Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coming Home

On a flight home this morning
and I can't help but stare at You.
My face pressed against this little window,
the sky explodes in praise to You.
-Bethany Dillon, Waking Up

Here I am in Amsterdam once again! I will be home at 6:20 tonight (Wednesday) and I am so excited. It has been a fantastic trip, especially joining up with the Wimberly team for the Kenya church plant. What a blessing! Even though I have only known these people a few days, they feel like family and I will be so sad to leave them. The first sunday at the new church in Akala was incredible. As expected, the mzungus were pushed out the door because so many villagers came to participate in the worship, sunday school, sermon, and the comissioning of the new pastor. These people will be in my prayers forever! It is amazing what a bond you can form with a third world village in a few days.



The safari was SO FUN! The whole time we drove around the park, I couldn't believe that it was actually happening to me. We saw zebras, flamingos, monkeys (lots), rhinos, a giraffe, antelope, water buffalo, and lots of other things. Even some kind of rodent I had never seen before! It was a big treat, even though my camera died at the beginning of the trip. We were all so, so amazed at the animals and the scenery. I was thinking how excited God must have been for us to enjoy his art so much!


I have a full heart and a lot to think about as far as how Africa fits into my future plans. I am excited to see my family and friends. Only a few more hours on a plane and I will be HOME!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kenya!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Well, I made it safe and sound to Kisumu, Kenya. I have joined a team from Wimberly to plant a church in the village of Akala. Yesterday was my first day on the trail and I loved it! Church plants are what I am used to in Africa, so this felt so normal. The team is an incredible answer to prayer...it has been hard to pour out so much spiritually for the past month without getting a lot of encouragement from other people. It's an amazing blessing to be with likeminded, sweet, white people who understand me! I love African people dearly, but it is a huge treat to be with this team. They already feel like my family. I spent time praying with a few of them this morning and I feel so, so blessed. Thank you Lord!

Kenya isn't much different from Uganda, as I expected. People here in Kenya treat visitors a little differently...they always invite them into the house (there are actually houses here along with the huts!) and have a long conversation. Instead of the 20-something houses I would be able to share with in a morning in Uganda, we have visited about half that here. At first that disappointed me, but I actually really value that conversation time!

There are a lot of rumors floating around about the church. Aida says other churches in the area are spreading them because they don't want their members to leave and go to the new church. Every single person I talked to yesterday asked me if that church was for devil worship...AFTER I finished the gospel presentation. It seriously surprised me every time because I was thinking, "Why would I be talking about God and Jesus if this church was to worship the devil?". Very confusing. One man I talked to had a flashlight in his lap and I asked him how it worked. He said that he shines it in a dark place, like under furniture, and then he can see everything underneath. I told him that the light of Christ was the same way. The church isn't hiding in shadows, we are proclaiming our intentions and the good news of Jesus openly. I told him to come and check it out for himself, to "shed some light" on what he thought was surely a deep, dark secret. I hope he comes to the crusade today. Please pray for those rumors to be uncovered and destroyed.

I have one more trail day and then the first sunday at the brand new church. I will be back in America in 5 days!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Last Day in Uganda

'Tis mercy all immense and free
for oh, my God, it found out me.
Amazing love, how can it be
that Thou my God should die for me?


This afternoon I said goodbye to all the kids, teachers, and staff at Covenant School. This morning was a wreck--I planned a super fun treasure hunt for the kids so I could creatively give them some school supplies, but it did not go off quite like I had planned. I was seriously ready to throw in the towel and quit early! But this afternoon when I was chatting with one of the teachers outside before I left, Faith came running out of the classroom and said in her little African accent, "Teach-ah Julie, I will miss you!". She was followed by lots of other kids. There were a few tears from a little girl named Gift, and lots of kids saying "God bless you Teacher Juliet!". I cried too! I am so sad to leave these kids! Saying goodbye to them was so hard. What a precious thing it was to be able to spend 3 weeks building relationships with children halfway around the world. I will miss them dearly.

Faith & Gift

I also have a vision, though. Covenant school is an awesome place, but it could be even better! I spoke with the headmaster about what the school's greatest needs were. One of the things he mentioned was a library. I completely agree! The P1 class has a total of about 10 books for all of the 39 five, six, and seven-year-old new readers. Most of the kids have the pages memorized, so it's not very good reading practice. I kept wishing I had some Bob books to let them read...remember those?? Anyway, I think God is going to provide great things for Covenant in the future as a result of their faithfulness to train up children in the way they should go.

Yesterday afternoon I got the treat of visiting a Catholic babies' home. The sisters there are raising almost 40 children under the age of 5 who have been abandoned by their parents or left orphans because of the AIDS epidemic. They always need help, so it was easy to jump in and feed kids bottles, play (we had to get creative since they had about 2 toys for 10 kids), fold cloth diapers, etc. for a few hours. I loved it!

