you’re invited to be ONE

hey friends! I’ve been thinking about how it’s SO important to me that my friends know WHY I love Noonday Collection, and am an ambassador for them. You may know Jason and I spent time in Uganda, but even before that I have always loved poor people and wanted to do something about poverty, and my heart is particularly in the developing world. Poverty is such a gigantic issue that the thought of what one person can do is often overwhelming.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how I took the plunge to become an ambassador in spite of being nervous about it, and it really was the thought of ONE person, my neighbor in Uganda named Jennifer, that especially spurred me on. By the age of 40, she had 7 children and also cared for a niece and nephew, and worked her tail off to make food to sell at the market, cook for them, fetch the water, do everything basically. I thought if being an ambassador gave economic opportunity to just one person like Jennifer, it would be worth doing.

While being an ambassador is sometimes hard, I’m fueled by another ONE person’s excitement, Noonday’s founder, Jessica Honneggar, who dreams enormously and sees many dreams come to fruition. Because she shares extravagant ideas and plans, her  passion spread, and ONE women, Jalia, provided for her children with ONE man, her husband Daniel, when they were destitute in their home country Uganda. She was born to a polygomist father who had 4 wives, and 40 children. This isn’t uncommon in Uganda, where the average age is 15 years old, and an average of 16 women die during childbirth daily. She needed sustainable income for her family. Jalia and Daniel are the first artisans Jessica partnered with; they now own the artisan business African Style and teach people to make beautiful paper bead pieces, and employ almost 400 people in their community. Their heart is for their neighbor who is hurting the way they were, and to use business as mission.

ONE man, Renal, in Haiti, began to rebuild his workshop after it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and has so many people coming to his door looking for work that he has to turn some away. His workshop produces incredibly fun and funky pieces made of metal and leather. Our Liberte’ necklace is made from an oil drum and tied with bright red leather straps, and is a work of art that brings hope.

ONE girl with fierce dreams, Sofiya, is employed in India where the unemployment rate for women is sky-high, and prostitution is the only thing many women and girls know. Sofiya began as a packager and dreamed of becoming a jewelry maker, which she now is. She has provided for her family, and now drives a motorbike. 🙂

ONE woman, Tigiest, discovered she was HIV+, along with 700,000 others in her home country of Ethiopia. She had to leave her home because of the social stigma that goes along with the disease, and 2 of her 5 children along with it. She lives in Entoto Mountain, working with an artisan business that partners with Noonday. Since then she has been able to send for the 2 children left behind, provide for them, and for the medicine she needs for herself.

ONE woman, Ana, dreams of empowering the women in her community in Guatemala with the skill they’ve been taught as young girls, weaving intricate scarves on a backstrap loom. The community is in the unstable economic climate of harvesting coffee, living off of $2 a day. Ana saw tourists loving the beautiful scarves the women made, but she had to find a solution to consistent dye for the cotton in order to make a consistent product to sell. That didn’t stop her from spending 2 years to do so! Now many of the women earn more from their jobs making scarves than their husbands harvesting coffee, and are able to send their children to school.

And ONE woman in Afghanistan, Fatima, is teaching her 3 sons and daughter how women should be treated through her example of hard work and earned respect. Like endless Afghani women, she endured gender-based violence, and discrimination since she was a small child. Her father died before she was born, and her mother had to rely on male relatives because she lacked other opportunity to support her family. Fatima and her sisters were mistreated by these men, and when she was 14, her stepfather forced her to marry her abusive stepbrother. Fatima saw her mother’s sadness that she couldn’t protect her girls in her situation and didn’t want that for herself. Today, she uses her ability to embroider gorgeous pieces to support her 4 children, and even supports her husband. This is revolutionary in such a male-dominated society, and Fatima is overjoyed to work with the artisan business Noonday partners with. These women have created the incredible Silk Road Clutch.

Each ONE of these lives looked different before ONE Jessica Honneggar founded Noonday, ONE Travis Wilson now works with her as co-owner, ONE woman wanted to become an ambassador, and ONE woman said, “YES! I want to host a trunk show and advocate for these artisans!” ONE woman wanted to wear their stories, and ONE friend of mine invited me to a trunk show and shared her passion about how we spend our money; ONE Carolyn Zermeno has had so much joy from being an ambassador. 😉 It is important to me that my friends and family understand why I am an ambassador in the face of gigantic, painful poverty. I do not do any of this to try to sell you something. I believe this is ONE thing we can do to lift others out of poverty. These artisans make beautiful, beautiful things, and so many are from the resources of their countries that they’ve turned from something not so pretty into a work of art. I hope you don’t let the feeling of not being able or ready to purchase something keep you from coming to our brunch Saturday or learning more about Noonday Collection. I don’t have expectations, but I love to have friends over, feed them delicious things, 😉 and share a few stories of mothers in poverty who are working so hard to climb out of it, provide for and protect their children. ONE brunch can actually matter to mothers like Tigiest and Fatima! We can honor these mothers for Mother’s Day, celebrate our moms, and of course, make our own Wishlists! (I’ve got mine!! :)) I do not have the chance to share all these stories EVER at a trunk show, so it’s really fun for me to sit down and compile a few of my favorites now. Together we truly are building a flourishing world where children are cherished, women are empowered, people have jobs, and we are connected! Check out the blog from my page http://www.carolynzermeno.noondaycollection.com to learn more. Can’t wait to see you at my home Saturday, April 25th, for brunch from 10-12! If you’re not local, but interested in shopping gifts that change people’s lives, use this link for trunk show online for a chance to some fun hostess rewards: http://www.bit.ly/noondaymothersday.

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Rwanda

AIM Central Region HQ – Kampala, UG.  Headed to Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills!

We made it to Rwanda! Here is my good friend Mary Claire and I in Africa after years of praying for it to happen! Jason and I stayed with MC, aka Bobs, for 5 or 6 days in Kigali, the capital. She showed us the sights and we had such a great time. In this pic we are at a bagel place just grabbing some lunch. It was such a nice time to relax and rest after leaving Uganda, and just to enjoy being with friends. We met her roommates and friends and it was just a great time. {Our necklaces here at Ugandan. 🙂 gotta give the love to my friend Florence!}

Loving Rwanda!

Mary Claire’s house. Notice Jason laid out all the colorful Ugandan shilling bills to show MC and of course she showed us Rwandan currency, too. We had to learn if we wanted to go to the store or jump on a moto of course. It was only a little different, but somehow that made it more difficult. But the strength of the Rwandan currency was (is? I think still) much stronger and closed to the US dollar than UG currency.

The beauty of Kigali from MC’s living room. It is absolutely breathtaking!

I imagine the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a life-changing experience whether you’re interested in Africa or not.  Jason and I visited Rwanda the first week of April 2012, a little over a year ago now.  April 7th is their Genocide Memorial Day, after which comes a week of mourning.  We were there right before that, although from the pictures you’ll see many signs that the mourning had already begun. They were selling roses at the door to leave at the graves to and give proceeds to the Memorial, but entrance doesn’t cost anything. They are striving to educate as many people about genocide as possible because they believe that is what will prevent it in the future.

