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Full timer

I was inspired to write this blog after having a visitor start doing some mission work for a few months. She has only just begun and she had been having a hard time seeing her purpose, why she had given up her summer of making money to come and “seemingly” do nothing. The problem she had was that the only “missionary life” experience she had was from hearing from other friends about their week in another country and how amazing all the kids were and how they were spiritually impacted. I wanted to say well welcome to the “real” mission field. But honestly she will be here for 2 months and she will take back experiences and memories and she will be impacted in some remarkable ways.

I am what I like to refer to myself as a “full-timer”, a career missionary. Granted I am only now 2 years in this time around and life is extremely different than my previous stents with missions. Uganda is home for me as in “we do life here”, I have 5 kids now that I have to raise. I sometimes wonder if people just think I am hanging out talking to cute little black babies about Jesus all day long. When in all actuality recently I am dropping kids off at school, going to their end of year programs, taking them to birthday parties, soccer practice, making them dinner, washing (way to much) laundry. I also teach international students from over 7 different nations who are 3 and 4 years old. I have meetings for teaching, meetings for my kids and meetings for parenting. I also am taking on a role of volunteering at Kampala International Church somewhere in the children’s department.

I didn’t realize that my life would turn into a supportive missionary role. I am a mother and a wife to a missionary. Matt takes on leadership roles for Rising Star Ministries, he is the one who makes everything stay on course. My job title changed when I had to be a mother first and a missionary second. Last year as most of you know I got my teaching degree and so now to be able to send my kids to school I am working. I am putting my kids through school, but I am also teaching and pouring into the kids of other missionaries. I didn’t know that would be my role when we decided to live as “full timers” in Uganda.

My role is just as important as it was in 2008 when we began ministry in Uganda. My role is to tell people about Jesus and I am doing that every single day to beautiful children from all parts of the world, right here in Uganda. God is so great…he is so faithful. While I take a break from teaching (for the summer), I will be traveling more to our ministry center in Gayaza and supporting the staff as they have been doing such a great job taking on my previous job responsibilities. We are blessed to have Emily here working for 2 months with our newest RSM staff member Olyvia taking on the role as librarian and after school tutor.

But to be honest, I need a summer holiday time to recharge, read and spend more time in the Word of God, do fun stuff with my kids and my parents (yeah!). After all God did rest one day, right. 😉

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Empowered to Connect

We just concluded our 8 week course on how to better parent “children from hard places”. I will say it was hard to commit to this class it meant rearranging schedules, babysitters, late nights and time away from our kids nighttime routines. It also meant we would be reading a lot, and having to rethink everything we ever knew about parenting and as a good friend puts it “deal with some of our own crud”.

I will give you some great books but I would also suggest taking this class, so let me know if you would like more information. I found out after that the class is the only one in the whole of Africa and it was taught by people we met through connections at school and church. God orchestrated for sure!

Let me start really with this quote from Dan Allender author- How Children Raise Parents. “Our primary focus as parents should be not what to do with our children-which activities, what type of education, which discipline approach, not even their spiritual development- but instead discovering what it means to become a good parent. God intends to use our children to change, transform, and redeem our lives.”

On night one I knew that uh oh I was going to be changed and that through this process I could change for the better or the worse it was up to me to have the right attitude and the heart to do what was best for everyone.

To sum up the last few months they have been challenging, we moved homes, schools and added more to our schedules for the betterment of other people and it has been at times exhausting. We have questioned ourselves, like are we crazy taking on this challenge. But I believe that God made it all possible to give us the right connections to the right people at the right time to help us get through this learning and adjusting curve.

The whole idea of this class is how to connect to your children and that they come with a story and you come with a story and how to balance it all to provide a nurturing and structured environment. To stop having to give consequences, threats and correction all the time and instead be intentional, educated, trusted… “when we shift our perspective from the outward to the inward, from rules to relationships, our parenting will change.” Leslie Fields.

The question we get most is what next? Are you going to adopt them, foster only, for how long etc. The answer is unclear, up to this point we have just known that we were put in their lives for a reason and a season. We however through these last months have gotten more information about their citizenship and ages, names etc. through some documents. So the road may be rough ahead and legally we may never be able to fully adopt them or travel with them. This we do know that they are loved by many, getting a great education, healing is taking place and I will leave with this amazing quote that provides me with great comfort…

“HOPE…it’s that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are yet to be.”

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Why we give an allowance

Today was a perfect reminder of why we give allowances at our house. We started this process of giving money for completing chores about a year ago. The idea was they would be given required house work daily and at the end of the week they would get payment for the work they completed. They then had to tithe each week 10% and they couldn’t spend the money until the end of the month. For discipline problems they had to pay money as part of their consequence. If they broke, lost or damaged something it was them to pay for it.

