Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crisis in Somalia

Hi, I just wanted as many people as possible to read this, there is a huge crisis going on in Somalia right now. Well, there have been horrible things happening there for a very long time, but it's reached a peak. the southern part of the country is controlled by Al Shabab, an Islamist insurgent group, and they are making what is already a bad situation worse. there is famine and drought in the country and Al Shabab is preventing dying and sick people from leaving the country in order to receive help as refugees in neighboring countries. it's a very dire situation. you can read more about it in this article:

Somalis Waste Away as Insurgents Block Escape From Famine

and you can donate to any organizations listed here:

How to Help Victims of the East Africa famine

I wish I could help more, but we also know that as believers our prayers are heard by the Creator of the universe, whose heart breaks for the people in eastern Africa. please give this situation a few minutes of your time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

the illusion of control

Washing machines, ovens, smart phones, Starbucks, McDonalds, consistent electricity, hot water, super stores, microwaves. These are a few things I’ve experienced again after not being around them for a very long time. It is very strange to be used to cold showers and cooking over a fire and a limited choice of food and washing clothes by hand, and suddenly it all changes, and life becomes much easier, at least on the surface. It is strange to me that I am comfortable at Hard Rock Café at a folk concert and also deep in a Ugandan village, eating plantains and rice with my hands. It is strange that I am comfortable driving a fancy, smooth-running car down the pristine Phoenician highways and also on the back of a Ugandan motorcycle, no helmet on, riding sideways while wearing a skirt or carrying a child on my back. My life is full of so many seeming contradictions; experiences that are all so incredibly different from each other. I feel very blessed that I feel at home in such different places among such diverse people.

But there are very hard aspects of this life. My heart aches at missing people and places and traditions in Uganda. I felt the same way when I was there, away from the US and the people I love here. Because of the life I have been given, there are certain realities I will always have to deal with. All of the people I love will never be in the same place. An ocean will always separate me from many I consider family, many who are so dear to me. There will always be things I miss about the culture I am not currently living in. On the other hand, there will always be things I find frustrating or difficult about the place I am in. I think the sooner I come to terms with that, the better.

And I don’t just want to come to terms with it. I want to be joyful in whatever place I am calling home. I want to thrive in it; to be used in it for God’s purpose; I want to appreciate the norms about life in those places. It is a very hard thing at times, as anyone who’s experienced similar circumstances will know.

One thing God has been teaching me since being here is about what is important. About letting some things go, or at least letting go of the control I THINK I have over the situation or the person, or whatever the case may be. Basically He is teaching me more about His sovereignty and how He is the one who calls the shots and it is HIS mercy and grace and love that keeps me alive and gives me joy… it is nothing I myself have done or deserve. I deserve death and punishment or at least a separation from God, but He in His mercy doesn’t give me those things; He gives me so much more than I could ever imagine.

We serve such a good and unexpected God. I love the way He does things in way I never would have thought of or imagined. He really surprises me :) I hope I never lose that sense of wonder in who He is and this life He has given me. I would ask for your prayers in what God is doing in me right now, that I would be wise and patient and listen to Him and be obedient and not do things on my own initiative. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Emergency: Ugandan family in need

Sometimes I wonder at the things God allows. I wonder why He lets so many people suffer in so many different ways. But I also know that God is a God of redemption, of second chances, of making beauty from ashes. I trust Him; He has shown Himself faithful time and again.

Today I found out that my Ugandan family - Fred's aunt and uncle, the family I just spent 15 months with - has had something terrible happen to them. They had just paid for 3 months' rent when their landlord's sons came over and said they had to begin renovating the house. They gave them a day's warning and told them to leave. They have nowhere to go; no money with which to do that. So WITH THE FAMILY STILL INSIDE, they began taking all of the tiles off of the roof of their house. The house is open on top and it has been raining. You can imagine what ensued. Their house keeps leaking and flooding and there are still many people living inside of it. There were also dozens of bats living in their ceiling and it has made a giant, disgusting mess in their house. I am shocked at what they are having to go through and how they have been treated. I was just living in this house 2 short weeks ago. But for a few days difference, I would have been personally dealing with this situation.

They don't have money to move anywhere else at the moment. They need about $500 right now to move into a new place and pay a few months of rent in advance. Please, if you can help this family, donate through my Paypal account (the link is on the right of the page) and I will send the money to them. If you can, write 'Ugandan family' on the Paypal note and I'll make sure it gets to them. I cannot even imagine what they are dealing with right now. This is a good and godly family who has served the Lord for many years. Please pray with them as they try to move forward and help financially if you are able to.

