Monday, March 28, 2011

African Parasites and African Time

So I was sitting in an internet café yesterday composing this AMAZING blog post. It was probably Pulitzer winning stuff but alas the internet crashed and all was lost! Thus I will do my best to re-create it as best I can.

It turns out I did not have worms (yay!), but instead I had Giardia (boo!) an African water parasite of sorts. The nurse at DP gave me some super powerful pills that would make me all better by Wednesday but she warned me that I’d feel worse before I felt better and she wasn’t lying. I was off work Monday and Tuesday and I spent most of Monday laying in bed working up the strength to walk the 10 steps to the bathroom to throw up and then crawling back to bed because walking required such effort! Tuesday was better and other then feeling a little tired the remainder of last week I’ve felt great ever since! 

Wednesday night we went to our friend Joy’s house for dinner. We took a taxi to Mutungo and she lead us to her home. We stayed for about four hours and learned to make Matoke (a traditional Ugandan dish made of bananas) and then Joy bought a live chicken and then killed it for us (that was a first for me). She doesn’t have power so when it got dark out we spent most of the night eating and chatting over one small lamp. It was a lot of fun though and it really helped us see the day to day lives of the people here. 

I got to spend some time up at the little kids home on Wednesday. The moment that you walk through the gate you are swarmed with kids who all want hugs and love and attention. There have been literal fist fights over who gets to hold my hands and it is so heartbreaking that these kids have been so neglected that any little bit of love that myself and the other volunteers and staff can give is soaked up so quickly!  The older girls play hopscotch in the yard and the little ones made a long row of chairs and played “train” for quite a while.  A few of the kids were playing some sort of game with a ball but on closer inspection the “ball” they were playing with was plastic bags wrapped with tape. 

I also got to go up to the youth center and see the kids there which always makes me happy. The girls there always want to talk about making babies. Ha the first question they asked me when they met me was “how many children would you like to produce?”. I told them that my mom has only “produced” two children and they were SHOCKED! It is just so counter-culture here to not make as many children as you can. 

There are so many things I love about the culture here and there are many things I miss about home. We have this saying with our boda guys called “American time” which means within 15 minutes of said time. “Africa time” generally means that a person will show up within 2 hours of said time and probably not call to mention that they are running a bit late:) So if our boda man is late we say he is just running on African Time. All in all my general conclusion is that we could all learn a lot from each other and the idea of a “perfect” culture is just a myth. One thing I love most is the worship here. It is incredible and alive and vibrant and just such a rich experience. There are drums and dancing and this is just at work at 10am during staff devotions! At our church we sign many western songs that I recognize but we also sing some in Luganda. We have a guitar and drums like any American church, but also bongos and a choir that dances. 

I have been reading through Ezekiel this week, and I especially loved chapters 34-36 where God is saying that He will come and be our shepherd and that he will find all the stray sheep and bring them back to Him and He will give them food and shelter and take care of them. Working with street kids this is such a beautiful metaphor because they are like the sheep who have wandered away, who are lost and God promises to restore them (and all of us) to Himself. 

Thank you all so much for the prayers, the e-mails, the FB messages they are such encouragements to me! Love you all!

Prayer requests/Praises
1)      Thank You Jesus that I am feeling WAY better and that my body is healing from whatever bug I had.
2)      Praise God that we were able to have dinner with Joy and build a relationship there-please pray that would continue
3)       Please pray as we are planning the youth camp for the first week of May!
4)      Also we are traveling this coming weekend to Jinja to Whitewater raft the Nile! Please ask God to bless our time with missionary friends from around Uganda and for safe travel.
5)      Please continue to pray for all the missionaries at work here, they are such incredible people who I have come to love and admire to no end!
6)      In full Ugandan tradition, lets just be thankful for the small stuff that us westerners often overlook-life, beauty, health, friends, clean water, enough food for the day…:)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Earthquakes, Camels, and Pink Sparkle Rain Boots

Hi everyone!

I am sitting at an internet cafe in downtown Kampala, enjoying an absolutly beautiful day. Julie, Bethany and I went to church this morning then shopped at National Theatre Market. We might be heading back here tomorrow night because they have an open mic night here and some great live music and dancing!

