Saturday, December 31, 2011

Everything but the Kitchen Sink!

We are in Kenya for a youth camp, and today is New Year’s Eve.  In fact, in 10 minutes, it will be 2012 here. 

Like most moms, I pack my purse with everything but the kitchen sink when I travel.  I want to be prepared for all situations.  My kids, on the other hand, think about nothing in advance.

So, today, we decided to go into town and find the used clothing market to get some of the things they need, since it’s so much cooler here.  Karis needed a couple of long sleeve shirts and some jeans that actually fit her.  Kylie needed some jeans, also, since her legs and feet are gaining on mine at a rapidly increasing pace.  And Caleb needed some socks because his feet have been freezing, and a belt for the new jeans I bought him last week in the clothing market where I live in Uganda.

This was one of the largest used clothing markets I had ever seen.  Aisle upon aisle of clothes EVERYWHERE.  I didn’t know where to start, but thankfully, we had hitched a ride to town with some friends in their car, and the lady we were with was a pretty confident shopper, so she led the way.

Back to my “everything but the kitchen sink.”  My purse is my backpack.  My dad gave it to me before we left America, and it can carry a ton.

In it is three card games that I carry because we do a lot of “waiting” for things in Africa, and card games are always a good entertainment.

I ALWAYS carry kleenexes and allergy medicine (if you know me at all), and today I had ibuprofen, nose spray, and a ziplock full of bandaids (because Caleb is my son).  Also along the lines of “health care,” I also have a jar of Mentholatum, two chapsticks, and some wonderful Mary Kay lip gloss.

I also have the book I am trying to finish so I can turn it back into the resource center in Nairobi.  And since I love to read, I have my Kindle (yeah!), my Bible (which my Dad gave me back in 1989, and it has 20+ years worth of notes in it), and my devotional, Jesus Calling.

Of course, there is the standard wallet with my TX driver’s license, Uganda driver’s license, debit cards, store cards, etc.

I also like to dream up blogs.  So I’ve been carrying around my “prison notebook” recently, because it has all the ladies prayer requests and the fun things I hear and see there, and when I have some time, I like to write out some blogs.

Two other favorite things are my ipod and my camera.  You might think my backpack is pretty heavy.  And you would be right. 

When I fly, my computer is in there, too, so it can really be back-breaking at times.


With MANY people around the clothing market today, some joker popped the lock on our friend’s car, grabbed my backpack and took off…and no one saw a thing.  My "pen pocket" had been open, so my plethora of writing utensils (also a weakness of mine), had all spilled out, so that is all I have left.

I don’t know what it is about Kenya.  In Uganda, that guy would have been chased and beaten by a mob, but here…"no one saw a thing."

The first things I remembered were my Kindle and my ipod, and I was sad, but not distraught.  As things came to me, I was a little overwhelmed, but when I remembered my Bible, I broke down in tears. 

My three sweet children started crying, too.  Caleb looked at me with his chin quivering, and said, “But Mommy, God still loves you.” 

I told them that God tells us in His Word to give thanks for all things, so even though I didn’t know why this had happened, He did, and I needed to be okay with that.

The only other thing that Caleb reminded me about later that night was the glo-sticks I had brought them for New Year’s.  They were in the bag, too.

I told you I carry everything.

That Bible.

I’ve been pondering all the many notes, underlines, thoughts, and insights God has given me over the past 20 years, and it breaks my heart to have lost all that.  I have a small photographic memory, so I could also tell you where on a page a verse was found, etc.  I was so comfortable with that friend, and now I’ll have to make a new one.

You can join me in praying for the person that has my Bible.  He/she was created by God, too, and I can only hope that he or someone else will benefit from the Word like I have.

This is kind of sad New Year’s for me in that respect, but I am reminded I have a faith that can never be stolen.  Jesus is still on His throne, and He has many more new insights to share with me in the years to come, and I will look at His Word with fresh eyes in 2012 (whenever I can get a new Bible sent).

“Our God is greater, our God is stronger.  God, You are higher than any other!
Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God.”

Happy New Year’s!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Welcome to Prison"

This day, Kylie and Karis joined Florence and I.  I told them there could be no whining, no complaining of heat or walking, etc, and I wasn’t quite sure how Karis was going to do.  We first walked to the hospital to pray for a friend we had heard was there.  Then we walked to the prison.

It was pretty hot, and I didn’t let the girls bring water bottles because the women don’t have access to water so easily, and none of them ever has a drink while we are there.

We were all thirsty before we got to the prison, and Karis looked a little worn.  She also had a “deer in the headlights look” as the women all came to shake their hands.  All of the women spoke to them in Lugbara, and Kylie understands the normal questions, so she was able to tell them she was fine, how old she was, and her name.  I had to interpret a little for Karis, but she did okay. 

Again, the ladies sang a “welcome” song, but this time, they sang two.  The first was, “We’re so glad to have visitors,” and then they sang my favorite, “Wel – come to Pri – son.”  Now, both my girls had the “deer in the headlights” look.  I had to keep reminding them to smile, especially Karis.

