Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missionary team

Many of the ministries here are run by Acoli staff who do a marvelous job! But it is also important to gather as a missionary team to pray, fellowship, and support each other. Having a team in ACTION Gulu is really a new thing (and a team that is only growing as the Riegers plan on arriving out here late Jan/early Feb!) so we're all still trying to figure out HOW to be a team. Please pray for us as we work through HOW to be a team, HOW to support each other, HOW to support our directors (the Binghams), etc.

We celebrated Thanksgiving together as a team, including a visiting couple, and had a wonderful time! What a feast (mostly thanks to Candis)!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today's cultural experience was quite a new one for us. Nursery school graduation (called "gradation"). Like many special events, it was an EVENT!

We hurried to get to the school by 9:00am, but given the gloomy cold rainy weather we figured that we would not be late for the "9:00am" start. On top of that, the head teacher broke his leg a few weeks ago and is still in the hospital in traction, so he was not around to "make things happen." So we helped put up the tent and decorations. I'm not sure when it started, no earlier than 10:00am. There were speeches, a sermon with an altar call (two folks came forward!
Pray for these two souls!), presentations by K1 and K2 (songs and recitations), a full debate by the older children's debate team, a drama and songs by the graduating K3 class... By 3:00pm, lunch hadn' t been served yet and we received the go-ahead to leave. We were grateful since we were exhausted!

The most interesting part was the presentation of the certificates to the young graduates. A name was called, a parent and relatives emerged from the parent's tent, grabbed the child, dragged or carried the mystified child at a near run to the presenter while the women in the escorting group let out a shrill yelping exclamation of joy. (We'll figure out how to get a sound file for you to hear this Acoli sound of joy, also used in church services to praise God or to greet a visitor in a group if the visitor brings particular joy.) The children looked bewildered at the scene but had a quiet sense of pride once they were back on terra firma looking at their certificate.

(One of our two Home of Love graduates with her certificate. It is VERY special that she has her hair braided - usually it is nearly shaved short.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First thanksgiving... in Uganda

(our first Thanksgiving in Uganda)

We have SO much to be thankful for!

Our first thanksgiving in Uganda was spent out and about. We had a prayer walk with the team and staff at the nursery/primary school and Home of Love orphanage. Ana was thrilled because that meant that she spent the day with Fortunate, Brian, Moses, Innocent, and her other friends. She was off with her friends most of the day, even sitting in Fortunate's class and crying when it was time to leave.

Back to the rest of us.

Since this prayer day involved people coming from various locations and since it was raining (Acoli DO NOT like the rain!), the start was delayed until Gracie was much too hungry and tired to participate. So I sat and fed her porridge (maize porridge is served mid-morning for "breakfast" at the school) during the first part of the prayer walk. Now, the porridge is stored in a thermos to stay hot as it is walked from the cooking shelter to the office and while people get around to serving themselves. The thermos is VERY effective, so, as our co-laborer Angie put it, it comes out as molten lava. Those of you who have ever fed Gracie know that Gracie does not tolerate molten lava, nor steamy, nor hot, nor warm... no, she only likes lukewarm food. It takes a long time, lots of stirring, pouring, blowing, to get molten lava down to lukewarm.

Needless to say, I failed.

Her whining and arching turned into full blown wailing just a few yards from the open-windowed classrooms. Poor screeching Noah was very ready to get down from my back but there was no way that I could keep up with VERY active Noah loose on his own two feet while getting my big girl out of her wheelchair and getting her to stop wailing with her big girl lungs.

My daily crises! :)

The prayer walk continued without us (the kids and I eventually joined). The group of local pastors, mamas from the orphanage, and missionaries went into each classroom and prayed for the children. Each of the 530+ students were prayed over by someone as the group wandered through the classrooms touching each student's bowed head, praying. Some classes started their prayer time with precious songs to the Lord.

We eventually made our way to Home of Love (near where we live anyway), stopped for samosas at the bakery to prevent another melt down (Gracie is a every-two-hour-eater), stopped at the market to pick up some sweet potatoes for dinner, and took a long time going over the dirt roads that are in pretty bad condition now at the end of a long rainy season. (If you splash someone, you have to give them equivalent of around $1 so they can go buy laundry soap. Pedestrians glared and scowl at puddles as you pass by in a car, as if watching to see if the puddle is going to leave it's boundaries and splash them.)

