Monday, December 17, 2012

abilities, gifts & strengths

So I finally began the assessments in Achele Village that I've been trying to begin for what seems like two or three months now. It's supposed to be an assessment from a strengths point of view, like what assets and strengths are there in the community that we can build on and use to help transform the community. That being said, it's rare that I've been more frustrated any time in this country more than during these assessments. My goal is to do 25, and I've done 8 so far. On Saturday, Francis and I planned to try to get at least 10 of them done, if not 20, but after just three we were finished. We both head aches and promised ourselves we would not go out again unless we'd had some proper feeding and our minds were able to relax a bit. We never made it back out that day, and resorted to doing some physical labor as a means to ease our minds.
In the beginning I thought this would be a fun task, getting to know the community and being able to hear from people, and I have enjoyed it to a point, but it's been tough, tougher than I had anticipated. 6 of the 8 we have done so far have been with women. They ranged between the ages of 25 and maybe 40 though the one lady wasn't sure if she was 54 or maybe 36. She had a baby at the breast so we put her at or under 40. One lady had a 4th grade education, the rest of them had at max 1st grade if any. At least half of them are one of two wives. We asked if there was any job or profession they would have loved to have or would still be interested in, most of them said a nurse. Why? To help people. I was happy to hear they wanted to help people, but discouraged that a nurse and a teacher are the only jobs that a woman may think about having, and then with so little to no education, even that wasn't possible.  Then the most frustrating question of all perhaps, what abilities, strengths and/or gifts do you have, that would help you to do well at that job? Oh the ways we tried to phrase this question, to give examples, to explain it in three different ways, and all we could get from most of them was, honesty. Yes, honesty is a strength. But is that the most essential strength to being a good nurse? And why did they choose that, was it because we gave that as an example of a potential strength of someone, since most of them thought that was most important, or does it say something about the deceit that is generally all around them and the rarity of honesty. The follow up question went something like this, what other gifts, strengths and abilities do you have? what are you good at? By this time we had already realized the gifts, strengths, abilities question was a bit too complicated or complex, so i would just skip to the classic, what are you good at? And then had to clarify that one a bit more, explaining that if we asked someone else about what you were good at what would they say. Still tricky, got some attempts at an answer, one lady said she was good at letting people get their drinks on credit (she sells local brew and local waragi, something like vodka maybe), not being able to read or write, i wondered if she was even making any profit. Oh what different worlds we come from, my little mind has been so educated from birth, I have felt so loved, and people tell me things I'm good at, and I know that God created me in His image and has given me certain strengths and abilities that are unique to me. The oppression of these women struck me in a new way. It hit hard. And I began to wonder about the gospel, what do they really understand, when a sermon is preached what exactly are they picking from it? But I digress, there are still more questions, we've just reached to the top of page 2 out of 3. If I go through every question I'll just become frustrated and you might become bored, so let me just pick one more that was difficult. What things do you enjoy about caring for your family? This thing of enjoying, I think francis translated it as love, so what do you love about caring for your family? This was another tricky question, answers ranged from "health" and "farming" so why, why do you enjoy those things? Because we have to farm to survive, otherwise there's no way we would live. ok. We need to be healthy to survive. Ok. so i don't think you're getting my question. I'm not asking what's important or necessary to survive, I'm asking what you enjoy, what do you delight in? what do you love about caring for your family? Like, do you love when all the kids are gathered to eat together, or the unity when everyone's working in the same garden, or what????? But it's just survival. It doesn't matter if you enjoy any of it, but you need to somehow keep yourself and your family alive. Such a different mindset then in the states where we want to enjoy everything, and if we don't enjoy it, why even waste time on it? So that's just a taste, of why it's such a difficult thing.  I look forward to doing the rest of the assessments, and meeting more beautiful men and women in the area, but oh that Christ would come and set them free, that the oppression of women would lift, that they would be able to delight in things, and know that God has given them abilities, gifts, strengths, that they would be able to stay in school and not be kept at home to care for the next sibling that's been produced, or not given to some man before finishing primary school to get some cows, etc... Even the lady who was either 54 or 36 said if some one paid for school fees, she'd go back to school (starting in 1st grade) to become a nurse, though she has 10 kids, so i don't know how feasible that is at this point. They have beautiful hearts that need to be set free so that communities can be transformed. Jesus, come and minister to hearts and minds in this place.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ijo Bon Yesu

