Thursday, December 22, 2011

for love

~posted by mika~

It is closing midnight at the end of a very long, eventful day.  I’m questioning why I am even starting a blog right now, because I don’t think I will have the mental fortitude to finish it before I need to sleep.  But I do have one, general idea I want to express… so, if I can manage to leave out all the extra, rambling, fluff maybe I can get it all out in one go.
Christmas here in Uganda – this topic might be rambling, yet it is relevant, so I will start with it.  I could fill a whole page with things I miss from home right now.  But that would definitely qualify as rambling, so I won’t.  What I have enjoyed is that the season is so laid back here.  No one expects me to send them a Christmas card, decorate my whole house and light up my yard, bake cookies for teachers, wrap presents prettily.  I did enjoy doing those things before.  Yet, I have often found myself on this Dec. 22 feeling a bit disillusioned with Christmas, tired of looking at a to-do list, frustrated with myself because I knew I wasn’t focused on the real reason for the celebrating.  In Uganda, most people don’t have money to buy decorations, or an oven to bake anything in.  Their kids are lucky if they get just one gift for Christmas.  No one asks, “what do you want for Christmas?” or “what are you getting for Christmas?”  So, I am here with no excuse not to focus.  There is nothing else to fill up on except the main course.  So, I savor Jesus.  My calendar is not so busy; I have space to just relish His advent. 
All that being said, today was different.  We stepped fully into Christmas festivity today!  We were picked up this morning by a Watoto van and taken to Central Church for an ex-pat Christmas party hosted by Pastor Gary and Marilyn.  Everyone brought gifts and desserts.   It was really fun and refreshing to be in a room full of other mzungus and not be a minority for a few hours.  The food was incredibly delicious. The dessert table - wow!  Desserts are quite rare here in Uganda, and to see a whole TABLE of them… well, we felt very at home.  Then, we stayed in town so we could attend Watoto’s Christmas Cantata this evening.  The cantata is THE event to attend in Kampala at Christmas.  They have around 20 performances (2 or 3 a night) with maxed out attendance at each one.  People were lined up outside over two hours before the first performance today, and hundreds were turned away after it started.  We were feeling special, since we got to sit on the second row in the reserved seating section.  The production didn’t disappoint.  It was very impressive theatrically.  TONS of dancing, of course – the most joyful and exuberant cantata I’ve ever seen.  Not sure it should even be called a “cantata.”  Haha
So, for the most part today, we enjoyed playing the role of privileged, White people.   I walked around the party today in an AIR CONDITIONED room (the 1st room with AC I’ve been in since arriving in Uganda), sipping my punch, eating my beef flank steak.  At one point, I looked out the 2nd story window onto downtown Kampala street and had a moment… “oh,yeah.  We’re in Africa.”  Later, we walked past the crowds standing in the bright, hot, parking lot, and breezily took our 2nd row seats.   We drank our cold drinks and socialized and waited for the auditorium to fill up behind us.  We gushed over the performance when it was over, gathered up our gifts from the day, walked out into the muggy night… and then reality hit. 
We were supposed to ride the village van back to Suubi.  We had been told that the van driver would be there to pick us up as soon as the first show was over and give us a ride back to the village (yet another way we would be treated special today.)  When T called Michael, we found out that he was still at least 45 min. away, and he wasn’t planning to head back to Suubi until the final performance was over.  So, we were looking at a 3 hour wait at minimum.  You must understand that we were in the very center of Kampala, and there is NOWHERE that is accessible to just hang out and wait.  The church parking lot is poorly lit, full of crowds of people, and crazy traffic all around.  We have three, very exhausted children who have not had supper.  Our only option at this point is to hike to the public taxi park and take a taxi van home.  Some other things you must understand – the taxi park is not a “park.”  It is not even a parking lot.  It is few acres of muddy land full of stinking, rotting rubbish and taxi vans packed in like canned sardines.  It is in the very heart of the city, surrounded by street vendors, questionable establishments, and very dark alleys.  T has had to go there a few times before at night to get a ride back, but he has always balked at the idea of going there as a family – for good reason.  But we didn’t have a better solution.
