Saturday, December 10, 2011

New House!

I am so excited to tell you all that the Lord has provided a new place for me to live! Sean and Linda Tyler, long term missionaries here in Mbale, invited me to live in their guest home that's in their compound behind their house, so I moved in the first week of December, and it's been full steam ahead ever since!

I learned so much in the past 6 months living with an African family, and I'm so grateful for my time there. I'm also just as excited to be able to live alongside the Tylers who have welcomed me in with open arms.

My first lesson in home maintenance came the day after moving in when the chain to the handle of my toilet broke! I can now not only fix the problem, but I learned how to flush a toilet with a bucket of water too. I definitely feel just a little bit less like an ignorant white girl :)

I'll post more details (and pics!) as soon as I can finally finish unpacking and moving in. Until then, I pray the Lord's blessings on each of you in this Christmas season as we remember the birth of our Savior!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Weekend Away

This past weekend after celebrating a wonderful Thanksgiving (as in AMAZING food, TOO much fun, and GREAT company!) with a bunch of other American missionaries, my friend Natalie and I took a trip to Jinja, just a couple hours away. Jinja is the town right by the source of the Nile river which flows from Lake Victoria, and our accommodations were situated overlooking the Nile. It was truly wonderful to take the time to rest, be refreshed and fellowship with the Lord and with Nat for 3 days.

Soaking up the beauty around me, and just being for a while was so wonderful. In the confusion and commotion of living in Africa, there is so much to think and analyze and evaluate and feel and change and do. I'm so grateful for the opportunity the Lord provided for me to go away for a time and find my balance and center around Him alone again.

Time away also gave me a chance to read/listen to some books while cross stitching! I've been reading Hannah Hurrand's book, Hinds Feet on High Places, and loving the way the Good Shepherd changes Much-Afraid, many times by asking her to do what is most difficult and frightening to her. Each time she come to the the most difficult task yet, and she asks herself if it's worth it, she remembers who He is and what He has promised and says yes. Because of His love for her and her trust in Him, she is transformed from being named Much-Afraid to being called Grace and Glory. With each new challenge and discouragement I've faced here, I've also seen His face and heard His voice that much more clearly saying, "Melanie, I love you, so will you trust Me?" I trust that because of His love for me, and my growing love for Him, I will continue to say yes too.

Time and time again the Lord used the beauty around me to again say, "I love you." A breathtaking sunset, a richly adorned flower, soul aching music, or a heavenly scent are a few things that are guaranteed to take me right into His arms, and He showered me with them this past weekend! Here's just a glimpse:

And if the sheer beauty wasn't enough, He also provided laughter therapy through the antics of the monkeys frolicking in the trees above me!

Demonstrating proper tree-sitting techniques

Prepping for his pedicure

The old wise one just observing the antics

I think he appreciated the view as much as I did!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Daily Posho

Anybody remember your elementary school cafeteria? I don't....I didn't have one since I was home schooled, but that's besides the point. I certainly got to HEAR about all my friend's school cafeteria experiences (you know, the whole "I'll eat your brown stuff if you'll eat my green stuff"), but I thought I'd show you the school cafeteria at Covenant Primary school here in Mbale.....

Here, everyone just eats their brown stuff. otherwise known as ebijanjalo, or to you muzungus, beans. and posho.

Posho or rice with beans is definitely one of the most common meals here in Uganda, and they eat plenty of it! I seriously marvel at how much one Ugandan can fit in their flat stomach.

When I was growing up, the most common concern I heard expressed about being a missionary was what you would have to eat. Pictures of bugs, slimy slugs, and floating chicken heads danced through my mind, and I asked myself, "Would I be willing?" I said yes....but since those days I have learned that muscling down one locust one day is nothing compared to getting used to eating unappealing food every day. It's not even that the food is disgusting most of the time. It's just usually bland. Maybe it's because I grew up spoiled with my mom's wonderful cooking....maybe it's because of my own fascination with cooking and flavors (insert theme music from Ratatouille), but eating the same posho and greens, or rice and boiled chicken or beef every day has been a challenge.

I knew that I wouldn't be the perfect missionary, but I really did think that I had the food aspect nailed....until I got here! Successfully swallowing enseenene (grasshopper) is much less of a concern to me now than finishing my 6th bowl of rice and chicken this week with gratitude and thankfulness for having such food before me. It does of course help me to remember that my friends here would LOVE to have chicken, since in their home they get it only about 2 times a year. A couple of weeks ago, I ate lunch at the church with the rest of the church family. After helping serve rice, I took my own bowl of rice and beans and sat eating with my fingers with my friends. That was one of the best meals I've had here, even though I'm sure the beans didn't taste any better than they usually do. The difference came from being with the people I loved, and watching them eat with gratitude made me that much more thankful for the food I was eating.

As I come to my first Thanksgiving here in Uganda, I have a whole new perspective on the holiday I thought I understood. I have a whole new basis for just how blessed I really am. I have daily reminders of the wealth of physical and spiritual blessings I have been showered with my whole life, and I am left here begging the Lord to continue to inspire that attitude of thankful awe at all He gives.

Speaking of chicken....Marvin proudly holding my dinner for the night

Friday, November 4, 2011


Thank you so much for all of the prayers you have offered up for me since my last blog! I have definitely found strength, encouragement, peace, and comfort through your prayers and mine in situations that would have been so defeating otherwise.

One of the greatest joys and blessings to me for the past several weeks has been my new language helper, Margaret. My concerns with my last language helper, Diana, (not as a friend, but as a teacher) led to one of the challenging situations that I've had to face here, but I really do believe the Lord has worked in some incredible ways, and I have been blessed abundantly with a new teacher, helper, and friend in Margaret.

