Rainbow Connection

June 14, 2004

Dear Jane,

I trust the time with Nancy and David Writebol was good for all, they seem like such a devoted missionary couple.  I told Mike I hope you heard stories of people impassioned for Christ.  I look forward to seeing them at Enrichment Week in San Antonio.

DSC02405 (Small) I went to Owino Market on Monday and bought 57 T-shirts, 2 pair of sandals, 42 pairs of shorts and 5 book bags for under $100.  Each outfit for the children costs 75 cents!  For the last two days I have been culling worn out, too little clothes from the cottages and replacing them with “new” things.  The children are thrilled and are colorful as rainbows.  When I give new clothes to the children, I have to first take the old ones away.  If I leave them in the cottages, the mamas continue to have the children wear them no matter what the condition.  This is not a culture that has the luxury of  “throwing things out” — it just is not done here.  They really do not have any understanding of why I come and take things away!  It is very difficult for them and they continue to tell me that a pair of shorts or shirt is still good–regardless of the holes or faded look.

When I do get clothes out of the cottages, it is when they are in better condition than what most children in the surrounding areas are wearing.  I take the clothes that are recyclable to Central Baptist in Wakiso and let Susan distribute them to the children in her congregation. I will never forget the day we went there for Sunday School and a little three year old girl came in by herself totally naked except for a string tied around her waist.  I actually bought her a church outfit and knickers which she was so proud of she lifted her dress for everyone to see!

DSC02113 (Small)I had a fun morning with the aunties and children.  It is Hero’s Day and so all the children were home doing chores from 9-10.  At 10 the aunties had promised them that we would go get mangoes.  Kasmiri our gardener got a long pole and jabbed at the mangoes until he had knocked about 15 out of a tree. We had a feast. DSC02136 (Small) They like to eat their fruit before it is ripe here so the taste of an unripe mango is about like a Granny Smith apple.  We sat and laughed and enjoyed those mangos and it was a sweet time of fellowship.

Later, Mike and I went to town for groceries and we found my favoriteDSC02139 (Small) cracker in stock so I am a happy woman!  It is difficult to find crisp things here and I get so hungry for that.  Mike discovered a cracker made in Malaysia that is really the ticket! I can’t tell you how thrilled you can get when you find something like what you loved in the States–it makes a party!

It is Marsha’s afternoon to cover the activity time and dining hall so I am in with Casey who is off from school. We gave Edith a ride home from work and she took me to her place to meet the 2 orphans that she raises along with her own 3 children. John and Norbert are from 2 different women who have died of AIDS and named Edith as the caretaker. Edith’s countenance about this is never that it is burdensome or out of the ordinary to pick up a couple of extra children.  She cannot imagine that there was any other response than to joyfully take these children in.  One of the boys is infected with HIV but Edith has kept that from the other children so that he will not be ostracized.  In material things, this family is not rich but in love and care they are most blessed!

Well it is the end of the day and I am going onto the porch with a glass of tea, my Bible and watch the sun go down…..

I hope the Lord is very near you today my friend.

with much love,

lissa

Training the Palate

February 5, 2004

Greetings My Friend,

One of the goals we have here at the village is to train the children’s palate’s to enjoy a variety of foods.  In their culture, there are several staple foods, but beyond that many never have the opportunity to explore.   In the dining hall, the lunch meal consists of national food that the mamas and children really enjoy.  When posho (like very stiff grits) is served, the mamas smile and say it will make a good nap for the cottages.

DSC00362 (Small) Trying to plan menus that are filling, healthy and enjoyable has presented us with somewhat of a challenge. Carolyn was very excited recently because she had figured out a way to make macaroni and cheese to be served at our evening meal.  The cooks did a great job of preparing it and we expected everyone to really enjoy this new treat–after all, who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?  DSC00361 (Small)

Well, we heard nothing about the new dish from the mamas or from the children.  A few days later I was hauling some of the aunties who work during the day helping the mamas back to their village.  On the ride, I asked, “How did you and the children enjoy the macaroni and cheese?”  There was not an immediate response so I turned to Auntie Janet and asked her again.  You need to know that Ugandans are always eager to be polite and to please, so Janet turned to me with a big smile and a lift in her voice,  “Oh JjaJa, I think we have enjoyed it very much, only one has vomited!”  I thought I would never stop laughing at that and I almost ran the Prado up the side of a bank before I regained control.   Now, when Yoweri finds out that we are having macaroni he whines, “JjaJa, not the maca-ronees!”DSC00614 (Small) (2)