 So, off we went, T carrying Reynah and a bulging backpack.  All of us toting bags and clutching hands.  It was about a mile walk, weaving through Christmas traffic and boda bodas.  There is NO such thing as crosswalks or pedestrian right-of-way!  We had to step around several children sitting by the road begging for money.  We finally made it to the park and found the taxi headed toward Suubi.  We crammed ourselves in and began our bumpy, stuffy, 1 ½ hr. journey home.  Then, we were dropped off by the main road in pitch black and had to find a couple of boda (motorcycle) drivers to take us up the mountain to Suubi.  I know my description of this sounds rather dramatic.  If my Ugandan friends read this, they would probably laugh and say, “what’s the big deal?”  This is daily life for them.  But from our Western perspective, it WAS rather dramatic.  It pushed us to our limits. 
And it brought into focus this everlasting tension we live with here – the standard of living that we used to have vs. the one we are choosing to embrace.  I say “choosing.” But the tension is in the fact that some days we do gladly choose it, so we make ourselves feel noble and sacrificial.  Then, other days, it seems it is forced upon us, and we face the fact that we still feel so entitled.  At the end of this long day, I remember that we are neither.  We are really, truly, not sacrificing.  We still live SO SO much better than the average Ugandan.  And we are most certainly NOT entitled!  In the middle of this tension lies the fact that we are called to identify.  Tonight just put us one step closer to identifying with the 30 million Ugandans in this country.  The waiting, the walking, the inconveniences, the lack of power and water – these are all opportunities to identify.  Sometimes, the chance to identify is the only redeeming point I can see when I feel especially “put out” by all the inconveniences.   Of course, we will never completely be able to identify with where our Ugandan friends and neighbors are.  But our effort to try is crucial to our effectiveness here, I think. 
We have to be willing to give up some of our “American-ness.”  We have to be willing to become learners.  This is really humbling!  It is getting better now that we are into our sixth month here.  But there have been times that I have felt absolutely stupid and helpless – like a little baby.  I need someone to interpret for me, to take me where I want to go, to help me buy something…  and I so hate feeling incompetent!  Some days I feel like I have lost so much freedom.  I feel confined to the limits around me.  There are days I feel frustrated by my lack of personal space.  But, then, I know it is all part of the price to pay in order to identify. 
So, tonight, I was mulling all this around in my head when I made the connection between our calling to identify and Jesus’ calling to incarnation.  And, this ~Alas!~ is the main thought that I began this whole blog with.  Jesus gave us the perfect model for human relationships with His act of coming to us.  He issued a model for us to follow.  He laid down/ gave up all that was familiar.  He humbled himself and became a baby.  A baby!  A completely helpless baby who had to be potty trained and learn a language.  He let Himself be confined by skin, and time, and space.  Oh, the freedoms and the rights He gave up!  I can’t even begin to comprehend the measures He took to enter into our world.  And I think about my petty, pious efforts to “identify,” and there is just no comparison. 
Yet, the measures taken are not the only differences I see.  There is the motivation.  Jesus came to us and became one of us – because of His love for us.  He loved us first.  There was no other motivation.  This all at once affirms me and convicts me.  I love the affirmation of His love at Christmas!  We could not ask for a more perfect, clear picture of God’s love for us.  And also, tonight, I feel conviction from His love.  I have come.  I have left.  I have relinquished.  But is it all for love?  There is love.  I do love some people here very dearly.  But is it all for love?  I know it isn’t.  And if it isn’t for love, what is the use of it?  “if I have not love, I am a clanging cymbal, an empty sound…” 1 Cor. 13:1.  Why come and give if it is not all for love?  These are the questions in my heart tonight. 
Tomorrow, we go down to some of the clusters of homes in the village to give away Christmas presents to the children.  I am determining not to do it because it will make for good pictures and sweet stories to tell.  I don’t want to give because these are the only gifts they will receive, and they will love us for it.  I just pray we will go and love them like Jesus for a while.  The toys will probably be broken or lost (or stolen!) in two weeks time.  God’s love is the only part of the afternoon that will last for eternity. 
Thanks for listening to my musings tonight.  Merry Christmas!!!!!

