Thursday, October 29, 2009


Baby in a basin. clearly!

Sherrie. My favorite child at Victory Primary School!

Courtney and Hannah! A BEAUTIFUL child at Kyambogo Primary

Boys on lunch break in Gulu

The Jaja! Look at the beauty and wisdom

Child in Gulu

Joy at the Remand Home. A juvenille prison

My self and a child from the school of the deaf. He is my buddy because we have the same color eyes! aren't they gorgeous!

Playing dress up at the museum! shhhh. don't tell anyone!

I hope you all enjoyed a peak into Uganda! I miss you all a ton!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

afflictions eclipsed by glory.

It has been about a week since I have blogged. That is mainly due to the fact that our Internet has been PAINFULLY slow (like20 minutes to load a page) and I have not wanted to sit at the computer that long. Also, as the title somewhat suggests, there have been a few hard days over here. There has been disappointment and unforeseen hurdles to handle over the past few days. As always...I take a little it to process through things. Being in a country with a lot of down time and few distractions is great for processing. The Lord has shown me many things over the past few days. Number one, as Christians we are not to judge people, simply things and circumstances. That is hard at times because as broken sinful humans we always want to condemn others to make ourselves feel elevated in some way. Secondly, HIS glory and love and grace and forgiveness--- eclipses everything else. This simple point does not leave us room to hold grudges or to not forgive simply because the pain rendered was too great and seemingly unforgivable. He calls us to so much more than that.
Since arriving here I have asked the Lord to break my heart for the people here, to break my heart for what breaks His, and to cultivate a love for these people and this country.
It is beginning.
I find my thoughts wandering to the children. The faces who were once have a name and a smile, and beautiful chocolate eyes....Sherrie, Maria, Gift, Christine, David, Molly, Jethro, Joseph, Grace, and Jacob. When I leave them I wonder what their homes are like. Are they read to? Are they hugged and kissed? Did they eat that night? Did they get home safely? Did the nurses care for them? It is a wonderful and refreshing change for a mind that has been incessantly mulling over the events of this past year. The sights and the smells are all becoming familiar now. Sleeping under a mosquito net seems like the most natural thing in the world!
I prayed for this..and He has answered. Week one, I never thought I would feel comfortable here. Now I do. I also wish that I was older(and had an unlimited supply of money)...then I could attempt to adopt one of these wonderful, sweet, beautiful, children who is in desperate need of love. [don't worry mom and dad, you would love them immediately!! ;o)] Maybe they would learn that His glory would cover their afflictions as well.

This past weekend/week has had so many interesting parts! Friday night some of us went on an adventure to Kabalagala (it means pancake in Luganda) to find Ethiopian food! After a LONG taxi ride, getting dropped off at the wrong spot, a boda ride, being dropped off at the wrong stop again, asking for directions at an Italian grocery store, and a 15 minute walk we finally found the restaurant. It was SO worth the hassle!!! The food was incredible and we had such a great time! Saturday I went to another craft market and then to dinner with the Morris's in Kampala. The dinner and the conversations were wonderful! I got to have pasta WITH Parmesan cheese and coffee after dinner....oh man was it a good day! Here in Uganda it is the little things. Monday...BABIES!! They were precious as always and were fascinated by bubbles! Today we went to Katalemwa Children's Hospital and had a GREAT time! The kids just sang and danced!! I helped lead worship with Collin. It turned into a dance was priceless. We then performed a puppet show of Noah's Ark with beanie babies and Dora the Explorer as Noah..TIA! Hannah and I then went on quite the adventure to retrieve our PACKAGES!!!! It was like Christmas in October [oh wait, that was my Christmas!] A few highlights from the packages....
Jiffy Cornbread Mix
Hush Puppy Mix --- That is right! The south has hit UGANDA!! YAY!!
Microwaveable Cake!
Cookie Mix
T-shirts (very helpful when all of your "clean" laundry is on the line and it is insisting on raining everyday and it isn't even rainy season anymore!)
Reese's Pieces
Shout out to Uncle John and Aunt Katie! I already gave away some tooth brushes! I did however find it hysterical that my dentist uncle sent a box FULL of candy...and tooth brushes! Wonderful!

