Friday, February 24, 2012

My BIG Mistake turned into a Bigger Blessing

(from February 2, 2012)  By the way, I know I am WAY behind, but I'm working on catching up....slowly.

Well, you remember Alice helping me make popcorn and roasting peanuts for the prison ladies for Christmas?  When I told Alice who it was for, she said, “Oh, I heard on the radio that they are asking people to bring food and clothes to the prisoners and not forget them.  D***** (a German company here that I’m protecting, because it’s not their fault) is collecting clothes for the prisoners, so you can drop whatever you have off with them.”

I was so excited, because I knew the ladies wanted a new outfit for Christmas…that is usually the one thing people get for Christmas (if they get a gift).  I had collected 15 dresses for the ladies (and I was way short), and on my last trip before leaving town, I told the ladies I had tried, but I didn’t get enough, but I assured them that D***** was bringing them clothes.

They were SO excited!

Crazy excited!

I went to D***** and took the dresses.  As I chatted with the lady there, she explained that the clothes were going to another prison outside of Arua.



I wasn’t returning to the prison to be able to tell them, and I didn’t like that it looked like I lied.

I just prayed.

We spent Christmas in Mityana with some friends, and I mentioned this ordeal to my friend.  She told me that a visiting church had come with too many T-shirts last June, and after handing out all they needed to, they gave the rest to her…over 100 of them!!!

She gladly gave me 70!  (I got more than I needed because the experience at Christmas with the popcorn let me know, you never know how many will be there).

I felt so blessed. 

We left those shirts in Kampala, while we flew to Kenya. 

In Kenya, at the Student Camp, the volunteers from Florida informed us that someone who used to work for NASCAR had sent over 150 shirts of different sizes for all the kids to choose from.  Each student took 1 or 2 and some for siblings.  My family took 1 or 2 each, and they offered me ALL the little kids T-shirts and sleepwear if I knew anyone that could use them!


I took all 15 kids’ outfits/T-shirts, and I was hoping that with these, in addition to the other adult T-shirts, I could hopefully make up for my error and bless those women.

But the blessing wasn’t over.  The last day before camp was over, the volunteers started giving EVERYTHING away.  They didn’t want to take anything back that they had come with.  One of those “things” was 52 toothbrushes they had brought that had been leftover from one of their women’s retreats in Florida.  (By the way, the same lady who gave me her Kindle, was the same one who gave me the toothbrushes).

I took them with the hopes that I could locate a few more toothbrushes to add up to a full number for the prison.

Fast-forward to the end of January….our first week back to the prison…

The ladies asked about the clothes and told me that no one had come.  So I explained what had happened (but I didn’t tell them I had anything for them).

Fast-forward again to February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day).

Florence called and said she was suffering with malaria, and she would rather not translate today.  I didn’t want to push her, but I couldn’t stand it.  I really wanted to make things right.

I had saved the story for today about God being a provider, because I thought we could teach the verses in Matthew about how He provides for the birds of the air and how He clothes the flowers so beautifully, right before we "provided" them with some clothes, as a blessing.  I wanted to tell them how He would clothe them even more so than the flowers.  And I was going to bring out the clothes at that point, but even without Florence going, I couldn't wait.

Kylie and I went through our home supplies and found only 3 more toothbrushes in kits they give you when you fly overseas.  We went with only 55 toothbrushes with the idea that we would hold them back if it wasn’t enough for everyone to have one.

So, I hired two bodas.  One carried me and one of the Fusion girls, Abbie, and one carried Kylie and a BIG box of adult T-shirts from Mityana and tooth brushes and kids’ clothes from Florida (and Kenya).

For some reason, all 5 guards were there today at one time, and they already had the ladies in a “fall in” position (sitting in 4 columns on papyrus mats on the ground).

I asked how many ladies were there, and I was told…..55!!

God is so amazing (and in the details)!

I didn’t leave the items with the guards to be passed out, because I’ve been told that things don’t always get to the ladies when the guards get them first, if you know what I mean.

I greeted the ladies and told them about Florence, and then I told them why I had come. 

When I mentioned the shirts, they smiled really big, but when I mentioned the toothbrushes, they all screamed, about 20 jumped up off the mats and started dancing around in a circle, and me….?

I felt like I was Oprah and I had just given these ladies keys to their own vehicles!

I don’t know if they were more excited about the toothbrushes or if the delayed excitement on the t-shirts was because it took time to translate to each other what I had said about them.

And they screamed and danced some more when I said I brought clothes for the children.

I had 15 outfits and there were 12 children!

Abbie helped pass out the baby clothes.  Sweet Kylie passed out the toothbrushes, was ONE short at the end, and was SO concerned about one of the ladies who took two.  I assured her that she was collecting for a sick lady lying down inside, but Kylie was distraught.  She thought this lady had denied someone the privilege of getting a toothbrush.

After a little searching, we found the lost one back in the box. 

I handed out the shirts, and the women thanked me profusely!  Some immediately put it on over their prison uniform.

Let me stop here and tell you about this shirt.