 an image of the taxi park... on a not-so-crowded day

Monday, November 28, 2011

the best $140 i ever spent

-posted by Thomas-
As I reached the crest of the hill and made a right along the dirt road my eyes caught something that made my heart jump.  Thirty yards ahead, walking in single file towards the same building as me was a row of young men dressed in suits and ties.  My heart began racing as excitement, affection, zeal, and curiosity swirled inside of me.  At that moment I thought, “Today I spent possibly the best $140 of my life.”  Now, I have made many financial investments that I do not regret.  I am proud to say I have invested money in God’s kingdom many times - but this one was special.   I don’t know that I will ever have such a simple opportunity to do something so meaningful again.  At the risk of being long and boring, I beg you to allow me to share this story from the beginning.    
     I believe it was around the year 2006 (it could have been a little earlier) I was first introduced to an organization/movement called “Invisible Children.”  Invisible Children is a multi-million dollar charity organization that began with 3 young men from California.  They wanted to do something significant with their lives so they decided to document their very own journey into war-torn parts of Africa.  Their goal was to experience the suffering of these people first-hand and somehow go home to raise awareness.  Their journey  led them to northern Uganda, to a city called Gulu.  During the late 90’s and even the first four years of this century northern Uganda was continually terrorized by a rebel army that ruthlessly murdered, raped, destroyed, stole, and most notoriously abducted children and forced them to be soldiers.  Uganda was unstable politically and economically and the gov’t was unable to provide protection to the people living in this region.  It was either leave your home and possessions and flee – or live each day with the risk of your worst nightmares.  

            By the time I was exposed to the “Invisible Children” documentary created by these 3 young men, most of the damage in Uganda was over.  The rebel army had taken refuge in neighboring unstable countries and northern Uganda was beginning to try to “pick up the pieces” of its society.  Invisible Children continued to produce riveting videos of the struggles of people in Gulu.  I watched, read, and soaked up everything they produced over the next four years.  I watched stories of pre-teens and teens who were given a gun and forced to kill; who were raped and now carried the child of their abuser; youth with scars and mangled limbs left to begin their lives over again.  Northern Uganda was now “safe” but the lives of these young people would never be the same.  Eventually we began hosting Invisible Children events at our church.  Some of our youth became Invisible Children “junkies” as well.  Long before I knew about Watoto, I was praying for the young people of Gulu whose lives had been devastated by evils which I could scarcely fathom as realities.
      Then, as so many of you know, in the spring of 2010 I was introduced to Watoto Church and Watoto Childcare Ministries.  I was elated to discover that in a war-torn, HIV devastated, economically challenged, politically unstable place like Uganda – God had raised up a world-class church to bring healing and hope.  I soon learned that Watoto was ministering in Gulu!  When my family came to volunteer for six weeks in February, we were privileged to travel to Gulu at the end of our very first week.  I was honestly lost for words to see the quality of ministry and outreach that Watoto had done in Gulu:  a local church, a baby’s home, a children’s village, day programs for HIV women, and counseling for trauma victims.  Then I discovered that Watoto had even taken about 30 war-affected students from a cheap make-shift government school and brought them to one of their villages.  

