Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Africa

Christmas in Africa is different. Bet you didn’t expect that. JK 

But especially here in Mbale, you don’t see every store decked out in Christmas decorations with a new Santa product on every shelf. Lights don’t sparkle on the roofs of each house (or any house for that matter). There isn’t a culture battle over saying ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ And since most families can’t buy every child and relative a Christmas present, clothes are actually considered a GREAT present (even by the kids)! You even might, if you’re lucky, see a tree decked out for Christmas, African style like this one:

 Please note the cotton ball snow

Oh wait, you need the full effect.....!!

But the best part is that almost every family makes the effort to go to church on Christmas. You remember all of those awkward years when Christmas fell on a Sunday and you couldn’t decide how to handle it? Do we open presents really early? Do we wait until after church? Do we play heathen and just not go? Well here, everyone goes to church Christmas morning, whether or not it falls on a Sunday.

And yes, that makes the whole gift opening thing a bit more awkward. And yes, an African church service can go long and sometimes you have to fight to stay happy that you’re there. But I do think that starting off Christmas day with a service to remember why we celebrate such a holiday isn’t such a bad idea. Like all things, it can be what you make it. Some people cook early in the morning, show up late, and spend the rest of service worrying about Christmas lunch getting cold. Others spend the time wondering what their parents could have possibly gotten for them. But for those who choose to utilize the opportunity, it’s a great way to ‘remember the reason for the season.’ To stop all of the preparation, activity, and hullabaloo for a moment and really thank God for the gift of His Son.

The incarnation of our Savior is one of the most important events of all history. My hope and prayer for each of us this Christmas is that we wouldn’t allow that awesome truth be overshadowed with the unimportant. That this Christmas would truly be a time of celebration of Jesus for you and your family. 

And while my family is enjoying the beauty of Christmastime in the States, I get to bask in a totally different style of beauty here in Africa.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

African Christmas Party

What does close to 1000 Ugandan kids gathered for a Christmas party look like? Well, if a picture says a thousand words, it’s still not enough, but here’s just a taste!

Part of the crowd from above

Watching the Jesus film

The highlight of my Christmas: a Christmas skit put on by some of the sponsored kids. Seriously, there were no words for how funny and precious this was!!

Cooking in the village for a crowd

Washing hands before lunch (yes, all 1000 washed hands before eating!)

Enjoying Pilau (beef mixed with rice) and beans

All Smiles

Cakes for 1000 takes a LOT of work!! Even if you do cut very small!

Waiting in line for clothes and sweets

It definitely was an incredible day of laughing, entertainment, teaching, eating, dancing, and the kids even received a piece of clothing, some candy and a balloon hat! 

And if some video of a muzungu lady dancing who looks just like me shows up on youtube, let’s just say it *wasn’t* me….that you know ;)

Thanks to Orphan's Heart for funding and helping organize such an amazing day!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Buddy and Bunny

I love my new puppy.

 I love my new [roommate's] kitty. 

 My new kitty does *not* love my new puppy...

but he loves her!!

And yes, their names are Buddy and Bunny. And no, that wasn't planned. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

My whirlwind of a Fall

Since everything was finalized with HUM in September, things have been nonstop! So get ready for a whirlwind recap of the past couple of months!! Ready?

Beginning in mid-September, I was so blessed to meet with many of my supporters and get to know them better. Many of them I hadn’t really known before, so the opportunity to have one on one time with them was a wonderful one! I’ll be honest though, with some of them I was nervous. These were people who believed in my ministry and knew what had been going on with me, but I didn’t know much about them. Before each meeting, I took time to pray for them and ask that the Lord would bless them through our conversation…I didn’t expect that He would bless ME so much! After each time, I walked away with a specific blessing and encouragement from each of them. I am so humbled to have such a wonderful group of people behind me!

Beginning in October, Katherine and I set out on the fundraising trail to find support for the ministry. Let me tell you, when you live, eat, drive, and sometimes sleep with someone, you get to know them pretty quickly! I am so grateful for the chance to get to know Katherine on an even deeper level, and it made me even more excited to have a part in the ministry she began. I also was so blessed to get to know especially our hosts as we spent every couple of nights in a new home. These wonderful people blessed me so much with their hospitality and generosity. I saw real sacrificial giving in action. I saw true selflessness. I saw gracious spirits and wise hearts. I saw the body of Christ in action!

But as some of you who travel a lot know, time on the road is draining, so after over a month of traveling, Katherine and I, along with a couple others from the ministry went together on a 5 day cruise to Mexico! It was a wonderful time to rest, recuperate, and spend time with God and wonderful women!

 The day after I got back from cruise I again hit the road, this time by myself to Chicago. It was the first time I had been back to my college, Moody Bible Institute, since I graduated in 2009. Even though all of the students who were there when I was have now graduated, I still have some friends in the area, and I got to see them and also meet with many of the professors that I loved so much. My years at Moody were some of the most difficult of my life (and good preparation for Africa as I found out!!), but I was reminded of all the wonderful times I had, and all of the wonderful things I was taught there. I also got time with my wonderful friend, Anna who graciously gave me her very own bed for the whole week I was there!!!

I got back home to Colorado Springs just in time for Thanksgiving with my family, and boy do we have a lot to be grateful for!!! This year, I was able to come to the States for the birth of my first nephew, my dad got a new job, my brother got his pilot’s license (yay Matthew!!!), and my other brother got engaged to one of my best friends!!!! (Micah and Madi, you know I’m claiming all of the credit for setting you guys up…even in Africa ;) )

The week after Thanksgiving I gathered all of my things (wellll I might have forgotten more than one or two things….oh well.) and once again boarded a plane for Uganda. This was my 7th leaving for Uganda from Denver International Aiport. This time going, I had a whole new set of things on my mind….

A new house. 2 new housemates. A new job. A whole new language (they speak Lugwere in Kamonkoli). A still new language to try and remember.

And in these past 2 weeks, I have been reminded again of what a privilege it is to live and serve here in Uganda. Yes, my Luganda is requiring a lot of work to remember. Yes, the roads here are TERRIBLE to drive on. Yes, everything takes 2-10 times longer to accomplish here. Yes, the dirt still gets EVERYWHERE. And yes, each day brings a new and different challenge. And I love it! I love these people, and I love my God who has brought me to such a wonderful place!

Uganda, I sure missed you!!!

Katherine and I on our trip

meeting with two of my wonderful supporters!

on our quick stop over to the Grand first time!!

on board the ship in front of Mexico