Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Second Birthday Jurnee!!!!

We're so thankful that we get to be Jurnee's parents.  We love this girl.  She's so full of life, a girly girl, loves playing outside (and collecting stones), and loves to be in charge!
Here's some fun pics from the last six months!

June 2013

July 2013- a fun trip to the zoo!  We got to pet a baby elephant.

August 2013- yoghurt face!

September 2013- I love to sing!

October 2013
November 2013  Happy 2nd Birthday!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Sunday Visit

This past Sunday we were blessed with a special visitor! David's dad joined us for lunch and then for a trip to a nearby playground!  Between our busy schedule and his traveling back and forth from Kampala and his home village, his visits are rare.  So, it was indeed a blessing!
It was a treat for the girls to spend time with their grandfather and a treat for me to hear his stories.  He's like a walking history book.  He's had so many exciting experiences.  I could sit and listen for hours to all of his stories. 
We're looking forward to his next visit!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reality Check

photo credits to Sopha Hughes

I'll admit I'm not doing a terrific job at keeping up with this blog.  Lots going on in life- some good, some bad, some just in between.  I think the last couple of months in the midst of a lot of changes, I had forgotten why I was here.  I have times where I am homesick and daydream about what it would be like to live in the U.S. again (although it's a daydream- and if anything like the last time), I'd be ready to be back home here in Uganda within a few weeks.
I think having kids changed a lot of things.  I started focusing on them, our needs, our wants,  what they were having to give up so that we can be here, etc.  Sometimes I'd feel discouraged, angry, annoyed.  Other times I'd just refuse to think about it.  And every once in a while (just being honest), I'd take it to God in prayer.
One of the things I've always prayed is for God to break my heart with the things that breaks His.  He gave me a little reminder of that earlier this week.  It's been a while since I've visited the children at home.  So, on Monday, I decided that it was time to get back to visiting.  I went with a couple of staff members to visit several of the children at home.
Let's just say, it was a reality check.  Filthy.  Despairing.  Stinking.  It was a reminder of how hard these kids live life.   They never really get to be kids.  Most know how to light a fire to cook on charcoal by the time they are five years old.  Most by that age, also bathe themselves as well as wash their own clothes.  Their are no snacks waiting for them when they arrive home from school.  They live with no water or electricity.  Their homes are just next to flowing raw sewage.  Toys are a luxury few own.  There are no dance or piano lessons.  School is the best thing in their life.  For most, the food they receive at school is their only food for the day.
As I was stepping over rivers of sewerage (yes, you read that right) and trying not to gag, all I could think about was how blessed I am, how blessed my kids are.  So what if they don't ever get to take dance or piano lessons.  They get to live each day watching Christ at work in a way they never would if we were to live in the states.  They get to live in a clean environment.  They live in a house that we don't have to fear it falling down or flooding when it rains (ok, it floods when it rains but just a couple of inches...... which is bearable considering that most of the families we work with can't lay down and sleep when it rains because they risk drowning)
So, reality check........  Why am I here?  For these kids.  What we do is just a drop in the bucket, but it does give them some hope for a better tomorrow, even if that tomorrow seems years away to me!  So, I'll hug my babies tighter and be thankful that they know they are loved.  And I'll keep on pushing forward with Vision of Destiny, giving each child in our program hope for tomorrow and letting them know that even though life is hard they are LOVED by their FATHER GOD.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meeting Results.......

Thanks so much for all the prayers!

Short version- the director cancelled the meeting!  He wasn't even on the school premises when we showed up.

Now, I don't really know what this means.  It could mean that he's going to honor our arrangement and let things be.  Or, it could be that he's going to surprise us with something else- a letter perhaps informing us that fees have increased.

This just means that we have to continue to pray harder, continue fighting for these kids, and continue planning for the future.

As you know long term we hope to have our own school.  Expensive to do on the front end but will save us a lot in the long term.

Short term, these plans don't really help as we have to have some place for the children to be in the meantime.  Pray for a really good option.  We're in the process of looking at other schools and working out arrangements with them.  Or best case scenario, this director will come to his senses and become really easy to work with and we can leave the kids where they are.

Only thing to do is pray, pray, pray and pray some more.  Please stand with us in praying for the best solution for the short term- the best school for the meantime.

And pray that our school will be a reality sooner rather than later!

And as always (even though I hate asking this), if you feel led to help us out in any way financially either through giving or organizing a fundraiser, it would be appreciated.  We still need quite a bit to finish up this term with all of our kids- not just this school.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can I Just Be Real?