One morning Jason and I hopped on motos and headed to the Genocide Memorial. These houses were immediately to the left of it, and they struck me because of the condition they are in compared to the ground and building of the Memorial, which are very well kept

One of our first mornings in Kigali, Jason and I hopped on motos and headed to the Memorial. These houses were  to the left, a little ways off.  They struck me because of the condition they are in compared to the grounds and buildings of the Memorial, which are very well kept.

As if it isn't already on Rwandans minds, I can't imagine living this close to the Memorial

"We will never forget you"

Notice the “We will never forget you” written on the ribbon.

Tombs - you are able to look inside and see caskets where the glass is

Tombs – you are able to look inside and see caskets where the glass Here's a closer look

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the grounds around the tombs are beautiful

The grounds around the tombs are beautiful

A row of tombs - even though there are so many, it still is mind-boggling that 250,000+ are buried here

A row of tombs. Even though there are so many tombs like this one, it still is mind-boggling that 250,000+ are buried here.

I took the following excerpt from http://www.kigalimemorialcentre.org/old/genocide/ because it has so much detail and seems to represent the position of the Memorial. I think it gives you an idea of something you would read if you were there.

“In 100 days, more than 1,000,000 people were murdered.

But the genocidaires did not kill a million people. They killed one, then another, then another…… day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. Every minute of the day,

someone, somewhere, was being murdered, screaming for mercy.

And receiving none.

Genocide is never spontaneous. It is an intentional act of multiple murders, aimed at destroying the presence of the victim group.

Its perpetrators do not respect age, gender, occupation, religion or status.

Not every act of genocidal violence results in genocide itself.

Different types of crisis have different names, such as politicide (murder of political groups) and ethnocide (murder of ethnic groups).

This does not imply that one is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other, but that they are different in either motivation or outcome.

Whatever the term used, victims of mass murder feel, often with good reason, that they have suffered a genocidal attempt on their lives.

The exhibition at the Kigali Memorial Centre introduces several genocides and genocidal-type situations.  It does not give examples of all genocidal massacres because of limited space. It can only illustrate a few examples, representing a tragic cross-section of a century of genocide.”

As they mentioned in that last paragraph, the tour concludes with rooms dedicated solely to genocides throughout time in different areas of the world, many of which I had never heard.  Of course I know about the Holocaust, and a few others, but I was amazed at what I had never heard of.  I had no idea that there was a genocide between these exact two people groups involved here that occurred in Burundi, the country directly south of Rwanda. Since Burundi’s independence in 1962, there were two mass killings; the first occurred a decade after independence, and the second in 1993, a year before Rwanda’s 100 days.

When the tour was finished, we exited to a cafe in a courtyard attached to the Memorial. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful place. Although we had lost our appetite, the whole morning had been exhausting emotionally and we were beat and hungry.  We sat in silence as we waited for our food.  There was absolutely nothing of value to be said. We knew about the genocide; we knew that in a tiny African country 1,000,000 people had been killed less than 2 decades ago. But all I could feel was ignorance at the depth and detail of what took place. Because this is a modern-day genocide, there was footage in the tour. Not very much, but what we saw was a recording of chaos: people running and attempting to run, rivers of blood in the street, and people annihilating others on the ground with machetes. Blood was everywhere. It was shocking how passive the attackers seemed to the senseless mutilation. The only way I could distinguish predator from prey was by who was holding the weapon. Also because this is so recent, there were many videos of testimonies given by survivors. They spoke of their families that were completely wiped out, or of their mother and their favorite childhood memories. One favorite memory was eating cake and milk together. If they were infants or toddlers at the time, they spoke of not having memories of their families. Some testified to their entire family taken from them and now living with an “aunt” or possibly a real grandmother.  They all put on a really brave face in my opinion. They gave the facts, some with emotion and some without. I was torn up just as much by the ones without, and maybe almost more so. The last part of the tour was a few rooms dedicated to children. There were pictures of individual children and babies.  Underneath is listed his/her name, age, favorite food, and the method of their death. Some simply said, “machete.” I don’t remember them all, but it was very blunt, like “trampled.”    There were also quotes from children. The one that hit me was from a little girl who I think was 7.  She said, “I always look in the marketplaces because I think I just might find my brothers.”  That visual is so vivid and strong that it could make me cry just thinking about it; it reminds me so much of the precious little children in our village in Uganda.

Jason and I left the Memorial and walked a bit before we hopped on a moto. I looked a lot at the homes in the pictures that I showed you at the beginning of this post. That’s when I took the pics because all I could think about was these people’s lives in the past twenty years. Many, many, many lived in refugee camps across borders before they returned. Many fled to Uganda. We left the Memorial with new eyes, and all I could do was look at the people, and really look at them individually. What we had just witnessed for 4-5 hours has been their life or at least directly affected the course of their life for the last 18 years. It was their whole life for the teenagers we saw. I thought a lot of my brother Andrew, who was born in ’90, a few years before the genocide, but there were many who looked his age. That would have made them 3 or 4 during the 100 days.  In Rwanda today, from what I understand and have heard from friends there, there is a great effort to unity as Rwandans. But what no one can change is that it means maybe going to school with the one whose father killed my father and sitting peaceably.  It means possibly now being friends with one who may have been forced to abuse and kill my friend.  It means I might no longer have any sisters because of someone I know.

Jason and I discovered it’s possible to fall in love with a country in a day. A year has gone by, and I’m still thinking about Rwanda. Of course I can’t begin to scratch the surface of what they’re feeling and experiencing, but I hope someday to have the chance to return for a longer period of time. I am so glad Jason and I had the opportunity to end our time in Africa by spending a few days in such a beautiful country.

Emmanuel

Last week my good friend Mary Claire wrote that one of her students, a genocide survivor, had just passed away in Rwanda. I have had his family and friends on my mind and heart pretty heavily lately… his name was Emmanuel.  He was a 2011 Bridge2Rwanda scholar who had been preparing to go to the University of Rochester in a few weeks.  His class is made up of 27 students like him who have completed their Secondary school studies and are preparing to come to the US to study at a university, and then return to Rwanda to support and empower their country and fellow Rwandans. Jason and I got to meet these students at the end of our time in Uganda. We went to visit MC in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and even got to do Storying with her class. It was an incredible time. We were there for about 5 days, and at the point of meeting the Bridge2Rwanda scholars, Jason and I had been in the country about 3 days and we felt a love for Rwandans that I didn’t know was possible in that amount of time.  When we landed in Rwanda, we came with a love for Africans we didn’t have at the onset of our time in Uganda. Before Uganda, I loved Africans as I loved my fellow man, but I didn’t personally know and love an African. But in Rwanda we landed and I felt peace. I felt like I had come home. It is so beautiful, the land of a 1000 hills, and I think for us it was just so cool to see another African country before we left the continent. The second day in Kigali, we went to the Genocide Memorial and saw with our hearts what our minds already knew: the unspeakable genocide of 100 days sweeping across a tiny country.  We left with new eyes and a new compassion. We saw the history differently; we viewed everyone on the street or in the market differently.

