A New Day, A New Opportunity

January 6, 2004

Dear Friend,

kampala02This morning I am tasting the mercy of God helping me wait for word that James has arrived in the States safely. We left the village early so that we could enjoy a final farewell dinner with him.  Since our arrival in Kampala, he had wanted to try this Indian restaurant that was on the top floor of the “mall” in Kampala. 291576110_2503a25d66  We decided that would be the place to celebrate our time together in Africa and his beginning again at Grove City.   The view was spectacular, and the setting of the restaurant was very festive.  We had the whole restaurant to ourselves since we were eating so early no one else was in the place.  James seemed a little nervous but was intent on being upbeat.  It turned out to be a lovely, lingering time.  The food was excellent but scorching hot– we compensated by ordering the large bottled water to help douse the flames on our tongues!   That was a great idea until we faced the reality of what it would feel like to travel for 40 minutes to Entebbe Airport, over potholed roads, after consuming 2 liters of water!  Casey was seriously uncomfortable on the trip and I think her pain allowed me to forget the unavoidable pain that was ahead for my heart.  We had to make one of those quick good-byes because of the airport security in Entebbe.  uganda3 I longed to be able to sit with him until time to board but it was not to be.  I thought I caught a glimpse of fear in his eyes and I almost grabbed him and said, “Don’t go.”

It killed me to look on that but he pressed on and said he would call as soon as he could.  We didn’t have an international card to give him so I think his plan was to call you and ask you to give us a quick call to let us know he has arrived at Dulles.  We have learned that Mike’s Honda was not starting and so Cindy and her husband are trying to get that repaired before James has to head back to PA.

Jane, James has a very tender fondness and respect for you.  I think he would truly appreciate knowing that someone was thinking about him and willing to give him a call to let him know that. The truth is, I would appreciate knowing that someone closer than me is watching out for him.  This is hard.

As we have shared before, I can be as miserable as I want to be and there are times when I give in and get pretty miserable. More often I am thinking,

“Lissa is God still God?”

“Can He care for James in your absence or not?”

“Can He care for Him better than you can?”

“Is the joy of the Lord my strength or did my joy go with James?”

“Lissa, are you so faithless that you consider yourself mistreated in this separation?”

“Lissa, do you believe that I will never leave you or forsake you?  Do you believe that for James as well?”

I find the rehearsal of truth moves me on and brings to my aching heart strong comfort that I need.  You and I have often talked about how there is no help in sitting around describing the pain–it only gets deeper and worse–I know this is a grace from God and I am thankful.

Today I will go to SOS to get 2 children immunized.  There I will encounter Sister Immaculate.  She is a heavy set Ugandan woman who dresses in the old style white nurse’s uniform.  When I think of my past encounters with her, the words “gruff” and “severe” come to mind. Her way is to sort of bark orders at you but she will smile every now and again if she feels so inclined. I find myself trying to coax a smile from her!   I hope the day at the desk will bear much fruit in lesson preparation my friend.

I love you bunches–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,

Entertaining Angels Unawares

October 29, 2003

Hey Friend,

The child we were with yesterday is adorable–his parents are dead and he has been staying in an army barracks with Ugandan soldiers.  The man who took him in has been called up north to Gulu to fight the rebels there.  What that has meant is that Yoweri is being passed around like a football and maybe even taking care of himself.Visiting with Yoweri

When Carolyn and I picked him up to go for a blood screening, he was living at a “restaurant” with people who seemed not to care for him at all.  They must have hoped he would come to stay with us because they did have him dressed and clean so he would make a good impression.

This little boy has lost both parents to HIV and we are praying that his test is clear so he can come here.  We had an enjoyable morning with him,  I could tell that he had absorbed the male influence as he lived the soldier life. Beer sign (Small) As we drove through Kampala, he pointed out every beer billboard to us yelling excitedly, “Look, bee-ah”.  When he urinates he also knows how to aim and hit the target, hitting the center of the toilet rather than the wall and the seat or the floor is no problem for him! That is a skill we are hoping he will share with our other boys–after all it is a training center!  We will take the bad with the good!DSCN3942

We had a school conference at Heritage International school last week.  Casey’s teachers told us she is remarkably adjusted for someone who has been uprooted and brought to Africa.  Her Bible teacher says she regularly puts in prayer requests for the ministry here and that she sees herself as part of it.  She says that is rare–MKs are notorious for resenting being dragged into ministry by their parents.  It was good to hear.

BrighterMolly Carolyn and I are off to Sanyu this morning to set our eyes on a little girl named Molly.  We hope to bring her to Rafiki if her tests are all clear.  Finding adoptable girls is not easy–families will struggle to keep their girls since the future promises a bride price when she marries.  We got the 2004 Rafiki calendars yesterday and our kids are well represented. Samson Kisekka is on the front cover and others throughout.  It was fun to see.Molly1

Oh dear one, in your thoughts about wanting God’s mercy regarding giving–that subject stays in my living here.  You know God has mercifully protected us from taking pride in all that we have “given up”.  He brought us here and placed us in the midst of a people who stare in wide eyed wonderment at all the stuff we have.

