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!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

10 years. 10 lessons. What We've Learned About (our) Marriage.

Everyday is a new “I do”.
We commit ourselves not just to who our spouse is today but to who they become tomorrow.

Assume the best
When we love we are careful with our blind conclusions.

She’s not an animal.  That’s just Jade snoring.
Seriously.  I learned this and it makes the top ten.  It’s bad.

Consensus or Nothing
Never outpace the spouse.  Don’t pressure or push.  Walk in step.

Counseling is Good
Don’t wait for the train to fall off the rails before seeking wise counsel.

Business Meetings
Schedule intentional conversations and talk about the important stuff.  Here’s how we do it.

Fight Together
It’s so strengthening to accept challenges together and fight through them together.

Temptations come and go.  Arguments and bad days happen.  Be patient and choose love.

He’s not an animal.  Well maybe he is.
Nathan leaves his clothes in a pile beside the bed every day.  The hamper is right there.  Right.  There.

I’m just not happy anymore.
Our best years began when holiness replaced happiness as the primary purpose of our marriage.
Grateful for the F. Howell family who blessed us with a night away to celebrate our 10 year Anniversary (instant hot water showers, people!!!) and for trustworthy babysitters in a 'new' country!  Gifts from the Lord, truly! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Man With The Fancy Tie

     We only know what we know.  My job in this country is to help our pastors know more.  When I say "more" I am not only referring to the Bible.  I just mean "more".  During our time here I have seen the impact of a persons surroundings on their development.  Every little behavior, thought, dream, idea, action, motivation and hope are constrained to the information made available to the mind.  Big world equals big thinking.  Small world equals small thinking.
     A fellow missionary once heard some village pastors referring to the Galilee River.  When he asked them why they weren't calling it a lake they said, "What's a lake"?  I've been profoundly and permanently impacted by the power of poverty and lack of education on human minds, lives and communities.  Some of the greatest hours of my time in Uganda have been spent among those who know nothing beyond the dusty roads of their tiny villages.
     A couple weeks ago Rev. James and I travelled a few hours outside Kampala to a small church where the community had gathered.  For over six hours we preached, sang and ministered to them.  It was a Thursday but the event was so important to them they dropped everything to be with us.  At one point I had to pause my sermon and sit down because the rain on the metal roof was so loud I was losing my voice trying to speak over it.  James leaned over to my ear, "If you notice a strange smell it's the manure.  They've mixed it with some dirt to coat the floor and walls like a temporary concrete."  I laughed and checked my shoes.  They clapped and sang and danced until the rain slowed down.
     Our goal in visiting this church was to encourage the leadership, provide direction and instruction for teaching and give them a sense of belonging within the denomination.  Rev. James spoke for a while about the words 'Africa Gospel Church' and explained what they meant and how their small church was part of something bigger in the country.

     At one point Rev. James asked a question.  To my right was a man dressed better than anyone in the room.  He had a fine black suit, ribbons on his lapel, glasses (a rare accessory here), shiny shoes, a watch, two Bibles which he held at the same time, big jars of something to his right and a short tie with Uganda's colors.  He raised his hand to answer the question.  When he was finished Rev. James said, "Interesting.  Thank you.  I like that very nice tie!"  The man smiled and began clapping for himself.
     We found out later that there was a story with this man.  Some time back he had wandered into this town with very little known about him.  He was quiet and modest.  Then, during a time of prayer at church he volunteered to pray for someone who was asking God to help him sell a cow.  Not long after that the cow sold.  The village noticed that God had heard this man's prayer and they began coming to him.  In their desperate need for help they saw the possibility of hope in this man and his 'powerful' prayers.  They began paying him to pray for them.  He became famous.  He bought expensive bottles of prayer oils to use during these powerful prayers.  More recently the church had begun to challenge their own pastor in favor of this (seemingly) more powerful man.  Now he had joined us in this meeting.
      After this backstory had been made known to us (in the midst of our day with them) I watched as Rev. James began to formulate his response.  During my sermon I turned around and saw him reading and scribbling.  I smiled later when I realized he was rewriting his sermon to address the immediate issue.  When he stood up to preach he called them to the Gospel of John chapter 15.  He read, "I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener."  He paused, put his Bible to his side and looking around the room spoke, "Do you know why Jesus described the vine as true?  Because there are other vines!"  I was amazed.  I thought, "This friend of mine is preaching to the very problem in the room.  He has captured their hearts by showing them he loves them and now he is correcting them."

     When we were back in the car on the way home I told him how much I had learned and how I admired his courageous leadership.  What an awesome experience!
     As I sit here now I reflect on all that we've learned from this country so far and I feel deeply compelled.  God called us here but our understanding of the need was pretty much a guess.  It's Africa and we've always been told they need help.  As we've lived here those guesses have become experienced truths.  It's real.  God can do this work with anyone.  We are so thankful he's chosen us to be His helpers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sophie, Ezra and Ruby's Birthday Project

Over the last 7 weeks we have celebrated Ezra (7), Ruby (3) and Sophie's (8) birthdays. It's been a a lot of fun! Our family in the States were so generous by sending them gifts, cards and messages of encouragement.

Ezra requested chocolate cupcakes for his class party.
Ruby has asked nearly every day since her birthday if she could have her birthday again.  :)

Sophie had a friend over from school to watch the movie Frozen. 
 For Maddix's 9th birthday some dear friends in Indiana sent her birthday money.  They recently did the same for Sophie, Ezra and Ruby. The children were encouraged to use it for their ministry here so they can develop their own ministry of giving.  Our children have felt so loved and accepted by their fellow peers at church and decided to use their money to bless them. The new school term just started so Sophie, Ezra and Ruby bought notebooks and pens for the children. 

Sophie writing "God loves you" on the notebook. Each child got 2 notebooks and 1 pen.
Ezra cut the string that held the 2 notebooks together.
Ruby helped put the pens on the notebooks.
Sophie, Ezra and Ruby donated the supplies to the church and one Sunday morning they were handed out by the older women or 'mothers' during the service. Sunday (pictured) asked me to take her photo with her new school supplies. So fun! :)
I (Jade) was invited to come and speak with the 'mature youth' of the church to discuss topics that that young women face. Sophie, Ezra and Ruby used their remaining birthday money to buy them personal hygiene supplies for boarding school/college. 
Here I am with the young ladies as well as our Assistant Bishop's wife Carolyn. We had a wonderful time studying the Word together for hours and discussed everything from 'how to co-exist with people who dislike you' to 'overcoming temptation' to 'how a Christian girl should dress'. These were the topics they wanted to discuss. I am so impressed by their desire to live holy lives! 

 Do you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews that you would like to encourage to develop their own ministry of giving? Give it a try!