Monday, February 28, 2011


- posted by mika

wish you could meet one of my friends here - her name is Karen. she's 14, very cute and very precocious. i just spent the afternoon with her, and have to write down some of the things she said that made me laugh. she saw my facebook profile and said, "oh, Auntie Mika, you looked much prettier when you were in the U.S." one time she thought something was wrong with Reynah's eye and was trying to look at it. then, she reached over and touched my eyelid, and i realized she was noticing our bloodvessels. she said, "ah, you white people have such thin, soft skin!" later, she squeezed Judah's neck and said, "you are very lucky he's so fat. in Uganda,he will get much respect... maybe someday he will be a boss-man!" i think Judah is getting used to people here commenting on his "healthy-ness" and realizing it is a compliment. the funniest part was when Judah told me (for like the 20th time this afternoon!) that he was hungry. of course, Judah's always "hungry," but even more so here in Africa. so, Karen said, "i think he has worms!" i laughed and said no. but she said, "no, seriously, i think you should get him checked out!" so so funny! like i said, i wish you could meet her. :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

matoke, matatu, and other random thoughts

- posted by mika

It’s a quiet Sun. afternoon here. Reynah is napping, and the boys are outside playing with friends. I have a few min. before my “cooking teachers” come over to give me a lesson. A couple of the girls from Choir 41 (that visited our church last yr) have taken it upon themselves to teach me how to cook Ugandan-style! Last Sunday, they came over and showed me how to make Matoke, which is THE staple food here in Uganda. It is made from a small, green banana called matoke. Basically, you just peel it, steam it, and mash it up. Most Ugandans eat it with g-nut sauce (similar to liquefied peanut butter) on top. Otherwise, it is pretty bland. Most Ugandan food is bland, actually. There’s not a whole lot of variety. They eat rice, beans, and matoke… and pineapple! The meat here is expensive and poor quality. I would say we eat meat only like once a week. That’s more of a sacrifice for T than for me. I’m fairly content with all the fruits and veggies we can buy. I am really eager to learn how to bake my own bread. The bread we buy at the supermarket works ok for toast and sandwiches, but it’s not too fresh and seems to go stale quickly. We don’t have an oven in our apt, but we have neighbors that have one we can use. They are two single guys (go figure!) who would be delighted for me to bake away and share some of the goods with them.
It has been a big adjustment for me to not be able to grocery shop whenever I want. I’m so used to only loosely planning our family’s meals for the week, then making a run to Kroger as I need to… or even down the street to the gas station for a pint of ice cream when that craving hits! The cravings must be ignored here! The pattern here so far is that once a week we can make a trip (it takes about an hour) into Kampala to stock up. I literally felt some panic the first few days here at the village, because I was so afraid we would run out of food. I mean, i have really never had to worry about running out of food before. But T helped me to put it into perspective one day when I was complaining. He opened our cupboard and said, “I think you would have a really hard time convincing an African that we are low on food right now.” So true. So, I’m doing a better job of chilling out about it, and realizing that we aren’t going to starve or anything! I also found out I can walk about a mile down the hill to the main road and buy some things from roadside stands – things like rice, tomatoes, onions/peppers, and eggs. They will try to charge me an outrageous price, because I’m a white girl. But, I’m learning this game of bartering!
This brings up the subject of transportation, since we got a crash course in negotiating our prices for this recently. First let me explain our options for transportation: #1 Ride the “Suubi Village Van” it makes trips into town daily. It’s nice because it is free, and we can trust the people we’re riding with. But we are subject to driver’s (and everyone else’s) schedule. We took the van into town this past Fri – what an experience! The van can hold 15, packed in tightly… by American standards. We counted 22 people on there! It was particularly uncomfortable this trip because the AC was barely working, and the windows of the van don’t open. You can imagine after one hour how ill and soppy-sweaty we all were. The van dropped everyone off where they needed to go, then it went to the shop for the AC to get worked on. After we finished our shopping, T needed to stay at the Central church for a men’s service that evening. It was still going to be a wait before the van was finished being worked on, so we decided to go with our #2 transportation option – a private hire.
We found a guy willing to take us back to Suubi for just under $20, which we had been told was reasonable. He dropped T off at the church, then headed out of Kampala with me and the kids. It was our first time doing this private hire thing. The traffic was even crazier than normal; it was getting dark, and I couldn’t EXACTLY tell him how to get me back home. But – obviously – we did arrive safely. And we liked this guy well enough to get his ph.# and use him again. He was trustworthy and friendly. Probably, especially friendly because we’re from the States, and he explained it is his dream to go to the States someday. But to get a visa, he needs an American to give him a letter of invitation… and maybe our family could give him that letter??? I just laughed and said I’d need to do research on how all that works.
Of course, we can’t afford to have a private hire every time that we can’t take the Suubi van, so our #3 option is a matatu – a public taxi-van. They are crowded and hot too, but cheap… unless you are a mzungu (white person), then they try to “gouge” you with their prices. We learned this last week when we took one to Mpanga Forest. Every step of the process involved us trying to convince them that we aren’t stupid foreigners who will pay whatever price they suggest. T did a really good job of being firm and certain. This was confusing to the boys, so, at one point, Josiah whispered in my ear, “Mama, why are we arguing with everyone?”
I am so amused by listening to the boys pretend, because it helps me understand how they are processing things. This am, while I was getting ready for church, they were pretending like they were going to Sam’s Club to eat some pizza and then on to Snappy’s to play “Big Buck Hunter.” But then they couldn’t buy pizza from one guy because he was going to charge them a $1,000 for their pizza!!! I think they are missing some pizza.
So, I feel like only a few of you are really interested in these ramblings. But I know that a few of you really ARE interested, so I ramble. I know nothing of this post tells of what we are doing here ministry-wise, but I recognize that not every post can be profoundly inspirational. We have had some very inspiring moments… like teaching the kids “I Like Bananas” this morning! Haha! So, maybe T can handle the next post, and it will be more substantial.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

