Sunday, September 30, 2007

Adventures With Mark

Yes, a dress as you would say, but a traditional Kanzu when you are in Uganda. Why, you may ask… Well, for an employee and friend. It begins on a Sunday morning as I leave my house at 7 AM and meet two other staff members for our journey to the village. At that point I gladly turn the wheel over to the school driver and the adventure really begins. 300 Km later (about 150 miles) and beautiful scenery we arrive at high noon at a small house in the countryside just off the main road. We are on time to enter with the groom to be, for an official ‘Introduction’ who in four months will marry his sweetheart we hope. One small glitch though is that the paid speaker, who will try to out-proverb, out-whit and out-dialogue the other speaker is late. Three hours later and five more Km off the main road the 25 of us representing the groom are lined up and ready to enter the household of the family of the bride-to-be. As we approach the house there is a tent for the bride’s friends and family on one side of the yard and a tent for the groom’s side on the other. The groom pretends to be one of the visitors and sits in the back with his friends. After some conversation and riddles between the two speakers the search is on for the groom. After much pomp and hoop-la an older female relative of the bride ‘finds’ him and pulls him out from the back row and relocates him to the front on a sofa. As our group has come on the scene, I have tried to strategically position myself in the back row so I can leave a little early. But no, that is not how it will be. As the only Westerner and the employer of the groom-to-be, I am seated in the front row beside the groom. Ugh! Looks like I’ll be here for the duration. Anyway, with the groom now found the search is on for the bride. Different groups of women of all ages come out in dresses and dance and pretend to be the bride. After some envelopes with some money enclosed are given to the bride’s family to help find the bride, she appears. At that point everyone traveling with the groom leaves and returns with many baskets of food, gifts, clothes and livestock. A cow is brought and a goat and everything is presented to the father of the bride. All of the stuff being presented had been placed on a list that was given to the groom months ago and written by the family of the bride. In this case a few items are noticed to be missing. This is a huge offense. There is a debate as the groom-to-be sits quietly, head down waiting for a verdict. My mind wanders and gravitates to the clock…The time is now 5:30 PM and I know there is a long trip back ahead. I try to inconspicuously rise in my white gown and white skin and wish the groom well as this debate is now nearing 30 minutes. Leaving, for the only white person in the whole village, proves to create a sizeable upheaval which threatens to stall the proceedings, but finally my two travel companions and I make it to the truck. Kanzus, (not dresses!) are taken off along with the suit jackets and tossed with relief into the back seat of the double cabin pick up. As we leave our conversation centers around our fellow staff member and how tough the bride-to-be’s family was on him. Will they give him their official blessing or refuse to sign the papers allowing her to marry him? Their refusal is a distinct possibility because he did not provide all the things on the list. As the conversation continues I am glad I am married and my pocket book is glad it was a Western girl… As the driver does his best to navigate around potholes, dark clouds are rolling in while the day turns to night. As dark covers everything the rain lets loose bringing added difficulty for the driver. We passed trucks with complete axels missing on dual rear axels….these illegal vehicles are trying to travel at night to avoid detection and fines from the police, just one of the reasons night driving is very dangerous here. As we pass them, on-coming trucks or buses nearly push us on to the side of what is called the road. Every 50 Km or so there is another truck broken down on the side of the road. It is hard to believe this is the main road between Uganda and Sudan. Finally after some frustration we arrive back in Kampala six hours later with the Westerner ready to throw up… It is hard to believe that 300 Km could take so long, but yes, knowing how many potholes there were it’s believable.
The next morning comes early as school begins and I make my way to school a little tired and groggy. After the morning passes there is a knock on my door and in enters the groom-to-be. He tells me he has received the official go ahead to marry his sweetheart in four months with her family’s blessing. This young man is very thankful to me for taking the time to come and join him and his entourage on this very special day. To him it was a great sign of respect and honor. All of a sudden the long day before seems very worth it. I encourage him to follow God and be a strong leader for his new family. He assures me he will and leaves with an extra bounce in his step that encourages me to work harder and support my staff even in these small ways to the best of my ability. However I am still not crazy about those Kanzus!

PS For all you moms and dads who have daughters, there still may be time for you to move to Uganda and demand all those goodies that the groom-to-be will bring…

Adventures With Sarah

Yikes…. Another month has gone by already! The significance of one month is very evident when you have a little one. He’s always doing some new thing and changing in some way. It’s a blast, and at the same time there’s always some looming challenge that wasn’t expected or just makes you feel like an idiot. As I look back over the past 5 and half months I just laugh about the journey it has been. Let’s just take Seth’s feeding time as an example. Our little trooper has eaten his meals in 4 different countries, spanning three continents…. He has declared his hunger and porked out in the car on the side of the road, in the car at McDonalds, in McDonalds, in the car at the grocery store, in the grocery store (don’t ask), in the dentist chair, in countless homes across North America, hanging thousands of feet above Greenland, in a little maintenance golf cart in the London airport, and in more white plastic deck chairs than I’d like to remember. And now here we are fully settled into our home in Uganda and I still find the child thing a new experience every day. I don’t know what I was expecting….all I know is I’ve gone scrambling for the very thick “What to Expect in the First Year” book hundreds of times already which at first glance gives the impression of being entirely too detailed because of it’s sheer size. In reality I’ve ripped hungrily through the pages and wished for more as I’ve tried to glean some helpful tidbit to suit the situation at hand. As I laugh at myself here I realize I am having so much fun with Seth and am so thankful for my friends, helpful books, and Mark!
As far as work is concerned, I am really enjoying getting back to it. I have been working mostly from home…. Getting letters addressed and ready for kids to write to their sponsors, helping them get started, and then proof reading their letters. When I have gone to the school it is really fun and so sweet to see all the love there for Seth. But the down side is, it is so noisy and helter skelter that a full day there with Seth is pretty much out of the question. My boss in Canada has asked that I write a proposal suggesting what things I feel I can do that fit into baby schedule. I am very thankful for that and am about to submit that in the next few days. For the time being I will finish the letters and Christmas Cards for the sponsors for this term and then look at what else I will be doing…. I’m pretty excited…. There are some great possibilities!
Enough from me…. There’s a little munchkin on my lap who is flapping his arms wildly trying to access the keyboard….. his little face lights up when he gets within a few feet of the computer… will have to give him a crack at it. One little request…. I am struggling with scheduling my evenings….. Seth seems to be fussy then and it’s a busy time with dinner, clean-up, washing diapers for the next day, baby bath and bed-time…. If any of you girls have some tips I would appreciate it. I’ve been experimenting but suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks! Love you all! Sarah

Adventures With Seth

Hey, I have something new to tell you about food. I get to eat smooshy stuff now! Have you ever tasted carrots? They are the best! Don’t worry about green beans… they’re just yucky! Mom still sneaks them on the spoon with my carrots and I pretend not to notice but I always know what she’s trying to do. I like sweet potatoes okay but daddy says they aren’t like the sweet potatoes at home… they are white and they are okay I guess. Mom says that pretty soon I will have fruit… she says it’s too sweet for me right now because then I won’t eat my vegetables and other more yucky stuff that she wants me to eat… like oatmeal! I let her know that was not a good idea when she gave me that oatmeal….but I ate it anyway because she was being bossy about it. One bad thing about food…sometimes you have to be careful because you can’t go poop! Mom said no more rice cereal even though I like it because when I try to poop…. Well anyway, it’s just not so good.
You know what my best thing to do is? Going outside! Mom puts my hat on me so the sun doesn’t hurt my eyes and we go outside. It’s so great to touch things and feel the pokey grass and hear the birds and kids playing and stuff. Sometimes I get to be in my walker on the porch while mom and dad have breakfast out there. (By the way, I am the boss of my walker now! It’s my favorite thing!) I just love to be outside and when I get big I’m going to go out by myself for long times and get really dirty!
I can roll over really easy now but mom says I’m lazy. I can scoot backwards and in a circle on my tummy. I can give kisses but sometimes daddy’s whiskers make me scratchy! I like to pull the hair on daddy’s chest and arms… I pull really hard because it needs to come out! Daddy laughs and says, ‘Ow!’ because I pull really hard! I’m pretty strong…. Yesterday dad took me outside and with my one hand I picked up a bag of posho (corn flour) that was one half a kilo… dad said that is more than one pound. So I guess pretty soon I can wrestle with dad.
I better go now… I need to go to bed. I’ve been having a little trouble in the evening with my attitude. I just feel grumpy so I cry for a while. I think I’m just too tired but I want to have more fun so I don’t want to go to bed. I’m trying to get better so I will go now and sleep. Bye! Seth

Uncle Dan

Uncle Dan came to see me one day. He drives the cars at school where dad works. I think he is funny.

Rubber Ducky

I remember the first time I took a bath at great grandma and grandpa's house - I hated it, but mom would not stop even though I cried the whole time. Now I like my baths and have a fun time with her. She gave me a new toy to play with and she calls it Rubber Ducky. He and I take a bath together all the time now.

Me and Dad

This is me and dad. I couldn't figure out why his face kept changing colour. Now I am into his hats and like pulling them off his head.

Uncle Douglas

Yes, this is me enjoying some time with one of my many new friends in Uganda. Uncle Douglas goes to the school were dad works and is in grade four. We get along well and I like him. He came to visit me one afternoon when he was on school holidays.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Adventures with Mark

It has been a very busy time since we last updated you with a note from Africa. We have been blessed with personal visitors and many other visitors seeing and joining in the work that is being done here in Uganda. We also had a group of our students leave to tour for a month in Australia and represent the organization. This added extra responsibilities for me here as fellow organization staffing from Uganda accompanied them. Through the busyness much has been done and God continues to work in the hearts and lives of so many young people.

We are currently on a three week term break where I will have a week off to spend some much needed time with two very great people – Sarah and Seth. We will be staying at home and just catching up on sleep and a little relaxation.

Through the busyness of the last few months there are many things that stand out. I think though, I will not forget a recent home visit with one of our students. He was in trouble for stealing a second time and so I decided to visit his home with our senior teacher as the term came to an end. Unfortunately his plight seems to represent so many children here. His mother and father have AIDS and he is the only child out of seven who is in school. The others can’t afford their school fees as the parents try to earn enough money for basic needs. Their home (a tiny shack) has no electricity or plumbing and one bed for everyone. The entire house is one room with a curtain splitting it into two and very little furniture to fill the 10 foot by 15 foot room. As I left I was discouraged as we talked to the father about the challenges we are facing with his child. He was visibly upset and frustrated and did not want his son suspended from school because, among other reasons, he would have to provide for him during that time. After a serious conversation with him and challenging him to own up to his responsibilities as a father, we left and also challenged the young boy to return after term break with excellent behavior as this is his God given chance to break the poverty cycle in his family and one day help them move forward. My heart was heavy as the senior teacher and our driver talked about the situation while we jostled along the alleys of the slum in the school truck. We all knew this student was running out of chances, but we all refused to give up and committed to continuing to try to mentor him and just maybe we will see our work come to fruition some day. In the mean time this student will be lifted up in prayer and we will not give up. Not now or in the future.

The picture is a home visit upon which we gave a little girl a new t-shirt with the help of Uncle Bert and Auntie Diane. Her Christmas came early!

Adventures with Sarah

Hello everyone! I think all of us have experienced that strange time thing where a period of time seems to whiz by and go on forever at the same time. That is how my August has been. It was wonderful! We had so many visitors…we had 5 different parties of overnight guests (a total of 37 nights). And there were also teams here from the States and Canada who came to do ministry at our school and other schools in Uganda and Rwanda, whom we had the privilege of spending time with. We had several big dinners at our house during that time and were blessed to have the teams over for coffee times to share their experiences. One of the joys in those kinds of visits is how we can clearly see that the actual lasting impact made on either the short term missionary or the people they loved while being here, is incalculable. Surely only God knows how He will use the powerful experiences that individuals have when they reach out to each other across cultural boundaries and just give to each other of themselves… nothing super natural is done by the participants but just through their fellowship and the genuine love of Christ in them, (again, both visitor and ‘visited’), healing, revelation, and deeper understanding of Christ often takes place. Mark and I feel so blessed to be in a position to see that, firsthand. To all of our friends (new and old!) who came on teams and some independently, we thank you…. For the richness you brought to our summer and for the love you showed Uganda!

I could write more....Can you guess what I could go on about for three pages? Yep…..our ever growing, precious little boy. But I do know how excruciating it can be for a loving individual such as yourself to attempt valiantly, to fully engage in a gushing depiction of the ‘cutest child ever’. To spare you the effort I will let Seth tell you just a little about himself and I will paraphrase my account by saying, I did not understand, until becoming a mom, the power little children have over the universe. I have not forgotten that God is in control of all things, but in this little galaxy of Makindye district, Kampala, there is a tiny being, trying to edge Him out! And he seems to have come with a complete understanding of what it takes to guarantee the world will revolve around him….sometimes by being so adorable that the world just wants to revolve around him, and other times by accepting nothing less! I hope you enjoy the pictures! We love you all! Thank you for loving us! Sarah

Adventures With Seth

Guess what everybody? I’m getting bigger! I am almost 5 months old and we went to the doctor again and I am 15.6 pounds! And you know what else? This time when they gave me pokes (now I know there’s two bad ladies at that place) I didn’t even cry at all! Well, maybe tears in my eyes but no crying! I juts kept sucking hard on my bottle of juice. It’s really fun being a baby most of the time. For lots of days there were so many people at my house and they gave me hugs and kisses and they are me new friends. I really like people! I miss all of those visitors… I tried to cry at mom and tell her that she should hold me and play with me all the time after they left but she said no, so I just started playing by myself again and watching her bake bread and stuff.

Guess what new stuff I can do? I can roll over and walk around a little bit in my new walker that mom and dad found at the store. One day, I got a little cough from some cold air by the Nile River and I thought that was cool that I could make that big noise, so I kept doing it sometimes and then I would smile when people noticed my coughing. But I got tired of that. Now I learned that I can make a bigger noise… dad calls it ‘squealing’ but it’s really just talking loud. I do it when I’m having fun. Oh, and one more thing…. last night I slept in my own room for the first time! Dad put my suitcase in my big crib and I like it and I slept good. I think they will take my suitcase out after I really like my crib because I’m almost too big for the suitcase and I just don’t need it any more. I have to go now….. I have to do lots of eating and sleeping today. Good bye. Seth