Sept 3 2015
Hello Friends & Family!
It’s Fall! I for one cannot believe that’s reality. Thank YOU SO much for your prayers, financial support & encouragement while I was in Uganda for the last 48 days!! Being home for 2 weeks now has made me more reliant on the Lord for His understanding, grace, strength & mercies to be made new each & every morning. The Ugandan people face many needs daily & being home has made me feel blessed though I am distant from some very good friends!
My time in Uganda went by quickly. Though I did not do all I planned, it was amazing to become part of a community who loves The Lord & who have made me part of their family. The first 4 days of my travels I was blessed to stay with the Ssebambulide family in Kampala Uganda. Staying with them was a reality of arriving in a Third World Country. Though their house did not have some amenities I am used to (running water & indoor plumbing) I thoroughly enjoyed becoming part of the Ssebambulide family. They accepted me & dealt with me & my Western ways & questions & welcomed me joyfully into their hearts & home.
My time in the North was spent learning how to cook local food, one of my favorite parts was shopping in the market for fresh ingredients! I’d say I’m a pro at making beans, rice & greens, but I’m certain some Ugandan friends would disagree. HA! While in Gulu I lead worship at two churches, Antioch & Watoto Church. It was incredible to be a part of their worship service learning some local songs & humbly being allowed to play my song Morning Light! I met one of the best drummers in the world at Watoto & was impressed at everyone’s God given talents!
As time escaped me while in the Northern Region, I did little research on what it would take to open a bakery. This was only because I saw there isn’t a need for one specifically in the town of Gulu. I still have a passion for researching this business endeavor in the future, but it would probably have to be kilometers away from the city. More to come on this!
One amazing program I was apart of while in Kampala was watching the students & teachers at the Fields of Dreams partner schools receive computers & computer training. This was the main reason the U.S. team arrived in Uganda my third week in country. It was astonishing to see that not even half of the teachers at the schools had used a computer before. Nor had more than half of the students! Giving them an opportunity to research & learn on computers is going to help these teachers & students advance to the next levels of education easily!!
Something humbling that came out of this Summer 2015 trip was having two women from The States attending the FoDU team in July because they saw me in Michigan playing at an event!!! It was amazing to see my ministry making an impact on two ladies lives that I know here in America!! They’ve seen my heart in action in Uganda & have fallen in love with the people & country I love. If YOU are interested in going on any of the 2016 trips with Fields of Dreams Uganda please visit www.fieldsofdreamsuganda.org & click on the Travel with Us button on the top!
If you’d like a more detailed letter in the mail about my trip to Uganda please email me your address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For my next Uganda trip I’m considering taking some of the local worship leaders into the studio in Gulu to record some of the amazing worship songs they’ve written. I’m also getting more information about attending a 3 month discipleship program at Antioch church & will continue researching what it would cost to open a bakery closer to the village of Pader.
Thanks for reading! Be blessed & encouraged!
In the Moment
Aug 23 2015
Most of my Summer was spent in a country that is near & dear to my heart. My time in Uganda was challenging, amazing & precious. I cannot believe I am back in The States & that it’s almost September!! While living in a third world environment for almost 7 weeks this Summer I’ve gained a LOT of respect for my Ugandan friends. I watched them live life in a beautiful way. I watched them & came along side them as they lived life to the fullest in an astonishing way. Every aspect of the Ugandan lifestyle amazes me & makes me aware of how blessed I am to have friends abroad. It’s challenging to come back to America & find ease at preparing my dinner without having to kill a chicken or spend countless hours prepping beans & greens before eating. It’s challenging to be able to walk outside my apartment, hop in my car & find everything I could ever want in a store located less than a mile away & to be able to purchase anything at my leisure. It’s challenging to be away from the strong community I was a part of for weeks & now find myself alone typing in my apartment. It was challenging today driving around town on perfectly paved roads without a bump in sight. However, no matter how challenging some of my thoughts are right now, my prayer is that I would be present in the moment right where I’m at, where God has me. I’ve noticed while traveling all around the world in the last year that God has built us for relationship with others – whether that means we meet unbelievable people for a week & never see them again, or if it’s building trust with one specific person who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with – God has built us for community. Our communities around the world may be completely different, but the mind-boggling thing is that God is the same & never changes. He has you in His hands, my friends in Uganda in His hands & your great aunt who lives across the river in His hands. God knows our every thought & every desire – He cares for us more than we can ever imagine. As I think about my time spent in Uganda, I recognize the Lord’s love – how vast, deep & wide it truly is. Knowing that He knows exactly what I need, what my friends in Uganda need & what you need, makes me wanna sing : ) As I process my time in Uganda & now my time back in The States, I pray you’d extend grace upon me. I welcome your prayers, feedback & suggestions. For now, I’m thoroughly enjoying toilets, washers, dryers & ovens.
