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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

17 Stories Training

Last Saturday, Rachel and I taught 59 church leaders about the "17 Stories Course" by Book of Hope.  We had a blast teaching for 8 hours, but it was also a blessing to work so closely with Rachel in even preparing for the big day.  21 churches were in attendence and it's so exciting to see people get fired up about children's ministry!
 Every teacher received a manual with story guidelines, themes, Bible verses, games, follow-up questions and pictures.
 We began the day with a few worship songs.
 Leaders studied their new material diligently.
 Each child will also receive pictures.  1 big story card picture is divided into 16 smaller stories, to share the whole Gospel presentation in a simple way.
 I brought the class outside to teach them the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
 Inside again, Rachel and \I acted out the story of David and Goliath!
 I got to be the tall, arrogant Philistine!
 Rachel was the faithful shepherd boy.
 We took an hour to teach them 17 new games to play... one for each story.
Here I am, giving instructions on how to untangle the "human knot".
A great training... with lots of follow up to happen because I now need to visit the churches and see how the teachers are managing with this new material.  All of the materials were provided by Book of Hope, an international agency, that has an office in Kampala.  I believe we gave out enough materials to teach over 1700 children.  The Lord is Good!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Solomon the Vervet

One of my team-mates brought home a baby vervet monkey from a local orphanage.  It is very young as the umbilical cord is still attached.  He is so very cute!!
 Solomon is his name
Playful is his game
We hope he stays so tame!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Art in Acheli

This art event took place a few weeks ago and I finally got my hands on some of the photos that were taken that day.  There is an art project being worked on in the UK that shares the stories of some of the former child soldiers that we work with here in Northern Uganda.  We spent a day listening to their stories, encouraging them to draw pictures of life in captivity, and then painting their feet.  It is a joy to journey with them in the path of life.
War scars were shown

Feet were painted with the colours of the earth.

Drawing a picture of life in the bush
I washed their feet with Kerosene after being painted
My hands were stinging after being in gas for an hour

Some of these tough boys had ticklish feet :)

Very humbling for me to wash their feet!

A view of the process

Worshipping together

Drying the art

Listening to the heart-wrenching testimonies
I thank God that many of the 28 young people are now walking with the peace of Christ. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Update on TP

Today I received a letter in the mail asking how the TP rating was going.  So I'm proud to write that Beckie and I just finished our little experiment last week and "YaCai" and "Pink Angel" came in as the top winners in tearability, absorbancy, and softness.  The only problem is... we can't find them in town now.  Next on the list in "Needz" so that's what we are settling with.  :)  Just letting you know... you find all sorts of things to talk about while living and serving on the mission field.  Good night friends.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts From the Nile

It's early morning, here in Uganda, and I'm peacefully watching at least 17 monkeys quickly scamper up a hill beside the waters of the Nile to find respite in the surrounding trees.  The waters are swiftly moving, making me think about the fisherman the night before, who must have battled the current with great strength to throw out their nets by the light of a lantern.
Again I have returned to Mto Moyoni - a spiritual retreat centre, and this time I brought with me 4 adults who care for orphans in Soroti, and 4 church leaders from a remote village of Abim.  All of us have come to learn more about the heart of God.  Especially his Father heart and how He cares for us.  We spent a long time looking at the story of the prodigal son... when really it is a story about the Father... who forgave his long lost son, RAN out to meet him after patiently waiting for him, GIFTED him with robe, ring, and sandals that once again declared him a son, and also PLEADED with the older brother to come back inside and spend time with him.  Really, the younger son chose correctly on that day... he wanted a relationship with his father. 
Uganda is a country full of orphans.  This can happen through some obvious reasons - like HIV/AIDS, and war (Idi Amin, Joseph Kony), but also for reasons like - one parent is farming in the village while another is struggling to survive in town for months on end.  Or many children are sent off to boarding school... even for elementary level... where they have no parents with them for a whole semester at a time.  My heart breaks... no wonder it's hard to really grasp the heart of the Father.
These past few days have also made me so grateful for my upbringing!  I have amazing parents - who provided for me, or at least prayed for God's provision when they couldn't provide.  Parents who taught me how to read the Bible and love God's stories.  Parents who modeled never-ending love, discipline, care, support, affection, and patience.  I have always felt like I belonged!  And I know I have a place to call home.  I love that my parents not only taught me about faith, work, and the value of education, but they also had fun with me - played games, sang songs, and created in me a passion for travel. 
I know that my parents are not God... trust me, they are not even close... but somehow, because of my blessed life and upbringing, it is easier for me to feel, know, and understand God.  I am so grateful for His love, care, and compassion.  I know that God is always near, and He grants me peace in each circumstance.  It's so refreshing to soak in God's presence!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sipping on Stoney

