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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Simplicity

So, I'm thinking back over this last year and I'm glad there were more smiles than bumps and bruises. I'm also thankful that it was a fairly simple year. I love simplicity. I like when things are straight forward and less complicated.
One of the best things about this year has been the simplicity of worship. I still attend a traditional church on Sunday mornings but on Sunday evenings and Tuesday afternoons as well as most other afternoons, I can be found under an avocado tree along with many others seeking to be closer to our Father.
These Sunday evening and Tuesday afternoons are my favorite times of the weeks. It's such a simple place to worship God. No shows. Nothing fancy. Just an open field with us sitting on the ground under a tree. But, somehow during these moments I feel closer to God than when I'm sitting in a chair inside of a church building. Maybe it's because I like being outdoors. I like the freedom of it. I like feeling the wind blow and the sun shining down. OK, I don't much like sitting in the wet grass after it has rained or walking through the mud. But, I'd still take that over having to be all prim and proper just to attend a traditional service.
I love the closeness of our fellowship. We all know each other by name. We know where each person lives. We don't always get along as perfectly as we should but we still love and pray for each other. I love singing with just our voices and the occasional guitar that one of the guys brings (when it is available to be borrowed).
Yes, at some point we will probably need a more formal place to worship, at least a shelter over our heads. But, I pray that the way of worship will remain simple. I pray that the relationships among the fellowship members will remain like family. I pray that our worship doesn't become so formal that it seems more like a show. I pray it remains SIMPLE.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Recap






I frequently get asked the question how do we celebrate Christmas in Uganda. It's actually not that different except Christmas is not as commercialized here. There's no focus on giving gifts, no Santa, and almost every church has a Christmas Day service. Most people travel to the village to celebrate Christmas with their extended family.
Most Christmases I've spent in Uganda I've also made the trip to the village with my extended family here in Uganda. This year all of us kids were prepared and excited to be going. Then we were informed that bees had taken over the house in the village so we would be spending Christmas in the city. No problem. There was still much to do.
I spent the evening of Christmas Eve at a get together at a friend's house. She's American married to a Congolese man who grew up in Uganda. We enjoyed ourselves eating lots of Congolese food prepared by the husband's extended family. Then we were taught Congolese and Kinyarwanda dances. The Kinyarwanda traditional dance is one of the most beautiful in this region, at least to me.
Christmas day was pretty laid back. Lots of food and fellowship and of course attending the Christmas Day church service.
I think the highlight for me was the day after Christmas, Boxing Day. I got to spend the whole day with my extended family here, something which I've not had time for in quite a while. What made it even better was spending the day at one of my favorite places, the beach. OK, it wasn't a beach on the ocean, but it was close enough. We ate fish, walked and collected shells, and the youngest even took a swim.
We even got to get up close to a crocodile! OK, so what if it wasn't real!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To Be Single or Not to Be

I don't know if it's the holiday season, my age/stage in life, or what, but it's a question that I've been thinking over a lot recently. What do I want, to live my life as a single or to be married? What does God want for me?
I keep bouncing back and forth on what I want and am still seeking the answer to what God wants.
To be single:
It means lots of freedom. I'm not tied to any place or any person. I can make my own decisions. Yes, I still have to consider others but not to the same degree that I would have to if I was married. So, if I want to travel, I'm free to do so. If I want to stay at home and hide out in my house, which rarely ever is the case, I'm free to do so.
As a missionary, being singe has been to my advantage, at least in some ways. I'm able to interact more with with a wider range of people. I've been free to explore the city. Now, I know that many families also get to do these things. However, most of the missionaries I've interacted with in Uganda, have more limited contact with nationals because family time has to be a priority. Also, things like learning languages or being able to explore the city, seems to take them longer. I've noticed when I am with the wives of some of these missionary families that they don't know their way around the city. Finding places that are obvious to me seems to be difficult to them and sometimes they are even fearful. I don't know if it is because I'm single that I seem to find it easy or if I've just always been a fiercely independent person.
To Not Be Single:
I can use the same arguments and want to lean in the other direction.
I have more freedom to travel and to make my own decisions but sometimes it's not the most fun way to travel. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a husband to travel with.
Also, as a missionary, sometimes it's harder being single. I have more responsibility. I'm completely responsible for myself. If we were two, we would have each other. There would be someone to help make decisions. Then there's the fact of being on the field as a family versus as a single. Sometimes families do have more of an advantage. They have each other to help hold on to little parts of their home culture or to keep family traditions. They aren't alone so possibly loneliness isn't as big of an issue.
And then there's always the fact that in many cultures, such as in Uganda, marrieds are given more respect. Here you are seen to be a child or a girl unless you are married. It has amazed me that people won't refer to me as a woman but continue referring to me as a girl, despite the fact that I have passed 30. The reason is because I'm not married.
So, the wrestling in my mind continues. I honestly don't know which one is better. I guess they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Probably the best thing for me to do, is to enjoy the time I have as a single, living each moment to the fullest and if God finds it best for me to remain single to be content in my singleness. Then if God decides that it is best for me to no longer remain alone, I should be ready to give up whatever it is that I feel I am giving up in order to allow God to give me an addition to my life.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Offensive Christians

I know they mean well, but I don't really enjoy being approached by door to door evangelists, street preachers or any such. OK, the street preachers don't bother me so much. They just shout and make noise and you can walk or drive past them. For the most part, people ignore them. At least they don't speak directly to you.
But, I wonder does anyone really accept Christ by being shouted at by a street preacher? Somehow I doubt it.
The other day, as I was waiting in a shop, a random man walked in and started handing out tracts to everyone in there. Now, I know everyone in there is born again. But, the man insisted on witnessing to us. He insisted on sharing his faith with us and kept asking us if we would like to pray to accept Christ. We kept insisting that we were already born again and that we all had a relationship with Christ. Maybe he could pray that our relationships be drawn closer to Christ. He didn't like that idea too much. He really wanted us to be saved.
It really was offensive. If I had been say a Muslim, I don't think that man could have persuaded me to accept Christ. He knew nothing about me. He doesn't know anything of my life or struggles. It was like he had no compassion. It was like he wanted to force the issue just to say that he had gotten someone saved.
I much prefer the relationship approach. Yes, it may take longer. But, it doesn't seem to get on people's nerves as badly. Yes, it takes longer to build a relationship with someone. But, wouldn't you feel that much more joy in seeing them come to Christ?
I guess this is just a random thought and probably could be debated by many different people in many different ways. However, my personality isn't one that lends itself to wanting to be a street preacher or walking door to door to randomly force someone to accept Christ.
What would have happened if I wouldn't have already been born again and had accepted Christ? Would that man have kept coming around to disciple me or would I just have gone on with life as usual? In a relationship, at least there's a chance for discipleship and accountability.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Search of a Shoe

On Fridays, at least for the last month or so, I have been hanging out at another missionary family's house. The original intent was that Marlene (the mom and wife) were going to do a small Bible study together. This Bible study turned into an all day hang out. Usually I end up eating both lunch and dinner with the family and hang out with their young kids.
However, this morning, Marlene called and asked if I would mind accompanying her husband into town to look for a shoe. They live a bit outside of town and don't go into town much so she felt that I would know where to go better than she would. Plus she had been away from home a lot this week and wanted to spend some time with the kids. I said it was no problem. They have a car so my thought was that I could run into town quickly with her husband. It would be a nice change to the cramped taxi rides. They even have air conditioning in the car.
So, I went to her house to begin the journey into town. Marlene told me that she had gone into town on Wednesday with another friend and found a shoe that she liked. However, there was only one of the shoes available that day. The shoe salesman was a traveling salesman, not uncommon here. They usually move around the city and set up shop on any available sidewalk where they then to proceed to sell to those passing by.
She carefully explained where he was located and told me that he had said he would be at the same place. I had my doubts. They are never in the same place. One reason is that they have no business liscence so the police are always telling them to go away. Another reason, at least in my opinion, is that they move so when whatever they sold you doesn't work you can't find them again.
I told her he probably wouldn't be around. She felt that he would be. He had allowed her to take the one shoe and she hadn't even paid him yet.
So, the adventure into town began for her husband and I. Thankfully, there was no traffic on the way into town and it didnt' take us long to get there. However, once reaching town, traffic was the usual mess. We drove up and down the streets on and around where we had told he would be. He was not to be seen.
We then decided that it would be best for us to park somewhere and look for him on foot. We tried to go to one of the shopping centers to look for parking but got stuck on a one way street lined with taxis that weren't moving. We sat there for about an hour.
Finally, we managed to turn down another side street and find a parking place. We were now on foot. Considering that I'm used to moving around town on foot rather than in a vehicle, I was much more comfortable. The only problem was that there was no sign of the shoe salesman.
We decided the best thing to do was to give him a call. Now we were standing on a busy street. People shouting and car horns honking. And I was supposed to understand what was being said to me. I had no idea where the guy was telling me that he was and he had no idea where I was telling him that I was.
Finally after several phone calls, we managed to locate the guy. He was in an alley between a couple of buildings but no where close to the section of town where he had been before.
Four hours and twenty-six minutes later we finally made it home with the completed pair of shoes!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Nakato

