Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
"Praise God. I want to thank God for keeping us safe."
"Praise the Lord. I want to thank God for our sponsors."
And another stands up and says,
"Praise God. I want to thank God for my life."
This is a typical scene during evening devotions at Camp El Har orphanage in Uganda. Children are so thankful for what they have - things we take for granted.
I thank God for my life.
In the US we designate one day a year for giving thanks. And every year people make a big deal about stretching it out longer than that. But how many of us actually do? I have to admit that I have difficulty with it.
Let's face it, in general, we're not a very thankful people. And it's not just us. It goes all the way back to the beginning of time. Adam and Eve had everything they needed in the Garden of Eden, but instead of giving thanks for all they had, they wanted more. In the desert, the Israelites had just walked through the Red Sea on dry land. God told them all they had to do was follow and obey Him and He would bring them into the Promised Land. He even lit the way for them and gave them food. After a while they started to feel like they were just walking in circles. And the manna God sent down every day, was getting a little old. They had everything they needed, but were they thankful?
Unfortunately, we're not often much different. God blesses every day of the year, not just the 4th Thursday of November. But in a few months (or more likely a few days - those Christmas ads have a tendancy to make us a bit greedy) the thanksgiving spirit will wear off and giving thanks will turn into asking for more.
I thank God for my life.
Every so often I hear those words in my mind, like a little reminder.
I thank God for my life.
Because even with the most difficult of pasts, we should all be able to say
I thank God for my life.
We all have so much to be thankful for. I know for me, I'm so thankful that God is continuing to improve my health. I'm thankful for the little things like being able to run the vacuum cleaner, not having to sleep during the day, and being able to start subbing again (my first full day was Friday!) But taking my cues from some sweet children in Uganda, I am most thankful for my life, because I know that God has written every page of it. The Bible says He has engraved us on the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) and He has great plans for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11).
And that gives me every reason to thank Him for my life.
When was the last time you thanked God for your life?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We met Timothy early on in our last adventure to Uganda. He's about 3 years old and was hanging around the center during the Saturday Program. His mother is the one who cooks the food for the children, and his father is a teacher at the school where the childcare center is located. He speaks English really well, which is not common for such a young child. But that's the benefit of having a teacher for a parent.
Isn't he so cute?!
You can probably guess it didn't take very long for him to get us wrapped around his little fingers.
He enjoyed his muzungu friends (muzungu means white person). He first met my dad, then my mom, and finally me. No matter what, he was always with one of us holding our hand, sitting on our laps, going here and there with us.
He was hanging out with my mom for a while in the office. She came around back to where I was talking with some of the kids and wanted me to show her where the bathroom was. So we walked off. When we came back, Timothy was no where in sight. So we went looking for him. We found him back inside the office playing with my dad.
"The muzungu is my friend!" He would say.
And, yes, that is a sock on his hand. He had it with him and we taught him how to make a sock puppet. He was too funny trying to get it to talk. "Hello!"
After spending only a few hours with him, Timothy stole our hearts.
And when we went to leave that day, we knew that if we saw him again it wouldn't be for a long time. I think Timothy knew too. When we got into the truck to leave, little Timothy cried. In a sad little voice he kept saying, "Don't go! Don't go!" And as our truck backed out of the center, he reached out his little hand to us and cried.
We still love you, Timothy. And we'll never forget you.
Friday, November 12, 2010
To be honest, it's because I've been hiding.
Things have been a little weird around here for me. When we first came home from Uganda I was doing really well. Surprisingly so. I mean I had the usual jet lag and overall exhaustion that comes with spending almost a month in a third world country. And then I started feeling lousy again.
But to be honest, I was kind of in denial.
I didn't want to be feeling sickly again. And I certainly didn't want people to get all up in my koolaid about it (sorry, I'm a product of the 90s). I saw my doctor again - actually a couple of doctors - just to see what to do because we were kind of at a loss. My primary care doctor had washed his hands of me back in May. So I turned to the homeopathic doctor I've been seeing. I love going there so much. There are only a few doctors that I feel actually care about seeing me get better, and she's one of them. And do you know what she told me? "It's going to take patience."
To be honest, I didn't like that. I'm not patient enough for patience.
Then I talked to my chiropractor, who is the one who gives me the best answers about anything. He said this virus is having a hard time leaving my body, and it may just take some more time.
But to be honest, they're both right. At the core of every problem we face in life, doesn't patience play a role? Are we not, by very nature, hurriers at heart? We make all these plans for our lives, so naturally when something happens don't we start to panic as we look for a way to get out of the mess we're in?
And do you notice that patience never travels alone? It always brings along trust. Because when you're being patient you often have to trust in God's bigger plan. And that's not easy. When we're putting trust in God and his timing, we're giving up control over our lives.