So when Mary Claire said, “Hey, you wanna come talk to my class on Friday?” we were pumped.  We chose the story of the crucifixion because it was Good Friday and we had just done it with our students in Uganda.  It was so real to us…not just a story.  Mary Claire’s students listened attentively; we were like magnets for their attention. She told us not to change our English accent, and not to slow it down. We had been doing this for so long in Uganda that it was actually difficult! She is prepping them for college in the States, so of course we wanted to be as “normal” as possible so they could be somewhat accustomed to it. We had such a great time with these students!  They looked up at us with bright eyes and smiles as we discussed the Son of Man who was willing to die for us.  As I looked into their faces I felt such a love for them, knowing that most of them lost their parents 18 years ago, very likely a brutal death, possibly even at the hand of their classmates’ parents. This has been their whole life. Jason and I got to chat one-on-one with a few of them after the class and fell just a bit deeper in love with Rwanda and her people.  Emmanuel was one of the students there, so please pray for his fellow classmates. He is with Jesus now, so his joy is full, but for us there is still heartache. Mary Claire wrote here of rejoicing in our Savior even when he does not save us from danger, and of confusion at why he would survive the genocide as a tiny boy to die in a swimming accident. Pray for Emmanuel’s family and friends. Pray for Mary Claire as she continues on with her students who are hurting and confused. These students also forgo lunch many days because of lack of funds. If you are interested in helping MC supply them with lunch, read more here. She gives details at the bottom of the post. I think it is such a cool way to be directly involved.

Emmanuel… God with us. A name given very deliberately.

I am so thankful that God is with us, everywhere we go, all the time.

The death of family, friends or people we don’t even know plays such an integral role in our lives. It is a reminder to us that this is just the now. The life I have has been given to me, and it’s not mine. It is temporary and fragile. I think a lot of us in the States are feeling this way lately because of the shootings in Colorado this weekend. Senseless and unfathomable… we don’t understand.

Emmanuel.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.”  

{Psalm 139:7-10}

Emmanuel.

We cannot go too far away from Him! We can’t go where His arm cannot reach us, or so far that His ear can’t hear us cry. Isaiah tells us just that…”Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.”

You and I cannot find a “far side of the sea” that He didn’t create, or a place where he wasn’t already there.  Think of where that place that is for you, where you feel so far away, or in such a strange place that it seems to be a world apart. We cannot go so far that He is not there! I wrote lately about the freedom I felt in Africa, and the association I’ve made between the feeling and the location is crazy. Africa is not the place of God’s peace for me. I’ve been missing Uganda, but what that really translates into is not a longing for a country but for our Savior.  All our longing, all our desire, is really masked longing. We are longing for the One who made us, and the Savior who bought us with His blood. It is difficult to see this clearly now because we are broken and our human wants are veiling heavily what our hearts truly desire.  Even the best desire of my heart can’t be fulfilled by obtaining it.  We are worshipping beings, and He made us only able to be fully satisfied when we finally see Him face-to-face.

In a life of numbered days and confusing deaths, that encourages me. I may want this and that, and to go here and there, but it is really pretty simple.  I can live or die but cannot be taken from Him.  I can go here or there and He goes with me. His hand guides me and holds me fast. 

Emmanuel. God is with us.

Chatting with Mary Claire when we got to her house in Kigali. We had to show each other our African country's currency, of course.

Chatting with Mary Claire when we got to her house in Kigali. We had to show each other our African country’s currency, and talked about how different the value is. I brought her a few Ugandan necklaces, which she rocked the whole time we were there.

MC’s Rwandan buds who came over for a bit. We loved hanging out with them. See how beautiful Africa is!? This is the incredible view from Mary Claire’s back porch.

thankful…

It has been argued for years which running form is best. In fact, runners also debate over nutrition, which strategies to follow, and which coaches’ advice to take.  What they cannot debate is this: running is simple in that all any one person can do is put one foot in front of the other.

Whether speedy or slow, veteran or beginner, no one can do more than take the next step. It’s impossible.  To take a second step, the first step must be taken.

It is often easy to become discouraged and think we cannot take the next step, the events coming in the next week, or even the next day.  When faced with a looming, seemingly impossible task, it just seems like too much….something we can’t do.

It also often seems to be the next step that I don’t want to take. I look around me, and I see my last step and the step ahead and I eyeball those with envy.  Why this step, Lord? Why not that one?  Of course when living out the stage of life previous to the one I’m in, it was difficult, muddy, uphill and exhausting. But when presented with a new mountain to climb, I view it with fear and anxiety when it seems an overwhelming task, and feels like one at which I’m guaranteed to fail.

So I work harder. I have a list of things to get done, people to get back in touch with, recipes I want to cook, grocery runs I need to make, emails to send and care packages for Africa I want to put together. Somewhere in there I am working 35-40 hours a week and trying to exercise most days… and I feel like I need more hours in a day.  This doesn’t include any volunteer stuff that I’d love to do. This doesn’t include time with Jason and fun things like date nights and such. And we don’t have kids.

Nowhere in any of that did I mention time with God, time reading or praying, or time just thinking about Him. We make our lists by our priorities; somewhere I have lost the most important “to-do:” Be still and know that I am God. {Psalm 46:10}

This type of schedule is rather typical for a 27-year-old American gal living in a city such as Memphis, TN. In fact, it’s light in comparison to those working full-time jobs and maintaining a pretty steady social life. People work more than I do and seem to be just fine or they’ve done a great job foolin’ me.  We are in a recession after all… some people are working two jobs.

In Uganda, work and life are not as separated as they are here in Memphis. Ugandans usually don’t have a job they go to as we do; they work the land or they are in the business or trading things or supplying things.  They may be shop owners, from little dukas on the side of the road to clothes and jewelry and accessory shops.  They may create gorgeous ebony carvings or useful baskets and come to your door to sell them.  A girl may walk by my house selling bananas. My beloved neighbor Jennifer tends to her fields and her children all week long. A few times a week she will deep fry delicious dough to make mendez to sell at the market, which is the main source of cash she generates. Her crops are used for eating and trading for other useful things/crops. Her husband is a pastor so he makes money that way and also through raising livestock to sell.

Since returning home from Uganda, I am exhausted more often than not, and usually I don’t know why.  A lot of it is re-entry and the time it takes to do that. But I often feel like I’m giving all I’ve got and I’m still behind. I became accustomed to a much slower pace of life and though I didn’t forget them, didn’t have the same responsibilities to answer to that I do here in the States. Six months is apparently enough for it to throw me off once dropped back into a faster pace, and leave me mentally and emotionally weary as well.

This type of lifestyle I’m referring to is what we mean by “the grind,” and “getting away from it all.”  A fair question would be: getting away from what? I guess we mean our jobs….taking a vacation, taking time to relax.  Taking time off from the hamster wheel that will run us ragged.

