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The U.S.A trip

I am back in Uganda after 3.5 weeks in the U.S. what a trip! My husband and I with our 2 kids and 23 soccer players along with frankly 1 good chaperone and 4 other adults. It was quite the experience travelling from Uganda to Dubai, Dubai to Chicago where we had to go through customs, get all the bags, go to a different airline and check in and then RUN to our next flight to Detroit. We had an amazing experience in Detroit. I was overwhelmed by the amazing host families and I was less than excited about being a true Soccer Mom driving a 15 passenger van around the entire Detroit/Rochester/Canton/Westland areas. But my rule in my van was I am playing my praise music and you can put your earbuds in and listen to yours if you don’t like it. And I cannot say enough how much I love using GPS in the Good Ole United States. In Uganda you use it and you get taken to places no one should go and the lady pronounces every street (if you could call them streets) wrong. But in America they even reroute you if there is construction or delays happening!

I was brought to tears of joy when I was able to meet so many of Matt’s contacts in Michigan who were amazing hosts. We had some that were mutual friends and one that was my contact but overwhelmingly they were families that Matt had known through church and other childhood events. It was more emotional because without going into any specifics it wasn’t the best time connecting with Matt’s family. We did get to connect with a few but there are a lot going on and something to really be praying for. I saw with my own eyes people who have impacted my husband’s life from an early very critical point in his life and help shape him into the man he is today. I got to see families that stepped up and took him in as their own son, coaches that inspired him to love the game of soccer, churches that helped him learn about God and come to follow Jesus Christ. I was so blessed to witness those very people show up again at a critical time in our lives and again step up and show encouragement and love. God was present on this trip in many ways and for that I am thankful.

We then took a flight to Minneapolis and as we were in the airport I was sending messages back and forth with a missionary friend who was trying to get me a place for myself and my two littles to stay while we were in Minneapolis. God again is amazing (no surprise there) but she was able to find a great former missionary couple who lived just minutes from all the activities that were being done in the tournament. They were such a lovely couple and showed a genuine interest in investing in our lives even for the short time we were there.

My parents came and got us driving with a less than reliable vehicle all the way from Beatrice, Ne to Minneapolis and were able to take us home with them so we could have much needed family time. The Lord looked out for us and allowed the car to make it home. I was able to spend time with my parents and my grandpa along with visiting with some dear people who I would have otherwise not had the time to visit with. Matt was a trooper as he managed 3 groups of kids because two players who were older played as a guest on a team and then our only girl also played as a guest on a team. He had to get people where they needed to go and had to rely on the other adults on the trip to also help out (some did better than others- that’s a whole ‘nother story :p) I missed being his support and realized we really do make a great team.

The team travelled by bus to meet us in Omaha and again amazing people in our lives stepped up to the challenge of hosting us. I put the role of soccer mom on again as I drove a 15 passenger van and my mom also was the soccer grandma helping with transportation. This time it was a little bitter sweet as I was able to share my story of how missions is for a mom and wife for the last 10 years and how life has changed over that time in Beatrice. I was reminded of the hard times and the great times and the amazing work that God has done and continues to do. I missed out on sharing and being a part of what I would have called my childhood church as Matt took the soccer boys there, but also felt a bit of a disconnect with what that church now means to me as we have spent so much time away. It is a challenge to feel like anything is home when you live away and people move and things just change.

However, when we flew to Dallas a place I have never called home it actually felt very much like home. I got to stay with a wonderful family that I knew in Michigan and the church family there at Skillman truly get what it means to be the body of Christ they embraced our team, they hosted us in their youth room, they drove us around to different activities, they let us share our stories and spent time listening to us. Even when things didn’t go as planned they helped us process things and gave us encouragement and advice. It was the perfect way to end an amazing trip through the United States.

Would I do it all again…maybe ha! This trip was truly unique and I honestly believe it was ordained to happen when it did every single location, person and time all lined up just as God wanted it to. I also believe that it was more than just myself that was impacted and for that I am truly grateful. God works in amazing, mysterious ways and for that I am humbled and in awe of just how amazing our God is.

Thank you to all the amazing people who stepped up to God’s calling and made this trip a success. I hope you were blessed through your time with us and keep praying for us and the people who you met along the way. For those of you we didn’t get to see but sent us a gift or just followed our journey thank you for your prayers and your gifts. God Bless you!!!

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Interview: Jacob

How old are you? 6

What grade are you in? 1st

What school do you go to and who is your teacher? Acacia and my teacher is Ms. Arlt.