To be honest, that tends to make my stomach flop. Because at that moment what I'm saying is that what makes sense to me and what makes sense to the world around me no longer matters. I'm going to follow what God wants me to do.
And to be honest, when we do that people around us literally go nuts. You're in the middle of unchartered territory and suddenly everyone around you thinks they know exactly what you should or shouldn't be doing and start giving you advice about God's real calling on your life. (Because if you're facing struggles that must not be in God's plan for you, right? I hope you're picking up on the sarcasm there). It's happened to me more times than I can count over the last year. Maybe God made you sick so you would stop going to Uganda, keep the faith and still go to Uganda, get the perfect job, settle down and get married...
And oh my goodness to be honest, I sometimes imagine myself poking them in the eye. (I'm just being honest).
But seriously, isn't that what happens? (Not the eye poking, though if we're all being honest I think we might admit we've imagined the same thing at some point). We suddenly find ourselves in unexpected territory. We're facing this time of being patient, trusting God. As if that isn't hard enough, now we have to give up control of what the people around us think. And they're not always quiet about it. Which just sends us further into patience and trust. And so the cycle continues. And it wears on us.
But here's the thing:
When we're worn down to our thinnest, when we're trusting in God, waiting on Him, caring only about what He thinks - this is when He does His greatest work in us. This is when the Potter's clay is at its most moldable. And this is when He can form us into what He has created us to be.
And to be honest, that's exactly where I want my life to be - in the hands of the Potter.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Sorry about that.
We've been out speaking and sending out updates to our wonderful sponsors. And we're excited for what God has in store for us in the coming months! I hope you'll join us for this ride. We'll take you through some memories of trips past, show you more fun pictures, share what God's laid on my heart, and who knows what else!
And the best part is that
CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!!!!!
Next to July/August (aka Uganda time), Christmas is my favorite time of the year. So I can't wait to share that time with all of you.
(That is, if you're still reading.)
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Sunday October 3, 2010 - East Leon Weselyan Church on Mosher Hollow Rd. Service @ 11am
Sunday October 17, 2010 - Pleasant Valley Church on Waterman Rd in Cassadaga (Kabob). Service @ 11am
Sunday October 31, 2010 - Jamestown Community Chapel on Camp St in Jamestown. Service @ 10:45.
If you get the chance, we'd love to have you come out to hear what the Lord is doing in Uganda.
Also, while we were in Uganda Reuben asked Aly to work with another Uganda staff member to develop a website for their ministry. Feel free to check out the brand new "official" site of AMG Uganda by clicking this link: www.wix.com/AMGuganda/home
This evening we have the privilege of having dinner with our good friend Ken Ivins. Ken was the team leader for our trip in 2009, and we're looking forward to catching up with him.
Stay tuned for more. I know I keep saying that but I've got some new stories coming up. That first month or so after returning home is always the toughest. So please don't give up on me here. There's more to come!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
It all started one year ago.
Last year I went down to the History Fair parade feeling a bit tired. At the time I was cleaning a house for a family I knew, and after the parade I headed down to work. I came home feeling very sore. I thought it was just from cleaning and being tired. That night there were fireworks at dusk, but I couldn't make it. Instead, I watched them out the window while lying in bed.
I woke up the next morning with a fever, body aches, chills, and a terrible headache. We went to a nearby church to speak about our trip, and I barely made it through. I had to sit down during the hymns. I started leaning on things whenever possible. And after we finished speaking, I went home and took a nap. Later on my fever broke with a drenching sweat, and I knew it was time to go to the doctor. This set us down a road of doctor appointment after doctor appointment. Many tests, but no answers.
And it all started one year ago.
It felt like the longest year of my life, but at the same time it seems impossible that it could already be a year. I sit here today completely amazed at what I've been through, and that even though at times I felt like God had abandoned me, He was always right there by my side. I'm in awe that I had the honor of returning to Uganda despite any health concerns or warnings by some of my friends and family.
While it was all happening, I never in a million years thought I would ever be thankful that I had to suffer through it. I was able to admit that God had a bigger purpose, but I wasn't ready to jump straight to thankful.
The truth is, I am so thankful that I passed through this time. Don't get me wrong, it was horrible. There were times that I had never felt more abandoned by God or more alone, misunderstood, or confused in my life.
But through it all I found an unfailing hope. And one day, as I was encouraged by the hope I'd found in God's promises, I realized something important: I wasn't supposed to keep it. God didn't give me hope so I could keep it to myself like some sort of decoration. It was a gift He intended for me to give away.
One month ago I sat in the dark home of two children who had no parents, no food, and no hope. I was able to share with them my struggles and the hope I had found. That day, two kids who had no reason to smile before we arrived were beaming as we left.
And I thought, if I had listened to the people who told me not to come, I never would've experienced it. I never would've seen what God can do when we put our trust in Him. I never would've understood what He can do when we just allow Him to work in our lives. And that little gift of hope he gave me would still be tucked away on the shelf and not living among those we saw that day.