(I just stopped to look at this picture from an American perspective and noticed the bare light bulb and exposed wires in the background.... I guess the fact that I don't even think twice about it anymore says something....I'll leave you to decide what that is :) )

Margaret is quite the busy lady! She teaches the Christian Religious Education classes at a local secondary school (high school), and came highly recommended to me as a person and a teacher. I can definitely say she's wonderful!! With her, I've had the consistency and progress that I've been so desiring my whole time here. She's not only a wonderful language helper, but she's also been a great source of wisdom and insight into the people and culture around me. As the mother of 5 children, a high school teacher, a clinic owner, and a believer in Jesus Christ, she has a wealth of experience in so many areas of life, and she is more than willing to share that wisdom with me.

Along with Margaret, I've had an added blessing of a new friend! Sharon works in Margaret's husband's herbal clinic, and on the occasional days Margaret can't be with me, Sharon helps. She's 26 years old, and working on finishing her degree in developmental studies next year, Lord willing. She has been a wonderful encouragement to me here, and I'm so thankful for the friendship the Lord is forging between us.

While there have been, and will continue to be some discouraging days, my God has been proved faithful time and time again. He never ceases to amaze me with the ways that He chooses to encourage and comfort me, and I'm so grateful for the two wonderful sisters He has placed in my life!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Day for Psalms

Today I could have done a fun post about the different kinds of things I eat on a regular basis, or some of the fun things I've been learning in language, or some of the interesting cultural situations I've been exposed to, but instead I'm just here asking for your prayers. These past couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster. I knew when I came that the spiritual warfare here would be intense, and it has definitely proved to be so. There have been a multitude of situations, problems, thoughts, and confusions that have kept me busy praying, thinking, and praying some more, and I am definitely in need of your prayers more than ever. While there have been many discouraging days (including yesterday!), I have been constantly reminded that my Lord is right here with me.

When I'm sad and hopeless, He whispers to me, "Trust in me at all times. pour out your heart before Me, for I am your refuge." Ps 62:8

And when I feel completely alone and helpless He soothes my heart with "Wait silently for Me, for your hope come directly from Me. I alone am your rock and salvation. I will be your defense so you will not be moved. I am your salvation and your glory. I will be the rock of your strength and you will find your refuge in Me." Ps 62:5-7

When I feel ineffective and weak, He says to me, "I will be your help, and in the shadow of My wings you will find joy. Follow close behind Me, and I will uphold you." Ps 63:7-8

And I fully trust and believe that because of the trials and difficulties, I will be able to say,

"Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard,
Who keeps our soul among the living,
And does not allow our feet to be moved.
For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment." Ps 66:8-12

Praying for your encouragement, peace, and strength to continue in the good work the Lord has given to each of you as well. May He whisper His truth to you in the hard times and the good, and keep all of us constantly on our knees before Him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's a.....

Lime. No, really. It's a lime.

Nope, not that one.... that's an orange. (yes, really)

or that one.... that's a tangerine.

That one. The one in the middle. Lime.

Can you see why I spent an hour in the market trying to find limes? Not to mention the fact that there seems to be some debate on what they're actually called in Luganda. Obulimawa? or Kalimawo? I finally found them by asking about 10 people where the obulimawa...the very very small ones were.

Oh, and you'll never guess what color the lemons are. Yup. Green. Cracks me up that the only citrus fruit that should be green is actually yellow.

This is so descriptive of my life right now. In this very different life and culture, many things just look different than I think they will (and sometime should!) For example, American culture tends to be very direct, and Uganda culture in general is indirect. Someone might say to you, "You are most welcome to my home for lunch today" without any thought of you actually coming for lunch. To me, that looks like an invitation to eat. To them, it's really just saying, "I value your friendship, and want to show you that you're loved," not "the chicken is in the pot."

As I re-learn how to think, feel, interpret other people's thoughts and feelings, and in all actively demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus, your prayers would be most appreciated!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Washing Clothes

Today I bring you a two in one! Many have been asking me how we really wash clothes over here, so I thought I'd give you a give you a bonus track of some of the language I've learned and practiced with my language helper!!

Bwenti bwenjoza engoye zange: This is how I wash my clothes

Njua amaazi mubafu: I fill a basin with water

Nteka engoye zange mu maazi: I put my clothes in the water

Nsiiga saboni ku lugoye: I put soap on the clothes

Wemala nga nkunya engoye: I then scrub the clothes

Nteka amaazi amayonjo nenyanika engoye zange: I use fresh water to rinse, then spread my clothes to dry

Bwentio bwenjoza engoye zange! That is how I wash my clothes!

While it is me speaking, the pictures are quite obviously NOT me washing ;) For some reason, I found washing and photographing simultaneously to be hazardous to the health of my camera!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I'm sitting in the dark. Amasanyalaze gageenze (power has gone), and I wonder how long it will be out this time. Before you feel sorry for me, I need to tell you that I am blessed beyond measure. In the 112 days that I have been living here, I have had to take only two cold showers. That is a miracle. Even with the constant power outages, the Lord has been kind to me and I have constant cause to praise Him when the power comes back each night (at times just long enough for me to shower!). Knowing as I do that just on the other side of town, the power is turned off for 24 hours every other day, makes me even more grateful! I remember a day back in America when I would complain about having to reset my clocks if the power left during the night, but living with true poverty ever before me has had a way of making me grateful for the things I've taken for granted all my life.