life at Suubi

- posted by mika

Now that we’ve had some time to settle at Suubi, I’ll try to describe what daily life is like for us here so far. Suubi is BIG – over 200 acres with over 900 kids (not counting house mums, teachers, and other staff). I kinda feel like a new freshman on college campus. It is a knowable place, but a bit overwhelming at first. We walked miles and miles last week trying to discover where everything is at. Reynah’s umbrella stroller is not really cutting it with this terrain. I’m thinking about getting some of this pretty fabric here and tying her to my back, but I don’t think she will go for it. She loves to tackle the hills herself!
Our apt. is near the top of the hill. The administration building and classrooms are on the very top, and the children’s houses and clinic are down the hill on the other side. When I say “hill” it’s a little like a small mountain. The view, as I’ve already mentioned, is just amazing! We can see for miles in all directions. Our apt is on the second floor, so we love going out on the balcony to enjoy the breeze. A couple of mornings ago there was a thick blanket of fog everywhere beneath us. It really looked like a white ocean - and the hilltops around us, with their tropical trees on top, were like little islands coming out of the water.
The apartment is simple but sufficient – and quite a bit bigger than we expected. The big windows are the best feature; I open them first thing in the am. There are two bedrooms. The kitchen and living room area is like one big open room. We have a small fridge and a little counter-top gas stove. The bathroom is just a toilet, sink, and a shower head with a drain on the floor. The floors and counter tops are all concrete with a reddish-brown stain – the same color as the dirt here, which I’m sure is intentional. The dirt is just unavoidable! Today I mopped for the first time, and couldn’t tell a bit of difference before and after. But the mop water gave me proof that my efforts are not futile! 
Domestic duties take more time, of course. All the drinking water has to be boiled, cooled, and stored. T has done an excellent job of washing most of the dishes. I’m washing some clothes by hand, and some I take to Pastor Josh and Patience’s house. They have a small washing machine on their back patio. I’m not certain that it saves very much time, since it’s about a ½ mile walk from here to there. I’m sure I look funny walking with my bright blue laundry bag on top of my head African style. They probably wonder why the white girl doesn’t just wash her clothes on her own veranda like everyone else. I just feel like they are getting clean better in the machine. Plus, walking is less tedious than squatting and scrubbing.
So, many people have asked what it feels like to be here. Is it what we thought it would be? To try to answer briefly, Watoto is “as advertised.” We are super impressed with this ministry and have enjoyed everyone that we’ve worked with so far. We can definitely see ourselves serving here for a longer time, though we still haven’t made def. plans as to how and when we would return. As far as living in Africa, I don’t think we had very specific expectations. I’ve been very intentional to let all the culture-shock and reality of life here hit me full force. Generally, when I travel overseas, I love to “romance” the culture. I become enamored with it, and flirtatiously think I could live in it and adopt it as my own. Well, there’s no flirting going on right now. We are weighing a serious commitment, so I’ve not allowed myself to gush and flatter every new experience. I think there things about Africa that we would deeply love and other things that would just be hard. But we are SO grateful for the opportunity to have these 7 wks. to just soak it up. I keep thinking of missionaries who arrive on their field for the first time, ready to stay for several years. That requires a lot of grace!
There is one thing I have to gush about, though. I am have noticed that I feel the most at home during worship times. I’m sure it helps that they love to sing Hillsong and Chris Tomlin. And their style of worship is very familiar to me, because it reminds me of how my dad worships… if you are praising and singing, then you are dancing and moving! This is one aspect of Africa that I know I will “deeply love.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shadow People