As I consider the beauty of this place, I see trees green with the fullness of life, tall grass bending in worship at the command of the wind, ducks all in a row chasing after their mother, quaint huts scattered across the countryside, truly, it’s beautiful, even the ever presence of silence is refreshing to the ears. The smiles of the people and the warm welcome, children in bright uniforms, all together creating something like an illusion, a backdrop in a drama that quickly dismantles, a smooth glossy white eggshell. But break through that shell and enter into the mess we’re daring to call life and see the way you’ve been deceived. There’s much pain here, too much actually and though it presents itself most commonly as poverty and is treated only as such, that’s not the root of it, it’s merely another symptom.
Enter into this mess with me for a minute. There’s much pain left behind by the rebel group that claims to want the country ruled by the Ten Commandments, but they’ve broken everyone of them in that pursuit, abducting children and forcing them to steal, kill and destroy. And though this rebel group is now far from this place, its residents have taken up that same work. Young girls are still raped, cattle are still stolen, they cheat one another in market, destroy one another’s reputation through harsh gossip and lies. They kill their wives and the joy of their children by caning them thoroughly for simple mistakes, mothers abuse their own children with venomous words, virginity is stolen for a few cows, alcohol is busy destroying futures, the description of the mess can go on and on (I’d hate to start listing the mess that is America). So now think about it, throw some money at it, a few income generating activities, give more seeds, send some cows, and maybe it appears to help for a while, like a Band-Aid put on a wound that’s in desperate need of stitches. And yet the Band-Aid is better because it may help a little. But give an alcoholic-gambling addict a cow and he sells the thing and drinks and gambles it away and ends up in worse debt. Give the girl child education and she’s sold for more cows. Help a family start a business and the jealous neighbor still poisons them.
We need to get to the root, but it gets even messier, and more painful. The roots need to be reached and there’s only one way to reach them. Because the deep of our souls is eternally crying out to be met, but there’s only One who is deeper still, only One whose love can reach those deep roots, only One gives the greater grace. And most of the people here have heard rumors of this love and grace, but few have really experienced it. The pastor here may live far from church and all the easier for him to live a life of lustful activity. Maybe he takes two women instead of one, or helps himself to the offering. The born-again lady goes to the witch doctor to make her husband love her more than all the other co-wives. The church-going man plants certain things in his garden to protect the other things from curses. The mob of mostly “Christians” kills the thief in its act of mob justice. But what does it mean to live in the fullness of the love of Christ? How will they know unless they’ve seen? So I guess you could say this is a cry, a cry for help, for people willing to live out the gospel of Christ in this place. For people who are willing to cry out with us, for hope to be restored, for joy, for peace, for life abundant, for believers here to realize they are more than conquerors, not mere victims, for people who seek the heart of God to rise up, for the spirits of death and destruction and hopelessness to lose their grip on this people.
Ijo Bon Yesu. (You only Jesus)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thoughts from the village

I was going to entitle this entry, "A bat in the latrine, a snake in the house, and a scorpion in my room" but I thought that was a little long. So here I go, some assorted thoughts and conversations:

Me: "There seem to be bats inside the pit of the latrine."
Francis: laughter, "You don't need to worry about that."
Me: "But what if I'm going to the bathroom and the thing flies up and successfully comes out and hits me?"
Francis: more laughter "It cannot."
Me: "are you very sure?" thinking... I'm still going to have trouble squatting over this hole when i can hear the wings of some animal flapping around below me...I'm sure the thing may somehow get lucky and make it back out of the hole, and then there will be much screaming and running.

A few days later:
a thought as I used the pit latrine. "I just felt the wings of a bat as I was squatting. I'm outta here. What I'm trying to do isn't that important anyhow."
Another conversation as we were busy plucking peanuts in the garden:
Robert: I smell snake
Me: Like a dead snake or a live snake? Please say dead one, please say dead one, please say dead one...
Robert: A live one.
Me: Crap. How do you know what it smells like?
Robert began rummaging around the ground (This guy is crazy, is he looking for the snake with his hand or what??) until he finally found the ants/termites that were also busy in the garden.
Robert: It's these ones which the snake eats and then makes that smell.
Me: Oh Ok. So what the heck are we still sitting here for? Shouldn't we move away from the "live snake smell"? And why are you laying the baby on the blanket just near the area and leaving her there as we move on to the other part of the garden? Maybe it's not a dangerous snake that smells. Maybe they only feast on insects and not human beings. I have a lot to learn.
Francis: Oh yeah we killed a snake in your house while you were gone.
Me thinking: Oh, nice, thanks for letting me know. Oh what? It's not a dangerous one? Well that's reassuring?
I went to my bedroom to get some thing. It was dark, I was using my flashlight. Curious to know whether a certain spider had shifted from where she had been earlier, I shined my light on the wall. Is that a gecko? Then it moved, and I looked closer.
Oh, that's a scorpion, at least it looks big so it's probably not deadly, but it's still a scorpion in my bedroom. I guess there's a first time for everything. "Francis! come here."
Francis: Oh, that's a scorpion. That thing can punish you. You need to be careful, if that thing bites you, you will feel serious pain up until this time tomorrow night. 24 hours.
He proceeds to grab a broom and tries to kill the thing and fails, but eventually gets it to the ground where it it killed with a hammer.
Me thinking: I'm sure i'll sleep well tonight. At least I have the mosquito net, and you better believe I'm going to tuck that thing in well tonight.
I wanted to include other thoughts and conversations that didn't involve creepy and crawling things, but I can't remember any off the top of my head.
I normally don't like reporting these types of things, because, let's be honest I would like visitors to keep coming, and I don't want to scare them away, but there just happened to be so many incidences in one week that I couldn't keep quiet about it.
I still love the village and I'm still planning to stay there until God calls me somewhere else.
I thank God for the constant protection He grants me, and the way He is caring for me and removing fears from me. He's a good Father.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another beautiful delivery

