Monday, April 30, 2012

And now... a puppy!

Yes, friends, we got a puppy, just to make our household more... interesting! ;-P It's an actual lab, 8 weeks old.  The puppy and kittens are the same size and have been acting like typical cats and dogs together... 

But most interesting has been Gracie and this puppy.  Gracie got really upset at first because the puppy licked her face and she felt like she couldn't defend herself.  She threw a long confusing tantrum about that. So today I took time to discipline the puppy anytime he licked her face and made sure to put the sleeping puppy on Gracie's lap... By the evening, the puppy crawled right into Gracie's lap for his nap - within seconds of her hitting the floor (her favorite hobby is crawling off the couch anytime we turn our backs).

I think we have the beginning of a sweet friendship (and yes, I have dreams of training this puppy to help Gracie, so I welcome resources about such a topic - epilepsy dogs and helper dogs...)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The market

All of our produce comes from the open market. As we spent time in Kampala and noticed the produce available in grocery stores there, I realized one of the big differences between the big city and Gulu: shopping. In order to eat, we have to go to the open market. It's a time for relationship building, Acholi practice, and learning. I cannot slip into a grocery store, anonymous, with all my children in tow. I cannot take Gracie routinely to the market since there is no guarantee that the "aisles" will be clear enough for her wheelchair. BUT, buying produce is a time of laughter, smiles, greetings, curious babies peeking over mama's produce stand at the mzungu baby on my back... it's not a quick errand to run... I have to find a babysitter who I trust with Gracie... But, as I feed my family, I'm drawn into the community more. I don't think I'd trade the open market experience for the anonymity and ease of the big stores in the city!

... but some days I have to admit that I would like relax and stare at the Nile in Jinga with my family instead of all the hard work that goes into preparing every single meal... ;-P


We arrived in Uganda 6 months ago with 3 kids. We were open to whatever God directed us to do... little did we know that this meant adding TWO boys to our family before our first year anniversary in Uganda! And yet, there is great peace to knowing that GOD is sovereign and WE are not God. We are so happy to have two more hearts to shepard and train! Pray for us as we strive to train all of our children - it's a busy, even exhausting stage of their lives, but God has also provided a helper for me this summer - a young lady who has experience with care of children with special needs! Isn't God amazing?!

We are still awaiting Moses' arrival into our home and are praying that he will be allowed to come live with us soon so that he has some adjustment time before this baby is born.

Want to hear more of God's special care for us?

- One of my closest missionary friends here is due this week and spent extensive time researching all the options for safe delivery, ultrasound, etc. God paved the way for us by providing this family (who we resonate with so much) to coach us along the way with this pregnancy!

- We had a very thorough ultrasound last week in Kampala and baby is developing perfectly.

- In December, we received our container that we had put some items on over TWO years ago - besides Josh's books, the majority of the items were: baby things!

- Josh's parents are able to come out near the time of our due date in September to be with us!

- This has been my "best" pregnancy yet - still dreadfully sick until just recently, but NOT dehydrated - I was prepared to place an IV in myself if needed for hydration, but never needed it!

We could go on and on. We really feel that God shelters us and provides for us in such amazing ways - why does He show such care for us? We are so thankful to be His children!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


We needed to take a trip to Kampala this month, for several reasons, but it's always an adventure - a DIFFERENT type of adventure than our Gulu adventures. Gulu adventures include cow paths, cross-cultural relationships, cultural learning, etc. Kampala adventures include traffic, ridiculously perilous stunts by boda drivers (motorcycle taxis) millimeters from our car, too many options in too many stores and restaurants, etc.

We drove down to Kampala Sunday after an early church service. No problems. Went straight to a mall for a meal and one store. Then, in one of our not-so-bright moments, decided to drive a circuitous route to the guesthouse in order to drive past the clinic that we needed to attend first thing in the morning. That took... a very long time, since roads do not, for the most part, bear road signs in Kampala, making the map more of a matching shapes game than a "turn right when you reach X road" navigation.

So we got in to the guesthouse after dark, happy to settle the children into a nice room with cooler weather. Early morning we were up, eating breakfast (NOT PREPARED BY ME!), meeting a family (also staying at the guesthouse) with four delightful adopted children and a baby on the way, and then we were off to the clinic... lost again because of a frustrating one-way street and lack, once again, of street signs. (Also traffic lights are relatively meaningless... so we just kinda follow traffic!)

We made it, only 10 minutes late, figured out what to do to have the appointment (nothing is straight forward, at least the first time around!) and finally we were off to our next engagement, hearts lightened that we had that important thing done. We made it to another mall, did shopping after a stop at the cafe for some yummy coffee and pastries, dragged ourselves to yet another mall to meet up with one of the Kampala ACTION missionary couples... already exhausted by lunch time! The children love playing on the playground at this third mall, so they were thrilled, we ordered a confusing lunch at the food court (that's a whole different post), enjoyed fantastic conversation with our missionary colleagues, and all too soon had to get moving (several hours later).

