at our house. The theme of the one hour worship and prayer time was peace. Every other Saturday night we as an International Teams team try to get together for this special hour of worship and we also invite some of our neighbours and friends. Well, Herbert came up to me after and he thanked me for leading and then he said, "And on Tuesday I will pick you up at 9am to lead our fellowship... you will preach for an hour on peace." Yikes, I am not a preacher. And for praise and worship I had quickly pulled a few verses about peace out of a quick reference book. I talked with Herbert, and due to my schedule, it was arranged for two weeks later.

Thursday I spent five hours in the resource centre, researching, planning, writing, and praying. I was so unpeaceful about talking about peace. But finally by the end of the day I was ready to lead this group of who knows who. Herbert called at 8pm and said there was to be a change of plans... instead of 9am it would be 2pm. Okay, I'm flexible.

So on Friday I reviewed my notes and at 2pm was ready to go, but Herbert was no where to be seen and there was no connection with his cell phone. I waited until 3:15 when he finally showed up. We biked to his neighbourhood and stopped at a house where a group of people were worshipping. I stepped into this tiny room, maybe 9x12 feet, and joined in the singing. 24 people had gathered and after an hour they introduced me and I began to talk.

Peacefully I was able to share a few testimonies of God's peace in my life, how perfect peace was broken in the Garden of Eden, how Jesus is the Prince of peace, and for about a half an hour we looked up verses - in both English and Ateso. Each verse shared a different way to have, find, or make peace and by the end of the hour all the participants shared that they had really learned something. I was grateful to be once again stretched out of my comfort zone.

May the grace and peace of God the Father be yours today!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Culturally Stuck

This afternoon I was going to work on some reports for Tim and I had printed off a few documents in town. Well, upon coming back from the print shop I realized that I had worms (viruses) on my USB and everything got erased. Tim was not around, so I was unable to get another copy of the reports. My housemate Amos and I spent an hour playing with the computer and making sure that everything was cleaned and protected. That meant a delay in the system of getting my homework done.

So what do I do when I am frustrated? Go for a walk. Well, I end up meeting my friend Carol and she invites me over to watch a movie. Her neighbours are so excited that a foreigner has come to visit and they all want to prepare a meal for me. The problem is... it is 4:30 and I have dinner plans with my team at 6pm. But I just keep hoping that everything will work out. So I start watching the movie and I watch the clock tick. I need to start heading back to my house by 5:45 and I am brought a huge bowl of rice and cabbage at 5:35. Yikes, first it is way too much food... enough for three meals for me... second, I have ten minutes to think about eating it... third, how do I not offend anyone by leaving early? Ugandans think that people matter more than the clock. I have a feeling I stepped on toes by not eating everything and leaving before the movie was over... Carol and Susan couldn't comprehend that I had to stick to a real appointment time.

And often I would agree, accept that when you are meeting up with a team of North American folks at 6pm, it means 6 pm or the van will leave. So I ate as much as I could, gave out my apologies and headed out the door, later than I wanted too. I am maybe a 7 minute walk from home. I get half way when I bump (not literally) into my friend Christine. She is blind and uses a cane. Well, she wanted to walk me to my gate, so of course, my pace becomes slower. I kept hoping that Tim and Angie hadn't left yet.

When I get home I saw that they were still there. Yeah! Then the guard tells me that one of my Bible study girls dropped by from the hostel and he wanted me to go talk to her. I said, "I can't right now, I have to go into town." He said, "Well, if that girl comes back, when can I tell her you will meet her?" I had a feeling that I couldn't name a time or I would really mess things up today. So I told him to tell her that I would just come find her when I got home from dinner.

At 7:30 I got home, so I walked across the street and I quickly found out which one of my 16 princesses wanted to talk. Sarah. She just wanted to "greet" me and I was glad about that. Every day the walls of shyness and language are crumbling between me and the girls and we are becoming better friends. Three of them studied inside my yard today. Yeah - God is good.

Overall, I just had a strange feeling today that I didn't know whether I wanted to be a Mzungu or a Ugandan. Did I want to live by the clock? Or would I find it more helpful just to go with the flow? Should I let computer clitches get to me? And how much more can I rejoice that the Princesses are starting to call me friend? How important is relationship building here - even if it means eating street pork and plain rice? ... Thoughts to ponder

At the end of the day I watched War Dance with my housemates. It is another intense movie about the LRA wars that happened in Northern Uganda, but it also shares about how a primary school in an Internally Displaced Refugee Camp make it all the way to Kampala for a music and cultural festival and they win a few awards. Another eye opening story of the people I live and work with every day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chasing Sugar Cane

Here I am ~ showing off a new dress that my friend Peter made for me. Peter is a refugee from the Congo, and he does really great work. It was really special to bike around Soroti looking "Smart". I am glad I dressed up on the day I was called to be a nurse for the day.

