Sunday, August 28, 2016

a wet noodle

I think one of the hardest things about coming back to America for some time can be summed up in the handshake. If you are American, then you've probably at some point in your life been taught how to shake a hand properly. Grab the hand firmly and look them right in the eye. You want to show everyone you are confident, self-assured, independent and strong. No wet noodle or fish handshakes allowed, those are only for the wimps, the cowards, the weak. Make sure you make a good first impression. We are taught to shake hands when we meet someone for the first time or when we haven't seen them in a long time perhaps, and you need that handshake to define the relationship, to prove that my handshake is as firm as your, I'm as strong as you are. Things are a little different here. Every time someone comes to our house they expect to be greeted with a handshake or a hug. It doesn't matter if they just came over yesterday. You still shake their hand today. And rarely do you get someone who will over squeeze your hand. And after the handshake you can keep holding hands as you finish up your greetings and inquiries about the family, etc... Actually you don't even have to actually shake the hand, you barely have to touch, but just enough to say that I'm with you, I see you, you are welcome. Greetings in this culture are so important, people are important, time with people are important. Things will still eventually get done but not at the cost of relationship, they will get done because of relationship. Everywhere you go there are people, walking up and down the street, whenever I go shopping in the market I have to take time greeting the people who are selling me their fruits and vegetables. Whenever I see someone I know, I must take the time to greet them. To touch my hand to theirs. Or they will wonder, why have I refused to greet them. Am I proud that I think I don't need them? So coming from this culture of greeting, community, relationships and going to the american culture of strength and independence can be really hard.  Do you realize that in america I can spend the whole day without even talking to anyone outside of my now house? Not just staying at home, because you can do that in any culture, but I can go the supermarket, I can go to the car in my garage, go to the super market, buy everything I need, checkout at a machine. And come back home all without having to talk to anyone. I have never gone to the market here without talking. I don't think it's even possible. Well...maybe possible, but people wouldn't be very happy about it. First I have to greet them, then I have to ask how much tomatoes are today, because it can change from day to day depending on what's in season.
It's hard stateside because people who we love are too busy, and we can even take a month to try to get together because of their busy schedule and then if we are lucky enough to get a meeting with them, they probably only have one hour or two hours or 30 minutes, and if they tell you they only have 15 minutes, then that's all they will give you. There are even some we failed completely to arrange a meeting in the 5 months we were stateside the other time. I know, crazy right? Well maybe not crazy to you, but crazy to us who are so used to taking time with people. Here we never know how many people we might be serving supper to. And we have to be ready with tea any time, because we want our visitors to feel welcome. And we get people who just stop by. People who just want us to pray for them or counsel them. Then we go back to the states. We know no one else is coming for dinner unless we invited them. We know that no one is just going to stop by and say hi. We know unless we work hard to schedule meetings with people we won't meet with anyone.
 That is why, even though we are so excited to be back stateside to see the people we love and to share what God is doing in and through us, we are also a little nervous and hesitant, because to be honest, it's hard. And to top that off, many people think while we are stateside we are on vacation, and yet for me, personally, it's the most challenging part of the work that we do. One, just the living in a different culture (How do you really choose one loaf of bread from the million options?) it is hard, then there's the asking people for money, not only the asking, but finding new people to ask, because, heck I've lived in a different world for 6 years and rarely have chance to meet new Americans, and if I do meet them, rarely do I have a chance to build a relationship with them.
I hope this doesn't sound like complaining, I'm not trying to complain. I'm just trying to express myself, to put down all these scattered thoughts in my head about why I'm hesitant to travel in just 10 days when I have so much to look forward to. Anyway, so if you managed to read this, because let's be realistic, many are too busy to read this, but if you managed, thank you for taking the time. And if you are willing to spend a little more time to pray for us as we transition to a different world and a different part of our work that can cause added stress, thank you. And if it's hard on me, imagine how hard it is on Ruudy who was born and raised and lived the last 30 years in this culture. And if I happen to see you, don't be afraid to give me a wet noodle or fish handshake, because I might just give you one too. And it might just communicate to me that I'm in this with you, I'm here for you. And that might be just what I needed to know.

