Tuesday, July 30, 2013

African Adventures With The Willaims Five!

Greetings everyone!

So here’s the scoop. This will be our final ‘Adventures’ newsletter. What a big change for us! Almost all of our married life (9 years this month, thank you very much!) we’ve been sending Adventure Updates which implies that there has been an adventure to update about all these 9 years! I guess that’s true. Life in Canada has also clearly been an adventure (we really should look at every day like that… it’s more interesting). Anyway… after this newsletter we will not dissolve our email address or the mailing list. We will send a Christmas letter via this account and you can reach us through this account as always.
So here’s the final report:

Ugandan impact: We still stay in touch with many friends and Ugandan acquaintances via email. I am not a Facebook-er but occasionally I need to get on it and Mark says, ‘Get ready…. You’ll be in several conversations in a few minutes’. Sure enough our Ugandan friends are Facebookers! Social media is amazing! We miss them so much and they are in our prayers daily. We hope to be able to impact Uganda for the rest of our lives. I am dreaming of a trip back there within this next year; Super expensive but very meaningful for our friends and for us.  If we do go we will be loading our bags with stuff we know they could use… if that happens we’ll be letting you know so you can be involved if you want to!
Kids’ Corner: Seth, Jodie, and Megan (okay us too) are over the moon happy about the wonderful parks and trails in BC. It’s unreal! This summer has been so enjoyable for us. Uganda had beautiful weather but very little opportunity to get out and play in it without paying lots. We swam more in Uganda because that was affordable, but we missed play grounds, trails, and camping! We’re soaking it up now.

Jodie has begun to be a ‘girlie’ girl for the first time in her life. She’s still our tomboy and wrestles alongside Seth and daddy. But now she likes to wear dresses (sometimes), she wears jewelry occasionally and puts on her sparkly lipstick. She then asks us if she looks pretty. It used to be if we mentioned the word pretty she would take off whatever it was that caused us to think she was pretty. It’s kind of fun to watch.
Seth has shot up in the past few weeks. He stays in touch with his friends from school. They have play dates and water parties. He did well in French Immersion and we plan to keep him in that for first grade this September. (Jodie will enter French Immersion kindergarten too.) He’s reading very well now (in English). He’s a very good big brother. He keeps asking for a dog. Not gonna happen.
 Megan is a little whip. She remembers the names of people she hasn’t seen for quite a while. She loves sign language and still uses it even though she can say all the words she can sign. She even has a ‘sign’ for daddy and our house mate John. For daddy she puts her hands on her hips/back like he does and sticks her tummy out…his favorite thinking pose. For Uncle John she crosses her arms over her chest… his favorite thinking pose. Very cute. She has a magnetic personality… though her ‘fire’ gets her in plenty of trouble. The kids are very good at playing with her and she’s starting to enjoy their games.
All three of them enjoyed VBS at a local church. They love dancing around the house to the songs they learned… they jack the CD as loud as I will let them. Meggie knows many of the actions and loves to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ when it comes to that part in the songs. Also ‘Holy, holy holy’ is one of her favorite lines.

Canadian realities: Mark has owned a VW Jetta that he bought brand new in 1998. A few weeks ago someone pulled out in front of him and the car was totalled. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt but it was very sad to lose the car. The other guy was at fault so his insurance had to cover it. Thankfully God had provided a van for us (thank you J, C, C, M, E, and S!!!!) so we still have one set of wheels but we are back to the inconvenience of one vehicle. This will definitely not work for the fall as Mark is working a few days a week in sales for some friends here in town and he may be going on full time with them in September. We will need another set of wheels then but continue to trust God for his provision along this transitional journey. I would not say Mark is ‘in a groove’ but he is definitely good at sales and some added income is very helpful. My reflexology is still helping out and of course summer is quieter but that has been okay.  
On an exciting note Mark had a chance to take Jodie out on a father daughter date for her preschool father’s day party.  He could not resist the opportunity and wanted to make sure he was the first one to give Princess Jodie some roses.  It was a special moment for Jodie but one that Mark will cherish forever.

