Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Breathe in the familiar shock of confusion and chaos- Brandon Heath

The next edition of "Things I've learned in Uganda"...

17. Take time to start a diesel. I’ve never driven one before, so I was more than happy to learn that you have to wait until the engine clicks before you start the car, or it will kill the engine.
18. “It is finished.” It’s the phrase that Jesus said as he hung on the cross, but has a completely different meaning here. A common occurrence in resturaunts when you order is for them to say to you in turn that “it is finished”, meaning that the last of it is gone, and you have to choose something else to order.
19. My stomach is not a missionaries stomach. I should clarify that I did already know this, but I am reminded of it quite often, and I’m not even out in the villages yet. Any recipes for good simple foods you would like to send my way would be appreciated it.
20. Expect the unexpected. As strange as it is, we’ve had three unexpected holidays. The first was when the king of the main tribe here died, and the second and third is a Muslim holiday that I’d never heard of , Idd. Idd has something to do with the moon, and how they have to see that it is full, if they can’t see it due to the clouds, the holiday is not the next day, but whenever they can see it.
21. Don’t talk about pants. Pants here are considered underpants, and the word trousers is the word that we in America would use for pants. Uganda used to be a british colony, so that tradition came from there.
22. Don’t go out past 6pm. Even if it’s still light out, there are some creepy characters. I was on a run one evening with a few other people, and a man came right in my face as I was running and said “Oliotya” and when I ignored him and kept running, he hit another muzungu woman’s arm.
23. Blinkers don’t mean that you are turning. If the right hand signal is going, it means it is not safe to pass. If the left hand signal is going, it means it is safe to pass. They are usually displayed after the car behind honks, asking if it is safe to pass.
24. Trees in the middle of a road. Instead of road blocks or orange cones, people just plant trees in the middle of the road to signify that there is work being done in a certain spot on the road.
25. Moe-squee-toes come in the house especially after 6pm. In Uganda, they don’t say mosquitoes the same, rather the way I spelled it in bold. When we’re home, we leave the doors open until around 6pm, after that the bugs come in a lot more.
26. Hit and run…please! If you are in a car accident and the car can still move…drive away! Otherwise you could quickly become part of a mob scene. The best thing to do is drive straight to a police booth and hope the one other in the accident follows so that it can be sorted out with the police…even though you may wind up paying a large fee because of skin color.
27. The word poop is a swear. Ugandans are shocked whenever you talk about bowel movements. They are fine with saying the four letter s word to talk about it, but never poop.
28. “I am paining”. This simply means that you are in pain, or the way we would say it in America is “I am hurt.”
29. Don’t walk in between people. In Uganda, it is considered very rude to talk in between people who are holding a conversation. They will even grab you and move you aside so that they don’t have to walk through.
30. “Jesus is the wiener man.” No, that is not what they are saying. Ugandan’s accent just makes it sound like that, but in reA.ty they are singing “Jesus is the winner man.”
31. Don’t talk about pants. People giggle if you say pants because they think of that word as underwear. It’s still embarrassing when you forget to use the word trousers sometimes.
32. Fruit really is like candy! For the first time in my life, I have to admit that fruit really is nature’s candy. The oranges here are different. Besides the fact that they are in fact green, they are so sweet and tart. It’s almost like eating sweet tarts. (For those of you who know me really well, my eyes even twitch like tangy candy makes them twitch!)

And check out the New Photo albums!!!
Including pictures of the Rain Festival, Nakigalala village church, Grade 1 Chapel, photo assignments from friends, and a monkey :D




There's a yield for what you've sown, I will not leave you all alone. -Matt Wertz

