"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." ~James 1:27

Thursday, August 11, 2011

8/11/11 Update!

Greetings! Sometimes I sit down to write updates and try to collect my thoughts and find it difficult to summarize everything the Lord is doing in and around me. Then other times words simply pour out of me onto paper as I type. It’s often difficult to put into words the thoughts I think, the feelings I feel, and the experiences I face and go through on a daily basis. Even as much as I love writing, it’s still a struggle at times to find all the right words to express so much of what I desire to say. I desire to capture everything and write it in such a way you can experience it as closely as I have. I also write this with the knowledge of knowing that I could never truly cause you to see it through my eyes perfectly. However, I want to remind you all that I carry you with me in my heart. Like I always tell my home church, “I take you all with me wherever I go.” Words cannot express how truly grateful and humble I am for your continued prayers, encouragement, messages, and financial support! I testify to so many individuals here about the amazing family and church family I have in the U.S. and they too are literally amazed. It’s so comforting and humbling to know the Lord has set individuals in place to fully sustain me during my mission here. Thank you again for being obedience to the Lord. You may never know this side of heaven whose lives you are touching and impacting and what work and ministry is being accomplished through the prayers and finances you are continually offering up to our Father. So truly, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you for everything! I love each and every one of you so much.

Gosh, I feel as if so much has happened since I last wrote so I have a feeling this journal entry will be a bit lengthy. For those of you that really know me that shouldn’t come as a surprise. First of all, the Lord has answered a huge prayer request and has provided me with my first, very own house. While I’m overly excited, it’s been a bit overwhelming at times honestly. It has definitely been an adventure though. There is nothing like someone who doesn’t know how to swim jumping into the deep end head first…lol. Sometimes that’s how I feel learning how to live on my own for the first time in a foreign country. I’ve really been humbled however. Might as well make it big. I’ve always been highly adventurous. It just makes sense that I would do it that way knowing myself…lol. It’s one thing to move out and remain in an area you are familiar with, with food you know how to cook, and can still call Mom and Dad to come help you. But it’s another when none of those things are familiar and Mom and Dad are half way across the world. I’m recovering from another wave of homesickness. I’ve noticed it tends to come in waves. It will flair up for a bit, then ease for a little while, which I’ve heard is normal. As I was picking out curtains and items for my new house, the realization came over me all of the sudden that my Mom wasn’t here to assist me pick out all those things I hadn’t necessary thought Mom “should” be there to help me decide on. So I had a mini tear fest, then I recovered….lol. However, I was so grateful Lisa acted on behalf of Mom for a month and was there to assist me. But as much as I love you Lisa, no one can replace my sweet Momma! Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in the 1900’s because Uganda is much more underdeveloped than the U.S. I never considered myself as a person who took the blessings I have for granted, however, when you leave the comforts and accommodations at home for a little while the Lord really teaches you how to appreciate where you have come from in a different light. Suddenly all those things you observed Mom and Dad do your entire life, you find yourself doing and remembering. You remember all your parents little quirks and how they did things. For example: Dad always use to push cancel 50 times on the ATM machine after he withdrew money to ensure no one could get his personal information. I found myself doing that and teaching Lisa the other day. I found myself laughing afterwards. You really do not realize all you have until you suddenly do not have it at your fingertips anymore. It has changed my perspective on so many things and has truly humbled me. I can tell you this, I have learned the difference between genuine needs and wants (what is considered “needs” to us Americans are truly considered luxuries here). Like washing machines and dryers. I wash all my clothes my hand in a wash bin and lay them out to dry. So before you lay your head on your pillow at night, thank God for your washing machines and dryers. That may seem silly, but I’m serious. It’s hard work and I’m reminded that I’m only one person, washing for one person. I do not yet have a large family like most Africans have. I do not yet have a hot water heater so cold showers are the norm. You just take a deep breath before entering…lol. Squatty