Well, I dropped Janet off at her place and proceeded to take another helper to her home.  As we traveled she said, “JjaJa, I am wondering if you would give me the advice (pronounced add-vice)?”  DSC01113 (Small)That was her way of saying, I want to speak to you privately for counsel.  I told her that I was willing to help if I could.  She is a precious friend and I have come to love her dearly.  She shared with me that her husband who had abandoned the family about six months ago, had returned the night before.  She said he was very apologetic and asked for forgiveness for wanting to flee from the crushing that poverty had made to his sense of manhood.  He despaired when daily faced with his inability to raise school fees for his children or to feed them adequately.  He felt trapped and unable to break out of the hopeless circumstance.  The pressure to provide when it was impossible to find a job took its toll and he ran. During all the months he was gone, Pastor Fred and his wife Susan stepped in and provided for this family.

DSC02371 (Small)Now it seems, he is ready to return home and she is more than willing to receive him.  Her dilemma was that he wanted to resume physical intimacy with her.  She remembered talks that Pastor’s wife had given about the way HIV is spread, so she had refused him and explained to him that she was not going to allow that until he had had a blood test to determine his status. She asked me if it was true that the virus could be passed between husband and wife that way.  I told her that Susan had given her true advice and that she had done the right thing. Her husband proclaimed his fidelity and said there had been no women in the six months, but this dear woman bravely resisted.  Jane, she was thinking rightly but the truth is she has no resources to carry out this plan.  Like everyone here, she struggles financially–there is never enough money to cover just the bare bones basics of life.  Her sons and daughters have not been able to attend secondary school this semester because she has no money for school fees.  When I dropped her off earlier this week, there was no food in the home.  I stupidly asked why she didn’t get fresh vegetables since they are so plentiful and cheap.  She responded,  “JjaJa, what difference does it make what the price is if I have no money at all?”    She added, “JjaJa, a meal of eggplant and tomatoes does not fill a hungry stomach through the night and day.”  The custom here is to drink a cup of chai in the morning and wait until very late in the evening to eat one meal that will hold you through the night and next day.  DSC01128 (Small)

Since it has been my job to take people to Ebenezer Lab, I knew that a reliable blood test costs more than this little family could ever raise or justify.   How could she come up with 9,000 shillings (at least 3 days wages) for blood testing when she has children who are not getting enough to eat?  It is through difficult choices like this that AIDS has claimed Africa.  DSC02373 (Small)Anyway, I told her that I would transport she and her husband to the lab and pay for the testing and praised her for her wisdom and for standing up in a gentle but firm way.  It takes one day to get the results, so I trust God will protect her until this is settled.  Friend, you are on my mind and in my heart–may He help renew your heart today as you prepare for prayer tomorrow.

With love,
lissa

For Behold, I Bring you Good News of a Great Joy

December 27, 2003

Dear Friend,

In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions. (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)

DSC00994 To be the apple of God’s eye is an astounding thought isn’t it?  How confident we can be when we know that His love treasures us in the way that these verses describe.  I think these children here must be the apple of God’s eye!

Christmas was different but it was a “good” different.  In many ways, it was  more like Christmas than any I’ve ever experienced.  So, while it was not familiar, it was deeply meaningful. The mamas and the children were wowed and their reactions made my Christmas!  Christmas morning,  I arrived at the dining hall to put on the turkey.  I took your recipe book with me to show the cooks who had never roasted a turkey how to manage this new treat.  I was so thankful that I had packed that treasure.  DSC00997 I prepared the dining hall for worship, and then had a sweet time of prayer with the other ROS.  We were so glad that our friends from Wakiso Central Baptist were coming to the village to lead us in worship.  Pastor Fred planned not only to preach but to bring a choir to make the services very special.  They were 37 minutes late (my old time conscious self was keeping track) and the children were becoming a little squirmy.  I decided that we should begin, so I followed the African custom of opening worship with a praise and thanksgiving time. How glad I was that the group was late!  It gave space to two our mamas who were eager to stand and proclaim that this Christmas they had something that they didn’t last year.  DSC00995They spoke not only of the blessing of having a job and a reliable salary but of having a call and a sense of purpose in their lives. It was a deeply emotional time and one that ministered to my heart so much.  I found myself longing for this personal sharing to be part of our worship times back home. With time still available, Mama Jenipher then shared a song that she says strengthens her soul called “Stand by me Jesus”.  God was already moving in our midst when our friends from Central Baptist arrived. The Junior Choir sang 3 wonderful, spirited songs which captured the children’s attention.  Pastor Fred delivered a sermon that asked and answered this question:  “Here in Uganda where there is serious illness, poverty, death, war and pestilence, what is there to be merry about?”  He led us in considering that in the midst of all that is difficult –the difficulty is swallowed up in the blessing of knowing and being known by Christ–the Light of the World. I was fed once again on the miracle of the Light breaking into the darkness and the darkness not being able to overcome it. It was a great morning of worship! DSC00998