What is your favorite place to go in Uganda? Acacia Mall

Who are your best friends? Timothy and Angus

What do you like to play inside…outside? Football outside and inside I like to play cars.

How do you like having older brothers? Kind of (gave me a sideways thumbs up)

What is your favorite song? The tiger song…Your gonna hear me roar- “Roar” by Katy Perry

Tell me a story you have learned in the Bible. When Jesus parted the Red Sea. Why is it your favorite? My favorite because I have never seen a sea that is parted. Did Jesus part the sea or someone else? Jesus and Moses.

Where would you like to visit? Timothy’s House.

What is the best thing about living in Uganda? Our dog. But we had a dog in the U.S. too. Both of them are very nice.

Jacob has grown up looking at pictures from Uganda and visiting when he was just a year old to now living here since he was about to turn 4. He has experienced life in America more than any kid in our family, but is a bit confused about some details regarding life in America. He was convinced that Santa lives in the U.S.

I have enjoyed seeing Jacob learn and grow here in Uganda because of his opportunity to go to school at a great international school. He has made many friends, sadly he has also lost at least 3 friends in the last year. He will lose another friend at the end of this year too as his best friend Timothy is moving away.

He has matured in a lot of ways, but is still really good at whining and complaining when he doesn’t get his way. He has learned how to be independent, but will still come and find me to get a hug or tell me something special that is going on in his day (one of the perks of working at his school). He has had his ups and downs with the addition of older brothers. I see improvement though in his ability to relate and adapt to the change.

Jacob still has a hard time blending in when we go to work in Gayaza as he is visibly different but also it is hard to relate to kids who don’t know how to hold a conversation. He is very intelligent and can read at a high level. However, he is one of the youngest in his class at school and still gets exhausted by the end of the school day.

Jacob is a very thoughtful child when he wants to be, often wanting to celebrate others when they have special moments in their lives. He is my snuggle bug and loves to cuddle. Very affectionate and loves animals (especially dogs).

Please pray for Jacob as he adapts to having to share attention among 4 others. Pray that Jacob continues to love to learn and seek the Lord. Pray he grows to appreciate the unique experience he gets living in Uganda and values the family he was born into. Pray for his health as he has battled allergies to insects and Bilharzia.

 

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American Pride

When we study History, one would think that we would learn from it. I just got done watching a movie on the Olympic athlete James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens, called the “Race”. Find out more about him… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens

You would think that it would make me reflect back on how the Nazi’s were so horrible. What is really horrible is that fact that we were doing the same thing and some respects still are on a subtle level. At least the Germans were not hiding their hatred, Isis is not hiding their hatred. But why are Americans still struggling to admit that they are prejudice of those who are not White, Male, and Christian?

The Olympics is a time when we are all about USA, no matter what that looks like. People cheer for the USA to win. It becomes everyone else is the “bad” team and USA is the best team. I will admit we at this house have been cheering and celebrating the victories of the Olympics. My kids even are pointing out the American flag and cheering for the “good” guys. But are we the good guys?

We have so much diversity in the USA and we put the blinders on when it comes to sports. We forget about all the obstacles that athletes of different race, gender and economic status have to face. We forget that many of these athletes have to work twice as hard as others just to get recognized. They only can complete because they are so good, one would be stupid not to have them apart of their team.

But what happens when they miss the mark? What if they don’t win the Gold or the trophy, or the title of Champion? When they don’t have their uniform on, how are they treated? Before they are “discovered”, how were they treated by the masses? Human beings, Americans who have families, bills, and responsibilities on top of the immense pressure to be the Best.

Every four years people watch on television and cheer for USA. We need to be cheering for more than just the athletes, we need to be proud of more than just winning. We need to be “proud to be an American”. Right now I don’t know that I am that proud of anything that Americans are doing or have been doing over the years.

How can we as Americans be worth rooting for fulltime not just every time there is an Olympics on TV. One thought would be to respect each other, pray for each other, forgive each other and listen to each other. I still hold onto the hope that America will one day be a nation that truly is united as “One nation under God, indivisible with justice and Liberty for All.”

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Contradiction or Adaptation?

This thought came to mind while Jacob was playing soccer, “He doesn’t take charge and get after the ball.” Then I thought, “He is always taking away things and taking charge in other situations.” It made me think of how confusing it is to be a child (okay and an adult), to reason out when to act in the right accord. We are taught to share, through taking turns and being kind when we play. Then we are told to take charge, go get the ball and fight for it. We are told to wait in line and not to push ahead, hold the door for someone and let them in first. Then we are told, you have to take a chance and pull out otherwise you will be stuck and go nowhere in traffic. Be proud of who you are, but not too proud, putting down what other people are.

