Monday, December 10, 2012

Adventures With The Williams Five!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings from the Williams five

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Adventures With all of us… Blessings

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

African Adventures With Sarah!

Hmmm. What might be interesting to you? I’m going to bullet point this because the interesting stuff doesn’t flow together but comes in short blips.

·         We still don’t know what we will be doing after we leave Uganda. This is a little distressing. Mark is a planner and fails to see the ‘adventure’ in the unknown! Sarah manages to see the adventure but is much more likely to foolishly land her mind upon something that sounds great and say ‘Yes! Let’s do that! I’m sure God will stop us if it’s not meant to be.’ Meanwhile the planner in the family researchers every possible pitfall involved in every possible future and shoots them all down methodically. Truly, God has put us together and will eventually show us what to do. Good thing He’s patient, unwavering, and has a good sense of humor!
·         The kids are enjoying their new school. Seth was most definitely ready for school. Jodie has needed some convincing and has even gone on strike. But after a few days of sitting in a chair while her brother was at school, losing all movie and sugar privileges, and the promise of tougher penalties to come, she decided school was the better option and enjoys it when she’s there. They are the only ‘Muzungu’ kids there and do stand out a bit. But their teacher’s children are half British and similar in age (boy girl respectively) so Seth and Jodie have begun to make friends with them. Seth quoted Alex his new friend with a swear word last week. I did well… I didn’t gasp and begin to question if he’s old enough for school. I just reminded him that Alex can choose to talk how he wants but we choose not to talk like that. He glibly said, ‘Yep!’ and that was that. Funny how most of our exposure to kids their ages have been with missionaries so they haven’t heard much swearing or seen terrible behaviour. North America here we come! Why don’t they have ‘parent college’ ? Seriously! Anyone considering parenting should take at least 4 years!
·         Jodie continues to be more challenging to parent than her brother. She just loves to push the envelope. But from such spunk comes some great laughs and delight. One morning this summer the kids were eating breakfast and I was walking through the kitchen with Meg on my shoulder. Without warning she launched a large puke over my shoulder, down my back and onto my foot. Without hesitation Jodie pronounced loudly, ‘Aha! That’s why I choose not to be a mommy! I choose to be a daddy!’ That’s my girl. She’ll be 4 tomorrow! Very grown up for her age as most girls are. She loves to mother Meggie and this has shifted from being simply stressful to very helpful. I’m thankful for my girls!
·         And now for the smallest member of the crew. She is ever changing and now sports three gigantic teeth. She thinks biting is fantastic and even grinds them together to hear the sound. She can spend quite a long time with Seth and Jodie in the toy room while they play make-believe. She just watches and often pulls down any towers they build and occasionally interferes in a dinosaur game. At which point we hear Jodie’s motherly voice, ‘No Meggie, no! Here you play with this.’ And the disturbance is dealt with. Meggie loves to play peek-a-boo these days. She thinks she’s hiding her eyes when she puts both hands up on the sides of her head or over her ears and then her little twinkling eyes dance as we say, ‘Where’s Meggie?’. Then when she takes her hands off her head we must say, ‘There she is!’ Adorable. She’ll be one year old on Nov 23. I can’t believe it! I spent more nights walking the floor with this girl than I did with both of my other kids combined. I sincerely thought in those bleary eyed hours that it would never end. But thankfully that part is easing and we’re having so much fun watching her personality emerge and seeing her scurrying around to get into everything. Very fun!
·         I’m really enjoying the Reflexology course I’m taking. I have noticed that the medical field and Reflexology don’t always love each other. I’m not sure what the statistics are but I know some Reflexologists are extreme and some doctors view it as phony baloney. I’ve been able to conclude for myself that I believe it is definitely not phony baloney, but in NO WAY should it ever be considered to replace the practice of modern medicine or contradict it. I believe it can be used as a tremendous supplemental therapy to strengthen our bodies to perform in the way they’re designed to and to prevent them from becoming worn down and susceptible to sickness and disease; similar to so many habits and regimens that promote wellness and good health. Anyway… I’m really enjoying it and find the studying so easy because it is something I believe in and am intrigued by. Mark’s enjoying the fact that I have to do 30 case studies in these next several weeks. He sees himself as the sole beneficiary of those. In reality I tend to spread them out a little bit to some people I know who are having medical issues and can’t always afford medicine. I’m going to see if I can track some improvement in them and then teach their families some simple techniques to help them when money is too tight for medicine. Why not?
·         That’s all from me! If you hear a rumor that we’re going to buy a junky old boat and sail our family down to South Africa from Kenya, or leaving Uganda on this outdated over packed plane, or we’re going to manage a Bible Camp in Saskatchewan, or we’re taking language courses so we can click and cluck to a remote tribe in West Africa, or Mark’s taking a job as a dance instructor at a fine arts school in Vancouver, it would only be because Sarah was the only one who’d heard the idea and thought some aspect of it would be adventurous (or just hilarious). Don’t worry. As soon as Mark gets wind of it he’ll shoot it down and we’ll be back to the drawing board. Joking aside, thank you all so much for your prayer support and encouragement in this season. It has been the most difficult of our lives. Not only the uncertainty but even more-so the grief and loss of leaving here. Thank you for understanding and choosing to care even if you can’t relate to it. We treasure you so much.
Till next month, Sarah