August 6th 2015
Day 34 in Uganda started out with a little homesickness. Yesterday I had one of my headaches that knocked me on my butt in bed for the entire day & night. I was longing for a Sprite & Saltine crackers...and was thankful for the Sprite, but there seems to be a lack of saltines at whatever store Denis went to. When I woke up this morning I was missing my bed. I was missing my washer, dryer & dishwasher. I was missing my routine. I was missing one of my good friends. And I was also missing Chipotle, despite the irony of how similar Ugandan food is to Chipotle. Today if you could do me a favor, eat at Chipotle AND include eating chips!! : ) As I sit pondering what I’m supposed to be doing in Gulu this week/end, I found joy in one thing. Digging into the Word. With the American team in town last week my schedule was crazy & though we had daily devotions & were serving all day at the partner schools every day, I somehow misplaced my prayer life. I not only feel it spiritually, but mentally & physically as well. Earlier this Summer when I was back in The States, I challenged myself to not look at any social media until I spent time in prayer & with The Lord in His Word. I am finding myself in need of that same reminder across the other side of the world. Though I’m not having the temptation of social media, there are other distractions. Waking up in Uganda isn’t easy sometimes, you have to think about what to prepare for breakfast in advance because it might take long for cooking to begin & finish. When I have a day off in The States I LOVE to spend at least two hours reading scripture & I don’t think I’ve done that in the last 34 days! YIKES. In order for us, as Christians, to be filled with joy, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness, faithfulness & self-control we need to be connected to the source (Jesus!). If we want to be more like Christ we have to say YES to make things like being in the Word & prayer a priority. That might mean we have to say NO to other things that come in our path & schedule. Before I left The States my schedule was insane. I think this Summer I’ve seen how important my time is & how I need to fill my plate with good things, not just many things – though they might be good things, I need to assess what is most pleasing to The Lord – Who?? THE LORD. Not myself, not others, not my family, nor my friends. Lord please show us how to rearrange our schedules so You are glorified with ALL we say & do. Amen.
Hope is a Basic Need
Aug 2 2015
Today was like Christmas to the students in the central region of Kampala Uganda. And somehow it felt like Christmas (maybe in Florida due to the hot weather) to me. The joy that took place at Wakiso Children's School of Hope was breath taking. Today was tournament day for Fields of Dreams Uganda & the morning began with U-10 football matches. It never fails to perplex me how much talent are in these young boys & girls. I've made this statement before in prior blogs but watching these students (some being orphans) put on a soccer jersey with cleats & play on a good pitch makes you see them as champions....not a vulnerable child in a developing country. Seeing how soccer unifies the campuses & installs hope into the staff, teachers & students is humbling & an honor to experience.
After the U-10 games our FoDU team was blessed by the MDD competition (music, dance & drama). Each partner school performed two 15 minute pieces that involved props, songs, actions & a story that embraced their African culture. Though I could not understand the language, it was amazing to see how much I could understand through their actions. It was also encouraging to see the hope that arose in each student at they performed & also as they watched their peers. The work, effort & energy that goes into these performances is outstanding - and probably just as exhausting as playing a full football match - have you ever seen a Ugandan dance?!
The rest of the day consisted of football match after match. It was incredible to watch the younger boys & girls I first met during my first trip to Uganda three years ago now playing on the older teams - some are old enough that they cannot play! ...those older students came to support FoDU & it was amazing to see them there running the games!
The girls Gulu select team came to the central region to play the Kampala select team. It was amazing to see unity come between two different people groups. Their walls of brutal history came down as the blow of the refs whistle sounded & the ball was kicked around. Though the Gulu girl were planning on beating the Kampala girls 10-0, the result was a draw which I was pleased with...it's kind of like they both won?! I am so proud of everyone who played, performed & helped make this tournament happen!
