Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Yes, as Emili just said, it is our last evening in Africa. It so, so hard to say good-bye to these beautiful people here. I have personally learned so much from them. First of all, how to trust God with EVERYTHING! The people of Africa are so strong in their faith. Even the little children trust Him completely. They just don't have anything else. I also learned that I can live with a WHOLE LOT LESS than I thought I ever could. We got by just fine with the few clothes we got to bring. Are ALL those clothes hanging in my closet back home really all that necessary? I don't know. I learned from the people of Namatala, how to be joyful, regardless of our circumstances. The joy of the Lord is always on their face, no matter what. That is something that can never be taken away from us. I learned how to truly live in community and how to practice hospitality. No one does it like the Africans do!!
We are so thrilled about the saved souls who will now spend eternity with us in Heaven. We are absolutely blown away at the ladies and their sewing! You go Darbs! You opened their eyes to a future and a hope! I am thrilled to have finally gotten to not only meet, but spend quality time with my I Choose You kid and her mother! What preciousness!! We are all so humbled that God chose us as His vessels, to do such great and mighty things!! Lives were forever changed this week.
I feel like mission accomplished! I am very ready to go home - I miss my family very much. But, I will be leaving my new family. I now have a whole new set of sisters, brothers and children here.
A very special thank you to all the team members and especially Mama Becky! None of this would have happened had it not been for her. And, of course, a very special thanks to Mama Aidah.....and AWESOME woman of God. The I Choose You kids and families are especially near and dear to her heart. It is just priceless to see how well taken care of they truly are!
I pray that we all will hang on to this new passion we have! I would like to encourage each and everyone who has kept up with this blog to consider sponsoring an I Choose You kid. You just have no idea what a difference it makes to a kid from Namatala! And, 100% of the funds go straight to the kids! Visit www.ichooseyou.net and think about and pray about it!
Please pray for safe travel for us, and safety while we are in London on the way home. See ya at home in Texas Saturday evening!
God is good all the time, All the time God is good!
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise."
Howdy! It's Emili. What an amazing trip so far. We thank God for Brandi and her wonderful "blogging" skills.. without her, all of the readers would be disappointed with a blank website.
I can't believe that the trip is almost over!! Saying our goodbyes today was a toughie. The team spent the morning loving on many precious babies at the orphanage down the street. There were roughly 36 kiddos, all without parents. What beautiful gifts they were though.. If Momma Adiah hadn't been there to tell us that we were "not allowed to take the babies home with us", all of the babies would have been hidden in our carry-ons, no doubt.
After the orphanage, we trucked over to the home village of our ICHOOSEYOU kids where we had the opportunity to eat at the "pig joint" for lunch. If there were only a "pig joint" in San Marcos. The food was amazing (although very different). We used the "forks that God gave us" to "pig" out.. it was awesome. The best part about this lovely restaurant was knowing that the pigs that are being raised on the land purchased by ICHOOSEYOU will one day be sold there. God continues to reveal the open doors that he is providing for ichooseyou and we have LOVED watching his works.
After the pig joint, the team visited the school where our ICHOOSEYOU kids attend for the last time.. The women that Darby had the opportunity to teach had all of the items that they had made throughout the week laid out for sale. After the team went on a shopping spree, the women had "officially" made their first sale, making over 230,000 shillings. BIG MONEY. Watching God use Darby as a tool this week has been mind boggling. God has used her to do such great things for these women. Words can not describe the hope that God has given these women through Darbs. They now shine with hope and joy, knowing that they have a skill that can provide for their family. These women went from straight faces and slumped shoulders to glowing smiles and endless hugs. We thank God for leading Darbs on this trip, and we are so thankful that Darbs surrendered herself to the Lord, listening to his plan and following it with a humble heart (Darb's kiddos, you would be so proud).
After buying our goodies, we loved on our kids for the last time. If I could put in words how amazing these kids were, you would have a plane ticket bought to Uganda in 5 minutes. The love that they radiate is like none that I have ever seen. It was SOOOO hard to say goodbye.