Have you ever had someone come into your life and then be taken away? It's not fair. It leaves a huge hole in your heart that you think will never be healed.
This is Nakato. She was a little girl that came into my life late in 2005. Her and her twin sister came to the feeding center where I was helping out at the time. They were orphans, their parents having died of AIDS. The twin, Babirye, we knew was also infected. She was always sickly. In contrast, Nakato was always healthy and full of life. The were living with their mom's sister, an aunt who was around 22 at the time. The aunt, as well as all of us at the center, assumed that Nakato was not infected. How could someone so full of life be sick?
In January of 2006, Nakato's sister died. It was a trying time for all of us. It came suddenly and it's always difficult to bury a child. It was especially hard for Nakato. How could it not be? They were twins after all. That bond is closer than the bond between sisters.
Nakato refused to return home. She came to my house and informed me that from now on she would be living with me. This came as a shock to me. I had no idea how to be a mom or even if her aunt would allow Nakato to stay with me. I was heading home to May to raise support. Where would she stay during that time?
It worked out well. Her aunt needed the help. Since taking on the responsibility of the twins, she had stopped going to school. They were living in a slum and she wasn't working. We agreed that it would be best if we allowed Nakato to go back and forth between us as she chose. That worked out well. Nakato would spend most of the time with me and every few weekends, she would decide to go and stay with her aunt. While I was home raising support, her aunt took care of her.
However, when I came back, I found Nakato sickly. We all became worried. What was wrong? She wasn't getting better. Finally, we decided to test her HIV status. Nakato tested positive and the doctor told us that her viral load was high. She had AIDS. Things didn't look good.
I was devastated. Her was this child who shortly after moving in with me had started calling me mama. I kept asking God why. Why was she going to have to die too? Why an innocent child? Why did He bring her into my life if He was only going to take her away? One of my friends at home gave me the best piece of advice anyone could have given me at the time. She told me to not start grieving while Nakato was still living. She said enjoy every minute with her and celebrate the life that she was living.
It was hard but that's what we did. We enjoyed every day. There was hardly a moment after that when Nakato was far from me. It seemed we did everything together. We walked together, ate together, laughed together. Even as Nakato grew weaker, she would refuse staying home with someone while I went out so I would carry her on my back when she was too weak to walk.
Through it all, Nakato never complained. She always had a smile on her face. She always made me laugh. She was a bright spot in my life, bringing joy to every day. Although I often cried for her, and still do, I never let her see me. I didn't want her to be worried or upset.
I have so many precious memories of her. I was there when she prayed to receive Christ, when she took her first bath in a bathtub, when she saw her first flushing toilet.
Then I have some memories that I wish I didn't have. The day the doctor told me it wouldn't be much longer. The night in early 2007 when she got sick and we had to go to the hospital. I knew then it would be our last trip. Spending those last few moments with her. Her last breath. Having her body brought home so people could come and pay her a last visit. I think that was the worst. There are no funeral homes so her body was brought back to my house. Then came the burial. It was just as bad.
The next few weeks and months I felt so lost. It was as if I had lost part of myself. I keep asking myself if it was worth it. And, yes, it was. I'm glad I got to have Nakato in my life, however short it was. She blessed me in many ways. You know you can learn a lot about yourself through a child. One thing that she gave me that I will be forever grateful for is knowing that one day I will make a good mother. Yes, I'll make mistakes. But, I won't continue the cycle that has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. I know now that no matter what comes, I will never walk away from my child.
I am a subscriber to an online magazine published by Women of the Harvest at womenoftheharvest.com. In the Sept./Oct. issue of the magazine, another missionary, M.C. serving in Guatemala, wrote Kingdom Perspective: Faithful in the Little Things. At the end she included a poem she had written that really touched my heart. I want to share it with you.

Just a Note

Father I was wondering
If you so kind would be,
To take a little letter
To someone dear to me.

She filled a great big corner
In the center of my heart
And the emptiness is painful
Now that we're apart.

Tell her how I miss her
Tell her that she's loved.
Tell her I am happy to
Have known my little dove.

I'm grateful for the kisses,
Grateful for her smile.
Grateful for the chance to be
Her mother for a while.

I miss the hugs she showered
Her delightful winning charms.
I miss the happy laugh she gave
Running to my arms.

Tell her that I'm happy
That she's now on Jesus' lap.
Tell her I will press on till
Time will close the gap.

One day there'll be heaven.
One day we will see
That all the pain and waiting
Was worth eternity.


* Nakato and Babirye are common names for twins. Babirye means the first of twins when she is a girl. Nakato means the second of twins when she is a girl. If the child is a boy, the name is Waswa for the first and Kato for the second.
** Also, for those that are keeping up with the children that are around me now, please don't confuse this set of twins with the current set.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Horses and Camels

So, it has finally stopped raining here and we've entered the dry season. The muddy roads have now turned to sand. Even along the paved roads, where in the developed world, sidewalks would be, there seems to be a trail of dust. Yesterday the thought crossed my mind that if I was not in the city and there were fewer buildings, with all the dusty sand around, I could easily be in the desert. We even have strong winds that give us itchy eyes and a nice snack of sand.
I've always been fascinated by the desert. I think if I ever leave Uganda, that could be my next destination.
Anyway, yesterday as I was leaving church, along a road which is not paved, there was a lot more dust than usual. The reason for this was that there was a procession of horses and camels. Not a usual sight in Uganda. There are not many of either animal in the country. Most of the horses are found in resorts which for a hefty price they will let you ride them for an hour. Needless to say, I have not had the pleasure of riding while in Uganda. And I've never before seen a camel here.
Well, there is always a first time for everything and this was a real treat. Someone was getting married and decided to be different and instead of riding to the venue in a car, decided to come on horse and camel. The whole wedding party was riding on either a horse of a camel.
Normally weddings don't take place on Sundays here and certainly not in this fashion. We all wondered if perhaps the bride and groom were from somewhere else, not unlikely since there are many people from many different countries in Uganda.
Perhaps this was the tradition in their home country. In any case, whether it was a tradition from a far away land or just someone wanting something different, it made my mind travel to another place. Like I said I've always been fascinated by the desert. And other cultures are always fascinating as well. Plus, it helped me to remember that there are many people living in the deserts of North Africa that don't know Christ. It helped me to remember to pray for them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pastors' Wives and Missionaries

I've always heard pastors' wives talk about the pressures of being a pastor's wife. They always seem to say pretty much the same thing. It's like living life in a fish bowl. They are always looked at like they are there to solve problems, as if they don't have any of their own. Then there is the issue of not really having anyone to confide in. How does a pastor's wife tell someone she is depressed? How does she tell someone she needs them to be praying for her? She's the one that is supposed to be encouraging and praying for others.
I'm thinking it is similar with missionaries. It seems like our lives are lived in a fish bowl as well. It feels like eyes are always watching and in my mind, judging. I feel like there are unrealistic expectations like because you are a missionary you are expected to have all the answers to life's problems. (I've actually been told by a friend here that I'm lucky, that I don't have any problems). There are some things that I just don't know how to fix. The only thing I can do or the only advice I can give is just to pray.
Then there is the question of how do I pray for others when I feel empty? How do I pray or help when I feel like I have nothing left to give? Who do I go to? Who is there when I feel lonely?
I'm learning that really all I can do is go to God. Let Him be the one to fill me back up. After all, He is the one that will never leave me nor forsake me. When there is no one around that I feel I can trust with my thoughts, He is there. And He is big enough that He can handle any thought. He can even handle me being angry. I don't have to pretend with Him. I can cry and pour out my every thought and emotion and He never judges me. He never becomes annoyed with me. He keeps loving me. And His answers are always the best answers.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fighting With God