We ate posho (stiff maize porridge) and beans (Home of Love cooks make the best beans!). Ana ran wild with her friends, wasting lots of bore-hold water, running around barefooted, and using the pit-latrine on her own (where did this fearless child come from?!). Gracie screamed and giggled with her adoring young fans, never alone in the eating shelter. Noah, well Noah is the one who keeps me hopping. But some older boys were home so they watched him so I could participate in the praying at Home of Love. We touched each bed in both the boys' and girls' dorms and prayed for each child, the mamas, the cooks, the administrators.

We finally wrestled Ana into the car and got home to start cooking. Josh went into town for the second day in a row to try to get his motorbike. Today he was told that the bike is here. Yes, the bike is here, but still in an unbelievably tiny box. Tomorrow it will be built. Come back tomorrow. Fine.

Josh came home to rescue me from crying Grace (hmm, lots of crying today - poor kid!), not-napping-Noah, needy messy Ana (too much wild time with friends!), and lack of electricity for too long which meant that I had to cook any and all meat that I had in the fridge. (We just have a large dorm sized fridge for this very reason and we don't have meat very often. But Josh had found "mince meat" (ground beef) so he had bought a fairly large quantity for me.)

So, long story short, for Thanksgiving we had meatloaf (a treat for sure!), stuffing, and sweet potatoes. I sat down at the table incredulous that I only had 3 dishes prepared - I was sure that with all that work I had prepared more dishes! Everything is so labor intensive! It was delicious nonetheless!

The kids and I made turkey candleholders and a "Thank you God" container which we could have filled to overflowing! God has been SO gracious to us and given us SUCH an easy transition into this new life. We are so grateful to BE in Uganda after so long of preparing and so grateful to be part of the ministry of the Gospel here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


We went to the church that is just near Home of Love today. We really enjoyed the worship time - we haven't learned enough Acoli yet to understand the songs, but it was beautiful to be witness to the dancing and singing to the Lord!

(Here we are walking to church with the Home of Love children. Gracie has a group working on getting her wheelchair through the clay and mud and ruts and Ana is glued to her best friend!)

Ana went to the children's service with her best friend, Fortunate, and they caused problems with all their hugging, giggling, and goofing off together! They are peas in a pod, those two!

(This picture started as a cute hugging picture till Fortunate decided that Ana should jump on her back while Brian quietly and sedately watches the circus!)

(Gracie got taken "home" by the older girls after church and we found her, some time later, by following her joyous yells and a chorus of giggling children. The girls had taken her into the shade of the eating shelter at Home of Love and she was having a blast!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Great is THY faithfulness

"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!" Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— "Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Letting go

(Ana and her new "best friend" at Home of Love. I asked Ana if she and Fortunate talk to each other and she had to think long and hard. Kids don't need to talk to each other to be friends! Fortunate doesn't understand much English and Ana doesn't know much Acoli yet! I tried to use it as motivation to learn Acoli for Ana. The kids love drawing in the dirt, playing with stones and sticks and the goats and the pigeons!)

I’ve never been a really paranoid mother. I wash their hands and vaccinate them and keep them in car seats and helmets but otherwise feel that a little dirt is good for them.

But what paranoia I did have is being tested.

The first two weeks’ of vehicles that we rode in here did not have functioning seatbelts, so Josh and I were constantly evaluating if a partially or non-conventionally secured car seat was safer than no car seat. Our personal vehicle is equipped with lots of seat belts and we praise God for that!

It’s impossible to keep the children from tasting the tap water. What kid doesn’t drink some bath water? Or last night when I stepped away for a second while Ana was brushing her teeth, I heard the ominous trickle of faucet water after the girly “spit” in the sink.

At Home of Love yesterday, I had to make some quick decisions. Do I let Ana drink the bore hole water untreated like her friends were doing? Do I chew off the bark of the sugar cane straight from the field so that my children could gnaw on sugar cane with their friends? At the market, do I let the stranger hand Noah a peanut that he was eating? Or do I try to insulate my children, put up fences around them, make them appear different from their friends, all in an attempt to protect them from the unknown?

