Monday, September 21, 2015

Celebrating 1 Year in Uganda!

Today marks one year living in Uganda! Let’s celebrate by having a normal day! The kids are at school where they have friends and favorite classes. Ruby is outside drinking tea and eating toast with our watchman. This morning Jade went on her daily jog and is headed to bible study shortly. I’m working with Kevin (a family friend) teaching him some carpentry today while I wait on revisions of the latest curriculum book to come back. It’s a very normal day. When your family has a year that my family has had it feels like a celebration to arrive at ‘normal’ again. A huge thanks to our partners who invest in this ministry and faithfully carry us in prayer. Here’s to another year!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Dignity Project

For the last few months I (Jade) have been quietly working ‘behind the scenes’ on a project very close to my heart. I am SO excited to share about it today with you all! After some research, I’ve discovered that many women struggle through embarrassing challenges during their monthly menstruation. Here in Uganda disposable sanitary pads are simply not affordable for a lot of women. The alternative is not good: old pieces of clothing. This causes many young girls not to attend school and women in nearby villages are forced to go into the bush during their menstruation. Can you imagine? These women have been stripped of their dignity during their monthly menstruation. They shoulder fear, worry, shame and some even outcast. 

My sisters, God has brought about an awesome solution for these women. Reusable sanitary pads! They are sewn by you all, brought to us by visitors (or shipped) and donated to these precious women. I introduce to you: The Dignity Project. As we pass them out in schools, churches and orphanages we will discuss proper hygiene, share about our awesome Savior- The Supreme Dignity Restorer- and in some cases teach how to make the reusable pads. I am so excited! And guess what?! Several ladies in the States (as young as 9) are already making them and hosting sewing parties! 150 women have already requested the patterns. Perhaps you could join the fun by gathering women in your homes to help in the work.  Get your children, sewing savvy grandma or shut-ins involved!  Have a pot-luck at church, followed by a sewing- party.  Bless my heart, I love a good pot- luck!  Could you use this opportunity as an outreach in your community?  Perhaps as you serve at your local women’s shelter, you could introduce this idea and sew together. Get creative!  If you want to join The Dignity Project just comment below with your email address.

Look at what God is doing through His Church....

My friend Kim created patterns for the reusable sanitary pads and wet bags (for soiled pads). 

Casilyn (age 11) asked her grandmother to teach her how to sew when she found out about this need. She has made 4 already! 
Cassidy (age 9) has made 26!  
Joy and Crystal from Indiana rocking out these labors of love!  

Sew Biz partnered with us on their 'Be an Angel Day'.
My dear friend Annette made these and showered me with prayer and encouragement as I began this project.
Home seamstress Maddie taught herself how to sew just for this project!
 Worth More Movement  threw a sewing party for us! 

Sisters in Christ in Michigan! 
Women from Community Life Church in Ohio joining in on the fun! 
This is my amazing mother in law dropping off pads for my dad to bring.
 He is flying to Uganda this week, just in time for our first distribution September 15th. Over 200 have been sewn so far. Yay! 

Here are a few words of encouragement I have received:

"I am handicapped and have been asking God to use me from my home. He has now delivered the answer to my prayers through this project."

"When I shared this need with my 11 year old daughter she went to her room and began weeping. She is now learning how to make these pads."

Beautiful! We serve an awesome God! I LOVE The Church!

Again, if you would like to be part of The Dignity Project please comment below with your email address!  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Let's Go To The Village!

Yesterday we had the privilege of visiting one of our AGC pastors, Gideon and his wife Josephine.  Usually Nathan is the one who gets to go encourage our pastors and spend time out in the village.  This time our whole family was invited!  We all were so excited to get to go.  I thought it would be fun to share with you what a visit out to the village looks like.