I don’t want to be so busy, I don’t want to feel ragged, and I don’t want to forget what I learned and how I lived in Uganda.  I feel chained to this unnecessary, crazy busy, accomplishment society…chains that I must have allowed on me.  I want to remember peace in all situations, whether in Memphis or Maracha.  I want to remember appearances don’t matter. I love that in Africa your clothes don’t have to match or make much sense. It’s awesome. Clothes can’t be dirty though. Or bodies for that matter. They will bathe their bleeding child before they’d let me take her to the hospital while I’m chomping at the bit to go, but overall clothes are really about function. They look dressy for church and traveling. And while I won’t deny I have been happy to put together what was {I at least hoped}, a nice outfit, I know it doesn’t matter. Why do we let ourselves think it does? Oh my gosh, are we as a culture not so worried about what others will think about us, whether by appearance, how much money we make, what kind of job we have or where we live? This is the kind of thing I feel chained to. I don’t want to care, come on, it’s so ridiculous! But we do care, don’t we. It’s exhausting to try to keep up with. But is one more chain we add to the chains of accomplishment/education, and it will kill us if we don’t put them to death in our lives. We cannot do that if we are worried about others’ opinions more than our Father’s, and we cannot put it to death if we don’t believe that Jesus did that first at the Cross.

Paul Miller, in his book A Praying Life, talks about what it means to have the peace in your heart amid a life that keeps you so crazy busy it can feel like you’re a puppet on your own string. I love this. He writes, “It’s one thing to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have a busy soul.”

Our lives may be busy, but it is our soul that is longing for rest. Be still and know that I am God.

I really miss Uganda. I miss the beauty of land, the colorful flowers on the trees and how far you can see into the distance; I miss the precious people that I love; I miss the constant need I had to turn to my Bible for replenishment because I had no other option. I miss the fun things like buying pork on the side of the road right after it had been slaughtered, and my all-time favorite, the boda boda (motorcycle) rides we would take to the market in Maracha or on the way to town in Arua. I miss talking to my boda drivers, laughing with them, and the pure happiness from the moment we started driving to the moment we’d stop. I miss how crazy close they would drive in town, swerving in and out with each other, and yet knowing I wouldn’t fall off. Oh, glorious.

I have been struggling so much with wanting to return to Africa.  Even just a few days off the plane I knew it would have been easier for me to tuck tail and run…make a U-turn, buy a ticket and return to the place of freedom from these expectations and social rules we place on ourselves.  There are other rules there, and some that make as little sense as some of ours.  But for me there was peace in following what God told us to do, and in following where he led.  For the first time, I understood the verse, I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. Psalm 119:32. I’ve always liked that verse but I hadn’t fully experienced it. My thoughts in the past had been something like, so I run in the path of your commands….ok, do what God says, I get it… and then I’ll be free.  Like a solution for happiness.  Sounds like a nice verse… kinda like “Delight yourselves in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Ok, I want a _____________, maybe if I concentrate really hard I can figure out how to delight myself in the Lord. I mean, He said it, right? What did he expect me to do? Is this a trick?  We know it doesn’t work that way. So we read the verse and move on, disappointed and unsure of how to make ourselves delight in the Lord.

I didn’t realize how much bondage I was in until my heart, my soul, and the full being of every ounce of me was set free in Jesus Christ. It’s tears of joy, it’s a motorcycle ride in Rwanda among the breathtaking valleys and hills, it’s my children dancing in the village, it’s the bride walking down the aisle to meet her groom.

You have set my heart free! I run in the paths of your commands….because you have set my heart free.  I always looked at it the other way around: run in the path like arduous, painful running, meaning, just do what God says, and then when you do, I’ll set your heart free, meaning, you will be happy.  Laws to follow to bring me what I want. And my mindset in the past saw this as, although subconsciously: because I think I know what will make me happy, I want to follow this formula.

I had it all wrong. David wrote this as an expression of his love for the Lord, that it is a joy to follow Him and be in communion with him.  David is saying, I do these things because of what you’ve done for me! I give my life to you because you gave yours for me. I give my heart to you because you have redeemed it.  It’s because I’ve tasted the sweetness of your love that I want to give you everything I have.  It’s freedom from the chains of man’s expectations! It’s an overflow of joy in seeking the way the Lord has planned. It’s freedom!

In a word, that freedom means peace.

The mistake I’ve made is to forget that peace is Christ in me, and not in a physical place somewhere here on this earth. I’ve struggled and struggled with missing Africa and the people I so dearly love.  Jason and I haven’t known where we fit upon re-entry and have had many periods of not knowing what to do, and many rocky days. Going back to Africa is what I’ve prayed for because I just didn’t get us being here. In the early days of re-entry I wore this stress physically. My shoulders would ache and at one point my arms and legs would hurt to the lightest touch. I can’t explain that…like I’d been beaten up. It was so weird. I prayed and prayed we’d be sent back to Africa. I’ve felt homesick for Africa, frustrated to be back at what seemed to be Square One, felt depressed and a lack of understanding for why we’d go at all just to be back and return to our old way of life. We prayed and prayed about what to do. I didn’t feel God’s presence. I prayed some more. We thought a lot about Uganda, and Rwanda as well because we visited at the end of our time there.  We fell in love with a people and place in a matter of just a few days.

But that is not the step God has told us to take. Jason and I both feel that God has us here in Memphis for the time being, whether that is 5 years or 10 years, we don’t know.  I do long for Africa but I know if and when the timing is right God will give us both the calling to go.

This step is not the one I wanted. I miss Africa with everything in me.  I think about it constantly… I think about my family in the village during the day and know it’s almost night for them, and I know they are going to the borehole to fetch water and bringing in the livestock. I think about Africa when I wake up…. like what I’d be doing first thing in the morning. I’d set the solar panel out on the way to the latrine. I’d hear greetings of “Good morning!” and “How was your night?” in Lugbara before I even made it back to the house.  I’d have some tea and have time to sit and read. Or I may have prepared dough for naan and lit the charcoal fire before it got too hot.  I may have played with my kids next door, or maybe the mama goat gave birth the night before so I got to see a brand-new wobbly little creation.

I like that last step in Africa. My mind looks back to it with fond memory, almost forgets how hard it was, and shifts ahead to the possible next steps.  But as it is for any runner, our last step got us to where we are now, and this step will lead us where God guides us next, and each step to follow after that.  Jason and I also have a love for Scotland and Mexico and have prayed about possible opportunities for missions there. More than anything, though, whichever continent we’re on, we want to say: Lord, you lead the way. You are our home. You are where we have peace. Although I wanted to skip this lil’ ole step and jump on to Uganda, that’s really not what I want if he does not take us there.  We don’t know if we’ll ever go back to Africa. We told the Lord we’d go anywhere and do anything, and like Moses said, “Lord, if your presence will not go with us, do not take us from here.” {Exodus 33:15)

As we are adjusting to this next step in life, we have so many things to be thankful for that it’s just awesome. I prayed that God would give Jason a job.  I prayed that I wouldn’t forget what He had taught me in Africa.  I prayed that I wouldn’t be comfortable back in my old, comfortable, egocentric lifestyle. I prayed for peace in knowing where we should be.  I prayed for legal issues of almost 4 years ago to be resolved, which we have been praying for since they began. I prayed for a job for myself. The Lord has answered each of these prayers with a yes since returning home 3 months ago.

-I have been working at Fleet Feet (a specialty running store in Memphis), where I used to work, which kindly took me back in and has been such a blessing.  I’ve also made some new friends there, which has been awesome.