On Sunday morning I was sitting at my dining room table, putting together week two of my Joseph Sunday school series, when one of the neighbour kids came over to get me. They said that their auntie was sick and bed and she needed me. I put on my sandals and followed the kids over. Tabitha looked very weak and so I chatted with her and we came up with a plan of her getting some blood work done and receiving treatment for malaria.
I biked to church in my new dress and had a great time with the kids. More and more of them want to sit on my lap during the service and one little girl, named Teddy, is my special sidekick. She even stands beside me while I am teaching Sunday school.
After church I biked over to see my friend Lawrence because he was also in bed with malaria, but I didn't know it was as bad as it was until I got there. He had a nurse with him and IV hooked up on a nail above his mattress on the floor. I spent the afternoon singing, praying, and reading Scriptures as well as communicating with many of his neighbours. They were all pitching in to make sure that he had everything that he needed: laundry done, food and drinks, medications, etc. It was tough to see him in such rough shape, but he continued to praise God through it all. Even as the IV needle was being removed from his arm I heard him trying to share the Gospel with one of his neighbours. He said, "If I can trust God and thank him for every hour of my life, even when I am in such a bad state - then you too should accept Christ and find true joy and peace."
In the late afternoon I went next door to check on another neighbour. Denis and Stella were due to have a baby a few days ago, but over the weekend Stella was also struggling with malaria. When I went to visit I found out that Stella is doing a lot better, but she is still very pregnant. I can't wait to be an auntie to this baby because the parents are so near and dear to my hearts. (Denis is my Ugandan brother - and he is a reminder that I have a true brother in Canada that I love dearly. Happy Birthday Dennis!!)
So, this morning I felt anxious to get out and go for a really fast bike ride before heading over to school. I was chasing and surpassing many men who were chewing sugar cane. That must have been the breakfast of choice for the day. :) I released all of my energy and learned that all of my friends were doing much better and at the end of the day, I once again say "Thank You God!"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sipi and Sisiyi Falls

This weekend our team decided to get away for two days to Sipi and Sisiyi Falls near Mbale. It was only an hour and a half away to a completely different landscape. The flat savanah land became foot hills of Mt Elgon and terraced crops lined the side of the mountains. It reminded me a lot of the Philippines.
I sat in this swing for a while and zoomed out over the land as I gazed at two waterfalls in the distance and watched coffee farmers bring in their harvests.
Bones is becoming my sidekick in this country and I have a feeling he is going to be the main character of a few amazing children's story books. (Does anyone know of any good publishers?)

Here I am with Stephanie and Amos - two of my fun housemates for the summer. They have been a huge encouragement to me... we often spend the evening listening to musical music and snacking on chapatis.
Here is one of the gorgeous waterfalls in Sipi. We saw God's hand of creation here, but we also saw his hand of grace, mercy, and healing.
Here is Bones, taking a rest along the hike.
We spent the night camping at the base of Sisiyi Falls and it reminded all 18 of us of the Garden of Eden. The plants were magical as they gripped rocks and towered towards the waterfalls. Vines hung in ways that demanded imagining a fairy tale. The cacti were in bloom and the sunset was monumental.
We took it very easy the next morning, sipping African tea and eating omelettes as we stared up at the misty falls. In the afternoon we enjoyed Indian food in Mbale before heading back to Soroti.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Culture Shockers

Stephanie and I went to visit our dear friends Pastor George, Pastor James and his wife Norah today for some wonderful chai tea. The discussion got to weddings and the cultures that surround it. Do you know that a person is never allowed to be in the presence of their mother-in-law? Not just at the wedding, but ever... apparently it shows respect, but I would call that fear. And then the man has to pay for his bride in cows. Gee Dad, how many cows do you think I am worth? They say it is not buying the bride but showing appreciation to the in-laws. Well, Steph and I created a lot of laughter when we told them that the groom dances with the mother-in-law at the wedding and we danced to show them how. We also described how in the Dutch culture we greet eachother on special occasions with a kiss on the lips. They couldn't believe it.

