Monday, December 24, 2012

This is War


This is a war. This is a war that we are part of. Always in war there are casualties and often there is collateral damage, unintended consequences of the fight. We experienced some of this collateral damage last Friday (12/14). God had opened a door for us to go to Congo to participate in celebrations for a university graduation, pastoral ordinations, and new believers being baptized. The enemy, however, was willing to do whatever it took to keep us from getting there, including putting a small boy in the path of our vehicle.
As we were driving through Uganda on our way to the DRC, we came around a bend and the taxi in front of us pulled off the road to pick up some more passengers. As my eyes shifted from the taxi back to road, there was a boy running across the road ahead of us. He paused in the middle of the road as he saw us for the first time, but then he kept running. I saw him in the same moment he saw us and, despite slamming on the brakes and swerving away from him, the front corner of our vehicle struck the boy. He went on to die a few minutes later.
We didn’t continue our journey to Congo that day. We didn’t feel that we were able to after all that had happened. Some may say that in turning back we let Satan win that day. We don’t. We may not have reached Congo that day, it’s true. And we may have been knocked down for a few days, we were. But we’re still in the fight. Our Leader is still leading and we are still following, right into DRC.
A few days later I heard about a blog post that stated things well. The blog was written in response to the Newtown, CT shootings, but it is quite applicable in this situation as well. In it, the author relates this story:
“But in the middle of defying worship, I remember it – how a missionary told of this snake— longer than a man—that slithered its way right through their front door and straight to the kitchen. How she had flung outside screaming and a machete-wielding neighbor had calmly walked into her kitchen and he sliced off the head of the reptilian thing. But a snake’s neurology and blood flow make it such that it slithers wild even after it’s been sliced headless. For hours the missionary stood outside. And the body of the snake rampaged on, thrashing hard against windows and walls, destroying chairs and table and all things good and home. A snake can wreak havoc until it accepts it has no head — that it’s really dead.”

The snake is still thrashing, still seeking to kill, steal, and destroy, still making a mess of people’s lives. But praise God, his head is crushed, cut off; he is defeated. And, rather that focusing on the pain that Satan is causing in his death spasms, we are choosing to focus on how God is still working. Here are some of the ways we saw Him work, even in the midst of this tragedy.
  • No one within our vehicle was injured.
  • Our two older boys, Timothy and Benjamin, were staying with my sister’s family and didn’t have to experience this and try to understand it at ages 4 and 2.
  • There was a police officer right there in the trading center who removed us from the scene and escorted us to the police station.
  • Our field director, Jonathan, was traveling with us and was able to make calls to the police, our insurance agent, and our lawyer before I was even thinking clearly enough to know what to do.
  • The Local Councilor (a bit like a mayor) for that area witnessed the accident and testified to the police that it was an unfortunate accident, but I had done everything I could to avoid it.
  • The crowd that gathered immediately after the accident never got angry or threatened us, very uncommon here in Uganda.
  • The police officers who handled the case were all very understanding, honest, and professional.
  • The accident occurred in Uganda, not Congo, so language was less of an issue and our insurance agent was able to arrive quickly.
  • We’ve been reconciled with the family and they have agreed not to pursue the matter further or to bring it up again in the future.
God was fighting for us, even as we walked through this difficult situation. We don’t believe that it was God’s will for this child to die that day and, while we don’t understand why He allowed it to happen, we don’t believe this was God’s way of trying to close the door to Congo for us. Our hearts are wounded and hurting, but we have a God who heals. Our faith was shaken, but our Foundation remains sure. Our plans were postponed, but our God is not defeated.
Our eyes are fixed on God and He is the one leading us on to Congo. This is not the first opposition we have faced, nor do we expect it to be the last. We covet your prayers as we continue to heal from this traumatic experience, but even more we ask for your prayers for Congo and our future work there. We need you to stand with us as we fight this battle together. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) And that is a battle that can be fought from wherever God has placed you.
-Scott


Monday, December 17, 2012

Prayers

We have felt your prayers. Thank you! We were in an accident on Friday. We were not injured. We  are dealing with all the details that come with it. We will share more as we are able. Thank you for holding us in this time.
A few weeks ago a friend at River of Grace sent me this picture. In church they were asked to put a finger print on the country that they were committing to pray for. Someone chose Uganda, and us as well. We have needed extra prayer the last few days, and will need more in the days to come. This picture reminds me of the one whose finger print I see, and all the others who have been praying faithfully. Thank you.