I think there's a lot of this "just be real" stuff going around.  You see missionaries hit a rut.  We get discouraged.  We feel like giving up.  We wonder what we're doing here.  We wonder if we're even making a difference.  So many questions that come to mind and so much that comes against us that makes us feel like just going home.

Thankfully, those moments are fleeting and we know that we can take those feeling to the ONE who cares far more than we ever could.  He holds the answers and knows the beginning from the end.  After all, He's the one that called us to this ministry in the first place.  It really belongs to Him, not us.

I never really know how much to share.  There's this temptation (pride) in not wanting to share the ugly, the bad, the hurtful, the failures, the shame.  I don't want people to know how much at times I feel like I'm barely holding it together.

You see I love Uganda.  I love the people here.  I love the kids Vision of Destiny works with.  I love their families.  I want so much for them, much more than it's humanly possible to provide.  I want them to attend the best schools.  I want them to grow and to learn.  I want them to know Christ.  I want them to walk in the fullness of His love and grace.  I don't want them to hurt.  I don't want them to go without.

It's just not possible.  I can want it.  I can fight for it.  But, my best efforts will never be good enough.  I can't force those unruly boys who are feeling the call of the streets to stay in school.  I can't make that mom stop prostituting in front of her kids.  I can't make that dad stop drinking.  That grandmother that is dying, I can't stop time.

So, I am often left frustrated.  I have this tendency to want to fix things for people.  It really trapped me when Vision of Destiny first started out.  A parent would come with a story, needing money for rent.  I would give it.  Only to find out that rent wasn't paid......  she drank it or spent it on a man, or bought a new dress......  So, I've had to learn to be more practical.  Firmly stand on helping the children through education.  That doesn't mean that at times when there is a legitimate need that we don't help out.  We often do.  Recently, we had a parent dying in the hospital.  We bought gloves, food, juice, etc. to try to make her more comfortable.  But, still those efforts weren't enough.  She died anyway.  An empty feeling of why couldn't I do more.

My dream for Vision of Destiny is to see these kids from the slums rise above their circumstances.  I hope to see them as the next generation changing Uganda for the better.  A new generation of pastors, teachers, doctors, moms, dads, husbands, and wives that love God first and want to see the world a better place.  I've prayed and prayed for these kids to receive the best.  By the way, $35/month can only stretch so far, but they receive the best that $35 can give!

We started out as a school.  And children were growing.  They were happy.  There were smiles and full bellies.  Until greed and selfishness came in.  You remember the landlord hiked the rent so high that it wasn't possible for us to continue running the school?  Well, that's the selfishness and greed that I'm talking about.  A building that was barely worth what we were currently paying, but she was insisting on more.  You see, people here see an American (insert any other white nationality) and think that dollars are flowing and they feel like they should get as big of a piece of that pie as possible.  So what if all we did is pay rent.  That wasn't her concern.  She just saw dollar signs.

Disappointment.  We closed the school.  We did what was best for the kids.  We arranged with a school where we already had students to allow us to bring all of the students there.  They even gave us an office so that we could be around and still a part of the lives of the students.  We negotiated on fees, came to an agreement (one that was higher than what we can really manage- but one that we were willing to look for and fight for so that our children could have the best).  School started for the new year and kids were happy!  They were excited to see their friends.  Excited to have their bellies full.  Excited to be learning.

Things were moving along fine.  We were working with the school as usual, making our monthly (sometimes twice a month payments) in order to take care of all the school fees.  Kids were learning.

But, again selfishness and greed is stepping in.  The school has decided (in the middle of the school year) that they no longer want to accept monthly payments.  This is after us having worked with them for 5 years (and never having a debt with them).  They want all the money in a lump sum before the beginning of each term.  They also want to raise the school fees in the middle of this term.

I'm distraught.  Sponsors give monthly.  I can only pay monthly.  I can't pay more fees...... remember that $35/month only goes so far.  I can't give over what sponsors give.  And really for most people that $35/month is a sacrifice.  I can't ask for more.  I don't want to ask for more.

So, now the negotiating, pleading, crying, begging God has begun.

I met with the school yesterday.  They were not pleased that I told them that I don't have a fat bank account (not in those words) and can't bring them all their money at once.  They were not happy to hear that the only thing I can do is to pay them monthly as we have been doing.

I am meeting with the director of the school tomorrow.  This will likely determine the future of the 125+ students we have at this school (well, over half of their student population).  Will we be looking for another school?  Probably so.