P.S. I am getting to know the young Indian shop keepers at one particular grocery store. The last time I arrived they shared with me their precious fruit that came in from Kampala. They had been snacking on it out on the street, split it in half and gave it to me. Then today I was handed a free chocolate bar as I was paying for my groceries. I pray that God will break down the walls in their hearts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Yesturday morning I spent four hours with my team, exploring the world of Myers Briggs - a personality testing system. I am kind of happy to hear that I am still the same person I was in college and they call me an ESFP.
E - Extravert - a person who gets energy from the outer world
S - Sensing - sees the reality and lives in the past and present
F - Feeling - bases life on relationships, feeling, instinct, values and beliefs
P - Perceiving - spontaneity, flexibility, and variety
We were led through a variety of exercises to not only determine who we are, but also how to relate to other personalities. We talked about how we deal with stress and how we desire appreciation in different ways.
Here is one more quote about ESFP: "Outgoing, friendly, and accepting. Exuberant lovers of life, people and (material) comforts. Enjoy working with others to make things happen. Bring common sense and a realistic approach to their work, and make work fun. Flexible and spontaneous, adapt readily to new people and environments. Learn best by trying a new skill with other people."
That explains why I try to entertain the crowd when there's a party :) or why I love hosting guests in my home here. Actually, it just affirms that I am who God made me to be. Yeah!!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Last evening I decided to follow through on some friends invitation and I joined an aerobics class. Angie and Stephanie (my team-mates) also joined me. Two weeks ago Prossy and Zima, to ladies who work at the FIDA office next door told me about a class and invited me to come. Well, this week I actually went. I paid 1000 UGS (about 50 cents) and for a whole hour had a wonderful workout at the Lion's Club. There were 20 women altogether and hopefully I will start going twice a week. It is led by an American lady who works for the Peace Corp. I am just glad to find something like this in Soroti. To be honest, I did fine with the cardio stuff, but man, do I need to do a few more sit-ups. :)

After class I raced home to prepare for the girl's Bible study. 14 of them returned this week and they continued to ask great questions and the conversations flowed easily. I am so thankful to God for that. Four of them even had the courage stay an extra hour and a half and study at my dining room table because they have so space or peace and quiet at the hostel. I told them to feel free to come anytime.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's in a Weekend?

Here's my weekend at a glance:
Friday morning - handed out gift boxes.
Friday afternoon - tutored Lydia and got groceries in town on my bike.
Friday night - hosted a young American woman for the evening - she loves coming to our house because it is peaceful and joyful and I am always grateful that my home can be a refuge for her as she works for an NGO.
Saturday morning - I wrote a few letters and started cooking chicken curry.
Saturday afternoon - actually kept relaxing - I wasn't up to much after having the flu for two days in the middle of this week. But a man did come over and share his testimony for two hours.
Saturday evening - the Sleidrechts came back from Kampala with three more guests for my house - a newly married couple, and a young lady. I prepared dinner for all of them. Then at 7 we had a bonfire and invited many people to join us for praise and worship. This week I led with the theme of peace. Peace with God, man, ourselves, and creation. Singing and prayer. It was very special around the campfire, especially when my new friend Peter, a Congolese refugee played some worship songs in French.
Sunday morning - I biked to the local PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) church to have 45 minutes of English worship before biking to my church in Pamba. Church started at 10 and the place was packed because we decided to bring all of our mzungu (white) friends today. Amos, my house-mate, was preaching and communion was planned. I taught Sunday school to 88 kids, about The Lord's Supper, and then we all went back into church to participate in such a special meal. The church has never had Communion before and it was a true blessing. Church ended up going until 1:30 because of introducions and special presentations.
Sunday afternoon - Josh and Mandy hosted Stephanie and I over for a wonderful barbeque. They wanted to say "thank you" for teaching their children. How sweet!
Sunday evening - I started getting to know the newcomers in my home and my friend Lawrence came over to visit for a while.
Now life is back to normal. I will start teaching school in just a few hours and planning for tonight's Bible study with the Princesses.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Child to Child Gift Boxes

This morning I was on my way out the gate, to bike to the Shaarda's in order to tutor Lydia, when Pastor George stopped me. He wanted to know if I was busy this morning because he wanted me to go out to the village with him to deliver boxes to the children.
I called the Shaarda's and we decided that I could tutor Lydia in the afternoon instead. So, five of us drove about 25 minutes out of town to go to a small nursery school with 75 students.
Some churches in the Netherlands had put together shoeboxes for the kids - with soap, shampoo, toothpaste, school supplies, and toys.