Have you ever spent days fighting to hold back the tears? Have you ever spent days wanting to scream inside? I'm sure it happens to everyone at some point in life. I've spent the last two days battling with these emotions.
Why? It seems I'm fighting with God. You see I've been giving Him some pretty specific prayer requests over the last couple of years. Now it seems that one of them is being answered. So, why do I feel like crying? Why am I screaming inside? It's because He isn't answering me in the way that I want or think that He should.
I keep arguing with Him telling Him, "Yes, I know You are answering my prayer. But please don't answer it this way." He keeps answering back, "Trust Me."
I want to trust Him. I want to walk in obedience to Him. I want to live each day for Him. But, why does it have to be so hard?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Does It Match?

Something to love about Africa is all of the amazing colors and prints of the fabrics. There are so many and each one is beautiful. Another thing to love is the definition of what matches and what doesn't. It's not uncommon to see someone wearing a skirt that is printed with flowers and a top that is the the same color but striped. That wouldn't match in the U.S. But, somehow here it does and somehow it always looks ok or even like it belongs together.
Another interesting fact about matching is what colors are considered to go together. People can put on any color combination and somehow it always seems to go together.
The longer I live here the more I find myself not sticking to the American color schemes or patterns of matching. For example, today I have on a patchwork skirt that has navy blue, orange, cream, maroon and small flecks of a yellowish gold and light purple. The shirt I am wearing is the same light purple. When I first look at it with my American eyes, it doesn't seem to match. There is hardly any purple in the skirt. I normally would have chosen to wear a navy shirt. Today, the navy shirt is not washed so I grabbed the purple one and put it on. My headband is bright orange. At home I would look at myself in the mirror and determine that I look a hot mess. But, since I am in Uganda, I match and several people have even told me how "smart" (nice) I look today.
So, my conclusion is that although people here are very fashion conscious, it's in a different way that it is in the states. I like it and appreciate it. For those of you who know me well, you know I go more for comfort and considering what I have on today is very comfortable, I'm grateful that it also is appearing very "smart."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pushed

Have you ever had people in your life that just push you to the limit? Frequently, people push us over the top. They can cause us to lose our patience, become angry, or just plain want to stay away from them.
Then there are those people that can push you to your limit in a positive way. I'm blessed to have two such people in my life here in Uganda. They can challenge me to react differently to a situation. They challenge me in my walk with Christ.
And all the time, they do it in love, wisdom and grace. When they are challenging me, it is never in a way that I feel disrespected. These two people look at the whole picture of life, every angle of the situation, before giving advice. Plus, in all of their challenging, even if it takes me time to hear what they are saying, they still continue loving me and standing with me.
They know I don't like being forced into anything. They always give me time and space to make a decision for myself and respect my decision even if it's not the one they thought I should make. What's even greater, is when I don't decide as they think I should and I fail, they're still there to help me put the pieces back together without ever saying "I told you so."
For these two people, Dickens and Agnes, I am very grateful. Although the three of us come from different cultures, God has really caused us to be brother and sisters in Christ.
Dickens, along with his wife (Cathy) and son, have continued to welcome me into their family. Agnes has been a big sister that has continually let me lean on her.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Taxi Park

This is the taxi park in downtown Kampala. Notice that it is the middle of the day and full of taxis. Traffic jam isn't a problem in the afternoon and at this time there is no waiting for a taxi. If this picture was taken in the evening, you would have seen empty spaces instead of vehicles.
Anyway, the tricky part is learning where each of the taxis is going. Each taxi has a specific route. When I first came to Uganda I frequently got lost or in the wrong taxi. You see, there are many guys around directing you to which taxi to get into. They get paid by the drivers when the taxi gets full so frequently they will just direct you to any one so that the taxi can fill up and they can get their pay. So, I've learned to try to read the signs on the front of the taxis instead of asking. If I'm heading to an unfamiliar place or a place that I don't frequently travel to, I spend quite a bit of time walking around and probably looking confused.
I remember one time a couple of years ago, I had walked around for quite some time without finding the taxi that I was looking for. Finally, I decided to go ahead and ask, knowing that when they directed me to the taxi, I should check the sign in front. I asked and was directed to a taxi. I couldn't find the sign so just figured I would take my chances and hopped in. When the taxi began its journey out of the town, I realized we were not heading in the direction that I was trying to get to.
Another thing is that the conductors will not stop the taxi to let you out until you get near to the destination that they are heading in. They know that if they let you out in the beginning that you are probably not going to give them any money. Then they have an empty seat which they have to fill. So, I just had to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. At least I got to see another part of town and explore a bit. I was lost but actually found a place that I had previously tried to find and couldn't.
Although I complain a lot about traffic jam and having to wait for the taxis, I still think it is a better alternative to owning my own vehicle. It's cheaper (no insurance or keeping the gas tank full) and I can still get almost anywhere I need to go (even some places that I wasn't expecting to go).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Well, today is Thanksgiving Day, at least for the western developed countries. Since I'm here in Uganda, I won't be celebrating it in the typical American fashion. Some years I have chosen to completely skip it and other years I've done things like go out for pizza with friends. Today I'm meeting up with friends from Eritrea and going to eat Ethiopian food. I'm not real sure the difference between Eritrean and Ethiopian food or if there is any difference. But, since the restaurant we are going to is owned by Ethiopians, I'll say we are eating Ethiopian food.
It's funny how the two countries are at odds with each other but for those living outside their countries, they tend to blend together. I guess this shows that for the majority of the people, the differences are not important. It's more of a government issue.
I've also noticed how even though I have no cultural ties to my Eritrean and Ethiopian friends, that we have a bond here in Uganda. We're all foreigners. It's easy to understand each other when we are struggling with a cultural issue here. It helps us to look at it from different angles and to come up with the conclusion that everyone does it different and that's just the way it's done here. I think it's has allowed me to see the beauty in the way different people do things. It's amazing how God created us all and gave each place a different way of living. But, we're all still His.
On to another topic: I ended up not meeting the landlord of the other apartment. He had to go out of town for a burial so hopefully we'll meet in the next few days. It's not looking like I'll be moved by the first of December though.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maybe, Just Maybe

I have been looking for new housing for quite some time and it's proven to be quite a task. Yesterday, I found an apartment that just might work. I'll be meeting with the landlord tomorrow and then will know if I'm moving or staying put.
I really like the apartment. The sitting room is large enough to turn into a classroom. (I can't believe I'm putting a school in my house). The two bedrooms are adequate size. Since I won't have a roommate, the kids will now have their own room! No more all of us sharing one bed! Plus the kitchen is a nice size and the apartment is on the third floor and there's a balcony for washing and hanging laundry!
Maybe, just maybe I will get to be settled in one place for a while.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Better Know How to Box

I hate evenings when there is too much traffic around town. It makes for an exhausting trip home. Last night was another particularly bad night for traffic.
Leaving the slum wasn't too bad. I was easily able to get a taxi and traffic crawled along at a slow but steady pace. However, luck changed when I reached the taxi park to change taxis to the taxi that takes me from downtown to home. There were only a handful of taxis in the park and absolutely none of them were going where I was heading.
This meant standing and waiting among a crowd that was steadily increasing. There were far more people in the park than vehicles. This meant that as taxis arrived heading the direction I was going it was a mini war to get in one. The first few I just stepped aside and waited. My thought was that the crowd would thin out and I would get one of the next few. But, for every person that got in a taxi, it seemed three more appeared.
Finally, I decided I was going to have to assert myself and get in a taxi. The next one that pulled up I was ready. I pushed my way through the crowd. I remember when I was playing basketball that the coach always told us to keep our elbows up to keep opponents out of our space. I kept my elbows out which helped me to jostle my way into the seat and to actually get a decent seat.
Once I was able to sit and catch my breath, I realized it is sort of like boxing when boarding a taxi from an overcrowded park. I had to throw my elbows around but also had to take a few hits. Luckily, the damage was minimal. Just a few very minor bruises.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Midas Touch