Tomorrow morning around 11, I will leave for Kenya (wish I could remember the specific town). Please pray for safe travel and for my one or two days of house-to-house evangelism. Pray that the Lord opens doors for the team to share with people, and pray that the hearts of MANY are open to receive Jesus as their savior! Evangelism is one of my favorite things to do-- I am so amazed by the love God continues to show me every day, and I can't wait to tell people that it is free and they can have it too!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Walking Home

"If I sing quite loudly," she told herself, "I shall not be able to hear what the Fears say."
-Hinds Feet on High Places

Walking home with a crowd of Covenant kids is truly my favorite part of the school day. Today, one of my favorite little girls named Faith (her sisters are Hope and Charity) decided to walk with me even though she usually takes a motorcycle taxi home. About 7 of us started walking home and we had such a great time talking about what they learned at school. We stopped on the way and everyone got a special treat from my favorite street vendor...chapati! It is not rare that we walk through a herd of cattle on the way home. Today when we saw the sea of cattle on the road, little Faith grabbed my skirt and said, "Teacher, I fear cows." Poor thing! I told her that there was no other way to go home but that what I usually do when I'm scared is sing. I asked her what she wanted to sing, and she sang,

I'm gonna conquer Satan
I'm gonna travel over him
I'm gonna chase him away
And I'm gonna tell him pack, pack, and go.

So, so sweet. Faith was really brave today!

We are still learning about Hudson Taylor in the 3rd grade class and they get so upset when the story leaves them hanging. One kid today even came up to me and whispered, "Can you tell me what the special surprise for Hudson is going to be? I promise not to tell anyone." They are so into it! Today on the way home, we saw a chicken retaliate against another chicken who chased it and they got into a huge chicken fight. Lots of squawking. A girl in P3 who was with us shouted (very seriously), "Be nice to that chicken who chased you, like Hudson Taylor was to the people who chased him!" I am still laughing about that...one of the funniest moments of my trip so far.


I am feeling so much better now. Those antibiotics are awesome! I only have 2 more days at school and I leave for Kenya on Thursday morning to meet up with a team from Wimberley, TX to do a church plant!


video

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

"Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace."
-'Tis So Sweet

The past 2 days I have been sick...an upper respiratory infection like I had last year when I was in Uganda. It's better than a stomach bug, but still really hard to deal with. I tried to tough it out for a day, but I finally ended up taking my first dose of the high-power antibiotic last night. I already feel better this morning, and hopefully I will keep improving! Being sick in Africa has been very hard culturally. The people here don't seem to understand concepts like taking naps in the middle of the day if you're sick. Also, they love physical touch so they don't understand that people who have fever get unbearably hot when you are up against their body. It is a personal offense to refuse food that someone has offered you, so saying no to the spicy, tough goat meat last night was a difficult experience.

I went to the market yesterday and bought some things I've been wanting, like an African newspaper. It was very entertaining to read! I also bought some tea and sugar to take back to the states. Since I have been several times now, the market "experience" feels fairly normal to me! It felt like going to WalMart back in America...I saw lots of people I knew, especially kids in green striped school uniforms saying, "Teacher! Teacher!". It was so fun! To get to market, I ride on a boda-boda...a motorcycle taxi. I am not brave enough to sit to the side like ladies are supposed to do. I don't know how they stay on! I still can't believe I do that on a regular basis. It is so scary that usually all I do is close my eyes, hold on, and pray, "dear Jesus, dear Jesus, dear Jesus" because that is all I can think. Haha!

My dear friend Rebecca let me borrow 2 of her CEF books to help teach the kids here. I have really used the one that has big illustrations of Bible stories. It is perfect for Sunday School and Bible lessons at school. Last week at school I started one of the missionary story books with the P3 class. It is about Hudson Taylor and the kids are really into it. I love it, too! Yesterday I read through the whole story a couple of times. I love the ways that God used Hudson Taylor for such an incredible advancement of the gospel just because he was willing to trust Him for every little thing! The book includes a Hudson Taylor quote: "God does not do His great works by large comittees. He trains somebody to be quiet enough, and little enough, and then He uses him." Wow. It really is a sweet thing to trust Jesus, because He knows exactly what He is doing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

"He's done so much for me that I can not tell it all."
-Namatala worship song

Yesterday at school was so, so much better than it has been lately. As a teacher, I have been given full reign to discipline the kids but I really didn't know how. They don't really understand/respond to the concept of time out. I tried taking away recess time but they are so sneaky, and in a class of 50 second graders, it's easy to sneak out without me catching them. I have the option of "caning" them with a big cane pole but that just seems a little harsh to me, plus I don't really know these kids. Yesterday one of my favorite students named Rebecca was acting up during P.E...I asked her to be quiet several times and when she didn't I ended up swatting her little bottom! Ahh! I hated it, but that got everyone's attention. I don't think it even hurt her but from then on everyone understood that I was a REAL teacher. Both the students AND I had a great day and I'm hoping for more of the same on Monday! I only have 3 more days left at Covenant before I go to Kenya.

