"to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faithin me." Acts 26:18

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Marriage and Family Retreat for the Pastors and their wives of the OPCU

This past Monday night to Tuesday, Eric and I took the pastors and their wives for a one night retreat to focus on marriage and family and ministry issues.  We had 12 couples in all, including us.  We had a session on marriage and ministry led by Eric, a session for the men led by Eric and for the women led by me and then we finished with a session with a session on family and ministry.  We also had a time when the couples could spend time with just the two of them talking and praying.  

We praise the Lord so much for how he blessed our time together.  Family life, in general, here in Uganda is so weak (even more so than in America).  In addition, the pastors and their families are under constant attacks from the evil one.  What a blessing it was to be able to get away with them and give some much needed nourishment.  This was especially true for the wives.  The men tend to get more training when they attend Knox Theological College.  Eric often brings marriage and family issues into his lectures.  This is wonderful!  But it is also hard for the wives to start to be led by their husbands in ways that they have never heard of or been taught.  They were so eager to hear God's wonderful design for being godly wives and mothers!

The beautiful Sipi Falls...

Me and My absolutely amazing husband...  I love this guy so much!

The group...

I was really thankful for our kids this week too!  We left them overnight for the first time without a Mzungu watching them.  During the mornings we had our friend here who works for us, during the afternoons they were on their own and at night Carol was here. So, while there was always an adult around, these adults weren't babysitting them; for the most part they were in charge of themselves and on their own.  Timothy took a boda into town and picked up pizza for all the kids for supper (and soda and doritos--they were all quite pleased with his choices...haha!). After supper they all cleaned up and the big kids got the littles in bed.  During the day on Tuesday, they home schooled themselves with the big kids helping the little kids.  We were pretty impressed with their growing maturity, although promises of milkshakes at Endiro might have helped a wee bit towards that end too... haha!  This is one of the many ways that our kids participate in ministry.  If it weren't for them, the night away wouldn't have been such an amazing success!  I'm so thankful for this crew the Lord has blessed us with!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Off to School...

It was with great excitement that Carol, our friend and current guest in our spare room, woke up this morning.  For weeks she had been praying that God would provide her, a 22 year old single mom, with the school fees necessary to go back and finish her last year of high school.  Just days before the final dead-line, God did just that.  School started a 7:30 this morning and she had a mile and a half to walk with all her school supplies, but she was all smiles as she got every thing ready that Baby Divine would need for the day.

So, for the foreseeable future we get to do our school with a sweet baby toddling around and her mama gets to use her time at our house to prepare herself for her future.

It's been fun to pull out my sling again and wear this little girl while she falls asleep.  I don't think I've ever met an African baby who gets put down to sleep before she is actually asleep.  Although I did get a chuckle or two out of my friend that works for me in the mornings because I was wearing her on my front and not my back... ;-) On another cultural note, Divine only owns two diapers and a few liners because full time diapering isn't usually done here.  Makes for some interesting times with this mzungu mama.  Maybe one day, I'll have her figured out just like her mama does (she has an amazingly few amount of accidents when mama is around)... But in the mean time I might be praying for the Lord to consider giving us a few more diapers (I gave all mine away!)...

and I might have thanked God for tile floors more than a few times

...and a washer and dryer that works fairly quickly...  :D

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Consider with me...

Matthew 19: 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


James 5: 1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

I think, when many Americans read these verses, they assume that the “rich person” being referred to must be someone like Bill Gates.  Maybe they think that it would be someone who could afford to buy a small country or pay cash for an airplane.  Or maybe, they would at least say, that these warnings are only for the 1%; the rest of the 99% of American people need not worry about this warning.  When we lived in America, and resided in the mid to lower end of the American salary spectrum, I was definitely guilty of this type of thinking.  I never worried myself too much about these warnings.  It was easy to look around, see many people who were wealthier than us and therefore consider our family to be on the poorer side of things.  When we moved to Uganda, our salary and standard of living changed very little, but our perspective changed a lot.  We suddenly were thrust into the 1% percent of our surrounding neighbors.  Suddenly, we came face-to-face with the reality that we are rich…  We are the rich people of Matthew 19 and James 5 that will have difficulty obtaining heaven apart from God’s particular grace to meet us in our weakness.
This has led me to question…