I just called my host dad, Fred's uncle, who lives in that house. He said to me, "God will provide. It is when we struggle that He most manifests Himself." I want a faith like that. God works in ways we don't understand, that is one thing I DO understand.

Thanks so much, and God bless.


To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.
Isaiah 61:3

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

some requests & an update

Wow! I can't believe we're approaching the end of April. Time is flying VERY fast for me, I'm not sure about you! As I speak I am planning on heading back to Phoenix in mid-May, though I've not yet bought my ticket. That's coming up very soon! There are a few requests I'd like to humbly make of you, a few things I'd like to make everyone aware of, in case you are able/willing to help.

-please pray for me as I wrap some things up here and say goodbye for a while/transitioning

-please also pray for the ministry that Fred and I are beginning; that is a major reason I am coming back to visit (more details to come on that)

-I will be needing to earn some money (in addition to raising support/ministry money) while I'm back - so if you have any work I can help you with/baby sitting/pet sitting/house sitting/ anything of that kind, please let me know.

-I am in need of a car and a phone if anyone has either of those I can borrow for the time I'm there (May-December) or ANY amount of time

There are probably things I'm forgetting but those are the major ones, I believe! Thank you for reading this, for keeping up with me, and for your prayers. I hope to see many of you while I'm back!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm alive! :)

I wrote this in the beginning of February:

I was just laying on my bed, having so many thoughts in my head, when I realized it might be a good outlook to write a blog and thus share those thoughts with the general public. That’s usually a good idea, right?

I have been helping out most days at Smile Africa, the orphanage I have mentioned in previous blogs. It can be a very overwhelming place: hundreds of kids, a lack of proper care, horrible home situations, more need than any one organization can handle. I came home crying the first time I went there. Over the months I have become more accustomed to things though there are still parts which are overwhelming. I’ve been so proud of the other missionaries who work there, especially one girl named Kayla. She has been at Smile since October and she is just a natural there. She loves the kids there more than you could imagine and is constantly thinking of ways to improve their situation and contributing in any way she can. The biggest thing she does, I think, is just love. She is quite an inspiration to me. I have become good friends with her over the past few months and it has been a huge blessing. God has used us in each other’s lives in ways we never would have imagined. Every day I am excited to see her and spend time with her as we take care of these little ones.

I am mostly in the baby room, and I have met my favorite baby. He only started coming about a month ago and his name is Paulo. He is just the cutest little thing EVER, with a big dimple on his right cheek and a little gap in his front teeth. When he smiles there is nothing you wouldn’t give this kid, I swear. I fell in love with that kid I think the second or third day I saw him and we’ve been inseparable since. Just try to take him away from me! Haha. But he is just adorable and I can’t get enough of him. He has had trouble going to sleep at naptime so finally I tried the baby burrito. I don’t know if anyone is familiar with this. It’s something I learned at the last preschool I worked at. You wrap the baby in a blanket tight enough so they can’t move their limbs (it’s not as cruel as it sounds!) and then just hold them and rock them until they eventually have nothing for it but to fall asleep. It works every time for Paulo! So it was great to discover that.

Recently I have discovered more of Paulo’s home situation and of course it’s a heartbreaking one. His parents are both still alive and they live with him in a very poor neighborhood just a 5 minute walk from Smile Africa. There are several buildings with many little rooms within them, and usually each family stays in a room all together. It’s a very cramped and dirty and sad existence, especially to the western/American eye. I have met both of his parents now. His mother speaks no English and his dad speaks enough to have a simple conversation. From what I can gather and what I’ve heard, they are both alcoholics and my friend Kayla has even seen his mom holding Paulo, stumbling around drunk and clearly not taking proper care of him. It’s extremely likely she beats Paulo, which I can’t even think about or I get really angry and frustrated and sad. What makes a parent to beat their 9-month-old baby, I cannot imagine. When I think about the situation Paulo goes home to every day I want to cry or throw something or demand justice. Yet he is one of hundreds just at Smile, which then multiplies throughout this town, country, continent, and ultimately all over the world. I don’t know of any country that doesn’t have a problem with poverty, though I know some cases are more extreme than others.