I brought Peter Spier’s book “Noah” to show the ladies more illustrations of how the flood might have been.   This led to questions about what they ate on the boat.  I had already told them about Noah taking food on the boat for the animals, but maybe I didn’t mention about food for Noah’s family.  Peter Spier’s book also shows Noah gathering eggs, fishing, and getting milk from the cow.

After all the flood discussion, we started today’s story:  Abraham.

When I asked them at the end, why Abram and Lot had to separate, one lady said, “Because Abram and Lot hated each other.”  It made me realize they listen about as closely sometimes as a 2nd grade Sunday school class.

They also wanted to know if Abraham had taken Isaac up to sacrifice him because he had been a bad son.  Again…is anyone listening today?  I did actually see a few eyes shutting.  Not only am I not thoroughly entertaining, they were sitting in a hot room after lunch.  Oh well.  Hopefully we discussed until they had a better understanding of the story.  I also ended it like the Jesus Storybook Bible does, comparing God’s Son who also walked up a hill for a sacrifice, carrying wood on His back.  But this time, God didn’t spare the Son’s life.

My girls were hot and tired when it was all over, and Kylie leaned over and asked me (a little worriedly) if EVERY woman was going to give a prayer request.  I assured her they wouldn’t today, but we DID get everyone’s updated court dates (if they had one) on the calendar I bring every week, so we know who to pray for, specifically, on what days.

When we got back to Florence’s container (an 8 ft x 6 ft metal box that serves as her “store”), those girls each drank 16 ounces of water more quickly than I had ever seen.

Different Skin Colors

We came to tell about the flood.

I had sick kids at home, and Florence wasn’t feeling too well, so we asked them to only sing two songs this day.  They repeat the verses over 20 times, so this was still an adequate amount of singing. 

This day was the story of Noah and the flood.  Every picture I showed them of all the water and Noah’s boat being alone on an expanse of sea, they all, simultaneously, went, “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”  That is what they do when they hear bad news or feel sorry for someone.

Their were many questions today, but the two that stuck out were “Why hasn’t God destroyed us because we are so much worse?”  It was a great opportunity to remind them of the covenant God made with Noah, and how God always keeps His promises.  I also reminded them that none of us is righteous enough to be safe from destruction, but God has given us a “Great Rescue Plan” (taken from the Jesus Storybook Bible) in Jesus.

The other question which stuck out, which I knew was coming, was, “If Noah and his sons were the only ones populating the earth, how come now we have people of all different skin colors?”

I know that many of us believe different things, and the truth is, none of us knows for sure.  I knew they wouldn’t quite understand an explanation of melatonin levels (especially where they live so close to the equator), and I didn’t want to add to God’s word, but we had a good discussion.  I don’t want to start a debate here, but I shared my thoughts with them, and it was another good day.

Back to Prison

Today, M*** (the ladies' leader) was gone.  The ladies miss her, and we prayed for God to be with her.  It was a little subdued today.   

The biggest blessing today for me was watching J**** leading worship.  She is the lady that I prayed for and brought medicine to.  She used to just lay on her side on the floor.  

Today, she was taking charge…M***’s job.  They all look to her for leadership now.  She is a whole new person, and is beautiful inside and out.

Today was the story of “Disobedience” in the Garden.  The ladies wanted to know if God built Adam and Eve a house or did they have to sleep outside.  Why were they naked?  Did they have physical intimacy?  (They didn't use that word, but they were curious because Eve didn't have children right away (in the pictures), which is what they are expected to do here).

The “sex” conversation was interesting.  I asked, “Is sex a bad thing?”  And the ladies said, “Yes.”   

It gave me a chance to tell them that God gave us the gift of sex for one man and one woman to share in the confines of marriage.  One of the ladies who is HIV+, was nodding along as I spoke.  

 So many of these women are appreciated only for “making” children (which are a sign of prosperity), and too many have to share their husbands with co-wives.  And I’m sure you have heard that one of the big reasons there is such a large orphan population in Uganda is because AIDS has killed so many of the young parents.  

The issue of physical intimacy definitely needs to be talked about in a biblical sense.  There is so much misunderstanding.  Looks like we have more topics for discussion after I finish this book series...

I love every minute we spend at the prison, and I hope that Florence and I are as much a blessing to these ladies as they are to us.

I aged (in a matter of hours) at a nursery school.

Before you read this, you need to find a very loud PA system, turn it up almost to full volume, and then sit in front of the largest speaker.  THAT way you can  endure experience what I did at a special boy’s graduation.

The fabulous speaker right over my head

Did I mention this was a NURSERY school graduation?!!!

Ayiko Lean on (Florence's son)

Actually, the music only lasted through the eating time, and that was over within 45 minutes, so you can turn the music down now.

I think I’ve told you before about the seven-hour long wedding extravaganzas here.

This event was seven and a HALF hours long.

Did I mention it was for a NURSERY school?

To be fair, I will tell you I only attended three hours of it.

It all started at 8:30 in the morning, when they arrived at the school.

At 10am, they took random transportation to town.

At 11am, they started marching through town (every school’s students march through town on the day they have their end-of-school program).

I had requested a phone call when all the marching was through.

See?  You just THOUGHT I was dumb.

I arrived at 1pm, while they were serving lunch (which I had already eaten).

I didn’t mean to do that, but you see, this is Africa.

