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,

Top and Bottom of the Morning

December 6, 2003


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,


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,

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