Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Sometimes when you ask someone how they are related to someone here they will say, “He is my brother.” If you know the person and know the one they are referring to can’t be there brother and ask again, they will usually say, “He is my cousin-brother”. From my conclusion, this seems to be their way of saying, “technically, this person is my cousin (or very distant cousin, or someone they grew up with), but you have to understand that they are much more like a brother to me than a cousin”.

When we first lived in Africa, this language bothered me. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t tell me how the person was actually related to them. I was annoyed that someone who I knew actually had 3 brothers would call about 15 people their “brothers”. However, the longer we’ve lived here, the more I have come to love this about African culture. Because of the community nature of life here, there is not much difference between family and the other people in your home. Typically, there are many people living in one home or homes very close together. They could all be related, or just be very close friends. Either way, all of them become “family” when you are explaining who they are to others.

What I love about this concept is the people we have lived around have also welcomed us into this mentality. When they see us struggle, they treat us as they would their own family and come to help us. The other day, I was alone with Ellie and trying to complete a load of laundry (because we have inconsistent power and its currently rainy season, doing laundry is very time-sensitive right now). I quickly tried to hang up the load of laundry while Ellie was content and sitting in a bouncer. Well, since she is still a baby and isn’t at all predictable (do they ever become predictable??), she started screaming pretty soon after I started. Our neighbor, Maggie, peeked over the fence and saw my struggle. She called out to me and asked if I needed help. When I said yes, she quickly ran over and grabbed Ellie from me so I could finish hanging the clothes. After I thanked her profusely, she said, “That’s what we are here for (referring to everyone in her home), anytime you need help, just holler over the fence and we’ll come help you!”.

Just yesterday, Will left early in the morning to head to Kampala to pick up his parents. He told our day guard, Moses, that he was going to Kampala and would be back tomorrow. Moses doesn’t speak much English, but Will could tell he understood what he was trying to say. Moses responded with, “No problem, I will be here”. At 6:00, when Moses usually leaves for the night, I went out to get the keys from him but he was no where to be seen. He came back a few minutes later with a bag full of warm clothes. I told him he could go and he (in very broken English) told me that he was staying the night. I told him it was okay and that I would be fine, but he pointed to Ellie and said, “But baby! ….Kampala!).” Meaning, “but I need to protect the baby because her dad is in Kampala!” So Moses slept outside the house all night long. He made rounds to make sure we were safe and greeted me happily this morning (after being here for over 24 hours!).

You see, to Maggie and Moses, we are not just neighbors or employers. We have chosen to live next to them and give them work, so we have become family to them. When they see family struggle, it’s in their nature to help. Just as my own brother and sister would have done the same things Maggie and Moses did, this is natural for them to treat us this way. This still makes me feel uncomfortable at time because I hate feeling like I’m inconveniencing other people and it’s awkward for people to see me in my times of need. However, when I chose to look at it from a cultural lens, it’s is such a beautiful concept! They don’t see me as an inconvenience, they see me as a family member in need of help. The most loving thing I can do in return is allow them to help- thus accepting their offer of allowing me into their family. In it all, we are learning to embrace our new neighbor-sister and worker-brother. And are so very grateful for the amazing people God has placed in our path and made our extended family!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Longings Fulfilled (and my dissatisfied heart)

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”
Proverbs 13:12

When Will and I found out we were expecting last October, we were ecstatic and fearful all at the same time. Having just come off of months of mourning the loss of our first pregnancy, we longed for a baby, but knew that it was possible we could lose the pregnancy again, and were hesitant to fully rejoice. One day we decided that even though we didn’t know what the outcome of the pregnancy would be, we were going to chose to hope. We were going to celebrate with expectant hearts for what we longed for and for the hope of new life. So, we did what any could American would do… we went to Target :) (we were still in the States on a break at the time). We decided to buy something for our baby as a way of “hoping well” and taking a step of faith in believing this pregnancy would result in a healthy baby. We bought a knitted bunny hat (gender neutral because it was way too early to know if we were having a boy or girl).