We need prayer and here are some of the requests:
  • Scott has some meetings Thursday and Friday with some government officials. Pray for favor and truth.
  • Pray that Jesus be glorified in all we do.
  • Pray for our boys and the Hallahan boys as we are living together for a few days.
  • Pray that we would continue to seek Jesus and grow in Him.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Package from Jesus

Jesus showed His love!
  • On Monday I said, "Scott, I really need to get some new pens. I can't find any that work."
  • On Sunday I put on the shopping list, new journal.
  • Scott had just been saying the week before that he was sad that he did not have any pumpkin spice VIA this year. 
  • I set up our Christmas tree last week and noticed it looked bare, but was thankful for a tree. 
  • Sunday night, Scott and I were talking about Congo and how frustrating the government processes can be. And how I am "scared" to go to such a difficult place. 

God heard all these small cries from our hearts. The big and small, and He answered them with a package. Friends in America sent us a package. We did not tell them anything. They bought and sent the package a month before we had any of these thoughts and wants.

In the package was :

  • A set of pens, the exact kind I would have bought.
  • Two new journals, purple :) 
  • Three sets of VIA coffee, one of which was pumpkin spice latte
  • Gold and red snowflake ornaments that match our other decorations
  • Other special gifts.
  • And a note, that says we are crazy for going to Congo, but our God is bigger than that. We felt validated in our feelings and encouraged to move forward in God's strength. 

Jesus must have been with our friend at Target that day. He must have lead her hand to each item put in that box. He was with her when she wrote the note. We were encouraged and strengthen because Jesus used one family. A family just like you! Would you let Jesus direct and guide you to bless someone else this season? Doesn't need to be a missionary, it could be your coworker, classmate or neighbor. Let Him guide your heart, and your hand to give this season.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

BEST Job Ever / Worst Job Ever

We have the best job ever! Ok, maybe not always, but in some ways we do. This week I got to deliver baby blankets to moms who needed them. Hope Lutheran Church in The Villages, Florida, sent us a box of baby blankets they made. They did the hard work and I got to give the blankets. I got to see the joy and appreciation on their faces. Here are a few pictures to give you a glimpse of what I got to see.

Stella has such a beautiful smile
Benja holding one of the babies
This is a single mom who is just finishing the equivalent of 10th grade 
Precious baby Abigail
Tim and Anna admiring one of the little ones

Beautiful blue blanket, for a baby girl. Good thing colors don't matter here :)
Baby Abigail with her new blanket

Like I said, we have the BEST job ever. Another time I will tell you some of the reasons this job is hard, but for now I am enjoying what God has asked me to do. I get to bless others because people in America, like you, bless us.

Thank You!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Our First Family Vacation Ever!


We went on our first family vacation. The coast of Kenya was beautiful and we are so thankful for a chance to get away. Here are some pictures :)






Exploring the "wishing stone"

On a glass-bottom boat for Tim's birthday

Dad and the birthday boy


Superhero pose
We enjoyed a great time as a family. Lots of laughs and refreshment. Glad to be back in Arua now.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homeschooling little ones

How do I "homeschool" here in Africa? We do some practicing learning letters, colors, numbers but that is not the fun stuff. We have done a few field trips :) Here are some photos of going to the "Honey Place." Scott was hosting a Community Health Empowerment training. There were three families with small children so another mom and I took all the kids to Bee International, a local company that produces honey.
Sitting "nicely" waiting for our tour guide

Tim in front of the room full of honey bees. The kids were not allowed in

Ben looking at the bees buzzing on the other side of the glass

Kids in front of the solar panel used to separate the honey from the wax
It was fun. Our tour ended with a honey sample. There are no pictures of this because everyone's hands got sticky quickly. They honey was delicious and well liked by all the little ones.