The marching was supposed to be over at 10:30, when lunch was going to be promptly served.  

Well…when I got a call at 11 that said they had JUST started marching, I decided to nourish my body at home.  Leftover pizza from Friday night was sounding good!

The MC (which was hired especially for this occasion) read through the program of events for the day.  There were about 13 items, and then he said these very words:

“It seems like very many things on the program, but they can be done in about 10 minutes.”

I laughed OUT LOUD! 

But no one else did.

I was the ONLY one.

(*insert crickets chirping*)


Oh well.  I stand out anyway for obvious reasons.

At 2pm, the program started.

The head teacher got up to say, “I don’t have anything to say except ‘welcome.’”

Five minutes later (after reminding parents to only send one child per motorcycle to school in the morning), she finished.

Then the power went out….

Loud generator started.

The kids were all called up and sang:
“Tribe, tribe, tribe.  We are many tribes.  We shall live together in a big family.”

After they said this, one child would introduce himself, “My name is Ayiko Leanon Handsome. I am Lugbara.  I live in Awindiri district. Emi ngoni?”

Then “Tribe, tribe, tribe,” again, and then another child.  Understand?

There were a LOT of kids there (even though only 8 were graduating).

All the non-graduates off to the side

It’s interesting to know a little language now.  I could hear the English and then understand some of the Lugbara translations.

When the school's director would say, “You are all special.”

He was translated as saying, “You are all different.” (because there is no word for special in Lugbara.

Another time he said, “We are open to your criticism.”

The translator said in Lugbara, “We are ready for your criticism.”

Oh so slight, but different.   I think translating must be pretty difficult…you have to think on your toes.

The last teacher that was recognized was a girl from Germany who is volunteering at the school for two years.  The speaker wanted to recognize the friends of this girl and ask them to wave. 

The young man two rows behind me waved (the only other white person there), but the camera man walked over to me and took MY picture.

I’m a white girl…I came because of the white teacher, right? 

Nope, but I'll bet that's what the camera man was thinking.

The director spoke for 34 minutes (I had nothing better to do, so I timed him), granted he was being translated, so that always takes longer.

He talked about the plans to start a daycare at this school in January.  He said, “Africans don’t understand the term “daycare,” so let me tell you what it is....”

It really is a non-existent thing here….Funny, huh?

The 8 students who were graduating had to sit in the front row.  I know they were bored.

All the other children who attend the school were off to the side fighting, yelling, hitting, playing with blocks, climbing on the swings, etc., while the teachers just sat there calmly, saying nothing.

After more speeches, three kids came up to give memory verses.

One was Colossians 3:20-21, which says in the NIV, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Now I knew this verse, and I was waiting for it, but what came out for verse 21 was this:

“Fathers, don’t be beating on your children.”

I didn't laugh out loud this time, but I wanted to.

Of course, the actual handing out of the 8 certificates took less than 5 minutes.



Gifts presented.

Two round eight-inch cakes intended to feed over 100 people hacked to death so that everyone got one bite.

Cake being handed out bite-by-bite

The MC said, “My watch says it’s 2:25, and by 2:30 we must leave this place.”

It was actually 4:09.

He then said, “If your watch says something different, I don’t know what is wrong with your time.”

But he actually did wrap it up soon.  Right after he said this:

“In summary, we’ve come to the end.”

Well, let’s all say the school’s favorite quote, because I’m feeling it now in my aged bones…

Such and Such Academy.  Where learning is such good fun!”

(Italics protect the innocent).

Proud mom and son

Friday, November 25, 2011

As good as a newly released DVD

I usually go to Florence's to leave my cell phone, and then we walk together to the prison.  

On this day, I went to the drugstore before going to Florence’s.  I asked the man at the counter what the medicine that beautiful lady had showed me was for.  He said, “Ulcers.”  I asked him about the dosage the nurse had written down, and asked him how much that amount would be.  It was the American equivalent of 71 cents, so I didn’t even think twice about purchasing those meds.

At Florence’s, I met up with two ladies from America who were here with a team from Tennessee.  They were going to walk with us to the prison today, but first we had an errand to run.

There are now 10 babies in prison with their mommas, and they are allowed to be there because they are 18 months or younger.  In fact, one child had been born on Sunday, and we visited the mother on Tuesday in her cell/room.  (The baby was beautiful, by the way!)

Florence had heard from one of the mothers that they needed soap.  There are no diapers, of course, and during teaching, I have watched as a baby urinates on the towel that his mother holds in her lap.  

All mothers walk around with towels to “catch” things.  Anyway, their wash load is a whole lot larger than the other women’s. 

Florence wanted to buy the baby-mommas some soap, but I told her I didn’t feel right doing that and leaving the other ladies out.  So we walked to the market and inquired about prices on large boxes of soap.  We finally found one at a decent price (or so we thought), so we handed the money over. 

Apparently, we had misunderstood, and we owed more.  What a blessing to have those two visitors with us who chipped in money from their church to finish the purchase of soap.

We carried the soap box through town, taking turns until we got to the prison, about a mile a way. 

We arrived at 2, and again, the ladies had not eaten.  But this time, there apparently was food coming.  Eight women walked over to the men’s side to pick the food, and then they came back and went and fetched water at the well.  