It began as any other evening. I had just gotten back from the village, enjoyed some supper with teammates and then took a couple of their kids, ave (7) and Miriam (13), along with Betty (13) to have a sleepover at my house. We were still watching the movie parent trap when around 9:20pm I got a phone call from one of my friends and co-laborers in kamuda, Paul. He said his wife had been having labor pains for most of the day and that they were in the village not in town. I asked if He wanted me to pick them up and bring them to the hospital in town. After discussing with the wife, he said they would continue to wait and then when morning came they may call back and go then. Well...then right around 10pm he calls back and said, you'd better come. So I asked the girls if they wanted me to leave them finishing the movie and sleeping, but no, they wanted to come. So we drove the 17km out to paul's home and the whole time, i'm hoping my teammates won't be too upset with me for bringing their kids out to the village at that time of night. I'd do it if they were my own kids, right??? Anyway, when we arrived, Paul met us outside and told the girls to remain outside while we went into the hut and "assessed the situation". Well when I walked in and found his wife jennifer, wide legged and pushing hard, with the head pretty much crowning, I told paul, I think we'd better stay here, there's no way we'd make it to the hospital, she's got to keep going here. So that being said he handed me some gloves and I joined the other two ladies who were already assisting her in giving birth. I asked paul if they knew what they were doing (because I certainly didn't) and was reassured that they knew. After a few minutes of pushing that head came right out up to the shoulders, we could see the cord was wrapped around the neck, and we just prayed and told her to keep pushing. Shortly he came the rest of the way out and we quickly unwrapped the cord, good enough it was not very tight around his neck. Paul then asked me how we tie and cut the cord. I called my nurse teammate, who though groggy from being woken up, gave me the information i needed and we proceeded. The baby gave a few good screams, she got the placenta out, and we were in business. They quickly cleaned up the mess, thankfully they had a plastic sheet which caught everything, rather than direct onto the mud floor. Once she was "decent" again we invited the small group of children who had been patiently waiting outside in to see the newest member of the family. Once we got Jennifer in bed along with the baby we sang a song of worship and prayed some prayers of thanksgiving together. By then my girls were tired and ready to go home. Jennifer began telling me that she had worked so hard much of that day to have their new "guest hut" ready for me to sleep in, but it wasn't quite ready. Sorry. I told her don't worry about it. We left with the promise that I would come back in the morning to bring them to the health center. We were back home and in bed by midnight. just two hours from the call to come. not bad. The following morning I left the girls shopping and making breakfast while i took some drugs out to their house and to take jennifer and baby Ekako to the health center for immunizations. When i arrived back at their place I found Jennifer out walking around and full of energy, i never would have guessed just 10 hours ago she had delivered a child. She told me the story of her day of delivery as we took tea together. She had woken up with the birth pains, but decided to go the garden anyhow and weeded three rows of cassava, then decided that since she was still feeling the pains she should probably go back to her home. From there she continued working on the guest hut and cooking food, etc... then by 8 that's when the pains started worsening. These ladies here are tough. we went to the local health center, but they didn't have any immunizations, no way of keeping them cold, we should come back on tuesday, but not this tuesday b/c it's independence day, but maybe next tuesday. Ekako weighed about 7.6lbs. He wasn't eating at all for about the first 14 hours of his life, but is now happily suckling away. So if someone asks me what does it look like to walk along side the local church in uganda, I would have to relate to them such a story. Doing life with each other, praying through these situations, experiencing life and death, joys and sorrows together.  I feel so privileged to be able to do that with christians here. Sorry, i left the camera at home, so I'll have to put photos up next time I go visit them. But for those of you happened to see the happy birthday song, and the birthday chicken videos on facebook, it was that very pregnant lady in the videos who gave birth.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Oldest and the Youngest

 As I have begun spending much more time in my new home in the village I thought I wound begin to introduce my new family. It's quite big, so it may take a while...I think for an average supper we are dishing out something like 15 plates. I will begin with the oldest and the youngest.  Meet Tata (grandmother) she's the mother of the father of the household.

Just a little bit of firewood
I don't even know her names as she is always lovingly referred to as Tata. We're not very sure how old she is, but we know she is old. Old enough by now she would be resting in some elderly village in the states, but here she doesn't have much time for resting. From making porridge, to pounding g-nuts (peanuts), harvesting millet, weeding gardens, looking for firewood, taking care of her grandkids, and great-grandkids, and doing any other housework that needs to be done, she is busy. Occasionally I can find her resting, on a sack, lying on the ground, but by that time it's a well deserved nap. I wish I spoke more ateso, so we could communicate more, but she's already communicated much to me through her day to day work. She may be old, but she is tough, and helps the family however she can. They say it's that hard work that has helped her to remain strong for so many years. She has lived through so many things, the LRA insurgency being one hard experience, especially since they took the life of one of her sons (Francis' father); Through Idi Amin's reign of terror, famine, colonization, decolonization, and the like. I would love to hear all of her stories, and understand them, which is good motivation to learn ateso.