Monday, August 22, 2016

untitled update

 The past couple months have been full. With both joys and sorrows. One, our aunt who had been fighting cancer for the last few years finally is finished suffering.
Our Aunt with some of her great nieces
She left behind 9 children and her husband. 5 of those kids are under 16 years and the husband is an alcoholic. Also, this year there is famine in the area, so they are having trouble getting what to eat. Please keep praying for this family.
Also, one of the former child soldiers from deep in the village that I had worked with and we also helped sponsor in school with the help of some one from the states, also died just a few weeks ago. We had received a call a few weeks before that that he was sick in the hospital, but were surprised to find out that that sickness led to his death. It doesn't sound like they even knew what was causing him to be sick. They just said they had to keep "adding blood" whatever that means. Health care in this country can be so frustrating and it's so sad to lose a young man like Emma when it seems so preventable. Keep praying for Emma's family, he was the oldest son of his single mother, so he was the one helping to keep her well.
Emma inside the house he was building for himself
In the beginning of August we had a team of 6 come for a visit. Teams.'s hard to explain. We love having visitors, but it takes a lot of work. Teams are complex, and there's so much controversy over the effectiveness of short term missions, but they can also be so encouraging to us who live on the field day in and day out. We recently had a team from Kalamazoo/Ludington come for a trip. We started planning with them about a year ago. And after many Skype meetings, and schedulings and budgetings they finally arrived. And thankfully they were the easiest group we've had so far. Even though at the end of the day we are tired. You know how it's hard to feed a group of people something that everyone likes? Well, try doing it in a foreign country with foreign foods. Anyway, the team did a great job, they led a Vacation Bible School for the kids at Welcome Home Orphanage, one of them did a much needed marriage conference, they visited one of our purity clubs in Soroti and shared the gospel with them, they met LoCoDi sponsored kids and some sponsored kids in another program. They donated 51 Ateso bibles. They hiked waterfalls and had boat rides in the Nile.  Saw lions and giraffes and warthogs. They blessed others and were blessed. Those ten days came and went. Kind of like when you spend hours in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal and it's eaten all up in a few short minutes.
As much as teams are hard work, we love them. It's so fun to share our world with people who days before only had a social media sketch of what life is like in Uganda. And every one who has visited at some point usually has to say, "Now I understand why you have a hard time describing a 'typical' day here." We are encouraged when people get to meet the people that we are pouring out our hearts for and can see first hand the need for the work we are doing here. And when they go back to their comfy homes stateside they are different. They think differently, talk differently, spend their money differently, pray differently.
Also, through all of this Ruudy has been struggling with sickness. He has been feeling achey and tired on and off for over a month now. We treated several things, and tested more things, but haven't found out anything yet. From the blood tests we've gotten it shows that his body is fighting something, but telling what it's fighting is the problem.  He has a doctor appointment in the the states on the 28th of September and we will hopefully find out more then. We haven't bought our tickets yet but are looking at mid September to the end of November or beginning of December, depending on how we are coming along solving Ruudy's sickness.
 While we are stateside we would love to meet up with you. Maybe you've been considering a trip to Uganda for sometime or maybe the thought never crossed your mind until today. We would love to share with you more and see if the Lord leads you to come for a visit. But even if you are not interested in coming for a visit to Uganda we would still love to visit with you wherever possible.

Marriage Conference

Marriage conference participants
The Purity Club
Beckie greeting the students

The good samaritan

Some of the LoCoDI sponsored kids

Fun hiking

Fun on safari

no...she does not have an extreme fear of hippos

Our Team, just hanging out with the giraffes

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The New Normal

After 6 years of life in Uganda I have achieved a new normal. Things that I used to be shocked by no longer shock me. Like, now days I can bravely and confidently, well mostly confidently, carry a plastic bag with 60 raw eggs packed in it through the crowded market without breaking even one. I used to be shocked when I would wait 2-3 hours for a meeting to start, and now I may be the one they are waiting for.
I used to be shocked, maybe disgusted is a better word, that people could enjoy popping large fried bugs into their mouth, and they would actually lose precious sleep to harvest said "bugs" late into the early morning hours. Now I love the white ants and I'm also there, alongside my family, catching them late into the night. I can find myself wondering when are they coming back into season, we've taken long without eating them. And no, we don't call them bugs, they are ants, not bugs. Bugs are not food. I used to be shocked that I only had the time and energy to accomplish one task in a day, now I'm shocked if I can manage to get three things done per day.
Now imagine me trying to prepare someone from the states to come for a visit. We have a team coming to visit the first week of August, and it's good we have an experienced team leader who will help prepare the team for their trip. Because by now I can even forget what it is that I should warn them about. I remember when I first came to Soroti, I was visiting a village church with some teammates, after the morning training we went to a local restaurant for lunch. My friend, who had lived in Soroti about 3 years by this point, ordered a dish called eboo, and was so excited about it I decided to get the same. One taste and I wondered...why in the world was she raving about such a "unique" dish, and yet now I cook it at least once a week...I no longer gasp when the power goes out in the middle of cooking, shopping, bathing, or any other somewhat inconvenient time to not be able to see anything. Gone are the days of valuing personal space. I used to wonder, when I was "obviously" in line at the bank, and someone would come and cut right in front of me, with a smile none the less. But now I know that unless my belly is brushing up against the back of the guy in front of me I am obviously not in line.
I don't think I should even go into driving, suffice it to me not even try...though the phrase "Every man for himself" comes to mind. Hearing that a man has more than 40 children doesn't shock me nearly as much as it once would. Then there's the chasing after and the killing of your supper. The amount of people you can fit into or onto a vehicle. Think of your car. Most cars fit 5 people. Now, if a motorcycle here can carry 5 people or 8... what are the possibilities for a car, a van, or a truck? Endless.