Today as I watched the games, enjoyed the music & held a child here and there I realized how important it is to be installing hope into these young people. When they don't have a hand to hold or a lap to sit in, they will have their Fields of Dreams medal from today to remind them that they are champions, they are blessed, that we love them, and that their future belongs to them. Most of these children, if not all, have hope in eternity & I often find myself being encouraged spiritually by them to see God's faithfulness. But to know that hope for tomorrow is a basic need & that these children can find that hope through the vehicle of soccer and education makes me happy. It makes me overwhelmed with joy to think that simple things like soccer & education keep these kids going, it keeps them from verging onto a path of destruction that they could easily fall into. It keeps them from giving up. As I write tonight I wish you could experience what I've experienced all day. I wish you could experience the pure hope, love & joy I experienced the whole day. Hope is a basic need & I pray you would share a little hope with someone like I was able to give & receive today.
A Song to Sing
July 29 2015
This being my third trip to Uganda in the last three years, I've witnessed a good handful of children pass through primary school and move onto secondary school in the Fields of Dreams program. For some of the students in this program secondary school may not be the next step. Some of the students may go into vocational studies instead. There is one boy at Wakiso Children's School of Hope who is in charge of rearing the goats & on July 30th they are going to begin chicken farming. It's great to see some of the older boys be proud of the projects they are doing and excited of the opportunities to come in the business world. They all have individual dreams but it's amazing to see them dreaming together for the now, & later.
No matter how old these students are reaching, singing to them never changes. When the older students ask me to sing to them, I just think of how when they were little, no one was there to give them the attention I had while growing up. No one was there to sing to them before each nap time or hold them each time they were scared of something in the night. Working with the schools in the central region makes me see more vulnerable children because most of the students are boarding at these schools...many being orphaned. Yesterday as our team was getting ready to leave, we had the opportunity to sit and watch one of the teams practice soccer. As that was happening I was able to chat with one of the older students that I've known for a couple years now. When a Uncle Mike said it was time for us to leave he requested that I sleep at the campus tonight! Seeing in his eyes that he just wanted to continue chatting was sweet. On my drive home I was thinking about how incredible it would be to be able to sing to those sweet children as they are falling asleep. No matter how old the people are that I meet here, when I sing they just get this adored look in their eyes and I praise God that He's given me the opportunity to give them peace & joy for just a moment by giving me a song to sing. If you are a parent or grandparent, don't take a moment for granted as you sing or rock your sweet child to sleep. Pray that every child in the world would somehow be comforted tonight by the Lords peace!
Education & Reality.
July 27 2015
It always amazes me to sit in on classes taking place at our primary (elementary) schools in Uganda. Today I had the opportunity to observe the P4 & P7 classes who we're studying science & health. As the P4 classes went through questions that will be on their exams next week, I found myself baffled at not knowing a majority of the questions. Granted I've been out of high school for more than 10 years you'd think something would have stuck about photosynthesis! The children are eager to learn & almost every hand was raised when a teacher asked a question. My brother is a middle school teacher and I wish he was shown the same respect these students show their teachers. One day I hope he can experience the classrooms of Uganda!
After classroom observations the boys were trained to be men of integrity. Last year when the Fields of Dreams team handed out hygiene kits to the girls at our partner schools we asked the ladies what some of their greatest struggles are as a young woman living in Uganda. Slightly saddened and shocked at the response, their greatest fears had to do with defilement & rape. These girls are between the ages of 10 & 14 years old. FoDU wants to help make an impact to change the next generation of Ugandans so these women don't have to grow up living in fear of what will happen to them in the future. During integrity training we spoke about what it meant to be intelligent, non judgmental, in charge of ones emotions, trust worthy & other characteristics of being a man of integrity. The training time with the boys ended with each of them looking into a mirror shouting, "I AM A MAN OF INTEGRITY!!!" Then they received a bracelet that reminds them of that saying. Some of the female FoDU team members were able to have discussion with the girls about being honored & dignified. We ended our time together making up a song that said "Girls of integrity are brave... strong ... & honored." The Head Teacher, Aunt Rose described to us what it's like to grow up as a young Ugandan woman to the point of marriage....though our cultures are similar, they are drastically different. It was somehow difficult to hear that some girls are married off at a young age, but encouraging to know that the efforts of Fields of Dreams Uganda is empowering these young people to dream of a brighter future & know the difference of right & wrong. Though FoDU is mostly a soccer organization, they go to great lengths ensuring their footballers are more than just athletes. They are role models, history makers & people who are going to make a positive impact in their community, culture & world. I was highly encouraged today by the maturity of the young people of Uganda. Hope is a basic need & I've seen hope shared through our team, the FoDU staff & people I've encountered since arriving in the Pearl of Africa. My hope is for you to experience this greatness one day!