By then, there had been a few "accidents" so we really needed to get the children home, if you know what I mean. Josh had arranged to meet a Ugandan friend who would help us with some car issues... and just as this dear man arrived, Ana threw up all over the computer and the guesthouse common room. Yay.

Several hours later, everyone was cleaned up, Josh was out with Amos, and the children, thankfully went to bed...

Day #2: I needed to stop at a medical supply warehouse... just for three things... an hour or more later, we were late for our next engagement! ;-P We made our way (street-sign-less) to our other Kampala missionary colleagues' home for a lovely lunch and afternoon conversation. They accompanied us back to the guesthouse so the kids could run around in the yard while we tried to converse. On our return we found that our room lock was broken, so several hours later, the door was broken down and by bedtime, I quickly was able to move all of our stuff into another room for the night. In the meantime, Amos arrived with a mechanic to work on our car (the alarm system has been going nonstop for a week!) so Josh juggled that and conversation with our missionary friend, Mike...

I was exhausted from... what??... by 8pm.

It's a great example of why Josh and I are built for Gulu and not Kampala! We know that God would give us the grace needed if He were to ask us to live in the big city, but... we sure are grateful for Gulu's slower pace of life, the tasks that take a week instead of hours, and the limited food availability... NOT a hard price to pay!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moses - moving forward

Remember this little guy? We hosted this "4"-year-old for a few weeks at Christmas time, he has visited us periodically since then, and we, of course, spend time with him at Home of Love. Well, we've known for some time that he will need an adoptive family (he's one of the few at Home of Love where the case is SO clear) so we've been praying about him... really for years. (Josh met him during his previous trips to Gulu!)

During the recent inspection by local officials at Home of Love, Moses' case was put forth as someone that the government wants to be adopted by a family. So, the social worker at Home of Love, Bosco, a dear friend and faithful man of God, wants us to bring Moses into our home and family. It's an exciting thing as we've been anticipating that this was the path God was directing us down... now it's more of a reality (nothing's reality in Africa until it is, but...). We are already prepared in our home as Moses has been spending time with us and we anticipated this, so now we're just waiting for Bosco to figure out the next step (essentially paperwork). It will be pretty simple since we live here and aren't in a rush to finalize adoption or attempting a truly international adoption.

We were waiting for a clear sign from God in regards to Moses and the timing of his coming into our family - local OFFICIALS saying that he should be adopted is a pretty good sign AND they don't mind that we are mzungus (foreigners)! ;-P

Our prayer for all these months has been concerning adoption: for Moses and for the other children at Home of Love to grasp adoption and understand that we still love all of them, and for the staff at Home of Love to understand adoption... this is the first adoption from Home of Love, so it's really in many ways a foreign concept, but a necessary one, and maybe one that will become part of the fabric of Home of Love.

We are praying that through this step, we will have opportunities to share about GOD's adoption of US and what that adoption means. What a testimony to the Gospel! We have lived amongst these precious ones with our Gracie and they clearly see that Gracie is our first born precious daughter - Gracie does a great job herself of shining forth Christ's love and joy!

Pray with us that God's glory would be proclaimed through our family. You might recall that we came to Uganda with three specific ministry areas of focus: Josh with pastoral leadership development, Abby with medical coordination for children with special needs, and the family to live out what it means to be a Godly family. By taking an Acholi as our son, we are inviting others into our lives to see what we are about!

We are curious to see how God works! We are willing and empty vessels to be used by HIM!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Orphans in northern Uganda

For all of Uganda in 2005:

Percentage of children who are orphans in 2005 14%
Number of orphans due to AIDS in 2005 1,000,000
Children orphaned by AIDS as a percentage of all orphans in 2005 45%
Percentage of children aged 12-17 who are orphans in 2005 25%

UNICEF: 'Africa's Orphaned Generations' (2003), and 'Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations: Children Affected by AIDS' (2006).

What I find especially striking is that these are 2005 numbers, representing ALL of Uganda, not simply the north. The war was not even over in 2005. So these numbers are surely higher now and especially higher in the north. There's an estimate that 20% of the total child population are orphans in Uganda. I tried a theory out on some people and no one disagreed: you cannot find one family in Acholi-land who is not caring for orphans. (This relates also to my prior post - a family will care for their own paternally-blood relatives if they are able.)

Babies, orphans, and families

I avoided the discomfort of my Acholi lesson today with a barrage of culture questions. (I have just started lessons and my teacher insists that I know more than I say I do [so does Josh!!] but my vocab is very limited – I just know how to learn a language and understand the structure, likely because of growing up bilingual and learning Spanish as an adult… I’m still painfully lost in Acholi!)

There is a great deal that I want to understand about children and families in Acholi culture. Please bear in mind that this is ONE man’s take on his culture, within his clan, within the Acholi tribe. This also represents traditional culture, not today’s shifting culture – shifting due to the high number of orphans in Acholi-land without family influence to dictate how things are done, shifting due to years of war and survival, shifting because of outside influences, etc.