M**** (the lead prisoner) brought benches out for us to sit on under the tree, and we sat and listened to the ladies talk.  Florence jumped in their conversations and heard more of their incarceration stories:

*A husband brought a second wife into the home that this first wife had built, and so she burned her house down so they couldn’t live there.  The husband brought her in.

*A six-year old boy died of malaria, and the father blamed the mother and brought her to prison  (have I told you before that they believe that every death was caused by some person, either directly or indirectly by a curse?)

*One woman was pregnant with twins.  She tried to abort them, but only killed one.  She was put in prison, and then she delivered the second one while locked up.  He is 17 months old and he still can’t walk, and he has trouble breathing.

*Mob justice killed a man, and one woman was accused of arranging the mob.  She’s waiting for a date in high court, but people have been known to wait 5 years

*One lady was brought in for cutting / slashing the co-wife with a panga.

{Obviously, we can see, that God intended man to have one wife for a good, many reasons!}

Sitting under the tree was a nice time just to hang out and visit, even though their stories aren't so nice.

*Granted, a few were brought in for murder or some other crimes I won't name here, and I'm not naive enough to think all these women are innocent, but I do believe some are.

The food came.  They ate quickly.  We went inside for singing and Bible study.

They also sang a song for the two visiting ladies from America.  The chorus was, “Welcome to Prison,” and it cracked me up.  I asked them, when they were finished, how come I didn’t get such a song when I came, and they thought that was hilarious.

I prayed in Lugbara and then started the day’s lesson.  Immediately, a lady stopped and commented that she didn’t understand Lugbara, and she only spoke Alur (she hadn’t come in our study before).  So we arranged for a girl in the front to translate for her.

I would speak, and as Florence started her Lugbara translation, the other helper would start her Alur translation for the lady.  I’m just glad the lady cared enough to speak up, because I found out later there were over 8 Alur speakers in there, and none of them said anything.

I used Becky Miller’s illustrated book Creation today.  You would have thought I was showing a newly released DVD.  They were glued to the book.  They loved the illustrations.  God, angels, Adam, and Eve are all drawn as Africans.  It is really beautifully done!

Receiving the books last April!

At the end, I told them I had some questions for them, but Florence mis-translated me, and asked them if they had quesitons.  Boy did they:

*Were they really naked?
*What was the Tree of Life for?
*What did Adam eat?  We were told that food dropped from heaven, right in front of him, like chickens, and pigs, etc.
*We have heard that the fruit Eve ate wasn’t really a fruit, but a sexual sin.  Was it?

I finally did get to my questions, and they had fun raising their hands to answer.  I told them at the end, they all got a passing grade today, and they liked that.

Next, we told them about the soap.  The bars are about a foot and a half long, and we had determined to give the baby-mommas one-half bar each and everyone else got a third of each bar.  So Florence, the two volunteers and I broke apart the bars until they were all in a pile.

Florence prayed, and then one-by-one, they came up for their soap.  Most left after that, but about 12 remained because they wanted to give us prayer requests.  Seven of them were translated through an Alur inmate.  That whole process took about 20-30 minutes.

The last one to come up was the sickly girl who said that after I prayed over her last time she has started feeling better.  Praise Jesus!  She also thanked God for me, God sending us, and for the medicine I had brought her today.

We walked outside, and there seemed to be a frenzy of clothes-washing taking place.  A few of the ladies thanked us to much and told us that next time we saw them, they would be looking so “smart” in their ”new” uniform.

The food situation isn’t much better.  They are supposed to be fed at 1pm and 5pm (just twice a day), in their rooms after they eat, and then silence from 7pm on.  The nursing mothers are not getting enough food.  The babies pull on their mom’s chests during Bible study trying to get something, but they are flat and empty.

When you think about it, pray for these women to be protected from the evil spirits that enjoy hanging around in that dark place.  These women need a chance to hear the Truth and have some peace without always being tormented.

Beans Every Day

On our first Friday at the prison, after talking with the ladies, they informed us that no one came on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so the following week (and since), we have adopted those days.
As we were arriving (at 2pm) the following week, their food was also arriving (one hour late).  The guards started to yell to tell them to eat quickly, but we assured the guards we would wait as long as possible.  And truth be told, they were pretty quick eaters.

One lady made me laugh as she raised her hands and spoke to God saying, “ God, look at the beans we eat every day.  Can’t you change this.”  But seriously, I understand her plea.  Can you imagine having beans and posho (cornmeal cooked with water to a dough-like consistency) every day for the last 2, 3 or 5 years? 

After some amazing dancing and singing, I prayed in Lugbara, and then Florence gave her testimony to the ladies.  Then, before I finished C2C (Creation to Christ), we handed out the scripture cards.  The ladies were so pleased.  There was some arguing over who got which card when some ladies had the same name, but I was able to tell (from their requests), which card belonged to who.

Since I couldn’t learn all their names the first day, I had put some description of them in my book to help me remember them, and that came in handy. 

We finished the Creation to Christ story with the Resurrection of Jesus, and then I told the story of the Prodigal Son. 

