Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indeed, I Am Thankful!

While many of my friends in the Western Hemisphere are just preparing for their Thanksgiving day and its feasts, family gatherings, fellowship, fun and even some football, I am reflecting on a full day and a full stomach. : )

Among the things I am most grateful for today is that I did NOT miss the boat for Thanksgiving! Rain that began last night continued into the morning hours and a boat that I normally take for the 1-1/2 hours to Jinja, skipped my village.

Disheartened and fighting back tears, I trudged through mud and puddles, praying I would find a boat at the other end of the island. As I approached the shore, my grateful eyes saw a boat landing, which would take me to Jinja. Yay!

This afternoon I joined fellow missionaries, most of whom are serving here in Uganda with Global Outreach, in a special time of fellowship, praise, and feasting at Good Shepherd's Fold (GSF), an orphanage outside Jinja.

For those of you wondering what we eat here in Uganda for Thanksgiving - let me tell you, I don't think any traditional element was lacking. We enjoyed savory turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green bean casserole, cornbread pudding, macaroni and cheese (okay, it's not traditional, but it is American), cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, salad, rolls, cookies, pies... Oh, no wonder I am so full!

After almost missing the boat in the morning, I was very thankful I didn't miss this special Thanksgiving celebration with my "family" here - those among the children of God in Uganda.

Here are some photos, to give you a "taste" of my day. : )

Bob and Michelle Peterson leading us in some praise music. (Michelle is holding Johnathan Smith.)

The Smith family enjoying their Thanksgiving meal.

We even had Indians at our feast! From left: Katie (from England), who is working as a nurse at GSF, Sarah, a visitor and cousin of Amanda, far right, who is here teaching missionary children and ministering to children and youth at GSF. Can you see Katie's patriotic "warpaint" on her cheeks? She was really getting into the spirit! :)

The feast

The feasters

Drinking ginger soda

David with one of his favorite buddies - Josiah Peterson

 I love this little guy (Johnathan Smith)!
He was wearing a "Thanksgiving" outfit, complete with turkeys and other holiday-related pictures, and a patch that read "1st Thanksgiving."

I want to wish all of you a most happy and blessed Thanksgiving! May our thoughts and praises be toward our Awesome God - from Whom ALL blessings flow!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Island Life, Part 3 - "Dos and Don'ts"

(This is the third in an occasional series about life on Lingira Island. For part 1, click here. For part 2, click here.)

Life on an island can be an interesting experience. But maybe you have already figured that out if you read the first two posts in this series. This post is about the "dos and don'ts" of life on Lingira.
  • We do not have vehicles on the island, perhaps because there aren't roads, only paths. There is one motorcycle, which was given to the police, but they wondered what to do with it without roads to run it on. So someone is using it to ferry people and loads, for a profit, on one of the more level paths that runs between two villages. SHIM has its trusty "car," an orange wheelbarrow, which comes in very handy for transporting things around our property, or down to the school or boat. On Wednesdays, I would frequently load up the wheelbarrow with several computers, the generator, extension cord, power cord, and my teaching materials and wheel it all down to the school for classes.
 David and Andrew enjoying some time in SHIM's island "car."
  • You do not pass someone without offering at least a simply greeting. You do say something like "Oli otya," a combination of "Good afternoon and how are you," or "wee bali" ("thank you"), or "jee bali," which means "well done." You say the latter no matter what the person you pass is doing, even if they are just sitting there. : )
  • As noted in other posts, we do not have running water here. We do have three water tanks, however, which hold rain water caught off the roofs. Whether you are washing dishes, bathing, washing clothes, mopping, etc., you must first get your rainwater, putting it in a bucket or basin. No indoor plumbing also equals no flushing toilets. We have some nice pit latrines (outhouses) though. ; )
Workers last year building our 7,000-gallon tank for catching rainwater off the roof of the admin. building.
  • Though we don't have running water, we do have Internet. There are priorities, you know. : )
  • There are no electrical instruments or equipment used in our island church, but honestly I don't think we need them. In a recent conversation with one of the island teachers, he commented that those things were missing, therefore I might also miss them. No, I said, if I had to choose where to worship in Uganda, I would choose our simple, but exuberant island church. I love the combination of the traditional drums, the rythmic clapping, the deafening shouting, the joyous dancing and the overall enthusiasm of the people to be in God's house. A keyboard or mics maybe would add something, but in my opinion they would only detract from the island people's wholehearted gift of worship and praise to their God.
This video is actually of another island church, but the exuberant praise and worship is much the same as my own church.
  • We do not have supermarkets on the island, but we do have simple island shops where you can buy the basic items - flour, soap, sugar, soda, biscuits (cookies), etc. By the way, soda and biscuits are necessary items, especially if visitors land on your doorstep. It is customary to give them something to eat or drink.
  • We don't have apples or grapes, but we do have pineapple, mangos, papaya, oranges, lemons, as well as tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, maize (corn), pumpkins, watermelon, passion fruit, sweet potatoes, millet, sesame seed, cassava (a root, like a potato) - all grown on this island! Much of these things I mentioned are grown in the SHIM gardens. It is like living in a fruit basket!
A glimpse of SHIM's flourishing gardens. They are under the oversight of the visionary and talented Julius Twali - our "agriculture man." He is shown in the top and lower middle photos. Justus, a helper, is shown on the left in the lower photo.
There are other island "dos and don'ts," but they will have to wait for a future post. I do have other work to get done, so I don't get behind. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Inspirational Friday: "You Were Meant to Be"

I may start a new series called "Inspirational Fridays" where on an occasional Friday, I post something inspirational. : )

I recently bought Steven Curtis Chapman's album: "Re-Creation." I like all of the songs, but there are a couple that I really enjoy that I am sharing with you today. I find them "inspirational," especially when I am undertaking my daily (and sometimes monotonous) task of sweeping and mopping the floors of our admin. building.

