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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

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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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Where’s your green grass?

Is it possible to have a midlife crisis in your thirties? I find that I am in a weird time in my life especially now having three extra kids that I didn’t ever know I would have. I look at my colleagues and they are in their twenties and they literally have nothing tying them down and can do seemingly whatever adventure they want. I feel at times there are no other families that have the same dynamic that we do with kids ranging from 4-13 and three of them being only part of our family for a year. There are adventures that I still want to do but financially can’t for a variety of reasons…family of 7, missionary budget and living in Uganda. So I have been on the hunt for cheap local things to do that are different and unique, fun moments that will fill that silly midlife crisis I am experiencing.
I really shouldn’t complain too much because I do have some amazing family adventures coming up in April and over the summer. I think that I am just jealous of the seemingly freeing part of life where you don’t need to find a babysitter or bring along 5 kids and all the “things” they “need”. I am trying to be content with where God has placed me in this time of my life and see the true blessing it really is to be right where I am.
I think it is important to dream but to also realize that there are other people out there who are looking at my life and wishing they had “parts” of it. (married…kids…missionary…Uganda…teacher…soccer mom) I am truly blessed and at times in the thick of it things can get kind of foggy to see all the blessings.
“The grass is always greener on the other side…” If you are feeling some of the same feelings, I want to encourage you to take a closer look at all the blessings you do have instead of looking at the “pictures on Facebook” of other peoples seemingly better life. It is hard and that’s why I am typing out my feelings so I too can see that I am more than blessed to be where I am in life at the ripe old age of 33 and 11 months.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Kitibwa Ashraf

In this blog I wanted to feature Kitibwa in his biological family he is the second youngest, Happy is the only one younger than him. In our family he is the second oldest, Tendo is the only one older than him. Next month he turns 11 and he is in Year 7 in his British school which equates to the 6th grade in American schools. I would describe Kitibwa as an observant child, he does better watching something first and then trying it for himself. When he is comfortable he is outgoing and not afraid to volunteer. He is a people pleaser, so much so at school they call him by his other name Ashraf because they were not able to pronounce (chi-tee-bwa)Kitibwa.

It was the first Sunday of the month and at our church that means the kids stay in the service and the preacher includes them somehow in his message. We also always have communion at the end of the service. The preacher was asking the kids why they came to church today, and both Kitibwa and Tendo spoke up and said something very holy. (I promise we did not pay them or bribe them to say anything brilliant they just did on their own). At the end of the sermon it was time to pass out communion and they needed volunteers and Kitibwa was quick to put up his hand to volunteer. It was a proud mom moment for sure.

Kitibwa like any of our kids, has had his moments where we are frustrated with his choices. It usually involves him not fully understanding and not asking before he does something, or forgetting something (at school, at football, in the car, upstairs etc.) Our lives are busy nearly every single day we have somewhere we have to go, something we have to do and inevitably something we will have to plan ahead for. I try to always check homework, house chores, reading, spelling, laundry, snacks, breakfast, dinner and so on and so forth. I was noticing that homework was not coming to me to be checked and more often than not “reading” was not being checked by myself. Kitibwa has not had a good educational experience, he has missed school in his life a lot. Kitibwa reads at a low level to the extent that we got a tutor to help him learn the basic sounds that letters make.

Kitibwa is a child who desires to learn he desires to gain knowledge and to get better. He does great at participating in school and athletics but there is a gap. We haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is exactly that makes Kitibwa do so poorly in his test taking and ability to stay mentally strong and organized in even day to day tasks.

Kitibwa is a caring child, one who wants to help others. He is looking out for others and thinking about others instead of himself. We are trying to get him to understand that self-care is also important, when he needs something that he needs to ask. We are also working on each of the boys to reflect on where they have come from, where they are now and where they want to go in the future. We want our kids to have hope and to find that hope not in us but in Jesus Christ.

Update on our journey of fostering is we are still waiting. We have found out their birthdates, nationality (Rwandan) and are working with the Rwandan Embassy in Uganda to move forward with “inter-nation adoption”. We are waiting for the Embassy to tell us what else we need to do to move ahead with the process and in getting them the documents that are necessary for passports and eventually visas. We hope that this matter is resolved by this summer as we have big plans in the works that involve travelling.

Please pray for a diagnosis or solution to Kitibwa’s learning, documents to be given to the children, his faith to be strengthened, and for his bond to grow stronger to his brothers, sisters and us. Thank you!

2016 kitibwa

Kitibwa before living in our home. Fall 2016

chrismas2016

Kitibwa winter 2016

kitibwa

Kitibwa summer 2017

kitibwafirstday

Kitibwa fall 2017

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View from Parker

A while back I decided I wanted to hear from my kiddos what they thought about their lives in Uganda. Their perspective of what we do in Uganda. I can’t help but laugh when I hear Parker because honestly she is always talking like she does in this video.