It changed my life forever. And it all started one year ago.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
This is a great opportunity to help this ministry grow through the power of prayer. You can take a look at the calendar for the next 28 days by clicking here.
We've talked about child sponsorship in this post and this post. I can't say it enough - Child sponsorship changes lives. It will not only change the life of a child in need half way around the world, but it will also change the life of the person who makes the decision to sponsor.
I am so blessed by my sweet children, Mariam and Sophie, and I thank God every day for bringing them into my life because they have taught me great lessons about life. They've helped me learn how to lean on God alone for provision. They've taught me the importance of working hard toward something special. And they've given me strength when I'm weak. When I'm not feeling well, I think of them and their precious smiles. They are always so joyful and it brings me great strength and comfort in knowing that the Lord used me to help put those smiles there.
Mariam before sponsorship in 2007
My house key has a frowning face on one side that says, "Before I knew Jesus." And on the other side it says, "After I knew Jesus," with a smiley face. That key reminds me of the transformation these kids go through while they are in the AMG program. From kids who have no hope at all, no reason to smile, to kids who have the joy of knowing Christ.
So I ask that you would consider joining us in this 28 days of prayer. And if over the next 28 days you set aside just $1 a day (the same as what most families in Uganda live on per day) you would have the $28 needed to start sponsoring a child this month.
I urge you to consider sponsoring a child, and equally as important I ask you to pray.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
If you'd like to hear more of our stories by having us come speak at your church, small group, or even just individually, please contact us (or give our contact information to your pastor or group leader) at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are looking forward to sharing the message the Lord has laid on our hearts from these experiences.
Also stay tuned to the blog as we'll continue to update on little stories here and there and also post dates, times, and places you can come hear us speak.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I think back to the end of May, just before I started writing this blog. I spent a week at my friend Madie's for her graduation. Every afternoon I had to lay down for a few hours to sleep. The pain was bad, and my movements were slow.
Fast forward a few weeks - we're getting ready to leave for Uganda. Long ago I said I believed that going on this trip would be directly related to my health improving. Looking back I feel I was right. As the trip drew closer, I reached a point where I didn't have to lay down and sleep every afternoon. I gained strength and energy. My aches were still there, but I was at least able to function again. The closer we came to leaving, the better I did.
Before we left I said that I believed that God was going to do amazing things. I knew I was going to surprise even myself with what I was able to do. The Lord gave me a vision of being able to play with the kids, and I did.
The Lord gave me strength. I still have many aches and pains. I still experience fatigue and weakness. But the Lord did a mighty work in me.
He may not have fully healed me physically yet, but He did something much more amazing.
He used me.
When I was weak, He used me to strengthen others. When I had lost hope, He used me by giving me a message of hope to share with the suffering. When I was heart-broken, He used me to lift others up out of dark places.
So tonight I sit here amazed.
He chose to use me.
But the thing is, He chooses to use each of us. He gave us each a special combination of talents and He longs to use us to further His kingdom. All we have to do is be willing and He will use us for His glory.
My prayer tonight is that each of us is willing to be used by God, and that he will continue to use us all the days of our lives.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
My favorite place in the whole world to be is at the childcare center at Igamba. I love those kids, and you can tell they love me back. Some of the kids even remembered me from last year, and remembered why my name is Buddy - because I come to be their friend. Here's some pictures of some of my good friends from Igamba:
This is Bill and his friend Davis. Bill likes to write his own praise songs and Davis puts them to music. They were singing for me.
They sounded so good I just had to dance!
That's my favorite part of going to Uganda - making kids smile. And the hugs aren't so bad either. I think I've learned that sometimes ministy has nothing to do with being able to talk. Sometimes you just have to be willing to love and be loved.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
There's a quote from the movie Mean Girls that always seems appropriate to me this time of year. If you've never watched the movie the main character, Cady, is experiencing her first day of public high school after a lifetime of being homeschooled in Africa. She sits at the popular table at lunch and one of the girls (a blonde of course) asks her, "So...if you're from Africa, why are you white?" And her friend replies, "Oh my gosh, Karen, you can't just ask people why they're white!"
No trip is complete until someone asks me if I've been to Africa why I'm so white. Today that tradition was fulfilled. I left the US with a tan and came back without it. What can I say, the sun is hotter there.
True fact: Eating beans and rice for 3 weeks doesn't make us lose weight, we literally sweat off the pounds!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
To be honest I'm having a rough time. Don't get me wrong, it's good to be home and see friends and family again, but I don't feel like I'm all here. My heart aches for Uganda. It's broken for the children, it longs for the people. I miss the millions of hugs we get each day, the happy faces and waving hands, the shouts of "muzungu!" the soothing sound of their voices when they speak, and even how terrible my accent sounds when I sing along with them. I think the only thing I don't miss is rice.
