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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Miracle of Cookies

Saturday was the closing day for Kid's Camp this school break.  For 3.5 weeks, we gathered every Tuesday and Saturday afternoons for games, singing, and Bible Study.  It was great getting to know the children on a deeper level.  Especially those who were in my "Genesis" group.
 Here are the kids playing with sock puppets... that came from some friends in Michigan.  :)
 The kids are working hard on a final exam
 Answering questions about "Who is God?", "The Word of God", "Salvation and Rewards", etc.
 The youngest class was having a fun follow-up discussion, because they don't know
how to read or write yet.
 "CAPTAIN SALVATION" came for the closing ceremonies.  :)
 "Captain Salvation" described the prizes the children could purchase after a few more kid's camp sessions (the Christmas break) - after they have collected points for attendance, doing their homework, participating in games, memorizing Scripture, and bringing a friend.
The number of children started out low on Saturday because many of them were at the Sport's Grounds, participating in sports activities with Stephen Kiprotich (the 2012 Ugandan Gold Olympian!), so we weren't even sure we would have a closing program, but after an hour and a half the church filled with kids.  God is good.
To finish the day, I had baked a pile of cookies.  I had lost count while baking because friends were helping and children were around, but I was sure there were lots.  We counted heads when the kids lined up for juice and two cookies - one coconut, and one peanut butter (made from peanuts that I shelled, roasted, and brought to the grinder!).  "Sure, there are enough!"  The kids came, one by one, pairs of cookies were handed out and the box began to deplete. 
"Teacher Karen, there are 28 children left."  No worries, lots of cookies.  As the last few little ones lined up, we counted 9 heads.  I looked in the box and began to wonder.  The teachers started to say.. "We want cookies too!", but as I counted out the treats... only and exactly 18 cookies were left.  Every child would receive 2 cookies!!
Next Saturday the teachers are getting together for a follow-up meeting, so I guess I need to bake again.  :)  Banana bread is the request I heard.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

All About Kids

Opio and Ochen turned 3!!
This morning I went to church at Rockview Baptist because the kids wanted me to come for their special Sunday service.  Special indeed!!  The kids led the whole service.  I'm so proud of the church family as they truly delight in and support their young leaders.
These two were the "elders" of service
Children led worship and special music!!
"I will Praise you in the Storm!!"
The Preacher and his interpreter
It was even precious to see them sitting tucked in the
leadership corner.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Look into Last Week

Last week was beyond busy for me... but I wanted to share with you a few glimpses of what I was up to throughout the week. 
 Kids camp
 For one month, I am walking alongside Rockview Baptist as they host a camp on Tuesdays and Saturdays - for children and youth during their school break.
 The afternoon is full of games, stories, songs, and a Bible lesson.
 The kids are earning points for learning their memory verses, doing their Bible study homework, coming on time, bringing a friend, etc.
 A new game of bowling was introduced.  :)
 Here I am showing them how to fill out their Bible study material.
 Last week I also had two trainings.  Here I am with an NGO, training them on the Book of Hope - an international Bible story curriculum for kids.  This went from being a 5 hour training to an 11 hour day - but lots was discussed and I'm excited to see more people equipped to teach children.
I also spent two days in the village of Kaberimaido, training church leaders in Evangelism and children's ministry.  Both of these trainings were done with Ugandans who are so passionate about children and orphans.  I am so happy to be walking alongside God's church here in Soroti.
 Last night was Victor's 8th birthday.  Victor is my next door neighbour.  I dressed up in my new dress just to make the evening special... so the rest of the family decided to dress up as well.
 Vanessa and Victor - near and dear to my heart!
 I wish you could have seen Victor jump when the candle first got lit. :)
 Delighted with his new toys, he already hopes his baby brothers won't wreck or steal them.
Hanging out in the sitting room.

Finding Precious

Yesterday evening I was working in my house, when one of the neighbours came over to ask if Precious was playing in my house.  No - just the twins.  I didn't think much about it, just kept on working.  About 15 minutes later the mother came and asked again if Precious was in my house.  I started to get concerned.  I cleaned up my work and the kids and I went outside to begin searching around.  Precious is maybe one and a half... she only learned to walk a few months ago.
We walked up the street and talked to other kids in the neighbourhood.  We started driving around a few blocks and asking people if they had seen a lost little girl.  No one had.  Vanessa, who is 13, was sitting with me in the car.  She began to imagine all the possibilities.  Kidnapped.  Hit by a car.  Child sacrifice.  After a while I realized that we are not going to be able to find Precious on our own.  I went back to the house and talked with the mother.  I asked for a photo of Precious that I could take to the police station.
As I was walking back to my car, one of the helpers in the compound started talking about how Precious had stolen the kids ball.  Are you kidding me?  Who cares about a ball?  But in her very broken English, she kept saying - "The ball!  The ball!"  I was so frustrated.  Why was she so worried about a ball... balls can be replaced?
Getting back in to the car, I said, "Kids, first we need to pray before we go any further.  Lord, we have lost little Precious and I pray that you will help us to find her.  Please keep her safe.  Amen."  And we drove away.  Feeling prompted to take Main Street, instead of the back streets, I drove slowly so that Vanessa could look out one window and Victor could look out the other window.
Half way through town Victor say a young man, dressed in an ephod, holding an orange ball up in the air.  Victor says - "That's our ball!"  Vanessa looked closer then and saw the man holding hands with a little girl in a white dress.  "Precious!  He has Precious!"
I pulled over so fast and Vanessa and I jumped out of the car.  Spectators on the street said, "Mzungu, how can you just lose a child."  I quickly explained that it was me.  I am her neighbour and I'm just out searching for the young girl.  Precious seemed very calm and content while the man explained to us that he almost hit her while he was driving up Main street.  She was crossing the road alone.  I showed him the picture and told him we were on our way to the police station to report her missing.  He mentioned that he was just on his way to the radio station since no one was claiming her. 
Anyways, after many hugs and appreciations, we took Precious into the car and drove home.  I could see her Mom walking up a path, leading away from our home.  I quickly through open the door and yelled. "Mama Precious!"  At the same time, Vanessa held Precious high into the air.  Tears flowed.  All of us gathered inside the compound.  We cried, thanked God, hugged one another, and made a plan on how to keep the kids inside the gate better. 
I just praise God it all turned out well!!  Vanessa came to my home 20 minutes later and gave me another big hug.  She couldn't believe how God had worked things out.  To God be the glory!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good-bye Grace