Another big change (and stress at the moment) is that we are looking into possibly selling our house and moving. We have shared the living space with John all these years on our trips home and he has cared for the house very well in our absences. However, now our house is overcrowded and there needs to be a change. That has been a prayer concern for us. We like where we are but may not be able to afford to stay here.
So, our news is less adventurous. But we feel just as stretched as we were in Uganda. That’s life right? Even as we finish sending updates about Uganda we ask that you keep those people in your prayers. Maybe you knew of specific people through visiting us or through emails. Or maybe you have always prayed for the school, students, and staff. Please keep doing those things! It makes a difference!
So, we hope the rest of your summer is lovely! You will get a newsletter from us at Christmas time and you’ll hear from us in emails as you stay in touch and the Lord brings you to mind. We just want to thank you one more time for the years of love, support, prayers, encouragement, and strength you sent on behalf of our family and those we love in Uganda. May God richly bless you for that!  As we move forward in our Canadian adventure we would appreciate your continued prayers.
We love you!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

PS A picture from our past in Uganda... Wow, how things have changed!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five!

Greetings from Abbotsford!  It feels good in many ways to be writing a newsletter from Canada but also a little bit weird.  We have decided that our newsletter and blog will no longer be called “African Adventures…” but rather “Adventures With The Williams Five”.  We would still like to continue updating you on a regular basis as we feel that we still need your support during this time of transition.  During this time we have experienced a variety of emotions and feelings that continue to be a challenge.  Canada is great in so many ways but our transition back is proving to be harder than adjusting to Uganda was.  Once we have completed this transition stage we will use this email address for the odd newsletter but mostly a family Christmas update.

As a family our speed of transition has varied greatly!  Seth, Jodie and Megan have transitioned the easiest. We realize that’s very typical considering the resilience and carefree nature of children.  Seth is enjoying kindergarten at the local public French immersion school.  He enjoys his class of 15 and especially the small group of 6 boys that are his buddies in Kindergarten.  It is exciting to see that there are about 4 other Christian students in his grade.  The teacher reported back to us one day that when she asked Seth how he was doing he said…”I’m doing great! I’m in Kindergarten, I have new friends and I know Jesus!”  We are blessed that Seth has a heart for others and most importantly his creator. 
Jodie is enjoying pre–school two afternoons a week at my old school.  She would love to go everyday like Seth but also enjoys her time at home.  This is especially true when Megan is taking her afternoon nap, Seth is in school and she has all the attention from mom and dad.  She is a very happy little girl and often is singing a song while she plays or colors or helps around the house. 
Megan is full of energy and is talking more and more. She’s starting to put words together. Like ‘Daddy’s keys!’ and ‘Jodie’s water.’… all words said not quite right of course. Her trademark verbalizations at the moment are, ‘Candy!? Candy!? Candy!?’ (repeated at rising decibels when she wants candy or vitamin C) and ‘Too!? Too!? Too!?’ again repeated urgently until she finds out if she is allowed to do what the big kids are doing ‘too’. She is still struggling with teething consistently so her sleep patterns are patchy. But she’s getting better!
Like many missionaries who return Mark finds it hard to find purpose and is still grieving the students and staff that he worked so closely with.  Unfortunately different job opportunities here have not materialized which has added some stress and discouragement.  A few applications for jobs in education have resulted in being short listed and interviews only to find out that he was the runner up.  Now we are looking at widening the job search and exploring opportunities outside of education in the business community.  Needless to say we would appreciate prayer specifically for our future and a job as we move toward September.  Mark has appreciated the time to catch up and spend more time with our kids but also feels the financial stress as we look ahead with no permanent job.  It has also become clear to us that our priorities have shifted as a result of our time in Uganda. We feel that’s a good thing. But it does make us a feel a bit lost. It seems we can actually feel both sets of priorities pulling at us at the same time. That’s the uncomfortable part. Please pray that we have the wisdom to take hold of that which is the greatest in these life choices that we’re facing. We’re seeing more clearly that this is the huge struggle that North American Christians face in their faith. It is no cake walk and offers no fewer temptations than those facing the poverty burdened people of Uganda.
On an exciting note Mark has had the opportunity to attend two weddings since he has been back.  Matt, a former grade five student, married a beautiful young lady and is following the Lord.  In 2004 he traveled all the way with his buddy Matt and his mother (former teaching colleague) to our wedding in Rapid City.  Also a long time buddy who I grew up with and tree planted with got married on the Island in a beautiful seaside ceremony.  It has been great to be able to be involved with these things once again. I still regret not being able to make it to your weddings Jeff, Dave, and Mike when we were back in Uganda.  Moving forward we are excited to reconnect and catch up with good friends. 