Let me catch you up on this last week: Monday was the Mayoral elections so it was a public holiday in Kampala-so no work! We stayed close to our flats so I went to the grocery store and read and cooked. The elections went smoothly with no violence so praise God for that! Tuesday morning the rains came!! And we also had a little earthquake. Apparently the epicenter was near Lake Albert on the western side of the country but we felt a tremor all the way in Kampala. No damages-not even enough movement to knock things of shelves-it was just a strange way to wake up in the morning with my bed shaking! Tuesday it rained sooooo much! But it was so needed and the city looks so much prettier now that things have greened up again! Wednesday I saw camels just hanging out on my way to work-it was awesome. My boda driver thought my reaction was super funny because I made a huge deal out of it. The rains come and go now-it rains a little bit every day at random times so I always keep my raincoat and umbrella with me. One of the little boys in DP had on pink sparkley barbie rain boots the other day-it made me smile:) The temperatures here are so much nicer now that the rainy season has arrived. about 70-75 everyday and 65 every night-perfection! I actually prefer the rains to the hot dusty dryness that was my first week. Although it does sometimes interrupt my schedule since no one wants to be on a boda in a storm.

I worked mostly in the office again this week-but once a day I tried to get up to the Youth Center and/or the Kids Home and those visits are always the highlight of my day. The youth are trying to teach me how to drum and I keep trying to explain to them that Muzungus have NO rhythem!! Ha but they are patient with me and are very chatty so I'm excited about the relationships I'm forming with the youth.  The kids at the home are new to DP, they are Karamaja Children who come down from the north where there is famine, drought, and inter-tribal fighting. The women and children flee to the city to beg on the streets. They have had such hard lives already and there is a language barrier because they do not speak english or lugandan which can make it difficult sometimes. Although I have found that if you open your arms for a hug they immediatly know what that means!

We are busy at the office planning youth camp which will be the first week of May hopefully. We will be inviting about 113 youth and hope that most of them will be able to come! The goal of that week is to get them inspired about exiting DP and finding jobs or starting businesses that will be sustainable so that they can be contributing members of society for the next generation in Uganda.

I've really been challenged this week with wanting to be in control and make my two months here count. I realized how quickly that time will go and that two months is not long at all to build relationships and try to impact lives so I've felt very rushed and just "ahhhh i need to accomplish everything right now, this week!". So God  has really been reminding me that He was working in the U.G. before me and He will continue working here when I leave and that all I need to do is be obedient and faithful right where I am and I don't need to force anything. He'll present the people and the oppertunities for me to grab and I just need to be still before him. I've been mediating on Psalm 139 and I love the part where it talks about before we were ever born He knew all of our days. It is such a great reminder to me that God knew I would be in Uganda at this point in time-He is not surprised to look down and find me here, I was never out of his sight even for a second and that He has a purpose for me here.

My boda boda is coming to get me soon! I should wrap this up. I love you all! Thank you for the prayers and encouragement-they are so precious to me! May God surprise us all with His wonder and love this week!

Prayer Requests/Praises:

1) The rains came and the elections went smoothly! such answers to my prayer requests last week! Thank God that He hears His children and that He is faithful!
2) Thank God that my dad's surgury went wonderful!
3) I got to spend the weekend with Julie and Bethany and we had such a wonderful time of fellowship and encouragement-I love these girls and I'm so thankful God has provided such great friends here!
4) We are having dinner with a local friend, Joy, on Wednesday. She is going to teach us to make Ugandan food! Please pray that we would honor God with our time there and that a real friendship could grow there!
5) Me and another girl I work with have been stomach sick all week-they think it might be worms (gross). It's a quick fix-just one "de-worming" pill but pray that we are both healed!
6) Please pray for the youth camp and the hearts of the kids that are going to be there! Let it be a time of great community and something that really honors God and challenges the youth.
7) Please be praying that I would be still before God and faithful to what he has called me to do and that I would let go of trying to do EVERYTHING!

Nkwagala (I love you!)


Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Week in the U.G.

It is Sunday afternoon here. I'm hanging out in Chey-bando Kay Salo Salo (spelled phonetically) with Julie and Bethany who have so graciously let me use their internet. We just got finished with church after a weekend of orientation in Entebee about 40 minutes outside of Kampala.