It has been raining almost every day here. Yesterday I was walking home with some of the I Choose You kids from Namatala and it started POURING. We started running and singing...it was so fun! I invited them to our house and they came inside the courtyard with me for some shelter. We feasted on fruit snacks and they dried my hair with a towel and tried to get the mud off of me (so sweet). When one of the little boys was rubbing mud off of my leg, he turned to his friend and said,
"look, Teacher has fat on her legs like a pig!"

Seriously! Uganda doesn't do a lot for my self-esteem :)




Today I watched the local music competition which Lulwanda Children's Home was a part of. All of the kids did wonderfully, and I have videos if anyone sponsors a child there and wants to see him or her! Also today, I led a Bible study for the women at Namatala. I shared my testimony and it was a really special time. These women truly have NOTHING. I want a faith like theirs! The way they trust and serve God is incredible.

Thank you to those of you who prayed for our little runaway Betty. She has returned to school and her family. We appreciate your prayers that nothing like this happens again!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Runaway

"Maybe success is measured best by nothing less than our obedience."
-Jimmy Needham

Yesterday morning I woke up to find 3 people sitting in the living room, which is not unusual. Almost every day someone is here at 6 or 7 waiting for Morris or Aida to wake up so they can talk to them. Such a busy life this family leads!

Anyway, these people were here to report to Aida about a missing girl. One of my students in P1 (1st grade) class at Covenant School. Her name is Betty and she is 6 years old. She is part of the I Choose You program, which is a ministry that takes children out of the slum (Namatala--very close to my African house, I walk there often.) and provides education and basic needs for them. They have not seen Betty since Tuesday morning. Apparently this is not an unusual occurance. Several I Choose You kids have struggled with the transition between the slum of Namatala to the good life they've been given. These kids have dug in the rubbish heaps for food their entire life, so when someone offers them good food, clothes, and a private education, they don't really know what to do. What a perfect analogy of my spiritual life! I have been given so much but I'd rather dig for rubbish and fall back on a life of sin than take the FREE GIFTS I have been given. Aida says she tells the runaway kids that if they just took a few more steps past the rubbish heap, they would be at the school. So close, yet so far away. Please pray for Betty and her family. Her sister was the one encouraging her to go into town and look for trash at the hotels. Pray that Betty is safe and that she will come home to the good life soon.

On a lighter note, I washed my own clothes yesterday with Eva!! It took SO long and I don't think that is an African experience I want to bring back to America. About halfway through, my hands started cramping up and I was really wanting a washing machine. I thought I was doing pretty well, but it turns out as I was putting clothes in the rinse bucket, Eva was rewashing them because I didn't do a good job. Aida said that if a man saw me washing like that he wouldn't even pay 1 cow for me as a bride price. She said I am only worth a pig! We discussed my qualifications as an African bride and laughed about that for a long time.

I have had some hard school days lately, but coming home to the precious 4-year-old son of the lady that rents from Aida cheers me up SO much. His name is Marvin and he always comes yelling "Julie" (not mzungu) and he is ready for hugs and kisses. Even when I'm tired, one of my favorite parts of this trip is playing with Marvin and his brothers!

The rough school days have made me challenge the idea that I am being a "successful" teacher. Sometimes it seems like the kids aren't learning anything at all, but I can't think of a better way to teach them that fits with their system of education. I'm trying to remember that loving people and being available is what I am here to do, and if I can do my best at that, that's all I can do.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Not the queen anymore!

"Go everywhere and tell everyone the happy news!

Tell them I love them so much that I died for them.

It's the Truth that overcomes the terrible lie.

God loves His children. Yes, He really does!"

-The Great Comission, Jesus Storybook Bible


Thank you for praying. A barrier broke yesterday with my African family...I was finally allowed to eat with them as part of the family. Even though Ugandans find it impolite to speak while eating, it was still SO NICE to have company! I love NOT being the queen of this household. I was even allowed to cook with James and kill a chicken! Wow.

Speaking of cooking, I am eating so well here. So well, in fact, that my headmaster at the school said this to me today...
"You are getting so fat! You will go home and your mama will be so happy that Ugandans feed you well."

Only in Africa.


Another great quote story: For those of you who don't know, I love cows and I love to talk to them when I drive past them on the highway! I saw a really cute cow when I was going somewhere with my friends Jared and Eva, so I waved and said, "hello, Cow!". Then Jared looked at me and said,

"Oh my, do American cows know how to wave when you greet them?"...haha!