I really saw this last week when Carolyn invited a very old woman to come and visit us in the village.  She is a neighbor who lives right outside the main gate.  I keep thinking how rich she would be if she could sell the loofas off her big tree to Bath & Body stores!  This JjaJa (Grandmother) has been very offended that we came and built right in the middle of “her” garden path and have not even allowed her in the gate to greet and visit.  She sat in Carolyn’s sparsely furnished living room looking around and said, “You have many things.  When someone comes to visit they would not have to fear there would be no space to sleep–your floor is very large!”

So to these having a large floor is a luxury much less a washer, cold box, radio, automobile, coffee maker, mattresses, and multiple changes of clothes.  It is very easy to see we have not given up much at all!   Carolyn served her a Coke and she broke out in a huge smile and said, “You have made me a party!”  She is probably in her late 60’s–a real JjaJa– she is somewhat of a character around here and her more upstanding neighbors make fun of her love of banana wine and resist associating with her.  I was glad we did not know it was scandalous to entertain her!  She reciprocated by sending two sugar canes to the children for them to chew on. DSC01433 (Small)

All I know my friend is the grace to give is like all the others–a gift — and I pray that more missions committees will begin to long for the gift rather than fear it.  I also know how huge the temptation to want more is when there is more around–I am not noble in not wanting a larger wardrobe here–I just am hemmed in because there is nothing to be tempted by!  My Ugandan sisters hold my heart in check by saying –“Another new dress JjaJa?”   I have worn the same dresses out of the suitcases we brought for these 3 months.  Now that our boxes have arrived and I have more options, I am ashamed of having so much!   DSC01469 (Small) Well, I need to get ready to take Chloe to the clinic for immunizations.  Carolyn is pressing to get little Yoweri here with us by the end of the week.  We both have been haunted by his face when we returned him to the restaurant.

His mercy —my hope today!  Oh, as we went over John 6 emphasizing that salvation is God’s initiating mercy–that no one comes unless the Father draws him.  Mama Jenipher said, “Es-chuse me JjaJa–there is something I have failed to ask.  I know that it is God who decides who will believe and who will not –but does that mean that it is not the unbeliever’s fault that they do not believe?”  Needless to say, we jumped off into Romans 1 and had a thrilling time marveling at the mystery of all that is revealed there.

Tis mercy all!

For God so Loved the World

October 22, 2003

Good morning friend,

The rain whipped through at 4:30 this morning and I got up to close windows and decided to stay up. You cannot believe how hard it can rain here and the ground, like a huge sponge, receives it all and grows everything into lushness! morning sky Some have said, “If you throw plastic on the ground in Uganda, it will grow!”.  Early morning remains the sweetest time of all the day for me–it is quiet and the sunrises are worth getting up for!  The heavens announce the glory of God morning and evening–it is a humbling display.

Today we leave for Jinja and I pray we will see things that are delightful and enjoy each other’s company.  Jinja is about an hour and a half from Rafiki village and it is a place run by a Dutchman who planned it to cater to missionaries.  There are very modest bando style cottages to stay in but the landscape is gorgeous and refreshing.sunrise4 uganda-map.jpgThe pace has been nonstop since we landed so it will be great to have some time to think on all that is and has gone on.   DSC00161 (Small) I know it is God’s help to me that my work here allows me very little time with James–I sense that there is a weaning of the heart going on.  I’ll miss his help with the kids, I wonder how I will pass his room and know that he may not return to this place.  JDSC00693ane, I am beginning to wonder how I will put him on a plane in Entebbe and let him go–there is an indescribable ache in my heart as I consider that. DSC00385 DSC00376 Yet even as I think that thought, this fresh wind blows in and I am reminded that the same God who pushed me off of one continent and onto another– and who provided for all that I have needed (can you hear Robert’s hymn influencing me?)  will not leave me standing comfortless. You can make yourself so sorrowful by rehearsing what causes your heart to hurt!  So, I am most grateful that this gift of get away time has come to us so that I can savor this young man’s company a while longer.

DSC00506 (Small) I began thinking this morning about Psalm 102:18–about the “people not yet created that may praise the LORD.” I thought about the children He will bring here over the years–they are not yet created but to Him He already has the plans for each of them in place.  How marvelous is this God?      DSC00518 (Small) dsc00427-small.JPG My friend I have had you in my thoughts and prayers today as well.  I have prayed for renewed strength for you now that He has seen you through ACTP and you will be refreshing the retreat talks for Myrtle Beach.  dsc00381-small.JPGI trust that there was much that He let you see and enjoy in the prayer retreat.  I hope there were people who sang from the same sheet of music with you and that God Himself stirred up hunger for more prayer in His people.  jamesgettingdirty.jpgJust think –if we were not so captivated by Christ and kingdom work–we’d have to occupy ourselves by taking bus trips to Branson, Missouri!  We have been rescued –we are set free to enjoy our Maker!  You are a cherished friend–until later, 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