We also did a trip to a local Christian radio station. It operates as a ministry of the Catholic church. We got to talk in a microphone and hear our voices over the speaker (don't worry, not the radio!) We got to see the different recording rooms and live studios. Our tour ended with ice cream at the directors house. Another delicious ending to a day of learning.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ebola

Yes, there is Ebola in Uganda right now. 
Yes, people have died. 
Yes, we are being careful. 
No, it is not in our area. 
No, we have not known anyone personally who has had it.


But, thanks for all the prayers! We did have some sickness last week while Scott was in Congo. We are doing better now and God was with us. God was with Scott as well. Our God is so Big. He is with us in Uganda and with you where you are. Amazing. One of our family's favorite verses is Joshua 1:9 but when Scott is traveling we say it like this, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged sad, for the LORD your God will be with me and with you wherever you go." Praise God for His ever presence and availability in our lives.

Ben learning to wink

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The full story of Irene

I want to tell you more about my friend Irene. I told you a story about her earlier this year, but here are some more details. She is a "fashion designer" and owns her own shop. She has 2-3 tailors who work for her and they make clothes to order and fitted to the customer. We met last summer when a team from Asbury University came. Each girl had a dress made so our relationship started well.

I continued to go visit her and even had a shirt and skirt made for myself in September. Two of her tailors are Congolese and I began going to the shop some just to practice my Swahili with them. They showed me a few sewing things. In November her shop was robbed. Her sewing machines, all her finished projects and most of her raw fabric were taken. She felt devastated and attacked. I went to her home to show some love. It was one of the hardest things for me culturally.

By going to her home, I showed that I cared for her more than just someone I did business with. It shocked her, I think. It was also hard because as we prayed together I came face to face with some of the cultural differences in our Christianity. While praying, another woman prayed that justice and punishment would come to the thief. I would never pray for bad things to happen to someone who has hurt me. This is just one of the many things that we need to look at through the Bible and be sure we are following His word and not the cultural influences, Ugandan or American, of the church.

After praying and visiting for as long as I could, I offered her my sewing machine to get her business back on its feet. She did not respond to my offer but I stopped at her shop and also told her tailors about the offer. A few days later she called and said it would really help. She used it until she was able to make enough money to get her own machines again.

Her business is back and doing great and our friendship is growing. I am excited to build this relationship and I can't wait to see how God uses me to help her grow and how God uses her in my life as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Peter

Maybe some of you have seen "Finding Nemo." Remember in the movie when Marlin and Dory meet the sharks who are having an addiction recovery session? The sharks have a phrase, "Fish are friends, not food." We've adopted that phrase in our family, but with two minor modifications. First, instead of "fish" we say "rabbit." And second, we swap "friends" and "food."

What you end up with is, "Rabbits are food, not friends."

Flopsy (White & Tan), Mopsy (White),
and Peter (White and Black)

A couple months ago we decided we were going to try our hand at raising some rabbits as a meat source. I know many of you Americans are more familiar with rabbits as pets, but remember, "rabbits are food, not friends." As we've learned from many of our european friends in Arua, rabbit is easy to cook and really, pretty tasty. But there's another reason, by far the more important one, that we're embarking on this endeavor as well.

That reason is our pastoral training facilitators. Or, more accurately their families.

You see, in our effort to allow the church to be more independent we realized that we (the white missionaries) need to be less visible in the training program. The implication is that we need to equip some of our Ugandan trainers to be able to facilitate the training of the trainers, who will then continue training the pastors. But that takes time. And that's where the rub comes.