This is the fourth time we've done this. It's the fourth time we've seen the poverty. It's the fourth time we've had to say goodbye. It's the fourth time we've had to get back into life at home. But it never gets easier.
So if you see me walking around looking a little lost, just remember that it's hard to adjust to life when it your heart is somewhere else.
I ask that your prayers for us wouldn't stop now that we've stepped off the plane here at home. I've always said I don't believe that missions trips end when you leave your host country. They continue on. We ask that you pray for us as we begin to prepare stories to share. We've shared only a few small stories with you here on the blog. And I've shared very little from our week in the village of Igamba because those are the toughest of them all. Even typing the word Igamba is bringing tears to my eyes.
Also I ask that you pray for our health. I'm happy to say that I'm feeling good. I had a treatment yesterday that knocked me down (which means it worked) but I'm doing better. But even last year we thought I came home healthy and it wasn't until a few weeks later that anything started to show up. So pray for each of us that we'll continue along feeling well and that the Lord will continue to increase my strength and good health each and every day.
Thank you again for your prayers and for spending time with us on our amazing journey.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
We had our first encounter with the airport body scanners. After they scanned us they asked if they could search us (meaning pat us down). I said yes, but I thought, "Lady, I've been traveling from Africa for the last 12 hours. If you want to get close enough to me to smell me, then go right ahead!"
Our friends picked us up from the airport in Buffalo, and we went for our traditional "first supper" of pizza and wings. These are the same friends that we shared our "last supper" with before leaving for Uganda. We are so thankful that the Lord has placed them in our lives. Since they've done missions work before, they understand the ins and outs. They know the long travel and the brainless feeling that comes from getting only 4 hours of sleep in over 30 hours. They put up with the smell that comes from not bathing in over 48 hours. If that's not the love of the Lord then I don't know what is.
Today is a major laundry day. We have 4 suitcases filled with dirty clothes. And although our ministry work in Uganda is completed for a short time, our ministry at home is just beginning.
We want to thank you for every single prayer that was brought before the throne of God. We appreciate each and every one. Our friends who picked us up from the airport, the Chase's, said that they prayed specifically, not just that I would stay healthy but that I would actually come back stronger than when I left. Their prayer was answered. My body feels stronger than when I first arrived in Uganda. It's so amazing, the power of prayer. I look forward to hearing/sharing of other stories of how your prayers for us were answered.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I have enjoyed every minute of being here. The Lord has brought us through and sustained us. We are so thankful for his provision.
I'm very sad to leave, but I believe, just as they say here in Uganda:
The best is yet to come.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
This evening we went back to the home where the Camp El Har kids are staying right now. Most of them have left for holiday, but some have stayed. We were able to see some kids we haven't seen in 2 years. It was amazing to see how much they've changed. When we left them 2 years ago they were still shy little kids and now they're confident young men and women. We enjoyed spending some time with them. It's a bit different to spend time with the older kids. The conversations change from simple subjects like our country, what we like about Uganda, and what we like to do, to really tough spiritual questions like is one form of baptism better than another or what do I tell a friend who thinks that some sins are worse than others.
I can't believe that we're so close to leaving. Tomorrow is our last full day in Uganda. Last month I was saying that soon it would all be just a memory and it has. My parents are ready to come home. They love it here, but at the same time I think they are ready to get back into life back home.
I'm not so ready.
I know that I need to come home so I can keep working at getting better, but I'd rather stay. Please pray for us (and me especially) as we begin to say farewell to our family here. We've grown close to so many people here, and I know it will be very difficult for us. Pray that the Lord will give me strength to come back and continue the work of this trip at home through sharing the stories with others.
Thank you for praying with us, and for walking with us as we go.
Monday, August 9, 2010
It's our fourth time to go there, but it never gets easier. In fact, I think this was the most difficult time that we've spent there. The poverty there is tremendous. In years past we've spent only a couple days there and we packed it full of home visits. But this year, we had to take it slow, and while that sounds like we did less ministry, we ended up doing more. We were able to go deeper than ever before.
Years past we went a mile wide and an inch deep. This year it was an inch wide, a mile deep. We spent a lot of time at the homes we visited and listened to their struggles, encouraged them, prayed with them, and followed up again later.
I'm still trying to process it all, which often leaves me in tears. My heart is broken because of the work we did there. My heart is broken because I had to leave.
I just feel broken.
But I thank the Lord for feeling broken, because a broken heart takes action. I pray that in the coming days/weeks as we share more with all of you and as we go out to churches to speak that the stories will break your hearts to take action too.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
After a wonderful church service, my parents went with Uncle Reuben and Auntie Florence for lunch, and I went back to the Camp with the kids. Oh we were sneaky! Today is my parent's 28th wedding anniversary, so I came up with a plan to have a surprise party for them with the kids.