Budget & Update
July 27 2015
First & foremost I'd like to say THANK YOU for helping me be able to live in Uganda for almost 7 weeks this summer. Through your continual prayer & support from back home I've been able to impact many people with great needs here in this beautiful country. Some of the things I've been able to do with the funds you graciously given are;
- provide the FoDU coaches & staff dinner & encourage them
- provide dinner for groups of friends I've made throughout the last few weeks here (traditional African dishes cooked by yours truly!)
- provide the select soccer teams with water & glucose biscuits during their matches
- provide transport to get soccer equipment to the fields & partner schools
-vaccinate a family of 10 people with Hep B
- doctor visits for two women
- medicate two women who have been living with pain for some time
- X-rays for a woman with chronic back pain
- provide music & guitar stands for a local church
- providing a couple students with funds to purchase books & shoes for school
These are some of the many things your money has contributed to by partnering with my ministry & Fields of Dreams Uganda. I cannot say thank you enough & wish you could me the people who's lives you are greatly impacting!!! They're smiles would be all you need to say Calle (you're welcome in Luganda).
As for my life update. :) Going into this trip it was a dream of mine to start a business (a bakery) to employ Ugandan men & women - I think it would be amazing to hire some of the students in the FoDU program as they graduate secondary school. I would still like to have this dream in mind but there are many things to consider that my resources just don't cover quite yet. The funds to be able to do this just aren't quite there - I know with prayers and support from all of you can change that. However I'm still considering the location of where I'd want the bakery to be. In the North, specifically Gulu, there are many cafés & shops around that seem to be working well in that area. If I were to move a little further north to a smaller village I know there would be potential to do well & perhaps a greater need to install hope into a community that is lacking it. I know a woman near Pader who is interested in opening her own clothing shop. She would like to purchase clothes in Kampala & sell them in her village. ...I was thinking it would be cool to help her start her business & also have bakery built into the side. Please join me on prayer as I consider areas to open a business & potentially begin a new chapter in my life in Uganda! If you have specific questions or encouragement feel free to email me at email@example.com!
Gratitude & Love
July 27 2015
I have made it to Kampala safely as has the other 12 Americans! Riding the Post Bus by myself was fun, there was a nice man named James who talked with me most of our 8 hour journey. It was fun to hear him talk about his life, his family & his traditional marriage. One thing I greatly appreciate about African people is their gratitude & love for each other & for what's around them.
Yesterday (Sunday) the team went to one of our partner schools & orphanage for church. They were most welcoming!! The students sang a few familiar worship songs in English for us & performed my song Morning Light as well! ...makes my heart melt every time I hear it sung! Pastor Joshua gave a great message about being the bride of Christ. He was reminding all of us about being prepared for Christ's coming..& that we need to put on the garments of righteousness as we wait for Him to arrive. As a bride on her wedding day, she puts on cloth that differs from everyone else & we as Christians need to do the same. We need to look different than the world & obey the scriptures & laws of the Bible; it was encouraging & presented so well! After church we were blessed by many welcome songs & traditional dances.
One of my favorite parts of the day was simply having conversations with some of the students that are now attending high school - Rita & Manisul were some of the first footballers to be a part of FoDUs program & it's amazing to see them grow into beautiful young men & women. These older students continue to have a love for football but also aspire to be lawyers, nurses & business men & women. As we took our lunch at the orphanage we heard from three of the boys who are in secondary (high) school. I was greatly impressed by their maturity & desire to continue to do well in all they do. When Manisul was speaking he said something that resonated with my heart. He said something like; I thought I would be born in Uganda & die in Uganda never having the opportunity to leave my home country...but through Fields of Dreams Uganda it has allowed me to travel to Tanzania & even to the northern part of Uganda & has shown me that other boys my age are just like me. These young Ugandan men & women are aspiring to become something bigger than what they're labeled as; an orphan, a poor person, a no one. Fields of Dreams Uganda is giving them hope & an opportunity to achieve their dreams. They are taking them places they never thought they'd be able to go, even if it's just up north to Gulu. With the history between the north & central region of Uganda, it was amazing to hear Manisul say they are equal. FoDU is building bridges where generations have been separated for years. I am honored & humbled to be a part of this!