Please pray with me.
- that the director will have a soft heart towards these children and not be money minded.  We don't want to take advantage of the school and always we pay in full, but do have to do that in monthly payments

- pray that he will not raise the school fees

- pray that if it comes to it that we will have time to look for another school that can accept all of our students at the current fees that we are able to pay (as in that the kids won't have to change schools mid-term or mid- year)

- pray for a favorable outcome- one that favors our students- we want them to be able to attend a great school as if they are kids from the rich areas

- pray for all the funds to come in to pay off all of the schools our students are in so that we can keep that record of not having debts (about $12,000 more is needed for this term)

- pray for me- that I won't be stressed be stressed or anxious

- and most importantly- that God will get all the glory!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Joelee is 6 Months Old!

Where does time go?  Our easy going, sweet baby girl is already six months old!

 Born: November 27, 2013

December 2012
My first family photo- quite a task with a one year old sister and myself not really being so into the photos!

January 2013
Already proving to be a peace loving baby!

February 2013
Still peaceful!

March 2013
Just hanging out!

April 2013
Good thing I'm so laid back.  This family of mine is always having me do silly things!

May 2013
Got to follow big sis.... I love swimming too!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jurnee's 18 Months Old!

I can't believe how fast time is flying by.  Seems like just yesterday that I was in the hospital and the nurses were handing me this tiny, screaming bundle!
She's got one fiery personality and keeps us hopping.  She enjoys life to the fullest and we're so thankful for all the fun she's added to our life.
Here's a glimpse of the last six months:

Dec. 2012 (13 months)
I still love to swim and notice the sunshine in December!

 January 2013 (14 months)
I'm way too big to sit in my little sister's car seat but I still love to sit myself in it anyway!

February 2013 (15 months)
Enjoying a rare nap time with the baby!

March 2013 (16 months)
I think I'm big enough to carry the baby now!

April 2013 (17 months)
This pretty much sums up life with me- always on the move and do things my own way!

May 2013 (18 months)
One of my favorite ways to pass time is to read.  As in I spend hours each day looking at books!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Christine's Exam Results and Meet Hatwiyah!

Do you remember being introduced to Christine a few months ago?  I had asked for you to be praying for her as she sat her A level exams- the big exams that determine a students' entrance into university.  
Well, results came out today!  

Christine got a B average!  I'm so excited for her!  Despite being a total orphan growing up in a slum, her future looks bright.

To continue under Vision of Destiny's sponsorship program in university, Christine needed to have at least a C average.  She is excited that she can now begin the process of seeking university admission.  It's a little bit different here in that students apply directly into their major course of study, no basic or core classes needed!  She's hoping to get admitted into one of two universities and her heart is set on studying Environmental Studies.  She'll also apply for several other courses in case she's not admitted for Environmenal Studies.

Again, a huge thanks to her sponsor for getting her this far.  Sponsorship has made a difference in her life.

Meet Hatwiyah (we also call her Nassali)!

Hatwiyah just completed her O level and did amazingly well!  She scored in Division 1 which is an A average!

Hatwiyah comes from a Muslim background.  Her mom was married to an older man at a young age, just after completing her primary school studies.  This ended her chances of further education.  A couple of years later, Hatwiyah was born.  A few more years later, Hatwiyah's dad took another wife and left the family.
With no education, no job, no real means of survival, Hatwiyah's mom had little hope that her children would attend school.  She applied to Vision of Destiny's sponsorship program and both of her children were accepted.

Hatwiyah has proven to be a capable student, well mannered, friendly, and hard working.  Her four years of being in Vision of Destiny's sponsorship program have been spent at May Christian College.  She now has a strong foundation in what Christians believe.  
Upon receiving her O level exam results, Hatwiyah was eligible for a better school.  When she began looking around, she chose one of the best Christian schools in the country!  It's a school well known for its high academic standards as well as its strong Christian foundation.

One thing that sets Vision of Destiny apart from other sponsorship programs is that we send our kids to the best schools.  This sometimes puts a strain on our finances but our kids are excelling.  This gives them a better chance to attend university in the future, a chance for better jobs, hope of being leaders and rebuilding their communities.  We have been blessed in that most schools that our kids go to will give us discounted rates and allow us to pay what sponsors give or just slightly over that.

Hatwiyah has done far better than what we could have ever imagined.  She has fought to excel in her studies.  When she came back with the school of her choice, we sort of wavered.  Would we manage the school fees?  We've stepped out in faith and she is enrolled and has already reported to school.  We're believing that God already knows how her fees will be paid.

Hatwiyah is currently without a sponsor.  She has two years of high school remaining and then hopefully will be continuing on to university.  