I'm not sure I'm remembering correctly or not, but isn't Midas the brand of car tires or something that has to do with cars?
Here in Uganda, there is a brand of cooking oil called Fortune. Anyway, today as I was riding in the taxi, I saw a billboard advertising for them. The billboard read: Give your cooking that Midas touch.
All I could think of was motor oil. Somehow it wasn't appealing to me to use motor oil for cooking. I know the Fortune cooking oil is not motor oil. Anyway, it made me laugh. To think how something in one place is something completely different in another place is amazing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Man on Stilts

I'm never short of new and funny sights around Kampala. This is a relief to the frequent sights of despair and poverty. Yesterday's sight actually made us all laugh. Traffic is a frequent nuissance here and most people get exasperated around the time of evening traffic. At every major intersection threre are three or four police directing traffic.
Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving the slum, I had to cross an intersection in order to board the taxi that would take me up to the center of town where I would then board another taxi home. As I was crossing the street, there was a loud whistling coming from a few meters away. It was an old man walking on stilts. He was dressed like a clown, wearing sunglasses and carrying a radio. The man proceeded to stand in the middle of the road and danced, while still on stilts. Since traffic wasn't moving there was no danger to him, but at least those onlookers trapped inside of those nonmoving taxis got a good laugh.
He even sat on a few and begged for money from those inside. I saw quite a number of people hand him coins. I think they were thankful for the break of monotony. I for one was glad to have the laugh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Abrupt Morning Wake Up

So, I live in an apartment which is usually safer than living in a house alone on a compound. At least that is how people generally think here- that thieves don't want to break into a place where there are many people. From my experience this has been true. I know I feel safer living in an apartment.
However, this morning in woke up to load thuds and shouting over my head. Something was going on in the apartment over me. The guy there was shouting for the guard. Everyone ran outside to see what was going on. That's the first rule of mob justice. Everyone runs to the scene.
It seems my upstairs neighbor had walked down the hill to pick up something to make for breakfast and returned to find a man in his house. One of the neighbors recognized the man as her cousin. It turns out that the man was high, lost and had entered the wrong house.
Now the debate was what to do with him. When a thief is caught here a mob will usually beat him severely or even to death. The neighbor began begging for her cousin's life.
I'm glad forgiveness was the order of the day. I don't like thieves but I also don't like watching someone being beat to death either.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Water Problems

So, last week I posted that thankfully our water hadn't been turned off recently. However, over the weekend the only time the water was on was during the night. This meant waking up around 2 in the morning to fill every available bucket with water to be used for the next day. Otherwise we have to walk down the hill, across a busy road and up another hill to use the local well and then carry the water back. We did this a while back when water went off and remained off for almost a week without even coming on during the night.
In addition to this, we discovered that the pipes from our upstairs neighbors are leaking into one of our walls. So we now have a wall that is peeling away. I'm just praying that the wall doesn't completely collapse before I'm able to move out of the house. Really I don't think it will but with the way the house is and the lack of responsibility of the landlord, anything is possible.
We've been in the house for six months and the guy can't even find the key to the door. Our way of locking the house is fixing a padlock to the door. Not exactly safe.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy Faith

At times when I think about where God has brought me from I wonder if it's real or if I'm dreaming, especially when I look at my last few years in Uganda. I came here the first time with no committed support. I keep asking myself how I managed. There were times when from day to day I didn't know where the next meal would be coming from. However, I survived and have kept learning more and more to trust in God. After all, He is the source of my provision, not man. It is He that puts it on the heart of man to help me to do His work.
I have to constantly remind myself of this fact, even now. When I look at the support I have coming in compared to the plans that I have, I have to constantly remind myself that my plans are not my plans. I can plan, but it is only God that can bring them to pass.
You see, I plan to start a school for orphans, abandoned, and other vulnerable children in January. When I look at my support, it looks impossible. In my own eyes, I think I need more than double what is actually coming in. But, I'm convinced that with God's help, that I should begin and that everything that is needed will be provided in His time.
To many this may seem crazy, and at times, I actually feel that it is crazy. However, I want to stretch my faith and watch as God does far more than what I can imagine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Zikka Forest and Water Problems

Yesterday after work I went with one of my co-workers to a local forest- Zikka Forest. It's only about 15 minutes from my house and is a great place for hiking. It was a nice break from my usual routine. We spent the first half of our time there climbing the tower. I'm am afraid of heights so this was quite a feat for me. We ended up far above the trees and sat there for a while watching the birds. It's too close to the city for much wild life so we had to be content to watch the birds. We eventually climbed back down, which was much scarier to me than climbing up and hiked for a while on the trails. There were hundreds of butterflies, some as big as my fist.
One note of caution: don't hike in African forests wearing flip flops. I stupidly do this quite frequently because of my disdain of wearing any other kind of shoes. Yesterday it proved to be a hazard. We had to walk through a path of thousands of ants. These ants happened to be the biting kind. Not exactly a pleasant experience. Thankfully, they only bite and don't have any after effects like itching. Once I was able to remove all of them we we able to continue with our hike. Also, thankfully, they didn't manage to climb past my feet.
The forest really is a lovely place to marvel at God. It's amazing to me that some of these trees have been here for hundreds of years and are still standing strong. One of them was so big that even it's roots were big enough for me to climb on.
On to another subject: water. Water is frequently an issue in Uganda. A lot of times for whatever reason it is turned off. Luckily for the last week or so this hasn't been a problem in our house. However, because of having a landlord that doesn't mind about keeping up his property, we have other water issues. The sink in the kitchen only spouts out black water, and I do mean black, not just a little murky. Therefore, it is useless to us. The sink in the bathroom has a similar problem. Although the water is not black, it smells like sewage so it is also useless to us. No one wants to cook, wash their hands or brush their teeth with black water or water that smells like poop. We've been calling to complain about these problems for the past four and a half months. We're always promised that the plumber is coming but he still hasn't turned up.
Well, this morning the toilet broke. It no longer flushes. This means to keep flushing the toilet we have to fill a bucket from our one remaining water tap to pour down the toilet. Hopefully, this one remaining tap will continue to work as it is our only source of water for flushing, cooking, brushing our teeth, washing our clothes and bathing and prayerfully I will have found another place to live by the beginning of December. This could also prove to be a miracle since right now there's a saying around Kampala that "It is is easier to find Bin Laden than to find housing in Kampala."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Make Sure You Boil the Milk

So, since being back in Uganda I've again lost quite a bit of weight. I eat constantly but perhaps all the walking makes the pounds just drop off. Who knows? Anyway, I was told if I eat/drink a lot of milk products that I would add some weight back and maintain it better. So, for about the last week I've been trying to do just that. Cheese and yogurt is expensive but the drinking yogurt (not real sure what the difference is) and milk are affordable. I don't particularly like milk unless it's in tea or coffee or chocolate milk so I've been buying the drinking yogurt every day in the evenings on my way home.
On Monday, I found some cheap cereal (a luxury here) and decided to buy some chocolate powder (another luxury) to make chocolate milk. This meant I also had to buy milk. Now, usually if I want milk I buy the local milk from the man that milks his cow and then walks around selling the milk. It's much cheaper that way. This means that the milk is not pasteurized and has to be boiled before drinking. Not a problem since I'm usually drinking it with a nice cup of hot tea or coffee. But, when I found the cheap cereal, I didn't want to have to eat it with hot milk.
Every once in a while when I decide to treat myself to chocolate milk, I will buy packaged milk that is already pasteurized. It is somehow packed so that it doesn't need refrigeration and will keep for some time. It seems that the supermarket was having quite a few specials on Monday and I found milk that was marked down. This should have been a warning sign to me but being that I'm always looking for ways to cut spending, I decided to buy it rather than the trusted brand that I usually buy.
Big mistake. I went home and enjoyed my cereal and chocolate milk. Around 2 in the morning I woke up with severe stomach pains and I'll spare you the rest of the details of the remainder of that sleepless night. It seems my plan to add a few pounds has resulted in my losing an additional few since I've not been able to eat the rest of this week.
Lessons learned: It's probably better to spend a few extra shillings on the milk you know and trust and IF you happen to buy the cheaper milk, ALWAYS, ALWAYS BOIL it before drinking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Never Leave Home Without Them