Monday, September 10, 2012

Adventures With Mark...Lots Going On At The School!

It is hard to believe that my last and final term is under way here at the African Children’s Choir Primary School.  All of the students returned on time and surprisingly healthy. 

Over the holidays we had a work team at the school that focused on plastering the school block, putting facia on and completing the top portion of the fence for our property.  All three things are looking good and will benefit the school in years to come.  I was also part of the paint work team that painted the assembly room with some of the staff.  Instead of hiring an expensive painter I gave some of the staff members the opportunity to help out and earn some much needed extra money to prepare for upcoming school fees.  It was nice to spend some time with these guys with a paint brush in my hand working together.  The place looks great and all the staff is excited with the colours that Sarah picked out.
It was also exciting to have five teams of staff go out and spend some time visiting the homes.  Each student’s home visited received a nice food hamper that contained rice, posho, beans, soap, sugar, tea and cooking oil. Most teams consisted of three to five staff members who took a full day to travel and take an interest in our students.  I have truly been blessed with a great staff to work with over the years.
As the term began we received some exciting news that our grade seven students did very well on their mock exams.  This is a big test that is given to all students in preparation for their final national exams in early November.  Most of the graders mark very hard and yet our students performed extremely well.  If the students continue to focus and work hard until the end of the year this may very well be our best class ever and could even place us as a top ten school in the country. 
We are blessed to have so many people behind us over the years and are grateful for the support that has been extended to the school.  The food hampers for students and staff, the fence and painting were all made possible by the generous donations of many.  Those of you who gave we continue to pray that God will bless you tenfold.
This term is different than any other as I begin a term of training in a new headmaster.  On one hand I am a little sad as I will not be seeing the staff on a daily basis but I’m also happy to launch the school under the leadership of their first Ugandan headmaster.  I am also excited to see what God has for our family down the road.  Please pray that things will go well in this process and in the discovering of what is next for us.
Blessings, Mark

Adventures With Sarah... Yahoo For School!

It is hard to believe that when we first arrived in Uganda we were only planning to stay for two years and start a family back in Canada after that.  Now we’ve spent seven years in Africa and are blessed with three children.  Term three not only found Mark going to school but Seth and Jodie too! Our two oldest were excited to begin their adventure of schooling after 2 months of tutoring with Mrs. Heinrichs (thank you so much Judy!!! You really launched them and me into home schooling) and two months of every day home schooling with mom. They loved home school but in the last few weeks I’d noticed significant boredom setting in not only with school but in play time as well. So on Sept 4 backpacks and smiles were on the morning menu as they began life in a local kindergarten/preschool.  These two are really chums and watching them do anything together is so adorable. I praise God how their temperaments work well together. They will only go for mornings Tuesday to Fridays. The house is strangely quiet but since this has been the first week I am just basking in the silence (as much as Meggie allows)! I also find I’m just dying to see them when lunch time rolls around. I’m so glad they’re only going half days.