After lunch we sat down with a student one on one to go over Dreams Plans. These questionnaires are in place to help students discover what they want to be when they grow up. They start these skill analysis programs in P4 & repeat them in P5 & P6 to assure the career path the student has doesn't change ... If it does our education advocate guides them to where they need to go after primary & secondary school. I was able to sit with a girl named Justine who is in P4 (primary 4=grade 4 ish ;)). She wants to become a doctor so she can help sick people & give her mom money :). This little dream in this girls life right now is so selfless. I pray she would be able to have the opportunity to study hard & achieve her dream just as the young men & women have so far in the FoDU program.
Thank you for all your support to help to make these children be able to be someone & achieve their dreams!
Friday July 24th
This week was an awesome week. Denis’ mom & sister stayed at my apt with me Mon-Wed & it was incredible to have them here to teach me Ugandan cooking & cleaning methods. I somehow felt embarrassed when they arrived because my kitchen was a mess from the night before as we had some friends over for dinner! They didn’t seem to mind though, they just wanted to help! Denis’ sister speaks English fairly well – but his mom & I cannot hold a conversation. I was greatly encouraged by his sister when she told me that everyone in their family loves me, the only struggle is the communication barrier. One day I know I will be able to communicate with the Acholi people. I need to for further communication & trust to happen!! Language lessons have not been happening due to our busy schedule & lack of teachers around – but I am picking up phrases from friends slowly by slowly (mot mot).
We had a birthday party for the Fields of Dreams Girls Soccer coach last night. We had a DELICOUS strawberry cake & a traditional African feast to celebrate Coach Mercy! We had about 15 people here & were able to encourage her & bless her on her special day. I often find myself zoning out and being overwhelmed when I find myself in conversations that are not in English. People are laughing and having fun around me but I am not understanding what they’re saying & am unsure how to stay alert when I don’t know what’s happening in conversation.
One of my new friends James stayed up chatting with me telling me how he came to know Christ until 2 in the morning! It was encouraging to hear his story, his struggles & God’s strength in him now!
This morning I was able to sit down with Coach Mercy and have a conversation (in English) and hear some of the struggles the girl soccer players have. She said when men see girls doing well & achieving something good in their lives, they tend to try to distract them and take them away of that something that is good in their lives. She said two girls in the last year dropped out of the soccer program for unknown reasons – one thankfully came back, but the other she does not know where she is. She was the best stricker on the team last season. It’s scary to think where she may have ended up and sad to think she’s lacking a hope that was once restored by Fields of Dreams’ soccer program. It’s so important to reach out to the young people in Uganda, in The States, and wherever we are. Who knows what support they are lacking in their faith, home or relationships around them – we as Christians need to be a light for them when they find themselves in darkness. Whether it’s through soccer, education or a simple conversation we are called to be the light of the world.
Tuesday July 21st
Let me first start out by saying I’m not entirely sure what words to use for my last week in Uganda. I have been blessed beyond measure with the friendships that have been formed in the last few days. Sunday night after a crazy football tournament in the rain, I was able to invite a handful of friends over and cook for them. The Fields of Dreams Select Girls team won against Watoto Church 5-0!! The boys were playing a great game until the rain game & ended up loosing against the Watoto boys a friendly match.
I am just so encouraged by community here. If someone needs your help, you just do it, it’s not an inconvienece to your time or schedule. The people of Uganda take care of each other. Today I spend the majority of the day with a Ugandan family who needed some medical attention. Praise God He’s given me enough funds so far this trip to be a blessing to others through giving greatly. While we were at the hospitalone of the ladies needed to go to the x-ray dept & our driver (OUR DRIVER) CK took her where she needed to go. He hasn’t been dropping us off and leaving us places, he’s become part of our family as he’s driving us & spending morning till night with us as we travel to partner schools, homes & churches. He’s becoming our brother!
I am greatly encouraged by the people of Uganda today. Please pray for the sick to be healed, the stressed to be able to rest & rain to continue to come in the night so a harvestis plenty when it comes to harvest time!
I have been attending a bible study at Antioch church Wednesday nights and they are AWESOME! I’m so happy God has surrounded me with such a great community here in Gulu! I will be missing everyone next week as I depart to Kampala for ten days to meet up with the FoDU American team that is arriving on Saturday!
Friday July 17th
I woke up this morning to the lovely sound of rain coming down from the sky! Thunder quickly followed and made me want to stay in bed all day!! ...I in fact did not get out of bed until 9:15 which is new for me! Gulu needed rain, as does Pader, so I hope it moved along to the surrounding villages to bless their fertile land! Today is a national holiday, immediately when I heard the rain I prayed all the children would have already arrived at school, but since it’s a holiday they should’ve been at home. It’s so interesting to think rain is a blessing – then it’s a curse if you have to transport in it – but above all, Ugandans know rains are blessings from The Lord. At a women’s retreat this Spring a speaker (Lois Tverberg) gave us a sheet of blessings to say when things come our way in life. Her blessing for rain is: Blessed is He who is good and gives good things!