You know what else I love about power outages? STARS!!!!! This city girl has a new love and passion for the beauty of the heavens! And while you may be surprised at this, I saw my first shooting star tonight! (and no, I didn't wish for the power to come back on :) ) On a normal night here in Uganda, you can definitely see a multitude of stars more than what I'm accustomed to seeing in my old home in Colorado Springs, but on a night with no power, the sky is even more breathtaking. I can't help but hear Psalm 8 over and over again in my mind....

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

And since unlike the stars, my laptop battery isn't directly powered by the Lord of the Heavens, I'll have to say goodnight for now!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I realized today that I have yet to post any pictures of my language helper! I want you to officially meet my friend and helper, Diana. Diana is the one that I spend each day with asking the questions she finds hilarious (like are there any parts of the body that it’s impolite to scratch in public?) and answering the questions I find hilarious (like why don’t muzungu women bind their stomachs after having a baby? Doesn’t that make them eat a ton to fill up that empty space??) She’s the one that laughs at my multicolored bruised arms (their bruises don’t show), and mourns over the gigantic mosquito bites covering my feet and legs that are ‘spoiling my skin.’ She’s also the one I count on to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing, like yesterday when I learned that proper women should wash their bed sheets every 3 days. Oh yeah, and we also study Luganda. :)

I’ll be honest with you. There are many days when I’m tired of studying. There are days when I just want to hear American English and not try anymore. And there are also days when I laugh my head off with Diana, and want nothing more than to master the next tongue twisting phrase. (Like the day I was trying to say lwachi welalikilide and figure out how to fit so many Ls in one word!) There are the discouragements like asking a question in Luganda but the person not understanding me, but there are also joys like being told that I say ‘sula bulunji’ without an American accent! Language learning is definitely a roller coaster ride, and one that I will be on for a very long time. I won’t learn Luganda today, or tomorrow, or next month, but with the Lord’s help I trust I will learn it!

And Diana and I will get in more than a few laughs along the way!

Friday, September 2, 2011

How can I describe?

There's so much about daily life here that defies my ability to write about it.

How do I describe the anticipation of hoping it won't rain so I can go to the market (for slippery mud roads, rain pelting in my face, and dirt up to my knees typically discourage any excursions in the rain!!)?

How do I describe the challenges of successfully mounting (side saddle) the back of a piki (motorcycle taxi) with two full caveras (plastic bags) in each hand while managing a full length skirt? Or then juggling those caveras while holding on for dear life over the hole-ridden roads?

How do I describe my constant direction confusion as this Colorado Springs girl, born and raised with the Rocky Mountains rising in the WEST, now looks toward mountains in the EAST???

How do I describe the complete anticipation and slight trepidation that the question "What are you cooking for dinner" now brings each day?

How do I describe my embarrassment at having so much when people around me have so very little? When the plastic containers I think are useless and throw away are caught up and treasured by others?

How do I describe the joy that fills my heart when small voices shout Teecha Melody! Teecha Melody, and tiny hands frantically wave as I whiz past on my piky?

How do I describe how much sweeter ice cream is when eaten under the hot sun with shining black faces gathered around licking their lips too?

How do I describe the complete surprise and astonishment that overcomes the faces of those that I greet in Luganda in the marketplace?

How do I describe the energy of dancing feet and clapping hands, and the brightness of glowing smiles in dark faces as we praise our Maker each week?

How do I describe the beauty of change and growth as these people teach me how to love them by loving me first?

Yes, life here is more difficult. Yes, sometimes I just want to cook spaghetti sauce on a regular stove instead of charcoal. Yes, sometimes I long for the days of feeling clean. And yes, sometimes I really wish I could go back to where I understand the body language and facial expressions without thinking about it. But I would never trade those things for the joy of living right here where I belong, and with the people that I love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Melody Moment

Time has come for yet another Melody Moment. Here at my house, we have a watchman at all times. There is one particular one who is here most of the time, and others take shorter shifts to relieve him each day. So this particular guard is named Michael, but everyone around here just calls him Askali. Now I have been seeing Askali almost every day for the past 2 1/2 months right? And this whole time I just call him Askali like everyone else, and when someone says Askali I know exactly who they're talking about. So the other day I was asking my language helper Diana how to tell the taxi man in Luganda, "Stop there where the guard is." Diana replied, "Koma wali awali Askali." Slightly confused, I looked at her and asked how the taxi man would know who I meant. Slightly confused back, she asked what I meant. I tried again. "Diana, how will they know who I'm talking about? Do they all know my guard's name?" Understanding lit in her eyes, and laughter spread throughout her body. Between chuckles, she said, "Askali is the word for watchman or guard! You thought his NAME was Askali?!?!?" I'm sure at that moment I was the reddest muzungu anyone has ever seen. Both of us couldn't stop laughing and giggling for the rest of the afternoon. Yes Diana, I've spent almost 3 months thinking Askali was that man's name. At this moment I'm glad Africans haven't discovered blonde jokes yet, cause I'm sure they would never stop after this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Songs in the Night

The brisk evening mountain air fills my lungs as I leave the darkness behind and enter the blue florescent light of the small African church. In front of me sits a small group of young men and women, eyes closed tight and lips moving in muffled prayers. I silently slip into a wooden pew, setting my water bottle down on the dusty floor, and join the intercession. It's late on a Friday night, and we have gathered together to pray, sing, listen to the Word, praise, and worship 'til morning. One person starts to sing, and with one voice everyone calls back the response. The song of the believers fills me with joy, and I know that I am home. All through the night, we praise, dance, pray, and sing some more. Unexpectedly, I am asked to teach around 2 am, which I do only through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. When heavy eyelids threaten to close in sleep, we sing. and dance. and jump. and clap. and call aloud for the Lord to work in us. I join in singing all the songs I know, and laugh, clap, dance, and rejoice during the ones I don't. When the power goes off, and the fuel for the generator is spent, we walk down the path to join a neighboring church who is praying and worshiping that night as well. Two bodies of believers now join together before the Lord with their sacrifices of praise. The energy and joy permeates the air as I gaze at the faces of of those around me. As we finally slowly make our way home, my heart overflows with thanksgiving for the precious people who desire praise more than sleep, and prayer more than rest. May the Lord fill each one of us with that same passion, commitment, and longing for His glorious work to be done!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brian's Story