I guess life is like that, what we get used to becomes the new normal. It's funny how weird, or disgusting, something can seem when we're not familiar with it, but with a little bit of time, and perhaps some effort, we don't even think twice about it. The ants in the bread, ants in the water, ants on my toothbrush and in my cupboard, wait, what ants?  I guess there is both positive and negative side affects of the new normal. On the positive side I can now live in this country very comfortably, and try to convince others from outside that they shouldn't be so scared of this place. Especially now days, as it looks more dangerous to live in the states then here...which brings up the negative side of the new I watch the disintegration of the country where I was born I wonder about what has happened. Isn't there some saying about a frog in a boiling pot?

Friday, July 8, 2016

An assortment of random thoughts / updates

The other day we were baby-sitting our niece Ellie as her brother was in the hospital with A-typical pneumonia.  She's all of 3 and half and just generally brings joy to the house. She had gotten dressed on her own and had put her shirt on backwards. I had told her about it once and then we were eating lunch and I noticed she still had it on backwards. I mentioned it again and we laughed. Then I told her that, "You know what Ellie, we can just leave it like that because that is not an important thing. We have to focus on more important things like Jesus and loving people." She agreed. So we left it like that. But the rest of the day I kept finding myself wanting to put it on her right, or I found myself wanting to explain myself to visitors, as to why I didn't bother about the way she was dressed. It made me keenly aware of the fact that I can too easily focus on things that don't really matter. The long of the short of it is it's just a t-shirt and if the kid's happy in it and not doing any harm to herself or others then it doesn't need to bother me either. I know there's some spiritual application here, but just having trouble putting it into words. Let's just focus on loving Jesus and receiving His love and giving that love to others. The rest...well...somehow it works it's self out...wait, i think there's a verse that says something about that....oh yeah,  "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Mat 6:31-32) So this is no new revelation, but I'm going to keep trying to put it in to practice more and more in my life.

Well...on a side note, we are enjoying Sarah as part of our family. It's hard to believe she joined us already more than 7 months ago. We still don't have her birth certificate, but we decided she was born on May 7, 2002. So at least now she has a birthday, which we celebrated since the last time we wrote. Without going into too much detail it has been a difficult transition for all of us, but over the past few weeks we could see some improvement in her behaviors and then a couple weeks ago she told us that she wanted to confess Jesus as Lord of her life and she is going to be baptized this Sunday at church. When I was talking with her she said she could really notice a difference in her life since confessing Christ. We are proud of her.
She has not had an easy time growing up, being passed around from relative to relative looking for her place. I (Beckie) have been homeschooling her for the past few months, and even though she is only at around a 2nd grade reading/math level, she is a determined, dedicated student and keeps improving. She is now able to read pretty well, she reads me the Jesus Story Book Bible every class, and though I help her with many words, she can now finish a whole story by herself where as before we would have to take turns because it would take her so long and she would get frustrated. Please keep praying with us for her. She's really a gifted singer and loves praise and worship, if we were in the states we could more easily see that talent developed, but not sure how to go about it here. Also we need wisdom as parents. Suddenly having a teenage girl is not the simplest thing we've ever done, but when we see the way God is transforming her before our eyes, it is so worth it.