Thank you Lord for this rain, may it bring forth refreshing air and a bountiful harvest in this land!! Amen. I am currently reading Lois’ booked called Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus – I highly recommend it!
This morning I made banana pancakes! I added coco to half the batch and I thought they were DELICIOUS. Denis on the other hand.. had one bite and didn’t care for them. OYVEY.
Thursday July 16th
Tonight I was encouraged by two things. 1. Worshiping with Ugandans and 2. going to a Bible study with Americans. Two ends of the spectrum – yet so similar. We all join to give glory to God, maybe in two different languages, but the goal and focus are the same. As we began each session, prayer requests were lifted up and everyone said how their week was going. One thing I find humorous as I practice with worship teams here in Gulu is the lack of music stands. HA – I always use one in The States and often get made fun of for it. I love how God is not allowing that to be available to me right now, yet He’s equipped me to lead without one!! Tonight at Bible study we mzungus were talking about overwhelming spirits. It was somehow nice to hear and bear each others burdens as we went to prayer and scripture. Two Psalms that were shared were 61:2 and 142:1-3. As we read through these scriptures God reminded me that when my heart is faint, I need to run to Him. He is my rock who is higher than I. He is my rock who never grows weary and never grows faint. He alone is my rock who I lean upon.
Found My Niche
Wednesday July 15th
Today was an interesting day. At times, in the evening I find myself alone wondering what to do with my life starting at 7:30 pm because that’s when it gets dark out - - it is ‘winter’ here remember ;) I know feeling worthless is a lie from the enemy – so today – I took my free time & used it wisely. I started writing a song today & am hoping to get one of Denis’ friends to finish it with me! I’m thinking the title will be Come Be More Than Enough – but we will see what happens with it. I started a song the other day called Saviour of the World, but am unsure I’m liking it when taking a second look at it. Tonight I attended a Bible study at Antioch Church in downtown Gulu – it was SO amazing to have that fellowship and prayer time with fellow believers. I needed that time to recharge and focus on what God’s been doing in my life. We read through Romans 12:9-21. I strongly suggest you take time to read it! It’s such a good reminder of how we are to act and love one another as Christ would love the church. I am co leading worship Sunday at Antioch and cannot wait to be used by God once again here in Gulu. I praise God for this refreshing night, may it continue till morning...and the rest of my time here in Jesus’ name!! Thanks for all your prayers, thoughts & wisdom. Tomorrow Denis and I are off to two partner schools to deliver the rest of the One World Futbols, then I have practice at 5 pm and a mzungu (white person) Bible study at 7:30! I am looking forward to my day!!
We, as God’s church sometimes get overwhelmed by logistics and over analyzing what we should be doing, or what God is calling us to do. I once heard a sermon that spouted out this wisdom: Our calling as Christians is to love Jesus – then, the rest will follow. If we are loving God with all our heart, time, thoughts, life – then I think each moment we live will reflect God’s glory and reflect Christ here on earth. ...that’s who we’re supposed to be representing right? Christ ..not the world eh?? This week I didn’t have a set program – I didn’t have a set schedule of visiting partner school after partner school and having dinner with people right before another event. But God used me mightily in another way. Just by living my life asking God, what am I to do today? I was able to impact my boyfriend and his family. I was able to purchase some testings for them to ensure they didn’t have certain diseases. Many vaccinations are recommended by the health dept before coming to Uganda. ..Hep A, B, Anti-malaria pills, typhoid etc.. I was thankful God provided the funds to ensure Denis’ brother could get a Hep vac before going back to school. We were also able to bless him by purchasing two books he needed for school and some black shoes to go with his uniform. Thank YOU for being such a huge part of this, I wouldn’t have been able to do things like this if I didn’t have obedient supporters like you!
Other random needs that far exceed my budget are one of the partner schools desiring to start a chicken farm. They want to purchase 300 chicks to have eggs at the orphanage and sell the rest for profit to make improvements to their school. One of the partner schools who has deaf children were requesting books for their resource library while another school was asking for hygiene products like hair brushes. If you feel the Lord leading you to help fund a chicken farm in Uganda, let me know annnd hop on a flight ;) I’ll show you where to begin!!
