Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Introduction

We had the privilege of attending an Introduction on Saturday for our friends, Maggie and Pheastus. An Introduction is a big event before a couple gets married. Culturally, it is the second step in the three steps you take to become husband and wife. First, the couple gets both families together and they discuss a bride price, or dowry. Then, the couple has and Introduction where the groom goes (with family and friends) to the bride's village to pay the dowry. The last step is a church wedding (if the couple wants to get married in a church and can afford this last step).

Maggie is our landlord and our next door neighbor. She went out of her way to include us in this event and even helped both of us clueless muzungus figure out what was appropriate to wear. The Introduction was at her father's village, which is about an hour and a half outside of town. It is located in the midst of beautiful tea fields with mountains in the distance. It was a long, bumpy ride, but the view was beautiful!

The lines of men and women
ready to enter the event.
We arrived with Pheastus' family. When we got there, everyone from his side separated into two lines- men and women. The men entered first and some carried crates of soda on their heads and other gifts for the bride's father. The women entered next and shown to their seats. The even started right away and was almost like a drama. There are four groups of women who come out before the bride and the groom looks for his bride among each group. He finally finds her in the forth group and that is when the celebrating begins. During the whole event, the groom is presenting gifs to the bride's father. At one point, the women in the groom's family present gifts to the bride and her mother. It is all very fascinating and so much fun to watch!

We learned that this event, although extremely entertaining and fun, it's a bit overwhelming for a little baby! After almost 2 hours in the car, Ellie was quite overwhelmed by the amount of people and the loud noises, so she and I ended up at the car where she could be loud and move around.

Here are some pictures from the Introduction. We are so grateful that we were included and loved getting to experience this part of culture.
Some of the dancers. The colors were so beautiful!

The first group of girls that came out. The groups came
in order of age, so he searched among the children first.

The women in Pheasxus' family bringing gifts (in a cart) to Maggie and her mother

This is where Ellie and I ended up most of the time!

Ellie all dressed and ready to go to the party!

Ellie and I before the event. Maggie helped me get a dress made in town.
We went together to pick out material and then I had a tailor custom make the dress.

Will's outfit for the event. Every man at the Introduction wore the same attire.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Can I Skip Thanksgiving?

Wednesday night was rough. Ellie is a beautiful little teething monster right now and she was up multiple times EVERY HOUR during the night.

I woke up on Thursday morning in a BAD mood. I was tired, frustrated about Ellie's pain and the lack of sleep and just wanted to lay in bed all day and catch up on much needed rest. Instead, I looked ahead to the plans for the day: we were hosting our guards (plus one of their families) and the woman who helps us in the house for a Thanksgiving meal. We wanted to share the American Thanksgiving tradition with these wonderful people whom we are so grateful for each day. Hosting them sounded like a great idea earlier in the week, but by Thursday morning, I was in NO mood to see anyone, much less be in the kitchen cooking all day... while juggling a teething 4 month old.

So, I woke up mad about Thanksgiving. Because having a bad attitude is not a new thing for me, I immediately (well, maybe I moped a bit first...) turned to the Lord in prayer.

 I asked the Lord if I could skip Thanksgiving.

I'm not kidding.

I was tired and missed family and I thought it would be easier to skip the day all together. Once I got over my toddler moment, I realized the symbolism is what I had asked the Lord. I basically asked if I could have a reason to not be thankful. If I could give up on gratitude.. because, lack of sleep of course! This realization brought me to my knees. Oh how I needed grace. Instead of continuing my prayers to be able to give up on Thanksgiving altogether, I asked God to change my attitude. I realized I was in desperate need of an attitude-check. So I prayed all morning for a better attitude and perspective on the day. At one point, Will came into the room and, seeing me in my zombi state, asked if I was okay. To which I replied, "NO! I'm not okay! Please pray for God to change my attitude!". Yes... another toddler moment. A little while later he asked again and I again pleaded for prayer. This time he responded with, "Oh, I've been praying..."(meaning, oh trust me, I'm pleading with God to change your attitude today! haha).

Well, by 9:30am, I found myself in the kitchen, blaring praise music and dancing along while kneading bread dough. There was an obvious shift in my demeanor and I was actually looking forward to the cooking that laid ahead! God had met me in my temper tantrums and changed my attitude around. I found myself extremely grateful the whole day. Little by little, I saw more and more that I was thankful for. There were so many reasons for gratitude and praise!

Violet helped me peel potatoes, chop and peel apples, boil pumpkin, etc. We worked hard all day long and were ready for our (condensed version of) Thanksgiving by 4:00. Everyone arrived and Will explained why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US and why we wanted to celebrate with all of them this year. He read a verse about gratitude from the Bible and prayed over out time together. We served roasted chickens, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, boiled pumpkin and apple pie. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and fellowship.

During the meal we discussed what we were thankful for from this year. One of our guards, Tony, said, "It is so good to have a time to publicly thank God for all He has done in my life!". I loved this line because this is such an important practice as believers. The art of coming together to give thanks and acknowledge what God has done for us is a beautiful thing! It made me very grateful that God didn't allow me to skip Thanksgiving, but instead gave me an attitude of thankfulness and joy. What a patient and loving God! Here are some pictures from the day.

