Monday, November 15, 2010

African Adventures With Mark!

Greetings from Uganda! Wow, it feels like a lot has happened since our last newsletter. I will just share a few tidbits of things here in Uganda. The biggest change for us has been a move from congested, polluted Kampala to out in the country, a five minute walk from the school. I love it as I don’t have to use the car and the five minute walk in the morning is good for me and allows an extra 45 minutes to sleep in. I can be home by six for supper with the kids and have my head cleared before I walk in the door. The area is pasture like with gravel roads and small village houses scattered along the bumpy path.
Our grade seven class has just finished their national exams as their elementary school years have come to an end. The 28 members wrote their national exams that are very comparable to grade twelve exams back home as far as stress goes. These four exams over two days decides their entire mark for the year and ultimately decides if they will enter a good secondary school and then have a chance to go to university. After the exams we took them to Jinja, the source of the Nile River and did some ministry to two orphanages and also saw some national sights of interest. It was fun for me to see how much they have grown as individuals and yet hard knowing the difficulties they face ahead during their three month extended holiday before beginning secondary. Their home lives are difficult. The Saturday morning they were leaving they came to my office one at a time for a final goodbye, a new Bible and a big hug amongst tears as they left and made their way out of the school gate and onto life. Not only was it hard for the students but myself as well as I had guardians kneeling down in my office crying for gratefulness. For example one guardian wept saying before The African Children’s Choir took her child there was no hope of the child completing even grade two as the parents had died and the aunt had already several children to feed and care for. Another P7 student was going home to her final parent on his death bed… still others were leaving their primary school years to lead homes where they would have to grow the food, gather it, and prepare it; Only to leave for their secondary education with the weight of home on their minds. Not easy situations. But after this difficult day of sending them off, on my five minute walk home I had a quiet peace that these students would be okay and that God was looking out for them and my part as training them for life almost as a parent had come to an end.
Once arriving at home I couldn’t help but think how fortunate my two children are to not only have two parents but a home where they are loved and taken care of. Seth and Jodie love our new place as God allowed us to move into a bigger house with a much larger yard for a much lower price. The biggest event for Seth was that one of our four kittens and in fact his favorite “Petre” died of pneumonia last week. Jodie and Seth decided that two of the kittens needed a bath in the washing basin outside that was being used for washing clothes by hand. Too many dunks and wash water in his lungs it turns out. He seemed okay at first but five days after his ‘baptism’ the poor kitten became very obviously sick and a visit to the vet couldn’t save him. Dad was busy at work so Seth went along with mom and said goodbye to his little cat. Later that day we buried the little guy under the tree and Mr. Seth put some of his favorite rocks over the spot. He handled his first experience with death very well and to be honest dad probably had a harder time as I have seen too much death in the families of our students at the school, and recently abandoned puppies starving to death or people struck by cars and dead or dying on the side of the road. Yes, we still pray for safety and health on a daily basis for our family.
It is hard to believe that since coming to Uganda about five and a half years ago we have had two additions to our family and so much has been seen and learned. After much prayer and debate about staying here longer we have come to a conclusion about our future for the next period in our lives. It is hard to believe that Seth is three and will turn four in April of next year. With him in mind and other things we have decided to only accept an extension to our contract that would take us into 2012. If we desired there is a clause that could bring it to an end sooner. This was a difficult decision as we miss family and friends greatly back home but feel that God has not ended this chapter in our lives yet. I know that for some of you this is not exactly what you were hoping for. Yes, there may be the odd few of you Oiler or Canuck fans that think the farther away I am the better.
Needless to say that if you ever wanted to come for a visit and see our ministry here in Uganda it would most likely be best if you came before Christmas of 2012. We have appreciated the numerous people who have encouraged us along this path and have supported us financially as I’ve worked at the school; and so many of you have covered us with a much needed shield of prayer. I believe that God has allowed us to be fruitful in our relationships and display effective leadership at the school with students and staff. Until God moves us in a different direction we would be blessed by your continued support. If you have a desire to continue or begin to sow along with us into the lives of these students please let us know as this financial support makes this ministry possible.
We appreciate your friendships more than anything! Please know that we pray for you and think of you so often. We hope to see you when we’re home!
God bless, Mark

African Adventures With Sarah!