Although it was tough saying goodbye, it was so good to leave these kids knowing that they have hope.. Before, they were like other kids in the village, rummaging around with hopeless faces, dirty clothes, and hungry bellies. . Sponsors, you all are blessing these families with more than you could ever imagine.
When going hut to hut yesterday and the day before, we had the opportunity to see where all of the ICHOOSEYOU kids came from. The village was filled with mud huts, naked kids, dirty water, sick families, drunken fathers, etc. You name it, we saw it. This week, God has humbled my heart. I have realized how truly blessed I am. Our struggles do not even come close to comparing with theirs. And you know the crazy thing??? They still are joyful...
Like Brandi said, many people were saved on our journey through the village. His kingdom grew.. what great news right???? God has used this team in amazing ways. We all thank God that he has used us to share his amazing word. God has given us the opportunity to watch him mold hearts and break strongholds. His presence this week is without-a-doubt the most amazing thing that I have yet to experience.
We all can't believe that we have to leave tomorrow. Although we miss our family and friends, it is non-the-less hard to say goodbye to our ichooseyou family. I ask that you all keep our journey home tomorrow in your prayers. I thank you all for following us and supporting us on this wonderful trip.
Ted- I cannot wait to show you this picture that I captured. I KNOW without a doubt 100% that you will love it. Thank you, by the way, for being the backbone of this team (along with Becksters). We couldn't have done it without you. We miss you A LOT and I can not wait for you to come and see the glowing faces of these kiddos that miss "Papa Ted" next year.
Everyone else- we love you and thank you.
Our plane leaves Entebe tomorrow night and we arive in London in the morning.. We leave London the day after we land.. and then we will be home to see all of your lovely faces. We miss you all.
God is Good
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Today, we spent the day going hut to hut, in the village of Namatala, sharing the gospel. We went out in pairs, with a translator. There were 5 different teams today. Emili and I were together and Paul was our translator. Paul was awesome!! So thankful for him!
Each team shared with many and many people accepted Christ as their savior today. We encountered many already believers in the village. We definitely planted seeds. The spiritual warfare going on there was very evident. Alcohol is a huge factor in this village. The women make the alcohol, to make money for their families and then the men simply sit around all day and drink it. It just blows my mind. It is amazing how hospitable these people are. They sit on the ground, in front of their huts and give you the only chair they have. The morning was great!
Later, in the afternoon, after being so totally moved and motivated by hearing Aidah's testimony, we hit the trail again. This time Rachel joined us and Sarah was our translator. On the road to Namatala, we bumped into none other than my little Mudua's entire family, on their way to pick her up from school. I got to meet all 7 of her siblings, and both of her grandparents. This was not an accident. Her mother was beaming.
This afternoon, I finally had the opportunity to lead two women to Christ. As we sat in front of a hut and explained the truth to her it began to rain. It was beautiful! After I lead her in the prayer of salvation, I will never forget the way she looked at me. Her eyes just locked in on mine and she did not take her eyes off of me. They were the deepest, most beautiful brown eyes. I wonder what she was thinking. God knows!
As a first timer in Africa - this is so completely overwhelming to me! They are so desperate for what we have to offer them- Jesus!
Later, we came to another hut and a woman stated she wanted to hear about Jesus. It was just such a beautiful thing to lead an African woman in that prayer. She was so humble. It will change her life forever. During this time, it was particularly moving to see some of the I Choose You moms come up, and support us, while we witnessed to others there. It was like we were their sisters and they were backing us up. As soon as they spot us, they come running with smiles and hugs. It makes a huge difference that we have been building relationship all week with these women. They know we are the real deal and you can tell they want others to know that!
Rachel had the opportunity to lead the father of Stanley, the I Choose You kid whom she sponsors, to Christ. This was so amazing because we were told that every time his wife, or anyone else would try to talk to him about Jesus, he would literally run away. We all rejoiced, with him and his wife! His wife was totally overjoyed. God set up that divine appointment for Rachel. Awesome!! I got great pictures of that!