So we went back to prepare while the married folks went for lunch. I went with some of the kids and Shamila (one of the aunties at the home) to buy sodas from down the road. The cake had been delivered the night before.
Shamila took the lead in putting together a program and put Eva in charge of directing the whole program. They practiced some songs and even put in my parents names and that it was their 28th anniversary.
The kids were so excited. I'm not sure if it was because it was our parent's anniversary, or if it was because we got to have a party with cake and sodas...
When they arrived the kids brought out the cake and yelled, "SURPRISE!" They started off with praise and worship, did some special songs, asked all of the adults to speak, and enjoyed our cake.
But the day had many mixed feelings. Since we are leaving for Igamba tomorrow and the kids will go on break and visit their families before we get back, this was the last day we had to spend with them. Some of the kids expressed their thanks to us for our love for them. It was hard to keep my composure.
If you haven't already picked up on this we love those kids so much! So it was very hard to say good bye. We've been here for a week and a half so far and already we've connected with these kids. There was a girl that was new this year. She came to Camp El Har earlier this year so we hadn't ever seen her before. She was very unsure of us at first. She was shy and would hide her face when we looked at her. After a few visits, she really warmed up to us. All I needed to do was look at her and she would smile so big. I would come sit next to her and she would be so happy. But when we said good bye today, she hugged each of us and then walked off and stood by herself, head hanging low. She was sad we were leaving.
The kids have said to us that they love us as their own family. They love my dad as their own dad, my mom and their mother, and me as their sister. And those are not just words. You can see on their faces that it's the truth.
I was trying to upload some pictures for you. The internet here is on African Time...
We're off to pack to leave for Igamba tomorrow. You won't hear much from us for a while (I don't think) but we thank you for your continued prayers. Pray that the Lord will give us strength for every day, and that God will use us in a mighty way as we minister to the people there.
Tomorrow some of the Dorcas ladies will join us in Igamba just for the day to do door to door evangelism. We've done home visitation and presented the Gospel to people, but never at this level with people from AMG spread out, traveling around, and sharing the Good News. So please pray that the Lord will open the hearts of the people we will speak to.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
That is not the best part of waking up.
But I just kept praying that the Lord would give me strength for what he wanted me to do today. I had to comletely rely on him. We went to Namugoga for the Saturday program (it was my mom, Susan, and myself. My dad was at a men's breakfast with Uncle Reuben). We were so glad to have Susan because she ran around with those crazy kids for half of the morning so we didn't have to. I played some, but taking in the wisdom of my grandmother I decided I should take it easy and not burn myself out since we still have just under 2 weeks left.
We also went to Camp El Har to see the kids. They hadn't returned from their Saturday program at one of the other centers so we surprised them when they came home. We spent time in fellowship with them, teaching them. And then we handed out some gifts to them.
A person we know from back home in the States donated a suitcase full of clothes to take with us, so these kids were able to get some of those. The boys received shorts and the girls received shirts. They were so excited and kept saying thank you!
I gave some of the older girls my old shirts. One girl tried on a Veggie Tales shirt that was mine, but it was big on her. She didn't seem to like it, but when my mom told her it used to be mine she wouldn't take it off.
We are absolutely and completely exhausted today. We have another early day tomorrow, and then we're off to Igamba on Monday. When we go to Igamba, it's not likely that we'll have much internet access, so you may not hear from us while we're there.
I want to thank you again for your prayers. They mean so much to us and we wouldn't be able to do the work we do without them. We ask that you specifically pray for us as we prepare to go to Igamba. I ask that you pray for my health, that God will continue to give me strength to go on, as well as strength admit I need to rest.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Unfortunately we also encounter many of the same things year after year. A man offered both my dad and me his child to take back to America for a small donation. We saw toddlers wandering busy city streets, kids sitting around at home because their parents can't afford school fees, and kids walking around barefoot in tattered clothing, noses running, and bellies bloated.
These are not things that we've become numb to. It's still heartbreaking and I pray it will continue to break my heart to see such things. I think the worst thing we can do as Christians is to become numb to the needs of others. We see the pictures of kids just like this on tv and it's easy to become numb to the images. It's easy to think that because we don't know their names and they live in far away places that it's ok to neglect them.
So I'll say it again. The worst thing we can do is become numb, to seem as if we don't care, to think they should be able to help themselves, or that it's ok for us to hold onto the blessings God has given us because we've worked hard for them.
So my prayer today is that God would break our hearts for these people, and that we won't just see them as someone who lives far away and has no name. But that we would see them as people. Living, breathing, hurting people.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
We welcomed a visitor among us. Susan is an American who has been working at the medical clinic in Bugongi for the past 2 months. She'll be with us until Monday, travel to Igamba with us, and then come back before us to leave for the US on Wednesday. So we've been spending time getting to know her and ministering with her.