potty is also the norm…it really teaches you a new appreciation for toilets…lol. So I’ve literally started from stratch in my new house. It’s not like the U.S. where you have built in cabinets, kitchen and bathroom countertops, appliances such as a built in stove/oven, ect… I wash my dishes also in a wash bin, because the typical African setting has no kitchen sink. It really takes some relearning. I cook on a gas stove and officially got my stove hooked up a few nights ago. Moses and I officially cooked our first meal together. We cooked some eggs and shared an egg sandwich and mango juice under the candlelight because there was no power. My rechargeable lantern died because the power had been off for three days in a row. Usually, it was on one day, off the next so it was predictable when we wouldn’t have it so I could plan ahead and charge things in advance. I say all this to tell you how humbling it has been because I realize it can be much worse. Compared to what I see on a daily basis, the poverty around, I live an exceptional life. So I’m very grateful! I’m so thankful for what the Lord has provided for me, please don’t hear me saying anything but that! Sometimes I just sit or stand in my house, look around, and just give Him glory! I have a bed, food in my stomach, and a roof over my head. Honestly, that is more than a good percentage of the population has here. I heard someone say, “Uganda is immune to poverty.” It’s really true, but the overwhelming joy, faith, love, and peace that overflows from the Ugandan people still absolutely blows me away. I walk by Ugandans on the side of the dirty street daily with no legs who are literally walking on knubs, but when you look down at them and they look up at you, they just light up and a giant smile swallows their entire face. It’s amazing and truly beautiful because you honestly wonder, what’s the future look like for them? Here they are with no legs, probably no food, and are begging for money on the streets. In the eyes of the world it doesn’t make sense for me to move halfway across the world to breath in the overwhelming amount of dust and gas of the city, to drive on the roads day in and day out that are covered with potholes, to trench through 5 feet of mud during the raining season and risk getting stuck and sliding off the road, and to risk contracting malaria and various other diseases, but through spiritual eyes people get what’s really important here. They have no choice to depend on the Lord to literally provide their every need because He is ALL they have. Their faith and desperation for the Lord still absolutely blows me away and has taught me so much. You see firsthand what it looks like to really hunger and when I say hunger I mean hunger for Him! I can talk about it all day, but until you actually come see and experience it firsthand you could never fully get the impact of it all. I can only stratch the surface. I was having a conversation with Moses and Barbara just the other day and Moses was worried about my eating habits because until I got my stove fixed I was living on PBJ sandwiches and Pringles…haha. Sounds like a typical college student living on Romaine noodles right after they move out. I found it comical. However, Ugandans never eat sandwiches so they do not see that as filling. Some of them do not even know what sandwiches are. You see the meals here are served in mass quantities. They pile on the food, which at first sounds ironic because you think of them being poor and of them having little food. Most of them do have little food, but when food it available, they it pile on as much as possible because they never know when food will be available again so they stock up. I was telling them that I’m use to eating several small meals a day at home and the realization came over me that that’s our culture. We grew up assuming food will always be in abundance and we do not know what it’s like to be without much of anything really…I’m talking true needs, not simply wants. At first it almost makes me feel guilty, while knowing guilt is not from God. It makes you wonder why am I so blessed to live here and how can they live here? Only God can answer that question and I believe it’s in one’s perspective on how you define what a “blessing” is. Whether you see it through spiritual eyes into what really matters: things such as spending quality time with people and loving others or through earthy eyes and see only blessings as material possessions.

So even though at times it gets really difficult living here, it’s still not nearly as difficult as what the majority of the Ugandan population has witnessed, seen, and experience on a daily basis. Even though at times I get homesick and miss home, it really pairs in comparison to the rewards I receive and will receive. It’s totally worth the sacrifices! I would even go as far as recommending at least every person if they had the opportunity to live in a 3rd world country for at least a month. It will change your life forever. Truly you will never be the same.