Florence then told the ladies if they would like their scripture cards read to them, she and I would have two lines.  One for those who wanted to hear it in English and another for those who needed to hear it in Lugbara.  I was surprised that I had more ladies in my line, but I quickly figured out why. 

Those who wanted me to read their scripture were about 5.  The last 5 had interpreters with them, and they came to tell me they had to leave to go get the food last time, and they had missed giving me their requests.   They too wanted to give me their requests in hopes of receiving a scripture card.

It was good to talk to the ladies one-on-one in this way, because not only could I stop and pray for each one individually, I also got to directly ask them about their relationship with Jesus when they were telling me their issues.  So many of them battle demons and bad spirits, so with the help of the Holy Spirit, I try to pray strategically for each of them.

The last girl who waited to see me was so beautiful and precious.  Everyone seems to care for her because she has been sick.  Her fellow prisoners all show mercy toward her.   Her blood has been tested twice, and nurses can’t find anything wrong.  She told me all her symptoms and that the nurse had given her magnesium (because it was free), but told her she needed a pill to take for 10 days, telling her she had an ulcer (a common diagnosis given by nurses here…along with malaria…you never know if you are getting a true diagnosis or not).  She showed me where the nurse had written what she needed, and I wrote it down, just in case it was something I could do.

It was a beautiful day of ministry.

Tougher Spot

After I took my last language evaluation, I began only attending "language class" three days a week instead of five. 

Florence and I also thought a good way to practice language was with other people (go figure), rather than sitting with pencil and paper, one-on-one.

We prayed about what God would have us do, and we BOTH felt God leading us to the same place, even though we had never talked about it before!

I'm in a tough spot because I can't tell you the names of these women, but I love them and I want to tell you their stories (the best I can), and the tougher spot they are in.

They are the ladies at the women's prison.

In orientation, I was told, of course, that I can't take pictures, use these women's names, take my cell phone in, or give them my personal info.

The guard told us there was only one day (Friday) when we could come, but a man higher up, thought there were three free days.

We decided we would take the Friday and continue praying.

Our scheduled time was set from 2-4pm, because they are fed one of their two meals at one o'clock.

But first...we visited on a Monday to see what other kind of ministry was being done, and to see the process.

When it's time to meet, they go into a designated room and either sit or stand waiting for 5 ladies to grab some instruments.

Their instruments are three goat-skin covered drums, a closed tin double tetrahedron (think 2 connected triangular prisms), filled with rocks, and an abacus-type shaker made with bottle caps.

Most of the ladies danced and sang joyfully. 

They are all made to come, so you can imagine some aren't too happy.

The lady that was teaching, the day we observed was from another country besides America.  She was a little difficult to understand and she had the lead-lady prisoner (the one who keeps the peace) interpreting for her.

Florence, who could understand the interpretation, said the scripture was not being repeated correctly.  Scary!!  Another great reminder how important it is to learn the language.

So, Florence and I left, prayed, and then I went home to ask God what plans He had for these women.

I know that two different churches visit the prison during the week, so I know they knew some things, but yet, I think God wanted me to start at the beginning.

When we arrived on Friday, the women still had not been fed.  13 of the 58 women usually walk over to the men's side, where over 600 men are, and bring back their portion of food and water.

Today, there was nothing.


I'm wondering if the men got fed...

I think that not feeding 600 men would create a riot situation, don't you?

Anyway, after 20 minutes the guards just told the ladies to go into the room for worship.

Florence and I felt awful. 

We didn't want them being made to listen when they were hungry.

Have I mentioned there are 9 babies in the prison, too?

[As I write this, there are now 10, because one was born two weeks ago].

The babies are sucking on mommas who don't have enough milk because they don't get enough food.

They sang songs with joy.  Beating the drums, and shaking the shakers.  The lead girl who had interpreted the last time, led them in what songs they were singing.  And she pretty much told everyone what to do, but not in a harsh way.  I liked her immediately.

I greeted them after singing, and then prayed in their language.  I then introduced myself in their language and Florence introduced herself.  I told them in their language I was going to tell them my story and then part of God’s story.
I gave my testimony in their language and then we started the Creation to Christ story.  

The only problem with "their language," is that I later discovered there were about 4 languages represented.

We got all the way to the prophets and 400 years of silence, and then we stopped and told them the story of the four soils and asked them to identify which soil they were.

Them talking about themselves led to prayer requests.  Some ladies left, but most stayed to give requests.  A lot of them were prayers for their children who were either back with family or whereabouts unknown.  Most of them are awaiting their day in court, and some have been waiting 2 years or more!  Many admitted to their crimes; some said they don’t love God enough;  a few said they didn’t have peace; and many wanted prayer that they wouldn’t wish revenge on the people that had put them in prison.

I wrote down every request and every ladies’ name. 

I went home, and over the weekend, I wrote a scripture in English and in Lugbara for every lady who had a prayer request, and I made sure the scripture could speak truth to the situations they mentioned.  I decorated each card so that they would want to keep and treasure it, and it was such a pleasure for me.

(It turns out that the ladies who left, went to see if food (from the men’s side) was available for at least one meal , but there was none, so they went without food this day.  Be thankful that our taxes insure that prisoners get fed in our country.  They are people’s sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, fathers, and brothers.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another visitor

Jack, my piki driver, said one day, "I think we will be having a visitor soon."