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday we had quite a rough day in school. By the end of the day there were only 5 people on green, 10 on yellow, 3 on green, and 1 on red. Towards the end of the day I found one of my posters had been tampered with. So, naturally I asked the class what had happened. No one owned up to it. Kids have quickly learned in my class and are afraid to admit to doing anything. However, they also know that they might not get in trouble if they tell me the truth. Because no one had admitted anything and the day had already been so rough, I picked up the bean jar. The bean jar is basically like a mason jar that has beans in it. Everyday the kids are good, they get a handful of beans in the jar. When the jar is full, they get to have a party (which was full of a movie, cookies, carrots and peanut butter, popcorn and digestives). If they are ever especially bad, some of the beans come out. I started taking out the beans one by one saying that I was waiting for someone to tell me the truth. A few kids quickly ran up and said “I touched it but it was this morning.” Or “I touched it but it didn’t break.” So, the right person was not owning up. I kept on pulling out beans and the kids were besides themselves and distraught. The one kid in my class who has never had his stick flipped called out “A and M broke it! (initials used to protect privacy)” I knew he was telling me the truth, as he has never done a bad thing in his short life since being adopted. M lied to me, but that is nothing unusual and owned up to lying and had to flip her stick 2 times. In my class if you lie to me, you go straight to orange. I don’t tolerate lying! I kept pulling out beans and by the look in A’s eye’s I could tell he was lying and about to burst into tears because he knew what was coming. Finally he admitted to it, ran over to his desk, flipped his stick to red (even though it was only supposed to be on orange) and then started screaming and crying. The bell had just rung, so I quickly got the rest of the kids in line and gave them their “handshakes, high-fives, or hugs” despite some of them telling me repeatedly that A was crying. 
Sadly, I was already 2 hours late to a meeting so I also had to leave rather quickly. A does not have a good home life so Miss Agnes stays after school everyday to help him with his homework, or else it doesn’t get done. Plus, Miss Agnes has been with A for over a year now and knows him better, so she told me she would talk him down.
The next morning I talked to Miss Agnes about how A had reacted and what he had told her. Apparently after I left, he started throwing things and saying “I hate Miss Jean”. Imagine the drama in our lives? She talked to him about it and explained that it was not Miss Jean’s fault he was on orange. He was the one who told the lie. He would not have had to flip his stick if he had told the truth.
I took him outside and asked him if he was mad at me. He nodded yes. I asked him why, and he told me because I made him go on red. I quickly corrected him and reminded him that he indeed was not on red, but orange. We went into detail and talked about how if he had told the truth he would not have gotten in trouble and how it was not my mistake at all. He said that he understood, so I went on to talk about forgiveness and how I had forgiven him. I asked him if he knew that Jesus would forgive us too if we just asked for it. He told me “No, Jesus hates me.” This just broke my heart. In the past A has told me that he prays at night. From what I know he comes from a Muslim home, so I have been so confused by him. He has told me that when he prays at night by himself he thanks ‘God’ for punishing him. I quickly told him that NO, Jesus does not hate him. “Jesus loves you so much A! He just doesn’t like it when we lie or do other things that are sinful. Jesus loves you no matter what. He made you and is your father.” He seemed to understand a bit more, so I continued and I closed the conversation by praying and thanking God for his love and forgiveness and asking him to help us not to sin. This child is slowly opening up more and more. I just wish I understood more about his home life. That is truly one of the hardest parts of any teaching job, not being able to control how they are treated outside of the classroom.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"The dawn is breaking, a light shining through"- Howie Day

The last few weeks of school has been a different experience for me. I can’t quite explain it, but God is doing something there. I’m actually starting to enjoy teaching these children. Now, there are still days like this past Wednesday where the kids are little horrors…only 5 kids ended up on green! However, despite the hard times, the kids are blossoming.
This weeks spelling tests were the best ever, especially for one child who at the beginning of school didn’t know his letters and this week he got a 5/6 on his test! The math test yesterday proved to be a success as well. Finally these kids are understanding the adding concept and how to draw out a word problem! Praise God, my first Parent-Teacher conferences went really well! One of the parents said to me, “You know, you may not have heard much about what the other parents are saying, but it’s a good thing. So many people are talking about what a good job you are doing with our kids.” That really touched my heart. A week or so after that, I had my first official observation by the principal of the school. I had to type up a lesson plan and fill out 2 pages about how I was going to run the lesson and reach the kids. I decided to teach Language Arts for the lesson since that is the main thing I am working on with these kids and also something I can expand on with my own creativity. We re-read a story together about kids on a walk looking for certain things. Then I pulled out a map I made of the school and we went searching for lily pads and a pile of rocks on campus using that map. When we came back we discussed it and did our spelling review worksheet and then exercised to our high-frequency words. I had a meeting the following week as a follow up with the principal. I got an “excellent” review! In fact, in the section where it said “Weaknesses” she had to ask me what to put in there! I was elated. I have never done amazingly academically so to be told I was “excellent” really lifted my spirits. After our observations, she is assigning us to observe other teachers so that we can better ourselves. She asked me at the end of the meeting how many teachers she is allowed to assign to observe me! Wow! Praise Jesus that he has blessed me and the people who taught me how to teach!

Monday, October 27, 2008

"All the love in the world is right here among us, and hatred too..."