Afterwards, we had a huge buffet with roast beef, turkey, Kaloo (hamburger and millet flour), Matoke (a banana type staple), white sweet potatoes, green beans, chapati (thick tortillas), jello, macaroni and cheese and soda.  The children ate until they were sick and the mamas mounded food on their plates like field hands. Jenipher’s family knew that she was spending the day with Mzungus and so they told her not to forget Nehemiah 8:10!  I had to go home and look it up and was astounded that they knew it!  That verse says,  go and enjoy choice foods and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.  This day is sacred to our Lord.  For the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Isn’t it interesting that we well-fed westerners only remember the last part of that verse?  Hungry people see great hope in the first part!

One of our little boys named Jovan could not get over the privilege of being allowed to get up from the table and get anything he wanted off the buffet line.  He is a stocky little guy who will win your heart in a minute.  Jovan04May (WinCE) Today, he ate and ate.  DSC00889 (Small) Finally, Teopista told him he must stop or he would be sick.  With his most determined face and firm command of preschool English he responded, “For me, I want more!”  When he said “more” it sounded like “Mow-wah”.  Casey and I have rolled with laughter over that moment.  Now whenever we want something, we say, “For me, I want more!”

I broke the normal schedule and announced that we were going to nap until we woke up rather than making everyone wake at 2:30 for a snack time.  They were thrilled.  We took pictures of our friends piling into one truck and heading back to Wakiso for their next worship service.  I thought it would be a great idea to get all the children in one shot–that was a hoot–it took 5 tries to get one with all of them sort of facing forward!16kidsMerryChristmas (Small)

I too came home and napped and then got up and made some rough curtains for Casey’s room out of material that Christine Miller had left here in our home.  When we cleaned out cottage #5, Stu offered me the treadle machine that had been stored there.

Sarah gave Mom a phone card and she called on Christmas Eve which was sweet–she was so proud of herself for being able to dial all those numbers and then to have success in being able to reach us.  God graced the call and it was not interrupted or ended abruptly as sometimes happens with international calls.  She cried some and my heart was very heavy with homesickness then.  Jane, that is enough to get a flavor of what happened here on Christmas.  I am anxious to hear of your time.

There are sixteen children in Uganda who now know that Christmas is “Happy Birthday, Jesus” and that he was born to Mary and Joseph and that shepherds and wise men came to worship this glorious little King.  I pray God will use those meager beginnings to grow the heart of worship in them.  I feel as though I neglected my own family to make Christmas for these here–but they insist that they do not interpret this Christmas as loss but as gain.  We opened the gifts you sent during a 15 minute window that I had before returning to the dining hall to do the next thing.  I am so grateful for those gifts my friend, you have fed our souls and satisfied our need for the rustle of tissue paper–Casey was thrilled and Mike spent the time I was napping watching the race tape!  James is becoming a little sullen with us all and I pray that that is just his way of expressing uneasiness about returning to school.  I pray that God will make this releasing easy on both our hearts. He did say, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas” and wished that it didn’t have to be celebrated so early in the morning!

I enjoyed pondering verse 17 of our Psalm today, it says, “when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness”Psalm 17:15.  May it be so for both of us today dear one–I cannot describe all the ways I miss you right now.

Rejoicing in our Savior’s birth,
lissa

Top and Bottom of the Morning

December 6, 2003

Greetings!

rain The day started with me practically in a panic but it has calmed down and I have managed a nap!  It was raining cats and dogs at 5:00 when I got up this morning.  I headed out with rubber boots and umbrella to “assist” the new cook who was on breakfast duty for the first time.

It turns out I was the breakfast cook for 16 children and 3 mamas today!  When I realized I was on, I reminded myself of “Lucy” in the episode where she was working in the bakery–we both had no business doing what we were trying to do!

Susan, the new cook, did arrive drenched and apologetic at 7:20.  She has no watch or alarm clock–again, we expect the Africans to have items that they deem unnecessary and too expensive–it is a miracle that she arrived when she did.  Over and over, I am learning that exact time is only important to us muzungus who keep schedules–no right minded African would have ventured forth in such a downpour;  they wait on the bad weather to pass and then resume activities. We, howevDSC00552 (Small)er, allow the schedule to determine our activities.