Good Morning Gulu
Sunday July 12
A Saturday night in Gulu must mean dancing till dawn J I woke up throughout the night hearing music from a distance...Usher woke me up with one of my favourite songs of his at 4:30 am..shortly after the sound of the Muslim prayers combined with the dance music at 5 am. A waring spiritual culture for sure...especially after hearing last nights sermon about not living a double standard life. Lord help me to be fully devoted to You & You alone. May Your ways be higher than mine.
Part two of my morning:
I co lead worship at Watoto Church Gulu this morning. Everyone was so welcoming & enjoyed having me on stage. What a great experience the Lord has blessed me with by being able to lead people from all over the world in worship in the last year!! I am truly amazed at all the Lord is doing in my life. How amazing it was to sing Morning Light with a congregation of 800 people!
On another note: The electricity was out for two nights...made for some pretty early bedtimes J but it’s back on now!
Tuesday July 14
WOW – I can’t believe two weeks ago I left the States & have been in Uganda! Today I accomplished some things I probably should’ve learned on day one. I did laundry like Ugandans do! So now I have all clean clothes :D It was fairly simple...yet back breaking for sure. Praise God for washing machines back in the home land, but it wasn’t that hard & I found it somehow fun with my friend Jenny helping me out & guiding me along. Jenny also showed me how to cook a traditional Ugandan meal tonight! Since a chicken was sent to me on a bus from the Village of Pader from a very close family of mine, we had to cook it up & taste it! Denis proved himself to be an African man when he took care of the bird & prepared it for us to eat. It was delicious!
Over the weekend we went to the Toolit families compound in Pader, a small village about 2 hours away from Gulu. I found people I loved there who I met about a year and a half ago. They were welcoming & had been waiting for us to arrive.
Yesterday I was able to visit with Denis’ cousin who just had a baby, he was a week old! He was so precious & it was fun to be able to have a relaxing day & just be with Ugandan friends & family.
Thoughts about what’s to come in my future here have been in my mind since I arrived. There seem to be people doing what I thought the Lord was showing me to do, there are plenty of cafes & bakery’s ... plenty of mzungus having discipleship programs & bible studies....I’ve found myself being able to encourage more Westerners here than Ugandans at times. I have been living day by day asking the Lord what He has for me... and hopefully I am walking out obedience with every contact & conversation I take part in.
Prayer Request: That I wouldn’t feel incompetent in the Ugandan society. I feel like they know so much in their day to day lives which belittles me & makes me not confident. Pray for confidence & assurance!
Well, after two 8 hour flights with a 3 hour layover in Amsterdam - I've arrived in Uganda!! Tired from my journey I was blessed by seeing familiar friends faces at the airport upon my arrival. During the hour drive home one friend was asking what the weather was like back home in The States & what summer activities people were doing. I enlightened her when I said the weather in America is the same as Uganda currently! She was also very excited hearing about the 4th of July & the fireworks id be missing. I don't know what day it is right now but Happy 4th to everyone! :) The first morning I woke up in Uganda I had the opportunity to go to one of Fields of Dreams partner schools with the National Director, Jonathan Ssebambulide. This was the first time I have ever been to a partner school without a team of Americans at my side. ...to be honest, it was quite nice. I was able to see more of the children's regular routine. I was also able to attend a workshop hosted by FoDU to provide teachers in our partner school to help educate the younger children in our programs. With that visit I was also blessed to see the FoDU office space & sign their guest book (a formal & very important thing to do in Uganda!). Saturday morning Jonathan & I found ourselves back at Wakiso for a friendly soccer match against the FoDU team who will be going to Denmark with Coach Peter this month. What an incredible opportunity these young boys will have! I hope to see them after their trip so they can tell me how it went, I am certain the excitement will be on their faces for years to come.
A Ugandan Woman
If you've never met a Ugandan woman, let me tell you what they're like. The Ugandan women I've met are sensational. They serve their families with pure passionate serving hearts that never stop giving. Unconditional love doesn't say enough to describe the lovely young women I've spent the first 3 days with living in Uganda. There are amazing men that have been around me too & I do not take them for granted. But, the women are up early preparing the way for the day for their families & staying up late into the night to ensure they are ready for the next day. Not only do they do this physically but spiritually as well. As I type I hear two friends outside my window at ten o'clock at night finishing the dishes from dinner laughing & chatting about their day while doing their work (joyfully!). Knowing they have to wake up by 5 am tomorrow like the rest of us makes me admire them immensely. I far too often take advantage of the way we are blessed in America. I complain sometimes about throwing a load of laundry in or putting dishes into the dishwasher (that washes the dishes w a press of a button). I am blessed to be in Uganda for the rest of the summer & I pray the time passes slowly so I can continue to be inspired by these wonderful kind hearted people.
