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The gift of sharing

I teach at an International school and some might think that I don’t see any needs. That everyone I teach and work alongside have it good especially financially. You see when you are in the “villages” needs are more obvious; more in your face. I bet you also go about your jobs and think about your coworkers as all having jobs, no real need. But what if you looked a little closer, who cleans your office? Who locks up at night or prepares the school lunch? Who do you see, but don’t hear? Well at Acacia some of the people you may not see or hear are the very people who work longer hours than me. They do the jobs that most don’t want to do. They help a lot in many areas whether it is in the classroom, the kitchen, the playground or outside acting as security.

A short time ago it was “teacher appreciation” and while I do think we should acknowledge all they do, I felt a bit weird. I felt like appreciation in general doesn’t happen enough. Mother’s day and Father’s day happen, but often people are left out. No special day is set aside to say thank you to them. I am proud of Acacia International School because we do have a few who “get it”; that there needs to be appreciation for all the people who make things “happen”.

A while back Parker had brought a show and tell and she was proud of a stuffed animal. One of the grounds keepers (do anything you ask people) James mentioned he wished he could get a nice stuffed animal like that for his child. He didn’t ask he just thought out loud. My assistant who is amazing and recently had a baby had just come back and all the kids at school were invited to wear pajamas and bring in a stuffed animal. She mentioned that nice stuffed animals are “so expensive”, again just thinking out loud.

I decided that my kids who have an abundance of stuffed animals could give up one. I sat down and talked with them and they agreed that they could find one stuffed animal that they could give. Parker also decided that for her birthday she wanted to invite “adults” to join in. So she wrote little invitations for the secretaries, the kitchen staff, the grounds crew, the security and the cleaning crew (and her principal).

mrjamesMsRachealSo if you could do me a favor, pray for those who are unseen. Do something kind for those who need a little acknowledgement. It doesn’t have to take much, everyone can find an area where they can sacrifice a little to make a big difference. Another thing, your children can teach you lessons in how to be generous, just keep encouraging them to think of others.

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We are the Church

Recently at school we talked to my students in the early years about church. We talked about the buildings and how some are very big and decorated with lots of expensive things. We then talked about how church looks for some of us with church being held at schools, huts and some in big buildings. Then we explained that the church doesn’t always mean a building. We had them repeat “I am the church” as they looked in the mirror at themselves. Then we talked about how if you are a believer in Christ that you belong to the church and that being the church means that you worship God. Remember these are 3-5 year olds, we kept it simple, but as we finished I wanted them to have a feeling of being the church together and I put on the song “Come, now is the time to worship,” and as these cute little ones began to sing praises I fought back tears of joy.

We are the church and here in Uganda I needed a place to call “my church”. I remember that it was some of my most lonely of months when we first came to live in Uganda in 2008 and I couldn’t call any place my church home. This go around through God’s grace it was actually such a blessing to find a church we felt connected to. The international church is an interesting concept as we are believers from all over the world and we gather together to worship. We come from all backgrounds and denominations, but that doesn’t limit our ability to come together as one church body.

These past years the “church” has been the support that we have needed throughout this journey of ministry. Believers in Christ have prayed for us from all over the world, given us advice, support financially and so much more. I would also say that having Godly women in my life has really helped me emotionally to continue to do all the things that I do. I am blessed to work with Christian women at school and Sunday mornings worshiping alongside other families in ministry. Then the few important opportunities to go on weekends away to really refocus and have women who also have ministry life struggles to pray for you and lift you up. A few months ago I was blessed to have one of those weekends and I met many amazing women. One of them shared this song with us (she happens to be my new neighbor too) and it really gave me the boost I needed.

Singer:   Ginny Owens   Album:   Without condition  1999            Song:   If you want me to

Lyrics:

The pathway is broken

And The signs are unclear

And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here

But just because You love me the way that You do

I’m gonna walk through the valley If You want me to

‘Cause I’m not who I was

When I took my first step

And I’m clinging to the promise

You’re not through with me yet

So if all of these trials bring me closer to you

Then I will go through the fire If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen

When you lead me through a world that’s not my home

But You never said it would be easy

You only said I’d never go alone

So When the whole world turns against me

And I’m all by myself

And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help

I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through

And I will go through the valley If You want me to

My encouragement to you is to find out what the church means to you. It doesn’t mean just a building, in fact the building could be a distraction from what the church is supposed to be. Find people of faith that you can have a relationship with and can hold you accountable. Going to Bible studies, prayer meetings, retreats, Sunday morning worship and fellowship. I encourage you to meet people and as a person who doesn’t really like to try and meet new people, I know that can be a challenge. Pray for God to open up opportunities for you to get involved somehow in the church as it will not only benefit other people it will be a blessing to you. The pastor is not the only one in the church that can minister to you, WE ARE THE CHURCH. YOU ARE THE CHURCH. I AM THE CHURCH. Now GO BE THE CHURCH and be blessed.

 

 

 

 

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Women’s day…everyday am I right?

Last weekend I was blessed with the ability and opportunity to have a weekend away with some amazing women. I knew a few of them but the majority I had never met as they were coming from all over Uganda and even South Sudan. As I was reflecting about that weekend I am amazed at how strong God made us women. Throughout my life I have come to know and cross paths with some of the strongest women that God is using for his Kingdom. I truly believe after hearing stories of trials and tribulation that women face, it is only through God’s grace that women can turn a tragedy into a triumph for His glory. I am so thankful for the testimonies and the amount of prayer that went on this past weekend. God has a world full of amazing women who are faithful to complete the work that He has set before them. I wanted to highlight a few amazing women, ones that I won’t name but want to give the Glory to God for the impact they make in my life and in the lives of countless others around the world.

One woman came into my life through her amazing music. I always love hearing her sing and all for the glory of God. You can tell when someone has passion for what they are singing it radiates through them and just gives you goosebumps. I only found out about her life story years later when she was open enough to share with the world the horrible life she led as a child. But even though she had to deal with a whole lotta crud she is dealing with it and she is make a difference in the lives of others who also have dealt with abuse.

Another strong woman is a friend I made when we first returned to the United States and God intentionally put our lives together for a reason. We did life together and it was wonderful to have a friend and a fellow mom who also was just doing her best to raise tiny humans. Then for a reason we will never understand her son died and the heartache that followed at times seemed unbearable. But what I know is that she has never wavered in her love for God, and she is brutally honest about how hard life is, but she still lives it and loves in it. I am proud to be her friend.

Another woman who probably never knew how much she meant to me because she left this earth too soon for me. She was caring, friendly and a bit of a rule breaker. She was a great mother and wonderful grandmother and even got to be a great grandmother. She fought through injuries, cancer and a whole lot of responsibility. She loved to travel and meet new people and I believe that is how God used her. God used her outgoing caring personality to reach people wherever they were and she didn’t even have to mention God because they saw it in her. She was a witness of how amazing God is just through her presence. She was social, she was relational and that is what made her special. She has taught me to be okay with who I am and to take risks by how much I love others, even strangers.

God has placed so many women in my life who I can learn from and grow because of. I am eternally grateful that women in my life have been the ones who led me to Christ, taught me how to be a mother, a teacher, a leader, a speaker, a singer, a missionary, a friend, a mentor and much more. This journey that God has placed me on is not an easy one but He has placed women along the road to help me, pray for me and guide me into being a woman that God can say…”Well done my daughter, you good and faithful servant.”

 

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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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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

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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.