-I will be working as an interim teacher for 5th grade reading at a school I have worked for before and love, beginning in a few weeks. I am so excited.

-I was told all legal issues are resolved and completely over without financial burdens on us.  This has ended just shy of 4 years.

-I have peace in knowing the Lord has here in Memphis

-I am not comfortable 😉

-I haven’t forgotten Africa and am still learning what the Lord taught me there

-Jason got a job! And not just a temporary job, but a good job and one that we think he will really enjoy. He is working at a financial company in the IT department for customer support. If you know him well, you know he is techy and loves computers and is really good at that kind of stuff. He started on Monday and so far it has been good.

We have a loving Savior, you and I, one who delights to give us good things.  He is our peace and rest. In Him, our hearts are free no matter how busy our lives are or how many expectations our culture puts on us. Do not believe the lies of self-worth our nation preaches in achievements and appearances! Take the freedom He offers in abiding in Him. It is so much sweeter!

In this step of our lives, I am incredibly thankful for each of you who has supported us in prayer and in finances. You have touched us in a big way, and we are still reaping the benefits from it. Thank you! We can’t say it enough. We are so thankful we were able to go to UG and it is because of God using you that we could. I am thankful for that and a faithful Father who is here as much in this step as in the last.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you both now and forevermore. 

May you always follow in the path our dear Captain leads you, the path that brings you rest and a cup that overflows both in plenty and in want. 

c.u.l.t.u.r.e. s.h.o.c.k.

It’s funny, but outside of your comfort zone there can be immense comfort. It doesn’t happen overnight, but toward the midway point of our time in Africa we got into more of a rhythm and started trading old comforts for new comforts.  Coming back to the US has been 7639831465342x harder than I thought it would be, but don’t ask me what I expected! I probably thought that I’d be coming home, excited to have a new perspective and love for the Lord because I’d seen so fully His love for me… definitely willing and ready to go anywhere to serve God, including my hometown. Definitely ready to do anything He said.

When we landed in Uganda in October, we traded familiar things for unfamiliar ones.  We had to adapt just as all people do when moving to a new country (duh. I know, try to stay with me).  And you do adapt.  In time, it seems normal to bathe outside with a bucket in a bathing shelter.  Instead of the tedious set-up, l looked at it as a nice way to cool off.  Instead of being annoyed about no sink to spit into, it became something awesome because as we brushed our teeth outside we saw the night sky in all its glory. No camera can capture how clearly we could see the stars. It’s a thrill of God’s majesty that I can hardly explain. So good things and hard things all became normal. In time, it became normal to live in rural Africa… it was normal for everything to be different.

Jason and I learned how to live in a village without running water or electricity…how to bathe in the outside bathing shelter with a bucket… how to use a solar panel to charge a computer and a phone….not to worry about the spiders and bugs in the latrine….what a latrine is :)…. that I should have brought our head lamp!…how to see much better in the dark…how to make chapatis and delicious garlic naan.  I realized before we went I had never been so hot…never been so confused with cultural things… never cooked on an open charcoal fire…never eaten enya or posho… never been able to communicate so much in a different language… never experienced such change – across the board, almost everything is different. Culture, language, church, school, living situation, heat, clothes, food, (lack of) privacy, independence and transportation, and never seen such hierarchy within the community.  From a country that prides self & individuals, we were plunged into an opposite kind of culture.

One night in the village it was so hot that I woke up. Nothing strange about that… but it’s so funny, I felt like I was hit in the head with this acrostic. It makes me laugh, and it’s not perfect, but it kinda explains how things can be in a different culture!

Can’t

Understand

Little

Things

Usually

Really

Easy

 

Super

Hot

Outside & In:

Conditioning

Kindness

I know. I’m a professional acrostic-maker.

But I like the acrostic because culture shock isn’t really a shock. I knew when I went to Uganda it wasn’t going to be like the US. I just didn’t know how much that was going to rock my life. It becomes the small things that we’ve depend on to get by aren’t there in the new country (lack of AC, lack of showers, maybe you hate warm water but there’s no fridge, etc), and these small things build up into big frustration. Life as you knew it is gone, the new-relationship feeling with the country is likely gone, your control is gone.  Sometimes at this point we snap, and I think that snap is why we call it a shock. BUT- I ended my brilliant acrostic with ‘conditioning kindness.’  Hardships and suffering can produce lots of impatience, anger and other sin, but they often can produce kindness. The small things have to start taking a back burner, and then what should be center – Jesus – can then start being the center.

I know this doesn’t incorporate every part of culture shock, but I’m dying to know what you think of my acrostic!

Back to trading one familiar for the other.  Jason and I first traded the comfortable for the uncomfortable. But time changes things, and what was strange became familiar, and now coming back into our home culture, what was familiar has become a little strange.

It’s funny, getting ready to go to the mission field is hard, packing up your house is hard, being on the field is hard, but coming back is really hard.  Once again, we need to lay down the small things of our lives. We need to lay down what we want for our jobs, our possessions, our education, our expectations. Please pray I let all of those go.  We need to be ok with not knowing what we’re doing right now. But I fight that because I don’t like that knowing what to do…I don’t like having to wait. Yet so often throughout Scripture God has people waiting on Him. All I can do is keep coming back to this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8&9). This is the medicine I need right now.

So I ask that you pray for our adjustment being back in what should be familiar; I know I’ve been asking this! Please keep it up! 🙂 Please pray for a job for Jason. I’m trying to decide if I should go back to school, so that’s been a lot on my mind lately. Pray for us to make wise decisions. Pray for our marriage, and that we encourage and pray for each other. Please also pray that if we have expectations that God might not be giving us, we are willing to adjust..

Please pray for Jason, who went to the doctor about 2.5 weeks ago and was told he has Bell’s Palsy.  He could not move the right side of his face, and this came on super fast…about a day and a half.  It didn’t move when he talked or smiled, and he had trouble closing his right eye. This has been pretty discouraging and although we should be trusting not stressing, I was stressing. The doc said it usually goes away on its own, and there is no way to say for certain what causes it, but stress is one of the causes. Jason had a job interview scheduled, and is on the job hunt, but all I could do for him is sit back and wait and pray.  He went for the interview, though, and said the guy was fine with it. Who knows. I am excited to say, however, we have seen improvement in the past week! He was on serious meds the first week, but this week they’re done and we’ve seen slow but steady improvement. Praise Jesus! It seems our bodies have taken on the stress from our minds, though, because I also had a weird thing. On Mother’s Day my eye itched, I rubbed it and within minutes it reacted so strangely that my mom and I went to the Kroger Pharmacy. By the time we got there it was twice the amount of swelling and the pharmacist said, “I hate to say this, but, go to the Emergency Room.” Uhhh, what?  But you only get one chance with eyes. It was Sunday, Mother’s Day remember, and here my mom is bringing me to the ER. (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!) We called Jason and my dad (who were at my parents’) to let them know we were going to the Emergency Room. Yeah. This was just 20 minutes after leaving the house. Turns out I have no scratches or cuts on the eye, but also no idea what caused the flare up. Oh well. One other thing is, of course we don’t have health insurance right now. Ours was international through AIM. Together these dr. visits equal over $400. I’m thankful that we can go to the doctor, because I don’t most of the world doesn’t have that privilege. But this just comes back to a list of things that can add to our transitional stress. Please pray we remember it’s not our money anyway, and that God has more than provided for us every step of the way.