School fees for Hatwiyah are more than the $35/month that sponsorship usually is.  Each term (there are three per year) is $341 ($90.25/month- this includes the cost of her school supplies).  She would also need school supplies and textbooks in addition to this.  Her school supplies each term are $20.  Textbooks we are not sure of yet, as we are hoping she'll be able to use the ones in the school library.

We don't usually give one child more than one sponsor but because of the cost of Hatwiyah's school fees, we are asking for either one sponsor that can cover the sponsorship or for three that could do $30/month.  

If you are interested in sponsoring Hatwiyah or helping with her sponsorship in some way, please email me at

We are still in need of sponsors for many nursery and primary school students at the usual $35/month. 

Keep checking back to meet our other students that completed exams last year!  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Babies' Dedication

Last Sunday we had both Jurnee and Joelee dedicated in church.  We should have done it a while ago for Jurnee but while I was hugely pregnant just figured we'd wait until Joelee got here and do it at once!

Our church doesn't practice infant baptism but does baby dedication.  This comes from the story of Hannah when she dedicated Samuel to the Lord.

We were asked a couple of questions, both of which we answered yes to.  One was if we believed in Jesus and the other was if we were committed to raising our children in the knowledge of Christ (I don't remember the exact wording used but something along those lines.......  I'm nervous any time I'm in front of people, even if I don't have to say anything.)

Jurnee wasn't too thrilled at being taken away from her daddy.  The plan was for Pastor Josh to hold her and I hold Joelee as he prayed.  That wasn't what Jurnee had planned so she was quickly given back to her daddy.

Love our church!  Great worship.  Love the program for the kids.  Strong Biblical teaching.  And people from all over the world worshiping one God together!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Ice Cream Date

I am determined that I want to have some one on one quality time with each of my kids.  It may not happen frequently but I want it to be often enough that they each feel they are important.  And it's a great way for me to really get to know them as individuals.

Throughout the day, it seems like I'm running around in chaos (not really true but feels like it at times).  At home with four kids it's hard to really give each one the individual attention.  Joelee, of course, probably gets the most just because she's a newborn and needs it.  And Jurnee still demands quite a bit too.

Homeschooling the big kids has been great because it lets me sneak in a few minutes of each day with them just by themselves.  Sometimes it's reading a book together, working on a worksheet, or talking through a Bible lesson.

But, it's also fun to get away with them on a "date" once in a while.  So, today I needed to run to the supermarket to pick up a few things for the next week.  I decided to let Yosam go along with me and we had ice cream before shopping.  He was so mature.  He was opening doors for me and carrying Joelee's baby bag.  We sat and had ice cream and he talked a lot.  He was sharing with me things he was remembering from different Bible stories, asking me questions about when I was a kid, and talking about things he doesn't like.

But, the cutest thing was when we went into the supermarket.  I put Joelee's carseat in one shopping cart and he was pushing the second shopping cart so that we actually had somewhere to put the items that we needed.  Joelee started fussing a bit.  Yosam suggested that I shop and he push Joelee and make her sleep.  I was scared that she'd start screaming and knew she was sleepy.  He did an awesome job.  He made sure to not go to fast, but also not go too slow and in no time she was fast asleep!

All in all, even though it was running an errand, it was a fun ice cream date too.  I loved getting to talk with him and hearing what's going on in his head!

He's growing up and really is turning into a remarkable young guy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ugandan School System Explanation

 I get questions from time to time from sponsors about various things involving sponsorship, Vision of Destiny, Uganda, etc.  So, someone suggested that I blog the answers to these questions.  I have a list of about 25 or so questions that people have asked (and I'm sure others are asking themselves) that I'll be putting up a blog post about from time to time.

Here's the answer to the first one:

How does the school system work in Uganda?

Here's a brief explanation of how the school system in Uganda works.  You'll be able to see how it is a bit different from the U.S. school system.

Uganda has both private and public schools.  The public schools are the government schools where students can attend for "free."  I say "free" because these schools in the city still have fees and all (even in the remotest village) government schools will still have fees, just not tuition.  These fees will be in the form of building fees, lunch fees, etc.- whatever fee the school can come up with to add on to the little the government provides for each child.  Also, the student's family would still need to provide shoes, lunch, uniform, and books. 

Often these schools are not the best schools.  Children frequently are squeezed into inadequately ventilated rooms.  Sometimes there are no desks.  Students will sit on the floor (if there is even a floor) and teachers will rarely report to work.  The students beginning their educational career in these schools don't read and write well and the percentage of students actually completing primary school from these schools is very low.