For our short Fall Break the two other VIA (Nick and Christina) and I took a trip. There’s a town in south west Uganda called Mbarara where WGM is thinking of starting a site for planting churches. Our job: to scope it out. It’s a short 4 hour drive from Kampala, so we left early on Thursday morning excited for our travels. On the way down, I saw so much beauty. At one point when the car jolted forward over a pot hole Nick crossed his arm to keep Christina from jerking too, which reminded me of my Grandma. She was a huge part of my life growing up, and I was saddened at the thought that she never knew I was called to go to Uganda. I started to cry after being overwhelmed by the beauty of the rolling hills and this thought. To quote Beth Moore from the bible study that I am doing with the girls at KIU (To Live is Christ) “the mark of the Maker was most assuredly engraved on the countryside.”
At one point along the way, Christina thought she saw a Kangaroo. We both told her that despite what she thinks, we were not in Australia. The next week at school my teacher assistant, Agnes, told me that there are actually two kinds of kangaroos in Uganda! Crazy!
Something I’d never done before this trip is been on the other side of the hemisphere! The equator was neat with a line drawn down the middle of the road and some facts like how we were actually lighter than we were before!
After the half-way point of driving down there we came across some sort of celebration on the side of the road that we figured was a football (soccer) game, so we pulled in to see what was up. Turned out it was an Independence Day celebration. We asked some men if it was alright to be there and they told us to drive on up. We got out of the car and walked up casually just watching when people started to notice these three Mzungus in a village. The MC quickly saw us and ushered us “honored guests” to the tent to sit down. I got separated from Nick and Christina and was rather confused for the hour that we were sitting there listening to a celebration in a language I only know 10 words in. It was a joy to see the people dancing, and a guy in a funny hat speaking a poem that people were cracking up at.
Once we got into Mbarara we found our way to the hotel we were told about and checked in. Then we hopped back in the car and went back into the city. Surprisingly, it’s the second biggest city in Uganda in terms of population, but doesn’t have high rises or anything. It was a really neat place. We parked and wandered around for an hour or so. We found this little market that was in between buildings and talked to some random guys. One of them asked for my phone number, when I wouldn’t give it to them, they asked Nick for my number. His response was “You want her phone number? Ok, here it is. Ready? It is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. You want mine too? It’s 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.” They all laughed in good fun. We wandered through the alley ways and saw some neat things. We even found huge Ugandan flags for super cheap. We started to get hungry so we made our way to a little resturaunt Nick had seen. On our way there we passed by Mbarara University and saw an MTN (one of the phone companies) Independence Day celebration on the lawn so we stopped in to watch for a while. It was really funny some of the stuff that was going on.
We went to a little roof top resturaunt with no menus and got some dinner then made our way back to the hotel.
Then next morning we drove our car to a man’s house that we had a connection with and left it in his garage. He dropped us and our bags off at the Total station where the Jaguar buses stop on the way to Kigali, Rwanda. We were so close to Rwanda, that we decided this would be a good time to go. Christina and I wandered around some more before the bus came while Nick sat and read. We had bought very cheap bus tickets (less than $15) the night before so when the bus came we got on and found some seats, and luckily got one with a window so we could breathe.

Rwanda was a beautiful, beautiful country. I only saw the country side from a crowded bus on the road from the boarder of Uganda to Kigali (the capital city). However, that was enough to see that the steep rolling hills are covered with lush greens and waterfalls running through out them. The only sad part about it is that I didn’t get to go out and walk in them and capture them more clearly in photographs.
We arrived in the city at night (after 6 hours on the bus plus boarder contol time) and escaped the tight bus to a chaotic taxi park and found a private hire to take us to the home we were staying at. The group of us got in and went to a house filled with young men. Nick has a friend in Kampala who hooked us up with their mission branch in Kigali, so we got to stay there for free. That was quite an experience in and of itself ☺ It’s a home for boys that are going to University, but can’t afford it and are in need of mentors. So there is a Ugandan who lives there and mentors them, and they are sponsored in a sense to finish university. They are a fun bunch. The second night we stayed there we stayed up and hung out with some of them. We taught them out to ballroom dance, and they taught us a traditional Rwandan dance! It was hilarious. Then they got out 2 guitars (one for Christina to play), a keyboard, and a Rwandan drum. One of the boys, Bosco, taught Nick how to use the Rwandan drum. We sang worship songs until midnight and then turned in. At 5 am we were awakened to the sound of singing in the living room. Every Sunday they get up early for morning fellowship, then go to church at 7am. It’s hard to fathom, but amazing that they do that! What devotion.
On that Saturday, we slept in a little bit, then caught a private hire to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. That place was something that I will always remember. It was so well done. It started off with the history of Rwanda, and now the Belgiums were the reason behind the split. I’d known a good amount about the history, but it was great to learn more. I hadn’t realized that there were originally over 40 tribes in Rwanda, and when the Belguims came, they wanted to give them identity cards. So in order to better classify them, they split them up socio-economically. The people with more than ten cows were Tutsi, and the people with less than ten cows were Hutu. Craziness. I won’t bore you with all of the history, but that was one thing that really stuck out to me. There were also other small exhibits there. One part of the museum had stories of Hutus who hid Tutsis. One of them that I found amusing was this old woman who had a reputation for being crazy. She hid a whole bunch of Tutsis in a hut and told the Hutus that if they went in, they would be possessed with Demons. She saved like 17 peoples lives! The room that I really struggled to go into was a room full of bones. I had to stand outside of it for a moment and pray for strength to go in. I was able to go in, and I’m glad I did despite the smell of death. I’m just happy there were no skulls of little kids. Later I walked through an exhibit of huge pictures of kids. Under each photo was a summary of who they were, their favorite food, their favorite game, their last memory, and how they died. One was 4 years old and was stabbed in the eyes. It was so moving, and hard to fathom.
After walking through the museum, I went outside and walked through the gardens there. It was so beautiful. I just soaked in the beauty of the water falls and the flowers, and embraced being a photographer.
After the museum, we took some bodas down to the taxi park, bought our bus tickets home and ate lunch at a little buffet near by. Then we found our way to the Mille Collines, or better known to many as “Hotel Rwanda”. It was not where the movie was filmed, but this was the actual location. The hotel was under construction, however it was still neat to go in the gates and look around some and talk to the guard about his experience. It was wild to think that almost everyone we passed went through that experience.
We walked down the road from there to find a huge Kenyan grocery store and a sweet coffee shop where there was amazing hot chocolate. We found an incredible water fountain near by and hung out there for a while. There was this dude standing near by that saw us looking at it, then ran down and turned on the water for us! It was really cool. We went back after going to a craft market and the lights were on because the sun had started to set. It was SO beautiful. We took some striking pictures, which are up in my new photo album.
While Rwanda was a beautiful country, and the city of Kigali was remarkably less insane (both trash wise and traffic wise), it was not near as friendly as Uganda. When I returned home, I watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda” again, and from this I could really see how people in Rwanda would seem cold towards white people. We deserted them in their greatest time of need! Did you know that with the amount of UN troops sent in to get the white people out, they could have stopped the fighting all together!? It was not the most friendly city, but being only 14 years after a massacre that left 1 million people dead all over the streets, it is understandable.
We got up early in the morning to get the bus back to Uganda and quickly discovered that we had been cheated. We had made sure the bus home was the 2x2 bus, paying an extra like $2.50, and when we got on, it was a 2x3 bus and had added an extra 20 or so people to the bus. We were cheated, and not happy. After some finagling, I convinced them to let us move at least to the seat of 2 people where Christina and I were sitting on top of each other, but at least we were not doing that with someone we don’t know for 6 hours.
We made it back safe and sound to Mbarara and were so happy to get back in the car. Then a most exciting thing happened. On the road in between Mbarara and Msaka I looked out my window at some point and saw Zebras! I screamed and got Nick to turn around and go back. I quickly grabbed my camera and we hopped out on the side of the road. Imagine…wild zebras!!!!! We were not in a zoo…maybe on the edge of a game park, but we were not on safari. The three of us hiked down the hill and I kept snapping away. There was a Shepard boy near by that nick tried to see if he could give them 100/- ($.06) to run and scare the zebras on the other side so I could get some shots of them running towards us, but they didn’t comprehend. Oh well, I got some pretty good pictures of both the zebras and the Shepard boys.
We arrived home late to a new guard at our home. We were not too happy about his because he is our 4th guard in the course of 2 months. We found out this week that our latest guard’s wife was sick so he left to care for her, which is a good reason to not be there. However, our landlord is a slum lord and it’s just been a tough situation living in this apartment building.
All in all, it was a great experience of inexpensive adventure, exploration, worship, learning, and true non-refundable God-crafted beauty.