The value of money is something people can easily take for granted. For Tendo it has helped calm down his anger problems because there was one week he had lost everything he had earned and came to the realization that if he didn’t make some changes he was going to be broke. Happy is learning that he needs to listen more and also talk more as he struggles with understanding, guesses and then when corrected doesn’t always take that correction constructively. Today we were getting ready for the start of school tomorrow; last term we purchased all new items for the boys. Kitiibwa did not return home with some of the items that were purchased, so today he had to buy the replacements. He started sobbing as he handed over 26,000 shillings the cost of his school sweater (about $9 but when you get 7,000 shillings a week that is almost 4 weeks of work gone). Sure we feel bad when they feel bad but then we remember in the long run it is building character. For the littlest ones they understand that if they want a new toy or a treat it is them to buy it.

This Christmas all the money earned during the month of December went to the purchase of a gift for someone else. When kids get money they can learn to give back, to give to God what is His, to give a gift for a friend, teacher, sibling or parent. Sure they could choose to spend it however they want, but if we show them how blessed they already are, they may see that they should want to give back to others. What we are trying to help them realize is that we are meeting all their material needs with food, shelter, clothing, shoes, schooling, water, transportation, recreation and more. More importantly we are trying to show them love, Christ’s love and unconditional love, the type of love that focuses on the overall well rounded human being that God has entrusted to us to raise into God fearing, caring, selfless human beings.

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Busy at the Arnett house

We have been so busy….life has been nonstop it seems since the week before school when teachers had to report. It is definitely time for an update. I am leading the Early Years Team and heading up the K3 classroom. It has been fun! Parker and Jacob have both been doing great in school and enjoy their friends and their teachers (especially Parker).

We made it through the hectic schedule of balancing Uganda’s school break and our International school not being on break. We did a lot of traveling back and forth from school to our ministry. Matt is also keeping life busy by volunteering at the Senior Acacia School as the soccer(football) coach.

I have mentioned before that we have always talked about adopting and wouldn’t you know the moment that we get started with filling out the forms to get started with the process, God has a new plan for us; Happy, Kitiibwa, and Tendo.  Three boys who have been a part of Rising Star for several years. We got to know them better when we first arrived in May 2015, they were always participating in Rising Star activities both on and off the football pitch.

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So the past 3 weeks have been filled with prayer and preparation. We hit a road block, but we are pushing through because God is bigger than a greedy government official asking for an unnecessary outrageous bribe. Can you imagine someone asking for 500,000 Ugx ($150) to literally do the minimum part of his job which is to check the status of the homes and file paperwork? Then when we refuse to pay him, he refuses to do the home inspection. Thankfully we have quality, qualified, God-fearing Ugandans who know the law and will help us move around this and continue on our journey to help this family.

How are we helping? Well we are going to foster these amazing boys and also hopefully help their sister who has been struggling to provide for them, by sending her back to school. We are excited for their arrival and due to the road block we will be delayed a bit, so we are sending the two youngest Happy and Kitiibwa to a boarding school right by our house. This will allow them to finish out the year and hopefully they can move to the next grade and not have to repeat.

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3 beds ready for the boys once our paperwork goes through. The start-up costs are high and we could use all the help we can get. Please pray for us through this journey.

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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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Jeremiah 7:22-28

 

They say that when something happens over and over and you expect different results you are crazy. Well call me crazy! Driving in Uganda is what makes me crazy. It is a way of life to drive with just yourself to care about. They say when a Ugandan gets into a car they lose the ability to fear death. When I get into the car I fear death might come. A police officer once told Matt that the guy who was cutting everyone in line was just doing what Ugandans do. Her exact words, “Ehh, that’s what they do, it’s just expected.” In my opinion, even if something is wrong, if a culture does it enough it becomes right to them. So yes, it is wrong to speed, overtake cars, turn in front of others, knock people and keep going, make three lanes when there is room for one, and I could go on. However, if it has become so normal to do those things; so normal that even the police who know the law don’t stop you; then why would you stop? I find it very difficult myself, to do the right thing, when everyone else is doing the wrong thing. Even more when it means I might never get to my destination, let alone on time. Is the answer if enough people start doing the right thing THAT might be the new normal?

I think it might be the hardest thing to teach someone who sees something as normal, but explaining that just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it right. That “everyone” might be doing it wrong. Something might be really hard to enforce if a majority of people are doing it, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enforced. If a rule or a law was put into place, but now no one follows it, does that mean the law itself needs to be changed? If you change a law shouldn’t you then put a new one in its place?

All that I am posing is that we as Christians have a responsibility to act in such a way that is pleasing to the Lord. So what that looks like? For me it means that I need to keep myself in check, with what the Word of God says. I need to understand why I was instructed to act a certain way. Truth be told law is a good law if it was put into place to protect the person following the law. As a mom, and a teacher it is my responsibility to put rules in place, and enforce them for the benefit of the child. All that being said, obey the law set before you, because it is there to help you, protect you and guide you to a life worth living.