          During our first six weeks at Suubi I met one of these young men, named Patrick.  Patrick shared his testimony with me and he became friends with our entire family.  When we returned to Suubi in July, I still had a great curiosity for the Gulu students.  I discovered that they were all placed in a 3 year vocational program because they were too far behind in regular school.  Most of them had lost many years of their education to the war.  Over the last 3 months I have slowly had the privilege of meeting a few more of these students and even teaching some in a discipleship class.  I wanted so bad to just sit them down and ask them – what all happened to you during the war?  When were you abducted?  Did you kill people?  How did you escape?  But living with them opened up my eyes to the fact that these young men wanted to be normal again.  They did not want to spend the rest of their lives talking about those nightmares.  They wanted to study, play soccer, and talk about the future.  So I have politely constrained my curiosity out of respect for them. 

 Eventually I came to learn that the Gulu students were going to graduate Dec 2 from their vocational program in a joint graduation service with the high school students.  This would mark the end of an era for Watoto.  These young men would now enter trade school or return home to work.  Suubi village would still be home to hundreds of miracles because every Watoto child is a miracle.  But to have former child soldiers, who have been saved from the darkest clutch of evil, is just special.  To worship beside someone who was the victim of some of the most heinous crimes against humanity in this decade is simply remarkable.  To see them smile, sing, clap, and dance in God’s presence is like a tonic of inspiration for an American like me.  I began to ask around, and I found that there would be no special recognition or celebration for them.  They would leave Suubi quietly and spread back out into the fabric of Uganda to be the salt and light that Watoto envisioned.  

       About two weeks ago I just couldn’t help it.  I went to the director of the vocational department and asked him about the possibility of someone like myself funding an appreciation dinner for these Gulu boys.  He went to work on the possibility and informed me that for about $140 US we could pull off such a gig.  So we set Sunday evening November 28th at 6pm as our date.  The boys were invited as well as their vocational teachers.  At first I was torn about the cost.   Our monthly budget of $2000 doesn’t include $140 appreciation meals for people I barely know but happen to be enamored with.  We have “cushion” money in our bank account that is supposed to be used wisely and sparingly along the way.  I live each week here with the sharp reality that we simply do not know how long our support will last . . . but these were the Gulu boys!  So my emotions have see-sawed for a week now between pride/excitement and worry/regret.  I love to do things like this but I know I didn’t come to Uganda just to play Santa Claus (no pun intended towards my current facebook profile pic).  But when I topped that hill and saw those eight dressed in the finest clothes they owned walking towards the classroom that would serve as our dining hall – I knew I had made the right choice.  I rarely see students on the village in suits – suits are only for very special occasions.  Most of the time I see the Gulu boys in old shirts and pants that are too short for them.  So the suits told me that these boys were feeling honored.

 pictured here is David and Patrick, two boys I have been able to meet with and disciple on a weekly basis.  to hear David's story, you can watch this video link from you tube.  the video was filmed here at Suubi Village.  
    Our evening with them was absolutely heavenly.  They were all so grateful.  We had to bring forks from our house for them to eat with (in Africa it is common to be invited to a meal with a “bring your own cup, plate, and/or silverware” policy).  

  After we had all introduced ourselves and eaten to our hearts content, I gave them a short speech/sermon.  I told them what an inspiration they were to me and many others back in America and I encouraged them to keep their hopes high during their transition time.  Then we opened the floor for them to speak.  We all realized once we were together that this would be their one and only chance to process their graduation and upcoming transitions together.  About ten of them addressed the crowd with parables, wise sayings, gratitude, exhortations to keep focused on Christ, and even crazy stories of memories they had made together (jumping off bridges naked).  Their teachers also encouraged them and then we prayed for them.  Then they sang some praise songs for us in English and Acholi – there are no words to describe what those moments meant to me.  At 10pm, with huge smiles and hugs they all disappeared into the night to walk ¾ mile in the dark back home.  As we left, Mika said, “If you don’t blog about this I am.”  It’s 1:20 am as I wrap this up but my heart is still overflowing with awe and fulfillment.  Who am I that God has allowed my grandest dreams to come true?  In 5 years time, I went from watching Invisible Children Videos to eating dinner with former child soldiers and listening to them worship.  The same grace that snatched them from their hellish circumstances has chosen to intersect my life with theirs.  I am humbled at the thought.  If you actually read this whole thing – God bless you for being such a kind and enduring friend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