Our dinner crew! 

How can I not be grateful when we have this little turkey around?!

Violet and I working on the apple pie.

Will's explanation of Thanksgiving before dinner. (please take note
of Will's stylish sock/flip flop combo- I married him for his style ;))

How do you get cooking done when your baby refuses to nap and you need
to start the rolls? Strap her in the carrier, of course :)!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New Land, New Language

Between the two of us, Will and I have intentionally studied 3 African languages in our 4 years in Africa. In the 4 African countries we have lived in, we have been surrounded by a total of 9 African languages that we heard spoken on a regular basis. Due to our move away from the Moru people and to the Botooru people, we now have reason to study a new language: Rutooro.

Karen introducing a lesson to
the language helpers during
the training last week
This past week our good friend, Karen Masso, came from Kijabe, Kenya to host a language training week in Fort Portal. Karen and her family are Serge missionaries and Karen has been learning how to train language helpers for the past couple years. Having trained language helpers is a big need on the field. In most settings, you don't have the privilege of meeting with someone who has been trained in how to teach a language, so you have to be extremely self-motivated because the process usually entails teaching your teacher how to teach, while trying to learn. However, the amazing Karen Masso did this for us this time! Karen (with the help of some friends on the Bundibugyo team) hosted a week-long training with several language teachers from Bundi and 4 language teachers from Fort Portal. She walked everyone through a language learning curriculum and taught them how to teach several of the lessons. After Karen taught the teachers, they would then go on to teach the learners in the actual language being learned.

Worship time 
It was a very successful week and Will and I are so grateful to have 4 language teachers ready to go for us and our new teammates who are coming! The language helpers are very excited about their new skills and one of them told me "The week was too good!!". Please pray for Will and I and for our new teammates coming to be able to soak in the Rutooro language well. To be honest, it's hard to feel motivated to learn yet another African language because they are each completely different and the language part of my brain feels rather fried at the moment. Please pray for a supernatural ability to learn this language and for us to keep a healthy perspective as we do so. We put in the effort to learn the languages of the people we are ministering to because they are worth it. It is very meaningful for people to see that you are trying to learn THEIR language. You are working to communicate to them in their heart language. Yes, they giggle at our sorry attempts to do so, but they love what our effort communicates. Languages are hard, but they are an avenue into relationships, and that is always worth the effort.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

When Things get Stolen in Africa

Last Wednesday my laptop and Kindle were stolen from our house. Ellie and I were home and Will had just left to go into town for a few hours. Our day guard was working, but was in the back of the house when the theft must have happened. We believe the thief must have hopped over the side of our gate, entered into the open front door, and grabbed the first things he saw within quick reach. I was in the back of the house and oblivious to what was happening.

I’m used to having to let go of “stuff”. My family had a house fire when I was 15 and it was my first introduction to learning to let go of things and cope with losses of items that are dear to you. Having everything we left in Mundri stolen was my next big reality check of how quickly things can be gone. I’ve learned to work through the heartache that comes with having your things sifted through and stolen. But with each loss, there is usually something deeper that gets triggered.

I am very bummed that my laptop and Kindle are gone. I use my laptop daily and it is the only way I keep up with work e-mail and blogs (did you notice the long delay in blogging recently?). Without it, I get very behind. However, it is still just “stuff”. In our technological world, most of us don’t only have one electronic device. I’ve just depending on my phone more frequently with the loss of the computer. What hurts deeper than the loss of these objects is the loss of security in our own home. I have been home a lot with Ellie as she is still so young and we are trying to get her on a good schedule. Having home feel a little less safe makes me feel even more unsettled here. We have been keeping our front door locked at all times now so we don’t have to be concerned about walking to the back of the house and not hearing what is happening in the front room. The locked door is constant reminder of my insecurity in my own home.

In all of this, like with any big event, I have to be on guard. I feel like Satan would love to use this to make me consumed with our safety at all times and feel chronically unsettled in our new home. He would love for me to respond to this situation with constant fear and with disgust towards the people here. However, he does not get the last word. God has reminded me this week that our only security is in Him. He is our safe place. He has also reminded me that our calling to a place is not dependent on how comfortable we feel once we get there. When He calls us, He goes with us. That doesn’t always mean we are ‘safe’ by the worlds terms. But it does mean that He is enough for us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

Will you join us in prayer? Please pray that Satan would not use this to make me bitter about being here. In a season where we are still adjusting and trying to find our footing, this feels like a major set-back. Please also pray for the heart of whoever took these items. Pray that they would feel convicted, but more than that, that they would know the love of Christ and seek God to meet their needs in every way. I pray that we would have the opportunity to show this person grace in person. Our hope would be that the person would confess and we would be able to forgive them in person. However, even if this does not happen in this manner, pray that we would extend grace in our hearts. Even with the items stolen and not in our possession, our hope is that grace would reign in our heartland bitterness would be far from us. 



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Neighbor-Sister

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.