It's the end of yet another busy day here in Soroti land, and I'm trying to cool down with a refreshing Stoney... it's a strong ginger beer (non-alcoholic) for those of you who don't know what that is... it's one of my favourite drinks here.  I love ginger.
Beckie and I left yesterday to check out her home in Morungatuny.  Her simple brick structure is still under construction, so we spent the night in a hut on the compound of our friends - Francis and Josephine.  They are both former child soldiers. 
Francis walked around his whole village with us, telling us stories of where his mother hid when the LRA swept through the area, and pointed out where he was captured from.  He is the 2nd of 9 children, and yet the only one to be taken, but already that was 10 years ago.  Through the grace of Christ, it is amazing to see how much peace and joy he has in his life now.
Then today, Beckie, Francis and I continued to journey up to Abim, which is on the border of Karamoja region.  Francis made us slow down when we got to a dry swamp.  He said that during captivity many children died in that swamp... a somber moment.  Francis quickly perked up again though and told us to keep going to Abim.  I love going up there because of the beauty of the land.  Tall hills surround towns and villages that are built differently than in Teso land.  There is a circular pattern in the roofs of the grass huts.  We went to encourage a few students who are studying up there, and to meet up with a pastor is who helping to organize a few leaders for an upcoming spiritual retreat.
All day people were exactly on time, or even early for all appointments, which left Beckie and I in shock.  She kept saying "Who hit the EASY button?"  I don't know, but it sure was nice to be home in time for a short nap before dinner. 
This evening I went out to sing with a few musicians.  They wanted help learning hymns like "In Christ Alone" and "My Jesus I love Thee".  I love singing and it's always a pleasure to jam with good musicians.  It brings me back to my highschool days when I spent hours in a friend's basement studio... just making music!!  (By the way, that friend became the drummer for Haste The Day, if you've ever heard of that famous band.) :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

KONY 2012: Bringing Joseph Kony to justice

There is a Kony 2012 video that is hitting Facebook like a storm.  In so many ways I am glad the world is starting to hear about the evils of one man.  He must be brought to justice.  Even today I am heading out to the village to spend some time with former child soldiers.  Even though they were able to escape more than 5 years ago, the fears and heartaches still remain.  Please read the following article to learn more about Joseph Kony, and if you wish to watch the 1/2 hour video put out by the Invisible Children - it is at the bottom of the article.  I am also letting you know, though, that Joseph Kony is not in Uganda at the moment (although I'm sure he still has some Ugandan youth in his rebel group today)... he is more in Congo and Southern Sudan.
KONY 2012: Bringing Joseph Kony to justice

My team leader wrote this response to the Kony 2012 video.  Read the post here.

I also want to share one of my team-mates latest blog posts about the LRA.  Check out her post here:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mbale Madness

After three days of staying in bed - due to stomach issues, I finally had enough doses of antibiotics in me to start working on my system, and strength in my body to drive 2 hours to Mbale to get a much needed visa extension.  Let's just say, I am glad I brought some trusted Ugandan friends with me who could keep me calm.  I really can't write about the process here, but how can a Ugandan immigration office not own a receipt book?!  They want my $50 for the extension, but can't give me a receipt.... the guy had my passport in his briefcase and was going to call the cops, and put me on a bus to Kampala... which would have made matters worse... but in the end I got my passport back and stamped for another three months.  Next time I'm heading for a border.
I was fired up about feeding a system of corruption, and I needed to cool down... so it's a good thing that the hotel in Mbale had a delightful pool to swim in. 
I completely cooled off and had a relaxing afternoon. 
 So glad I could share my time with one of my best friends - Helen, and her adorable son, Memphis.  It was fun introducing him to a pool for the first time.
And teaching my friend Lawrence how to swim was hilarious.  I think adults are more fearful... but you should have seen his white shiny teeth when he tried kicking really hard.  He was having a blast learning something new!
All in all a good day, and the Lord kept us safe on four hours of BUMPY roads!  I even appreciated the depth of our conversations on the homeward journey, as we each shared are personal walk with God and how we like to see our faith lived out.  I was truly encouraged.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Special Invitation

My cell phone rang - it was a local shop owner inviting me to a special luncheon the next day.  He said that he was inviting some mzungus for lunch and he wanted me to attend because I have been a blessing and encouragement to him at his place of work.  This man owns/runs both a computer/stationary supply store, as well as, a tiny restaurant.
I arrived at 1pm the next day, to find 4 other mzungus there - Americans who are here just for a short while.  We had fun talking while my friend and his wife cooked us lunch.  Wow - tender beef steak, and spicy chicken fillets... both of which I have never eaten in Uganda before.  I was spoiled as these yummy meats were served with both rice and Irish potatoes, along with a tiny bit of dodo greens. 
I am just thankful to have a shop owner that I can trust.  And he is an encouragement to me also, as he is a man who is truly seeking after God's heart.  His wife is beautiful and his little boy adorable.  It was truly special for all of us to gather together, hold hands, and end our luncheon in prayer.  God is good.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Women's Retreat