Tonight...we went to the Ndere Cultural Center and saw traditional dances! They are sooooooooo talented! Woah! At one point the women were dancing while carrying 7 that is right 7 jugs on their heads. The highlight of the night for me was when they called the audience to the stage and people from about 20 different countries all sang Amazing Grace in English in a circle. (it made me feel a little guilty that so many people in the world know English and I only know...well, English) It was a beautiful moment seeing God's people together in a foreign land praising His name together. I imagine that is a little what Heaven is going to be like. Everyone together singing to Him.

Well I must get to bed. It is BABIES in the morning and it is 11:30 here. So good night and mulungi (love) to all! I will post more pictures when the internet speeds up again!

"I have a feeling that if you look for it, you will see that love actually is all around us"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gulu. the lines on their faces almost felt like going home. Upon arriving I got that same feeling I get when I leave the hustle and bustle of Raleigh and pull into the driveway in Elon and see my peaceful backyard and quiet street. Gulu looked right out of my imagination. We walked a long dirt road, past numerous NGO's, and arrived at a little clearing with a long rectangle house surrounded by trees, bushes, and round thatched roof huts. We were greeted by the sweet and always smiling 19 year old Jackie. She might be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Then we got to meet "the" Jaja [grandmother]. Probably the most precious old women I have ever met. The lines on her face told her story. We went on a walk around Gulu and got to witness 10 year old girls carrying full jerry cans of water on their HEADS! I can barely carry a full one 10 feet! I also got to try my first fresh sugar cane. You just rip it off with your teeth, suck the sugar out, and spit it out on the ground. When we got home we spent time with the wonderful children outside singing songs and trying to make them laugh. We even met a few little babies who had never even seen a white person before and they were PETRIFIED of us! The first night Jackie made us a delicious meal of potatoes with onions and tomatoes, meat, and cabbage [a staple meal]. Cooking with one "burner" (hole that has charcoal) takes a very long time! We all used the chance to lay in the yard talking and looking at the GORGEOUS stars. We saw like 5 shooting stars! Then six of us slept in one little bedroom. 2 on the bed and 4 of us on the floor. It was pretty hysterical.
Tuesday: We slept in a little, had breakfast in the yard, and then walked through the hut neighborhood to town. The organization, Invisible Children, has their headquarters in Gulu. They have done so much to raise awareness about the 20 year war in Northern Uganda and Joseph Kony and the thousands of child soldiers that he abducted and became invisible. We wanted to visit the headquarters and usually an intern will give you a little talk and take you on a tour of the offices. When we got there we walked into an office and a very cheery looking woman greeted us. Her name was Jolly and she is pretty much the head of the organization. We were stunned that she would see us! She was herself abducted, has spoken with Joseph Kony on the phone, and regularly deals with high ranking officials. It was amazing to hear her stories. She told us that the biggest issue right now in Northern Uganda is that the people who have been released from the IDP camps have no homes to go back to because they have been burned by the rebels and they have no money to rebuild. Many of the relief organizations have pulled out because the war is no longer going on. She also informed us that Kony and his armies have moved to the Congo and are gaining strength by abducting more children. They will send a group of child soldiers ahead of the other troops and when they are attacked by national troops they do not know they are attacking children before it is too late. The biggest fear in northern Uganda right now is that if a conflict breaks out in southern Sudan Kony will have the opportunity to cross the border again into Uganda. While the people of Gulu are slowly beginning to feel normalcy return to their lives, the lines on their faces tell the stories of the years past.

Highlights and funny moments from the trip:
-having to use the dreaded squatty potty for 3 days
-showering in the middle of the yard in a bucket in complete darkness
-attempting to eat a mountain of posho (starchy food) with literally a peanut butter/bitter greens/fish slime sauce... oh it was awful
-watching Jackie perform a traditional courtship dance with Felix
- seeing Jackie's face light up when we presented her with gifts to say thank you for her hospitality
- seeing the children peek out from behind the bushes
- having a going away meal with the Jaja
- surviving literally 427 consecutive speed bumps
- eating goat on a stick that we bought through the window of the bus
- finally arriving home!

We have 2 days of missions left this week and then a weekend filled with raft markets, ethopian food, and dinner with an american family in Kampala! I miss everyone and I can't believe it is already the end of October! I am definitely missing fall though. It is HOT here on the equator! Love and a blessed day to all!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

one month ramblings.