Now that work has started I don't get to the internet as much, so for those of you who've written me and not received any response, I apologize. I started work at Dwelling Places (DP) on Wednesday and was quite overwhelmed with new people, new jobs, new kids. So much to try and remember. I was glad it was a short week and I got the weekend to process everything. I'll be working with the Exit Program trying to get kids who have been in the DP system moved out and able to be fully sustainable adults on their own. DP has an apprenticeship program that teaches kids 15+ computer skills, finances, cooking, craft making, tailoring, ect. and then can provide money from a revolving fund to help these kids start businesses when they turn 18. I've been doing a lot of office/administrative work this week and I'm hoping to get on more of a schedule next week where I split my time between the office/the youth center/ and the Transitional Rehabilitation Home (TRH) where the younger kids are. It looks like the first week of May we'll bring in all of our older youth and hold a camp for them so I'll spend lots of time planning that the next few months. I'm really loving DP and the staff there is fantastic-they also take time at 10am for staff devotions and then tea time-which is really a tradition we need to adopt stateside! (African tea is amazing-hot tea+milk+raw sugar=pure bliss)

I move into my flat today. There is a long-termer on home assignment kind enough to let me stay at her place-and it is just about 8 steps across the hall from the missionary couple I've been staying with so the move should be a breeze and it'll be nice to still have other muzungus around when I have questions or just to hang out with. It looks as though I will have a 3 bedroom 2 bath flat all to myself at this point. I live in an area of town called "Najjanankumbi" or "Najja" translated it means "i came with my hoe". I don't know what news has reached the states but there were protests in town Wednesday over the presidental election that involved tear gas-but it was fairly tame and I don't work anywhere near town center-so thankfully it turned out not to cause any major problems. I think tomorrow is going to be declared a public holiday in Kampala-which means no work-but it is so they can re-hold the mayoral elections that went badly last time. So everyone will probably just stay away from city center tomorrow just in case.

I found out at the grocery store the other day that they have ramen noodles here! and for only 10cents American! Ha I probably won't be eating those that much-the fruits and veggies here are AMAZING! so fresh, so much flavor. I will never be able to enjoy a mango or a pineapple stateside again!

I have also started speaking a whole new form of English-they call it Ugandan English. All the older missionaries said I would just start speaking it one day and they were right. I shorten all my words, it sounds little British and instead of saying it's or don't I say It is...or I do not know...everything is very crisp. When I'm around other westerners I lose it again but a majority of the time-especially when talking to nationals I speak in a whole new way (I think it's hilarious) and most muzungus speak like that eventually.

Ummmm, I'm trying to think. I feel like there are a million and one stories and things I could write but that would take hours and the girls probably don't want me stealing their computers all day:)  Thank you for all the prayers that have come in already and please continue to pray-not just for me but for all of the missionaries at work around Uganda. I was reminded again in church this morning that God is big and powerful and He has already been working in Kampala before I arrived and that He will continue working out His purpose after we have all left.

Praises/Prayer Requests
1) Praise God that my cold or whatever bug I had is working it's way out of my system!
2) My Lugandan is improving, I'm making friends at work, I got to spend a great weekend with my girls away from the hustle/bustle and smog of the city! I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable here which is great!
3) It looks like we might get to go to Jinja either the last weekend in March or the first in April to white water raft the Nile! So excited.
4) There has been much talk of drought and the rainy season being very delayed here-which is bad for many Ugandans who depend on the rainy season...but it did rain a little bit the last few mornings so we can be thankful for that!
4) Please pray for the elections on Monday that everything would run smoothly and that there would be no violence.
5) Please pray that I feel more comfortable in my role at DP and that I'd be able to make a significant contribution there.
6) Please pray that I would be able to establish close relationships with a few of the youth girls and that I would really be able to come alongside and disciple them while I'm here.
7) Please pray for the Youth Camp that we'll be putting on in May and the hearts of the kids that will be coming!
8) And please just pray that I would be open to what God has for me here-I want to learn, and grow, and try new things and make new friends. Please just pray that I would be a humble servant while I'm here.

Love you all so much! It's hot hot hot here and I'm actually missing 60 and 70 degree days!!
if you want to listen to a great song look up "only you" by Adie. It's my Africa Anthem (besides Toto of course!)


Monday, March 7, 2011


I am a Mzungu (ma-zun-goo) here. It means "white person" or "westerner". On the streets people will just yell "mzungu" and point at you or run up and touch your arm. It's just a little bit different then America where if you did that to someone who looked different it wouldn't be very politically correct. I'm coming to realize that being politically correct isn't really much of a concern here-which in some ways is kind of refreshing.