That's where the privately run schools step in.  These private schools (especially if a school that performs well on national exams) are usually not cheap schools!  However, most parents feel that educating their children is a good investment and for those that can afford to do so, will send their children to the best schools.

The school year runs from late Jan./early Feb. to late Nov./early Dec. and is divided into three terms with about 3-4 weeks break between terms 1 and 2 and between terms 2 and 3.  The summer break coincides with the Christmas break!

Instead of having kindergarten up to 12th grade, Uganda has 3 years of nursery school (baby, middle, and top class), 7 years of primary school (Primary 1-7), and 4-6 years of high school (Senior 1-6).

Nursery school is not compulsory.  Therefore, all nursery schools are private schools.  Obviously, those students that don't attend nursery school, begin their school career already a great deal behind.  Schools (especially in Kampala) expect children entering Primary 1 to already be reading.  Children can begin nursery school as early as the age of 3. 

Students can begin Primary 1 after completing nursery school or at the age of 6.  However, again, those 6 year olds beginning without attending nursery school will be far behind.  Also, it's not uncommon to find a child at the age of 10 in Primary 1 if that is when his guardian is able to first send him to school or to find a 14 year old in Primary 6 because of missing a year or two due to lack of school fees.

At the end of Primary 7, students sit the Primary Leaving Exam (PLE).  This is a national exam which all Primary 7 leavers are expected to take and determines whether a student will be able to continue to high school and what high school will accept the student.  The better score you have, the better high school you will be admitted to.  The best score on the PLE is a 4.  The higher the number is of your score, the worse you have done.

Senior 1- Senior 4 is called O Level.  Students will study around 10 subjects (depending on the school, sometimes more).  At the end of Senior 4, students will sit another exam to receive their Uganda Certificate of Education.  Again, this exam determines the child's future.  It determines if and where they will be eligible to continue their last two years of high school.  Students who don't pass can either repeat the exam the following year or switch to vocational training.  The best score on the O Level exams is an 8.  The higher the number of the score, again, the worse you have done.

Senior 5 and 6 is called A Level.  Students are studying 3-4 subjects over these two years.  Schools will give the students the subjects to study based on how they performed on the O Level exams.  The subjects taken will determine what you do in university.  For example, a student wanting to study medicine in university, will take biology, chemistry, math, and physics (or a similar combination of subjects).  At the end of Senior 6, students will take their last national exam.  How they do on this exam determines whether they will be eligible to go on to university or not.  The highest score on the A Level exams is a 24 or 25 (depends on the year and the examination board).  The lowest score is a 0.  A 0 means the student has not passed the exam. 

University students will enter university and directly study their major courses, no taking two years of basics!  Students also can go from O or A level to a vocational training course and complete a certificate, go on to complete a diploma, and still be admitted to university.

Hope that explains a bit about how the Ugandan school system works!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Poo Poo, Blankets, and Dogs!

No, this post isn't about a dog that poops and uses a blanket!  This is really more just to remember the funny things that Jurnee says and does.  I need to be keeping up with what the kids do, say, etc.  I know some day I'll be forgetting it (or which child was it) and want to have a place where it's recorded.

So, while I don't have pictures for these stories, I at least want to have them written down!

Well, it's really one dog, and a puppy at that!  The guards got a puppy.  Jurnee likes snapping her fingers and "shouting" for the dog to come to her.  Of course, when the dog gets near her she wants to shout and run the other way.  However, she really likes the dog, and often will let us know she wants to go down to see the dog!

Jurnee is already a wonderful, caring big sister to Joelee.  If I set a blanket down near me, she'll pick it up and give it to the baby- or at least to me and then demand that I put it on the baby!

Jurnee is learning to talk and one of her favorite words at the moment is poo poo.......  AT least she says it at the right time- either right before she goes or right after (so that you can change her diaper and get her out of it as fast as possible).  This evening she even got her changing mat and laid it on the floor for us, said poo poo and laid down on it.  Funniest thing ever!

So, while not any profound writing in this post, pictures, or even anything amusing to anyone else, just moments that were funny to me that I don't want to forget!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sleeping Princesses

I love watching the girls sleep.  They're so peaceful.  Tonight I caught them both sleeping with their hands flung over their heads! 

Also, I love seeing the girls with their daddy.  They are such daddy's girls!  Here we had just come back from Joelee's 6 week check up and immunizations.  She was miserable but all was well with the doctor.  She's now up to 13 pounds and 5 ounces!  She resembles Jurnee to me in a lot of ways, although most people tell me they don't think so.  I think it's just because she's so much bigger than Jurnee was but I see her making the same faces that Jurnee used to make!