We had two classes since I wrote last, Caring for God's People and Christian Stewardship. Both of them went on well. We had a good turn up for each and are looking forward to our next class this month, Teaching the Christian Faith. This past class when were meeting in our small groups we heard many testimonies of how God has answered our prayers in the lives of the students.
Two in my small group had us praying for them that they become debt free, and when they came back the next month, one had been able to pay off the debt and the other one finally got a job, so he was excited because soon he would be able to pay off his debt as well. There were some in Ruudy's group who also reported back on answers to prayers. It's so encouraging to hear back from the students during that small group time. During that small group time they also report on how the implementation of their action plans went.
For action plans for Caring for God's people, many people said they would go and visit such and such a person, maybe someone who they know has stopped coming to church, or a widow, or someone who has been sick for a while. It was powerful to hear back on how the visitations went. Some people received Christ, others are now coming back to the church, generally the people visited were encouraged, and thus our students were also encouraged.

Ruudy has not been feeling well for the last couple of weeks, feeling cold in the middle of the day, and the joints aching throughout. Please pray for him complete healing, and also wisdom for the doctor as he tries to figure out what the issue is. We have treated for a couple things just to be on the safe side, but so far haven't seen much, if any, improvement. It's frustrating for him to feel yucky and not know why.

We are excited that we have a small group from Kalamazoo coming at the end of this month. We don't get visitors from out too often so we certainly are looking forward to it. Please pray for them as they travel and spend time at the orphanage in Jijna and with the sponsored kids and purity clubs in Soroti. Some of them will be their first time to Africa.

Well if you made it to the end of this one, congrats to yourself, you survived my scattered thoughts. I wanted to make this update so perfect, you know, the kind that people actually respond to and you realize people actually do read these things, but then my mind couldn't focus very well and was running away with a number of thoughts and I had to just put them down as they come. And since I couldn't risk doing it later because then it might not get done at all... anyway, Such is life here most of the time, always running from one thing to the next, being pulled in so many different directions, and trying to remember to do everything that we need to do before being distracted by the next thing.
Oh and to add to that, we took some Welcome Home visitors on a boat ride the other day and saw a cool bird,

I guess it's called a Ross's Turaco. When it was flying it was even cooler, as it's wings have red on the bottom side. I was too in awe watching it fly that I even failed to use the camera to try to get a shot of it. We also saw a hammerkop, eastern grey plantain eater, ring necked dove, hadada ibis, pigmy kingfisher, woodland kingfisher, malakite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, night heron, great cormorant, african data, long tailed cormorant, sacred ibis, cattle egret, open billed stork, african fish eagle along with some monkeys and a few monitor lizards, it was a pretty good hour and a half.
This concludes this unpolished update. Interesting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Grateful to our Glorious God for our great graduates graduated!

As the students came to get sized for their graduation gowns, I had time to chat with them. One of our students works at the orphanage just up the street from us. Many of the staff there have been through our 10 month training program. I asked her how the things were going at the orphanage, she smiled and said that no kid has been to the hospital in 3 months. I asked her why, was it because they were praying for them and she said, 'yes, we have pastors there now.' The caretakers are still the same, it's not like they fired all of them and hired only pastors, but, because of the training they have been through they now know how to pray in a different way, and to care for the kids in a different way, and because of that the orphanage is now a healthier place for the babies and kids to grow in love! I said, praise God! She smiled a big smile and said, yes, we praise God for that!
These are the types of testimonies we love to hear! It's beautiful and a blessing to be able to hear of fruit from the planting of seeds in the hearts of church workers. It's our labor of love and it's awesome to see it effects so many people, from the tiniest, most forgotten of babies, to pastors of churches with hundreds of people. And to think people in the states are writing checks once a month, or maybe they even have their money automatically sent to support us each month, potentially they can even forget that each month they are investing in transforming lives in a far away place. So, if you are one of our regular financial supporters, when your money leaves your hands this month and goes to some little church in California, who then sends to some missionaries in some strange place called Jinja, where the river Nile begins it's journey to the Mediterranean, take time to praise God with us that He can use even that small (or big) act of faithfulness to impact deeper and broader than you can imagine. Because He is doing more than we can ask or imagine, with $20 or with a smile, or with a simple class on marriage.
We were studying with our workers the story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish and feeding over 4,000 men plus their families. He asked the disciples, what do we have to give this crowd to eat, and they told him they had only 7 loaves and some fish. But what they did have, they handed over to Jesus, who gave thanks and started breaking and distributing and there were 7 large basketfuls left over, (they had leftovers!?! Like it wasn't enough just to feed everyone) and I guess the disciples were just in awe and wonder.
 Let me encourage you today, that whatever it is that you have, as little as it may seem, offer it to Jesus with thanksgiving and let Him do whatever necessary and you will see the glory of God at work in your life. I'm not just saying money, I'm saying, any talent or gift you have, any kind word, or small prayer you can muster up, just give it up to the kingdom and watch Jesus do the work that only He can do. He will blow you away with His faithfulness when you are faithful with whatever small treasure He has given you.
We had our graduation on the 9th of April, and we had a great time celebrating with these students. What an honour to hear testimonies of students impacted and their impacting the people of their congregations, because of something they learned from our school, some move of God on their hearts in our 10 months of interacting.We were so humbled by it all.
On April 13 we started up with our next group of students, we had 25 students in the first class with more who say they are coming for the next class. We are excited to see how God works in these students as well! As the new students were introducing themselves and talking about why they had come for the training, more than of them shared that they witnessed the transformation in one of our previous students and had to come and see what it was all about. We don't advertise the school except through word of mouth, though it looks like transformed lives are also advertising the school as well now. Please keep praying for us. Pray with us for this next group of students, for us as teachers, counsellors, administrators, supervisors, mentors, friends, we often wear so many different hats. Pray for our co-laborer José as he has struggled with parkinson's disease and it's been causing him to feel weak some days and also makes it hard to speak, yet he is a brilliant teacher and has so much wisdom and insight to offer the students. Pray with us for his supernatural healing.  Thank you for standing with us! Our next class begins May 11th, it's entitled Caring for God's people. (Which if you make it to the end of the video one of our students shares how that class impacted her interaction with her congregation.) Blessings to you all.

