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“Be the Church”

Today was a great example of how amazing “the church” is. Flashback to 2008-2010 when we were first here in Uganda and I was seeking so much to find connection with fellow Christians. It was hard because we were the only missionaries in our area and to get to church with fellow missionaries meant we would need to travel to town, we didn’t have a vehicle and town was more than an hour away. When we decided to come back to live full time in Uganda I knew that life would have to look different. I knew we would need support from a solid church family that understood the stresses of being away from one’s home country and the tough ministry life.

It took some time, but we found KIC-B (Kampala International Church-Bugalobi). We found our church family that we knew we would need to help us when life gets tough. Today the pastor was preaching in Daniel and he had a “radical” idea, he asked his people to stand if they needed prayer, if this week didn’t go as planned. I stood and as uncomfortable as it is to be open and vulnerable it was freeing, because I knew one, I wasn’t going to be the only one that would be standing and two, I would be prayed for. What he asked next was that those around us would lay hands on us where we were and pray for us.

I thought back to a moment when I was first in Uganda and we went to Watoto church a “mega” church in Kampala and one Sunday we went when we had just been broken down and something similar happened a woman prayed for me. She had no idea what was going on in my life, but God did and used her to pray exactly what I needed to hear. God does that for us and it is so amazing! I can remember hearing the song “Stronger” that Sunday and thinking yes He is stronger and I will be okay.

This church family is from all over the world gathered together to worship and to be the church for each other. We come from all different backgrounds and religious groups, but one thing remains true is that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. How amazing it is to go to church each week knowing that people have each other’s backs; that during the week I can connect with someone from church and they will offer love, support, prayer and just a listening ear. I am so blessed!!!

The ”church” is not perfect and maybe you have been hurt by the church; but I want to encourage you to find a place that is not caught up in the politics of church. I beg you to give it another shot, because when you find a place that feels like family, you can make it through all the crazy that life brings you. If you are a part of the body of Christ- the church I challenge you to pray for people when they need prayer and to allow yourself to be prayed for when you need it. I am so thankful that through-out most of my life I have had people from the body of Christ who have prayed for me. The power of prayer is unmatchable and amazing to give and to receive. Take time today to pray for someone or ask someone to pray for you. Let me know how I can pray for you, I promise I will lift you up in prayer if you just let me know how I can be praying for you.

 

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The Journey thus far

Our journey through fostering and adoption is reflectively not that long in the grand scheme of things. However, it has been a slow, painful, frustrating, heartbreaking, challenging, new, happy and learning experience. We are supposed to care for the widowed and orphaned, but often times it is those who are neither that often need some attention. I think though why did God pick us and prompt us to take these kids into our home? I mean we see neglect, poor, needy, abused and the whole list of children that need a better home life. We don’t take them all in, we try and work with them and their families to get it together and get it right. I was a social worker when we first got married and my job was “Family Reunification Worker”. That’s what I did I worked on reunifying families that for one reason or another had been separated by the state and now were ready to try and come back together and live. So it is interesting to be on the side of the foster parent who might have to give up on everything they have worked toward to help these boys and basically say okay mom you want another shot here you go. There is a huge difference in the process though because in the U.S. you are provided some funds and legal protection from the government. Here in Uganda we literally have done everything out of our own good will and with no support from the government actually because they are not technically from this country.

So right before Christmas we had just made a year of the boys living in our home and we had come to the time that we were looking at adoption. We had been given the paperwork and the go ahead to move forward from the Rwandan embassy. Then we got a message that changed everything, one of the boys sisters sent a message asking if the boys could come and visit because their mom had come back to Uganda and wanted to see them. We were shocked, their mom the last we had heard was very ill and still in Rwanda. This all happened right before school was being let out for the holiday break and everyone who we had worked with on this fostering process had left or closed for the holidays. We were able to get in contact with a social worker through our church family and she helped us break the news to the boys. Happy was “happy” as he said he thought his mom was dead and it made him happy that she was alive. Kitibwa had no reaction besides shutting down and even refusing to see a picture of mom. Tendo was worried that it meant he would be leaving our family and “things” but was still anxious to see her. The next week we met with a translator that could help us with the communication barrier between three languages. She was great being able to get Tendo to open up and talk about his past with mom. Also finding out that Happy said he would not recognize his mom had we not shown him a picture and wouldn’t even know if he passed his father on the street.

