"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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Grace

Easter was yesterday.   What a blessed day it was!  Our family had our traditional big breakfast.  We had a wonderful Sunday school and church service focusing on the Resurrection of Christ.  We had a record attendance, I think...over 200 people!  Our church served soda and mandazi (donut like things) after the service.  After the service, the kids in Miss Sarah's reading class sang a song and her ballet class performed their dance that they had been learning.  Then we had about 35 people over for lunch: the Magalas, a couple families from our team and a few other friends.  Then we had our normal program in the afternoon for all the kids.

In the morning, as I was finishing our breakfast preparations in the dark (power had been off for more than 24 hours, our batteries were finished and it was too early to put on the noisy generator), I was remembering an Easter from a very very long time ago.

It was our first Easter as a little family having moved away from where our families were.  Eric was in Seminary and our little Timothy was just a baby, and I was pregnant with Katelyn.  For some reason (I really can't remember all the details...likely I was just trying to survive morning sickness), I had hardly given a passing thought to the fact that it was Easter.  Until I went to church.  Everyone was in their Easter finest and they were all talking about who in their extended clan was going to host dinner, what they were eating, what their plans were.  And my friend turned to me and asked, "So what are your plans for Easter dinner?"  The awful truth was, it was just PB &J at home!  Timothy didn't have any new cute clothes and there was no roast waiting in the oven.  I laugh when I think about it now!  On that day though, I remember going home in tears.  My tears were tears of loneliness and failure.

I learned two lessons that day.  First, I counted the cost, for the first time, in a very real way, of what it meant to be in ministry.  I realized that I would likely never have another Easter with our physical family.  And we haven't.  And now, we are making almost four years not even having seen most of our physical family.  There is a cost to ministry.  I have always been amazed though, at how much God has returned to us!  After that first Easter, I have never had a holiday without our Christian family around.  God has always provided so much family away from family for us!  He is so gracious to us!

Second, I realized that as a wife and a mom, I needed to be more careful to make our holidays to be true Holy Days.  I needed to be careful not to over-do the holy day in an earthly temporal way, but not to under-do it so as to loose the spiritual blessing of using one day out of the year to give my family the opportunity to particularly focus on an aspect of Christ's earthly ministry.  That particular Easter, I was guilty of the second.  God gives us days of feasting and celebration because he loves to see his people rejoicing and exalting in Him and His completed work!  It is good and noble work, as a wife and a mom, to participate in that...to help the family rejoice and celebrate!    

I love the fact that yesterday we were surrounded by so much joy.  There were people.  There was praise, there was worship, there was food, there was fellowship, there was singing!  What a great way to celebrate: Christ conquered sin and death!  He Has Done It!!!  (Ps. 22:31) We are no longer slaves, but free.  No longer having a heart of stone, but rather a heart of flesh.  No longer lonely, but set into a great big family.  No longer left to worship ourselves, but rather to worship the One who made us!  No longer left to starve, but rather allowed to feast on the Righteousness of Christ.  No longer blind, but now able to see.  What grace...

...what beautiful Easter grace...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Baptisms Today

Today was a day full of rejoicing at church!  We welcomed 6 new members: 2 through profession of faith and 4 through adult baptism.

First was Tony and his mom.  Tony has been coming to church for years...long before we arrived here.  His mom, up until the last 4-5 months, always had to work at a local hotel on Sundays.  She is now no longer working on Sundays and is able to attend church.  It's been great to have her around!

Next is Brian.  He's been coming to church for more than a year and recently his mom started to attend as well.

Next is Isaac.  He and his siblings come to church without their parents.  Isaac really wanted to be baptized.

Then came Shalom and Gloria.  Shalom and Gloria are brother and sister.

Due to varying circumstances, Gloria moved in with Pastor Charles and his family about 6 months ago.  They have unofficially adopted her, in a very local sense.  If I showed you a picture of her from before she moved compared to her picture today, you would hardly recognize her.  She has grown so beautiful in so many ways!  Her joy this morning was so evident!

Because of the breakdown of the family, we have so many children come to church without their father or mother.  They are usually children who have a temperament of being bold and brave and well, a bit stubborn, to leave their homes and walk all the way to our compound to attend church.  Usually, the fact that they are regularly allowed to come by themselves (and often bringing toddler aged siblings with them!) gives testimony to the fact that they aren't well supervised at home.  Practically, this means that we have a difficult bunch of kids to disciple!  And if I'm really honest, some days it's down right tough!