1)    It’s white.  No one here wears white because everything is so dirty, it’s hard to keep white things clean.
2)    It has the name of a junior high school from Arkansas on the front in black letters.  It is not a specially, designed shirt, by any means.
3)    The back is covered with ads from businesses in Arkansas who supported whatever this T-shirt represented.
4)    They all got the exact SAME one!

They were so thankful for THIS!  They truly acted like those women on Oprah who had been given a car (minus the tears, because most of the time, these ladies don’t cry)!  Would you have jumped up, screamed, and danced over this?  Would I?  I think not.

I received hearty handshakes, big hugs, and blessings poured over me like never before.  I’m praying that this act of love (on several peoples’ parts) will bring more women into Bible study next week.

Anyway, I should have had 15 shirts left over…10 after I gave the 5 guards one.  And I should have had 3 kids outfits left over….


One guard, who was on her way out, grabbed 4 of my extras, and pulled one more out of another guard’s hands.  Then she took all the remaining children’s clothes.

In the South, we would say, “Bless her heart.”  (Because we’re really trying hard not to “bless her OUT.”)

Anyway, I gave the “robbed” guard another shirt and rode home with 5.

When we reached home, I asked my boda driver, Jack, if he would like one for he and his wife each to have.  He said, “I think I need four.”


One left…

and here comes a man walking up to me outside my gate with a t-shirt that is barely hanging on his shoulders because of the huge holes in it.  It would have been a rag in my house.

He said, “Are you selling shirts?”

I said, “No, but this one is for you.”

I tossed it to him, and he walked away smiling.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jesus' Cousin: Prison, January 26, 2012


I really liked today’s story.  We talked about John the Baptist, his role in life, Jesus being baptized, and then Jesus being tempted by Satan.

Most of their questions after the story were about the temptations in the wilderness.  They really were bothered by the way Satan (sorry, I put "Jesus" earlier) was drawn in the picture, and I must say, I’m not too crazy about them either.  They, of course,  were bothered by his long nails and red skin.

I’m still not sure why we depict Satan that way.  Anyway…two of their questions…

*How did Jesus get down from the Temple once he was up there?
*Who are the mother and father of Satan? 

I had other questions about Satan for them, but it was my questions on baptism that were harder for them to answer

*Was Jesus baptized as a baby?
*Do you believe the Bible is true?
*Does it say in the Bible that to be born again, you must be baptized?

After that question, we had a long discussion, because they were SURE that it says in the Bible that you have to be baptized to be born again, when it, in fact, is does not.  I also told them to remember how Jesus was taken to the temple as a child to be dedicated to the Lord, but he wasn’t baptized until later.  So we got into the discussion of infant baptism, because there is no record of that in Scripture either. 

They really pondered these things.

The beautiful part of today was the welcome they gave me for my return.  They sang louder than I had ever heard them, and everyone that knew me hugged my neck, instead of just shaking my hand.

The four Fusion girls went with me today, and they got TWO "welcome to prison songs," in addition to all the praise songs they sang.

Some of the ladies we knew had been released, but there were eleven new ones that I met for the first time.

After the story, the ladies asked me to sleep with them at the prison for one night because they missed me so much.

I know you are disappointed, but I declined.

Then they asked if they could sing again at the end because they were so happy and wanted to rejoice some more.

Florence told me the words to one of the songs was, “My sister was gone, but You, God, returned her to us safely.”

I love the joy I see in these women!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Student camp in Africa?

A shot of the Great Rift Valley as we traveled to camp
We were blessed to be able to attend a student camp for some special people in Africa.  They are students, just like your students, in most ways, but they live on a different continent.  They are well-traveled, most of them know a second language, and they love getting together with their friends.

They see the other students at this camp maybe once or twice a year, not every day at school, so it's a special time to re-connect and just hang out.

Some other special people that were there were some volunteers from America who came to lead the camp.  Can you imagine packing up the day after Christmas, to get on a plane the 27th of December to fly across the ocean, without your family, and plan to give all you have (including New Year's Eve) to serve some people you've never met?

True Servants!

This camp took place in the "notorious" Naivasha, Kenya, where my backpack was stolen.

I don't want to knock on Lake Naivasha.  It is beautiful, but this picturesque view is not where I was when I was robbed.

A partial view of the country club/camp - never been to a student camp quite like this before :)

It was so cold, and my kids were under-dressed.   (Of course you couldn't tell during the day when the sun was as usual.)

That is why we went to the used clothes market in town where the car was broken into.

Anyway, enough of that.

We stayed in a cabin,

A view of our cabin tucked away in the woods

and every day, a wildebeest, my kids named Norman, would just eat grass and lay in the shade outside of our door.

One of the Massai that worked there offered to take Caleb for a closer look...

There was also a camel on the premises you could ride for a few shillings.  My kids named him Billy.  I had some great video of them on Billy as he rose up to his feet and knelt down on his knees, but that was in the camera that is now "missing."  (By the way, Doug, thanks for sharing your pictures...they surely make the blog a lot more interesting than just looking at my writing.)