All these feelings as we approach the meeting with their mom tomorrow and I am feeling so many emotions because I have so many questions and am not sure any will be answered. Mostly I want there to be lots of talking between everyone and I want open and honest conversations, no matter how hard it might be to hear. One thing that Matt and I are is united, we have sorted through emotions through this past year all the ups and downs and we have become stronger together through it.

Today we met mom, it was basically what I feared would happen an instant connection from the boys and a total disregard of responsibility from mom. She was grateful, she thought they were dead, she has been trying to relocate them for the past 7 months and is happy to find them in a good place. She has no plans to care for them or herself really, she is still dependent on other people to take care of her. We did get some answers, some history, a glimmer of hope for the future. I am going to have to use my social work background to get some things in place for mom, steps and goals in place. I am forever these boys advocate and as much as it is way more personal than anything I have ever done, I will fight. When people don’t know how to fight for things, you have to sometimes point them in the right direction, push them, show them, and be there to help them when they mess up.

What I am not going to do is be someone’s scapegoat, excuse or reason to not do their best. I won’t allow it. I thought 2017 was hard but I have a feeling it was just preparing me for the challenges ahead.

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From Boxing day to New Years

Boxing day- there is not much that I understand about what Boxing day really is but I do know they honor it as a holiday here in Uganda. For me it meant that I decided to take down the Christmas decorations. There is now a big bare area in the corner of our living room, I spent the morning cleaning and got Matt to hang my new picture frame. Matt is finally taking the time to finish our picnic style kitchen table…a project started in the summer. I am hopeful it will be completed before the new year (fingers crossed).  When I think of boxing day it actually makes me think of two things actual boxes and punching someone. When I looked up the meaning I gathered these facts: A box- a present; servants were given the day off and possibly a “box” from their master; kind of like “black Friday” in America where stores had Big sales; celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other commonwealth countries (originated in England 19th century).

It made me wonder what are some traditions or “public” holidays that don’t really mean what we thought? There are holidays that are strictly American Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, (Independence day is universal but is specific to each country), Labor day, Columbus day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving day. In fact, the only two holidays that are celebrated pretty much universally are Christmas and New Year’s. It made me think about how people from all around the world celebrate differently. We hold different beliefs and traditions not only related to public holidays but also a whole list of reasons. The beauty in our world is that God created us all differently and it is evident in the variety of ethnicities and various backgrounds that we come from.

In this new year many people around the world think about what they want their new year to look like. Some have a word they choose to express what they want their year to represent. Resolutions to get something done or to start something new. I made a plan…a bit of a dream board style with goals and ways to get them accomplished. One thing that I want to do a better job of doing is to celebrate other people better. I want to be able to look at their culture and see it for what it is; invest more time in exploring people other than myself.

One way I am planning on doing this is with a project that I have dreamt about doing for a long time. I am working on making a children’s book to inspire children to explore the possibilities of doing anything they can dream of. I will travel around Uganda documenting jobs of people in Uganda and telling their story of how they got where they are. The real life stories of people they can relate to and allow them a way to dream bigger. My hope is that it will also inspire those who are doing a job they didn’t really want to do as a kid think how they can too dream bigger.

So what do you want to do this New Year that is not only for yourself but also for someone else? Maybe make this new year about getting to know someone else, celebrate a new culture or tradition, dream bigger and do something that you always wanted to do.

Have a Happy New Year!!!

