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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Upcoming Retreat

Next week I will be traveling down country with my team-mates to meet at a place called Garuga, just outside of Entebbe, for team retreat.  I would love it if you would join us all in prayer for the following things:

§ For the Lord to prepare all of our hearts, filling us with His Spirit and breaking any barriers of pride, selfishness, lies and fears that we may have, so that
· we will be able to clearly see, hear and follow His direction with excitement and anticipation
· our hearts may be aligned with His heart
· love, unity, humility, grace, healing, hope, and discernment to abound in all of us
· He may be blessed and glorified

§ For a hedge of spiritual protection around our team as a whole, Scott & Jill Olson (coming from Illinois), Anthony Jones (UK), and the childcare workers, and also around every relationship within our team

§ For God to give wisdom to Tim & Angie, Scott & Jill, and Anthony as they prepare to lead the retreat

§ For the children of Team Beyond and the childcare workers, that God would provide a safe, edifying, and joyful time in which He captures their attention and their hearts

§ For the Holy Spirit to fall upon Garuga Resort, sanctifying the spaces and preparing the way for our arrival

Friday, December 30, 2011

Church Under the Mango

Winnie called to delay our agreed upon meeting time.  That was not unexpected as things never start on time in Uganda.  She called me a half hour later and informed me that I could now come.  I was actually glad for the delay since it gave me time to stop by the post office and pick up my first PACKAGE!! 
shirt, tea, napkins and tissues, chocolate and fudge, socks, pocket calendar and stationary.  Woo Hoo!
I drove out to Goshen Nursery school and picked up Pastor George and his beautiful wife Winnie.  They were excited to see me, ride in my car and show me the location of their humble church.  Within moments we were underway, driving up Serere road to a very sharp, yet remote turn-off.  It felt like I was pulling into someones backyard, but it was more like a roadside bar that I had to pass through in order to get to the final destination about another kilometre up the road.  We pulled into a compound and went to sit under a mango tree.  The mango tree was in full flower at the moment, which stood out from the other mango trees in the neighbourhood.  The people in the area say that tree is blessed because a small church meets there every Sunday to pray. 

Three rustic wooden chairs were brought out for us to sit on, while the old lady who owns the compound sat out on a woven mat.  She asked us to pray for her husband because he has been sick all week.  This lady didn't speak any English, but I soon learned that her husband eats little and drinks a lot and that makes him sickly.  People passing by noticed that we were in the compound, so they drove up the street to find the man at the bar.  Moments later he came slowly biking into the yard to greet his guests.  The conversation was actually interesting and quite varied.  He is trying to build a small hostel for high schoolers to stay in since there is not much room left in town for boarding.  He is also very glad that the church meets on his property. 

I'm glad I was able to meet some of the members of this church because that is where I am choosing to worship on New Year's Day.  I got home at dusk, in time to take my laundry off the line and have dinner with my house-mate.  Another good day in Soroti.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Glimpses into my Days

I begin to stir at 6:15 am when "Rabbit", the loud rooster / cock begins to crow outside my window.  I'm starting to continue resting through the noise as I would prefer waking up between 7 and 8 am.  Mustard the cat greets me with longing eyes... she's looking at the container full of little dried minnows and hopes that I will share a few.  Rabbit comes to the front of the house and knocks on the front door with his beek... but I haven't figured out why.  Does he deserve to come in the house too?  I think not.

Early hours of the day are a good time to go to the market.  The meat is fresh, it's not so crowded, and the heat is less.  (For the past few days, it has even been 83 degrees up til 10 pm).  I stroll through the market greeting a few friends and buying fresh produce.  The other day I was able to to convince some young boy to find me two green peppers after being unable to see any being displayed on the tables.  I was grateful he knew where to look because home-made tacos wouldn't be the same without one of my favourite veggies.  The market has lots of tables set up in the centre of the "sellers" area for baskets, fruit, veggies, and meat, but surrounding those rough, uneven tables are two rows, about a block around, of small metal lockers/storage units.  These units contain dishes, clothes, hardware, tailoring shops, mosquito nets, a few toys, and more.  Across from the beef butchery I have found my friend Peter's shop.  Already we are renewing my French as he is a Congolese refugee and I have brought to dresses for him to repair. 

