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 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!