Say hello to Brian! This precious little boy stole my heart right away, and I wanted you to meet him and hear his story. Brian lives just a hop step and a skip away from me in Namatala, the poorest housing area of Mbale. While I live in a 3 room carpeted, furnished, bug-free (mostly ;) ), beautiful apartment, it takes me only 5 minutes to walk to Brian's small mud and thatch hut where he lives with his mother, Regina and older sister. I first noticed Brian among all the many children of Namatala that swarm around the muzungus because of his clothing. That first day as Paul scooped Brian up in his arms, we were surprised to find that under the extra long, tattered, dirt encrusted, gray t-shirt, this bright eyed little boy wasn't wearing any shorts. I was later told that while he owned exactly 2 t-shirts, he didn't have even one pair of shorts or pants. Surprised, I determined to find out more about this little boy. Brian is the youngest of the 6 surviving children born to Regina (out of 12!!!!). From reasons we don't know, Regina suffers from many many ailments and is unable to walk or do anything besides lying on the mat outside her hut. While Brian is only 7 years old, many times the job of finding food and water fall to him. By 'finding' food, that is exactly what I mean. Some of the time they just rely on the charity of their neighbors, but since neighbors can't help all the time, Brian is out in the trash heaps searching for anything to fill their stomachs. They don't have money to buy clean well water, so Brian will walk to the river and fill his jerry can with that water made precious by the hard labor and weary feet required to obtain it. The family's only source of income is provided by Brian searching for small scraps of metal to sell in town, which brings in only pennies every now and then. As I heard his story and grasped his small hand, my heart wept. I knew before I came that I would be faced with poverty here, and that the needs would overwhelm, but looking down into Brian's face made it real. I started praying fervently for a long-term solution for this family. For a couple weeks all I could do was pull Brian close, hug him, laugh with him, watch him play with my funny white fingers, and pray, pray, pray! Last week, those prayers were answered! There is an organization here called I Choose You which sponsors children from Namatala to go to school and receive a monthly distribution of basic food supplies. Brian and his family have now been included in the monthly food distribution and have received the food they were so desperately needing! Now we're just waiting for a sponsor for Brian so he can actually start attending school as well.

There are definitely days when I'm frustrated with language learning and I wonder why I'm taking the time to do so. When there are so many needs right now to be met, and so many children to love on, why am I in my room studying?? When playing games, singing songs, and distributing meals can be done without words, why am I struggling so hard to be able to speak? But then I look into Brian's eyes and wish beyond all else that I could talk to him and know what he is thinking and feeling and wishing. I wish I could tell him that I love him, and that Jesus loves him with the words that will make him smile and laugh for joy. So I will continue on. Stumbling on in this language, and daily causing offense in this culture until I have learned well. Daily learning what it means to lean on Jesus and be who He wants me to be to these precious people.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

All kinds of Viruses

Bout 2 of sickness successfully conquered! And before you ask, no, it was not malaria. That much anticipated event is still to come. It did however feel much like malaria, or so I'm told. Last week I woke up one evening with sever body aches, weakness, light headedness, and a fever. I waited a couple of days hoping that it would just pass since from what I had heard, my symptoms weren't serious enough to be malaria. Finally though, at the urging of my American and Ugandan families, I agreed to go into the clinic to be tested on Monday. The finger prick to test for malaria wasn't too bad, but I must say if I never have to give another urine sample on this side of the world, I would be most content! Since apparently collecting in a bottle the size of your thumb wasn't challenge enough, I was also gifted with outhouse accomodations and slippery floors in which to accomplish my mission. However, that mission proved successful since it gave me my diagnosis: kidney infection. Apparently a virus had settled in my kidneys, so I was prescribed a full round of antibiotics with continuing ibuprofen for the fever. 2 days later, I was as right as rain!

Having recovered sufficiently from my own sickness, I ventured out to an outlying village with a medical team from the States to do a clinic. Together with a team of Ugandan doctors, nurses, and translators the team from Houston met with patients, handed out mosquito nets, dispensed medicine, and tested for HIV. While patients were being seen indoors, hundreds more waited outside for their turn. As they waited, the team preached and prayed for many many people seeking relief from even more than just physical needs.

The setting for the clinic: one of our village churches.
The 'exam rooms' are the gray tent booths lining the room.

A group of mothers waits to see a doctor

Dispensing medicine African style!

For the past 2 days, I helped a couple of Ugandan nurses test patient after patient for HIV. At least 1/2 of the people being tested were young mothers holding their babies close with one hand while extending their other hand for the dreaded prick. While in the States pricking fingers for a blood sample might be one of the most simple tasks, here in Africa it can be quite a challenge. Fingers here are rough and calloused. Young and old, men and women alike show the evidence of hard work in their hands. At times, I could perfectly visualize their daily lives digging in the fields, washing clothes, and cooking over charcol by just looking at those work-worn fingers. Those years of work made our challenge of collecting enough blood for a reliable result a challenge! Many many times a finger prick had to be abandoned in favor of a syringe just to collect enough blood.