This week we as a Team lost a good friend and helper. 
 Grace Aujo has gone home to be with the Lord.
Please pray for the friends and families of this wonderful, kind-hearted lady.  She was a single mom to 7 children.  Grace worked for my Area leaders - Tim and Angie Sliedrecht, for the past 5 years, so it is a very heavy loss for them especially.  May peace reign in this town today. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Week in Rwanda

Just a few short days before deciding to go to Rwanda, I found out that Canadians need to have a visa in order to enter the country.  I needed a letter of invitation from friends in Kigali and then applied on-line.  Thankfully after many discussions with immigration on the phone, it was decided that if I took my confirmation number to the border, I should be okay.  Since the confirmation letter was determined not to appear in any of my email inboxes. 
Two Saturday mornings ago, I showed up at the Jaguar bus park, hoping to buy a ticket for a ride all the way to Kigali.  But that was not the case - fully booked.  As were all the direct route bus companies.  I ended up finding a well-traveled Rwandan man who was in the same dilemma as me, so we traveled together.  Bus, squishy taxi, walked across the border (a little delay to clear my passport) and then a private hire to Kigali.  We arrived by 10pm and I was very happy to be picked up by a sweet friend.
 I knew that a trip to the Genocide Memorial was in order, since it is so very important to the recent history of Rwanda.  It was hard to walk through - the stories are fierce, the pictures are graphic, and walking around the mass graves brought back many memories of when I helped add bodies to the LRA mass grave in Obalanga in 2009.
 I am glad that I went though... a very well laid out museum.  World class.
 Another day I jumped on a moto (motorcycle taxi) and was handed a helmet.  After directing the driver with an address that I found online, I headed to the former president's palace.  The gardens were lovely and the architecture in the main home with incredible.  I was saddened at how the president had rooms to meet both the witch doctor and the priests.  This president was shot down, the plane ruins are on the property, and the whole genocide was put into action as soon as the president was dead.  Quite sobering.
 A new art for me to see.  You can't see the 3D texture in this art, but it's made out of cow dung.  I want to try making it here in Soroti.
 Liz Bird, from International Teams Australia, was able to spend a day with me and we went to explore a tea plantation about 2 hours outside of Kigali.  Thanks to Jennifer (IT Canada) and Serge Kamari for giving us this day trip suggestion.
 Dressed in scrubs, we toured a tea factory.
 A tea tasting experience - 7 different teas to be sipped, starting with the weakest flavour.
 Don't swallow.  Taste and spit it out.
 Lots of variety comes out of this one well-designed factory.
 We drove through 20 km of tea plantations
 And stopped to see some pickers in an organic field.
 Not the sunniest day, but a great day to hike through the fields.
 From the nursery to the fields
 Who knew there were so many ways to describe tea?
 Gorgeous hills... so glad I was able to see some of the country in daylight.  I arrived in Rwanda in the dark, and I left Rwanda on the overnight bus.  Otherwise I stayed in the city - fellowshipping with other International Teams friends and relaxing.
 I stayed with Maddy Manden.... a missionary that I met at training in 2011.  An incredible young lady who is working so hard building up a special needs program in the school system there.
Liz and Joel Bird live with Maddy.  They are from Australia, and they became sweet friends to me through out the week.  Hours of sharing and fellowship.  They spoiled me with amazing dinners and tours through craft and cloth markets.  I thank God for the people I met along the way.
Saturday night, at 7:30 pm I boarded the overnight bus to head back to Kampala.  Arriving at 7 am, I decided to go straight to the next bus park and catch another bus home to Soroti.  No delaying.  I pulled into town at 2:45 pm... that is a long journey on a bus... but totally worth it. 
P.S. A bus ticket from Soroti to Kampala is 20,000 UGX ($8) and from Kampala to Kigali is 45,000 UGX ($18)... totally worth the trip for me to see a new country and be able to spend time with God and his people there for a week.