If you are familiar with my previous "visitor" experience, you will be glad to know that I didn't ask if someone was coming to stay with his family or if a thief was expected to break in.

This time I knew...his wife was going to give birth.

A few days later, Jack told me that Gasi was at the hospital, so Florence and I rushed over.

We found out that Gasi was having contractions really far apart, but the baby wasn't coming.  But since the baby seemed too large to the medical "authorities," they wouldn't let her go home.  (She had her Maama Kit with her, ready to go, though)

So we sat.


Under a tree.

This is Florence and all of Gasi's (and Jack's aunts) belongings.  Since you don't get an assigned room to yourself, you have to carry your belongings with you wherever you go (including the charcoal and pot for cooking).  The rooms are just large, camp-style with wall-to-wall beds.

Below is Gasi.


In labor.

This is Abuku.  She is my favorite of all of Jack's aunts.  She is funny, loves to laugh, and since she doesn't have any children of her own, she helps everyone else take care of theirs.

She loves having conversations with me in Lugbara.  She cannot speak English, so hanging out with her is definitely good practice for me.

Her name means "still the one to bury."  Her father had 5 girls, and when she born, the relatives commented that even though she was a girl, she would "still be the one to bury" her father.

Below is Driwaru.  Her name means "coming out of an accidental curse."  Her family believes the mother was accidentally cursed, and when Driwaru was born, they took it as a sign, that the mother was "coming out of it."

The last one is Nyakuru.  Her name means "still for the soil."  I wasn't getting the meaning totally.  It was because her first sibling died, and maybe she was a replacement ???

Because of these names, I recalled all the other names I have learned since being here.

Sadly, relatives often give these morose, sad names to children.

Gasi (Jack's wife's name) means "refusing," because she wasn't wanted.

Bako - "has no relative"

Adriko - "has no brother"

Amviko - "has no sister"

Anguyo - "no place" (the wife doesn't have a piece of land and they don't feel welcome at home)

Lekuru - "not liked"

Draru - "death" (sickly child / mom almost died / or no proper treatment after exile)

Agasiru - "refusing"  (means child's mother's relative didn't want her to marry that man)

Candiru - "sadness"  or "problem"

Ocokoru - "misery"

E'yotaru - "tolerating problems"

Okuonzi - "bad woman" (the child's mother given this name by the father's relatives)

Aziku - "she doesn't work for the clan" (also about the child's mother)

Angudubo - "place is bushy" (all family has died and no one keeps the grounds)

Ojuruko - "termite" (the child is not human; it's a termite for the ground b/c it won't live.  This name was given in the instance that her two older siblings had died)

I've even met an Alpha Omega (he was the first and last child of his mother...she died.

Well, now we come to two days later.  I arrived at the hospital to check on Gasi, and Abuku was sitting under the tree outside, holding the new baby!!

Right as I started talking to them, Jack drives up with a driver in a car taxi.  It is to bring everyone home from the hospital.   

She had just given birth THREE hours before, and now she was headed home!

They all invited me to ride with them, so Gasi, the baby, the three aunts and I got in the taxi for the journey home.

They dropped me off at my road, and I went to see them two days later, with Kylie, bearing gifts of food for the family.

He is a beautiful baby.

Jack, Gasi, Sayida, and Jamal (who was given his name one and a half weeks later).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Pain in the Foot

When I told you about student camp, I mentioned going door-to-door sharing Bible stories. One of the houses we came to had Neria.

She sat all day long, doing nothing, while flies just hovered around her foot, which was bandaged in a piece of material.

We didn't see her foot that day, but her family was so open to the message of God's word, that we promised we would return.

I didn't see the wound, but heard the story.

When she was in exile in Congo during the war, she developed a "spot" on her foot. About 10 years ago, the "spot" opened and started to grow. 5 years ago, she saw a doctor who told her she should have an amputation to save her leg. She hasn't seen a doctor in 5 years, but her daughter (on the right in the picture below) cleans it faithfully every day. (I was incorrect in my first post where I assumed the wound was dirty).

With this knowledge, I pretty much knew that I wasn't going to be checking on her foot. I didn't know what it looked like, but I have learned since becoming a parent, that I am NOT "nurse" material.

When my kids throw up, and I see it or smell it, then I start gagging. And apparently, I'm not so good with blood either. Lucky for Doug, huh?

Anyway, I went along with Doug and Florence armed with prayer, all the medical supplies needed, and a camera (hoping to get a glance so we could show an expert).

Thank you, Doug, for being the hands and feet of Jesus to Neria. It was such a blessing to watch you serve and love her.

She has never been tested for diabetes, but it looks like she might have it. Some medical personnel in the States suggested she get the dead/black skin burned off, to give it a chance to heal.

We are returning this week to tell her more Bible stories and pray with her, and maybe she will agree to go to the doctor with us, if we promise her we won't let them take her leg.

I've been at the hospital a few times this week, and I know the medical care isn't great, but God can provide someone who knows exactly what to do. You can pray for that with us.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A look back...