Caleb and Karis just enjoyed the "getting up" part.

They look a little nervous about the "going down" part.

Caleb got to stay on for ride #2.


Walking away from a fun ride!

But the most exciting animals that hung out near the cabins (only at night) were hippos.

Kylie and Doug would stay up late every night for late worship, while I took the younger two to bed.  One night, Doug and Kylie couldn't get to our cabin because two hippos were grazing near the sidewalk in front of our cabin.

They waited and waited and finally had to call one of the night guards to come "do what they do."

The guard had a flashlight that also has a "noisemaker" on it.  When he turned it on, there was a clicking noise that came from it, and the hippos slowly moved away from the cabin so they could come inside.

New Year's Eve was spent worshiping right up until midnight.  It was a GREAT way to bring in the New the feet of Jesus.

At midnight, about half the students jumped in the pool, fully clothed to celebrate the New Year.  Have I mentioned how cold it was?

See?  They are just like the students you know.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Christmas Party (of sorts)

God worked out our stories SO perfectly.  I hadn’t planned it or looked at a calendar, but when our last day to teach before Christmas came about, we “happened” to be on the story of the birth of Christ.

God is good.

I had wanted to take all the ladies something, but I knew it would cost a lot if I was buying for 65.  They all wanted shoes made out of tires or they wanted new dresses.  I tried gathering hand-me-down dresses from expats here, but the number only reached 15.

My next thought was food.

Alice went to the market for me and bought corn kernels and raw peanuts.  She cleaned them all and picked out the leaves and sticks, and then, over two days, she made popcorn and roasted peanuts.

I bought little plastic sacks and I packed 75 bags of popcorn and nuts for every women, child, and guard.

A portion of the bags while they were being made.
I went through Caleb’s old matchbox cars and toys, and bagged up two cars plus some other small trinkets for the kids.  I also bought bananas on the way to the prison for the kids.

Doug drove Florence and I on this day because it was too big of a load for me to carry on a boda or walking.

I say, “for me,” because any national (including 5 year olds), could have stacked all that load on their head in a heartbeat and never dropped a bit.

This is the girls walking with Florence one day in December.  The prison chain link fence is to the left.  It's not maximum security like the men's.  But I'm not allowed to take pictures while I'm inside.

The Christmas story was as beautiful as it always is, and the giving of popcorn, nuts, bananas, and toys afterward was so much fun.

When I get a treat, I tend to hold on to it, save it for a special moment, but these ladies, by nature, have to live moment-to moment.

All of them were eating within minutes of getting their bag, and they were all visiting, having a good time, looking at the kids toys, and making sure everyone got food.


What I didn’t know before I handed out bags to every person there (including children), is that 15 new prisoners had arrived the Friday before.


I ran out.

I didn’t have enough for the guards or all the women.

Bad situation.

The women understood the problem without me saying anything, and they took the initiative.

Mothers with tiny, tiny babies, that I was trying to bless, simply gave up their bags for the new people.  And mothers with children who could eat the treats, starting taking half out of their bags and creating whole bags with other mothers. 

So, somehow, there was enough for the new 15 people AND the guards.  The ladies even saved some back for all the ladies who were at court that day.

It reminded me of the 5 loaves and 2 fish story, and how God ALWAYS provides!

Is anyone listening?

(From Friday, December 9th, 2011)

I know Satan is at work in the prison because I hear testimonies about his work:  dead family member’s spirits are visiting a couple of ladies; a handful are having horrible nightmares; and the spirit of discouragement is alive and well among all of them when families don’t visit and children go uncared for with their moms in prison.

But along with Satan, there is the added sadness of a Christmas not only without family but also spent in prison.  And since hot season has arrived, the sun beating down and the dust blowing is enough to make anyone a little irritable.

The ladies were still dealing with anger issues today, but I just prayed the story of Moses would speak to them where they were.

It’s a good thing I let them ask questions at the end, because it makes me aware of how much they are NOT listening.

*Why were the Egyptians killing Hebrew babies?
*Did Moses live with his mom again after he was found?
*Did she breast feed him or how did he get milk?
*Where did Moses go when he left Egypt?
*Did he have children?
*Where was Moses’ mom when Pharoah’s daughter found him?
*What was Moses’ father’s name?
*Did the death angel pass over the Hebrew’s homes?
*Did the Egyptians die in the Red Sea?

I had already answered four of these during the story, but their questions always intrigue me, so I’m glad to hear them all.

If I ever begin to think I’m in America, there is always something to bring me back to the present.  Today the ladies asked us to pray for the attitudes of the guards to change.  Apparently, guards can “add months to your sentence if they think we are being stubborn.”

And stubbornness is on the rise.  Stealing, hot tempers, and ugly words have been running rampant.  I was told that many of the ladies have been put in the “cold room” lately.  Apparently, the “cold room” is a room that is cement and water is kept on the floor to keep the room cold. 

In this weather, it sounds great to me, but apparently it is not so nice for a person who grew up in this hot climate since birth.

Never a dull moment.