There's a change in schedule for tomorrow. If you've been following our itinerary we were supposed to go to Dove Church, but they have a meeting there tomorrow so we will be visiting the homes where some of the kids at Camp El Har stay. Actually lots of things have changed on our schedule, but we haven't really mentioned it because it would take up the whole blog. But this is a bigger change.
Today was a day of adult fellowship. My mom and I took part in fellowship with Dorcas ladies. These are a group of AMG women who act as mothers to the AMG girls as they grow and mature. They provide materials these girls need and mentor them, because the culture of Uganda is that everything is private. So mothers don't often talk to their daughters about the changes that are happening or counsel them on proper behaviors.
We started off singing praises to God. They asked for prayer requests and we prayed for them. But this is much different than it is in the US. When we pray here in a group setting, everyone prays quietly to themselves. The room hums with thanks and requests to God.
My mom and I tag teamed the teaching and talked about when Joshua crossed the Jordan River (if you haven't read, you can go back and read the post from Day 1).
We also handed out gifts to these ladies who were so excited. They received a package of a handkerchief, lotion, tea, candy, and a colorful bag. They were pleasantly surprised. They were like little kids at Christmas, running around squealing, laughing, jumping around. It was truly a girls' day!
There's so much to talk about, but it's so hard to keep it short. I know this is something my mom will bring back to tell, so I won't get into it too much. But we've heard so many stories from AMG staff who were orphaned as children and taken in as sponsored children by other organizations, and now that they've grown they want to give back. It's so amazing to see their hearts for people who are suffering, and it's because they've been there.
The AMG staff are so inspiring. They work so hard, and they love the kids so much. Their hope is to give back the blessings they have been given.
Isn't that how we all should approach life?
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Today was a more relaxed day, sandwiched between yesterday's and tomorrow's home visitation. We went up to the construction site for Camp El Har. They are about to put the roof on the primary classroom block and will soon start the dorms where the kids will stay. It's so amazing to see how this dream is becoming a reality. We visited this site in 2007 just as the land was getting tied up in court. When we went the land was cleared and ready for building, but it was just a bunch of dirt.
Now, years later we are witnessing the builders putting up the structure for the roof on the first building. Reuben took us, and as we listened to him talk about where different things will be it was like seeing his vision come alive. As my dad said earlier, he is leaving such a legacy here in Uganda. When we told him that he said, "It's all the Lord's work." He gives God all the glory for the things that are happening in the ministry.
We also visited with the kids at Camp El Har after they came home from school. We took part in their fellowship. I keep saying it but these kids are truly amazing! They always ask for testimonies after they worship the Lord and these are the testimonies they shared:
"I thank God for keeping me alive."
"I thank God for his protection."
"I thank God for my sponsor."
"I thank God for our visiters."
And then came time for prayer requests. One girl raised her hand and said,
"I request you to pray for suffering people."
These kids have led such difficult lives, and they are requesting prayer for the people who are suffering. They know that God has brought them out of a terrible life, and they want the same for others.
After I taught about having clean hearts, we had a few minutes to spend with them before we had to leave, so I taught a small group of them how to play:
UNO! They caught on very quickly, and I have to say they kicked my butt. Eva won. It's a memory that will stick with me, sitting on a skinny little bench surrounded by my brothers and sisters, hearing them laugh and enjoy our time together.
Monday, July 26, 2010
The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. - Frederick Buechner
I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. How is your life? I know you are fine. I am writing to you to tell you that I would like to be your friend because you are a good sister. I love you so much and thank you for loving us so much.
From your lovely brother, Tadeo
God bless you so much.
The other night I was handed this note from one of my sweet brothers from Camp El Har. He's around 13 years old. These kids mean so much to me. Last night I wrote in my journal that if you tried to bottle up all the love I have for these kids, there would be no container on earth that could hold it. And I know that my parents feel the same way.
So when I get letters like this one, it just melts my heart!
Then we handed out the packages and had enough to give out to over 40 families.
We'd like to thank everyone who has supported us financially for this trip. Some of the funds we raised are used for ministry projects like this one. It's a very special gift to give to the families and the women were so excited to receive the food. They were clapping and kept saying, "Thank you, thank you." They said may the Lord bless us always. We share that blessing with you because you have helped us in one way or another to get here, whether by financial assistance or through prayer or other support.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
At the end of the program, they brought the kids out to sing one more song. They decided to sing about AIDS. During the song, some of the kids took turns coming up to sing about what life is like when you have They were singing about how when you are sick you can't move around, you can't go to school, you beg for money and eat out of the garbage.
These are young kids and they are singing about keeping away from AIDS. They should be worrying about finding their lost Barbie or fixing a flat tire on their bike, not about themselves or their families getting AIDS.