I was listening to a wrap-up session of Beth Moore’s “Esther” Bible study last spring, and my mind started wondering. I heard her say something about “looking back to see how it all fit,” and I started thinking about my own life.

Each person’s past is preparation for what God has for him.

Your life is not an “accident.” Every person you come in contact with, experience you have, and place you live is to prepare you for something more.

This is not an all-encompassing list, and the things on it don't make me any more special than the next guy, but it was precious to look back on some of these things.

I grew up in the country. When the power went out with a storm, we not only had no electricity, we also had no water or toilet usage since the water was pumped from a well with an electric pump. Now, I am regularly without power and/or water, so somehow...I got a head start :)

In the country, we planted a large garden, and even though I hated working in it, the education it provided me is really coming in handy as I plant my own food now.

My parents “allowed” us to try foods that might not be highly favored like liver, cactus, and snake. But it was just a warm-up for the caterpillars, grasshoppers, and termites I have tried since being here.

Also growing up in the country, I had several opportunities to “relieve” myself when there were no toilets around. It made me an “expert” so I could teach my girls the tricks of the trade. Toilets (to sit on) are a rarity here.

My mother cooked fresh vegetables from her garden most nights, so I was well-trained for the foods available here (nothing pre-made, preserved or found in a box).

I think camping every summer with my family whether in a pop-up trailer or a small camper helped me learn how to cook in small, cramped spaces, like my present kitchen.

My parents always gave to those in need, and it was always modeled for me long before I arrived in Africa where “need” is always at my gate.

My parents taught me how to work hard and have a good work ethic. Every summer, my siblings and I got up before the sun rose to either pick corn or spray Mesquite and Huisache trees. So I was prepared long ago for the extra work that is required on a daily basis to live here (of course, this picture is not something we do on a daily basis, but it's fun to see Kylie imitating the African women, isn't it?).

My mother taught me how to cook at an early age. If I had only known how to open a box or defrost a frozen bag, I would have been in a lot of trouble.

I remember my mom cooking with powdered milk in my younger years (which I am forced to do now), and before microwaves, she had to heat up all the leftovers on the stove (which I am also forced to do now).

I wore my sister’s (and my sister’s friends) hand-me-downs, so I was never attached to brand names. It comes in handy when the only place I have to shop is the used clothes market.

My hometown was 45 minutes from a mall or movie cineplex, so the 7-hour drive I now have to a “city” is not too far of a stretch for me.

My college education was focused on “education,” and now I am in a place where I have no choice but to teach my own children.

Five ladies in Mississippi prepared me to homes chool my children, even though I never knew in what capacity I would be doing it. Thank you, Lisa, Colleen, Anna, Angie, and Debbie.

The large university I attended has an old tradition where you greet everyone you pass with “Howdy.” Now, I’m in a culture that also expects you to greet everyone you pass, but I just say, “Mi ngoni,” instead.

I started going on mission trips in college. Now I'm "living" a mission trip.

Thankfully, God had already moved Doug and I away from “home” twice before. So this move wasn’t my first time to leave Texas, but my third.

We applied for foreign missions the first time before being called to Baton Rouge. After arriving in Baton Rouge, the pastor left within a month, but because of us serving there, I went on my first mission trip to Uganda. I also found life-long friends (who still encourage me) within months of moving there.

The last few years in America, we moved so much that we didn’t bother hooking up cable, so I thankfully got used to not having a TV. Besides growing up, I only had CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS anyway. Anyone?

The DVD screens in our minivan went out while we lived in Baton Rouge, so my kids were already trained to make a 7-hour drive with no entertainment but what they made themselves.

I have been blessed to sit under many great teachers of the Word: Chris Osborne, Gregg Matte, Tommy Politz, Chip Henderson, Stuart Rothberg, Richard Bowden, David Welch, Tommy Nelson, and Neil McClendon, among others. Thankfully, I have had a lot of teaching, because now I am responsible for feeding myself the Word.

My sister has also lived overseas for 20 years, so she paved the way for me, and was a great resource before I ever left American soil.

Isn't God good? Everything we go through is for a reason.

I just never knew He had been preparing me for the mission field L O N G before it was ever a thought in my heart.

Take a look at your journey. What do you see?

Hardware for the Face

I can go days and not see anyone wearing glasses or braces here.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t a “contact-wearing” culture, and I’m also quite certain they don’t all have 20/20 vision.

That leads me to believe that some of these boda drivers can’t really see a thing in front of them.


I’m pretty sure there are not any glasses or contacts sold in this town.

A lot of people cannot read, but those that can and have trouble seeing, can you imagine their struggle??

My houseworker is one of those. When I write her a note, she gets so close to the paper, her nose is touching it.

And about braces…for the most part, the people here are blessed beyond belief with a great jaw structure.

They have the most beautiful teeth. And funny enough, you will rarely see them brushing with toothbrush and toothpaste. But you will see them every morning with a piece of stick sticking out of their mouth. They walk around doing their morning routine while they rub this stick up and down on their teeth. Pretty amazing, huh?
When you don’t make do.

Dispelling the Darkness

Our town has been without power for a month, and all of a sudden, it came back on the last day of September...last night. It surprised us all because we had heard it would be November or later. (And maybe this is just a trial run for some cruel experiment, and it is still going to go off again soon – who knows).