“Do not worry, Carolyn and Jason. I will surely comfort you and will look with compassion on all your ruins; I will make your deserts like Eden, your wastelands like the garden of the Lord.”  Isaiah 51:3

That was the promise I pulled out of our promise box of verses today.  I’m not trying to say my life is all desert and ruins right now, but I’ve felt confusion, worry and sadness in missing Africa.  So it’s not a pity-party verse, but one where I’m looking at it saying, Ok. It’s a hard time right now. But here’s the promise the Lord gives us with hard times. So no matter the ruin or desert you are fighting through, right now. His faithfulness is with us in this promise.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!


Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy nameThe sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comesBless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

Jesus, I’ll worship Your holy name
Lord, I’ll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
Jesus, I’ll worship Your holy name
I’ll worship Your holy name

“1000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”
-Matt Redman

photo essay: Arua friends & food

Our friends Doug and Kathryn had us over for dinner a week after we arrived in Arua.  Funny story– I saw Kathryn in the supermarket before we met and noticed her -obviously- because she’s white and sounded southern-ish. The next day I went to the women’s Bible study that she attended and we both said something like, “Hi! I saw you yesterday!” They are from the US and live in Arua..the parents of 3 kiddos under 10 (i think) and 1 more on the way. I am so thankful for their friendship and encouraged by their servant leadership. Doug and Kathryn introduced us to the idea of Storying as a means of youth discipleship. We are so thankful that they did because we ended up loving Bible storying! It’s so crazy the events God sets in motion to lead us somewhere.

Macy, me, Jason, Jake @ the Ethiopian restaurant. Macy and Christine came with AIM to Arua… super thankful for them also. I’ve  written about this before.. I was dying for them to get to Arua so I’d have some people going through the same style of life I was … I ended up loving them, and we were only sad that we were outside of Arua in Maracha and they were outside of Arua on the other side in Kuluva. We worked it out by meeting in the middle! Macy and Christine were with AIM like us and their ministry was teaching Secondary School. Jake… you’re still on your own for this one…. I don’t know what you do in Arua!!!! hahahah 🙂

Now you can see Stephen with the great facial expression back on the left and Christine on the right. Such fun times! I miss these guys so much! Stephen is also with AIM, lives in Arua, and became a close friend of ours. He also works with discipling youth, so we had that in common with him. He committed to living in Africa for 4 years, and then will see where God takes him. Please pray for God’s direction for him even now as he has been in Uganda for almost 2 years. I am proud to call these people friends!

Stephen and Jake. I’m sure they loved that I took their picture. Now we’re eating at the Indian restaurant in town! Also insanely delicious.

I’m making Macy feel so awkward in this! Just look at her smile! awesome. And, if you have super crazy vision you’ll see on her watch that it’s 9:09pm.  Yep. 2 things: 1) That’s a very normal time for Africans to eat dinner. 2) We probably just waited 2 hours for our food. Also normal, and really ok. You just get used to different things.

My fabulous meal: Chicken Tiki Masala with egg fried rice.

Now jump with me to jewelry shopping! Kathryn introduced me to her language helper, Florence, who makes these beads from magazines and different paper. She supports herself and her young son this way. Florence teaches Kathryn Lugbara, and translates for her when she speaks to different groups of women.  I really wish I had a picture of Florence, but I don’t. This is her shop, where I bought LOTS of necklaces!

Now, back to food…

Fresh from the Nile! Yum, huh, Macy?!

I know this looks like a chocolate martini, buut, it’s actually just chocolate sauce in a cup. Hahahhaha… OK, p.e.r.f.e.c.t example of speaking English yet speaking different languages. I tried to order ice cream, and told the server I wanted lots of chocolate sauce, which was an option on the menu. We all chimed in and explained it to him. I’m sure that didn’t help. He looked confused, but no more so than many of my servers in Africa (my fault, not theirs).  Well, in this particular situation, my server did bring me lots of chocolate sauce, as requested. But…just no ice cream. He gave it to me and we were all so stunned we didn’t say anything and then just had to laugh about it.

This is in Arua, on a somewhat main road. People walk or bike if they have one, or they take a boda. There are lots of little shops called dukas that sell things on the side of the road, a kind of a mini supermarket. They usually sell packaged products, and sometimes fruit or veggies. Here Jason is on the boda-boda in front of mine, although we both can fit on one and it’s cheaper but we were carrying more things with us this time. In Rwanda they call motorcycles ‘motos’, for obvious reasons. When we were in Kigali I couldn’t get it right; I kept saying ‘mota’ and our friend Mary Claire would just laugh at me. In Uganda we call them bodas because they were used to transfer people from one border to the other back in the day.

What I also want you to notice in this picture is the billboard. So many kids can’t afford to go to secondary school, which is high school for us Westerners. Their primary school (middle school) is paid for by the government, but nursery school (pre-primary) is not, and secondary school also is not. Many parents are working very hard to give their children the opportunity for secondary school. This billboard advertises that a Ugandan graduate, along with 256, 699 others, still can’t find work. In the fine print it says, “Smaller families will improve our quality of life.”  Now this is not a popular mindset in the more rural areas of Uganda, including our village, but I have heard is becoming a bigger thing in Kampala and other cities that are more modern. I found what one Ugandan wrote about it on his blog here. It’s a really interesting read and worth the time to check it out.

It just intrigues me that this is on a billboard. On the other side of it, there is the same advertisement but with a teenage boy who hasn’t eaten that day, a gigantic statistic of Ugandans who also haven’t eaten that day, and the same message of, the fewer children we have, the better life will be for the rest of us.  I don’t know why I’m still hung up on this. I’ve seen it 100 times, and I’ve witnessed times when there was not enough food for my African family.  But life in the village requires many hands to carry the workload. It makes me wonder if the fact that this bothers me just shows you I have never been hungry a day in my life.  Maybe if I had, I would understand this mindset. Although Jason and I were immersed in rural, painstaking village life, I never encountered this thinking. For many in our village, children are stability and security for the future.  An older man wanted my neighbor Jennifer, mother of 7, to have more kids because 7 wasn’t enough. He and his wife had 10 children, and 2 of them died. That’s the unfortunate reality of life for him, and he said it quite matter-of-factly. So he wanted Jennifer to have more children, almost as insurance for her and her husband. Children prepare fields. They plant crops and harvest them. They take care of goats and cows at 6 – 8 years old; they know when to take them to the fields, when they need water, and when it’s time to bring them home. Children cook and clean dishes and care for younger children. They fetch water from the borehole. They sell things on the side of the road for their family; oftentimes Jennifer would make chaptis (tortillas) and mendez (African doughnuts) and her daughters would sell them on the roadside.  Jennifer told me many times, “Children are very useful. Where is yours?”  Then she would laugh so hard that it came from her belly and I would laugh with her. I love that friend so much. It’s funny, but I think for us in the West kids = increased financial burden. In Africa, Uganda at least, kids = decreased financial burden. Just my thought, but it explains why they didn’t understand that Jason and I don’t have kids yet. But the icing on the cake with kids for Jennifer and Patrick is, when they are old and unable to care for themselves, their children will take care of them.

