Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Cheese Stands Alone

One of the greatest things about my ministry here is that I get to meet new people from all over the US when they come on short-term trips here. I’ve met people from Tennessee, ministered with people from North Carolina and Virginia, lived with a girl from Georgia, been encouraged by many people from New Mexico, and so many more.

One of the hardest parts of my ministry here is that eventually those people all go home. Over the past 10 months, I’ve had the blessing of hosting 3 teams, 2 interns, 3 couples, and a pair of women. God has blessed me with each one. For the past 7.5 months, between having Kaitlyn around and then my parents, I have had someone in the house with me to keep me company and partner in the ministry. But as of yesterday, that all changed.

After spending almost a month with my parents, I took them to the airport and said, “See you soon.” It was hard to come back alone, eating lunch alone, sitting around in the evening alone. It’s not easy. I used to think I was a very introverted person. I loved being alone, or so I thought. Maybe I just didn’t mind it. But now I’ve learned that, while I am strengthened in alone time, I feed off of being around people.

All in all, I’m doing well, but it’s only been just over 24 hours. So I guess only time will tell. It’s a huge adjustment, but I feel the Lord’s presence. It’s a new season of my life here. I like seeing it as a season. A season only lasts for a time. Being the only muzungu around now will come with its challenges, but I’m trying to stay positive. I’ve seen the Lord work in amazing ways these past 10 months, and I have a feeling He’s only just begun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Mukwano

I have been truly blessed during these past 9 months to be ministering here in Uganda. God has taught me so much. He has molded my thinking, changed my heart, and smoothed some of my rougher edges. It wasn’t easy in the beginning being here all by myself. So I was so blessed that God sent me an intern to come stay with me for 6.5 months.

Kaitlyn came in December and spent Christmas with me. We certainly had our ups and downs. I’d never had a roommate before let alone been in charge of an intern. We quickly became like sisters. She’s the firstborn of her family and I’m the last. So she was the little sister I never had and I was the big sister she never had.

We did ministry together, planned together, had fun together, laughed together, traveled together, cried together, talked for hours on end, entertained each other through times without electricity, got on each other’s nerves, forgave each other, danced together, sang together, stayed up late together, worked out together, complained about the heat together, got stuck in traffic together, cooked together, cleaned together, explored new places together, ate good food together, watched movies together, played with the kids together, learned from each other, and grew in our faith together.

We saw each other through some difficult times. So it’s no surprise that her departure at the beginning of July was a tough one for both of us. (I say it was tougher on me, but she can feel free to argue that point in the comments if she so chooses). I wasn’t just saying good-bye to a roommate.

 I was saying good-bye to a co-worker,

a best friend, 

a partner in crime,

a sister.

Things aren’t quite the same around here without her. But, I know that God has great things in store for her life. She came to me at the age of 20 and I watched her grow in leaps and bounds in so many ways. She got me through some of the toughest months of the first year adjustment period. She helped me find a bit of normal in this crazy new life I’m living, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. And though an ocean separates our lives, God has knit our hearts together in a way only he can. We have a lifetime of unforgettable memories and I’m forever blessed because of it.

And Kaitlyn, if you’re reading this right now, just know that room with the blue little curtains and the blue bed spread, where everything is blue for your and yourself, it’s still yours whenever you’re ready to come back. So don’t be a stranger, mmmkay?

Computers for Upendo

On June 3, we officially opened our brand new computer lab!

Generous sponsors donated money for Upendo School to get its own computer lab, and now we have 15 computers for the students to learn to use.
So who, you may ask, is teaching these children?

Why me of course! I was so excited when our country director, Reuben Musiime, asked me to teach classes. Sure I’m one of the only ones around who both knows how to use a computer and is able to actually teach it to children, but I still felt honored to get the chance. So I am now teaching around 100 students from grades 4-7.

It hasn’t been easy. These kids have seen my laptop and maybe other computers before, but most have never touched a computer let alone used one. And as you might recall, our power out here at Upendo isn’t always very reliable. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. Or more accurately here one minute, gone the next. In fact, my first day of teaching computer lessons, I taught without power. I had 3 classes that day, each 40 minutes long, and I filled each one of them. They learned the different parts of the computer. They got to touch the keyboard, click the mouse, and press the power button, all keeping away my fears that they might completely destroy them!