During this same time, we were still trying to recruit a team to join us in South Sudan. We were hopeful that we would be able to return within a year or so and were still heading in that direction. However, we knew that anything could happen and that nothing was guaranteed. We knew one day we would have a home again, but we didn’t really know where or when that would be. As a late birthday gift, I bought Will a small key chain of a drum. The drum represented being ready to rejoice and celebrate what God was doing at any moment. The keychain was a statement of faith that we would have a home again one day.

Fast forward 10 months to this week. Will was showing me which keys go to which doors of the new house we just moved into and I was struck by the drum keychain. I had completely forgotten about it. Seeing it again reminded me of God’s provision. We had a house! Something we have longed for for a year and a half now had come to fruition!

Just a couple days later, I went through Ellie’s clothes to sort and organize them. As I was sorting items, I came across the bunny hat and realized it would fit her now. As I put the hat on Ellie, my heart was overflowing. A longing fulfilled right before my eyes. What we had hoped for for so long was finally in front of my eyes.

This week I am overwhelmed by the joy of longings fulfilled. We are finally stable and in a home. We have a beautiful daughter whom we get to watch grow and change each day (she learned to roll over today!). 

But you know what? In all of it, I have been overwhelmed by my greedy and selfish heart. All that I have wanted this past year is finally coming to fruition and yet, I find myself finding something new to complain and bicker about each day. Today it was that the power has been out for 2 consecutive days and our cheese is possibly going bad. Yesterday it was that we are still living out of suitcases because we don’t have shelves or dressers yet. I am so easily dissatisfied!

What I’m learning in all of this is that by my complaining and bickering, it’s as if I’m not allowing the “tree of life” to take root in my heart. I’ve moved onto the next thing I long for (being “fully settled- whatever that means…). When I continue to focus on the next “hope deferred”, I take my eyes off of what God has already done and the dreams He’s already fulfilled!

So today I’m repenting of my dissatisfied heart. I’m asking the Lord to forgive me for constantly looking to things and circumstances to make me happy and praying that HE would be my satisfaction and joy. Today I’m choosing to count my blessings, but more than that, to praise the provider of the blessings. I have so much to be grateful for and it is silly to let things like spoiled cheese (although it’s a bummer…) take priority in my mind over what the Provider is doing in my life.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Where is the Baby?

It's a funny thing, becoming a parent. Just as your love and attention gets directed to your baby, so does the attention of those around you. When you walk into a party, you are hardly acknowledged as the people in the room yell your child's name in excitement and reach out to grab them.

What a joy to see other people start to enjoy your child and look forward to seeing them. By doing this, they are acknowledging the beauty of new life and are hopeful to experience glimpses of this new being's personality that is developing.

When Will and I first arrive here to Fort Portal, we walked around to the shops and restaurants with Ellie. Now, it is more common for me to quickly run into a store to grab what we need while Will waits in the car with (a usually sleeping) Ellie. Every time I enter the store, I am greeted by the security guard outside (it's commonplace here to have security guards watching stores and restaurants) and then a grocery store clerk. Every single time they greet me and then say, "Where is the baby??". Every time I hear this, my momma's heart smiles. My daughter is acknowledged and her presence is missed in some way.

It's been exciting to see how having a baby has opened doors for relationships and conversations here. Babies seem to immediately draw people in- no matter their religion, history, etc. People who would normally come across as distant and aloof, are suddenly giving you a huge smile and asking how your baby is. People start having children at very young ages here, so asking if someone (who looks over 20) has a baby, is usually a safe question and a good way to start getting to know them. It's so fun to hear the responses. Sometimes, women who look like they are 18 will tell me they have a 9 year old child! Other times, you learn that someone your same age has 5 children already. I asked one landlord about his kids while we were looking for houses and he told me he has 10 children and 6 grandchildren! I asked these questions before, but there is something about having a child in your arms as you ask these questions that draws people in. They can connect to you on some level- you immediately have something in common.