Well, the reality was that 16 hungry children and 3 tired mamas were going to be arriving and so cooking was needed.  I had to call Mike out of bed to come and light the gas stove and get the grill to work.  We have been having problems with it igniting and this morning was no exception. Things might have gone smoother if I had been familiar with where things were stored but since I was in a huge commercial facility, the way I found things was to open every cabinet. When the children arrived and lined up at the wash basin, the pancakes were coming off the grill!  Yeah! I stuck around to make sure our dishwasher showed and then headed home to regroup.DSC00556

It continues to rain and Casey and I are just staying in.  I am now taking worm medicine after some suspicious symptoms and it seems I have gotten the fungal ringworm that is going around as well.  I did some preparation for our weekly ROS meeting and it was an encouraging time.  I drove the Enis’ to Entebbe so that they could catch their flight home for furlough.  It was a restful trip, good to be alone for a while.  We had an encouraging ROS meeting last night.  Shirlene shared that one of the girls at the girl’s vocational center became aware of her salvation yesterday and there was much rejoicing over that.

 

Carolyn and I really wanted to get Molly from Sanyu and get her settled at Molly (Small)Rafiki before her furlough, so sweet Molly has arrived! She cried a lot her first night but the next morning she was very satisfied drinking morning chai with her new brothers.   Molly&family (Small) MollySponsorWinter2004 (Small)She is giving our very serious Mama Teopista a run for her money, there is a precocious personality behind those saucer eyes!  DSC01749 (Small) She squeals the highest pitch squeal you’ve ever heard when she is disturbed about anything.   Somehow Teopista finds that delightful instead of infuriating, she throws her head back and smiles and says, “JjaJa, this one is very stubborn!”  I had to learn that that word means “bright” or “smart” and not obstinate as we Americans mean it when we use the word.  DSC00961 (Small) Teopista raised 2 boys of her own and loves finally having a little girl.  Molly is not ready to handle the solid food that we serve in the dining hall, so we are running to town to get formula so she can drink her calories. It is so encouraging that we are starting to be entrusted with the babies.  I think how much healthier they will be with a good diet and personal attention in their early months.

better close now–love you bunches,

lissa

December 12, 2003

Dear Friend,

It has been a difficult week for me — not in work or anything other than my spirit refusing to be content in Christ. Woven in  and around that disquiet is that James seems to be aware that his time is drawing short and is purposing to savor all that he can while here.  That is a good thing; but it makes real that the end is near as I observe him getting up early to visit with his Dad, joining me at play time with the children, sitting and wanting to spend time talking with me, and walking around and photographing his favorite sites here around the village.  It has been a huge blessing to have him here with us.
Garden City Today we bought a little artificial Christmas tree at Uchumi’s–our Korean owned supermarket chain that we liken to Ukrops.  This little tree has 160 lights and that really is enough to make the effect.  I didn’t think I wanted a tree this year.  The surroundings do not resemble wintry Christmas card scenes and I have always had a hard time thinking you can have Christmas in a Southern California or Florida setting!

In the end, sentiment won out. I did want to have some moments during the holidays when I could turn off all the lights and sit on the sofa and enjoy twinkling, festive colors.  I am planning a special lunch meal and Christmas Day worship service for the staff and children.  Pastor Fred is considering coming here and leading us in worship before he tends to his own flock at Central Baptist. Uchumi

I went to Owino market which is the place we go to buy clothes for the children–I think I’ve told you about it –a huge market of second hand clothing from Europe and America.  James asked for that trip to be his Christmas present.  He got t-shirts and I was able to get 25 pieces of clothing for the children and 2 pairs of shoes for $10. As I was crossing the street to wait on Mike to return and pick us up , a thief ran up behind me and jerked my gold necklace off my neck.  So surprised and stunned, all I could think to do was to call him a SOB. Not a great witness moment!  I was a fool for wearing it–I had just forgotten it was on.

The good news is it cannot be stolen twice and it is gone and I need not worry or plan how to keep it anymore. You know Jane, as I stood on the corner, I cried–not for the loss of the necklace– but that circumstance of being robbed seemed to serve as a hub around which many pent up emotions coalesced and found expression.  Standing there feeling helpless with tears streaming, questions surfaced and my mind asked, “How much more stripping Lord?  It feels like my culture, my home, my family, my friends, teaching, singing, money, privacy, time to do nothing, time to study, my sense of knowing how to do life, the ease of moving around, all of it has been snatched like that necklace! How much more?”

