Monday, July 17, 2017

Top 10 in 10 Months

Our Top 10 Things We've Learned in 10 Months

1. "Everything, no matter how big or how small, is for God's Glory and our good" - Allison.
2. "We have taken things for granted in the United States" - Julia.
3. "The power goes out a lot in Africa" - Bradley.
4.  If a job is at best 75% complete, then consider yourself 100% satisfied.  However, expect more like 50% complete, which is a pretty good day.
5.  The prosperity gospel is alive and well, unfortunately.
6. Asking if someone is married in Uganda is not an easy question.  Its a very gray area.  Sometimes they are not even sure themselves.
7. Ugandan churches preach at 100 decibels and up...for about 12 solid hours.
8. No matter how messed up the US healthcare system is, it is still a gift from the Lord with some of the most brilliant minds in all of humankind.
9. Africa can age a person at the pace equivalent to dog-years!
10. The ministries in which EMI partners with have testimonies of God's mighty power and healing that will blow your mind!  Each new term, with each new project trip Jim's goes on, is accompanied with awe and wonder of the Lord's sovereignty, authority, and love for His people.

Our Top 10 Things We Miss the Most

1. Four seasons
2. Clean air
3. Clean water
4. Berries
5. A public library
6.  Sports/ playing or watching
7.  Communicating clearly/ being understood
8.  Going outside in public parks/ walks/ running/ riding bikes
9.  Our home church
10. Friends and Family

Our Top 10 Things We Love the Most

1. A less frantic/ scheduled lifestyle
2. Star Fruit
3. Bargaining
4. Aggie's Baby Home
5. $7.50 tennis lessons and $8.00 piano lessons
6. The rain
7. The deeper relationships growing with our supporters
8.The Lord understood in a new light
9. EMI
10.When friends and family come to visit!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Quick Pics of Nana & Poppy's Trip


Wait on the Lord.  I have taken this command from Psalm 27:14 very serious lately.  As we traveled across the US in 2016, sharing our story with friends and family, I was asked many times "what will you be doing, Joanna?"  Often times my answer didn't settle well with people, as I shared my heart of wanting to wait, not jump into a defined ministry too quickly.  I shared that I wanted to settle, listen and then move.  I also reminded those asking of my primary calling as a woman to be Jim's "helper."  Genesis 2:18 assigns every wife our primary purpose.  What a privilege this is to walk with Jim through our family's calling to Africa.  Helping is time consuming, its an honor, and its my identity as his wife.  Anyway, second to this, the Lord has asked me to home school three sweet disciples.  This too is time consuming, yet fruitful and rewarding.

We are coming upon 8 months since our move to Uganda.  Its been fast, full, emotional, fulfilling, and at times as struggle.  However, the greatest change that I've noticed in myself is my availability to sit and wait.  The Lord has taught me a new way to be quiet and listen.  He's allowed me hours and hours to pray like I've never prayed before.  The Spirit has prompted my heart with specific names of supporters, family, and friends to pray for and plead for.  I'm enjoying this pace.  I'm enjoying a new position at the foot of the King.  I used to come to the thrown room to sit before Him on a stool, so I could easily get up and go if needed.  Now, I find myself face down, flat on my face before him, with no rush, just peace.  No offense to the Land of Opportunity, but its also the land of full schedules and noise.  I believe that the Lord had to move me physically 8,500 miles to disconnect me from social clutter and teach me to be still.  Is he not in the business of restoration?  Restoring us back to himself? Oh, thank you Father.

So I've waited.  And I wait some more.  He is cooking up something and I'm starting to smell it from the kitchen.  Its sweet and savory.  Its glory and honor.  Its salvation and restoration.  Its good.  Its with Him and for Him.

I need more prayer. More time waiting. And more clarity to make the first move.  And when I do, I feel as if He has already installed this huge inflatable stunt air bag, ready for the slightest mistake.  He is so gracious and loving.  I want to only move when he says, yet all I hear is "precious princess, I will hold you, I will guide you, I will protect you, and I will complete the good work set before you."

So, if you are reading this, please pray along with me for His voice to be loud, for me to have complete understanding of direction, and for the path to be made straight.  I can't wait for what or who He will set before me.  Good things await. Thank you Lord.  

Friday, February 3, 2017


Every Thursday I take the kids into Kampala for tennis lessons.  It takes about 45 min to get to Makindye Country Club from our home in Akright Estates, and is a great investment of a whopping $11 for all three kiddos to have a lesson from a Ugandan instructor who has represented Uganda five times in the Davis Cup!   Not only is he a great player, but a wonderful teacher as well.