Back to my house, the Lord has provided the perfect individuals to assist me. My boyfriend, Moses has been a huge source of support through this time. Shopping in Africa is very different from shopping in the U.S. If anyone of you have been to a 3rd World country you will understand firsthand what I mean. While there are set prices on all items in the U.S., here one has to pretty much bargain for everything you buy and unfortunately the system is often corrupt, even more so when you are “White.” The assumption on behalf of a good percentage of Africans in the community is that a white person=dollars ($). Sometimes I will find myself burdened and discouraged by this assumption because I have such a high respect, love, and deep appreciation for the Ugandan people and it’s hard not desiring that same love and respect from them. I desire them to see me for who I am, not for what they may think I have ($). So, Ugandans in the community markets needless to say typically attempt to charge white people more money than a typical Ugandan. So one night as Moses and I were shopping I decided to test this theory of the Ugandans charging “White people” what they call Muzungo price. Muzungo=white person in the local language. It’s not a derogatory term, simply a label like we would call black people black. So Moses and I agreed on pricing a certain TV in a local appliance store. Moses walks in first by himself as if he was shopping for a TV. He casually asks a lady who works in the store how much this TV is. She tells him 1,000,000 Ugandan shillings, lowest price, which is around $500. He says, “ok” and walks out of the store. Meanwhile, I was hiding outside the store as he walked in so no one would know we were together and charge him a higher price because he was with me. So about five minutes later I walk in the same store, price the same TV, and ask the very same lady. She tells me 1,300,000, Ugandan shillings, which was 300 more expensive than the price she just gave Moses. I could only laugh at how corrupt the system was and how individuals intentionally charge white people more money because they assume we all have it. So I say all that to say, Moses goes before me and bargains and gets good deals on items I need for my home. Then we travel together to those places and purchase the items together after they’ve given a good, reasonable price.

I actually found out about the house through Barbara, a Ugandan friend of mine. She actually is my next door neighbor. It’s in an area I’m familiar with, it’s secure, and there is also support from Watoto nearby. It has a storeroom, a sitting room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. It’s plenty big enough for just me. So far I’ve purchased a refrigerator, a stove/oven, cooking utensils, pots & pans, curtains, a fan, rugs for the floor, a bed, mosquito net, and other odds and ends. Your funds are being used very practically and items are being purchased in an attitude that desires to be the best steward of the money that is given to me. Please pray with me in regard to finances. I’ve been hit with a lot of expenses all at once and it’s been a bit stressful. I’m a saver not a spender so sometimes it creates stress within me to feel as if I’m spending so much all at once when I worked hard to save and build that savings up. However, they are all necessary items. I’ve had to pay for the car I now drive around the crazy roads of Kampala J. Also, for my stay at the Watoto guesthouse, 4 months rent in my new house, plus all the furnishings. I’ve had to also pay for car repairs, added expense for fuel and food. Although, now that I’m driving, I’m saving more on transport, which is a blessing.

My immediate boss, Brent Smith, who I came over with has been in the U.S. since the beginning of June so I have basically been free to make my own schedule and have been staying very busy actually. I’ve enjoyed the freedom that has created. Although he’s really been good to me, on somethings I’ve been left to learn the ropes alone, which has honestly been good for me. It’s been stressful at times, but the Lord has sent the right ones to help me at the right times and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Throughout the time he has been away, I’ve almost completed all of the education training with the mothers and teachers in Bbira and Suubi Village. I have copied below the outline of what I’ve been teaching and speaking to the mother’s and teachers in the villages about. It’s my prayer the following information gives you a better idea of what my work has consisted of.

Education Classes Outline: Assets Management

The Lord desires us to be good stewards of what we have, so how can we do that?

When I began the training in Bbira Village I teamed up with the head of maintenance of that village, Richard. Each village has a supervisor who is in charge of maintenance. Each village also has a maintenance team who works to keep the villages looking nice and presentable to teams and visitors that come to Watoto from outside. Richard and I co-taught the mothers of one circle of homes at a time. We chose to teach only 9 mothers at a time opposed to holding one mass meeting so we could easily communicate intimately about concerns and questions they had. We also wanted to ensure we created an atmosphere where they could honestly and freely voice their concerns and raise any questions they had that they may not have raised had we met in a large group. It’s easy to get lost in a large group and shy away from honest concerns and questions. Each circle contains 9 homes, with nine mothers, with 8 children in each home. In each circle there is a senior mother who is in charge of handling issues, concerns that come up within the mothers and children in each circle. So mainly the training consisted of me introducing myself, explaining to them my role in Watoto, the work I’ve been doing, long-term goals, and the purpose of what I’m doing what I’m doing.

1. Getting to know me:

a. Who I Am:

b. My role in Watoto:

1. Discovery stage (I walked through every building: home, school, clinic that Watoto owns and took notes of everything that needed repair.)