just this morning, i looked down at the display screen on our printer and it tells me it is November 16.  i did a double take.  is it really??  i mean, i KNOW it is November, but sometimes i forget.  none of my usual reference points for November are present here - no bare branches, crunchy leaves, bonfires, and fall decor.  no plans to leave in a few days to make our annual drive over the mountains to spend Thanksgiving with T's family in NC.  most of our new friends and neighbors here don't even know what Thanksgiving is!  but i'm making plans to bring in the holidays next week with as much style as possible.  i've been looking up homemade craft ideas on the internet.  we got a canned ham in a care package, which will be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meal. (if that's not stylish, i don't know what is!)  :)  i did find out that i can go into Kampala and put my name on a list to order a turkey, and i would get a turkey, along with a dry mix for dressing, all for only $150!  - yeah, ummm, that's not happening. 

so, it's November.  we've been here 4 mo. now, and i've not done a very good job of blogging about what we actually DO on a weekly basis.  T's routine is much more interesting and varied than mine.  he is responsible for writing all the daily devotional curriculum for the primary schools at Watoto's three villages.  on Mondays, he leads assemblies for the primary schools here at Suubi and concludes the week by leading chapels on Fridays.  during the week, he also teaches during the high school's discipleship sessions both here and at Bbira Village.  speaking and writing... he does a lot of both of these things right now!  he also has times throughout the week where he meets with the youth workers and student leaders to invest in and mentor them spiritually.  then, of course, there are the basketball teams that he coaches (sr. boys, jr. boys, and girls).  4 evenings a wk there are practices (5pm- 7pm), and then scrimmages on Sunday afternoons.  this may sound like a pretty busy schedule, but, really, he is still with the family a lot, since most of these appointments happen within a mile of our house.

as far as what the kids and i do... we like to join T with his schedule whenever it is convenient.  getting our schoolwork done everyday is priority.  well, i MAKE it priority, then, as soon as it is done, the boys make a new #1 priority - climbing trees, creating weapons with friends (sling shots and bows&arrows), and guarding the gardens from the monkeys.  Reynah's only priority these days is looking cute and making messes.  she does this very well.  as i elaborated on in an earlier post, managing our house and cooking meals takes up a good chunk of my time.  i've intentionally not taken on any extra commitments so far.  i've been asked to help with the Watoto mums' English skills by writing assessment materials for them to test with.  i hope to start this the first of next year.  i'm excited about the thought of putting my ESL background to use here.  but, for now, i have wanted to focus on helping my family adjust and just learn how to function here.  my contribution to Suubi Village is purely relational - visiting kids in their homes, having girls over to help me cook and hang out, hosting parties and meals.  of course, there are special events on the calendar that i love being a part of too.  there have been several of those that i have thought to myself i should post pic. of on here... and i just haven't done it.  but i HAVE to document our most recent special occasion, because, it was just, well... so special!

while we were in the States in the spring, we had a "Bibles for Homes Campaign" where we raised money to purchase an illustrated children's Bible to put in each Watoto home.  we realized while here earlier this year how fascinated the Watoto kids were with Josiah and Judah's Bibles.  they would come to our apartment and sit (literally) for 45min - 1 hour looking through the pages at the Bible stories come to life.  they had never seen such Biblical illustrations to capture their imaginations before.  Friends in the U.S. gave generously and we bought over 300 Bibles (the very same kind our boys have)- one for each home on Suubi, Bbira, and Laminadera Villages. the Bibles were then brought over in the suitcases of a visiting team from the States.  two weeks ago, we were able to start distributing them, first at Bbira Village and then at Suubi last week.  it was a delightful experience to meet with all the mums and encourage them to be a spiritual parent and disciple their children - not only to encourage, but to EMPOWER them by putting the Bible in their hands.  