Sarah has been able to begin practicing Reflexology since she became certified at the end of March. She has been mildly busy with that; Just the right amount really. And she absolutely loves the work. The renter in our basement suite has moved out (another prayer request… that we could find another renter) so she is using that extra space as a little studio and is able to offer a very peaceful setting to those who come for a massage. If we do get renters she will have to find another space but that would be a good problem to have! Whatever the case she is feeling extremely rewarded in her work and is so happy she took the course! She has already noticed improvement in her skills and is confident massage therapy is her niche! And it’s been very cool that Mark has been around quite a bit so she doesn’t have to arrange child care in order to work. It’s been a very unique time in that way. God has allowed both of us to see the silver linings behind the clouds of uncertainty overhead and this has been one of them!
So that’s a brief update on all of us.

We still talk consistently of our friends and neighbors back in Uganda. We hope that as soon as we find a new ‘normal’ and get financially stable we can travel back to Uganda and wherever else God leads us to network. We intend to be missions minded from now on and get involved in the needs of others whether it’s within Canada or abroad.
We are thankful to those of you who have supported us in so many ways during this transition time back in Canada.  We would appreciate your continued prayers as we move forward in making this our home once again.  We already feel at home in some ways but also feel a bit like strangers in our land. But we definitely see progress and we are looking forward to what God has in store for us.

We hope this letter finds you well! Please let us know if there are prayer requests that we could pray about.
God bless!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five!

Well…we’re guessing you have a few questions! The main ones being, ‘how is the adjustment going for you guys’ and ‘what are you going to do next?’ We could answer those quickly but it will be better to share some of the factors that have shaped our last few months so you have a better idea of how it’s going.

We spent the last week of January through the end of Feb. in Alberta near and with Mark’s parents, sister, and many good friends. Being a Calgary boy, he’s got some good roots down there so there was plenty to do! Sarah worked on getting closer to getting her certificate as a reflexologist and she is very close now! That’s exciting. While she studied Mark spent many happy hours teaching the kids to skate, taking them sledding, and even some swimming. Such a great dad, eh? It was a very good season for us in that way. Cindy and Jason, thank you for the extra space you gave us to really have a get-away and help transition back. Mom and Dad W, thank you for all the logistical support in those weeks! So valuable! We realized in that time that we needed to do quite a bit of grieving Uganda and we were also able to identify that in fact both of us, but particularly Mark, were burned out quite badly. That rest and refocus was crucial!

When we left Alberta we headed to Denver for a de-brief course given by an organization called Mission Training International (MTI). It was excellent!!!! Hard to explain in a short space but really, it is put on by former missionaries, MKs, and TCKs. The programs for the kids to help them process their experiences and evaluate how they’re doing were fantastic! Our kids loved it! The child care for Meggie was superior! And the classes for Mark and I were awesome as well. We give it a 10! God really blessed us with that time and we recommend it to anyone who has done long or short term missions. We definitely had to face some hard things while there and it was exhausting in that way. One of the painful parts was facing the fact that some of the friendships that we left in Uganda will be empty places in our hearts forever. It is surprisingly like grieving a death. We really hope and pray we can go and visit those friends again one day (as soon as possible!) but we know that we have to let them go for now. It was good to walk through that.
Also, during our time in Denver a huge blessing was to be able to see Sarah’s brother whom we haven’t seen since going to Uganda and even before that!!! It was so good to see him and to meet his family! We had lots of laughs, not so much sleep, and made good memories. It was a special time!