There are many times that the love of Jesus is going to be more clearly portrayed when we live WITH our new friends instead of apart from them. So Ana has graduated to drinking non-treated bore hole water, we’ve all been inoculated with garden dirt, Noah ate a random person’s peanut… and I pray that we are a little bit more approachable and that the cultural and racial barriers are a little less as we are a little more vulnerable, a little more dirty, and gnawing on sugar cane with everyone else!

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the kitchen

(I didn't know Josh was taking this picture - I look really funny - but it gives a little glimpse of my kitchen.)

You have probably heard that everything takes longer here… it’s true, for many reasons.

Everything is simply more work-intensive.

Today, I drove to the market (at least I have a car! That cuts two hours off the endeavor!). I spent just an hour buying 3 green peppers, 1 bunch of greens, 1 papaya, 1 bunch of bananas, 3 avacados, 8 tomatoes, 1 pineapple, 5 passion fruit. Each type of produce was purchased at a different vendor. Each interaction includes a greeting, laughing at my Acoli, asking for the words in Acoli and trying them out back and forth until I pronounce it right. Then I ask for the price, expertly feel and examine the produce, and then make my decision. Then, more greetings and pleasantries, more laughing, and I’m free to move on. It’s quite a nice experience, but there’s no quick errand.

Then I drove to another place to buy eggs and converse with that shop owner, his wife, and baby.

After a few more stops for bread and mail, Noah and I got home and I started the cleaning process.

I wash the produce to get the dirt off, then I soak in a dilute bleach solution for 20 minutes. The eggs have chicken-ness on them still, so I wash each one individually (unless I know I’m just baking with them, then I’m lazy and just careful to not get the dirt when I crack the egg). We go through about 36 eggs a week as we eat them for a major source of our protein. We would probably eat more if I got to the egg place more often to buy them!

Everything is made from scratch, of course, which is not unpleasant. It’s rather fun, but it’s time consuming and you know that mom cooking signals that every child needs mommy NOW and DESPERATELY. Right?! ;-P

The clean-up is not so fun. Josh has set-up composting and then we have buckets for various types of trash. Trash is burned for the most part. But we’re not set up well to handle our trash yet, so that’s been an issue. I have to wash and clean carefully so that we don’t get even more flies in the house. We seldom have electricity at night (it gets dark at 6:35pm), and I hate doing dishes in the dark, so that’s been an issue for me! I desperately try to wash every dish as I dirty it so that I don’t get behind. We sweep our tile floors multiple times a day to keep the crumbs out of the house.

Water: someone left behind a Katadyne filter so we’re thrilled to have that! Otherwise, we buy bottled water and boil water for cooking. No drinking from the tap, even to brush your teeth.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cloth diapering in the tropics

The verdict is in about cloth diapering in the tropics.

Fuzzi Bunz are fantastic! Noah is in Fuzzi Bunz and they dry SO quickly that I can get them washed and dried usually before the afternoon rain (we’ll see when rainy season is truly here full force in several months).

For what to use to stuff the diapers, I am using several things. I’m using regular old prefolds because I have them – I have the infant size and they work fine. BUT they take a LONG time to dry. What I love are what my friend Gina recommended: car wash cloths. The large ones are fantastic and work even for Gracie (think 8 year old sized bladder in a cloth diaper – yeah!). And the best thing is that they dry very quickly (almost as quickly as the Fuzzi Bunz themselves) AND stay soft despite harsh washing, wringing, and line drying in strong sun.

I’m also using an absorbant liner for two reasons: poop and rashes. Noah gets a little rashy in cloth diapers but that was solved by using cloth liners next to his skin to wick the moisture away. I have an abundance of flushable liners… but I can’t seem to position them right to catch the poop… so they are minimally helpful.

For Gracie, an amazing servant in our sending church MADE HER dozens of cloth diapers with a pattern that I bought from Kayla's Cloth Kits. These are working great and are the same style as Fuzzi Bunz so I use the same stuffers and liners. I stuff Gracie’s with 3-5 different pieces depending on time of day and what I have available.