This morning I woke up wondering what I was going to be doing for the day. Each Saturday is different. Sometimes I spend it working at the church. Sometimes I spend it hanging out with the kids.
Today I decided that I would do some work at the church in the morning and then go to visit a friend in the afternoon. My roommate and I attend the same church so we decided to leave the house together this morning and she would do some things at the church until she had to go to a meeting.
As we were rushing to leave the house, I locked my room. We lock our bedrooms here just in case a thief enters the house. He would have to work a little harder to move around to the different rooms. Anyway, since we were rushing, I let my roommate lock the front door.
What I didn't realize was that I didn't pick up my key to the front door.
I didn't realize I didn't have my key until she had left for her meeting and I had gone home to pick up something. It was then that I realized I couldn't enter the house.
This means I'm finding different things to do today which don't involve returning home and will have to find something to do until around 10 tonight when she will be returning from her meeting.
Lesson learned: Slow down enough to make sure I have my keys.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Three Year Old Boys

Three year old boys are too funny to me. They make me laugh, especially when they are acting like grown men. For example, today my friend's three year old boy kept us entertained while I was visiting at her house. He made sure I had tea and bread to eat, even telling me how many spoons of sugar I should put in my cup and then stirring it for me. Later, he decided to go outside to ride his bicycle. While riding he decided to put a heap of dirt on the back of it. When his mom told him that he would have to wash it before putting it up, he looked at her with all seriousness and told her, "I'm going to wash it, of course." As if to say, "duh, why would you think I wouldn't wash it before putting it away." Then when it was time for me to go, he told me, "Don't go. It's much too early for you to go." He reminds me of a little old man.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where Things Move Slower Than Snails

I love living in Uganda. Most of the times I enjoy the slow pace of life. I like that people take time to greet one another and talk. People are always hospitable. If you feel like walking somewhere, no one minds. In fact, most people will walk if it's a short distance.
HOWEVER, sometimes things that I think should go faster move too slowly. I don't know why I think that some things should move at a certain pace just because I want them to, but at times I grow impatient. For example, to travel 6 miles home from work, it usually takes me 1-2 hours. This past week it has taken me 5 hours every night to travel those few miles. I could walk it faster. I feel like it's such a waste of time to sit in a dark taxi for all those hours doing nothing. Another example, the internet sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out. I can't download most things. If it's something that I absolutely have to download, I should be prepared to sit and wait for at least 3 hours. Or it could be like this week when yahoo doesn't even work at all. This means that I either need to get another email account or I'll just have to wait. The slowness of the internet is also the reason my blog and facebook have no photos.
Oh well, I shouldn't complain. I should just learn to live life as it comes and make the most of each moment, however slowly it may be moving.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Independence Day in Uganda

Today is Independence Day in Uganda. Celebrations here are much different than at home. No fireworks. No cookouts. There's a military parade at the military airstrip in town but that is about the extent of the festivities. Even that is not very exciting. It's mostly only the "Big" guys in the military and other important positions that go to listen to the president speak. Otherwise, most people just stay at home and use it as a day to catch up on rest and work around the house. A few, taking advantage of the day off from work, will go to visit friends. Those in the village will spend the day digging in the fields, much like any other day.
I will be spending the afternoon with some Eritrean friends. We'll be eating their traditional food and drinking coffee. It's sort of strange that I'll be celebrating with others who are not from here and eating food that is not native to here. Oh well, like everyone else, I'm taking advantage of the day off to catch up with friends.
On another note, I wonder if Uganda is truly independent. Yes, Uganda is no longer a colony of Britain and has its own government. But, Uganda is still so dependent on the outside world for many things such as food aid. Most of the aid doesn't come freely. It comes with its own price such as the government of Uganda having to do things as the aiding country wishes. So, is Uganda really independent or is it still indirectly a colony of the western world?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Under the Avocado Tree

Our little avocado tree in Kifumbira gets plenty of good use. Not only does it regularly provide fruit, but it gives us shade on those sunny days as we are having Bible study, praying, worshiping, talking, laughing, learning different languages, or just simply being together. Not to mention it helps keep us somewhat dry when it drizzles. As for the heavy rains, we all have to run for cover.
One disadvantage that we have discovered of meeting under the avocado tree is that when the fruit ripens, it falls dangerously to the ground. Much sympathy is given to the one it hits. So far it's only been two people, but they happened to be two of the older people.
Anyway, for now the "church under the avocado tree" will have to continue until funding is available for another location. I don't think anyone is complaining though. It's so laid back and uncomplicated under the tree that we are all just enjoying and taking life as it comes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Continuation of the Work Permit Saga

I'm definitely learning patience and waiting on God while here in Uganda. This is especially true in waiting for my work permit. My last work permit expired while I was home last year so when I returned to Uganda in May, I returned on an entry permit valid for three months. So, in August, I began the process of applying for a new work permit. This is always an experience here. There's so much corruption which means I am constantly running up and down, back and forth, chasing for the right person to help me without having to pay a bribe. I've been bless in all the years I've been here I've been able to dodge paying one.
Anyway, back to August. I turned in the application before the expiration of my entry permit. A week later, the application was returned to me. Of course, it was after the expiration of the entry permit. The reason given was that the organization that I was applying under wasn't a nonprofit. For me to stay here as a missionary, I have to apply under a nonprofit. This is a new law just enacted, possibly when I turned in the application.
So, I asked the church I am attending to apply for me. All churches are considered nonprofits. The church agreed so we turned in the new application. A couple more weeks passed by and I was notified that my application was turned in after the expiration of my entry permit. Duh.... they gave me back the first application after it had expired. So, they wanted a letter explaining why I was late (in their words, delinquent) in applying for the work permit. In addition, I would need to apply for a special pass that would make my status in the country legal while waiting for the work permit to be approved.
This means another application had to be filled out, another letter from the church, etc. I ran around for two days getting everything together and got everything turned back in. Then began the weeks of waiting for the approval of the special pass. Finally, today I was notified that the special pass had been approved and I should come pay for it and pick up my passport. Of course, the pass was back dated to August and expires on the 14th of November. I'm praying that the work permit will be granted before that date. Like I said, it's been a lesson to be patient and trusting that God is in control.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reality of Economics

I rarely hear news from the outside world, meaning the western world, while here in Uganda. But, recently I heard that the economy is still declining in the U.S. I've heard that there is much concern over this. I guess many people are stressed over their declining lifestyles. Maybe having to miss driving to the pool every day over the summer was too much to bear or not be able to eat out every night is a nightmare. OK, so I'm being a little sarcastic. I know that there are many living in poverty in the U.S. that are really concerned that their next step maybe homelessness if things don't improve.
However, I think that maybe this will be a wake up call to the U.S. as to the condition of most of the developing world. Most people in the developing world have lived for decades wondering where their next meal was coming from. I see these dehumanizing conditions every day in the slum where I work. Most people eat only one meal a day and it's not a cheeseburger and fries. Most of the children don't even know what these foods are. They've never seen a television or rode in a car. The majority will never have a chance to attend school.
These families live in rooms that are 12ft x 12ft. Can you imagine 8-12 people living in one room for their entire lives? There is no running water. Most don't even have toilets. I realized how closely people are living as animals the other day when I had spent the night at someone's house and was having to pee in the grass behind a building as hidden from view of others as I could find. Luckily, I didn't have to do anything except pee. For more serious bathroom business, people resort to using plastic shopping bags which they later dispose of in various places around the slum. Others have lived in this condition for so long that they don't even bother to try to be discreet. They just use the trenches in the alleys running between houses.
But, a lesson in all this: people still hold on to their faith and somehow keep their joy. That's one of the things I love about this slum. Despite the harsh reality of their conditions, people have a lot of love to share.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Women Who Raised Me