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Good Good Father

Getting real with you again. I struggle with race. I struggle with why it matters. I know people will say it is because I am white, I have white privilege. Yes, true but when it comes to being a human being I can honestly say I care what race you are, what nationality you are, what religion you are. I care because you are a child of God. When we came to Uganda it wasn’t the first time that I helped people different from me. I don’t help people because of where they come from or what they look like. I help people because they are in need. I don’t help people because I am white, I don’t help people just because they don’t look like me. I help people because Jesus tells me to and because I love Jesus I love people.

Why am I writing this because I know that people won’t always understand why we are adopting 3 boys from another race, country and tribe different from our own. People won’t always understand why we are living in another country other than our own, helping people from a different race, religion, country, tribe, tongue than ours. Simple, because Jesus did. You see I am proud of who I am what God created me to be and I can’t change that. I embrace who God made me to be because I don’t want anyone to feel they need to be ashamed of where they come from, who God created them to be.

Adoption is not an easy calling and often I feel people who adopt get a bad wrap. The stories of the children often are the ones people hear about. The stories of the parents who adopt are often forgotten or not even heard. I am not trying to discount all the pain that a child who is adopted goes through, but open your heart to the heartache that someone who adopts goes through. People who adopt do so for a variety of reasons and some can be selfish, but most often it is because they feel a calling to help.

An adoptive parent has to handle all the emotional trauma that the child goes through. Raise a child that is not theirs, often one that doesn’t look like them. Raise a child who may never call them mom or dad, a child who always longs to be with their “real” parents. Raise a child who they couldn’t have, raise a child along with their biological child, raise a child after they have already raised their own. An adoptive parent has to balance what is emotionally healthy for the child to have interaction with biological relatives, learn a culture that is not naturally theirs, learn a language or traditions that don’t come naturally. Worry that they are raising a child who will one day leave them to live with someone else, reject them, resent them, never grow to love them.

Very rarely is there a child who literally has no one still alive that has their blood. Unless their entire family was killed in war or accident they have someone who has relation to them. The idea that you should place a child with a relative sounds good in theory. To place a child in their own culture also sounds great in theory. To place a child with someone who can relate to them because they “look” the same as they do also great it theory. But what happens when those people who are related to them, looks like them, comes from their same culture are the same people who tortured them, abandoned them, enslaved them, abused, neglected and rejected them. Then is that still the best placement for them. What if no one wants to help three boys and keep them together. What if their own family can’t provide for their basic needs to live. What if their own family left them, sold all their things and abandoned them.

Adoption usually isn’t a beautiful process, there is always hurt involved in adoption. Always financial strain, emotional strain, marital strain, and relationship strain. Adoption is a beautiful thing but the road and journey is not easy, the reality is that adoption happens only if there is something that has been lost. The hope is that adoption can work only with intervention from Jesus, healing can only happen through Jesus.

I will leave you with this if you are someone who has adopted, thank you for taking that leap of faith. If you have been adopted, understand that everyone’s story is different and I hope that you have been able to find healing in Jesus’ name. If you are considering adopting, I will let you know it is not an easy road, but if you are doing it for the right reasons then it is something you should do. If you are a sceptic or critic of adoption I hope that you will attempt to look at adoption from all sides of the story. The way that I look at life is that Jesus is my “adoptive” father, he is the one who will never leave me or hurt me. Jesus is always here for you and for me no matter what our earthly father means to us and our story.

*I must say I am thankful that I have an earthly father who has always loved me, cared for me, prayed for me, supported me and disciplined me. I am thankful that my earthly father has pointed me to my heavenly father so that I knew no matter if my earthly father left this earth I would always have a father with me.

I love the song- “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and can honestly say I have been blessed.