I am now starting to feel the jet lag wearing off and not feeling 100% totally lost, just a solid 90% now. I'm picking up some Lugandan (the local language, although there are other tribal languages spoken all over Uganda so learning some Lugandan doesn't necesarily mean I will be able to communicate with everyone in Kampala) and I am very good at speaking the official language of Uganda...English. Although there is a whole different language we call Ugandan English where the words have completly different meanings. For example people here will walk up and say "Mzungu-you are so fat!!" and they mean that as a compliment because if you are "fat" here it means you look well fed and have enough to eat. If a Ugandan hasn't seen you in a while, instead of asking where have you been, they will say "you've been lost, Mzungu!".

I'm still at AIM's guesthouse, Matoke Inn. The two other girls I flew in with moved into thier flat on Sunday and that is all the way on the other side of Kampala from me (about 20-30 minutes with no traffice, but more likely 45-1 hr). That was kind of a bummer-but we'll all go to church together and we have local cells so we can stay connected. The other girls will probably be my traveling buddies if we decide to get outside of the city on the weekends. The awesome thing about staying at Matoke is that there are AIM missionaries coming in and out all the time so I've gotten to met some really incredible people and they've taught me a lot about what life is like in "real" Uganda (outside of Kampala-Kampala has many comforts of western culture that many missionaries can't find in thier towns and villages). I think what I've enjoyed most is the authenticity of the other missionaries-both short and long term. There is no trying to impress each other with how much we love serving God or pretending that this is always the greatest experience ever. They are all honest about some of the struggles of missionary life and how tough and gruling it can actually be-but at the end of the day they would all say that God called them here and they will be obidient to that call. I think many of us in America could really learn a lot from that kind of surrendered attitude and heart ( I know I could). Just the idea that God doesn't call us to comfort or to a life of small pleasures. He calls us to be uncomfortable and surrendered to Him, to always live at the very end of our strentgh, the end of our courage, the end of ourselves because it is when we are at that point of surrender that we've actually gotten out of our own way enough for him to work through us.

A few other observations on life in Africa:
1) I coudln't tell you what Ugandan food is like yet- The Inn cooks Mzungu food, and the missionaries I hung out with this weekend all wanted Mzungu food that was not available to them in thier towns. But, I move out into Kampala either today or tomorrow so I'll be doing my own cooking with food that I can buy at market or the grocery store. One nice thing about Uganda-all the fresh fruits and veggies-delicious!

2) There are cows, and chickens, and pigs, and dogs, and storks everywhere. There will be cows (with gigantic horns) just grazing next to the side of a major street and there are even street signs that warn of a 50,000 shilling fine if your cow crosses the road! You'll see people on Bodas (motorcylce taxis) with 6 or 7 dead chickens hanging in thier hands, or even a live pig between the driver and the passenger. And then there are the storks-they are a specific kind I can't remember-but they are HUGE scavengers who are all over Kampala. They call them Ugandas Pigeons. Apparently, according to an AIMers mother who was at Matoke this weekend, they came into the city during the reign of Amin when there were bodies in the streets and they havn't left since (there are no bodies in the streets anymore).

3) A shilling is the Ugandan currency. The exchange rate is definatly in our favor. It is approximatly $2 American for every $5,000 Shillings-roughly. A boda ride-depending on how far you need to go- is between $.50 and $5.00 American; I just bought sandles at market for 20,000 which is about $9 bucks. I still freak out when I hear someone tell me that something will be costing me 15,000 because it sounds like so much!! But I'm figuring it out. The money here is much prettier then ours-lots of pretty colors!

Praises/Prayer Requests
1) After getting the worst case scenario directions in NY-all three of us got our visas, our luggage, and through customs with no problems!

2) Usually the AIM office likes it if we can go on "home stay" while we are here-which is make friends with Ugandans to the point that we are invited into thier homes so that we can really get a feel for what the culture is like. I'm only here for 2 months so I'm a little pressed for time; but I struck up a converstation with a waitress at a Mzungu restaurant the other day and she gave me her phone number and told me that she would cook myself and the two other girls I came with real Ugandan food some evening! So that was awesome that God brought someone within 20 minutes of my having that conversation with my coordinator. Please pray for that friendship.

3) I FINALLY slept through the night! I'm so excited about this. It is 6 am here, but I crashed last night about 8:30 so I guess in Uganda I'm just going to be a morning person (I've been up for every African sunrise since I arrived). Please just pray that my body continues to adjust.