Once the sample had been deposited on a testing kit, and a re-agent carefully applied, the patient was told to come back in 15 minutes for their results. Those that tested positive were gently asked to come back again the following day for a confirmation test. For those that were confirmed to be HIV positive, my friend Diana carefully broke the news and counselled them on options and keeping hope. Thankfully here in Uganda, it is possible to get ARV drugs for free as long as the person is willing to accept them. Unfortunately, many choose to live in denial fearing the cultural and personal repercussions of admitting they have HIV.

One of the happy test results card showing all patients negative for HIV

As you might imagine, looking into the faces of people fearfully waiting as if for a sentencing can be draining! My hope was that by offering them an encouraging smile and a gentle touch, their hearts would be strengthened and they might see the love of Jesus. Of course the happy, relieved smiles when pronounced ok also did my heart good! I was so grateful for this small opportunity to practically love these people, and meet with them in their pain and joy!

P.S. One funny thing I learned was that if someone says they have a virus, they always mean HIV. You can imagine the looks I got this past week when I was asked if I had malaria and I said, "I don't think so. I think it's just a virus and it'll go away pretty soon." Oh dear. Hopefully I don't have people now believing that these amazing muzungus can also miraculously recover from HIV in a couple days too! :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Turn of Phrase

I love laughing at all the wonderful funny Ugandan sayings around here! I thought I would share a few of them with you so you could share my laughs!

-Excuse me while I ease myself-- for going to the bathroom

-Are you satisfied? --- have you eaten enough, are you full? (so much more descriptive than 'I'm fine,' or 'I'm good'!)

-Well done--- no apparent association, as it's simply used as a greeting. Can be said whether or not they're working or doing a job. At first I couldn't figure out why in the world I would tell someone who was just sitting there 'well done'!!

-Extend! -- scoot or move in a certain direction

-Have you taken tea? -- did you eat breakfast? (this morning as I was walking from Namatala a small boy called out to me, 'Muzungu, muzungu! You want to take tea with me?" and he offered me his bread!! sooo precious!!!)

-You have such a small leg! -- apparently my feet are very small and in Luganda there is only one word for the leg and foot.

-Are you hearing? -- did you understand? Often especially with the kids, you'll hear Owulide? (oh-lee-day) or Muwulide? (moo-lee-day) which means have you heard?

-It is so sweet! -- it tastes delicious (can be used for everything from 'sweets' to chicken bones! I cracked up the first time someone told me that the juice inside a chicken bone was 'so sweet'! I now make them laugh by telling them that I'm so sweet to the mosquitoes! Those mosquitoes see me and think 'oh, that one's too sweet! I'll eat her for dinner!)

-You are lost! -- for when you haven't seen someone in a long (or 'long' ;) ) time.

-You are going where? or You are eating what? -- most of the time the question word follows instead of beginning the sentence like we do in America

It's been so much fun to see some of the correlations between these funny 'English' sayings and common phrases in Luganda. The more I discover about Luganda, the more the way Ugandans speak English makes sense, and the more I can laugh and enjoy understanding how they think. While language learning is a challenge I couldn't have begun to anticipate, it also brings so much joy and laughter!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Lovely Dirt

This is the land of unending dirt! The red, brown, and black ink of the ground seeps into every pore. Sandals are discarded at the door for the sake of semi-clean house floors, but the dirt clinging to every crack of rough feet still inevitably deposits itself in every room. The sweat beading on my face as I walk to church calls loudly for any and all of the airborne particles to join the party on my skin.

Once a day, I feel clean. As I step into my shower each night and watch the grime wash down the drain, I breathe a sigh of relief. I grasp my foot brush tightly and scrub scrub scrub until skin glows pink again.

It never fails to remind me of my soul, penetrated and covered by the filth and grime of sin, but washed and rinsed clean with the blood of the Lamb. As I daily seek forgiveness and mercy, I revel in the freshness and relief of freely given cleansing and righteousness. I marvel that He would love me while I was still covered in sin, embracing my filth-crusted spirit and tenderly purifying me to be His own. Oh that I would be so humble and kind to even the most unlovely around me!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marvin Bonus Track!

So I was sitting in my living room last night working, and Marvin comes and sits right outside my door... singing as usual. But this time, this is the song he was singing! My friends and I just laughed and laughed, and since I got a candid recording of it, I had to share it with you too!! Goodness, I love this little boy! :)

Translation ;)

Melonie, Melonie, Melonie is my mom,
Melonie, Melonie, Melonie is my mom!

Melonie, Melonie, Melonie, is my love,
Melonie, Melonie, Melonie, is my love!


Friday, June 24, 2011

My friend, Marvin

This week I just wanted to show you something that has been bringing me extra joy in this past week! Meet my friend, Marvin.

Marvin is 5 years old, and he and his family live in one of these apartments. They have the one in the corner, and I live in the one on the far left.

Marvin has been sick for the past week, so he’s been unable to go to school and instead has been hanging out with me! I must admit it’s a little more challenging to accomplish lots of language learning when you have a cute little face begging to be let in the door day in and day out. He’s definitely been feeling better the past couple of days though, which means that he has lots of energy and a playful spirit that even outshines mine!! So when I say playing time is over, and now I have to do my work, this is the inevitable outcome:

I am constantly surprised at how similar kids are across the nations! They laugh, play, cry, throw tantrums, and need the same love and attention no matter where they are! This one just happens to have big brown eyes, a dark face, bright white teeth and a sweet little voice! I thought you might like to hear one of the songs he loves to sing for me:

The Bird is On the Popo Tree

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A New Name

With all of the change that I've been experiencing (and hopefully embracing!), there is one that is of the greatest personal importance to me. My name. For many years now, I have thought about the difficulty that Ugandans have hearing, pronouncing, and remembering my name. Melanie just doesn't quite fit with the rules of pronunciation in these local languages, so my name ends up coming out more like 'melon.' In fact, that is the most common way I have heard my name described. "Melanie: you know, like watermelon!" I have to say that as much as I love the name Melanie, I do not like the name watermelon :) My African friends here have also struggled to remember my name, which is understandable when it is so foreign to them. It pains me to see them struggle and be embarrassed when they are unable to remember my name, so I've been thinking and praying about what to do in order to make my new friends and acquaintances more comfortable with speaking my name.