 

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Grandma Deeeeee

This holiday season we are away from our extended family and I will admit the memories come flooding for me. My grandma Dee (my mom’s mom) always brings back great memories of Christmas time. The travel to Beatrice, Ne wasn’t long and so the time spent in the car wasn’t torture like when we would travel to Iowa. I can’t compare the two places for Christmas, because they were different in so many ways. One thing was the same though memories. The memories I made were generally with my cousins and sleeping in sleeping bags or on sofas. We would play games, we would make up songs, we would talk about how lame it was to play with younger cousins (who now we totally would hang out with). Grandma Dee always made every child feel unique even if they got the same gift as their cousin who was in their age range. She always had Christmas cookies, we ate pizza at least once, because when you have 14 grand kids you order pizza.

The reason I decided to dedicate this blog to my grandma Dee is that she used to send out emails updating us on her many adventures. She would literally tell us at times everything she did. I was just looking through my emails and saw that I had saved some old family emails from my grandma. It was an email from 2009 when she was travelling in Colorado. She was so funny when she wrote often laughing at her own jokes. My mom does the same things now a bit shorter stories (and usually about Nebraska sports and weather). I will probably do the same when my kids get to the age of emails…if that is still something that exists when they are older.

Memories are something that can bring joy and a bit of sadness. I miss both my grandma’s a lot during the holidays. My grandma Ruby passed away on Christmas eve when I was a freshman in college. It changed the holiday for all of us because Christmas was one of my grandma Ruby’s favorite holidays.  She literally would have a pile of presents surrounding her chair and she wouldn’t open them because she was too busy watching everyone else open theirs. She didn’t want to miss any joy from her loved ones. She would then have the grand kids help her open hers so we wouldn’t have to wait forever. She always cried every single time that we had to leave to go back home, she just wanted her kids and grand kids to live near her so she could show them love all the time.

My grandma Dee was on one of her adventures when she passed away in her sleep. She always said she didn’t want to die old like her mother who lived until she was 96. She wanted to live life to the fullest never wanting to be any burden to anyone. She was a giver not a taker, I would say she also loved Christmas, but more for the family time and servant hood that she could provide.

This Christmas season is difficult for many, but what I have tried to remind myself is that each year we can reflect on the things of the world or we can reflect on the things of eternity. I am so thankful that both my grandma’s are in heaven and putting all the traditions and family time memories aside the reason for Christmas is only Christ. It is not about what we gain from the season from the people on earth, but what we gained on ONE Christmas which was Jesus. I am so blessed to come from a long line of followers of Jesus and one day when my grand kids think of memories of me I want them to remember one main thing… Jesus!

Merry CHRISTmas.

 

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Self care is not selfish

As most of you know we have had a rocky road this last year. I want to get real honest with you I have been trying to figure out how to keep spiritually full. I have tried to take care of my health but that has had its ups and downs. I was able to get away several different times to get my hair done, massage or a retreat away for a day or two. I have tried getting involved with women’s groups and meet new friends. I have read topical books on the Bible and have also read the Bible. I have journaled and blogged. I have prayed alone and together with others. I have colored and painted. The truth is that life is stressful and I don’t always know what I should do to keep myself mentally healthy. I am trying hard to not burn out spiritually. In church they have been talking a lot of how to balance life and ministry.

Today’s sermon really put it all into perspective that we are not defined by our qualifications. Paul is reminding the Colossians that our identity is in Christ Jesus. Our eternal life doesn’t start after you die it begins when we accept Christ. My desire should be to honor God and not to worry about the other roles that I have been placed in.

So I have been reading the Bible intentionally to read it in a year, this gives me accountability to daily get into the Word. I just started and I have found it hard to follow a times what the heck Job is talking about as well as all the others. But I am really intrigued by chapter 38 where God is explaining how he is powerful and it gives a great picture of how he created the universe. At school I taught 3-5 year olds the story of creation as it is found in Genesis, but I think that if I were to teach it to an older group of kids I would definitely read Job 38.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together  and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors  when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,  and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea  or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?   Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?  And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?  Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!  You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,  for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,  or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland  and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?  Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?  Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons   or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds  and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?  Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom   or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard  and the clods of earth stick together?