Next. Ariokot Tofista, but that being a mouthful, we mainly call her Tofi (toe-fee). She is Francis and Josephine's first child. She's the youngest of the household at just over 5 months. Tata is her great-grandmother. She is what we would call in the states, "a bundle of joy."
Her favorite past time:high-pitched happy squeals
Francis talks about how people would talk about him, being a former child-soldier, and his wife, also a former child-soldier, and what kind of rebel family they would produce. But praise be to God! These former child-soldiers, have the peace, joy and love of Christ in their hearts and their family. Tofi is officially the happiest, most active and energetic baby I have ever met. My guess is she will skip past crawling and walking and go straight to running and jumping. Sometimes I can hold her up in the air above my head and look into her beautiful joy-filled face and wonder. What grace, what mercy the Lord has poured out on Francis and Josephine, keeping them both free from forced sex when they were abducted, and bringing them home again, to be able to begin making a family of their own filled with things that are opposite of their time in the bush. I don't know what plans God has for this family, but I know they are good and they will be used in a mighty way as they share the freedom in Christ that they have with other former child-soldiers who are still trapped in the horrors of their past.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Where am I?

There was talk of agents and underwater meetings, necessary sacrifices, curses of power outages, fire, and destruction of buildings, there is sickness, and talk of directors urinating in porridge. And there I was sitting there listening, wondering, was I hearing my friends discuss some horror movie they had seen recently, they can't seriously be discussing real life, life in a secondary school, can they?
Well I'm certainly not in america anymore. But where am I?
I was in the hospital room of Dina, who we had visited just the day before with many youth to pray for her and encourage her. and now we came back, just as the leaders, to pray and get the real scoop. Dina has been sick on and off for this whole last school term. One of her classmates said it was because her "mzungu"(white person) was not around to provide for her, but she had a different idea. She says that there's demons in that school. Many. And I've heard it from others, yes, that school has so many demons. And I can't help but wonder, what does that mean? What does it look like? She continued, there are two girls who go to the school and during a day of prayer and fasting they demanded that a sacrifice needed to be offered at the school. Apparently the director wasn't buying it so they gave the warnings, if you don't offer a sacrifice, there will be fire, there will be power outage, and one of the flats will fall. And then that week, one of the boys dorms started on fire, and in one class the light bulb burst and the youth ran out, and only came back in the morning to find their shoes...there was a rumor that the director had come in the night to make the porridge and had urinated in it. So everyone refused to take it and there were no classes that day and they called an assembly that night. And then the details get kind of hazy, as Dina begins talking of how the agents had to meet with the director underwater. I feel a little naive as I ask, what are agents, and what does it mean to meet underwater? The agents are of course satan's agents that he has chosen to work through, i.e. these two school girls, and maybe the director could be an agent also, otherwise why would he be meeting with them underwater. And underwater means in the underworld. Again, naively, I ask so how do you have a meeting in the underworld? They describe how sometimes its the spirits meeting, and other times they will meet physically. A person will just disappear for a while. We then continue discussing, why if the director was also an agent was there disagreement as to whether the sacrifice needed to be done. But it was suggested that the girls could be his bosses... And I'm thankful for Paul, my co-leader, who handles this conversation and situation so well. He recognizes that whether any of this is true, or it's all rumors, it's still of the evil one trying bring domination and intimidation through fear. And we question Dina as to what this has to do with her sickness. And why as a child of the Light, would this darkness have such an effect on her? We try to encourage her, speaking of how we are over-comers, and He who is in us is greater than he who is the world. But she's still insisting that on wednesday she will return to school, but only to pick her things, and then she'll be going back home. She spoke of how her dead mother has come to her in dreams, and then how afterwards she got sick. We tried encouraging her to finish the term out, that what if all of the strong christians leave this school out of fear? What will become of the place? I thought this was even a christian school? She just laughs. We prayed for her and we headed on our way. I don't know whether she will go back to school just to pick her things, or she'll find the strength to continue. But I do know I learned something this day. I was reminded of satan's tactics of fear, intimidation and deception, and how much power we often give to him, when in reality he has none. In the states we don't seem to even acknowledge how satan is involved, and out of ignorance he wins out, while here, he's too much credited and fear paralyzes and wins out. Oh that we would claim our victory that we have in Christ Jesus. We are more than conquerors! Lord have mercy on us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It feels good to be back. Today Angelina came over and chatted with me for a while.  It is always encouraging for me to hear her perspective on life, and living as a follower of Christ. Even though she is blind I gave her some pictures that my mom took of her while she was here and also a picture of my little 5 year old friend Josie who is in michigan and faithfully praying for Angelina. As she brushes her fingers over the photos and around the edges, she thanks me because now she will take them to church and they will use them as catalysts for prayer. Most of the photos are of our friends with Angelina, so she is very excited to be praying for them with her church. Then she'll also be praying for Josie. And she requested that I print a picture of just me so that she and the rest of the interceders can pray for a husband for me. She spoke of how they prayed for Tim and Angie to conceive and was happy to hear that Eliana is now a healthy baby. She encouraged me to not give up praying for our friends as I sometimes feel like doing.
Then later I went out to kamuda for our bible study with the Alive with Purpose group. Many youth have been gathering every saturday while I was gone and it was good to see them again tonight. During the meeting we got a call from one of youth saying that she was in sick and in the hospital. So, we prayed from the bible study for her, then they began collecting money from everyone to give a donation to help with the hospital and other fees. Then they decided to fit as many people as possible into my car so we could go deliver the money and pray for her in person. I think I had at least 14 in my Rav4 and there were 4 on the motorcycle that one of our youth drives. So we reached the place, all packed into the room, which had maybe 4 or 5 beds in it, but only one patient at the time, and we woke up our patient, took turns giving her words of encouragement, worshipped our Lord and then cried out to Him to heal our friend and sister.  After that we all packed back in the car and headed for our homes, dropping youth along the way as I headed back toward town.
Sometimes I can really wonder, that even in the poverty and suffering that is here how privileged i am to minister among such people. It seems like so much of the time I'm the one being encouraged by them. The faith that they have as they turn to our Father in prayer for each and every thing puts me to shame. It is something that I missed while I was in America.
We have drought in the midwest but how many times have we humbled ourselves and prayed? Is it just global warming, or could it be something else????  I was just struck by this verse in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My People who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Monday, July 9, 2012