So far we are mostly using paint. They first have to master how to use the mouse before we can do much else. They’re coming along, especially considering of the 4 weeks we’ve met, we’ve only had power for 2 of them!

I meet with 7th grade students in the evenings on Thursdays. Those students all stay in our boarding section, and that was the best time for us to meet together because we usually have power by 7pm. The fun thing about this is that I get them for double the time I have with the other classes (we meet for about an hour and a half). So they’re much farther along. They’re using paint like pros now and are soon moving on to keyboarding practice.

I have some exciting projects in store for the third term which starts in September. I just pray we have the power to do them!

A Wild Time

When teams come, I get a huge blessing in getting to accompany them to the game park. It’s a great time to be able to spend with them away from the formal ministry setting. I never take it for granted that I get to spend some time away at a nice hotel, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. Here are some shots of my time with team #3:

The wild

The crazy

The majestic

The lazy

And Steve

Mexican for the New Mexicans

While the team was around, Kaitlyn and I wanted to do something special for them. So while we sent them off to do some home visits in a nearby village with one of our Ugandan co-workers, we made the a special lunch for them to eat in my home.

We got up early to clean up the house and then started cooking. We made tacos for our New Mexican visitors.

We cooked up the meat,

made homemade tortillas,

homemade chips and salsa,

and for dessert we had brownies and ice cream.

It was such a blessed time with the team, getting to feed them a nice meal and having them enjoy it in my living room. And I think they enjoyed it too!

Team #3

In May, I welcomed my 3rd Mission Adventure team. The team came from Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, NM to minister at AMG’s annual pastor’s conference and various other ministries.
The Pastor’s Conference was held from May 26-29. Our own Upendo children’s choir opened up the conference with some songs. I was like a proud mother watching my kids up there and seeing all of the pastors enjoying their songs.

The theme for the conference was “Who is the Father?” The speakers touched on different topics involving God the Father. We also had some question and answer sessions as well as small group sessions. The pastors actually stayed at the hotel where we held the conference, and it was a great time of refreshing for them. They were able to get built up and go back to their congregations ready to keep on ministering.

The team took part in home visitations, visiting homes of some of our sponsored children. They had a particularly soft heart for a boy named Martin. We believe that Martin has cerebral palsy, and one of his legs is turned in making it hard for him to walk. The team took time to pray with his family and encourage them as well.

The women on the team participated in the Dorcas ministry. There were 2 separate days for Dorcas, one was for girls of all ages from our 6 different centers. The other event was for just the university girls and was a smaller group. We were led by a woman named Dianne Christensen who is involved with Women’s Ministry at Hoffmantown Church. The girls were able to glean so much from her, myself included. She breathed some life back into my ministry again and I am so thankful that God brought her along on this team.

In all, this was one of the best teams I have ever worked with. They were ready to do anything we asked of them. And as much as they came to teach and minister to the locals here, they did the same for me. They left me here encouraged and ready to try out some new things in my ministry here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Priceless Night

At the beginning of May, Kaitlyn and I hosted an overnight with the 7th grade girls. Most of the kids were still on their holiday break (they had a month off), but the kids in 7th grade along with some of the secondary kids were around. So we planned it out and invited 13 teenage girls to the house to pull an all-nighter.

Yes, I said an all-nighter with 13 teenagers.

You may be wondering what on EARTH we were thinking. When the sun set that night and we could hear the girls’ giddy voices coming up the path, we wondered the same thing. But this was by far one of the most memorable nights ever in my life.

After the girls filed in and found a place to sit we started off the night with some games. We knew they would come and be very polite and respectful, which in Uganda means quiet. Of course, this is a great way for teenage girls to come into your house, but we needed them loosened up for the discussions we had planned and the only way to do that was to have some fun first.

We split them into 3 teams and played several different Minute to Win It games. For one they had to move chocolate chips from one plate to another using a straw.

For another they had to remove 5 bouncy balls from a tissue box tied around their waste using only their hips.

They also had to stack dice with cups over their hands.

