We forget…He does not.

March 25, 2004

Dear Jane,

Psalm 78 reminds us that we are consistent in our forgetfulness of the great works of our God–but he remembers His covenant forever.  That is good good news!

Mike downtown (Small) Casey is off from school today and so after the meeting to train mamas, we are going into Kampala to get haircuts. This is one of those times that brings such remembered pleasure to our days.  Mike has headed to Entebbe to pick up some mini missionaries who are making a second visit to Uganda.  We have had 3 flat tires in the past couple of weeks so I am praying that the patched tires will hold up for the journey.  Yesterday was full and busy.  We had a second interview with a woman that we hoped would be a mama in training. Effective interviewing is so difficult–the women are so desperate for the position that they will often tell us whatever they think we want to hear.  I don’t blame them.  MatatuMeetsCustomer (Small)This dear woman revealed under closer questioning that she is a single woman with an 8 year old child who is living here with her child instead of the child being in Kumi with her mother as she had told us on the first interview.  I praised God for her honesty and was thankful that we did not offer her a job that would make an orphan of her own child!

We also went to Nsambya Babies Home and saw 2 children that we hope can come live here in cottage #4. Over the past week, I’ve spent several hours with our new housemother Robinah Nafuna.   She is a treasure with depth of knowledge, both of people and of faith. She made me laugh so hard when she shared a story with me.  I had invited her to my home for a follow up interview.  Robinah&William (Custom) She got there around the lunch hour and since I knew that her journey on the matatu had been long and hard, I offered her a bowl of bean soup and some tea or water.  She asked for water probably so that she would not cause me extra preparation time.  I felt her eyes watching me quietly as I prepared her meal.  I noticed that she did not drink the glass of water and just assumed that like many Ugandans that drinking water was not her habit.  These folks have to walk long distances to streams and carry the water they need in large plastic “gerry” cans.  Since the water comes with contamination, they must boil all water for drinking and cooking.  I think as a result, they must think of drinking water as a costly extravagance.  DSC00223 (Small) Well, I had drawn her water right from the faucet, and when she saw that I did not “cook” it she was convinced I was a misguided mzungu trying to make her ill!  As she shared what she was thinking about me and these crazy foreigners in the village, I rolled with laughter.  What she did not know then and what will be a great treat for her as she lives here, is that here in the village we have a deep bore well.  The water comes up uncontaminated and immediately suitable for drinking!

Sophie I don’t know if I have shared that we heard that baby Sophie, who we are waiting to bring to Rafiki, was recently hospitalized.  We are not sure what is going on but we did stop by Sanyu while in town to check on things with her.  Joyce met us and took us into the lunch room where the children sit in those little chairs around the edge of the wall to drink their porridge. We saw Sophie but she looked so much smaller and weak.  As Carolyn talked with Joyce, I noticed a sign above her high chair that said “TB use own spoon and cup only!”  Things began to make sense about why Joyce had not released Sophie to us.  We had heard through the grapevine that there has been an outbreak of TB at Sanyu and we had been wondering if any of our children are infected.  They all had passed the TB serology tests but evidently they discovered through chest X-rays that some Sanyu children had the disease.  This throws many things up in the air for us–Carolyn is e-mailing the Rafiki pediatrician in Nairobi to see what we should do now. Well girlfriend, I need to move away from the laptop and get my mind ready for the mamas to come for training today.

gratefully yours,


P.S. Dr. Dan in Nairobi told us to bring Sophie as soon as possible so that we can get her treated for the disease. The treatment can take up to a year.  He told us not to panic about the other children that he would test them all when he visits in April or May and not to worry about it.   That was very encouraging.

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

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!

Tasting His Prepared Mercies

October 2, 2003

This morning I am lingering over coffee and the Word.  I have arranged this as a day off so the family and I will head into Kampala and see FlaviaWithWillKatoBibirye&Chloewhat we can accomplish today.  It has been a good week.  We have completed the screening, interviewing, orientation, and home visit on our 3rd housemother.  She will begin on Wednesday and we are hopeful that our 4 new children will come here to live on Oct. 6th.  Her name is Flavia (the same name as our new cook) and she is a widow who is supporting her older children who are in boarding school far from here.  I like her very much.

It is time for me to begin the “reporting” phase of my job so I have also spent this morning pouring over the background history of these 14 children so that I can write reports of progress that I have seen in them.  sanyuhomewebJane, each time I read these things a protective “How dare you do that to a helpless child?” response comes over me so strong.  I marvel at how many times in the past I have been able to turn away from suffering orphan pictures with no heart response at all — but He will not allow me to turn away from these.  A child thrown into a pit latrine and pulled out maggot covered, a child abandoned in a taxi park, twins left starving and alone in a house with their dead sibling lying nearby—it is by God’s grace that they were saved from death and so may He grant them to grow up and make a difference in other lives! 

Carosanyu_babies8.jpglyn has developed a relationship with the Administrator of Sanyu Babies Home in Kampala.  Our first children have come to Rafiki either from Sanyu or Nsambya Babies Home. Sanyu was begun in the 1920’s and ministers to about 70 children from infancy to 4 years old.  sanyu-laundry.jpg

After that age if they are not adopted they move to foster care or other orphanges.  Sanyu is affliated with the Church of Uganda but also receives help from philanthropic volunteers from Germany, Austria and the United States.  It is doing a great redemptive work in the midst of an inundating orphan crisis.  I will not soon forget walking into rooms with children lining the walls eating porridge in those tiny little chairs.  To scan the room saying a prayer, “Lord which one out of all of these do you want to come to Rafiki?” eating-at-sanyu.jpg

I finally went out and bought some cookbooks although there are not many available here. Why didn’t I pack a cookbook in my suitcase?  DSC02464Flavia can follow recipes and I was weary of writing them from my head day after day.  We worked together to make Chicken Paprika with Herb Dumplings last night and it was very good!  I am finally getting the hang of the way things taste here so that I can manipulate ingredients to get the flavors I am hungry for.

She is able to do African dishes from her own memory and they are flavorful instead of bland-she did my ironing yesterday and sweeps and keeps after the dust which is a constant chore–red dust blows in through open windows and covers everything in a days time. I asked Carolyn’s house help to come and teach her to clean because that girl is meticulous. 

Flavia learns very quickly so now our bathrooms are cleaner than I could keep them.  I am having to rearrange the kitchen until I buy a stool–she is about 4′ 9″ tall and I have every bowl and spice out of her reach!   She loves listening to Casey’s radio/cassette player while she works.  She listens to music but more often she listens to a Ugandan Pastor who has a radio ministry.

love you bunches,