All of this and so much more goes through my head and I wonder what to do. I wonder how much difference we are making, a few girls at an orphanage helping a dozen babies, when there are so many more who will go hungry or get abused or die that day, that we won’t even get to, that we aren’t even aware of. I keep having the starfish story come to my mind. You know, that story about a man who goes out to the shore of the ocean and begins throwing starfish back in to safety as the tide is going out. Someone asks him why he bothers because the shore is littered with starfish and there is no way he is even going to make a dent in the number that need to be rescued. But he answers that even if he only threw one back, it would mean life for that starfish. Whichever ones he can help, he helps. And he focuses on those, not the ones that he can’t reach. Hopefully others will come and help and make a dent in the number of starfish rescued, but that man is not responsible for that; he only does what he can. I feel like that’s a decent picture of what we are dealing with here. Sometimes we talk about how frustrating it is, how overwhelming it is to think of all the suffering people there are that we won’t get to. But mostly we think of how we can continue helping the ones we have in our care, the ones who are put in front of us. It makes a difference to those “starfish”, to those children.

I know handling any of this would not be possible without God being the anchor of my soul. That is a picture He has brought frequently to my mind lately, that He is what anchors me to the truth and to hope; my constant comfort when all others fail me. I can’t imagine trying to navigate this life in general, and especially the last year in Uganda, without knowing He is my rest, my strength, my Savior.

I have been reminded lately of Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His love to us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That hit me like a ton of bricks this week, for some reason. It is such a massive display of grace and love, what Jesus did; there are times I can barely think of it without becoming overwhelmed with gratitude and awe. I love Him so much. I love that He redeems and sanctifies and forgives and heals and restores and brings hope to the most hopeless of situations. I serve an amazing God, and I want to continue to do so for the rest of my life.

This I wrote at the beginning of April:

I’ve been so bad at blogging and I really apologize for that. There is constantly so much going on and it has become increasingly harder to sit down and write about what is happening. I do want to become better at writing once again. Whenever you talk to me, feel free to remind me about that! It’s always really encouraging to hear people talk about reading my blogs and that it affects them in some way. I love that; it’s a big blessing.

Life has been moving on, in some usual and unusual ways. Fred has been at his new job for almost 3 months now. He likes the city and the people he works with. He is having trouble with a couple of aspects there but in general he likes the work and he’s good at it (though I am a bit biased when it comes to him :). He says he gets bored on his days off, which I think is funny! I just went to visit him for a week and that was great. I appreciated seeing where he’s living (he’s renting a small room), seeing his office and meeting his coworkers. Paul, Fred’s boss’ boss, was also in town last week with his wife Ruth, and it was wonderful to see them. They were a missionary couple in Namibia when I was there and just some of my favorite people ever (even if they ARE British!). Fred and I have agreed to get married next year and each do some things to prepare for that for the rest of this year.

We aren’t in a good position financially and Fred is still getting used to his job and the environment. After some time and talking, we agreed it would be a great thing for me to start a project/ministry of my own that would hopefully be funded internationally and begun here in Uganda. Long story short, I am planning on being in the US (mostly Phoenix) to fundraise and get the word out about the ministry the second half of this year. I do not have specific dates yet, but I hope to be in Phoenix by May or June and be there until December, then spend Christmas in Chile with my dad and family there, and be back in Uganda by the end of January. It probably sounds crazy to many people; I know it’s a lot for me to think about, though Phoenix and Chile are both places I am very familiar with! So I will be doing a bit of continent jumping this year.

I would love to give you a bit more information about the ministry I want to start, for whoever is interested. It’s funny because I don’t even remember writing about the starfish story in the blog section above; that was several months ago. Yet the name of my ministry, I decided a few weeks ago, is going to be The Starfish Project. I kept thinking about that idea of how you can’t help everyone, and you’ll go crazy trying, but that there have been specific children or groups of people placed in my life here in Uganda, and those are the people I can start with. I feel like it is easy to get discouraged when your scope of vision is too large or you try with starting to help a huge group of people. For example, if you say, “I want to get all the children of Phoenix off the street” or “I want every AIDS orphan to have a home”. Those are beautiful ideas and of course noble causes; people that desperately need help. But it is easy to get overwhelmed and swept off course when the vision is really broad. What has helped me is to remember that every person helped is valuable, and it shouldn’t only be numbers that organizations or ministries are concerned with.

One of the biggest things I’ve seen families here struggle with is paying for their children’s school fees. Even families where both parents are alive, at home, and working struggle with this issue. There is a much longer and involved story as to why this is a problem in Africa, one which I hope to share with many of you when I’m in the States. But for now I just wanted to get some basic information out to you and begin telling you about what I would like to do this year.
I want to begin getting children sponsored to start attending school, or to continue attending in cases where they have begun. I’d like to start with children that I personally know, and start out small, though I pray the ministry will grow with time and as God directs and allows. While in Phoenix I am planning on talking to as many people, churches, schools, and businesses that I can, for 3 financial purposes: 1) to get people sponsoring specific children with a long-term commitment, 2) to begin a general fund for the ministry for various expenses, and 3) to raise enough monthly support for myself as I return to live in Uganda. Of course one of the important things in going back is so that I can have more prayer support and encouragement from people that I already have a relationship with. I would love you to begin considering whether this is something you would like to be a part of, and have time with you while I’m in the States. If you have any questions, encouragement, or anything, please let me know!