Here’s the link to the photo album corresponding with this trip:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"I don't want to gain the whole world and loose my soul"- Toby Mac

People might think I’m crazy for choosing to spend 2 whole years of my life in Uganda teaching at a Christian International School. It may seem crazy to some, but take into mind Noah. He’s been on my mind the past couple of weeks since that was the theme of my bible lessons one week. He spent 120 years of his life with people jeering at him thinking that he was crazy because he chose to build an ark so big that it would take 120 years to build. Now, Noah did live a lot longer, but does that make it any less of a big deal? No. It was still 120 years! Gen. 6:22 says “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Building an ark when you are 500-600 years old can’t be a small task. On top of that, he lived on that arc with hundreds of animals for a long time. It’s not like those rains disappeared after the 40 days of raining. The days of comfort were no where to be found. There was no where to escape. Living in close proximity with that many animals, feeding them, and scooping their poop (trust me on that one) couldn’t have been a vacation. Then after the water subsided, they had to start a new life. But Noah was faithful, and so God was faithful to the covenant He made. This past week I saw the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen. It was the FULL arc, vibrant with color, and you could even see the faintness of another rainbow just to the left of it! This helped to imbed these ideas even more into my brain.
While it may not be easy for me to be here away from the hands of my loved ones, I do have the internet. I am also reminded of the hardships of missionaries in the past. I’m not sitting in a mud hut in the middle of no where with no connection to phones or the internet. Even 10 years ago, it was $5 a minute to call the United States from here. What a blessing it is for me as a single missionary on the field to be able to talk with family on the phone for as little as $.13 a minute! True, I grew up in the age of technology where things come to us when we need them, and have become demanding of things when we think we need them. So this may make it harder for us, but the resources are available.
I’m not crazy. God has called me here. There's no doubt in my mind. I may not understand, but if I trust in God, there's nothing to fear. 2 years may seem like a long time on a day to day basis, but doing what God has asked of me is worth my whole life in a zone where I am out of my element. It’s surprising what a lesson from a 1st grade bible curriculum book can teach this 23 year old teacher.

We must choose what our hands will do- David Crowder

Prayer requests and Praises:
-My students: Ali (Ugandan Muslim), Shanil (Pilipino), Kieun (Korean), Julia (American), Daniella (Ugandan), Jana (Pilipino), Matthew H (Chinese/ Ugandan), Alex (Ugandan/ Kenyan), Adam (‘American’), Davina (Ugandan/ British), Ashley (American), Annie (British), Maraika (Kenyan/ Canadian), Ruben (Dutch), Wasswa (Newly adopted Ugandan), Ward (Dutch), Miriam (American Ugandan), Joshua (‘American’), Nancy (American), Matthew T (‘American’), and Harim (Korean).
-The other missionaries and our relations to each other and the nationals.
-The KIU discipleship group girls. My roommate and I have a discipleship group that meets once a week in the evening for a bible study time. There are around 10 girls who come (Lillian, Clarice, Lois, Monica, Franklyn, Sharon, Lucy, Lucy, and Jacinda are the names that I remember). We have met 4 times so far, and it gets better and better each time. Pray that our relationship deepens and that our words are able to touch their hearts and turn them more toward Christ.
-Other ministry opportunities opening up, especially with young national children.
-Understanding in all situations, and the chance (and willingness) to see all things through God’s eyes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Photo Album!