What will I be doing with my time? I signed up for a correspondence Reflexology course from a University in Kelowna, BC. I am so psyched! I wanted to do massage therapy but a good and wise friend (thank you Mel!) suggested that reflexology is a shorter course and is up and coming these days. I looked into it and Mark and I decided the timing was good. When I phoned to inquire the ‘registration lady’ said, ‘Are you aware of our 50% off enrollment promotion that ends tomorrow?’ J Isn’t God great?!!! I’m diving into a one year course full speed ahead. I asked the ‘registration lady’ what was the fastest time she’d ever seen it done in and she said 4.5 months. Hmm. For a housewife who hasn’t studied since high school I’ve concluded I will probably not break any records. But, every day when I get up I pray that God will sharpen my diaper-duty dulled mind and give me a cutting edge. So far I’m loving it and the info is sticking! I’m pretty excited about where God will take us and happy to be getting in a position where I can help make ends meet. I know I will enjoy it.
Finally, little Meggie is doing great! Two teeth… crawling, pulling up on everything. Saying ‘da-da’ only. (She knows what she’s saying). Loves pizza, spaghetti, and pb and j sandwiches. Still nursing but she has  a hard time sitting still long enough these days. Seth and Jodie are her heroes. She loves to take a bath with them in the big tub and also speed around on her mom or dad powered 4 wheeler with side rails while Seth and Jodie speed on their boda bodas. It’s a very noisy blast.

That’s all from me this month. I hope this summer has been fantastic for all of you. God has been amazingly faithful this year. The visitors that we’ve had have been undoubtedly blessings from Him. I can’t imagine having gone through the transition of planning to leave Uganda without each of you that came and listened to us decompress, and journey through the change. Thank you so much! And for the goodies you brought?... we’re so thankful.
Love you all

Sunday, July 22, 2012

African Adventures With Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie & Megan

Wow, it is hard to believe that it was almost seven years ago that Sarah and I arrived in Uganda. We were a family of two and only planning to stay two years at which point we would return and start a family. Two years turned into many more enjoyable years in Uganda and now a family of five. Seth, Jodie and Megan are the loves of or our lives and we daily pray for wisdom as we raise these three gifts.
I clearly remember getting off the plane for the first time and questioning what exactly I was doing on the other side of the world with my new wife of only a year. As we became familiar with the culture and people we quickly began to enjoy our time. God blessed us with some very amazing people to come alongside and work with us at the school and within the organization. We have learned so much along this journey and are very rich for our time spent in Africa. The friendships God has given us here have truly been the sweetest treasure of our experience here.

So it is with sadness that we will be moving on from the African Children’s Choir at the end of the year. Even though it will be very difficult to say goodbye to a school that I have poured my heart and soul into for seven years we know that God will have something exciting for us to come in the future. We will never forgot the many amazing people we have met along this incredible journey and will always call Uganda our home away from home.

The second academic term of the year is almost completed and this break will allow us to take some time as a family to focus and have fun together. I am not sure exactly what term three will look like as I pass on the torch to a new and most likely Ugandan Headmaster. Please pray for this transition as it will be very difficult for us and many of the staff here as they know we genuinely care for them and they are part of our family.

We are not sure what our life will look like come January but please keep us in your prayers as we move forward with the plans that God has for us. We are very open to anything that may come available and are trusting God to lead us clearly. As a family we know we will need some rest between the time here and whatever is next. The work here has taken very much of my time and energy and we know a time of regrouping and refocusing will be necessary.