Babies: pregnancy is kept quiet – it’s a private matter; although a pregnant woman will be treated carefully to keep her safe and healthy. Once the baby is born, the mother and baby stay inside the hut for 3 days if it is a boy and 4 days if it is a girl. Only an attendant is allowed in. The environment is kept sterile, water brought directly from the well (rather than a storage container) and boiled, anytime it is needed for the baby. Once the time has passed, a naming ritual takes place and the baby is brought out.

Deformities: a child born with some deformity is considered to be a special gift from God. This child is a blessing and might be treated with special care.

Abandoning children: life is valued very highly, especially children. A child would never be abandoned if there is a family structure in place. There would be great shame in throwing away a child. There are circumstances where it occurs: child-headed households where family is not supportive and not around to notice a missing baby; an extraordinarily deformed baby (a great pantomime of losing the child “accidentally” would take place to cover the actual abandonment); circumstances where the father’s family will not accept the baby (father is not the father or mother is a “foreigner”). Essentially, if there is a traditional family in place, children are cared for, even if they have disabilities.

Raising children: the village literally raises the children. In fact, in some clans, the children do not even know who their mother is – they just have a bunch of aunties who all care for all the children. This results in no one really training the children since no one really has vested interest. The goal is to keep the children alive until they are old enough to watch themselves and be helpful. The children belong to the father and the father’s family.

There are many many nuances. Before the war, orphanages were composed of children born to foreigners (meaning a non-Acholi), to sex-workers, or illegitimate relationships. Since the war, orphanages are full of children with such a variety of backgrounds it is very difficult to characterize as simply.

Josh and I keep saying that there is more to Acholi culture than we will ever be privy to know – it is a deep culture, with deep roots, disrupted by a generation of war, very nuanced. Yes, it is a shame/honor culture. Yes, it is a paternalistic culture. But it is so much more! We are blessed to have several Acholi in our lives who do not mind our mzungu ways and endless bizarre mzungu questions.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fruit cakes... gas fruits...

There's one Indian store in Gulu that sells raisins. You would never know it. It looks like any usual general merchandise store - soap, flour, rice, spices, biscuits, water... but if you ask just right, they produce a bag of raisins from a box in the corner behind the counter. The first time I bought them, I asked for raisins. No problem. The Indian store owner was there and knew what I meant.
Another time, there were some young Acholi men running the store... my request caused great confusion until one said something that sounded like "gas fruit." Okay... um, sure, I'd like some gas fruit?

This last time, an older Acholi man was running the store... he explained that they are called "fruit cakes." That makes a little more sense (I think).

One of the keys in any culture is words... gas for the car is petrol... gas for the stove is gas... don't ask for the wrong thing or there might be a big mix-up! The roots are British English from the not-so-distant colonial era, so our time in Kenya and Zambia taught us some of the vocabulary - shifting instead of moving (from one home to the other) for instance. And our pronunciation of words is important as well - you might find our dialect rather amusing!

There is nothing straight forward about learning another culture!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rain rain, don't go away!

The kids are just as happy as I am to see rain! Rainy season has not quite reached Gulu proper, but word is that the villages are now seeing rainy season. The nights HAVE been cooler and we have had some small rain perhaps more days than not. Not enough yet to turn our yard from desert to lush paradise like it was when we arrived in Uganda... and not enough rain to turn Josh's garden from wishful thinking dirt to vegetables, but... in due time!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Uganda facts


Uganda gained Independence from the United Kingdom on October 9, 1962

Total Area: 241,038 sq km

Borders: Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania

Natural Resources: Copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone, salt, arable land and gold

Population: 34-35 million with 4.7% being Acholi

Population below Poverty line: Nationally 35%, Northern Uganda 65%

Median Age of Population: 15.1 yrs

Life Expectancy: 53.24 yrs

GDP: $17,010,765,767 USD

Currency: Ugandan Shilling

(CIA Factbook)

A reminder: Kony now is in the jungles of Congo, creating havoc and heart-ache there, just as he did here in Northern Uganda and in South Sudan. Here's one NGO's take on the last two decades of conflict:


The conflict in Northern Uganda is one of the longest running conflicts in Africa and has spread to neighbouring countries. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was created in 1986 to fight a spiritual war on behalf of the Acholi people. It is led by Kony Joseph and its original goal was to overthrow the Museveni Government and replace it with one based on the biblical ten commandments. In recent years, this political motivation has been questioned.

In the early nineties, the LRA began large scale abductions and attacks against Acholi civilians. In total, 1 in 3 boys and 1 in 6 girls were abducted in Northern Uganda; for a total of 66,000 children. These children were forced to take up arms against their communities and innocent civilians. They were forced to serve as sex slaves, labourers and porters. At the peak of the conflict over 1.8 million people or 80% of the population were internally displaced, living in camps. This led to disruptions in education, the provision of services and economic activity; with many people forced to live off begging.

The 2006 ceasefire and Juba Peace Talks increased hope amongst the people, and large scale movement from the camps began in 2008. Unfortunately, Kony refused to sign the Final Agreement in 2008 and the LRA is continuing with their abductions and attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The Acholi people continue to hope for a resolution to this conflict, and believe that peace will come from mediation rather than military action.

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