I have made the decision to change my name here in Uganda, and instead of being called Melanie, I will be called Melody.

I never imagined the amount of mental strength it would take for me to be known by another name. The name Melanie is such a part of my identity, and how I think of myself is intimately connected with my name. I have always loved my name, and I rejoice to know that I may still be called Melanie by my friends and family in the States, but here in Uganda I am learning to also think of myself as Melody.

So much of being a true missionary is assuming a new identity. When most people think of going to Africa as a missionary, they think about all the different things missionaries will be *doing*, but rarely do people know how much of a different person missionaries must *be* to live and work among a different people. Here, I speak differently. I laugh differently. I have different patterns of thought. I care more about different things. It is all a part of being Jesus to these precious people. Just as He became flesh for me, I desire to be that same model of incarnational love to the people of Uganda.

It is all good, and wonderful, and exciting, but it is also a bit uncertain, unnerving, and unsettling. In this transition time, as I stumble through figuring out who the Ugandan Melody is, and how much of the American Melanie can/should remain, I cling tightly to my Rock who never changes. Looking to Him for my direction and strength.

Because you have been my help, in the shadow of Your wins, I will sing for joy! ~Ps 63:7

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Weekend for Culture

This past weekend was quite the cultural experience! On Friday, I attended the introduction ceremony of Pastor Charles, and his intended bride, Maureen. Here in Uganda, when two people wish to marry, they must do an introduction of the families. It's a very lengthy process with the groom's family choosing the intended bride from among many 'fake brides.' Then the groom's family presents many gifts to the bride's family, and they all celebrate with cake and feasting. After the introduction, the couple must wait about another month for their wedding ceremony.

Taylor, a fellow muzungu, being presented in her gomas (traditional Ugandan dress) with other 'fake brides'

On Saturday, I was also invited to attend the wedding of Denis and Agnes. As much as the introduction ceremony is purely Ugandan, the wedding ceremony was surprisingly western. The bridal party was composed of bridesmaids, groomsmen, and flower girls, all dressed in formal wear. The ceremony itself was also in the western style, the most noticeable difference being how loud and enthusiastic the audience was! After the wedding came the reception with the cutting of the cake and singing and dancing by a well known performer here in Uganda. All of this was finished with food for all the guests (my guess would be about 400 people).

The newlyweds, Denis and Agnes

This week, I have also been making friends with Paul and Flower, two of my next door neighbors. Paul is 19, and Flower is 14, and they both speak the best English I have heard to date in Uganda! Flower reminds me much of my sister Michelle, as they both have wonderfully kind hearts, incredible intelligence, and eager affection. I am so glad to have such wonderful neighbors who are quick to love, and not afraid to teach and correct me in my language and cultural propriety. Praise God for giving me such friends and neighbors!

Flower and I

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First Post from Africa!

Greetings from Mbale! After 35 hours of fairly uneventful travel, I reached my new home in Mbale on Tuesday afternoon. I have been so warmly greeted here, both by the Ugandans as well as several other Muzungus living here, and as they have all told me to feel at home here, I’ve decided to do just that! Natalie, a muzungu working at a children's home here, has been just wonderful in showing me the ropes. About an hour after I got to Mbale, she took me out around the town, showing me the different shops and getting me acquainted with the supermarkets. On my previous trips, I never had the opportunity to be out around town since we were living in a hotel and working in outlying villages every day, so being able to drive around and meet people with Natalie was both a treat and a challenge. I am definitely getting a taste of just how huge this adjustment and learning curve will be. I knew it would be a challenge, but now I get to see just how much of one it is! I’m so grateful to know that my Jesus is with me each step of the way and even when I don’t understand others and they don’t understand me, there is One who knows me intimately and can use me to minister beyond my capabilities.

As I start language work with Diana today, I’m so excited to finally be able to concentrate on learning a language that I’ve desired to speak for so many years now. As I work to understand and learn as quickly as possible, I would love your prayers for quickness of thought, thorough understanding, and effective communication with Dianna. Thank you so much for your prayers, they are definitely needed more than ever!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sickness in Springtime

I WAS going to post a beautiful note on springtime and how beautiful it is outside.....but then came the dreaded head cold! Instead of the flowering trees, I've been gazing at these:

I know, not nearly as romantic, but in my situation, much more practical! As I've had much more time in bed lately, I've been counting the number of times I've actually had a cold in the 2 years I've been home from school. I came up with a grand total of..... 3!! That my friends, is miraculous considering I averaged at least that many times each semester in college! Combine that fact with the news I got recently about my diabetic test results (numbers are in normal ranges for the first time in 4 years!!) and I'm a pretty happy camper, runny nose and all!