To all of you who support us in so many ways we thank you and we ask that you continue that as we transition. We still have another five and a half months until we finish and our goal is to finish strong and be all we can be to this school, staff and students. We will definitely keep you posted as our future plans unfold.

Again, thank you so much for loving us and caring about what happens in our lives and here in Uganda. We love you too.

Blessings, Mark

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adventures With Mark...

Greetings from Uganda!  Yes, we are still alive and doing well in the land of summer year round.  We have had some busy times and it is hard to believe that we have been back for over three months.  Adjusting back to life in Africa took some time and especially with Megan and the time change.  It felt like a good month before the entire family was running at full speed. We have enjoyed ourselves more recently though and were excited to take our first camel ride at the zoo last week. 
The school continues to do well even under challenging times as inflation continues to climb.  Our year started with the announcement of our excellent grade seven results from their exams at the end of 2011.  Once again we are thankful for the hard work of the staff and dedication of the students that placed our results in the top one percent of the country.  Our class of 29 did an amazing job and especially when you consider the situations they are in.
Later in the year we had a team from my former school, MEI come and spend a few weeks with the school.  A great time was had by all as the Canadians and Ugandans were challenged by each other.  As a family we had a great time hosting this team in our home and testing out the “hot seat” in their team time.

Throughout the term we continue to work away on the different projects that need to be completed for the first phase to be finished.  The classrooms have been painted along with the chalkboards.  They look very sharp and the students are happy for their bright new classrooms.  Currently we are pleased to announce that enough money has been raised for the fence and we are now in the process of finding a professional team that can build the fence properly on the top four acres of our property.  Most likely we will wait until the NGO, EMI that built our school has a construction manager available that can supervise the project.  Once this is completed we will be growing more food crops and putting up a chicken coop. 

We continue to be grateful for all the support the school has received from our friends and family.  It was very exciting to have my sister and her two oldest girls along with my brother, his wife and two oldest children join us for some time in Uganda.  I am very fortunate that my entire immediate family of origin has completely and whole heartedly supported our move and ministry here in Uganda.   We have also been blessed as many other friends have come and currently we have a good friend, Judy staying with us for a few months.  We are excited as other good friends are still coming in July and June.  In our nearly seven years here we have never had so many visitors in all the years combined and we have thoroughly enjoyed it! The school has been blessed with an amazing amount of donations in cash for food, fence and chickens to just name a few things. And we are thankful that there has been a little extra money in our support which has allowed us to bless the school with a few much needed goodies, like bulletin boards.  People have donated hundreds of pens, T-shirts, pencils, erasers, books, clothes, and many other things that have helped out greatly. 
God has been good as many of you have blessed us and allowed us to be the hands and feet of Christ here in Uganda.  The need is great but our aim is not just to push children through school but to train the whole child so they can lead Uganda into a more prosperous nation.  This begins with high morals, integrity, honesty and a solid academic standard as we raise future teachers, engineers, pastors, doctors and pillars of society.

Blessings on you all back in Canada, the US and other parts of the world.  We miss you and pray for you guys often.  We would love to hear from you and trust that God is looking after your needs.

Adventures With Seth...

I love Uganda! And so many people have come to see us here this year. My favorite visitors have been my cousins Ben and Danica and my other cousins Catie and Mya. It was like being in Canada except they were visiting my house! They rode boda bodas in the house with me and wrestled my dad and climbed trees with me (one of my favorite things) and we caught millipedes and frogs and bugs and one time we even rode real boda bodas down to the market at the lake. I am so glad they came to see me! Thanks guys! I can’t wait to see you in Canada.

My favorite new thing that has happened is there is a teacher who lives at our house who is helping dad at the school and guess what? She is teaching me how to read! Her name is Mrs. Heinrichs and she really is a real teacher! Every morning when it’s time for school I get dressed as quickly as I can and brush my teeth and meet her at the school table. I could do school for a long long time and I wouldn’t even know if it was lunch time I think!
Anyway… I better leave room for Jodie. Good bye everybody.