So, now we are back in Abbotsford. It looks like spring out here! Daffodils, crocuses, tulips, people cutting their grass!!! Still rainy and cold some days but very nice. Seth and Jodie actually planted tomato plants and we’re watching them pop out of the cups so we can plant them outside in a month. It’s good to be here. So good to see our dear friends from our cell group and our church. Good to be at Uncle John’s house! One big bummer. The van that our good friends gave us was involved in a three car pile-up while parked outside of our house while we were gone in Alberta. It turns out drunk drivers can cause three car pile ups all by themselves in the middle of the night!  Anyway… the van was totalled so Day 1 when we got back Mark was hoofing it down to the insurance company to insure the old red Jetta and taking it to the shop for very spendy maintenance and repairs. Gulp. But good enough, Meggie’s car seat squeezes very snugly between Seth and Jodie’s boosters and if we’re all in a good mood we can have a pleasant trip in the car!

Future? The big question that’s still looming! But there are job applications in and because of the nature of Mark’s work April should be a telling month. Though he would not start anywhere full time till September he would be hired in April. So please keep praying about that! We will send out a letter when we know more about that of course!

That’s all for now! If something very interesting happens soon we will be letting you know. Otherwise we’ll write again next month! We pray you are all doing well and anticipating a blessed Easter!

We love you!
Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie and Megan

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adventures With The Williams Five

Hello everyone!

We’re happy to be touching base with you from Canada! We have been missing Uganda very much. The memories of our dear friends there is fresh in our minds and we really miss our daily interactions with them. This transitioning thing is a challenge but over time we know we will manage!

We also wanted to thank you for your prayers for us regarding our flight home and everything surrounding that. Our greatest concern of course was Seth being so terribly sick the day we left. We were able to get the right medicine for him before we left and his fever was under control before we headed out for the airport. His diarrhea? Bless his heart, he never had any accidents along the way but we did need to RUN to the bathroom in the Entebbe airport during security checks and all other line ups (extensive in international travel) more than ten times. But miraculously as soon as we boarded the plane his stomach slowed down and he had no more emergencies during the journey. He was a real trooper and never complained! And another miracle to report is when we went through London although they allow liquids of any size for babies, when they saw Seth’s antibiotics in the diaper bag they said, ‘This medication needs to have a label on it listing the patient’s name, the doctor’s name and the prescription, otherwise we can’t allow it.’  We explained that in Uganda they don’t do that and that had an infection in his blood and after a small conference they allowed it through!!!! The alternatives would have been horrendous so we are so thankful!

So now we are in the middle of the bridge… the space between two destinations… between two scenarios within which we live out our faith. And we’re finding, though it is unique, it is the same on the bridge as it is at both ends; living out our faith is still the main thing! We’re seeking god for grace every day to finish well in our hearts with Uganda and to begin well here as we wait for what he has next for our family. We really appreciate your prayers right now. Being between jobs is certainly not Mark’s favorite hobby! Thankfully in this season the kids are doing great! Seth and Jodie are really enjoying reconnecting with their cousins and little friends in Canada as well as ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who have been so caring of them every time we’ve seen them. And the cold weather doesn’t seem to be daunting them. They want to be outside every day. They bundle up appropriately and out they go to hike, play at the park, slide, or make snow angels. That’s been really great for me and Mark. Little Meggie is teething seriously so you can pray for her as she battles through the nights… she wakes a lot and is quite frustrated.

For now we will sign off with praises and prayer requests and a few observations at the end to make you smile.

We’ll be keeping you posted! God bless!

Mark, Sarah, Seth, Jodie, and Megan

Now, for a few observations!

You know you’re back in North America when……

Ø  The strongest smell in your shower is your shampoo.
Ø  The ants actually do come marching only two by two
Ø  It is possible to consider taking your coffee in a to go cup if necessary
Ø  All of the dirt on your body is self-generated
Ø  You hear two beeps outside your house and get halfway to the door before realizing no one is ‘at the gate’
Ø  You climb in the passenger side of the car to drive. (Don’t get caught doing this. It’s very embarrassing to climb out, walk around and get back in.)
Ø  You look around for the baby’s mosquito net before realizing she doesn’t need one.
Ø  You can look out your window and hear nothing (Seth said, ‘Look out there, Mom. Even the smoke is quiet!’)
Ø  No one stands uncomfortable close to you in the check-out line (personal space is a foreign concept in Uganda)
Ø  The sparse pedestrians cross the road mostly in the crosswalks
Ø  You have to pump your own gas (but you don’t wonder if you got cheated)