What exactly is it about being rich that makes it hard to enter heaven?  By looking into my own prone-to-wandering-heart and into scripture, I can see a few things…

A rich person can end up trusting in his riches.  Riches give us a better education, better food, better health, and better access to theological literature.  Riches give the appearance of strength and power physically, spiritually and intellectually.  In reality, Christ is the only source of strength and power.  To rest in our own strength and power is to deny the sufficiency of Christ.

A rich person can become a proud person…boasting in himself.  It is easy to look around and be well-pleased with the fruitful work of one’s strong hands.  But Christ wants us to boast in our weakness, because we are recognizing that his grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Rich people don’t have as many easily apparent weaknesses to boast in, so it becomes difficult to see that his grace is sufficient.

A rich person can often fail to cultivate a deep trusting relationship with his provider God because he sees very little that his own hand cannot provide.  When I listen to the depth of prayer and the urgency with which my brothers and sisters in Uganda pray for daily bread, school fees, traveling mercies, and health concerns, I realize that I am missing a unique depth of relationship that they have.  They trust God because there is nothing else to trust in.  Related to this, rich people tend to store up treasures and things in their garages, attics, cupboards, storage rooms and closets.  All these items are sitting there “just in case a need arises.”  All these items, that could be put to good use by someone else or sold and the money given to the poor, are just sitting there for years, degenerating.  I fully believe these items will be evidence against us on the Day of Judgment. (James 5:3)  Oh to have greater faith that would trust God to provide when our needs arise, rather than storing up our own treasures so we can provide for ourselves.

Rich people can easily think of themselves as “blessed” because they have a house, they have a car, they have a full refrigerator, and they have their needs met.  These are all good things to be thankful for, but they are not how scripture tells us we are “blessed.”   Matthew 5 defines a blessed person as meek, pure and merciful.  He or she is a peace-makers who mourns, is poor in spirit, and who is persecuted because of his righteousness.   Rich people can be easily distracted by their so-called “blessings,” and fail to strive for God’s blessings, but the poor Christian brother and sister is more likely to see and experience God’s blessings as He defines them because they have very few things to be distracted by.

A rich person can easily live in a bubble and forget about the poor.  It is easy to get caught up in the daily life of the wealthy: private Christian school life, church building committee life, soccer-mom life, work-life, country club life, home school mom-life, etc.  All the while, millions are suffering and trying to find their basic necessities.  Failure to pull one’s head out of the daily life of the rich and do things for the “least of these” puts one in danger of hearing the Lord say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 25: 31-46)

A rich person can easily fatten his heart.  Let’s face it, obesity rates in America are crazy high.  Is it just our bodies that are fat, or could our hearts be also?  Just like it is difficult for rich people to stay physically fit, it can be difficult for a rich person to keep his heart fit, in-shape and ready for service like a good soldier.  Being physically fit takes self-denial: not eating the rich, pleasurable foods or spending one’s daily calorie allotment on empty calories.  A physically –fit person may enjoy a slice of something chocolaty every once in a while, but it isn't where his fork usually resides.  Heart fitness takes self-denial too: not participating in the rich, pleasurable life style that the world has to offer.  A spiritually fit person doesn't spend all his time or money that he has been given on spiritually-empty, self-pleasuring, self-entertaining activities.  He might enjoy some entertainment every once in a while to the glory of God, but it isn't where his heart resides.  But rich people have so much excess time and money (or access to it via credit cards) to participate in all sorts of potentially unhelpful entertainment: gaming systems, cruises, large screen TVs, fine dining, fine wines and IPA beers, novels, movie theaters, etc.  A rich person has to exercise great self-control to not over participate in these things and end up fattening his heart.  Just like maintaining control over one’s body is hard, maintaining control over one’s heart is hard too!  And just like science has made clear that obesity leads to death, James has made clear that when we fatten our hearts, we do so for the day of slaughter.