I’ll finish there so that I get something out in the blog world before any more time passes. Looking forward to seeing so many of you soon! Thanks for keeping up! PS- I do need $400-500 more in order to buy my plane ticket, so if anyone would be willing to help out with that, I’d really appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

each man's life touches so many others.

I think I'm going to stop beginning my posts with "Uganda #" because I am now staying in Uganda, I am not planning on leaving anytime soon! This is my new home. And that comes with a lot of tears, and emotions, and difficulties, and adjustments. But it also means God is doing crazy and wonderful and exciting things with my life, and I cannot thank Him enough for that.

this is just a small update. I am still helping out at Smile Africa some days and at Awinjo some days, helping kids learn the keyboard. that has been a challenge since it has been a long time since I have sat down and played piano! but it's been good. it's good to meet more people and to branch out more and to feel useful. my prayer requests right now would be that I would love God and His people more passionately, and selflessly. not to wonder what is in it for me or what do I get in return, but to love and serve God and His people just because He loves me and I want to be faithful to Him.

Fred just got an amazing job in Soroti, a city about 4 hours north west of Tororo, and he'll be starting in mid-January. that will definitely be a new dimension of our relationship! I am so excited for him and proud of him. he will be doing something meaningful for a wonderful organization. the last job he had, he was miserable at. him moving to Soroti means we will be apart for most of the time between now and getting married (which we still don't have a date for), which is the hardest part about this, currently. but God is good and faithful and I know He will be teaching me things during this time that He specifically wants me to learn. so, praise to Him, He knows what He is doing, He is in control, and His plans are good.

being here for Christmas was hard. I miss my family, my friends, Christmas lights, wonderful hot drinks from Starbucks, cheesy Christmas music, the tree lots full of pine, and so much more. I did get to watch half of It's a Wonderful Life with Fred, but we got interrupted and couldn't finish. hoping to finish it with him sometime soon. there were a lot of tears shed by me over Christmas as I was dealing with some of these things. please continue praying for Fred and I as we transition through so many things and deal with cultural differences and barriers.

also, I am basically out of money and still need to pay my host family and have living expenses at least until we get married! any help is more than appreciated! Paypal link on the right hand side of the page. love and miss you all. anytime you send a note, call, or communicate in any way, it is very much appreciated. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Uganda #9: Do Not Be Unduly Dismayed

We should not be unduly dismayed if we find ourselves passing through deeply unsettling periods, in which nothing flows as smoothly as we had expected, and everything we have been led to believe and hope for appears to be taken from us. When the Lord is about to accomplish something special, He allows us to see the difficulties first. But when He is about to do something magnificent, it usually appears completely impossible.
-Robert Weston, “Intimacy and Eternity”

As usual, I have taken too long without updating this blog! Agh, I am so sorry! I know there are many of you have been waiting and wondering what is going on (at least in more detail). I really apologize; there has been a lot going on here and so many changes in the past few months. Without further ado, let me update you on all things Uganda.

I’m not sure which things I’ve included in emails to you all and which I’ve only told to individual people. So, let me summarize it all, and for anything that is repetition for you, I’m sorry! :) On the last blog I mentioned the possibility of ending things with OCA in December. Something crazy and pretty unexpected happened in October that really changed things at the orphanage. I got a call one Sunday afternoon saying that the landlady of the house the kids were living in came over and locked everyone out of the house because they had failed to pay rent and they owed for three months. It wasn’t entirely out of nowhere since the orphanage has struggled the whole time I’ve been in Uganda to do things like pay bills and keep a regular supply of food around. Anthony and I had talked about taking the children back to their families in the village at the end of term in December. That is a longer story, but basically, all of the children have family in nearby villages that are able to take care of them. They were originally moved to Tororo and put in a house in order to meet sponsorship requirements from the US. We thought it would be a better idea to take them back to their homes and thus avoid all the cost it was taking to keep them all together (paying rent, bills, food etc). But unfortunately before we could make any solid decisions about that, the kids were forced to leave their house. It was a very sad situation. It all happened really quickly.

