Passion, I used to look at that person who seemed to always have the energy to worship or the person who always seemed to have a testimony. This is my new year’s letter since it is after Christmas and it is a walk through my year. The point of view is of mine and not anyone else’s, Matt and the kids have their own experiences they have walked through.
I would like to start with Christmas 2017 when we had 5 kids in our home to celebrate Christmas with and we were in warm Uganda. The budget was tight and the experiences were bitter sweet because we had just found out that Tendo, Kitibwa and Happy would be having a reunion with their biological mom. We didn’t know what that would look like, what emotions would come from it and how it would impact our year ahead. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year felt a little less happy and merry with that heavy burden put on our shoulders.
The meeting took place on a rainy day in January at a restaurant near our home with a translator, the whole family came; our family, plus the boys, their two sisters with their children and mom. The only one missing was their older brother and well no other male influences were present. The bond was almost immediate and they acted as if 3 years hadn’t gone by rather only a few days. It was in those moments that my heart broke. Here I had been sacrificing and working very hard to balance a full time teaching job, taking on the duties of getting everyone to school and practices, helping with homework, cooking, cleaning, discipline, wife and mom. In an instant I felt worthless that all the sacrifices were for nothing, all the days and nights that I wept for them to open up and talk through their problems and feelings. All the hours I spent teaching reading, math, spelling, working on school projects, taking them to parties, practices, after school activities, cooking meals, cleaning up after and just showing them love in the midst of an absence of appreciation. I did it all because I thought if I just gave it time they would one day bond, that all of the work and tears would pay off because they one day would understand how much I cared.
In February the boys traveled to Rwanda with their mom for an update on documents and we went to Kenya with another family for a getaway. We took a bus and almost didn’t make it across the border due to some paperwork issues. The air B&B was fabulous and we often woke up to see the sunrise and looked over the national park often seeing giraffes, elephants and other amazing creatures. It was a wonderful time of relaxing and bonding only a few days, but worth the Burger King and Coldstone food. The bus ride back was a little less pleasant as we had a broken seat and no bathroom breaks for 14 hours.
The next month we would worry about the boys as they were having difficulty getting paperwork, Kitibwa got really sick due to unclean conditions where they were staying and there were still hard decisions that were needing to be made about how we would transition them back to their mom. Their mom expressed that she didn’t really want to have the burden of raising them and worried that they would just become street kids if she had to take care of them. There really is no “foster care” system in place and since they are Rwandan living in Uganda it would have pretty much been impossible for us to adopt them with living relatives. She wanted to have them visit every weekend, but have us provide for their education in town, live with us during the week, provide for all their basic needs and then on the weekend she would get to spend time with them. We decided that this was not a healthy alternative for anyone (except her) so when they were spending so much time with their mom in Rwanda we felt their transition back to live with mom would need to happen.
In April we had a football trip to Dubai with the U14 team and we decided when we returned we would transition the boys into a local Ugandan school near our Gayaza based ministry center where we could keep an eye on them and they could receive the services that we provide. We made an agreement with their mom that we would finish out their school year financially and this would allow her 12 months to find work and save up for the expenses that would arise when she took over all responsibilities for caring for her three sons.
In May Parker turned 5 and we could see the positive changes in our two biological kids having less stress at home with the boys being gone. We were finishing up the school year and preparing for a big trip to the U.S. for a summer tour with the U16 team. In June we had lots of preparing and fundraising to make everything line up and be possible for a successful tour to 4 states in the U.S. over a months’ time on our summer break.
July we left on Jacob’s birthday and traveled to the U.S. through Dubai making for a 14-hour flight and a run through the Chicago airport with over 20 members of our team. We would have 4 adults from Uganda and a team of U16 boys and one girl plus our two kids. We started in Detroit staying with various host families and Matt and I would pick up and transport to various practices and games along with some fun experiences like visiting the Big House and the African American Museum. We then flew to Minneapolis for the biggest American soccer tournament where we competed in a weekend and a week long tournament. I was able to travel to Nebraska early to spend time with my family and get one week of relaxation. Matt managed and balanced several stressful moments without me and took a bus with the team to come to Nebraska. They played in a few friendly matches and were able to go to the Omaha Zoo, Matt again coordinated host families and we were responsible for transporting them to all their events.
We then took a flight to our last stop in Dallas in August where again we were hosted this time by a church. I was able to stay with a friend and enjoy some down time in the evenings. Matt stayed at the church with the kids, which resulted in mostly restless nights. It was there that two of our Uganda adults betrayed our trust and friendship by abandoning their responsibilities and duties to selfishly do what they wanted to do. It was a hard thing to go through and led to a feeling of betrayal and added even more pressure to an already stressful trip.
We returned to Uganda with about a week to relax before I headed back to school. I was offered a new position at the school as a Kindergarten teacher an exciting but stressful new role. Jacob was starting 2nd grade and Parker kindergarten, I had a week to prepare and my TA was about 8 months pregnant so I had no time to waste as I learned the new roles as a lead teacher for Kindergarten.
In September we were hit with the realization that our day guard who we had hired after our scary break in the year prior had started stealing from us. He wasn’t just stealing from things that were outside but was stealing from our trash, then moved into our garage and guest house and then finally into our home. He was able to sneak in to those areas when we were busy with other things or people. We caught him red handed and took him to police where we are yet to actually have any justice served as he made bail and is currently a fugitive. Again our trust had been broken, again my children were afraid to go anywhere in the house alone, again I became bitter toward Ugandans, again I felt attacked. I felt trapped because now I had to lock myself in and had to try and convince my kids that they were safe.
October and November I was tired; while our ministry was strong, our football program was also making positive changes, the kids were more involved in school and after school clubs, Matt was very busy and I had many more responsibilities at school. How was I supposed to manage it all? I joined a Bible study and it was really something that I needed we studied the armor of God, exactly what I needed prayer, community, a break and resources I could apply to my life. Blessed by the opportunity, but I was still tired and people liked to let me know “Hey you look tired.” to which I replied “I am.”
December our pastor in Uganda told us 3 weeks will not be enough, you need more and you need to rest. To which my reply was how? Well God knew how and He made it happen, we changed our return date to add an additional 3 weeks, my school allowed me the time off, we were blessed with donations toward our rest time, we were given free counseling, cars to drive, homes to stay in, friends to talk to, family to see, and time with the kids and without the kids.
As we go into this NEW YEAR we are hopeful that we will have less attacks, but through it all we have realized that God has never left us and we continue to rely heavily on his promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Matt and I are a strong force who are very passionate about what we are doing in Uganda and we will not let Satan take over. We feel we have been able to endure when others probably would have given up because we have been blessed more than we have we have been attacked. I am that passionate person that I once looked at in awe, because God is faithful and I will endure. So from our family to yours have a blessed 2019 and may you feel God’s presence and promises and have a renewed sense of passion for God and his creation.