i sat studying the faces of the Suubi mums last Friday.  some of them i've been able to become friends with, but there are sooo many stories i yet want to hear.  most of these women have experienced unthinkable rejection and grief... the neglected daughter of a second-wife, the war-widow, the AIDS widow... the vulnerable woman who needed Watoto as much as Watoto needed her.  and now she is here raising 8 children 24/7 as a single-mom, cooking over charcoal, washing laundry by hand, the most significant person that God will use to shape these rescued ones in her home.  it was powerfully humbling for me to stand up then and affirm them.  i just had to tell them that i loved them, even if i hadn't yet met them, and that they are doing an amazing job - that they are my heroes.  i think my face was shaded red while i spoke to them, not from embarrassment, but from an unexpected fervency for them to feel loved and valued.  i so wished i could cup each one of their faces and tell her she is a beautiful and important daughter of God!

anyway, the mums were beyond grateful for the Bibles.  when we bought them, we had the children in mind, but soon realized that the mums were just as interested in reading them for themselves.  for many of them, it is the first time they can read the Bible in such simple English.  in fact, Mama Victoria met me outside before church Sunday, pulled her Bible out of her bag, and said, "i have already completed it!  i loved it!" 

we can't wait to make plans soon to travel up north-country to Watoto's Laminadera Village in Gulu and do the same distribution there.  and i can't wait to find ways to befriend, honor, and learn from these sweet mama's here.  they are heros, indeed!

here's a few pics from our time with the mums at Bbira...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

come in and visit awhile!

a few things have changed since my last post, the most significant being that we have water pressure now!!  woohoo!  now we can wash dishes in the kitchen sink and take showers again.  THEN, last week, we got a washing machine hooked up in our apartment!!!  we had bought it about 6 wks ago, but because of the water pressure issue, it had just been sitting in our apt.  washing machines are seriously the greatest inventions!  i never thought laundry could be such a blissful chore.  :)  there are a few hang-ups such as ... 1. the machine only works if the power is on, and this area of efficiency hasn't improved much really.  2. the clean clothes only dry when the sun is shining - and this is rainy season.  3. we've not figured out how to make the machine level just yet, so i have to run and jump up on it when it gets to the spin cycle (which my kids find very entertaining to watch!).  but these are minor minor issues that i don't mind coping with.  just having a machine that can do some work for me has seriously freed me up, and we feel like we're "living high" now.

all that said, our home feels more functional, efficient, and a bit tidier these days (ok, i did make sure it was extra tidy before taking these pictures, so don't be too disillusioned).  this puts me in the mood to have company!  i do wish you, our family and friends, could come by for a visit.  it's a lovely, sunny day and just time for afternoon tea (British roots go deep here).  school work is finished for the day, Rey has had her nap, so everyone is in a good mood.  :)  so, just humor me and let me pretend for awhile...

so, this is our "flat" as they call it here (another British habit).  there are several of them in a row; this is where all the Ugandan teachers who teach here at Suubi live. 

climb up the stairs, and then i'll spin you around and show you our lovely view -

this is Masaka Rd, the road we take when we go into Kampala.

here's the view when you come to our door.  it is basically a kitchen/ living area with two bedrooms and a bathroom.  the floors and walls are concrete, and the ceilings are high, which makes everything seem more spacious.

to the left, our kitchen and table (where all the school work is done) 


i have a propane gas cooker, small fridge, and microwave 

 and the glorious washing machine! 

to the right is the living room area.  the wicker furniture was here already, but we bought the futon (for when company actually does come visit!).  it was made at the fabrication shop right here at Suubi.



some of the books that "made the cut" and got packed in the suitcase

 the bathroom isn't really much to show off, but it is functional


there isn't a tub, just a shower head.  so Rey takes her bath in a wash basin - def one of her favorite times of day!


here's the view looking back to the front door.  the TV was here when we arrived as well.