The facilitators are very willing to give up their time, but every day they are away from their family is a day where it is that much harder for their family to eat. None of our pastors are rich. The vast majority of them don't receive any kind of salary from their churches. They pastor because it is what God has called them to do, but then they also have to try and find a way to make a living. This is the pastors. For the facilitators, who also pastor churches, we ask them to attend training for themselves and then to take that training and train the trainers, or travel with us to offer training on oral methods to others. This means that they can be gone from their families for up to a week at a time, sometimes even longer. Which brings us back to rabbits.

We felt Jesus leading us to find a way to help provide for the facilitators' families, especially while the facilitators are away from home. We thought about goats, but goats take a while to mature and once they do, are too big for a family to eat at one meal. So we thought about chickens (which we also have on our "farm"). But chickens also take a while to grow to a decent size and, here in Uganda at least, they get sick very easily. So when we were offered a rabbit, because we had never eaten rabbit before, things started to click.


In doing some research on the pros and cons of raising rabbits in a developing world context I found the following facts.

  • Rabbits are the perfect size for a family to eat in one meal and they reach that size much more quickly than chickens. For instance, a 2-month old rabbit produces more meat than two 5-month old chickens.
  • The meat from a rabbit is one the the most healthy sources of protein you can eat; it is low in fat and low in cholesterol. 
  • Rabbits reproduce quickly, a doe can conceive every 30 days, and have litters of 6-10 babies.
  • Rabbit manure can be put directly onto the garden, no composting needed.
  • Rabbits have fewer diseases that can affect them than do chickens.
  • Rabbits take plants that are unfit for human consumption (weeds, grasses, kitchen scraps) and turn it into nutritious protein.
So we're trying rabbits. We figure if we start with a male and two females we can have a new litter of rabbits every month of the year which, in theory, could provide either two meals a week or a meal and one rabbit to sell a week. We feel a responsibility to do something for these families who are sacrificing for the Gospel, and we're starting here. Got other ideas of opportunities to help facilitators and pastors provide for themselves? We'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Water Would Be Great

In the beginning of April the town did some road work and broke a water pipe. I don't know the whole story but it means that we did not had water from the beginning of April until June 4th. My (Meg's) parents came to visit. They arrived while we were still in Kampala and drove up with us. They got to see first hand what it is like trying to get things done here. In the mean time, we had to get water from Billy and Jo's house and put it in our tank. Here are the pictures of the adventure.

Dad helping Scott get the
water up to the top of
the water tower
The timing of no water worked "well" since we were gone for 2 months while we were in Kampala to have Josiah.

Billy and Jo tried hard to get it restored before we returned. But in Arua, there was no rush since, "No one was living there any way."

Once we were back in town, Scott talked to the water company, they were "working on it."

A few more days, we check again, no better results.

Scott talks to the landlord, waits a few days, still no results.

We hear a rumor in town that the reason it is not fixed is that it will cost too much money, so they are just not going to fix it. Real frustration hits.

Scott calls "the head man" at the water company for Arua. He asks the man, "I have a wife, two children and a small baby, but no water. What are you going to do about it?!" The head man assures Scott on Friday that it will be fixed Monday.

Scott emptying each into the tank
On Monday we see a work crew working on the broken pipe, PRAISE JESUS! But then we hear that a school near us were the ones who paid for the work to be done, and that they only paid for it to be fixed to the school not for the whole length of the road. The school got water, but we didn't. Sure enough, 6 more feet and we would have had water.

Scott calls the head man again, who assures Scott that the work crew would be back to finish the job that night.

And they did! Amazing!
 
The back of the car filled with
"jerrycans" to fill with water
The day before my parents left, town water was restored.

Sadly, we are again without water. The "fixed" pipe was not strong enough for the water pressure. They are fixing it again, and have assured us, it will be fixed tomorrow. Until then, it will be drinking bottled water and flushing the toilet with water from the rain tank. Life could be worse.