There are many more examples in life where it seems life is a constant contradiction; but is it really? I hear all the time that the Bible is full of contradictions, but is it really? In life we are constantly put in different situations and we have to decide what the best response for that specific situation is. You can have a different response to the “same situation” if even one factor is different. Life is not full of contradictions, it’s full of endless possibilities and we have to prepare for them all. We will fail and pick the wrong response, but we will have another opportunity to learn from those past mistakes and react differently.

We can dwell on all the mistakes of the past, worry about the mistakes in the future OR we can allow past mistakes to shape us into the future and keep daily working on not making the SAME mistakes. Because face it we are going to make mistakes, it’s how you deal with those mistakes and change them into something great. My hope is that I continue to teach my kids to make choices based on the situation at hand. To learn from their mistakes and to live a life full of possibilities, not blame the world of contradictions.

 

 

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Uganda year one recap

 

Two weeks left until school is out for the end of the year holiday. Our family starts back up at the end of August. This past year has been an amazing experience for us all. Jacob will be starting kindergarten and he has benefited so much from being in preschool. He can read and write, is so creative, grown taller and has made many friends. Parker will be starting school in the 3 year old classroom part-time. I will be her teacher along with 8 other students. She also has grown and is so imaginative, playful, friendly, and looks up to her brother. I have enjoyed balancing all things educational, from creating fun learning experiences at Rising Star, to volunteering two days at Jacob’s school and studying for my teaching certificate. Matt has been on the field and out in the field with Rising Star Ministries. We have seen so many blessings and opportunities for our ministry and feel the kids are benefiting greatly from the necessary improvements this past year.

What I can take away from this past year is that you can never plan for everything. I don’t know why we think we can. Parker has lived in 3 different homes in her 3 years of life, we hope that only one more move is in the future. We have done a lot of work to the future Rising Star Ministry site and it truly is taking shape, minus a major feature the building. We hope over the next year or two that we will start utilizing that space more effectively as a space for ministry. My plan in the next year or two is to be working 4 days a week at school and 2 days a week at Rising Star Ministries. I am wanting to hire an Ugandan teaching assistant to work during the week to help with the after school program. This will allow for me to not be overwhelmed by all the hats I have been putting on, and allowing for more staff to help with any language barriers.

One major accomplishment on the part of my side of the ministry is the new books that my mother helped purchase for me. I first learned about “Bob Books” from Jacob, he was learning how to read with these great books. So I have about 10 kids that range from Kindergarten to 4th grade that I have been teaching how to read. They came to me not knowing how to use Phonics to sound out words, but by guessing what the word was by either pictures or repetition. Dauda makes me the most proud, he started the year in 3rd grade and got demoted mid term back to 2nd grade. He started learning the sounds the letters make and then quickly was able to blend. He has enjoyed coming and reading through as many “Bob books” as we will allow. We are impressed not only with his reading ability, but also his ability to help his peers. He can explain what a book means in his native language Luganda, and we are working on him being able to speak more English.

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Children and Church

As I sat in church today my mind wandered to many different places, I was distracted, big surprise. I had brought coloring books and markers, I thought I was prepared. After 5 minutes it wasn’t working the plan that I had prepared, was no longer working. The sermon had finally started and now they wouldn’t be quiet, they wouldn’t sit, let alone sit still. So it was off to “children’s church” (Sunday school), lately not their favorite place to be. When we go to our home church, we are the only non-Ugandans, Mzungu’s (yes even after attending this church for almost a year with the kids and on and off for 6 years, we still are not considered “normal”) But that is not the point of this particular blog, it has something to do with why my kids don’t like going to class, but not all of it.

So back to the story, Jacob has experienced being apart from me, being with all different types of kids. His reason for not liking class is the organization of the class, the way it’s structured and taught. He gets bored with the way that things are done by the locals. I don’t blame him, but if he can’t sit quiet in church, then he needs to go where he can sing, dance, play, and learn at his level. Parker is just not good at being by herself without me, unless there are swings, sand, toys or food. It is just Parker, she loves her momma and is very selective with what she will leave for. She also hates being looked at, touched, or babied by her peers.