now, i do have to show you this spot by the front door, because i'm quite proud of myself for packing these things - a cork board, a key rack, and an indoor/outdoor thermometer.  it's 75 in and 77 out today.  no time and temp # to call here, so i get a lot of amusement with  my thermometer!


ok, here's the kids' bedroom on the right side of the apt.  we have three beds in a row with one giant mosquito net over them all.  eventually, we hope to get bunk beds for the boys, to give them a little more floor space for playing.


and our bedroom

there's no vanity or drawers anywhere, so i made my window sill my vanity.  i have great lighting so i can see my skin blemishes very clearly!

speaking of windows, i do think they are the best feature of our little home

oh, and i have to show you our pet chameleon, Buddy.  Buddy lives outside on the balcony, but we bring him in anytime it gets stormy.  

so, there you go!  that's a lot of pictures, but it was fun for me.  but, now, Rey's nap has wore off and the boys are hungry, so i guess visiting time is over for me.  have a lovely day on your side of the world! :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday night at Suubi

Collecting thoughts can be such a daunting chore sometimes.   My thoughts have been pretty daunting to me these last two months.  I’ve sat down several times with the full intention of making all these little, wayward, random thoughts come together and organize themselves so they could be presentable on paper.  Goodness! – There are so many new ones to process, and they just haven’t been very co-operable.  I‘ve grown weary of trying to wrangle them.   But, for whatever reason, I feel determined tonight to snatch a few and see if I can get any sense out of them.
First, a few, simple observations…
-        -  I am thanking God that there are no rodents in my house!  Geckos and bugs are plentiful, but no sign of vermin, and I’m so so glad.
-          -Homeschooling is giving me a great sense of accomplishment and it is teaching me a lot; hopefully my boys are getting as much out of it as I am.
-         -Africans spend an ENORMOUS amount of time and money on their hair!  My African-American friends already knew this, of course, but I’ve just become enlightened of this fact.  Wow, it is a lot of work! 
-          -Speaking of hair, mine is getting less attention than ever these days (not that I really ever gave it very much to begin with).  Still not sure who I will get to cut it around here… though I’ve had lots of offers to get it braided!
-         - BBC radio is wonderfully informative, and it has replaced my nerdy habit of listening to NPR back home.
-          -Nutella is heaven in a jar!!!!  Now my grandma need not worry about me getting too skinny in Africa.  For sure, I’ve got to learn to control myself!
-         - I think it is very ironic that my extremely casual husband (who only wears ties to weddings and funerals) is now a missionary in an extremely fashion-conscious society.  Who would have thought we would move to Uganda and find out they care a GREAT deal about looking “smart??”  Their “smart” wardrobe may not be extensive, but, by golly, they wear what they’ve got!
-          -I had decided that chameleons were very cool pets… until Judah collected 5 of them.   Now my reptile love has run out.
-          -I never thought I would move to the equator and wish I’d packed a fleece blanket!  Rainy season is pretty chili.  Really, the only thing I’ve determined about the weather here is that it is dramatic and never boring.
-          -This week is Mission’s Convention at our home church, which does make me rather homesick - since it was always my favorite week on our church calendar.  BUT it was also a week that would usually conclude with me tearfully asking God when it would be MY turn to be a missionary… so now here we are.  I smile about that and can’t let myself be homesick too much. 
And, now, on to a few deeper thoughts that I feel the need to smooth out with words…
All the newness of living here is starting to become normal, I guess.  Some of that “new normal” has been easy to appreciate and some has been a challenge to adjust to.  The easy part… we thank God every day that we are here at Suubi Village, as opposed to living in Kampala (the capital city).  There are definitely perks to being in the city, such as shopping plazas and restaurants – not to mention other mzungus (white people) to socialize with.  But I wouldn’t trade all those amenities for the feeling of community that we have here.  Loneliness and isolation isn’t something I’ve struggled with yet.  God has given us great favor in that we’ve been accepted warmly and fully by everyone here. We are being treated as though we’re part of the fabric of Suubi, and not just guests or visitors.  And what a beautiful community to be part of!  At this village, there are about 1,000 children, plus moms, teachers, and other administrators.  As I learn each of their stories, I am reminded over and over what a special thing Watoto is doing and I’m amazed that we can be a small part of it. 