Adventures With Jodie...

I’m a big sister! And I’m almost a mama! I make sure that Meggie is always okay and I kiss and snuggle her and pinch her cheeks and talk funny talk to her and give her toys if she’s crying and I tell mom when she wakes up. But I don’t change her poopy pants! And she’s too messy for me to feed her yet. Mom says when she gets bigger I can feed her porridge and avocados. I can’t wait to do that. I help with dishes every day and help take care of our new rabbits. We have five and dad says they will have babies soon. More babies!!! I like that. And one thing I’ve noticed about Uganda; I’m always dirty. I get hot and sweaty and I play so hard and the dirt all sticks to me. It doesn’t stick to Seth as much as me. I think I’m a dirt magnet. I gotta go check on Meggie. Bye

Adventures With Megan...

I’m six months old now and I eat oatmeal! I like to eat popcorn if someone bites off the crunchy parts. I sleep really well at night… maybe from 10 o’clock until 7 o’clock. But I get a bit fussy in the evenings sometimes. Especially if mom eats stuff I don’t like. I don’t like anything dairy even eggs and especially not onions! And then it seems like there’s other stuff I don’t like but I haven’t told mom what it is yet.
I rolled over three times in one day but then I never did that again. Instead of helping me they took a video when I was doing it the third time and I got so mad I screamed and screamed and I decided I wasn’t going to do that again for a long time. Even when everybody cheered when I finally got it I was still really mad and I didn’t feel proud about it. I found my toes and I like to suck on them. Even when I’m sitting up I just fold over and suck them. I have a chubby tummy. Sometimes I’ve heard someone make a mistake on my name and call me ‘Mega’ baby. I think maybe that’s because I really am! So when I fold over to suck my toes I really don’t know where my tummy goes and even the chub on my legs! But somehow I can do it. I’m getting teeth. You can’t see them yet but they make me grumpy. I love Seth and Jodie. They make me laugh all the time. I gotta go. There’s pooping and sleeping to do.  Bye

Adventures With Sarah...

I’m a mom of three kids. Does that sum it up? They’ve filled you in on their activities. I’m very happy to be in Uganda in this busy time with kids because it is summer all the time! Lots of dirt but that’s okay. Dirty kids are happy kids I’ve found.

I often think being a mom is my main job. But I know I have two ‘main jobs’, the second of which I don’t spend as much time doing but is just as important: being a wife to Mark. Interesting topic. I’ve found, along with some of my girlfriends here it is sometimes more challenging than being a mom! Not because Mark is a monster and difficult (he’s really the best… though I seldom tell him that just to prevent pride from setting in of course) but because my flesh just gets in the way. It’s easier for me to make conscious efforts in my child rearing. Recently I posted a sticky note by my stove with a phrase that came to me in a time when I needed it. ‘When training my kids every day my behaviour is just as important as their behaviour’. Somehow I seldom think of myself as having ‘behaviour’. I have ‘reasons’ everyone else has ‘behaviour’! So I think this phrase would serve me well in my ‘wife-ing’ as well (especially the ‘while training Mark’ part J ). The thing I need the most and get the least is time with God. Please pray for me in this that I learn to MAKE THIS A PRIORITY! I know it will have a huge impact and I DO have enough time. Wives and moms, keep up the good work! If you need to apologize, do it! If you need to put yourself in a time out, do it! And after that, cut yourself some slack! Being a wife and mom can be the toughest job in the world and the rewards come in the times when you’re not asking for them. So remember that when you feel you need a pat on the back.. you probably got one recently.
I’ve loved the visitors we’ve had! They’ve all been so encouraging, helpful and just plain fun! Thank you everyone who’s come this year! You really blessed us.

I’ll sign off now. But I hope you are all doing great. God bless! Sarah

Sunday, January 15, 2012

African Adventures With The Williams Five!

