Tuesday, July 30, 2013

African Adventures With The Willaims Five!

Greetings everyone!

So here’s the scoop. This will be our final ‘Adventures’ newsletter. What a big change for us! Almost all of our married life (9 years this month, thank you very much!) we’ve been sending Adventure Updates which implies that there has been an adventure to update about all these 9 years! I guess that’s true. Life in Canada has also clearly been an adventure (we really should look at every day like that… it’s more interesting). Anyway… after this newsletter we will not dissolve our email address or the mailing list. We will send a Christmas letter via this account and you can reach us through this account as always.
So here’s the final report:

Ugandan impact: We still stay in touch with many friends and Ugandan acquaintances via email. I am not a Facebook-er but occasionally I need to get on it and Mark says, ‘Get ready…. You’ll be in several conversations in a few minutes’. Sure enough our Ugandan friends are Facebookers! Social media is amazing! We miss them so much and they are in our prayers daily. We hope to be able to impact Uganda for the rest of our lives. I am dreaming of a trip back there within this next year; Super expensive but very meaningful for our friends and for us.  If we do go we will be loading our bags with stuff we know they could use… if that happens we’ll be letting you know so you can be involved if you want to!
Kids’ Corner: Seth, Jodie, and Megan (okay us too) are over the moon happy about the wonderful parks and trails in BC. It’s unreal! This summer has been so enjoyable for us. Uganda had beautiful weather but very little opportunity to get out and play in it without paying lots. We swam more in Uganda because that was affordable, but we missed play grounds, trails, and camping! We’re soaking it up now.

Jodie has begun to be a ‘girlie’ girl for the first time in her life. She’s still our tomboy and wrestles alongside Seth and daddy. But now she likes to wear dresses (sometimes), she wears jewelry occasionally and puts on her sparkly lipstick. She then asks us if she looks pretty. It used to be if we mentioned the word pretty she would take off whatever it was that caused us to think she was pretty. It’s kind of fun to watch.
Seth has shot up in the past few weeks. He stays in touch with his friends from school. They have play dates and water parties. He did well in French Immersion and we plan to keep him in that for first grade this September. (Jodie will enter French Immersion kindergarten too.) He’s reading very well now (in English). He’s a very good big brother. He keeps asking for a dog. Not gonna happen.
 Megan is a little whip. She remembers the names of people she hasn’t seen for quite a while. She loves sign language and still uses it even though she can say all the words she can sign. She even has a ‘sign’ for daddy and our house mate John. For daddy she puts her hands on her hips/back like he does and sticks her tummy out…his favorite thinking pose. For Uncle John she crosses her arms over her chest… his favorite thinking pose. Very cute. She has a magnetic personality… though her ‘fire’ gets her in plenty of trouble. The kids are very good at playing with her and she’s starting to enjoy their games.
All three of them enjoyed VBS at a local church. They love dancing around the house to the songs they learned… they jack the CD as loud as I will let them. Meggie knows many of the actions and loves to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ when it comes to that part in the songs. Also ‘Holy, holy holy’ is one of her favorite lines.

Canadian realities: Mark has owned a VW Jetta that he bought brand new in 1998. A few weeks ago someone pulled out in front of him and the car was totalled. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt but it was very sad to lose the car. The other guy was at fault so his insurance had to cover it. Thankfully God had provided a van for us (thank you J, C, C, M, E, and S!!!!) so we still have one set of wheels but we are back to the inconvenience of one vehicle. This will definitely not work for the fall as Mark is working a few days a week in sales for some friends here in town and he may be going on full time with them in September. We will need another set of wheels then but continue to trust God for his provision along this transitional journey. I would not say Mark is ‘in a groove’ but he is definitely good at sales and some added income is very helpful. My reflexology is still helping out and of course summer is quieter but that has been okay.  
On an exciting note Mark had a chance to take Jodie out on a father daughter date for her preschool father’s day party.  He could not resist the opportunity and wanted to make sure he was the first one to give Princess Jodie some roses.  It was a special moment for Jodie but one that Mark will cherish forever.

Another big change (and stress at the moment) is that we are looking into possibly selling our house and moving. We have shared the living space with John all these years on our trips home and he has cared for the house very well in our absences. However, now our house is overcrowded and there needs to be a change. That has been a prayer concern for us. We like where we are but may not be able to afford to stay here.
So, our news is less adventurous. But we feel just as stretched as we were in Uganda. That’s life right? Even as we finish sending updates about Uganda we ask that you keep those people in your prayers. Maybe you knew of specific people through visiting us or through emails. Or maybe you have always prayed for the school, students, and staff. Please keep doing those things! It makes a difference!
So, we hope the rest of your summer is lovely! You will get a newsletter from us at Christmas time and you’ll hear from us in emails as you stay in touch and the Lord brings you to mind. We just want to thank you one more time for the years of love, support, prayers, encouragement, and strength you sent on behalf of our family and those we love in Uganda. May God richly bless you for that!  As we move forward in our Canadian adventure we would appreciate your continued prayers.
We love you!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

PS A picture from our past in Uganda... Wow, how things have changed!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five!

Greetings from Abbotsford!  It feels good in many ways to be writing a newsletter from Canada but also a little bit weird.  We have decided that our newsletter and blog will no longer be called “African Adventures…” but rather “Adventures With The Williams Five”.  We would still like to continue updating you on a regular basis as we feel that we still need your support during this time of transition.  During this time we have experienced a variety of emotions and feelings that continue to be a challenge.  Canada is great in so many ways but our transition back is proving to be harder than adjusting to Uganda was.  Once we have completed this transition stage we will use this email address for the odd newsletter but mostly a family Christmas update.

As a family our speed of transition has varied greatly!  Seth, Jodie and Megan have transitioned the easiest. We realize that’s very typical considering the resilience and carefree nature of children.  Seth is enjoying kindergarten at the local public French immersion school.  He enjoys his class of 15 and especially the small group of 6 boys that are his buddies in Kindergarten.  It is exciting to see that there are about 4 other Christian students in his grade.  The teacher reported back to us one day that when she asked Seth how he was doing he said…”I’m doing great! I’m in Kindergarten, I have new friends and I know Jesus!”  We are blessed that Seth has a heart for others and most importantly his creator. 
Jodie is enjoying pre–school two afternoons a week at my old school.  She would love to go everyday like Seth but also enjoys her time at home.  This is especially true when Megan is taking her afternoon nap, Seth is in school and she has all the attention from mom and dad.  She is a very happy little girl and often is singing a song while she plays or colors or helps around the house. 
Megan is full of energy and is talking more and more. She’s starting to put words together. Like ‘Daddy’s keys!’ and ‘Jodie’s water.’… all words said not quite right of course. Her trademark verbalizations at the moment are, ‘Candy!? Candy!? Candy!?’ (repeated at rising decibels when she wants candy or vitamin C) and ‘Too!? Too!? Too!?’ again repeated urgently until she finds out if she is allowed to do what the big kids are doing ‘too’. She is still struggling with teething consistently so her sleep patterns are patchy. But she’s getting better!
Like many missionaries who return Mark finds it hard to find purpose and is still grieving the students and staff that he worked so closely with.  Unfortunately different job opportunities here have not materialized which has added some stress and discouragement.  A few applications for jobs in education have resulted in being short listed and interviews only to find out that he was the runner up.  Now we are looking at widening the job search and exploring opportunities outside of education in the business community.  Needless to say we would appreciate prayer specifically for our future and a job as we move toward September.  Mark has appreciated the time to catch up and spend more time with our kids but also feels the financial stress as we look ahead with no permanent job.  It has also become clear to us that our priorities have shifted as a result of our time in Uganda. We feel that’s a good thing. But it does make us a feel a bit lost. It seems we can actually feel both sets of priorities pulling at us at the same time. That’s the uncomfortable part. Please pray that we have the wisdom to take hold of that which is the greatest in these life choices that we’re facing. We’re seeing more clearly that this is the huge struggle that North American Christians face in their faith. It is no cake walk and offers no fewer temptations than those facing the poverty burdened people of Uganda.
On an exciting note Mark has had the opportunity to attend two weddings since he has been back.  Matt, a former grade five student, married a beautiful young lady and is following the Lord.  In 2004 he traveled all the way with his buddy Matt and his mother (former teaching colleague) to our wedding in Rapid City.  Also a long time buddy who I grew up with and tree planted with got married on the Island in a beautiful seaside ceremony.  It has been great to be able to be involved with these things once again. I still regret not being able to make it to your weddings Jeff, Dave, and Mike when we were back in Uganda.  Moving forward we are excited to reconnect and catch up with good friends. 

Sarah has been able to begin practicing Reflexology since she became certified at the end of March. She has been mildly busy with that; Just the right amount really. And she absolutely loves the work. The renter in our basement suite has moved out (another prayer request… that we could find another renter) so she is using that extra space as a little studio and is able to offer a very peaceful setting to those who come for a massage. If we do get renters she will have to find another space but that would be a good problem to have! Whatever the case she is feeling extremely rewarded in her work and is so happy she took the course! She has already noticed improvement in her skills and is confident massage therapy is her niche! And it’s been very cool that Mark has been around quite a bit so she doesn’t have to arrange child care in order to work. It’s been a very unique time in that way. God has allowed both of us to see the silver linings behind the clouds of uncertainty overhead and this has been one of them!
So that’s a brief update on all of us.

We still talk consistently of our friends and neighbors back in Uganda. We hope that as soon as we find a new ‘normal’ and get financially stable we can travel back to Uganda and wherever else God leads us to network. We intend to be missions minded from now on and get involved in the needs of others whether it’s within Canada or abroad.
We are thankful to those of you who have supported us in so many ways during this transition time back in Canada.  We would appreciate your continued prayers as we move forward in making this our home once again.  We already feel at home in some ways but also feel a bit like strangers in our land. But we definitely see progress and we are looking forward to what God has in store for us.

We hope this letter finds you well! Please let us know if there are prayer requests that we could pray about.
God bless!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five!

Well…we’re guessing you have a few questions! The main ones being, ‘how is the adjustment going for you guys’ and ‘what are you going to do next?’ We could answer those quickly but it will be better to share some of the factors that have shaped our last few months so you have a better idea of how it’s going.

We spent the last week of January through the end of Feb. in Alberta near and with Mark’s parents, sister, and many good friends. Being a Calgary boy, he’s got some good roots down there so there was plenty to do! Sarah worked on getting closer to getting her certificate as a reflexologist and she is very close now! That’s exciting. While she studied Mark spent many happy hours teaching the kids to skate, taking them sledding, and even some swimming. Such a great dad, eh? It was a very good season for us in that way. Cindy and Jason, thank you for the extra space you gave us to really have a get-away and help transition back. Mom and Dad W, thank you for all the logistical support in those weeks! So valuable! We realized in that time that we needed to do quite a bit of grieving Uganda and we were also able to identify that in fact both of us, but particularly Mark, were burned out quite badly. That rest and refocus was crucial!

When we left Alberta we headed to Denver for a de-brief course given by an organization called Mission Training International (MTI). It was excellent!!!! Hard to explain in a short space but really, it is put on by former missionaries, MKs, and TCKs. The programs for the kids to help them process their experiences and evaluate how they’re doing were fantastic! Our kids loved it! The child care for Meggie was superior! And the classes for Mark and I were awesome as well. We give it a 10! God really blessed us with that time and we recommend it to anyone who has done long or short term missions. We definitely had to face some hard things while there and it was exhausting in that way. One of the painful parts was facing the fact that some of the friendships that we left in Uganda will be empty places in our hearts forever. It is surprisingly like grieving a death. We really hope and pray we can go and visit those friends again one day (as soon as possible!) but we know that we have to let them go for now. It was good to walk through that.
Also, during our time in Denver a huge blessing was to be able to see Sarah’s brother whom we haven’t seen since going to Uganda and even before that!!! It was so good to see him and to meet his family! We had lots of laughs, not so much sleep, and made good memories. It was a special time!

So, now we are back in Abbotsford. It looks like spring out here! Daffodils, crocuses, tulips, people cutting their grass!!! Still rainy and cold some days but very nice. Seth and Jodie actually planted tomato plants and we’re watching them pop out of the cups so we can plant them outside in a month. It’s good to be here. So good to see our dear friends from our cell group and our church. Good to be at Uncle John’s house! One big bummer. The van that our good friends gave us was involved in a three car pile-up while parked outside of our house while we were gone in Alberta. It turns out drunk drivers can cause three car pile ups all by themselves in the middle of the night!  Anyway… the van was totalled so Day 1 when we got back Mark was hoofing it down to the insurance company to insure the old red Jetta and taking it to the shop for very spendy maintenance and repairs. Gulp. But good enough, Meggie’s car seat squeezes very snugly between Seth and Jodie’s boosters and if we’re all in a good mood we can have a pleasant trip in the car!

Future? The big question that’s still looming! But there are job applications in and because of the nature of Mark’s work April should be a telling month. Though he would not start anywhere full time till September he would be hired in April. So please keep praying about that! We will send out a letter when we know more about that of course!

That’s all for now! If something very interesting happens soon we will be letting you know. Otherwise we’ll write again next month! We pray you are all doing well and anticipating a blessed Easter!

We love you!
Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie and Megan

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five

Hello everyone!

We’re happy to be touching base with you from Canada! We have been missing Uganda very much. The memories of our dear friends there is fresh in our minds and we really miss our daily interactions with them. This transitioning thing is a challenge but over time we know we will manage!

We also wanted to thank you for your prayers for us regarding our flight home and everything surrounding that. Our greatest concern of course was Seth being so terribly sick the day we left. We were able to get the right medicine for him before we left and his fever was under control before we headed out for the airport. His diarrhea? Bless his heart, he never had any accidents along the way but we did need to RUN to the bathroom in the Entebbe airport during security checks and all other line ups (extensive in international travel) more than ten times. But miraculously as soon as we boarded the plane his stomach slowed down and he had no more emergencies during the journey. He was a real trooper and never complained! And another miracle to report is when we went through London although they allow liquids of any size for babies, when they saw Seth’s antibiotics in the diaper bag they said, ‘This medication needs to have a label on it listing the patient’s name, the doctor’s name and the prescription, otherwise we can’t allow it.’  We explained that in Uganda they don’t do that and that had an infection in his blood and after a small conference they allowed it through!!!! The alternatives would have been horrendous so we are so thankful!

So now we are in the middle of the bridge… the space between two destinations… between two scenarios within which we live out our faith. And we’re finding, though it is unique, it is the same on the bridge as it is at both ends; living out our faith is still the main thing! We’re seeking god for grace every day to finish well in our hearts with Uganda and to begin well here as we wait for what he has next for our family. We really appreciate your prayers right now. Being between jobs is certainly not Mark’s favorite hobby! Thankfully in this season the kids are doing great! Seth and Jodie are really enjoying reconnecting with their cousins and little friends in Canada as well as ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who have been so caring of them every time we’ve seen them. And the cold weather doesn’t seem to be daunting them. They want to be outside every day. They bundle up appropriately and out they go to hike, play at the park, slide, or make snow angels. That’s been really great for me and Mark. Little Meggie is teething seriously so you can pray for her as she battles through the nights… she wakes a lot and is quite frustrated.

For now we will sign off with praises and prayer requests and a few observations at the end to make you smile.

We’ll be keeping you posted! God bless!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

Now, for a few observations!

You know you’re back in North America when……

Ø  The strongest smell in your shower is your shampoo.
Ø  The ants actually do come marching only two by two
Ø  It is possible to consider taking your coffee in a to go cup if necessary
Ø  All of the dirt on your body is self-generated
Ø  You hear two beeps outside your house and get halfway to the door before realizing no one is ‘at the gate’
Ø  You climb in the passenger side of the car to drive. (Don’t get caught doing this. It’s very embarrassing to climb out, walk around and get back in.)
Ø  You look around for the baby’s mosquito net before realizing she doesn’t need one.
Ø  You can look out your window and hear nothing (Seth said, ‘Look out there, Mom. Even the smoke is quiet!’)
Ø  No one stands uncomfortable close to you in the check-out line (personal space is a foreign concept in Uganda)
Ø  The sparse pedestrians cross the road mostly in the crosswalks
Ø  You have to pump your own gas (but you don’t wonder if you got cheated)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Adventures With The Williams Five!

The clock is ticking here in Uganda! There is less than a month before our current African Adventure takes us back to Canada.  A lot has happened since our last newsletter and if feels like there is simply just not enough time to get our Uganda bucket list completed.  Two highlights of the month were home visits in Aura, northern Uganda along the Congo boarder and our farewell at the school. 

We decided to take the whole family along with two teachers from the school up to Aura for some home visits.  The eight hour journey was not an easy task with three little ones.  Megan was a challenge but after a 7 AM departure we arrived safely at our destination.  I also realized that one of the battery holders on our well-worn Prado was shot and needed to be fixed. I set off to Aura town for some help and was shocked to find out that this very ‘small’ town was teeming with over two million people.  As nightfall began to approach a new battery holder was welded and installed.  Connections were checked but there was not a new battery terminal anywhere to be found to connect to the post.  After several starts it had appeared that everything was okay.  I enjoyed my conversation with the mechanics in their open air shop at the back of their house that was no more than 400 square feet.  They were also working on a minivan taxi from Congo which allowed me to get a greater understanding of that enormous country and problems that they are facing.  During this operation it also became very clear that being a mechanic in Uganda means being a welder and machinist. I watched a man building a car part out of a hunk of steal like a blacksmith.
After I paid a whopping 15 dollars for all the work I was guaranteed that I would have no more problems for a year although there was surely no money back guarantee. The kids needed a bedtime snack of yogurt and I needed to pick up toothbrushes and toothpaste since I forgot my overnight bag so I swung into the biggest supermarket in town.  It was about the size of an average living room in Canada.  I grabbed a few things but being a flosser was disappointed to find none.  Needless to say I was happy to be heading back to the guest house having the car fixed and a few basics in tow.  I jumped in the car and turned the ignition key to hear only a clicking sound.  I had earlier become aware of the very few cars on the streets. Everyone traveled almost strictly on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle. As I sat there I realized that I was in a very different world… not only different from Canada but different from the central part of Uganda that I call home.  I began to feel a little uncomfortable and needy. But I knew I had to get the vehicle at least back to the guest house.  After popping the hood I spent several minutes playing with the connections to both batteries and finally the engine fired up and I was feeling much better. 
Once back at the guesthouse I had a late supper and our contact person promised a reliable mechanic to tune up the car for the home visits we had planned for the next day.  The next morning the vehicle was fixed and thankfully we are off on our home visits to see eleven of our students.  Seth and Jodie joined me, the local pastor and two teachers from our school.  I totally enjoyed the country side but found myself with a heavy heart as we moved from hut to hut.  Most of the homes consisted of a few huts with very few possessions or even necessities.  But all of them welcomed us with extreme warmth and hospitality.  All of the homes had one or both of the biological parents absent due to death and often if there was a remaining parent they were HIV positive.  We offered a small food hamper and encouraged our students and remaining family members to not give up and keep the faith.  My heart was touched as we were given bananas, peanuts and eggs as a token of the guardian’s appreciation for helping their child.  I found it hard to take them when I saw how little they had and yet they shared it with us. But I knew these gifts were ways they could express their hearts and I needed to receive them graciously and thankfully. My heart hurt as I said goodbye to each one of my former students knowing that I may not see them again for a very long time or ever and knowing they have a hard road ahead.  One student had lost his dad several years ago and now his mother was raising the family.  This became more of a challenge just in the past few months as his older brother was killed in a motor vehicle accident and now they had the addition of caring for his wife and four little children.  In this culture this boy of only 14 was now heading the home and responsible for the welfare of all.  He had a small hut and was working hard in the garden to grow a variety of products to eat and sell.  As we were leaving it was all I could do to keep my composure as they gave us their eggs for the day.  I wanted to give them back but knew it was a gift that they wanted to give and were very honoured to give it… I had to accept it. Later that day I was able to pass those eggs on to another family in another part of the country and I felt the truth in Christ’s words, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’… in this case I can honestly say that scripture translated for me into, ‘It feels much better to give than to receive’!
Another visit was to a home of a boy whose father was murdered over a land dispute.  I knew of this incident and was thinking of it when we arrived and as we entered their living area I saw a small cross directly beside the huts marking the father’s grave. Jodie and Seth were intrigued by the small cross on the ground and not knowing what it was for were about to pull it out until I stopped them.  We had a great visit and our time ended with a look at the young man’s grinding machine that was used to make some income for the family.  Part of their land was sold to provide school fees for their third son so I knew things were difficult.  We said our goodbyes and headed for another home.

As we moved on to the remainder of the homes I felt compelled to get that machine up and running.  After a late supper I phoned our contact person and asked him if we could investigate the cost of fixing the grinder.  He said he would do it but later that night as I lay in bed I could not sleep as my mind was thinking about the many needs I had seen in just a few home visits and my many blessings in contrast.  I promised that I would do my best to go or be what God would like me to do even if it meant working in Africa again one day.  I also realized the numerous blessings my children have by having two parents who are healthy and love them like crazy.  They go to bed each night not just with a hug and a kiss but often with a snack and their heads land on a soft pillow with a bed that has a mattress and blanket.  We indeed are blessed and I wrestled with why God would allow such need to pervade a large percentage of the world. I really struggled with that. Needless to say I knew I had to let go and give all of these children along with the others at the school and the staff to the Lord.  I realized once again that when compelled it is important to help those you can but also to realize that one can’t help everyone all the time.
After leaving Arua we stopped at our house girl’s village as she is in the process of constructing a house that she will live in and begin a baking business one day.  We were excited to see the foundation coming and want to help make this a reality for our dear friend and part of the family.  As we continued our trek back home we had decided to spend a night at a lodge to break up the distance.  It was near that lodge as we were driving very slowly around a corner that I lost control of the steering.  A rod had snapped in the steering column and I had zero control.  We glided into a parked position beside the sleepy dirt road. When I got out to have a look I saw the tie rod was loose on the ground and the end that connected to the tire had broken right off.  The medal piece had split in half. It was fixed the next day and we were on our way home.  The mechanic made it clear that we were very fortunate to have it break on that sleepy road while taking a slow turn.  Both Sarah and I were stunned as we talked about what a serious accident we could have had if the rod had snapped while we were traveling at 120 kmph on the highway or even in a town full of people along the road.  Clearly God spared our lives and those of others. It reminded me that God has been looking after us and we are so thankful for His protection. We also realize that so many of you pray routinely for our health and safety and we are completely convinced your prayers have moved mountains. Praise God!

Our farewell party was made a little easier by having some of our good friends from Abbotsford join us.  Having Mark, Jeremy, Kelly and Jonathan stay at our house for about ten days was a great experience and privilege for us.  Time was spent beating some of the younger teams at the school in soccer, painting, doing home visits and visiting children in need outside of our school.  It was good to have a few more people see Africa through our eyes and fully support us in every way.  We were truly blessed to have these guys in our home. Thanks for coming guys!
It was difficult to be the main guests in our farewell but also nice to hear the appreciation from the hearts of those we love and get a front row seat for the dances, songs and tributes.  It is hard to put into words the meaning of seven years; the hard work, laughs and friendships we have developed.  After the evening was over we felt very appreciated, loved and respected for leading with integrity, high standards and honesty.  It was hard to know what to say in front of staff, students and friends but I am glad that I will be remembered for living and teaching Godly characteristics to the staff and students at the school.  Saying a final goodbye to each student was hard. And we know we will be doing the same to all our friends and staff in these next few weeks.  This is not the fun part.

We thank God for this amazing chapter in our lives and look forward to what comes next.  We still do not know what we are doing but continue to have different options popping up.  Time will be needed to unwind before we can make a clear plan in regard to our future.  Until we step on the airplane though, we want to enjoy our remaining weeks here in Uganda with friends and as a family. 
We are very much looking forward to being closer to all of you and able to join in celebrations, special events, and holidays in the future. This will be a joy to us!

We’ll zip off an email before leaving Uganda! Thank you very much for loving our family and encouraging our work here! It has made a difference!
We will update you on Seth, Jodie, and Megan next month!

Blessings from the Williams five

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Adventures With all of us… Blessings

It is hard to believe that the countdown to our departure from Uganda will soon be noted in weeks and not months.  It has been an incredible rich journey in which we have been taught much by God, friends, students and Uganda in general.  We have been blessed beyond our expectations and don`t know how exactly we will say goodbye to so many friends when it is time to get on the plane. We’ll share some examples here of some relationships that are very meaningful to us.

In a matter of days the grade seven class will be writing their national primary leaving exams.  This happens on November 6th & 7th. These exams count for 100 percent of their year’s work in the four major subjects and directly affect the quality of secondary school they will be able to attend.  Please pray for these 31 students as they have the potential to be our best class ever and as my last I hope they place as a group in the top ten schools in the country.  It is have been fun to see these young people grow and become wonderful people.  They have taught me much…  Take one student for example from northern Uganda whose father was murdered when he was very young.  He is constantly concerned about his mother and other siblings who look after the land and make sure the crops are planted.  He has faced so much and makes my frustrations look so trivial and pathetic.  This young man encourages me and always provides a smile or warm comment amidst a tough day.  I can learn much from him, in particular his constant contentment under the difficult circumstances that he faces.  He is a representation of the majority of grade seven students who have faced so much and yet appreciate me and everything God has given them so naturally and sincerely. 
When we arrived back in September of 2005 a few more staff members were added at the same time as us.  One of these young men was Nicholas a resident assistant who lived in the dorm.  I saw so much potential in him as he worked very hard and had a heart for others.  It was neat to see him grow and get married.  Once he was married we were able to keep him on staff as our purchaser so he could stay at home with his wife.  He has encouraged me greatly when it was difficult to make ends meet at the school and did his very best with every bit of money that was given to him.  Uganda being a cash society he displayed huge amounts of integrity and made sure receipts were accurate, accounted for and every last shilling that was not spent returned.  It has been neat to see his family increase with the addition of two little children and see the love he has for his family.  As we move on he shows sincere concern for our well-being instead of pointing out to me the increased difficulties he will face trying to provide for his growing family.  He represents the selfless attitude that many of the staff have displayed in their hearts towards us.
When we first moved to Uganda Sarah decided she would not have house help and would do her own laundry by hand and cleaning (endless!!!!) and ironing every piece of clothing (necessary for health reasons) and cooking. Ha!! In not too long she realized that was ridiculous and agreed to pay house help. House help is very affordable here and a job working for a family is considered a very good job.  God blessed us with Joyce…. a precious friend who is most definitely Sarah’s most steady support in Uganda. And for Seth, Jodie, and Megan she is a solid caretaker when necessary and a friend to them. She loves our children as if they were her own family and cares for them in the way we ask her to. She works very hard and takes pride in everything she does. We can trust her implicitly in our house and never fear that anything will go missing… if she finds a few shillings in our pockets when she’s washing laundry we find them on the table. When we first hired her we did a few tests just to see if ‘misplaced’ money would find its way back to us. It always did.  She is a woman who loves to laugh and very seldom complains about anything. Her presence in our home has without a doubt made Uganda a pleasant experience for all of us on the home front. It is impossible to measure what her impact has been on our family. Saying good bye to her will be one of Sarah’s most painful moments. We are arranging with some close friends of ours to take her as their house help/nanny and she is very happy about that. There will be other ways we will bless her that we will share later as they unfold. We want her to have a bright future and will do everything we can to help that come to pass.  Please pray for her as we get closer to leaving time. She will very much miss our family. We will find a way to keep in touch with her.
Another friend that would be impossible to replace is Francis, our night guard, gardener, and advisor. Every night when I put the kids to sleep I feel that we are all safe and secure as a family.  Our eight foot wall with razor wire is a big deterrent but the real obstacle to any intruder would be Francis! He keeps our house very secure. He can shoot birds with his bow and arrow and keeps himself well practiced in case of burglars. He shares stories of past guarding jobs at banks and other higher security stakes than our house and his mindset and skills are extremely effective. His poisoned tipped arrows, his panga (machete), and ‘will ask questions later’ attitude are a good trio of deterrents if someone is foolish enough to try and get over the wall… He laughs and says, ‘They may get over the wall but getting back out will be the problem!’  A few have tried but he made his presence clear and they turned back before making it over.  Not only does he guard our house well but is a fantastic uncle to our three kids.  He loves them like his own and would lay down his life for them.  He has killed snakes and made sure our gate is not a place of loitering at night. His eyes twinkle as he tells us the next morning how he dealt with drunks or even witch doctors loafing around at night.  Francis has been great to us and we have been blessed with a tremendously loyal guard and more importantly friend.