After that happened, I had so many emotions going through my head. I was feeling sad for what happened to the kids. I was feeling helpless and frustrated; what were the last 8 months for? It was a really rough couple of days. I felt purposeless. I wrestled with a lot. What the kids ended up doing is going back to their villages (they mainly come from 2 villages so many of them already knew each other) later that day. There was really no other good option for them. So the entire purpose, essentially, of why I had come to Uganda was suddenly gone from one day to the next. Yes, I was considering leaving OCA in December anyway, but this happened in October, giving me a lot of unexpected free time. I don’t have the answers. I don’t quite know what’s next. Fred and I have been tossing around the idea of starting a ministry of our own. There are a lot of NGOs/non-profits/ministries in Tororo and in neighboring cities that I could probably join up with. I’ve also considered that God may want me focused on other things during this time, since at the time this happened, Fred and I were planning on getting married in February.

There was also a big change with mine and Fred’s plans the same week as the things with the orphanage happened. To make a long story short, we found out that the presidential election in Uganda is taking place on February 18, and we were planning on getting married on the 19th. We knew right away we would have to change the date (this country is still unstable in some ways and nobody knows what will happen around the time of elections) but we had just started discussing alternate dates when Fred and I met with an American couple for counseling. They heard our story and advised us to take things a bit slower; to temporarily remove a wedding date and take that pressure off; to get more counseling; to establish a better friendship and foundation for our marriage; to understand the gravity and seriousness of what we were entering. That advice was very difficult for me to hear at first but it was an easy transition for Fred. He’d already been pretty stressed about our financial situation and was beginning to wonder how he would provide for me once we were married. Fred and I talked things over and we decided that what the couple said made sense; that it wouldn’t hurt to wait longer; and we agreed to take some more time doing the things they had advised (and also it gives Fred more time to find a better job and be more financially stable) and ‘regroup’ in January or February, and from there we will pick a wedding date. So, the wedding is not ‘called off’ by any means, it’s just being postponed a while. We would also like to wait until after the elections anyway and see that things in the country are a bit more settled before we ask my family to fly in internationally for the wedding. It is a complicated situation, but I know my God can handle anything and that His plans are for good and that none of this is outside of His control. That is incredibly comforting in a world that is filled with uncertainty, chaos, and sin. Knowing that Fred and I serve that same God and that He is the One that binds us together is better than anything else I can think of.

So I had some time of everything being up in the air; things with the orphanage and things with Fred and not having a wedding date, and just some difficult times. Then God beautifully provided several things. Rachelle (the wife of the American couple who is counseling us) heard I was looking for somewhere to help during this interim and she introduced me to an American man named Ken who has an orphanage/discipleship program here in town. He has about 30 kids living on his compound in 2 houses. Long story short, I have talked to him and have offered to help him in any way that I can. I am looking at helping out teach music/worship during their school holiday (which has already started and goes until early February) and possibly helping out with some logistics and organizational things. The same week I met Ken (last week), I also went to visit a place here called Smile Africa, which feeds and cares for (and schools, during the academic year) about 400 kids from impoverished situations. A lot of them are orphans or street children. They also take care of some infants and even do classes for widows in things like sewing. They also have a clinic on site. It’s a great organization and I am thinking of helping out with the babies there. I’ve not been there to help out yet, only to see the place and find out more about it from the founder, a lady named Pastor Ruth. So, God really provided some places that are in need of help that are right here in town. Please pray for me as I take the next steps and try to get settled in what I’m doing next. The future is a bit up in the air as far as a specific wedding date, what Fred and I will do for a living, and where we will live :) you know, just minor details. Please keep us in your prayers!

Two side notes and then I’m done. I am almost out of the money that I raised to come here. I have like $20 left in my Paypal account and I’ve just requested the last of the tax-deductible funds that I had raised before I left. And I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, and Fred and I obviously aren’t married yet, and I still need to keep paying for things here like rent for my host family, transportation, and all kinds of random things that come up because I live in Africa. Any help would be appreciated. The orphanage/OCA is also having a Christmas party for the kids who went back to their villages and if you want to donate towards that (they buy the kids food, clothes, school supplies etc) please use Paypal (link on the right hand side of the page) and put a note on your donation that indicates it’s for OCA/Christmas party.

Last side note is a praise: I thought I would have to completely miss out on Thanksgiving festivities and then a few days before Turkey Day, I met that man Ken, who also has a couple living on the same compound who are from New York. They always do a big Thanksgiving thing so they invited me! I got to hang out with Americans and eat turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin bread, cranberry sauce, and about 6 different fabulous desserts! I felt soooo blessed and undeserving of that! It was wonderful. Now, to see about Christmas….

Love you all. Thanks for continuing to follow up with me. Our God is great :)