There are about 9 "Supermarkets" in town, they are extremely small and very expensive.  At the moment, a tiny jar of peanut butter is going for about $6 and a SMALL box of cereal is going for almost $9.  There are some small changes since the last time I was here.  Feminine pads and sensodyne are now available.  The yoghurt is much better.  And the Indians are starting to bring in chicken fillets and good ground beef from Kampala.  Now, if only the luncheon meets and cheeses could arrive.  There are some things that are just worth paying for!

A daily trip to the post office is necessary because I am waiting for them to return my keys.  A mailbox was purchased for me last February, but when I went to see if the key worked, it didn't.  I had a receipt to prove it was my box, but it is taking the post office three weeks already to change the lock on the box.  I think they are starting to get my box number memorized, as they have to physically go to the back of the shop and get my mail.  So far I've had two pieces from CRWM, and three Christmas cards!

The rest of my day is spent biking around, visiting friends and aquaintances throughout the holiday season.  It has been good to share tea with people who I care about deeply and I know that God is opening a few doors for ministry in the New Year.  Soroti is actually quite empty at the moment since many "townspeople" have gone home to the village for the Christmas season, so that's why the ministry has all been put on hold.  Relationship building is key here to living and serving in Uganda. 

Once a week I meet with my team for an official meeting - prayer, sharing, discussions and business.  Throughout the week though, it is also nice to fellowship with the various families around the city.  Even though I have a house-mate, it's rare that she is home since she is in the village a lot, so it's nice for me to share meals with my team-mates in the evenings.  Now that I have been blessed with a car it makes it a lot more possible to go out after dark.

Other things that fill my days are: reading assignments - like "When Helping Hurts" and writing reports - like following up from that retreat I went to in Jinja.  Last night I sprayed all the shrubs in the yard since caterpillars are having a feast.  I took all of my Christmas decorations down.  Am thankful for my kindle, so I can read lots of books.  I'm slowly getting to know a few of my neighbours... I even had to borrow some cooking pots from one lady. 

Well, hopefully that gives you a small glimpse into my day.  How is your day going?
Two of our chickens sleep up on an open window.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kamuda Christmas Party

This is a video of "Alive With Purpose" having worship in my yard during their Christmas party.
 On Christmas Eve, Beckie (my house-mate) invited one of her Bible study groups over.
 Chicken and beef were prepared for 57 people.
 As well as Rice!!
 Ludo is a popular game, similar to Sorry.
 Spending time in prayer
During worship they carry their belongings to Canaan.  :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Pharmaceutical Salon

Everyone goes the extra mile to look "smart" at Christmas, so I decided that I would get my hair plaited and look smart too.  My friend Prossy found a lady who could braid mzungu hair and she even figured out a cheaper price for me.  I agreed to the price and so yesterday morning I hopped on my bike and went to the pharmacy in town where I knew I could find the stylist - Liz.

I was expecting the braiding time to be about 3 hours, but who knew that I would spend the next 9 hours sitting on the floor of the pharmacy, watching and listening to life behind the counter.  The whole process began at 10 am, when we walked up the street to the beauty supply store and picked out blonder hair that could match my head.  I definitely did not want black hair being added to my head.  It was close to 11 am when the braiding began.

I sat behind the counter of a small pharmacy on main street.  I sat on a woven mat while Liz sat on a plastic chair tucked in behind me.  It was my job all day to pass the extensions to her... little piece by little piece so she could just keep braiding.  Conversation flowed and her hands were working, but by 2 pm, we were only a quarter of the way finished.  WHAT??  I asked her if it always took this long... and she kindly informed me that she has never done my kind of hair before and she didn't want to hurt me.  She has done hair of the Indian mzungus and she thought my hair would be the same. 

I could see in the small mirror that she was doing a great job though, and I knew I couldn't just up and walk away, so I continued sitting on the floor, staring at boxes of pills - Hedon, coldafex, and other pain killers.  I spelled the menthyl balm that was on the shelf right in front of my face.  And I imagined what all the syringes and needles would be used for in the boxes lining the bottom shelves.  I did realize one thing... I won't pack as many meds from home... if you look close enough, you can find it here... and the owner of the shop was very concerned about expiration dates.