The Graduates!
Us with Beckie's sister Christina and Benj

Sol & José, our fellow teachers
We are enjoying serving the Lord together!

Ruudy sharing at the graduation

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Simply the Story

What is being said? What is being done? What choices were made? What choices could have been made? What were the results? Where do you see God at work in the story? 
They seem like 6 simple, seemingly innocent questions, but when used studying a short bible story, they can really be used by the Holy Spirit to pierce the heart and cause transformation. This is a technique for teaching bible stories that we taught in this month's course called Simply the Story. 

Many people are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. ("Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:38-42) 
There's many things people normally teach from this story. Mostly, we hear don't be too busy like Martha, be a Mary, take time to sit at Jesus' feet. But as you ask some of these questions within the story we see that there are many more treasures hidden inside.
Let's look at Martha. Not only is she busy and distracted, but who does she choose to blame? Does she blame herself, the one who invited Jesus in? No. She blames Mary, and Jesus. She says to Jesus, Don't you care??? Tell her to help me!!! First she questions Jesus' caring nature and then she demands him to do what she wants.  What name does she call Him? Lord. But what do her actions show? Who is really Lord to her?
Do we see this happening in our world?  Do you know anyone who blames Jesus when things don't go their way? Do you know anyone who calls Jesus, "Lord", but then commands Him to respond the way that he or she thinks He should respond? Anyone you know think Jesus doesn't care when things don't work out the way they think? Or do they blame him for problems they got themselves in? Or what about you? Do you call Jesus, "Lord", but then live your live contrary to that statement? Do you try to use Jesus as a magic wand, that you can just wave around and make everything the way you think they should be? Do you blame Jesus for not caring because of the circumstances you find yourself in? 
So as you could see in this example, after the first set of questions about the story, we teach how to ask another set of questions relating the story to our world and to ourselves. 

Let's look at Mary briefly. What was she doing? Sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to His word. What could she have been doing? Or rather in that culture what should she probably have been doing? If it's anything like Uganda, she should have been with Martha in the kitchen serving her guests. What was Jesus' response to Mary? He acknowledged that she had chosen what was good. How could Jesus have responded? He could have chased her into the kitchen and condemned her for not following cultural expectations. Do we see this kind of thing happening in our world? Have you seen anyone make culture a higher priority than Jesus? Do you give into the cultural expectations and fail to make Jesus the number one priority because of what others might think.

I (Beckie) really enjoyed helping teach this class and was again impacted by it. Now the students are also equipped to teach bible stories in such an impactful way, whether it be as a sermon or in a sunday school, or to a friend in the market...

Besides class my mom and my sister Meredith came for a visit. It's been almost 3 years since their last visit and it was great to have them here and see where we are living and working in Jinja. The time went by too fast.