While at home last year, a friend told me of a book that she was reading that reminded her of me. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell. I bought the book and tried reading it while home. I failed to finish. Although our stories are different, there are really many similarities, especially the feelings that are common to children who grow up in foster care. I still struggle with these emotions but over the past week I decided to try to read the book again. It's been a challenge but I have stuck with it and am about two-thirds of the way through the book.
I've cried and prayed many days over the last week. But, I've also realized that although there were many negative experiences in my childhood, I also had women who raised me. These women each gave me something that helped me to hold on for the next day. For them I will be forever grateful for standing in the gap.
It has also made me look at the many women I'm surrounded by here in Uganda. I work in a slum with many women who at first appearance look to be hopeless. But, as I get to know them more, I find that they have much strength, faith and hope. They also are teaching me many things and many of them have become mothers to me on this side of the world. So, while I still struggle with many issues of my childhood, I am seeing that although it seems I am a child of no one, I am also a child of many.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stranded in Kampla

On Saturday afternoon, I went to pick up the twins that had spent the last month with me. They wanted to come and spend the night so I said ok. I went to pick them up with little money in my pocket thinking that after getting them we would stop at an ATM then head to get something to eat. The first ATM refused to give me money. I thought maybe it was out of money, which has happened to me before, so I tried a second one. It still refused. So, I tried a third ATM, this time from a different bank. Still no luck. I had enough money to transport us to another ATM to try but was starting to get a bit stressed. What would I do if I couldn't get any money? So, we went to the fourth ATM. STill nothing. By this time I had completely run out of money and had no way to get us home. Not to mention that we have had no gas for cooking for the past week. So, we were all hungry, no money for transportation and stuck in town. I had about a minute worth of air time on my phone so called a friend to come to meet me and bring me some money. He brought enough that I could add more air time and call the bank at home to see why I was not able to access any money. After twenty minutes of talking to the bank at home, I was told that there was no problem with my account and that it should be working just fine. Another trip to the ATM revealed that it still wasn't working. So, my friend graciously gave us money for dinner and money to get home and for the next few days. The girls went home that night and prayed that we would check the next day and find the ATM working. We checked the next morning at what was then the 6th ATM and found that this time it worked!
It was a good lesson for all of us. I learned not to travel into town without enough money to retrn me back home. They learned that the bank doesn't just spit money out of the machine.
As for the issue of gas for cooking, we are still waiting. It seems that all the gas in Uganda is imported from Kenya and there have been some delays recently. As for now, we'll continue eating peanut butter sandwiches.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to Normal- Whatever That Is

So, schools started back here in Uganda this past Monday. It's the third and last term of the year so students are ready to get it over with and ready for the Christmas/summer holidays to begin. I delivered the young ladies who have been with me for the past month back to their homes on Sunday evening. I returned home to a quiet house actually felt quite empty.
Early Monday morning I caught a bus heading to the western part of the country to meet 4 other students, who are being sponsored by some very gracious friends, and to deliver them back to their schools. It was a hectic trip. I have discovered that no matter how many times they travel to and from school it is somehow impossible for children to be organized. At the boys' school, we discovered they had forgot to pack toothbrushes and towels for bathing. This meant a trip back into the main town to search for these items. Instead of back to school sales we found that shopkeepers take advantage of this time and hike the prices. After finally getting the boys settled in, it was time to do the same at the girls' school. Luckily they had me get what they had forgotten while we were shopping for the boys so we didn't have to make a repeat trip back into town. Finally around 8 in the evening I was ready for dinner and then ready for bed. It was another long ride back to the city the next morning and I wanted to try to get as much rest as I could. This didn't exactly happen. My friend's aunt decided that she wanted to go back to Kampala with me so I met her in town for dinner. We decided to share the room that I had already booked so that the price would be a little cheaper for both of us. She was bringing two chickens for my friend, both of which were still live and ready to make lost of noise for us during the night. She was fun to room with though. She doesn't speak English and I don't speak any of the western languages so our only way of communicating was through our made up version of sign. It was really comical so we spent a lot of time laughing.
The next morning we got to the taxi park early to get a bus back to Kampala. No buses. No mini vans. Due to the number of students traveling back to school, transportation was scarce. We were doomed to enter a small car meant for the driver and three passengers. We traveled back to Kampala with the driver, twelve passengers plus our two live chickens..... a very interesting trip indeed. Luckily everyone was in good moods and we shared a lot of laughs and stories along the way. Plus I made a couple of new friends: one nun from Kenya working at a school in Tanzania traveling through Uganda, a refugee from Rwanda that is currently "home" in Uganda from working as a security guard in Iraq, and a young mother on her way to take her first child to school.
I made it back to Kampala in one piece and should be back to my "normal" hectic schedule next week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Single Parenthood

So, I've been too busy for sitting down at a computer to do much of anything except send an occassional quick email. This is due to the fact that schools are on holiday for a month here and I've been living with three young ladies. They have been a joy and blessing to my life but have kept me extremely busy. I have a new respect for single mothers.
These three young ladies come from the slum that I work in and wanted to come and visit my home. This weekend visit turned in to them deciding that they wanted to spend the holiday. Since I have the space and they are old enough I decided that it would be ok and fun.
We've enjoyed doing things like watching movies on my laptop, their first trip to the lake to eat fish, their first pizza and cheeseburgers, first time swimming and today the first trip to the zoo.
Anyway, this was just a quick update to say that I am still online but at a reduced rate for the time being.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Papa John's in Uganda

So, last night I was a the supermarket in the taxi park and as I was checking out I noticed one of the workers was wearing a Papa John's T-shirt. It's amazing. That shirt may have been worn by a teenage employee of a Papa John's in Little Rock, Arkansas and when that teenager decided to quit the job and give the shirt away like trash who knew that it would end up on the other side of the world in Uganda as a shirt that someone would be wearing as an every day shirt, not even as a uniform. I think it's interesting how big the world is and yet how small it is.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rain and Work Permit

OK, so I thought I was leaving cold weather behind when I left the US. But, apparently I have brought cool weather with me. It has rained more in Uganda than I have ever seen it rain. I have had to wear a jacket more in the last two months than I did in all of the previous years. All this cold weather means that the cold/cough that came with me from the states has persistently hung on. Oh well. Guess it will eventually get to the dry season and then I'll be complaining of the heat and of the dust.
On another note, I turned in everything I needed today for my work permit. This is a time of anxiety for me. Every year when I turn in the application, I have nightmares of it being denied and then try to figure out what will be next for me. I'm trying not to think too much about it this time but it's still there in the back of my mind. Oh and to help my cough and in order to completely get everything turned in for the application, I had to climb up and down 11 flights of stairs today. This was quite an accomplishment considering that the cold/cough has aggravated my asthma. How I missed elevators today!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hopelessness That Kills

What can make a mother kill her children. On Thursday, we got the tragic news that one of the women in the slum where I am working killed her 4 children and then tried to kill herself. It was heartbreaking. This was a Muslim family and many of us in our Bible study asked ourselves if we are really doing enough to reach out to those around us. It breaks my heart. As the Bible study continues to grow, there are still thousands more around us who are living in desperation and living in a desperate situation without knowing the love of Christ. Please pray with us as we continue to reach out to this community.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Week