With an aching back I continued to wait and work, while watching African soaps on the tv tucked up in the corner of the shop.  I watched until the power went out, that is.... everybody was blaming Umeme, the power company, until a half hour later when we say a transport coming through town carrying a huge gas tank cylinder on it's trailer.  All vehicles needed to be moved and electrical wires lifted in order for the cargo to pass through town.  The locals were even amazed that it had a police escort and a vehicle in front saying "Caution - wide load".  Apparently this truck was headed for the Congo.

The shop had non-stop customers all day.  Many of them were shocked to find me sitting in the corner, but were absolutely delighted that I was getting my hair plaited.  "Wow, you really look like an African now!!"  Sipping only a bottle of water, I kept hoping that my hair would finish... although I was enjoying the company and Liz was learning to braid faster.  She didn't believe me when I mentioned that the key was to have my hair really wet.  (That goes against everything Africans believe about their own hair.)

Around 5 pm we heard a crash, and since we had to leave the shop briefly so that the "nurse" could give a treatment behind the counter, we went out to inspect the accident on main street.  A lady had misjudged the curb while parking and hit a cement pillar on the side of the building.  Thankfully no one was hurt.  Back inside, I spent the next two hours listening to a village lady trying to figure out how to get her sacks of charcoal to the next city of Mbale.  She was trying to do some small business, but hadn't arranged transport and the man who would take the sacks would have left her with absolutely no money - since the cost of gasoline is so pricey, he was asking 500,000 Ugandan shillings for transport to a city just 2 hours away... thats almost $240 Canadian.  By 7 pm the lady was exhausted and just decided to leave her bags and walk away.

Now, thankfully at 6:50 pm, my team-mate Josh called to tell me that there were two Christmas trees dropped off in my yard, a gift from the neighbour children.  I used that call to say that I absolutely needed to be home by 7:30 pm (as is my curfew when I don't have a vehicle - otherwise it's way to dark to be out safely) and that I had an appointment.  Well, finally things started to rush.  Three ladies were braiding and everything was finished by 7:20 pm.  I couldn't believe that it took the whole day to add three packages of short extensions to my head.  But I learned a lot culturally from the floor of the pharmacy and my head really does look smart.

Now I just need to learn to sleep with this extra bundle of hair on the back of my head.

Cagayan de Oro Flooding

My heart is saddened this week to hear of the floods that are occuring in Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao, Philippines.  I lived in CDO for the first of my three years in the Philippines and I have many wonderful friends there who are greatly challenged by these rushing waters.  I would like to share with you my msn chat with my friend Aliza this morning... may it increase your prayers for this suffering island.

The discussion started like this:
K - How are you girl?
A - I'm great.  Our house is destroyed though
K - Really?  Your house is gone.  So sorry to hear that.
A - Yes and Boknoy's is gone too.  (Another dear friend of mine)
K - is Boknoy okay?  And his family?
A - cagayan is coping... boknoy is well so is his family... how did you know?
K - fb posts... I don't see or hear the news here in Uganda... no tv or radio

Then Aliza went on to share these very incredible stories of how God was watching out for His people:
its approximated to thousands, because others are missing and the most painful part is that since we have little funeral homes here, the dead bodies were thrown in the dumpsite, (you've been there before) and the city is starting to smell specially balulang where our house is.
but so far, God is good. we were supposed to go home to talakag that night but we had a flat tire at the same time that the mountain collapsed. i was complaining to God saying Lord its signal number 2 and we are stranded here because of a flat tire and then we fix it and the tree fell down right in front us, it was a big tree, and it was now 12 am, the same time that the flashflood that hit the cd and the bridge overflowed and the same time that the mountain collapsed,. landslide that it, i realized then in the morning that God was preventing us from travelling, because we could have died then.
i thank the Lord for the protection, i sat down and thought, O Lord, thank you for the protection.   i couldnt see it at that time, i mean we were literally stranded on the road because the manga tree fell down, we had to drag the small branches and wait for some help to cut the tree so we could pass. we were stranded there for like 2 hours.
i was soaking yet because of the rain, was so thankful that Stella and Aloha were with me during that time, cause i went out to get them and the place where they are staying is one of the major destroyed places, people are hanging on the roof just to be alive, the water was like 30 feet... i could not imagine it,
but there more better stories though(: like Ate Ching Lopez story.. ^^ (Ching was my room-mate!)
all of the cars were gone but her multicab remained... (: amazing right?
so many christians are alive and got a testimony to tell. can you still remember Pastor Ong and Ate Lenie?