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven   when its young cry out to God  and wander about for lack of food?

It goes on for another few chapters until Job repents in chapter 42…

“I know, Lord, that you are all-powerful; that you can do everything you want.
You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant.
I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know.
You told me to listen while you spoke and to try to answer your questions.
In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes.”

Wow! I have learned that even though I have had challenges this last year (non of which were as bad as Job experienced). I have realized I could see it through the eyes of Job and we read that he had a mix of emotions. He came finally to the conclusion that he may never know what God had in mind for him, but that God will do what he wants. To stay faithful through it all because there will be an end to the trials. You will come out of the storm with more knowledge and understanding, God will restore you and God loves you. I don’t know what the future holds, but I always hold on to the promises of the scriptures. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans for peace and not evil to give you a future and a hope.

I write this to give hope to someone else who is going through a storm in their life, a battle like Job. Keep trying to find a way to connect with God and make room for your own mental health through it all. I tend to think that I am being selfish when I take time to care for myself, but this last year have realized if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t effectively take care of others and do the calling that God has for me.

 

 

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Trials of 2017

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

What are my trials that I am facing? I want to try and be authentic about this part of my life right now. 2017 has not been the best year of my life, nor the worst; but I can say that many trials have been faced and continue to be faced. The most obvious one is the new addition of 3 tween boys who have lived with us full-time since January. To say it has been an adjustment is an understatement. When you think you might have a good thing going it often changes with the weather, especially when there are now 7 different moods, opinions, behaviors, schedules, stresses, and coping strategies.

We have moved 4 times in Parkers 4 years of life from Omaha to Uganda House 1 Masoli, then to House 2 Bukoto and most recently House 3 Kasanga. We told ourselves I don’t want to move for a long time and then we get robbed in the very house that we want to stay in for a long period of time. That was a major trial and at times still is, our lives were forever altered. I had flashbacks to our first year of marriage where I was robbed outside our apartment at gunpoint. Matt had restless nights waking up to any little sound he would hear outside. Every night it would take hours to fall asleep because any noise outside would prevent us from being able to rest.

Not being able to travel “home” this year has been a big heartache for us. We miss friends and family physically being with us. We miss the comforts that a first world country offers. The familiarity and convenience of getting what we need and what we want. The reality that we are not financially able to just go “home” like other people are. The lack of flexibility we have to leave our ministry in capable hands and see that it would run without our constant support. The fact we can’t travel with our boys yet because they have no documentation or clearance to move around with us outside of Uganda.

Missionary families moving onto other countries and the relationships that we developed with them altered. Opening up ourselves to be hurt, lonely and at times envious of where they are heading and the lives they will lead without us. The stress of making new friends and always having to be the “outgoing” person because if you are shy and introverted then good luck finding friendships.

Friends and family dealing with loss and heartbreak a world away from us and we can’t be there to comfort them. We can’t experience the new births and the deaths, marriages and moves. You can’t be there when someone is sick or going through a crisis; you can’t physically touch someone, hold their hand, hug them tight or say I love you in person.

But if life were only the first part of the verse then it would be a complete tragedy not pure joy. The second part of that verse says… because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

As much as I don’t like facing trials those trials happen for a reason. I often don’t know what those reasons are and I don’t always face them joyfully. But I do know that my God will give me the ability to persevere. He will equip me when I read His word and pray to Him to be able to come out of any trial better than when I faced it.

We have had so many blessings in the midst of the trials, victories in the midst of defeat and hope in the midst of hopelessness. We have gained more than we have lost and loved more than we thought we ever could. It is all because of Christ and His goodness despite our shortcomings. Thank you God for that and through those trials and the ones to come I know that through it all I will always find God with me by my side holding my hand or when I am too weak He will be carrying me through the storm.

I will end with one of my favorite poems…

Footprints in the Sand

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Author: Carolyn Joyce Carty