My favorite though was when they had to get a cookie from their forehead to their mouth using only their facial muscles. We got some footage of that and it still makes me laugh.

Afterwards we started our first Devotion and Discussion session. Kaitlyn took this one and talked about when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. After her discussion, we actually washed each of the girls’ feet as a way of setting the example for them as Jesus did us to serve others and to also help them understand how special they are in the eyes of Christ.

By the end of that it was almost 10pm. So we had a snack. We made some Kool-Aid and gave them some cookies. In short, we sugared them up to keep them going for the next sessions! I gave them some string to make friendship bracelets while Kaitlyn painted their finger nails.

At around 11 we went in for another devotion and discussion. This time I was up. The theme for the night was “Priceless.” The idea came the band For King & Country. During their concerts they often talk about how easily girls feel they’re worth nothing more than a penny. But to God they are priceless and should wait for a man who will treat them with honor and respect. So that was the topic I shared on. We talked about purity.

At the end, we gave out a special gift to the girls. The awesome guys at For King & Country donated their necklaces to us that say “Priceless” on them. So each girl was given a reminder that she is priceless in the eyes of God. Many of the girls made decisions that night to remain pure until marriage, and I ask that you join me in praying for them to have the strength they need to do just that while living in a culture where temptation is around every corner.

After our discussion we had another snack. We bought sodas, bananas, and chapatis (which are like thick tortillas). We listened to music, danced a little bit, got a little silly (it was about 1am afterall). 

Then we started the movie marathon. We watched The Parent Trap, High School Musical the first and second.

As the sun came up around 7, the girls headed down to the dorm, all of us were absolutely exhausted! 

But it was a night that will always be remembered. In fact, the girls still talk about it and keep asking when we’ll have another one. (Lord willing we’ll have one during their next break in August…Pray for me because I’ll be alone for that one!)

Let's Go to the Mall

Back in April, during the power outage but after the bedbugs, the kids were out of school for break and we had just a handful of older girls staying at Upendo. We wanted to do something fun with them and heard that the movie theaters here were showing the movie Son of God. It was just before Easter so we thought it was the perfect thing to do with them. We got permission to take them off school property and we headed off to the mall with 3 Ugandan teenagers in tow. They had never been to the mall before, and they were completely amazed.

It was priceless to witness the looks on their faces as they took it all in. The mall we went to had several levels and an assortment of shops. We needed to go check movie times first. The theater is upstairs so we took the escalator. This was a first for these girls. They had never seen, let alone stood on, stairs that move up without walking. At first they weren’t too sure about it. But once they tried it going up, they couldn’t wait to go back down. We tried the elevator once, but that one was a little scarier. In hindsight, we probably should have explained a little better what it did.

We took them to the food court where they got to choose what to eat. Two of them, along with Kaitlyn and I, enjoyed some KFC (our only “true” American restaurant here in Kampala) while the other (a vegetarian) opted for rice from a Chinese restaurant. They sat there eating this foreign food in a foreign place just soaking it all up.

Unfortunately, the movie we wanted to see wasn’t playing at that theater. So we tried one of the smaller malls. Again, they were excited to see an escalator to go up. We got to the ticket counter and saw the movie was playing but not until evening. We asked the manager if they didn’t have anyone come to one of the other movies playing in the afternoon if he would play Son of God for us, and he said it would be ok. So we purchased the tickets (which came with free drinks!), bought the girls some popcorn and settled in for the movie.

It was a great movie to watch with them. They know the stories of Jesus by heart, but to actually see them portrayed was very powerful for them. One of the girls, who has a particularly tender heart, was heartbroken watching the Passion scene, but was so excited when Jesus rose again. We had most of the theater so the girls openly asked questions along the way, sighting out different familiar stories.

We drove home after our memorable day out in Kampala. Taking a day with these girls really helped us build our relationship with them. One of the girls later told me that she had wanted to come and talk to me about some things but was feeling shy so she kept putting it off. But after that day she knew that we cared for her so much and she felt free to come and talk to me. Now every time I visit her at the school she’s at she pulls me aside to talk to me about what’s going on, all because of an afternoon of fun at the mall.