This morning I was feeling stressed about all the people I still wanted to meet with in the little time that I have left in the states. Then all of the sudden God reminded me that, indeed that was pretty lame. He brought to mind what I had been reading in the news last night. A rebel group called M23 in DR Congo, has recently taken over a couple of towns. The head guy has a nick-name called Terminator. This group is known for abducting children and forcing them to be soldiers and also using sexual violence as a means of control. Therefore, here I am worried about having too many people that love me and want to see me, while at the same time there is most likely holed up in some one room house some mother with her children praying to God that the rebels won't find them and steal her children and rape her. Now who should really be stressed in this comparison??  Oh Lord, forgive me for my selfish poor seeing heart. Lord, I pray for the women and children in Congo, in these towns, let the light of your face shine upon them. Be their protector. Let them see the way you are gathering them and hiding them under your wings. Bring peace. Drive out the evil with Your light and Your goodness. Give hope. Let them feel Your presence among them.

Here are a couple of the articles to become more informed:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

thank you for brokenness

alright, here goes nothing. I am in Oregon now enjoying time with friends and family. But something is happening that is a bit strange. I keep running into my old stuff and it reminds me. I don't think I've written about this before and not many ask me about it, perhaps for fear of forcing me to be too vulnerable, but I think it's time to share where I'm at these days. Back in 2007 I was engaged to be married to a great man, in oregon. At that time I felt God confirming, that yes, this was the man, this was the time, everything. Then about a month before the wedding, we had to call it off. My fiance, was having second thoughts and didn't want to go through with it. I cried out to God, wondering how I could feel so strongly that this is what He called me to, and yet now He was letting it all fall apart. Didn't He care? Didn't He see I was being obedient and He was taking my heart and smashing it to pieces, rather than blessing me for my obedience? What was going on? I had to keep going back to Him asking Him so many things, and He had no answers, but He kept comforting my heart saying, trust Me. I'm not going to lie, it was difficult to try to trust Him after that, but by His grace and His mercy I slowly began trusting Him again.
The story is much longer (on our drive back home to michigan my sister and I totaled the car when we blew a tire and spun across the highway 7 miles shy of nevada, still so many miles from michigan) but I don't want to drag this out. As I remember all of this, I remember the way my Loving Father provided for me as I came home, calling me to come out of this wilderness leaning on Him alone. He provided for me a good job and when others were being let go, I was getting raises. If you've read my blog before, you'll know that somehow, by the grace of God I ended up in Uganda, serving alongside my Savior, pouring into broken hearts the Healing Water that only He can bring. And when I see here in Oregon what was my shower curtain, or my cups, my lamps (I could only fit so many things into my little honda, so I left non-necessities with friends) I wonder, where I would be if I did get married and where I am now instead. I realize I wouldn't be where I am and I love where I am. So I've come to this place where I can honestly say "Thank you, Loving Father, for caring for me so intimately, for loving me so well, for suffering with me, for rejoicing with me, thanks for allowing my heart to become softer and not bitter, and giving great friends to walk alongside me. Thank you for a broken engagement and a broken heart that has driven me deeper into you, that has caused me to know you in a way I've never known you before, that has caused me to feel love like I've never felt before. Surely you can redeem and restore the darkest of moments. Surely you cannot do one unfaithful thing. Surely you cry with your children and draw them nearer still. Thank you, thank you Dad."