well, Pastor Ong wasnt there, Ate Lenie and Kring their daughter were stuck in the house they could not get out, their parlor was gone, all that remained are the flooring of the house, and they broke the window and swam, the water was so strong, technically their house should be destroyed and they should be dead too but the water was calm, inches separates them from the strong current, it was a miracle they survive, because the water was so strong, yet when they were swimming, it was so calm, they were on the roof till 7 am in the morning, the flood occured after the electricity was gone, and it was 12 am.
Jezeil and Andrew as well, they could not get out of their house, if they go out, they are dead, so they stay inside, put their children on the table, and then let it float and they were holding the table, they were int he water for 7 hours, i went there and i told myself they should be dead, the other houses were completely destroyed, but their house is intact and the water was ceiling level just enough for them to breath,. she was crying and all they could do was pray to God.. amen

and Galdo family.. Kuya Arnold tied ate (his wife to him) and they swam, he was badly wounded and in shock but it was a miracle they survived, their house was the main line, all the water came rushing through them, it was a path for the water. some of their neighbors were swept away...

MayMay and KringKring has the same experience.. most of the Living Hope members (The church where I used to attend) were affected.  i told my neighbors and friends that houses can be rebuilt but this 2nd opportunity that God gave to us cannot be measured, cannot be paid.

if you are here, you can see dead bodies on the streets, so many unaccounted for, and no water... ):
i learned a lot being a pastor's wife, we could not always control our circumstances but God's sustaining grace is more than enough to see us through.. that phrase really became a reality at that time.. when i saw dead children below 4 years old and even an infant that was stuck on an electric pole, i could not comprehend but God reminded me that hey my grace is sufficient for cagayan de oro.. !!!

which is why now, we are mobilizing my young people, we will clean the houses that are intact and help the families in putting their house back in order again, it might not seem like much but our church doesnt have the financial resources to support the affected people but we have the heart and manpower to help.. Go CLEANING.. (:

I am so happy to hear from you, it reminds me that im still alive^.^

I will be gone a minute from now, i have to go to balulang, where our house is and we need to arrange on which house we will clean first, those that cannot afford a cleaner so that can have a cleaner house for christmas, and i have set aside a little bit of something so we can bring food just enough to feed 100, i can only contribute this much but i wanted to do something even if its just a little thing to help my city.. (:

thanks for praying for us... you have no idea that seeing you online brought me immense joy, and your newsletters brought me happiness too.. i thank the Lord for your friendship and for your life... (:
That's the story I heard this morning.  The names will be unfamiliar to many of you, but I know each and every person she mentioned and my heart breaks.  I wish I could be there to clean with them!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pics of Mto Moyoni

Sun rise over the Nile River
Sam experiences a trampoline for the first time!

Sniffy - one of the "ministering" dogs
Drop (like dutch black licorice)
Benjamin is spending time in reflection and prayer!
Miriam and Sarah praying during a time of forgiveness and repentance.

Enjoying the fellowship amidst God's creation!

After spending 5 days in Jijna, I loaded up the car at 2:30 pm and hoped to make it back to Soroti by dark at 7 pm.  While still 2 hours away I received a phone call from my Fida friends, informing me that there was a Christmas party at the Landmark hotel and they wanted me to come. 
Trust me, I was exhausted - after days of reflection, prayer, journaling, and giving everything over to God... finished with a long, rough car ride home, but I knew I had to attend.  Some of the leaders from Finland were also present, so I'm glad that I was able to make it.  To share stories of the work that has been going on with the former child soldiers.  Here I am sitting with Prossy - one of my great friends from Fida.  We enjoyed whole fried fish and chips and lots of sodas.  It was a blessing to partake.
But it was also nice to come home and finally sleep in my own bed once again!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Let it Rain"