One girl came forward to sing and couldn't finish. She walked away crying. Then Eva stepped up to sing and she also couldn't finish. She ran away sobbing. There were tears streaming down the faces of each of the children. And I felt so helpless. These kids that I love so much, they've had such difficult lives. They've experienced things we can't even begin to imagine.
And as I sat there watching these kids sing, I started to wonder:
When an orphan dies, who will cry for them?
We have children in the US who die and their parents mourn without ceasing. Parents carry on with life always carrying the burden of losing a child they love so dearly. Their tears soak their pillow at night.
But what about the orphans of the world? Who cries for these children? Who mourns the life they should have had? Whose tears will soak pillows at night? Who cries for the orphans of the world when they die?
I can't seem to come up with an answer quite good enough.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
People have been asking how I've been holding up. Here is proof that I'm doing well:
Yes, I am still experiencing some pain and weakness. I can't tell if I'm just experiencing less or if being here with the kids makes me just not care. I think it's a little of both!
The Lord is doing great things, and I'm looking forward to what else he has in store!
Most of our ministry so far (you know, the whole two days we've been here) has been to adults, so today was our first big day with the kids. We took part in the Saturday Program at Bukoto CDC. It's about a 10 minute drive from where we are staying. There were around maybe 300 children there this morning. When they meet on Saturday mornings they start with praise and worship, then they have devotions and one of the teachers gives the lesson for the day. They dismiss for breakfast (today was porridge and a biscuit), then they are divided into age groups for their classes where the lesson from earlier is reinforced. After that there is time for games. And today they had to take time to measure the children's weight and height.
My cheeks hurt from smiling so much today because these kids bring me such great joy.
Fahad has a message for all of the sponsors out there:
All of the children love their sponsors so much and want us to pass the message along. We have seen these children with our own eyes. We have served them breakfast. We have played games with them, sang songs with them. They are such beautiful children. Most of the children in the program have sponsors, but there are many who have lost their sponsors, or even new children who need sponsors. Will you pray about sponsoring one of these precious children? You can leave a comment on this post or email us at email@example.com. We can find a child for you while we're here and even have a chance to meet them before we leave. For $28 a month you can positively imact the life of a child for eternity.
It has started to rain. Thunder is sounding in the distance. I'm down in the cafe and have no idea how I will get back up to my room without getting soaked. Before I go, I want to give a big thanks to those of you who have been writing comments to us! We love to read the encouraging words after a long day. It's like cold water that quenches our thirst!
Thank you for your prayers as well. We slept very well last night and were well rested for today. Please pray for us tomorrow as we attend church and go to Camp El Har for family visitation day. Pray that we may be able to encourge the families and continue to build relationships with these precious children.
Friday, July 23, 2010
We didn't get much sleep last night. The dogs were howling half the night. It takes time to get used to all of the Ugandan noises. In a few more days it won't bother us at all.
We spent the morning and part of the afternoon painting at Camp El Har. YES! Even I painted! We went old school Uganda painting. We didn't bring any of our own supplies from home, and it took about 5 minutes until our paint roller disintegrated. It literally rolled out onto the wall. So a while later they came back with 2 more and we were in business again. It took a while, and it's nothing like painting in the States. We're all fairly neat painters and we ended up with paint all over our arms and hands. But part of the ministry of painting is spending time with the people we're painting with.
There were two girls there who are like the house mothers for Camp El Har with us, as well as the house "father," Gerald. The girls had never painted before, so this was their first experience. They enjoyed it, but said it was tiresome work. I was also able to visit with them, just spending time talking about the challenges they face and their hopes and dreams for the future.
It really is all about the people here!
I am absolutely loving just being here. And I'm feeling GREAT! It's been a little cool and damp here (cool for Uganda) which would usually make me achy and tired, but I've been feeling so good. I've said that on days before the trip when I wasn't feeling well and was doubting whether I should still come, God would always reveal something to me to keep me going. Many times he gave me a vision of playing with the children.
Last night, I played with the kids at Camp El Har.
I can't believe how the Lord has changed my life. And coming here, I know it's where God has called me. It's where I belong.
My dad is supposed to be leaving soon for a Bible Study, and my mom and I are staying back to go through our supplies/gifts and rest up for tomorrow's busy day with the kids at the Saturday Program!
We are enjoying the symphony of Kampala. At any one moment you can hear loud music playing, the Muslim prayer call, car horns honking, dogs howling, cats meowing, babies crying, birds squawing, people talking, and an ice cream truck...
That's Kampala. The sounds of home...
Thursday, July 22, 2010
We've encountered some increased security around here. Everywhere we go they are checking vehicles and searching. People are really on high alert following the bombings last week (and also with the summit this week). So it's taking more patience as we have to stop for these checks, but we know it's for our security. I would say it's a bit similar to the way we reacted to security after 9/11.