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I've been struck by the beauty of the people. Over my two years in Uganda, God has developed in my heart an eye for the beauty of the people that I interact with day to day. It seems that as I adjust back to the states (and canada) I'm realizing that God has opened my eyes to the beauty of people everywhere, not just Ugandans. It was today when it really struck me that He's been doing this in my heart and I've been largely unaware.  It was a simple trip to pick up a used dryer belt from a mechanic. Just another errand, and yet somehow God spoke to my heart and showed me something He'd been working on for a while. When we arrived at the man's house, he came out of his house to greet us, stocking feet and with him the smell of cigarette smoke came out with him, the kind that made me want to go bowling (I hope someone can understand that reference). His dog was not super nice, but the guy seemed to be and after grabbing his shoes he walked with us out to his garage. Not sure whether or not to follow him into the garage we kinda just hung outside for a while, but after curiosity got the best of me I decided to peek in and then go and observe the kind man searching diligently for just the right dryer belt. And as I took it all in, I couldn't help but smile as joy filled my heart. A table full of spray cans, shelves full of wires of every size and color, old stripped down appliances, and any other thing that might potentially come in handy to repair any appliance ever created. It was beautiful. The man, you could say he wasn't particular handsome, one eye was missing or something was visibly wrong with it anyway, there was nothing which would particularly attract us to him in his outer appearance...but...there was Beauty. There was a way in which he was revealing something to us about our Father. For every man, woman and child has been created in His image. What does that mean? I don't know really. But what I do know is that this man potentially unbeknownst to him was revealing something of God to me. And I am thankful. And I'm trying to express in words what it was that he revealed to me about our Father, but it's hard. Maybe it was the care he took in searching out just the right belt, inspecting each belt closely, bent over each one with his good eye closely interrogating each one. The kind of care I imagine our Heavenly Father must take with each of us. Knowing every inch of us, better than we know ourselves, knowing how we would respond in each circumstance and in every situation. Knowing where we are wearing thin, where we might just break any time.  Or maybe its the way He's ready to repair any heart. He has everything that we need if we just come to Him, but we have to come. It's all there, everything we need to mend our broken hearts in the Father's presence, but we have to go there, we have to trust Him to give us just what we need to mend our hearts. Or maybe...just maybe...He wants to reveal himself to you, and it might just be through someone you least expect.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
-Isaiah 53:2b-3

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

culture shock1 - shopping

I think culture shock it starting to hit...only three weeks after being in i'm a little slow...and that seems to be one of the biggest things that's shocking. I was always slow, but either i'm slower or people are faster. I think I would have spent three hours, easily, today grocery shopping in meijer's if it wasn't for my friend to come and help speed things along. It's not that there were that many things on my list, but it's the store's just so big. And it's not like there is just "cheese" but there's colby-jack, colby, monterrey-jack, cheddar, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and on and on, and then you can decide, yes, mozzarella is what i want and then there's a chunk of cheese or shredded, or finely shredded, or shredded with a little philadelphia cream cheese to add creaminess...then there's kraft or meijer or whatever other yeah, and that's just the cheese, don't get me started on the breads...we have so many choices. And i guess i'm just not used to that and it makes me a little slow.  And then the store is so big, and i walk slow, even if i looked at nothing and just walked up and down the aisles at a "comfortable" pace it would take something like one hour...yeah. There are other things, but right now i just needed to get that off my chest. I wish I could come up with some great spiritual life application about this, but, I can't, i think my mind is still too over loaded with so many choices and information...let's wait a few days and see if i can think of anything.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Opio came up to me today, he said he had a sliver in his hand. I looked at it and it was no surface sliver, if it was in there, it was in deep, with infection already setting in around it. He's only 8, but strong. I would try to squeeze the thing out, and he would pull my arm away. Finally I went for the stronger artillery...the nail clippers...when I came back out with them, I looked at Opio as he tried to hide behind the house at the site of the shiny metal tool, and I called him to come, but he didn't. After some waiting I called to him again, and he moved hesitantly toward me, I saw the fear in the eyes. Then i told him, "opio, i will try to get the thing out if you will let me, but I'm not going to force you." And I went back inside. He never came and gave me permission to pull it out again. And it's then that it hit me. Me and God. God is never forcing me to come to Him, always inviting, but never forcing...When i have some sin in my life, whether it be murder in my heart, or bitterness, or pride, or some deep wounds, it causes me to start rotting away, it causes pain in my heart, and I may go to God at first, but then realize that it may hurt worse before it gets healed, so I back away slowly and settle to move on with that pain and that sin, or that wound in my heart...BUT...if I trust the Surgeon, if I trust my loving Father, I go to Him knowing that yes, it may hurt quite a bit to deal with this sin, or to deal with this deep wound in my heart, but I know that He is good and He is an excellent Surgeon and He does not fail, and so I allow Him, and instead of my flesh continuing to rot away, life is brought back, healing happens, and it's a beautiful thing.
Apparently Opio didn't trust me, but i don't blame him, because I also don't trust my sliver removal skills. But when it comes to hearts, my Dad is best. And I'm learning to trust Him completely.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

my friends

well, it's been too long, so to satisfy myself and all of my "sitting-on-the-edge-of-their-seats, can't-sleep-till-i-post-again-fans" i'm posting a couple pictures of when my friend rachel visited me with her husband wayne. It must have been something like two weeks ago now. And it was so refreshing to have visitors who know and love me. I enjoyed showing them my stomping grounds, introducing them to my friends. They used their camera most of the time, but i had mine for one excursion. We were taking Abella to Secondary school for the first time, and being dry season everything was very dry, and dusty and light brown and dull and what...but then we came to a river and the blue was so blue and the green so green, it was so refreshing that I had to stop and get out and get a closer look and enjoy the cool breeze offered off the water. So i waste no more time, the pictures are here:

This is me saving abella from the alleged hippos that are somewhere out there...
This is our traveling group, from left, my friend nuru and the child she babysit's on wednesdays, rachel, abella and wayne:
Rachel and I encouraging one another that the crocodiles are probably resting somewhere else, (take note of the brownness that lies just beyond the green grass on the waters edge. it's a remarkable difference.)
me and nuru:
Wayne and Rachel:

We had a good time being refreshed, and were in need of it. Two days before we had been out in Morungatuny capturing some of the stories from the former child-soliders, if you want to see some pictures from that time go to . I think I'll have to blog about that in another post. and hopefully i'm not just saying that, but i'll actually do it. Let me try. All that to say, I enjoyed my friends being able to visit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

sunday wanderings

I decided to walk to church this morning. At least the mornings are still a bit cool, and it's a nice change of pace. I figured it would take about 30 minutes to walk and I left giving myself only twenty minutes to get there on time. As I was walking I came across a small group of young women also headed toward town. They were a few yards in front of me and I studied them carefully. They appeared to be karamojong, the outcasts in soroti because of their cattle raiding practices. Each was carrying a jerry can (the bucket like thing that most people use to fetch water). As I began wondering why they were headed in to town to get water, there are plenty of closer pumps around, I noticed they were the jerry cans that had the tops cut off them, thus this meant they were using them for something other than water. Then I remembered seeing women just like these in the main market. They are scavengers. They travel throughout the market, and apparently other parts of town looking for food. They gather fruits that were too ripe to be sold, or too squished or whatever else is no good to someone else and they pack them in their jerry cans. I could tell they had come from a distance because their wraps were draped over their shoulders as if they had left their homes when it was still quite cold. As I followed them I began to ask myself, or God rather, what's the deal, don't you love these, that you just let them to suffer like this...but before I could finish the question, He kindly rebuked me and said, look at your hands and your feet. If everyone who called themselves my followers would truly follow me, there would not be such oppression. These ladies would know that they have a heavenly father they can turn to to provide all of their needs. But because of spiritual, physical, economic, emotional and social oppression these able bodies young ladies are going to spend their morning scavenging for food while I'm worshipping in church. It just doesn't seem right. I don't really know where this blog is going, but it just made me think to see this girls walking in to town, with their jerry cans. Do they feel shame? Hopelessness? Are they tired of always being down and out? Or has it become so normal for them that they just do it without even thinking that much about it? They never noticed me behind them and i was glad for it because what would I say to them? No common language, somehow worlds apart, and how could I express to them all the words and feelings that were building up inside my soul being tossed to my Father. I'm thankful for a Father who is patient with me, slowly revealing to me more about His character and His heart for His children. Lord have mercy on these k-jongs. As they are searching for food each day, let them find your love and truth in those they come across.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