So, last week was a loooonnnnng week. It started out with a phone call from the director of Every Nation on Sunday night. He was wanting to know if I had sent him an email that day asking for him to send money. I hadn't even been on the internet that day so it was not good news to find that someone had send an email out asking for money to be sent.
The next morning I went to an internet cafe with a slightly swollen foot to find that someone had changed my password and I couldn't get into my email account. I sat there for a few minutes working on getting back in the account and finally when I did discovered that the person had sent the same email out to many people. It was an email pretending to be me and asking that money be put on a friend's account (a friend that I do not know). So, I sat there most of the afternoon emailing people to not send any money to any account except to Every Nation unless they first speak to me by phone.
I also checked my facebook account and found that the same thing had been done. So, more messages to be sent out. I changed all my passwords and am praying that this has rectified the situation.
By the time I reached home I was in a lot of pain because of the swollen foot. I could barely walk and it was slightly purple. The week before I had worn tennis shoes which had rubbed blisters on the back of my feet. I knew that my foot was probably infected so the next morning I woke up and went to the clinic at the church. The nurse, a missionary here for a couple of months from Alabama, confirmed that I did have infection in my foot. This is not the first time this has happened here. I tried to explain to her what they did the last time but being the medical professional, she chose to ignore what I was saying and do her own thing. She gave me an antibiotic that I had told her I don't react well to, saying that if I would eat with it there would be no problem.
So, I went home with the antibiotic and spent the whole next day puking. By that evening my roommate became concerned because I had a high temperature, couldn't stop puking (even though there was no longer anything in my stomach), and my foot looked worse. So, she called the pastor to come and pick me up and take me back to the clinic.
I returned to the nurse and she realized that the antibiotic and I really didn't get along. So, I spent that night on IV meds and getting rehydrated. The next day more of the same. Hopefully, the next time she has a patient tell her something she will listen instead of deciding that because she spent 5 years in school that she knows the patient's body better than the patient.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Return of the Rats

So, yesterday afternoon since I was off work and my roommate was also off we decided to pull out my laptop and lay around and watch movies. As we were watching and extremely funny Nigerian film, out of the corner of my eye I see this little creature running across the kitchen floor. (From my roommate's room you can see most of the kitchen cabnits). This little creature then chose to jump off the floor into one of the cabinets. So, I jump up and tell my roommate who is half asleep that I've just seen another rat, which, by the way, we thought we had exterminated them.

So, we rush to the kitchen and close all the doors leading into other rooms and cover the crack leading on the door leading outside. We then proceed to start trying to get the rat out of the cupboard. He/she must have know we were on a death mission because it quickly ran under the crack of the door leading to the bedrooms.
So, the next step was to set more rat traps and go back to our movie. When we finished watching the movie, I went to put my laptop back in its case and out the little creature ran. This time we were wiser than the rat and put something in front of the door to my bedroom so that it couldn't escape again under the door. Thankfully, I have not yet put any furniture in my room so it had no place to hide. After a few minutes, the rat met his death at the hands of my roommate and a really large shoe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Wait for the World to Hurt You, Just Go to Church

I really don't understand. I'm frustrated. I'm confused. I'm trying not to be angry. I feel rejected. Anyway, I know all of these feelings will pass quickly.
Over the past year, I've been struggling with churches. The leadership appears to have a complete disregard for those they are supposed to be shepherding. Those in the church seem to have a lack of compassion for each other, each wanting to prove to the leadership that they are the most holy. I really don't get it. I don't think God sees anyone of us as better than the other.
I can't really say much about what is going on. I just pray that God will quickly heal my heart.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Without Things

Before I left from the states, I was franctically running around trying to buy all of the things that I thought I would need while here. Needless to say that I ran out of time and many things had to be left behind for shopping at a later date.
Upon arriving here, I realized again how stupid it was to try to buy everything before coming here. Almost everything (well, almost everything....... still haven't found hot cheetos anywhere) can be purchased here. Sometimes at a cheaper price and sometimes not. I think next time I should better focus on buying those things that are expensive here or that I can't find here.
Another thing I noticed is that life is so simple here but at the same time so busy. This means that most of the time, I don't have time for things. It seems life is more simple with less stuff and I seem to be even more content. Perhaps this is because there is less focus here on things and more focus on relationships. I'll have to remember this the next time I am shopping and think that I absolutely have to have something. Some times it's probably better to leave those things behind.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

So, I woke up today and realized that on the other side of the world it is a public holiday. I've been so busy that I hadn't even thought about it. Some holidays, like Thanksgiving, I've been able to celebrate here in the past. For instance, on one Thanksgiving, my roommates and I celebrated by going out to eat on the Saturday after. Ok, so not really a true Thanksgiving celebration but it worked and gave us an excuse to go out to eat.
But, today since it doesn't look like I will be celebrating. It is work as usual.
I have heard though that the American embassy is having something but since I'm not registered with the embassy I have received no updates about it. Also, for some reason, none of the other missionaries are choosing to attend, possibly due to the fact that many of the expats here tend to like to do things that most missionaries won't be seen doing here.
So, guess it's another day as usual, whatever a usual day for me here is.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Roommates That Don't Pay Rent

I think I may have mentioned that I found an apartment here and my roommate and I have moved in, although we are still lacking quite a bit of furniture. I haven't yet got my bed but it is in the process of being made. So, for the time being, my roommate and I have been sharing a room.
Frequently, one of us has to wake the other one up because of the sound of small critters chewing on things. Since we don't know what they are chewing on and don't want it to be something important, we have to get up at various hours of the night to start hunting for the critter to be killed. These critters who seem to be many are small rats that have taken up residence there before we moved. My roommate and I both agree that we don't want anything living there, however small, that doesn't pay rent. Hopefully the rat terminator will come soon and kill them as well as their even smaller friends, the roaches.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

BIrthday and New Apartment

So, my birthday passed (June 23) here in Uganda. It was one of the best birthdays I've had in a while. I received lots of birthday wishes from friends in the states and had fun with friends here in Uganda. That morning I attended our weekly women's Bible study. This is a group of women from 3 different churches, different statuses in life (married, single, children, childless, grandchildren, working, students), but who are love the Lord. Currently we are studying a book called Trusting God. We have no leader. There's no teacher or students. We are all equal and we pour into each other. It's been a wonderful source of strength for me here.
Later that evening I went with my new roommate and some of our other friends to the beach in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria where we proceeded to devour 3 fresh fish all roasted or deep fried to perfection. It was the best tasting fish I've had in a long time.
More about the new roommate. I thought it was going to take much longer for me to find housing but thank God I found a place quickly. It's an unexpected place for me. It's far from where I was looking and about 40 minutes- an hour commute to and from where I am working depending on traffic. But, it's cheaper than anything I could find around where I wanted and I have the unexpected blessing of a godly roommate. Our personalities seem to compliment each other. It's been a joy to have company in the house in the evenings, especially where the power is off. Plus the apartment is more than I could ask for. It is spacious and has wonderful security. The landlord is still an issue to be debated though. He's a bit slow on fixing things that need to be done around the place.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

RANDOM THOUGHTS

OK, so much for me writing on this thing frequently however well meaning my intentions are. I just don't seem to get to a computer very often these days. June has been packed full. I was worried whether I was going to have enough to do here. I should have known better. There's never a shortage of things to get involved in. I just have to remember to schedule some down time for being alone with God, for resting and just hanging out with friends.
I am feeling more settled in here and the moments of homesickness seem to come less frequently. That is probably due to my lack of communication with people at home. I do really miss people though.
Some highlights of the last couple of weeks:
- helped chaperone 33 children between the ages of 3-12 on a trip to the zoo....... in the rain
- moved into my apartment along with a new roommate
- visiting new churches and making new friends
- found out another friend of mine has tested HIV+
AIDS is one of the hardest things about being here. I'm tired of watching people die. I remember a couple of summers ago when I first found out that Nakato had tested positive, a friend telling me not to mourn before time but to enjoy the person while they're here. That is hard advice. It's true but difficult. There are times when people want to talk about what is going on in their lives and sometimes those things are painful. Things like talking about regretting that a life is going to be cut short or what will happen to the children are not easy conversations. It's hard not to mourn.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Red Bull and a Dead Body