We also encountered a woman who wanted us to pray for her sick child. This was the most horrible sight I had seen yet. I just can't find the words to describe the condition this child was in. It was such a dark place there. Disease and terribly unsanitary conditions and he was hurting and crying so hard. After leading the child's mother to Christ, Emili and Rachel prayed for this child and they also had the mother pray for her own child. We do not want them to think that only Mzungus can pray, like we are somehow on a different "level" from them.
Jesus moved there today, in a major way. I only wish we could see in the Heavenly realms to see what was truly going on. There is so much oppression there, especially due to the alcohol there.
Once again, my heart was broken today for these people. Today was a VERY emotional day for all of us. Jesus loves them so much and He lead us to each person we encountered.
There are so many other stories to be shared from the other team members. Everyone had a good day!
Darby had another good day sewing with the ladies. There are about 8 of them that are seriously focused on the sewing. So awesome! They finished up pretty pillowcases today.
Tomorrow, we are visiting a baby home in desperate need. We are taking sugar to them. This should be a very moving experience as well. It will also be our last day at Covenant School. It will be so, so hard to leave these kiddos. We love them so much. My heart smiles just thinking about their little faces!
Blessings to all and to all a good night! I'm pooped!!
Monday, May 31, 2010
Beautiful has been the word for this trip!
Thank you all for praying for this team and this trip. God is answering our prayers!
Saturday, we got to go out to Lulwanda Children's home. This was such an amazing place - so clean so full of love and the view of the mountains there is awesome! These kids are so well taken care of! It is clean and these kids have it made!Darby got to meet her little Davis, whom she sponsors. What an emotional moment for her! Wow!
Two little girls, Shakira and Rita latched on to me immediately and gave me their own tour of their school. They loved my photos of Loren and Luke so much that I let them keep them. They told me they loved Loren and Luke. They cherished their photos!! They want me to come back next year!
Sunday, we got to attend Covenant Church (Morris & Aidah's church). It was an amazing experience! Worship in Africa is incredible! You do not sit down, you do not stand still! It's great. Again, the joy was astounding. I was hoping to hear Morris preach but they had a guest Mzungu speak, from the Colorado church plant team. He was good!
I had the privilege of teaching the ladie's Sunday school class, teaming with Darby. We encouraged them and let them know that they are worthy and they are special. Many of them are single moms. We hugged each and every woman there, individually! Beautiful!
I saw my little I Choose You kid, Mudua Irene there at church. Her momma was on the front row but she came back to the back to sit with me. She held my hand, patted my leg and tried to pull my moles off of my arm. They are just fascinated with Mzungu's white skin! She just snugged right up next to me the whole time. She loves me and I love her!
Afterward, we served lunch to all of the 30 I Choose You kids and their families and then we set out a little "store" for the kiddos where we had out all of the things that we brought for them: shoes, clothes, school supplies, toiletries, jump ropes, etc. They each got to take a turn and go through and pick out things for themselves. It was awesome. They were all so thankful. It was so humbling!
We also got to paint toe nails and fingernails of the kids. They could not get enough of that! I painted several little girls fingers and then one boy, who was simply begging for me to paint his nails! I just could not say no to his sweet little face. He was thrilled! I painted my little Mudua's toes and fingers and then her sweet momma came over to have hers painted as well. That was a beautiful experience. We should have thought in advance to give these women full on pedicures. Their poor, worn out feet! Next year!
They performed a little song for us that they came up with just for I Choose You. We all balled like babies! We video taped this. Ted - you're gonna love it!! It was so special. Aidah recognized the kids who were leaders of their classes, doing the best in their classes. All of the top students at Covenant Primary School are I Choose You kids! Incredible that just a year and a half ago, these 30 kids were chosen, from their village, not in school, with no future and are now leading their classes! One of them did not even speak English and one year later, is at the to of his class! God is good!
Then, they each got their monthly supply of flour, sugar, vaseline and soap and headed back down the trail to their village of Namatala, with their huge flour bags on top of their heads.
Today was all day in Namatala. We went to the huts of all 30 I Choose You kids to see where they live. This place was unbelievable. Poverty on the most extreme level. Lots of naked, very dirty, but happy children. It is astonishing that people actually live this way, but they do. It is their way of life. I am so glad we got to see the I Choose You kiddos at school, so happy, before we saw where they actually come from. My heart was broken in two! It still amazes me that, at school, they are so, full of joy. It is hard to picture them living in these conditions. It's no wonder they love coming to school and many of them come 6 days a week! What a difference I Choose You has made in their lives. These kids went from hopelessness and no future, to hope, a hot meal every day and an education. They are the future of Uganda!
The huts in Namatala are about the size of my bathroom - I'm not kidding! And totally dark as they are made of mud. It appears as though they basically live outside and just sleep in their huts. We had the opportunity to pray for several sick women who have Malaria. We prayed for a few others as well.
I went to Mudua Irene's house and saw where she lives. It was cool to see the little dress that Loren had sent her, in her house. Got to see her momma and her grandma once again. I am now developing a relationship with them, without very many words. Mudua, while she does speak English, hardly talks - neither does her mom. But, I know that they love me and I feel like God has given me a new daughter in Africa! She and her family are precious to me. It truly is an amazing thing for a child to actually get to meet their sponsor! Wow!
Darby spent another day in the sewing room with the ladies. She had an awesome day! They are learning so quickly! The really cool thing is there are 4 other girls who just arrived here a couple days ago from Colorado and they will be here for 6 weeks. They have been hanging with us. One of them knows how to sew and has agreed to help oversee the sewing project and encourage the ladies, once Darby leaves. Amazing answer to prayer!
We went to a crusade this evening at the church plant site that a team from Colorado is planting. It was an interesting drive. Thankfully we made it, down the questionable road and all the way to the new church plant building before getting stuck in the mud as it was in a deep, deep, deep village. Again, it was great to see them all dancing in worship.
Tomorrow, we go hut to hut all day in Namatala, sharing the gospel. I will be with my precious team member, Emilie and our interpreter. Praying that God really speaks through us and gives us both a spirit of evangelism. I can't wait! It will be so cool to see what God has planned!
Keep the prayers coming! We are feeling them. God has been revealing Himelf in so many ways, there just isn't enough time to share all of it now. He is here with us and we love it!! We are totally safe, and totally accomplishing what He sent us here to do. We are serving our LORD, being His hands and feet. He is loving these kids through us and we are having a blast while doing it! What a fun group of ladies to be with in Africa. God put this team together so beautifully!
God bless you all back home!
I Love you and miss you, Loren, Luke & Tony! Hope you guys are having fun at Grandma's house. Tell everyone Hi for me! Tony - pet Gwendolyn for me!
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wow!! What can I say, these ladies are amazing and so enthusiastic about sewing. There were 30 that came yesterday! Yikes! And 2 men want to learn too. They stayed all day and are so patient. I can already see a handful that will teach sewing after we leave. The rest of the time I'll just work with these 6 or 7 ladies. I have a wonderful helper, Margaret who translates and knows how to sew as well. She also works at the children's home.
I was so worried about teaching them the right thing so we just started with the basics...it's enough for right now. But they learn so quick and are so eager to learn. So cool!
Michele, can I stay longer?? jk
Josh, thanks for the superstar song!!
Jess, thanks for the pics of Beckett on the camera.:)
Joshua, thanks for many things!
Micah, thanks for the letter, yea, I cried.
Mom, don't worry, just pray!!
Yesterday was our first day at Covenant School. This is the school at Morris & Aidah’s church that is walking distance from the Namatala Village. This is where our 30 I Choose You kiddos, from Namatala, go to school.
Let me start by saying, sponsoring an I Choose You child makes a HUGE difference in their lives. It gives them a future and a hope! So much more than providing money for food and medical care, it provides them hope for their spirit! I was blown away at what I saw at this place. From the moment we arrived, the kids and their momma’s were ready to greet us. They had been waiting for us! I have never felt so loved. Instantly, they welcomed us into their family with all smiles and hugs. They absolutely LOVE it when you take their picture and then show it to them. They don’t have mirrors!!
We visited each classroom and were introduced to the teachers and kids; Such disciplined and respectful children, all in uniform, all immediately standing next to their little desks to greet us.