I had to include this one. Notice the makeshift roundabout. Stephen calls it the “rockabout.” I love it!

And a few more for good measure…. here’s Jason, back at the Ethiopian restaurant. We loved that place! Jason and I could both eat for about $6, and the food was insane. They don’t have a menu, just a few plate options and it’s self-serve on the drinks. It was so much fun. Jason, of course, loves that I’m taking his picture here. We were just by ourselves this time, so it’s honeymoon-style for the pictures.

Lookin goooood!! Don’t judge! AC, hair dryers & straighteners are a figment of the imagination in Africa. Here I am with my favorite Krest drink waiting for my Ethiopian food. woo – hoo! It was such a treat.

Thankful for these Arua friends, and the ones I don’t have in a photo here… John and Krys, our team leaders. I couldn’t find a single picture with them! They have faithfully encouraged us and prayed with and for us… and helped us through thick and thin.

I want to say thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. We are continuing to settle in to some sort of “normal” life, whatever that means. Please pray for our protection from the evil one, and that we live for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have a good night!

3 weeks?

Jason and I have been home 3 weeks now, and sometimes it feels like an eternity ago that we were in Africa and it sometimes feels like we just stepped off the plane.  What it doesn’t feel like is 3 weeks.

I don’t know what I should say.  You don’t just go to Africa for 6 months and remain the same, and yet where are the right words? I have tons of jumbled notes and old journals I could blog yet I haven’t blogged them. I get going on a thought and then my mind wanders and brings up a new thought and it should be a separate post. Or I start writing about something I’m really passionate about and the brokenness in either Uganda or the US gets me fired up and mad and it comes out wrong.  Or the truth sounds bad in the ears of someone who doesn’t understand.  My friends from either country could read this, and I’m happy if they do. My fear is their mind may grab hold of that one negative (albeit true) fact that I wrote and label the other culture as that forever, never seeing anything past that. Does any of that make sense?

I miss our friends and family in Uganda. It’s hard, and I hope they’re doing well. I know that Christians never say goodbye, so right now that’s where I have to find comfort. Otherwise it just hurts.

I’m still processing life in Africa, and I’ve got a feeling I will be for a long time. There are so many things I don’t know, and so many things I’m trying to understand. So instead of me trying to ponder the why right now, I’m just going to tell a story.

Once I in a taxi heading back to Maracha from Arua and the woman next to me struck up a conversation.  Jason and I basically took the first bus or taxi that we could find to get back and forth. We almost always made friends along the way.

We spoke a little bit back and forth in Lugbara.

“You know our language,” she said with a smile.

In my dreams. “No, I only speak a little Lugbara, “ I said in Lugbara.

She laughed. “Oh, but you are very good. If you only remain here for 3 more months, then you will know it all!”

I can’t tell you how many times Jason and I have heard this…. usually 1 – 6 months, an insane amount of time to learn a language. 🙂 I laughed and told her it was difficult for me to learn her language.  She was incredulous… somehow most of the Lugbara I’ve met think their language is super easy to learn (as do most of us).

Our conversation ping-ponged back and forth on different topics and she was so much fun to talk to.

She told me, “I want to go to your place.” This is not the first time Africans have said this to me, so I smiled and teased her a little bit.

“Why do you want to go to my place? How do you know where my place is?”

“You are from USA.” (It’s funny because she guessed right. Usually it’s one of 3: the UK, Canada or the US.)

She continued, “Our situation here is not ok. Bad roads, much dust…” she waved her hand out the window for emphasis.  We hit a pothole on the dirt road we were on.

“…no school fees, not enough food.”

It’s hard to argue with that when I come from a place that has so much.  And she knew it. I tried to explain that there are still difficult things in the US, but it’s difficult to explain immaterial struggles to someone who has material struggles.  They simply don’t seem like struggles because it is not a physical, pressing need.

After a few minutes of talking back and forth, I finally said, “But there is sin everywhere.  There is brokenness everywhere.”

That she agreed with.

We realized we were both Christians as we continued talking and I felt a bond with her, my new African friend and sister in Christ.

Soon she signaled for the taxi to stop and got her bags together to get off at her stop.  I felt sure I wasn’t going to see her again, and but really wanted her to know I wouldn’t forget her. So on an impulse, I threw my hand out to her and said, “Whether we meet again in this life or we do not, we will meet again.”

She took my hand, smiled back at me and said, “We will meet.”

I’m telling you this story because no matter what’s got us up or down today, one day we will see Jesus. Whatever emotion I may be feeling can change tomorrow or next week, but one fact remains unchanged: one day we will all see Jesus face to face.

I bought this song What a Savior on iTunes this week and have been listening to it over and over. Although I don’t know really know what God’s doing with us and what exactly Jason and I should be doing…. this is what’s true.  Although I don’t know where we’re going to live this coming year or what jobs we’ll find, this is what we can stand on. This is what matters! Jesus is how the story ends. As Christians, we will meet again. And we will meet Him one day soon, face to face. Face to face! We will see Jesus. Because of His work on the Cross, we know how the story ends.

Here’s the song What a Savior. I love these words! What a Savior!

Atoning sacrifice
Keeper of this life
Hallelujah You are Savior
Beginning and the end
Forgiver of my sin
By Your mercy You have saved us

Jesus You are stronger
More than any other
Hallelujah what a Savior
Jesus You are higher
My soul’s deepest desire
Hallelujah You are Savior

You are the shepherd king
You lead us by still waters
Hallelujah You are Savior

You are my only hope
Your kindness is my friend
In Your presence You restore us

Jesus You are stronger
More than any other
Hallelujah what a Savior
Jesus You are higher
My soul’s deepest desire
Hallelujah You are Savior

You are the way, the truth and the life
You are my joy and my salvation
Stood in my place, taking my shame
Upon your shoulders

Jesus You are stronger
More than any other
Hallelujah what a Savior
Jesus You are higher
My soul’s deepest desire
Hallelujah You are Savior

Hallelujah
You are Savior
You are Savior

-What a Savior, Laura Story

There and Back Again

As our plane came into Memphis, I saw the Clark Tower and smiled. I know exactly where Shelby Farms is in relation to the Clark Tower, and I’d been dying to go run.  I ran one time in Africa– 5 or 6 laps around our futbol pitch.  It’s just not the thing to do in our area in Uganda– not bad, just weird, although I did see futbol athletes running a few times.  “They are play-ahs,” our student Lamik told us. Say it like that and you’ll hear him with his accent. 🙂

We’ve been so happy to see our family members who are in town; I’m still waiting to see my dad, 2 of my siblings and Jason’s bro, but we been able to talk on the phone.  Our siblings are away at school and work, and my dad is a pilot who is working in Europe for a few weeks. We are so thankful for them being safe and healthy.  Thank you so much for your prayers!