Here are some things I have learned about having a baby in Uganda:
Even dressed like this, people
ask if she is a girl or boy.
1. Complete strangers will grab for your baby- whether the baby is screaming, nursing, sleeping, it doesn't matter, they can't wait to get their hands on the baby carry them around.

2. Even if your baby is dressed in all pink and has a huge bow on their head, the first question people will ask is, "Is she a boy or a girl?" (he and she are often confused in English here, so the wording of this question makes me giggle inside every time).

3. Because of the community nature of this culture, people are very quick to give their opinion about how you should be raising your child. Every time I hold Ellie in an Ergo carrier, someone tells me that my child can't breathe and I should "fix her nose" or that, "my child is breaking". It has taken a while, but I'm starting to try to view these comments as people caring and wanting the best for my child. One friend told me that when she was burping her child after nursing one time, someone yelled at her and said, "Stop beating your child!!!". We are learning to respond in patience and gently educate when necessary.

4. If your baby is crying, people will always think she is hungry. The common thought here is that crying always indicates hunger. If Ellie is crying, people will sometimes tell me, "give her the breast!".

5. When walking by greeting a complete stranger, if I am holding Ellie, they will always ask, "How is the baby?!". Some people will even look at me and then at her and say, "Thank you!". We've learned this is an acknowledgement of gratitude for bringing a baby into the world. If they are Christian, it is always a way of thanking God for the new life.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

He will Provide!

When Will and I decided we were moving to Fort Portal, we immediately started dreaming about actually having our own house. It has been almost exactly two years since we moved into our own home last- which was our small tukul in South Sudan. Since then, we have been living in the homes of generous missionary friends who are gone for a few months at a time.

In anticipation of moving, we would often dream about what we would want in our own home. We talked about outdoor living spaces and guest quarters for hosting. I dreamed about my own kitchen to cook in and a nursery for our new baby. Anytime I started to think practically about if we could actually find a home in Fort Portal that would fulfill all of these dreams, I found myself cutting off the doubts and thinking, "He will provide". I knew it wasn't worth stressing over and I also knew God saw the desired of our hearts and the longings that have long gone unfulfilled.

Fast forward to this past week. We finally made it to Fort Portal, Uganda and our long-anticipated house hunting began....

and it was extremely disappointing.

We saw house and house and each one didn't even come close to being what we had hoped for. Now, let me just clarify, Will and I have lived in Africa long enough to know that "dream houses" don't exist here (that we could afford at least). We didn't go into the search with lofty goals of house features that we know don't exist here. We wanted simple things, and most of all, just wanted a place that we could make "home".  But still, everything fell way, way short of that hope.

So after seeing 7 very disappointing homes, I started to doubt. My once optimistic view of, "God will provide!" turned into, "maybe we should just pick the best of these bad options because I don't know if anything else will come up...". However, what is great about our God is that even when we doubt and start to lose hope, He can still intervene if we allow him to.

We didn't feel peace about any of the options, so we hit the pause button on the search and hoped something else would come up. Our sweet teammate, Pat, told us that she would drive around with us and see if we found any "for rent" signs or saw anything that could potentially work. During the drive, she took us to a house American missionaries has rented before. As we were touring the house, we finally had the "this feels right" feeling! The house was beautiful! The other homes we saw felt dark and crammed and this had large, open windows and felt vast and homey. As we walked through the house, we both took mental note that it check off everything in our "dream list". The kitchen was large (not AT ALL common here) and beautiful, it had a nice green space outside, plenty of room to host and a great room for a nursery. Our only complaint about the house was that the living was too large. Yes, the only problem with the house was that a room was too big... Oh my, our God is provider! On top of everything, the home was significantly less money each month than the other homes we saw and less than we had budgeted to spend. What a good God!