a day

This morning I woke up with the plan of going to Kamuda (about 15km's away from home) to share with a man about Jesus and hopefully pray with him to confess Christ as Lord. I planned to leave at 9am and then be back by at least 1pm. When I first came here, I probably would have estimated that I could be back by 11am, but I've learned a little bit about how time goes here since then. Well, it began when my 13 year old friend Betty showed up at the gate just before 8am, I've taken long with out spending time with her so I asked her if she wanted to go to breakfast in town and then go out to Kamuda with me. She said yes, and then she also asked if Abela could go with us. So we picked up Abela and headed into town. My friend Ruudy also met us at the new restaurant we wanted to try out. We had a quick breakfast, said good bye to Ruudy and headed towards kamuda, we had to stop just the other side of town to pick up Paul, my co-bible-study-leader... We parked just outside his home and betty ran in to see if he was ready, well, she didn't find him, but just as she reported back to us, we heard paul's voice saying "I'm still bathing," and sure enough, he was there in the middle of the bathing area made up of iron sheets and what have you, just outside of his home. At least we could only see his towel and part of his face. I thought since we were already a half hour late he would be ready, but when he finally joined us in the car he reported that he is not feeling well, possibly malaria...hence the delay, anyhow, so we finally head out to Kamuda. We took a different way in order to stop by one of our youth's homes to inform her of a program we're having the following day. We found the home, we sat down under the tree and talked with the mother as she had a child run and get the girl we wanted to see. The girl came and when we were finished explaining to her the program and were about to leave the grandmother comes over. They explain to us that she is not born-again and that they would like her to be, so could we talk with we began sharing with her and after much discussion and reassurance that she should really decide in her heart and not just pray to please people, she wanted us to pray with her to accept Christ. (apparently she had already prayed once before, but then the following week gave-up because it wasn't really from the heart...)We prayed with her and for her and then she left. We were also about to leave when they brought out baked sweet potatoes for a breakfast. After eating we finally left. Then we headed on our way again, but had to stop and inform one more youth about tomorrow's program. Then we had to go to Paul's home to pick up some malaria med's, then we went bouncing down the foot path with my Rav4 to pick up Sam, another board member for the organization that the bible study is apart of (Alive With Purpose), After prayer at Sam's house we finally headed towards the man we originally set out to meet. More bouncing down foot paths, we were finally about to reach the place where we were supposed to meet him and we find he's headed for a burial. It's now about 1:00pm. After some discussion it's decided that we will also attend the burial as we wait for him and then we will go back with him to the other house. So we turn around headed back to the place where the old lady was being buried. It's hard to explain burials here, but try not to picture a large air-conditioned church with seats, especially seats with backs on them. Picture more sitting outside, one person on top of another, all trying to squeeze under whichever shade can be found, even if it means you're so far away you can't see or hear what's going on in the "service." Being a white person, some men cleared off a "bench" for me and my friends under one of the tarps that was hung up to increase the shady area, which was nice, except that we were now 6 people trying to squeeze on a bench that might be somehow comfortable for 4. Granted if it was only 10 degrees or maybe even 50 degrees, it might be desirable to sit so close to someone, however, if it's 110 degrees, it may not be so desirable. The service went on for quite a while. After some time paul informed me that they were now shifting from the funeral service to the burial service, which meant that those of us who were willing were to shift over to the actual grave and stand out in the sun while they try to lower the coffin into the hole in the ground. They began lowering it, but suddenly pulled it back up because the hole wasn't big enough. So we kept singing in the sun (yesterday i put the thermometer out in the sun and it exceeded it's 120 max temp mark) as they hopped in the hole and made it a bit bigger. Eventually they successfully lowered the coffin in the hole and started to cover it back up. It was then that I told Paul we really needed to get going as I had an appointment at 4pm and it was now 3pm. We looked for the guy that wanted us to pray with him and eventually found him amidst the "congregation." After much greeting of people and discussion as to how we should move forward with our limited time we loaded some people in the car (our man being one of them) and we went to the other house. From there we proceeded to share with him about what it means to follow Jesus, and he said his friends, who were also drunkards with him, were already giving him a hard time about his plan to accept Christ today. Anyway, he said the Lord had put it on His heart to accept Christ and he wanted to do it. So we prayed with him and for him. Then as we were finishing to encourage him as a new christian the hosts brought out chicken and atap (local bread) and we ate. By the time we were finished eating it was already 5pm. I was a bit late for my appointment and there was no cell phone coverage in that area with the networks that I had so I was not even able to inform my people of the delay. Anyway, so I said we had to leave, the hosts wanted us to stay for tea, but I told them we could not. We left, ***I was about to write that we put a grandmother in the boot of the car with the live chicken we had got from the first stop we made, when I remembered that there was still a live chicken in my car now at 9:30pm, so now that I've got the chicken out of the car and into its house for the night i can finish up my long story*** We packed the car and headed back, we dropped various people in various places along the way. I finally reached our team leader's home at 6pm where i realized i had missed the other appointment completely, but was invited for dinner and happily accepted as I was too tired to cook anything. Then I finally made it back home. Now time to shower and go to bed. All that to say...well...I don't know what I'm actually trying to say. Maybe I'm tired...

Monday, January 16, 2012

quotable quotes from Obalanga

I went out to visit some former child soldiers in their homes in Obalanga. It's so easy to say that sentence, but what's involved in it all is so hard to explain. The roads, or lack there of, the heat, the distances, the sights, the poverty, the cooking etc...each thing could be described in so many words, but let me just leave it like that. So we were driving down one of those "roads" that an american would call a foot path and we had just finished eating chicken and eggs and atapa and chai and other things which resulted in very full stomachs. I say we because I was with a local pastor called Samson and a youth leader called Thomas. We had bounced down the foot path for a short distance, when I hear from the back seat, "Remember there is someone in the back seat who has had his large intestine operated on." Granted the man had had a major surgery on his intestine, but a simple, "could you slow down please" would have worked just as well, or maybe even better as it would have taken less time to figure out what he meant by the statement. It's probably one of those had to be there kind of things, but it made me laugh. And laughing here is a necessity of survival.
If I think of the previous conversation that we were having in the hut before bouncing down the footpath, maybe I was ready for some laughter. The father of the former child soldier we were visiting was named Ameru. Yet his son's name was also Ameru. Usually here you find that the child is named after someone that is dead or another relative but not the father if he is still alive. Ameru Sr. explained the name of the son like this, "I named my son Ameru after myself because he was born during the time of the Karamojong cattle raiding attacks and the rebel insurgency so I thought I would die and I wanted him to carry on the name."
The Amerus' family: