Thursday, December 4, 2008

Adventures With Mark

“Dad, don’t go” was the point that brought me to tears as I gave Seth a big, big hug good bye as he would call it. We had spent the night in Minneapolis as a family and the morning at the Mall Of America. Thomas the train was a big hit and the rides for the little kids were also much fun for Seth. However, it became clear that Seth completely and fully understood what was about to happen in the afternoon. After weeks of listening to adults talk about it and some prep for the last two days by mom and dad he was not looking forward to dad flying on a plane without him to Africa.Yes, the life of a worker for a charitable organization on another continent is not always exciting. Saying goodbye to Sarah, Seth and Jodie for another five week stint apart was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was not a happy camper as I got on the plane, but a tall well dressed black man got my attention. I waited towards the end of the boarding line and as I sauntered down the aisle in the plane I saw that my seat was beside this man I had spotted earlier. I knew immediately by his features that he was Sudanese and as we greeted each other his poor English supported this idea. Once off the plane we bumped into another tall well dressed man from Sudan. We were all going to Kampala and I suddenly became their leader in the Amsterdam airport as we found our new boarding gate for Uganda. Once settled we chatted a bit more about each others past and all of a sudden my almost six week departure from my family did not look so bad. Both of these men had been in refugee camps and had been separated from their families. In fact one of the men was part of the infamous “Lost boys of Sudan” that walked hundreds of miles and saw many of their countrymen die along the way. Both men had received permanent resident status in the USA through the United Nations. However they were in the process of trying to reunite their families with them as they were currently resettled in Uganda. One of the men had not seen his daughter of nearly two years and the other man had not been back in East Africa for about seven years. He was very excited to see his wife, boy of 8 and his daughter of 15. All of a sudden I realized once again that there are many people who have it much harder than I do and that even though I miss my family very much I can be thankful that we are together most of the time. It has become very clear that a passport from a peaceful nation like Canada or the United States would be one of their greatest privileges ever. I also realized that my children will be doubly blessed to have a passport from both countries at some point in the future. As I got off the plane in Uganda and said goodbye to my two new friends I made up my mind to once again give all I had for the boys and girls at the school who have very little compared to Seth or Jodie. I was back to school the next day where I received a warm welcome from the staff and students. With a hard working staff and excellent leadership while I was gone I found the school in great shape. The days were busy as we had a grade seven farewell party. As the 30 students came up at the party one at a time I was amazed at how grown up they became and how they have matured. The many varied problems that we dealt with as a result of their very difficult backgrounds had improved or disappeared in many cases.In particular I was touched by one student from Rwanda who has worked through many issues, particularly anger. As an example, earlier in the year he was upset by some discipline that was handed out and as a result he stated clearly that he did not want to help wash my car anymore or even look at it. Through much continued love from the wonderful team of staff at school this young man began to change. When I handed him his gift as he came up at the end of the year party, I knew his hug was real and genuine. The last night before the grade seven students left this young boy stopped in my office as I was working late. He presented me with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received…a car. He had spent the past week building a model car or perhaps I should say his BMW out of pieces of metal, sticks, broken sandals, elastics and broken pens. The car was amazing with a suspension system and a driving shaft that moved the front tires. I was at a loss for words, but managed to thank him, hid some tears or at least tried and we chatted for a little while. Later I learned that on his bus ride home, this orphan who had lost both parents and never new his dad displayed his new attitude. He gave some of his little money with a beggar at the border crossing ‘and best yet his anger problem due to the loss of his parents had become manageable and perhaps even a thing of the past. Yes, I miss my family and I will be extremely excited to wrap my arms around Sarah, hold my new little baby once again and have Seth run into my arms at the airport. As hard as it was to be separated for six weeks I know that I was a dad to one boy and many other young people who needed a dad. Like one of the adults who shared in devotions the other day it is better to make the years count than to count them. As Christmas approaches and many of us are blessed with so much let’s try and make a difference to so many others who may be hurting weather they are in Canada, United States or Africa.

God bless and Merry Christmas from the Williams family

Boys Dorm

The boys dorm will soon be ready for the iron sheets. Notice Lake Victoria in the background.

Girls Dorm

A front view picuture of the girls dorn. There is a nice porch area and elevated roof area to help with natural light and improved ventilation.

Soap Pit

Crew members are working on the soap pit for the bathrooms. It is cheaper to pay workers to dig by hand rather than to hire machines.

Classroom Complex

Here is another angle to the classroom complex. There is a gentle slope running down to Lake Victoria which would be in the background beind this.

School Complex

This is part of the school classrooms with the roofing completely done. In total there are eight classrooms, a computer room/library, bathrooms, staffroom and a temporary assembly room (two classrooms as one).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adventures With Mark!

Well, it has began… daddy of a beautiful little baby girl. She has already won her daddy’s heart and I am preparing to keep a close eye on the boys eighteen (sixteen?) years from now. She is a great addition to our family and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have a fabulous wife like Sarah, a great little boy and now a girl.

Over the past few weeks I have been spending lots of time with Seth as Sarah has had to focus more on Jodie. Seth and I are sharing a room and Sarah is down the hall with Jodie as she continues to want to be up a little bit during the night. Not sure why as the hockey scores are over and done with and she is not into reading many novels yet.

On a more serious note I have missed the staff and students in Uganda, but have greatly valued the time I could spend with my family back in North America. Unfortunately, I will be leaving my family at the end of October until the second week of December to return to Uganda to finish the school year. I will be excited to get back and see how things are going at the school, but it will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to my three best friends – Sarah, Seth and Jodie. Please remember me as I say my goodbyes and fly across the waters to Africa on the 30th of October. Also keep Seth in mind as he’s been enjoying time with his daddy and will struggle when I leave. Thanks for the love and support that many of you have blessed us with upon the arrival of Jodie. We appreciate the sharing of our joy and generosity that has been shown the Williams Four.

Adventures With Sarah!

I can think of only three dates in my lifetime that equal each other even though they are each remarkably different and hold individual significance. August 21, 2004…. My wedding day……the happiest day of my life to that point. April 11, 2007…. My first baby, Seth was born….. ‘another happiest day of my life’ if you can have more than one. October 4, 2008……My second baby, Jodie was born and the two incredible men in my life have to share their titles with her as she defined the ‘third happiest day of my life’. When I think about all of them at one time it’s just too much happiness!!!!!!!! I could make a list of challenges and could compile plenty of prayer requests for God’s grace and help for very specific things.…..but I think I won’t! I’ll just make this long enough to let you know that I have been so blessed and am so thankful to God for His faithfulness and goodness to me when I have done nothing to deserve it. (Maybe next month I’ll give you that list of prayer requests!) Thanks everybody for your prayers! (By the way, labor and delivery was so much easier this time… still a challenge but definitely easier!) Thanks to so many of you who have communicated your joy and celebration with us! Love you all lots! Sarah

Adventures With Seth!

Guess what? I’m a big brother!!!! Remember I was starting to wonder about that bump in mom’s tummy? Then she started saying it was baby. Then I would pat my tummy and say ‘baby’. But there really was a baby in mom’s tummy and she is here now and I get to hug and kiss her! And I really like her. When she cries I don’t really mind. I just look at her and carry on with what I’m doing. I think she does it for attention…. I’ll have to teach her about that… you get more attention if you do cute stuff… not so much crying. But she’s really nice most of the time. Anyway… I better get going. I have been growing up lots and am more busy than ever in my life and am starting to say my own stuff. (Like ‘I found it!’ and ‘There it is!’ and ‘Play with you.’) So I gotta go and play some more. Oh, one more thing….. I’ve been hearing mom and dad talk to other people about dad leaving pretty soon. It’s making me nervous and sometimes I start looking for daddy if he’s not in the room and when I wake up I ask for him. Please pray for me so when he leaves (Oct 30) I will be okay. I know he will come back but I will miss him. Bye everybody! I hope you’re having as much fun as me! Seth

Adventures With Jodie!

Hello to everybody! I’m so excited to be a baby! You know what’s the hardest thing? Staying awake in the day and sleeping in the night! In the night sometimes I just don’t feel sleepy so I just open my eyes and stay awake. Usually I need to eat and poop and I get a little tummy ache too sometimes. So then in the day I feel kind of sleepy. And it’s so nice because everyone likes to snuggle me so after my bath (do you have baths? I really like them so much!) after my bath I snuggle in my blanket and I smell all pretty too, and I fall to sleep. I like my mom and my dad and my brother and Grandpa Bob and Grandma Dori and so many other people! But I need to tell my brother that I don’t really like when he pokes all over my face and my head talking about all the pieces of my face and stuff…. My eyes and ears and nose and all that…. He even says ‘eyebrows’. Or maybe if he would just not do it when I’m sleeping. Hey, did you see the pictures of me? When I was first born I sure had some nasty bruises on my face, huh? I really didn’t like that because I didn’t feel very pretty but I was so happy to be out of that tight space in mommy’s tummy I just enjoyed having a good stretch! I better go… I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. I will be happy to come and visit you if you want me to. Maybe you could give me a snuggle if I come because I really like that. Good bye. Jodie

Monday, October 6, 2008

Birth Announcement: Jodie Mae Williams

I’m here everybody! I am a pretty girl and my name is Jodie Mae….. don’t you think that’s nice? I have been resting at the hospital with mom for a few days. I decided to be born on October 4th at 7:14 in the evening. I was supposed to be born on Oct. 3rd but I just needed one extra day of growing first. Mom’s tummy started working on getting me out at 5:30 in the morning and I thought it was a good idea. In the afternoon I thought about changing my mind but then mom and dad were already at the hospital so I quickly decided to get it over with and everybody started rushing around. That was pretty exciting for me. When I came out I could tell that mom worked very hard and her and dad were both there to give me hugs and kisses. Mommy was very tired, but very happy along with dad to finally see me. My face is a little bruised because after lots of hard work then I came out really fast, but I am just happy to be with my family. I also met my big brother Seth and he seems to like me. I can’t believe that I weighed 9 pounds, 11 ounces and am 20 inches long! That’s one more ounce bigger than my brother and one half inch longer. He seems so big and always wants to touch my eyes, mouth, nose and even my thick black hair. Sometimes he doesn’t remember that I am a little lady, so he plays with me like I’m all grown up like him but I know he loves me lots because he always tries to give me kisses. I think I am going home tomorrow, on Tuesday to be at my great grandma and grandpa’s house for a little bit. Dad is excited I came on time because he says something about going for a long drive soon to try and get me a passport. They keep talking about getting ready for flying for a long time in a plane and Seth says it is too long. Well, I should say goodbye because I want to snuggle with mom and I’m getting hungry again and I hear Seth coming down the hallway with dad. I want to see many of you soon!
A very happy Williams family with the newest addition, Jodie!

Miss America and baby Jodie!

A very proud and excited mom!

A very happy dad and big brother, Seth!

Daddy loves his new little girl!

Seth giving his new sister her first kiss with great grandma Dori!

Jodie, Seth, Mom and Dad 30 minutes after the new arrival!

Seth meets his new sister for the first time minutes after her birth!

A very happy, but tired new mom!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Adventures With Mark

The absence of Sarah, my Miss America and Seth, my little buddy has made the house very quiet. Yes, I am getting a lot more work done, but not much of a trade off for having them gone. I miss Sarah’s friendly warm smile with a hug coming home from work and playing ball with Seth or hearing “Daddyyyyy”. Soon however we will be back together again September 23rd in the not so mega city of International Falls, Minnesota. I am happy that they have arrived safely there at grandma and grandpa’s house after a short, but busy time in Vancouver.
The last few months have seen us focusing on our time with the African Children’s Choir here in Uganda and trying to discern what God has for us in the future. It has not been an easy decision as we have friends and family back in North America that pull on our hearts and yet the work here is fruitful and rewarding. The school, staff and students have made tremendous progress over our past three years since we have been here. Even though the work and people we interact with are a delight, the struggles of no power and certain everyday realities are difficult. It has not been an easy decision to make about our immediate future, but we know it’s important to be where we are supposed to be at this time. We have decided to extend our contract and stay on at the school here in Uganda until spring of 2010 at this point. If the Lord continues to lead we would like to see the new school established along with a strong staff built on integrity, hard work and honesty.
Let me share a story that will hopefully help you understand why we are here… The past term holiday a group of about 20 former students from our school who are now in secondary decided that they would venture out into the country side and make a difference in the community of Luwero. They spent three days and two nights cleaning a hospital (not so nice like health facilities in the west), ministering to a leper in his extremely small run down shack and helping in the clean up of a house being built for the grandpa of a current African Children’s Choir child. These students took the initiative on their own to give of their time to make a difference to others. For those who have been following our newsletters since we’ve come to Uganda, their fearless leader was the boy who was hit by a car one morning while walking to school and had his leg broken so badly it was possible he would never walk without assistance again. (He is now fit and healthy!) Yes, we had a chance to contribute to this group of students and the house, but the most exciting part is to see these boys and girls who were once at our school becoming men and women who are giving back to their families, communities and country. Our decision to stay longer in Uganda is based upon obedience regardless of what fruit we are seeing at this time, but it is evident that stories like these make our time here very sweet. We miss all of you dearly and so often we would love to sit down with family members, go camping with friends, catch a hockey game or just spend time together. One day that will come, but now we need to fully give ourselves to the work here. Being a father figure to students who don’t have a biological father at home and modeling a family is a current focus. To give you an idea we visited 22 student homes over the holidays and only three of them had a mother and father presently living at the home. These students need the hope and love that God has enabled us to be for them at this point in their lives.
We continue to be thankful for how we have been cared for and looked after by many of you in different parts of the world. The love and support we get from so many of you (emails, cards, phone calls, prayers, agreement through finances, etc) are irreplaceable. We can’t tell you how much it means. As we continue the work here in Uganda some of you may be interested in how you can help us. There are several different ways that every person can do something if you feel led. Looking back over the past three years we have seen many blessings from supporters. God has provided for us financially and kept us safe. However we have begun to see our finances lack severely due to rapid inflation here in Uganda and the increasing needs of our growing family. (The cost of electricity has more than doubled and local food costs as well, causing the need for a higher wage for our night guard, house help, and any other basic services including vehicle maintenance. And surprisingly, rent is nearly as expensive as back in the Abbotsford area.) Our financial needs have changed so much that this month we will most likely not have enough support to meet our bills. As God continues to lead us to stay you can help us with monthly support or even a one time gift to help us with continued expenses. Another option would be to help us out with baby #2 through assisting with transcontinental flights or North American flights by either earmarking donations for that specific need or donating airmiles. If you’re interested in either option please contact us for more information about how to do it. The last and most important thing is prayer. Simple, but very important things like protection and wisdom are needed. It may be protection for Seth from a snake that has slithered into our compound (don’t worry moms and grandmas!… so far we have only seen very small ones and Francis kills them immediately!) or wisdom to carry out discipline and lead staff at the school. We hope that these are three ways that those who want to be involved in our ministry here can attach themselves in a particular way.
If you are interested in getting involved in any way please send us an email and we can direct you. Until our next newsletter or we meet in person take care!


Okay, no one should complain about the road system back in the west. The potholes are HUGE here...

Room For One?

Yes, in Africa there is always room for one more. It is not the end that matters, but the fun in making it to the end and building realtionships along the way. Okay, John, my old house mate, we could really use your nice big dodge truck!

Hot Water

Yes, the simple, but a little technical version of hot water. From the tap to a water bottle on to the hot water heater. Perfect my friends for shaving!

Ghetto Blaster!

One just has to love those light portable radios!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Adventures With Mark

Yes, me in a fancy suit for a Ugandan wedding. I never thought I would see the day in Uganda when I would be upfront standing beside some very dressed up gentlemen in a church. It was an honor to stand up for Ivan as he married his sweetheart, Sarah (not my Sarah, but another Sarah). What a great day and lot of fun.

I will admit that there were many things that were very similar to a wedding back in North America, but it did seem like things were bigger and had a little bit more of a beat to them. There were seven of us groomsmen, yes a fairly big wedding by western standards but more of an average size for Uganda.

The wedding was huge as there were more than 500 people at the reception and wow was it impressive. We came marching in down a hillside to the bottom where there was a swimming pool with bridges on either side. We made our way across and sat at extravagantly decorated tables encircling the pool. The program was very similar, but the most noticeable difference in my opinion was the wedding cake. It was huge and I do mean huge… Usually in a Ugandan wedding the cake consists of several cakes as the groom and brides families and employers would all receive there own cake to take home. The remaining cake was cut up and distributed to everyone. This was the biggest I’d ever seen!

A second part is that towards the end the wedding party leaves and returns in more casual dress as least the ladies do. Well, not a problem, but everyone comes dancing in and yes it was a long dance as we covered a lot of ground. I was thankful that my too left feet were a little bit hidden as I was in the middle of the pack. However, my white skin did stick out a bit, but luckily there were three other westerners and I do believe one of them had even worse left feet than me. Yes, it is possible…

All in all it was a great day and a very special moment for me to stand up for Ivan and experience a Ugandan wedding. I was very happy for them both.

On a side note since we are talking about weddings a huge congratulations to a good buddy back home who tied the knot this past weekend. Dave Sundlie you know I wanted to be there for the big day, but all the best to you and Sue!

Adventures With Sarah

I’ve been thinking so much of home because I will be going soon! Seth and I will fly from here on August 22. We’ll spend a night in London and then head on to Vancouver. We’ll recover from jet lag, renew my driver’s license in Abbotsford, pick up some baby necessities from our garage and then head on to my grandpa and grandma’s to wait for this little one to arrive! Mark will join us there on Sept 23. We have many tentative travel plans after baby comes (due Oct. 3) but we have to keep them all soft until the baby’s passport process is complete. We will let you know when this all gets organized because we will need your prayers! At this point it seems very certain that Mark will have to return to Uganda towards the end of October and then come back Dec. 9 for Christmas holidays.

Anyway, all of that to say….. as I look ahead to the flight for Seth and me, I shudder to think how long it could seem. We will be sharing one seat and this mama will be 8 and a half months pregnant (I’m flying at the very end of the 36 week airline limit). Seth is a good boy but very active. He’ll be confined for 9 hours plus and then the next leg will be 8 hours. Both flights are during the day so he will have a nap and that’s it for sleep reprieve. We’ll also have a bulk head seat which gives much more leg room and also allows for a little seat for him to sleep in (providing there is no turbulence… every time the seat belt light comes on they demand you put your baby on your lap and strap him in with you even if it means waking them from their sleep and even if it is for only 2 or 3 minutes because turbulence is so unpredictable). Please everyone! Pray with us about this long trip!

You know, I’ve learned something from the Ugandan people about prayer and faith. Many of them pray for things they don’t have in a different way than we do. I’ve also been hearing lots of teaching about my mouth and my mind having more impact on my circumstances than I ever imagined! So, as I pray about this trip I have begun believing already that God is going to bring along people to help in the airport or at any time that I need it. I’ve also begun believing that He will provide an extra seat next to us on the plane! Or maybe there will be children on the plane that Seth can play with. I have no idea how God is going to bless us but I am convinced that He will either provide these things or give me tremendous grace and a very good boy! And by the way, I am already seeing his provision! We have a good friend visiting us for a few days from the UK and he was asking about my trip home. I told him we were spending a night near the airport in London and he was explaining what I would need to do to catch a bus to the hotel. Then he promptly whipped out 40 pounds from his money belt and said, ‘There… now you don’t have to stop at the cash machine to pay for the bus!’ The chore of getting pounds hadn’t crossed my mind yet! God’s way ahead of me!

That’s all from me except to say, I am looking forward to seeing so many of you. My first stop in Abbotsford will be very quick so please don’t worry if you don’t see me! We will all be coming through for some good visits in January before heading back to Uganda. I love you, my friends and family! We miss you all lots and we pray for you often. Sarah

Adventures With Seth

You know what everybody? I’m growing up so much. I help mom and dad empty the garbage cans and put them back and I help dad look for strawberries in the garden every night when he gets home.

And I say so much stuff! I’ll tell you me newest most fun stuff to say.

I like to say ‘I love you’ but my best way to say it is ‘a woo’
When mommy says ‘what is your name?’ I say, ‘sef!’ then she says ‘how old are you?’ and I hold up one finger and say ‘one!’

Then last night at dinner time we were all just eating our food (oh guess what? I can eat with my little fork by myself! but then I have to have a bath right away) any way, when we are all just eating I said ‘one, two, free!’ Mommy started laughing and said ‘yes! One, two, three!’ and then I said, ‘Four!’ daddy says I feel like a smarty pants because when they get excited about my new words I just smile like the whole world is full of sunshine because of me!

And another thing I really like to do is pray. Always before bed I say, ‘pay? Pay?’ and I fold my hands. And before we eat I fold my hands so we can pray. Then when daddy gets done I say, ‘more.’ I like when we pray about lots of stuff.

I guess I better go. Dad says he’s going to take me for a ride in the car and I really like that. On the way home When we get close to our house I get to be out of my car seat and help dad steer down the bumpy road and honk the horn at our gate. I see chickens and goats and dogs and sometimes cows by our house so it’s lots of fun. Good bye! I have to go driving! Seth

I am a boy!

Yes, mom and dad say I am all boy. I love to climb and they say I love to test the limits.

See My Smile

I brought the camera to mom and sat down just like this so she could take my picture.


There is nothing like some cool watermelon on a hot Ugandan day. Very juicy and it runs all over my face, but very good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Adventures With Mark

The last three weekends have been a little on the short side as we had first Visitation Day at the school, then a burial and an introduction on the third weekend. Yes, the first two are self explanatory, but a ‘kwangala’ (or ‘introduction’… held months or weeks before the wedding) I am guessing is a new event to many of you. The lovely picture of me in a dress is actually called a ‘kanzu’ and is part of the tradition. In a nut shell, if any of you have a daughter in the marrying age it would be a good idea to move to Uganda soon.
The day begins with the groom-to-be organizing at a central meeting place with the group of people he is allowed to bring to meet his bride-to-be’s parents. Most grooms would be allowed to bring about 25 people or so. Yes men, imagine inviting only 25 people to attend this event and that would include your family too. At the gathering point everyone gets ready with the men putting on their kanzus and the ladies their ‘gomazes’ (equally surprising to the North American eye). Once everyone is ready the entire group is given a specific time in which they are supposed to arrive at the bride’s home and being late usually will mean a fine for the groom. Vehicles are loaded with gifts to be brought to the event in hope of pleasing the possible in-laws.
Fortunately for me, this particular introduction is a little on the shorter side. Usually the party would have to proceed to the village or area where the girl’s parents reside. In this case we had a short 10 minute trip from our house and we were there. Forming a line for the men and one for the ladies we were greeted, a flowery thing pinned on our jackets and we entered. We were ushered to a tent on one side with the opposing tent having the relatives and friends of the lady’s side. There is another tent on the side between the two to seat more guests. The front rows have couches for the important guests.
Both sides hire professional speakers to speak on their behalf. As guests we are greeted and checked to make sure we do not have more guests than we are allowed or another fine will be issued. The groom is ‘hiding’ in the middle as one of the guests. After much conversation it is clear that we are here to find a young lady, but they need to know who is asking. Different aunties, brothers and friends come out and dance to see if one of them is who we are looking for. Then a special auntie comes out with a few others and proceeds to ‘find’ the groom. This is all done very ceremoniously with plenty of banter and lots of dancing. Our groom-to-be is found and brought to the front row with his best man. The bride-to-be is then brought with many other girls and they all do some more dancing (clearly this function is my favorite type of thing as you all know). Once it is clear that we have the correct groom and bride we are on to the next phase. The groom then needs to make sure he will be allowed to take his new bride and his entourage leaves in order to bring in the many gifts he has purchased for the bride’s family. A live chicken, live cow, live goat, couches, many crates of soda, cooking oil, sacks of rice, posho, beans, a side of beef, vegetables, pineapples etc. The list goes on and on as the ladies bring things in on their heads in baskets and the men bring in the heavier things. (By the way many couples never marry because they can’t afford this whole whoop-dee-do. It’s extremely important to impress the in-laws and ‘earn’ the girl.)
After what can seem a long time the groom is taken into the house and asked some serious questions by the bride’s family that are apparently not appropriate to ask in front of everyone. Once he passes the test he returns where the procession is allowed to continue. She gives him a ring and a cake is cut to be shared with everyone. Yes, you guessed it the event is followed by a huge meal prepared by the bride’s family. The groom is allowed to bring some of his close people into the house for an inner meal. I was fortunate enough to attend as one of the ten going inside on this occasion. The food was great and more than enough to last a few days. Once finished we went back outside for some closing remarks. Yes, this is a ‘kwangala’, but for traditional purposes would be considered the wedding. This would constitute a wedding as papers were issued, but for those people who are born again a wedding (very much like the kind we have) will take place. Yes, stay tuned next month as I take myself through my first Ugandan wedding as a groomsman.
As I arrived home I found myself tired but happy for my friend, Ivan, and his new wife-to-be, Sarah. They are happy and both excited about the wedding next week. Yes, I was excited to see my Sarah when I got home and know that Seth was safe and sleeping soundly. A long day from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm, but a day well spent for Ivan and Sarah

Adventures With Sarah

There’s a notice posted outside our gate. In short it states that this is the last warning… overdue taxes must be paid by the property owner or Kampala City Council will bring in ‘legal machinery’. It states the owners have only 7 days to comply. This was posted last Friday. In my more flimsy moments I’ve envisioned myself with Seth in one arm standing in front of our house (which I rather like) facing off with a man driving the big wrecking ball truck. And it really is not much comfort that most things in Africa take three times longer than they should to transpire. I’m afraid with this sort of thing, all may go very smoothly and come off on time without a hitch! Sadly the property owner lives in the UK and her delinquent son who used to live right outside our bedroom window in his own little place, has traveled there to continue his studies. Up until now I haven’t missed him at all. I honestly have no idea how this will play out but I have revised my intervention plan. My new plan places Seth safely in the swing under the tree with lunch and suitcases nearby. From my post in front of the house I will be able to see all three of our passports sticking out of the lunch basket. If the wrecking ball starts to swing I will step aside, have lunch, pick up Seth and my bags and tell Mark to meet me at the airport. Anybody got a couch where we could land for a few weeks? Aw well. Africa has taught me to laugh and relax. If something bad is really going to happen worrying about it just ruins a whole bunch of extra time.
Other than possible homelessness, we are doing well. I’m nearly 7 months pregnant and still feel good. Remember I asked you to pray for me as I was feeling kind of useless here? God gave me an opportunity to offer homemade soy milk to my neighbor lady whose baby seemed to be crying a lot. When I inquired with our guard about the crying he said the mother was working and they were feeding the three month old full cream cow’s milk. After making some soy milk in my blender we asked the mother if she wanted the try it and I offered to provide it for her until I leave in Aug. They did try it but it seemed to give the baby diarrhea (opposite of the nasty constipation she had been having on the cow’s milk). I suggested she mix them and evidently she did but still seemed to prefer to give the baby cow’s milk. She was very grateful for my offer, though and it was fun meeting her and her two daughters. When she came over to say it wasn’t working for the baby I held the baby and visited with the mother for a while. The baby looks very healthy and isn’t crying much at all now. I don’t think I actually helped but it has been a blessing to meet this lady and know that if I could have helped I would have! I am continuing to pray that God keeps me willing to act when I see a need that’s right in front of me. It seems obvious that I would but sometimes as I explained before, it’s not that simple. Thank you for the prayers! Keep them coming! Love you all. Sarah

Adventures With Seth

This time I really don’t have time for writing. I need to sleep because I played ball with dad for an hour before supper and I fell down and cut my lip but that did not stop me and I even have a little diaper rash and I cut my toe and after my bath and cereal I can’t keep my eyes open. Good night! Seth

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Adventures With Mark

Okay, I will admit that once again I am a little bit behind. However I am in the midst of a rare two day weekend. Yes, I took Saturday off from school and I have been hanging out with Seth playing with balls and reading books. There was also a little bit of water and mud in there somewhere too.

My view for this month is going to be my top ten list and my top five list. Ten reasons why being a missionary is excellent and five reasons why it is difficult. Perhaps I can entice a few of you to come join us or jump into another culture.

Top Ten…
-Meeting new and exciting people
-Learning new sports, cultural experiences and traditions
-No forty-below-with-wind-chill weather in Uganda
-Learning a whole new meaning of the word faith
-Making a difference with the children you work with who are eager for your help
-Working with staff who are supportive, excited and generous to a western face
-Life is a slower pace than the west and there is not as large a concern to “keep up with the Jones’” idea
-Priorities or what is really important in life become more focused
-Traveling to different parts of the world one would usually never see
-Not as much junk food – okay that can be positive and negative

Top Five…
-Missing family and friends
-No hockey to watch or ice to play on
-Power cuts on a regular basis
-Poor international communication with the internet and phone
-Hazardous driving conditions no matter what the weather!

I should also add that the past month or so has seen our children sing for the queen and the president of Uganda at the Westminster Abby in London. We also had Kirk Franklin come to Uganda and our children sang with him in the two concerts at which around 20,000 US was raised for the new school. God is good as soon half of the walls for Phase one will be up!

Adventures With Sarah

May has been the most fleeting month I can remember in a while! We enjoyed a great visit from dear friends from home, and have made new friends who stayed with us as well.
Although motherhood is my ‘main thing’ right now (and I find it equally challenging and rewarding) I would like prayer for another matter that has been growing in importance to me. I have recently experienced another wave of culture shock. I didn’t know that was possible but my friends who have been here long term say it comes in waves and at any time. In the past 2 months I have struggled greatly with feelings of helplessness and failure concerning the people around me every day: Almost as much as when we first came. I’ve been asking God how I can plug in more to those around me wanting to feel that I’m actually changing something permanently or just ‘mattering’. So far I have just ended up feeling overwhelmed whenever I try to ‘come up’ with a way. Here it is so different than back home. You can’t just reach out to the neighbor lady with kindness or a loaf or bread or have her over for coffee unless you are prepared to face and address the great need of her immediate family and most likely her whole clan and then the next neighbor lady who heard you are a kind person. I don’t say those things in a derogatory way… not at all. That is the reality here and there’s no way around it. Please pray with me about how I can do something different if God has something specific in mind and is giving me a nudge to get me going. Or pray that He helps me understand that there is significance in what I’m doing for Uganda even though I don’t see that right now.
I guess that is all I want to share this month. I have plenty of work to do this month with writing term letters with the kids at the school and helping prepare for teams coming this summer.
My little man continues to be the joy of this house! He has been teething ‘seriously’ as we would say here in Uganda, and has needed to be on meds regularly just to sleep. He has a huge mass resembling an iceberg about to burst out of his lower gum as his right side lower molar. He currently has 8 teeth and his eye teeth are threatening as well as his left side molar. Yep… some days are long! I’ll let him tell you more about himself. As for us, we find him more fun every day. Personality plus and such a people lover! Here that is a great blessing because babies and young children are a very community thing. It is very common for people here to outright thank you for caring for your child… as if it a great favor to them. Pretty funny.
I’ll sign off now and let Seth tell of his fun life! God bless all of you! Thank you for keeping in touch! Sarah

Adventures With Seth

You Hey everybody! Do you know what I would do if you came to my house? I would be shy for maybe two minutes (while I am smiling at you) and then I would give you a high five if you wanted me to and then I would just keep making eyes at you as I play with my toys and try to show you my cool books and other stuff while I try not to get too close to you. And I can say so much stuff now. Mom says it’s about 20 words. Hey, did you know there are little penguins in South Africa on the beach? We went there one time and I loved them so much. Now I have a little one that goes with us in my diaper bag and he is my bud. I still love to play with balls and am learning to kick by myself without somebody holding my hand so I don’t fall over. And guess what? My mom is getting a chubby tummy. I’m starting to get suspicious. I heard mom say something about ‘sharing my toys’. I’ll let you know when I know what’s going on. Something’s fishy I think. And pretty soon we’re going back to Canada dad says. I can’t wait to see all of the people that are on mom and dad’s fridge. I look at them all the time and point to them. I guess I should go. My new favorite thing is reading books. I can sit for a long time and point to all the stuff I know. And my Grandma and Grandpa Carpenter gave me a Baby Einstein video and it is the best thing ever! I’m learning about numbers and I like to say ‘hi’ to the tiger puppet! I really have to go now. I’m hungry again! High fives to everybody! Seth

My Buddy Francis

I like hanging with Francis when dad is at work and mom is busy in the house. I even try to copy him sometimes and stick out my tongue like in this picture. Dad says Francis is a very important friend that keeps us safe at night. He is the best night guard in our division where we live!

Farmer Seth

Look at the stuff from our garden! I love the corn lots. Even when I just had 4 teeth I could clean my pieces bare. I like to help dad and mom in the garden with my wooden spoon.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Adventures With Mark

It is a rainy afternoon as I type up my portion of our April newsletter. Not too long ago I was inspired for all of Calgary when I saw my team, the Flames represented all the way in Uganda. As I pulled up to an intersection and waited for one of Kampala’s three working traffic lights to change (an occasional luxury that comes and goes with the power cuts) I saw a young man selling carrots. I could not help but stare as he was wearing a Calgary Flames jersey. I am sure he had no idea about zombonies, ice and pucks, but it made my day. I was disappointed I did not have my camera, but enjoyed my few minutes before the light changed to green.
Sadly to say, my inspiration from this young gentlemen did nothing to help my team, the Big Red Machine, the Calgary Flames make it past the San Jose Sharks in the seventh game of there series. I thought that if they made it past the first round, they just may make it all the way to the finals… well, I guess there’s next year along with all those Oiler and Canuck fans.
As I thought about this teenager I saw selling carrots I realized that he was a good representation of the people in Uganda. Yes, the average age of Uganda’s 31 million people is 15.2 years. This is much lower than the global average age (around 28 years of age). In 2007 alone there were 1.3 million babies born in Uganda. If these numbers continue the country of Uganda will reach a staggering 93 million by 2050.With a current high unemployed work force Uganda will face more challenges as younger people find themselves trying to find work a few years down the road.
As I think about our work here I know we are trying to help build a better future in a small way in the years to come in Uganda. Life, by life we continue to try and mentor, train, and build young lives that will help mold and shape Uganda in a positive way in the future. It is our hope that these young lives we work with will bring ethics and a positive attitude with them into their communities, families and jobs. Yes, providing them with a good education is important, but only one piece to the puzzle. Sometimes it’s good for me to sit down and review our objective and look back at what that has actually looked like for this first term of the year. The term is just now over and I’m encouraged as I realize the students continue to improve their grades, and more importantly behavior incidents continue to decrease as lives and hearts are changing.
Even though my Calgary Flames are out this year, my heart continues to burn with the passion for many young lives here like the boy selling carrots in a jersey he knows probably nothing about. Whether we are in Uganda, Kenya, UK, Canada or the United States I trust that all of us would continue to make a difference where each one of us has been placed. Little by little we can all make a difference – let’s get out there and do just that.

Adventures With Sarah

I just quickly read last month’s letter before typing this and sincerely can’t believe that was a whole month ago! Nothing earth rocking has happened but the daily grind seems to have me in a trance, blurring the last month into what seems to be a week!
From a work perspective I have recently enjoyed helping to write and edit a press release for a concert that our kids are having here in Kampala with Kirk Franklin (Google it if you don’t know of him… he’s adored here). That will happen May 9 and the purpose of it is to raise more funds for the building of the new school. (The ground has been broken and the foundations have been poured but there is much need for more funds to continue building.) So we also put together a brochure to explain the mission of the organization, its history, and where we are going now. It was very exciting to try my best to capture the passion of the choir and to inspire people to partner in the building project. (This will be an elite audience who will have the resources to help lots if we can inspire them!) And Kirk Franklin has graciously committed ALL proceeds to the building of the school. It’s pretty awesome. I may not ever find out how much is raised (sometimes people on he ground are very far removed from any accounting information) but I prayed for God’s help in my small part of the effort and I hope it is successful! And, next week I begin term 2 letters with the kids. It’s a lot of work and I have to do it in Seth’s nap times from home and Mark has to watch him while I do a few days at the school with the kids. I thank God that is only once every term!
On the home front I am having more and more fun with Seth all the time! He’s getting more independent (good and bad)…. Still crashing or ‘bumping’ several times a day. Loves to be outside and play with water, rocks, dirt, and sticks. We’re just beginning to sail on unfamiliar waters with discipline. When he has to come in from outside he has just begun to put up quite the protest. Please pray for us as we do our best to be consistent and firm, establishing healthy respect and yet from loving hearts. It sounds a little nasty but in the daily grind those ‘loving hearts’ can get hidden behind harsh words and impatience (you parents know what I mean). I think I’ll let Seth share about all the new things Seth is doing. It’s so much fun and he’s a very loveable little person! Our little number two is apparently growing (need I say more?) and we’re getting excited to meet this one. Please continue to pray for good health for me and baby.
I pray this finds you all well. We appreciate you all so much! Can’t wait to be back on the continent and seeing as many as possible! Love you lots! Sarah

Adventures With Seth

You know what? I had a birthday party! There was balloons, cake, ice cream, good snacks and a few toys for me (mom and dad said I have enough toys already, especially because I like rocks and dirt the best). Four people came to my party and they all blew bubbles from soap for me and it was so fun! And I had my first chocolate cake! Mom took off all my clothes and then I had my first taste! After my first taste then I put both hands in that cake and it was all over me! (When Mom gave me my bath after she said she was so glad it wasn’t poop!) And I’m getting bigger too…. I can walk really good now and I know lots of words! My favorite new word is ‘no’. Dad says I say it funny with a wrinkled nose. Sometimes I say it even when I mean yes. But now I can say ‘yes’ too. I have lots of friends here.. I really like big people and I like little people too. I like to imitate bigger boys and I play with anybody who will play with me. My favorite people in Uganda are the big uncles. And the boys at the school teach me soccer. I have to go now….I have so much to do. Next time I see you I will give you a high five! Seth

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Adventures With Mark

Okay, I should catch up on a few odds and ends before I do a little football (or better known to you as soccer) talk. We have had a busy few weeks, but our term break mid April is in sight. Full steam ahead and then a two week rest and some catch up. This month has been considerably more reasonable in work load for me and I thank you all for your prayers through February. Things have been busy, bust but not seeming to spin out of control. I am grateful.
I was surprised the other day as I was on my way to work. Our night guard was still around and opened the gate for me. We had our usual morning conversation in which he said that he was a new dad. I will admit I was caught off guard as I knew nothing about this, but just the previous day his wife had given birth to their fifth child. Yes, the Ugandan way is to keep quiet, even when it is obvious until the baby is born and all is well. Congratulations Francis on another girl.
In regards to a house cleaning item, if anyone did make a donation for us in regard to our work here with the African Children’s Choir in 2007 and you did not receive a thank you from us please let us know. If you did not receive a card or a note via email it is most likely that your donation did not make it to its final destination here and may have inadvertently been placed as a general donation for the organization. We have been aware of this happening in the past so we try to keep tabs on this ourselves. Thanks!
Now, on to more exciting things like football! Yes, yours truly, Mr. Williams was the goalie for the uncle’s team on Saturday as we took on our school’s Senior Boys football team. Let me start by saying that those boys are very good and it has been a long while since I have been the goal keeper. Needless to say we worked hard, but they beat us in the end by one goal. I will admit, I let one weak one by and their second goal was off side but allowed by the ref. (Man, it’s tough to get a fair call!) We had some good fun and the boys that scored were very happy. Yes, especially those two boys in the picture above who scored on me. I should also add that the last time I played goal was back in grade six in penalty shots when Bieseker took on Irricana in the battle of the Hickvilles. Yes, we came in on top, but that was more than a few years ago. However, I will be ready for next time…
Yes, the girls do play soccer too and tend to have better results. Unfortunately there is a lot of cheating here as many teams will bring players to tournaments that do not even play for there school and are often years older. We found this out first hand as our Senior Girls Football team battled through two tournaments to make it to the final four teams for all of Kampala again this year after taking the title last year. Our girls played very hard and made us proud placing second in the whole city. Once back in my office and viewing some video footage and collecting comments from the girls it was discovered that the first place team used girls that do not attend their school and are secondary students. It was disappointing for the girls and frustrating for our staff, but part of everyday soccer life here. As our teams press on enjoying soccer and practicing hard, we continue to refuse to follow those who do cheat as we are committed to teaching these children integrity. (The temptation to cheat is very strong here because everyone is doing it and I am proud of our coach for his choice to play fair.) Yes, we will bring this latest incident to the attention of the girl’s football association but we are not expecting the outcome to change. Needless to say we will carry on and do feel that even though we were number two in Kampala that we do indeed have the best girl’s football team in the country!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Adventures With Sarah

Hmmm. From a work perspective things have been pretty quiet for me since finishing term letters in Feb. But I have written a few reports this month and have really enjoyed that. It’s really great to interview someone and write an article for example, about our last year’s P7 class doing outreach in the community. Or all the secondary students having a camp/reunion week. It is almost like being there myself as I try to capture what happened the best I can. These have been inspiring stories for me. I have really enjoyed doing those reports.
Speaking of reports, I guess I have a report for all of you. Or should I say ‘we’ do. Seth will be a big brother in October! We are pretty excited and thankful for this blessing! I am just through the first trimester and am starting to feel more energy and less ‘yuck’. It is evident, as the little world around our oldest revolves obediently around him, that a sibling will be a positive thing for all of us! I’m not sure he will think so but in the long run he’ll thank us! Our tentative plan is that I will go to my grandparents’ in Minnesota around the end of August with Seth and Mark will come a few weeks later. Baby is due Oct 3 and we hope it comes on time! (Remember, historically our children are in no rush to be born). Mark will return to Uganda in Nov. and I will stay in the States. Then we will all spend Dec. and Christmas in Canada. These plans are all tentative and subject to change. But, Lord willing they will all happen! Anyway, as I sign off here, I would just like to give glory to God for His goodness and thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to pray specifically for health for me and our new little one. And, in closing, God has really answered prayers concerning work for Mark. Things have settled down and, although still busy, he is facing much less stress and I want to thank you all for prayers about that as well. Until next time, God bless! Sarah

Adventures With Seth

Guess what? My life is the most interesting of my whole family! Because every day I try to say something new and you know what else? About two weeks ago I started walking and that is the best! Now I really am the boss of my legs and I go everywhere. I still can’t walk outside by myself but if I hold someone’s finger then I can. And I have so many bruises! My auntie Ann calls them ‘certificates’. That just means everyone can tell that I am walking by myself. And I can say lots of stuff. I can say ‘hi, bye-bye, mama, dada, hot, hat, up, out, bump, and help’. Then other things I say like, ‘d=down, p=poopy, papa=puppy and paper, and t=two. I can also sign ‘more and milk and hungry’. So it’s lots easier to be me now because I can do more big people stuff. And pretty soon I will have a birthday! Oh and one more thing…. I have 5 teeth now. I can bite stuff. Mom says she’s glad I only bite food right now. I’m not sure what she means. She said ‘teeth can be a weapon’ I have to go now. I hope I can see some of you pretty soon! There’s some pictures of me. Bye

My Rock Toys

I like my rocks... Sometimes I think they are candy and I try to eat them, but mommy says not to. Some even have dirt on which makes them taste better. I also like throwing them out of the rock garden onto the sidewalk. They are some of my favourite toys.

Stairs - Up And Not So Good Down

I am now able to get up and down stairs on my own. In the past I would go with mom and dad, but they were to slow for me so I figured it out on my own. I still have trouble going down by myself as the drops seem to big. If I crash I will have a big BUMP!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adventures With Mark

Okay, I will admit that this has been one of those rare few months were I am not sure what exactly to write. Yes, like all of you I have been busy and trying hard to juggle family, church and the start of a new school year here in Uganda. We are now six weeks into the school year and have about another six to go before term one is wrapped up. Before you and I know it we will be at Christmas again.
Yes, here are a few numbers that you have all been dying to know about Music For Life Primary School. Currently we have the biggest grade seven class we have ever had as our candidates as we call them here, are all working hard so they may pass their big exams at the end of the year. We have a total of 126 students that are on two different sites. Music For Life Primary School (MFLPS) has the students in grade four through grade seven with five full time primary teachers. There is also a part time computer teacher and an art teacher that works at both sites. The other site, or the Satellite School as we call it, has 27 students who are either in grade 2 or grade 3. It is a big house that we have rented where the students have school and dorm. There are two full time teachers and three resident assistants that look after the children before and after school. Yes, the fun part of getting them up in the morning and to bed at night after a good supper, some school prep time and devotions. There are two cooks that work hard to provide good meals and a night and day guard to make sure everyone is safe and sound. In all we have 7 full time staff and one part time staff at the satellite school. At MFLPS we do not only have teachers but three full time cooks and 8 resident assistants that help with children after school hours. A full time day guard and a driver finish the numbers off. All in all these 18 full time staff and two part-timers work together to make us one unit. With my self and another administrator, we have a total of 27 full time staff and three part time staff working together with these 126 children over two sites to ensure they receive a quality education and godly mentoring.
Now for the good part… We are hoping our new school will be completed and ready for us to move in at the end of this year. I know 127 children does not seem like a lot, but we are already too full in our current building for the amount of students we have and come May we will be receiving another choir. Yes, somehow, someway we will all have to fit in another 23 students into these two sites. Okay, maybe not always one big happy family, but we manage to enjoy each other and working with the kids. Please pray for grace as these new kids come and the pressure steps up for all staff and the kids

Adventures With Sarah

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we last wrote! Yikes, it went fast! As I try to remember what has actually been happening I wonder if I missed it! What did happen? As I collect my wits you can imagine my little boy ‘helping’ me as I write…given a tin of dominoes to conquer, he has begun taking them out one by one and flinging them on the tile floor because the noise is so great! Not only is the noise fun but watching them scuttle under the furniture and to every corner of the room is part of the delight, so there is a good pause between each onslaught as he waits for the last one to come to a complete stop. Oh yes, now I remember…. It has been a very busy month!
The beginning of every school term is busy for me as I help the kids write letters to their sponsors and this month was especially busy because I also had to take 3 photos of each kid and fill out update forms to keep their sponsors informed of any changes for them this year and add career goals and fun ‘favorites’ or likes that the sponsors might not know about. It’s a great way to get to know the kids better. I have an advantage over Mark in that way… he only gets to know the ‘bad’ ones well….The ones who sit on the other side of his desk in their ‘not so greatest of moments’. (Just yesterday he asked what I thought he should to two older boys who got in a fist fight…. I suggested window washing and scrubbing the stairwells with a small brush… I haven’t heard what happened but picturing either of those macho boys doing those menial tasks makes me smile…. I imagine feeling like ‘Little Orphan Annie’ {without the cool dog to keep them company}is not their idea of a good Friday afternoon.) Anyway, besides the sponsorship I am also writing reports for the organization; interviewing staff who traveled somewhere or were involved in an event that needs to be recorded and written in a way that could be used in their magazine if necessary. Many of you know that is right up my alley so I have been enjoying that.
Otherwise child maintenance has been my main occupation…. The child who, by the way, is now in the high chair next to me, mutilating little pieces of bread into littler pieces of bread and practicing his new trick which I am trying to ignore (sticking his fingers in his nose up to the knuckle… this a very new trick and I’m hoping that no reaction keeps the intriguing discovery of the cool holes to a minimum).
I’m not sure what Mark is going to write, but from my perspective, this month has been one of the toughest for him at the school since we’ve come. He has been utterly exhausted and it has been hard to know how to help. Please pray for strength, good health, and wisdom for him. Please pray that I am able to help in ways I can which includes not getting irritated when the work seems to consume him completely and is never ending. I will add, though, it seems Seth is Mark’s little battery re-charger. It is so cool to see Seth’s face light up when he hears daddy honk the horn at the gate in the evening. We always run out on the porch and his arms and legs are pumping as he watches daddy pull in. For the next 10 or 15 minutes Seth has to be with daddy otherwise he starts fussing. And Mark has a blast playing and laughing with him. Praise God for little ones! My most appreciated contribution to the ‘family time’ is quite definitely a nice meal for everybody! In summary, God is good and brings joy in the little things even though there seems to be many challenges right now. Thank for all your love and support! Till next month, Sarah