We discovered this gem from another EMI family whom we have become really good friends with.  They have three children, two of which have been taking weekly lessons for several years now.  So, since they live in our same neighborhood, we usually carpool and make it a great day of escape from the usual home school routine. Its our weekly scheduled PE class, not to mention a wonderful retreat in a blissful garden complete with swimming pool, playground, trampoline and large football pitch.  The kids love running around while I take an African Tea with my girlfriend(s)...that is another EMI mom usually stops by to fellowship and pray since she lives just down the road from the club.  Her older kiddos are in a school nearby, but she always brings her youngest son with her.  He also loves running around with the boys, while making pit-stops by our table for his usual ketchup with a side of chips.

The ladies' tea talk usually begins with the two other mothers discussing their week's parental struggles and victories with their adopted boys.  One friend has adopted two boys, one Ugandan and one Rwandan, ages 5 & 7, and the other has adopted one Ugandan boy, age 5.  I never mind the conversation, being the third wheel with only three biological children, as its absolutely fascinating conversation that brings total glory to God.  They share, consult, ask, pray, encourage and sometimes just vent.  I'm sure if we weren't sitting in a country club they would sometimes actually scream at the top of their lungs.  Their stories are hard, really hard.  Most days they just flat out don't know what to do.  Yet every week their calling by God over these children and over their families is totally realized.  They are in complete obedience and wholly covered by His Grace.  They feel His presence and speak of it always.  The strength and endurance by each of these sweet sisters is ever so powerful and thus reminds me of the Lord's character and His fruit, by which is often demonstrated through our pain, suffering and struggle.  If we are not weak, He cannot reveal His strength through us.  If we are not helpless, then He cannot send His Helper.  If we are not fools, then He cannot provide His wisdom.

This particular week, Allison sat nearby overhearing all of our conversation.  Somehow the Lord has already put adoption on her heart.  She glows when she talks about adopting a child.  She begins to giggle and her posture grows taller.  I have no idea what her life holds, but the Lord is planting seeds of a wild adventure full of His Glory!  So, as we got back in the car to leave, Allison was full of questions and I was at a loss for answers.  She immediately suggested that I speak up in the conversations with my girlfriends and share all that I know.  She reminded me of my degree in Human Development and Family Studies, then a Masters in Educational Psychology, and finally my experience as a foster child case manager.  Allison was completely confident that I had all the answers to their parenting questions.  She was sure I could handle their children and bring them all back to harmony.  Ha. I love her belief in her own mom, but wow. Oh wow!  I sat for a moment and, not really, not one class, one textbook, one professor, nor one experience with foster children could or would ever help.  Nothing I had ever been taught or read about would help.  Not one iota of personal gain or life story would answer the questions my friends had.  In my mind, my role in these conversations is clearly defined - to listen, learn, and observe God's redemption over humanity, displayed before my very eyes.    

My friends are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  They are raw and tired.  However, they are together and covered.  In one moment of our time together, my friend referenced Psalm 121.  She relies on the Word to get her through.  He is her keeper and shade.  He preserves her and is her help.  How can any word of advice replace His help? Yet we (or I) so quickly revert to this world for answers to questions that are of an unseen reality.  If He is Love, and each of these women have been called to love these specific boys, for such a time as this, then He is their only avenue for love.  He has the technique, words, body language, tone of voice and power to heal their broken hearts.  He is their only and final source for victory.  He knows their innermost being and knows the path to restore them back to Him.  He is the only missing link and He is the only one that fits.   

At this moment, I'm reminded again of the gift of Uganda.  Thus far in my walk with Christ, which up until now has been geographically located in the US, I've only called upon the Spirit for help when my earthly answers haven't solved the problem.  I may have not seen prayer as a last resort, but it surely has not always been my first.  Why is that?  Why can I not first see that my supernatural battle needs a supernatural weapon?  Well, I'm learning.  Slowly.  The Lord had to first drop me in East Africa to teach me such a lesson.  Now that I'm here and have recognized my sin, He's left me here to practice the way of repentance.  So I'm now learning to call upon Him moment by moment rather than failed attempt by failed attempt.  I believe Uganda, rather their Ugandan family members, have brought them to the same place.  The Holy Spirit's help, wisdom, understanding and discernment is the only way out of any valley we experience.  I just all too often try my rock climbing skills before I practice my falling on my knees skills.  Thank you Lord, thank you Uganda, and thank you friends for leading a life in the Spirit.   

