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Lost in translation

Today it was perhaps more of a reminder of how important learning this language is. English is the secondary language for most Ugandans and when uneducated it is in fact foreign. Our education system is poor and when you throw in the government “funded” ones it’s even worse. You would never fully understand what I mean when I say poor unless you see it firsthand. Overcrowding, unruly, overlooked, under taught, ill equipped, and broken down. I am not bashing the teachers, I am amazed at some of them, the fact they can teach anything in the environment that they are given is remarkable at best.

Today was another crazy day where the kids were playing games instead of learning in school. They have these “field days” you know the ones that normally happen in America at the end of the year when all the learning for the year is over. These ones interrupt the school day and a bunch of government schools compete with each other. At times I think more importance is on sports than on actual learning. So today became a bit overwhelming as the number of roaming kids was in the hundreds and most don’t know what our ministry does since they are from schools far away. So when you are the “white” people there is a lot of staring and not a lot of understanding of what is going on. I had my normal crew of third graders who don’t understand 80% of what I say. I use the curriculum that they are supposed to be learning and there are about 3 out of 10 that seem to “get it”. I do wonder what they learn in class and I may just pop in sometime to listen.

The concept today for most was how to use our library (our bookshelf). I explained how it’s organized by skill level and how to treat our books to keep them nice. I was trying to see where kids were at with their reading levels by giving them an assignment. Summarize. I defined it, using the dictionary definition, I defined it by reading a short story and giving the example of what a summary was. I explained it several different ways, several different times. When I got the work back, zero got the concept of what a summary was. Instead I got papers that wrote sentences directly from the book. I kept the papers with the book titles and their names and if they show up again then I will try again.

It was a unique day as usually I have a translator to fill in the gaps of what they understand. Today though no staff to translate, thus my American accent most likely hindered what I said. I am hoping that these kids ranging from 3rd grade to 7th grade for one come back, two understood some of it, three when explained the next time they will “get it” and be a better reader for it. However, I know that for most it is a new concept because I remember when we first started our library in 2009 it was hard to get kids to just read and comprehend. Reading is not something frequently done until the later years in school, which is a crazy concept. I am thankful that my kids love books, and are learning the foundations of how to read early. I am also very excited for our shipment to come because the amount of books we have is huge in comparison to what our selection is now.

Today for some it could be discouraging but for me it’s just another challenge, and I know that with God I can make a difference in these kids’ lives. I am also excited to take my Luganda classes and hope that I will then be able to speak without translation.

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The Uncomfortable Truth, Life as a Mom

When you’re a mom everything is a possible talking point when it comes to your kids. Since Jacob was born my world has changed, privacy went out the window the moment he was born. I will spare the details, but if you have given birth or are in the medical field you can imagine. He was born naturally and was fed naturally so you can imagine that privacy was shot when he came into this world. As time went on it only got worse, taking a shower involved playing peek a boo, going to the bathroom with a kid on your lap, (sometimes eating), trying to change your clothes without the door flying open. I lived in a house without locks and thus no privacy. I have never liked the idea of nudity, makes me uncomfortable, especially when you are self-conscious about your figure. Jacob had taken his curiosity to new heights since Parker was born a girl, and potty training started.  He noticed differences in body parts, so he knew the difference between mommy and daddy and then Parker and himself. It was a simple observation with a pretty easy explanation, God made male and female we are different.

Lately though it has gotten a bit more complex, for instance my breasts are often referred to as to what both Jacob and Parker used to get food from. Great not a big deal except when you are trying to change or shower or when every person who has an infant here, will just casually whip out to feed their child. This is fine, it is natural and I am glad that I was able to provide that healthy service, but now they are out of commission. The other aspect of motherhood that has to take place in order to have these beautiful children is not what I want to be explaining. “Where do babies come from?” You know that simple question where you can just say, mommy’s belly. Well when you have no privacy especially now that you are using a latrine and it’s that wonderful monthly reminder that you are a woman. And the questions start getting a bit more intrusive, “Mom what’s that?, AHHH why are you bleeding?, Is that like a bandaid? Where does that go?” I have given a variety of answers, but just recently I said all this happens to mommy because she had Jacob and Parker. So obviously that meant that tampons=babies and thus mommy is having a baby. NO it means mommy is not having babies nor does she want to.

All this to say, I am not looking forward to these amazing questions that life brings to us. However it does lead to some interesting conversations that point back to God and his miracles. As uncomfortable as being a parent can be, it allows me to tell the truth to my kids, to teach them truth from the scriptures. That God doesn’t make mistakes and he created male and female and he created them to create life. God intended for life to matter and that the babies that this mommy had were blessings and are not to be destroyed. What a huge responsibility to be a parent, and sadly our World is leaving these lessons to be taught by others instead of parents. This world is making it much harder to speak the truth too as there is so many lies out there confusing our young people. If you are a parent, if you believe in Christ, make sure that you are speaking truth to your kids. (No matter how uncomfortable it may be)

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Why sometimes it would be easier if it were only a mission trip…

We are in our second month here in Uganda and reality of permanency is kicking in. As much as the kids would benefit from homeschooling and all the benefits that has to offer.  We have been searching for a good fit for our kids to socially adapt to this new world we live in. But that is for another blog, and another time. If you have ever been on any kind of mission trip you know that it is a short period of time that holds a lot of impact. It usually means you get away from your version of reality for a while, usually you are impacted and then you return home. You might be fired up for a while and others are excited to hear about your trip and then after time life goes on. That is how my life was when I went on my mission trips in my youth and young adult life, short impactful trips where I grew and hopefully helped out the people we served. I remember having a week or two just packed with things to do, very little down time, you were always busy and when your head hit that pillow you usually were out fast.