- Posted by Thomas

Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But they people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!” Numbers 21:4-5
Exodus 15:24, Exodus 16:2-3, 17:1-4, Exodus 32: 1 about Moses gone for so long
Numbers 11:1-6, 14:1-4, 16:1-3, 20:1-5

As I read this passage in Numbers, I was provoked to look back and see how many times the Israelites had already grumbled, complained, and rebelled against Moses’ authority and God’s promise of provision. By Numbers 21 they were finishing up their 40 year punishment of wandering in the desert. One would think that after all the bad experiences Israel had endured that began with someone complaining – that the nasty habit would have died in the desert with so many of the people. The Israelites complained in Exodus 15:24, 16:2-3, 17:1-4, and 32:1. They complained in Numbers 11:1-6, 14:1-4, 16:1-3, and 20:1-5. They had seen the faithfulness of God’s power and felt the fury of his wrath so many times already that surely by Numbers 21 they would have learned their lesson. Surely they have matured enough to simply celebrate their precious freedom and trust God for provision. Wrong. It seems that we humans have the lifelong habit of forgetting all the wrong things and focusing on what we do not have.
In Uganda, it would be pretty easy for me to make a list of what I do not have. I am currently existing with less “stuff” than I have since my college days. No vehicle, no carpet, no hot water, no washing machine, no oven, no television, and no cereal. But I have noticed something here on the magnificent hill we call Suubi Village that has turned my attention away from my list of things I do not have. At first they seemed to be mere inconspicuous shadows that flickered and flitted around the peripheral of our campus. But after a couple days here we began to actually take notice of them. Allow me to first explain that there are 937 youth and children who call Suubi village home. These are Watoto students and around 50 boarding students whose families pay for them to live on campus and attend the school because of the academic opportunities. So there are children everywhere – either walking to class, on their way home, or just playing with friends. But the ones we began to notice were different. Watoto children wear simple school uniforms and bright t-shirts that say Watoto. Modest by American standards but not by Ugandan. However we have been spying “other” children around occasionally. These children range in age from 4-12 and do not wear Watoto clothes. They wear things that would only be found in a garbage can in America. Brown, stained, shabby, torn, inappropriately sized “rags” for lack of a better word. They are always in groups of 2 or 3 and they avoid contact with everyone else at all costs. Sometimes they stare from a distance but they never dare to look you in the eye. These “shadow people” are never alone when we see them. They are always accompanied by large yellow 5 gallon or 10 gallon plastic jugs. What we would use to store gas for our lawn mowers back in Tennessee. These children are neighbors of the village – living in huts and shacks the size of your bedroom along the side of the mountain. The reason they dare to daily scamper on and off the campus is because the huts and shacks they live in do not have water. There is no life without water. With water we drink, cook, clean, and sustain livestock. Suubi village has a very good well that is tapped into a deep, bountiful underground water supply. There is plenty of water for every home, apartment, bath-house, and even some open spigots on the outside of buildings. It is the “extra” open spigots that draw these shadow people. Sometimes in the morning and almost every evening they come. Almost like ghosts or silhouettes in the fading light of dusk. They try very hard not to be noticed and try to accomplish their mission as quickly as possible. However, once their yellow containers are full, their task becomes immensely challenging. Next time you are near a 5-6 year old child I dare you to give them a 10 gallon jug full of water and ask them to move it. These children are forced to strain with all their might as they drag, haul, tug, carry, or whatever it takes to get the jugs back down the hill down the footpaths leading through the brush. It is often a team effort with one child carrying it a short distance and passing the challenge on to another. Someone must have explained to these children very clearly that they are second class citizens because they play the part wholeheartedly. They employ themselves in their laborious chore without even a hint of engaging another human. Silence is the prevailing code. Sometimes though, they cannot help but stand and watch. I cannot imagine what goes through their mind as they watch the Watoto kids prance around in their uniforms, playing soccer, or singing songs. Every Watoto home has running water. I came to Uganda hoping to serve “the least of these” on a Watoto Village only to find shadow people who daily gaze upon the lives of Watoto children with a bitter mix of curiosity and envy that I have never known. Most of them appear no older than my own two sons.