But it's on those tough days, that I have to remember pictures like this.  No one is beyond the joy filled grip of grace.  God is working, "slowly by slowly" as they say here.  May my heart not grow hardened during those tough days, but rather stay soft with the beauty of what God is doing.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pro-Life, Pro-Adoption T-Shirts For Sale!

Did you know that the average cost of an international adoption is $15000-$40000?  Due to Uganda's unique adoption laws (having to go to court twice...once for legal guardianship and once for full adoption) and our situation of living overseas, ours is on the higher end.  

Our good friends in America blessed us by designing these t-shirts and starting this fund raiser for us!  What a gift!  

Would you consider buying a pro-life, pro-adoption shirt to support us?  We have a goal of selling 100 shirts in 18 days.  So far we have sold 19!  That is enough to cover the cost of her passport! 

Thank you for all your prayers and love as we walk this journey to match Denise's legal status with the status of our hearts.

Here is the link:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Trip to Kampala

We are in Kampala for Denise's court case to gain Legal Guardianship.  We've had a great time!  Our lawyers thought that the judge might like to see that we've done a few things to learn about Ugandan culture and history, so we came a day early to be "tourists for a day."  We only brought the big kids (the little kids stayed home with our MA) so it's been fun to be able to move at a big kid pace.  The court went very well...far better than we expected it to.  So we praise God and give thanks to him for all the great ways that he has worked! 

Here is a photo dump from the past couple days.  

We rented a house through airbnb.  It is a gorgeous house that sits way up on a hill overlooking the city.  The lights are beautiful at night.

On Tuesday we visited the Kabaka's (King's) Palace.  During Idi Amin's time it was changed into an army barrack.  After Musevini came to power, he gave it back to the Kabaka, although it is no longer used as his personal house.  Now it is used for meetings and special ceremonies.

What fascinated us the most about our visit was seeing the remains of Idi Amin's torture chambers that are on the property.  He (and Milton Obote, who ruled directly after Idi Amin and was thought to have actually killed as many, if not more than Amin) would fill this chamber with about a foot of water and then electrocute the water and the people in it.  There were four additional chambers off to the side where they would keep people until they fully died.  It is estimated that over 200,000 people died here.  

Words to the wise..."Never Forget"

yea...we had fun together...

This is Jimmy standing next to the remains of the car of Mutesa II...the king who became the first president of Uganda.

And here is a hilarious video.  The horn was used to signal many things for the Kabaka.  Here is our tour guide showing us how to blow it and then Eric trying.

This is looking from the King's Palace down the road to Parliament.

At parliament, you can buy these certificates.  The money is used to support the Kabaka.  Our lawyers thought the judge might appreciate seeing that we had participated in this part of the Buganda culture, so we got some. And each of the kids wanted one to remember their visit with too.  Denise asked if she could use what will eventually be her new name.  I think it looks pretty good, don't you?

From there we went to visit the Uganda Martyrs shrine.  The Uganda martyrs were a group of 20 or so men who died at the hands of one of the kings who wanted to have homosexual relationships with them.  They refused because of their faith and the king killed them.  (Half of them were catholic and half of them were Anglican)  Later, it is said, the king became a Christian.  Every year we celebrate martyrs day in honor of these men.

The inside of the Catholic church is quite beautiful and around the edge are stained glass windows with the names and pictures of all the young men.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A little update...

Life's been extra busy again the past couple weeks.  Here are a few highlights.

::Our MA, Sarah moved into the house behind us.  The compound neighbors ours.  We put in a gate, fixed up the house and now it makes a cute little place, perfectly suited to the ministry that Sarah does.  She has a school room to teach her reading classes, a guest room, a storage room for us, her room, a kitchen and even an american bathroom. (score!)  Right now, she has a great new friend staying with her...Miss Paige.  But our kids actually call her Miss Paige of the Paper.  Miss Paige of the Paper has a really fun pair of trousers and Talitha happened to find the exact same ones in her size at the store.  She was SO excited to find them!  :-)

::The girls had their spring dance recital.  Due to schedules, elections and everyone's furlough plans, they only had about 5 practices to put all this together.  Lots of fun though!

::My Timothy turned 15!  Katelyn surprised him by making him a hobbit hole cake.  Super cute!  I love these kids!