Sniffles arise as tears start to flow, rain sprinkles down on the edge of the Nile. 
Generations of sin are being brought to the foot of the cross.
Wrapped in a shawl, I pray for my heart to be transformed, but also for the nation of Uganda.  I am beyond grateful for the childhood that I had - with Christian parents and grandparents, a safe village, great friends, and boys who have always treated me with respect.  My heart breaks for my Ugandan companions - abuse, neglect, curses, confusions, incest, abortions, rape, beatings, failed crops and shame torment them.
"Hear these praise of a grateful heart, each time I think of You the praises start.  I love You so much, Jesus, I love You so much!"
How can I even begin to thank God for the blessings in my life?  Over and over I hear God say "You are mine!", "I love you!"  How awesome it is to be a daughter of the King of kings!  I don't know what it is about being on African soil, but I'm constantly reminded that I'm a Princess - But only a princess, a royal gal, in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.  I never want to be "royalty" here in Uganda - just a servant of my Master who desires to see this struggling land transformed by the grace and forgiveness of the cross, through the Holy Spirit. 
For the past few days, God has placed Isaiah 60-62 across my path.  "your heart will throb and swell with joy." ... "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." ... "I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God."
God will rejoice over ME!
These verses of joy are scattered throughout chapters of how God will "restore the places long devastated."  Pray with me, that those 16 of us who are going through a "Transformation of the Heart" at Mto Moyoni will be able to walk/speak/dance in freedom, so that those around us may also see God's heart and be renewed.

Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation

Filling my Subaru with four other Ugandans, I drove down country to Jinja, where Lake Victoria becomes the Source of the Nile.  We spent more time talking about the potholes and humps in the road the road than anything else, especially since I'm being refreshed in driving a stick shift (manual) with a sticky clutch.

Arriving at Mto Moyoni Retreat Centre, we are introduced to the most lovely gardens and quaint sleeping quarters that slope down to the whirlpool waters of the Nile.  Hundreds of birds entertain us with their call, or incredible diving feats as they catch their dinner from the rushing waters.

Sitting down at the water's edge my Ateso friends watch some Lugandan tribesman try to catch fish with their rugged wooden boats.  My Ateso pals started to recognize that they are on a retreat to a new land just as much as I am.  The two tribes speak different languages and the landscape in Jinja is so different.  Soroti is about a four hour drive north, but the land there is flat and grassy.  There are many more trees and rolling hills in Jinja area.  I chuckled as I watched my friends struggle with greetings, or even how they had trouble with their footing on the "steep" hills.  I taught them how to fish with a hook and work on a string wrapped around a plastic water bottle.  I rolled with laughter when I introduced them to a trampoline for the first time ever.  Geoffrey seemed to manage somehow, but both Sam and Benjamin took about four jumps, then fell down on the mat and held their heads from the strange sensation.  They looked half afraid and half giddy.

At Mto Moyoni there are two dogs that are called "ministry dogs".  Sniffy (a German Shepherd) and Drop sit beside you to offer peace and comfort.  And they show love when they lick you with their cheerful tongues.

Another stretching point is that people from many nations have gathered together to have their hearts transformed.  Kenya, Canada, Uganda, UK, Netherlands, and USA are brought to this place in the Spirit - to seek God's face and forgiveness.  Since so many nations collect in one beautiful place, the lunches provided are western.  Wow, if you could have seen the faces of the Atesos as they tried tomato soup, or shepherd's pie, or even fresh cucumbers for the first time.  They miss their atap, which is local mush (bread) made out of cassava and sorghum flour, but delightfully they only need to wait until supper when they once again receive local foods.  Gnut (peanut) sauce on matoke (mashed plantian bananas) or sakumawiki (collared greens) on posho (white cornmeal mash).

It is a true blessing to be in prayer with people and dogs from every tribe, tongue, and nation!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mto Moyoni

I will write much more when I return home from Jinja in 5 days... just wanted to give you a glimpse.
 I will be sleeping in a loft for the next few nights during the "Transformation of the Heart" retreat!
A shot of the sleeping quarters at Mto Moyoni.  A Spiritual Retreat Centre.
On the Nile River, just minutes away from Lake Victoria.  Spectacular!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

60 Oranges

There was a faint knocking at the gate and at first I wasn’t even sure it was my gate, since there are at least three of them so close together.  I then saw an eye peeking through the small hole in the gate and knew that there was a visitor at the door.  Walking to the end of my driveway I wasn’t sure who I would find, but when I opened the gate I noticed an old man, with an animal skin hat, a bicycle, and a large bag of oranges.