I have been in Uganda for one month now. Nothing is how I imagined it. To the people, the sights, the smells, all of it. I have been thinking a lot recently about why it is that we long to have someone in our lives. Someone to make us feel loved, and safe, and important. I have been reading Donald Miller's "searching for God knows what" and CS Lewis. Both of them touch on this issue. The Lord created as beings that thrive off community. When He created Adam He saw that it was not good for man to be alone---so he created Eve for him. They are the only people to ever live in perfect community with God. Since the Fall all of humanity has been searching for that "someone" to fill the void that they were feeling. I have always understood that the Lord created us to live in community and to need an other in our lives. Honestly it did not until recently cross my mind that the "someone" I was created for, to fulfill all of my needs, is God. I have been down the path numerous times of looking for that in other people, and the truth is that other people will always fail you, because well--they are people. God is the only one who can fill the deepest longings of our souls. I believe [although I have clearly not experienced it yet] that marriage is meant to be the closest reflection of God's perfect love for us. I have seen this play out in many of my friends marriages and it is such a beautiful thing. You may be asking what in the world this has to do with my time in Africa. Well, the other week we had a VERY frustrating conversation with 2 random Ugandan men about the importance of holding and showing love to their children. [don't ask how we got on that topic..i promise it will just make you mad]. They were saying that children didn't really need to be held or shown affection when they are young. Oh how wrong they are. I have seen the pure joy on children's faces when I hold their hand, or kiss their heads. It is apparent that many of them to not receive love or attention on a daily basis. They are taught from a young age that the way to handle any mistake is with violence. If a child gets a homework answer wrong, does not use a ruler to do their math problems..they are caned (beaten). Not always, but sometimes. One of the babies homes we go to does not allow us to hold the babies that are able to sit up unless we are carrying them to class or feading them. They may get fussy when you put them down. These children are already going to have abandonment issues because they are orphans...and now they only get shown love and affection if a volunteer sneaks in a kiss or two before they leave!?!?!?!?! As Christians we are called to show Christ's love to others...I have never understood how important that is until now. Also being here I have seen the need for male missionaries. These people need to have good male examples to follow...because they are lacking. So men, this is a challenge to you all too. These babies need love from you too! There are so many games and sport things that the men just connect on such a better level. So come on over!!!!!

Today I got to meet with the family that my church, Vintage 21, is partnering with to start a church plant in Kampala. They were soooo amazing! They have 3 children, 4,6, &9 and I think they are so brave to uproot their family and come here. They took me to lunch and I got to have coffee!!! YUM! I also got to video chat with my wonderful girlfriends back home!! It was so great to see their faces and I miss them so much!!! Last night we had a rat in the house. Yuck. We don't know if it is gone so I am REALLY jumpy if I think I feel anything on me. The rats here are HUGE!

We are headed north to Gulu on Monday! It will be so nice to get out of the city and see the villages. I am not quite sure what we are doing there but I am sure I will have GREAT stories when I get back. Love you all!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a slice of humble pie.

[sorry if my title is corny...I am exhausted and it made me smile!]

Hannah is playing guitar right now...and it is so soothing. Collin is laughing outside. The echos of laughing children still ring in my ears. My feet are dirty from the red dust and my eyes are tired from no sleep. But, I am feeling peace return to my life. Like the changing of the seasons (which does not happen here) my heart and priorities and expectations are slowly changing. Peace and joy are returing. Oh how I have missed you! I am so glad the Lord cares about the small details of me and is in tune with my every need. It is a freeing thing. To give Him control. I have been reading through Mere Christianity by CS Lewis and here is one of my favorite quotes so far.
"The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection" Apply that to your life...and see where it takes you!

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Saturday we had home visits for our sponsor kids. I was paired with Jayan and we had 10 kids to visit around Ntinda. The first house we went to was the lady that cleans our house, Mama Louis, aka Sarah. Her son Louis is ADORABLE and he had just learned the parts of his body in English. They lived in a 6' x 8' room with one bed, a bench, a chair, and a cabinet for dishes. That is it. She spent her hard earned money buying us sodas and rolls. We had to ask a lot of questions and his answers were hysterical. He is 4 and when you ask a 4year old what his goals are for the next 2 months be ready for a great answer. His goal was to get a soda!! Most of the houses were similar in shape and size. Some had more than 2 people living in that size house. Even the biggest and nicest house we went to we would consider "condemened". Many of the kids suffered from recurring illnesses and they have no way of going to the doctor. Many of them told us that they would go days without eating yet they served us drinks and a snack. Humbled. One jaja (grandma) has aids and was thrown out of her house by her step children [a common practice]. Many when asked if they needed anything replied with either a bible or maybe a pair of shoes because they did not have any. I don't even know how many shoes I own. The culture here is just so fascinating.