Every once in a while, I just need to take a break and be fed by my team.  After my journey to Kampala, and a period of time in the village, I was grateful for the 24 hour women's retreat that my team had planned.  Nine of us ladies gathered first for lunch at one of the local hotels, then went over to a team-mates house for the rest of our time.  We snacked on yummy foods.  Listened to a testimony of a lady who now blesses God through her pain.  It was so good to share each others testimonies, fears, and insights.  The afternoon flew by.  I was even stretched by participating in a few girly activities... the pictures say it all:

One of the last fun things I did before going home at noon was get my blood pressure read.  I'm normal!!  Yeah!  Life is treating me just fine in Uganda.

Village Views

As I drove up the path to this village home, the lady of the house started ululating - trilling with delight that guests had arrived to her homestead.  It was already dark and I was quickly escorted into the hut pictured below.  We were served African tea and biscuits and then my bed was made on the dried cow dung floor.  First a papyrus mat was laid down, then a 3 inch foam mattress, and thankfully I brought a mosquito net with me because the bugs were thick.  The net was tied to a wooden pole in the roof and then tucked in around my mattress.  That became my comfy bed for three nights in the village.
In the mornings the ladies would head to the cooking hut and spend a long time preparing a "simple" breakfast for Pius, a few neighbouring men, and myself.  Sweet potatoes, flat bread, donuts, African tea, and other delicacies.
On the first night, Simon, the father of the household, asked me if I have ever eaten original honey.  I quickly learned that meant straight from the honey comb.  A few men headed out in the night with a flaming stick to smoke out a beehive and retrieve the honey.
Here is a picture of the beehive.  You just grab a piece honey, suck out the sweetness, and then spit out the wax.  So delightful - whether eaten plain, or with flat bread or dried sweet potato.
On the final morning I had time to fully experience village life.  No one believed that I could a) walk all the way to the bore hole (which was not even 1km away) and b) that I could carry a full jerry can of water, but I proved them all wrong.  The trilling continued when I returned with water for bathing.
Here was the line up of jerry cans at the pump - not to bad.  A young girl was pumping for everyone, but I was allowed to pump my own water jug.  WooHoo.  It reminded me of being a little girl at my grandparents farm.  They had an old hand pump well outside.
Thankfully the water was warmed over the fire so I could take a nice hot bath.  This is a picture of the bathing house - you can see everyone on the compound, but they can't see me inside... but it is about neck height.  Morning and night I bathed in this circular room.
When trying to head for home, I had to make the rounds and walk to a bunch of neighbours homes - most of them were men and women who attended the training with me throughout the week.  To show their sincere appreciation I received a few gifts - 1 guinea fowl, 2 hens, 2 roosters, and a pot of honey.  Again, the ladies trilled as I walked up the path with two birds tucked under my arms.
This old lady only spoke Kumam.  She is the 85 year old grandmother on the compound.  She liked sitting beside me and playing with my hair.  She kept telling the other family members that she loved having me be a guest at her home.
The hosting group wanted a final shot before I departed back to Soroti - of course - 3 hours later than I had wanted, but I'm slowly getting used to long good-byes.  Really, I should appreciated them, when the people either want to pray for me and bless me, or they want me to come and pray over them and their homes.  I feel like I have new friends in Kaberimaido.  I hope to go back for follow-up in the near future.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Training in Evangelism

Monday morning, Pius and I arranged our belongings into the car and drove out to Bululu SubCounty of Kaberimaido to teach a three day course.  The drive took about 1 hour and the pastors and church leaders began to gather as soon as they heard the car drive into the area.  Word spread quickly that the mzungu had arrived. 
Prayer and worship add to the training time, to make for a full course load, but it was truly amazing to see how thirsty these people were for training.  They soaked up every word and asked great questions.  They now feel better equipped for evangelism and they also see how important it is for the children to be ministered to... both inside and outside of the classroom.
 27 church leaders gathered, from 5 different village churches, to attend a 3 day training.  The churches worked together to provide food throughout the trainings.
 I felt so comfortable teaching a course on Evangelism and Children's Ministry and it was super exciting to see the leaders grasp the material and have a heart to begin adding the trainings to their ministries.
 After class on day one, 5 of us went hiking up on a rock to oversea Lake Kyoga.  A beautiful spot!
When Joseph Kony and the LRA swept through the area, many of the locals fled to the island across, to escape the war rebels.  Today there is an anglican church on the island.
Here is Pius, he was my co-leader and organizer for the whole training.  He did much of the translating for me - into the language of Kumam.
Fisherman work hard to bring in the catch of the day.