Sometimes as I walk through certain places of Uganda, usually the slums and the villages, I'm amazed at how I feel like I'm going back in time. In most of these areas there has been very little development. Most still don't have running water and things are done manually meaning every item of clothing is washed by hand with water that the person has sometimes walked for two miles to get. Many of my friends living in these areas are still living in the exact same condition as when I left them over a year ago. Nothing has changed.
Then other times I'm amazed as I walk through the parts of Uganda where the more wealthy and upcoming middle class live and find that things are changing quickly. There are new roads being paved with no potholes or in some cases mini lakes in the road. There are new houses and apartments being built with all the amenities that those of us from the west are used to. But, may I add, that these places are usually not affordable to neither the average Ugandan nor to us low budget missionaries.
Yesterday evening as I was walking to the market to pick up what I was to cook for dinner, a Red Bull truck passed. When I left Ugandan last year, Red Bull had not yet made it to Uganda. It seems it has come. The truck had a huge Red Bull can loaded on the back of it. My thoughts just went to the fact that not many of the people I know can afford to drink Red Bull.
As I was leaving the market, I noticed along the side of the road the body of a young man curled up. At first I thought it was just a mad man who had decided to sleep by the side of the road (not an uncommon sight) or a drunkard who had forgot where his home was. But, as I and the people walking around me got closer, we noticed that there was no movement at all from this body. Not even the slightest movement of a breath. Needless to say this was quite disturbing. But, as things here are, you don't stop to investigate such things, you just keep moving and pray that a security guard or policeman will quickly stumble upon the body and be able to locate the family.
So, in the midst of Red Bull development, life seems to go on much the same for most of us here in Uganda, grateful for each day that we wake up and make it through the day.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ants and the Church

I've thought a lot about church lately. I guess in some ways my thoughts of church have been somewhat pessimistic. I've been discouraged by the actions and words of some pastors. I've felt let down by the church and as I watch different churches try to put themselves above others, I've wondered if we've lost what church is really supposed to be.
I've even felt that a bit as I've been here in Uganda. Here, it's always been easy to work across denominations but, recently, as I've spent time with other missionaries here, I feel a bit of competition creeping in, especially among denominational lines. My feeling is that if we're all here to share the same thing, why shouldn't we all work together. But, many feel that their denomination has the best way. It's been quite frustrating.
I've also noticed a bit of condescending attitudes toward nationals from some of the missionaries, as if just because we are Americans that we know best. The last time I checked, the U.S. had a lot of problems of her own and I think could use the help of missionaries coming from less developed countries. There's a lot of character in the culture here that I think the U.S. could really benefit from. Plus, I don't think that you can come in from the outside and know what is best. I think that the national here have wonderful ideas of what is best for their country and they understand the culture far better than I as a missionary ever will. To me, my role is to come alongside them to help them bring Christ's love to the country.
Anyway, these thoughts were really strong yesterday as I was watching a bunch of ants. At times, it seems you can't escape them here. As soon as there is any bit of sweet food, what seems like thousands of them will appear.
Yesterday, we went to one of the slum areas where we do a Bible study twice a week. One of the kids had a piece of bread and had dropped a rather large crumb. We decided to watch the ants around. Within about thirty minutes, these ants had moved this piece of bread several feet. It was interesting to see how they worked together to get a job done. My question is: why as ants, who can't think and reason as humans, can work together but we in the church can't? Why do we compete to get a job done and take twice as long to do things independently when we could get it done more quickly working together?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mixed Feelings

I can hardly believe that tomorrow I will have been in Uganda for two weeeks. In some ways it feels like it's been much longer but in other ways, it feels much shorter. It's been a time of excitement, frustration, feeling homesick, gratefulness of being here, etc. It's amazing that God can allow us to feel all these contrasting feelings all at the same time. But, I know that since He is the Creator of feelings that He will help me to sort them all out and to know what to do with them.
It's been an exciting time of catching up with old friends. It's been great how even though we've been miles apart our friendships have remained as if we had talked every day. This has been true even with the older widows and young ladies that I work with in one of the slums here. Although there is a language barrier and I have not emailed or spoken on the telephone with any of these women, the Holy Spirit has kept our hearts somehow bound together. They have been such an encouragement to me over the last couple of weeks. A hug really can go a long way.
The frustrations have mostly come from the decline in the dollar which has meant that I don't get as many Ugandan shillings per dollar. At the same time, the cost of things here has risen, much like in the rest of the world. This has been especially true of housing. I don't know how many hours I've spent walking I don't know how many miles and knocking on strangers doors looking for a place to rent. Sometimes it's been absolutely ridiculous the places we have looked at and then given outrageous prices for. I'm anxious to find my own place to call home.
And yes, there has been some homesickness. This has been the first time I've ever experienced this and I have know idea why. Perhaps it's that I let my heart open to more people while I was at home this time or perhaps it's because I was home for so long. But, I know I am in the place God wants me and that He will help me to feel more and more at home here. While I've had moments of homesickness, I've also had moments at the other extreme when I've been very grateful to be here. It's such an amazing country. It's physically beautiful and the people are amazingly friendly. Plus the pace of life is so much slower. It's possible to spend time developing real, lasting relationships. I'm also very grateful at the opportunity God has given me to serve Him here. I'm sure it's going to be a time of growth for me and that I am going to learn much through my experiences here, as I always have in the past.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Journey to Uganda

When I started this blog, I had made up my mind to write something at least once a week. Obviously the last few weeks I have failed.
It seemed my last couple of weeks in Little Rock flew by so quickly. There was so much packed into such a little bit of time that it seemed I never had enough time to sit down and write anything here. In fact, many things I intended to get done before leaving never got done. Hopefully I will be able to do some of them from here and thankfully I have wonderful friends in Little Rock that are willing to help get some of the things taken care of for me.
My trip to Uganda seemed to go by quickly in the beginning but as the hours passed they seemed to slow down. My flight from Little Rock to Minneapolis was quick and the time spent in the airport flew by due to the fact that I had friends on the flight who also had hours to spend in the airport so we ended up playing Phase 10, each one of us winning a game.
The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful although I didn't get any sleep. I was sitting next to a pleasant older woman who enjoyed conversing for hours. Thankfully, my layover in Amsterdam was short, just long enough to grab something to eat, brush my teeth and go through security again before boarding the plane to Uganda.
The flight to Uganda was the longest. It seemd that as the excitement built, the minutes started ticking by more slowly. Finally, I landed and have been busy ever since. I immediately began "working" the next day. Along with that comes trying to find a house to live in and to begin getting furniture such as a bed. Oh well. Hopefully, I will be settled in within the next couple of weeks and will be able to communicate more effectively with people in the states as well as update this blog from time to time.
Meanwhile, it has been good to be back here. It's been wonderful catching up with friends and meeting new ones.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Message From Nomads

I don't know why I didn't post this before today but I didn't. Possibly I needed time to process through what I heard. I spent the past weekend at Nomads in Oklahoma. It was great in so many ways. I had a much needed break from real life in Little Rock as well as being able to worship, pray and just be around others who are excited about missions and what God is doing in the rest of the world. Plus I got to camp for the entire weekend.

Throughout the weekend we heard many great messages. Each one had an impact that touched my heart. I carried something away from each but one in particular hit me the most.

It was on Saturday morning that Jamie Zumwalt's dad spoke. The title of his message was "Decisions Determine Your Destiny." (at least that was what I wrote down) He had us look at the passage in Deuteronomy 1:19-21. He shared how this was a time when the Israelites looked at their circumstances which made them feel small and insignificant. They chose, for whatever reason, not to look at their possibilities through God. They weren't willing to take a risk and make a decision that would have resulted in a radically different history. What if the spies would have come back with a good report? The history of Israel could have taken a totally different direction. The result was that the Israelites over 20 years of age when they left Egypt wouldn't get to cross the Jordan into the promised land. Their decision determined their destiny.

How does any of this apply to me? As Jamie's dad shared, ALL missionaries have these experiences which are usually driven by fear. It's a time when we look at the circumstances in front of us and think this is way too impossible. For some it's a fear of the unknown of a fear of remaining single. For others it's a fear of not having enough support. But, the question we have to choose to ask ourselves is: Are the risks and the sacrifices worth it?

Right now I'm looking at my circumstances and it seems to me that I'm facing so many giants. I have to constantly remind myself that God is in control. I have to keep looking to God and know that He is bigger than any circumstance that I might face. I have to keep telling myself that He is the source of my everything and I definitely want to make decisions based on what God's destiny is for my life.

Over the last couple of days, I've kept reading back through my notes from this message and each time they bring me comfort. Another thing that Jamie's dad said that stuck with me was that the greater the cause, the greater the cost.