Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday 3/25/18 Final Thoughts From Maggie

How do I even start? I mean wow. This has been the craziest experience of my life. I was happy, I was sad, I was scared,and I was amazed. Seeing it all in person is ALOT different than seeing pictures and videos! Meeting the girls was AMAZING! It was so uplifting to hear them sing and praise the Lord. You can tell that they love their sponsors! The staff and the trainers were so kind! The driving here is CRAZY, and I LOVE IT! It was definitely scary at first but after a while it got really fun! Everything here is so colorful and bright. Each building seems to be a different color! Every time you stop your car there are people trying to sell you random items. They hold it up to the window for you to see and they tell you a price. There are also children walking down the roads begging for food and money. They are almost always carrying a baby and they all look hungry. These children walk up and down the roads going up to cars full of strangers, but anything you give them they aren't allowed to keep. They are forced to give it to the adults in the evening and they never get a reward. It's heartbreaking! Most of them are from the slums, where everyone looks hungry and sick but are still very welcoming and kind. Going down to the slums was both terrible and amazing. Every child wants to hold your hand and chase you when you leave. They need our help because they can't get money themselves. 
This has been a life changing experience. I'm not going to lie - I cried, ALOT. I was nervous and felt like I couldn't make it through the whole trip, but after seeing those people and how sick and hungry and hurt they were I thought - I can do this. Was it easy, NO. I still was scared and couldn't sleep but I knew that those people felt the same way and were still smiling. It's hard to think that people are living like this in our world today. I am SO glad I didn't give up and go home.  Please continue praying for these people. Thank you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wed 3/21/18 & Thurs 3/22/18

March 18th was Rachel's bday and March 23rd is Maggie's so we decided to buy a cake big enough for all of the girls and staff to enjoy together with us!  The girls sang "Happy Birthday" and were so excited as I passed around the pieces of cake.  Something so simple brought them so much joy.  After we ate, Maggie and the girls began playing games in the front yard.  The first one was a Karamojong version of "Simon Says".  The girls lined up in 2 rows facing each other and got down on their knees while 1 girl remained standing and singing. When the song changed - the girls position on the ground had to change and of course if you didn't- you were out!  They were so competitive!  Maggie stayed in the game til the end with 3 other girls and we had to call it a draw.  Next, they all got into a circle and held hands - singing and dancing in Karamojong.  They eventually brought me into the circle to join them.  When evening came we said goodbye and headed back to our inn.  Seeing my girl playing with all of the girls here is a memory that i will always keep close to my heart.  I have dreamt of that moment for some time now and God finally made a way for it to become a reality.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! ~ Psalm 150:6

Thursday -
Rachel, Emma, Maggie and I spent the afternoon at the Uganda Museum today.  We had an excellent tour guide who took us from one time period to the next describing Uganda's rich cultural heritage.  I will not get into any history lessons here 😉 but I wanted to make sure that Maggie had the opportunity to learn as much as she could about, not only 91four, but about Uganda as well.  This trip can definitely be counted as an educational field trip!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tuesday 3/20/18

The people here like to say, "Uganda is easy."  But to others - Uganda is not easy. Uganda is anything but easy...
Others might say that Uganda is harsh - the summer months are sweltering and the winter months are filled with endless rain  The work - people constantly in search of jobs, many of which are endless hours of intensive labor for a pay they can scarcely survive on.  Education is so strongly desired that parents will do just about any type of work to ensure their children go to school. Every child must pay tuition as well as the cost for a uniform and books.  For many, no matter how hard they try, they will never be able to send their child.  The food is the same at each meal: beans, rice, cooked veggies.  For some, they may only eat once per day while others will go without food for longer.  The water can make you extremely ill in most places except the city and malaria due to mosquitoes is prevalent.
But a Ugandan would tell you that they are fine with the summer months and that God is sending His blessings when He sends 3 months of rain so that their crops will grow and supply their families with food.  They would tell you that they are grateful for any small jobs they can find, no matter how hard, so that they can pay their rent and not have to live outside.  They see their children as a gift frtom God and know that His Will will be accomplished in their lives - no matter what - and they praise Him mightily when they are able to pay their children's school fees.  My friends here would NEVER complain about their beans and rice or ask why they must eat the same food day after day.  They thank God for His provisions and teach their children to do the same.  When they become ill from the water or from mosquitoes are any other number of things that i take for granted, they simply accept it - and pray.  I actually cannot recall any of my Ugandan friends complaining in the years I have come here.  Instead, they say, "Praise God for He is good!"  "Uganda is easy." 
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not forsaken... ~  2 Cor 4:8