But things are going well. We went to the AMG head office for staff devotions today. We were warmly welcomed and enjoyed fellowship with the staff as we sang praise songs and discussed whether or not we are just going through the motions and following a list of things we are and are not supposed to do, or are we taking time to stop and really enjoy our time with God.
Then we drove over to the Camp and met the children after they arrived back from school. As we drove, we picked up some of the kids as they were walking home. They were so excited to jump into the back of the truck and say hello. We also took photos of them holding a board with their name on it so we can relearn their names.
Now we are back and enjoying some time to relax. We are still adjusting to the time change.
We welcome your continued prayers for us, that God will use us in a mighty way, and that He will work through us to impact the people we come into contact with.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The past 24 hours has been quite eventful. Our flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was delayed for almost an hour. We only had an hour and 45 minute layover in Amsterdam so we ended up running to our next gate, which was quite a sight I'm sure.
As we began our descent into Entebbe, the plane lost a whole lot of altitude at one point. It was like a scene from Lost, or like the tower of terror without the fun...
So all that to say that we are safe and so excited to be here and start our ministry tomorrow!
Thanks for the prayers!
- The Housers
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
(you can click on the photo above and a larger version should appear)
Some quick notes:
Feeding Children is a nutrition seminar my mom does for parents in the AMG program. She sits down with them and explains the importance of good nutrition, what types of foods children should be eating, and how to best get those nutrients. She also talks about the importance of nutrition in pregnant women (since they are pregnant a lot of the time) for the health of the baby as well as the mother.
Dorcas Ministry is a program that was started to help the girls of AMG as they grow and mature. They provide the girls with needed supplies, teach them about proper hygiene, and counsel them. We will be able to speak with the girls and probably their mothers as well at the Saturday Programs, as well as having the opportunity to encourage the women who lead this ministry.
We will be in Igamba for about a week or so. We were not given a set itinerary for Igamba, but we usually take part in home visits and spend a lot of time around the child care center playing games, doing crafts, and loving lots of children (both sponsored and unsponsored). Patricia always has lots in store for us while we're there!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
We already have 2 of our 6 bags packed full at 49.5 and 49.9 pounds respectively (we're allowed 50 pounds). We have everything from craft supplies to gifts for kids and adults to protein packed food to duct tape.
Also, what you may not know about these trips is that we have a few traditions that we keep every year. So tonight we fulfilled one of our traditions with our friends Allen and Debbie Chase. They have both done missions work - Debbie has been to Haiti and India and both have gone to Guatamala, and every time one of us is getting ready to leave, we go for a "Last Supper." This doesn't have to literally be the last supper we eat before we leave, but it's one last meal out (before airport food) where we can share a good meal and spend time in fellowship with one another. (My brother also joined us for this year's dinner!)
I am so crazy excited about leaving. For some reason, today I don't feel the greatest, but I'm hoping it's just all getting out of my system before Tuesday. But I keep thinking about the kids and it gives me strength to keep going.
You prayers are always greatly appreciated! Specifically prayers that we will remember everything we need, and that God will provide the things we don't have. That we all will be able to get comfortable and get some rest on the plane, and that God will prepare the way by preparing our hearts and the hearts of the people in Uganda. Thank you all for your support. It means more to us than you'll ever know!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
But here's where it might change. I will be updating the same as I have been until Tuesday. Then it's up in the air (literally), as we're not sure what our internet access will be like in Uganda. But I hope to be able to update at least once a week while we're there. The problem is that we will not be able to connect to a wireless internet source from where we're staying, which means we'll have to rely on using the internet at the AMG office. Because of our schedule we will not likely have time every day to sit in the office and type something up.
So here's my plan: I'm hoping that I'll be able to type up something (almost) every night when we get back to our guesthouse. Then, one day a week (probably Thursday before or after our staff fellowship) I will post all of them at once. So once we're in Uganda, be sure to scroll down to see if we've posted multiple times in one day. I'm not sure if that'll be God's plan. So we ask for your patience with us. We will do our very best.
We always tell people that no news is good news. If you don't hear from us, that means things are going well.
But we do ask for your prayers. If you suddenly feel prompting to pray for us, please do, even if it's in the middle of the night. Remember that Uganda is 7 hours ahead of New York time so when you're going to bed at night, we're getting ready to start our day. And the middle of the night in NY is daytime for us. And we certainly feel those prayers.
We have some great friends who call each other while we're gone every night at 9pm. One year we were in Uganda I would wake up in the middle of the night and feel like someone was praying for us. Every time I looked at the time, it was always around 4am.
Your prayers make a difference. When we're facing a difficult situation, sometimes we can just feel the tension go away, and we know that someone is interceding for us. So we thank you for those prayers!
Well, I didn't think it could possibly happen, but things have actually become a little crazier here. I'm off to work on some packing and get in some time in God's word. It's the only thing that keeps me sane!