4) Yesterday I felt the first pain in my throat that usually signals you are getting sick. My glands are pretty swollen up today but I'm feeling better after some sleep and I'm sucking down hot tea like it's going out of style. Please just pray that whatever little bug this is passes through quickly!

5) I start work tomorrow. I don't really know many details but please ask that God would just bless my time there and that I would have the eyes to see where He is already working and that I would bring a little bit of His love, His mercy, His grace into every conversation I have with the Staff and the Kids. And also please pray that my heart would be open to whatever God wants me to learn.

6) Please keep all of my new missionary friends working all over Uganda in your prayers! It has been such a huge blessing to get to know them and see a bigger picture of the global church and just how God is at work all across Africa and the whole world!

There is so much more I could tell all of you, but I've rambled quite long enough. I will say this: if any of you have ever considered coming to Africa-do it!!

I love you all, I miss you (I wish you could all be experiencing this with me!) I hear it is snowing in Nebraska...I can't say I miss that:)


"To be alive is to be broken, and to be broken is to stand in need of grace" -Ragamuffin Gospel

Friday, March 4, 2011


We have officially arrived! After 16 hours of flight time, another 6 or 7 hours of layover, taxi time, and 9 time zones I am happy to be here.

 It was strange to arrive after dark because until this morning I couldn't really tell you what Africa looked like. Although the first thing I noticed was that it smells really good-like campfires, and tropical flowers. I slept on our flight to Amsterdam but managed to stay up for the flight to Entebbe with the hope being that when we landed at 9pm Uganda time that I'd be ready for bed when I got here. That wasn't exactly the case because I was a bundle of energy when I arrived. We are staying the first few days at an AIM guest house on the property of the regional office. We found a gecko in our bedroom last night and there was a praying mantis in my bathroom this morning. We have beds with mosquito nets and I slept fairly well. However, the minute the sun came up I was up with it and I  got some incredible pictures of my first African Sunrise. (anyone who knows me well is shocked that I woke up earliest). I slept on the porch for a while but still haven't gotten much sleep. I will probably crash early tonight. This morning we learned all about shillings and we went to the bank and exchanged our money. Julie, Bethany, and I also walked up the road a bit where we could see a view of Kampala and Lake Victoria-it was quite beautiful.

So that's just a quick update, I'm gonna try to catch a nap and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I'm safe, I'm here, I'm looking forward to the adventures God has for me and the story He is writing in Uganda! Thanks for all the prayers!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Death Always Precedes Life

Well I made it to New York yesterday and had orientation all day today. I got to meet the two girls I will be traveling to Kampala with (they will be working with handicapped and special needs children at a different place then I am) as well as 3 couples who will be leaving soon for long-term assignments in Africa. The whole experience has felt very surreal thus far and I'm sure that will probably continue for a while.

During our tour yesterday we were given a brief history of the Africa Inland Mission and how they came to be. It was started in 1895 when six missionaries came here with a dream that all of Africa would be reached for Christ. Of those 6, five were killed by various diseases and the remaining survivor returned to England quite shaken. It was at that time the committee that had commissioned the mission had to decide if they were going to continue sending people out or if they were going to abandon the whole project. After much debate, a board member stood up and said "Gentlemen, death always precedes life." The rest, they say, is history. Today AIM has over 1000 missionaries in the field working in over 20 countries to create Christ-centered churches for all African peoples.

I love that phrase "Death always precedes life". It has stuck in my mind since I heard it yesterday. It is such a great reminder on so many levels. I first imagine how the original twelve must have felt right after Jesus died. Bewildered, confused, lost, and hopeless because they didn't realize yet that He is risen! They did not see at that time that Jesus had to die in order to save us, in order to give us abundant life through Him. On a more personal level; I need to be reminded to die to my comforts, to being in control, to the idea of security. I need to die to letting fear win, to complaining, to thinking I can do everything on my own. I need to surrender relying only on my own strength, to being selfish, to being unforgiving. Paul says that "I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer live but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20) It is the dying to our sinful nature, our old ways, that we truly find life and fullness in God. Death always precedes life. It is hard to let go, to allow things to die. My humanity cries out for security, for comfort, for love but it is a death to look for those apart from God. When we allow Him to rid our lives of those things that actually kill us, He restores us, lifts us up, and breathes abundant and eternal life back into us, and we live with Him. Death always precedes life.

Thank you all so much for the encouragement and support and prayers! I am so blessed and I feel very loved. I will write again as soon as I get to Entebee and figure out how to work their internet.

Love you all! Keep praying!