So, every Thursday turns into the Lord's testimony.  It turns into a bridge from a garden with tennis and tea to a throne room with milk and honey.  I love Thursdays and I love my friends, their passion, their calling and their longing.  Thursdays are good.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Happy New Year

Shalom, "peace," is one of the richest words in the Bible.  You can no more define it by looking up its meaning in the dictionary than you can define a person by his or her social security number.  It gathers all aspects of wholeness that result from God's will being completed in us.  It is the work of God that, when complete, releases streams of living water in us and pulsates with eternal life.  Every time Jesus healed, forgave or called someone, we have a demonstration of shalom
From A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene H. Peterson

 (Julia and Bradley headed to a "play-date" with some friends down the road from our house)

I love this small word from Peterson.  It sums up our entire year of 2015.  We look back and see Him healing, forgiving, and calling our entire family.  Then we see 2016 being a complete demonstration of the Lord's shalom poured out over us.  Now, we are experiencing 2017 as the releasing of streams of living water in us that pulsates with eternal life.  Praise be to God and to God the Glory!  Wow! Oh, so good.  

Oh, so good, but not quite easy.  How can that be?  I wish all of you were walking this path with us, then you would see the paradox as we do.  Uganda is hard.  Its rough and raw.  Its striving and surviving.  Not like the striving we are used to from the US, but striving just to live, to just breathe another breath.  New Years Eve here is taken very seriously.  People gather together at football pitches, stadiums, churches and many other public venues to pray and give thanks.  They spend the entire 24 hours or more just thanking God above for allowing them to live one more year.  Its a celebration of life, actually being alive!  It seems New Years in the US is primarily focused on where you are, what you are doing, who you're with, what you have on, who you will kiss, and what to drink -then making sure that you have a designated driver!  Pretty different reality.  

So I'm thankful to God for allowing us this new life, or new perspective on life.  Its ugly and the stories from every Ugandan we meet is full of pain, loss, poverty, disease, death, hunger, and grief.  Yet the beauty of it all seems to be their reliance on the Lord for their very next meal.  Its good, oh so good!  Just being in the presence of such reliance is teaching me the same.  He first causes me to realize my foolishness of believing I had such control over my next meal, breath, or heartbeat.  Then he wakes me up to my pride preventing me from my Saviors presence.  This perspective is on the reality of His Kingdom verses my egocentric short-sighted nature.  Its full, lasting, and its good.  What an honor it is to be here and walk with these precious people through their pain.  But in all honesty, they walk with me through mine, as the Lord pulls me out of myself and into His grace.  Thank you Lord.  You are glorious!

In this New Year, let us all be more like Him, beg for His revealing, plead for His guidance and walk in His grace.  And may our circumstances cause us to rely completely and totally upon His strength, for this is where we come to know Him more. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas

We enjoyed a very Merry Christmas with wonderful friends.  It very well might have been the best yet!  Minus the family and friends that we are missing in the states, this Christmas was so full!

I would say that its richness began right after Thanksgiving.  We really enjoyed the lack of shopping, parties, performances, over indulgent food and all the hustle and bustle of the season.  It was nice to not even have the option.  It was nice to not have all the cultural promptings of Christmas (snow, lights, sweaters, green & red decorations, Target's Dollar Spot lined with toys, gift exchanges, Christmas carols sung, school recitals, etc.).  We all mentioned that it didn't "feel like Christmas."  Nothing in our environment "felt" like Christmas.  Nothing was ushering us into the warm fuzzies of the season.   No pumpkin lattes,  just the standard 75-80 degrees and partly cloudy.  So I would say that we each had to dig deeper into Christmas as truth, not a feeling.  Christmas in the raw.  Christmas without sparkles, cinnamon, and fireplaces.  Thankfully, fortunately, the Lord met us all and revealed a new detention and perspective. It was fresh and good.  Besides our DIY Christmas tree, we didn't have one man-made frill.  And let me tell you, its really satisfying.  My cup overfloweth.  

The kids each received one gift and Jim and I didn't exchange was awesome!  Only the day to reflect on. Only Jesus. Nothing cluttered our view of Him. Nothing cluttered our time with Him.  What a gift!

We spent the morning as just the five of us.  Then, for lunch we had over our current guard & his family, our previous guard & and his family, and a sweet couple we have become really good friends with from EMI.   The day was full of fellowship and games.  Jim led in an Advent reading, songs, and prayer.  We then played Ludo, an old African game (actually originated in India).  As well, we shared a simple meal while each person shared their testimony of the Lords Glory this year.  It was such a good celebration of Christ's birth, as we honored his presence in our lives.  We were blessed.

Wonderful Christmas Uganda, Thank you!