As soon as I woke Maggie I could see the dread on her face. She knew today we would be going to Katwe.  Like I did with Matt, i tried my best to prepare her.  I showed her many pictures and videos and told her my stories.  She had a good idea of what she would be walking into, and she was scared.  I felt assured that the elders there would protect her, the same way they protect me.  They know who I am now and they know that we are helping their daughters.  Rachel travels there weekly to check on them so they trust her and she would be going with us. But, regardless, Katwe is absolutely the most frightening and shocking place I have ever been in my life and in a few hours we would be there.
Maggie was very quiet on the way.  We wore rubber boots this time.  I think i have learned my lesson going there in flip flops and I wanted to protect her health as much as I could.  Parasites enter easiest through the soles of your feet and I've been the unlucky receiver of my share.  As we exited the vehicle, I asked her if she ok and she silently nodded.
And then  I took her by the hand and led her into hell on earth.
As we worked our way down between the buildings and stepped into the area where the Karamojong stay, Maggie would not lift her eyes to look.  I had to tell her to.  She was completely silent and I had no idea what she was thinking.  One of the tribe elders came and greeted us and aaked us to follow him and told us to stay close to him.  He walked us around and showed us their current living conditions and what they were up against.  Large sticks which held up heavy plastic with people laying in the dirt underneath of it. Sewage running through the area.  Filthy water laying stagnant in ruts and ditches. Flies layering the ground over piles of human/animal feces.  Very sick crying babies everywhere.  Mucous and blood coming from noses, swollen bloodied lips, sores on their faces and arms - half clothed.  The inner parts of something laying pink and bloody in a pile.  The stench of all of these things combined - the looks of hopelessness, sickness, despair - everywhere you looked.  Everyone speaking in their native language asking us to please help them.  Me - smiling, grabbing their hands and telling them that we are trying but knowing that we could do more.  And the entire time - Maggie does not say a word.
As we left, i thanked them for welcoming us and we quietly walked back to our car.
It's hard for any of us to understand how people can be left to live like this.  Even refugee camps are equipped with cots, clean water, tents, medical care and food.  They receive nothing.  Nothing at all.  Refugees in their own country and no one to help them.

Uganda has changed me.  The people who are closest to me know this.  I thought i was broken prior to meeting the karamojong and the people here.  But God had only been preparing me for a real breaking.  He is breaking me still.  But it is in my brokenness that i find Him.  The breaking inevitably means suffering...But this is when I cling to Him.  When you resist the breaking and hence the suffering, you cease to grow in Him.  You become unpliable in His hands.  If He is going to mold you and create in you the design He had for your must be like clay in the Potter's hands.  But it hurts to be squeezed and stretched and reshaped.  It's a beautiful process to the Potter and one so full of love, but it challenges us to remain in His hands.  My clay is not yet baked.  I am not ready to be placed on His shelf full of His perfection.  I need to be undone again and again and molded and reminded until I begin to finally love the way that He loves.  But the breaking of the vessel that i have created in my own flesh - please God - no matter how much i resist - break it until there is not a recognizable piece left - And then mold me into the daughter you created me to be. Only then can I serve and follow you the way that you have called me to.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground! Psalm 143:10
"If anyone woukd come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me..." Matthew 16:24
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Matthew 6:10 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Monday 3/19/18

On Monday Rachel, Emma, Maggie and i drove to see the new property in mukono.  Most people prefer the city, but not me.  I have fallen in love with the village where  our future school will be built. Red dusty roads, twisting and turning past small clay brick dwellings with goats and chickens and banana trees everywhere you look. Many children as well.  It is a typical rural African village - so peaceful...
Standing on the 5 acres thinking about how far God has brought this ministry in such a short period of time, overwhelms me.  Imagining the classrooms and the dormitory and the chapel - imagining the girls studying and sewing and working in the garden... How, for a brief glimpse of time, they will have the chance to experience what they never dreamt possible. They had mostly given up hope of ever having a chance to matter in this lifetime- let alone to be loved and cared for.  But we have money to raise in order for this to be a reality for them. I cannot make other people care about these girls. I have come to realize that only God can do that. He moves hearts to action  He speaks to peoole and silently moves them to give of themselves and they either shrug off the prompting or they obey Him. For others, i do not believe that He speaks to them at all concerning these girls.  But what i do know is that i thought it was up to me to open up the eyes of my brothers and sisters back home. I was wrong. I tell the story.  God does the rest.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. ~  Psalm 34:18

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday 3/18/18

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed despite the lack of sleep I had last night.  But my poor Maggie - i don't think she was able to sleep until 4 am and suddenly it was 8 and time to wake her for church.
Yesterday, Saturday, we (Rachel, Emma, Andrew and myself) met with our architect, Moses, all day.  We discussed various changes made to the campus, including the need to expand the dormitory. We will be, God willing, proceeding in phases with the next phase being the dormitory, bathrooms, and kitchen.  The dormitory will hold a bit over 100 girls and 2 house matrons, but because we do not have enough funds raised for the classroom and workshop, we will admit approx. 50 girls to the campus and use the other half of the dormitory for our classrooms. We will need to have our kitchen, but our dining hall will have to wait until we raise more money and in the meantime we will lay the cement foundation for the dining area and then put our tent there temporarily.  These are the only buildings needed to move the girls in and we are getting closer to the estimated costs of these particular structures. I am praying that God will continue to work through His people and that they will be moved to sacrificially give.  Currently, our 36 girls are squeezed into a tiny house with no room to even gather.  They have a tent in the front yard where they rotate academic and vocational classes.  They have 2 different levels of academic classes - the ones who require additional and slower teaching and the ones who are on track.  But they are also learning how to sew and knit and do hair and this is all happening under one tent.  So needless to say, we desperately need more space. But God is so faithful and I believe with my whole heart that He wants more of these girls to come to know Him and have a chance at life so i will continue to hope for His provisions...