Is it therefore wrong and sinful to be rich? Or should we feel guilty for being rich?  No.  It is not wrong to be rich nor should we feel guilty that we have money while others struggle for money.  We do not need to feel guilty or sinful every time we shop for groceries that we have been given the means to provide for our families while others haven’t.  Nor should we feel guilty about earning more money.  But we must be very aware that being rich puts us in a position where we can be (and probably are!) easily deceived by Satan in many areas simply because our culture does not see these things as sin.  Being wealthy is a potentially dangerous place for our souls to be.  The Bible shows that there are many ways a rich person can be guilty of not glorifying God with their wealth and therefore be found guilty of sin and in need of repentance.  This is the reason that I Timothy 6:9 warns that the desire of riches (and that can include the desire for a certain standard of living) can cause people to “fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”  We must pray earnestly that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will sensitize us to these sins in a world that is so desensitized to them.  If we have failed in these areas, a contrite and repentant heart that looks to the cross of Christ will glorify God and his grace to us and save even the rich!  With God, even the salvation of a rich person is possible!

And as we seek to grow in sanctification in the area of wealth, a good passage to meditate on is I Timothy 6: 17-19 in-which God tells us what we SHOULD do with our wealth.  It says, “17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”  Being rich in good works, generous, ready to share our wealth and storing up treasure in heaven by giving our earthly treasure away is a means of grace to us.  God gives us this particular grace for our particular soul-threatening status of being rich. If we have been given wealth, it is in our spiritual best interest to lower our standard of living so that we have more to give.  We must put off the old man by fleeing the particular sins that can accompany wealth and we must put on the new man by being rich in good works, generous and ready to share!

And we can take comfort that while we work on our hearts in this area, God is also working in us to bring our hearts into submission to his will.  That is the comfort of Matthew 19:26: “With man this [a rich person being saved] is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  When I see the hardness of my heart, God says “I can change it.  All things are possible for me.”  Through the power of the triune God, may we all be known to the world as a people that seek God with our wealth!  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kampala, Benaiah and more work in the house...

What a busy couple weeks!  We have known for a while now that Benaiah is struggling with Asthma.  But at the same time, we have been puzzled as to why his oxygen saturation rates can drop so low without him having an asthma attack or even coughing an wheezing.  He was born with a hole in his heart and had had numerous tests in America before we moved to make sure that it wouldn't cause a problem.  Even so, we thought we had better get it rechecked.

So last week Benaiah and I took the bus to Kampala for a night to the Uganda Heart Institution.

We stayed at a guest house right near the hospital.  It had a double bed in it.  Benaiah was so excited to share a bed for a night.  I was tired, so I went to bed the same time he did.  When we were all snuggled in he said, "Oh good mommy, now we can snuggle like I'm the husband and you're the wife."  Heehee... I said, "Sometimes Daddy and I hold hands when we fall asleep, would you like to hold my hand?"  He grabbed my hand and then said, "like this mommy, am I doing a good job?"  Then he promptly went to sleep.  I thought it was sweet until the middle of the night when he decided to take over the whole bed...

We had to be at the hospital VERY early (6:30 am!!) in order to get in line to see the doctor we wanted.  By 8 am, there were more than 100 people waiting!  We didn't get seen until about 10 am.  Lots of waiting.  Then Benaiah had an EKG and ECHO.  Praise the Lord, everything came back as normal!

On the way back, the bus stopped at the road side stand that we affectionately call the In Your Face Chicken Place.  Sooo yummy!

