Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leaving again

I wonder if I'll ever feel ready to leave Uganda. As I approached Entebbe airport yet again, the memories of so many times flying out from that airport washed over me. My first time leaving was when I had just turned 16 years old, and I cried all the way to Nairobi. Granted that was only a 30 minute flight, but still. And since then I don't think there has ever been a time that I haven't shed a few tears leaving my beloved country.  Am I ecstatic about being with my family again? YES! Am I thrilled to have fellowship with my friends and church family back home? YES! Am I looking forward to soaking up some of the comforts of American living again? YES!

I also have another reason to rejoice this time: This is the first time I'm flying out from Uganda on a round trip ticket BACK to Uganda! It's a little bit strange, and a lot bit amazing to have tickets not to/from the States, but to/from Africa! It really is a wonderful feeling to know the date that I'll be back in my Uganda!

And even though I know that I'll only be gone 6 weeks, I know that the work will continue on while I'm away, and I know that my room will still be there when I come back, (all Lord willing!!), I will still miss it so very much. I will miss the kids' enthusiastic chorus of TEACHA! TEACHA! each time I jump out of my car at the school. I'll miss their tiny hands clinging to my hands, arms, legs, and pretty much any part they can reach. I'll miss the arm curls I get to do with 3 kids on each arm. I'll miss the sweet hugs from my teachers, and I'll miss the teasing of our cook, Peace, at the office. I'll miss the view of the water gushing off  the mountain in the sunlight on my drive home each night. And I'll even miss the quirks of my little green RAV4.

But I know all those things will be waiting for me again in 6 weeks. And I'm pretty sure the wait will just make me appreciate them even more.

Until then, I can't wait to see many of you all! And if you want to make my day just tell me 'You're most welcome back to America' next time you see me :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

To Grieve with Hope

Last Friday, March 30th, was the 1 year anniversary of my friend, Liz’s death. I couldn’t mention it or write about it, because in some way it seemed speaking out about it made it less meaningful somehow. I guess grief is funny that way. It convinces us to do things that might not make much rational sense, but nonetheless we are compelled to do so. I guess I felt as though mentioning her would be asking for people’s compassion for me…when she was the one to suffer and should be the one to receive those attentions. But she’s gone.

That day, I spent most of the day sick in bed with the beginnings of what would be a nasty head cold. That only compounded my sadness. But honestly, I told myself I didn’t have much right to be sad…after all, it was a whirlwind friendship. I loved her yes, but I didn’t really know her. Not as the real Liz. Just as the burned Liz. And while I’m so grateful for the chance I had to show her a little bit of love and grace, I know I didn’t do all I could have. I didn’t feel like I had the right to grieve. Her brother, her father, her aunts, cousins, and friends, yes. But not me. So dozens of times throughout the day I shoved down memories, stuffing them back into the recesses of my mind.

It wasn’t until the following day on the phone with my friend Natalie that the dam burst. She kindly listened while I gasped out some sobs and tried to put words to what possible reason I could be so upset. And in her gentle, discerning way, she told me exactly what I needed to hear. That I was grieving…and that was good thing. That grieving is a sign of how much we cared for someone, and of course this anniversary would be hard. Because at least for those short weeks, I had loved her.

I know part of my sorrow comes from not being 100% sure that Liz had repented and trusted in Jesus before she died. Yes, we had quite a few good conversations, and she knew many of the right things to say and answers to give, but I just wasn’t sure. I probably will never be sure until I get to heaven, but I do pray. I do have hope that at least she knew the truth, and had the opportunity to embrace it for herself.

That same Friday, the 30th, someone else died. He was the father of one of our nursery [kindergarten] students, Salim. He was a Muslim man named Ikoba, and that week he had an argument with his father that had brought shame on him at his workplace. In complete humiliation and despair, he came home and during the night poisoned himself, and was found dead by his wife in the morning. His wife, Logose, is left with his 10 living children and another to be born in a few short months.

Our school administrator, Bosco; our field officer, Bumba; and I went to the home a week later to sit with the family and bring condolence (a monetary gift after someone has died) from the school.

Words simply can’t express the sadness, grief, and despair in Logose’s eyes. We sat in plastic chairs in the half built structure Ikoba had taken out loans to build. The loans remain unpaid. What should have been a building of hope, has become a burden of grief.