Now a peak into my reality as a FULL TIME MISSIONARY…wow that’s still crazy to think about. Days are different here, there is no one that is filling your day with an agenda of people to serve and fun places to travel to. The food is no longer new and exciting, those cute little kids that always wanted your attention are still amazed that you are there, but are less eager to impress and please. Those adventures traveling in packed vans is now just you and your family dodging traffic to hopefully not have any adventures that day.  The group of friends that you had is now just your family that you love, but could really use someone else to talk to and get away with to talk about life. The family you left behind and called once to let them know you made it and are safe, now you skype for 5 minutes and try and talk about everything in that time once a week if you’re lucky. Those friends you left behind that are eager to hear about your trip, slowly start to get busy with life and seem to forget about you. The people that supported your trip now are wondering how long you will last and if they can really fulfill their commitments to you.

I have moments that are amazing, were I am feeling on top of the World and can see God moving through that moment. There are times that I have so much energy and can get loads accomplished. Days where I am speaking truth and someone actually seems to get it and make a decision to follow that truth. Times when I feel appreciated for the work and sacrifice that I am doing to help them. And then there are times when I feel alone, tired, worthless, unheard, underappreciated and ignored.  It’s a daily balance to keep reminding myself that I have a purpose in life; that purpose is to listen and serve God daily. Serve no matter what I am feeling, experiencing, learning, impacting or sacrificing. I don’t lead a glamorous life in my eyes, but in someone else’s maybe I do. I am just doing what needs to be done to serve a God that I believe in and that created me in His image to do the work of His kingdom.

Some examples of this glamourous life I lead both yesterday and today. Yesterday, I was feeling ambitious I was going to walk as far as I could before Matt caught up with me in the car. (He never caught me) I walked about three miles most of it was dirt road, along the way every single person I passed stared at me. Most said something, ranging from good morning, Muzungu(white), and the always awkward hey baby (to which I always think come on now I am in my thirties and I am married with two children). I was dirty, exhausted, annoyed, but also felt accomplished, proud and confident that I could take on the day’s challenges. We had our weekly meeting, I worked on the program for Saturday, we went to visit a school for the kids, ate some local food and then the teaching began. It started with the usual two kids who were so eager to come in.  We worked on math and after a short time a few more trickled in and then I had a table of fourth graders who were working on material that was at the first grade level. Some got it and others struggled, but the excitement of learning was there. These kids go to the government school where our office is located, it was evident that they could not manage at the grade level that they were placed. They could pick some of my English, but I know it was a challenge. I felt good, but exhausted after about 2 hours of working with a variety of ages of kids. We went home (thankfully Matt drove me) and we were able to see our kids, they gave us big hugs and said “I love you, I missed you.” We made pizza, talked about our day, and went to bed.

Today, Matt left for work even before Jacob got up about 8. Parker was up several times during the night and finally up at 6:30 (late for her). Fed the kids, the dogs, and swept and mopped the house. I attempted to rack the yard of dog poop, but the rack did not cooperate (and Matt didn’t bring the weed whacker home anyway so I was happy I stopped). We started our lesson by noticing that there was some oranges that had fallen, so I brought them in and we talked about why they weren’t ready to eat (besides the fact that they were the color of lemons). We cut them in half and I had the bright idea to paint with them. We had some dried out paint that I added water to and we mixed it up, we were having fun. Then the first spill, then the second spill and then my OCD kicked in and I said ok it’s time to clean up. The kids did their best at washing up (making more of a mess) and I sent them outside to play. I worked on scrubbing the rug and thought, why didn’t I move this before painting. I got most of it clean and attempted to climb our tile, uneven, smaller than your foot stairs and slipped. Paint everywhere, walls, floor, rug (again), face, arms, skirt. In the background kids arguing and screaming at each other. Got that cleaned up and then found some lunch to heat up. The kids had pizza and chips and I had left over noodles, the kids ate all the chips and the pepperoni off the pizza. Back to lessons we learned about the letter “F”, fitting as I wanted to use a word with that letter once or twice that morning. We did it we finished some school work it was almost three, time to nap (Parker) and so it was movie time. I started a load of laundry, due to the paint fiasco and put in the Lion King. We had a surprise, daddy came home early, we popped popcorn to go with our “F” theme of finger foods and I enjoyed some down time (in between the commentary of Jacob, retelling the story as it happened). Hung the clothes to dry attempted to write this blog, let Jacob use the computer instead while I cleaned the rug again. Matt made chicken, rice and snap peas. Parker woke up from nap once in a crazy frenzy, finally passed out again on me, woke up in time for dinner. During dinner, Parker had a tantrum in the bathroom (I still don’t know why), refused to wear clothes, eventually put her clothes on, got mad that she didn’t get dessert (because she didn’t eat dinner), watched some tv attempted to put kids to bed…and here I am writing this blog.

Two completely different days, life is unpredictable and some days I am just barely able to get through it. But in just those two days lives were impacted; in everything that I do I am impacting the world around me. My hope and prayer is that impact is for good and not evil; that the grace and love I give and receive is centered on Christ. The time that I am able to read the Bible and pray is a time that then is reflected in my interactions in life. I have been made more aware these past months that I can only account for myself and my actions. I can’t account for anyone else, however I can impact the choices of others based on what I am doing or saying. Speak truth, in love and someone will listen even if you never live to hear about it. Have a blessed day!