If you are struggling with where you are now and with what God has you doing, I hope you are both blessed and inspired by the following songs.

In case there is any doubt,

"You are perfectly, wonderfully,
Beautifully meant to be
You were meant to be
Meant to be..."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Island Life, Part 2

(This is the second post in an ongoing "Island Life" series. For the first one, click here.)

After my first visit to Uganda (in 2006-07), people asked about my favorite part. Without hesitation, I would reply, "The people." My answer would likely be the same today.

I have met some amazing people here, and some of my favorites live on the island. Let me introduce a few to you.

Papa and Mama O - Okoro and Olive
Papa and Mama O teach in a Family Ministry seminar.

Papa and Mama O, as they are affectionately called by nearly everyone, have lived and served on the island since 2000. They were serving with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) when I first met them back in 2006. They have been with SHIM since the first half of 2007 - joining shortly after Shepherd's Heart was established.

The Os remind me of my own parents. Papa O loves to talk, tell stories and make people laugh - like my own father. Papa is great as the head of hospitality as he truly desires for every visitor to feel "most welcome." He is known for his traditional dancing, his singing, his impersonations of "American" accents, and his funny sayings and stories.

Mama O with their firstborn Harriet and Harriet's twin daughters, born last December.

Mama O provides a wonderful balance to Papa as she is the more reserved, more organized, more detailed one - much like my own mom. She is the hardest working person I have ever met - often working from dawn to dusk. Mama O is also very compassionate, generous and discerning.

As a complementary team, the Os make great leaders of our Family Ministry branch - organizing seminars in churches, visiting island homes, and sharing God's perspective of marriage and family. Their ministry is authenticated by their own lives, having been married for 25+ years with six beautiful God-fearing adult children, five grandchildren and another on the way.

They are not from the islands, but felt called to serve here 10+years ago. Trained as a teacher and nurse, respectively, Papa and Mama turned their backs on secure careers, respect from peers and family, mainland life and security, much like the call of Abraham. But as Papa O shared recently, God has provided for them and their children. Three of their kids have completed their university education, with the most recent finishing at the top of his class.

As the Os have been faithful to God's calling, God has been faithful to meet their needs. They are not seeking lands, houses or treasure on earth, but are storing up riches in the heavenly kingdom as they minister to the individual and families of the islands and beyond.

I think you can see why I love this couple! : )

Island Teachers 
Three of our island teachers, Joy, Topista and Violet, shown with the girls of this year's graduating class.

Our island secondary (high) school - Lingira Living Hope - was founded in February 2006, and in the last 5+ years there have been quite a number of dedicated teachers who have served among its staff.

To live and work on the islands is a sacrifice, especially for most Ugandans. These places are often despised. Those who work here often have families living elsewhere and perhaps houses, land and businesses on the mainland that they have to leave unattended. Many Ugandans fear water and will not cross it to make a living. But our island teachers do just that.

Of the eight teachers on staff, three are mothers who balance teaching with caring for their young ones - 2-1/2 years and younger. There are five male teachers, most of whom do not yet have families, but are still responsible for younger siblings, parents and other relatives. Because they have a stable job, many look to them for support.

The Headmaster (Principal) Sam and Deputy Headmaster (Vice Principal) Fred both completed university degrees this year - using their holiday breaks from the school to become students themselves, filling their free time to hone their professions.

Headmaster Sam Okello, right, with a visiting university professor from Oregon.

The teachers' perseverance, dedication and sacrifice are amazing to me as they tirelessly instruct and mentor the 100+ students in their care.

I find the teachers of Lingira Living Hope amazing and I know God honors their faithful dedication.

The Students of Lingira Living Hope
When I came back to Uganda in early 2010 I had no idea I would be as involved with the school and students as I am now.

But God showed me in late November 2010 that youth and teaching are among the "passions" He has put in me. I find great joy in interacting, teaching and just being with the young men and women of Lingira Living Hope.

They are unlike any group of youth I have every worked with in that there are language, cultural and racial barriers that can and sometimes do exist between us. But as in most relationships, when you show care, people respond by opening up their hearts and lives.

Anna - one of my favorite students. She is small in stature but big in joy, love and service to God.

Some of the boys and girls come from difficult homes and circumstances, others are basically on their own with no parents or guardian to look after them. Rejection from family is among the consequences some face for choosing Christ. Many worry about where their school fees will come from, how to buy soap or other basic needs, or how they will live during the school breaks. Their challenges are often beyond what I can relate to.

When I look at them, however, I see huge potential - as those created in the image of God, as the future of the island and of Uganda. For many, an education is a hope to secure a better future for themselves and their families. School may be a chance of survival.

Students and teachers of Lingira Living Hope
My greatest desires for these young people are for them to catch a glimpse of how God sees them, and to embrace the abundant life and purposes He has for them. Life is more than survival - indeed God wants us to thrive in Him. This is my hope for the students of Lingira Living Hope.

I never thought that people on a remote island in a small African country would capture my heart, but they certainly have.