A few photos from our last class:

Kingdom Life Training Centre

One group praying together before presenting a bible story

Another group praying together before presenting their bible story

One group presenting their bible story

A new addition to class. One of our students had a baby between this class and the previous one.

Praying for healing for a student

Praying for healing for professor José
Prayer requests:
This Simply the Story was the last class for this group, so they have now finished all 10 courses and will graduate April 9. Pray for us as we prepare for this awesome celebration and also for the students as they get chances to share with people what God has done in their lives through this ministry.

We plan to start the next group of students April 13. We do not know how many students we will have yet, but we could have enough for two separate groups. Pray with us for these potential students.

April 6 is our 3rd anniversary. Praise God with us for that! Continue to pray for us as a family. This year we've added another member to our family, Sarah, 13, as we mentioned in a previous update. It has added another different dynamic to our family as she is pretty traumatised from growing up an orphan and having so much loss in her life and instability. We need wisdom on how to help her succeed in life, to grow as a woman of God and the strength to keep parenting her well in a loving Christlike way. Pray for unity for Ruudy and I that we would keep growing together and falling in love with each other more and more each day. I'd be lying if I said it has been an easy 3 years, but it has been beautiful and we have grown a lot and healed a lot, and have been through so much already together, and look forward to many more years together.

As always, thanks for standing with us. We couldn't do what we do with out you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Preacher of the Day

We were on our way to church when we got a phone call. We had just stopped to buy some sugar and soap to bring as a gift for one of the student church leaders we train, when the phone rang. It was Cissy, our student at Kingdom Life Training Centre, we were going to worship at her home church with her to encourage her and see the ministry she is involved with there. She was wondering where we were... But let me back up a little bit... She had told us that Sunday School started at 10am and then the main service followed. Knowing that 10am didn't really mean 10am, and that we didn't really want to sit through sunday school and the main service, as sunday school is like a mini full service on it's own, and the main service would last a good few hours on it's own. We decided to leave home around 10:30am to a place we thought was about 30 minutes away. That way we would arrive right near the end of the sunday school and just in time for the main service to start. We were traveling with one of our co-workers and she had confirmed with Cissy that we would be coming for the main service. When she asked her for directions, Cissy told her that she had already told me (Beckie) the directions so I would know how to get there. So our co-worker knew that I knew how to get there, and I knew that she knew how to get there because she had called and confirmed. So back to the phone call. After asking where we were and confirming that we were indeed coming, Ruudy asked whether the service had started and the conversation went something like this:
Cissy: No, we are waiting for you guys to come.
Ruudy: No, just start, it's already late, we will get you when you are already going, you don't need to wait for us.
Cissy: But we cannot start without the preacher.
Ruudy: The preacher? He's not there?
Cissy: But you are the one preaching.
Ruudy: Me? Oh...But you have your preacher, we were just coming to listen.
So after that conversation, while we were still waiting for our co-worker to buy the things we began discussing sermon ideas. At least we had the rest of the car ride to come up with something. We trusted that the Holy Spirit would lead Ruudy as he decided on what to share if indeed he was the preacher of the day.
Once our co-worker came back into the car we were on our way. Just which way, we were not quite sure. Because it was then that we realised that none of us actually knew where we were going. We had been given only a town-center name where we could turn from and then a village where the church was. So we stopped a couple of times to ask people on the way, and of course all three times we got three different answers. Some had us turning right off the main road, others left, and still others to just continue. Finally we got some somehow helpful instructions and found the road we were to turn on, or at least so we thought. We got Cissy on the phone again and tried to confirm whether that was the right place, she asked us if there was a big tree there, and sure enough we saw a big tree, this must be the place,(and I'm thinking, I guess every other center probably also has a big tree, but let's just hope for the best). So we turned and drove on that road hoping that it would lead us to the correct village. We were driving amidst fields of sugar canes, and I was beginning to wonder, because I wasn't seeing any houses, but suddenly we saw Cissy standing in the road, with the rest of the church ready to welcome us. They began singing and drumming as soon as they saw us, and ushered the vehicle into the parking lot, i.e. the shade of another big tree. We parked and as we came out of the vehicle there was much singing and joy and they greeted us and received us warmly. They then led us to the church office where we met with the pastor, where it was confirmed that Ruudy was indeed the preacher of the day, and when we told him we just found out on the way coming that this might be expected of him, the Pastor told him that that's why as Christians it's important to always be ready to share the gospel at every opportunity, to be ready in season and out of season. So, it was now probably around noon and so we thought we would go directly to the service, which hadn't yet started because it was waiting for the preacher. But then we saw they were first serving us tea. So we first took tea, bread and bananas, and then we were ready to go. As we were taking tea I occasionally glanced outside and saw that people were lining up. I wondered, but realised when we were finished that they were ready to escort us into the church. Since Ruudy was the preacher they put him in the middle of two lines of people singing as they led him into church. I followed from behind, videoing everything. Anyway, to make an already long story a little shorter, the service was beautiful, we had a great time of praise and worship and felt the presence of the Lord in the place. Ruudy shared a powerful word about the love of God as our Father. I don't remember exactly what time the service ended but it must have been around 4pm. There were various little choirs who had to lead us in worship, and there was still a short sunday school service, and there were introductions and dancing and singing, and more dancing and singing. The place was full of the joy of the Lord and we were so blessed.  After the service they led us back to the office while they prepared a table for us for lunch. We ate and chatted with the pastor and a few other people and then went to leave. Well...the car wouldn't start... so after all of our good byes, we came back out of the car, popped the hood and began investigating the problem. I knew there was no other car near by to give us a jump, though they did say there was one not too far away. But using the combined resources of the congregation, they tested the battery with a wire that they got from who knows where, and then proceeded to use that very wire to tie the terminal to make the attachment tighter. With everything in place we tried starting again, and sure enough, it started. We were finally on our way home, and it was around 5:30 by the time we arrived home. What a long day! But we came back feeling refreshed and blessed. While we were talking with the pastor at the church he kept saying that they were so happy with Kingdom Life Training Centre because the students that they had sent for past classes had come back transformed and they could see a great difference in them, and they were telling us of three more students they wanted to send for us the next class. Praise God! It's encouraging to hear such things, and we thank God for the transformed lives we long for for our students. We tried to put together a short video of our time at the church. Hopefully it will help give a better picture of what we've shared here. The video is at the end of the post.