We finally made it to the Precious class. This is the class for the kids 5 and under. There is where I got to me my little Mudua Irene, the I Choose You kid that we sponsor. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, to finally meet her. Our family has been praying for her for so many months, Loren and Luke included. She is beautiful. To my surprise, she is now 5 and has lost her two front teeth, just like Loren. I also found out that Mudua now has Malaria. PLEASE PRAY FOR HER. At first she was very shy around me but soon began to warm up and smile. We told the class the Daniel and Lions Den Bible story, and then we made little lion masks as the craft. They just loved it! It was just like KDO, but in Africa!
Again, I am overwhelmed at how happy these kids are. I’ve never seen kids this poor, yet so happy. I guess they are poor by our standards, but they are not poor in spirit. Covenant School is amazing! God is there! You can feel His spirit all around there.
We went on to play with all the kids outside. They all wanted to touch us and have their picture made with us. Sometimes they asked if they could have my necklace I was wearing and they loved me taking their pictures wearing my sunglasses. They are fascinated with the Mzungu’s (white person). Two little girls latched on to both of my arms at one point and just would not let go. They were showering me with love and acceptance and it was beautiful. I found Jesus here, in Uganda. He was loving me through the beautiful kids. His face was in them.
Meanwhile, Darby was teaching sewing lessons to all the I Choose You mothers. What a miracle. You should have seen these women flooding into the sewing room. There were about 30 or more women, so eager and excited to learn a new skill. There were even 2 men among them! Darby taught them to sew little pillow cases and when they would complete one, they would wave it around and just laugh with satisfaction. Darby is being used in a mighty way. She is not only teaching them a skill they can use to make money to support their children; through God, through Darby, they are receiving a future and a hope. A new hope filled the air in that hot room!
My little Mudua’s mom was in the room learning. I took Mudua to greet her and so I could give Mudua’s gifts to her (so the other kids would not take off with them). That was the most emotional moment for me. When I met Mudua’s mom and her younger son I could not hold back my tears. She is a mom of 7, just barely getting by. She was so overwhelmed when she learned I was the one supporting her daughter, giving her the chance to go to this awesome school where God is and giving her a hot meal every day. I was crying more than she was. I felt so valuable, to her and to God. I have been given the chance to come alongside this beautiful mother and help her in raising her child. What an honor! I feel like she is a sister to me. Even though she cannot speak English, when I said Jesus, she lit up. His love is universal, I guess.
Wow, what a day…..and that was just the first day among the kids. We are heading back today, to teach the older classes. We are going to the market this morning to get the flour, sugar, soap and Vaseline that we will then divide and distribute to the I Choose You families on Saturday for their monthly supply. This will be amazing! Pictures, pictures!
I just feel like encouraging everyone, if you feel the nudge from the Holy Spirit, COME TO AFRICA! You won’t be sorry you did. It is not at all like what we are used to. You will experience a love like you never have before. I don’t know who was more blessed today, the children or me? I think it was me!
Love to you all, from the most blessed group of 7 Mzungu's in all of Uganda!
I love you Loren & Luke & Tony!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
We made it!
Finally, we are in Uganda, which by the way, is the most beautiful place I have ever seen!
I must say, it was NOT easy getting here. We took quite a journey, thanks to our friends at British Airways who decided to go on strike. All in all, we left Texas on Sunday afternoon and arrived to our final destination of Mbale, Uganda, Wednesday afternoon. It took 3 days to get here! We were expecting a long lay over at London Heathrow. What we did not expect was that our connecting flight leaving Heathrow, to Nairobi, Kenya was delayed three hours, causing us to then miss our connecting flight at the Nairobi airport to Uganda, the next morning. So, we got to spend all day Tuesday in the Nairobi airport before we took our short one hour flight over to Entebbe, Uganda.
The team got to know each other very well, from the very start of this trip…….no shower for three days, sleeping on planes and on hard airport floors. But, we were a team and we survived as a team. Becky was an awesome leader during some trying times at airport counters and going through security (considering we had every personal item stuffed in our carry-ons that we would need to live for two weeks……carry-ons so stuffed they were about to burst.) We prayed through every situation and God delivered, like He always does. As my dear friend Kathy told me, what the enemy intends to be trip-wires and discouragement, God intends to be stretching exercises, stretching us even further to truly depend on Him, in ALL things.