Lastly this month was our last Visitation Day at the school for all the guardians.  It was a good time to say goodbye to the guardians as a whole and talk to many of them individually.  I felt very appreciated and was touched by the standing ovation, gifts, speeches and love shown.  I was hoping to make it through my speech without a tear but a few snuck up on me at the end.  It was hard to look out and see guardians or single moms that I know are HIV positive with tears in their eyes, knowing that I will not be able to visit their homes anymore and bring food hampers or be there for emergency support when they need it.  I know God will meet their needs and He has done that through me many times. Even so, I found it hard to let go of being in a position to help them. 
Finally, we’re looking forward to our lives in Canada (or wherever God leads us next). We appreciate all of you more than you will ever know. We’ll be in touch regularly in the next several months.
God bless,
Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Adventures With Mark... Top Ten List & Trivia!

I was hoping to be able to announce to all of you what our next move will be following Uganda. But we sincerely don’t know! This season has been a stretch for Sarah and I.  Very much like a resounding period at the end of a sentence with not another thought to follow. But we are trusting God and although we’ve prayed daily together for all of our married life we pray much more fervently these days!
And I’d like to point out that our time here has been full of exclamation points! So though we’re ending a season with a complete stop as I mentioned above, we will see this ending with an exclamation point because of the spectacular experience and opportunity to give and receive that this has been.   I will add some of those reasons here.

Top Ten List of Good Things About Being In Uganda
-Summer all year long
-Great relationships
-Not having to keep up with the Joneses as it were back in North America
-People are more important than the checklist
-Seeing amazing African animals
-A constant supply of fresh fruits & vegetables
-The African Children’s Choir Primary School
-Our fantastic house-help and guard – J. & F.… they are wonderful friends!
-Very few if any restrictions about anything… we have goats in our backyard
-The constant feeling of meaningfulness…there’s no ladder to climb… no ‘kingdom’ to establish. Just love people daily and show God our love for Him through that
Top Ten things we miss about home…
-Good friends
-Watching Hockey
-Playing on the Moose Hockey Club (Mark only!)
-Nice clean parks for the kids to play
-Driving the red Jetta (even though it is 13 years old) on smooth pothole-less roads
-A juicy burger, chicken teriyaki sub, barbeque chicken pizza, and ribs… I could go on and on!
-Places to ride a bike or go on a nice walk
-Games evenings with good friends
-Constant and uninterrupted supply of water and power
It is hard to believe that we were originally coming to Africa for two years and ended up staying these seven years.  We’ve worked hard to try and communicate with our families, friends and supporters on the other side of the world.  For those of you who have read along and visited our blog take a crack at answering our trivia questions.  Be the first one to answer everything correctly and we will bring something home for you from the Pearl of Africa!
-What month and year did we arrive in Uganda?
-Where were Seth and Jodie born?
-Where was Megan born?
-The name of the deputy Headmaster  (vice principal) at the school.
         Mr. Kazungu     
         Mr. Lwazzi
         Mr. Masika
-The month we moved into the new school (from Kampala City to the shores of Lake Victoria)
         January 2010
         October 2010
         January 2012
-The animal that got under the gate at our house
         Baby gila monster
-Name of our current mother cat that the kids love…
-Names of our house girl and guard
         Francis and Judy
         Franklin and Joyce
         Francis and Joyce
         Fred and Judy
-Two medical conditions we have had over the years
         West Nile Virus
         Dengue Fever
         Bacterial infection
-Five people who have visited us over the years
         Winnie the Pooh
         Dan and Winnie Williams
         Phil and Shannon Williams
         Wilbur and Orville Wright
         Cindy, Catie, and Mya, Koleba
         President Yoweri K Museveni
         Judy Heinrichs
         The Armbruster Family
         John and Melanie
         Tiger Woods

I trust this short note finds you all well and having enjoyed a great summer.  Though we’ll  return home in the dead of winter, we are looking forward to the summer of 2013.  Until we meet in person blessings on each and everyone one of you.