For those of you who pray for us, please continue:
We thank God for my sister Christina and her family have arrived safely and are adjusting to the culture and climate. Keep praying for them (Benj & Christina and their kids Isaac & Ellie) as they adjust and settle into the ministry that God has for them here.
We will be having our last class for the current group of students on March 16-18, called Simply the Story, and then they will be graduating hopefully on April 9.
We will be starting a new group of students either the end of March or the beginning of April
Our teammates will be traveling back from the US the beginning of March
My Mom and sister Meredith, will be joining us in Uganda for the first two weeks of March.
Our LoCoDI students in Soroti are headed back to school this week, and so the Saturday program and the purity clubs will be starting up again after this holiday/election time.
We had presidential elections in Uganda, the current president "won" but it was declared by many observers to not be "free & fair". The opposition is not happy about this, and is trying to appeal the results. Keep praying for the peace of this nation as it seems still the air is somewhat unsettled and the people are frustrated with the current situation. The current president is the only one Ruudy has known, as he has been president for the past 30 years. People are desiring change, but not getting that desired change.
Also, last but not least, Ruudy was in an accident with our van at the beginning of the month.  He is fine and that whole story, is another one altogether, but suffice it to say, we have to repair it even though it wasn't our fault, (and even repair the other people's vehicle also, like I said, it's another story altogether). We had gotten this van around September of 2014 when we found a buyer for our Rav4 and some friends were selling this van at a good price. Since that time unfortunately it has been one thing after another. We've spent quite a bit repairing it and now with this accident we are repairing more and as the mechanic has been working on the van for the past two weeks he has discovered more issues with it and is recommending that we get rid of it. We also think this would be wise as it seems to be just a hole that keep swallowing more and more money. We have a chance to buy a land cruiser that would be the cost of the van plus about $1,500, and then we would have to put about $1,500 more into making a few adjustments and improvements. Please pray with us for the release of these finances and prayerfully consider whether you could contribute something to help us reach the goal of buying a "new" vehicle. 

The damage of the vehicle from the accident

In process of repairing the van
Valentine's celebration

Had a farewell party for my computer students, Abella and I have had some chances to share Christ with these girls.

Ruudy attended a rally for the FDC presidential candidate when he came to Jinja

Goretti, Christina, Izaac and Beckie enjoying some lunch on the way back
to Jinja from the airport.

Ellie and Benj enjoying lunch too...