Remember that show “kids say the darndest things” well sometimes I wish I had a recorder at all times with this girl because she does say some of the oddest, funniest and cutest things. She definitely gets her vocabulary from her great grandma Dee and my mom (grandma).

I do wonder and pray that her experiences in Uganda will be filled with blessings. She has a love for Jesus and the knowledge of a 4 year old of who God is and his son Jesus. Along with the desire to go to heaven, the idea that Jesus died for our sin and forgives us. My prayer is that as she gets older that curiosity and desire to understand more grows and turns into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Parker is someone who can make friends with anyone. Talk until you can’t handle anymore. Gives great hugs and kisses and would love for you to carry her or hold her hand everywhere she goes. She is smart and can memorize scripture and retell stories with great detail. Don’t tell her a secret because she won’t be able to contain her excitement and will just have to tell someone. She makes cards for literally anyone she can think of and can pray the sweetest prayers for people. She hates getting her hair brushed, but wants it to be nice and long. She wants to dance and be a ballerina “but I need ballerina shoes and the costume too”. She has a contagious laugh and the funniest facial expressions. She is dramatic in every sense of the word which can be good and frustrating at times.  I think she has a tinge of car sickness only because she has thrown up in the car at least 3 times since living in Uganda (2 of those times we were in a traffic jam and she vomited out the car window).

My prayers for her is that she continues to love education, cares about others, loves Jesus and is protected from harm. I love my little snoopy…Parker bean.

 

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Childhood Memories

You know when you have good intentions, but then sometimes the reaction you get you aren’t so sure it was a good idea; well that was me today. I was trying to get the kids to work on writing projects today and Matt gave me the idea to have the kids reflect on this past year, where it started and where we are now. The thought behind it was to help improve their writing, to provide an opportunity for reflection and to be thankful for what this past year God has been doing in their lives. Let’s just say Tendo the oldest eventually got it and did a great job, however Happy and Kitibwa were in tears and still didn’t put together a cohesive piece.

During my quiet time I was reflecting on that moment from earlier today and it made me think about childhood memories. I think some memories are made up of what other people have told us through stories. Through those stories that they remember we then imagine in our minds what it would have looked like and replay it for ourselves how we think it would have looked like. Other memories we remember because they were happy, painful, scary…just like that movie “Inside Out”. I don’t know that it is healthy to relive those moments but I do know we should recall moments to help us make decisions in the present and future. I think there is a purpose for recalling that God gives us to help us along the journey of life.

My memories- This one I heard (more when I was approaching driving age) and put my own visual recall. I lost my tooth at an amusement park “Peony Park” on the go cart track. I knew how to go but not how to stop. See I was a tall 4-year-old and I put the pedal to the metal in the wrong direction and ran into the attendant straight into the tires. I lost my tooth when I came to a halt and that was the last time that I drove a go cart until I was a bit older.

Praying to receive Christ with Betty Garrett and sharing it with everyone, even my friend Becky whose mom didn’t like that I was telling her daughter about Christ and then we couldn’t be friends anymore.

Cutting my wrist on broken glass when I was out collecting “treasures” to play house in my tree house out on the farm. My mom put butterfly stitches and I still have the scar today.

Selling my doll house back to my grandma when I had out grown playing with dolls.

Playing “college” with my cousin Bethany whenever we felt too cool to play with all the younger cousins.

My first “boyfriend” in middle school who asked my friend to call me for him to ask me out. Mind you I had no clue who she was talking about but to have an 8th grader ask me out “well sure”. Needless to say that lasted about 2 days when he had someone call me to dump me, because I wouldn’t hold his hand anymore. Almost as bad as the date I had with an 11th grader as a freshman where we couldn’t go to an “R” rated movie because I was too young, he wanted to take a romantic walk around the lake but I wasn’t that into him and I said it was too buggy and just wanted to go home. (he took someone else to prom, and got food poisoning)

There are so many childhood memories that I remember and most of them were pretty great. But I do remember the hard ones that taught me lessons and the ones that I reflect and realize God’s protection. Memories can be hard especially with our kids who have had more difficult ones, but it is always important to remember how God has protected us and shaped us into who we are today. Memories are stories that can help others learn and heal, protect and guide. Don’t be afraid to share your stories-even the ones that may hurt because how wonderful is the journey that God has delivered us from and how amazing is the journey we have ahead.

I challenge you to remember something today that may help you or someone else find hope and healing in Jesus name.

