Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Uganda

It is a few days after Christmas and I finally have some time to reflect. 

Christmas here is much different than America. The town is not decorated, no houses have Christmas lights, there is no holiday music at church, it is not is different. They really don't have any Christmas traditions in Uganda. Besides going to a Christmas Day service it is a pretty low key day. Dan and Loring decided to do a Christmas Eve outreach and we fed their neighbor hood! Loring and I hand mixed, rolled, and fried over 100 chapatis! It was wonderful to see their appreciation and shock at getting a free meal! Over 100 people were fed and many of the men and women at the church we go to helped cook the entire meal. It took an army but it was so much fun! 

As much as I miss the traditions and comfort of home this holiday season it was nice to get away from all of the materialism of America. Most children in Uganda get nothing for Christmas. It is just another day for them. If they are lucky they might get a soda or a new Christmas dress. While there is nothing wrong with getting a receiving gifts it was refreshing to be able to completely focus on the true meaning of Christmas. My Christmas consisted of leading a children's Christmas play, eating a huge Christmas meal, and watching movies with lots of good friends.

I did not receive a single present this year...and it was ok. On Christmas eve and Christmas day I got to rejoice in the fact that Christ, as part of the triune God, humbled Himself from His holy dwelling, to subject himself to the trials and tribulations of this world. He came for us. No other reason. He came to save us from a life of separation with God. The only purely holy person who ever lived was born in a stable and laid to rest where pigs ate their food. He was forced to be born there because no one had any room for Mary and Joseph. But He came into the pig sty and made it a holy dwelling place. His only visitors were lowly shepherds. No kings, no high officials, just shepherds and animals were there to welcome the savior into the world. On Christmas eve Pastor Dan asked us if we had any room for Jesus. In our own pig styes of life do we have any room for Christ to come in and make it a holy dwelling place? 

This Christmas I pray that during all of the parties and all of the hustle and bustle and traveling you took some time to remember Christ and why He came to earth. I pray that you rejoiced in the fact that the Lord of everything would send His Son to atone for our sins. We do not celebrate Christmas to get a few days off work, or because Santa is coming, but we celebrate because He came to earth. 

So come, let us Adore Him, Christ the Lord!

"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12"This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.""

Luke 2:10-12 NASB

Thursday, December 17, 2009

does it mean anything?

I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading lately. [I know...sort of the theme of my trip] I have been thinking about all of the outreaches I have done with all of the beautiful, smiling children.......and....

Have I made an impact? Did they learn anything? Did I learn anything? What does effective missions in Uganda look like?

So many questions...

I am currently reading a book by Donald Miller (shocker I know) that is all about life and whether we are actually participating in the story. Are we living a good story? This trip has put so much into perspective. I know that when I return to the states I will do a lot differently. I will spend my money differently, I will choose jobs differently, and I will love differently. What has been most apparent here is how important relationships are. While I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the outreaches with EAC at times I felt like genuine relationships with the children were lacking. Dan and Loring, who I am staying with, have become friends with a Ugandan family. I have experienced first hand what an impact their relationship with them has been. The genuine Christian community they have developed is changing both families.
When we think about it.....isn't all of life about relationships? Since the beginning God designed us for community. He saw that Adam was alone and knew that he needed a partner. God is who fulfills our longings and desires and makes us complete. But...He blesses us with other people in our lives to enrich us and to share our stories with us.
Sometimes, our stories turn bad. I know mine has in the past. But I know myself better now...I think I just forgot for a little while. I want to encourage you all to think about your stories. Can you make your story better? Even in the everyday things I think we can make our stories better. This trip was the first step towards my better story. When I go home my prayer is that I can continue my better story. I find comfort in the truth that the Lord will guide my steps.

I leave you with a quote from Donald Miller's book. I hope that this is what happens when I am finally close enough to see the lines on His face.

"I'll tell these things to God (my story), and He'll laugh, I think, and he'll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were His favorites. We'll sit and remember my story together, and then he'll stand and put His arms around me and say, "well done," and that He liked my story. And my soul won't be thirsty anymore."

So here is to finding your better story.

love to all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

a different perspective.

The house is quiet for the time being. Hannah and Ben are playing on the front porch, Loring is doing her bible study, and Lillian is humming and cleaning somewhere in the house. Outside the buzz of activity can be heard and I am glad that I have a place that is quiet to escape to. I can hear children laughing, horns honking, boda men yelling, and police whistles blowing.

The past week or so has been so filled with activity and meeting different people. Loring has been gracious enough to include me in everything that she has been doing. On a normal day we wake up, have devotions with Dan, Kostya (intern from Ukraine), and Loring, drink our coffee, and try to wake up! Dan and Kostya head out for the day to meet with pastors, work on a new medical clinic, disciple people, etc. I help Loring with home school for Aiden and Hannah. I mainly work with Hannah and we work on math, reading, and spelling. At some point during everyday I read Ben at least 4 books and do the same safari jungle puzzle. Typically he is asking me to do the puzzle as soon as I step out of my bedroom and have my toothbrush in my mouth :o) The afternoons always offer something different. We spend time with Betty, Loring's Ugandan friend whose husband is the pastor of the church that Dan preaches at, head downtown for errands, or go to the store for dinner, or sew curtains for a medical clinic. I have also been fortunate to meet some amazing muzungu women. Loring is involved in a women's bible study and a home school group. It has been so amazing to hear everyone's stories as to why they are in Uganda. One women's husband works for the US Embassy, a few work for a church here, and some are here with different mission organizations or have their own organizations. The common thread in all of these women is their heart for the Lord and their heart for their families. They are all doing their best to adapt and adjust to this culture and to give their children an amazing childhood. I went to a Christmas Cookie exchange last night and met a women who lives in a large home she calls Father's House. She and her husband currently have 16 children and their mission is to simply love children and fill their Father's house. I have met women from Australia, New Zeland, Tanzania, England, and the Netherlands.