Traditionally here in Uganda it is customary to bring a gift when you visit someone. I LOVE this because I am gift-giver at heart. This time I put together a basin (used for washing dishes or clothes) full of rice, sugar, tea leaves, soap, crayons, a coloring book and bubble gum. :)
It takes 2.5 hours to get to Gideon's church and school. I saved back some animal crackers that was sent in a care package and surprised the kids with them. They all  happily shouted "ANIMAL CRACKERS!" Thanks again Abstons! 
The roads in the village were B U M P Y! I thought it was hilarious that a sign was made for the speed bumps or 'humps' because we had already driven over miles of humps and bumps with miles more to go! 
The kids laughed and laughed at the huge pot holes! We were grateful for their positive attitudes. We often say here, "Just because it's different doesn't mean its bad or wrong. It's just different." Here's a 1 minute video of the bumpy ride and beautiful village scenery....

On the way to Kayunga Ruby fell asleep at 10:30am. This never happens.  She usually naps at 1:00pm.  Nathan said, "I think this is one way God is showing us His love today." Because Ruby napped on the way she got to happily play all afternoon long with the school kids. Praise Jesus! 
When we arrived Pastor Gideon introduced us to all the school children. When he started the school in 2011 there were 48 children. Now the school has around 360 kids. We had two main purposes on this visit: encourage Gideon and his wife and encourage the school children. We spent all afternoon playing games together. We taught them how to play frisbee.  None of them (including the teachers) had seen or heard of a frisbee.  It was fun to watch them try to figure it out and then shout when the disk actually flew a little ways.
We played frisbee in shifts. The kids who weren't playing laughed and laughed at the ones playing (especially when someone got hit in the head with a frisbee...this happened several times. Haha! Ouch!)
The children taught us their version of dodgeball. It was a blast! 
We taught them limbo. :)
And musical chairs. They loved the games! :) 
After a fun afternoon of playing games we were served a delicious lunch. We were served greens, potatoes, beans, rice, beef, posho and sodas.  This was an extra special treat! 
Here is the  church. Perhaps this looks familiar as it was the first church Nathan preached at in Uganda.  It's in worse condition than the last time we saw it.  They've struggled to keep the structure standing but the congregation continues to meet and worship here together.
After lunch we all gathered in one of the school rooms for chapel. Typically chapel is held in the church but because of some roof problems we met in the school room. The children in grades 1-5 performed special songs and dances for us. Out in the village we get very special treatment, which is something that we have had to get used to. We normally would be fine to sit on the floor with the other kids but we realize sitting in the special 'visitors' chairs is the right thing to do.  It is showing that we accept their very generous gesture. 
Then the most amazing thing happened. Gideon's wife Josephine pulled Nathan out of his chair during a traditional Ugandan dance and made him dance with her. He never dances! His worst nightmare was my favorite moment! Haha! :)
Sophie taught about Adam and Eve before Nathan spoke about God's love. She did a great job! 
What a great day! We are so grateful for the opportunities to visit our pastors. We praise Jesus for a safe journey on the roads and for the sweet time we had together.
Maybe next time you can come with us?! ;)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Uncommon Days

I began the twenty five minute drive home from the orphanage. Discouragement settled in as I told myself I just wasted my day. The same forty two children were fed bottles, bounced around in their cribs and played in their classes. A six day old baby was just abandoned and the mommas carefully counted every ounce of formula she drank. Sweet Joy had an IV in her arm to fight the side effects of malaria. Balaam was as ornry as ever, refusing to participate in the breakfast routine. Beatrice led the other children with kindness. My lip began to quiver and tears settled into my eyes. I didn't fix anything today.  None of these beautiful children were reunited with their families. Not a single one went home to an adopted family. 

By the time I reached the produce stand on the top of the hill behind our house, my heart was ready to hear truth from the Lord. I did do something today, He reminded me. I did all I could do today.  I folded piles of laundry. I whispered "Nkwaagala" (I love you) into Kenny's ears. I showed Michael how to color in the lines. I sat long next to Momma Loy and talked with her in broken Luganda. She delighted in my attempts to communicate in her language. I changed diapers, wiped tears from sad eyes and fed hungry babies bottles. 

