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