Wednesday, December 31, 2008


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 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


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.