I've got my eyes set on what happens next-Switchfoot

It’s hard to believe that it has been 2 months that I have been here. SO much has happened. When you think of 2 months as a time period, you wouldn’t think of it as any impressive length.
It’s hard to put a time on what I have done here. If I asked myself “Have I had an impact in the last two months and I left today would I be satisfied with what I’ve done?”, I wouldn’t know how to begin to answer that.
If it had just been two months, it would have been a far different trip. What I have done is far is only begin to establish the relationships that I will build on for the next 22 months. Now that is a long time to think about. What impact could I make in that amount of time? Not to say that the last two months have been a waste, but rather the setting of a beginning. I have established relationships in a few different venues.
I am really starting to get to know the kids in my class as individuals. Yes, I do wind up reprimanding them quite often with the words that fly out of their mouths, and the wild punches they throw, and even the non-stop chatter. However, I am starting to see who God has made them to be, and I pray that I can be a blessing in their lives daily, and not just an adult who ‘flips their sticks to yellow (my discipline system)’. I put a few pictures of them up in my new photo album, whose link is down below. My wonderful cousin Elisabeth sent me a kids parachute from the US, and you can see evidence of the enjoyment that we have all had from it.
Outside of class at school, I have also gotten to know some of the teachers, workers, and other students. There are some boys, Angelo and Lino, in the high school who were child soldiers in Sudan and one of the other missionaries here has been taking care of them for a few weeks while their guardians are in the US. They are really cool boys, full of laughter. Christina (my roommate, and the 6th grade teacher) and I have gotten chances to hang out at the beach with them and at each others places. Even though their pasts are full of unthinkable things, they never cease to put a smile of my face :)
I have also begun relationships with 10 girls at Kampala International University (KIU). Christina and I have started a Discipleship group there. A few years ago a man from Kenya who was trained in the Africa Gospel Church (AGC), which WGM started, came to Uganda as a missionary to serve at KIU. He has done an amazing job with the church at the college. Hundreds of students come each week, and so many ministries have grown out of that. The girls and I meet every Wednesday night to sing, pray, read, and talk at ‘The Palace’ (a compound across from the college that WGM owns and is used solely for KIU’s AGC ministries). For the first two weeks, Christina and I gave our testimonies. Last week Christina was away and I spoke with them about joy. That was really a great time, they finally started to open some and talk about how they find joy in tough times, and I learned that many of them struggled with the Kenyan conflict this past year. This week Christina spoke about worship. I am really excited to see our relationships grow in and outside of the palace. A week and a half ago I went to their church and it was African Woman’s Sunday. They were all dressed up in their traditional clothes from their country and more specifically their tribe. They were beautiful. I have a few pictures of that in my new photo album.
There are even more relationships to come I am sure, and I am so excited for that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Give me your eyes so I can see everything I keep missing"

So, since I have not posted in over a month, and it is my 2 month anniversary tomorrow of being in Uganda, I am going to do a series of a few posts. 
Also, in case you were curious, most of my titles are song lyrics. This one is from a Brandon Heath song called "Give me your eyes". I thought it was fitting for a few reasons. One, God is showing me lots of things here, and only a few of them are mentioned here. Two, you can't be here to see what I have, so I am trying to share just a bit of that with you. Three, I still feel like I am God is teaching me things, so I am praying that He will give me His eyes to see all of the things around me.
Here is the first post:

Things Learned in Uganda

1. Don’t think about driving, just go. People here don’t know how to drive. It’s a mad house, but you learn, and just pray that you won’t get in an accident.
2.“You are fat.” This does not mean that you are fat. It means you are healthy looking, which could or could not mean that you are fat.
3. “You are lost.” You’ve not been around for a while, where have you been?
4. Please litter. No matter where you are, it is perfectly acceptable to throw trash on the ground, out of the window, or into the water on the lake.
5. Monkeys are not surrounding you. Contrary to popular belief in the city, those noises you hear are not monkeys. They are called “go away birds” that sound like monkeys laughing! They still make me laugh.
6. Expect to be followed. Instant celebrity. Kids will follow us to school, turn around and follow you around the city, etc.
7. Everyone poops. Ever heard of the book? Well, it applies to animals too. In fact, every morning there is more gecko and bat poop on my desk. One day, while washing my hands, a gecko even pooped on my head!
8. 10am is really 5pm. “African time” is set up so that it is 7 hours later than ours…they don’t count the night hours. Even if they know you mean western time, don’t expect them to be on time. It is not a time based society, but a relational one.
9. Tennis racquets kill. That is at least the ones that are electric and are sold for the purpose of exterminating mosquitoes.
10. Drive slowly in the rain, and after. It’s illegal to splash someone via a mud puddle with your car or boda boda (small motorcycle).
11. Cheese is costly! On average, for a pound of cheese that is good, it can cost you around $13 and up.
12. Proper greetings must be established. Everywhere you go, you must at least ask people “Hello, how are you?” and reply to them. After this you can keep walking around the store, or down the street even.
13. You are white…things will be more expensive! As missionaries here, we are fully aware that people at Friday market and dukas are over charging us (and even the super markets sometimes with the price tags). We will always barter down the prices some, but not always as far down as a Ugandan would. We know that we have some more money, and that extra bit really could be what they need, but we don’t want to be taken advantage of at the same time.
14. Never expect to find what you want. There is no such thing as one stop shopping. Even at the big grocery stores, you might find something there one day, and for the next six months it won’t show up there, or even the whole country. In short, if you see something you like- stockpile if at all possible ☺
15. Speed bumps are illegal. Most of the speed bumps in the city are dirt and put up by the people who live next to the road (even many squatters). If you want the police to do something about it, you’ve got to pay them money. Otherwise, you just deal with the crazy bumpy roads plus the speed bumps.
16. There really are millions of stars. Even in the city on a clear night, you can see more stars here than any field in the country back home. It’s breath taking!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"School could be a mini-me of the rest of society"