Thank you to you all for your opinions, suggestions, and labors of love to help me out in this department! Of course, very recently, disposable diapers became available in Gulu. BUT, it’s nice to have the expense of the diapers behind us AND there are, of course, no special needs youth sized diapers available. It’s nice to have the disposable option for Noah if he gets a rash that respond to a more wicking diaper OR diarrhea when I can't keep up with the washing!

We do lots of laundry here but at least Ana sometimes likes to help (especially with the pink diapers!).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Orphan Sunday 2011

Tomorrow is Orphan Sunday. God commands us to care for orphans and widows - who has he put in your life? We are so blessed and inspired to know some amazing families caring for those around them! Pray for the orphans that we have in our life now - 60 plus children in Home of Love who have been orphaned by violence/war. Pray that we might be an encouragement and blessing to them and might, in some way, show more of Christ to them by our presence and love.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Dirty children, different life

In New Hampshire, I was a "bathe-em-once-a-week" kind of mom. Spot clean the kids, bathe them if they're really messy or have an accident, but otherwise, a good thorough bath on Saturday and they're good to go.


This is a "bathe-em-at-least-once-a-day" type of situation.

Noah, well, he's a boy. Need I say more? I'm not even sure why I dress him in the morning! Josh's family loves the fact that Josh is getting pay-back for his childhood extraordinary messiness - but even they say that Noah has unfathomable talent in the realm of messy! So add the red clay dirt, the mosquito bites (it seems that two mosquitoes took up residence INSIDE his little tent - oops!), his propensity to sweat profusely, the scratches and bruises that come with exploring new territory, and Noah is a mess 96% of the time.

Ana is also busy exploring in the red clay and sweating up a storm so she gets the night-time bath. No complaint from her! She doesn't even mind taking her baths by flashlight!

And poor Gracie doesn't get her almond milk here, so she's spitting up regular milk and juice and smelling sour all day, not to mention the cloth diapering situation. (yes, you read right - I'm allowing my children to drink juice here! ANYTHING to keep them hydrated while we adapt and adjust! haha! Oh my standards are really slipping!)

We have entered a new life now. A smellier, dirtier life. Since I'm washing clothes by hand, an item of clothing that I might have tossed the wash a month ago, now gets put on one extra time before I buckle down and wash it.

This smellier, dirtier life feels much closer to the earth, less sterile, less separation from the environment. And as long as I put my children to bed clean, and sweep the floor once they go to bed, all is well with mommy's world.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Local living

Gulu itself is trying to be a city - parking tickets (really a permit for the day) along the streets with the shops, electricity some of the time, more and more shops and a more "organized" market. But local living is still largely in traditional huts as soon as you get out of the few blocks of city. This is a scene on the way to Home of Love Orphanage (ACTION's orphanage where we will be spending a fair amount of time!). Notice the neatly swept dirt around the huts - very tidy and keeps snakes and other unwanted critters away from the huts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Daily life

So you want to know what life is like right now for us… we’re not sure yet! We have been still settling in. We’ve only been in our home for 5 days so we’ve been unpacking for the most part and figuring out how undertake daily life.

But we had a lovely welcome celebration at Home of Love on Sunday and today we met each of the classes at the primary school. The experiences were overwhelming to Grace, exciting to Ana, and normal to Noah who just went about his explorations as if nothing different were happening.

The roads around us are mostly dirt, although the main road from the capital through our city is paved. Josh is doing a great job driving a borrowed 15 passenger van on the LEFT side of the road, avoiding the many many bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians.

We have electricity for a few hours a day – enough to charge up our computers and wish for a little more! It’s fine now, because the weather is very cool at night – down to low 70’s. (We'll get a generator before the hot season sets in!) We, unfortunately, have to keep heavy curtains pulled and the windows closed at night for security reasons so we don’t get to feel the lovely breeze while we sleep. (It is the custom in many parts of Africa to close up the house tightly when the sun sets.)

We have friendly geckos in the house but otherwise, very few critters and bugs at this time of year (end of the rainy season). We’ve been eating rice and beans and eggs and produce – I made a yummy ground nut (peanut) sauce to go on the rice and beans yesterday!

My verse this week has been: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” Phil 2:6

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