I'm reminded of James who said that every good and perfect gift comes from my Father above, and I'm so grateful for the gift of staying healthy He's blessed me with in these last couple of years! As for this cold, your continued prayers would be much appreciated, especially with Easter Sunday coming up. This sickness has been a perfect reminder of what He accomplished for me 2000 years ago, for He has conquered death, and soon sickness will be no more! He is Risen!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Visa Question

For months now, I've been anticipating the paperwork necessary to get into Uganda. I thought I had my plan all set: enter the country on a 6 month, multiple entry visa and apply for a work visa while I was in the country. (Work visas usually take 3 months to process.) Then on Wednesday while I was talking to a fellow PILAT participant who is also going to Uganda, he mentioned that he and his wife were praying for their work visas to come in quickly. I casually asked why he was getting them now instead of once they got to the country, and his reply as you would imagine caused great surprise and concern! He said that new law had been passed in November and implemented in January that you could no longer apply for a work visa while you were in the country under a different type of visa. Meaning that I would need my work visa in hand before I attempted to enter the country. My mind immediately started counting (yes, the counting does go a bit slower now than it did in highschool! :) ). I have plane tickets that arrive in Uganda in 6 takes 12 weeks to process a work visa!

My first thought was, "Ok God, help! I'm guessing You must know what You're doing, since it isn't readily apparent to me!" I ran to my laptop to email a friend already in Mbale. Thankfully she got back to me quickly with what she knew:

She has a friend in that department who she called for details. The verdict: As long as my application for my work visa was filed before I entered the country, I could enter on a 3 month visa while my work visa was being processed! Whew!!

I know this is just my first taste of many situations to come where my first response must always be "God help!" I am gradually learning to leave all these things in His hands, even if I think there might have been, or possibly might be something that I can/should have done to help the situation. I sure hope the Lord has me deal with many more 'little' things like this to get me in the habit of running to Him first before He introduces the more serious situations! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Little Taste of Beauty

For years now, I've longed to do a cake decorated with fondant! It was definitely one thing on my own personal "bucket list" before I leave for Uganda, and my sister Michelle's 16th birthday was the perfect opportunity! Here is the finished result:

The process of making each individual flower was so fun, and just the opportunity to be creative with that medium was a blast! Michelle and Mom both helped me with different tasks throughout the process (and yes, it did take as long as that sounds! :) ) As they both helped me through the night, we had several accidents and laughs to remember for years to come.

As I was working, I just really rejoiced in the ability and opportunity to create beauty. As I created each individual flower....

I wondered how much joy and pleasure Jesus must have gotten out of making the real thing! When I was done with each one, my first desire was to show Mom and Michelle. "Look Mom!! Isn't it pretty??" was a very common exclamation! After working to create this whole beautiful world, what did God make? Men! I can just see Him taking Adam and Eve by the hand and walking them through the Garden of Eden and pointing out all the beautiful, wonderful things. "Look Adam! I made this tree with you in mind! Isn't it great!?"

What a blessing to be able to imitate the love of beauty, and the creative passion my Lord demonstrates even in just this little thing! How awesome and incomprehensible it is to be created in the image of God!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mary, Merry, or Marry?

Say the above words out loud.... do you pronounce each differently? Do you pronounce two, but not three the same? Or do they all sound alike? Are you looking at me like I'm nuts right about now? If you're wondering about why I would even care, one answer lies in a story told today:

A missionary to Central America had a mechanical issue with his car. He brought in a mechanic to look at it, and in explaining the problem thought he said in the local language, "My car won't start, so can you add these points." What he really said was, "My car won't give birth, so can you add these bananas!" Least to say, he was known from then on as the man whose car just refused to give birth.

This just goes to show how slight changes in pronunciation can be at best hilarious, and at worst offensive. The point was made today that all of us will always (and already do!) have our own personal accent. The goal is to make that accent as understandable and pleasing to the people as possible, and that can only be done through careful, intentional listening and hard work in making that culture's sounds.

With that goal in mind, we got to dive into right into our phonetics drills! This basically looks like a small group of us sitting a circle repeating sounds and staring at our mouths in a mirror. I can say this for sure, I certainly haven't been more familiar with the shape of my tongue than I am now! The goal of all these drills is to allow us to go beyond hearing and using the 44 sounds found in the English language to hear, recognize, and execute all of the possible sounds of other languages.

After my first day of PILAT, I'm even more glad I took language and phonetics classes at Moody! Today was far less overwhelming to me since I already have a bit of training in phonetics. You almost have to learn a new language just to learn the different mechanics and possible sounds of speech; words like fricative, alveolar, and velar all describe the types of sounds we're accustomed to saying daily but don't ever stop to evaluate. Everything about this area of study fascinates and excites me! That is as long as I can overcome my own personal apprehensions and fears about doing well enough. I've been seeing how much of my previous SPLICE training is playing into how I view myself and my own language learning. I'm so grateful for the work the Lord has already been doing in me that is allowing me to willingly make mistakes, laugh at myself, and just learn!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

PILAT and more!

Seeing as the past 3 weeks at SPLICE were so intense (mostly spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally), the past couple of days have been a welcome reprieve. That's not to say they haven't been busy too, just a nice change of busy!

Highlight of today: I sent in the money for my tickets!!! Barring further obstacles and delays, I will be leaving Colorado Springs on May 29th!

I've also decided that it would be beneficial for me to attend MTI's PILAT program starting March 28th. This 2 week program is designed to help language learners acquire multiple languages more quickly and efficiently. Since I had received some training in that area during my time at Moody, I wasn't sure I wanted to invest the time and money, however after talking with the teachers of PILAT, as well as my fellow MTI team members who had just completed the program, I was convinced that it would greatly expedite my language learning and communication once in Uganda! Linguistics and language learning are a great fascination of mine, so I'm just thrilled to have this opportunity to delve more deeply into them.

Current prayer needs:

-Diligence as I process and implement the key concepts I learned in SPLICE. Like my instructors said, "If you're not doing it here, what makes you think you'll do it there?!"