This old gentleman started to ask if Beckie was home, since he knew Beckie, but I explained that she was out.  He wanted to know if I would be willing to buy some oranges because his grandson was in the hospital with malaria and he needed fees for the medicine.  There was something impressive about this man.  One, he wasn’t coming to just ask for money, he was willing to do a trade.  Two, he was selling the oranges way too cheap.  He was going to give me 15 pieces / 1000 shillings, but he needed 5000 shillings (about $2.50) and was going to give me 85 oranges.  I knew that I didn’t need 85 pieces, but I started to think that I could give them away during the Christmas season, so I said “okay”.

As this stranger was filling a bag with fresh fruit, he started to tell me that we were the same because he was also “born again” and that makes us children of Israel.  He said that even though times can be tough here on earth, we are both waiting for everlasting life.  He then gave me two Scripture verses to look up when I got back in the house.  I made him stop counting at 60 pieces, since I knew I was almost robbing the kind man of his fruit, and if he was able to sell more, I wanted him to be able to have some to sell so he could get more money for the hospital or just for his own life. 
Here were his verses for the day:
Psalm 41:1-3Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.  The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.  The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”
1 Peter 2:9-10But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Evangelism Explosion

With the hot African sun beating down on my quickly weathered face, I continued to bike around the neighbourhood of Nakatunya to visit friends from 2009.  I stopped by the mud/grass hut of George and Catherine who are my Ugandan parents.  It was sweet to receive hugs and to talk about all that life has presented in the past few years.  Then I went over to the next compound, hoping to find a few other people, but instead ending up spending an hour talking with a Godly man named Pius.  It was such an encouragement to talk with Pius.  He truly cares about the children and he has such a heart for evangelism.

Goosebumps grew on my arms when Pius started explaining a training he attended in August.  He proudly went and got his certificate to show me, along with the materials that he studied.  The books were colourful, and clearly printed on the front were the words “Evangelism Explosion International for Children”.  EE for kids!!  Wow!  You see, in college I took two years of “Evangelism Explosion” for adults, and I think the material is fantastic as it clearly lays out the Gospel message and the plan of salvation. 
Pius wants to do some Bible studies with up to 30 children at a time, and he was wondering if we could do it together... especially since I seem to know the material so well.  He mentioned that at the moment he has 200 of these little books for kids and he said that because he took the training he can always get more for free.  I truly hope this is an open door for ministry.  These books are a precious tool for reaching children for Jesus.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photo Update - CAAF and More

 Here the ladies are preparing beef tripe, meat, stomach lining, and more for the CAAF lunch.
 The girls are "seriously" playing net ball.  Seriously means they are giving it their all!!
 Local musical instruments
 Blocking a penalty shot
 Just plain adorable... this little girl followed me everywhere at the football tournament.
 A young boy shows me his ball made out of plastic and rubber bands/string.
 Today Mandy, a team-mate who loves the changing seasons, hosted a women's tea.  14 ladies got together for a baking and gift exchange.  Who knew so many delicious recipes could be made in Uganda!!  It was so special.
At the Christmas Tea, Angie made a super yummy pumpkin latte!!  For Mandy's perspective on the Christmas Tea, click here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sports Day in Obalanga

I have just now kicked my feet up after a very long day.   I awoke early because of the roosters and spent some time in God’s Word before preparing for my long, bumpy road trip to Obalanga.  Beckie drove with a few neighbour kids out to the village, and I hopped along with FIDA.  FIDA is a development agency that works a lot with the former child soldiers... the last time I was here I enjoyed doing the field work with them.  It was kind of special when the car came to “pick me” at the gate today, because Charles and Bob did not know I was back in the country.  Charles is always the driver, and Bob overseas the Soroti office.  Of course, Lydia, Prossy, and Lawrence knew I was coming along today and so they had lots of things planned for me.
We planned on leaving Soroti at 8 am and Beckie was certain that wasn’t going to happen, so she left a little later... and she was right... we ended up going into Soroti town first to buy 5 sacks of rice, soccer balls, water and snacks, and some medicines before heading out to the village.  Beckie was right behind us when we ended up driving on the very rough roads.  It was about 10:30 am before we arrived, and we found that 4 communities of CAAF kids had already arrived to begin sports day.  CAAF = Children Affected by Armed Forces.  Due to the late start, and too many FIDA announcements, and a switch in leadership, my “prepared” sermonette was postponed, but I was asked to lead about 300 people in prayer to start the day.
The boys played soccer all day and the girls played net ball.  I have never seen that game before and it’s kind of a combination between ultimate Frisbee and basketball.  Beckie kept score with the girls and I floated through the crowds have some God-ordained conversations.  Discussions such as forgiveness, purity, and patience came up as I sat with the spectators and chatted the day away.  Near the end of the festivities, Beckie and I helped to serve supper to all of the CAAF kids who attended.  Rice and cow parts – intestines, tripe, bones and some small meats, skin, and other chewy parts.... J It was fun serving the tired youth.