Mika and I are learning a lot from these shadow people. We are learning to be grateful for water. Water coming right out of our kitchen and bathroom sinks. Right out of our shower head. Flowing right into our toilet. Clean (by Ugandan standards), clear, cool, water at our fingertips everyday. Something these kids only dream of. So I challenge you to guard your heart from the disease that the Israelites had of complaining. Next time you are stuck in traffic, short on cash, slightly embarrassed by the noise your car is making, or frustrated at your neighbors – take the time to thank God for water. . . at your fingertips. And maybe say a prayer for the millions of shadow people on planet earth who trek daily with jugs in hand in search of the most basic sustenance of life. And besides water, I challenge you to ask God to show you who the shadow people are in your life. People you may not have noticed who intersect your world daily or weekly. Those who are not very engaging but are looking longingly at the most basic things in your life with envy. The widow who longs for a family. The neighbor who has never had a happy marriage. The waitress dreaming of a career. The child who has never called someone dad. May God give us hearts for the shadow people in our lives.

Friday, February 11, 2011

what the boys have to say...

Judah - i saw monkeys in Africa and i liked it. and i've got to make lots and lots of new friends. i miss all of you sometimes. sometimes after 7 wks we will come back and i will get to tell you about Africa. Africa people dry their clothes different than us. they get a big stick, like a giant slingshot, and they tie a rope on it and put their clothes on it. and there are lots of kids that are walking around and they are poor. they have different houses that are called huts because they have hay on top. and i like to see them. and that's all!

Josiah - the orphans here are very fun to play with and they like soccer. there are very big monkeys here. and the people here are very kind. the chipote is very good... it's kinda like tortillas. the pineapple here is delicious!!! there are even mongoose here. they were running around when we were looking for monkeys. there were 8 or 9 of them. that was a very good sign that we saw them. that means there were no snakes around because mongoose like to eat snakes. we live in a teacher apt. in the Subbi Village. it is quiet here and you can see a very good view. there isn't a tub here; it is really not like the ones in the U.S.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

so this is Africa!

- posted by mika

6:00am - Tuesday
It’s 6am – beginning our third day here in Kampala. The day is already a long one for me, since I have literally not slept a wink since midnight! Jet lag is killing me! I was doing pretty good until yesterday afternoon when I had a chance to take a nap… not a very smart choice. Poor Judah has been awake too since 3 am. But he is being very agreeable about it. He and I did some schoolwork together, and right now, he is playing very quietly with some toys in the bathroom. other than wacky sleep, we are really enjoying ourselves and taking everything in. there is so much to take in!!!!

Some first impressions: Kampala is a mess! I’ve been in other dirty, crowded cities with crazy drivers…but this one tops my list. Subbi Village, on the other hand, (where we went Sunday and will be staying most of our time here) is just beautiful! It sits right on top of a small mountain outside the city. There is a lush, green view and a gentle breeze blowing all the time. We move out there tomorrow and can’t wait! We’ve already met several Ugandan pastors and youth workers. They are so very welcoming and eager to get to know us. Haven’t had much opportunity yet to interact with the Watoto children – another reason we can’t wait to move to the village.
Our kids are doing great! Reynah is getting SO much attention! All Ugandans love children, especially babies. She is doing a good job being very friendly to everyone. The Ugandans comment: “oh, she is so accepting!”