I was excited about handing out the gifts and being on the receiving end since I have helped put together "Kits 4 Kits" back home at Bethel CRC.
The delight on the children's face was so precious.
I even had to teach a few kids how to play dominoes or swing a yo-yo.
And of course... I hold the babies whenever possible. They are so cute... and this one smelled delicious. All I wanted to do was kiss little Joseph!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Let Peace Reign

This week my house-mate, Amos, is teaching about the Book of Ephesians from our garage. 30 chairs are set up and a fan is blowing in a simple cement block structure as he expounds upon the power and peace which Paul writes about in Ephesians. I have been trying to attend his seminars but I have been battling the flu the past few days and it leaves me completely exhausted. I have caught a few good chunks of his seminar though. One portion was on the different areas of our lives that are now experiencing chaos and should be experiencing peace. They are: peace with others, peace with ourselves, peace with God, and peace with creation. Satan tries to get in the way many times and so we just need to keep focused on Jesus.

I am not the only one on our team that is not well. It seems like our bodies are being attacked at the moment, because right now, everything else seems to be going so smoothly for us. Within the past three weeks here is a list of all that has hit the team: malaria, pink eye, a swollen elbow, extreme back pain, salmonella poisoning, the flu, colds, ghiardia, and tiredness. Please pray that every one of us can return to complete health and renewed peace, so that the Lord's work can continue here!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Princesses from a Hostel

This evening I was finally able to have the first Bible study with some girls who live in a boarding hostel right across from my house. For months I have been chatting with the hostel parents - Joseph and Sarah, and they thought it would be a great idea if I have a Bible study with the girls, but then school break happened. Then I was gone for a bit... and then last Monday the girls just hadn't "organized" themselves yet. I was ready, but they were not. I have a feeling the girls were just shy, so I made sure to stop by the hostel occasionally so they would get to know me better. There are 68 girls boarding on this small compound. They eat beans and corn meal 6 nights a week. They sleep in rooms that have bunks as high as four up, with three or four bunks per room. Crazy squishy... all just to go to secondary school here in town and not in the village.

Well, tonight at 7 I walked across the street and chatted with Sarah until Jesca came up and said "We are coming, but we have not eaten yet. Can we please have 25 minutes to get organized?" I thought, o, here we go again, another delay. But while I was chewing a cob of roasted grain corn Jesca brought me a list with 15 names. All the girls who would be coming to my house. Wow! 15. I went home and quickly made name tags for each of the girls and put 16 chairs around my living room.

At 7:30 the girls came across the dark street in a shy huddle. Not too many people come inside a mzungu gate and they were sort of nervous. But they soon learned that I am okay... actually, rather humorous :) and they made themselves at home. (Actually, a 16th girl decided to join, so we made sure there was room for Lucy). They were excited about each having a name tag. Thankfully I had some extra Bibles in the house because six girls needed a Bible to borrow as we studied John 1. We looked at who Jesus was and is. We talked about what it means to be a child of God. I mentioned that since Jesus is the King of kings and we are children of God, then we are all princesses. And woah, their faces lit up with such joy. As I walked them home after the study, they kept saying "I am Princess Stella!", "I am Princess Lucy!" etc. They felt so royal.

They also now know that they are welcome anytime. I told them that if they ever needed a space to study, rather than on their bunk bed they were welcome here. Jesca said, "Really, when does that offer begin? Can we come tomorrow?" I really hope they do. I would love to build a relationship with these girls from the village. My home shall be a welcome home for them!! Please pray that God will bless the days and conversations ahead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prayers in the darkness

This week my team and I were struck again at how Satan continues to have a grip on the nation of Uganda. Please pray that the people will truly seek God. Here are a few of our latest prayer requests...
1. Newborn baby, Ruth, who was half buried alive. Some children found her and thought she was a chicken, so they were poking her. But then they realized she was a baby and she is now trying to regain health and strength at the orphanage. Pray that the mother will not be so desperate when Ruth is returned to her.
2. Three pastor's and families have lost one of their children and they are beginning to question the existance of God. Pray for comfort and peace.
3. Some of the families in Obalanga are hoping to get hold of some goat and roosters for a sacrificial cleansing of the land after the dead bodies have been removed. Witch craft is still very prominant and pray that God's Spirit will reign and shine brightly.
4. Malaria has affected a few of my close friends lately. Pray for renewed health and strength.
5. Pray for the poverty in our area. Crops were destroyed again by the burning sun this year and families are going without food. Some people tried to get ahead by actually optaining seeds and land, only to have the peanuts burn, and then they feel like they are worse off than before. Help us to have wisdom in knowing how to help, encourage, and support our neighbours.
Thanks for joining me in prayer.