Some of you may be thinking, "well this is much different from what I thought she was going to be doing". Honestly, it is different than I thought as well. But I have a peace that I am exactly where the Lord wants me. I am not doing set outreaches, but I am serving the Lord by serving this family. One of my good friends in Raleigh has been nannying for people at our church, Vintage 21, and she has been such a good example for me. Her heart for children and for the families in the body of Christ is contagious. When I am getting frustrated with the kids or I am being selfish and don't want to give of my time and energy I just think of what she would do in this situation ;o) I am still showing love to children and I am building lasting relationships with amazing people. I am so excited to see what the future holds between the Morris family and Vintage 21 church!

This week is a BUSY week! Loring and I are both having a hard time with it not feeling like Christmas. When you are wearing summer clothes and thinking about going swimming it is hard to get in the Christmas spirit. We have a tiny Christmas tree that the kids constantly change the decorations on, and we made Christmas cookies...maybe that will help. This week Loring and I are going to 2 bible studies, teaching Christmas songs to the choir at the church Dan preaches at, writing, planning, and practicing a children's Christmas play, going to a Ugandan wedding, and going Christmas shopping for a few very deserving Ugandan children. Whew! Well it is time for me to go color a princess dress with Hannah then off to bible study. I hope everyone is enjoying the cold weather and Christmas spirit for me! I will be in Raleigh one month from tomorrow!

Friday, December 4, 2009

a new step.

And then there was one...

I have had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people during my time here in Uganda. They have each marked a different season and a new set of lessons. As I sit here sipping my spearmint team, hearing the storm roll in over the hills of Ntinda, and listening to a guitar being played outside...I miss them all.

Courtney, the sweet deep thinker who knew how to ask me amazing questions and encourage me with her love for life. There was Hannah, the funky, amazing singer who knew how to love children and make me laugh at her thousands of crazy faces. Catherine, the other southern girl who kept me sane and laughing for a month and showed me how quickly people can become friends. And then the Mocha boys, Daniel and Charlie. They were such an encouragement and such a blessing for the week and a half that we hung out with them. We all felt like we had known each other for years! Catherine, Daniel, and Charlie left yesterday and I am still here.

Since today is a quiet day at the house I have had time to think and reflect. With so many people coming and going I was worried about not really having a constant while I was here. The Lord has been showing me that this is how life happens. People come and go...but He remains my one constant. He promises to never leave us or forsake us and to be our strong tower through life's many trials. He has taught me to be thankful for the time do have with people and to trust that if it is in His will He will bring us together again. I am so excited to have lifelong, front porch friends all over the country. (front porch friends is a saying I heard, clearly in the south, referring to those friends that you can talk to for hours and just sit on the front porch with them). The Lord has been so good to me throughout this trip. He has provided me with community and taught me that His ways are always better than my ways.

Tomorrow marks the end of the Empower a Child outreaches for 2009. This week we have thrown two Christmas parties complete with food, presents, a Christmas play, and Christmas carols! The first party was at Katalwema Children's Hospital. The children were so excited to decorate cookies and receive gifts. Yesterday we had a huge party at the Remand Home, which is a juvenille prison. The kids did skits and songs, we had an eating contest, I got a bucket of water dumped on me, traditional Ugandan food, and a dance party! All in all it was a fun day and the kids had an AMAZING time which is all that matters.

Since the projects are ending the Lord has blessed me with a new opportunity for a few weeks. My church in Raleigh, Vintage 21, is beginning to partner with a family here in Uganda to help them start a chuch plant and a sponsorship program for the slum children that live near them. Dan and Loring Morris have become like my second family here. From the first time I met them I have felt so comfortable and so welcomed. They have 3 amazing children, Aiden [9], Hannah [6], and adorable Ben [4]. Their heart for this country and these people is contagious and I am so glad that the Lord brought us together. Tomorrow I am going to stay with them through the first of the year! I am moving from Ntinda to Wabigala (I love the names of places here). It will be so wonderful to spend the holidays with a family. They also have an intern coming from the Ukraine next week. So I will be in the girls room with six year old Hannah and theUkraine intern will be in the boys room with Ben and Aiden. I will be helping Loring homeschool the kids and helping their church get a medical clinic up and running. It will be quite the adventure and I cannot wait to move there! I pray that the Lord will use me to minister to this family and allow me to help Vintage better minister to them in the future.

Love and blessings to you all! 5 more weeks and I will be home in good ole' North Carolina. Comfy beds, cold weather, scarves, hats, gloves, fires, hot water, reliable electricity, electric stoves, no mosquitos, no mice, and fast food here I come!!!