 Enjoying a competitive game of Ludo
 Player Architecto
 Allison watching Jolly (and her two daughters) knit a flower. Allison received a knitting kit for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Late November...feels like Early May

Time has stood still for us.  We departed the US on Sept 11th and its now Nov 29th.  Where has the time gone?  It feels like we just got here.  I've realized how much the change of seasons causes my mind, body and spirit to progress through the calendar year along with reality.  But all is different here, when the weather the the exact same every day.  Its absolutely beautiful every day!  I love the sunshine and the rain.  I love the mild temperatures and the brisk mornings. (All Ugandans say that its freezing outside if the temps fall into the 70s.  They all come to work dressing in ski coats, scarfs, hats and sometimes kidding!)  Truly,  we are enjoying the weather and atmosphere of Uganda. 

However, I look at my calendar and realize that time has moved at an American pace while I've been adjusting to the African pace....very slow and easy.  Everything takes twice as long to complete.  Everyone moves twice as slowly.  Time has drastically slowed.  All together though, I'm enjoying it.  The new pace has caused me to slow down and think, reason, pray, read, sleep, talk, and really listen to those around me.  Its been good.

So here I write, only my second entry since we arrived. ( I had plans to write every Friday....still do.  Just may be awhile before I meet that goal :-)

November has been a RE-settling month.  We found our own home to rent and moved in at the first of the month.  Its a perfect peaceful place for our family.  Its a little off the main road and out of the hustle and bustle of Ugandan commerce.  Jim's work commute is about 20 by car and 15 by boda (motorcycle) or his bicycle.  The construction on  our home began 9 years ago (we like to think that the Lord was preparing it for us when Bradley was born), but was just finished this month.  We are the first people to every live in it.  Its 3 bedroom 2 bath with a living, kitchen and dining.  We also have a room outside (called a boy's quarters) and a guard house (with small sink and toilet).  Our guard, Joseph, lives there full time.  He works from 9pm-6am every day and does a little yard work in the daytime hours.  He just began to plant a garden for us yesterday!  We also employ Resty, our "house-help."  She comes 5 days a week and works around the house.  To understand the entirety of what she does and how much she works, you'll just have to come visit!  She is amazing!  It blows my mind to believe she has so much housework every day (in addition to what I do), that she could work full-time, but she does!  We are so thankful for them both!  God has appointed them for our home and ministry.   They have been vital in us settling and sustaining our life here.  Thank you Lord!
Jim's work has proven itself fruitful.  EMI was ready and waiting for us to arrive and put him right to work.  He's already been out to visit several current projects in Lira and Jinja.  He has also been to Martyrs University to sit on a design review panel for students as they presented their projects.  And needless to say, Jim has already made himself acquainted with our entire neighborhood (president of HOA, Mayor of Kajansi town, president of Rotary, most neighbors and their guards).  As well, he has become the ambassador of our village to the US Embassy.  Anyone surprised?  People her are. They say, "how can Jim have only been here for 2 months and know so many people?"  I don't know, I'm just along for the ride :-)  And its quite an adventure.
 Oh, and by the way, same for the kiddos.  They have made so many new friends.  Bradley is out now on a play-date (they have a real trampoline, so its an honor to be invited to this particular house :-). The girls are have already babysat for a neighbor and are planning our next party!  Not much has changed in their worlds, just the side of the world they live on.
 Jim and Bradley took a "boys" trip to the equator on the motor bike.  We have one car and the motor bike.  Jim drives it to work most days and I keep the car for grocery shopping, school, and play dates.
 What is it with kids and umbrellas?  Julia spent the morning in the rain-just living a dream of hers :-)

As for me, I've plugged in to a wonderful women's bible study (studying James).  Its mostly neighborhood women.  What a great connection and wonderful community of help!  They made meals for us a we moved and pray for us daily.  I've been very fortunate to find such great friends so quickly! Outside of bible study, I've found myself busy with home school and settling our home.  I've completed our 150 photograph wall...all of the pics taken from May to August, full of our prayer partners and supporters.   Its in our dining room and gives us a great reminder every day of the team God has placed us on!  We love it - We love you!  Go team!
Just a few more pics...this is the view outside of our kitchen window.  I watch the guys balance on 2x4s and just pray.  They've got skills!
Yeti Brown Jose!  The best guard dog ever - or not!  He sleeps through everything, but barks all day at passerbyers. His new best friends are Joseph and Resty.  They play ball with him and I think they've been feeding him posho and matoke at lunch time.  
Jim, never quitting on the Broncos, even if it means watching in the middle of the night. 
And the beginning of a large collection of photos - "Things Balanced on Bodas"