My heart aches to see these precious children in families and I want to see results right now.  I am moved by the uncommon life Christ lived and I long to live like Him. He is teaching me that the uncommon life is the product of the day lived in the uncommon way. He brought me here to mop floors, wipe dirty noses and soothe crying babies. He's asked me to pray and advocate for these kids. The results are not up to me alone. They are up to Him and His Church. 

Jesus was faithful to do what He could no matter how seemingly small to those around Him. And what I love is that what was great to Him was doing something small.  He taught only one woman at Jacob's well; He noticed a finger-touch on the hem of His garment; He stooped to take the little children up in his arms and bless them; even so small a thing as a cup of cold water, He said would yield a heavenly reward.  So I move forward one uncommon day at a time loving this world as best as He can through me.  And together we do as Wesley advised:

"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." 

(All photos by Gift of Today Photography. She took these stunning photos when she came to serve alongside our family last month.) 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Summer to Remember

A couple of months ago one of our partnering churches contacted us about how they could get more involved in our mission here. We shared with them that our scholarship account for a Kikongo Primary School was getting low and that it would be such a blessing to give it a boost.  The school is located on Buvuma Island (2.5 hour car ride + 2 hour boat ride from our home). WGM missionaries do community health empowerment trainings on Buvuma Island and we also partner with the school by helping give scholarships to the approx. 250 children (many orphans) that attend.  The church decided to collect money at their VBS for the scholarship account. As if that wasn't enough, many members of the church (including Jade's Dad, Step-Dad and Mom) participated in a local July 4th 5K to raise even more money. It was awesome hearing from different participants that, for the first time ever, they were training for a race. They called it 'couch to 5K training'. :) Each participant got several sponsors for the race and the funds were matched by a generous family from the church! Incredible! 

The 5K participants. These are some godly folks!
Jade's Mom, Agnes, Jade's Dad, Jade's Stepdad and Floyd
Floyd and Agnes attend New Beginnings Holiness Church and are so special to us. Like family really! We even named our dogs after them! :)
We had 5K of our own here in Uganda the same day to show our support and join in the fun! It was a blast! 

Teammates and friends joined us!
How overconfident does Nathan look casually drinking his water? He doesn't know what he's gotten himself into! These hills are killer!  
The kids cheered us on at the finish line. It was so sweet! 
We all gathered at our home after the race for a breakfast.  The last team brought us Starbucks coffee so we thought opening it was well deserved. :) What a treat! 
New Beginnings Holiness generously sent us t-shirts to wear during the race.  
Those are some tough hills! 

An 'after race' photo to prove we really did it! Haha! :)

It's hard to put into words how meaningful it is to have people on the other side of the world so deeply involved in the work here. These last 6 weeks have been a huge boost to our ministry and hearts! It brings us to tears just reflecting on God's faithfulness to bring people alongside us. Look at what else God orchestrated in just the last 6 weeks...

Another VBS in Indiana, McGrawsville UMC, chose us as their missionary project. The children hit the financial goal for the week so that meant Pastor Kenny got a pie in the face! :)

The Sunday School class we were involved in back at our home church 'reintroduced' us to the class. There have been a lot of new people join since we have been here who don't know our family. We love that they thought to do that! 

A group of 12 ladies from all over the USA came to serve orphans and women alongside our family. It was an incredible 10 days together! God was glorified and we were proud to see how they loved the Ugandan people. 

Another team of 3 men from our home church came for a visit. It was such a boost to Nathan's heart to have close friends come and see our home and ministry here. Praise God for good friends!

A week ago God began putting together plans for some major new movements within Nathan's work here in Uganda.  He was shocked to return from a meeting of 'dreaming' to a message from a friend asking "I think I am supposed to come to Uganda.  Do you have a reason?"  David Jourdan quickly bought his ticket and was in country just five days later.  Over these last few days Nathan and David have met with WGM and Africa Gospel Church leaders to develop the "dreams" into a community vision.  It's been fascinating and thrilling to see how God pulls the strings and lines everything up with surgical precision!

Thank you so much to our amazing friends and family who support us, encourage us and (more and more) join us in the work here on the ground!  We love you!