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Family time

My parents have been here for about 5 days and it has been fun. We have all had a great time together and our boys have done a great job connecting with my parents. We have experienced some amazing things and the fun is not over. This is our stay-cation and we are enjoying our time around Kampala/Gayaza showing all the fun places we enjoy. The weather has been great and health has been pretty good with a few upset stomachs here and there. We have a fun water day planned on Sunday, my dad will get a massage while us girls treat ourselves to a pedicure…looks like Matt gets to play playstation with the all the boys (thanks to some generous friends donating a new one). I don’t often put pictures on my blog but there are a few cute ones that really capture the pure joy that we have experienced together as a family. What a blessing it is to have such wonderful people in our lives.

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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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Soccer mom

Sometimes I find myself complaining about all the soccer training’s, mostly when it means I have to take kids, equipment and sit in traffic. Lately though I have been reminded that soccer is a main component of why we are in Uganda. It all started with a ball and a bunch of neighborhood boys who everyday would get together and play with a ball that was beat up, flat, or made of plastic bags. You see 9 years ago we came with a group of strangers and played games in the neighborhood we were staying in. We then decided that we would commit our two years in Uganda to stay in that very village that we gave a soccer ball to. It was the village ball; we gave that ball to a kid named “dudu” later we gave him jersey number 2 for obvious reasons. See, when we played games with these kids we were building community, we were building relationships. 9 years later we are still active in the lives of those very kids we met 9 years ago. Our ministry is complex a lot of times people overlook the importance that soccer brings. Without this aspect of outreach, we wouldn’t even be in existence. Don’t get me wrong, like I said our ministry is complex we use the love of the game to give opportunities in education and most importantly to show the love of Christ. When you build a relationship with someone and in this case with an entire community it allows you the opportunity to show Christ in real ways. Rising Star started out as just a fun thing to do with the kids in the neighborhood and now is an amazing ministry that has lead children to a relationship in Christ, scholarships to complete school, travels around Africa, ability to read and so much more. You see those days that I don’t want to lug equipment, sit around in the hot sun and cheer on the teams; I am reminded that all of this is worth it because this is what community building is.  “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1

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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.