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Full tank

A few months back I signed up online to enjoy a day trip to Fort Portal to relax with other missionary women. When I filled the questionnaire out I thought that it was just another one of those things you just fill out, but no one really looks at. They asked what I would want if I could have one gift for up to $100, I thought well I don’t actually need anything.  I would like a lot of little things like makeup and food items, but I had never really been able to look at things that cost that much; let alone one thing. I admit I googled items that cost under $100 for women. I picked a Kindle white book… fast forward a few weeks later and we were robbed my list suddenly was larger than one item. But another thing that I didn’t expect was that when they asked me to share about myself and what I needed prayer for…they would actually hear me and mean what they said. I emailed my “prayer partner” and told her what happened and she prayed for me.

I got to meet her this week and it was evident more than ever that not only was she praying for me, but so were hundreds of other people…people that I had never met; people I most likely will never meet.

The drive to Fort Portal started with me taking a boda to meet a woman who I had never met who would be driving me and another person to Fort Portal.  I ended up riding with an amazing Australian lady who is passionate about conservation, people and God. I also rode with an equally amazing Brazilian woman who has two sons that I actually know from teaching at Acacia. We talked for the 5-hour car ride about some of our amazing adventures in Uganda and other nations we have served. After a very bumpy ride with no lunch and using the side of the rode as our commode we arrived at our retreat. We were greeted by smiling faces of women wearing matching shirts and handing us a new shirt, telling us we could sign up for two of the three services a massage, pedicure or haircut. We were then gifted with an envelope that was later to be explained that would be worth $100 to shop at the gift shop. (I thought oh great some African knickknacks) I was wrong there was makeup, jewelry, clothes, housewares goods, food, lotions…Then I met my prayer warrior, she gave me a hug and asked me how things were going at home. She then gave me a bag full of goodies and I mean full included was the Kindle that I asked for. Now if I stopped there one would say wow how amazing is that! Right.

But God is so good it wasn’t about the stuff. We got to have time to talk and share about ourselves and people listened and people prayed. We laughed together, prayed together, worshiped together and cried together. I met other missionaries with incredible stories of their ministries and what God is doing and their heartaches. I was able to lift of the name of Jesus Christ in worship with other women who understand what it means to be a wife, mom, missionary and woman in a land away from home. I was paired with a lovely lady I had never met, but when we met; we clicked.  We started laughing together from the start (we also had an early mishap with our glass door shattering all over the floor, and me not being able to figure out how to open the other door to get out). We sat together at the dinner table where the vets would have the stories and the visitors who were blessing us would ask us questions. It was nice to have inside jokes that only people living in Uganda would know (funny thing is we were from all over Uganda, but we all had similar experiences with the people, food and muzungu mentality).

The next morning, I got sick, it might have been something I ate or the big bug bite I got on my butt the night before; but I was not well. I had so many women praying for me, serving me, nursing me back to health. We were blessed with day two of gifts, services, food, fellowship, worship and prayer. We had a great morning together before it was time to say farewell to the other missionary women from around Uganda.  The women that I rode with were staying an extra night in a hostel that was also hosting the team of ladies that had been blessing us. This is where I want to share about some amazing people, organizations and accommodations that we encountered this week.  The host was “Go Be Love” and they were awesome this is the first year that they did this “Be loved” retreat and their plan is to be full time missionaries starting next year and they will be doing more events like this one in the future. We stayed at an amazing place in Fort Portal called “Kluges Farm” and it has amazing wonderful accommodations, buffet style food, pool (it was rainy so we didn’t get to use it, but it looked nice) and the staff was so amazing! Mercy for Mamas was our sponsor organization and they brought women from the U.S. to serve more than just us. They are a wonderful organization that work with expectant mothers and mothers by giving them medical help, information on prenatal services, “momma kits” and much more. These amazing women had so many skill sets and they have been serving Uganda for years. Check them out at http://www.mercyformamas.com Melissa Busby is an amazing woman! The hostel we stayed at for one night was also run by an amazing woman who could be my grandmother and kind of reminds me of her. She has been in Uganda for over 20 years at Y.E.S. Uganda where she serves HIV/Aids orphaned children and youth check out her ministry here at http://yesugandahostel.weebly.com/about-yes-uganda.html

Basically it was amazing, highly recommended especially for those of us that don’t get to visit home very often, it was a touch of home with the benefit of everyone understanding how exhausted you are, not expecting anything from you and loving on you the whole time! (oh and 5 hours wasn’t much in comparison to the 2 days it takes to get “home”) A big thank you for everyone that made it happen and for all the people who helped by donating the goodies that we received from the oils, popcorn, clothes, books and much more that were donated I am so blessed and thankful.