On another note we have become friends with a girl named Genny. She lives about 5 minutes from our house. She is here with an organization called Sent International. Her official title is Deaf Blind Consultant for Uganda. That is right for the whole country and she is only 25. She is soooo passionate about what she is doing and it is truly inspiring. She makes me want to find something that I am passionate about! We go to the Ntinda School of the Deaf once a week and she has been teaching us sign language. I am a visual learner and I am picking it up rather quickly!!
Monday was Nsambia Babies Home! I finally got peed on. Christine who would not leave my side peed on me TWICE! She laughed both times....and so did I. The babies there are so sweet and love our attention. They call us "mommy" and it breaks my heart. I wish I had enough money to buy them diapers for a year. Instead of them peeing all over the place! Today we went to Victory Primary and Kierka High School. It was a good day but many of us were really tired. I am getting used to living here now. I finally feel like I know my way around for the most part. I know where the samosa lady is, where the rolex man is [chipati with eggs and veggies rolled up], the store, the best place to buy produce, etc. Ok, it is getting close to dinner and I am off to spend time with the girls and maybe make some african tea!

Friday, October 9, 2009

again and again.

This past year there are 2 things that keep coming up. Whether it is from a preacher from Singapore preaching in Uganda, or I just happen to turn my bible there. Or a song that I heard on the radio and then heard performed by a girl from Portland at a Ugandan church. It has been a constant reminder that our Lord cares about the small details of my life. He understands my needs more fully and more completely than I will ever realize. This passage of scripture has quickly become my sustainer when my thoughts or my day take a wrong turn. Isaiah 61:1-4

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

The Lord has been completing these verses in my life over the past year. Now, while they are no where near obtaining their completing work in me I find it so interesting that I have now come to a place in life where I am trying to be Christ's hands and feet. I am trying to proclaim good news to the poor, bring joy to the brokenhearted, and show these wonderful children of Uganda that the Lord will restore the places in their lives that have been devastated. I must strive for this because that is what the Lord has done for me. As Christians we are not called to simply accept Christ's grace and forgiveness and then keep it for ourselves. Our faith is meant to permeate every fiber of our lives and affect every decision we make. From money, to careers, to love. Especially to love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect unity. Believers all have the holy spirit within them and one of the fruits of the spirit is love.

There is an amazing song that is on the new David Crowder CD. The lyrics are a constant encouragement and lead me back to the feet of Christ. The song is How He Loves Us. I could not figure out how to post a link to hear the song, but here are the lyrics. I highly recommend listening to the song!

[before I post the lyrics]

Today is Uganda's Independence day! They do not really celebrate, so the muzungus decided to throw a party! Complete with roasted marshmallows! This week for dinner Hannah and I made hamburgers and french fries with REAL Heinz ketchup and diet coke! But the TIA moment came when we ran out of gas for the stove halfway through cooking the fries...So, our 14 year old neighbor, Jovan had to get us charcoal and start a fire for us. (we had no clue how to do it!) And we fired and grilled the burgers and fries over the charcoal fire. Needless to say dinner took awhile to get ready!

Going to Sanyu Babies Home yesterday was very hard. There was a new baby in Jacob's crib.... I found out that last Friday a germanvolunteer noticed that his fever was getting worse but she had to leave for the night. She informed the night shift workers and they essentially dismissed it and told her to put him back in his crib. They did not get him to the hospital soon enough. I was so frustrated. Different cultures = different ways of handling things. I did get to hold sweet Dorthy again. Who I learned was found in the bottom of a squatty potty. Horrible. Pray for these babies. That they would find good homes...and soon.

I love the comments. They are so encouraging! :o)

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

even when my heart is breaking.