Man, I don’t remember the last time I’ve written a newsletter! Maybe it hasn’t been so long ago but it feels like it.
Perhaps because we’ve moved house just three weeks ago I feel like so much has happened. I am very happy in our new home (just a six minute WALK for Mark to the school instead of a 45 minute drive one way in nasty dangerous traffic). God provided us with a big, cheaper, farm style home that our children love and I am getting used to. At the end of every day we are all filthy dirty with country dirt and it reminds me of my childhood growing up on a farm in Minnesota. We feel very blessed to be here and are thankful for God’s provision.
It’s been strange… I very much did not want to move from where we were. Mostly because of our large circle of friends there who kept me and the kids from being lonely and bored with the mundane. Our friendships with families of children our kids’ ages in the past two years have blossomed into encouraging, stimulating, real fun! It’s been such a blessing. So a 45 minute move down a crazy road that doesn’t invite travel felt like loneliness coming on. But God is amazing… after we decided to move there was a shift in my heart and I felt very settled and even more ready than before to stay in Uganda as long as God wills.
In fact I have been inspired in the past year and a half by a life changing experience that has made me wonder exactly what God is thinking. I don’t remember how much I’ve shared with you about this because it has been a bit dangerous but August 2009 God appointed me, with the support of Mark to take a 14 year old girl out of a deadly situation. This young girl, Hope (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) has since then delivered and is raising a healthy baby boy who is about to make one year old. She has absolutely zero family support as she was abducted into this country by her step sister and her husband as a child slave at the age of ten. So obviously I have felt the weight of her future very heavily since feeling called to intervene for her. (The story about that is amazing, by the way…I can tell you, God has a plan for this girl and her baby, no doubt!!)
Throughout the legal processes and hours of thought and prayer and networking that I’ve been doing with others about this girl’s future, I have discovered that there is nothing within Uganda to offer this girl as far as education or a training program that will equip her, as a teen age mother, to eventually get a job and at the same time, support her and teach her how to raise her child. This would include offering child care since she has no family support. Her options are staggeringly hopeless. The chances that she and her son would be any more than beggars and abused are slim to none. Amidst my research and new-found awareness, I’ve learned that there are vast numbers of such girls in very similar situations within Kampala (most of them from Congo and mothers because of rape - at the moment these girls are on the street).
Anyway, through all of this networking, God has put in my path some highly motivated individuals with the right connections to do something about it. The timing of some of these encounters that I’ve had with caring, equipped individuals is partly what has made me take notice.
Along the way another friend and I have managed to put together the outline of a program that would meet the needs of these girls and their babies. I also bumped into a woman who can access a national alternative education program from the UK for un-wed mothers dropping out of high school. The directors of this program have agreed to release it to us here in Uganda to be tailored for the needs of the girls in Africa and they would actually redesign their materials with our help with the aim of making it available to all of Africa! All they’ve requested is that we find the funding. This is amazing!!!!!
Something in me believes that these individuals have been put together for a purpose that is now. And the core of my passion about this comes from knowing one situation very intimately… looking in Hope’s huge terrified eyes, as she was hiding from her abusers promising her that I would do everything I could to keep her safe and that I knew God had a plan for her.
I don’t know what will be the outcome or timing of this, but I’m telling you all of this so you can pray with us about it. Along the way Mark has been listening to my fiery ‘sermons’ and outrage about the way things are and has listened as I’ve gotten carried away with the possibilities of what God might be doing through all the people I’ve met with passion for this like I have. And mostly he just nods. But recently he’s been asking me how serious I am about this and has been wondering out loud if God wants us to do something about this…. To actually spearhead a mission to give opportunity to young girls whose lives have been desperately sad up till now and are on course to get worse.
If you have any comments or feedback on this can you please send it our way? We’re really asking God if this is something we should do. And if we were to do it, we’d have to have people from ‘outside’ behind it. We have small ways to generate income here, but it’s not enough to kick off and sustain something like this. Sometimes I think, ‘Oh great. Just what Africa needs... another bunch of do-gooders pouring money into a hole that never gets full.’ But I tell you, I know of these girls now… I’ve seen the ‘yucky’ of their lives. It’s miserable. I can’t let this go by without stepping forward and saying, ‘God, here I am. What do you want me to do?’ If He wants to do something with this He WILL! And He will use lots of us to do it. Thoughts please!!??
That’s about all I have room for in this letter. Sorry I’ve not brought much news from the kids. They are in heaven here on the ‘farm’. After our furlough I’m pretty sure we’ll be adding some animals to the area so the kids can learn about chores, gathering eggs, and such.
We plan to see as many of you as possible when we’re home! And my good husband has promised proper internet when we get back to Uganda… it’s now available in new, more reliable forms!!! So I’m looking forward to re-connecting with you and staying a little better connected!
Lots of love, Sarah