I am ashamed of those thoughts and thankful to God that under the watchful gaze of my housegirl Flavia and James I recovered. I was able to see in Flavia’s eyes such a sense of hurt that I had been “abused” that I wanted to straighten up and not cause her pain.  I surely didn’t want to be another rich American crying over the loss of a material possession as I stood in the street surrounded by hundreds of people who did not know if they would have food today or not!

James spoke clarifying words and warned me not to become bitter or to let myself become suspicious or fearful.  The Lord met me with much grace and responded to my self-pitying question as I was preparing for the ROS Bible study meeting.  We are working through Matthew together and this week we focused on the Beatitudes.  He fed me promise after promise and I am grateful.  By the end of my preparation I was settled in my heart and marveling at the blessedness of having all that hinders God stripped away!

With much love,
lissa

Here I am to Worship

September 23, 2003

Good Morning Friend,

How much I have to learn about what it means to worship!  It is not about being comfortable in a pew–it is not about having a great sound system–it is not about beginning on time or being well ordered–it is not about being timed down to the hour.  As I engage in worship with my friends here they show me it is the greatest treat of the week!  They come prepared to stay the day! They hunger to talk and share of all the ways God has blessed them in the past week, so the services begin with testimonies of God’s faithfulness–there are so many wanting to speak that the Pastor often has to limit it to 8 or so! central baptist 2(Small) It was heart melting when our helper Flavia stood up and with tears in her voice gave thanks to God for her new job with JjaJa Mike and Lissa. What a privilege it was to be in worship in this place!  Worship is alive in Wakiso and in my heart.  There are two churches that we take the children to.  One is close, just a couple of miles from the village and is called Wakiso Central Baptist Church. That church is led by a wonderful shepherd named Pastor Fred Kibuuka. Fred and Susan (Medium) (Small) His wife is named Susan and she is a great help to Rafiki both in ministering to children and identifying girls who would be good candidates for the Girls’ Center.  

When worship begins,  it opens with music.  Here at Wakiso they have a fragile electronic piano and a man whose enthusiasm more than makes up for any lack of skill.  His chord progressions are more rhythmic and drum beat like than they are carrying any melody line.  The worshippers love for the music to be vigorous and to build in energy and participation, so the praise time goes on and on with people on their feet clapping and so joy filled. I was struck with how the faces are smiling and how delighted they are to be together—our worship seems passive and unemotional by comparison.   DSC02785 (Small) Solos flow into congregational singing and back again–and yet there are no bulletins and you are convinced that what goes on is spontaneous and honest expression from hearts overflowing with love and gratefulness to God.  Following the music, the Pastor invites the congregation to pray and everyone does–out loud and at the same time–the cacophony of sound that rises is powerful–some crying out for mercy, some jubilant and thankful, some confessing and asking for forgiveness. 

There is no hurry in any of this and at a time that seems corporately sensed a quieter song begins and we are ushered together into a time of Pastoral Prayer.  The most striking difference in American and African prayer is that we bring a list of requests to God and they bring a list of praise and thanksgiving.  What a contrast–we have much and want more– they have almost nothing and are profoundly grateful and want to speak it!   The time of offering is also an event–there is a table with a basket set up front and the people sing and dance on the way to deposit their shillings and seem thrilled to have some to give.

I love Pastor Fred’s wife Susan.  She is a fireball and completely dedicated to children’s ministry. DSC02788 (Small) Children from the surrounding village wander into church at odd times and find a place on a crooked, rough bench and look up to her and listen attentively.  They sit pressed together for about 45 minutes relatively still and listening–no flannel board visuals, no VCR, no snack time or toy time–they listen to her teach/preach from Scripture.  The children range in age from about three years old to about eleven. 

The only discipline I see being done is for her to move a child to the front row so they could listen better!  She too begins her time by asking the children, “Who has a testimony of what they are thankful to Jesus for?”  25 hands reach for the sky and they are anxious to go to the front and tell their friends how Jesus helped them by giving them a t-shirt, recovery from flu (cold), providing school fees, healing from malaria, some new slippers (flip flops), or a mother healed, or getting a sweetie (candy), etc.  It is the most humbling thing in the world to sit amid a people who seem to have nothing but who have eyes to see that life is a gift and who have trained eyes to look for something to be grateful for.  How much I have to learn about worship!  Until later—lissa