For the first 3 days in Uganda I was blessed to be with one of my favorite families in the world. Though they say they were blessed by my presence, they will never know what they truly mean to me. As shocking as it may be for some of you to imagine, I came across a couple new experiences during this stay in Uganda. Some of the things I will spare you from.... we can talk about it in person if you wish.... Let's just say you'd be surprised how little water you can bathe with... But others were simple, admirable gestures like praying & worshiping every night at 8:00 as a family. We sang, we prayed, we shared what The Lord was showing us in scripture. As a family we were blessing The Lord & He in return blessed us. There was nothing fancy about what we were doing but it was amazing to know every night we would join as one to worship our Lord & Savior. As you read this I pray you are encouraged to really start a routine that puts The Lord first in your schedule, your mind & your heart. Amen!!
Monday Denis & I took the Post Bus to the Northern Region to the city of Gulu. For those of you traveling in Uganda anytime soon, I highly recommend it! The conductor & driver were so nice & we were safe & sound. We even prayed before our departure!
Tonight (Tuesday) I found myself amidst the Fields of Dream staff in the Northern Region. Mercy, Florence, Walter & Denis joined me at the apartment I'm renting for a traditional DELICIOUS Ugandan meal. My new friend Jenny prepared it for us & it was amazing! ..beans & rice & greens I think I could live off of if they tasted like they did tonight! As we were joined in my living room I was sitting wishing I had prepared more of the local language before arriving. Though it would be super hard to learn over the phone, it may have been worth the effort. The northern dialect is so different than the central region of Uganda. As the FoDU staff departed another one of Denis' friends stopped by named James. It was such a refreshing time with him. Though he stayed less than a half hour, he picked up my guitar & sang a few worship songs. It was a treat to hear a song in Lou but also nice to harmonize with him on western worship songs!!! Tomorrow we will be going to our first partner school in Gulu. We will be delivering One World Soccer Balls to the schools this week - they are known to never deflate or pop on rough terrains! Here's hoping they can handle the tough pitches in Uganda!
Thanks for all your thoughts & prayers, everything is going excellent!!
A greater need
Today as I write my heart is burdened with the GREAT needs the children in Uganda face. Denis & I visited three partner schools (out of 5) in Gulu to distribute One World Soccer Balls to the teams. As the head teachers of the schools shared their struggles with me my heart could almost not take it when we arrived at the last school, which was the hardest to face. I think I mentioned this above, but one thing I've learned traveling many places around the world the last two years is that people are the same no matter where you go. People struggle, people succeed, people doubt, people are passionate, people miscommunicate. As our partner schools praised in many areas where Fields of Dreams has been impacting their children's studies & goals, they still had many struggles on their campuses. The ones that get me are the needs of life like clean drinking water, having a lunch, having funds to attend the next term.... There are many issues but today I found myself in a room of children who thought they were forgotten. ...mostly because some of this ARE forgotten by their parents because they are deaf.
The 'tough' part of me wants to tell the schools, FoDU focuses on soccer & education...not hygiene kits, electricity, food or water needs. .. But how can an organization focus on frivolous soccer needs when food & water are at stake? A few teachers said some challenging statements today:
'When a child doesn't take lunch, the soccer ball helps them forget about the hunger because it makes them hungry for the game. It quenches their thirst.'
'One day if a child is shot dead (because of the lack of safety & windows in their dormitory) someone will take notice.'
Whoa. My prayer is that The Lord would guide me to see how to encourage the people of Uganda while I'm in country - it is also my prayer (&theirs) that every one of this needs be met. Please pray for me to be able to process what's surrounding me & for strength for the Ugandan people...some of the strongest people I know.
Ps I got to hold a week old sweet baby boy today & he was SO precious!!!! I haven't held a baby in a week & it was so nice! :)
Prayer requests: that I would be focused on what The Lord wants me to focused on & that I would not be distracted. Also that my tiredness & lack of sleep would cease in Jesus' name!
I am off to the village of Pader this weekend to visit Denis' family & will be co leading worship at Watoto Church Gulu this Sunday! Wish you could all attend & worship with us African style! :) thanks for your prayers!!!