Philly

We lost our puppy Philly this week. He ran in front of the car. We are sad but Jesus is meeting us in the sadness. Here are a few pictures of Philly and the joy he brought to our family. Please pray for us, especially Tim who is learning a tough life lesson at 3 years old.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Giving Birth in Uganda: Our Experience


What was it like to have a baby in Uganda? Let me share with you based on my experiences. Every woman is different as is every hospital. We were at a private hospital in the capital city of Kampala. Let me tell you what things were the same as having a baby via caesarian section in the states and what things were different.

Same: we checked in at the desk, had my weight and blood pressure checked
Different: they checked the baby's heart beat they used a Pinard stethoscope.



Same: I changed into a hospital gown and waited to be taken for surgery
Different: they call the operating room "the theater"

Same: Scott was allowed to come into the operating room and be with me
Different: the anesthesiologist gave me an iPod to listen to so I would not be bored


Same: the operating room was clean and they clean the incision area and put sheets over to keep the clean environment
Different: I got to watch them lay out and count their tools before and after the surgery (I am sure they did this in America too, but here I got to watch)

Same: the doctor did the operation and all went well, I got to see baby Josiah
Different: for us, our baby then had to stay in the nursery for several hours because he had trouble breathing and had to be on oxygen


Same: I had to wait in recovery after surgery for an hour
Different: again, the anesthesiologist gave me an iPod to listen to so I would not be bored

Same: they put me on a stretcher, called a "trolley" and brought me to my room
Different: we stopped and greeted many people on the way


Same: I got settled into my room
Different: my room has a real bed for Scott to sleep in and a mini fridge

..  
Same: there was a TV in the room
Different: it only kind of worked, very fuzzy picture on the few channels

Same: I was served a "liquid only" diet
Different: black tea with lots of sugar was served along with water and juice


Same: food is provided for me
Different: the diet is all local African dishes

Same: Scott kept checking on Josiah in the nursery
Different: Scott was allowed INTO the nursery whenever he wanted, but for other visitors he had to beg the nurses to even move the curtain to see in the window

Same: I wore a hospital gown for the surgery
Different: I was then changed into a hospital dress

No, that is not my shirt, it is the
hospital supplied dress
Same: I had loud neighbors
Different: they don't speak English

Same: my bed could recline, go up and down
Different: it also came with a bug net


Same: my bed had sheets on it
Different: no towels, wash cloths or such is provided

Same: there was a toilet, sink and shower in my room
Different: there was no hot water


Same: the nurses bathed Josiah
Different: we were asked to provide the towel, washcloth and soap

Same: Josiah's bed is the same as we have had before, complete with drawers
Different: there are no supplies in said drawers, no diapers, blankets, anything. we had to bring our own


Same: we had to pay our bill at the end of our stay
Different: we had to pay for bottles of water as we used them, $.40 each

Same: the nurses work 12 hr shifts
Different: the head nurse could not leave right away because her replacement could not find her uniform

nurses station for the postpartum  ward
Same: if the baby was crying for 5 minutes or more, the nurse would come into our room to check on us
Different: the nurse then just keeps repeating, "sorry baby, don't cry baby" for as long as it takes for the baby to quiet down

Same: we kept the baby warm
Different: the nurses were not happy unless we had a hat, socks, clothes, two swaddle blankets and a quilt on him (yes, we are in Africa and the temperature was 70 F)


Same: we had to sign some papers on arrival stating we would be responsible to pay all the charges
Different: we had to pay in full, in cash, before we could leave

Same: we got a bill for our visit
Different: at discharge we were given an itemized list stating everything that had been used all the way down to the number of gloves and cotton balls used

Same: we had visitors come see us and the baby
Different: they were new friends, one I had never met before

new friends made through Jo Coppedge
Same: we had great doctors and nurses
Different: they were all African

this is the pediatrician who helped Josiah
Same: we are happy and excited to have a new life in our family
Different: we are now a family of FIVE :)