Ikoba had promised all of the schools his children are attending that he would pay their school fees soon, but his death leaves them unpaid. That means unless someone else pays the debt, most of the children will expelled from their schools.

I was so angry. How could he do this to those children? To his very offspring, how could he sentence them to such a life? He could not have been ignorant of the outcome, of the affect on his wife and kids. How could he look at them and choose his own relief over their lifelong suffering?

And to know that he thought he was ending his suffering, only to find himself sentenced to eternal torment. My heart breaks for him too. How he must be grieving himself over his choices.

The weight of the despair in that place was overwhelming. And what comfort can you offer? That Ikoba is in a better place? No. That their Heavenly Father will comfort and provide for them? Not at least until they have embrace Him as their Father. So what hope is there? I have seen at least a little bit more now the hopelessness of those without Jesus. Not just in eternity, but also here and now.

I asked if I could pray over Logose before we left. And although her husband was a Muslim, and she claimed to be as well, she welcomed us. I prayed for the peace of Jesus. For the hope of Jesus. For the presence and power of Jesus. That He would draw this family to Himself, so that they might experience the life that their father never can.

So while my heart is heavy tonight, I have hope that cannot be shaken. I have hope that Jesus has a plan for Salim, and that’s why he’s at our school. I have a hope for that family  because God brought me to their house to pray hope over them. I have hope for Liz, because she at least knew the truth. I have the hope that only Jesus can give. And I have the peace that only Jesus can offer. The peace not like the world offers, that blows away at the first storm of suffering, but a peace that weathers every difficulty.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Not your normal AWANA games circle

So in an unexpected answer to prayer, while a couple of our staff members were searching through old boxes, they found......AN AWANA CIRCLE!!!!! The ministry must have had it from a looooong time ago, because none of my leaders remember ever seeing/using it. But the point is, it's there! And on Saturday we had our first AWANA club using it for our game time. The kids loved it! The leaders loved it! And that's a good great thing. Buuuut it comes with an addition prayer request.... this circle is is just barely big enough to accommodate the kids we have coming now... and we're definitely expecting even more to come as word gets out about the new program we're doing. So we could really use a second circle, and soon. But since God answered our first prayer even before we asked, I'm sure He's got this one under control too :) Even so, I'd so appreciate it if you'd ask Him for another one for us!


Just because the frequent visitation of our furry/feathered/hairy friends never ceases to amuse me:

Unfortunately, the kids here just don't appreciate the hilarity as much as I do... or as much as I hope you do!

I definitely never anticipated worrying about cow dung in the games circle, but TIA. This.Is.Africa.

Who's up for their own 'visitors' night Stateside???

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teacher Rose

We truly have some wonderful people working here at Genesis school!

Teaching our Nursery classes we have Teacher Daphine:

And Teacher Brenda:

And this very dear lady, Teacher Rose:

 All three of them truly have a heart for the children, and they give their all to help them learn.

Rose especially has been a dear friend to me. From the very first time I met her, she was special. Not only is she my Luganda buddy, but she has a heart bent on prayer and frequently tells me how she’s been praying for me. This past Easter weekend, I was down sick with a really bad head cold. Because of it, I called in sick to work yesterday and had a shorter day in the office today. Since Rose hadn’t seen me this week, she made a point to call me today and see how I was. She wanted to let me know that she was praying for me, and that she was trusting that the Lord would bring about my quick healing and recovery. Wow! What an honor it is to be loved and cared for by such a woman of God! 

The other day while we were all gathered to have lunch, Rose discretely and quietly gave all of her food to the children. We knew then that she was fasting, though she would not tell us. And we have come to expect it from her: at least one day every week you will find her praying and fasting. She is a constant example and inspiration to me of spiritual discipline. And for sure, she is an answer to my prayers: that God will provide godly men and women to teach in our school. That they would love the Lord with their whole heart. That they would be a demonstration of that love to the kids. I praise God that He has provided us with Rose, and I would ask you to pray for her as well. That she might continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. That she might continue to be a dedicated mother and train her children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  That He would continue to provide for her family’s daily needs, whether food, clothing, housing, or medical treatment. And that the Lord would put more people in her life to daily encourage her. Thankfully, I get to be one of those people!!