School has been really pretty good so far. The classroom, yes, was the messiest thing ever. I thought my brothers room was messy, and I guess this is a different kind of messy, but it was still gross. All of the paperwork from past teachers has at least some reminisce of rat pee on it. It took me a whole afternoon to clean just 4 of my desk drawers. Things came together though, even if there is more gecko poop on my desk every morning. Sunday afternoon I had an interesting experience of a baby bat falling on my table and twitching. Blech. I didn’t know what to do with the poor little thing. Luckily some kids from Sunday fellowship were willing to take it outside for me.
The first week in school for me included the following: kids throwing rocks, calling each other ugly, a child disappearing for 1 ½ hours, karate chopping, and too much calling out to even remember. However, such is the first week of a 1st grade classroom. It’s hard to expect much from a group of kids ranging in ages 4-7 who had three different teachers in the course of last year. Things will get better. Some fun facts about my classroom is where the kids come from. From what I can tell so far, I have 2 Koreans who do not speak much English, 1 newly adopted Ugandan who does not speak much English, 1 Pilipino, 1 Japanese, 2 from Holland, 1 from the UK, 1 from Kenya, some “Americans”, and some other Ugandans.
Some of you may have caught wind that I was very ill this past week. At around 1am Wednesday morning I woke up violently and spent the rest of the morning in the bathroom or in bed with a bowl. I am almost completely better now. Thank you all so much for your prayers! I returned to school on Thursday and taught while sitting, but the kids did a great job that morning. Friday morning chapel was a wonderful experience. I got goose bumps as the whole elementary school (play group through 6th grade) slowly sang “Lord I lift your name on high”. It’s pretty cool to be at a school where you can freely worship the Lord and encourage it! I am learning how much of a ministry it is however. Not everyone in the school is a Christian. There are some Muslims, a Jain, Buddhists, atheists, etc. Some people simply send their kids to HIS because other people tell them it is a good school. It’s not just a teaching job; it’s a way to reach out to people. On Friday night I helped out with the first youth group of the year for HIS. We had a bunch of kids come out who really did seem like they wanted to know more about Christ. Please pray that this ministry is successful. Some of the kids who came are known to really be struggling and made some very bad choices. I have been surprised how easy it is for kids to find some real trouble here.
I’ve been able to put some pictures up on my facebook page-I have found it the easiest way to share pictures. Here is a link to the photo album: http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2023912&l=b3e99&id=30200100

Please keep those prayers coming, they are being felt! I love hearing from you all!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Buvuma Island

Yesterday, I returned to Buvuma Island. For those of you who have heard the story of me getting stuck in the middle of Lake Victoria (or experienced it with me) that is the place where we were coming from. I was so worried about going and the possibility of us breaking down again, though, somehow I knew that nothing could be as bad as what happened last time. If you haven't heard the story, the incredibly short version is this: We went to Buvuma Island to teach some kids at an orphanage and visit a health clinic. On the way out we had trouble starting the engine, but we got there. Leaving, it never started, but we were pushed out and floating for an hour or so with storms coming. Eventually got to a spot of mainland. Found a random person to take us. People licking necks and doing african calls. Stuck in the mud and dropped off on the side of the road when the taxis had stopped running. I'm sure your imaginations can fill in some of the blanks!
There were some missionaries were headed out to the Island and this would be my roommate and my only chance to go out for a long time. So, we went. It was really great to be back on the island and see some of the same people and wander through Chicongo with kids using us Muzungus as pets. We left and got back to land safely, but we were having an issue with the breaks in the car. So we went to a mechanic that Pastor David knew. All of the girls sat in the back of the car where as many as 20 'mechanics' gathered around trying to figure out the problem after removing the front seats. 2 1/2 hours later we left the mechanic with a new pump of some sort that we inevitably paid to much for being Muzungus. During that time some of us took naps or twiddled our thumbs, but we did not go wandering because we kept thinking we would be done any minute. However, it was MUCH better than last time and I am glad to have gotten the chance to return after all. 
Thanks for the prayers. I hope to get pictures up here soon. I have moved into the apartment, and things are slowly coming together, with or without water and electricity ;)

Here are some of the pictures from the Island.