Thanks for all of your prayers and support. We couldn't do all that we do without your help and the grace of God. Thank you for standing with us. May God be glorified in all that we do. Be blessed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A time to finish and a time to begin

Yesterday around 9pm, I called our volunteer Gabriel in Soroti to wish him a happy birthday. I greeted him 
Me: Happy Birthday.
Gabriel: happy birthday? ... oh...thanks.
Me: I saw on Facebook it was your birthday so that's why I called. Is it your birthday?
Gabriel: the 25th.
Me: yes, today's the 25th.
Gabriel: then it is. But I didn't know until you just told me. I was taken up with many other things. Thank you for calling.
Me: How's your dad doing? (His dad had been sick in the hospital for some time)
Gabriel: He's passed on.
Me: When??
Gabriel: this evening.
Me: Oh sorry, your dad has died on your birthday? So sorry...
The conversation continued.
Gabriel receiving a chicken from one of the LoCoDI kids
He had reached up to 9pm without even realising that it was his own birthday, because he was busy serving the Lord by attending to his father on his death bed. What a way to spend your birthday. Please keep Gabriel and his family in your prayers. He said that his father had become born-again recently, so he trusts he is in heaven, but they are still feeling the sting of the loss. They will have the burial sometime this week. Gabriel faithfully serves the Lord with us in Soroti, he always meets up with the children in our sponsorship program, and teaches the purity clubs in schools. He has done this faithfully, without pay for over a year now. So, also, thank God with us for his life and contribution he has made in the lives of many young people.

In this new year we have started teaching computer and english classes two times a week on the weeks we don't have class.Ruudy is teaching english and Beckie is teaching computer. The english class is filled with some of the students we had trained in ministry, and also some of the workers from the orphanage we partner with Welcome Home. It is a tiresome task to teach adults with no education a new language, especially english, with all of it's funny rules.

The computer class is mainly focused on learning to type properly.
The students all keep commenting how interesting it is, as some have never even used a computer and others have become very okay with the popular hunt and peck method. As life is ministry, even these classes give us chances to speak into peoples lives that we normally wouldn't be able to. So please be praying with us for our interactions with our students.

We also started out this new year with teaching our first class without the assistance of our mentors/trainers, Jose and Sol, as they are currently stateside. We taught the course on marriage and family. It seemed to go on well. And I can take this chance to brag about Ruudy because I'm the one typing this time. He is a gifted teacher, and makes the class, fun, but because he understands the culture so well, it is at the same time very impactful. I feel honoured to teach alongside him. Ok, bragging aside, I continue. Our students will have their final class march 16-18 and graduate April 9. Please pray for them as they finish up. We try so hard to not make these courses just about packing information, but getting it into the heart, and making action plans and impacting the congregations and communities that they work in.

Other prayer requests:
My sister Christina and her husband Benjamin Kragt are moving to Uganda with their two kids, Isaac (6) and Ellie (3) on February 4. They are joining us at Kingdom Life Training Centre. We are so excited to have them here and to see how God uses them in this ministry. Please pray for their transition as one can only assume that it's quite the transition.
Ellie and Isaac with all of their stuff coming to Uganda

In Soroti, the headmaster of the majority of our sponsored kids, Julius, was fired this last year. He was such a pleasure to work with, as he really loves the kids, and would know the stories of all the kids, and had a heart of helping those who were the most vulnerable. He would even let some study without paying just because he knew that they had no way of paying. They ousted him because there were rumours that he was getting a lot of money from our organization for himself. Though we never even gave him a shilling (or a penny you might say). We only paid the school fees for the kids we have sponsored. Pray for him as he looks for a new job. Pray that the truth would be known and accepted. Also, for wisdom for us on how to handle the situation. We want to keep sponsoring these kids, but we don't know how it will be to work with the new headmaster.

A few other photos from the end of last year and the beginning of this year.
Goretti teaching at bible class on Saturday

Goretti, Patra, and Abella with their kids after bible class

Abella with her special pupil

Abella, Beckie and Sarah enjoying time in Entebbe

Sarah and Ruudy

Thanks Remembrance Church for the sock dolls!
She was happy to receive a sock doll

The nieces enjoying salon time with auntie

We celebrated Ruudy's 30th on Christmas day with all of his family

Ruudy and Beckie with all of our nieces and nephews

We were happy to get all of Ruudy's family together for Christmas this year

Ruudy's siblings cleaning out the goat intestines as part of our Christmas feast

As always, thanks for praying with us, and partnering with us. We are so thankful for each of you.