-Strength and perseverance as I turn my attention back to recording the last half of my solo piano cd. (recording was put on hold while I was out of town)

-Continued healing (my health is headed in the right direction, but I still have a ways to go!)

-The remaining 17% of my monthly support to come in

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Find Rest Oh My Soul

Today was our day for Sabbath. It couldn't have come at a better time. The past 2 weeks may not have been as physically taxing, but they definitely took more emotional and spiritual energy than I'm accustomed to!

As I sat/laid all afternoon in a golden field of grass surrounded by towering mountains and life-infusing sunlight, I have never rested so well before. I had another 'aha' moment today. One that I don't know why I've never realized before, but perhaps I just didn't take the time to think it all through. Before when I thought of Sabbath, I equated it with simply physical rest. Today in my 'aha' moment I learned that it isn't just about physical rest by the ceasing of work. It's about spiritual rest in the company of my Jesus, emotional rest from the upheaval of life, intellectual rest from the spinning thoughts of my overly-active mind, and social rest in the company of those I love. In the place of all of those 'rests' please feel free to say 'renewal,' because Sabbath is just as much about renewal--giving life--as it is about rest--ceasing action.

For a full afternoon, I simply rested and absorbed the beauty around me. My first instinct of course was to lift my gaze to the heavens, but it was when I looked down that the Lord showed me my most treasured picture of the day. I sat on a hill of beautiful blowing, bending leaves of grass. As I took in the picture before me, I noticed how incredibly beautiful the blades of grass were as they folded into one another, all pointing toward the same thing. Not a one of them stood tall; they all bent to the will of the wind blowing across the field. Even when the wind stopped its gusting, the grass still bowed, holding in their bodies the evidence of the power of that wind.

Not far away grew a cluster of prickly weeds. This plant was distinctly thicker and stronger than the pliable blades of grass. Each one held its head high in the face of the wind and refused give way.

I can almost hear the strong plant saying, "but God told me to grow right here, and that's all I'm trying to do: just what He told me! And by golly, that's what I'm going to keep doing!" I suddenly was struck at how much like this plant I am. So often I determine I will stand strong come what may, and with the best intentions ignore the blowing of the Spirit that so desires to shape me into a thing of beauty. How many good intentions I have when I charge ahead in what I'm convinced the Lord wants me to do, but I wonder what the Spirit is longing to do with me if I would time to rest, acknowledging my weakness and bending in humility before Him.

Then those humble strands of grass caught my eye again. They too were doing just as the Lord had told them, but with a grace and meekness that allowed them to be beautifully shaped and fashioned by the wind.

Thus my prayer has become, Lord give me the strength to do Your will, the courage to stop and rest, and the wisdom to hold the tension between both work and rest in balance.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Conflict Resolution Styles

Yesterday we were talking about the differences in the way each of us handle conflict. Many of us knew pretty quickly which way we leaned, but many of us also had 2 different ways of conflict when we're in low or high stress situations. Teddy Bears and Owls are more concerned about the integrity of the relationship, and may sacrifice what they know to be good, right, and just in favor of maintaining the relationship. Sharks and Turtles value the issues of what is good, right, and just and may put the truth over relationships. I believe I tend to be more of a turtle and tend to choose "forgiving and forgetting" over confronting or engaging in conflict.

Each of these styles has their strengths and weaknesses, and a godly community is characterized by all involved using the strengths of their style to deal well with conflict while recognizing their weaknesses and relying on others to help them in those areas.

Teddy Bear (accommodating style)
For those who fall into this category, the relationship is of great importance, while their own agenda is of little importance. They want to be accepted and liked by other people, they think that conflict should be avoided in favor of harmony and believe that conflicts cannot be discussed without damaging relationships. They are afraid that if the conflict continues, someone will get hurt and that would ruin the relationship. They give up their goals to preserve the relationship. They try to smooth over the conflict in fear of harming the relationship.

Turtles (avoiding style)
People with this type tend to withdraw in order to avoid conflicts. They give up their personal goals and relationships, stay away from the issues over which the conflict is taking place and from the people they are in conflict with, and believe it is hopeless to try to resolve conflicts. They believe it is easier to withdraw (physically an psychologically) from a conflict than to face it. Some people attempt to avoid conflict by postponing it, hiding their feelings, changing the subject, leaving the room or quitting the project.

Foxes (compromising style)
People with this style are moderately concerned with their own agenda and about their relationships with other people. They seek a compromise. They give up part of their goals and persuade the other person in a conflict to give up part of their goals. They believe that differences between people would be treated in light of the common good and that parties need to "win a little, lose a little." They seek a solution to conflicts where both sides gain something.

Sharks (or lions) (competing style)
These people's goals are highly important to them but their relationships tend to be of minor importance. They place prime importance on achieving their agenda or upon their interpretation of what is best for all concerned. If necessary, they will sacrifice relationship in order to accomplish this.In these instances, they do not care if other people like or accept them and are not concerned with the needs of other people. They assume that conflicts are settled by one person winning and the other losing. While winning gives them a sense of pride and achievement, losing gives them a sense of weakness, inadequacy, and failure. People in this category therefore try to overpower opponents by forcing them to accept their solution to the conflict.

Owls (collaborating style)
People in this category highly value their own goals as well as relationships. They view conflicts as problems to be solved and seek a solution that achieves both their own goals and the goals of the other person in the conflict. They believe conflict improves relationships by reducing tension between people. By seeking solutions that satisfy both themselves and the other person they maintain the relationship. They are not satisfied until a solution in found that achieves their own goals and the other person's goals and they want all tensions and negative feelings to be fully resolved.

Taken from MTI's SPLICE training manual