The beautiful thing is that were exposed to all sorts of other religions at the Nairobi airport. We were just down the hall from a Mosque. We made a new friend from India who is a Muslim. He hung out with us all day and had the biggest smile on his face when he was with us. You could just tell he wanted to hang with us. A few of our team members had some wonderful discussions with him about God, Heaven, etc. Seeds were planted. And, of course, being the souvenier shopper that I am, I picked up some adorable Africa items at the little airport shops there.
(Loren and Luke – you will be so happy at your prizes from Africa!)
We were extremely pleased with Kenya Airways. The flight attendants were so helpful and so servant-hearted, joyful and all smiles. Little did I know, this was just a preview of the beautiful people I would encounter upon arrival in Uganda. It was great to finally see Mama Aida’s smiling face at the airport. She greeted us with the warmest hugs and from there, she took over and we got to relax!
From the moment we arrived in this place, I could sense the beauty of it! It is so amazing! I am simply in awe! I cannot believe God created a place this beautiful. These people are so blessed that God placed them here! The colors are so vibrant, so incredible. The contrast of the deep blue sky, the jungle green everywhere, the red dirt, the people’s brown and black skin and the vibrant colors they wear.
After a wonderful night’s stay at the hotel at Entebbe….(never appreciated a bed and a shower so much)..we had an eye-opening 6 hour van ride over to Mbale. I was so overwhelmed at everything there is to see. I probably took 100 photos out of the van window. Poverty like I’ve never seen! Little children just hanging out right next to the road, some naked and some not. We saw mothers carrying all sorts of things on the tops of their heads. (We saw one lady carrying a rolling-bag suitcase on top of her head, with no hands!! Seriously, it was impressive!) I have never seen poverty on this level. Everything is dirty and I saw kids in places I would never dream of for my own kids. But, in the midst of all of this, what we saw on their faces was joy. These people have NOTHING, yet they are happy. We started waving at people from the van and they always waved back. We pulled over at a market to pick up some fresh pineapple (which by the way is the best you will ever have)…..while there we got to play hide and seek out the van window with a precious little boy. Their smiles are huge and I could not hold back my tears. I wanted to feel sorry for them, but then I started thinking that they are the poorest of the poor, yet they are happy! They are content. They have no idea just how poor they are. They are just precious momma’s surviving, taking of their children the only way they know how. Today, these people taught me a lesson on contentment in my life. I am so, so blessed in so many ways. Yet, all of the things we have in America, are they are all necessary? I mean these kids were smiling and laughing like I’ve never encountered, in the midst of extremely simple lives and extreme poverty! Wow!!
Jesus is here and hope is here! The other thing we noticed is how open this place is about Jesus. You see his name everywhere, right down to the store called….”Trust in God Electronics”. We saw words like “God Cares” printed on the back windows of taxi cab vans and “Jesus is Lord” painted, huge on a store front. We saw many beautiful churches and schools along the way….and kids walking home from school in their uniforms, who knows how far!
And, we certainly saw God today when we stopped off at the Nile River. Wow, what a sight! Creation is truly amazing!
I must go now because we are busy preparing for tomorrow. That is the day we will go to Covenant School and meet the I Choose You kids. We will be teaching in their classes so we have lots of construction paper crafts to cut out. Yes, tomorrow, is the day I get to meet our little Mudua Irene, our beautiful I Choose You kid. I don’t know how I will be able to hold back my tears when I get to meet her. We will also spend time tomorrow, in “our” Village of Namatala. What an amazing day it will be!! I cannot wait!
Jesus will be there with us like He has been this whole trip so far. He is amazing and He loves us all so, so much. He tells us so in Isaiah 25:6-9.
Loren and Luke and Tony – Mommy misses you so much. I am safe and totally happy here in Uganda! God is good and He is taking good care of all of us!!
Hugs and kisses from Africa!!
I love you!!