The best part of being in Uganda is getting the undistracted opportunity to love people. I get to spend all day serving kids and teachers, and it gives me energy instead of making me tired! I am so convinced that what Jesus did for us really is happy news, and my goal every day (more than teaching kids how to read or write) is to show His love to these kids around me. I'm praying they will know Jesus intimately and know that His love really is the truth that overcomes any lie.


I sang in the church choir yesterday. Big adventure, but this girl can keep up with the moves AND sing in Luganda at the same time! WHOOP! What a victory, all thanks to the grace of God (really, I mean it).


PS--for those worried about my proximity to the multiple explosions in Kampala, I am safe and sound. We are praying for the families of the many people who died.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

MZUNGU

"Thy free grace alone
From the first to the last
Hath won my affection
And bound my soul fast."


I finally got to talk to my family tonight and it was just in time! I have been struggling the last few days with lonliness...the people here are so friendly, but there is such a culture barrier that I have a hard time breaking through. I love my African family, but there is nothing like understanding and being understood in the good ol' USA!


School is going so well. I walk there and back every day (only about 15 minute walk) and I have been enjoying my time teaching, grading, and making charts for the walls! The kids are great...they understand that I am their teacher and they need to respect me, but they also love to have fun with me! Our lunch break is 2 hours long so I usually eat with my fellow teachers or the headmaster, play with the kids, and watch a group of older students play tag rugby (coached by a white guy!).


Today I went into town on a motorcycle with my friend Eva and the cook (more like CHEF...he makes the most delicious food, and so much of it! I think he is fattening me up to eat me at the end of my trip). It was interesting to experience all the smells, colors, and sounds of a busy market! I felt very African, but I still can't avoid all the stares and people calling me a "MZUNGU"--white girl! I got a little tired of that label, so I asked Eva what the word for "native Ugandan" was...now when people yell "mzungu! mzungu!", I say, "muganda!". They get a kick out of it.


Tonight I practiced with a real Ugandan church choir! My friend Paul (he lives next door and calls me Black Girl) is the choir master and he was even excited to learn some of my American choir songs. Somehow I got talked into singing with them at church tomorrow...I'm sure everyone will LOVE watching the white girl try to dance and sing at the same time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week 1 Review

I now have internet and will be able to update more often...probably more often than I need to! I am here in Uganda and LOVING it. I'm healthy and getting lots of good food and rest. There is way too much to tell! Here are a few adventures I've had so far:

1) Met 4 American girls and spent their last few days in Uganda with them. That made my transition to Africa life much easier!
2) Killed a chicken (more like...watched).
3) Experienced a "Say Yes to the Dress" episode in my living room...Mama Aida rents wedding dresses to brides and we had so much fun getting Beatrice ready!
4) Went to an African wedding. In my Chacos. In the rain (more like hurricane).
5) Started teaching full-time at Covenant Primary School. I teach kindergarten-3rd grade (Reading, Bible, Art, P.E., etc.) and I love it.


Currently the best part of my day is reading to 4 of the Ugandan kids that live with us. We read under my mosquito net every night out of the Jesus Storybook Bible. Oh, I can not think of anything sweeter than kids climbing into bed and asking to be fed God's Word! I am so blessed.

I will update again soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Morning in Amsterdam

Here I am in Amsterdam after somewhere between 9-12 hours of flying (I lost track)! I sat next to a nice man from Moscow who spoke very little English but had some good things to say about America. I was looking at one of those airplane magazines with him andhe pointed to a picture of a state fair and said, "shark to tourists"...it was a tourist trap! He even made shark teeth motions with his hands. So fun.

The Loftises, the Bobos, Matt, Collin, and I are all here safe and healthy. The next leg of our flight will land us in Entebbe, Uganda where we will meet up with my host family and 8 South Africans. Prayers for another safe flight, good sleep, and reasonable plane food (a luxury, I know) are appreciated :)

PS--Blogger is in Dutch here. It's a good thing I've posted before or I wouldn't be able to figure it out!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Packing Room

A week from today, I will be on a plane flying to Uganda for the 4th time! I am excited but a little anxious. This trip is so different than any other I've been on, but I'm looking forward to all the new adventures God will bring my way. Currently, the guest room is the "packing room" and it is covered in clothes, gifts, medicine, and teaching curriculum. Since I only have about 2 weeks between Africa and move-in day at Texas A&M (Whoop!), the guest room is also home to dorm decorations, sheets, and 70 pink clothes hangers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let the long, long process begin!

After a very helpful report from the wonderful National Jewish hospital in Denver, my doctors and parents have decided that going back to Africa will be safe for me. I am so excited to see what the Lord has in store for me there! Plans are very much in the works at this point, but I will update as I know more. Thank you for your prayers and support as we get this long process going! :)