I met a couple of young people from Abim today.  That is a small village, about three hours north of Soroti that has caught my heart, and I’m thinking the Lord may expand my borders to that place.  These youth were asking me if I would come and share with them some Biblical studies.  They have a desire to deepen their faith and understand God’s Word better.  That makes me so excited that these former child soldiers wish to grow in the Lord.  Please pray those doors will clearly open in that is the direction I am supposed to take while living in northern Uganda.
The tournaments ended shortly after 6 pm... Then there were a few short announcements before we left the village at 6:30 pm.  Driving the bumpy roads is much worse in the dark, but I trust Charles as a driver – and FIDA has a heavy duty vehicle.  Conversations flowed as we headed back to Soroti.  It doesn’t feel like I have been gone for two years.  The people in the vehicle are such good friends to me; it is an honour to serve alongside of them again.  I was dropped off shortly after 8 pm and I’m thinking tonight might be a good night to go to bed early.  The African sun makes me very tired.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Team Time

Since my arrival a week ago I have been so very blessed to get to know my team.  Team Beyond is now much bigger – with 6 families and 3 singles, or 15 adults and 15 children.  The dynamics are so different compared to the last time I was here, but it is still so incredible.  The Team had it prearranged that I would spend at least one meal a day with each family so that I could get to know them better, and I feel like I have been spoiled because of all the delicious meals.  Stuffed green peppers, egg salad sandwiches, spaghetti with home-made rolls, creamy pasta, tacos.... most of these are local ingredients, but some families chose to share their “American” treats with me.  I have enjoyed hearing people’s testimonies and hearts for ministry.

Today we had a two and a half hour team meeting – it was a time to share our highs and lows right now – whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, children, or ministry, etc.  My team leader has also assigned us the book “When Helping Hurts” and that has been a real eye opener for the definition of poverty.  I hope to share more on this book soon.
Tonight all the ladies on the team came over for an evening Bible study.  Apparently they come over to Beckie’s (my) house every Wednesday night for a Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.   Tonight we took a very close look at Deuteronomy 4.  A verse that really stood out to me was “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Vs. 29

This posting seems a bit choppy, but I wanted to write just a little before I went to bed to tell you how some of my first week was filled.  Tomorrow I’m off to the village to spend a “Sports Day” with the CAAF kids (CAAF = Children Affected by Armed Forces).  Apparently I’m supposed to bring a message in the morning, so please pray that God will give me wisdom, courage, and insight as preaching was not on my game plan.  J  I’ll just call it a teaching!!

It's a Zoo in Here!

Thursday night I arrived in Soroti, and shared a meal with a few families before closing the doors to my new home and starting to get reacquainted with my new house-mate, Beckie.  We went through the house – discussing the code to the small safe, also our power converters and water sources.  Our filtered water is connected in the bathroom sink and the electricity is very iffy here now days.  One for one, off for two... then off all day, on at night... it so strange and hard to plan around.  I don’t mind not having electricity during the day because I don’t like fans or air-conditioning and I cook on a gas stove.
Part of our discussions that night also included how to care for the animals.  Mustard the cat eats tiny dried fish, but not so many that she won’t also catch critters outside.  Pal eats a few dried fish also in his evening porridge.  I’m not sure what she gets, but it’s some sort of grain feed that I mix with water and serve to her when it’s cool.  At the moment I don’t like having Pal in the house because she is having her bi-annual menstruation and I have to clean a trail of blood from my floor every time she comes in the house.  I guess I never even thought about a female dog’s “system” but one can never stop learning.  J

Then there are the five chickens and two roosters.  Every morning I wake up to the sounds of their squawking just outside my window, for that is where there feed trough is also.  I usually open the front door around 8:30 am and I find it hilariously funny to watch all the chickens flap and glide their way from wherever in the yard to greet me at the front door.  On the front stoop they proceed to poop and make all sorts of noise... and if I am not careful with the front screens, the chickens are stubborn enough to come in the house and try to get at Pal’s left over foot.  I have even heard rumours that the chicken like to lay eggs in the couch cushions, but I hope to draw the line there. 