The "too large" living room that we will somehow find a way to fill :)

For some reason, we didn't commit on the spot. I think it felt too good to be true. However, the more we discussed it, the more we realized this was straight from the Lord. A complete answer to prayers. So, we verbally committed and will sign lease papers this week. We hope to move into the house around September 22. In the meantime, we need to purchase furniture, appliances, etc. from Kampala.

Thank you for everyone who has been praying for us on this house-hunting journey. We are so grateful for the way you have joined us in our prayers and hoped God would provide. Rejoice with us that He did just that! And, this house has a "guest wing", which we are hoping to get a lot of use out of... so we're wide open for visitors :)! We will post more pictures once we move in and get settled after next month.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

House Hunters: Fort Portal, Uganda

Will and I have been busy house hunting this week! We arrived in Fort Portal on Saturday and saw our first house on Sunday. Since then, we have seen about 7 more houses. Woah, it has been quite a process! Here are some snit bits from the process...

Two of the houses we saw were currently being used as "Motels". Apparently the owners were not making enough money from it being used as a hotel, so they are trying to rent them out fully. We will not be renting the motels...

I was alarmed while walking into the second house we saw because there was a live chicken in one of the rooms. The house was totally empty and not currently being occupied, but there was a chicken...living in a room...

Going with the animal theme, the house we saw yesterday had "servant quarters" in the back. While being shown one of the rooms in this space, Will and I were caught off guard by a strong smell... we were then informed that this particular room is being used to store his goat.

One house came "fully furnished". We learned that this phrase totally lived up to it's reputation. The rooms were so fully furnished that you could not always open doors all the way due to the amount of furniture in the room not fitting completely. One family room had two couches, two love seats and two over-sized chairs plus a dining room table (which was against the wall, directly in front of the front door). So much furniture!

Things we learned from our house hunting process:

1. Always leave an extra seat in your car when house hunting in Africa. Most likely, the person you hired to show you houses (called a "broker" here), will recruit a friend to help too and you will have to pick them up along the way. This happened 3 times during two days of searching.

2. Kitchens here are tiny. I mean... might not fit an Easy Bake Oven small! Most homes here were not designed with ovens or refrigerators in mind. If you want to fit these "luxury items" in a kitchen here, there probably won't be room for much else. In some cases, the fridge would need to be kept in a separate room because there is not an outlet for it in the kitchen.

3. If you want hot water, you have to ask if there is a hot water heater installed. This is not a given and most of the houses we saw did not have one.

This photo was taken from
outside the gate while waiting
for the man with the keys.
4. The "man with the keys" is a phrase you quickly learn to hate while house hunting here. While trying to see 5/6 houses on Monday, the "man with the keys" was not around and we had to wait outside the house for several minutes (or longer) until they arrived. The houses were typically not occupied, so even though we think our broker called ahead to tell them we would be coming to see the house, the owner or key holder would only come after we arrived and they were told we were waiting.

5. **This is the most important one** Always, always ask the relator or home owner if there are any people who come with the compound. Often times, there are live in workers who come with the house if you decide to rent it. The workers could be guards, house helpers (or maids), gardeners, etc. They usually live in small one room apartments behind the house. If you want to rent an empty compound, you have to be very clear about this and this may mean that you are causing someone to lose a job.

It has been quite entertaining to say the least! We have not found a house that will work for us yet, but we are hopeful that we will by the end of the week. Please continue to pray for us in this process! Pray we would continue to keep a positive attitude, find something we can afford and find a house that would work well for our family and for team life. Thank you!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Eleanor Helen

Wow. I can't remember the last time I have gone this long without updating the blog. For those of you who actually check this regularly, I apologize for the long lapse in posts. However, I won't beat myself up too much about it because it was due to giving birth to our first child!

Eleanor Helen Reed was born on July 8 at 11:57pm. She was 6lbs 4 oz and 18 1/2 in long. We are so in love with this sweet bundle of joy and are so happy to now be a family of three!