Today we arrived at the project house around 10 am and the girls were already singing praise and worship songs.  We had been praying that God woukd send us a pastor with a heart to minister to our girls and He did!!  After 4 years, we finally have a permanent pastor - Pastor Gerald Otuwal.  What an amazing spirit filled man of God he is! I was so blessed to hear him preach today along with Rachel's father who was in town for a funeral.  Both pastors placed their hands on my head and prayed over me while the girls sang. Our new pastor is not even requiring payment - only help paying his transport fees. The cost is only $30 per month, so if anyone reading this is interested/willing to sponsor him, please contact me and let me know. 
Our church service lasted about 4 hours and I will give a brief overview of some of the verses preached and taught.
The major themes were: trust, obey, faith, rest
1. Genesis 15.1/Psalm 19.11 -  He taught that God is faithful and He rewards His children for their obedience
2. He preached on Ruth Ch 1&2 - again reward for faithfulness
3. Hebrews 11.6 - faith
4. 2 Peter 3.14 - How He should find us when He returns
5. Jeremiah 6.16/Matthew 11.28 - rest

As the service ended and we rose from our chairs to greet one another, the rain came and once again I could not help feeling that It was a sign of God's blessing on us.  ALL glory and honor to our almighty God who loves us and cares for us.His mercies are surely new every day....

And without faithit is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.  ~ Hebrews 11:6

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday 3/16/18

Today was a very special day for me. My youngest daughter, Maggie, finally had the opportunity to meet my daughters in Uganda!  You could hear them singing as we approached the gate to the house. They were so excited that we had finally arrived.  We took time to greet each other with hugs and then the girls sang songs to us.  My favorite songs are the ones they sing in Karamojong. Augustine read from Lamentations and spoke about surrendering to God. And then John read from Job and spoke about praising God for ALL things - not just the good.  He asked if we still praise Him when everything seems hopeless. It was a good reminder to me.
After we ate rice and beans, some of the girls braided Maggie's hair. As they did, they sang songs together. Maggie began the song, "Yahweh" and they joined in with her. It was a moment I won't forget.
The girls LOVE receiving letters from their sponsors and friends in America.  It brings such great joy to them to read all of the kind and uplifting words which carry such hope.
This work that God has given me to do has blessed me in so many ways.  I am not the same as i once was. I am praying that Maggie will come away from this experience with an even bigger capacity to love and serve others. I am overwhelmed and humbled and so thankful to Jesus for His love and kindness. I am seeing lives transformed in ways some people would have thought impossible.  Watching these girls laughing, dancing and singing today- praising Jesus - i whispered to Maggie that it is easy to forget that these sweet girls were sleeping on the ground - hungry, scared and hopeless.  Abused in ways unspeakable and now - they are singing.  He is healing them daily and renewing their strength.  My prayer  is that each of them will surrender daily to Him and then trust Him with tbeir lives - no matter what.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on tbe ground and worshipped. And he said, "Naked i came from my mother's womb, and naked shall i return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.   ~ Job 1:20-22

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thursday 3/15/18

It is 10:20 Thursday night and Maggie and i are getting ready for bed.  It has been an exhausting few days.  We left Pittsburgh at 145 pm on Tues and arrived in Entebbe at 1030 pm Wed.  We were greeted with bouquets of flowers from Rachel and then we made the journey to kampala.  Today Rachel and i planned our week and spent time catching up.  Tomorrow we will go to see the girls and i am so excited for them to finally meet Maggie.  I will try to update/post to fb and Instagram with pictures and videos because I know there are so many of you that are waiting to see everyone.
I will have so much to share after tomorrow, so please check back.  I thought i would just do a quick update tonight for those of you who are praying and waiting to hear from us.
Maggie told me that one of her friends asked her, "How is Africa?" She told me she did not know how to answer her.  I told her I knew exactly what she meant.  How do you explain in a few words what it feels like to experience so many emotions at one time?  Excitement, awe, anxiety, wonder, fear, sadness, happiness, gratefullness, confusion.... You are surrounded by strange beauty and despair and strong unfamiliar smells and sounds... knowing that you were sent by God who has blessed you with difficult yet life-giving work - so that in the end what really matters is not what Africa is like - but what Jesus is like.  Will they see Him in us? Will they know Him better and love Him more from our time spent together?  We must remember that we did not come here to feel good but to serve Jesus by serving others.  And so if anyone is wondering what they can pray for tonight, please pray that we will take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on the only One that matters...

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  ~ Psalm 37:3