The other easy part of being here is that Suubi is just simply a beautiful place to live!  Kampala is dirty, crowded, and smells like garbage and diesel; Suubi is like an oasis of 200 quiet, majestic, and peaceful acres.  We’re right on top of a small mountain (about 1 mi. altitude), so the view off our balcony is amazing.  I know, I mention this every chance I get!  But when you come visit me and you stand on our balcony, you’ll understand why. :)
Ok, then, the not so enchanting part…  There’s just a multitude of conveniences that my spoiled, Western self misses every day.  The power goes off randomly and frequently.  The water is usually there, but our water pressure is TERRIBLE.  The only faucet that we can get water out of is in the bathroom, and that is literally just a trickle.  We have a shower head, but not enough pressure to get water out of it, so it’s just bowl baths all the time.  (and, of course, no hot water unless we heat it.)  No water in the kitchen means we take the dishes to the bathroom to wash them in a basin as well.  Then, all the water we consume has to be purified first and stored in plastic containers.  It is quite a chore just to keep them filled up.  Everything domestic is quite a chore.  I must interject here that T does an amazing job of helping when he’s at home.  I really don’t know how I would manage without his help, yet, still, I feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above water each day.  I’m washing clothes in a bucket or else walking a mile to a washing machine that I can borrow.  Cooking takes a chunk of time, since there are no fast, convenient meals.  I do miss frozen pizzas!  As you can guess, these responsibilities along with homeschooling leaves me with very little personal time and energy. 
I didn’t mean for that to be just a long paragraph of me whining and venting frustration, but rather a realistic picture of our daily life.  There are certainly moments of frustration, but overall, I am not frustrated.  I am learning Phill. 4:11, to be “content in whatever circumstance I am in.”  I said I’m LEARNING – not every day am I a great pupil!  But God provides me with many teachable moments.  Like this very moment right now…I’m sitting on our bed in the dark under the mosquito netting… hoping to finish this blog before my computer battery dies because the power is off.  It is 10:30 here.  The kids are in bed, and T is at a Friday pm prayer meeting here on the village.  From my window, I can hear the prayer meeting going on just up the hill a bit.  I so wish I could just bottle up the sound for you… the cicadas are chirping and praising along with a chorus of human voices.  I can hear their prayers – sometimes reverent and sometimes fervent.  And I can hear their own songs they are singing to their Maker – in the dark.  It is pitch black out there.  I don’t know how many are gathered or how long they will stay.  But what better is there to do on a Friday night?  There are no movies to go see, no restaurants to spend too much money at.  I could lay here in my bed and listen to them sing all night.  All we need, we have.  Here we have so little, yet we have so much.  I often feel empty and full all at the same time. 
Then, I say we have so little… but I’m often presented with the fact that me and my family still have a great deal more than our neighbors.  For example:  Last Saturday was a trying day.  T was out of town, and me and kids were without power and water both.  (though we did have two new packages from home, which was a very timely blessing!)  so, I went to bed that night just feeling put out.  Then, the next morning at church, I listened to the village pastor explain to everyone that the price of charcoal has suddenly shot up (charcoal is what the mom’s cook with), and for the time being the children need to be helping their moms gather firewood for cooking.  I walked home later to my little gas cooker and quick flame, thinking about how ungrateful I often am. 
Yes, I could go on and on about the lessons God is teaching me.  And my head is still full of more thoughts that need to be smoothed out.  But this is getting to be a very long entry already!  And the chirping and singing is still going on out my window.  I think I’ll just close the computer now and join in.  I really, truly have nothing better to do on this Fri pm.