Leavin’ on a jet plane!

Last night we had the most fluffy huge- flake snow I’ve seen in a very long time! It didn’t start till after the kids went to bed and as the evening wore on the flakes kept getting bigger and bigger. At midnight Mark was out building a snow man for the kids to see in the morning. There’s about 7 inches on the ground. So the wonder of the snow has brought squeals of glee from Seth and Jodie already this morning. They’re having breakfast as quickly as possible and planning their snowball fight and snowman building. Such a great treat for us before we head off! ( A whole winter of snow? Yuck! A fluffy dump before heading off to the equator? Fantastic! )
Five days from now we’ll be doing the last minute packing and piling our crew into two vehicles bound for the Vancouver airport. It’s a little bit exciting and a lot daunting! The cool part is we don’t have to pack many of our clothes… summer clothes, Uganda… winter clothes, Canada. But we will be hauling along anything the kids are grown out of and my maternity clothes and LOADS of donations. It looks like we’ll have 17 or 18 bags this time and two car seats (Seth’s in a booster, hallelujah!)
We’re looking forward to seeing our friends and the staff and students at the school in Uganda. Our heart is always partly there even when we’re here. This is Sarah writing and from my perspective, Mark and I are becoming a bit weary of the international aspects of our life. It’d be great to have everyone we love on one continent. Silly talk but true desire! We’ll keep you posted as we look into the future of the next few years. We would appreciate prayer about that.
So, to those of you we didn’t get to see we hope to see you next time. We missed catching up with you. But, our little Meg has proven to be the WORST traveler we’ve ever had. She is rarely in her car seat without crying/ screaming. Such a good natured child, but such an aversion to car seats! We fully realize what a dreadful time we would have had trying to travel long distances with her. To those of you we’ve seen we thank you for the great times and good memories. We are so rich in friends and true fellowship. We thank God for that regularly.
Before I sign off and carry on packing I have a great announcement! The music group that came into being in Uganda with friends from our church has finally released an album! We’re called ‘JInja Dam’ and made up of me, my Texas friend Downie, and our British husband and wife combo Andrew and Keeley. We were all missionaries at the same time in Uganda and became good friends as we wrote songs together.

The other two families have since moved back to their respective countries but we all keep in touch and continue to write songs long distance. I LOVE the album and I think you would too! I’ve written and sung 2 of the songs on the album and Downie sings the others that she and Andrew and Keeley have written. So everybody!!!!................ Order an album!!!!!!! Many of you know the hard work and cash that goes into an album and the music is no good still in the wrapper! So please email me with how many you’d like to buy. The best part about that is %10 of all profits go directly to The African Children’s Choir Primary School in Uganda. All of us from the group are selling as many as we can so they’re being sold in the US, Canada, and the UK! It’s exciting!
The Cds are $12 each. When you order send me your mailing address in case we don’t have it so I’m sure to get it to you. We have a New Year’s photo here for all of you that we’ll be mailing out to you in the next three or four days. If you place an order we’ll include your CD with that photo and keep it simple! If you didn’t get our photo last year you may not be on our mailing list so let us know! Most importantly, BE SURE TO ORDER (EMAIL) IMMEDIATELY BECAUSE WE’RE LEAVING IN A FEW DAYS AND MAY NOT BE ABLE TO GET IT TO YOU AFTER THAT UNTIL WE GET BACK!

You can send a check or cash to
Jinja Dam
c/o Winnie Williams
#4 West Terrace Close
Cochrane, AB T4C 1R2

We leave on the 20th (Friday) at 8:30 PM and will fly to London (about 9 hours) and then layover 14 hours (we’ll get a hotel and shower and sleep hopefully) and then fly 9.5 hours more to Uganda. We’ll send an email not when we arrive but as soon as we come up for air!

So everyone, farewell! We’ll be in touch across the miles! We love and appreciate you!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Meg