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