2. Report stage (I compiled the above information into written reports for each village.)

3. Financial stage (Then I put a cost to items that need repair in order to present the pressing need to the ministry so action may be taken. I’m acting as a voice of hope (liason between the mothers and the ministry, advocating for them.)

4. Education stage (The stage I’m just finishing now. It consists of training mothers and teachers to report, organizing a new system of reporting repairs.)

5. Fundraising stage: In the meantime, the money has to be raised to fund repairs.

6. Inventory stage: We also discuss long-term goals: One of those is for Watoto to build a storehouse with 50% of all items in the home on reserve at all times. That way when one items goes out and is installed into the home, another comes in. Then we can control all the inventory. Will build this up gradually.

7. Easily maintained from there

c. My purpose for being in their homes is:

1. To show them where we’ve been, where we currently are, where we’re headed as a maintenance staff.

2. Assets Management Training:

a. What is assets management? How can we do it?

b. The purpose of the training:

Who (is doing training): Richard & I

What: Assets management and/or maintenance training

Where: in each senior mother’s home


1. To build trust with the mothers. We want you to know that we care about you and that someone is hearing your requests. That your requests aren’t simply falling on deaf ears. We want you to know the big picture of what goes on behind the scene and understand the process. I’ve found that when we seek to understand, we find compassion.

2. We desire to empower you and give you a voice in the process. It begins with you.

3. Instill in them a sense of ownership. It’s your home and it’s important for you to take care of it.

3. Goals: What is the purpose of goals? To help us achieve things in life right?

a. To bring all the maintenance work, repairs and cost on a level playing ground. Once this is accomplished, then we will need to have at least 50% in parts on reserve at all times. The goal is then to maintain and control inventory. (When one part goes out and is put in a home, another item is ordered)

b. To get the mothers to buy in and learn that as they report=results happen (items get fixed). Mom’s have to know there’s a point of beginning (with them reporting). They have to report in order to raise awareness to Management that something’s broken.

c. We want to empower you by giving you resources that will give you a voice, to include you in the process, show you that your concerns are being heard and aren’t falling on deaf ears.

d. Local Facilities Manager to oversea all processes

Then we go into teaching them the new system of reporting repairs. I’ve implemented a few forms and I’m teaching them how to use it, ect…

I’m still praying about other opportunities to open up for me within Watoto, while focusing on being busy and meeting a need now in the maintenance department. The Lord is good about reminding me and showing me different small ways I’m making a difference. For example: I called a meeting about a month ago and I invited both Richard (maintenance supervisor in Bbira village) and Moses (not my boyfriend Moses, but a different one who is the maintenance supervisor in Suubi village). After the meeting Moses said, “this is the first time I’ve set foot in the office for a meeting since he got hired awhile back. “ The Lord is using me to bring people together and to build unity within the team.

In addition to holding trainings and meetings, I spent the week with the South Haven Baptist Church team from Springfield and assisted them in building a medical clinic from mud brick. I also got to spend some quality time treating Lisa to a relaxing few days before she headed back to the U.S. She trusted my mad driving skills enough to allow me to drive her around to all my local hangouts around Kampala J. Although it was difficult saying goodbye and part of me was envious that they were returning to my home, the Lord pulled me through. I’m to a point now where today it is 4 months until I return in December. I will arrive back in the U.S. 12/9/11. Although I’m enjoying my stay here, my heart still longs for home.

As far as prayer requests are concerned…

1. Please pray I get my work permit. I really need this to move ahead with other legal documents.

2. Please pray the Lord protects me as I’m now driving myself around all the time by myself in the major city of Kampala.

3. Pray for continued strength, wisdom, and encouragement. At times I can get a bit lonely, discouraged, and homesick now that I’m in a house by myself.

4. Please pray for the people here and the ministry I’m doing here.

5. That I will continue to walk in the Lord’s love, light, and strength.

6. Please pray for Moses and I and our relationship. We are making serious plans for the future and want the Lord to direct our steps in everything we do!

Finally, as I conclude I’m almost finished taking the discipleship class on Thurs. evenings. It’s been a great course. I will be attending an overnight evening of prayer this Friday from 9pm-6am.

I believe overall the most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is how to put self on the back burner and how to live a selfless life. I pray you received a blessing from reading this lengthy journal entry, but I had a lot of catching up to do! I love you all!