Anyway, because we are blessed with solar panels, our life has pretty much been normal except for no hot water for baths. Heating water on the stove for the kids, limited kid-bathing, and letting out small screams when the cold water hits your back, just became the norm. No problem. Our solar was also a blessing for the people who live around us and work for us, because we are able to charge all their cell phones for them.

When I was in town two weeks ago, I was just making small talk with the “grocery store” worker about the power, and he said, “We have been in darkness for a month,” and the thought struck me. I wanted to say, “No, sir, you have been in darkness for a lot longer than that.”

As I’m sure you have heard before, when it is dark in Africa, it is REALLY dark. There are no street lights, no night lights, no televisions in house windows, no nothing. You can’t see the hand in front of your face. It is an eery feeling. It’s like you are floating in space with nothing around.

This must be the kind of darkness that those not in Jesus are surrounded with. It’s eery, unnerving, and frightening, whether they will admit it or not.

But because of the lack of light here at night, the people’s eyes here (not mine) have adjusted, and they can actually see pretty well at night (not me).

This is also like the person who lives spiritually in darkness. For example, while living in Mississippi, Doug and I had a conversation with a student who had just accepted Christ. He said that before Christ, he thought he understood peace and he thought that his life was “good.” But after accepting Christ, he saw clearly that what he thought was peace and goodness was NOT. He said, “I just THOUGHT I was happy. I didn't know how different my life would be with Christ.”

People in “darkness,” have adjusted to the lack of light in their life and learned to live with it. They don’t even realize they are squinting and straining to see the beauty around them. To them, it’s natural. They just don’t know the difference.

Pray for the darkness to be dispelled in all the places of the world where they need the true light of God’s SON.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New insights

I had a conversation with a mother about delivering children in the hospitals here.

Here were some of her observations:

If it’s dark, and you don’t have a lamp, the nurses will leave you and go help someone deliver that has a lamp.

If you yell or scream during labor, the nurse will beat you or abandon you until you are done.

Many children die because of nurse-negligence.

If you don’t bring gloves and a plastic sheet (like are in the Maama kit), the nurse will not let you on a bed. She makes you deliver on the cement floor.

Women who are used to delivering in the village (in a standing position), find it difficult to push when they come to the hospital and are made to lie on their back. If they tell a nurse that they “can’t do it” lying down, the nurses have been known to slap them.

I don’t know if you are aware, but the hospitals here are not required to feed you (or care for you in a general sense). If your loved ones do not come and cook out in the yard for you or bring you water, bananas, etc., then you just don’t get to eat while you are trying to heal??? Makes sense, huh?

The power has been completely out here for a week, and it’s been off and on in the capital city of Kampala as well. A missionary friend in Kampala said that when the “powers that be” turn off a power grid in the city, they don't consider what is on that particular grid. Sunday, when we were arriving in Kampala, I witnessed major intersection lights out, and no traffic cops to assist in the need. My friend says that when they turn the grid off where the hospital is located, they don’t even seem to care. MANY patients have died because of lack of power, and it seems that the government doesn’t take notice. It’s not like you can sue here and get any justice.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This is the rat...

This is the house that Jack built.

This is the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

Yes, that is a dead rat you are seeing!!!!

AND, it ate a little more than malt.

½ bar laundry soap

Sweetarts candy

1 Mini Hershey bar

He got into a bag of Peanut M&M’s

1 huge hole in the girls’ mosquito net


Note paper

1 silky pair of pajama bottoms

1 pair of athletic shorts

2 of Caleb’s Bendaroos

He got into a granola bar

He got into my bag of Trail Mix!!!

He got into TWO bags of flour

He gave a Ken doll a lobotomy

2 glitter pens

6 Mini Reese’s

2 raw eggs, rolled to a corner and cracked open (before I found them after too long of time)

A USB computer cord

An ipod charging cord (shredded it)

Cardboard stuffing inside a box

Chewed open a bottle of red ink (it went everywhere)

Chewed open a bottle of black ink (it also went everywhere)

Chewed open and ate half of 2 contractor bags (holding our luggage)

Gnawed on a luggage handle

Ate Minnie Mouse’s ear

Chewed a hole in a stuffed elephant

Pooped on Kylie’s bed and shelves

Pooped and peed all over my pantry, our garage, and the kids’ room

Nested in Kylie’s underwear

Chewed open a water bottle (water went everywhere)

Gnawed on my TUPPERWARE!!! (thank goodness my chocolate chips are safe)

Styrofoam peanuts

After three weeks of battle, he was found dead in a bag of cushy styrofoam peanuts.

My kids brought back some rat traps with them, and they had only been out TWO days...but they didn't get him.

Someone else in America is sending some glue traps, which I will be diligent to leave in my pantry!

Before any American traps were set, Doug saw bloody footprints on a plastic box in the garage. I guess one of he Ugandan traps I had set three weeks ago, actually went off and nicked him.

No matter. He’s gone, and I’m leaving traps permanently up in strategic areas in case his cousins decide to come in.

For now, the dead rat is out in the burn pile, and my garage and pantry smell like bleach, and I am one happy momma!