A few people have asked me what we did in Africa, which is hard to answer. The blanket term is “youth discipleship.”  The way that broke down for us was like this:

1st 2 months:

Learning:

  • culture (what the heck is going on?)
  • village life (a.k.a how to bucket bathe in an outdoor bathing shelter, how to cook on a cigiri with charcoal),
  • the climate (I’ve never been so hot in my life. where’s the AC?)
  • the food. Subsistence farmers eat off the land. The staple in the Lugbara’s diet is cassava. It’s a root that they plant, harvest, peel, and lay out in the sun to dry so they can grind it into flour. They’ll eat it raw, they’ll boil it, and they’ll use the flour to make ‘enya,’ which is their bread.  They don’t have mundu bread, a.k.a. white people’s bread, because they don’t have electricity, so they don’t have ovens. If it can’t be cooked on an open fire, it’s difficult. Our neighbor Jennifer does have a clay oven heated by fire, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her use it. I have heard of making cakes in pans and sand and something….ring any bells to anyone? We never did it.  Back to cassava– my favorite way to eat it is boiled. With butter and salt it reminds me of a baked potato. Yum. When it is raw it can be poisonous if too much of it is eaten. They lay it out in the sun for two reasons: 1) it dries it so it can be ground into flour and 2) they say it isn’t poisonous if eaten after it is hardened.

Viola and Jason peeling cassava

  • Lugbara. It’s a tonal language, much like Chinese.  One sound may be 9 different words based on inflection. 🙂 I’m not exaggerating. At first I was so intimidated by what I kept hearing about Lugbara that I know I didn’t try too hard.
  • Beginning to get to know the people in our village. Playing a lot with the kids, beginning to understand a culture that is heavily oriented in community.
  • The church. AIM works with the Church of Uganda in West Nile, which is Anglican, so that’s the church we were a part of.

2nd 2 months:

  • Continuing with all that acquisition.
  • Teaching at youth conferences.
  • Learning the urgency to speak boldly about Jesus– people die easily and often. We don’t know how much time we have.
  • Jason preached at several churches we went around to in the village.
  • Learned a lot more language by this point with our language helper, Annet.
  • Started loving Lugbara! Speaking a lot more. People were shocked. 🙂 I soon could understand what they would say to each other after our short conversations in Lugbara, which was, “oh my gosh, she speaks Lugbara.” Hahaha.  All that is is, “Mai yey. Lugbara ti si.”  They don’t have pronouns, so he, she and it are all the same.  It’s hilarious that they hear a few words and think I can speak it. I miss that though… saying hello to strangers on the street and then seeing their surprised expressions and hearing their laughter… it’s so awesome! Then of course, one of them says to the other, “Lugbara ti si!”  They call it “their language,”  which, of course, it is. “You know our language?” they’d ask me.  But I think they think it’s almost like a secret… they’re shocked we spoke it.  At first Jason and I were just taking a stab at it with people, and we knew we weren’t great. So it felt a little awkward, just unfamiliar on the tongue.  Then people would bust out laughing at us when we spoke to them! Seriously. We were thinking, ok, we’re really terrible at this. But over time, I got bolder and asked them why we were being laughed at every time we opened our mouths with Lugbara.  The response I was given time and again was, “We laugh because we are happy.”  I think that’s one of the most precious things I’ve ever heard. Sometimes they would even say they hadn’t heard a white man speak Lugbara to them before. Now I know that isn’t completely true, because there is an Italian priest who has lived in West Nile for 40 years. 40 years! He works with a radio station in Arua and preaches on it and other stations in Lugbara.  So they’ve heard him speak before, and some of our American friends speak Lugbara very well– one family even from Memphis! But how precious is “we laugh because we are happy!” I really love these people!
  • Loving our African family so much; relationships are deepened quickly and easily.  Speaking Lugbara helps a lot with that, although they speak English. It shows we’re wanting to know them and that we’re trying to learn to be like them, instead of just making them be like us.  It shows we love them.

3rd 2 months:

  • Stilll continuing with learning the culture… at this point we understood what was going on a lot more than at the beginning because we began to understand why it was happening.
  • Adept at timing cigiri cooking. I know how long it takes the charcoal to heat up, learned the timing for the level of heat I needed and how to have food ready at the somewhat same time. It’s definitely a juggling act! Jason and I would have to work together on it a lot. We learned to make chapatis, naan, our own tomato sauce for pasta, bake potatoes in foil, naan pizzas in foil and many other things. Those are just my favorites.

Annet and Viola teaching me to make chapatis

Here I am, learning to make chapatis! this is in our kitchen, which is a separate building behind our house. It's also where Viola and our neighbor's daughters slept

'Baking' potatoes on our cigiri

We would buy a wheel of gouda cheese in Arua and bring it with us to Maracha because we learned it would keep for a while without a fridge. We didn't make pizzas like this a lot, but when we did, it was awesome!

  • Bible “storying” in 4 secondary schools. Click here if you want to read more about Storying. I’m a huge fan! It’s a great way to study the Bible.
Here are some of the students we got to know and love:
  • Language learning up to the very end.  I learned words and phrases quite often just by being immersed in the culture. We didn’t work as much with Annet on language in these final 2 months, and spent more time learning by speaking. We also were spending more time in schools, and the students taught us a lot also.

So there’s the nutshell. The truth is there is so much to say that it’s difficult to put it all together on a blog. We would LOVE to talk to anyone about Africa… let us know and we can go grab some coffee or something.

Thank you for your prayers, gifts and financial support!

May the Lord bless you and keep you and give you peace.

Now what?

Dear Friends & Fam,

It’s our last day in Uganda! Crazy. We are headed back home to the States this evening. It’s a bit surreal right now; we are so happy to come home and be with you, but we have also developed such a love for the people in Uganda. It really makes our return journey a little bittersweet.

Over the past couple of weeks we have been through debriefing with our team leaders and then with the AIM Kampala office, and have learned that the re-entry process can be more of a culture shock experience than actually arriving in Africa.  We have become accustomed to a very different way of life than what we were used to. We lived in an area where subsistence farmers make up a huge group of the population. We didn’t have all the amenities that we once had. It might be overload for us our if we tried to just jump back into our home culture, as we were before we left. This could potentially lead to some damage in the areas we have grown while being in Africa.

A book we read on re-entry likens the process to a space shuttle re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The astronaut must have all his calculations correct and angle the shuttle to the exact degree or he will burn up the whole ship and himself in the earth’s atmosphere. Yiiikes. This metaphor gives us an idea of how easy it is to emotionally and spiritually hurt ourselves and those around us if we aren’t careful when coming home. Carolyn and I are still processing our time in Africa, and are praying for God to reveal His next step for us. We know for at least a little while we will be in Memphis but are waiting for God’s direction.

We cannot thank you enough for your prayers, support, and encouragement while we have been here in Uganda. We now ask you to extend us grace as we settle into life back home, and for your prayers also as we do so. If we seem distant or sensitive when it comes to discussing our time in Africa or plans for the future, it is because we are adjusting to being back, and we again ask for your grace with us.  In time we will be sharing and meeting with you to talk about Africa (if you want!) and where the Lord is leading next.

See you soon!!

Jason and Carolyn