We chose this name because Eleanor means "shining light" and Helen is a meaningful family name on my (Theresa) side of the family. Since we first found out we were pregnant, Ellie has been a bright spot in our life during a very hard season. After having to leave South Sudan and the miscarriage of our first pregnancy, we were in the midst of a very difficult season. Finding out were were pregnant with Ellie offered renewed hope. Our prayer for Ellie is that she would always continue to be a shining light to those around her. We pray that her life would continue to reflect the goodness of Christ and that she would always shine brightly for His kingdom. Her middle name is Helen after my grandmother, Helen Serros, and my mother, Nancy Helen. "Helen" represents strong women who seek to life for Christ in all they do and raise their families to do the same. This name represents women who are resilient, strong and compassionate. We pray Ellie will continue to carry on this legacy. 

Ellie was born in Nairobi, Kenya and we were blown away by God's provision for us during our time there! God provided a house for us to stay in through the generosity of sweet friends of ours who live in Nairobi. They were home for almost the same time we were in Kenya and allowed us to stay in their beautiful home and use their car for our time in Nairobi. It's amazing to think that their generosity allowed us to have an amazing place to bring our daughter "home" to for the first time after she was born. It allowed us to learn to be a family of three and to prepare for and recover from birth. We are so grateful for the Allerts and their incredible hospitality and generosity! 

God also provided a way for my parents to come to Kenya to meet Ellie! They arrived the day we got back from the hospital (3 days after Ellie was born). They were able to spend their entire 10 days in Kenya with Ellie (something we were worried about when they picked dates for coming- it's so hard to predict when a baby will arrive!). It was an amazing gift to have them in Kenya with us for this time!

Pop and Neena with Ellie on the night they arrived!

When Will and I were deciding where to give birth, we really wanted to be in a place where we would have community. We knew we desired to have others around who we could connect to and spend time with during this process. God blew us away by His provision of community while we were in Kenya! We spent a lot of time with our friends, Karis and Stephen Rigby. They are Serge missionaries in Nairobi and they spoiled us like crazy while we were there! Since they are expecting their first child in September, we were able to take a birthing class together and walk through some of the "How in the world are we going to manage parenthood" questions alongside them. It was such a gift to have this time with them! We also had the privilege of spending time with several other Serge families from the Nairobi and Kijabe teams. They brought us food, gifts for Ellie and meals. We were even able to stay with the Wallaces (our team leaders in South Sudan) for our last week in Nairobi. Praise the Lord for community!

Our Area Directors, Scott and Jennifer Myhre and Karen Masso from their visit to meet Ellie at the hospital
Us and the Rigbys on one of our lasts days in Kenya

We are so grateful for our birth experience in Kenya! The hospital was great and our doctor did an amazing job. It is common for people to hire midwives when they give birth in Kenya, even if they are delivering in a hospital. We hired a woman named Lucy as our midwife and are so glad we did! She came to the house when I started to feel intense contractions and labored with us there until it was time to go to the hospital. Then she stayed with us during the entire birth process and even stayed until 3am with us to make sure we were comfortable after the birth and with breastfeeding. She was amazing! 
Will, Ellie and I with Lucy 
We left Kenya last Friday and are now are in Kampala, Uganda before we head to our new home, Fort Portal, on Saturday. Here are some things I have learned about having a baby internationally/ in Africa:

1. Everyone is excited to see your baby and will call your baby cute... unless you are on an airplane with them or about to share a wall in a guest house with them ;).

2. People on an airplane will tell you your baby is cute AFTER they do well on the flight and don't disturb those around them. 

3. Africans will always think your baby is too cold and needs more blankets around them.

4. Babies are a great way to start conversations with people because the majority of them will immediately be able to relate to you. We have had many great conversations so far that started with us being able to ask about people's families and if they have children.

We are so grateful for the beautiful gift of Ellie! We are very tired from the adjustment to parenthood, but it has been worth every late night feeding and dirty diaper change. We're amazed by new life and the miracle that it is. We are grateful for everyone who has rejoiced with us as we have welcomed Ellie into our family!