Then, just this week, Benaiah had a chest xray.  Again, the doctor here said that every thing looks normal.  We praise the Lord for this!  But of course, we still don't know why he is doing what he is doing.  But we thank every one for their prayers.  Actually, in the past couple weeks since the construction dust settled down, he has been doing better than he has for a long time.  So we praise the Lord for that, too.  We would appreciate prayers that if there is a problem that we need to know about that God would reveal that to us.  In the mean time, please pray for peace to reign in our hearts and for as good of health as possible for Benaiah.

And today the next phase of construction is taking place: putting texture on the ceilings.  Then after that we can begin to repaint and hopefully make our house a little more cozy and organized again.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A dozen ways to know you are raising your children in Uganda...

::Your 3 year old absolutely refuses to go to sleep without a mosquito net down.

::Your drive to church includes a rehearsal in how to greet in the local tribal language.

::As parents, you compare the safety of everything else your children participate in to a boda-ride. (motorcycle taxi)  As in, “It’s probably no more dangerous than a boda.” Or “that is way more dangerous than riding a boda.”

::Your 7 year old isn't afraid to ask anyone for anything.  Mildly embarrassing when you walk out of a guest house room and find the manager cutting up a jackfruit because your son asked him to. 

::When your family is alone, you often have to remind the kids that they don’t have to speak in a Ugandan accent.

::During circumcision season, you have to tell your 5 year old boy to stop circumcising his carrots at the dinner table.

::Your children argue about whether the name Emma sounds more like a girls’ name or a boys’ name (A common short form of “Emmanuel”). 

:: On the rare occasion that you happen to be some place cold, your three year old freaks out at the idea of wearing socks.

::That same three year old also loses her shoes and no one notices for a couple weeks until it is time to walk out the door to go to Kampala.  (okay, maybe that’s a large family problem…keeping up with more than 20 pairs of shoes is no small feat)  After a frantic search, you give up and take her barefoot to the big city.  You stay there for a few days not worrying about it, but when it is time to go to the very westernized dentist office, you think to yourself, “this girl really needs some shoes” so you buy her a cute pair of Mary Janes.  She loves them and tells everyone (from the lady in the check out line to the receptionist at the dentist's office) how cute they are, but absolutely refuses to walk a single step in them because she hates the way they feel…she just wants to hold them and continue to run barefoot in the warm January sun.

:: Your son hands you his church time art work composed of scary faces upside down on top of flames and says, “Those are all the omuzimu (Luganda for ghosts) going to hell.”

::A boda ride to the clinic and back again makes immunizations worth it in the eyes of your kids.

::Your little ones who can’t remember America want to know, “Are there playgrounds in America?”

So thankful to be able to raise our kids here!  They keep us laughing for sure!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reorganizing and Beginning School Again...

We are so happy to have the worst of the construction over and done with.  The ceilings still need to be textured and painted.  Then we will be able to repaint the walls and be finished with all this mess!  :)

We were able to move back into our bedrooms on Monday.  It was so wonderful to have everyone in their own beds and own rooms for the first time in three and a half weeks!  In the mean time, we also were able to shift some rooms and shelves around and make better use of our space.  The toy room got turned into a school room, complete with a set of shelves that the girls no longer wanted in their room.  Timothy and Matthew turned the old school room (a large-closet sized room) into their bedroom.  Their bunk bed and a large shelf fit quite nicely in there.  Even with all the toys now in the little boys' room, their room is still much more open and spacious.  It probably helps that we've turned into "minimalist" with the toys these days...almost 2 years ago now, we gave away all their toys except one Rubber Maid bin each of Legos, Duplos, & Thomas trains and one bin of dishes, cars and Lincoln Logs.  (I was inspired by this article and have never regretted getting rid of the "stuff.")

The kids and I are absolutely loving the new school room!  We are so thankful for it!

We also had fun last week doing an art project.  The very fact that I took pictures and am putting it here should let you know exactly how often I do an art project with the kids... but we did have fun.  We studied Giotto Di Bondone and then crushed chalk, mixed it with egg yolk and painted.

Talitha told us that she was painting a picture of herself...abstract art?