Pastor David starting up the engine! 
A chicken hanging out in a window of a house :)
And my new roomie and I with some of the kids who nabbed us as pet muzungus!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I have arrived!

Hello all, just a quick note to say that I am in Uganda! Currently, I am staying in an apartment behind one of the missionaries homes while we get the electricity fixed and a refrigerator in my apartment. Hopefully I will be moving in on Tuesday night or Wednesday. I drove down to my apartment after lunch yesterday to set up some of my things before the evening fellowship! It was not as hard as I imagined to remember to stay on the left side of the road, but it was just the first time. I am SO thankful that the car I borrowed to go down was an automatic. The car that I will have access to is currently in Kenya, but will be back next week.
My time here so far has been really great. I am slowly adjusting to the time difference, though the call to morning prayer for Muslims at 5:30 am has not helped. My stomach is still dancing, but nothing major has happened, praise the Lord! The other missionaries have been so wonderful in helping me to slowly get acclimated. They have been hosting me for meals and doing orientations with me slowly. Last night for dinner I had popcorn and ice cream. If you know me well, you would know that these are two of my favorite foods and just happens to be the normal Sunday dinner for the family that hosted me last night :) The WGM office has a high speed internet connection, so skype can be used there, but the internet is so slow in the other places, it is not even imaginable. To give an example of how slow it is, my internet connection will be 7k. Putting it in perspective, a dial up is 56k, and high speed at home is 3500k. Wow, right? Patience will be learned!
Back to financial orientation!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All my bags are packed

As hard as it is to believe, I leave today. At 6:30 pm I will take off from Newark and head to London for a 14 hour lay over, then at 9 pm I will board another plane headed to Entebbe, Uganda.
Am I ready? I don't really know. My bags are almost ready to go, but my brain is probably not. But I'm not sure it ever will be. I know that Uganda is where I am supposed to be, I know that I will be doing great things there, and having all sorts of new adventures, but it will be hard for me to leave home. One great thing about modern technology is Skype...the free online video chat service! Check it out, its pretty great. Now I just have to pray that Uganda's internet service is fast enough to handle it ;)
Besides prayers for mental health as I leave, and for traveling mercies, I have a physical prayer request. The other night I was going to sit down and I missed the chair (big surprise coming from me) and now I have 7 cuts going up my spine. They are not large, some are tiny but others are at least the size of a nickel and it hurts to sit against anything. Great for going on an airplane for 15 hours, huh? I've got some pain numbing meds, so hopefully that will help, but pray that I would be comfortable on the airplane and that the wounds would heal.
Many of you have been so amazing these past few months as I have been preparing for this journey, and I am SOOOO grateful for that. Please keep the encouraging words coming. I may not have gotten a chance to respond to all of you in my craziness, but they have not gone unappreciated at all. Hopefully I will get a chance to reply during my week of settling in to my new environment.  Once I get to Uganda and rest up some, I'll be sure to take pictures of my place and let you know how the adventure over was. 
Lastly, do I have enough funds to hit the skies? Yes! Wouldn't you know that I have about $9563 in my account presently (with more promised to come in) and the amount I had to have was $9545. God works wonders :) Pretty cool if I do say so myself. Thanks for letting God use you to help me get where He wants me to be serving Him!
For now, Weebale (Thank you) and Weeraba (Good bye). God Bless!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Two weeks from tomorrow (July 23rd) I leave the country. Two weeks! It's hard to believe that it has really snuck up on me. There is still so much to do. This week is filled with doctors appointments, shopping for supplies, and cleaning out my room. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a simple stamp pad now a days! 
Thanks so much to all of you who have donated financially! As of today, I only need $684.64 before I can hit the skies. God is faithful and he has used you to help me in working with the people of Uganda! Please continue to pray for me, especially as I prepare for this big leap of faith with leaving my family, friends, and the world I know to go and do His will for my life. The next few weeks will be hard ones no doubt, but I know that this is where God wants me right now. 
I will arrive in Uganda on the morning of the 25th of July and will proceed to move in my new home: an apartment that is a 5 minute walk from the school! I will have a roomie but I do not know anything about her yet. The apartment is one fourth of a house, we are one of the apartments on the bottom floor. Our guard, Joseph, does not speak much English from what I know. I will have occasional access to a car that is automatic (praise the lord!). So my failure to find someone to help me re-learn stick will suit me well...hopefully.
Next week I will be the missionary again out at Delanco camp in Tabernacle, NJ. I'll be speaking on Thursday night if you want to come out and hear!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Will this journey be joyful?

Some may wonder why I would choose a blog name such as Jean's Joyful Journey. How could a whole journey possibly be completely filled with joy, especially in a war-torn land such as Uganda? I would suggest that perhaps we have our definition of joy a little mixed up. When a typical American thinks of joy, they would assimilate it with happiness. While yes, they are very similar, there's a difference.

If one would go to the ever-popular Christian website biblegateway.com and type in the word joy, 242 results pop up. How about the word happy? 21! Only 21 times is the word happy in the bible. And three of those times, the word joy was added in right near it to help describe the situation even more. One might wonder why the word joy was chosen over happy so many times!