Today we go shopping for the first time to buy food and other supplies for our apartment at Subbi. I’m honestly nervous about meal planning and preparation. I’m not sure yet what will be available and how well I will do with cooking from scratch – no cans, sauces, and packages.
I could write on and on… we’ve already learned so much we didn’t know about Watoto. Our brains are in over-drive trying to process stuff!

10:00pm - Tuesday
Today's shopping adventure was very productive! we have a wireless modem we can use to get internet, and i was pleasantly surprised that there is one real grocery store in Kampala. (all i had seen so far was roadside stands.) i'm still not sure that i'm prepared to feed our family for a week, but i'm feeling more optimistic about figuring this out. they do have a few American-brand products here, but they are outrageously expensive!! - like $7 for a box of Kellogs Cornflakes and $6 for a small jar of Ragu spagetti sauce. yeah, that's not happening.

This was a very enlightening day for the boys. they were confronted with some harsh realities for the first time. while driving through town this am, we were stuck in a traffic jam where our vehicle didn't move for several minutes. a few beggar children surrounded our van the whole,entire time. Pastor Doug explained that the children are from a tribe in the northeast. their parents send them in bunches to the city, along with one adult. whatever money they get for begging, they have to give to this adult. i kept watching the boy's faces as they watched the children tap the glass and wave and beg in a different language. we gave them a banana, which was all the food we had with us. Josiah asked me if i had any more gum we could give them.

Later this afternoon, we visited Watoto Bullrushes, their home in Kampala for orphaned infants. babies ages 0 - 2yrs. stay here before being moved to a village home. what a beautiful place! it is a clean, bright, organized home for about 50 babies. we first saw the preemie babies, about 5 of them. it was nap time, so we walked through the rooms and looked at all the others lying in their cribs. some looked perfectly healthy, but most had some sort of obvious medical need. we spent most of our time playing with three 4yr. old boys who live at the Bullrushes because of their special needs. Joseph - i'm not sure his whole story, but he is developmentally behind. Kenneth is severely malnourished. i couldn't believe it when they told me he is 4 - i was guessing 18 mo. his arms and legs are pencil thin, and he weighs no more than Reynah. but his eyes! - they are so beautiful and perfect. Judah sat in the floor and pushed a car back and forth with him for half an hour. then, there was Kevin who loved T to hold him and cuddle him. he is deaf, mute, and can hardly see. he esp. tugged at our hearts. we prayed for him while we were there and again tonight when we put the boys to bed. Judah is naturally my compassionate child, so i would have expected him to respond sensitively. but Josiah surprised me with how eagerly he played with them also and wanted so much to see them happy. part of me doesn't want my children to see (yet) that the world isn't innocent and just, but all of me thanks God for these opportunities before them. i am praying that they grow a desire to serve and a strong certainty that God's love is stronger.

This weekend will present many more venues for this. we leave early Thurs am to drive north 5 hours to Gulu. anyone familiar with Invisible Children will recognize Gulu as the location where for many years children (30,000 of them!) were abducted by a rebel army and forced to serve as child soldiers. the army has now moved into Congo and southern Sudan. so, don't worry! - it's ok to travel there. :) but there are still many broken and displaced people there! Watoto has opened a village there in Gulu as well as another church campus. the kids and i are going to help out with a clothes distribution, then return on Fri. T will stay through Sun. to help launch "Father's Heart," a mentoring program with the men in the church and the children in the village.

if you've stuck with me through this incredibly long post... thanks. i keep thinking of so many of you family and friends i wish i could sit and talk together about all we are seeing. i wish i could introduce you to all the beautiful Ugandans i've met so far. hopefully will post some pictures soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

have passport, will travel...

here we go! - the time is FINALLY here!!! Praise God for packed bags, healthy bodies, and no blizzard warnings. next post will be from AFRICA! woohoo! :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Reynah!

Our sweet girl is a big one year old today! she is more spunk, joy, and charm than we ever expected - can't imagine our family without her!

Feb 1, 2010

6 weeks

3 months

5 months

8 months

10 months

birthday party