Onto the real heart of this blog, children and church. My personal take on the topic. Church service has some amazing parts that children should be a part of like corporate worship, prayers, testimony, offering, and communion. However, the sermon itself is not usually something that is child appropriate. I don’t mean appropriate in the sense that they shouldn’t hear it, but rather it is not being presented in a way that a child can understand it. I strongly believe that children should experience the teachings of the Bible at their levels of understanding and presented in a way that allows the children to interact and ask questions. During the service it is very hard to explain topics to the kids when they ask them, and it’s better to be able to explain the lessons at a later time. I think that it is important for us as parents to share what we learned in Church and then allow them to ask questions.

My personal experience with children in church, my own and other people’s kids, is that it is very distracting. Even when the kid is super cute and quiet writing, drawing, playing quietly they are distracting. As a parent it is hard to listen to what the preacher is saying when I am constantly making sure my child’s needs are met, that they are quiet, do they need a snack, do they need to go to the bathroom, they are kicking the seat in front of them, they are singing, they are playing with the other kids….you get the picture. I get distracted by cute babies, kids moving around, even sleeping kids can be so adorably distracting.

But what to do? Possible solutions? Have an amazing children’s program that your kids love and want to go to each Sunday. Leave the kids at home. Go to class with them. Put the fear of God in them to behave (we all know that doesn’t work, because we are not God, and they do not fear us long enough to make it work.) Seriously, I personally am in a quandary and I am pretty sure I know what I need to do, I just don’t have the strength to do it. I know that I need to sacrifice a few weeks or months to teach the teachers, beg for volunteers, and show by example how a program for kids in church should work. Selfishly I just want to be able to sit in church, distraction free and be feed by the Holy Spirit. Instead, I am sitting there in church only hearing kids in and out of church, my kids, other kids, and wondering does anyone else see and hear these kids or is it only me?!

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Are you ignoring Him like I am? Is it working? For me it’s not. I have tried running away from it, going to a different church, one with a better program. But still the Holy Spirit is leading me to not run but to use the gifts He has given me. To teach, to give, and to inspire. What are your Spiritual gifts? Are you using them? As we approach this Easter weekend, think about what Jesus sacrificed for us, what do we sacrifice for Him?

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Merry Christmas from Uganda

It has been way to long since I have posted a blog.  Much overdue, but life has been so busy as of late and when I do get time to sit down, I am doing something else overdue. I had to make the time though to write about some recent life events that are making me grow spiritually. I was chatting with a new friend about all the recent obstacles and she was so encouraging when she said, “Well you must be doing something right.” I really hope that is the case, Satan is definitely trying to steal our joy these past days. But always praise be to God, things are looking up for us as of today.

Without going into all the dramatics of the past month, little and big things have been happening to discourage us. From theft, to things breaking due to lizards, two year old tantrums and Bilarzia. But this week was hard, leading up to Christmas when already emotions are high missing home. We had no power starting from Sunday and previously we were losing power more frequently especially at night. Sunday we had just bought groceries for the week so we could do our best and not travel around leading up to Christmas. The days were not bad we occupied ourselves with things to do, but at night it was hard. Our kids don’t do well in the dark and I don’t blame them it is pitch black and when it storms that brings a whole new component. Our prayers every day included, “Jesus, please bring the power back.” All our food spoiled, and today I had the fun task of cleaning out the fridge and freezer of now raw meat, unfrozen leftovers and curled milk.

Through the midst of the various struggles, God continued to show us His light. Glimmers of hope through answered prayers, memories to reflect, new memories made, and solutions to life’s obstacles.  In Uganda it is way too easy to get discouraged if you let it, we often play games like #SoUganda. It helps us laugh off the crazy that we see each day. The hope that we cling to is those moments when you treat your staff to a night out at KFC and they think it was the best thing ever (even though you ate 2hrs later than expected). When you are trying to teach kids to read and your own kid is learning faster than kids twice his age, so you get the idea to teach what he has been learning in school. When you are struggling because its Christmas time and nothing around you makes it seem like Christmas, but a friend sends a package with wrapped gifts for your family to open. When your kids are constantly fighting but then they make a deal to share the responsibility of the Advent Calendar to remember why we celebrate Christmas is Jesus. When your daughter sings two songs over and over at the top of her lungs but she is singing all about Jesus, songs she learned in Children’s Church. When your son is still battling health issues but is still extra sweet and kind. I can go on but those are just a few of the things that we are going through here in Uganda.

So please take away this from all that we are going through, whatever you are going through, God does have a greater plan to show you His love on the other side of your pain. God is always there, He is always listening, He has a plan, He loves you, and He is in control.

Merry Christmas, for Jesus is the Reason for this Season and every Season in your life!