My handy-dandy Webster's Pocket Dictionary defines happy as characterized by good fortune; prosperous. Having pleasure; gratified.
If you then look up joy in Webster, you would find delight; happiness; gladness. A source of pleasure.

Happiness is momentary, it depends on what is going on in that very instant. Happiness is a situation while joy is what causes the great happiness-and for me that is Christ.

I find my joy in the Lord. Will the Lord always be there? YES! So no matter where I am or what I am doing, I can find joy. Therefore I will choose to be joyful always.

A few months ago my mom found this quote and showed it to me. “If you are making something, you must call to mind the Creator of all things; if you see the light, remember the Giver of it. If you put on your clothes, recall whose gift they are and thank Him who provides for your life. In short, let every action be a cause for your remembering and praising God and lo! You will be praying without ceasing and therein your soul will always rejoice.” -St. Peter of Damascus

With this in mind, let's take a second look at my key verses, 1 Thes. 5:16-18. Notice in verse 17 how it says "pray continually." If Christ is our focus and we are continually with him, we will always be joyful, just as St. Peter said. Praying continually will make us ever look to Christ and be continually joyful.

My prayer would be that for all of us, we would continually look to our Lord and Savior for everything.

Will this journey be happy? No, not all the time. Will it be joyful? I would say yes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's official...I'm teaching 1st grade!

I am very pleased to say that I got my target grade! God's got it all under control.
Less than 2 months until I'm off! I have to be in Kampala on August 4th for teacher training. I should be there a week ahead of time so that I can adjust to the time change, move in, etc. Meaning I should be leaving around July 23rd. My last day of work as a Switchboard operator at Komline-Sanderson is set for June 27th. After that I will be going to Delanco camp in Tabernacle, New Jersey for 2 camp weeks- Camp Meeting, and Junior Camp. I will be the missionary at both camps, and at camp meeting I will also be working with the kids. I'm so excited about getting the opportunity to go back to the place where I spent 2 summers as a Horse Wrangler in a whole new capacity. I'll also have a week to get some things done before I leave, like packing for my move, clearing out my room, and mentally preparing for what is ahead.
There is still so much to do, between shots, learning to drive stick and getting an international driver's license,  planning for my classroom, and all of the other normal things of life, I've got plenty to do. But God is faithful, and he'll find a way for it all to get done.
I've already got a new prayer request. If your aren't up on your Ugandan news, which I suspect most of you are not, the Lord's Resistance Army is back in action. It breaks my heart. The people of Northern Uganda have gone through so much already, I can't imagine them having to go through all of the fear and murders all over again. Please please pray with me that the Lord God would bring an end to this war. If you want more details on the happenings, bbc is a great source. Here's a link to a recent article on it: Ugandan rebels 'prepare for war'
Prayer is out most powerful weapon. God can conquer anything. 
If you're in the area on Wednesday June 18th, please come and stop by my house for an "open house". I'll be serving some traditional Ugandan foods, have some pictures running, some stuff from Uganda laid out, and I'll be talking some more about what I am doing there. It's from 6:30 to 9:30, but you can come and go as you are able. If you need my address, please contact me and I'll be more than happy to give it to you. Don't hesitate to contact me if you've got any questions either. I'd be more than happy to hear from you. I've tried to set up this blog so that anyone can leave a message for me on this site, even if you are not a member of this site. Let me know if you have any problems.
"Redeem [Uganda], O God, from all their troubles."-Psalm 25:22

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What am I doing?

Sometime this coming July, I'll be boarding a plane, and heading to Uganda for two years.
Starting in August, I'll be teaching at Heritage International School (HIS) in the capital city of Kampala. HIS is a Christian school that runs from Nursery through 12th grade, and caters to Missionary kids, International students, and Ugandan students. This is a picture of the campus of HIS. I will be going through World Gospel Mission (WGM) which is a Wesleyan Missionary sending organization based in Indiana.

I also hope to volunteer in the local church and at a babies home while in Kampala. Here is a picture of an orphan clinging onto my leg as I blow bubbles.

During the summer in between my two years at HIS, I hope to be volunteering in Northern Uganda with the Diocese of Kitgum. The church that I attended in college, The Church of the Good Samaritan, has a partnership with this Diocese and I would love to be a part of that. The people in Northern Uganda have been living in terrible conditions for the past 22 years with the rebel group the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapping children at night. Most of the people my age have never known a real home, just the IDP camps. Hopefully I will be able to help in some fashion. Please pray for the peace treaty that is underway. There are many ways in which it could go awry, but we must demand peace at last.

If you have any questions or want to support me in going, don't hesitate to contact me.
God Bless!

Here are some more pictures of life in Uganda!

Playing Kappa a goba with the children in an area of Kampala!

Me eating some traditional Ugandan food:
Matoke (the yellow stuff): cooked small bananas
Ugali (the white stuff): simple cooked corn meal
Some sort of greens

Childrens Church: singing with the kids and telling them a bible story. That's the church in the background. This is not too far out of Kampala, in Nakigalala.

The view from the church in Nakigalala. Isn't it beautiful? The hill in the background is covered in tea leaf plants.

One of the grocery stores in Kampala.

A most popular form of transportation, no matter what you are carrying! This is a boda-boda (short for border to border). Note the furniture store in the background, and behind that the high rises of the city.