As much as the animals humour me though, I do enjoy having company in the house, especially since Beckie has been gone all week.  Mustard is the sweetest cat ever and I’m glad to have a few constant friends!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday snaps

Advent Season is upon us, and today I read a very fitting Scripture verse that goes along with the "Candle of Preparation":
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"
Luke 3:4-6

This morning I decided to try driving my car once again.  The first time I drove it I wasn't used to the clutch and it popped really strange for me (although it has been a few years since I drove a stick shift) so I haven't driven it, except for practicing up and down my driveway.  :)  I was running late for church though, due to jet lag - I slept in, so I decided to drive rather than ride my bicycle, since it was a good 20 minute bike ride away.
Arriving at the church where I served previously, I was bombarded with hugs from many children, and warm handshakes from the adults.  I didn't want to teach the children, but I did attend class with their current leaders.  There were about 130 kids in the tiny classroom - which is normally split into two groups - preschool through age 6, and then ages 7-12, but they all wanted to be with Auntie Karen.  I did share a short Bible story with them though and encouraged the leaders to keep up the good work.
Some of you may remember this picture, but when I was in the Pamba church last time, this little girl name Teddy always wanted me to hold her when I was teaching.  She was maybe 3 at the time.  Well, today she was in church (and apparently hasn't been for almost a year because she was in the village with her family), but she spotted me after the service and held my hand for the next 10 minutes while I greeted many others. 

Teddy was so precious today - my heart melted immediately

 On a very side note, I went to a different church tonight and saw this sign at the side of the parking lot... although it was pouring rain and I accidently read it with and "R" instead of an "L".  ")  Free Fornication sure had me wondering what that church was selling.  Ha Ha.
And here is my cat "Mustard" - much nicer looking than Pal.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Soroti Home

Landing at the airport on Wednesday night, I was greeted by my team-mates, Tim and Steve.  They loaded all of my luggage on the top of Tim's van around midnight and then we drove to the Adonai guest house in Kampala where we promptly went to sleep.  At breakfast on Thursday morning I was showered with hugs from the rest of the guy's families ... lots of Sliedrechts and Tiesengas.  :)  By 9:30 am we were on the road.  We decided to take the long route home, because at the moment there is a 45 minute stretch of road that is taking three hours to cross... so instead of driving 6 hours to Soroti, we drove west, with an incredible view of the Nile river, and took 7.5 hours to get home.
 The Nile river was rushing greatly, pictures don't do it justice... I couldn't get a closer pic because there were security officers nearby.
 We saw a small group of Baboons as we past near Murchison Falls.
 I was greeted by the chickens at my residence... I believe there are 5 hens and 2 roosters.  One cock is going to have his life taken if he want to cockadoodle doo at 6:15 am right outside my window.
 This is my dog "PAL" and I have a cat named Mustard also... don't worry, I didn't go out and collect these animals... I am living with another team-mate who has a passion for these creatures.
 Here is my Subaru Forester.  I drove it briefly last night, but I have to get used to the clutch.  It's been a while since I drove a stick transmission, so today I practised first gear and reverse in my driveway. 
 At least my driveway is long enough to handle the training lessons. :)
To the left of the photo you will see a sitting hut and a volleyball net - where neighbourhood kids daily fill the yard.
 Here is my home sweet home... I am too blessed.
 These are the boys quarters and outdoor latrine.  Don't worry - I don't keep boys locked up and I do have indoor plumbing... it's just that many Ugandans would prefer a pit.
A view of the back of my house - I rode that trusty bike all around town today, revisiting old friends and running errands.
(Indoor pics will come when I am more settled or unpacked.)

Commissioning Photos

Last Sunday  - Commissioning Service
My Grandparents came to see me off with their blessings!
Many family, friends, and church members came up front to pray over me.
I was given a small time to share what's going on and to thank people for all the love and support!