Today has been a hard day. My first week here I went to the Sanyu Babies home and I posted pictures of me holding sweet Jacob. This past week when we went I walked in to all of the babies laying on the floor and when Jacob saw me he got the biggest grin on his face! I was so excited that he remembered me! A lot of the babies were sick and the workers did not want me to take him outside. I tickled his belly, gave him a kiss, and left him to sleep in his crib. I found out this morning that Jacob passed away this weekend. Amanda who helps adopting parents there told me that they were not sure why he died. She thought he might have been anemic. The babies home did not have enough money to take him to the good international hospital, so he did not receive the best care. This is what makes me want to take one of these children home. In the states he would have received treatment and if he had a problem more than likely it would have been discovered when he was very young.
I am crushed. Jacob has no parents to mourn for him. So I will. I don't even know if he had a funeral or if anyone went if he did. This precious little boy helped to show me the kingdom of God in the 3 short hours that I spent with him. He trusted me when I picked him up and he smiled when I spoke to him. That is how the Lord wants us to be with Him. He wants us to trust that He will hold us and pick us up when we need it. We are supposed to smile when He speaks to us and always feel secure in His love. I pray that Jacob felt loved by me, and I pray that somehow he knows that I will miss him. I pray that he knows that when I get to Sanyu tomorrow I will go straight to his crib just to make sure there is not some kind of mistake, and I will hope to see his smiling face and his chubby cheeks. I just have to trust that he is in the arms of Christ right now and that someday I will get to hold him again. I don't really have words to correctly express how I am feeling. But this tiny boy showed me that I need to trust the Lord. He will hold me when my heart gets shattered, when I feel alone and confused, and if I just listen for His still soft voice I will receive the peace and joy I have been looking for. I leave you with this passage from Luke. I pray that we would all strive to have a childlike faith and come before our Father with a trusting and expectant heart, like Jacob.

Luke 18:15-17 15People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

TIA [this. is. africa.]

[me holding 2 week old Ashford]
[baby Maria!!]

TIA is a common saying here at the Empower A Child house. There are just things that you see or that happen that you just have to say... "TIA" Here are a few examples.
- there is a nightclub near our house that we can hear the music from constantly...last night's wonderful music selection was "colors of the wind". That's right, the one from Pochantas. Priceless.
- you will see a small child playing with a machete sized knife on a daily basis. scary
- when buying food from street vendors, just don't think about the sanitation grade
- we constantly hear.. "muzungu, muzungu, i love you!" oh man...

those are just a few, I will keep you posted on more TIA events.

Thursday we went to the Sanyu Babies Home. When we walked in we were greeted by very unpleasant smells and lots of sick babies. They were pitiful. After getting all of them bathed and dressed and fed the girls and I each chose a baby and took them outside. This week I got to hold precious Dorothy. She was not content unless she could see my face. As we were sitting there talking and cuddling and kissing those babies we were wondering if they would ever know how many different people held them and kissed them and wished that they could just take them home with them. We have met many other muzungu volunteers from Sweden, Germany, Scotland, & England. In Germany you are required to do I think it is 9 months of some sort of service work. It can be abroad or in Germany. I think that is so wonderful and I wish that America would require the same thing of their youth. I am not sure how well that would go over though. On Friday we went to 2 primary schools and the highlight of that event was when a huge, and I mean huge cow just walked through the children playing. It was completly unattended. I wonder where he was headed?!?! The children ran after it screaming! There are other children who are not in the school who hang out around us whenever we are there doing the program. It is so sad because the school children treat them like outcast too and push them away when they get near. I just give them the biggest smile I can muster and tickle them and try to make sure they feel included. The schools really amaze me. The classrooms are tiny and they squeeze about 40 children into each room. They all sit on wooden benches and most do not have paper or a pencil. There are hand drawn posters on scrap paper depicting the alphabet, animals, numbers, phrases, etc. US teachers...are spoiled. I am sure the teachers here do not have to deal with annoying parents. In fact I doubt they deal with the teachers at all unless it is to get them money. I have taught a few was so fun but interesting because it has to be translated into Luganda and so I have to pause and usually lose my train of thought! I asked our Ugandan volunteers what the children did for lunch on the days that we don't serve them porridge. Well...they don't eat lunch, or a snack unless their parents sent them with a few shillings to get a snack. Then they won't get dinner until at the earliest 8pm. So the teachers love when we bring poridge because the students concentrate better for the rest of the day. Sooooooooo incredibly different from the states. Also, you only go to school here if you can pay for it. If not, oh well says the government. That is why child sponsorship is so needed and so important. Empower A Child has 100 kids on the sponsorship waiting list.

Today is Saturday and I am so excited because Hannah and Courtney and I are going to a legit Italian restaurant! Yay for NOT rice and beans!!! We also went to a craft market. They have beautiful things there for really cheap!!

Prayer request: I have a bad cold and I would love not to be sick by Monday so I can go see 2 week old baby Ashford again.
Energy and stamina to keep up with these kids. I now understand why all of my teacher friends are so tired!!

Love and blessings to all!!!